E101: Introduction to Energies — How to Not Blow Yourself Up
Section 1: Tools and Traditions
Item 3: The Gloves
Next in the arsenal is handwear, by which I mean gloves, half-gloves, gauntlets, wrist braces, nail lacquer, tattoos, paint–anything between the fingertip and the wrist that is not a ring or a bracelet. Most commonly, this means gloves, because gloves will cover your whole hand and give you plenty of embroidery space for enchantments, but I know that everyone likes to exercise their personal style. This isn’t the army, I don’t have a problem with that.
So let’s go over the basic functions of the mage’s glove.
As you likely suspect by now, the foremost function is to insulate you from the raw energy you draw. While it’s not necessary to wear protective gloves, it is certainly wise to wear them while you’re learning; they might make your energy manipulation a bit clumsier, a bit less responsive, but they keep you from being horribly burned, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a reasonable trade.
We experience the world through our fingertips more than any other sensory organ beside the eyes, and most of us draw energy through our fingers because of this automatic sensory interaction. It takes a long time to learn to do otherwise; likely only a few of you will ever learn to wield magic without the use of your hands, which is why it is so essential to protect them, and for those who do learn to cast by sight, you will probably still want your hands around so you can scratch your nose, et cetera.
Thus, the first function, as stated, is dampening and protection. Though there are some gloves made of woven glass like the insulation in boots, with a leather inner sheath, those are mostly only used by Artificers who need to have physical contact with powerful magical workings without all that energy leaping to them. Those kinds of gloves are cumbersome and very difficult to cast through, so you’ll see only the highest-ranked Artificers on the highest-energy projects using them. If you see an Artificer wearing something like that and moving at speed with something in their hands, get away. As far away as you can.
Most common dampening gloves are just cloth or leather, with the best being a mix of both: cloth basis with inscribed leather pads on the fingertips and the heel of the hand. That permits flexibility while protecting the areas most likely to come in contact with arcane forces–the fingertips–and the channel most vulnerable to overwhelming power–the heel of the hand, which otherwise serves as the entry conduit to the nerves of the arm. Not all gloves have the heel-guard, but I recommend one for you neophytes, because arcing energy into your forearm is an intensely painful experience even when dampened by a generic glove.
The fingertip pads are different from the heel-guard. They’re designed to focus energy at those points rather than slough it off, and so they have a more powerful enchantment, as it takes much more work to channel energy than it does to deflect it. Most have a passive and an active mode, with the passive just drawing local non-ambient energies toward those points on the gloves themselves, and the active opening the conduit between the glove and your body to permit channeling.
What this means is that while your gloves are passive, any stray energy from an arcane attack sent your way–if not intercepted by a ward or other defense–will be drawn to your gloves. This stray energy, in itself, should not hurt you, as it is the unfocused energy that usually surrounds any sloppy arcane working–a sort of spillover or energy splash which could harm someone unprotected but will not challenge your gloves. Because of this attracting property of the gloves, you can automatically harness that stray energy into your own working. The main attack, of course, will hit whatever your opponent meant to strike if it was not properly protected against.
As a side note, you can use the heel-guards on your gloves to deflect incoming attacks, so long as they are small. After all, they are basically palm-sized deflection shields, and should certainly be used as such when you don’t have the time or strength to craft your own.
Activating your gloves as conduits should only take a thought, or a word if you are using generic gloves. I always recommend having ones specially tailored to your hands and energy signature so you don’t need to open your mouth more than necessary. When open, your gloves no longer shield your hands so much as they focus the energy-streams into your fingertips, which will of course save the rest of your hands but can still burn you down to the bone if you’re not careful.
Beyond the standard pad-features, you can get full-cloth or full-leather gloves with embroidery to the same effect, but having them made of whole material means that the energy disperses through the glove instead of being centered on those points, so that the fingertip channels can interfere with the heel-guard, particularly if any of the enchanted embroidery gets damaged.
I will tell you now: never buy gloves with extra enchantments anywhere on the palm, heel or fingertips. All you want on the inside of your hand is finger-conduits and heel-guard. Anything else just interferes with their work. On the back of your glove, you want nothing on the fingers and no more than one enchantment sigil on the back of the hand, preferably passive. From wrist to elbow, if you wear long gloves, you can have up to three more sigils but even that much will muddle the energies. I recommend no sigils on the inner arm, but a forearm-guard like the heel-guard can go a long way toward protecting you.
