Magical Stages of Tech Advancement

Copyright Joel Blair1999


The purpose of this work is to provide a rough outline that any GM can use to provide more depth and background in their gaming worlds. This outline consists of a series of technology (sometimes called tech) levels which describe the magical advancements a race of spell-casting beings may go through as they progress in their understanding of the universe and the AEssence. Each technological level (hereafter to be 'tech level') contains a description of "who" would be casting spells at that tech level, the types of spells and skills that would be introduced at that time, and a description of the conditions that would occur for that specific tech level. It is not intended that these descriptions be considered exhaustive of the various possible spell effects, situations, or changes which may occur at each tech level.

It is encouraged that the GM assigns their world a specific tech level that they would tailor to fit their world's design. However, it is recognized that some GMs may wish to use this outline to create tech levels on a random basis for many various reasons. The author suggests the following formula be used to generate a world's tech level: d10 + d5 (a d10/2 roll). This will generate a working number between two and fifteen. Tech levels zero, one, and sixteen are more involved tech levels which should be personally chosen by GMs should they wish to place them in their world.

This work defines one aspect of spell casting as being a basic reflection of the mind-frame used to invoke a certain effect. This mind-frame evolves through various stages described below. The formulas used in this outline describe a general equation for this mind-frame at each tech level. The variables A, K, and Z are used to represent the Realm that is accessed (Channeling, Mentalism, and Essence), but have no other meaning and are not definitions within themselves. N is used to represent the AEssence itself (a.k.a. Primal Essence, Essence Potential, etc.) and it represents the set of all possibilities contained therein. As each tech level's mind-frame becomes more specialized, one notices that the N becomes one step further from all possibilities; the effective N for increasingly specialized tech levels is only a subset of N. The effect of specialization is represented by notation N-1, N-2, etc. This "stepping away" denotes that by specializing the caster moves away from the other possible mind-frames of casting and thus from the possibilities within them and the Essence. Magicians do not have healing spells, Clerics do not cast fire-bolts, Mentalists can affect the mind but not the soul, etc.

Each of these stages of tech use will have a psychological profile that spell casters must have in general for the mind-frame to occur. This psychological profile is not necessarily applicable to the non-spell using populace of the world. Each realm will have its own psychological profile that may create a sub mind-frame for that realm at each stage as well. Additionally, each stage will have its own form of decadency, which may or may not occur.

Each tech level contains two descriptions of the levels, points D.1 and D.2, in each part of the outline. The first description typifies those who would be "fore-runners" of the time period and the way that magic would function during the tech level itself. The second part of the description details some of the ideas that would begin to appear as signs of the advancement to the next tech level. This is based on the observation that there are usually two sides to any paradigm, the one that begins it and the one that transforms it into the next paradigm. However these two levels should not be seen as "concrete" examples or things which "must occur". Instead the GM should loosely interpret these as some of the "observable trends" which may occur but are not all requirements. The paradigm shifts that occur during each tech transition may take place in a smooth manner, or may occur in a revolutionary mode seemingly over night. The GM based on his/her world system profile should determine the exact manner of transition.

The author would like to thank the following people for helping make this work

"A" reality: co-author's Benjamin and Nicholas Zoss, for providing masterful insight and criticism as well as pointing out the obvious when I could not see it. Russell Miller, who unwittingly inspired this work with his relentless, but loved, nagging. Finally all of those gamers who have taken part in the history of my world over the last 11 years, both gaming and real, and who have helped shape the footsteps of history.


Tech 0-1. Will: "I want N." N occurs, deriving from the AEssence (N) of the caster.

A. Who: Deities fall into this category, as do the first AEssence manipulators of a planet, system, etc. These AEssence manipulators would be beings who have natural aptitude for manipulating the AEssence (genetic, will o' the gods, etc.) who are put into stressful situations where Want = Need and they change reality.

B. Spell lists: None (Possibly any/all but only inborn, not learned)

C. Skills: Body Development only (or all at Maximum cap. and automatic success in the case of Deities). PP development is not a part of this tech level. Instead beings at this level draw upon power inherent within themselves.

