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Magical spells in the medieval times requires an incantation and a swing of a wand or quarterstaff to produce any effect, however to cast a high tier grand spell it is necessary to tap the ground as hard as possible with a quarterstaff.

Low tier (hands free) : Generate a short burst of energy at a target. i.e fireball.

Mid tier (hold a wand/staff) : Channeling a constant flow of energy to manipulate the physical properties of multiple targets. i.e alchemy - transmutation of mild iron or bronze into gold etc.

High tier (tapping with staff) : Cast an area of effect spell of great magnitude on every targets within range. i.e disintegration - obliterate all living targets in range into ashes.

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    $\begingroup$ It looks dramatic on your YouTube etc social videio podcast? $\endgroup$ – Mon Jul 2 at 10:34
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    $\begingroup$ Could be a warning sign to your peers/comrades? Or it simply is etiquette. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jul 3 at 14:28
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To Empty the Staff for Next Time

To cast any spell a wizard has to do a bunch of magical calculations in their head. The spell focus helps compartmentalize this $-$ they can do part of the calculation, store that bit in the focus, in the form of magical vibrations, then start on the second bit without having to hold both parts in their head at once.

For more complex spells they store and retrieve from the focus dozens of times. So a bigger focus (staff) is better than a small (wand), since it can store more vibrations without interfering with each other. High quality gemstones are also helpful. The rigidity means they can store more vibrations in a smaller area.

When you finish the spell there is usually a bunch of junk vibrations left in the staff. Equivalent to pages and pages of rough work for a normal calculation.

You can discharge these into the ground by focusing the vibrations into the tip and whacking as hard as your can. Then your staff is clean for the next spell.

Usually the wizard releases the spell and discharges at the same time, since there's no reason not to.

There are stories of a grand wizards who are killed after releasing the spell but before discharging the staff. If you find a glowing staff in the woods next to a pair of singed wizard boots you should be very careful about touching the staff . . .

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    $\begingroup$ Instead of emptying them for the next run, you could also go for "release those calculations into the spell". That would explain why you need to do it now and not when you get home and have some spare time to 'clean up' $\endgroup$ – Martijn Jul 3 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ @Martijn I imagine you take some of the calculations, suck them out of the staff into your head and release those in the form of a spell. But then there's rough work left over in the staff that needs to be discharged manually. That's why you get a spell and a whack, rather than just a spell. $\endgroup$ – Daron Jul 3 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ You could in principle keep the rough work in the staff, and maybe give it to a trainee wizard to study. The problem is it is dangerous to carry around all that rough work for very long without it spontaneously releasing itself as some spell you didn't plan for. $\endgroup$ – Daron Jul 3 at 14:17
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HARVEST AND CONDUCT EARTH MAGIC: From the sound of it, you need more material components and contact with the ground to cast spells. Trees grow out of the ground and conduct this energy, so wands and staves are made of wood.

  • Most ordinary little spells need only the energy conducted through people, so you can just do it (as long as you're in contact w the ground - maybe you have enough reserves to do a few tricks in the air, but watch out...).

  • To use a bigger spell, you need a conductive wand to allow more energy to leave the caster all at once - definitely don't try this while flying, it could deplete your life force and kill you. The conductor (wand) also allows for a steady flow, setting up a constant stream of power. Perhaps your mages might use natural plant fibers in their clothes or hemp cords that drag on the ground to aid in the constant stream of Earth magic.

  • For something REALLY big, you need a big conductor (like a staff), and only a foolish mage would try to run that much energy directly through their bodies. Instead, you strike the ground directly and conduct the power straight from the Earth.

  • This system would lend itself well to druidic practices, sacred groves, holy trees, and magical locations. Natural crystals and unrefined metals (like gold) would be a potentially useful set of materials, from the Earth.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just a thought - flying mages trailing a little string touching the ground to provide a conduit for energy. New meaning to "cutting the cord" though. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Jul 1 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ hehe, you just need to learn how to safely use Earth Ground vs Floating Ground imgur.com/rbAo0Vc $\endgroup$ – Hatman Jul 2 at 18:03
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To ground harmful energies.

