How Culture and Philosophy Shapes Magic

I was chatting online with a good friend and started to explain how the practice of magic is a result of both the environment and the philosophy of those working magic. Our conversation was cut short, but I was inspired to take the ideas I was relaying in my impromptu talk and write them out in a more coherent and organized fashion.

The World of Entorais is a low fantasy setting, but not without magic. I wanted to have a few types of magic present, which would be influenced by the user’s culture and philosophy, while still keeping a common source behind all magic for internal consistency.

All magic arose naturally as an emergent property of amassed life-force and creative intelligence. The more life and intelligence gathered together in one place, the more accessible magic becomes. Magic requires a strong affinity or soul to access, but also a capable mind to manipulate and will into existence the power to enact change. Some species of animals might have magical abilities, which they use in an instinctive fashion for a particular effect, and which evolved alongside their more mundane abilities.

Sapience allows for one to become sufficiently aware of the underlying nature of magic to study and refine it to make it more malleable. Thus the philosophical and intellectual study of magic allows individual systems of practising magic to arise.

There are three common cross-cultural magic systems: Psionics, Sorcery, and Theurgy.

Psionics – A naturally and spontaneously occurring type of magic which arises in individuals with an affinity for magic. There are distinct paths of psionic, or mind magic, which define the way in which this magic interacts with the world. One endowed with such magic can achieve different related magical effects referred to as talents within the same psionic path. The paths one might have are seemingly random and often remain dormant within an individual. Stressful experiences or exceptional affinity might awaken these powers, and once an individual is aware of the path or specific talent, they may strengthen and refine their powers. This can be self directed through trial and error or by training under someone who also has psionic powers, ideally in the same path. Most paths have a small number of common talents, but may have more discoverable by persons who have pushed the limits of their psionic powers to open new ways of using their powers.

Sorcery – A philosophical theory of magic which allows people to access and use magic in a structured system composed of six elements: Spirit, Water, Earth, Metal, Fire, and Air. This arrangement arose from study of the four classical elemental psionic paths. In trying to understand these elements, early sorcerers discovered the additional elements of spirit and metal. These are conceived of as a circular wheel. Practitioners will become attuned to one element, and have decreased ability with the adjacent elements, and little or no ability with the diametric opposite element. The more one studies and focuses on their particular affinity element, the greater their understanding of that element, with an inverse regarding the opposite element. So for example, the more one attunes themselves to water magic the less attuned they become with fire magic. It is still possible to attune to multiple elements. Grey mages are persons who have achieved the sorcerous ideal of being equally attuned to all six elements, figuratively moving from the rim of the wheel to the hub. Such a state of balance is mythic, and perhaps unobtainable within a mortal’s lifetime. This is a kind of Nirvana which one may continue to strive towards, but might never obtain.

Theurgy – Belief in the gods and their ability to affect the world through miraculous powers is a common thread in many cultures. To those who believe, magic is a gift from the divine, and those who are pious enough in their service to a deity may be gifted with a small measure of their divine power. Through ritual prayer and ceremony, devout worshippers might enact smaller miracles aligned with their god’s particular domain. Being able to do so is directly tied to one’s piety and understanding of the particular deity’s desires. So a worshipper of Shaelar, the Waejiran fire god, may be able to perform ritual magic to summon forth fire, but not rain. This system of magic is both defined and restricted by the perception of the deity as the source of magic, which is then channelled through the most devout of their worshippers.

An individual might have ability in any system of magic. It is simply a matter of affinity and intellect. This allows for less common systems to arise, which require a different world view or philosophy to understand at a level appropriate for working that magic. Smaller or more isolated cultures may have wholly unique magic systems. For example the Sildaryn practice of Spellsinging.

Spellsinging – The Dalfyn, Sidaryn druid-shamans, work a kind of magic tightly interlaced with their animist beliefs about the nature of all things. They believe that by studying a given entity’s physical nature, and communing with its spiritual form, one might access some essence of the subject spirit, and thence work magic in the world. This is a negotiation between the Dalfyn and the subject spirit, in which the spirit may require the Dalfyn to perform a service on its behalf, or accept a ban on behaviour, in exchange for learning its song. For example the spirit of a fruit bearing tree might allow a Dalfyn to learn how to cause it to flower and bear fruit, out of season in an accelerated fashion. In exchange the Dalfyn must agree to plant seeds in ideally suitable spots for new plants, and/or refrain from eating the fruit themselves. Should the Dalfyn fail in this task, they may have to atone for their lapse or lose the ability to perform that song for effect.

