There are basically seven different groupings of supernatural/paranormal abilities. These are your classical magic/sorcery/witchcraft, miracles, psychic powers, martial arts abilities, chaos magic, dramaturgy and the “super powers” of the Paragons and Monsters. Ignoring the last three for now the first four are officially known as Thaumaturgy, Theurgy, Psi and Qi powers. They use effectively separate “esoteric pseudo-forces” known as Thaums, Theons, Psions and Qi.
Thaums and Psions are “Left handed”; Theons and Qi are “Right handed”.
Thaums and Theons have “Top Spin” while Psions and Qi have “Bottom Spin”.
Qi is expended quickly when used and fades quicky when not held onto. We like to think of it as a hot and quick. Qi is what martial artists use to perform their gravity defying leaps and feats of physical extremes. Despite their heat it is best to think of them as breath; quickly expelled and also quickly regained. It is ‘salty’.
Psions are long lived, but become hard to control as they age. They can become destructive if enough are allowed to build up. They are cold and wet; sloshing around until they find a weak spot and escape. They typically manifest as the savant abilities known as “Psychic Powers”. Free flowing and ungoverned psions are the most frequent cause of poltergeist phenomena. Psions are ‘sour’.
Theons are warm and gentle; Theurges report that using their abilities is uplifting and calming, although some who follow darker paths report that their abilities are scary and defiling. However we suspect that many of these are Thaumaturges “in a dress” to quote Cutty, or Chaoticians “in funny hats” (another Cuttyism). Theurgy is the magic of faith and it comes preloaded with narratives and expectations of their own. The Theurge is tied to these narratives and can’t risk abandoning them without losing either control of their “miracles”” or access to them entirely. Over use of Theurgy can result in a loss of ego in the practitioner. Not all see that as a bad thing. Theons tend to remain long after they are released, following their inherent narratives until they run out of ‘fuel’. Theons are ‘sweet’.
Finally Thaums are hard and cold; while easy to use and dependable they will stick around, possibly for aeons, unless ritually swept away. Unfortunately they are addictive and mentally corrosive. The rush of using thaums often leaves a thaumaturge on a high for several hours afterwards. If they’re not careful a thaumaturge may find themselves performing a quick lesser banishing ritual after every meal, allegedly to “clear away bad thaums” but also because of the euphoria as fresh thaums rush through them during the ritual. Thaums are ‘bitter’.
Chaos magic is the bad-boy of the magical world; it mixes and matches between different types and styles. In this day and age most people in the department practice chaos magic to some degree. Speaking personally as someone with two Savant abilities (the Benedanti dream-walking and my ‘talent’ for wards), a bad case of vera fidei from the Covent Garden Hellmouth and training in both dramaturgy and old school magic, chaos magic is a matter of convenience. Chaos magic is ‘piquant’ which is why it is recognised as a ‘school’ of magic all of its own.
Pretty much until the late ’90s we were working under the principle that Thaums, Theons, Psions and Qi were all different, if somewhat compatible, things. However that left Dramaturgy out in the cold. The leading theory of the day was that the dramaturge could manipulate a mixture of the four to produce their effects.
Before Gideon, Granny and Verne Wordsworth nailed down the nature of Dramaturgy in their ground breaking experiments everyone thought that it was Chaos Magic that was going to solve the whole Grand Unified Theory of Magic conundrum. However their high energy dramaturgy experiments at Kew Branch showed that the reverse was true, that all four forms of magic were in essence different flavours/spins/colours/whatever of a single ‘force’ which was dubbed the Fiction (pronounced “FIX-YON”).
Now we’re all Fictionally Active; we all radiate a background level of Fictions dependant on the nature of the Scripts we interact with in our day to day lives. Most people put out about 1 Word per minute (the Word is the unit of measurement for Fiction, named for Verne Wordsworth; an adept Dramaturge can generate about 60 Wpm). For the vast majority this will result in nothing stranger than the odd moment of deja vu or weird coincidences caused by our scripts synergising and producing unexpected narratives.
However the more mythic a script is the more Fictions it produces; this is why magical ability runs in families and why these abilities tend to manifest at key points in the lives of practitioners. When they use their abilities a practitioner will ‘colour/spin/flavour’ Fictions to become whatever they feel is the source of their abilities.
Thus a witch/sorcerer/someone-who-spells-magic-with-a-k and by extension anyone who feels their abilities are an act of “Will” will generate Thaums; Someone who believes that their abilities are an act of “Faith” generate Theons; A psychic will produce Psions and a Martial Artist, Qi. Curiously directed theons can repulse other flavours of Fictions, leading to the myths of monsters being repulsed by overt demonstrations of faith.
Of course this doesn’t explain what magic is. However Dramaturgy tells us exactly what it is. Magic is Narrative. Not will, faith, mental powers or physical prowess. The martial artist who practises the same moves again and again until he can chop down a mountain with the edge of his hand; the telepath reading minds, the monk who can repulse the undead with a simple prayer, the wizard with his rituals and spells, even, to some degree, the woman wreathed in flame and held aloft on angelic wings of fire; these are all ways of grasping the narratives going on around us and getting them to go our way.
Of course this works both ways. You won’t believe the number of people who have said to me “Well I knew it was really dumb to go down into the dark haunted basement alone, but…”
Anyway, for those of you keeping score Dramaturgy is ‘umami’.
That just leaves what we can only call “super powers”. Well I’m afraid nobody has a clue. People with super powers seem to spin Fictions into completely unique forms or, in some cases, mixtures of recognisable forms. (Hellion’s “hellfire” is a “bitter-sweet” mix of theons and thaums). Whatever it is they do it is ‘metallic’.
You may have noticed that I’m being deliberately vague. That is because how a practitioner relates to what they do is a strictly personal thing. While we seem to agree on the flavour aspect most of us can’t agree what colour different forms of magic are. To me they’re all green. I understand that the McGonnigal Academy is now abandoned the Bonewitz colour standard for something more personal to individual students.