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I'm currently designing a magic system themed around the four elements of nature (yeah, I know, so original) and I wanna take the Avatar: TLA/Korra approach where, in addition to the four elements themselves, the characters can also control other fragments of nature derivative of/associated with their assigned elements. So earth mages can control stone and sand, water mages can control water pressure, ice and steam, and fire mages can control flame and heat. I've only got air left to figure out now, and since I've assigned my fire mages with heat instead of electricity/lightning, I thought that my air mages would be prefect candidates for such an ability.

The problem however, is that I don't know how to incorporate electricity manipulation into my air mages skillset in a way that makes scientific sense. Ice makes sense as an extension of water-based abilities since if you can control water, you could theoretically control its temperature and lower it enough to the point of solidification (same goes for steam, but in reverse). My mages are basically like your run-of-the-middle air elementals in that they can control wind and can create/manipulate tornadoes and wind streams, but in what way would they need to manipulate their element in order to create and control electricity? I'm assuming things such as atmospheric electricity, air molecules, air current friction and air ionization may have some part to play in helping me solve this little query of mine, but I don't know nearly enough about any of these things to construct the answer I'm looking for.

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  • $\begingroup$ Does it matter if the lightning emerges in the sky or from/near the mage (or even just hits a target while still being usable - i.e. not frying the mage or there's some control of collateral damage)? $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Apr 4 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @G0BLiN - I'd personally rather have it emerge from/near the mage since that would make the technique more readily available for combat scenarios. $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 4 at 9:53
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    $\begingroup$ if the waterbenders can control temperature for water then they can use steam to heat things and by then they might as well be firebenders. I would suggest changing it to be controlling the water pressure instead, it gives the same results without making them too powerful, because spreading the water molecules apart from each other makes steam and forcing them together makes ice. $\endgroup$ – zackit Apr 5 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @zackit - My water mages can control steam, yes, but they can't use it to heat things up (and even if they could, it wouldn't be to the point of combustion). Instead they convert the water vapor in the air (which is basically invisible steam) back into a liquid, giving them a endless supply of water to fight with in environments void of high temperatures. This is balanced out by being an advanced technique of water mages that only a select few can preform $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 5 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ @CrystalKing why cant they use it to heat something up? just run a current of steam against whatever you want warm? again, you get all of these same features you want if you instead just let them control pressure, but without the problem of heat manipulation. $\endgroup$ – zackit Apr 5 at 18:06
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Generating electricity using air requires friction. To achieve this you can have the mage rub two volumes of air. The faster the movement and the larger the surface area then the bigger the voltage generated. The effect can be amplified by loading the air with dust/water vapor.

Directing it is fairly simple if you can do that. Lightning will follow the path of least resistance. All you have to do is produce a path of low resistance from where you are generating it to where you want it. This can be done in two ways.

  1. Produce a slightly dusty/humid path between your source of electricity and the target. Most of the electricity would follow it but there would be some arcing - this would look great but reduce the strength of the attack. The dust would also make it obvious what you are targeting, which may or may not be desired.

  2. Surround your electricity generating volume in a hollow sphere of very high-pressure air and also produce a high-pressure air tube from it to your target. The lightning will travel down the tube and strike the target with nothing visible except the electricity itself.