It should be noted that, due to the way magic systems arise and develop, the very act of intellectual study, application of labels, and formation of theories about how things work, establishes the limits of the magical system. The more precise the study, meditation, and experimentation regarding a system, the more defined it becomes, both in what it can do, but also in what it cannot do. This means that while more powerful magical effects are attainable for the truly studious and long learned practitioners, they become more limited in the breadth of their powers. Like the narrowing effect of knowledge with mundane expertise in a field, they know more and more about less and less.

Additionally, there is a common drawback to will working in that it is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. Effectively, any individual magic user can become exhausted and unable to functionally perform their magic, should they over extend themselves with specific effects, or make too frequent use of their powers. This can be somewhat mitigated through certain specific practices, which allow pooling of energy, prepared storage in advance, or group work for greater power or wider reaching effects. Some magic users will also combine different effect in pieces to achieve a greater effect once combined.

Magic is also not guaranteed to succeed every time. Small moments of distraction, or other minor errors of concentration, or misapplication of the theories, can result in simply ineffective application of the power, or wild and unanticipated results, or overpowered and dangerous effects. This leads to a lot of self correction amongst those who practice magic, to limit the dissemination of knowledge to those whom are disciplined enough to show restraint and care in the use of their powers. As such, access to magical knowledge and training becomes rare amongst the general population, or rigidly constrained to rank in the clergy or arcane guilds as appropriate.

Due to magic’s rarity, the spectacular and hard to explain or understand effects, and lack of common knowledge, magic users tend to be distrusted by the majority of people without access to such power. Fear is a regular reaction, and laws restricting or prohibiting the practice of magic are often the result.

Competing philosophies have difficulty reconciling the differences between them. Theurgists often see sorcerers as people full of hubris, and trying to claim divine powers for themselves, in a clearly heretical manner. Contrarily, Sorcerers see Theurgist as deluded and unnecessarily superstitious folk, who are dependant upon the whims of their deity to dole out power. Both groups distrust persons capable of Psionic magic, as the non-divine nature, and lack of training or study, makes them more chaotic in the application of their magic. Undisciplined and unpredictable, mind mages are poorly treated by both the general population and those in the arcane guilds or churches.

Beneath these differences, magic is the same at its root. It all comes from the same source, and functions along the same fundamental principles. The philosophy of the user forms the lens through which it is understood and manipulated. Having an underlying cohesive primordial source for all magic allows for special cases, such as magical diseases or curses, to exist within the same structure. For example, Therianthropy.

Therianthrope – A person whom can transform between their natural form and that of a particular beast. This is realized as a infectious disease, with a magical ability that transfers to the infected. Through this system, a victim of such a creature could survive the initial attack and succumb to the disease at a later time. However, if they recover from the disease, the magical ability and infectious nature of the disease will have integrated into their being, such that they now exist as the same sort of cursed being. They gain the ability to transform between forms, but are also capable of spreading the curse, just like the original creature that gave them it.

With this unifying magical conceptualization, I can expand upon the extant lore for the already detailed magical philosophies and practices, and add additional practices or manifestations of magic in different areas of the world of Entorais, which I have yet to explore in detail. Keeping with the idea of consistency, such additions should not contradict or undermine the already extant systems for magic use.

Polite Conversation in Kythus

The following excerpt is a response to a prompt about conversational etiquette from the r/WorldChallenges subreddit. The conversation is in-character; Nölna is speaking in his first language Kythusave. The literal translation into English is for my non-Kythan readers.

With thanks to reddit user u/thequeeninyellow94 Who provided the prompt and an engaging conversation partner.

Nölna: “Źa. Mana paplö Nölna.”

Hi. I named Nölna.

  • In Kythus a polite greeting and introduction is a good start.

TQIY: “Hello Nölna, I’m a non euclydian extraterrestrial being. How are you? A weird summer we got isn’t it?”

Nölna: “Mana zamaty kyägrä mana. Molëŧëv zumaty ŧalödwe tya źelëŧëv. Këxö ka pety kypälömeb kal ökäd?

I am healthy me. This-summer is-being wetter compared past-summer. How a being does not-full a room?

  • Asking about health and small talk about the weather is typically acceptable – even if it is obvious to everyone.

  • A direct question about a strangers oddness is not considered rude in Kythus.

TQIY: “Does not-full a room? Because it’s a pretty large room? Actually, I think I don’t get your question… could you explain what you mean?”

