As usual, I’ve paraphrased some of the questions slightly. If you think I’ve mangled your question, let me know and rephrase, and I’ll tackle it again in the comments below. Some of the questions are going to be a little beyond the scope of what I can comprehensively tackle here, but I’ll see what I can do.

Also… there was a LOT of questions, so… bear with me, going to do my best.

In World Questions:

How did the current Malsan Government come into existence? Did it used to be a monarchy?

This is partially a story untold as of yet, but it has a lot do with the advent of technology introduced by the IDS quite a while before the story started, as well as the formation of PACT and some large shifts in global power structure. The Malsan Families were not technically a monarchy – the woman often called “Princess” is not, in fact, a princess, and the governing power did not rest with a single family, but with a council of different Family heads that made up the effective government at any given time. That said, the current government is not actually that different than previous government in principle, but very different in practice. There was, in fairly recent history, a mostly peaceful drastic reform to the government that came about for a few reasons, but it’s worth noting that the Families are still pretty widely popular in Malsa. The public story is that Family Council decided to turn power over to the civilian bureaucratic government, who in turn appointed to the Consul to lead the country. There is certainly more context to that, and there are certainly those don’t take that story at face value… but that’ll have to do for the purposes of this question. 🙂

Do the old Families in Malsa have just symbolic power and functions, or are they actually financially or otherwise supported by the state, and what rights do they have in return?

The Families, in living memory, had effectively complete power, though they were frequently contested amongst themselves in their policies. Some theorize that they turned power over to the civilian government as they were too gridlocked along Family lines to effective govern, but who can say if there’s any truth to that. In practice they were simply above any law they themselves didn’t write and enforce, but they were pretty well liked, and generally seen as beneficial, or at least, something of celebrities.

This may seem odd, but other thing of note is that this is a world where a handful of powerful mages tend to define a fair bit of your countries right to sovereignty. Without the Family mages, it is unlikely that Malsa would have enjoyed its autonomy on the world stage, as invasion of Malsa would mean war with the Family Mages, which, if united, is something that even Orish Warmages would probably view with some trepidation. Compared to nations like Arpon that had to invest heavily in their military for much less returns, this made the Families quite popular. Even if they effectively profited hugely off the citizen layer of Malsa, they were still far cheaper than a classic military and the R&D associated with it, and mostly you could count them only really being a pain for other memebers of the Families, as they have a pretty high code of conduct and discipline internally insofar as dealing with average civilians.

A lot of this is grounded in the fact that the Families were always intended to be the military defense of the country; how they ended up ruling it is a story of another time, but one that goes back more than a hundred years. Essentially, they were previously (hundreds of years ago) under a different authority and were formed quite intentionally, but after the fall of that government were the remaining power structure. If they had anything to do with the fall of that government… well, that’s another question entirely.

Is the government of Malsan democratic? What are their elected officials, and what are their unelected officials? How are their votes counted?

There are effectively three branches of government in Malsa at this point, only one of which is truly democratically elected. There is the civilian government that was historically bureaucratic in function, they didn’t really set policy, they just executed it and ran the internal affairs of state (school systems, infastructure, etc) but have things like their budget for each assigned to them, which means in practice their power, while not insignificant, is not really that extensive. However, after the reformation of the government and Families abdicating legislative authority back to the civilian government, they appoint the Consul, who, has almost unilateral power. In theory, they can recall the Consul, but in practice that is exceedingly unlikely for a variety of reasons, one of the main ones is that she has the support of the third branch of government, the Families.

While the Families in practice have had their power of governance removed once again, they still represent the vast majority of Malsa’s military strength, and tend to effectively hold most of the high ranking military positions, and most of the civilian government still sort of view them as the authority, even if the Office of the Consul know controls all the executive and legislative power that the Family Council previously held. Many of the ambassadors of Malsa are still from the Families though, and have never been recalled under the new government, so they still have a huge amount of influence and information into the affairs of state abroad.

How does this compare to other nations? Like Orin’s form of government?