Both of these effects will diminish with distance, and if you produce too much voltage then you are likely to just fry your mage.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thx so much. This seems like exactly what I'm after. A few things though. 1. After creating the bolt with air currents, who/what holds the charge? Does it levitate in mid-air or can my mages hold onto it with their skin or something? 2. Assuming I go with option 2, will the lightning be physically impossible to dodge? 3. How much distance are we talking here? 10-12 miles like real-life lightning? 4. All of this is done through Aerokinesis alone right? No required secondary powers are needed, correct? Thx again btw :) $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 4 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ 1. Initially the air generating the voltage, then instant discharge. Don't try to hold it. The mage wouldn't survive without additional powers. 2) the tube can be redirected instantly, the bolt would be instant. Hard to dodge. Lightning travels that far as it is coming from high up, you didn't want that. I would aim for a football pitch or two. All done by aerokinesis. $\endgroup$ – Hukk2010 Apr 4 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ 1. I don't suppose my mages could do what this guy did in this video dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3422591/… and use the air to guide the charge off of their fingers? I don't mind having the charge build up and fire mid-air I just think it would be more visually interesting if the bolt was coming from their palms. 2. So unless the combatant reacted in advance, the move would be extremely difficult to evade? 3. That a lot further away than I was expecting, still good to know. 4 Amazing $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 5 at 8:38
  • $\begingroup$ Extra comment because I ran out of word to type on the other one. Could my mages use this technique for various other electricity-based attacks such as lightning balls/sphere and electric shockwaves? Also could my mages adopt a similar trait to this guy dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2626148/… and use the air as a way to guide the electricity into and out of them. Sorry if I'm asking a lot btw. I'm just trying to refine this idea as much as possible. At any rate though, thank you so much again :) $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 5 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ Hi again. I don't know if you'll ever see this comment or not but I just wanna let you know that out of all the answers I received, I feel like yours was the most helpful (though, everyone else who answered also had something extremely helpful to say) in answering my question, so I've rewarded you with the bounty prize. Thanks again :) $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 10 at 15:56
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If you allow overlap between types of magic you can easily solve this: lighting in real world is produce by moving water in the clouds produced by the updraft, thus related to air and water in your system.

It can also be produced by dust moved by strong currents, again overlapping air and Earth in your system.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmmmm, that COULD work. I'd rather find a way to make it an air exclusive trait though, since all my other classes have their own sub-abilities that they can create and control on their own without outside help. $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 2 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ Is the overlapping really necessary, though? If a water mage can move a boat by controlling the water beneath it, maybe an air mage just makes his air currents pick up some debris (dust, water, specially prepared metal chaff etc.) and use them to produce lightning? $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Apr 2 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @G0BLiN - That could work well, but... how would they guide the lightning to where they want it to go after they've created it? $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 2 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ A volcanic lightning, tremor lighnting, (and synthetic-fiber garments) show, the friction-to-voltage path this is not air-exclusive. It might be a shared trait for all the elemental mages. $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Apr 6 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ @bukwyrm - Potentially. I mean CREATING lightning/electricity is easy enough, but I wanna keep it as a primarily Air element thing since I'm pretty sure only they could actually influence the direction at which it travels in (case and point, some of the great answers already shared about air tunnels and air ionization) $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 6 at 8:22
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I would think of this as an advanced technique, but if you have some clouds over head a skilled air mage can move the air in those clouds to build up a static charge. Once the charge is large enough a leader will start trying to find a path to ground, and a skilled air mage could guide this path of specialized air to ground thus guiding a bolt to the target.

