(Map made with Inkarnate’s map maker)
Part 1: The Lost Epoch
Once, thousands of years before the start of what we consider human history, the world was full of strange creatures whose powers defied what we would consider “the laws of nature”. Of course, our world still has creatures of that sort hiding in its most secret places, but they are such a rarity that most people are completely ignorant of their existence. Such was not the case in the Lost Epoch, also known as the Age of Magic, and also known as the Forbidden History of the World.
During this time the world was divided into ten continents, one of which, dubbed Midgaheim by its inhabitants, is the focus of this bestiary. Like all of the other continents, Midgaheim was warped and shaped by magic, a strange supernatural force that defined and ultimately destroyed this part of our world’s history. In fact, the Lost Epoch has its name because almost all evidence of its existence was wiped from the universe upon its end by the very magic that had made it so strange and fantastical.
Before magic purged itself from the universe, however, it created many strange supernatural creatures, and allowed others to come out of their hiding places. These marvelous beasts are the subject of this bestiary, but before we can explore them in full, we must first understand the basics of what magic, and why they are no longer a part of our world.
Part 2: Magic in Midgaheim
Enigmatic by nature, magic is a force that can be described but not truly understood. Perhaps the best description of it is “imagination made real.” Magic can let creatures fly without wings, breath fire, heal from mortal wounds, and much more. The world with magic functions much like the world of dreams, where anything a person thinks can become reality – and, like dreams, magic makes the world at once wondrous and horrifying.
Dreams are influenced, though rarely directly controlled, by the dreamer, and magic is much the same. It is an active and reactive force, changing everything it touches, witnessing the reactions to those changes, and changing things again in reaction to those reactions, and so on for as long as it exists. This has made studying magic very difficult, as it is impossible to determine which “rules” of magic are inherent to the force itself, and which rules exist simply because observers believe they exist. In practice, the distinction doesn’t matter much – so long as the rules we imagine work, there’s no reason to worry about how “authentic” they are.
In Midgaheim, magic is generally divided into four main varieties. The earliest variation of this system was called the Four Elements of Magic, and included the following categories of magic: Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind. While magic would often manifest exactly as the elemental names imply – i.e. fire magic generates fire, wind magic summons wind, etc. – they could also have other outcomes. “Fire” magic could make poison more potent, while “Water” magic could heal wounds. As a result, the Four Elements fell somewhat out of favor as further study proved the truth was more complex.
A second school of thought, the Four Humours Theory of Magic, was eventually proposed, being based on four significant bodily fluids: Chloreric (a replacement for Fire), Phlegmatic (Water), Melancholic (Earth), and Sanguine (Wind). This theory worked in that it covered the variety of magic better than the four elements. However, Four Humors Theory ran into a different problem: it was so vague and disconnected from the specifics that it was hard to get magic properly sorted, making things unnecessarily sloppy for young magic users trying to learn the craft.
After years of struggling to properly define an inherently enigmatic force, the “true” axis of magic – Creation, Destruction, Structure, and Freedom – was adopted by magic users. It organized things more specifically than the Four Humors theory and limited them far less than the Four Elements, and is thankfully pretty straight forward.
Creation magic encourages growth. It heals, nourishes, and energizes. It’s the magic of recovery and reproduction. This is always why it’s the magic of plague and disease – after all, what else would happen if you encourage the Black Death to grow? While creation magic is often seen as a “good,” it can have wicked uses. All magic can. Water, one of the basic building blocks of organic life, works with Creation magic very well, which is why the element is associate with this part of the axis.
Destruction magic devours, consumes, and defiles. It is what it is: it destroys. While considered inherently evil by many, Destruction magic has positive uses too. Purging diseased tissue? Destruction. Pruning a dead branch so the others can thrive? Destruction. Exercising until your muscles ache so they may recover and become stronger? Destruction. Unrestrained, Destruction magic is deadly and awful, but under a controlled, calculated hand, it can make a person stronger. Destruction magic can be the fire that consumes the house, or the sparks in the forge that purify the metal. Fire, a force of destruction and an inessential tool of civilization, is an element that’s particularly well suited to Destruction magic.
Structure is a necessary element of existence – without some structure, one couldn’t exist. Living things need to be made out of matter and energy – it’s their structure. Vertebrates need their bones – it’s their structure. Houses need foundations, cells need membranes, etc. Structure magic reinforces the rules that hold something together and make it what it is – Structure helps things stay defined. Too much Structure, however, causes stagnation. A house with no doors and windows is a tomb. A body that’s all bones and no meat is a corpse. Structure is represented by Earth for obvious reason: it is strong, sturdy, unyielding, and immovable.
