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Johnann Gotticus is a warlock on a quest to create his own kingdom, whatever the cost. For this to work, he needs to seek power to destroy his enemies. There is a procedure that allows him to steal mana from other innocent people. For this procedure to work, ancient runes must be carved into the flesh of a living victim from head to toe. Once this is done, the person is killed in a sacrificial ritual. This allows the ghost to leave the body, but keeps the mana contained within the corpse, allowing access to Gotticus to use.

There are two ways in which this mana can be used. The first involves sealing it inside specialized containers. These containers are covered in runes meant to keep the mana in and prevent it from leaking. However, a significant amount of mana is lost upon the transference process from the corpse into the containers, up to 50%. Because of this, Gotticus considers it unreliable.

The second option involves cannibalizing the mana by absorbing it into your body, immediately adding a permanent boost to your supply and makes your magic much stronger and can even extend your lifespan. The body can hold an unlimited supply of mana. It also functions as a better container due to the fact that it is biological, and naturally built to hold it. There is no loss of mana upon transference, allowing all to be absorbed. The problem is that the overall net gain from this method is far less than the 1st option. A person would only receive up to 10% increase in their mana supply, even though 100% has been transferred.

Why would this be the case with the 2nd?

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  • $\begingroup$ What does it mean to you to say that "100% has been transfered," and "only 10% increase in their mana supply"? What does it mean to perfectly transfer something but not get to use it all? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 25 '18 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ This is a magic system where you get to define the rules. So "because" is sufficient justification. $\endgroup$ – jdunlop Oct 25 '18 at 18:01
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Mana in meat is like calories - it's a simple measure of energy attached to your meal, but the physiological interaction with your body will tend to mess you up.

Behold the quadruple bypass burger:

Supersize me? HYPERSIZE ME

One QBB will give you enough energy to:

  • Last the average man nearly four days of energetic sustenance.
  • Heat up one cc of water from room temperature to a plasma hotter than the sun's surface;
  • Obliterate one small vehicle (9900 calories is within the range of the second row in the table).

Yet by eating a QBB you don't gain the power to go One Punch Man on a car. Instead, you get a lot of effects that include your pancreas shouting names at you, higher blood pressure, your bones getting demineralised from the stuff in the soda you took to down that burger and, unless you exercise harder than Michael F. Phelps, lots of extra dead weight to carry around.


Mana is just like that. You don't just store it like a battery and use it to levitate your magical bottom and shoot fireballs from your fingers. There is good mana (which is balanced on soma, ki and essence) and bad mana (which is loaded with saturated phlegm and high on vitae). If you have a very high mana intake without exercising a lot and balancing your diet, this is the kind of wizard you become:

Harry Roundder

You may have more vital energy that could in theory help you live longer, but you'll be more likely to die from a heart attack or a stroke.

And guess what... Necromancers, with their lifestyle of having the undead do their chores for them and spending a lot of time in their parents' basement doing god knows what, are usually the more sedentary mages. Even more so than those guys who teleport everywhere.


So all in all, it's not that the human eating does not do you good enough. It's just that to make full use of that energy you have to be an athlete mage, and eat other things such as newt eye and unicorn veal here and there. But healthy magical food is not as tasty, and you'd rather spend time in the magical lab than in the gym, so you don't make full use of that mana.

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You take in 75% of the mana from a sacrifice. But you lose native mana in the endeavor, so the net is only 10%.

Imagine you have a bag in your hand. You want to catch a bee. With your first attempt you will either catch a bee or not. But on attempting to catch a second bee, you risk losing the bee you already have,

Putting mana in an empty vessel only risks losses on transference. But putting mana in a vessel which already contains mana entails transference losses (perhaps less than those for a nonliving vessel) but also the possibility of losing some mana already in the vessel. A human body is a vessel which necessarily contains mana, and on opening it to receive more, some that is already inside flows out and is lost.

The workaround: empty one's body of mana, storing that elsewhere before refilling it from a new source. This could get dicey.

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The question is Why would this be the case with the 2nd?

