14
$\begingroup$

High tides and low tides are caused by the moon. The moon's gravitational pull generates something called the tidal force, which causes Earth and its water to bulge out on the side closest to the moon and the side farthest from the moon. These bulges are high tide a, and non-bulge regions are low tides.

The moon also controls the flow of mana and it's power in an individual. When a person experiences a high tide, their mana content grows and becomes stronger. When you are in a low tide, it lessens and becomes weaker. This affects the covens, which are large power groups that witches belong to. Some operate as large noble families, and others political institutions. All operate on a Game of Thrones mentality.

At some point, nations around the world will experience high and low tides. This means that witches from one coven or another will all experience highs and lows in their power. This leads them vulnerable to other rival groups, as magic is very powerful and the strongest of witches being able to produce the strongest spells on their own. When a coven is at its weakest, a stronger rival would attack and destroy them, as any nation with common sense would take the chance to deal with rivals when it is most convenient. The best time to kick a man is when he is down and at his weakest, instead of waiting for him to be prepared.

Nations in our world would always seek any advantage to achieve power, and are in competition to outdo each other in some way. I need a way to avoid this.

$\endgroup$
9
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Are all political entities covens, or are there other factions whose power does not fluctuate with the tides? Tidal effects are pretty local, so if everyone's power is dependent on the tides, the whole region will increase and decrease in power together. You can't kick a man when he's down if you're down as well. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie Jan 9 '20 at 17:04
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ What is "a Game of Thrones mentality"? $\endgroup$ – T.J.L. Jan 9 '20 at 19:57
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Why do you have this mechanism if you don’t want your creations to use it? What other purpose is it serving? $\endgroup$ – RBarryYoung Jan 9 '20 at 23:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can Covens attack remotely? Or is mana level tied to your "home" region somehow? Or can you take your high tide mana with you when attacking the target? Otherwise, it would seem any Covens in conflict would have the same resource level. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Jan 10 '20 at 16:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You misunderstand how tides work btw. Tides are water sloshing, and are powered by the moon's tidal impulse, but the bulges you describe are not tides. See youtube.com/watch?v=5zi7N06JXD4 $\endgroup$ – Yakk Jan 10 '20 at 20:40

16 Answers 16

62
$\begingroup$

Tide affects magic where the tide is.

It is low tide for me in my tropical island hideaway. The moon is sapping my magical strength. Time to work on my scrimshaw.

It is high tide for you where you are, up by the glacier. You send powerful high tide bad juju my way because that is how you are.

But your bad juju is sapped by the moon as it reaches my low tide area. Low tide does not discriminate. By the time it reaches me your bad juju is just a gentle tickle. I laugh, thinking of you stomping around and raging. Especially because the wiser witches told you exactly this would happen but you wouldn't listen because that is how you are.

$\endgroup$
10
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I like this answer. When an area becomes "magic rich" for a period of time then both sides would find their firepower in that area enhanced, and opposite in magic poor times/places. While some covens might perform comparatively better in one environment or the other (perhaps they are more practised at being efficient, not potent, or they have larger numbers of nonmagic soldiers to command) this would not be the be-all and end-all. Its basically like the weather. $\endgroup$ – Dast Jan 9 '20 at 16:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Yeah, this solves the problem nicely. If area A is high powered and B is low powered, long-distance attacks from A -> B will get depowered along the way. $\endgroup$ – Luis Jan 9 '20 at 17:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Luis this just switches the roles. By the same token, my low power spell sent at low tide would gain power in the area of high tide and rain devastation to the whole nation. $\endgroup$ – Gnudiff Jan 10 '20 at 8:10
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Gnudiff Where's the energy for that coming from? A high power spell entering a low-energy region loses energy to the draining effects of the moon. A low power spell entering a high-energy region remains low powered because nothing is sapping it $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Jan 10 '20 at 10:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan The moon is pulling mana into your spell, duh. $\endgroup$ – user253751 Jan 10 '20 at 10:54
32
$\begingroup$

Distance

High and low tides aren't anywhere near each other. Assuming we're going with the 'twice a day high, twice a day low' cycle of tides as is on our Earth, that means that high tide and low tide spots aren't going to be near each other. That is high tide and low tide occurring at the same time are on spot a quarter of the globe away.