Freedom, while Structure’s opposite, is equally necessary for existence, or at least for life. Freedom magic encourages change and action. It breaks limitations and redefines what is possible. In most cases it merely bends the rules, but unrestrained Freedom magic will break them entirely. Freedom magic gives you the ability to do the improbable, but it can also completely unravel you. Freedom magic can break shackles, and it can reduce a living person to particles before scattering those particles into nothingness. Freedom magic is associated with the element of Wind because of its whimsical, unpredictable, and occasionally destructive nature. This is also why Fairies are sometimes called “Spirits of Air” – it was incorrectly believed that their chaotic nature was due to excess Wind Magic, when in truth they just have excessive magic in general.
While other continents in the Lost Epoch followed slightly different rules of magic than those of Midgaheim, these rules will apply to all the magical creatures covered in this Bestiary. However, magical creatures are not the only supernatural beasts this bestiary covers…
Part 3: Arcane vs. Occult Creatures
While the vast majority of the creatures in this bestiary are magical in nature, a select few gain their supernatural abilities from a different source. Beasts that gain their supernatural powers from magical attunement are called Arcane Creatures. The exceptions to this are beasts who gain their power from an equally nebulous source, an intangible part of every living being that we call the “soul”. These oddities are called Occult Creatures.
For a long time the two were considered on and the same, as Occult and Arcane creatures often feature similar powers and seem to work with similar rules. The powers of Occult creatures are often controlled with thoughts and emotions, much as they are in Arcane creatures. Both creatures can persist far longer than mortal creatures are supposed to, and both can bend reality to their will to some extent. The greatest difference between the two lies in the source of their power. A soul, which every living thing bears, is normally little more than an abstract concept. Only through strange (and generally traumatic) circumstances does it work wonders, allowing a life form to persist after their body has died.
While magic affects the bodies of Arcane creatures, and in turn is shaped by their thoughts and feelings, the soul of an Occult creature does away with the body entirely. It replaces traditional matter with a strange substance known as ectoplasm, which fazes in and out of our reality with every moment. Ectoplasm can take gaseous, liquid, and solid forms, as well as everything in between. As a result, some Occult creatures can appear to have physical form, but in truth they never fully walk in our world – instead they lie somewhere in between.
The similarities between Arcane and Occult creatures have not gone unnoticed, leading some wizards to theorize that Magic itself may be one particularly powerful Occult creature that has chosen to possess the world – a Soul to master all other souls. This hypothesis has never been proven, and to this day many of the techniques used to combat and contain Occult creatures fail to work on Arcane ones, and vice versa.
Part 4: Common Magical Genetic Disorders & Other Biological Phenomena
While most of the usual effects of magic are fairly self-explanatory – a creature growing to an unusual size, beasts with heightened intelligence, etc. – some strange magical phenomena are common enough to warrant being described outside of the many creatures that exhibit them. They can be summarized as follows:
The Fisher King Effect: the only magical effect that is universal among all Arcane creatures on Midgaheim, the Fisher King Effect refers to the feedback loop between an Arcane creature, its environment, and the magic flowing through them both. The thoughts, feelings, and personality of an Arcane creature will influence the magic flowing through it, which in turn modifies the beast’s appearance to reflect that influence. If an Arcane creature is powerful enough, it will also affect the environment it inhabits, slowly changing the non-magical flora and fauna to suit its own nature.
Early scholars assigned a simple “good vs. evil” dichotomy to the Fisher King effect – i.e. a “good” Arcane creature is supernaturally beautiful and makes the environment more benign and fertile with its presence, while an “evil” Arcane creature is unspeakably hideous and sours the land with its touch. The truth is somewhat more complex, and in recent years people apply the Axis of Magic to the Fisher King Effect instead. An Arcane creature whose personality favors destructive magic will often be built to deal as much as possible, and the land around it will become more savage and hostile to better hone those skills. An Arcane creature whose personality favors creative magic will sooth and comfort others with its appearance, and the land will become more fertile and nurturing. So it goes with Wind, which makes the land more unpredictable and strange, and Earth, which makes it rigid and orderly. This view of the Fisher King Effect tends to be more accurate, but even it has holes.
Sometimes a hideous, fearsome looking beast will create an environment of harmony and kindness. Likewise, some beautiful creatures will create an environment of deception and hidden danger, their outward beauty being a lure to draw in unsuspecting prey. It must also be noted that the perception of the effect will vary from species to species – an environment that a human might find barren and desolate may be well suited to a dragon and the creatures it preys upon. The Fisher King Effect, like the creatures it stems from, is nuanced and complicated.
Humans, being particularly crafty, discovered a way to utilize the Fisher King Effect to make their countries more prosperous and habitable. Four kinds of magical items were designed to specifically cause and control the Fisher King Effect: crowns, scepters, thrones, and rings. A person of particularly noble character can be fitted with a crown, carry a scepter, and sit on a throne, thereby tying their own lives to the health and fertility of the land. So long as the bearer of these three items stays healthy and kind, the land will prosper. Rings were designed to divide this effect: a crown-bearer could give rings to significantly noble vassals, who in turn will be tied to pieces of the greater kingdom, and in doing so shoulder the weight of supporting the land. Rings can also be exchanged between individuals to tie their fates together, creating a very specific and localized Fisher King Effect.
Deities: a result of a specific and powerful variation of the Fisher King Effect, Deities are magical creatures who aren’t just tied to a territory, but to an aspect of the world itself. What that “aspect” is can vary: natural phenomenon like lightning, biomes like the ocean, or even processes such as death and birth can all be tied to a Deity. Sometimes even inventions of civilization can be fodder for gods, such as the convention of marriage or a powerful invention like a forge.
A Deity’s power is unique in that it cannot be started by the Deity itself – instead, a large population must look at an aspect of the world and believe that something is responsible for it. This belief, if it is strong enough, will create a vast amount of wild, untapped magic that hungers for a being to inhabit. Eventually some already-magical creature will be drawn by the magic’s siren call, and in time that creature will become the “face” of the pre-existing belief, and embody the aspect of the world that people want to be represented. Or, in short: if people believe in a Deity, in time magic will find a creature to make into one.
Deities are more than just intensely magical creatures, however, as the magic that fuels them is one of the few forms of magic that can tangibly affect the soul. While souls normally leave the mortal plane when their physical bodies die, a Deity’s soul is instead tied to the belief in that Deity. As long as people belief the Deity exists, it cannot fully die, as the magic of that belief will keep its soul tethered to the mortal plane even if its body is destroyed. This is why many people believe Deities are eternal beings – i.e. creatures that are incapable of death. While this is a slight exaggeration, killing a Deity is nonetheless extremely difficult, as one must kill the belief in the Deity as well as the Deity’s body itself.
Deities are supremely powerful beings, surpassing all other arcane creatures in terms of sheer magical power. At the same time, they have strange limitations: a Deity’s personality is affected by the belief people have in them, as the very magic that gives them such immense power also holds an absurd amount of influence over them. Belief will alter a Deity’s ambitions, desires, phobias, and other traits, and a Deity that was benevolent at one point in time can be turned wicked and cruel if the people’s beliefs sour. Likewise, a Deity’s power can be revoked if the people view it as weak and unnecessary. The power given to a Deity, vast though it may be, is ethereal, and can be taken away as easily as it was given.
Most Deities in Midgaheim are either descended from human beings, or exhibit Homofalsum, i.e. the tendency for magical creatures of non-human origin to mutate so they highly resemble human beings(described in depth below).
Fairies: also called “nature spirits” by those wishing to be more culturally informed, fairies are a broad category of Arcane creatures that aren’t defined by a shared ancestor but rather a shared environment. Fairies are native to a plane of existence that intersects with (but is not fully contained by) our own reality, which is given the name “Fairieland” by scholars of magic. Fairieland is made almost entirely of magic, and as such has a far higher concentration of this mysterious force than our own reality. Fairies, in turn, have been altered in appearance, powers, and nature far more than is normal for Arcane creatures, and often have a very peculiar understanding of how reality works. All fairies are immigrants descended from animals, plants, and even humans that wandered into Fairieland, mutating into fairies over time as they were exposed to vast amounts of magic. This effect cannot be reversed: many fairies have since traveled back to our world for long periods of time without ever losing their strange powers or biology.
Chimeras: artificially created by sorcerers and other creatures capable of consciously controlling magic, a Chimera is a hybrid of two or more wildly different species that could only be merged by magical means. Despite their often man-made nature, many chimeras have carved out niches for themselves in the natural ecosystem to the point where they are just as important as the “natural” Arcane creatures they coexist with – griffins are perhaps the most triumphant example of a chimera that successfully fit within the ecosystem. As a quirk of their magically altered genetics, chimeras can often interbreed with other creatures to make more new hybrids, resulting in a level of genetic diversity and interbreeding that would be impossible outside of the Lost Epoch.
Argus Syndrome: named for the titan Argus by magical scholars from the country of Mediterra, Argus Syndrome refers to the tendency for Arcane creatures to grow more eyes than their ancestors had. Sometimes this will be simple: a creature’s skull will sport three eye sockets instead of two, for example. Other times the eyes grow in places where eyes wouldn’t normally grow, like the stomach, the shoulders, and anywhere else one can think of. Since they tend to lack a skeletal socket, being instead nestled within muscle tissue, these eyes tend to be particularly vulnerable to attack. Some Arcane creatures also suffer the inverse of Argus Syndrome, having less eyes than is normal, though this is far less common.