So in some sense this would take time to build/charge up (spirit bomb anyone?) but it can obviously have devastating effects.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this idea. They're able to control a by-product of their element, using nothing but their element. I don't suppose I could substitute the clouds for air currents rubbing together and achieve the same effect (my mages may not always be near enough clouds to use this power in battle)? $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 2 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not 100% sure but I think you need the cloud to hold your static charge, I don't think it would work in just any random part of empty sky, that said clouds are just condensation from a combination of cold and warm air, no reason a skilled mage can't slap a couple air channels together; Make some clouds $\endgroup$ – Culyx Apr 2 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking maybe my mages could create a charge from the air around them and guide it harmlessly through their bodies (I have seen people do this before and survive), which would basically act as the holder for the charge. They would then release said charge through the pores on their skin whilst simultaneously ionizing the air in the process, resulting in a more accurate and devastating attack. $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 2 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, @CrystalKing this is possible. Air is an insulator. So if the air mage can surround himself with thick air from all sides, they can effectively store charge and then discharge it at an adversary by using an air column to guide the charge towards them. Think of 'air' as a pipe to guide the charge. $\endgroup$ – Sachin Apr 5 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Sachin - Amazing. Thank you so much $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 5 at 11:21
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The natural derivative of air magic is pressure magic, not lightning. Electricity is probably a fifth fundamental element. It just doesn't happen to have any human mages who are skilled with it right now.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're absolutely right on the mark with calling air magic pressure magic, but I wanna find a way for my mages to create and harness electricity, using said magic as that foundation. A ton of fictional air elementals have the ability to control both wind and lightning, but I wanna find a way to justify that combo without writing it off as "air magic is just weather/storm magic", or "air and lightning are both part of the sky". Also making electricity a classical element wouldn't really make sense since fire already fills the role of the only energy-based member of the four $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 2 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ @CrystalKing, consider making the lightning a side-effect of air friction as it is in the real world. An air wizard might be able to create lightning by rubbing two strong air currents together to create a negative charge which then gets filled by the earth's positive charge in the form of a lightning bolt. But your caster wouldn't throw lightning. They would simply create conditions to induce it. The positive charged point from which the lightning bolt jumps would not be under the caster's control, so the technique is very dangerous. Also research positive lightning because it is a thing $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Apr 2 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ So air current friction is how my mages will be able to create electricity, but how would they be able to control it? Could they potentially ionize the air around them to guide the lightning bolt to where they want it to go? $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 2 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ That is above my pay grade. Lightning is a wild energy. Back in the 1980's I used to play a role playing game called "Paranoia" which among its many idiotic weaponry had a device called a lightning gun. The rules required that whenever this lightning bold throwing device was fired, everyone including the person who fired it had to roll a six sided dice and anyone who rolled less than 3 got hit by the lightning to usually fatal effect. I seriously doubt that your mages can manipulate the ion levels of all the air around them to guide their lethal creation with any level of accuracy. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Apr 2 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ I'd be content giving my mages whatever abilities necessary to make this idea work so long as it made sense with their primary ability to control air, and is scientifically sound (I'm a Star Trek fan btw). Still, that's good information to know. $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 2 at 19:29
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The answer can be found in one question: How much control does an air mage have over air?

You see, if an air mage has total (albeit limited) control of air, he can simply will the electrons off the atoms in the air, and since electrical currents are essentially diffusion, he can create the conditions for electricity.

This would require the mage to add electrons to air molecules near or around him (creating a positive charge), then create a channel of conductive air leading to the target, which has negatively charged air around him.

To do this correctly, your mage needs advanced scientific knowledge and a lot of caution (and skill or practice) to avoid discharging into himself. He would need to learn how to force electrons into the air, take electrons from said air, and how to turn air conductive (which, btw, would involve loosening the electron's bonds to their respective atoms and making them free to move within a given volume of air. This would require immense skill and concentration!).

Oh, and it's best if the target doesn't move unless of course, you're making that negative charge reside in said target's lungs, in which case you only have a limited timeframe before the target recirculates his air supply. I was unable to determine how this works or how long this takes, but it would make it a lot easier to hit the target!

This move will take some time to get ready, but a truly skilled mage should be able to do it within a minute or less, in my estimation.

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  • $\begingroup$ This sounds great! My only question is, after my mage has created the charge, where exactly is it being held? Does it float near the air around him like some kind of electrical kamehameha or does the mage himself hold onto and release the charge from his hand/fingers/palm? $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 5 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ If the mage can control subatomic particles then they can also warm things up, cool them down, control water, perform alchemy etc. This is a much more powerful approach than an air mage should be able to do. $\endgroup$ – Hukk2010 Apr 6 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @CrystalKing: I'd say the charge would be held in the air itself, where it's being generated. $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Apr 6 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Hukk2010: not exactly, because it's specific to air. Which means the mage can only make things out of the gasses in air, and then they may not be able to control the result, because it isn't air anymore. Heating and cooling air is covered in H20 and can be patterned likewise so it's not OP. $\endgroup$ – Alendyias Apr 6 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias - That's good to know. Thanks $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 6 at 15:11
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You could take a less controlled approach and have them manipulate weather by setting up various chunks of air in certain ways to do things like generate storm clouds, this also opens up the idea of meddling with cloud generation in more unnatural ways by abusing their control of air to force currents to do things they don't naturally want to do.

