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None of the names or terms I'm using for worldbuilding are final so please don't judge me too hard on them. Sorry in advance if the answer seems obvious or if I formatted the question incorrectly, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed.

The Big Bang occurred and the stars started to form and go supernova spreading the elements that were within them far and wide throughout space. The solar system, including the Earth and the life upon planet Earth, is thought to be made of this star dust. In my world an additional element was formed that ordinarily can't be observed by humans, Metatron. It's a type of metal whose atoms are present in every living thing like how carbon is. The special characteristic of Metatron is that it reacts to and is manipulated by the thoughts of sentient creatures. When this happens the thoughts and the Metatron merge to form a new substance called Phantasm, which can then be used as fuel for supernatural powers.

Powers like conjuring or manipulating the elements, illusions, non sentient creatures and more. Humans constantly give off a small amount of phantasm due to their emotions interacting either with the Metatron atoms inside them, or with the particles of Metatron around them coming down from space. Eventually these pools of Phantasm can be further manipulated by collective human thought into creatures called phenomemon, which the heroes of my story fight.

The trouble I'm having is establishing limits so that the characters can't do everything, as well as having those limits make sense. Ideally I'd like it to be a matter of using up the resource that is Phantasm. This would lead to a kind of exhaustion that characters would have to recover from before using their powers again. So either consuming or causing the components of Phantasm unusable for a time. Since you can't really run out of thoughts or render them them unusable in my system, that leaves Metatron. While burning up the Metatron particles or objects around them makes sense, I don't know what to do about the Metatron atoms inside my characters. Which brings me to my question, since atoms can't be destroyed how else do I make the Metatron atoms in my characters unusable or inaccessible for a period of time?

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Carbon atoms can't be destroyed in the human body, either. Yet we get tired and we need to rest after some physical effort. How does that happen?

Carbon based, energy rich compounds like sugars and fats are oxidized into carbon based but energy poor compounds like CO2, releasing the energy to be used by the body. Then the body needs to eat to resupply those energy rich compounds.

This is exactly what happens with your metatron. The energy rich one gets burned to allow its usage, and it takes time to be replenished.

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  • $\begingroup$ I see, and thank you for the comment. I really appreciate it. If I understood the comparison right (again I'm not the brightest) rather than making the Metatron inaccessible per say, I need to establish a type of mechanism or compound that releases the energy used by the body and mind when Metatron is transformed into the Phantasm based powers. Then have a way to resupply said mechanism over time. Maybe something like a secret third eye or mind's eye. $\endgroup$
    – Qasav
    Jun 18 '21 at 5:21
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When you use Phantasm for a 'cast a spell', metatron leaves your body and travels to the location the spell effects. For example, if you cast an illusion spell, the Phantasm carries the needed metatron to the location of the illusion and then emits light in the shape desired. To regain metatron, you must eat food with containing metatron.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for commenting! I like the idea but I think a problem that arises with the regaining Metatron with food concept is that you end up with battles that turn into eating fests. Once you run out of Metatron you eat to refuel, rinse and repeat. Any ideas on how to solve this issue? $\endgroup$
    – Qasav
    Jun 18 '21 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ After eating, it takes a few hours for the food to be digested and the gained nutrients moved to the right places. Add in the requirement that Metatron can only be converted to Phantasm when it is in nerve cells, and there is no reason to eat in the middle of a battle. However, eating before a battle can be a major tactical advantage, but that is true in normal warfare, so I think that is fine. $\endgroup$
    – E Tam
    Jun 18 '21 at 2:57
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It is a lot of work to use phantasm!

/Since you can't really run out of thoughts or render them them unusable/

You totally can! You can run out of thoughts and before that your thoughts can be pretty worthless. I am getting close right now, but I have this feeble thought to share.

It is called getting tired. Turning phantasm into magic is exhausting! You have to concentrate and focus and you have to do it right. Your characters who are good at it are good because they have trained thousands of hours and it is still not easy. Maybe these pros can muster a little phantasm magic when they are totally beat from a long day of serious magic but for the good stuff they need to be sharp.

Metatron does not get consumed. It gets used to make the phantasm. Some people are born with more metatron than others, which is like being born owning a Ferrari. It is not good for much when you are 2 years old. You have to grow tall enough to reach the pedals and you need to learn to drive.