So the easiest way to prevent this from taking effect is to slap a range restriction on magic - basically, even when a coven is at its strongest, attempting to cast spell across a quarter of the entire earth is unrealistic, and that's what they'll need to do to get a spell aimed at their low-tide enemies, assuming they'll even make enemies at that distance.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You misunderstand fundamentally how tides work on Earth. There can be multiple high and low tide regions around the North Sea near the UK, which isn't 1/4 of the globe away. See youtube.com/watch?v=5zi7N06JXD4 for an animation of world tides. $\endgroup$ – Yakk Jan 10 '20 at 20:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Yakk you assume that mana flows like water does. Which would be interesting but not necessarily what OP described. $\endgroup$ – Chieron Jan 10 '20 at 21:11
14
$\begingroup$

Not all tides are created equal, so witches wait for special astronomical events.

High Tides: Twice a day

Your covens will experience two mana influxes every day as the Earth passes beneath or opposite the moon. These influxes will be relatively tame - useless for attacks, but crucial to daily magic usage. Most if not all complex spells will be cast during these periods.

Spring Tides: Twice a month

During the new and full moon phases, the Earth, moon, and sun are colinear, combining the solar and lunar tides. This produces extra high tides - and thus, bi-monthly mana bursts. These dates will provide enough mana for large spells and decent-sized attacks. But we can do better.

enter image description here

King Tides: 3-4 Times a Year

The moon orbits on an ellipse, so its distance is not constant. That means the strength of its tidal forces aren't constant, either. When the moon is close to Earth, tides are stronger, and when the moon is close during a spring tide, they are especially strong. During a full or new moon at perigee 3-4 times a year, expect a LOT of mana. These dates will allow for MAJOR attacks.

enter image description here

King Tides at Perihelion: Every Few Years

When the Earth is closer to the sun on its elliptical orbit, solar tides will be strongest. When this happens to coincide with the lunar perigee / king tide, Earth will experience maximal tidal forces, providing a VERY RARE opportunity to use very rare spells.

enter image description here

Eclipses: Rarest Possible Mana Events

Not every full moon is a lunar eclipse, and not every new moon is a solar eclipse. This is because the moon orbits the Earth at a 5 degree incline; usually it passes just above or below the Earth's shadow at a full moon, or the sun at a new moon. Rarely, we get a new moon or a full moon when the moon's orbital plane is perpendicular to the sun - and thus, all three bodies are perfectly aligned.

This perfect alignment could have immense implications for mana availability. Although the few degrees of orbital difference don't cause a visible change in tides, they should result in slightly heightened tidal forces. This natural astronomical perfection would be a great plot device for an intense mana flow.

Importantly, solar eclipses have very narrow paths of totality, whereas almost anyone who can see the moon can see a total lunar eclipse. This means that only the covens in a solar path of totality would receive a mana boost - compared to most tides that would give everyone extra mana. Some covens might set up in specific locations with the expectation of getting eclipse power.

Why infrequent tides prevent competition

Stronger tides are associated with stronger mana. Spells have a minimum mana requirement, so competition revolves around the celestial schedule. Witches may be able to cast daily spells using high and low daily tides, but enough mana for large spells - the kind that will give people a competitive edge - will only be available during rarer cycles.

In other words, competition is not always viable. Covens will still compete to some degree, but their battles will be dictated by the celestial schedule, dragging out conflicts over longer periods of time and making them much less intense on any normal day.

This sort of inverts the problem; instead of some covens being especially weak during daily low tides, some covens are especially strong during rare, localized tides.

$\endgroup$
4
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Great primer on tidal forces, but I don't see how this answers the question at all. What prevents rivals from taking advantage of this highly predictable ebb and flow of their enemies' power? $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie Jan 9 '20 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang I edited the answer to clarify what I meant $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Jan 9 '20 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ This isn't how tides work. Watch youtube.com/watch?v=5zi7N06JXD4 -- they do not correspond to the location of the moon. The moon and sun tidal forces are energy inputs into a world-size irregular shaped bathtub of sloshing water. $\endgroup$ – Yakk Jan 10 '20 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Yakk This is a simplified version of tidal forces explaining how those energy inputs change. I agree that reality is never so simple. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Jan 11 '20 at 2:16
11
$\begingroup$

Wars generally take longer than six hours

You experience two high tides and two low tides a day; that's about 6 hours between them. If you attack when you're at high tide, you'll experience a power crash a few hours into the battle. If you attack when at low tide, you'll get a "second wind" after a few hours (and that may actually be smarter). In general, though, this cycle moves so fast that no significant battle, and certainly no war, is going to be concluded before the tide turns (figuratively and literally).

