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“[The soul is] an unordered collection of attributes that define a person,” I said. “And if that’s true, then all soul magic is really doing is rewriting those attributes.”

Fallatehr nodded. “There, as simple as that.”
Worth the Candle Chapter 63: "The Chemical History of a Candle"

Essentialism, aka soul magic, allows the mage to alter their soul and the souls of those they touch. Performing soul magic involves entering a trance during which the caster loses most of their senses, including hearing,[1] sight,[2] and time.[3]

Soul magic and soul mages were used extensively in the Second Empire,[4] and were infamous for altering the values of enemy prisoners in order to force them to serve.[5] As a result, being an unregistered soul mage is a capital crime in the Empire of Common Cause,[6] and soul mages in general are widely feared and hated. Anolia are capable of detecting the ability to use soul magic, and are employed by many institutions in order to ferret out hidden soul mages.[7] They are especially important because Essentialism wards don't exist.[8]

Soul magic is closely tied to the other bodily magics- nonanima do not possess latent blood, bone, or skin magic.[9] The soul also functions as the interface for many magical effects, rendering them completely ineffective for a nonanima unless the magic would also normally function on a completely inanimate object.[10]

Spells[]

Soul magic doesn't have explicit spells like some other magics. Its use is deeply entwined with the game layer, and many of the abilities it grants Juniper are unlocked via virtues. That said, there are some specific effects that soul magic can create for more than one caster, and those will be listed here.

The exact interface apparently differs between casters, (most people don't get Juniper's True Character Sheets) but the results are similar.[citation needed]

In order to access someone's soul, a soul mage needs to physically touch them,[11] accessing the latent magic of their body (generally Skin Magic) and from there the soul.[citation needed] A typical soul mage requires minutes of contact to make alterations, but more advanced soul mages can do so more quickly. Touching a soul mage for only term seconds is generally considered safe. [11]

Value Alteration[]

Casters have access to how much the target values some noun, and can change this amount. The noun itself is somewhat flexible- it can be abstract (freedom) or more concrete (a person).[12] All of the effects created by this method are somewhat symmetric[speculation] - valuation can be positive or negative,[13] so you can theoretically create the opposite effect by flipping the sign.

Value alteration is temporary,[14] but since soul magic doesn't consume resources in practice it's possible to repeatedly alter values enough to make the changes effectively permanent.[15]

For example, you can cure an addiction by dropping the associated value closer to 0,[16] or make someone hate someone else by dropping their value deep into the negatives.[13]

Uses seen so far include:

  • It is possible to get loyalty from a subject by making them value the caster or some other person or institution far more than anything else.[17]
  • It is possible to create/cure addictions by manipulating the value of a sensation.[16]
  • It is possible to cause the subject to want a romantic relationship by changing the values associated with romantic or sexual attraction for that person.[18]

Body Structure Alteration[]

The soul contains a blueprint for the body[19]- it isn't always accurate,[20] but it's what the body builds towards when it heals.[21]

The blueprint can be altered directly via soul magic,[22] or indirectly by the burning the bones of a living creature,[23] or by other more exotic means.[24]

Pelehr[]

Pelehr are created directly via soul magic. They have a body that's optimized for combat, and a mind to match.[22]

Skeletal System[]

Fallatehr claimed that bone magic works by adding a piece of one thing's soul to another's.[25] Regardless of the exact mechanism, burning bones will damage the soul's concept of the bone in question.[23]

In addition, soul mages can cure a drained bone by copying a healthy one into the correct place.[26] These copies can be obtained from other creatures,[27] or by mirroring one of the caster's bones from the other side of their body.[26]

Skill Alteration[]

Skill alteration has been targeted heavily by exclusions. In the past, it was possible to copy skills between people,[28] create custom[29] or gestalted[30] skills, and much more.[31] In the present, we see skill alteration used to permanently lower one skill in order to grant a temporary bonus to another,[32] and to permanently reduce the level of other's skills.[33]

These temporary bonuses are useful to Juniper because they provide virtues[34] and can break stat caps,[35] but the most common use in general appears to be removing the caster's own ability to use soul magic in order to avoid execution.[36]

Soul-Bonded Tanks[]

It is possible to us soul magic[37] to create a bond that makes one person take damage that would have been dealt to someone else.[38] This is fairly common for adventuring parties/fireteams,[38] and can be used for bodyguards.[39]

Self-Knowledge[]

Soul mages of sufficient skill can learn to see their lineage, invested entads, and True Name.[40] It's possible that an even more skillful soul mage could see the same in the souls of other people[speculation].

