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This question is going to take some set-up to understand the world it is operating in. This is a modern-day magic world that I've been building up. Magic exists, is hidden, and is quite powerful.

Concepts

Physics still works normally...magic just has the ability to supplant the normal rules for a while. Living things possess some level of spell resistance, increased as they are more magically powerful...so altering the body of a living target is much harder than altering their environment. It is much easier to generate a magical effect close to the body, than to do so remotely (at least for the style of magic I'm talking about for this question)

Magical Limits: Everyone who can wield magic is constrained by two limits on their power. Burst Limit and Sum Limit. Burst Limit is the amount of magical energy that you can channel in a moment, determines how 'big' a spell is. Sum Limit is the total amount of magical energy you can channel prior to exhaustion. Exceeding these limits can cause Bad Things™ to happen to you. A spell can be sustained and added to once it has been cast, but this isn't used by most magic users.

Function of spells: Magic is controlled entirely in the mind. However, controlling magic is hard and so most magic users will use words, gestures, prayer slips, etc as a form of classical conditioning to make it easier. For example, if every time you sling a fireball, you say "Eldur" (Icelandic for Fire), then eventually you will condition yourself to mentally control magic into a fireball when you say "Eldur." Crafting a spell on the fly is possible, but requires a lot of concentration.

The Character

Mark is a well trained Magus, but his burst limit is simply pathetic. His sum limit, however, is enormous. So, to simplify that a bit...he can produce magical energy at a slow, steady, nearly endless trickle. While this is pretty good for Enchanting or sustaining magics, it's pretty terrible at straight combat. His low burst limit means that if he tried to just fling a fireball on the spur of the moment, he might be able to make your hair curl a bit with a burst of heat. Mark is also currently a student at a normal university, studying the sciences, looking for ways to work around his magical issues.

An Example of a combat spell, as produced by Mark

Mark uses his magic to begin gathering a static charge in the air around himself, keeping himself insulated from it. Once he has gathered enough electricity, he sends as much of an electrical shock towards his target as he can, and releases his hold on the gathered electricity. The rest of the electrical charge follows the path of ionized air created by the small jolt, resulting in what is effectively a lightning strike. This process takes about 60 seconds for a moderately powerful jolt (think stun gun)

The Question

Mark needs a way to abruptly knock an opponent to the ground and keep them there without touching them. He is not aiming to kill, and is at fairly close range (so no creating a small bit of antimatter or anything). Using his understanding of the sciences, and the slow trickle of his magic, is there a way he can pull this off? It's okay if he needs some prep time before the spell goes off, as long as you can't tell he's prepping it by looking at him or being in the same room as him.

The situation in which he would throwing this spell down would be an urban environment, somewhere indoors.

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  • $\begingroup$ Is Mark willing to maim his target? People tend not to move far with broken legs. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 25 '15 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Yes, he is willing to injure or maim. $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Mar 25 '15 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ Should we consider any particular environment or are you looking for a general solution? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 25 '15 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ Urban environment. Indoors. I'll edit my question to put that information in there. $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Mar 25 '15 at 16:44

11 Answers 11

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You could separate out the oxygen from around them, causing them to pass out.

Basically, Mark would be operating as Maxwell's Demon with a one-directional selective membrane - allow atoms to move away from the victim, but not toward. You wouldn't even need to select for oxygen - you'd basically be creating a localized vacuum. Eventually, the person would just collapse for no apparent reason.

Once they're on the ground, you can let the air flow normally if you don't want them to suffocate - it takes a while to reach full capacity after something like this.

SCIENCE, B!TC#E$!!!

Addendum:

If you want to go REALLY abrupt, you could freeze the moisture in the air column directly above them and make it fall, burying them suddenly under a sheet of snow and ice.

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  • $\begingroup$ Pretty good option...only catch would be that the target would get light-headed prior to collapsing. I might be able to make it work if I had the target worked up enough that he didn't notice though... $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Mar 25 '15 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ You didn't specify how suddenly your "abrupt"-ness needs to work. I can think up some others to add in if you want... $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 25 '15 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ @guildsbounty Actually you don't even notice with certain forms of "bad air", your mental faculties drop but you still feel normal and then you pass out. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 25 '15 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ When suffocating, the difficulty breathing, pain, etc - all the tell-tale signs that you aren't getting fresh air - is caused by a buildup of CO2. NOT the lack of oxygen. If you were in a pure nitrogen environment, the first odd thing you would notice is you passing out. There would be no other warning signs. A vacuum OTOH would be more noticeable. $\endgroup$ – Shane Mar 25 '15 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ @shane great! So long as we allow Mark to make a selective membrane, just move everything but nitrogen away from his face... $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 25 '15 at 20:47
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This isn't won't "pin" the enemy, but is likely as effective: screw with their equilibrium.

