Magic Subsystem: Elemental Chakras

This post is inspired (or triggered) by the Lawful Indifferent post of the same title.

N. Wright explores (‘throws out’) the idea of a magic system based on the elements and the seven chakras.  He initially decides that he likely won’t pursue this avenue, but I think it has a lot of potential.  Perhaps not in the way he initially described, but I can see a few ways to make it viable.

Ways to use Elemental Chakras

The described approach is to have each chakra bound to an element (and each element may be bound to more than one).  The number of chakras bound to each element determines the maximum tier of magic of that element that may be used.  The example provided is that someone with two fire chakras and one air chakra you could cast up to ‘second tier fire spells’, ‘first tier air spells’, and ‘third tier fire+air spells’.

I agree that this might not work as desired, if only because it is likely to devolve into a specialization choice (all fire, all air, etc.) or determining which bits you are slightly better at.

There are other ways that might work better.

Various Alternatives

What if we expand the list of elements to include ‘positive energy’ and ‘negative energy’ (or life and death), and each must be bound to a chakra before spells of that type may be used?  As a caster meets certain criteria (which might mean ‘gains levels’, or might mean ‘performs certain tasks to open each chakra’) the chakra open and a new element may be bound and spells of that type may be learned and used.  The seventh chakra (‘crown chakra’), that of enlightenment brings them all to a unified whole so they can be used together.

What if the chakras hold their philosophical meaning, and the binding between chakra and element determines what powers come about because of the binding?  Perhaps binding ‘death’ to the throat chakra gives the ability to communicate with the dead, while binding death to the sacral chakra (the one related to survival issues) allows the ability to ignore normal needs such as food or sleep.  Perhaps it is only ‘safe’ to bind certain elements to certain chakra, or perhaps there are forbidden bindings.

What if spell knowledge was entirely apart from chakras, but as you gain in enlightenment you can bind elements to the various chakras to gain powers as described above, rather than spell access?

What if spell casting and chakras had nothing to do with each other, and anyone could open their chakras (note: in D&D 3.x this could actually fit well with feats, in that everyone gets seven feats before 20th level — levels 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18) and bind elements to them?  Combine this with the second option above and you might find different ‘character types’ (classes) would tend to follow different but fairly consistent paths.

What if the chakras were assigned more like in Wizard  of the Coast’s Book of Incarnum, to the various ‘magic item slots’?  Instead of aligning on the spine/vertical axis of the body, your chakra open and you can bind powers to different parts of the body, appropriate or related to those parts of the body.  It might be worth rearranging them, or softening the requirement that they be opened in order.

Closing Thoughts

I come to no conclusion here.  I think the idea has a lot of merit and deserves more consideration.  I think I might pursue it myself for Echelon, especially since I can probably work it into fitting with the tier structure.  Perhaps the capstone mechanism is based entirely around chakras instead of character archetypes or the like.  Everyone starts with one chakra open, then as they reach the top of each tier, before they can reach the next one they must open their next chakra.  Most people never do so and thus stay at the Basic tier, some others go beyond that and open their second chakra.

The article at Lawful Indifferent intrigues me and has given me ideas to pursue for my own work.  That is very good.

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  1. The chakra system in Incarnum was very interesting to me too, the main thing I found off-putting about Incarnum was some of the “window-dressing”, particularly the all-pervading infestation of the colour blue (which I like as a colour, but there is such a thing as taking it too far!). Anyway I had previously redressed it and reworked the underlying mechanisms a little bit here and here; also made a class out of it here. Some of that might be of interest to you; the “Other Aether Receptacles” section could give some inspiration for pool-driven talents maybe (IIRC Incarnum had similar things to this but wanted you to spend a feat to get them).

    Your idea about linking this to Echelon capstones actually sounds pretty cool; the association of chakras with “gates” resembles the tier transition.

    • Basic capstone: Choose a new seal. You can bind seals to either your feet or hands.
    • Expert capstone: Choose a new seal. You can bind seals to either your arms or shoulders.
    • Heroic capstone: Choose a new seal. You can bind seals to either your waist, fingers, or throat.
    • Master capstone: Choose a new seal. You can bind seals to either your crown or brow.
    • Champion capstone: Choose a new seal. You can bind seals to your heart.
    • Legendary capstone: Choose a new seal. You can bind seals to your soul itself.

    You could also combine this with your notes on Ars Magica. Chakra sites provide the equivalent of techniques, to which you can bind a set of forms/elements (actually you touched on something similar above). Binding Fire to your hands site (to use the Incarnum-style sites for the sake of simplicity) can give you abilities like burning hands, fireball, meteor swarm; fire shield and wall of fire might be found by binding Fire to the shoulders; fire storm and flame strike might stem from the Crown instead. Perhaps you want to bind Illusion to your brow so that you can see through illusions, Life to your hands so that you can heal with a touch, or Mind to your feet so you can magically find the path to any location.

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