Sythyry (sythyry) wrote,

On Architectural Crystallization

Mirrored from Sythyry.

Because you asked for it

The crystallization method is an advanced, poorly-controlled, and poorly-understood enchantment technique for making buildings pervaded by magic, generally much larger on the inside than the outside. It puts Locador in places where even Locador was never meant to go, and introduces economies of scale on a frightening scale.

  • Crystallization lets one make very large buildings. Making the same kind of building by other means would not, generally, let one make buildings as large. For one things, crystallized buildings do not require supports; each room held to its place in the underlying Locador lattice, supported by the structure of space itself, rather than putting its weight on the more fragile walls and support columns of an entirely physical building.
  • Unfortunately, the buildings can get too big, inside. It is not uncommon for them to grow without bound. Of course the outer boundary of the building is fixed, but the space inside will grow with the building. Furthermore, as it grows, the spaces get weirder and weirder, so the unlimited size is of limited value.
  • Crystallization can let one magic item serve for an vast number of residences. For example, a water-creator that can create ten gallons of water as often as desired, will usually go idle even in a very large noble’s house. With crystallization techniques, one such item could supply water for an entire city. The power of the item is used in many places at once.
  • Unfortunately, as one gets deeper into the edifice, the power from such items is used in increasingly peculiar ways. Their effects are refracted and distorted by their conduction through the crystal; they are blended and superimposed; they become strange and stranger. As crystallization is fundamentally a Locador construct, magical effects that are not related to buildings come off worse than those that are. For example, most crystallized buildings have air-freshening spells, and those spells work adequately more or less everywhere inside of them (though with occasional regions of intense temperature or smell or foggines or what have you deep inside). One early crystallization experiment included a continual healing spell that should have applied to everywhere inside; it was rapidly distorted to chaotic Corpador spells almost everywhere, and that experimental building is not safe to enter.

Structure and Disstructure

The crystallizer, as part of the process, designs a Plan for the edifice. The kinds of rooms are detailed; there may be some dozens of sorts of room. The preferred arrangement for their assembly is also described. Kismirth, for example, has several kinds of rooms for restaurants: a big kitchen with a double door and counters and stoves, a pantry with shelving and cooling, a large dining room, and corridors and bathrooms that are shared with other sorts of places. The Plan indicates three ways that these may be assembled: a simple small restaurant with a kitchen and one dining room; a larger one with three dining rooms; a banquet hall with five kitchens in a row and sixteen dining rooms surrounding them in a 3×7 rectangle.

The crystallizer must acquire magical devices (or spells, but usually it’s devices) capable of making all the desired rooms and magical effects in the building. These devices had best be capable of unlimited use; they will power all the magic in the building, both the magic of creating it and the magic of any continuing effects. There is no need to make the effects perpetual, as the crystallization technique will re-cast them form the device as often as necessary. These spells are called the Solution [in the sense of a chemical solution, not the answer to a problem.] Some good examples:

  1. Creation of rooms, corridors, plazas, etc.
  2. Lighting. We have one sort of lights for dwelling-places (gentle and controllable), and another (bright and nourishing) for farm-rooms and atria.
  3. Fresh air — crucial in a building which may be arbitrarily or even infinitely large, with windows only on its outer surface.
  4. Water
  5. Waste disposal
  6. Temperature control
  7. Furniture creation
  8. Fireproofing and other invulnerabilization
  9. Scrying Windows. In most crystallized edifices, most of the rooms are indoors. People who come to live in a floating city do not, I think, wish to live indoors and never see the sky! So Kismirth apartments have windows which show the outside, even for rooms deep in the interior of the city.
  10. Gardening — an atrium or indoor garden every few blocks does wonders for the comfort and sanity of the inhabitants.
  11. Pools and bathing facilities — crucial if you’ve got Orren.
  12. Animata to be servants to the inhabitants. After some considerable debate, we didn’t do much of this for Kismirth. But there are animata doing a few of the most unpleasant or widespread tasks, plus the farming-golems and the like.
  13. Animata to provide directions to those trying to make their way around the place.
  14. Internal Teleport gates: A straightforward teleport spell has a range of, say, twenty feet. The exterior of Strayway is only fifteen feet from tip to tip. Teleport spells built into the crystal go by real-world distance, so a very simple teleport can go from anywhere inside Stray to anywhere else. I did not do this in Strayway or Kismirth — I did not think it was safe, with so much Locador around. I hope it is, in fact, as safe as the mathematics says it is, since I have found two distortion-induced teleport gates in Strayway.
  15. Levities: places where people and objects are levitated and whisked from one spot to another.
  16. Time Distortion: Our Quick Quarter and Slow Section are expanded by crystallization.
  17. Levitation and transvection, if you are building a floating city from scratch.

