Author Topic: Essence and Empathy  (Read 1336 times)

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Offline Thot

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Essence and Empathy
« on: November 06, 2023, 06:13:11 AM »
Essence magic is implied to be sort of scientific, but the realm stat for this type of magic is Empathy. This poses an interesting question: If Empathy (the ability to understand others' emotions) is what makes you better at hurling fireballs, doesn't that mean that Essence is, essentially (ha!) a living thing? That Magicians are not exactly engineering their magic, but rather convincing it to do as they desire?


Offline Hurin

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2023, 08:47:16 AM »
I think the original definition of Essence was influenced by The Force from Star Wars. That helps to explain why Monks were originally Essence. You can see how someone who uses The Force needs Empathy.

But I agree that 'Empathy' is not always the best chosen word. You don't naturally think of a user of that sort of magic -- analogous to what D&D calls 'Arcane' magic -- as especially empathetic.
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Offline EltonJ

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2023, 09:41:17 AM »
I always saw it as a connection of some sorts.  The higher your empathy, the greater your connection.

Offline MisterK

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2023, 10:25:14 AM »
I always see the separation of the three realms as along the lines of :
Essence : the world
Channeling : the divine
Mentalism : the self (the mind)

Essence is governed by Empathy because you have to feel the world to be able to influence it. Mentalism, for all its subtle effects, is more brute force in that the will of the caster overcomes the will, or resistance to change, of the target. Essence is, to me, more of the 'I find how I can minimise the friction because of affinities, influences, flows (or whatever), and then I do it'.

This goes hand in hand with the separation of Taoist and Zen monks in the RMSS Martial Arts companion: the taoist (Essence) monk turns outside, the zen (Mentalism) monk turns inside.

You can have analytical people in every realm. Astrologers, for instance, are probably very analytical and pseudo-scientific, and Summoners probably are as well. But Essence, being "of the world", attracts people who have an interest in knowing the world - so kind of an experimental scientist mindset.

But some professions could easily change realms - the animist, for instance, could easily have a place in the Essence realm (not the Druid : there is a very strong divine component in the druid, at least if you take the quasi-historical reference).

Offline cdcooley

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2023, 11:04:37 PM »
Empathy's link to emotions is just the most common, modern, overly simplified meaning of the word.

Merriam-Webster's two definitions are:
  • the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another
  • the act of imagining one's ideas, feelings, or attitudes as fully inhabiting something observed (such as a work of art or natural occurrence) : the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
The first is the more modern version focused on understanding and being aware of what is around you. The second is the older form and involves projecting into something else. Together those two seem like an excellent basis for magic based on a connection to the world.

Offline EltonJ

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2023, 12:13:44 PM »
Empathy's link to emotions is just the most common, modern, overly simplified meaning of the word.

Merriam-Webster's two definitions are:
  • the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another
  • the act of imagining one's ideas, feelings, or attitudes as fully inhabiting something observed (such as a work of art or natural occurrence) : the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
The first is the more modern version focused on understanding and being aware of what is around you. The second is the older form and involves projecting into something else. Together those two seem like an excellent basis for magic based on a connection to the world.

Hmm.  First definition from Marion-Webster:

1. the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.

2. the act of imagining one's ideas, feelings, or attitudes as fully inhabiting something observed (such as a work of art or natural occurrence) : the imaginative projection (see projection sense 6b) of a subjective (see subjective entry 1 sense 3a) state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy

Offline jdale

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2023, 04:24:29 PM »
Hmm, interesting. So for example in the case of a fire bolt, there might be to some extent feeling the emotional intensity of that flame, but it's more that you are infusing that flame with anger directed towards your foe so that it leaps to strike at them.

Empathy is from "suffering within". It's related to sympathy ("suffering with"), which has an emotional meaning but also is central to the idea of sympathetic magic, using a point of connection between two things to cause an effect on one to be transmitted to the other. In that sense, empathetic magic could be creating a connection between yourself and the target so that the magic you are manifesting at yourself transfers itself to them.
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Offline Hurin

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2023, 10:53:21 PM »
It is an interesting point. But to me, the imaginative projection of one's subjectivity onto another seems more like Mentalism than Essence.
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Offline MisterK

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2023, 11:37:08 PM »
It is an interesting point. But to me, the imaginative projection of one's subjectivity onto another seems more like Mentalism than Essence.
True, but when you think about it, all magic is about imposing the will of the caster onto the world to change it. The differences between the Realms are about how you do it.
You could say that the difference is in where the energy comes from, but the mechanisms don't support that interpretation. Otherwise, only Mentalists would have Power Points - Essence would use the ambient energy, while Channeling would use the energy of an external entity (divine in most cases) and the balancing factor would work in another way (increased risk of overload, dependency on environmental conditions, increasing chance of burnout, 'gaining/losing favour' micro-system... but not intrinsic energy, which is what power points are). And, to be honest, it would probably make more sense.

