Thursday, February 25, 2021

GLOG: Pyromancy

 I've been playing Dark Souls again.

Art by Dawn Carlos


Nobody's born a pyromancer, from providence or curse; likewise, no one goes to an academy and learns about pyromancy from a collection of books. There are only three kinds of pyromancers:
  1. Those who were taught by another pyromancer, as master and apprentice.
  2. Those who were taught by a great beast of heat, like an ifrit.
  3. Those who taught themselves, through trial and tribulation.
Every pyromancer who has ever lived has fit into those three categories. 

Every pyromancer begins with their spark. Just as a spark is the beginning of a fire, so too is a spark the beginning of a pyromancer. Here are some places where a pyromancer might have found their spark:
  1. In a bonfire of ancient books.
  2. In the belly of a dying salamander.
  3. In a pinecone burst from a forest fire.
  4. At the mouth of a living geyser.
  5. In a glassblower's white-hot furnace.
  6. At a lighthouse's ever-lit brazier.
There are many other sources of sparks; these are just some.

To become a pyromancer, you must find a spark. To learn pyromancies, you must do other things first; each pyromancy has a requirement listed—do it, and you can perform the pyromancy. The requirements are in italics.

These pyromancies are numbered; you must have at least one from the previous rank to learn a pyromancy of the next—e.g., to learn Blast, you must first know one of TorchlightGust, or Cool.  Other than that, there are no restrictions or requirements to learn these. Any class, any level, any person.

(0) Spark
Find a spark.
You have a spark: a tiny flame that's always with you. Most pyromancers bring forth their sparks by rubbing their hands together and blowing into them; within their cupped palms, there will be a small wisp of flame, always there when they need it.

Your spark can do anything a normal spark can. Mostly, that means it can light very well-prepared fires (with tinder and kindling and fatwood and everything), or blow out at the slightest resistance.

Not to worry. Your spark will always be with you. 

(1) Candle
Spend a full night in the light of a fire started with your spark. If the fire goes out, begin again.
With a minute or two of coaxing, your spark can grow to the size of a candle's flame. It will stay in your hands so long as you keep your palms cupped and keep the fire going. If you expose it to the air, it will be snuffed within mere seconds—same goes for if you clasp your hands together.

(2) Torch
Same as candlelight, but it now must be for others, a dozen people-nights in total. One person for twelve-odd nights would suffice, as would twelve or so people for one night. 
Your candle-flame can now grow to the size of a torch. If you make a bowl with your hands, your torch-flame will burn within them for as long as you hold it. If you separate your hands, your torchlight will burn for ten seconds or so as it fizzles out, just hanging in the air. 

Remember, your own flames can burn you—imagine holding the flame of a torch for more than a few seconds. Take care of yourself.

(2) Gust
At a minimum of a few feet from the flame, catch a dozen sparks on your tongue from a dozen different fires.
With a gust of air from your lungs, you can blow your flame out from your hands, guiding it for a few seconds—and thus a few feet away—with your breath. When you run out of air, the fire behaves normally; usually, this means it twists and wends for a second or two, then burns out.

Learning to control their breathing is essential for any novice pyromancer. 

(2) Cool
Scorch six of your fingertips, singe a few inches of hair, and burn off an eyebrow. At least.
So long as you hold your breath, your own flames can't hurt you. 

This doesn't work once you take another breath, and it definitely doesn't work on flames that aren't directly under your control. And remember that you can't breathe smoke.

(3) Alter Fire
Brand a rune of flame onto the palms of your hands.
You can gently modify a flame as large as a torch: snuff it, cause it to grow larger and brighter, pick it up and carry it, or bend its shape to your will.

(3) Blast
Burn one tree for every year you've been alive. 
If you ball your fists with a flame within them and throw a punch, you can conjure forth a conical blast of flame, a half-dozen paces long and just as wide. It will catch anything in its path ablaze, but if there's no fuel, it'll burn out within a few heartbeats.

(3) Inner Warmth
Keep a single continuous flame going for an entire season, without it ever going out. It doesn't need to be in your hands—a torch or campfire is fine—and it can be transferred from object to hand and back again, but it must never go out. 
You don't feel the cold, and the cold can't hurt you. You can walk naked in a snowstorm and never freeze to death.

(4) Quicken
Light a dozen fires in a dozen minutes, and then keep them burning for a whole day. If any go out, begin again.
You can summon a handful of sparks instantaneously, and can summon your candle-light in a few seconds. 

If you just need a spark, you don't need to do the hand-rub-blow routine: a snap of the fingers will suffice. 

(4) Tongue
Burn off all of your taste buds, and then go without speaking until they grow back.
If you hold a torch-fire (from your hands or a real torch) in front of your face and blow, you can conjure a continuous stream of fire. The stream can reach out a few feet, and lasts as long as you keep blowing.

This does not extinguish your torch. 

(4) Divination
Melt down an metal object of significant value that is at least twice your age.
If you etch a question onto a metal plate and cast it into flame, you can see the answer in the way the metal cracks.

Iron plates earn an answer for the next hour; brass plates for the next day; silver plates for the next week; gold plates for the next month.

(5) Fireball
Burn down a building with people inside.
If you lob a torch-sized flame from your hands, you can cause it to expand to a huge sphere, a dozen paces or more in diameter, that can hurtle forward as far as you can shout.

Where it lands, it makes a huge explosion of flame. 

(5) Linear Flame
Walk across a bed of hot coals barefoot. If you ever put on shoes, you lose the ability to perform this pyromancy until you coal-walk again.
If you punch the ground with a torch-fire in hand, you can conjure a line of fire across the ground, as wide across as your feet are apart.