Malsa form of government is currently a little strange, but not entirely unheard of – the oddity of it is mostly in the historical role of the Families and their current role. Ruling party governments are pretty common, and many in the comic world would call them the modern application of a monarchy, where voting has some degree of input, but cannot displace the ruling party. To avoid being overly political I’m not going to use real world examples of this, but think of this sort of as a one-party democracy. These set ups usually have a very powerful head of state, even if they are technically elected. In way, the Consul of Malsa is similar to these positions at this point. Alternatively, there are quite a few large and well established more democratic nations with ruling councils or parliaments entirely elected by the people.

The government of Orin would probably fall under a “ruling party” government. They have elections to an extent, but they have had the same political party in power for several decades.

Can magic prevent aging, and how does that impact the power structure (as people could in theory continue to amass power indefinitely?)

Hmmm. This is a more complicated question than it might seem. Let me put this way – there is not a single spell that ends aging permanently, i.e., you cannot visit the magical witch doctor and just become immortal. That said, certain magic users do not really age if they have ability to perform the level of magic they need to repair or reverse certain elements of the aging process, but this was historically not widespread in either Malsa or Central, as both of them really only had one half the puzzle. In Malsa, science as we understand it was less advanced in many ways prior to contact with Central, and in Central, magic is still in its infancy in widespread usage.

That said, it’s pretty complicated to alter how humans work, especially without causing various side effects, and especially for changes that will have any sort of lasting power and not simply revert when stop paying attention. For example, just because you know what an appendix is, and you have a scapel, most people aren’t going to survive a self-administered appendectomy, and using magic on someone else – though possible, is a lot harder. Not to mention that executing a change on that scale (both mirco in application and massive in data changed) would be really hard – i.e. heavily reliant on a users Key for translation. We’ve met a few people already in the comic who don’t age normally, and there are a lot of magical scientists furiously working on the problems involved here. I guess the short answer is that it’s there’s not currently a universal magic to end aging, but neither is it viewed as impossible.

There are other solutions to aging the comic, for example, it is unlikely that Mium’s prototype will ever die of old age.

What are the designer children, and how do the interact or relate with the Families?

This is a question that I’m not going to answer too much more than we already know, but I will note that its not a coincidence that designer children and descendants of the Families share certain traits. On the note of aging, it is generally expected that designer children – at least, many of them – are likely to live a good bit longer than non-designer children, which the term “ageless” tending to be tossed around for some of the latest models, and tend to be virtually immune to disease – not entirely naturally, but due to edits in their immune system and other changes, there are medications and vaccinations that work drastically better for them.

Some people worry that the fact that they have some consistent and fairly inhuman genetic markers to enable these processes to work would/will lead to a supervirus that they would be all susceptible to, but this isn’t an unaccounted for problem.

Now I really don’t have the space here to get into the full ramifications of how Designer Children impact society, but it is wide reaching and vast for a lot of reasons… and something we will see play out throughout the background of the comic and future Q&A’s as we go.

What is the in-world theology and how does that provide a framework of morals and right and wrong in-comic? Fundamental nature of existence, place in the universe, etc?

Eeep. Pass. Nah, haha. In essence religion both for central and Palindra (the name of the world the Malsa is on) is too complicated to really tackle as it exists in many forms in both. The religion of Central in particular is something we’ll see more of the background of the comic as we go, as it was drastically impacted by a few events that are in living memory – not just the Incursion, but the role that hidden magic societies played, as they tended to be steeped in traditions that were long faded from the general populace.

As far as the fundamental nature of existence, morality, etc… those can be pretty complicated. There are definitely people in the comic that draw morality from their religious beliefs, and those that don’t – there are those that argue that Eidos is proof of their religion and those that argue that Eidos is proof of atheism – there are those that argue the Key is synonymous with the Soul and those that argue that it’s a piece of the brain that humanity doesn’t understand yet.

Ultiamtely Eidos is not really denied, but all that really does is change the context. Some believe that if you could perfectly read Eidos data, you could read the Eidos key of an individual and know the meaning of their existance, but this is just the belief, a mythology that people in the comic build around having the concept of an Eidos Key – and Eidos Key itself is not really a “thing” people can point at, but most people that use magic think it is a “thing” that exists, and is real enough that there are a lot of people trying to make artificial ones.

At what speed do Eidos programs respond to input?

This is a complicated question, and I’m not sure I’ve gathered the full context correctly, but I will try. There is a few pieces here.