D. Description:

    1. Entry Conditions: This is the very first stage of manipulating the AEssence of the Universe. The Higher Powers setup the "rules of reality" by creating galaxies, systems, or worlds. They may even create other Deities. Higher beings accomplish this through the act of Will alone; their creative processes come "from their own Being". The religious aspects of this are left to the GM.
    2. Exit Conditions: In mortal creatures this stage is typified by individuals whose reaction to stresses in their environment cause changes/shifts in reality without the use of "physical tools". Spells are cast on a basis of 1 PP needed = 1 Hit Point spent. In many cases random "flaring" of magical effects can occur, quite often killing or burning-out those who sought to tap into their latent magical control. Those that survive this period will begin to observe a "cause-effect" relationship in themselves and their surroundings, which occurs when they react certain ways. In order to leave this stage, beings must begin to record or remember the cause-effect relations of AEssence manipulation and must desire to begin to control the AEssence.



Tech 2-3. Ritual: "If I do A through Z, I get N-1." A through Z performed correctly, N-1 occurs.

A. Who: Beings who are engaging in ritual type religious/magical behavior in order to achieve a certain tentative goal. Through the development of ritual and concentration of existing AEssence (i.e. PP Dev.) they can achieve desired results with less risk of burnout or death.

B. Spell lists: Still none (Magic is seen as "cause/effect"). Rituals are in no true category at the beginning of this level. The ritual categories of ritual skill come as a consequence of further defining the cause-effect relationship of AEssence manipulation.

C. Skills: Power Perception (max rank 5), PP Dev. (Max Rank 5), Body Dev. (Max Rank 5), Religion, Philosophy, Art, Language, History, Fauna Lore, Flora Lore, Herb Lore, Poison Lore, Stone Lore, Metal Lore, Appraisal, Ritual (any), Drug Tolerance, Meditation (any). Note: Ritual skill will be at a large minus (-70 and/or absurd) until the link between specific kinds of ritual and specific classes of effects are realized.

  1. D. Description:
    1. Entry Conditions: Those individuals who follow their observations from the previous stage 1 to an end course find that by enacting certain procedures they can derive a desired result, though at a cost. These procedures are recorded for posterity and take on a quasi-religious aspect. By the time Level 3 is reached these rituals are beginning to be grouped into categories of effect (fire, life, death, creation, etc.).
    2. Exit conditions: a.) Ritual is refined enough to achieve spell effects in far shorter periods of time. b.) This knowledge is recorded or passed on and classified by category of effect and NOT by ritual class.

Tech 4-5. Arcane: "If I do A+K+Z I get N-1" A+K+Z performed correctly, N-1 occurs.

  1. Who: Professions that only use Arcane Magic.
  2. Spell Lists: Any and all Arcane spells.
  3. Skills: Power Perception (Max Rnk10), PP Dev. (Max Rnk10), Demon Lore, Dragon Lore, Faerie Lore, Directed Spells, Leadership & Research (though these will be specific to those with a bent towards future Channeling and Mentalism for the former, and Essence for the later.).
  4. Description:
    1. Entry Conditions: a.) Development of Spell Lists. b.) No dependence on personal "physical" power (i.e. using hits for spells). c.) Drive of individuals to cast spells quickly. This will depend upon perceived threat within the being's environment and a great many other factors. It is at this stage that the crucial moment is discovered through which beings learn that certain set routines and systems will reach an effect much quicker than those that they used during previous ritual experimentation will. This moment can be reached by the aid of other beings (gods, dragons, demons, a race of teachers), a certain individual (arcane Genius), or a shift in the flow of the AEssence in the environment. It becomes recognized that to get a desired result very specific feelings of faith (Channeling/IN), connection to all things (Essence/EM), and the will (Presence/Pr), to focus (SD, the final trait for Arcane classes though not a spell trait) are all needed. In order to begin developing spell lists the casters must have been driven to doing so and have the ability to survive the situations that will occur. The three realm statistics listed for Arcane use give the spell caster the innate ability to tap the AEssence; SD keeps them in control of themselves and the raw power which the spell casters seeks to master and then survive the mastering of afterwards.
    2. Arcanists will rise to power in what will be the first "Priesthood" (since 1/3 of the power comes from a Higher Being). They will also become important political figures (1/3 PR mod which comes from personality), and the first "scientists" (1/3 EM mod which seeks to relate to the environment) where applicable. A paradigm emerges for the first time that relates what magic is (the Essence) and how it relates to the user as well as its benefits. While this shift causes more beings to be able and willing to engage in the use of magic, the complexity of the Arcane having three areas causes many to lose interest due to lack of ability or mind-frame disagreement. Stage 5 is characterized by a shift to where the Arcane is the popular form of spell use (though still small in number) but there are individual dissidents within the magic-using society who cannot or will not accept one or more of the sides to it. They reject the god(s), reject the drawing of outside power, or reject the notion of drawing power from themselves. These individuals will be shunned and pariah at this stage.