$\endgroup$
1
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sounds like the hidden answer here is to live more than 6 hours from the coast ;P $\endgroup$ – Muuski Jan 9 '20 at 21:27
10
$\begingroup$

Create magical defences during high tide

The witches in a coven could pool together their increased mana during high tide to create magical barriers that are strong enough to defend them during low tide when it would otherwise be easier to attack.

A coven that decides to attack during high tide might not necessarily have the capacity to also set up their defensive barriers, leaving them vulnerable the following low tide. Exceptions could be special astronomical events that create particularly strong tides as Zxyrra mentions in their answer.

It doesn't eliminate the possibility of attacking during high tide, but it adds a significant risk to doing so. Larger covens might have the power to do both with relatively little risk, while smaller covens do not.

Additionally, attacking a coven during their high tide might be a viable strategy, even if they are at their strongest. Because if you manage to disrupt the barrier creation, they are left vulnerable during the following low tide.

$\endgroup$
9
$\begingroup$

That's half the point of choosing your battles

You attack when it's best for you to do so rather than when you're forced to do so.

Since the defending faction know when they are weakest they should be taking precautions against being attacked at that time.

Perhaps physical defences would hold long enough. Perhaps there's some other course of defensive action they could take to cover them during the weak period.

They could form a mutual defence pact, or a full blown alliance with another faction on an opposing cycle. Those who are able to form such alliances without stabbing each other in the back will become the strongest, those who cannot trust and cannot be trusted will ultimately be the weaker. A faction who act as nobles and a faction who act as a religious sect could well ally without treading on each other's toes.

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

Already happened!

Play with their heads. The Empty Fort Strategy tells of a guy who was in your shoes. So open your doors, get a flute, lyre or whatever have you.

And drink tea. Whatever makes it look like you are really at ease.

If the other general is a brute, it will kill you. If the other commander is a cunning wolf, it will be spooked.

Certainly no one would do that....unless...

A glorious gambit that could set the fate of your people on the edge of a blade.

$\endgroup$
3
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ So...have a party twice a day? I'd like to submit an application for citizenship to your nation please. $\endgroup$ – Muuski Jan 9 '20 at 21:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sun Tzu teaches that all warfare is based on Deception. $\endgroup$ – Gustavo Jan 10 '20 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ Not going to work if the attacker has been seeing this every day. $\endgroup$ – toolforger Jan 10 '20 at 20:57
4
$\begingroup$

I'd go for a simple reason:

Honour and morals

You just don't kick a magic user when they are down. You don't want this done to you, you don't do it to others.

I'd give a loose equivalence - fighter pilots in World War 2 didn't shoot catapulting enemy pilots. Even when they are the enemy and it's strategically advantageous to kill them, not to mention easy. Pilots were still human, and they respected one another. Shooting down a plane ends the threat - the pilot may come back another day but for now, they are defeated and at their lowest point. And since nobody wants to be shot while helpless, the catapulting pilots were left in peace.

Sure, you can say "but that just gives the opportunity for an unscrupulous witch to attack indiscriminately other witches that low tide" but I doubt this is going to work for very long. Other witches, even allied ones, might take gross offence at this behaviour and retaliate.

To come back to fighter pilots again, I remember a story one pilot related. I can't remember the source, so I'll try to recreate it as best as possible: basically, the pilot noticed somebody who was shooting down people who already catapulted out. According to the pilot telling the story "This is something you just don't do", so he turned his plane to the one that was shooting the helpless, and shot it until he forced the immoral pilot to catapult. Then in a fit of rage, just unleashed the machine gun at the poor helpless form until there was nothing left. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

$\endgroup$
5
  • $\begingroup$ Friendly fire > immoral killing of the enemy? $\endgroup$ – Muuski Jan 9 '20 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Muuski yes. It was apparently a Big Enough Offence. A society of witches can similarly turn against one who tries to destroy others that are weak. After all, the immoral witch will eventually experience a low tide and even allies might want to have a few words about the underhanded methods. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 9 '20 at 21:35
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This also has parallels to mutual assured destruction - everyone plays by the rules, because if one person broke the rules the others would then break them too (and probably come down hardest on the first one to break rank), so it would be worse for everyone. $\endgroup$ – Logan Pickup Jan 10 '20 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ This answer fits nicely into the Game of Thrones theme OP asked for. They have the same kind of rules, like "Don't harm someone you shared salt and bread with" :) $\endgroup$ – Pierre Cathé Jan 10 '20 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ @PierreCathé not even limited to GoT/ASoIaF. It's been a "thing" since antiquity with ancient Greeks prizing hospitality and taking it as a grave insult for a host to harm a guest or vice versa. Later on in the middle ages it was almost a tradition to send high ranking "prisoners" among courts. That was a political manoeuvring but most times the prisoner wasn't badly treated. Quite the opposite - a king might even send their boy to the neighbouring court for the boy to get better education as well as political allies there. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 10 '20 at 10:46
4
$\begingroup$

Mutually Assured Destruction.
Even in a Game of Thrones kind of situation, you understand that wars of total destruction are very difficult and you have to be Absolutely certain it will work. If it doesn't you are in deep trouble.