Essentialism in the Game Layer[]

Essentialism's primary attribute is WIS, and its secondary attribute is KNO.[41]

Essentialism is tied very heavily to the game layer in general- the Guild of the Essential Soul apparently knew about stats[42] and skills[28]- but Juniper in particular gets access to what he calls his 'True Character Sheet'.[43]

In addition to the skill manipulations noted above, Juniper thinks that he can freely transfer up to 1 stat point per 10 levels,[44] and respec himself once per (100 levels/skill in Essentialism)[45] by swapping out learnable skills (as long as he stays at the maximum of 40).[46] Essentialism also tells Juniper the primary and secondary stats associated with every skill.[47]

Essentialism's virtues are:[48][49]

  • Soul Slip, 20: Allows you to make new modifications and alterations within the soul. Allows you to alter that which had been unalterable.
  • Soul Sight, 40: Grants a visual representation of souls, each with a unique color, which can be distinguished with acuity beyond the limits of the eye. Applies to both the soul and any magic which interfaces with a soul in some meaningful way.
  • Soul Saturation, 60: Knowledge of your soul allows it to fully suffuse you, giving a number of benefits to a wide variety of magic. Your blood works as an infusion for the purposes of pustule magic. You can use your blood as though it were magical ink (4 ζ /mL) for the purposes of ink magic. Your bones are considered wood for the purposes of wood magic. Required connective power for plants is reduced by half.  You may retract your soul from your extremities for the purposes of bypassing wards. Any magic items or magics which limit projection or application to your eyes, hands, feet, or mouth, can instead be projected or applied from any part of your body. Your skin and/or carapace is treated as though it were skin and/or carapace for the purposes of skin magic and carapace magic, whichever is more beneficial. Runes may be written on your skin as though it were prepared vellum. More benefits apply in specific exclusion zones: consult the manual for more detail.
  • Soul Scaphism, 80: You can carve out parts of other people to use for your own purposes. Any benefits are temporary; any costs are permanent.
  • Soul Symbiote, 100: Double your effective skill in Bone Magic, Blood Magic, Skin Magic, Carapace Magic, Pustule Magic, and the flower magic aspect of Horticulture, up to a cap of 75. Double your effective connection to any magical item which interfaces with your soul, unless doing so has associated maluses. Increase your skill with any specialty or subschool of magic that uses the soul by 20 points, up to a cap of 50.

The Twinned Souls companion passive also creates a link between Juniper's soul and the companion's, which allows him to access their soul without touch and regardless of distance,[50] but this link does not work on companions who are dead[51] or lack a soul in the first place.[52]

Excluded abilities[]

Essentialism is in an interesting spot as far as exclusions go. Most of the magic exclusions that we see (glass, ice, illusion) target the entire magic. Essentialism, on the other hand, has over a dozen exclusions carefully carving off bits and pieces of the skill. They include:[53][30][54][55]

  • The ability to change the primary or secondary abilities of skills.
  • The ability to copy the caster's soul.
  • The ability to double any information within the caster's soul.
  • The ability to copy skills over to other people.
  • The ability to create additional bones in the caster's body.
  • The ability to lower abilities below zero.
  • The ability to lower skills below zero.
  • The ability to lock the caster's soul as it is. (but see Still magic for a workaround)
  • The ability to edit the caster's bloodline, presumably for the purpose of entad inheritance.
  • The ability to edit the caster's species.
  • The ability to take unique magics from another’s soul.
  • The ability to create skills.
  • The ability to gestalt skills.
  • The ability to modify the caster's True Name.
  • The ability to bring the dead back to life (in several different ways)

Known Practitioners[]

