2
$\begingroup$

The continuous progression of magi-technology has slowly made the slave industry a relic of the past. The application of spells and rituals to solve everyday problems has made the produce from slave labor, known as D-class, both less necessary and profitable as the years go by. I, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, have developed a business model that honors our culture and heritage by paying respect to our sacred tradition through the usage of curses.

Curses stem from a branch of the arcane arts known as black magic. It allows you to channel certain dark energies to cause negative effects to the intended target. This is done through a spell or ritual, and can affect individuals regardless of location, so long as the required ingredients are used. However, this branch of magic is rarely used due to the blowback subjected to the person that performed it. When the spell is channeled on a target, the equivalent of that damage to that individual is inflicted on the user. If a witch wanted someone severely crippled or killed, they would routinely suffer the same fate. I have solved this problem through a go-around with the creation of the curse mark. These curse marks are applied to a D-class in the process of the ritual. When the spell is completed, the negative energy resulting from it will be absorbed by the curse mark itself. This causes the backlash to affect the wearer instead of the user. Curse marks are now used by witches in my field, who purchase expendable people who won't be missed. This individuals will suffer the blowback of curses, freeing the users to perform curses to their hearts content without fear of the backlash. This has saved the slave industry, turning it into a money making business that is profitable. Lately however, problems have risen which has unfortunately hurt the bottom line of those in this line of business.

It has been discovered that the amount of slaves needed in the application of black rituals have been increasing. When once, a witch could count on the use of a single person to absorb the blowback, that number slowly increases the more curses that witch performs. This number rises to two, then three, and continues as time goes on. This puts a strain on a witch's resources, as the rising expenses forces them to shell out more capital to purchase more D-class to achieve the same results. This cycle will ultimately push a business into the red, as it lowers their profit margins and reduces the return on investment. How can this be happening?

$\endgroup$
2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You could improve this question by removing the irrelevant. Especially when the social structure is leading off and distracting. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Jul 10 at 22:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You should probably remove inflammatory phrases like "[i]diots in the liberal media", it seems out of place even if in-universe. $\endgroup$ Jul 11 at 1:18
3
$\begingroup$

An escalating market is a good thing for the provider. So it is not the slave industry which has problems, it is the curse casters who have trouble economic times ahead. They need to learn discretion and discernment in selecting their curse targets, because D-class mark carrier cost is increasing daily. This is a nice analogy to the oil producers who have thrived in recent decades while we oil consumers have learned to drive smaller cars less frequently and to develop alternative energy-based vehicles.

That the cycle will ultimately push a business into the red is just a facet of an evolving economy. Across time the cost of some resources rise or fall, affecting the profitability of dependent industries. This is not a bad thing as it motivates progress. In the case or your world, rising mark-carrier costs will drive curse-casters to add bullies, bruisers and assassins to their employee rosters so that the general crippling business can be handled without consuming valuable D-class resources. It will also lead to senior curse casters taking on more managerial roles, hiring junior casters whose D-class consumption levels (a real world analogy to salary requirements) are more lucrative. Thus the dark works industry, which has classically followed a lone wolf metaphor, gains a reason to foster cubs, apprentices and initiates and to train them in the arts. All of this is good from an economist's point of view.

So now to answer your question...

The marks aren't 100% efficient. Yes, the D-class gets a full dose of the affliction, but a small fraction still gets back to the actual caster. The assignment of a curse-mark to a person is itself a curse. So although the first curse's cost is absorbed by the first mark-bearer, the cost of giving that bearer a mark falls upon the caster.

When the caster is young and fit, that lessened cost is tolerable, but as the caster accumulates their small part of each mark-deferred curse, those costs start to accumulate. An obvious solution is to add another curse-mark bearer to the mix, using this second bearer to receive the cost of giving the first bearer his mark. This second bearer will only receive a small fraction of the affliction ascribed to the first bearer, so the cost of giving that second bearer her mark is much lower than that for giving the first mark.

For example...