If I remember my history correctly, I believe the Assyrians of the ancient world fell victim to this. They were powerful, but atrocious. Their very brutality brought a coalition of other city states to join together and overwhelm them. The coalition members had no great love for each other. Together they exterminated the Assyrians.

Your covens will Operate on the same plane. They don't like each other, but if one of them tries to exterminate another group, they become a threat to all groups.

There would have to be a very compelling reason to take out the cyclically weaker coven that would include a clear and decisive advantage over all the others. Without that, there is just too much risk to mounting such an attack. After all, the aggressive coven will know that their advantage is temporary, and they could be the target when they ebb.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Your weaker coven has several options.

  1. Politics. Convince the strong-coven leadership that the attack brings unnecessary high risk of unexpected consequences -- like a broad backlash upon themselves. That will make the strong-coven leaders look for a lower-risk alternative. This could include large, powerful multi-coven institutions that police the most egregious behaviors

  2. Deterrence. Convince the strong-coven leaders that the cost of attack (in lives, treasure, prestige, etc.) is too much higher than the cost of doing nothing. This might involve an obvious strong defense...or it might not.

  3. Spoiling Attack. When attack seems imminent, the weak-coven raids the strong-coven offensive capability, disrupting the resources and plans for the attack. This buys additional time to strengthen defenses, reduces the attacker's capability (and often morale, too). It might trigger a strong-coven political struggle, or it might trigger a negotiated settlement, or it might simply move the strong-coven attack to a less-advantageous time.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Magical artifacts

Magical artifacts could act as magical batteries. Dump your manana into them during high-tide and draw it out at low-tide. You could limit the storage capacity of these artifacts, so that they must be used strategically and regularly topped up.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

It doesn't affect whole covens.

If it's not based on location, as others have suggested, then the cosmological balances of mana depend on the person. Your low tide only occurs when the celestial bodies align similar to how they were at the moment of your birth. Those born under an eclipse are lucky, as they'll almost never experience a low tide. Because covens aren't comprised of individuals born at the same time, everyone's high and low tides will vary. Statistically the more individuals in your coven at low tide, the more individuals everywhere are in low tide.

This can also mean that eclipses are rare sought-after events, and astronomical/celestial readings can be strategically important. If there will be an eclipse in about 9 months that could be the magical equivalent of a mating season as everyone wants their children to have this gift.

Then, of course, when it comes around some mothers will be so desperate that they give birth during the eclipse they'll sacrifice themselves, offering their life force for what would otherwise be an underdeveloped child. They can't miss this window. The child must be born now. Maybe you could work in something about this process, though it ensures the child is born at the price of the mother's life, curses the child to bad fortune. They may always known a high tide, but where chance plays a part they'll always come up short. The stigma around these children could be a significant story point, maybe there's a whole coven of sanguine-cursed individuals.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Alliances

If all the various groups have a power that will wax and wane and the power of the various groups is predictable. Then groups will look to create a web of alliances with groups that are powerful when they're weak (and vice versa).

The glue that holds it together is that if you attack your ally when they're weak, who is left is help you when your power wanes again. You would quickly struggle to find a new ally if you act in a treacherous manner.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Integration

Europe is a continent that has seen a lot of war. It was the theater for both world wars, which were devastating. I believe that a good part of the intention behind creating the European Union was stopping european countries from waging war amongst themselves. So far it has worked.

So make war cost more than peace. Yeah, those buggers on the other continent can send a Tsunami our way when the Moon is high over their heads. But they won't, because it would mean they would lose their dealer. Coca only grows in the tropics, they would be losing billions on their own side.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

War is not about the stronger force winning

It is about achieving your goals by force of arms.
This isn't so different from achieving your goals at peacetime, by force of diplomacy.

