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First of all this question might be quite broad, as I am asking for the most creative solutions rather than straightforward ones. But I hope you will indulge me with your ideas nonetheless.

I have developed a magic system in my world that works as follows:

Source
The source of the magical energy is the earth. If the person using the magic is not in contact with the earth in any way, they have no access to the magical energy, and cannot use magic. This doesn't necessarily mean skin to earth, any form of indirect contact will work, as long as the object connecting the user is thicker than a finger throughout (think rope for example). The magic can be channelled away from the user as well through this same method. But similar to electricity, the larger the range, the more energy is lost. What material is used doesn't influence the conductivity.

Users
How the magic is used, is through pure focus and concentration of the user. They channel the energy through themselves into the organs or objects they want to use the magic in. The limit is a combination of physical fitness, physical energy, and most importantly mental fortitude. It is comparable to constantly solving complex mathematical problems mentally at high speed (which is very psychologically draining in this context) alongside of all physical actions you do. Exhaustion is the most common limiter.

Applications
The use of the magic is limited to three specific ways:

Type one is Tactile object manipulation.
This works similar to telekinesis, objects can be moved, lifted, used, and/or manipulated by being in contact with them. They can be given kinetic energy for throwing, but as soon as contact is lost, no further manipulations can be made.
Example: One of my characters is elderly, and cannot walk properly anymore. They use this form of magic to lift themselves, and effectively hover over the ground. They channel the energy through their mantle touching the ground (this has a thick seam to satisfy the conductivity requirement).

Type two is Muscle enhancement
Basically this enhances the base muscular ability of the user as long as they are in contact with the ground. They can make their muscles faster, stronger, or give them more precise control. This is purely restricted to muscles, and comes with a built in ability to enforce the body to prevent harm to it. (This enforcing can't be used on its own). It cannot be used by any other organs; no magical healing, enhanced brain capacity, faster metabolism etc.
Example: One of my characters uses this to enhance their bow shooting ability, increasing their draw strength, and improving their aim by increasing their muscle control. Another opts to use this approach instead of the first one to lift large objects like boulders.

Type three is real time clairvoyance
I'm not sure if clairvoyance is the right term to use here, because it doesn't involve looking into the future or past, it only works in real time. Basically it is a sixth sense which can follow a person, animal, object, or event at range. It is not sight based, more of a sensory link, and can be best compared to watching through a thermal camera. It is based on locating the magical force present within anything in my world and concentrating on it. This is more of a "life force" type passive/residual magic, separate from magical energy. This is easier the closer you are, and locating things further away gets significantly harder. It is also easier to use on creatures than objects, as they have more magical force. It can be used though to "latch on" to a close object, and following it to farther away.
Example: One of my characters uses this to concentrate on snow, and dance in between the snowflakes avoiding or deflecting them without any directly hitting the character. Another character uses this to spy on people and tracking their movements while out of range.

Any combination of these magics is possible, but users mostly have a base affinity for only one depending on race, and will be weak(er) at using the other kinds. Related question giving more info about the varied races.

How could this magic be used most creatively, in any setting from common tasks like construction for users with low affinity, to combat with other high affinity users?

One idea I had for example was a makeshift parachute made of rope. The user, while falling, launches a rope towards the ground, and as soon as it connects uses magic to make the rope more rigid and slow their descent.

Technology level: similar to Gregorian year 0. Population levels are similar as well, and magical affinity is present in everyone, but the levels vary. Low-affinity is roughly 60%, mid level affinity 10%, and high level affinity less than 1%. The leftover is people with negligible affinity. A lot of training is needed for any users to increase mental fortitude for extended use, therefore a fair few users opt to not use it to their full potential.

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  • $\begingroup$ For Tactile object manipulation, when you say it's only usable on things you're in contact with, but what about indirect contact? Say I manipulate a rope I'm holding to wrap around something, can I use object manipulation on that thing now? $\endgroup$ – Frozenstep Feb 18 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Frozenstep Yes, this is possible. But as stated, the effect diminishes exponentially with range. If you can "lift" a boulder by touching it, using a ten foot rope would only let you lift a boulder half the weight. The same diminishing returns apply for precision. $\endgroup$ – Plutian Feb 18 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ What about hair? Would hair count as direct contact? Also, does the contact with the ground work in any similar capacity, or could I still be supplied with power even if I was miles in the air as long as I had a rope going all the way to the ground? $\endgroup$ – Frozenstep Feb 18 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ Didn't consider hair. As none of my creatures have any type of hair longer than a gorilla's, I don't think it will be relevant. And yes, a mile long rope would work, but with near negligible effect due to magic loss. The loss works for both drawing and channeling the energy. $\endgroup$ – Plutian Feb 18 at 18:32
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Material creation. Any smith would absolutely love to be able to manipulate their material directly rather than through hammers and pliers. Being able to arrange the material in the blade, axle, stone statue, wooden wall or whatever you are creating or at the very least copy forces that your tools normally make would allow for a much higher control over the end product. If the user is allowed to use the sense magic to inspect something they are holding both inside and out it would increase this ability even more.

