Transmutation Circles: An Overview of Physical Magic
The use of transmutation circles (inscribed magical arrays) is common in rituals to channel magical energy into powerful spells and rituals. It is helpful when spoken commands would not provide enough structure for an extensively long or complicated spell. It is also used by races with little inherent arcane talent (such as Dwarves, Goliaths, Minotaurs and Shifters; and less commonly Humans and Gith) to amplify their arcane power. Fey and magically gifted races often forego learning such skills, as they require much more time, effort, and training than verbal and somatic spellcasting. Furthermore, many Fey races consider defacing one’s surroundings to perform magic to be a primitive and ignorant practice, and thus often look down upon wielders of such talents.
Transmutation circles do offer users a number of advantages over ‘stereotypical’ spellcasters. Firstly, they allow powerful spells or those that require extensive casting time more to be more efficient and reliable, as well as allowing the caster to reference, alter, and reshape the structure of the spell during construction of the array. In addition, linking spells to a physical inscription allows for magic to be bound to objects more effectively. Transmutation Circles also make it easier to set a delayed spell, as an array can be constructed long before being activated.
Despite these advantages, transmutation circles fall short of verbal/somatic spellcasting in some respects. Firstly, this kind of magic is more time consuming (aside from rituals), as the arrays used in the spell must be physically traced or inscribed onto a physical surface prior to the casting of the spell. Secondly, extensive training is required to effectively use this type of magic, as every component in an array contributes in some way to the structure of the spell. An improperly constructed array may function similarly to the caster’s intent, or may fail catastrophically. An individual matrix, however, can be memorized and replicated fairly easily, even by a caster with no previous knowledge of the technique; which can be advantageous to replicating a specific spell quickly but dangerous if the caster mis-copies the nuances of the array in question. Lastly, magical traps set using transmutation circles can be powerful and effective, but can be detected by anyone who recognizes the array used to power the trap for what it is.