References

  1. I could hear conversation, but only enough to know that it was going on, and even then it slipped away, lost on its way to me
    Worth the Candle Chapter 70: "Moral Agency" Note that Juniper didn't hear them speaking
  2. I was only dimly aware of my body, and blind on top of that,
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  3. We’d worked out a system where Fenn would slap my thigh once every two minutes, in order to help me keep track of time
    Worth the Candle Chapter 78: "The Sacrifice"
  4. If they were known for their soul work, then maybe he has something worth sharing?
    Worth the Candle Chapter 56: "Vacation Vocations"
  5. during the time of the Second Empire, still mages were routinely employed to bring in subjects of interest alive so that their souls could be altered and they could first divulge every secret they knew before being volunteered into the ranks of expendable soldiers
    Worth the Candle Chapter 145: "Freshman"
  6. The traditional penalty is death, but it’s my understanding that this is often waived in lieu of forfeiture of talent
    Worth the Candle Chapter 70: "Moral Agency"
  7. “I’d have to get an anolia to check you over,” Oberlin replied. “The athenaeum keeps a cluster on staff, and I’m friends with a few.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 145: "Freshman"
  8. Then I guess I'll just WoG that they don't exist
    Alexander Wales on Discord, 2020/04/08
  9. Valencia’s blood had no magic to it at all
    Worth the Candle Chapter 106: "The One-Hand Warder"
  10. The general rule was that magic didn’t interact with Valencia at all unless it would also interact with (say) a sack of potatoes, which was why we called it the Sack of Potatoes Rule. The soul was, in some sense, the interface that most magic worked on, and without that interface, you were left high and dry.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 106: "The One-Hand Warder"
  11. 11.0 11.1 Chapter 20: Drift
  12. Sorted by weighting, “Amaryllis” was at the top of her own list of values, and in second was “Autonomy”, then “Power”, then “Life”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 65: "A Kindred Soul"
  13. 13.0 13.1 I reordered the list to bring up Fallatehr, whose value was listed as not just negative, but at such a high negative number that I was almost alarmed by it. If I was reading the collection of values right, there were a number of things that Fenn would have given up in order to kill him.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 65: "A Kindred Soul"
  14. “These attributes are mutable, but will revert to a coherent state, given time.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 63: "The Chemical History of a Candle"
  15. “A temporary solution that you can keep reapplying without significant cost is, de facto, a permanent solution.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 94: "Grayscale"
  16. 16.0 16.1 I shifted the number down as soon as I was able to work up the will to do it, and it got easier as I went.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 70: "Moral Agency"
  17. “I didn’t alter their memories,” said Fallatehr. “I altered their values to match my own, along with as many of the pathways as I could.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 63: "The Chemical History of a Candle"
  18. It took a deep dive into the social aspect of the soul, but I was eventually able to find the lever for romantic and sexual attraction. All I did was reduce them both down to nothing....I know that to some extent you reciprocated. I think I can help show you where to make the change, if you -- if this doesn’t help alleviate things on your end.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 94: "Grayscale" Note: the offer to show Juniper where to make the change only makes sense if she's fairly confident it won't hurt his relationship with Fenn, so I'm assuming that the dials are specific to each person.
  19. To my left the skeleton of my body was displayed, with the bones of my ribs and left hand outlined in red and otherwise absent from the picture. I could change that display with a thought, putting organs in my belly and veins running through my limbs, layering on muscle, adding skin, until I was staring at myself.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  20. “The soul has its own attributes which do not always align with what the body presents.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 63: "The Chemical History of a Candle"
  21. “Injury is a matter of how the soul views the body,” said Fallatehr with a triumphant, sharp-toothed grin. “I think you will find that they are quite injured.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 62: "Drift"
  22. 22.0 22.1 “I stripped out everything I didn’t think was necessary and used it to rebuild them into something ferocious. It used to be common, in the glory days of the Second Empire. They are death incarnate, though of course, better suited to fighting against people.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 62: "Drift"
  23. 23.0 23.1 But to get at the actual question, the problem seems to be that when you drain bones, you’re not affecting the scaffold, or not just, you’re actually fucking with the blueprint.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 39: "Strategic Reserves"
  24. “Our souls were poisoned,” answered Solace.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 118: "Breaking Loose"
  25. “Bone magic, at its heart, is nothing more than briefly adding someone’s soul to your own.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 67: "A Helping Hand"
  26. 26.0 26.1 “You will need training in how it’s done, but you have two hands,” he said, holding his hands out in front of him, palms pointed to the night sky. “The bones of the right provide a blueprint that can be mirrored.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  27. you would have to take from the soul of another
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  28. 28.0 28.1 I couldn’t copy skills over to other people.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 78: "The Sacrifice"