    3. Conditions for exit: a.) Rebellion of those who shun all the techniques necessary for control of Arcane and embrace only 2/3 of the Primal Essence (i.e. either 2 of the 3 realms).


Tech 6-7. Hybridization "If I do A+K, I get N-2" A+K performed correctly, N-2 occurs.

    1. Who: Mystic, Sorcerer, Warlock, Astrologer, and other Hybrids.
    2. Spells: Base spells as per class, Open/Closed from Arcane (with a penalty) beginning to develop in only 2 realms of use.
    3. Skills: Power Perception (Rank 20), PPD (Rank20, making up for lost 3rd realm stat), Spell Mastery (max rank of 5), Attunement (Max 10 ranks), Alchemy and Biochemistry (both at very low amount of ranks), as tech level 4-5.
    4. Description:
    1. Entry Conditions: a.) The rebels of the previous stage 6-7 have developed enough to have their own professions. b.) Spell mastery has supplanted rituals as the main method of achieving closely related results. This period starts with those individuals who are unhappy with or unable to correctly control the power of Arcane spells. <Author: It is rather rare to have all three stats high>. The first hybrids, though some will be geniuses, will mostly be composed of those that are "very inadequate" in one area of power but relatively advanced in the others (for instance, having High EM and PR, yet a low IN). These individuals develop their own way of doing things, and as these methods become more refined, the realization is made that a broader base of people can refine and use these bastardized arcane spells. Most notably this split would occur on a religious front, as those unable to follow the dogmas set forth by Arcane Churches/Religions and not having much of an intuitive bent would quietly separate and set themselves apart from persecution; most notably the Mystics. Next would come Sorcerers and Warlocks, those who would seek more direct methods of "Proclaiming their deities" or "Punishing Heretics", at the same time they would have become "corrupted" by the nature of Arcane (RMSS optional) or become more attuned to Higher Beings of a destructive or "evil" nature. Finally Astrologers would come about as attempting to "know the mind of God(s)" by observing the movements of the Universe (both physical and spiritual). Hybrids flourish, as their power is easier to grasp. Arcane Open and Closed lists are kept as hybrids actually spur the development of different ways of doing magic.
    2. Exit Conditions: a.) The paradigm-shift behind reducing the realms one uses for spell casting spreads to people theorizing about drawing from only one source. This combines with specialization techniques and powerful individuals emerge who master only one source of magic but topple Arcane users in personal power, stability, and diversity within a specialized area. Thus most Pure spells can be seen as coming from Arcane Open and Closed but with the "specialization" which had previously been put into Arcane Base.


Tech 8-9. Specialization. "If I do A, I get N-3" A performed correctly, N-3 occurs.