The crystallization method exploits these items mercilessly, but does not add to their power. If, for example, you were to use a device that cast a day-long light spell 12/day, only twelve cells in your city would have light each day. (But if you used a device that cast perpetual light 12/day, twelve new rooms in the city would get perpetual light spells each day.) An unlimited-use day-long light spell device, or even an unlimited-use one-second-long light spell device, would be enough to illuminate every room in the building constantly.

(Unfortunately, deep in the crystal, the power of these items is distorted and recombined in troublesome ways.)

Then one constructs a Form, the outer surface of the edifice. It could be as flimsy as a gigantic cage in the right shape, as for Kismirth, or as solid as a thousand-year-old fortress as in Talujjan’s original crystallization project. It is simply used to guide the crystallization and establish its outer boundary. One may also establish certain large features, such as the radial avenues of Kismirth, by including them in the Form. There’s a bit of enchanting or spellwork required to get the Form to be a Form rather than a simple cage: nothing too hard, and, in the case of a Kismirth-sized building, something that can be done by making a suitable magical tool and giving it to an enthusiastic non-wizard.

The actual edifice will start out more or less following the plan, where it starts. Easy crystallizations start with a single room (or suite of rooms — the technical literature calls it a cell, but I rarely remember to call it that. It’s not a jail-cell or a monastic cell, in any case. It’s either a big room like a restaurant kitchen, or a suite of rooms for an apartment, in Kismirth.) More elaborate crystallizations create cells lining the entire border of the edifice — I did that for Kismirth. I believe that the first cell to be grown will follow the plan precisely. After that, there are no guarantees.

Crystallization proceeds from the existing rooms. The initially-created rooms are called “first ply”. The rooms created next to the first-ply are “second ply”. Those next to only second or later ply are “third ply”. Alarmingly, this pattern continues and proceeds, giving each room a ply number. To a first approximation, the first-ply rooms are normal and Planly, the second-ply rooms nearly so, and each ply a tiny bit less Planly than the previous ply.

Each cell is attached to the one-lower-ply cell that inspired its creation, and, generally, to all the cells in the area whatever their ply. The connections are architectural or Locadorical. Ideally, a door in one cell will simply open into a door the next cell; the wise architect will include a certain number of doors on the outside of each cell. But if there are no doors, the crystallization will make its own openings: perhaps a mirror on the wall of one room is a mystic portal into the arch of a pair of trees in an atrium. If the design of the room fails to include any such proto-portal on each relevant wall, the whole wall may become an oversized portal, which rather defeats its purpose as a wall. (In the extreme case, a cell that is simply a cubical room without doors will get every wall, floor, and ceilining converted to a portal, resulting in a room which only levitation can use — even touching the floor will send one elsewhere. This is very silly and only happens in one sector of Strayway, and not at all in Kismirth.)

If one tries to draw a map of what cells connect to what, one will surely be disconcerted, or become drunk. Under no circumstances will even the second-ply cells fit properly into [Euclidean] three-dimensional space. A cubical first-ply cell should have five neighbors, one for each face other than the one on the boundary. The first cells of my various essays in Strayway had between six and eleven neighbors.

Incidentally, from the inside, a cell always seems to be of a simple shape — a cube, say, or whatever was designed. But from the outside, cells are tiny, and decrease in size with each ply.