  29. That apparently wasn’t an option for me, because it was “Deprecated, Exclusion #17”.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  30. 30.0 30.1 Error: Illegal Construction, Gestalting Deprecated, Exclusion #4
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  31. I couldn’t change the primary or secondary abilities of my skills.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 78: "The Sacrifice"
  32. The second thing I did was to go to one of my little-used skills, Bows, and lower it by a point. When I had lowered Essentialism, I’d been kicked from my soul, which made sense given that I had zeroed out the skill and temporarily lost it. Here, I was trying to see whether lowering a skill actually gave me anything, because the description for Soul Slip explicitly mentioned trade-offs. After feeling around the internal space of the skill section in my soul, I eventually realized that I could feel something slippery there, and with a push of will, could apply it to one of the other skills. I applied it to One-handed Weapons, which was at its cap, pushing it up to 22. One of the annoying things about being inside the soul was that I didn’t get any of the HUD notifications that I got in the ‘real’ world, but waiting in my list of Afflictions were two new entries. Overcapped: Skill will decay at 1 per 10 minutes until under cap. Skilled trade: Skill will decay at 1 per 10 minutes until returned to baseline.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 74: "The Mouth of a Long River"
  33. What is left is the ability to carve out such things from someone else, given sufficient training and ample amount of time.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 67: "A Helping Hand"
  34. I closed my eyes, waiting three painfully slow seconds, and looked down the list of virtues.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 78: "The Sacrifice"
  35. you could push Essentialism up above 100
    Worth the Candle Chapter 76: "Date Night"
  36. “I’m given to understand that soul mages are capable of eradicating their own ability in the art,” said the Abswifth. He tapped his pen against the paper in front of him. “I believe it would allow you to pass the first screening, or perhaps the second, in perhaps two hours' time, after which you would be free to leave.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 70: "Moral Agency"
  37. All of Fallatehr’s people were probably linked through the soul, so that wounds would end up on the person most able to take them
    Worth the Candle Chapter 62: "Drift" There's a lot of circumstantial evidence for soul links being created through soul magic, like the name and the presence of officially registered soul mages, but this is the most direct. I'm going to mark it as not speculation but it's close.
  38. 38.0 38.1 plus one brute, possibly a caster himself, linked through the soul in order to take the hits himself
    Worth the Candle Chapter 9: "Making Magic"
  39. “Was there a big guy in full plate?” I asked. “Because he’s soul-linked, you’d kill him instead of Larkspur.”
    Worth the Candle Chapter 47: "At Arm's Length"
  40. I found my True Name, which I won’t give here. I found a record of my lineage, with unfamiliar names above my own... There was a record of the items that had been invested in me by Amaryllis
    Worth the Candle Chapter 78: "The Sacrifice"
  41. A quick check of Essentialism showed that it had WIS/KNO as its primary and secondary skills
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  42. So far as I could tell, there was a one to one correspondence between bone-magic aspects and game-layer attributes. “They are a gesture in the direction of information written on the soul,” said Fallatehr.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 67: "A Helping Hand"
  43. I was looking at my True Character Sheet.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 63: "The Chemical History of a Candle"
  44. My guess was that I could move around a number of points equal to one tenth my Essentialism, but that was just a guess.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 78: "The Sacrifice"
  45. Warning: Skill changes can be done once per (100 levels / skill in Essentialism)
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  46. Error: Illegal Construction, selected number of skills exceeds 40.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  47. the primary and secondary attributes were exposed here
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  48. I closed my eyes, waiting three painfully slow seconds, and looked down the list of virtues.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 80: "The Princess and the Pea"
  49. Essentialism 20, Soul Slip: Allows you to make new modifications and alterations within the soul. Allows you to alter that which had been unalterable.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 105: "Notes"
  50. Twinned Souls, that had linked us on more than just a figurative and mechanical level, it had opened up her soul to me.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 64: "In Which Juniper Stares At His Character Sheet, Again"
  51. There had been four lines leading away from my soul, and now there were three.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 118: "Breaking Loose"
  52. One was snipped and waving in the wind, the presentation that the game had chosen for Valencia’s soul.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 118: "Breaking Loose"
  53. soul magic must have been the cause of a whole host of patches
    Worth the Candle Chapter 78: "The Sacrifice"
  54. I knew, as if I’d had it drilled into my head long ago, that my True Name could not be changed, and there was no way to hack my lineage so that I was Uther Penndraig’s eldest son; these things were excluded, impossible now, but hadn’t always been.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 78: "The Sacrifice"
  55. I... had found a half dozen pathways toward bringing someone back to life, all of them blocked by one exclusion or another.
    Worth the Candle Chapter 80: "The Princess and the Pea"
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