The answer is simple. Efficiency. No physical process works at 100% efficiency. if it did this would be the ideal case. For example, steam engine have an efficiency of twenty percent (20%). This means only 20% of the energy produced is converted into useful work. The rest is lost as heat. Photovoltaic cells can have efficiencies approaching the nineties, but they are exceptional devices. Most physical processes including transferring energy to generate useful work is well below 20%.

Essentially this is thermodynamics. But the same applies to all other physical processes; mechanical, electrical and even nuclear. There should be no surprise that a supernatural transfer of mana by absorption should be limited like any other natural process.

In conclusion, there will always be an efficiency with transfer of energy, power or work. This is how nature works. Even supernatural forces should also be governed by an efficiency factor. You can never obtain 100% of anything by any kind of transference. This definitely includes any form of absorption.

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Make the mana leak. The more mana you have, the faster the leak.

This is somewhat how calories work. You eat lots of calories, which are stored as fat. But the fat itself uses up calories, so you need to eat more to maintain your weight. This isn't that big an effect with fat. You could turn it up for mana though.

This is a bit different from your story, but it gets the same result. Cannibalizing mana into yourself is most useful when you plan to use it immediately afterwards. Or you can store it in the jars, but then you lose mana up front.

If you have zero mana stored, you produce a certain amount of mana in recovery. You will net the most when you have no mana stored and at some level of mana your gain and loss just balances. You can only go above that amount by absorbing mana from cannibalization or jars.

Gotticus always maintains a high level of mana, above what can naturally be maintained. He needs to add mana from outside continuously just to stay where he is. It gets worse if he actually needs to use mana. He'll feel like he needs to replace it immediately to get back where he was.

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It sounds to me like it's a matter of transition between mediums.

When electricity flows from a generator to a device, the device isn't receiving 100% of the electricity. Some gets lost along the way. Energy decays the longer it has to travel from one source to another, dependent on the quality of the conductor. When you store the mana in a container, it's like storing energy in a battery. Unless you had a perfect conductor that was well insulated to prevent mana from discharging en route, you can never expect a perfect 1:1 transfer.

It sounds to me like you're trying to use a poor conductor (you, a human,) to pull the mana from the corpse and transfer it into the container. Ignore the fact the mana would start leaking out of the corpse once they died; the fact that you're pulling the mana from an unsealed storage container, moving it through a conductor that lacks insulation (the mana sealing runes), and trying to direct the flow into another container (the jar with runes on it) means it's only logical that you'd lose mana in the process.

When you then try to transfer the mana into yourself, or rather your own inner container, not only are you channeling this energy through a poor conductor without insulation, but you're trying to push it into a container that you can't directly observe and are having to let the mana spray in order to possibly get it to go into the container. Here's a visual for you...

The corpse is a water source. Your hands, arms, and shoulders (creating a distinct path from hand a to hand b) that is being used to channel the mana from the corpse into the new container is the hose. The container with runes on it is Jar A. Your personal mana supply or "inner mana container" is Jar B. You yourself are a houseplant.

You know you need to fill a jar as much as possible. You can use the hose to fill up one of the two containers, but you know you'll lose some either way. The hose doesn't allow the water to exit in a nice stream, it just sprays. Fortunately, you have a clean visual on Jar A, but Jar B is hidden underneath the leaves of a nearby houseplant. You have to fill the jars from a slight distance (a couple feet or less than a meter, nothing crazy), so you can't just put the hose inside either of the jars and solve the issue like that.

By trying to fill Jar A, sure some ends up missing because the hose is faulty. It even probably had a few holes in it, so you should be glad you're not losing more than you are.

By trying to fill Jar B, most of it is being sprayed around the jar due to the things blocking it, keeping it out of sight. You have to work around the houseplant, as well as the spraying water, as well as the bad hose, AND the fact you can't clearly see the jar in the first place. It only makes sense there'd be so much more water wasted like that. It's clearly better just to go for the easy target that you can see and not have to worry about things getting in your way. Stock up on these jars of mana instead of worrying about trying to fill yourself up more. This doesn't even start into the logistics of how your internal mana container already has mana in it, so if it would exceed 100% you'd just leak it out anyways because there's no way for a jar to hold more than 100% its capacity. Just use the mana container for storage then absorb the mana when you're running low on your personal supply.