A sensible crystallizer will attempt to rein in this process, making each ply a fraction of the size of the one before it, so that the whole edifice will be of finite size. This is not guaranteed to work, even for the best crystallizer. Often an inner-ply suite will wind up following a mutant Plan which has lost the controls on the size of the process.

This will lead to unboundedly large sections of the city. (They will not be infinitely large — at any given time, the whole edifice has a finite size. But parts of it will constantly be growing, and there is no limit on their growth.) These sections get increasingly off-Plan, making them interesting or troublesome to inhabit. After some point, they can get uninhabitable in any number of ways. A waste disposal spell, intended for kitchens and toilets, might destroy any organic matter that doesn’t resist it, including clothing and children. An atrium cell might mutate into a vast jungle, or a solid cubic mile of thistles. A fresh air spell might make fresh but unendurably cold air, or air full of a deafening sound of birds chirping. In general, the usable part of the edifice will be finite; beyond a certain point it will be useless or impassable.

On Tinkering With The Crystal As It Grows

The beginnings of the crystallization are fairly slow. One has plenty of time to stroll through the cells as they begin to exist, to note flaws and infelicities in the Plan. One may wish to — shall we say — include a light-spell that one has forgotten. Or, out of a spirit of whimsey, to see how big a dining hall one can create. It is straightforward to add new first-ply rooms, with their own Plans which need not have anything to do with the original Plan. These new first-ply rooms will start to accumulate their own plies of architecture around them. (One may wish to destroy an unfortunate-seeming cell. Resist this temptation! It will probably do horrible things to cells for a dozen plies all around.)

The excitement of that happens when the crystallization with one Plan meets that with another. The border between the two will evolve its own compromise Plan. The results are quite confusing. But Strayway does have eighteen regions with their own consistent — and somewhat different — architectures. We generally lived inside of one of them and didn’t visit the others very much.

For Kismirth, we actually used all the room-creators and such, following the Plan ourselves, and tinkered with things before we started the crystallization. The first-ply rooms in Kismirth are greatly satisfactory.

On Tinkering with the Crystal After It Is Grown

One of the peculiar concerns with crystallized buildings, as different from real space, is that doing things to one cell may influence the cell’s neighborhood. In Vheshrame, if you install a new door in your house, nothing at all will generally happen to your neighbor’s house.

In Kismirth, if you do so carelessly or unluckily, you change the flow of magic through the crystal. So, installing a new door in your house might create a similar door in your neighbor’s house — or, more likely, will cause a new sofa to appear there, or make the lights a few percent brighter, or cause their air to smell faintly of lilacs.

(Only very rarely does the appearance of a door in the neighbor’s house inspire a door to appear in the house beyond that. Such a chain reaction is possible, but each cell in turn will attempt to resist it, and usually succeed in resisting it, and if a single one succeeds, the chain ends there.)

Major changes may have drastic effects for several houses around. Knocking out a wall between rooms in one cell might replace all the kitchens within three cells’ distance by swimming pools, or cause bedrooms and all their mundane contents to vanish, or cause ceilings to shrink to three feet high. We did this thrice in the depths of Strayway to see what would happen, and those are the three effects we got. We are trying to keep people from doing this experiment in Kismirth.

Crystallization and Kismirth

We used the technique to fit a whole household in Strayway, using the space distortion to the fullest. This is traditional for architectural crystallization projects. And by “traditional” I mean that the dozen-or-so crystallization projects that weren’t purely experimental up to that point all did that.

For Kismirth we took the opposite approach: the greater part of inhabited Kismirth is first-ply cells, almost comprehensible as if they were ordinary space if you don’t think about it too hard. (If you fret that, though those apartments that have front doors three feet apart, both those front doors open onto twenty-foot-wide rooms, you are thinking too hard.) Even the second ply of Kismirth has a distinct semblance of reasonability to it, though if you inspect too closely you will discover that it is actually spatially impossible even if you can’t tell the difference between three feet and twenty. We expect people to live mainly in the first ply, or perhaps the second.

