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(tl;dr - BranSan wrote 3 rules for worldbuilding a magic system which boil down to: have structure, have limitations, and don't bite off more than you can chew. then the rules try Bionicle on for size. ) I found these rules and distinctions and comparison helpful for conceptualizing the multitude of powers and abilities in the Bioni-verse, and hopefully others can as well. So, I recently was able to read Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn First Era trilogy for the first time. It's been a while since I've read something new, since I usually prefer read old books that I know I'll enjoy, rather than take a gamble with a new author/world/characters, etc. (Incidentally, I'm the same way with movies and trying new ice cream flavors. I prefer to exercise risk taking in other aspects of my life). The main takeaway: I was completely floored by the scope and consistency and plausibility of his worldbuilding. A huge part of that was the magic system he created, which I paid particular attention to (one, because it's so well executed) because I'd previously read Sanderson's articles about his Three Laws of Magic Systems. And so, like any person with a favorite fandom, I started thinking how this applies to the Matoran Universe. This actually started out as a blog post where I could hammer out how some of these principles can be seen (or can't be seen) in the Bionicle universe. After some wishy-washy self-talk, and seeing how long the post became, we now have this topic. I did a bit of digging to (hopefully) make sure I'm not making a dupe, and I think I'm in the clear. Still, quotes/links/references to parts of other relevant discussions are great. Disclaimer 1 - I speak strictly from G1 knowledge, as I haven't delved into any of G2, as of yet. (I also didn't get totally into the Bara Magna storyline, so my knowledge on universe mechanics and stuff outside the MU is pretty patchy). Disclaimer 2 - I understand that Bionicle is a children's toy line, and the books are always found in the Young Readers section next to the Magic Tree House and Junie B. Jones books at my local Barnes & Noble (or, they would be, if they were still on the market), and my aim is not to draw unfair worldbuilding comparisons. Just looking to apply some worldbuilding theories and share on a platform with people who can appreciate. While I can't find links to the actual articles for some reason, I'll be quoting from this page on his universe's Wiki site. Rule 1 From this first rule, we get the spectrum of "soft magic systems" to "hard magic systems". To try and paraphrase, "soft magic systems" refers to a magic system that's more mysterious, and has no explicitly or clearly defined rules. This can help foster a sense of mysticism or otherworldliness. That's not to say the magic should not follow a consistent set of rules. I think that would fall more into the category of weak writing. I like to think of it as, if the reader was transported into a story with a soft magic system, they wouldn't know how to go about using that magic. Other examples Sanderson cites as good examples of "soft" systems are what Tolkien uses in Lord of the Rings and GRRM uses in Game of Thrones. Harry Potter's magic system would be middle-of-the-road, according to Sanderson. Then, on the end of "hard magic systems", rules are more or less explicitly described, and the reader can clearly see how the characters use the system to their advantage, like a tool. He cites some examples of authors who write this way, (L.E Modesitt Jr, and Melanie Rawn), but I personally haven't read any of their works, so cannot adequately comment further. I vaguely remember superheroes and their superpowers being categorized here. Now. There are an abundance of different types of powers in the MU (and on Spherus Magna, but I'll leave that to someone else to flesh out). The 'powers' page on BS01. There are so. many. I almost quit writing this post. I know there are a plethora of topic in S&T and Bionicle Discussion, and probably elsewhere discussing similar topics, and in more detail (which is why I didn't make this post into a topic). I really wish I remembered where I saw this, and who said it in the discussion, but they made the point that even though Bionicle G1 might appear to be SciFi on the surface, it really is more like the fantasy genre. I know some members, bonesiii comes immediately to mind, delve into the science of different elemental abilities, and other powers, with respect to the fact that Bionicle clearly doesn’t follow ‘real world’ physics, nor should we expect it to, or be disappointed when it doesn’t. Also, a distinction that I wanted to point out, simply because it confused me as well for a bit: How much the characters understand the magic system is not necessarily the same as how much the reader (or author) understands. With the huge variety of powers and abilities we have to work with, I thought it was easiest to put them on an arbitrary but convenient 1-10 scale, one being soft magic, 10 being hard magic. Elemental Powers - 6. Although this varies between the element. Psionics seems a lot softer than stone (kind of pun intented) or fire, but I suspect that’s because we have ‘real world’ references for what fire and stone can do. This also takes into account manifestations of elemental powers within Matoran, which seem pretty consistent. (again, Psionics is a bit of an outlier) Kanohi - 4. But again, with variation between Kanohi. Part of what contributes to a 4 rating is the ambiguity on who can and can’t use Kanohi. Not just species-wise, but how it takes time for someone to unlock the pre-existing ability to access the power, how Matoran go comatose without a Kanohi, but other species do not, and so on. Non-Kanohi Collectibles (Krana, Kraata, Kanoka, Rhotuka, Zamor, etc.) - 8. These seem pretty straightforward, and