The flame-line moves forward one foot for every second you hold your breath and keep your fist on the ground. If you take a breath or remove your fist, the line ceases. The fire will burn as long as it has fuel.

(5) Heat Vision
Brand a rune onto your brow, between your eyes, and wrap both your eyes and the rune in cloth. If you remove the cloth, you must brand the rune once more.
You can see heat: hot things appear light, cold things appear dark. This works on invisible things, and heat can also sometimes travel through walls, floors, etc.

This works even if your eyes are closed or covered.

(6) Sculpt Fire
Brand runes of flames onto the backs of your hands, your knuckles, your wrists, your ankles, and the small of your back.
You can sculpt a fire as large as a bonfire: snuff it out instantly, pick it up and carry it, cause it to grow or shrink, or twist its shape to your will.

(6) Cleansing Flame
Sacrifice a part of someone's body—an eye, an ear, a couple of fingers, a foot—to the flames. 
You can heal someone an affliction: illness, disease, infection, blindness, leprosy, and so on. Each person must each make the sacrifice for each affliction.

You can do this for yourself, too.

(6) Flash Sweat
Burn off half your skin, and survive.
So long as you hold your breath, no heat can harm you.

(7) Awaken
Light as many fires as years you've been alive, and keep them burning for a week. If any go out, begin again.
You can summon sparks with a thought, candle-flame in an instant, and torch-flame in a few seconds. 

(7) Tranquil Lungs
Once a day for a month, swallow a red-hot coal. 
You only need take a breath once every ten minutes to refill your lungs. You can exhale for thrice as long as a normal person.

(7) Fire Whip
Lash yourself every day for a month, and ensure the wounds stay open. Then, cauterize them and seal the flesh with your own flame.
You can cause a torch-fire to twist and elongate into a whip of hard-edged flame, thrice as long as you are tall. This whip burns whatever it touches, but is solid: it can snare legs, wrap around posts, and leave bloody marks in flesh.

The whip lasts as long as it stays in your hand. 

(8) Dragon's Breath
Eat the raw heart of a beast of pure flame: an elemental, an ifrit, a dragon, a true salamander, something similar.
If you hold your breath for five minutes, you can then exhale a cone of flame, large as a dragon's, lasting as long as you exhale. You can open and shut your mouth as you will to control the cone, so long as you don't take a new breath.

(8) Black Flame
Sear one of your eyes until it's blind, one of your ears until it can't hear, and one of your hands until it can't feel. 
When you create a flame, so long as you keep your eyes closed, you can cause the flame to give off no heat, no light, no sound, or any combination of those. This last until you open your eyes, or until the fire is no longer under your control.

(8) Burning Halo
Encircle your brow with an molten iron crown. If you remove it, you lose this pyromancy.
With a flame in your hands, your breath held, and heat rising beneath you, you can float in the air like so much smoke. You drift down slowly without heat beneath you; if you float to another hot spot, you can rise again. 

(9) Firestorm
Burn a town full of people or a forest full of life.
If you snuff a bonfire in an instant, you can cause columns of flame, ten paces wide and as tall as redwoods, to materialize from thin air. The columns incinerate anything inside them; where they rest, the ground will liquify and turn to molten slag.

While you keep your eyes closed and your breath held, a new column will appear every second. The columns burn for the duration, but vanish as soon as you open your eyes or take a breath. Column placement spreads out from you in a loose circle, with a maximum radius of about as far as you can shout.

(9) Control Flame
Brand runes all over your body. 
You can fully control a single continuous body of flame of any size. You can snuff a burning house with a look, carry a flame as large as an elephant, and twist fire to any shape or scale you can imagine.

(9) Shared Spark
Learn every other pyromancy. Then, go a year and a day without performing any pyromancy at all.
You can share your spark with other things. If you give it to a person, it will make them a pyromancer, just like you.

If you give it to an inanimate object, like a stone, or a sword, or a corpse, it imbues the object with new life: so long as the spark remains burning, the object has the beginnings of a soul and a mind. What it will do with that mind and soul is impossible to say.

Art by Pliss M.


Strong inspiration drawn and lots of content stolen from this very good pyromancer, the Dark Souls pyromancy list, and our edgy boy.

This is a "magic class" that isn't really a class—it's the kind of thing that I would use in a classless magic system, or in combination with another class. A thief who steals a spark and learns pyromancy without realizing it, or a fighter who slays a fire-demon and gets a bit of its power on accident? Awesome ideas.

It also doesn't use levels, magic dice, spell slots, or any real kind of resources. The terminology is kept deliberately vague—I honestly should just concede a little and find-and-replace all instances of "pace" with "feet"—but you get the idea. Pyromancy scales off of your body, your age, your lungs, your shouting and seeing distance, and other random variables. (For reference, a regular person can hold their breath for about 1–2 minutes, and can continuously exhale for about half as long.)

I did this for two reasons: for one, I like diegetic scaling. If I can remove abstraction, like spell slots or magic dice, it feels good to me; it feels more magical, more wild and mysterious. Second, I love the idea of binding fire to your breath, and your eyes, and your skin. Fire is physical, it's raw, it needs fuel and air, and its magic should reflect that.

As always, this almost completely untested. If you get a chance to try it, please let me know.

I also might do another one of these pseudo-magic class things with delta template requirements. Might be a wind/air mage, might be a cannibal blood-drinker, might be something else entirely. To be determined!