Worldbuilding: It’s Electric

One of these days I want to see a druid whose element is truly related to life. Not the four classical (and inorganic) elements of Western magic, but electricity.

Electricity can be generated by completely inorganic means. Lightning, sparks from flint, batteries. But where there is life as we know it, there is electricity. Some of it’s obvious. Electric eels, nerve twitches, a platypus probing with its snout through the mud. Some of it is… not so obvious. Mitochondria, creating a proton gradient so eukaryotic cells can make ATP. Other chemical gradients created by archaea and bacteria for the same purpose. And the electrical twitches of a Venus flytrap snatching its prey.

The hairs inside their leafy traps have the same kind of action potential – burst of electrical energy – as found in animal nervous systems, and apparently for much the same reason. To tell part of the plant when to move.

Interesting thing about this is, we don’t yet know how many other plants might do the same thing. The motion of a Venus flytrap is fast, predatory, and visible; all things that attract human attention, and thus research. Scientists have poked other plants electrically, mostly to try to sort out more efficient power production, but if electricity also triggered more subtle movements in plants, we might easily have missed it.

Currently the same researchers who poked Venus flytraps with atomic magnetometers to measure their electrically-generated magnetic fields are gearing up to check other plants as well. Magnetic personalities; not just for humans anymore.

If plants commonly generate electricity, we need to know. On Earth it might not matter much, swamped by the background signal of everything else alive. But in the controlled environment of a spaceship, station in freefall, or underwater city? It might make a difference.

What if the life-energy clerics and druids manipulate is actually electrical energy? Properly applied membrane potentials are fuel for growth, even in the absence of food. We eat food for cellular materials and to make electricity, in tiny controlled doses. Could spells that strengthen or enervate function by bolstering or draining bioelectricity? Might confusion spells be a blast of brain static, as in epilepsy? Does a druid summon predatory creatures by manipulating energy to look like there’s tasty prey just waiting?

And of course, what every writer and player wants to know: just what does it take to cast a lightning bolt?

Someone will do it, and we’ll all be shocked.

21 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: It’s Electric

  1. This would be interesting as a new discovery in the setting.

    You have all the traditional druids looking at the “Aura of Nature” and assigning all sorts of philosophical ideas to it, then someone publishes a paper about how it’s all just bio-electricity.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. The lightning being the element of life has been in my brain for a while. A character that has a gift for life magic. Their strongest affinity to elemental magic is lightning. Air, fire, and water would also be their, but nowhere near their affinity to lightning.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. *applauds DadJoke level pun*

    And of course, what every writer and player wants to know: just what does it take to cast a lightning bolt?

    I’ve been playing around with this in a scifi setting.

    It all started with force fields, and anti-grav transmitter boosted pakor, and how the safety gear for THAT would best be body mounted forcefields, and of course there’s the radiation absorbing stuff and Awesome Bubble Shield Over The Group tricks for Swords in Space battles, and….

    Brain: Wait. If you absorb energy… can you make a giant negative field in an area?

    *shield casting Guardian is now able to CALL DOWN LIGHTNING on his location*
    [Narrator’s voice: It is not an incredibly healthy thing to do.]

    Liked by 2 people

      1. And if you’re going out anyways– calling down a strike on your position is a REALLY BA way to go!

        “Well, no way I survive this…. but I might survive a lightning strike!”

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Though an idea for how parkour might play out given personal shielding/power armor +personal and environmental AG/flight control could play out comes up in the Schlock Mercenary webcomic (Book 11: Massively Parallel — Part IV: Mallcop Command). Huge, multi-level mall, with open atriums- how could a response team get the quickest across “diagonally” from point A->B?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Woops, didn’t mean to get so deep into the details:

    The characters in the anime and manga “World Trigger” ( use Parkour constantly in the combat scenes, since personal “human” flight powers/tech aren’t really a thing (with one exception seen from an antagonist). The series’ “magic” system, uses tools called Triggers to manipulate a person’s “Trion”, which first is used to create a “Trion Body”, which is for all sense and purposes, a pocket dimension that protects the real body from harm, while granting much improved physical capabilities (speed, strength, dexterity)

    Characters are pretty much invulnerable to physical damage/applications of forces caused by non-trion sources- being slammed into/by structures, buried under rubble, is basically just shrugged off. Normal military tech is ineffective.

    Trion weapons on the other hand, do cause damage, maintaining a Trion body and using Trion based weapons, taking enough damage, will use up an individual’s trion pool and/or cause the Trion body to collapse, leaving the real life body behind and vulnerable.

    Combat thus far tends to be urban combat, so manuevering around, over, or through buildings, structures, and terrain is part of the standard doctrine. “Jump pads” exist as tools, as does wires and lots of other traps/support items. trion bodies can take damage to physical locations without causing pain (pain reception is adjustable individually), it doesn’t mean combatants are out of the fight if they can compensate for the “physical” damage. The body starts to lose integrity/trion though. This means that combat and training is “full contact/live fire”. Which yes, does cause some people issues, if TBs are too “real” for them (limbs/torsos are blown up/severed all the time)

    Due to the flexibility of ranged and close quarters weapons options, how mobile everyone is, battles tend to be fast paced, but quite cerebral. Stealth, strategy, intelligence, and proper use of tactics is very important.

    “Trion Technology” is a pretty interesting piece of world building. Trion is sourced from “humans”, as far as is known there are no “external/natural” sources/deposits. It can stored, and stabilized in physical forms. Mobile (autonomous) combat constructs, vehicles for “Neighborhood” travel, fortifications, for example. It’s not stated explicitly if normal matter/ materials is/can be involved yet, but things like combat constructs leave “wreckage” behind, and don’t just dissolve like trion bodies or “raw” trion can.

    Trion “logistics” is a real factor in the story, as well as how people rank in terms of trion capacity. But low trion levels can definitely be cleverly compensated for, and the whole series very much focuses on team work and cooperation, over powerful “hero units”. Even the side characters get fleshed out over time, there aren’t masses of “faceless” redshirts.

    The first season of the anime (dub is not very good, period) + the anime only “filler arc” has some pacing and production quality issues, but it does have a strong narrative. The second season is quite good, pacing and production issues were pretty much dealt with.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If you’ve not encountered ‘The Body Electric’ by Becker, it might be worth a read. There’s plenty of disagreement with his ideas, but what he brings up is at least worth some pondering. Are nerves more SEMI-conductors? Are the ‘nodes’ of acupuncture & related relays (amplifiers)? How effective would magnetic (Hall effect) anesthesia be? And what side effects might it have?

    Liked by 2 people

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