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Dryadism is a passive form of magic that anyone with the skill and training can learn. Unlike other forms of magic, it does not depend on the individual using their mana, but on the natural mana content of the world. This mana is unlimited, which makes it the strongest type of magic. A person absorbs this content through their physical form, using it as a conduit for the mana. They do not control it, but rather guide it in ways to perform the spell ( creating rain, parting a river, speaking to the dead, etc).

Dryadism depends on a number of factors depending on the spell:

  • certain locations where nature mana is thickest (stonehenge)

  • certain conditions or time (solar eclipse, full moon, a wednesday,)

  • certain steps must take place (chanting, animal sacrifice, drowning of a small child)

  • spells can include 1 individual or require dozens or even hundreds of dryads.

  • effects remain only as long as the spell is active. When the spell stops, the effects disappear and go back to normal.

As stated, dryadism doesn't involve the individual's mana at all. However, I need a person's mana content to play a role and somehow remain relevant enough to matter. How can I make this happen?

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Channelling natural mana puts the body under a form of 'external pressure'. If this pressure gets too high, it causes damage - headaches, nosebleeds, nitrogen narcosis, crushed limbs... Much like deep sea diving

Your personal mana reserves act as an 'internal pressure'. While not actually consumed or used in any way, they passively counteract the 'external pressure', allowing you to channel more natural mana - even if you have no training or ability to use your own mana.

In fact, because casting spells with your own mana depletes those reserves, it also lowers the amount of natural mana you can channel until you recover.

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Few ideas for this, mostly reliant on the idea of "internal mana cannot be used in the spell" (water & metal don't "make" electricity but I would rather have them to conduct it than a piece of plastic or wood):

Conductivity & Resistance (think electrolytic)

So just like in our world we measure the conductivity or resistance of water - people's internal mana could be used like this. Such that, having a heavy internal mana doesn't allow you to use any spells (its still not nearly enough) but it works to make you a better conductor of the world's natural mana than someone with a lower internal mana rating.

Borrow from Elementals

People's mana levels might also be stronger in certain elements (or just areas) which works with the above answer to help determine how strong their spells are in those areas. This would also explain why some spells require multiple people - it's not just about having strong general mana but having people strong in the various areas you need for a complicated spell.

It's not about the level of mana but internal mana being in balance

To borrow from the neo-Druidist concept of Awen everyone could have exactly the same level of internal mana. What determines its shape and ability to call outside mana is how balanced one's spirit (mana), body, and mind are. In balance and at peace allows for mana to mingle with one's Awen and flow freely. This also explains why it would be hard to cast in the middle of a battle (or any other chaotic event).

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I can name three things you can implement to make it matter.

  • Personal mana's capacity is proportional to the speed you can channel the external mana.
  • Personal mana's capacity helps control the spell. If you lack mana you can help in a ritual but you will have problem directing the ritual yourself (it will fail or have wild results)
  • Personal mana's capacity helps recover from the ritual, as there is always some kind of backlash from casting the spell. Your personal reserves act like a buffer.

I would have to note that your question contradicts itself. If it cannot affect at all, none of this can be applied.

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In Diablo 2 there is a spell that doesn't cost mana. It's called warmth and it increases the user's mana regeneration rate. You could adapt it: it doesn't use your own mana, but increases the rate that you draw mana from the environment into you.

Another solution is to do mana dialysis. If somehow your mana is corrupt or ill, you can throw it out and replace it with natural mana. The more you can hold, the more intensive this procedure becomes.

Finally, in the manga Naruto, people who absorb natural mana while moving become animals. If they keep doing it they also become stone statues. The more mana a person can hold, the more they can absorb before this happens, so there you have it.

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    $\begingroup$ I didn't know about Naruto connection. $\endgroup$ – Incognito Apr 17 at 11:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Incognito -- I shouldn't worry about it. Creative artists have always borrowed, stolen or created in parallel fashion. Great minds think alike? $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 17 at 19:51
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The personal mana can have an indirect impact on the effectiveness of dryadism.

As you said, dryadism needs some preconditions/rituals to be effective, which means that in many situations, it is not possible to cast a dryadic spell.
Luckily, if I can rely on an additional magic source, I can overcome this limit.