  1. What is the time between writing data in Eidos and the effect happening the real world? This is effectively nonexistent… but some people argue not actually nonexistent. It’s incredibly hard to measure though, as most things that could measure time of whatever the scale it would be don’t have the ability to pierced Eidos data.
  2. A stable Ethereal Construction (thing green or red) that’s designed to to react to things; how fast can it process information and respond? This really depends on what it is, and what crutches the caster has leaned on to make it. For example, Kally’s dragon reacts about as fast as Kally’s mental notion of a dragon reacts – you can’t just change this without fundamentally changing what makes a stable construct stable. It acts like it has a muscles and bones and so forth, because those are short hands for how a creature like that moves. Puppeting a creature manually is almost impossible (like, we’ve seen Tyler make a giant cylinder and move it up and down, which can be done, but trying to walk a different creature with your mind is almost impossible). So essentially it needs to have a basically self contained simulation of responding to input like a creature that it is modelled after would. For example, lets use a mousetrap. Someone makes an ethereal mousetrap, it’s going to snap close about as as fast as a real mousetrap would. Now, with something that simple, they review its data and change the “snapping close” speed of the the data construct. In general, it’s very hard to make constructs do things that the caster can’t, or that that don’t make sense for the construct to do because you’d be hard pressed to write the data into Eidos for what amounts to an unsolved equation. Unfortunately it is a good bit more complicated, as usually the construct still doesn’t have a coherent full autonomy, even if it has what looks like the basic personality, because the amount of data required to flesh something like that would be way way beyond what the caster could manage. Think of them like programmatic executions that are stored in the casters RAM (don’t shoot me computer people, I’m trying to split the difference here). In this example the RAM is the casters Eidos Key – while the Construct can run on its own internal logic, whatever processing gaps it has (and it has process gaps, or else it would be a real object) have to be supplied by the casters Eidos Key. This means that that more out of scope of what the construct is it goes, the more strain on the caster. In theory a fully sustainable Form could be written in Eidos that acted like a creature without input from its caster, but in practice, that would be as complicated a piece of data as an equivalent creature.
  3. How fast can data be written to Eidos? This depends almost entirely on the caster, it’s as fast as the caster can process Eidos data. As we’ve seen magic users can frequently run basic calculations reflexively very very fast – like putting up a shield in front of bullets. This is something that normal human can really do, but can be trained if they have magical aptitude, because, once trained, the time between cognition and actualization is tiny, the main lag is usually from the conception (deciding what you want do) and calculation (figuring out what Eidos variables need to be changed to do it), but if the calculation they want to use is either very ingrained or innately stored (for example, Kally’s dragon is a complicated calculation that she can bring out in the space of a few heart beats because she has the vast majority of the calculation just prebuilt and ready to run in a small part of her brain, or Tyler’s innate magic he means that for magic effects using that system he can skip calculation and go straight form cognition to actualization) they can execute at the speed of cognition + conception, and people that used to being shot at have honed the conception part to be only entirely reflexive as well, so all they need to really do is have the cognition part, which is just “gun->shield” and mostly subconscious. By the time they properly realize that someone is shooting them, the shield is there as it’s gone a parallel path to the parts of the brain that think about situations and manipulate Eidos data.

There is probably more to this question, but going to have to timebox is there. I got more questions to answer, people!

Can you talk about the difference between Mana and Calculation? Do autocasters have mana?

This is outlined slightly on one of the info pages. Mana is the force that cheats conservation of energy to produce changes in the real world based on Eidos data, Calculations is the the difference between what Eidos Data that represents the world that currently is and what the caster wants the world to be like post magical change.

I.e. if I want my computer mouse to be 1 foot higher, I need to go into the Eidos Data and change its Y axis to be +1 foot, and than supply the mana required to be the difference between the current value and the current value +1 foot. Of course, this would be genuine teleportation if I did that, which is almost impossible because positional Eidos data isn’t really something the human mind can understand, as “relatively to what” is actually a really complicated question in Eidos data, i.e. a spatial coordinate in Eidos data is string of information that would basically just be garbage to most mages – basically when I say Y +1, you can gather what I’m probably talking about, but Eidos data would have no idea what your talking about. Even other humans could apply a dozen different definitions to what that would mean.