Remember, simplicity counts. Some of you might envision covering yourselves in protective runes and enchanted embroidery, but the more arcane weight you put on your clothing, the more it disrupts the ambient energy around you–and your own energy flow. Protective clothing of any type can sap you of your personal energy if it is badly made or damaged, so the less augmentation you do, the cleaner you work.
Let’s see…. Variations. As I mentioned, other handwear is popular. Half-gloves or fingerless gloves are basically the heel-guard only, with no fingertip-conduit function. These are common among mid-rank mages who have gotten used to automatically channeling energy but still want a quick, spell-less defense.
Gauntlets are the same as gloves but in metal and leather. Less flexible, obviously. More durable, more physically defensible. Quite a lot of fighting Artificers use gauntlets with physical strike-sigils to channel the stray energy they gather into destructive blows that require no actual spellcasting.
Wrist braces are used by combat Warders who want extra protection while they’re spellcasting. They can be worn over standard dampening gloves, and provide another layer of deflection without weakening the intrinsic functions of the gloves. Generally they have a secondary heel-guard, an inner-arm guard and an outer-arm guard, all passive, acting independently of any enchantments on the gloves beneath them.
Going to gloveless options, we have energy-infused nail lacquer–which I suggest that all of you consider, even the gentlemen making faces right now. This is not about looking pretty. All of you should keep your nails short enough for snug gloves but not so short that you can’t use them. This is practicality. The actual shape of your nails, I don’t care–file them to points if you like–but don’t allow them to get in the way of your defenses. The use of nail lacquer is to provide extra temporary focal or defensive enchantments, especially when going gloveless or half-gloved. Color does not matter. I suggest writing the sigils with infused lacquer then covering them with normal lacquer to seal it; any lacquer will deteriorate through use so needs to be reapplied, but a few layers will stave off the deterioration for a little while.
Many higher-ranking Energies mages edge or stripe their nails with a conductive metal and then lacquer over it to provide a little extra drawing power. Please do not try that until you have passed your Adept exams. We do not like having to amputate charcoaled fingers.
Tattoos and paint on the fingertips and heel of the hand are also options for going gloveless. Paint has the same general use as lacquer, but is less effective and less durable–though easier to quickly apply. Tattoos are permanent and thus will physically alter your ability to manipulate magic, so I recommend you think hard about them before you get one. This, incidentally, goes for all tattoos you might get, not only the ones on your hands. Every piece of you is important to the flow of your personal energy and also the way that your drawn energy circulates through your system. Should any of you lose a limb–even a toe–you should be wary of spellcasting until you have had time to adjust your style to your new form.
You can still cut your hair and shave. Hair is dead and does not impact your energy circulation.
Naturally, there are specialized gloves for specialized tasks–so many that I can’t go into them in a single lecture. When you’ve all separated to your respective disciplines, your teachers will introduce you to any new type that you should be using.
You might ask while I’m ignoring jewelry that goes on the hand and wrist. My answer to that is: Do not piking wear any. Metal rings will arc energy from your fingertips to themselves, potentially searing your finger off at the knuckle; likewise with metal bracelets and your wrist. Wooden rings or bracelets can disrupt the flow of energy through your finger or hand and cause localized backlash. Rings with any sort of gemstone will focus energy erratically through the facets; if you wear your ring inside your glove, it will damage the glove, and if you wear it on the outside you can blind or scar yourself any time you have the gemstone turned toward your face. Even a loose bracelet of ceramic beads can interfere with your gloves if they touch a sigil or the heel-guard. Thus, non-magical jewelry should never be worn on the hand or arm, and even magical jewelry should be used sparingly. Let your non-mage allies wear those trinkets, since they do not have the power to defend themselves.
Item 4: The Mask or Veil
Finally, a mask or veil can be used to complete your defenses, though this is the least-used piece of the arsenal as it can get in the way of things like beards and sneezing and peripheral vision.
Faceguards can be as covering as a haelhene wraith’s mask, which has only eye-holes and a mouth-slit, or as minimal as a browband. They can range in material from metal to ivory to silk to, I don’t know, a bunch of sticky leaves, if that’s what you want on your face. All of them share two things: a level of obscuration and a defensive enchantment.
