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Arcane Contamination

The unavoidable residual essence waste left after spellcasting.

Arcane Contamination



Spellcasting always results in some residual, unusable energy left on the caster, called contamination. In small amounts, arcane contamination is benign; in larger, it can lead to erratic spellcasting, loss of control over the essence, and essence poisoning, the latter of which can be life-threatening. This contamination is only visible to Spellbreakers, not mages, and must be dissipated either naturally over time of refraining from casting or by a Spellbreaker's intervention.
Further Reading: A Primer to Magic, A Primer to Arcana, Spellbreaking


To prepare mana, the mage must pull on the essence from their particular sphere and mix it with their personal store of vis. This mana is then used as the raw material to create a particular weave, the spell, whose design determines the sort of effect it will have. The spell is released into the Material Plane via a reaction called arcalysis, converting potential intention into physical action.

This conversion is not, however, complete. While most of the mana is converted into action, some of it becomes unusable residue that clings to the mage that cast the spell as well as the physical area that the spell affected. Spellcasters are attuned only to their essences and thus cannot see this contamination in the environment nor on other mages, and can only become aware of rising concentrations of contamination on themselves when its negative side effects begin to manifest. Spellbreakers, however, can see contamination in all its forms and no matter where it is.

Contamination is produced with every spell an arcanist casts. The amount per spell, however, is dependent on the size of the spell created. For example, an Initiate-level spell would create only a small amount of contamination with negligible negative effects and would dissipate from mage and environment completely in a few candlemarks. An Archmage-level spell would create a huge amount of contamination that would last for months, causing symptoms of essence poisoning to manifest in the mage and environment and making any future spells cast by any mage in that area erratic, unpredictable, and uncontrollable.
Further Reading: Spellbreaking

[top]Effects of Contamination

In its raw state, contamination is always negative whether present on a mage or in the environment. It cannot be sensed, seen, or used in any way by arcanists and can only interfere, not enhance, their casting.
Environment Contamination: Repeated spells cast in the same area either by the same or different mages will contaminate the environment. Plant and animal life, the very earth itself, and other inanimate objects will be laced with it. Any later spells that attempt to manipulate this environment will have unpredictable effects and unintentional consequences. Beyond this, some of the infected things may begin to exhibit strange and unnatural properties dependent on the type of essence that created the original contamination, such as glowing leaves, floating stones or partially-sentient creatures.

Environmental contamination is usually divided into five levels for the sake of convenience.
  1. Incidental – Pockets of arcanic contamination accumulate during the course of normal, every-day life. These small pockets of essence are weak and transitory in nature, quickly absorbed into the fabric of the Material Plane. Spellbreakers of a darker persuasion will often harness necromantic energy generated by the hundreds of deaths in a city to power their artifacts. A craftsman interested in a lightning-based enchantment, on the other hand, may set up lightning rods on top of a mountain during a thunderstorm to harvest incidental arcanic contamination.
  2. Persistent – Continued, consistent incidences of low-level arcanic contamination will eventually accumulate and stabilize until a location becomes permanently tainted by a given essence or a mixture of essences. Mystic essence may become persistent in a busy university library where students and faculty are constantly reading and learning.
  3. Infused – This location has developed a persistent connection to an Essence Plane. Infused locations can come about as the result of human action or from the inherent nature of a location. Many magical academies are infused with arcanic contamination though the Rainbow Towers of Nexus Prime and the town of Vers are the most well known. Enchanted groves are examples of naturally occurring infused locations.
  4. Breached – The very fabric of the Material Plane is affected by the severity of arcanic contamination. These sites can be either persistent or temporary though the natural forces of the Material Plane make persistent breaches very rare. Aslan's Forge is a persistent breach between the Material Plane and the Demi-Plane of Fire. The Battle of Zerdagria resulted in breach-level arcanic contamination when both the attacking forces of Avanthar and the defending church magi unleashed their arcanic might.
  5. Catastrophic – Catastrophic levels of arcanic contamination are almost always the result of catastrophic events (or simply divine intervention). The fabric of the Material Plane has grown weak and frayed to the point where essence can flow freely through. Many mages suspect that the Temple of Aetheria in the Great Mountains is so thoroughly infused with divine/infernal essence that, for all intents and purposes, it is a site of catastrophic arcanic essence. The recent fighting near Narim has rendered the entirety of northern Sheria a site of catastrophic arcane contamination.

Caster Contamination: As a mage repeatedly forms spells, the concentration of the personal contamination clinging to them increases proportionally with the number and level of spells cast. The quicker the frequency of spells and the larger the effect created, the more contamination produced. As the concentration of contamination grows, the mage will begin to lose more and more control of subsequent spells as the residue negatively interferes with the reaction of arcalysis. Its effects vary between circumstances, but the mage may begin to notice that the intention of their weave and the results that their spell creates begin to differ dramatically, with the latter often having catastrophic consequences. Lingering contamination left on one’s self may also lead to essence poisoning.

Essence Poisoning: Pure essence, when pulled inward to create mana, is not harmful to the mage. When it becomes contamination after a spell, however, it can begin to infect the mage on which it resides. At lower levels this sickness may be minor, such as a dull headache or slight nausea. At higher levels, essence poisoning can be fatal. The symptoms of essence poisoning are dependent upon the nature of the essence that created the contamination. Its effects remain active so long as the contamination is still present, and any physical or mental damage caused by essence poisoning must be remedied or healed.
An Initiate with Necromantic essence poisoning may develop minor gangrene in a wound already present.
An Archmage with Necromantic essence poisoning may lose entire limbs and internal organs to rot to a fatal degree.
Further Reading: A Guide to Arcana


Contamination cannot be sensed, used, or removed by arcanists. Its generation can be reduced, however, by casting with a Staff of Arcana. A mage’s only recourse to avoid the negative effects of essence poisoning or contamination of the environment is to refrain from casting for a time to allow it to naturally dissipate. However certain individuals, called Spellbreakers, have learned to become attuned to residual contamination due to their connection to the Material Plane and can track it, capture it, and use it on both spellcasters and their affected environments. Spellbreakers can also collect contamination and purify it to a usable form to create complicated and powerful artifacts. A mage working in conjunction with a Spellbreaker can speed up the removal process of the contamination, thus making it possible for the mage to cast higher-level spells more frequently without fear of essence poisoning or inadvertent environment contamination as well as providing the raw material Spellbreakers need for their craft.
Further Reading: Staff of Arcana, Spellbreaking


Credits go to Straylor Leonard and Noe for the original write-ups.

Contributors: Grim, Charybdis
Created by Charybdis, July 16, 2014 at 01:28 PM
Last edited by Grim, August 20, 2015 at 05:32 PM
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