Follow-up to the magic system in Artifacts not being used for war and magic that replenishes with time

In a world with regenerative magic, the average human doesn't know or generally use the pool of magic they have within them. Normally, creation of magic items causes the magic needed for activation to be reallocated to the item until it is destroyed or removed.

My enterprising mages have created a new Runic Attenuation Band which allows them to bypass fully linking a portion of the creators magic at the cost of a much lower pool of magic able to be utilized. The creators don't put any magic into the item and instead it has an empty reservoir that is filled by the user.

These minor items take a period of about a day to reserve space within the users magic supply to be able to connect and fill the reservoir. A completely normal human can only attune to 3 such items at a time. An Archmage can also only attune to 3 such items.

I have my base magic system. I have the end result of only being able to attune to 3 of these rings. Why is my magic reservoir only able to accommodate 3 rings?

What practical reason would cause them not to be able to attune to more?

  • Answers should not be story based.
  • Social restrictions are not allowed.
  • Rings causing interference with the magic or each other is off-limits.
  • The answer should apply equally to people with low capacity reservoirs and people with extremely high capacity resevoirs.
  • The use of rings has no differences in consumption based on skill of the user.
  • There is no "pipe" that magic flows out of. A user could put all their magic into a single attack rapidly.
  • $\begingroup$ I have to admit I'm not a fan of subjective, non-specific questions. How will you judge between "they get hotter the more you put on and 3's the limit" and "they vibrate too much and 3's the limit" and "the gods send demons to stop you from putting on a 4th" and "the bands are made of granite and nobody can carry more than 3, they're not strong enough"? At this time it's VTC:opinion-based. You've provided conditions (good!) but you haven't explained how you'll judge a best answer. Remember, fishing-for-ideas actually doesn't work well on SE. $\endgroup$ Sep 8 '20 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that what you're asking could be considered insensible. Mage A creates 3 bands limited to 5 magic units each. Mage B creates 3 bands limited to 50 units each. It appears you want a physical limitation to the bands (I can wear 3 @ 5 = 15 units or 3 @ 50 = 150 units, or 1 @ 5 & 2 @ 50=105, but only 3) and I frankly don't know anywhere near enough about your magic system to explain a systemic limitation. At this time, I know (a) your magic regenerates over time and (b) Artifacts (other than these rings) can't be used for combat. That's very little to work with. $\endgroup$ Sep 8 '20 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH as for your first comment. Rings causing interference eg. vibrate too much. off limits. demons being sent? not related to the rings and reservoir. weight? not related to reservoir. as for the second, if a person with 100 units wears 3 rings of 5 units each how can they not get a fourth to work seems valid to me. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Sep 8 '20 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ How is vibration "causing interference with the magic or each other"? The vibration's interfering with the wearer. How are demons not related (unless that's an unidentified part of your magic system)? How is weight not related to the reservoir (they're made out of something, aren't they?)? I frankly don't understand what you mean by your last statement. Is there a ratio of power-to-utilized power that we don't know about? (Wouldn't that answer your question?) In a nutshell, my problem is that you're asking us to help you create applications for a magic system that you haven't yet created. $\endgroup$ Sep 8 '20 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH I have created the system. I have the application. I am looking for a limitation that fits in between them. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Sep 8 '20 at 18:15

Protocol limitation

Magic is quantized. A number of thaums have to flow from one sygil to another to make a spell work (varying per spell). If you have too many enchantments in a very small space, you will have interference, which causes magic to go haywire.

In order to prevent this from happening, enchanted objects are usually embedded with internal ley lines. They do to magic what wires does to electricity. Once a magical effect has to leave an enchanted object, though, interference may happen.

In order to minimize the effects of interference, a magic controller is implemented that lets only one enchantment flow in the magic field around the user at a time. Enchantments take turns thousands to millions of times per second, so users do not notice it; from our point of view, all enchantments are running simultaneously all the time.

Modern enchantment protocols allow for a hexnet of up to three devices so as to keep both performance and safety within standards (much like the first implementation of Bluetooth could only connect up to seven devices in a piconet). You can hack your personal hexnet to support more devices if you are magic savvy, but at great personal risk.

For example, hook four devices and you risk items switching enchantments at random. You have a regeneration ring and a staff of fireballs. You may end up shooting a healing beam and then go into spontaneous combustion because two enchantments jumped the gun and tried to run at the same phase of the magic controller.

Or you can have all of your items magic-dispelled due to what is called a fantasy-race condition. Despite the name, it has nothing to do with fae and orcs - it's just that two enchantments need access to each other's allocated thaums, but neither is surrendering theirs first, so the whole system stops until the enchantments are either reset or forced to shake hands and become friends again.


Battery Drain

Each item siphons off a small amount of magical energy from the user, and this drain is ALWAYS at a constant rate based on the total percentage of a person's magical power. So in your example a normal person has 100 magic units (MU) and an item that holds 5 MU. The item drains off some amount after each firing (I'm reading as if the item discharges all 5 MU at once, but if not this still should work) but ALSO requires a steady stream of magic as maintenance. Think how you can have a fully charged car battery, but leave it sit for 6 months and it'll be dead even though the car is off. The major difference is that due to unavoidable techniques in manufacture, the wearer's magic drain is taken as a percentage of total magical power of the wearer. For purposes of this example, let's set it at 2% of your daily magical value.

