Daniel Black Open Thread

There seem to be a lot of people who still want to talk about what Daniel ought to be doing and what enchantments he should be working on, so I figured I’d give you a better place to do it that the comments of an unrelated post. I may even answer a few questions, as long as they don’t give away anything I have planned for future books.

Of course, the answer to most questions of the form ‘why hasn’t Daniel done X’ is ‘he hasn’t had time’. At the end of Extermination it’s only been about three months since he was summoned, and he’s been insanely busy for that entire time. So his enchantment work has focused almost entirely on things he could do quickly, without having to spend much time figuring things out.

The other point I want to mention, though, is that Daniel isn’t intended to be some perfectly hyper-competent superman. He’s just a guy who had enough brains, imagination and determination to get the job done, at least so far. But there were several places where I intentionally had him do things that turned out to be a mistake because it fit his attitude at the time, or because he had no way of knowing better. That’s going to continue to happen in the future, although he is learning.

My inspiration for Daniel actually comes from some of the more capable players I’ve met in tabletop RPG games over the years. You know that guy who can debate everything from Napoleonic military tactics to advanced space launch technologies? The one who keeps bypassing the GM’s carefully constructed plot complications by doing something clever but sensible instead of just charging after the obvious plot hooks? The one who always seems to be overpowered, because he reads all the rulebooks and carefully min-maxes his  characters? That’s Daniel.

The trouble is, it’s a lot easier to talk about things than to actually do them. Real life doesn’t come with a rulebook, and just because you watched a video about something once doesn’t mean you can do it. So even with the huge cheat of mana sorcery, there’s going to be a lot of trial and error in Daniel’s future.

He’s still frustrated that he can’t remember how a Geiger counter is supposed to work…

6,401 thoughts on “Daniel Black Open Thread

  1. There’s something nagging at me about INTREPID’s force bubble vacuum lift cells.

    I suspect the enchantment which inflates them cannot REINFLATE a “broken” bubble while it is deflating, because of the assumptions Daniel made when he first created the spell.

    That suspicion is driven by Daniel’s descriptions of how many minutes it would take, and what he plans to do in that sort of emergency.

    There’s no reason for waiting so long, or for INTREPID losing much altitude. He’s working with vacuum, not helium. At any moment he suspects he has a problem with a force bubble full of vacuum he should immediately begin creating a new force bubble inside the failing one. He could even design his enchantment to schedule this process every hour for each force bubble on the airship, to keep the vacuum hard and clean.

    In fact, if Daniel ever figures out or remembers Geiger counter technology, he can create a good, hard vacuum for the tube(s) by generating several force bubble full of vacuum, one right after the other and starting at the same center point, until very few atoms of anything remain inside the final cell.

    I suppose he could then cast a matter to mana spell on whatever atoms were left inside that final cell to make a nearly perfect vacuum.


    1. Why would he bother? What would be the difference to just pumping more mana into the existing bubble? It is a force construct. It should actively expel air. It looks to me that the reformation of the bubble works because the way it works because it needs a smaller surface at first to form.


      1. Given Daniel’s and INTREPID’s usual surplus of available mana, there’s no practical difference between “pumping more mana” into the bubble and recasting the bubble. That being the case, it’s more desirable to replace a failing bubble enchantment with a new, presumably stable force bubble.

        Why would Daniel be recasting the enchantment? How would a force bubble be damaged?
        – Some enemy has successfully made a dispel attack which has caused unrecoverable damage.
        – Some sort of physical attack has caused unrecoverable damage, overwhelmed the mana reserve, etc.

        No, atmosphere is not “evicted” from the force bubble.

        Only a tiny amount of atmosphere is ever actually inside the force bubble, when Daniel’s enchantment creates the first tiny bubble and expands it. That results in a large volume of air with a tiny number of gas atoms scattered through it. Probably a few bits of pollen, dust and pocket lint as well.

        As Elin points out, there may be some air seeping slowly INTO active force bubbles, depending on how good Daniel’s enchantment is. That discussion was part of what inspires me to suggest all Daniel needs to do is recast the force bubble vacuum lift cell enchantment immediately, INSIDE the failing bubble. There’s no conflict, unless the author rules otherwise.

        Maybe two enchantments overlapping in time and the same physical volume is a bad thing?


      2. How much does a force bubble weigh? It should not weigh anything. So why doesn’t he just do an onion effect. Cast a whole bunch of force bubbles inside of each other and then if one fails just expand the other ones recasting a new one in the center dispelling the one on the outside that failed.


      3. Yeah, that’s another possibility, DaShoota.

        Each “onion layer” would be activated and maintained by its own section of a large, composite enchantment or by its own separate enchantment, and therefore adds a little more complexity as well as a little more mana demand.