But that's not how RM works, so you have to turn elsewhere to find the difference.

Offline netbat

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2023, 11:57:20 AM »
You could say that the difference is in where the energy comes from, but the mechanisms don't support that interpretation. Otherwise, only Mentalists would have Power Points - Essence would use the ambient energy, while Channeling would use the energy of an external entity (divine in most cases) and the balancing factor would work in another way ... but not intrinsic energy, which is what power points are).

Actually the mechanics can support this interpretation if you change the way of looking at things. If you interpret power points as the bodies ability to handle magical energy/damage like body development/hitpoints do for physical damage/stress then the energy source is just flavor. You have an infinite supply of energy to pull from the universe(essence) or you diety(channeling), but your body can only handle so much.
You may have to play around a bit with interpreting adders and multipliers and similar issues, but RAW does support it. Personally I prefer having different mechanics and balancing factors, but that is a lot of work and moves away from RAW.
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Offline cdcooley

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2023, 10:42:13 PM »
Using the Shadow World interpretations of the realms I view Power Points for the three realms as working differently even if the mechanics seem the same, which also explains why Adders and Multipliers are realm specific.

In my view each caster has a small pool of intrinsic power (like all things) but develops skill in accessing more. Channeling casters use their intrinsic power to form a link to some other power and then the merged result imposes change onto the world, so the skill involves forming a greater bond with the "divine". Essence casters use their intrinsic power to link into all that already exists nearby and then induce it to conform to the caster's will in a "sympathetic magic" way, so the skill involves becoming more in touch with the world. Mentalism casters use their intrinsic power directly in a "mind over matter" way but their spells have an intrinsically smaller scope and lower power level than the other realms (but also sometimes with a more fine-grained control) because they rely entirely on their own resources, so for them the skill reflects an actual increase in personal power and greater proficiency in applying it.

Offline Thot

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2023, 05:44:25 AM »
Thank you all for these fascinating contribuions. I appreciate them all!

Offline MisterK

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2023, 10:19:45 AM »
Using the Shadow World interpretations of the realms I view Power Points for the three realms as working differently even if the mechanics seem the same, which also explains why Adders and Multipliers are realm specific.
Just a side note here: the spell adders and multipliers are not necessarily realm-specific. A few are not specific at all, and some are profession-specific. I appreciate the logic for the interpretation of what power points are (even though I still think different mechanisms would be preferable), but the magic items by themselves are not a proof of this :)

Offline cdcooley

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2023, 11:34:18 PM »
Using the Shadow World interpretations of the realms I view Power Points for the three realms as working differently even if the mechanics seem the same, which also explains why Adders and Multipliers are realm specific.
Just a side note here: the spell adders and multipliers are not necessarily realm-specific. A few are not specific at all, and some are profession-specific. I appreciate the logic for the interpretation of what power points are (even though I still think different mechanisms would be preferable), but the magic items by themselves are not a proof of this :)
I agree that different mechanisms would be nice, but at least you can interpret the existing common mechanic in different ways without feeling like you're making absurd assertions and justifications to get to the goal of having them be distinct in some way. And yes, some items can handle all realms but they are more rare and difficulty to make. There are hybrid and profession specific items but there are also swords of slaying against specific types of foes, so that just proves that alchemists can be creative in adding specific restrictions on items and using those to offset other factors in the item creation.

Offline MisterK

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #14 on: November 11, 2023, 12:29:46 AM »
Just a side note here: the spell adders and multipliers are not necessarily realm-specific. A few are not specific at all, and some are profession-specific. I appreciate the logic for the interpretation of what power points are (even though I still think different mechanisms would be preferable), but the magic items by themselves are not a proof of this :)
I agree that different mechanisms would be nice, but at least you can interpret the existing common mechanic in different ways without feeling like you're making absurd assertions and justifications to get to the goal of having them be distinct in some way. And yes, some items can handle all realms but they are more rare and difficulty to make. There are hybrid and profession specific items but there are also swords of slaying against specific types of foes, so that just proves that alchemists can be creative in adding specific restrictions on items and using those to offset other factors in the item creation.
Interesting variation as well. When I dish out spell enhancers, they tend to be profession-specific. Realm-specific are rarer, and universal enhancers are even rarers. Simply because the more restrictions there are, the easier it is to build a significant item.
In my view, magic item creation is not an industry - you do not produce hoping that someone will buy. It is always built on purpose (build-on-demand). As such, there is no reason to make something that is not profession-specific unless the customer explicitly mentions that the variability is required. Since most orders are "for personal use", customers know what to order. Ideally, they would probably require something even more specific ("usable only by me and those of my blood", or something like that), but technically, this is not a restriction anymore but a protection of sorts, and as such costs extra :)

[the consequence of that choice is, of course, that a significant number of items the characters discover or loot are items they cannot use, because they were made for people like the ones they just killed, which does not necessarily coincide with what they are. The character usually end up having a very secret cache full of items usable by necromancers, evil priests, and the like, with a big metaphorical "danger - radiation" sign on the door :D Or they give them to a Loremaster they know for 'safekeeping' (or dumping in the nearest volcano)].