If you want your victim to grow 100 warts on their face, you would have to accept 100 warts on your own face. So you add a mark-bearer to receive those warts. The cost of giving the mark-bearer 100 warts is 10 warts, which still would mess up your personal aesthetic, so you add a second mark-bearer to accept those 10 warts. This second giving of a mark costs you 1 wart but being quite proud of your visage, you add a third mark-bearer to receive that wart and this third mark giving costs you a petite little beauty mark

...plus the cost of 3 D-class slaves.

Having answered your question, I now feel free to comment on some of your rather provocative setup.

  • Politics can't be a crime since the winners make the rules. Those who loose a political race after making an enemy of the subsequent winner is what your are looking for as your source of slaves. But that is at best a small pool of candidates, so not really worthy of mention.

  • Your opening sentence implies that magi-technical progress has eliminated the need for slaves (including wage-slaves) so what you are talking about is a post-scarcity society. In such societies, poverty is either vanquished or banished. So that source of slaves is also in limited supply. In fact, feeding on the poor for such misery as mark-carrying might become would have a social contraception like effect on the impoverished, at least in among those who knows what misery might be waiting for their yet-unborn children. What makes poverty work in the real world, at least in the first world nations, is that it is almost tolerable for the currently poor and there is hope that their children will do better. Your mark-bearing would decimate that hope like 19th century factory work did in the past.

  • Criminals will be your primary source of D-class slaves and since curse-casting is an abomination worth of criminal censure under most modern understandings of justice, your casters themselves may find themselves in an ouroborus loop.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Your magi did not study the reason for the blowback. They started believing that it was a sort of a "tit-for-tat" requested by the Universe: one eye for one eye.

In fact, one for one was just the point at which, in ancient times, curses were abandoned - because they had become impractical. In the depths of antiquity, the blowback effect was negligible, and that's what allowed the study of curses to even start.

For each curse to function, there must be enough dark charge (for lack of a better term) for the blow-forward. The need to accumulate this charge is what makes the blowback necessary. At the same time, just as with capacitors, each accumulation of charge increases the potential of the "capacitor", making further accumulation harder. Due to the size of the local dark background pool, the effect is negligible - perhaps ten thousand blowbacks are needed to increase the required blowback "team" by one unit. At the beginning, this meant ten thousand curses were possible with ten thousand marks. After that, ten thousand marks only "buy" five thousand curses (less than that, actually), while the cost is slowly raised to three marks per curse, and only three thousand three hundred curses are available for the next crop of mark-bearers.

This 'black depletion' follows similar mechanisms to the Tragedy of the Commons, and will require lengthy and difficult rituals to "ground" the dark charge, which, unlike electrical potential, does not spontaneously dissipate over time.

Even without delving into the deeper esotherical reasons of the phenomenon, or its remediation, any wizard with sufficient sensitivity or access to statistical data should be able to spot the mathematical progression and draw the conclusions - the market for dooms is doomed.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

This answer is based on the following assumptions:

  1. Black magic rituals do not change, only slave requirements increase over time.
  2. Your universe has a natural (magic) law according to which a curse-caster must pay a price for cursing others.
  3. The strength of the backlash of a curse depends on the number of curses that a witch previously cast.

While a witch can use curse marks to transfer backlashes to other people, the curse mark is insufficient to hide the cause-effect relationship between the witch and a cursed person. One fitting explanation for this would be the concept of karma: Intentions and intentional actions lead to specific effects (in your case, that would be the curse backlash). Another explanation could be based on the concept of sin: Any curse is a sin, the more curses a witch performs the greater sinner she becomes.

As a witch accumulates bad karma/sin points (or whatever other causality explanation you use), the backlash increases since the 'price' for cursing others has not been paid fully (karma is not resolved/sin is not cleansed).

If you adopt a system like this, three solutions to the slave problem become available:

  • witches develop better ways of backlash avoidance (better curse marks, potions to deal with effects of backlashes, etc.);
  • witches bear backlashes in full, but make sure that they can recover (think about it this way: A witch is stronger than a person to be cursed and has potions, spells, techniques ready when the backlash hits);
  • witches train slaves to curse others while maintaining total control over those slaves to avoid being cursed (this works only if the universe punishes curse-casters only and ignores all other involved parties).
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

This is a frame-challenge to your assertion that these businesses would be "pushed into the red." It does not attempt to explain why a witch would need an increasing number of human sacrifices per curse.