In fact, we tried to stop the crystallization after the second ply. This failed. Failure was mathematically inevitable, according to hCevian and Feralan, and we knew it in advance, but we had to try. There are so very many rooms on the second ply. Each room on the second ply has its own slight variation of the Plan — or rather, a variation on a variation on the Plan. Some few of those variations admit a third ply … we know of fourteen such places, but there might be more.

So there are fourteen places where the third ply has started to grow, and they will presumably evolve their fourth and fifth and twentieth plies, and in time they will be wild chaotic regions bigger than the ordinary part of Kismirth. This is one of several reasons why we made the city walls of Kismirth so strong and so adjustable: one never knows for sure, but there might at some point be something in those regions which we wish to keep out of the downtown.

Kismirth carefully includes plenty of doors on the edges of each cell. No mystic teleportation mirrors in every apartment for us! Furthermore, these doors are all very heavy: solid eight-inch slabs of meng [comparable to bronze -bb], reinforced with internal lattices of Sir Glass [not far from steel -bb], and equipped with heavy bars and bolts on both sides. You sometimes see such doors at the fronts of banks in Vheshrame. The crystallization method requires that you have doors into to your neighbors’ houses. But they don’t need to be doors that either of you can open. (But, if you do want them open — e.g., if you occupy a first-ply apartment, and your family becomes large, and you want the uninhabited and barely-visited second-ply apartment behind it too, it can be arranged quite easily.)

Some Technical Details

  • The various Plans of Strayway each fit on a single scroll of some thirty feet. The Plan of Kismirth takes up a substantial book of two hundred and eighty pages.
  • I did not mention the Boiler (Boil the Architectural Construction) spell, which is a rather heavy Creoc Mutoc Sustenoc Locador Tempador Magiador Spiridor ritual spell, required to get the Form, the Plan, the other enchantments, and the seed to actually start crystallizing.
  • One can control the speed of crystallization. Strayway grew at hundreds of rooms per day. Kismirth started at dozens per day; we turned it up to myriads per day for a while, when we were satisfied that it was going well, and then down as low as possible when the first and second ply were largely finished. Unfortunately ‘as low as possible’ had gotten to be … we’re not quite sure, but hundreds per day, mostly in the fourteen third-ply-and-beyond regions.
  • The Form has to be enspelled by a simple but regrettably twisty spell.

Comparison with Other Methods

There’s really nothing to crystallization that you couldn’t do in more traditional ways. The city of New Kottarnu on Aradrueia, for one place you may have heard of [In the World Tree novel A Marriage of Insects -bb], has been doing it the traditional way for a thousand years.

We used crystallization because it is super-cool because we wanted to distribute the benefits of a number of magic items throughout the whole city. So, rather than requiring the dwellers in each room in Kismirth to provide for their own water, fresh air, fireproofing, and so on, we do it all at once for everyone.

Traditional approaches are a bit less frenetic. While one does, not infrequently, accidentally construct huge (or sometimes honest-to-”Here” infinitely) large places with dubious and dangerous content and eccentric local rules, crystallization all but guarantees it. Perhaps more troubling is that traditional approaches usually construct a new space and are done. Crystallization is not done; it continues and proceeds and goes on, probably forever.

Given sufficiently skilled people (and especially if you have a Locador demon helping out, and a Glory of one of the relevant gods), crystallization might well cost less than other approaches: perhaps as little as half as much.

Game Mechanical Hints

[There are no concrete rules for crystallization.]

[The intent is that a mage (or a group of mages) with relevant magical arts of 30 or so, and Enchantment and Ritual magic of about 20 could undertake a Strayway-size crystallization project, taking a handful of years' total effort -- which is how long Sythyry took. Much of this time is required for the Solution: a dozen unlimited-use magic items will take some dozens of weeks. Another significant chunk of time will take place after the crystallization is started: watching it grow, and guiding it. Building a Kismirth-class city is a larger effort, but could be done by half a dozen well-chosen prime mages whose best arts were in the 40's, with a few having Enchantment 25 and and at least one having Ritual magic of 25, in a handful of years.]

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