What most would do is they’d change the acceleration or current speed of the object, as while both are far too complicated to explain in words, they have much simpler contextual data due to how much environmental data a mage can pick from their senses; this is part of what limits a mages range, is that the further from them they less of the contextual data they can process, and the more of Eidos data just looks nonsense.

What is the maximum range for magic?

This is actually related to the above question. I probably put them in order because of that. Anyway, the answer is that it varies. Most most rely on range of sight for how they invoke their calculation, but some magic can travel vast distances once invoked. Distance is just a variable to Eidos, but, due to the above, there’s a lot of reasons that it matters how far something is to the person using the magic.

Most long range magics are like fire-and-forget missilies (or ballastic shells). Basically you give it the information “Go fuck shit up that way, and keep going that way and fucking shit up” and the magic will operate until the change is no longer fueled by mana or physics. Certain things like Eidos constructs don’t really suffer from Environmental Variable changes as they are consistent enough to not really be impacted by those. That’s why a red construct, once made, can usually wander some distance from its creator without becoming inconsistent with its environmental variables and collapsing.

If something is shifted between dimensions, is it in the same place in the world it goes to, or can it also move distance as well dimension?

Haha. Nice try.

Could a spell be designed to follow logic encoded in a premade physical object in order to reduce the spell’s size?

Yes! You can build most of calculation and than store it for use later. This is how specialized autocasters work (i.e. autocasters that always do the same thing when triggered), and to a lesser extent how general autocasters work. Now, storing uncomplete calculations in something is not easy. Most mages (especially the combat variety) have a few mostly built calculations stored in their own mind – like the previously referenced “fuck I’m being shot put up a simple shield”.

Now, this can be taken to much further extremes, but we aren’t to the part of the story where I can play all the cards on this one. I will call attention to a few things though, like Nathan’s staff, Boost Engines, Autocasters, and a crowbar.

What about recursive spells? (as in recursive programs)

It’s possible but not without complication. The main problem is that if your change is effecting the material world (which pretty much any change to Eidos data is doing in some way) it requires mana and calculation, both of which are a problem in this instance, as they need to come from somewhere. In theory can you make an Eidos Form that creates – on its own – Eidos Forms? Probably, but that’s sort of the question, isn’t it? 🙂

Now you can do a simple recursive magic, yeah, but eventually it’s going to draw more power than you can supply. The benefit of this sort of calculation is that it doesn’t draw the same amount of calculation requirements as doing it as many times as you could manually, but the hard part is that a calculation with a recursive effect would be too complicated for most people to process.

This is where we get into trouble trying to use language to express Eidos calculations.

Now, there are some really important caveats to this one…

First, the more subsequent modifications you make to somethings Eidos Data, the harder it gets, because the further from reality you are. This is actually why most people like Naomi can’t fly. She can make a “you go up now” calculation, but each time she does that, the next one is more complicated until it’s too complicated for her to process in the time before she hits the ground, also the spell is more complicated when your at the mercy of more forces – i.e. its hard to calculate when your already falling because your environmental data is rapidly changing.

Second, people in world really want to do make a stable (self sustaining) recursive magic that creates energy. A mage can cheat conservation of energy (or at least they really look like they are, as how mana interacts with energy does not seem to be equivalent to the energy required to create the effect on the real world, though mana itself is not equivalent to physical energy, the amount of mana is based on the amount of change, not the amount of energy that would be created by the change). So, you either need something that handle an infinitely complicated calculation, something that clear and reprocess the Eidos data more efficiently (i.e. process precalculated data as efficiently as real data), or to cast it over and over again (hard to convince someone that can literally do magic to be a cog in a machine… not impossible though…. yeah that’s a bit of darker story for another time….).

What would a magic self replicating spell be like?

Hmmm. Good question… … … ….

Partially related to the above question. This would seemingly require an Artificial Eidos Key, but that’s impossible, right? 😉

What do the spell circles represent? What do they mean and how do you read them?

They are mostly stylistic.  They were invented when I realized I needed something to represent the calculations of magic being run, and are pretty much purely an artistic rendition of that. They use a mixture of nonsense, alchemy symbols, and more nonsense to look glowly and interesting. That said, there is some method to the madness of how I used which symbols I use, but I don’t recommend trying to decode it as its not really…… possible? It’s just sort of short hand.