Muscle enhancement is dangerous. Your muscles are well capable of ripping their tendons out of your skeleton but only use this much strength when in absolute danger. The legendary stories about parents lifting cars off their children fall in this category. The price is high in how long it takes to recover from such an act even if you dont rip thr muscles loose. You have to increase the resiliance of flesh and bone simultaneously to prevent this being an almost useless ability. Imagine punching an armored person with enhanced strength and completely crushing the flesh of your hand and all the bones within, causing it to die off and require amputation soon after.

Real time clairvoyance could be funny. Lets say they sense a predator (a bear?) then as the predator starts running and loses contact with the ground as it pushes itself off with each bound the contact suddenly becomes spotty, hard to focus on as you have only short moments to sense the creature as it moves. People avoiding capture could use jogging or random small jumps to become hard to follow, and perhaps also give headaches or break concentration for those that try to keep sensing them. Clairvoyance could also be used to sense inside objects when they are created, or used for medical purposes to get an idea of what is going on inside someone.

A question though: if something needs to be an inch thick or something to get contact with the ground, how can a mantle do that? Is it total contact? And you talk about magical energy inside the planet to be used by the magic users but also more and less magical energy inside living beings, how does that work.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good option for smithing/carpenting. To clarify a few things (will add to question) the muscle enhancement comes with sort of a built in ability to enforce the bodily structure to take this kind of punishment, you are more likely to exhaust this than hurt yourself. To answer your questions, the magical energy in everything is more of a "life force" type, therefore significantly weaker in lifeless objects. It is separate from the earth energy used for magic, and no ground contact is needed for it to exist. Good shout about the mantle, I might specify a finger thick seam around it. $\endgroup$ – Plutian Feb 18 at 12:13
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Spearfishing.

spearfisher

Your spearfisher must first drop anchor to contact the earth at the bottom. Then she uses all 3 magics. She uses clairvoyance to watch for fish. She uses telekinesis to propel her spear. Then she augments her muscles to pull back in her catch.

It is a short step from spearfishing to whaling with harpoons.

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The possibilities are enormous...but,

I'd guess this magic system would develop into martial arts, depending on the culture of each community, for example

Disabling: Focuses on throwing the enemy into the air, and attacking from below, rendering their magic useless.

Armor: Using rocks, wood and whatever is available in the surroundings to work as body armor and makeshift weapons.

Dancers: Focuses on seeing through the enemies eyes, trying to always be one step ahead in hand-to-hand. It could have a psychological (nonmagical) component, to try and think like the enemy, and anticipate tactical and strategically.

The system can easily become guild/trade secrets, improving tools, production methods, animal husbandry, and a long etcetera, always kept under seven keys, because clairvoyance is a super espionage skill. I supposse countermessures must exist to avoid it, or at least feel someone is using it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good options, I considered a few of them. I realise clairvoyance is a bit overpowered, so I'm looking into a balancing system. $\endgroup$ – Plutian Feb 18 at 18:35
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Brute force with object manipulation

Depending on the strong the object manipulation power is, all that might need to happen in combat is to establish some sort of indirect contact, and then use object manipulation on a person to twist their neck. But perhaps the victim could resist by manipulating their own neck to hold it still.

A tough case could come if the ground counts as indirect contact. Otherwise, ropes/whips seem like the easiest ways to establish contact. But perhaps this will be seen as a brute force way of fighting, as it might rely on the attacker being stronger in object manipulation.

Become Doctor Octopus

Just tie 4 ropes to yourself. You can use the limbs to "walk" (but really you're holding yourself up, and moving the ropes to keep a contact with the ground), letting you clear obstacles and climb up buildings with maximum efficiency. It would also help in combat, allowing you to drag in objects close so you'd be able to use object manipulation more effectively to launch them. They could do this while moving in any direction (even backwards, thanks to clairvoyance) over almost any terrain.

Low affinity ideas

Hunters would have it easy, depending on how effective clairvoyance is. You could drag rabbits/foxes right out of their holes. Might also have some real benefits for farmers, they could sense where rats/pests are hiding, even underground. Maybe even collapse their caves and crush them. In a time period without pesticides, this could greatly increase harvests. Object manipulation would be great for picking fruit from tall trees without needing to risk your neck.