Casting a powerful spell creates lots of magic waste-energy in the staff. Just like static electricity, those energies want to get into the ground. By ramming the staff into the ground, those energies get conducted directly through the staff into the ground, like a lighting rod. Without that precaution, the energies would get conducted through the wizards body. That effect is barely noticeable with minor spells, so wizards don't bother. But with very powerful spells, the effect can be painful or even deadly. So proper grounding is essential.

So why do wizards pound the ground and don't keep the staff on the ground while casting the spell? Because being grounded makes it impossible to collect all the magic energy in the staff. So the usual way to cast a very powerful spell is:

  1. Raise the staff into the air
  2. Do the magic stuff (gestures, incantations, etc.) to charge the staff with magical energy
  3. Release the spell
  4. Quickly ram your staff into the ground before the magic energy feedback knocks you out

For an outside observer, the order in which 3 and 4 happen might not be obvious, giving the impression that the staff-pound is part of the spell and not part of the cleanup.

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If you want a literary reason...

I think the use of a staff in fantasy magic is clearly reminiscent of the staff of Moses from the Old Testament book of Exodus. Moses raised the staff to part the Red Sea, and later he struck the rock in the desert with the staff to create a fountain of water. Also his brother Aaron also had a staff which was used miraculously in creating the plagues of Egypt. The reason the staves "worked" in that context is that it's what God told Moses and Aaron to do, and it was an action of faith. In fact, Moses got into a little trouble when he struck the rock, because that's not exactly what he had been told to do, so it reflected a momentary lapse of faith.

The choice of a staff would have made sense to the people at that time as a natural symbol of authority, of the shepherd's protection of, and command over, his sheep.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a very interesting interpretation, and suggests that in this magic system there is a divine diety somewhere deciding on a case-by-case basis if they would let you use their magic or not. This is in sharp contrast with most common magic systems which rely on unexplained or ancient powers, of which the origin is mostly handwaved away. $\endgroup$ – Plutian Jul 1 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ Fun fact: The staff is not mentioned in the passage where Moses parts the sea. But in the passage where he creates water, God says "hey remember when you used your staff to part the sea?". Conclusion: God never read the bible either. $\endgroup$ – Daron Jul 1 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ The staff was mentioned when giving the instructions to divide the sea, albeit you have a point that 5 verses later, when actually following them, it only mentions stretching out the hand. $\endgroup$ – Ángel Jul 2 at 2:59
  • $\begingroup$ Note that the magicians of Egypt also had rods, so at the times of Moses it was already common that sorcerers used rods. On the other hand, if you associate the ideas: sorcerer → wise man, wise man → old man, it makes sense that an old man uses a staff to help himself. $\endgroup$ – Ángel Jul 2 at 3:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Brilliand See also Genesis 1 and 2 where they could not make up their mind which "creation of man" to include. $\endgroup$ – Daron Jul 2 at 22:15
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Recoil, the larger the spell the more force the spell exerts on your staff. So by tapping the staff into the ground you are bracing the staff to receive a larger amount of force.

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I'm kind of surprised no-one has suggested this, since to me it's the most natural and obvious explanation.

Casting magic clearly requires some sort of mental effort, even if that just means concentration. When there is a sharp and clearly-defined endpoint to the casting (as with a spell), the effort is suddenly released - think of snapping a stick or branch with your hands.

Since you're holding a staff anyway for channeling purposes or whatever, that staff is going to go flying which could cause physical damage not to mention any magical side effects. That is, unless the release is controlled in some way. As the ground is a large, immovable / fixed target that's always there, pounding it with the end of the staff is a reliable way to control that release.

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Area of effect works by connecting the staff to the earth, and the spell is conducted through the earth and surfaces in the area. Without the earth connection, your choices are beams (targeted) or radiating out from the staff, which would be rather weak.

This could have some other interesting properties like mages' power being limited in places with stone floors, similar to how necromancers don't like space travel because there are no bodies buried there.

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Without going too far into R-rated territory, there is obvious magico-sexual symbolism involved. The Earth is traditionally the receptive female, the mage with his staff is male. The greater the contact, the better the chance of conceiving grand magical effects.

Yes, it's sexist by our enlightened standards, but in line with some older magic/religious beliefs.

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