have a pretty static set of powers or what they can and cannot do in the universe. The only one I’m iffy about is Zamor spheres, because what the heck even is Antidermis and what does it do and stuff. Innate powers - 3. example, Toa power, Skakdi laser vision, Johmak/Zaktan’s shattering ability, Kaita fusions, various Rahi powers, etc. Part of the rating may be a category error on my part, but there are just so many abilities that we see, and that work within the story without causing too much skepticism in the reader Environmental - 2. Red Star shenanigans, mutagen, antidermis, energized protodermis, maybe Hordika venom, how Matoran transform, etc. I’m sure I’m missing some things, but this seemed like a good starting point. Overall, I’d say the MU has a soft magic system, which I appreciate, because there’s more for the imagination to do. Rule 2 These seem pretty self-explanatory, and are good distinctions to be aware of. Good limitations, according to Sanderson, give the character, reader, and author a good challenge to overcome. The trick is to not hamstring yourself or write yourself into a block. Limitations and weaknesses initially were confusing to me, and I don't think they're always mutually exclusive. I think a limitation can be related to a character themselves, although not always, and a weakness is usually something to do more with the power itself. (again, all of this is open for debate) Costs to power seem pretty cut and dry, and there seems to be no limit to what a cost could be, whether it be to a character's wellbeing or to their access or level of power, etc. Ex: Toa Power Weakness - A Toa’s element may be inherently weaker against another element. A Toa of Water would have greater difficulty defeating a Toa of Lightning than she would a Toa of Fire, assuming they were all of similar skill and experience levels. Limitation - A Toa’s elemental control is limited by their experience and skill level. Cost - Use of elemental power drains the Toa’s elemental energy, resulting in weaker output. It would cost a Toa time and effort to train to reduce limitations to elemental power. Ex: Vakama This is a less concrete example, would love some arguments for/against. (Also, I know self-doubt is not a power, but it is something that affects his powers. Although, perhaps it could be a mask or kraata power.) Weakness - self doubt Limitation - self doubt causes inability to use mask power and be an effective leader until he gets over it Cost - got over his self doubt too much and became overconfident and allied with Roodaka One caveat that I really liked was the cost of reviving the Matoran after the Great Cataclysm - giving up Toa Power and becoming a Turaga. Last point on this one, more of a personal gripe - Makuta are way too OP, with almost no checks or balances. Their only exploitable weakness (besides hubris) that I can think of, off the cuff, is their antidermis evolution thing, but they’re so powerful that they can negate those negative effects with little to no effort. (Axonn and Brutaka are up there on the OP list). This happens to segue nicely into Rule 3. Rule 3 So, the bad example is the Makuta. A counterexample, I think would be Krahka. Arguably, she has access to just as many powers than a Makuta, if not more. Correct me if I'm wrong - Both Krahka and Makuta can shapeshift, but we've only seen Krahka be able to keep the abilities and skills of those she's changed into after she's changed back, and seems to be able to switch between those accumulated abilities with more ease. But she definitely has better limitations and weaknesses, and higher cost to using her powers, as seen in Adventures #3. I guess this boils down to the 'less is more' principle. I've seen this as well, around the forums, about how Teridax was a more compelling villain when he was The Makuta, the one and only, with or without a slew of powers. But then, when there are suddenly a small army of Makuta, dysfunctional as they may be, that really changed the dynamic of the storyline. One of my favorite examples of expanding on powers is how the Toa Metru developed their Elemental Powers. (screenshots courtesy of the ever-awesome Biological Chronicle project) These are all from (storyline-wise), roughly the same time, and the Toa Metru are relatively new Toa, searching either for their Matoran who know where the Great Disks are, or searching for the Great Disks themselves. (Mystery of Metru Nui and/or Trial by Fire), so these are all powers developed before adding Mask powers. Nokama I think this is a great example because I think it shows both limitation and cost of using power, as well as the weakness of being a baby Toa, and shows how use of the 'magic' plays out in the character's world. Matau showing gradual reduction of limitations, also works well with potential character development of becoming more disciplined. Nuju This is an insane amount of control over new power to me. I think it's plausible because I would expect nothing less from one of Ko-Metru's top scholars. But still. The type of on-the-fly calculations one would have to do to pull this off seems crazy. We also see Nuju later using his precise control over his element to create mirrors and redirect lasers. There was a thread earlier about "who's the smartest Bionicle character", and my answer would definitely be Nuju, if we're going by book-smarts. Most Important Rule Don't forget this one! (not kidding, this is the last rule listed on the article) Perhaps this is nostalgia speaking, but I recently re-read the Bionicle Adventures series, and I still think it's pretty awesome. Anyways, thanks for reading through! I don't have an overarching question or any specific things to ask, but I would love to see some discussion, pushback, etc. It's all fascinating and I love fitting stuff I already know into larger frameworks and systems. Hope it was worth your time! Thanks!!
