Alchemy is the matter manipulating aspect of my magic system. In order to delineate the very broad nature of the Alchemy's control over matter, I divided it into spheres. Initially the spheres were Elemental in nature, Flesh, Wood, Earth, Air and Water.

Later I modified my idea to be more in line with modern science and used the Linnaean taxonomy as a basis for the spheres,Flesh,Wood and Earth became Animal, Vegetal and Mineral. With derivative material such as glass, ceramic, nylon, plastic being with in the sphere of their respective source materials.

However this left Air and Water out of the system.

So I ask...

What is the taxonomy of water and air?

and if there isn't an existing taxonomy of water and air.

How do I change classification of the materials so that everything fits. More scientific or more mystical as long as everything "clicks" either approach is acceptable.

  • $\begingroup$ You mean you want to bring some kind of... pseudo-scientific order into the FMA alchemy scheme? Or what are you trying to do? And what do you mean by "change classification of Material" -- what is Material? (that aside -- would plastic be Plant/Wood since it derives from oil, or would it be Earth since the oil has to be dug out of Earth?) $\endgroup$
    – subrunner
    May 31, 2016 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ Are you looking for ideas to fit Air and Water into your current three part scheme or additional spheres? $\endgroup$
    – James
    May 31, 2016 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ Also, this is my go to basis for setting up systems like the one you are working on. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_element I would particularly recommend the section on Chinese tradition for you. $\endgroup$
    – James
    May 31, 2016 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ @subrunner FMA is closest preexisting source to the system I'm working on so it's listed as an example. Change the classification of materials should be self explanatory. I switched from more classical elements to the Linnaean taxonomy,but in doing so water and air were lost. And I have no idea how where to fit those material/elements in? $\endgroup$ May 31, 2016 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ Where would you place steam in this? $\endgroup$
    – Kys
    May 31, 2016 at 20:40

3 Answers 3


You have created a core Materialistic taxonomy system with Flesh, Wood and earth, so get a symmetry if you assign Elemental, Air and Water as Media, complementing the material elements.

Rather than describing the composition of a material, the elements in the Media class describes their fundamental properties. For instance, something related to Air is necessary volatile. They too represent different levels of abstraction, where Water is always the most easily grasped concept (like waves propagating through water), Air the next level (Waves propagating through air, sound), and Elemental the topmost, and sometimes inaccessible level (light propagating through empty space/aether).

As such, the act of "elemental weaving" is at the simplest level to create an object out of the three basic materialistic types, but no properties are assigned, the thing is basically "dead", before an overhead structure of Media class elements are made.


If by Air you mean anything assimilable to gas I suggest Gasiform. You can even extend the Gasiform category to Immaterial or even -why not - Vaporous to include ambiguous elements like fire.

If by Water you mean anything liquid maybe simply Liquid ?

I think it is not relevant to include water in your classification, as water can also be "gasiform" , unless you assume that manipulating water steam equals manipulating gasiform elements and not liquid elements.

I don't know the details of you system but what if some elements could be part of several categories ? For example Lava is both Gasiform / Immaterial /Vaporous and liquid. In which case the liquid category would make sense.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm starting with I thought was specific question"what is the taxonomy of air and water" and am going to have branch. The Alchemy of my magic system it's most basic form can move and reshape matter;think bending from Avatar. Higher alchemy can actually change the physical and chemical of matter. $\endgroup$ May 31, 2016 at 16:22

A common misconception is that science doesn't hold the classical elements at all and discarded them. However, it was basically just found that the classical elements didn't match the definition of an element (the basic building blocks of matter).

What were once the classical elements, are now known as phases.

  • Earth is Solid
  • Air is Gas
  • Water is Liquid
  • Fire is Plasma.

In a lot of ways, it was basically a re-naming of things to make the language more precise and less confusing (similar how Pluto is now a dwarf planet, due to a planet now being more strictly defined, as before the definition was too vauge... under the old definition, Pluto may have qualified, but technically, so did the moon, Saturn's moons, etc. The word lost meaning with new information, so the words had to be updated. Even then, creating a new classification of "Dwarf Planet" effectively created a dozen or so more dwarf planets in our solar system.)

So, what I'm seeing, is an easy way is to just keep following normal science but just treat it like the naming conventions were changed in a different way. Instead of changing what the classical elements to phases, they instead changed actual elements to something else. Then, you just have to go into categories of phases for your inspiration. For example, solids come in amorphous, crystalline, and more.

I suggest here: Wikipedia non-classical states

Breaking down with both Air and Water, you can subdivide them similar to how the rest, based off of degrees of order.

You can have unordered air/water (Alochol is an unordered liquid), semi-ordered water (normal water, that's why it forms droplets), all the way to liquid crystals (crystalline liquid).

You could do similar with gases, but any crystallization of air would probably be seen as pretty exotic (which could make for an interesting phenomena in a story, to be fair!)

Again, for the feeling of your story, as you describe it, renaming them would probably be appropriate.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ While not the answer, it is answer to my question and it does solve another problem that I've been having with certain aspects of alchemy. $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2016 at 14:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .