Saturday, 11 January 2020


(continuing the idea of more frequent but shorter posts for January, to see if this is sustainable)

Ink is not-reality outside of a certain world. Its yawning hunger for being is subtle, it is seeping into the world in deep and cracked places, coming to light through the long roots of  plants, going behind our eyes as we sleep; it flows from pens of writers and brushes of artists, takes the sound of oracular rhythms, intertwines itself with the veins of stone hewed from deep quarries. One day Ink will extinguish the sun to add its amber husk to the necklace of devoured worlds but the pace of doom is slow and full of beauty.

Becoming. (1)
These are the things resonant to Ink or, as some may say, sacred to it: empty frames, locked doorways, mirrors when you seek the gaze of your own reflection in dim twilight, a single trail in pristine snowfield, broken oaths, a song nobody hears, being awake in the dead hour of night, misshaped keys, lenses of unclear glass, underground rivers, kept secrets, unintended passageways, silent rains, and plants that only bloom once in a century.

By the long chain of gradual becoming – through the cracks, through the waters, through the roots – Ink can be rendered from certain desert plants and obscured minerals into atrament of liquid, tangible not-reality. Without an intend it remains inert. But such intent is easy to find.
Becoming. (2)
Tattooed under skin, it slowly poisons the bone and blood of the wearer but grants them impossible powers over time, and silence, and space. Writers and artists with their souls burning out like a candle and ink-stained fingers create works of yearning, aching beauty which are worming their way into the minds of observers: the wonder incarnated, the seeds of future dreams. Scrimshaw the bones of light-bearing beasts with paths the dead worlds are making through the Ink, and trace these paths in atrament to create whispering charms; bear these charms close to your heart, or throat, or wrists to sing together of possible futures, possible pasts, the present changed by your very presence. Eventually your mind will be eroded but not before you'd be able to change the world.
Becoming. (3)
Except its own wearer Ink never harms directly, but with pathway wide enough the impossible beings can come into reality – beings of kind eyes, and graceful movements, and misshaped bodies, and insatiable hunger for being real even more. Banished back into Ink they dissipate but on rare occasion, when they acquired enough reality into themselves, parts of beings remain and can be eaten by the ignorant, the careless and the devoid to traverse Ink by becoming a part of it. Although so very often this travel is one-way, the outsiders said to be like gods in not-worlds, and many of adepts, already too stained, seek such apotheosis.
Once I played 'Dishonored', 'Mark of the Ninja' and 'Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing' in quick succession, and the concept of Ink gestalted out of them, despite all three games having only few elements in common. 'Van Helsing' contributed the name, the theme of creativity and the idea of beauty, 'Dishonored' the aspects of hunger, melody, dead worlds and light-bearing beasts, 'Mark of the Ninja' gave the ideas of toxicity to the user, turning into other kind of being, strictly no-direct-damage powers, of silence and of pathways into reality. 'Dishonored' and 'Mark' were both stealth/assassin games with tattoos on main protagonists, 'Dishonored' and 'Van Helsing' both were quasi-Victorian in their tech/fashion sense, had a sort of Outsider being, and had dark-blue voids full of scattered fragments of no-worlds, but the only connection between 'Mark' and 'Van Helsing' is that they are both in third-person perspective, have a female sidekick, and a madman or two. Later 'Adam Wake' and its concept of Darkness as both associated with creativity, coming into being and deep waters just solidified the whole thing.

Ink can serve as plane of shadows although the initial idea that this isn't a shadow of the world, like PoS is, but what the world isn't.

Another thing is that Ink is not supposed to be always available: in most of the magics, once the access is established (spells, MPs, etc), it is always here and regenerates automatically over time once rest conditions are made and unless in a specific dead magic zone. I see Ink in its initial form of atrament to be scarce in a way cochineal was initially scarce – it was taken a lot of effort and resources to produce a drop of paint, and once it was used it was gone. Tattoo and charms are workaround for such approach, but with the tradeout in faster erosion of self for the mage.

On another note I always wanted to have no-direct-damage magic, the magic that is tied to tangible things that are still easy enough to manage but not common and broad enough to be commodity, the magic that creates not only grotesque and dangerous but also beautiful things, the magic with limitations built into its nature/theme, the magic that comes with the cost to both the wielder and on the grander scheme to the world, but not as drastic and random cost as spell mutation and spell catastrophes – more like a gradual transformation/erosion proportional to mage's ambition, and overall sense of faraway but unavoidable doom. For this purpose alchemy never worked for me despite its tangible basis because the appearance/trope of alchemy in modern perception has no limitations (science+magic), is a step away from magitech, is detachable from the wielder without much trouble, and its material components are so broad and varied that they are very often either abstracted or handwaved; also alchemy has way too many explosions.

Spells as spiritual beings that live in the mage's brain idea comes with the cost to the wielder and skulls of mages that are carved by such spells into the 'spellbooks' or charms, which is great, but otherwise it has no innate theme, and from what I've seen spells as beings have little weight or character on its own. Of course, Ink can also be stretched to have-everything-all-the-time type of magic, with inkblast, ink black tentacles and inkbombs, making it into uniform characterless magic just like everything else, but at least for myself I envision its 'step-by-step gradual becoming into reality through intention of real people' origin as preventing this. The bottle of ink can stain like any physical object but without intention of the wielder using it to draw or write it won't become anything more substantial or meaningful.

No-direct-damage idea also stems from the games (even rats and bees in 'Dishonored', which come closest to be the direct attack, are technically summons), and to distinguish the caster more from a warrior; I was also bored by 5ed spells, I think, and wanted the mage to rely more on indirect or subtle means of dealing with problems.

Idea of Ink creatures being beautiful is like idea of sky: it is a natural phenomenon that is perceived as beautiful by us despite its many appearances but is indifferent to our understanding/need for beauty. Unlike fae, angels and demons, kind-eyed are beautiful not to entice, seduce, intimidate or awe us, and it is more of coincidence that they are perceived as such.

And Ink also easily bridges with Colour, the parallel and opposite principle, if needed.
(1) via
(2) via
(3) by visothkakvei
(4) via Rainbow Six Siege


  1. Very interesting. This type of magic seems to indicate some depth of planning to use, because it's not really possible to draw during combat. I like that. Perhaps an Inker would carry around a special set of intent stamps they could use on surfaces and creatures along with the equipment that allows them to render more detailed, powerful effects.

    1. Thank you for the idea - I didn't even think about stamps. For on-moment draw I envisioned something super-fast like Sai from Naruto (of all places), as a talent augmented by small tattoo for the speed, but stamps (and seals, and stencils, I think) are much better solutions for what I want from Ink.

      Yes, I see Ink as slower kind of magic - not as slow as Magical Arts described somewhere below, but the one that isn't always ready all the time. Tattoos and charms are for those who want readily available magic, but they trade off their health/mind for convenience.