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    $\begingroup$ Snapping someone's neck by touching them is a very creative idea. A bit brutal though so a balancing system is needed here. Perhaps I could state object manipulation doesn't work on living creatures. Either way, thanks for your ideas! Love the Dr octopus one too! $\endgroup$ – Plutian Feb 18 at 19:12
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So as per usual, martial arts would develop around muscle magic. People skilled in muscle magic could be hired muscle or skilled operators of siege weaponry.

Clairvoyance would be great for sensing where things are. You could "see" enemies. People with clairvoyance would be employed for security purposes. One clairvoyance user might be hired to check vehicles importing goods for smuggled goods. Clairvoyance is also great for espionage. Specialized users might become doctors or surgeons basically pushing medical knowledge forward vastly. Can't forget midwives being able to spot complications with babies. Clairvoyance can allow for finding areas of a building that are compromised.

Tactile Telekinesis offers great opportunities. Simply holding something would allow you to launch it at speed. The only price you might pay is burns on your hand from friction. Particularly strong users might be able to break down doors. Another idea is simply launching yourself forward. Equip some armor and padding and now you could be on par with Muscle magic fighters. Hiding in odd places that tactile telekinesis would allow could let you avoid the detection of clairvoyance.

When multiple disciplines are used, the efficiency could skyrocket. Using clairvoyance to observe muscle structure would let you efficiently use your muscle magic. It would lead to better training plans that allow for even stronger baselines. Clairvoyance and tactile telekinesis would allow for even more skilled doctors. It could also be used for far more efficient espionage.

All things considered, each race would end up with their occupational niches, not accounting for racism/discrimination.

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Entertainment

Entertainers could use the tactile telekinesis to manipulate objects such as balls, ribbons, and other props to create a more engaging performance for others. While it is true that most of this could be done with proper manual training, by manipulating it in short bursts, the performer could achieve a better or more intricate act than they could do without. The trick will be making sure the transitions between manual and magic are smooth enough.

Depending on your definition of "object", stringed instruments like harps and lutes might have the potential to be played in ways that involves two hands and low magic, or special instruments could be created to take advantage of that property. Such an instrument would require high precision, but likely little power.

In general, the limited magic will be more about enhancing a performance into something a bit more than mundane than it would be creating a whole new branch of performing arts. Although a purely magical performance would not be outside the realm of possibility

Combat

Combat can be seen branching off into two style, personal and tactical, with a sort of spectrum in between.

The Personal Style of combat will mostly involve using muscle enhancement to enhance yourself to be faster, stronger, or just better at combat than your opponent in some way. It will be more direct in their applications and designed with a swift incapacitation in mind. Note that this isn't just melee combat -- the same principles work on shooting a bow or throwing spears.

Another thought is adding more force to blows through directly applied object manipulation when you strike your target in a sort of one-two punch.

The Tactical Style will involve using more of the telekinesis part of the magic to shape the battlefield around you in order to create an advantage against an opponent. Spikes from the earth (you are in contact with it), holes where feet will be to trip people, changing the metal plates on your armour into spikes to deter grapples, and making defensive barriers are just some of the ways that a battlefield can be manipulated and that is just in your immediate area.

I would expect some people to have metal-backed bracers or metal-toed boots for the purpose of having something to manipulate into a weapon at a moment's notice. Edward Elric had this as a standard tactic for his automail arm if I recall correctly.

As for wars and extended conflicts, Clairvoyance could be used on released prisoners in an attempt to gain information from them as they return to their units. This would work both ways and is probably a known tactic, but could be used as a calculated risk. Not pointedly not used as a form of good will measure

Other considerations

We think of telekinesis as moving things, but in theory it can be used to keep things still, like hearts. Should the ability theoretically exist, then touching somebody might allow someone powerful enough to literally stop their victim's heart from beating, creating a death with no mark or poison if they can keep a hand on them long enough. Counter to that, the heart is a muscle and can be enhanced just like leg and arm muscles could be. I suspect that somebody needs to be quite powerful to do this if it is even an possibility.

If object manipulation includes repairing of broken things, like say torn clothes, then there could be a business around repairing things, or people will learn enough to mend their own clothes without sewing them. This will keep clothes looking good longer, or hide certain evidence. Construction might benefit by being able to repair broken things more easily, such as hammers and tools.

Depending on the level of manipulation of an object, or the definition of an object for the purposes of magic, manipulating water into a solid form would have many uses. Or even just the manipulation of liquids as a whole.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, there is a lot of things to consider. Especially the liquid one is interesting. I might use the entertainment too something massively under represented in most worlds. $\endgroup$ – Plutian Feb 18 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ Good to know. I also like how you have considered the idea that somebody mobility challenged might use this magic to move themselves. Also on further reflection, this could also have use in farming too -- move the earth to plant seeds and clairvoyance to find the weeds in the fields. $\endgroup$ – Haylen Feb 21 at 23:29

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