How many other known AI like MYM are out there in the world?

Are we talking =, ==, or ===? I’ll answer the last one there, none 😉

Is Mir’s skin hard metal?

Nope, not really. It’s just grey and sort of shiny.

Why does Mium seem go back and forth between having armor plating under his skin and bones and flesh?

Mium has modified his own prototype a fair bit to make it better at things. While he leaves the skin coat alone as to look normal, that’s pretty much it. As for why it’s a hybrid of stuff, simply because that’s what works best. Biological tissues are great at a lot of stuff, especially as Mium runs certain biological processes – I don’t think we’ve seen him eat, but he’s implied he can, and we’ve seen Ila eat. And as we can see from Ila, the prototypes aren’t created at full size, they do ‘grow up’. It’s complicated.

The other is how did Peter and Naomi meet, and was she someone who Peter ‘found’ or was she a surprise?

Naomi would tell you she recruited Peter. Naomi plays a bigger role in some of Peter’s operations than it might seem at first glance, and it’s not like she has a certain veto power because he thinks she’d beat him up. I think we’ll actually eventually see how Peter and Naomi met, so I’m not going to answer the question fully here. In many ways Miko might be more precious to Peter, but Miko is sort of complicated, and thus not really a reliable grounding device for certain problems Peter has. Someone like Naomi who believes that almost anything is achievable if you know how to do it but also has actual (if sometimes… odd) morals is pretty much exactly what Peter needs in some instances. Plus, she fills a certain roll he needs of really liking to hit things, as Peter himself is not very useful on that front, and there are certain inherent dangers with relying on Mium for that too much.

Can Naomi out run a car?

In the short run, probably.

Can Naomi out run a plane?

Depends on the plane.

Can Naomi out run a rocket?

Probably not.

Making of Comics Questions:

What sort of tablet or drawing equipment should I buy if I’m not sure I can learn to draw a comic, but what to try?

I… really don’t know. Sorry. Personally I don’t think I could have gotten into drawing using the Intuos, so I started with a Cintiq, but that’s cost prohibitive to a lot of people. The problem here is I’ve never really tried most of the entry level tablets. I don’t really like drawing on my Surface Pro, but it’s perfectly suitable, so I’d guess any stylus display would work as an entry level to see if you’d like. I’d probably recommend on-screen Huion, as I hear their better, but I HAVE NEVER USED ONE, so find someone that has before spending money!

What’s a good way to write dialog?

Talk to yourself. Try to figure out how the character talks, and than read what you wrote in their voice. I don’t mean you have to be good at it, but try to come from the context of the character you’re writing. What do they know? How do they know? Don’t add verbal tics, but do add proclivities of speech. If Peter is saying something, he’ll say it sort of like a dick. If Naomi is saying something, she’ll say it like she’s having fun. If Miko is saying something, it will contain insulting, alliterative, overly worded and obtuse statements and be condescending unless Miko is talking to Peter. And maybe still then.

Try to pick up the dynamic between characters. I try to make sure the conversations between Mium and Ila are humorous, the conversations between Naomi and Peter are odd in the sense that they basically both just talk past each other but seem to be at an understanding, the conversations between Aaron and his subordinates are patient and informative.

How much of the story did you write before you started?

A lot of it. I’d had several iterations of this story and this setting. I don’t know that this is necessary, but I’d recommend you’re pretty sure you’re going to care about the setting for a long time, because you’re going to be in the webcomic writing business for basically life once you start 🙂

How much money does the comic make?

Enough to make me happy, but not enough to live off. It covers its expenses and provides me motivation to make more stuff for the fledging community around it, but I’m not about to leave my day job.

Can I play in your D&D game?

There is waiting list. I wish I were joking. Less joking terms, I think online technology is not quite there to play a good online game yet. At least, it’s not my cup of tea. Maybe someday.

How do I draw? I can’t draw. Please Help. [I would like to note at this point that this question is NOT paraphrased…, that’s actually what the wrote…]

Apply a pencil to paper or stylus to tablet. Scribble randomly. Congratulations, you’ve just made something better than the first comic I ever put on the site. Draw for 4 more years. Be way better at it than I am now. You’re welcome!