Another option: Avatar being your source for inspiration, its worth noting they don't go off science. The elements and control are based on state of mind, fire is passion and rage and lightning is a cold and calculated rage where as fire is more wild untamed and free. Earth is quite literally grounded and in touch with the world. Air came from the air nomads that wandered far and wide among the mountains and carried little, light and ever shifting by nature. air bending isn't control over nitrogen oxygen carbon-dioxide etc. but rather the embodiment of the nature of the element to a level of spiritual connection and embracing and then manifesting that bond. If you choose to take this approach, find a reason for it to fit your definition of air. to them lightning fit with fire because it was essentially concentrated and focused emotional outburst. But to you perhaps air is as fire was a force that keeps us alive; not as a burning spirit inside but as a great force we must be tapped to to live. Or perhaps air has a holy aspect, being the only thing separating the earth and sea from the heavens and lightning a divine smite. The world of Avatar falls apart if you take if from a strictly science perspective and that's fine, it was never meant to be about science but instead their magic is magic and can't be chopped up logically.

Another kinda fun idea might just be because they can manipulate loose floating particles they can manipulate loosely bonded electrons and then by concentrating in one place cause the necessary difference in charge to cause a bolt.

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    $\begingroup$ Can air alone create clouds? Seems like a fusion of water and air if you ask me. The debate of "Is lightning a part of the air or fire element?" is one that doesn't really have a truly definitive answer. I'm assuming Avatar lumped it with fire due to both fire and lightning being examples of plasma, but I chose air for more thematical reasons. My magic system is still (mostly) built on the foundation of science though, since A. That's how I'll distinguish it from Avatar's magic system, and B. I'm a science-fiction nerd who likes magic when it makes SOME level of sense. $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 7 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ Ran out of characters but I just wanna quickly add that I like your second suggestion :) $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 7 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @CrystalKing again it depends on how you really chop it all up and It's up to you really if cloud should be water and air but if you're trying to go strictly chemical it gets confusing for example fire being plasma is a common misconception and only happens if it gets hot enough. fire its self is just a lot of reaction signs happening at once and is in actuality mostly carbon dioxide, water, the initial fuel and oxygen. water is just oxygen and hydrogen both stuff that could be fire fuel and dirt is mostly carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen; but air is 78% nitrogen and a lot of O C N H again. $\endgroup$ – SIK Mephisto Apr 7 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, looking at elemental magic from that perspective does kinda diminish it's whole appeal. I actually don't know why lightning manipulation was given to firebenders (it is heavily implied though that the energy firebenders produce is just weaponized chi, so maybe the associate started and stopped at both of these things being examples of energy, idk). I only brought up the cloud thing though because my fictional world takes place in an alternative universe from ours where humanity didn't completely disrespect nature, but the clouds in this world are still the same as ours $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 7 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Hello Future Me does a lot of in depth analysis into the world building in Avatar and has a video explaining all the reasoning behind who can bend what and why and I think does a great job explaining it all and I highly recommend youtu.be/sejaGbhYKQ8 $\endgroup$ – SIK Mephisto Apr 7 at 19:11
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Electricity (well, specifically lightning), is caused by the release of positive charge from storm clouds into the negatively charged ground. So you could theoretically manipulate the electrical charges of a cloud to effectively summon lightning. You could also speed up the electrons in the air atoms so you can create electricity wherever you want.

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  • $\begingroup$ So as long as there's air, this technique will be just as useful for combat indoors as it is outdoors? $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 5 at 16:41
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I don't have enough reputation to comment on another comment, but yes, the technique would be useful indoors as well because it is created due to interaction between the ground (or possibly an object? I'm not sure) and clouds involving positive and negative charges. Generally, there is humidity in a room which is caused by water vapor in the air, and clouds are made out of that but only when it is condensed onto particles (it has to be cold enough). So if it is the right temperature and there are dust and other particles in the air, the mage could create a cloud, possibly even help it generate electricity, and create lightning, or you can use a better explanation to create a better aesthetic/method of creating lightning by will.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice! Thanks bud :) $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 9 at 18:35
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Drilling the phalanges of the sky.

