Elder Scrolls Lore » Discussions

How is magic learned?

Tags: #Magic  #learn 
  • Member
    April 10, 2018
    How is magic learned, aside from practicing the spell? Do mages have to be familiar with less-magical things related to the spell they wish to cast (like a mage studying normal fire before casting a fire spell)? If so, would a conjurer study speechcraft to better dominate or foster relations/be friendly with (see 2920 v9) a summoned creature? And would there even be a “less-magical thing” to study for a spell like Soul Trap, Detect Dead, or any other spell that used to be Mysticism?
  • April 11, 2018
    I think that mages in the ES universe learn by studying the different schools and practicing the spells as they grow in knowledge and power. One of the Conjuration skill books in Skyrim (Liminal Bridges?) suggests this might be the case. Every race has the potential to use magic, it's all in a matter of whether or not one has the aptitude and desire to learn. The mer races are arguably more naturally suited to magic because of their ancestors, who were Aetherial beings. Bretons also have this connection, although they are more proficient with conjuration. Even the Orsimer start with bonuses to Enchanting in Skyrim! The Thu'um is a different story. One has to study and meditate for years just to learn one word! At least, that is how one learns to use the Voice according to the Greybeards... Paarthurnax taught people to use the Voice, and those pupils learned because they had the need, desire, and intent to change their circumstances. They tapped into their potential to use magic because of that. I think Dragonborns are people who are naturally skilled in magic. They just learn shouts very quickly and absorb dragon souls because they can tap into that power directly, rather than having to study and meditate.
  • Member
    April 11, 2018

    Well to simply put it... learning magic would be similar to learning science. You have to understand the basic principles of a school of magic to master it. Most spells are just different variations of one. Fireball is just a bigger, explosive version of Firebolt. If you master one spell, you'll open up a path to different variants of that spell, hence more spells. 

    In regards to conjurers improving their control over summoned creatures, it's actually the strength of the conjurer's binding spell not their speechcraft that's the determining factor. Having a strong binding spell means one can take control of a more powerful Daedra or multiple weaker ones. More on that, I suggest reading Principles of ConjurationThe Origins of Conjuration and I Was Summoned a Mortal


  • April 11, 2018

    As Kaiser said, magic is like science in TES, and to use magic you have to learn the science behind it, such as the concept of fire and lightning. How precisely is lightning created? One of the books I really like, that portray this kind of science behind magic is Mora'at's Theory of Lightning.

    Shock, like Flame and Frost, is an expression of magical power that takes the form of a natural force. Everyone has played with this force when one was a ja'khajiit, scuffing one's feet across a rug and then stinging a sibling with a small spark from an extended claw, or rubbing an inflated rat's-bladder against one's fur until the hairs stand up and the bladder "sticks" to one's chest or arm.

    So it was apparent to this one, even from an early age, that shock was an inherent property of fibrous matter, a property stimulated by friction into sparks. This also explains lightning, as clouds, which resemble nothing so much as huge Tenmar cotton-balls, generate shock when storms cause friction through colliding masses of buoyant fiber.

    So this guy goes on about how lightning or static energy is created by friction of a matter. So what does that mean? Maybe it means you have to figure out how to create fricting between the particles of magicka to create lightning. And you won´t manage to do that the first time, and maybe not even the second time. It times time and practice to figure that stuff out, how to control the flow of magicka, the friction, the end result. So the more you practice the more understanding of the spell you have and your magicka pool slowly increases.

    As for Conjuration for example, that is all about mentally circumpenetrating the limen, the fabric between Nirn and Oblivion, and reaching into to it to pull something out. Now, it hasn´t always been as easy as we see it in the game, just waving your hand and it´s all done. The Principles of Conjuration explain it the best:

    The notable success I have had in formulating safe and reliable conjuration spells comes from my system of defining such magics as always having two essential and interlocking components: a summoning incantation and a binding rune. It is the latter part, of course, that protects the conjurer from the entity or item summoned by enthralling it to the summoner.

    Heretofore conjuration has been quite a dangerous pursuit due to the fact that a conjuring wizard had to cast summoning and binding as two separate spells, and if the binding was miscast or cast too slowly, the conjurer might pay for the error with his life. My innovation has been to interweave the magics of summoning and binding so that they become one spell that manifests both effects simultaneously, thus ensuring that what is summoned is also necessarily bound.

    So at first it were two spells. A summoning incantation and then binding rune or sigil, but Corvus Direnni figured it out to make both components part of one spell. And it is through this binding sigil that the summoners control the Daedra, telephatically linking themselves with what they summon.