        I would say the “onion layer” idea is worth testing, but I suspect a sufficiently powerful dispel is going to whack all the currently instantiated force bubbles.

        I suppose it’s worth forcing the enemy to expend more energy if multiple “onion layers” are more difficult to dispel. Maybe a few of the innermost layers would actually survive a dispel and then make the transition to a full size lift cell quicker.

        Otherwise, it’s probably less cumbersome to immediately recast the lift cell enchantment and start creating a new force bubble as soon as your flight status divination spell notifies your airship’s flight safety enchantment that a new lift cell is needed.


      4. “So why doesn’t he just do an onion effect. Cast a whole bunch of force bubbles inside of each other and then if one fails just expand the other ones recasting a new one in the center dispelling the one on the outside that failed.”

        That is a good question and it leaves me with two possible answers.

        1. Daniel did not think about it. Given that he worked even on an altimeter and an autopilot I consider that unlikely.

        2. He cannot form a large force bubble in a vacuum. Now this may seem odd, given that it needs to do no work and hence should be easier. But there is something strange about his thrown force bolts and saws and consequently about the force bubbles on the Intrepid.

        Daniel could, as he built the Intrepid, not do magic more than a short distance from himself and, presumably, an enchanted object. So how does a huge bubble work? One possible answer is that he actually casts a spell on the air. Obviously that would not work in a vacuum.


      5. Oliver, I like your reason #1 best. Daniel had a lot on his mind and just did not think of multiple layers of force bubbles.

        As for potential inhibitions against multiple layers, I proposed Daniel might not want to or be able to cast two or more identical spells inside the same volume at the same coordinates.

        We don’t see that prohibition anywhere, and I don’t have much faith in it, but it is a possibility.

        As for maximum size of force bubble, remember the description of INTREPID’s lift cell hardware.

        There are “masts” rising up out of the hull to the centerpoints of the force bubbles.

        Daniel does not have to worry at all about maximum size of force bubble. He can adapt his enchantment so that it happens only at the centerpoint, or all along whatever length of mast he builds. All he has to worry about is how ridiculously clumsy is that set of four or five or whatever number of masts.

        What I would really like to see is at least a brief comment by Daniel about the amount of additional mana required to expand a large force bubble even larger.

        It seems to me there are some exponential factors when calculating/generating the surface area of a sphere….

        Yep, that would 4*pi*(radius squared)


      6. I like the idea that he just didn’t think of it yet. We’ve actually seen him go through that multiple times. Then pretty much do a facepalm where he says it seemed like a simple solution now that I look back on it. We’ve seen him do similar things in the past books. So it seems like the more obvious and reasonable solution to why he didn’t do it. It just hasn’t crossed his mind yet he’s too busy to worry about it now.


    2. His matter to Mana enchantment actually works by converting the energy of the atoms into manna. If he cast that spell on a vacuum it would never stop converting energy into Mana. It should in theory switch over to converting Quantum photons into manna. That would be the Casimir effect. Basically energy being created from nothing.


      1. Ooooh…good one, DaShoota.

        I was actually intending that Daniel would cast his matter to mana spell on the few remaining atoms of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, or others in that near vacuum he creates inside his expanding force bubble lift cells.

        The implications for quantum photons is interesting, though. I wonder if Daniel eventually uses something like that to power an interstellar spaceship?


    3. Ha! As it happens I’ve been reading the series again and am in the middle of THRALL. Remember when Daniel created a magic factory that produces hexagonal pins of tungsten that are heavily enchanted with OVERLAPPING wards and other protections?

      I believe we can safely say that Daniel has no issue casting identical, powerful enchantments whose effects overlap multiple times in very nearly the same physical location.


      1. Also in a vacuum? And I might note that those force plates were very close to their origin, as opposed to Intrepid’s force bubbles.


      2. Oliver, did you catch the part where Daniel enchants the end of a mast with his force bubble?

        He is NEVER casting that force bubble into a vacuum, the way the story is written. There’s always a piece of metal stuck in the middle of what will become vacuum. The mast reaches all the way outside the vacuum AND the force bubble to attach the lift cell to the hull of INTREPID.

        That mast has to survive some very interesting stresses during flight operations.

        As for OTHER moments Daniel might have cast a spell into vacuum, look at his fight with the assassins inside the SunSpire at the end of THRALL. There’s an instance where he creates a vacuum around himself.