I recommend looking into the manga for Fairy Tail, as magic can be contained within one's inner "containers" (there are two, one is called a "second origin") or held in outside containers called "Lacrima." Some even have lacrimas transplanted inside themselves to have the best of both worlds. This question basically mirrors that world's mechanics, just in a darker sense.

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It's really rather simple: The runes used in the rituals make all the difference.

In the first scenario, wherein a victim's mana is prepared for storage in a vessel for later use, the ritual uses a variation of runes that puts the mana in a stable, sedated state ready for bottling. Between those runes and the runes of the storage vessel, mana is lost at a greater rate but can be kept indefinitely.

In the second scenario, with immediate draining of a victim's mana, it's still wild and reeling with the fresh memory of violent death. The runes are geared to releasing and transferring it. Unlike the bottled stuff pouring out like molasses, this stuff sprays and gushes like an out-of-control fire hose; it's transferred but shredded and dashed in the process, perhaps even damaging the new owner's own native mana pool as it floods in.

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Mana is contained within cell walls

Biologically speaking, if mana were contained within cells, behind their walls and unable to pass beyond the cell membrane, like a cytoplasm of sorts, you could end up with exactly the situation you have discussed here.

The cell walls of the creatures that contain mana are enzyme resistant meaning that they wont break down in your stomach, the only way to get the mana out is by completly rupturing the cell walls. Once the cell has been ruptured it is then no longer enzyme resistant and can be broken down by the bodies natural processes. This means that if you do not chew your food thoroughly that you can miss a vast majority of the mana in the meat.

This also gives you a mechanism for how mana leaks out when transferring, instead of it leaking out, you could say that just like when you eat, the process of mana extraction involves blending the body somehow, in a way that only 50% of the cell walls are ruptured(I would imagine wizards don't have efficient blenders with a liquify setting, instead they probably have a mash pit).

You could go on later to discover this fact and use it to improve the ability to withdraw mana from the meat. For example, freezing the body at a very low temperature would mean that every cell wall is ruptured, then reheating the body would allow you to withdraw all of the mana.

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From what I understand, you have outlined two options for harvesting your hapless victim:

  • Bottle their mana at a 50% efficiency to be used once later
  • Absorb their mana for a permanent increase in capacity of up to 10%

Building a better Bucket

The first answer as to why the second method's benefit is lower is because there is more to permanently increasing one's capacity than just making a bigger mana bucket.

While the spell you cast has the effect of expanding ones personal mana pool, there are a pile of fiddly bits that the magic also has to take care of so the caster doesn't do things like explode by absorbing too much power or cripple their magical systems by the sudden influx of power.

Because the ritual does not directly address these parts, and that they are within the spirit/intent of the ritual, this is taken care of for the caster. Addressing these issues and adjusting the ritual appropriately may actually improve the efficiency of this.

If you have a plentiful enough supply of hapless victims, this does not matter overmuch unless they are low quality victims.

Power is Relative

A second possibility is that while you are draining and absorbing the magic from your Hapless Victim, that they do not nearly have as much raw capacity as you do. It can be that while the efficiency is similar or even better than straight bottling, the amount gained is not as much compared to what you can do already.

In this situation, you are looking for victims at a certain percentage of your power for maximum gains. Weaker victims and you aren't gaining as much as you want to. Too powerful and you can't fully absorb it all which might attract all sort of adventurers that have moral objections to this kind of thing. Also there are the perils of going after someone more powerful than yourself.

Checking your Alignment

A third premise is that of alignment. You are taking in the mana of another person as it is. You are a Warlock -- Your magical alignment is Eldritch Blast. Your hapless victim probably does not have the same magical aptitude as you so a portion of your pilfered power is set to making it your own. The farther away your victim's alignment is from yours (Eldritch Blast), the more mana it takes to make it integrate with yourself.

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While your maximum mana capacity is infinite in theory, your maximum mana capacity needs to grow to hold it all. In the first method your body gets the time (mere minutes while you extract it from the casket) to adapt but a lot of the mana escapes during the process. In the second method you absorb 100% of the mana, but due to the speed at which it is absorbed the body cant adapt fast enough so 90% is used to expand the capacity more rapidly.

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