Water magicians learn the purity of form, a world reflected in a single molecule that links with itself in infinite variation. Fire magicians learn the purity of essence, the heat energy that pervades all things. Earth mages learn the purity of origin, the substance of the planet of creation. And air mages learn the purity of change - the ceaseless motion of particles, not taken in terms of magnitude, but of direction and control.

The air mages long ago came to understand the elements and molecules of the air, not originally as chemistry but as dance and song. Nitrogen, the eternal male, oxygen, the eternal female, the third-sex shamans of argon and neon that glide among them in contemplation.

And so they drilled, mage and air, together. Scissor march: men apart, women march between, N2+2O2->2NO2 in chemistry terms, though the air mages know how often it is truly N2O4. Square the triangle: 3O2 -> 2O3. Stunning scissor: 2N2 + O2 -> 2N2O. Such tools are immensely powerful, making the air noxious or even anaesthetic, dispersing enemies or incapacitating them. But the air mage dislikes them because they go against the natural order of the air; they consume energy, make entropy; it is a dark working.

So much better to scissor march to the ground, turn NO2 to NO2-, reverse scissor march, 2NO2- -> N2 + 2O2 + 2e-. Let the electrons return whence they came, leaving behind air nearly as clean as before, save only for the encouraging scent of roasted enemies that have ridden the lightning.

Explanatory note per request: Air is made up mostly of molecular nitrogen (two atoms of nitrogen stuck together) and molecular oxygen (two atoms of oxygen). If the airwitch can control how all the atoms move, he can bring the thermal vibrations together to split these molecules and reform them. The molecules of the air are compared to a phalanx of men, and one of women, undergoing the same marching maneuvers side by side in formation; plural "phalanges".

Ways to rearrange the atoms into new molecules include nitrous oxide ("laughing gas", anaesthetic), nitric oxide (poisonous; affects blood pressure), and nitrogen dioxide (an immensely concentrated version of smog). Here, our airwitch prefers to make nitrogen dioxide only temporarily, to use it to absorb electrons from the ground, forming nitrite ions (a food preservative, but also negatively charged). He pulls the nitrite ions away from the ground - which means he is physically moving electricity into the air! This isn't a circuit, but just a massive amount of charge under his magical control. When he commands the nitrite ions to reform to nitrogen and oxygen, the leftover electrons will burst forth and arc their way back to ground in a lightning bolt, which he can direct by controlling how the arc moves through the air. This is only one example of his electrical powers.

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  • $\begingroup$ As much as I love the way you formatted your answer as a story of sorts and even assigned philosophical conations to each elemental class, (which just so happen to differ from the ones found in TLA) I'll be blunt with you. I am laughably bad at science and meteorology and therefore have no idea what you're saying. $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 9 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ Ah. That makes a lot more sense, thank you so much for clarifying that. Also, only one example of his electrical powers? What else can my mages do with this ability? Ball lightning projection? Thunderstorm conjuring? Electro-telekinesis (yes, this is an actual thing in some works)? $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 10 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ It depends on what you decide. But if I continue with the supposition that an airwitch could control exactly how random collisions affected the energy/momentum of molecules and atoms, but not the overall energy (that would be fire), then they could move static charge by the nitrite trick (ball lightning) and apply some degree of local force. Their ability to raise up a thunderhead might be limited in that some atoms would have to go the other direction. ETK might work, but air would have to move to "propel" it. Watch some videos about ideal gas law on YouTube - think about collisions. $\endgroup$ – Mike Serfas Apr 10 at 11:13
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that's kinda what I've gathered from all the other answers I got. They build the charge from air, and also guide it with air. Those gas video really helped btw, thx. $\endgroup$ – Crystal King Apr 10 at 11:40

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