My dryadic fireball spell needs to sacrifice a black chicken, but I have no chickens at hand? Let's use some of my personal mana reserve to cast one of those boring, trivial summon spells to materialize one!
My king wants to use dryadic powers to grow an evil forest in the fields of the rival king, but the nearest stonehenge is a two month of journey from here? I can use my mana to teleport myself there and perform the rite!

This way, even if "personal" mana is not necessary to cast a dryadic spell, the most effective wizards will still be the ones who have the most personal mana.

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The mana doesn't matter

The caster's internal mana has no influence, but all the factors that give one a large internal mana supply are also beneficial when using external mana.

It's what you can do with it that counts

When a person has a large internal supply it means that their body / soul / spirit are well suited to channeling mana. Imagine a person's casting capacity as an engine. This engine is proportioned to the internal fuel supply they have. However, it's also possible to connect this same engine to an external fuel supply - but even though they now have infinite fuel, they are still limited to using the same engine.

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Mana attracts Mana

Dryadic spells use natural mana, but in order to use it, the caster needs to draw this energy in from the world. Luckily, one's personal mana attracts natural mana. Having a stronger/more abundant personal mana makes spells faster/stronger/easier.

If personal mana is reduced by traumatic events, evil/death magic or other circumstances it becomes much harder to attract enough natural mana to cast a spell.

The attraction also works the other way around: Someone with strong personal mana feels attracted to places with strong natural mana and can easily find the optimal place to cast. Someone with very weak personal mana is quite blind to natural mana and needs to guess good places or have others point them out.

If you don't want the strength of spells to be affected by personal mana, you could go for only the second half, affecting only the sensitivity to natural mana.

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You will have to decide what it is you want.

When you say that it doesn't involve the individual's mana at all, then it doesn't.

You could have the individual use their own mana for the guiding process though.

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You've said that the natural mana exists in particular areas, thus what if dryads should have the concrete amount of individual mana in order to stay alive/perform some tasks in these areas. The greater the concentration of natural mana the more individual mana it requires

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Natural Manna has a Pulse, like a heartbeat (or a displacement pump)

  1. Every person has a maximum manna capacity (like the volume of the displacement pump). This capacity can have natural or personal manna in it.
  2. If an individual is channeling natural manna, then every time the natural manna pulses, their maximum manna is filled and discharged one time with natural manna.
  3. Natural manna being "thicker" is really the pulse being faster than normal, which can be effected by location, time of day/month, other rituals, etc.
  4. A group of people would have the advantage of all their capacities working together.
  5. It would be a natural requirement that the dryads might need to discharge some or all of their personal manna before channeling natural manna, otherwise they can't fill their capacity with natural manna.

    (If you don't want this, you can probably explain it away with something like "Natural manna is out of phase with personal manna, so they can occupy the same space" but in my experience restrictions on magic make things better, not worse)

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The question reminded me of the magical system of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files - there the wizard could use both internal and external sources for his magic, and personal ability played a role even if going strictly external way. 1) If there is slight or no element of ritual in your Dryadic magic, then the internal capacity of a practitioner determines how much magic he can safely 'draw in' to use. So, a person with bigger internal capacity can simply make bigger spells in one go. 2) If using the external sources of magic is heavily ritualized (you need circles, chanting, ritual implements etc.), while using the internal magic is not, your mage can use his internal reserves to replace the elements of the ritual with his constructs. Say, a spell needs a drawn symbol on the ground, ritual singing in several voices and four ritual implements wielded in particular fashion simultaneously. Four persons of little to small internal magical ability can make it work with preparations. A powerful mage can just conjure all the elements of the ritual (or even imagine them) and make it work single-handed.

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Mana is like Water

A person's ability is like a hose. Some people are a drinking straw. Some are a garden hose. Some people are a fire hose.

The location/conditions is the water pressure. Some places it's a trickle and others a raging river.

When you combine someone's ability with the mana level, you get what they can cast. Ability can compensate for mana level and mana level can compensate for ability and multiple casters can compensate for both. When you have many people with ability in the right place and at the right time, you can move mountains.

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