Nölna: ” Mana foŧömy wö. Mo mëp ŧalämastmü tya pryđ nuk muz ökäd, kylë ko pamagë. Këxö zaty muz odevy?”
I will-give reason. You have more-parts compared seen in the room, but all be-here. How is that possible?

  • Nölna is politely using the genderless pronoun ‘mo’ to refer to his conversational partner, as he does not know it, and assuming is an insult, but using the neuter/unknown is not rude, even if gender is potentially obvious to an observer.

  • The term non-Euclidean means nothing to a Kythan, as they do not know of Euclid, or his mathematical theorems.

  • A non-Euclidean being might be perceived as a demon.

  • Conversing politely with a demon is a grave sin according to the dominant religion of Kythus, best to figure that out quickly.

TQIY: “Fear not, a demon I’m not. I’m fully in the room physically as I’m one, as long as you don’t think too much about my continuity through time and space. I’m some kind of goddess if you want. Conversing with divine beings is fine right?”

(Is there some kind of pronoun to politely address people?)

Nölna: “Mana źalyplu. Mu hyëgrepmü tëfnaŧadytëfva zyhymanaty plo zacü. Zaflëd źëk mu balëma zaty ytwë đalug pegëxö. Ëmamova zaty kylud Pëolüva ud Rylava, mutëfvü hy mana hyöda. Kewö Ëmamova folekwy mana. Mana zaty mefë kal yten pënoköna.”

I unworried. The ways-of gods-and-goddesses never-mine-be for understanding. Speaking with the divine is usually less-direct praying. You are neither Peoluva or Rylava, the goddesses of my people. Why you would-be-shown me? I am only a simple farmer.

  • The extremely formal pronoun ‘Ëmamova’ [divine-2P-fem] is used as soon as you stated your preferred gender.

  • Every pronoun can be preceded by an appropriate adword to adjust the formality or politic of the speakers intent.

  • Nölna is also getting more verbose as the conversation continues. This is a subtle cue that he wishes to keep talking. Fewer and shorter sentences would be a way of indicating a lack of desire for extended conversation.

TQIY: “That’s the point; I’m actually looking for a perfectly normal conversation and there is nobody more qualified to talk about weather than a farmer. Beside, is there any reason I shouldn’t reveal myself to you?”

Nölna: “Mana źacü. Mana falüwam kywö. Ëmamutëfva përävü źulekwy Jödena Pelan, ka tëkapëpäho. Kyŧus hydrut odevy cesku ufomü nuk ka häje. Bleŧmü veflëd mamö zamëp ka zalakym drutyŧydük, kylë mamö xü voklëz vykru acëmü, ad prän usö kyëtömü. Ëmamova hydrutyŧydük zaty lëyp mana hydrutyŧydük?”

I understand. I suppose nowhy. The goddess herselves appeared to Jodena Pelan [Kythan spelling] – a tëkaherd. Kythan weather can change many times in a day. people say we have a blessed climate, but we also will-get savage storms, and deep winter snows. Your climate be similar-to my climate?

  • Responding to inquiries with a similar reciprocal inquiry is polite, and somewhat expected amongst Kythans.

TQIY: “Change many time in a day? Like changing a lot? Like going from clear to harsh storm? Because in that case, my climate isn’t like that at all, it change way slower.

And what is a tëkaherd?”

Nölna: “Mu baspëdë vacesku xö önëd ëgrepmü. Ödypelotok zaty balytwë ypuh kylë ejy ukrä. Ka tëkapëpäho zaty ka pëzapäho hy tëkamü, ka ytwë nokökwybe mamü zaŧüđ äsoc ypryc, öcy, ad wrütü. Ëmamova mëp ka nokökwybemü in ëmamova hylođuđüŧydük?”

It frequently changes by little ways. Rainfall is normally brief it, but much amount. A tëkaherd is a herder of tëka(s), a common farm-animal we grow for wool, milk, and meat. You have any farm-animals in your hearth-region?

  • Clarifying remarks are made without prejudice when the query comes from proper ignorance of the facts, as with foreign entities.

  • Had these questions come from a Kythan who should know better, the questions would either be ignored, or given a terse and dismissive response (depending on the relative status of the speaker to the listener).

TQIY: “Isn’t it problematic for managing your fields moisture (?) level?

We have animals which can produce both milk, meat and wool; they are called sheeps. How big are tëkaherd?”