Greetings, folk of BZPower! I bring you a subject on which to idly speculate... It seems reasonable to assume that the original decision to give BIONICLE characters magical masks was inspired by the ritual use of masks in real-life indigenous cultures. In such cultures, however, masks do not merely grant power of one kind or another. Rather, they allow the wearer to temporarily embody or become the god, spirit, legendary character, or revered ancestor whom the mask represents and play that being's part in a ritual performance. Now, it is certainly the case that canonically, kanohi do not have this property. But...WHAT IF THEY DID? Imagine an AU in which each Kanohi is named after a god, deified hero, or other mythological entity (and the Matoran have a pantheon extensive enough to provide all of these spirits) and designed to visually resemble them. To use the Kanohi's power is to channel/incarnate the spirit temporarily and thus have access to their power (which is the same power canonically associated with the Kanohi). What might this pantheon look like? In other words, let's have some fun coming up with spirits whom different masks might represent! I imagine this would work well in one of those reimagine-bionicle-characters-as-humans AUs that folk sometimes come up with, in which characters don't necessarily wear their masks all the time. I'll start us off with a few & probably post more later (feel free to come up with interpretations different from mine or to expand on mine): Hau = Obviously some sort of courageous warrior god who provides protection in battle. (Charms and amulets to protect against enemy warriors' blows are actually really common in real-world cultures, too.) Kaukau = A spirit of the sea, presumably. Or maybe the central figure of an Earth-Diver myth. Miru = A bird spirit, given that it looks sort of "beaked" as well as having a flight-like power. Maybe the Kadin is the same, and its spiky mohawk represents a crest of feathers. Mahiki = A shapeshifting trickster god. Rau = The culture-hero who invented language. Huna = A shy fairy or goblin that always stays hidden from the sight of mortals. Would fit with Vakama's initial timidity. Komau = A guardian of divinely ordained law, maybe? Or, almost the opposite, a tricksy enchanter who could put spells over the minds of others. Or maybe a legendarily persuasive leader/rhetorician! Zatth = A Mother of Monsters type figure or spirit of the wilds. Crast = A legendary monster cursed to be hated by all beings, to the point that even inanimate objects recoil from it in revulsion.
Gali picking berries, coloured grass and tree bark (tannin) for dyes in the Ko-Koro moonlight. *** After a total of two months from sketch to finish, I'm very happy to how this piece turned out; I think this is the longest and hardest I've ever worked on a piece of art. This was my first attempt at a complete background and my first time using SAI paint as my design software. I think the hardest parts for me out of everything were designing the shape of the basket (I hate that stupid basket!) and trying to add shadow and texture to the mountains/snow. This piece started out as just a costume design for Gali's cold-weather clothing, but as I was doing more and more research into Ko-Koro for the story aspect of The Halfway, I noticed from both the depictions from the map of Mata Nui, (and from fan drawings of the region from Deviant Art), Ko-Koro was almost always shown to be a barren, frozen, wasteland. And while I did love and appreciate seeing more scenery from Ko-Koro, and the ruggedness and harshness of the land, part of me was thinking: "There has to be more to Ko-Koro than just snow-covered rocks" Thinking about the map reminded me of the Canadian Rockies, which looking down to earth from space, just looks like snow-covered rocks. But having lived and worked in the Rockies before, I've come to see just how beautiful and awe-inspiring the entire area is; with crystal turquoise-blue water, lush evergreen forests, and majestic sedimentary mountains, the view from any time of day is absolutely breathtaking. So, this year being such a major milestone for Canada (Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!), I was inspired to model a background after one of Canada's most iconic and well-loved places: Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta. The idea for the dark, star-lit sky came from the bright, radiantly clear night skies of Banff and Jasper National Park (Jasper being a Dark Sky Preserve). I wanted to show that there is more to Ko-Koro (and it's inhabitants) than what others might expect. Yes, the Ko-Matoran do like to keep to themselves, but a large part of what keeps them home is the strong connection they feel to their land- with all the rugged, untamed, and overwhelming beauty it contains. And as always, feedback is always welcome and appreciated. Cheers!