    Now Mysticism, that is a tougher nut to crack. It´s like... okay, try to imagine that there is some kind of stream for every kind of spell. Stream for fire, for weight and such. And Mysticism is where all the streams begin, but it´s not a like but a storm, chaotic and constantly changing. And for Psijics, Mysticism is kind of a belief or faith, pretty much one of the Walking Ways. But Mysticism: The Unfathomable Voyage and Fragment: On Artaeum might give you better idea.

    Mysticism is the school of magic least understood by the magical community, most difficult to explain to novices mages. The spells effects commonly ascribed to the School of Mysticism are as wildly disparate as Soul Trap -- the creation of a cell for a victim's spirit after death -- to Silence -- the extinction of sound. But these effects are simply that: effects. The sorcery behind them is veiled in a mystery that may go back to the oldest civilizations of Tamriel, and beyond.

    The Psijics of the Order of Artaeum's term for Mysticism is the Old Way. The phrase becomes bogged in a semantic quagmire, because the Old Way also refers to the religion and customs of the Psijics which may, or may not, be part of the magic of Mysticism.

    There are few mages who devote their lives to the study of Mysticism. The other schools are far more predictable and fathomable. Mysticism seems to derive its power from its cunundrums and paradoxes; the act of experimentation, no matter how objectively implemented, can influence the magicka by its very existance. Thus, the Mystic mage must regulate himself to finding consistant patterns in an imbroglio of energy. In the time it takes him to find a source with a consistant trigger and result, his peers researching in other schools may have researched and documented dozens of new spells and effects. The Mystic mage is a patient and uncompetitve scholar.

    For centuries, mostly during the Second Era, scholarly journals publishes theory after theory about the aspect or aspects of magicka that we call Mysticism. In the tradition of the Mages Guild to find answers to all things, respected researchers suggested the energy source as coming from Aetherius or the Daedra themselves to explain the seemingly random patterns of Mysticism; some ventured to guess that Mysticism comes from unused elements of successfully or unsuccessfully cast spells; discussion with the Order of Artaeum after its reappearance has led some scholars to postulate that Mysticism is more spiritual in nature, either the intellect or emotion of the believer influences the energy pattern and flow.

    None of these explanations is truly satisfactory. For the beginning student of Mysticism, it is best to simple learn the patterns distinguished in the maelstrom in the centuries past. The more patterns are found, the clearer the remaining ones become. Until, of course, they change. And then the journey begins anew.


    Even then, the Psijics were the counsellors of kings and proponents of the "Elder Way," taught to them by the original race that inhabited Tamriel. The Elder Way is a philosophy of meditation and study said to bind the forces of nature to the individual will. It differs from magicka in origin, but the effects are much the same.



  • April 15, 2018

    It is possible that magick, being an inherent quality of Aetherius, was simply a natural component in the existance of the Et'Ada; much like we move our arms and legs, they would simply wizard their way around. This means that when the Et'Ada meandered onto Nirn and started gettin' it on (possibly with some more magick), they taught their descendants how to use magic; Nirn being the farthest one can theoretically be from Aetherius, this magick would have been much weaker than the one they once had. And, of course, elves get to Tamriel, start teaching mans how to wizard, and suddenly magic, all taught from natural physical proccesses passed down through generations.

  • May 15, 2018

    Just featured this over on the official Tamriel Vault Twitter Account, because it's damn interesting :D

  • May 15, 2018

    I like the idea of science and magic being pretty much interchangeable. Knowing how to manipulate the elements means you need to have (at least) a decent understanding of what Fire, Ice or Lightning is and how it's naturally created. The more you understand, the more powerful your magic is. Naturally this would also mean you have to study how different spells interact with the natural rules of the world. 

    But what interests me there is sort of...what each type of magic would be if you tried to translate it from 'Magic' to 'Science'. I mean, Fire, Ice and Electricity are all pretty simple, but what about Flesh Spells? I mean, I can think of some literal translations but not scientifically savvy enough to know anything there.

    But then, my favourite magic system is essentially (in a massively simplified version) that magic sort of has two definitions. Magecraft has to be natural, it might be insanely difficult, but as long as it's feasibly possible by normal means, it's possible with magic (though usually much more effecient) Then there's the second, which is pretty much god-tier stuff that defies the rules of logic. 

  • May 15, 2018

    Dragonborn, it's possible flesh spells simply apply a mixture of skin hardening (sort of turning a squishy manboy into a squishy manboy cloaked in a frost troll fursuit or something). The spells that REALLY would take a PHD to explain would most likely be illusion spells; you aren't creating a mirage of an enemy for that bandit to battle, you are convincing him that his teammates (possibly friends or even family members) are actually enemies to be vanquished, just by throwing a fistful of wizard juice at him. Following on my previous definition of how magic got to where it is and your magic system, I'd say it's god-tier magic taught to people who aren't really built for it, and who mostly focus on the practical applications of it (read: burning thy foes).