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The Un-Sorcerer

March 1, 2015

My favorite trope of all TVTropes is probably the Un-Sorcerer.

But first, a background. A few years back, I wrote a post about magic, fantasy, and atheism. There, I discussed the way that many people see fantasy as illustrating greater highlights to this worlds’ spiritual reality, whereas I do not see such. Instead, I wrote:

What struck me about this was that for me, I never really felt the magic of Mormonism. I never felt as if I was “living in a magical world of angels and miracles.”

I then wrote about SaGa Frontier 2 — and specifically, how in that game it discussed the issue of a character who utterly could not use magic in a world suffused with it. As I wrote:

When I played SaGa Frontier 2, I thought that one character was particularly interesting: Gustave XIII, the heir to the Finney family and heir to the throne, fails the family’s “Firebrand Ceremony” and is banished from the kingdom. But what is this ceremony and how does Gustave fail? The Firebrand Ceremony determines who is the worthy successor to the throne in a kind of sword-in-the-stone-esque manner: the candidate for the ceremony lifts the family weapon (the namesake Firebrand) and channels his “anima” (a force that actually permeates throughout all living beings and all of nature, but which humans can only manipulate through tools) so that the blade glows fire-red. If the candidate is burned by the blade, he fails.

…But if the candidate cannot even channel anima through the blade, and thus cannot make the blade glow, then he fails even more spectacularly.

To the horror of his father (the King), Gustave has utterly no control of anima.

Gustave is able to remain relevant in the game through his use of steel, which is dead to anima and therefore well-suited to those who cannot use anima like Gustave. The thing about steel is that in contrast to the materials that make anima-infused tools (e.g., stone, wood, fangs, things like that) is that it’s more physically powerful and more durable (oh yeah, in the game, you have to worry about using most weapons too much, because they will break…metal weapons have infinite durability). In a way, Gustave’s adoption of steel tools vs. the dominant non-steel tools is like the introduction of guns to a world that had previously fought with swords, spears, and bows. (Is it interesting that Mustadio, the character who first introduces guns to the game Final Fantasy Tactics, also is an avowed atheist?)

I tried comparing to other series’ concepts like Harry Potter’s squibs, but I found appreciable differences. I mean, in Harry Potter, there are squibs, but it would be difficult to imagine writing the series with Harry being a squib — his ability to be a protagonist is distinctly based on his ability to use magic.

But then I found out The Unsorcerer from TVTropes.

TVTropes outlines the differences from other tropes as such:

A Muggle Born of Mages is someone privy to The Masquerade, born to parents with Magic and Powers, but entirely mundane himself. He ought to be just as powerful, but he isn’t. No fear, though: the world is full of Muggles and no one comments. He can simply become one of them. In other words, he’s way better off than the Un-Sorcerer. In the Un-Sorcerer’s world, there is no Masquerade, because Everyone Is a Super…except him. Magic healing doesn’t help, and neither does therapy. The kids at school tease him. He can’t operate Magitek. He can’t even claim to be a Badass Normal, because normal people have the Power! As bad as this sounds, though, there’s a silver lining: someday, it will turn out that his unique status is an asset to him. He may be immune to magical attacks, or to The Corruption. Maybe he really has a game-breakingly awesome power that takes a long time to manifest. Maybe there’s an Ancient Artifact that only activates for someone with no magic. Or perhaps, lacking a crutch, the Un-Sorcerer develops a Charles Atlas Superpower in a world of Squishy Wizards. What’s certain is that the Un-Sorcerer will go far, and may even be The Chosen One.An Un-Sorcerer can only survive by averting Hard Work Hardly Works. Contrast Super Hero. See also Muggles Do It Better. Usually played as An Aesop.

I think that the trope linked to “Immune to magical attacks” is probably my next favorite trope: Anti-Magic. From TV-Tropes there:

The ability to completely negate magic or other supernatural effects. The power is not absorbed or reflected, it simply ceases to be when it comes within the radius of effect. This will usually be an extremely rare, nigh-unheard of, game-breaking power: the greatest of wards become undone with incredible ease, with unforeseen effects.It can be Blessed with Suck if this means White Magic doesn’t work on you either. No magical healing or protection in this case. If the world runs on Magic, this person may be a pariah; especially if it’s a power that they can’t control. Fridge Logic kicks in when you consider that it should be trivial for a sufficiently capable magic-user to cause harm to a magic-proof target simply by manipulating the environment — for example, causing the ground to disappear from underneath them, moving a heavy object directly above them, or heating the air around them to several thousand degrees. Indeed, this is often the strategy used when fighting someone with this ability. For keeping the enemy from using their abilities for a period of time, see Power Nullifier. For stopping a specific spell while it’s being cast with another spell, see Counterspell. For reversing the effects of magic, see Dispel Magic. Similarly, the Kryptonite-Proof Suit can be used to resist the Kryptonite Factor. Compare Walking Techbane, where someone has this effect on scientific technology. Contrast No Sell, when characters can ignore (not nullify) the powers of others or their defenses. Mage Killers often weaponize this ability. Un Sorcerers often have this; in fact, that might be why their own powers don’t work.

I actually also wrote about anti-magic when I wrote about Final Fantasy Tactics for my post “Atheist Prayers”.:

Final Fantasy Tactics…ahh, it was a fun game.

But I’m not quite sure if I agree with how the faith system works. Faith in that game powers magic. More faith = better magic.

This works in a logical way for the most part. If your wizard has more faith, his spells should be more powerful…if your priestess has more faith, her healing should be more effective. And so on.

But what if you have less faith? Well, it makes sense that if you have less faith, you are healed less (I guess faith healing is a placebo?).

But if you have less faith, then you also take less magic damage. So…want to avoid dying from spells? You can avoid the wrath of an angry god the FFT way simply by not believing. What?!

In a sense, religion and spirituality feel like that to me.

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