In the world of Crystal Heart, magic a is magic a. In other words: Not only is all “magic” part of a consistent system, this system is also simply a part of physics. (Also see Sanderson’s First Law)

In other words, all “supernatural” effects created by Crystals (and remember, anything supernatural can be traced back to a Crystal) are, in fact, part of the regular physics of the world, and therefore can be discovered by the scientific process. It might be hard, perhaps beyond the capability of current technology, but it’s possible. It’s not, in fact, magic – everything is natural.

That being said, the world of Crystal Heart is obviously using other rules than our own. The Crystal Bam-Bam allows its bearer to infuse inorganic matter with crackling energy – where does this energy comes from, and what it actually is (it’s not electricity, for example), isn’t clear – not to the characters, and not to the players. To maintain consistency, you don’t really need to know the physics, you just need to imitate it well enough.

Theme is Queen

A Crystal’s theme is the first thing we say about it, its main feature (trappings are more important than powers). The theme informs us of the Crystal’s powers and of their trappings, and also tells us how the effects created with this Crystal typically interact with the effects of other Crystals.

All such effects, after all, are in the same “playing field” – simply, nature – but not everything in nature interacts in the same level of “power”. If you shout across a room filled with radioactive radiation, your voice won’t be distorted in any meaningful way; if you shout across a room filled with water, your voice will go through various meaningful shifts.

As a rule of thumb, if something matches a Crystal’s theme, it should interact with its powers. In some cases, this is obvious: If I have a Crystal that’s all about controlling fire, and there’s a fire, I can control it; I can’t control water. It becomes especially important when we compare Crystals against each other.

A Mental Plane, or Something

Let’s look at this week’s page. Raffaela is using her Crystal, Life Sense, to try and make some people fall asleep. Raf’s Crystal allows her to perceive awareness and push against it, and that’s what we’re seeing as pink tendrils: Raf “disrupting” awareness. Think of it as countering a source of soundwaves with another source of soundwaves.

No one else is able to perceive these pink things, but they’re technically “real” and actually there. All Crystals have a physical manifestation, it’s just that some of these manifestations can’t be sensed by anyone except a Crystal bearer with a similar theme. Trombone and the valet can’t see into “the mental plane” or whatever, and so they can at most sense the Crystal’s effects. (It has no effect since she failed, but still.)

Does this mean there’s an actual “mental plane” in this world? I guess, but it doesn’t really matter. No scientist is able to explore this plane, no one is able to say anything about it, except for people who have a theme that has something to do with it; so instead of keeping track of this plane, we can just keep track of these themes.

For example, Muna’s Crystal is all about reading thoughts, which is kind of close to “awareness”, right? So I would have given her a Notice check to see if she can sense some of the ripples Raf generated. Perhaps she senses them only vaguely – a disturbance – or perhaps she can even say where it comes from, and what power is being used (maybe she’ll need a raise to get this extra information). Maybe she takes a -2 penalty to the roll, because sensing thoughts is too “focused” compared to the much general “aware of awareness” thing; or maybe it’s the other way around, because being able to sense thoughts is like holding a scalpel while influencing awareness is like holding a hammer, and the delicate can easily note the doings of the crude.

This might differ between gaming tables, as each group interprets the interactions of themes in its own way. There’s no one definitive way to say how themes interact, and that’s intentional, to allow for creative use of Crystals and supernatural effects. We want things to be a bit mysterious, a bit unclear, and always open to new surprise – but this doesn’t have to come at the cost of your suspension of disbelief. As long as your group is consistent with your interpretation and its implications, just roll with it and see where it leads.