The face shows certain signifiers of intent, from expressions like anger to the movement of the eyes in targeting and the mouth in spellcasting, to a few subtle signs of energy focusing. Obviously a browband does not obscure much of the face, but it does conceal the spot right here at the top of the forehead, below the hairline, where mages who cast by sight often gather their power. Other points are right between the eyebrows or here at the center of the chest–which is obviously covered by the robe.
At least it should be. Ladies and lotharios, please, I implore you, do not wear a ‘robe’ that is cut down to the piking navel, no matter how good it makes you look. I hate that I keep having to say things like this, but it’s because we’ve had this problem. Several times. And it’s horrifying.
Where was I?
Browbands. If you find that you can sight-cast through the upper point, definitely get a browband or something similar. Wear a focusing or protecting sigil there, depending on your preference; there are not many sight-casters so non-mages usually think such things are decorations. Sight-casters who use the eyebrow-point usually have to wear masks if they want protection, though these can be small things, little bandit-mask type strips, or for the ladies one of those jewelry bits that hangs down from your hair. Yes, I thought you’d like that. Very fashionable.
Masks are the most defensive, obviously. They hide your direction of view, your mouth movement, facial expression, everything, but they are intensely annoying to wear and really crimp your vision unless you use one of those fancy Artificer masks. In fact, Artificers have helms they use when they’re playing with the big nasty workings that they need those boots and gauntlets for; you’d think they were getting ready to joust, the way they suit up. Practical though. Always practical.
But I wouldn’t recommend a mask, really, and any veil that covers your eyes will mess with your vision more than it messes with your enemy. Your eyes are as important as your fingers, and though there have been blind mages, most of them are mentalists–same with the handless mages. As you develop your powers, you will learn to access extra senses that make your eyes somewhat less essential, but really, there’s no reason to sacrifice them, especially since these extra senses can’t help you read a book. And spirit-servitors are terrible at book narration.
As I mentioned, you can stick a bunch of leaves to your face for the same general effect, as long as those leaves are mildly enchanted–usually a deflection spell, but even if they just have an aura of magicalness, they’ll prevent the enemy from seeing your focal points. For convenience I suggest a simple bandana with a deflection spell that you can tie around your lower face any time you want to mask your commands or just want to pretend you’re a bandit.
Obviously tattoos and paint, in this situation, have similar effects. Paint lasts longer on the face than the hands because it’s not as active, so that’s actually a good option. I know that some southern mages gild their eyelids and darken their under-eyes to enhance their illusions and prevent their enemies’ from deceiving them, and some mentalists chalk their eyelids in an effort to reflect enemy mentalists’ probes. I don’t personally engage in that face-painting business but if any of you are curious about the specifics, I can refer you to one of my colleagues.
Tattoos on your face, like those on your hands, need to be carefully considered before you get them, because they will permanently alter your energy-handling. Please, if any of you plan to get one, set up an office visit with me first, so I can yell at you and then help you figure out how to not destroy your career.
This goes for tattoos anywhere, or if you want to pierce your ears or some other ridiculous bodypart. Remember what I said about wearing rings? Those will burn your fingers off, and you didn’t even have to make an extra hole in your body to wear them.
I see that some of you already have earrings. It’s good that we’re having this talk now instead of in a month when you’re in the infirmary, stone deaf. Take them off. I do not want to see them in class. You can wear them in your spare time, at your own risk, but I will not have one of my students carted away because they wore a piking earring.
Necklaces, however, are fine.
No, I don’t mean I’m fine with you blowing your head off. That would be counterproductive. The danger of earrings and body jewelry is that they are pierced into your body and thus already disrupting your personal energy. They will tend to gather stray energy like your finger-pads, but since they are not on a focal path, they can not discharge that gathered energy without sparking into you or exploding.
Necklaces are not on focal paths either, and as they are not pierced into your body, they do not disrupt your energy cycle. Also, if they are not chokers or collar-types–not cinched around your neck–then they can disperse any energy they do accidentally gather through your flesh, nerves and ribcage, thus sparing your heart and spine. Some mages wear defensive necklaces or gorgets for just such a purpose–to catch and disperse otherwise-killing strikes across a broader area of the body. Naturally a robe that actually covers your chest and neck is better for this, but some people just feel too constricted that way.
If you do wear a collar or choker, make sure it has no metal. Because if it does, you will blow your fool head off. And I will laugh.