Sigilism pt2: Harmony

In my last post I covered what Sigilism is and provided some background behind it before briefly laying out the three foundational principles that govern the magic’s behavior. Here I shall go into the first foundational principle, Harmony, in greater detail.

Foundational Principle of Harmony

While giving my broad overview of the three foundational principles I said that the principle of harmony states: Sigils are much weaker if the powers they grant do not work in harmony toward a common end. Okay. Great. What does that mean?

Sigils have a very focused nature. They are made to do one thing, and any aspect of their behavior which does not work toward that same goal ultimately ends up hindering their function. You can think of it sort of like the difference between a normal wrench and an adjustable one. The normal wrench is ideal for tightening a very specifically sized bolt, and while an adjustable wrench may be able to do the same job it isn’t specifically designed for that particular size of bolt and so may slip and round off the corners, may have trouble fitting into the space available, or have other drawbacks. This means that a lot of thought needs to go into how a sigil will accomplish the task that is set before it.

Let’s look at an example of a noble who wants to create a sigil that allows them to create fires. According to the Principle of Harmony this would mean that they cannot also freeze things, correct? Well…maybe. It depends on what approach they decide to take.

The most straightforward approach would be to have the sigil simply create enough heat to set a fire. In this instance you would be 100% correct if you believed that the sigil could not both start a fire and freeze something. Freezing a thing requires a reduction in energy, which is exactly the opposite of what this sigil is designed to do. Attempting to create a sigil that could both start a fire and freeze things would result in one that is unable to do either, as the actions of creating thermal energy and destroying it cancel each other out.

But what if we look at the problem another way. Instead of creating heat out of nothing perhaps it would be better to move heat around, taking it from one (or several) objects and concentrating it in another. In this case a clever person may realize that they have gotten the ability to freeze things for free in the deal. Simply remove heat from a single source (such as a glass of water) and spread it to other objects until the temperature drops as far as desired.

Actually, the person who gets a sigil that moves heat around will probably notice they can get a number of free powers. The sigil would be able to make them more resistant to temperature extremes (by regulating how quickly heat enters or leaves their bodies). If they start a fire, they have a readily available way to put it out again. Someone who is especially concerned with petty niceties could even make sure that their meals never get cold.

With so many benefits to the second approach why would anyone prefer the first? That gets back to the base nature of the sigils. Looking at our second example, it is moving heat around. This means that it is taking the heat out of something, and placing it into something else. You cannot simply remove the heat, nor can you just generate heat out of nothing. This comes with a number of limitations, but the chief one is that as the temperature gradient increases it necessarily becomes more difficult to move more heat as it naturally wishes to flow in the opposite direction. A sigil which simply creates heat (or removes it, for that matter) does not have that restriction.

One major consequence of this is that if it is cold enough the sigil which moves heat around might not actually be able to start a fire. There might not be enough heat that the user can concentrate to get a flame, and it will be difficult to keep the heat concentrated properly to start a fire. Attempting to do so is likely to burn a lot of silver. By contrast a sigil that simply creates heat needs to only create enough to light the fire.

Also keep in mind that the sigil which creates heat can have other powers associated with it as well, provided they are closely linked to its purpose. Do you want to be able to create a fireball in your hand without burning yourself? That is possible, as it involves controlling where the energy you are creating will go. Just keep in mind that ideally the secondary abilities are involved in either helping to control the primary power, or are logical extensions of it. Stepping outside those bounds will weaken the sigil. Not burning yourself with a flame of your creation is one thing, but being completely immune to all fire regardless of source is completely different.

There is an odd extension to this: anyone who wears two sigils at once will find that both are rendered impotent unless both do exactly the same thing in exactly the same way. In effect, wearing two sigils results in behavior similar to a single sigil that is poorly designed. Moreover, wearing two identical sigils does not improve their potency. In theory someone could swap between sigils by taking one-off and putting another on, however the magic is so heavily restricted this has yet to become an issue. Even noble families wealthy enough to maintain several sigils prefer to have them wielded by multiple individuals.