In a world with a magic system where everyone can manipulate materials that are in 1 of 4 certain phases of matter, and the phases are:

Plasma, Liquid, Solid, and Gas...

How do I make the Plasma users as important as the users of other states of matter, in one-to-one combat?

Note that they cannot generate new matter, but can keep materials of the phase that they control, in that phase as long as they give it some attention.

  • Can they transform matter from whatever its state was into the state they control? – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Apr 21 '15 at 17:54
  • They control fire. That seems pretty useful. – Samuel Apr 21 '15 at 17:54
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    There would have to be a significant source of plasma for the plasma controllers to work with before they became a threat of any kind. – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Apr 21 '15 at 17:56
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    @Samuel Your comment implies that fire is plasma. See Fire is not plasma. – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Apr 21 '15 at 18:02
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    Note that cold plasma is still ludicrously hot @AndyD273 – Aify Apr 21 '15 at 20:12
up vote 3 down vote accepted

TL;DR - As long as you sufficiently explain and relate the power levels of all your magic users, you'll be fine.

To keep them just as important as the other users is going to be difficult, and it kind of comes down to how hard we hand wave physics.

The problem as I see it is that plasma is an incredibly high energy state of matter. To turn additional matter into plasma would require the input of significant quantities of energy. If you make this too easy for him to do, he becomes unstoppable. If you make it too hard for him to do, he doesn't stack up to the other users. This balancing is not something I can necessarily tell you how to do exactly, but I can guess that it is going to depend largely on installing a sense of how much skill these people have.

First, let's assume that Mr. Plasma's generation method consists primarily of pulling electrons out of local matter to create his source of plasma, and that how much he can store and control depends on how good he got. Day one, he might be able to ionize someone enough to guarantee that person gets shocked on the next doorknob they touch. Some time into his studies, with extraordinary focus, he could ignite a piece of paper at six feet with what effectively amounts to a small particle beam (but not control the subsequent fire). More study and practice yields the ability to create and hold a small light source. After two decades of constant use, he could have the ability to compress a large quantity of ionized matter into a small point, push it through the wall of a building, and release it, causing wild electrical transients (if electricity is a thing), chain lightning and fire.

Also note that Mr. Plasma, after many years of study and practice, could actually wield something that looks suspiciously like a lightsaber. Major homage possibility here.

As long as you take some time to develop each of the characters, and remain consistent in the way you relate power levels to each other, this is all totally workable, but will rely very heavily on your execution.

The biggest issue I see is how to get the plasma in the first place.

Now if you really wanted to make this work, you could give each plasma user some gimmick that ionizes the air - perhaps an ionizing lighter, and then the user could control that plasma. Plasma itself is very hot, and can easily be used as a weapon if manipulated via magic - imagine a whip of plasma, or plasma projectiles!

In fact, I dare say that your plasma users will be much stronger than the other states of matter, since the plasma will be able to: a) melt solids into liquids b) evaporate the liquid into gas and c) ionize the gas into more plasma.

Plasma, while being very common in universal terms (see Samuel's answer), is not very common here on Earth.

However, it can be created. While your controllers of plasma may not be able to magically create plasma, there is a possibility that depending on the tech level, they may be able to carry around some method of doing this (a handheld pressurized superheating device, perhaps). They can then create a small amount of plasma, use it to melt some more things down into plasma, and control anything they like. Most materials will melt when exposed to plasma.

However, some other forces of nature can still stop plasma in its tracks: notably, magnetism. In experiments done towards bringing nuclear fusion in as a viable power source, the plasma used to achieve fusion is kept in check by a tokamak, a torus-shaped device that projects strong magnetic fields to keep the plasma from coming into contact with anything else and melting it.

If your controllers come up against a magnetic field (it needs to be of some strength, fortunately), their control may be limited by it. This could actually be a good thing: your plasma users are looking pretty strong against the other state users, so this may be their limiting factor that others can surpass. Maybe buildings in your world have some sort of magnetic plasma defence built in.

Plasma is the most common normal matter state in the universe, this is a very useful thing to control.

The thing about plasma, is it easily makes more of itself. If these controllers walked around with a method of making plasma, a high temperature lighter or a spark of static electricity, they could harness that plasma and easily use it to create more.

  • Err... I removed the creation limitation... Do you think I should revert? ....... I guess you could use nervous electricity? – Malandy Apr 21 '15 at 18:03
  • @Malandy If they can now create it, what is the dilemma? – Samuel Apr 21 '15 at 18:09

Assuming this is a low tech setting, so it isn't possible to produce plasma, perhaps the plasma users need to collect and store naturally occurring plasma from thunderstorms. Or by some huge collective effort/ritual to pull down a chunk of the sun. Then a group of plasma users works in shifts to maintain a large ball of plasma, and members of the group can take a bit of the plasma store to work with.

The plasma users effectively have energy shields / weapons so they are very powerful. They can also convert any other matter into plasma, but this cools the plasma they're holding until it eventually reverts to gas and they're powerless. Overall they're the most powerful at their peak, but this is balanced by limited 'ammunition' and a need to cooperate for supplies.

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