Hydra Syndrome: while animals with two or more heads do appear in nature from time to time, these mutations are often more malign than helpful. Such is not the case with the magical mutation known as Hydra Syndrome, which results in a creature growing several extra heads and necks, all of which are fully formed and functional. The number of heads an Arcane creature will vary with the severity of its affliction: three is the most common number, but creatures with seven, nine, fifty, or even one hundred heads are not unheard of. The multiple heads of a Hydra Syndrome afflicted creature all have minds of their own, but are connected to each other by a shared nervous system, resulting in a sort of hive mind. Hydra Syndrome often also increases an Arcane creature’s ability to heal, and more than a few can even regenerate extra heads when one of theirs is lopped off. Dragons and trolls exhibit Hydra Syndrome more often than any other Arcane creature family.
Briarse Syndrome: similar to Hydra Syndrome, Briarse Syndrome refers to the tendency Arcane creatures have to grow extra limbs. Arms, legs, and even fins, wings, and tails can all be duplicated by Briarse Syndrome, sometimes resulting in creatures that are an entire mess of limbs growing out of one body like the animal equivalent of a tree or bush. Much like Argus Syndrome, some species invert this disorder, being born with less limbs than their ancestors.
Geryon Syndrome: perhaps the strangest of the magical disorders, Geryon Syndrome results in a magical creature that has two or more fully developed torsos growing out of the same hip. Each torso sports a full set of arms and a fully functioning head. Of all the magical disorders that cause the growth of extra body parts, this is by far the most cumbersome, and few sufferers of Geryon Syndrome master their strange bodily arrangements, especially since each torso has a mind of its own. However, at least one family of magical creatures, the amphisbaenas, have thrived with this disorder, using their bifurcated bodies with great skill and success.
Homofalsum: as humans proved to be a tenacious and crafty force to be reckoned with in the Lost Epoch, many species evolved to resemble them for various reasons. Such creatures are considered Homofalsum, i.e. “fake humans.” Most Arcane creatures that display Homofalsum are either fairies or Chimeras that were explicitly made with humans as one of their component species. However, there are some more mundane magical creatures that also exhibit Homofalsum tendencies, such as the Sea Monks found in the oceans.
Lichrot: an affliction that is exclusive to Sorcerers (humans that are consciously attuned to magic), Lichrot begins as a stain on the skin. A sufferer of lichrot will slowly turn an unnatural color as they age – green, blue, purple, et cetera. The older they get, the more pronounced their hue, and soon other changes will follow. They may grow exceedingly tall and think, or short and squat. Their flesh may break out in warts and pustules, or become unnaturally smooth and taught on their body. Eventually, as they live beyond the scope of their species’ natural lifespan, they will begin to slowly decay as they body struggles to keep up with the magic driving their being. Despite the effects on their mortal bodies, a sorcerer’s magic power only increases as they get order, which is why many of the frailest looking sorcerers are also the most powerful.
Part 5: Arcane Humans
As a Bestiary, this text is concerned with non-human creatures. Note that this does not exclude people, as many of the creatures in this text are sapient, and more than a few have cultures and civilizations of their own. The line between human and beast is blurred substantially by magic, and more than a few creatures in this Bestiary are descended from human beings, even if they no longer qualify as part of the human species anymore. However, this text should give some mention to the different types of humans that use magic.
There are three main varieties of Arcane humans: conjurers, paragons, and sorcerers. Of the three, conjurers are the only ones that are not actually attuned to magic. A conjurer instead uses items that are rife with magic, such as the flesh of an Arcane creature or the berries of a plant that has been exposed to the Fisher King Effect, and mixes them together to create a magic spell. Conjurers are the most prevalent kind of magic-using human, and often the most trusted. The art of conjuring eventually became the science of alchemy, and became more refined with every generation of magic users. A more dangerous subset of conjuring is known as witchcraft, and involves the conjurer in question forming a pact with an Arcane or Occult creature to share in its powers. This kind of conjuring almost always ends poorly for all involved.
Paragons are humans who are unconsciously attuned to magic, as is the case for most Arcane creatures. A paragon cannot consciously control how magic affects their body, but is nonetheless stronger, more durable, and often more intelligent than is natural for a human to be. They exceed the limits of what humans can do just as a dragon exceeds a mundane lizard or a leviathan exceeds a normal fish. Most of the great heroes of humanity in the Lost Epoch have been Paragons.
Sorcerers are the final and most powerful kind of Arcane human, as they are consciously attuned to magic. Few Arcane creatures can boast this ability, and as a result the power of a sorcerer is almost unparalleled. While it takes them a while to acclimate to their power, a fully realized sorcerer can summon a typhoon with a flick of their wrist, or split the surface of the earth with a single grunt of frustration. Sorcerers are wondrous and terrifying to witness, and dangerous to friend and foe alike.