But I think we are drifting away from the main topic. Sorry.

Back on track : in my current variation, I still use generic Power Points, but there is a possibility for casters to gain extra power by 'gathering Essaence' instead of using one's one PP. This option is not available to Mentalism users. Essence and Channeling users can use it, but the mechanisms are different for both and the side effects for failure are also different for both (it's a one-or-the-other choice: either you use ambient Essaence, or you use your own, but you cannot mix both). The Essaence method tends to be slower. The Channeling method tends to be more dangerous the more often you use it. Both increase in difficulty with the number of PPs required.
There is also a possibility (universal, in this case) to use life energy to power magic when a caster has no PP left. This basically provides PP at the cost of progressively more severe burnout (damage).

This is derived from my personal take on Shadow World cosmology and its impact on magic: Channeling users do not channel power from their chosen God all the time. Most of the time, they use their own magical capability, with a psychological symbolism that 'enables' their magic. The God is aware of the use of the symbol and can choose to block (or enhance) the user's magic, but they seldom do so. Use of divine power to perform magic requires actual use of the Channeling skill (which is basically the 'gather Essaence' for Channelers as explained above).
Channelers can function without a patron god, as long as they believe in *something* (the symbol is what enables their mind to work the manipulation of Essaence). Basically, all magic users use the same power source - which is why Arcane exists - it is magic before the various crutches were invented.

This might end up becoming different casting systems if and when I refine my hack further, of course. I would like to go even further and provide system variations for different *traditions* of magic, but, well, time is not on my side :)

Offline Thot

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2024, 09:20:04 AM »
Hm, reading all these posts, one option comes to mind for some worlds: To simply change the Realm Stat for Essence from Empathy to Reasoning.

Back in RM2 days, that would have changed the balance of stats a bit, but in RMU, I currently think, it should be pretty neutral. Or should it?

Offline Hurin

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #16 on: February 18, 2024, 09:49:55 AM »
It would change the balance a bit but honestly I think Reasoning is one of the least useful stats for most characters, so giving it a boost would probably not be that bad.
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Offline jdale

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #17 on: February 18, 2024, 02:02:03 PM »
It feels a little weird for RRs. Can you rationalize your way out of a spell effect? But I agree that there would not be much of an effect on game balance, since we don't distinguish between development stats and non-development stats anymore. It would reinforce the idea of essence casters as scholars if that's how you want your setting to work.
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Offline rdanhenry

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2024, 02:43:28 PM »
Might be a bit rough on the Dabbler and the Bard.
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Offline cdcooley

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Re: Essence and Empathy
« Reply #19 on: February 19, 2024, 01:59:09 AM »
I just read the new RMU definitions for the stats and I am not impressed, especially for the treatment of empathy which reduces its role in magic to simply an analogy for its more common "emotional awareness" meaning.

Empathy is definitely poorly named and that's been a long-standing problem, but in all prior editions the description is:  "The relationship of the character to the all-pervading force that is common to all things natural and is the basis of most things super-natural." It is perfectly clear that empathy is a measure of the characters ability to have relationships in general not just emotional ones.

For core skills in the original rules, empathy is only used for Runes and Staves/Wands, i.e the magic skills. And for the secondary skills it is a factor for Acting, Animal Healing, First Aid, Frenzy, Herding, Music, Public-Speaking, Sailing, Seduction, Trading, Trap-building, Weather-watching, and Wood-carving. Clearly many of those could benefit from having a good emotional awareness, but not things like Weather-watching or Trap-building. Based on how Empathy was actually used it clearly had a more general role about awareness of the world and not just of emotions. But in later editions, its use has gradually shifted to be more about emotions until in RMU that becomes its primary role.


My take on the three primary and three secondary stats are:

For Mentalism you need Presence to project your own will into the world and Self-Discipline to understand and master yourself first.

For Channeling you rely on Intuition to reveal the will of a patron deity and manifest it into the world along with Memory for the rules and rituals to stay in favor with that deity.

For Essence you need Empathy for the connection to manipulate the forces of the world and Reason to find the required relationships that need to be adjusted to achieve your goals.