Pass the cost along to the customer

First, I can only think of one way that these witches could be considered "businesses" who have to remain net-profitable: and that's if they offer their cursing services on the marketplace.

Because otherwise, the reason for placing a curse on someone is going to be some non-economic motive, like revenge or despite or something like that. Generally speaking, cursing someone else does not create a revenue stream simply by virtue of that person being cursed.

I think this pretty much means that your witches are not placing curses that they personally care about, but are instead cursing victims because someone pays them to do so.

In which case the answer seems straightforward: pass the cost of materials onto the customer, just like most other service providers do. As just one example, private detectives charge their customers for time but also pass on their expenses: if the surveillance target checks into a fancy resort and the private-eye must do the same to maintain surveillance, then the customer is going to foot the bill. In fact, that expense will certainly be itemized on the final bill in order to dispel any doubt the client may have that the detective is overcharging them.

It is not the case that witches would just eat the cost of buying more disposable people. What would happen is that the price of curses would go up over time, on a per-proprietor basis. This would organically become visible in the marketplace: "low D-count" witches would advertise as such ("Only 5 Curses Placed!")

Witches whose raw material requirements are lower would probably be able to charge a premium, which would still need to be lower than the raw materials cost charged by more-used providers. A customer with an axe to grind would face this choice:

  1. Go to the oft-used local witch, who needs 5 slaves to cast Genital Warts, and whose price is

    5 slaves + 3 candles + 1 frog + 1 hour witch time

  2. Travel to a nearby village where the witch doesn't get as much business, and whose price for Genital Warts is

    1 slave + 3 candles + 1 frog + 1 hour witch time + convenience fee (where convenience fee is the cost of 1 extra slave)

Once a witch's raw materials cost is too great for the market to bear, he or she is probably faced with a real challenge: find customers who have independent access to slaves, e.g. local nobility, who could simply seize slaves from the slave market, or essentially print money to cover the cost, or capture non-slaves by force. How easy or hard it is to find a patron like that will depend in large part on whether there is any benefit to having a more-experienced witch.

If witchery is like other disciplines, and experience leads to mastery which leads to better work, then kings who control fiat currency and standing armies (and who are thus immune to the cost of slaves) may actively seek out "used-up" witches. Similar thinking applies if a witch's skill is linked to some innate power that a person either has or doesn't: if you're born with especially strong magic, people will prefer your services to others', all things being equal -- and for the super-wealthy or super-powerful, all other things are equal.

$\endgroup$
1
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Real-world markets work like that, too. Someone a little better who charges $500/hour won't get hired by most people; but for a big project on a deadline that needs the best, that price is cheap -- they'll even offer you a bonus. $\endgroup$ Jul 11 at 0:10
1
$\begingroup$

The battery of my first mobile used to last for 6-7 days from a charge to the other.

The battery of my most recent mobile, even when brand new, lasted not even 1 and half day.

Why is data? More computations, more data being exchanged, is simple terms more complexity, despite being both still named mobile phones.

Same goes for your witches. The background complexity of the ritual has increased, so more is needed to absorb the blowback.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Satanic rituals are designed to cost increasing amounts.

This is a common side effects of people who consign large numbers of souls to hell in dark magic rituals. You need to tap hellish magic, and while the first one is free, the cost increases in an escalating manner to encourage more souls consigned to hell.

However, there is a solution. Once you have a witch sacrifice 616 souls to hell then they'll get a hellish consultant to negotiate soul to dark magic ratios and offer other perks. Just keep sacrificing people and it'll all work out.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

There is not only the slave to take the curse, but the conduit to shoot the power to the slave -- or to the witch, if something goes wrong.

This conduit is in fact a kind of permanent structure, attached to a person, and the witch must use her own, and not the slave's.

The conduit takes damage over the years, and makes the curses cause more damage. In historic times, when the witch took the curse's blowback, this was hidden except for witches who cursed with glee and abandon, and even then you could convince yourself that it was just the cumulative effect of the curses. With the blowback gone, the conduit damage becomes clear.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.