One might think " I suck at making phantasm and I got no magic. I was born owning the metatron equivalent of a Chevy Lumina. But Ha ha! Ho ho! I know where to find metatron and I will implant loads of it into my quaking flesh! It will be like attaching the engines from a 747 on my Chevy Lumina!" Yes, much like that. Something different will definitely happen.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the comment and the insight! The idea of Metatron not necessarily being consumed as well as people going as far as to implant the stuff into them to increase their potential, I find very interesting. I should probably take up what you and others have said and make using Metatron to create Phantasm cause a type of strain on the body and mind. Maybe something like the more Metatron the more Phantasm you can produce but the more strain it puts on your body and mind. I think that will keep people from going too crazy and turning into brain filled Metatron mech suits. $\endgroup$
    – Qasav
    Jun 18 '21 at 22:58
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    $\begingroup$ /brain filled Metatron mech suits/ but you need one of them for your story, for sure. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jun 19 '21 at 0:25
  • $\begingroup$ Oh yeah, at least one. $\endgroup$
    – Qasav
    Jun 19 '21 at 0:41
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Metatron is dangerous, and toxic. While you can manipulate it, exposing it to a great deal of emotion to use it raw, that tends to leave people insane and unhinged. As such, your body needs to convert it to various safe forms. As such, your body converts it to various allotropes of Phantasm.

There are multiple forms of Phantasm.

Each emotion forms a different variation of phantasm with different powers. There are many minor variations. It takes time to accumulate these variations. If you burn all your supplies in a fight then you might need to spend a few hours feeling envious to recover your reserves of that sort of Phantasm.

Different people have different abilities to feel emotions and recharge their powers. While you'll still generally have ample reserves of metatron, it's not safe to feel emotion so intense you quickly charge up your reserves of envy phantasm.

Older people tend to get more powerful but calcified. Children tend to be more flexible.

Repeatedly flaring your emotions to extremes to produce a particular effect tends to focus your mind on very powerful but unnuanced emotions. Experienced and powerful big bads will have a powerful set of powers, but they'll be fairly narrow, and it will be difficult for them to adapt to a new set of powers.

Children have a much vaster array of emotional responses, with much more nuance and variation. They can manifest a lot of different power types and can turn aspects of phantasm projections to obey them. A powerful phantasm user might be able to spread their madness over a city, but a child can subvert the guarding phantasm at their door.

This means children and teenagers are well placed to defeat much more powerful adult users. They can fight smart, while their opponents fight with overwhelming power.

Going overboard runs risk of being brain burnt.

Some people in great desperation go to massive depths of emotion, drawing on vast reserves of metatron to fuel their powers. This burns certain brain pathways, granting immunity to the negative side effects of phantasm creation, but leaves the user utterly insane and focused on that emotion.

Phenomemon are not biological, so they naturally have much more ability to use their powers, making them similar to the brain burnt and very dangerous.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your helpful comment, I'm absolutely going to be talking what wrote into consideration. $\endgroup$
    – Qasav
    Jun 18 '21 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ Glad to have helped, if you want any more ideas do say. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Jun 18 '21 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ Well there is something else I'm kinda struggling with. A plot point involving the magic system. The main characters in my story are young, like 10-13 or 14. The in universe reason as to why children are being trained in these things is that the big bads are too powerful and all the adults have reached their Metatron/Phantasm potential with no success at beating them. The children haven't reached their potential yet and the last hope is to raise their Metatron/Phantasm capability in order to win. How do I raise their potential in a way that makes sense? Especially the thoughts/atoms aspect? $\endgroup$
    – Qasav
    Jun 18 '21 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ I added a suggestion on this- let children use powers much more flexibly because of their greater emotional range. You can have smart protagonists who find the flaws in the powers of the big bads to defeat them. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Jun 19 '21 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ I've been mulling over expanding the idea of emotions and thought affecting Metatron/Phantasm by incorporating the 7 sins and virtues. The idea would be certain elemental powers would correlate to certain sins and virtues with added restrictions and boons for each category of Phantasm. My questions are 1, do you think its a good Idea? And 2, Since the content I have so far is rather long should I make a new separate post about the idea? $\endgroup$
    – Qasav
    Jun 19 '21 at 21:32

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