    1. Who: Pure Spell Users & Semi's. Arcane professions are rare.
    2. Spells: Per Profession and Open/Closed for each realm. Arcane is rare.
    3. Skills: Power Perception (no limit), PPD (no limit), Spell Lore, Artifact Lore, and also tech 6-7. Spell Research grows as the guilds ascend.
    4. Description:
    1. Entry conditions: a.) Full development of Pure. b.) Anything necessary for base game rules to begin to be used. At this point the Hybrids begin to have splinter groups as they seek to mold the Open and Closed Arcane lists into Open and Closed specific realm lists. Just like they discovered the ease with which two realms were mastered over that of the Arcane, others the Hybrids teach find some lessons are easier for them. From those who Sorcerers who later gave up their destructive ways and tried Astrologer come the Mentalists, and Clerics. From the Mystics come the Magician, and the Illusionist. Warlocks who softened in time became Healers and Lay Healers with their understanding of the body <Author's note: as usually happens, war before medicine>. Clerics would be the most likely to "appear" first as they have a stable power source. Magicians are likely to make pacts with elemental forces before they learn the knowledge necessary to directly control. Mentalists appear latest in this stage as it requires a greater amount of concentration and discipline and focuses on the "self" for results, it will also be the most "feared" of the realms of spell use.
    2. As time progresses towards the end of this stage and into tech 9 the semi's arise as the warrior's response to a need for a weapon against spell casters or as the spell caster's need for a magically trained body-guard. In time the semi's will break away into their own guilds but will always have some sort of tie to the Pure spell users. Arcane user's at this point will be very rare because a.) The growth of power and the benefits of it among Pure spell users lead to abandoning "old ways". b.) More people can access and use the realms as a Pure User, thus more guild growth, and faster transferal of skills and recording of knowledge. c.) Arcane never became widespread enough for the common person to lose their fear of the unknown or of the inherent dangers behind Arcane use.

      Magic use begins to dictate changes in culture and society in a more concrete manner.

    3. Exit Conditions: a.) All magical professions and magical skills must have been present at one point. b.) Shifts to spell research and spell artistry skills.

Tech 10-11. General. "I do A to get N-3 because the majority does so." A is performed, N-3 occurs. Both become routine events.

    1. Who: All. Non-spell users learning magic. Arcane Profs. Unique if not forgotten or outlawed.
    2. Spells: All/Any. Arcane Magic unique/outlawed. Prosaic/guild and training package spells that are available to non-profession individuals.
    3. Skills: Spell Artistry, Spell Research, Attunement, Power Perception, and PP Dev. (1 rank, even non-spell users), Ritual (any) is Restricted. Also tech 8-9.
    4. Description:
    1. Entry Conditions: During this time craftsmen and warriors of all kinds are trying to learn little bits of magic in order to adapt to the changing magical face of their world. The wealthy would have a lot of magical resources; the middle-class a few and the poor at the most will have one or two (if any). Arcane at this point would be outlawed, as the magic would be seen as too dangerous and corrupting to the caster, thereby making them a menace to society. Research into the nature of the AEssence and new ways to create magical effects would be conducted towards the end of this era. Also as magic became "popular" spell users would seek to have their own individuality and create unique effects for their spells. While this would be frowned upon by the more scholarly community a noted advantage among Spell Artists would be the ability to fool others about the true nature of the spell they are casting, i.e. causing a fire-bolt to look like an ice bolt, etc. As higher level spells are researched and greater amounts of spell artistry are gained, the two would come together to a common conclusion: Arcane magic.
    2. The idea behind the end of this stage is that two schools of thought will be developing the Researcher and the Artist. While they may or may not resent each others' approaches to spell use, there will come a point when those who interact in both styles will expand their power outside their given spheres. To do this they will add another realm of power, instantly opening up a whole new realm of manipulation possibilities. The innovators of this age will realize the fundamental sameness of classifications of spells (i.e. "bolt" spells) and discover at some point a formulation that allows "choosing" of the desired effect (i.e. ice or fire). These formulations will generalize lists, and combined with other realms will yield Arcane magic.

      In the end Research and Spell Artistry will become Everyman for most spell users. Research being the standard way of coming up with new spell variations beyond the scope of spell mastery, and spell artistry being the signature that these researchers leave on their own very personal re-discoveries of Arcane.

    3. Exit conditions: Arcane "generalist" supplants Pure spell user "specialization" due to more job opportunities and ability to cover more areas. At this point magic items of low power are common enough that even the poor can be expected to have a light or heat source. Governments routinely provide public works in the form of low-magic items (streetlights, self-purifying water fountains, and self-cleaning public restrooms). Magical pollution may begin to occur as this tech level progresses into the next.

Tech 12-13. Arcane Re-discovery "If I do A+K+Z, I can get N-1" A+K+Z performed correctly, N-1 occurs.