Nölna: “Manü nokömü zamëp jynek pepalupäźy.” -he laughs- “Ödü tëkapëpäho fapakwotü aga mëtermü, kylë gry zaty ŧazö. Moge mu tëkamü mumü zapëpäho fapäkwotü bekrod aga mëter, ad fapakravy rä mëter. Kë zapaflät ka ‘shëps’?”

Our fields have good drainage. (Laughs) Some tëkaherds tall two meters, but most are more-short. Now the tëka they herd tall about divided two meter, and long one meter. (How) big a ‘sheeps’?

  • Answering a question literally (how big is a ‘tëkaherd’), when the intended meaning is apparent is a type of witty humour in Kythus.

  • A polite person will also answer the intended question (how big is a ‘tëka’).

TQIY: “Do you use all that water for something?

I’m not sure about the exact size of a sheep but they are slightly bigger than tëkas.”


(While not done intentionally, this is a error on the part of the writer.)

  • Nölna has been quite rude and left you hanging in conversation.

Nölna: “Lyu valüđäk vrepmü źoŧuđ. Ödü ejöfëmü vatöc lyu valënä ŧaflät oplumü ad vabrök ogëmü. Këlë ëmamova źođötru mana, mana źofräm mana hypezëv. Ëmamova äkë ëmamova hypejët.”

Water helps the crops grow. Some mills use water to-roll great wheels and grind grains. If you would-allow me, I must-return my labouring. You enjoy your visit.

This is a much more polite manner to disengage from a conversation.

  • Answer any last questions.

  • Politely suggest ending the conversation with a reason.

  • General wish for a positive departure.

TQIY: “I dismiss you mortal, go back to your mortal occupation. I’m kidding, thanks for your answers Nölna; may your fields flourish.”

Kyŧusave Phonetics




English Example




Open Front




Close-mid Front




Open-mid Front




Close Front




Open Back




Close-mid Back Rounded




Open-mid Back




Close Back Rounded




Close Front Rounded




English Example




Labial Plosive




Labial Plosive




Alveolar Plosive




Alveolar Plosive




Velar Plosive




Velar Plosive




Labiodental Nasal




Alveolar Nasal








Labiodental Fricative




Labiodental Fricative




Dental Fricative




Dental Fricative




Alveolar Fricative




Alveolar Fricative




Postalveolar Fricative




Velar Fricative




Glottal Fricative




Labiodental Approximate




Palatal Approximate




Alveolar Lateral-Approximate



Labalized Alveolar Fricative


A game originating in Kythus, that is played in taverns an gambling halls throughout Entorais using a paired set of discs marked with three shapes in three colours.

Players play to eliminate each others discs while trying to have the most remaining after the round  to score points according to two simple rules: “One by colour, two by shape”.

The material used, symbols, and colours vary widely with regional preferences, but the basic game and rules remain the same.

Simple farmers or tradesmen typically have sets of tokens carved from local hardwood, with simple cut shapes, and stained with plant dyes for colour. The most expensive set ever produced, belonging to the King of Kythus, is a ivory inlaid with garnet, sapphire, and topaz, banded in gold and silver.

The game is fast to play, and despite its exceedingly simple rules, can develop some very strategic play styles.

Complete Rules in PDF Format

King’s Field

I'm glad we settled our conflict

A board game (similar to Terran “chess”), popular amongst nobles and the military, played on a board of 81 squares (9 by 9). Two opposing players attempt to capture each other’s King through use of their army of Men-at-Arms, Archers, and Horsemen. The victory conditions and ransom for captured pieces is agreed upon by the players before starting play.


The Man-at-Arms is the most common piece. It representing a foot soldier. A relatively weak piece, it requires one other supporting attacker, even a second Man-at-Arms, in order to make a valid capture of an opposing piece. The large number of Men-at-Arms in the army makes up for this weakness.


Each army has four archers, representing bowmen. Their ability to attack over other pieces makes them useful tactically, as they can attack from behind friendly pieces which provide a defence from the opponents pieces. Like the skirmishers they represent, Archers can also retreat using their agile movement to escape threatened capture.


Each army has four Horsemen, representing mounted cavalry. They are fast, and can cover a wide area. Their linear movement reflects the mounted charge of real combat.

The King

Ultimately the most important piece of the game, the King represents the army’s commander and if captured the fight is over. While capable the King can be a vulnerable piece, and protecting this piece from capture is critical to playing well.

Complete Rules in PDF Format