Now this steady stream of magic for maintenance on an individual level causes no problems, and 2 or 3 isn't a big deal either. But have 4 or 5 objects connected at once and suddenly it's a material impediment. Any wizard or skilled physician will tell you a body begins to show signs of wear if there is a body is constantly expending more than 6% of its magical power. People will find their thoughts constantly wandering, or suffer migraines or have fainting spells, or heart attacks, or whatever-your-heart-desires. What's worse, a person can AT BEST recover 6% of their magical power per day. So a person with more than 3 magic items not only will be suffering the physical effects from continual magic-drain, but at some point will be OUT of magic, as more than 3 items drain it away faster than their body can recharge.

I realize this might be more of a problem for high-powered wizards if, say, a Merlin equiv has 1000 MU and is therefor sacrificing 60 MU to power his items instead of a normal person's 6 MU. But then again Merlin is unlikely to be storing a 5 MU fireball in HIS magic items, so it might not matter a great deal to you.


It's a built-in safety feature

Attuning too many items will kill you. This is true for anyone. Something about drawing down your life force if your magic reserves are completely drained, or so it's theorized.

In practice, some people (like powerful wizards) could attune more items. Maybe four items, maybe five. But to stop items from killing most users, they are designed not to permit you to use more than two others (the typical item will not work if it senses you are attuned to more than 2 other items).

Why aren't there "unlocked" items?

Why aren't there special items which allow more than three to be used? There probably are. But you'd need more than three such items to even find out, because if even one of your attuned items has the safety mechanism, it will de-attune when you attune a fourth item.

Why don't wizards just make items which allow more items to be used?

The wizard who originally developed the specific enchantments didn't tell people how to. The magic, as it is currently shared, has so tangled up the limiting magic with the other aspects of the enchantment that other wizards haven't figured out how to do one thing without the other, and they would have to develop the whole technique from scratch to get around the limit. (And maybe some are working on just that.)

On the other hand, even many wizards would rather just stick to three items than risk suddenly dropping dead, and they have no interest in overcoming the safety feature.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I feel like after the Nth hotshot young apprentice thinks they can totally handle four items and can't (and has to be cleaned off the walls and ceiling) the senior wizards will just stop telling people about that property and present it as a hard limit. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Sep 8 '20 at 18:56

The first thing that comes to mind is that the item is doing exactly as designed.

It is a single item with two functions that operates in the normal way, so to speak. First, it has three "outlets" that allows items to be attuned to them. Once attuned, the items draw power from those "outlets". The other function is to have an "outlet" reserved for personal use so that if a caster is powerful enough, they can still use their own remaining magics to cast things.

Its design could be based off of the methods and rituals that are used to bind a person's magical energy to their creations. If the idea is that you enchant the item and hook it into a person's resevoir, then this is just the hooks into the resevoir. Other items can now be created to actually hook into those.

An item can only do what it is designed to do, and to modify it from its original design is a dangerous thing.

A visual perspecive might be spreading a person's resevoir out into a triangular plane defined by the ring. At the corners, it is possible for the magic to escape. But because it's a point, it can only escape so fast and the ring is designed to limit the rate of escape (your 5 unit restriction). At the middle of this plane is the most pressure from a person's resevoir. For an average person, there is not enough pressure here to cast. For a trained mage, they can force our magic from this point (by design) to cast spells and otherwise do magic.

But Why Three?

As to why a person can only hook into three items in this way? Perhaps three is the practical limit of this magitech at this time or at all. As this is new territory, the answer could be solved for three points fairly easily and safely. Solving it for four vents is exponentially harder, if a solution is possible at all.

From a more logical perspecive, three points define a plane and three lines define a single shape. A similar premise is at work here -- three vents that allow attunement are the most stable configuration for the ring's design as well as for an relatively untrained person to use without special training. It was also the problem they could solve safely and mass produce. Also if I remember my geometry right, with a triangle, there is exactly one point equidistant from all three sides -- this is your personal casting point mentioned above.

For actual mages that would have the capacatity to attune and cast? Well that stability is needed for them as well. Since the ring creates non-permanent connections in the sense that the bindings are not permanent until destroyed like they normally are, they will always fluctuate slightly. For a (relative) mundane, this doesn't matter. For a caster that needs to have full control over their power to cast spells properly, it can be potentially devastating. The stability of the triad limits the fluctuations and feedback which minimizes the need to greatly adjust spells on the fly to prevent them exploging in your face.

  • $\begingroup$ While I like the idea of 3 creating a stable frame (realistic in an engineering sense) and greater complexity with additional points of interaction, fluctuations and feedback are off limits via interference. Overall I like this one. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Sep 8 '20 at 18:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I was aiming less for the ideas of interference, and more the idea that four identical lines make many rhombus unless there is something bracing opposite corners, a problem of geometry. I don't particularly know how to translate that into less logical magic. $\endgroup$
    – Haylen
    Sep 8 '20 at 18:33

The band uses the magic.