This can play out in a huge number of ways:

  • A strong tide difference may result in attack spells being inevitably destructive. It isn't helpful if you destroy what you wish to conquer, whether it be goods, land, or inhabitants.
  • Defensive pacts. I promise to protect you while I'm strong and you are weak, and vice versa. There's a lot of potential for treachery, but every house that betrays an ally will have to weigh increased difficulties of finding a new ally.
  • Defending with weak magic becomes one of the arts of war. There's guerilla tactics, there's prepared defenses.
  • You might be able to prepare canned magic that will work at nominal strength even during low tide. It's a non-replenishable resource during a defense, but you need to persist for just six hours, then strength is back.
  • Without long-range magic, everybody fights at the same tide.
  • Alternatively, your personal tide is tied to your birthplace. In that case, every house will recruit witches from different birthplaces. (It's not necessarily the birthplace. It could be the heartstone, making locating and moving a witch's heartstone an interesting war tactics. Or it could be the place of initiation. Or maybe the place of some other binding ritual, maybe even a repeatable one, in which case every house will try to have half of their witches rebound to a different location so they are strong around the tide - of maybe one war preparation would be to temporarily rebind all of them to the same time for the attack, to be able to muster overwhelming force if only for a few minutes - which can be a smash success, but will become a desaster if something takes longer than expected. Lots of plot devices here.)
  • Magic might be just one factor. There might be multiple tides: Mars, Jupiter, Sun, Moon, all interacting. This gives Astrologers a real background, and makes the calculation of the best time of attack, erm... interesting. Particularly if different tides influence different aspects of warfare - Mars for brute force, Mercury for cunning and fluent movement, etc. Now you plan a campaign for the time that fits best to the personalities of your leaders, and the training of your troops.
  • Six hours may be too slow for a decisive victory.
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The Game of Spells Has Rules

Now these rules are not necessarily written down -- and in fact are prone to changing as time goes on so they almost assuredly aren't documented anywhere. But there are certain things that you Do Not Do when playing the Game of Spells. At least not if you value your reign if you win by that move. See, crossing that invisible social line invites those that were previously enemies to ally as with such a drastic move the entire balance of power and the very rules of engagement themselves have altered.

Blowing up a coven at their weakest while you are at your strongest is one of those unwritten rules. Yes, it is a tactically sound move but while it does show your strength, it also implies that you can't do it when your weaker. The moves you make against your enemies are as much political as they are physical.

In short, this cutthroat magi-drama has political and diplomatic undertones that keep the players somewhat civil in their dealings for their own reasons.

Peak Defenses

Contrary to what might be logic, it is not offensive strikes that are done at the coven's peak. It is the prime time to set up defensive wards and spells so that the most power can be put into your protections. Spells for fertile lands and to protect the king's castle are cast when the people are strong so that they can withstand whatever the month throws at them.

Spells that attack the enemy can be done at this time of peak power, but that is power that might not be able to be put into the wards, defenses, and blessings of the land. This could leave you open to those that prefer to attack when the tides are high.

This works doubly so if it is generally more magically efficient to be defensive versus being offensive.

Time Constraints

As has been pointed out by others, there is a limited time of high tide power to attack with before your enemies have that high tide advantage. If you are focused on attacking on the high point, then you will likely be wide open when you lose the advantage of high mana.

Both sides will taking turns hammering each other and defending with flimsy shields, or a hammering followed by a rapid attempt to mop up whatever is left of the other side once they stop offering meaningful resistance. If they do not get the key remnants before the enemy's high tide then the rout might be turned around on them.

This is of course related to ...

Distance and Mechanics

Earth is not a small planet. Even a fourth of a world away is a pretty long distance. It is also very plausible that the distances between two places is not far enough to have a noticeable difference in power between two groups as the tides ebb and flow. Now if you have intercontinental mage bombing, then that might be a thing.

For some real-world context on the matter: Paris, France and Winnipeg, Canada are roughly a fourth of a world away and along a similar latitude in the 48 to 50 degree north range.

Not just that but how do the Mana tides even work? Sure, they are influenced by the moon (and by extension the sun and other things around us), but but how much? Is it on the level of highly tangible difference between high and low like some places with extreme tides? Is it enough to notice, but nothing extreme? Or is it a barely noticeable thing?

Power versus Control

A last thought might be that magic at high tide is less controllable due to the increased volume of it. A witch trying to cast at those times might be more powerful, but are in less fine control of what they are casting. While this might not matter for dropping a giant rock on a castle (Oops ... a little to the left), it does matter if your spell attacks are curses of misfortune, or whatever you are doing might have some manner of backlash that can flambe you if you don't have enough control.

Inverse to this, low tide might be less powerful for a witch, but they have better control over their power than normal. While it might affect a large explosive spell, low tide might be the best time to slip in subtle hexes and curses upon your enemies as the control might be there to slip one past the defenses of your adversary.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.