    1. Who: All.
    2. Spells: Arcane (with techniques for reducing corruption).
    3. Skills: Planar Lore, All beings learn Attunement, Power Perception, and PP Dev. (3 rank each). Also tech 10-11.
    4. Description:
    1. Entry Conditions: Society shifts to Arcane. With the cross over of tech 11, Arcane would have been found as the answer to learning and casting spells that do not follow a set pattern of learning but do have desired effects. This comes from involvement in Spell Artistry. The amount of time spent by researchers discovered safer methods of using Arcane magic. At this time dimensional travel is being explored: various reasons for this abound such as the need for scarce resources, population expansion, curiosity, etc. Magic has also become so common place that children are taught how to look for active spells and tap into their own well-springs of power as the advantage of magic over the physical realm has firmly been established. Towards the end of this era most common people have a job which uses magic and items which perform magical tasks for them. The main difference between spell casters (besides realm) would be between researchers and non-researchers; guilds are the dominant force if they are not already.
    2. Non spell casters would almost totally disappear or remove themselves to their own culture. At this point society/culture are almost totally dictated by magic use. Non-spell users are either eliminated at birth, used for menial tasks or entertainment, or seen as "disabled" (with the various problems that go along with that label). If magic-use in the world is tied to genetics, the racial mode would begin to shift to supporting magic use as a dominant trait even if it is normally recessive (real-world examples include five-fingers over six, etc.), as those who do not have the genotype would die out.

    3. Exit conditions: Pure spell use vanishes, Hybrid use is waning. Arcane begins to be researched even deeper through the use of Past Visions-type research. Psionic abilities may begin to emerge at this state due to survival stresses, yet they are dismissed as "coincidence" or "Strange" Mentalism effects.

Tech 14-15. Simple Ritual (May also be called Complex Ritual depending on frame of reference)

"If I do A or K or Z, I can get N-1." A, K, or Z performed correctly, N-1 occurs.

    1. Who: All.
    2. Spells: Any but rare and then unique. Ritual Effects common to very common.
    3. Skills: Body Dev. (Max 5 ranks), Everyone learns Power Perception and PP Dev. (5 ranks each) as well as Channeling and Ritual (1 rank).
    4. Description:
    1. Entry Conditions: This stage is based on the blend of general/common magic with arcane re-discovery. Spell researchers would come to discover that anyone could perform magic through finding those "patterns" which are the rules of manipulating the AEssence. Thus if one wants to create a boulder and can find the "patterns" to do so then they only need use those patterns. As these patterns are expanded upon, and the time/material needed to accomplish them is reduced, organized spell lists will discontinue except in the case of offensive/defensive spells.
    2. Religious trends will occur which encourage either a.) Moving away from the notion of "Deity" and more toward the notion of Higher Being; or b.) Moving closer to the notion of "Deity" but redefining it to become the "Universal All". In either case most religions will become more de-centralized. This is change becomes an important psychological change for the during tech levels 15 and 16. Towards the end of this era, tech level 15, faster rituals for offensive and defensive purposes are discovered; all other types are achieved fairly easily. This advancement is due to researchers finally having such a tight foundation of science and recorded experimentation that they can explore back to the "roots" of ritual magic. I.e. if ritual can be hastened into spell effect than it should be equally feasible to refine ritual into a better ritual.

    3. Exit Conditions: The connection between Will and Effect is more closely examined than ever before as well as the ties between possibility, and probability.

Tech 16 and above: Will "I want N". N happens.

  1. Who: Beings that have achieved the other tech levels.
  2. Spells: None. All effects are possible.
  3. Skills: Self Control skills are at an all time high.
  4. Description:
  1. Entry Conditions: The race of beings discovers that through extension of Will alone do they cause things to happen. They acknowledge that they "are" the AEssence and that they do not need Higher Beings to control it for them, or must they draw from just their own body, or just outside sources. They realize there are no boundaries to the AEssence and manipulate it at will. Spell effects generated are dependent on the being's mental control, imagination, and ability to perceive change in their surroundings.
  2. Exist Conditions: If the racial Mind is not strong enough to handle this one last leap of spiritual/mental evolution then the culture and the society will either stagnate or degrade in best scenarios. In the worst scenarios the culture and society will completely collapse as will the knowledge of magic which has been achieved. Those beings that are able to grasp it may either form a non-perfect union of Higher Beings who will be seen in various points of view by those left behind, or they may blend into the AEssence as part of it and disappear entirely.

Editor's Note

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