Magic is an inborn, innate ability of all kiarrcats, a part of their being. Though some may be stronger than others, no kiarr is without it. A kiarrcat's magic does not consist of set, named spells or moves, but is instead focused around allowing them to manipulate their native environment. Exactly what a kiarr can do is determined by their species.
Most kiarrcats stick to an average level of magical skill, enough to allow survival techniques such as building small shelters and finding food, and will team up with others to carry out large projects. Gaining more skill in magic is hard to do. It has its rewards, as a highly skilled user can produce awesome results, but takes plenty of time, study, and effort. (To give a real world example, knowing how to drive is a common and important skill amongst modern humans, but very few of us will ever become champion racecar drivers.)
A rough guide to magical skill levels is described below. Note that this is not a strict in-universe tier list. Kiarrcats don't have "levels" like in a videogame, and they may or may not not use these terms to describe themselves, but for the purpose of character creation and comparison, some kind of scale helps clarify matters.
- Beginner: you're either a cub learning how to use your magic, or just plain bad at what you do. You're limited to small scale effects and your magic has a good chance of not working at all.
- Average: you have a decent grasp on your magic, and most of the time it works unless you're tired, distracted, or unlucky. You probably know how to use your magic for survival skills - building shelters, catching prey, fighting, etc - so you're reasonably independent, although it still helps to have others around. Most kiarrs are at this level and don't need to progress further, and hybrids are unable to do so at all.
- Adept: you're not exceptional on a global scale, but you stand out from the crowd. Your skills are probably in demand from other kiarrs and you might enjoy a lot of status and respect - if you use them for good, that is. You may specialise in a particular aspect or use of your magic. You rarely fail at what you do, though accidents may still happen. The human equivalent might be a human trained to professional level in a particular job, or a mid-level athlete.
- Master: You are one of the most powerful in your field, and other kiarrs know it. You are capable of wide ranging, dramatic effects, for good or ill. A human equivalent might be an Olympic athlete.
- Legend: now you're just powergaming! This level may be attained by Archetypes whilst under the influence of their respective Archetype spirit, but only in an emergency when the spirit wrests control. No ordinary kiarr can reach this level under normal circumstances.
All magic users, from the weakest to the most powerful Archetypes, are also bound by physics. A magic user may not create or destroy matter, only work with what is there and around them. A Water kiarrcat in a desert, for example, is out of luck without a handy oasis to work with. This is one way to negate magic - another is to immobilise the caster, as magic use relies on gesture and motion. Kiarrcats describe this movement as allowing their own natural energies to flow from their bodies into the material to be transformed. Magic use is also tiring, just like fighting with teeth and claws.
Kiarrcat magic is frequently mistaken for elemental magic, but it's not the case. It's true their magic has a slight elemental bent to it, but it isn't strictly speaking the same. True elemental magic does not exist on Ryll. There is something of an overlap between the different species' magic (e.g. both Mountains and Polars can manipulate snow, as they both live in areas where there's a lot of it), which gives them some versatility when travelling out of their preferred habitat.
These are just examples of what a character might be able to do. The system is flexible, so use your imagination!
Plants and trees: sculpt living wood, encourage of discourage the growth of a specific species, breed plants to encourage specific traits (tasty fruit, medicines etc), ensnare an enemy with vines...
Rock and snow: sculpt rock, carve caves, hurl stones through the air, trap an enemy in rock, create earthquakes (high skill only!) shape snow, melt snow (to create drinkable water, clear a path, etc)...
Ice and snow: similar to a Mountain's snow-based abilities, also sculpt ice, imprison an enemy in ice, freeze water...
Water (oddly enough): heat or cool water, divert its flow (irrigate fields etc), propel watercraft, swim efficiently, drown an enemy...
Grass and earth - plant manipulation abilities similar to Forests, but more grass-orientated (breed, sculpt, encourage/discourage growth etc), also carve dens in the ground, throw earth, raise earthworks...
Grass and fire - grass based abilities as with Grasslands, also create and control fire, divert wildfires, attach with fireballs, cook food, fire pottery...
Sand, rock, light: similar rock abilities to Mountains, also sand abilities (cause or shelter from sandstorms, create quicksand effects etc) also light up dark places, create illusions...
Plants, trees, water: similar to Forest abilities due to similar habitat, but with tropical species, also some water based magic (albeit not as strong as Water kiarrs).
Air: direct or still air flow (good for keeping warm!) suck air from an enemy's lungs, solidify air, command weather (high skilled abilities only), levitate objects...
Rock, metal, gems: similar to Mountain rock abilities, also find metal/gems, sculpt metal, cut gems...
Halfbreed kiarrcats will have magic from both parents, but can never go beyond average ability as they're split between the two. This is non-negotiable. (The purpose of this limitation is to avoid overpowered hybrid characters, which was a problem in some of the old RPGs this setting was inspired by. The lower skill level available to hybrid characters should be balanced out by the wider range of magic available to them.)
In addition to environmental control, a kiarrcat can command the animals of their native habitat - usually small ones, unless they've gone beyond average use - for the purpose of finding prey. More skilled users can command larger and more powerful creatures - a group of very powerful users could command a whole herd of grazers - but this is very difficult to do.
Overuse of this ability can cause burnout, as the animals become habituated to the call and no longer heed it, so it is wise not to abuse this form of magic.
There are other forms of magic that any kiarrcat can have. Such talents are inborn and cannot be learned, though an individual with one can study and raise their skill level as with their natural magic. Talents are very rare. Some examples are:
- Healing: close wounds or cure illnesses. This talent seems to work by accelerating the body's natural healing abilities and immune response. It cannot restore missing body parts - if you lose a limb, eye, etc, it's gone for good. Not even the most skilled healers can get past this barrier. This is one of the more common talents, but still rare.
- Precognition: see or understand something that may be about to happen. Note this doesn't mean the event will come to pass, it just means it's likely! Average level precognition feels like a hunch - the kiarr might get some feeling of dread that something very bad will happen over there, but no more. With more skill, the kiarr may gain specifics, but even then the future is not set in stone...
- Postcognition: see or understand something that has happened in the past, usually triggered by entering the area the event happened in. As with precognition, average level ability grants the kiarr the ability to feel emotions etc linked to the place (e.g. 'something scary happened here') but can gain specifics with a higher skill level.
- Dream control: sense another's dream, learn to manipulate or share them. Handy for therapy... or just plain entertainment.
- Spirit sight: the ability to see and communicate with the spirits of dead kiarrcats that still roam Ryll. This is exceptionally rare.
As with species magic, talents must be practised and perfected and no kiarr is born knowing how to use them. They can be described using the same aptitude scale as before. Note that hybrids can progress past Average for their talent if they have one. (This is because talents are not hybrid-only, so they don't confer any unfair advantage.)
Banned forms of magic
The following forms of magic do not work on Ryll. They may not arise as talents or in any other form.
- Time travel
- Cross-dimensional travel
(This list is not exhaustive. I may add to it in the future as I discover more things that don't work. The ban list is mostly intended to keep Ryll an isolated system, by disallowing characters from other worlds etc, but some of it's just stuff I didn't think worked with the setting.)