The Fifth World, to put it bluntly, didn’t have any. Those magicians you thought could do it? Very few if any were actually doing anything that could be considered real magic as we understand it today. Once the first of the Great Dragons showed up alongside a bullet train, though, we started to see what magic was really capable of. All those things you saw in the vids and trids—people shooting fire and lightning from their hands, tracking people with their blood, communing with spirits and making deals with the devil, what have you—all of it is real and more.
To tell the truth though, magic was heralding its return even before Ryumyo reared his lizardly head. Kids started being born funny: some were short, strong, and capable of seeing in the dark, others lean, quick and unusually attractive. No FLKs in that latter group, you can be sure. This was the first instance of what the labcoats started calling UGE, or Unexplained Genetic Expression. Dwarves and elves weren’t just fiction anymore—they were cold, hard facts.
Ten years later, they became almost normal after Goblinization hit. Within twelve to seventy-two hours after the first signs, formerly “normal” humans started growing additional muscle mass, height, even horns and tusks. This gave us the fantastical orks and troll species of what we now call metahumanity. Before you ask, yes, racism is still a very real thing, though now it’s not just the color of your skin.
Of course, now that magic had revealed itself, metahuman nature started to kick in, and as these things generally progress, someone started to figure out how to consciously use it—often in their favor. In most cases, these tended to be people in those groups that already had magically based traditions, primarily native groups like the Indian tribes and the like, who figured out how to use spells and drek like that; this also meant that we could create all those items you heard about in the stories, too, like magical weapons. Obviously, we call it something other than a +5 Vorpal Claymore, but you get the drift.
Let’s not forget that people who can do certain things tend to band together and do silly things like “research” and “development.” The Draco Foundation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Thaumaturgy, the Atlantean Foundation, and others are all looking for ways to figure out how, exactly, this crazy stuff works. They pay pretty well, so keep them in mind if you find anything interesting.
All this jazz about magic has probably got you pretty excited to see if you’ve got the chops for it. I’m going to burst your bubble though, chummer: you probably can’t. Most of us don’t. If you do though, be prepared to have people look at you funny, since at the end of the day that’s what humans do whenever they see something they can’t understand. You’re also most likely to be the first one seeing the wrong end of a weapon, too, so keep that in mind as well.
One more thing before I wrap this up: remember how I mentioned Ryumyo earlier? The Great Dragon who popped out of the Japanese volcano? Yeah, he’s not the only one around. There’s a bunch: Lofwyr, Hestaby, Celedyr, Ghostwalker, and more. They’re big, they’re inscrutable, and they’re incredibly, unbelievably dangerous. I’ll end this section with a reminder of the fourth rule of ’running: never, ever deal with a dragon. If you do…well, you deserve what you get.