By inducing tiny bits of force/movement in the right place, you can trick the enemy into thinking that they're moving/falling. This will cause reflex movement to counteract the perceived movement, dizziness, and possible vomiting.

And best of all, the bits of the inner ear that handle this stuff are tiny. You shouldn't need much magic at all to manipulate them.

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He could fuse the opponents feet to the ground by, making the ground sticky or somehow stitching their shoes to the ground and then startle them by throwing some harmless but aggressive looking magic at their face. They would instinctively try to step backwards and fall. Its very difficult to get up with your feet glued to the ground, but for good measure he could make the ground behind the opponent sticky as well, keeping them on the ground.

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Since Mark doesn't seem to be too effective on the offensive front, I'd suggest something subtle. Animate some rope and have it wind around the target's legs (to restrict movement and cause a fall) and wrists (to prevent easy escape), then have the rope tie itself into a knot. Alternatively, you could use manacles, zip ties, handcuffs, or even the almighty duct tape.

Although, duct tape may be too magical to be considered science...

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Chloroform! All the mage has to do is float a drop into or in front of his adversary's nose. Boom. Incapacitated.

Chloroform, however, is pretty lethal. Traditionally you soak a rag in chloroform. If you left the rag on the person's face for an extra couple of seconds after he passed out, he'd likely die. So that's a concern.

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Well I would think that if he can generate a high voltage shock for as long as he needs (low power) that he could have his own 'taser' spell that would keep someone down until he let them go, but be careful because holding the 'trigger' to long can cause someone to suffocate

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  • $\begingroup$ the 'high voltage shock' is a burst thing. He had to let go of all that electrical charge when he unleashed the spell. He can't continue production of electricity on a level to keep the strength of the bolt up. So, it'd be a taser-strength burst, followed by an annoying 'static shock' of electricity. $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Mar 25 '15 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ @guildsbounty, I guess it would depend on the voltage he can maintain, I think some taser type weapons can use a 9v battery to put out the juice. If he can't maintain that level... Then he next would be to wait longer and give a bigger jolt of juice, it will still take someone a while to recover physically and mentally from a serious zap. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Mar 25 '15 at 16:24
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If science works, any form of energy storage is on the cards. Kinetic (flywheel?), electrical (capacitor?), pressure vessel, chemical (battery), thermal, etc.. And then add any projectile you like.

For bonus points, projectiles could be ice frozen from the air.

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If Mark is able to create a containment for electricity, he could possibly create a containment, then slowly increase the gravity within that containment. After it reaches a reasonable point, move the containment area over his target and they will not be able to stand as long as he maintains it.

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What about making the ground under their feet super-slick? Here's a product that is super slick...

http://www.insidescience.org/content/slip-sliding-away/2281

Here's another article on frictionless surfaces...

http://science.howstuffworks.com/10-uses-for-frictionless-surfaces.htm

There are plenty of other ways to make a surface slick as well.

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  • $\begingroup$ We generally discourage link-only answers. Perhaps you can expand a bit? $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Mar 26 '15 at 0:31
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Mark is going to have to become a really precise Mage to make it work well for combat magics.

Riffing on the slippery angle, just make the soles of their shoes Ultra slick or friction-less. It affects a very small area so should not have a lot of energy requirements. That could be his go-to for surprise situations since it would incapacitate his opponent momentarily in order to use his wizards staff in it's secondary capacity as a big heavy stick.

I was slightly unclear about Magical resistance in people but if affecting certain parts of the body is ok, then making skin slippery is an additional thing. Direct action against other parts of the body might be to stimulate pain centers in the brain, or stimulating pain in joints, hands, etc. Mark could also turn his opponents eye lenses opaque temporarily.

If direct action on the body is forbidden then launching small, sharp projectiles at the eyes and face would be an effective way to harm an opponent with minimal burst energy. He could also possibly use incredible shrinking clothes to bind his opponent up making movement difficult. Using a necklace the opponent was already wearing to choke, a bracelet to squeeze a wrist making hand movement more difficult and grip unsure. Small actions that would be easy for someone like Mark to pull off.

The point is very small actions aimed at critical points in the body are how he could be effective even without big burst power. It's the sort of thing that makes martial arts like Wing Chun effective against larger opponents.

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Considering that low Burst, high Sum seems to be effectively aimed at sustainable magic. Use magic to increase his personal speed, reactions, and strength by enough to evade any counterattacks and pursue close combat where you can keep the other person or Magus off balance and unable to cast.

Pros:

  • Fast
  • efficient
  • unexpected (you probably wouldn't expect a Magus to use martial arts)

Cons:

  • Must be close range

  • Higher chance of harm to you and your target

whoops, Criteria is to not touch them. Making this point moot. However, this is probably his best combat option. He can bulk himself up and use magic to push slightly further.

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