You can't just "attune" for free. There's a transmission cost. In this case, it's 95% of the magic. Still, before attuning, the magic was completely useless to you, now it's somehow useful, hence the trade-off.

The more power you have, it turns out, the more power the band must use to regulate it. A powerful mage is in grave danger of flooding out the system and causing explosions and other untoward, or even merely inconvenient, results. Therefore, the band, in a positive feedback loop, uses up the more power as soon as the more power is available to it.


First of all, a bit of background, we need to take into account the three ways (so far) one may use magic in this world, such as such as having a lantern (an object which emits light, as opposed to a fire torch or a candle).

  • The magician produces the light / lights the object by himself.

Light may come from his own hands, be a flying ball, or radiate from his staff (think that image of Gandalf in Moria). Even though the wizard may have made the light appear from the lantern he is holding, the lantern itself is not a magic item. The magic making that light appear is coming directly from the magician. The spell is simple, useful and requires little magic. How much you exactly spend will depend on how far you want to see, the lumens you are making our of the lantern, and for how long. A wizard will unconsciously be automatically tuning it as needed. And when he no longer needs the light source, he simply stops the casted light. Since a break of ½-2 hours is enough to recover from powerful spells, something like this would probably be restored in less than five minutes.

  • There is a permanent item embedded of magic.

In this case the lantern would be a magic artifact. As it takes a lot of effort to create, a lantern would probably not be a good use of resources [it makes for a nice 'school' assignment, though. Apprentices can startpracticing with artifactcraftship, and light are good to show in a visual way their magic (if you don't think that would be needed, then you never had to explain to an apprentice that they are not casting uniformly around themselves, OTOH "see your lantern is barely lit from this side" is understandable to their previous, materialistic experience)]. Maybe, for a light tower, it would make sense to create an artifact between several mages, rather than having multiple wizards taking turns, as they need to do during stormy nights. The creation ritual is much longer, but less demanding than what would be needed for producing flashes during a bad night.

  • Using a runic-band-based item

These are the items you ask on this question, and are completely different than the previous artifacts. In fact, the name is also completely different, but non-practitioners "don't get it". This is an abacus, the other an electronic calculator, yet for them both are "that counting thing". Exasperating.

When would that be useful? Let's suppose this night the wizard is studying a grimoire and preparing some spells. His wife wants to read poems in the living room and the servant needs to go to the larder to pick/leave some items. Some candles would do that perfectly, but that would cause a lot of drama, as if living in a house with a wizard meant that people became allergic to non-magic light. Yet, he doesn't want to leave his grimoire to go lighting the path to the cook. Or be lighting the poems. Even if he didn't need to be in the same room as the targets, he would still want all his power available, not lighting other mundane things.

An item powered by a muggle nicely solves all of this. Most importantly, it doesn't keep his own magic captive. It also opens the door to a commerce of magic items which wouldn't be possible before (a king or a lord might have an artifact, holding magic from his own wizard, but this allows everyone to have magic items, as they would only consume their own magic).

Enough background about the different types of magic actions. Why do runic band items have a concurrency limit?

It is established that people have a container where their magic is stored. Powerful mages can store more of them, and it is possible to enlarge it somewhat through practice. When cosmic rays go through people, their magic energy may get stored there (if there's space for it). There is no much difference on the ratio of different people recharging (although it is non-linear, the more full your tank is, the harder it is to fill it up).

However, when it comes to emptying it, there is a single "faucet" through which the magic comes out.

On the first case, the magician is actually the one opening the faucet as much as he wants (up to the maximum), and pushing the magic -with more or less force- to go out.

On the second case, "a portion of the magic container" (to express it in lay terms) has been moved into the object. That is also restricted to the amount that may flow in the "open" position (it's like taking out magic with the wrapper still around it), but enchanting a permanent object is a really slow ritual (partly due to this). Once placed in the object, it is possible to use it with little to no limitations.

However, a runic attachment is like connecting a pipe to the faucet. The pipe connector is rigid, has a fixed diameter and forces the faucet to be open (note the magic wouldn't go out on its own, as it's too dense). [1] Wearing three of these items look like this:

Three circles

(Image by Koko90 and Antonsusi)

It doesn't matter the amount of magic that the user has stored inside them, there is no space to connect another runic-band-item. A wizard or a witch can have multiple spells active simultaneously, dynamically providing more or less magic to each of them, but these connections of these items are rigid, like an intravenous syringe. As a consequence mages dislike using these items themselves and prefer the lower-level method of making spells they fully control (i.e. the first option).

A day is roughly the period it takes for the "runic syringe" to penetrate into the "magic tank" of the user through the user. That's why it takes nearly a day to attune to a new runic item. And the reason people couldn't just switch runic rings to choose on the spot get a different magic action.

While you claim

Most normal humans don't use their magic anyways so reserving all of it isn't a problem.

and it's a normal position, from a wizard point of view, as soon as runic items get into the market, you will find many people wanting to hold more than three at once. [of those which can afford them, of course]

[1] Most laymen would be unable to cope with concepts like letting the magic flow from them.


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