The Magic System in Mage on the Hill
by Angel Martinez
Several of my early readers wanted more information on how the Web of Arcana, the magical system in the series of the same name, works. Some of them wanted a bit of history, too, but we’ll just stick to the web itself for now.
Major Arcana: The outer ring represents the Major Arcana, the eight elements from which mages draw the bulk of their power—Earth, Animus, Fire, Light, Air, Life, Water, and Dark. While each Major Arcanum can manifest differently for individual mages, e.g. one Earth mage who can only shape stone and another who can only cause seismic activity, mages need to channel a Major for any significant workings. Without a Major Arcanum, a mage would only be able to work small magics.
Minor Arcana: The Minor elements occupy the inner ring. These elemental groupings adjacent to a Major Arcanum are complementary sources of power for that particular Major. Each Minor point on the web actually represents a set of elements which mages were able to group some time ago with the advent of early periodic tables. Metals, Alkali, Chalcogens, Halogens, Noble Gases, Pnictogens, Icosagens and Crystallogens. Metals on the web include elements we now think of as transitional metals—iron, gold, silver, zinc, nickel, titanium, platinum and so on. Chalcogens—oxygen, sulfur, selenium, tellurium, and polonium—are an older periodic table grouping, but still recognized as a separate Minor Arcanum. Etc.
Channeling: Sometime after the onset of puberty, the vast majority of mages channel, that is, their inherent magic settles naturally at one of the Major Arcana and further channels into one of the connected Minor Arcana. The Major serves as the source of power, the Minor refines how their personal magic is expressed. Most mages can, with greater or lesser effort depending on the mage, reach into adjacent power channels, but rarely any farther.
Reaching Across the Web: Never considered safe, mages of prodigious power can reach across the Web for channels that are not adjacent to their own. This comes with consequences, though, since any power called up won’t be properly channeled and controlled.
Wild Magic: A small minority of mages experience difficulty with channeling. Undirected and uncontrolled, magic builds up around an unchanneled young mage until it detonates. These can be small sparks with little consequence or horribly destructive explosions capable of leveling small towns, depending on the mage’s own native power and how long they’ve been struggling to channel.
This is much better organized than my initial notes on the Web. Holy crow, what a mess. But there you have it – a brief guide to Web mechanics.