Darrell J. Pursiful

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Design Notes: Magic in Saynim 1

Shadow of the King began with two ideas, one about plot and the other about worldbuilding.

The idea about plot was to turn the trope of the mundane person who discovers they’re actually supernatural (a wizard, a demigod, etc.) and is whisked into a magical world on its head. What if the hero grew up in a magical world and then got whisked off to Main Street USA?

The idea about worldbuilding was to let Paracelsus and other Renaissance and early modern thinkers inspire as much as possible about who lives in the aforementioned magical world and about how magic works in the first place.

In short, Saynim—my name for this world—would reflect Paracelsus’s speculations about gnomes, sylphs, undines, and salamanders, creatures strongly associated with the classical elements.

In Occult Philosophy, Paracelsus states:

The Elementals are not spirits, because they have flesh, blood and bones; they live and propagate offspring; they eat and talk, act and sleep, etc., and consequently they cannot be properly called “spirits.” They are beings occupying a place between men and spirits, resembling men and spirits, resembling men and women in their organization and form, and resembling spirits in the rapidity of their locomotion.

These aren’t “elementals” the way such creatures are usually described, beings made of earth or air or what have you. They are beings of flesh and blood and bone. They eat and sleep. They have children. They are not spirits, but they’re not entirely human, either. What sets them apart is that they are deeply connected to one of the classical elements.

In the next few weeks, I’m going to share a little about how I envisioned these Saynim folk and how their unique existence shapes their culture, their outlook, and especially their magic.

I hope you’ll join me, and I hope you’ll share this post with others who might enjoy it.



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