        “Countering fire with water would be too obvious against these guys, so instead I triggered another of the devices on my belt. A force bubble formed just outside my wards, and expanded to form a bubble of near-vacuum that quickly filled the chamber. The fire went out, revealing a giant glowing worm floating in the air. I dialed the power on my staff back down and fired off a burst at it. It died a lot more easily than the last monster, its body not nearly as well armored.”


        Again, he’s using an enchanted item. That might partially answer your question about spells and vacuum.

        If Daniel has a situation where he needs to cast a spell into an area that contains nothing but vacuum all he needs to do is summon a block of stone inside it and enchant the stone to create the spell effect. Or, summon a chunk of stone into his hand, enchant it with the spell effect he wants, then put the stone inside the vacuum.

        Has anybody noticed a situation where Daniel is unable to summon stone or other materials?

        His enchanted items seem to be able to summon bullets even when flying a mile above the ground.

        He needs physical contact with his enchanted items in order to control them.

        He can use force magic to pull his items to him, or pull him to his items.


  2. Here’s a fun idea that probably won’t ever happen.

    When Daniel is totally frustrated and exhausted from defending everyone and everything he’s built at Black Island, and it looks like there’s just no dodging the next Lightbringer assassin, or the next one, or the one after that…I know how he can run away someplace safe without breaking all his promises to protect Cerise, the groves, clan Nethwillin, etc.

    He promised Alanna to give her a tour of the entire Solar System, right? But he’ll want a substantial spacecraft to provide all the food, air, hot showers, hot tub, hot women, kitchen, armory, gardens, workshops, defenses, weapons staff, crew and more.

    He can have both. Just build one more hugely massive expansion to Black Island that fully encapsulates everything he has already constructed and launch the entire complex to Mars.

    If he’s feeling really obnoxious, he can leave an unoccupied duplicate shell behind with a ginormous boobytrap bomb inside it that vaporizes everything as soon as the first booby touches any part of it.

    If anyone suspects he’s not really dead THIS time, are they going to look as far away as Mars?

    By the time they figure out how to get there, will he still be on Mars?

    Alpha Centauri beckons and Alanna has an insatiable appetite for exploration.


      1. How would anyone know Daniel took Black Island to Mars?

        Sure, his launch might be spectacular…or might not. Since he uses mana and elemental force there’s no need for him to be splashy. The island might simply vanish overnight, leaving a booby-trapped empty shell behind to confuse people for a while.

        Somebody might guess he took off into space rather than transitioning to his own pocket universe. Maybe a divination spell would give up more details? If some deity looks for him hard enough, will they find him on Mars? Can he and Alanna and a few other high-powered magic slingers shield the whole island from discovery?

        I suppose artifacts like the Dark Portal would make attacking a hideout on Mars a viable threat.

        Then there are those Gods Of Mars….

        Well, maybe Alanna will get her wish and the expedition will have to continue moving from one location to the next, one planet to the next, etc.


      2. He hasn’t really demonstrated any mastery of teleportation magic yet, so he’d probably go with some kind of reaction drive. I suppose he might “invert the polarity” of some of the matter he summons, making matter with negative mass, and thus anti-gravity, but that’s pretty advanced physics, and he’s admitted that he’s not Nobel material.

        You’ve got a point that anyone who noticed him leaving wouldn’t necessarily know where he was going, unless they can figure out how to track him.


      3. The real question would be about there being gods on Mars?. Apparently in the book you need life to have some form of God or Elemental/Great Beast. If there is no primordial mind or life for them to touch no matter how primitive or advanced. Then there probably will be no such creature showing up there. So the real question is was there life on Mars if there was are some of their own Great Beast still running around?


      4. The existence of magic changes a lot. Earth has life that’s basically *made* of magic, so why shouldn’t Mars? It *might* not, but we don’t know what, if any, environmental conditions are necessary for magic-life as opposed to bio-life.

        Given magic-life on Mars, the environment might well have been modified early on in a way suitable for the development of bio-life, and thence higher-order magic-life (gods). Would make for an interesting space-operatic possibility:-).


      5. Ah, you are correct, Jabrwok.

        Sylphs Of Mars, UNITE! Defend your world. Throw off the foreign yoke!

        Since we know there are volcanoes on Mars, there would also be Fire Elementals.

        Since we know there is a saltwater lake under one of the icecaps we know there are Water Elementals.

        Those imply Earth Elementals and other fun spirit creatures.


      6. NASA seems to be right on the edge of finding some sort of microbial life on OUR version of Mars, maybe even alive today in that saltwater lake under one of the polar ice caps.

        If we find that much life, add magic and just about anything is possible on the Mars in Daniel’s new universe.


      7. Yeah, but I just finished reading the whole series again and noticed that divination might just be flexible enough to “track” him down. It probably depends on how good the wards are.


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