Dunamancy

"There are so many mysteries around these beacons, around dunamis, what it's capable of."

— Essek Thelyss discussing dunamancy[1]

Dunamancy is the ancient and esoteric study of the magic called dunamis that is based on potentiality and probability. Dunamis was discovered independently by several nations and explored to manage and control time, gravity, fate, and possibility.[2][3]

Dunamancy and its unique spells are a homebrew creation of Matthew Mercer.

Description[edit | edit source]

Official art of a drow dunamancer, by Irina Nordsol from Explorer's Guide to Wildemount.[art 1]

Dunamis is an ancient arcane magic, perhaps one of the oldest in Exandria, which Caleb Widogast referred to as a fundamental force. As a school of magic, it relies on the inherent potential of things, and can affect chance, time, entropy, and space.[4] It is surmised that dunamis may hold the entire universe together. As a force, it appears as a shimmering, translucent gray mist.[3]

Dunamancy subclasses[edit | edit source]

Background and scholarship[edit | edit source]

The Beacons' origin[edit | edit source]

When the Luxon arrived in Exandria, it discovered the Primordial titans, born from the elemental chaos. They fought, which led the Luxon to believe that there was no consciousness in the elemental chaos and that souls were lost to the darkness. The Luxon broke into scattered beacons that would enact a cycle of rebirth for those who were bound to its light in hopes that those beings would gradually learn and mature, and one day something would find and reassemble the Luxon.[9]

Aeorian research[edit | edit source]

Before the Calamity, residents of Aeor found at least one Luxon beacon, which provided them with a source for comprehensive research. Athodan was focused on the field of rejuvenation, working on the Factorum Malleus Project, which loosely translates in Common as Hammer of Creation.[10]

In his research, Ayoshadaf from the Genesis Ward of Aeor explored the transmutation aspect of the artifact and influence on the passage of time. They discovered one could temporarily shunt to a point in one's history or even move beyond it, leaving an anchoring echo behind. Individuals who spent more time in the past than predetermined had their echoes fade to the point where the person would disappear.[11] Scientists named this research the T-Dock Project or Temporal Dock.[12]

Centuries later, Caleb Widogast and Essek Thelyss, two of the few individuals who knew of this experiment, both decided not to utilize its powers to change the tragic events that happened with Caleb's parents, Leofric and Una Ermendrud, but to terminate the research instead. Caleb used Disintegrate to destroy everything in the chamber.[13]

Kryn Dynasty and consecution[edit | edit source]

The Kryn Dynasty has found four pieces of the body and named them the Luxon beacons. These relics became critical to the Dynasty's study of dunamancy, allowing them to learn how to manipulate gravity, entropy, and time.

Following the discovery of beacons, the principal Kryn Dynasty dens learned how to connect a soul to a Luxon beacon and manipulate time in the manner that extended their lifes, which became known as consecution. When a consecuted creature dies within one hundred miles of a Beacon, its soul does not move into the afterlife, but rather relocates into a newborn infant within one hundred miles of the beacon in question.[14]

Cerberus Assembly study[edit | edit source]

Official art of Yeza Brenatto researching a Luxon beacon, by Tyler Walpole from The Mighty Nein Origins: Home.[art 2]

In Dualahei 836 PD, the Dwendalian Empire discovered a beacon in the ruins of Shattengrod outside of Pride's Call.[15] The Cerberus Assembly, working within the Soltryce Academy and experimenting with time and reality, also uncovered the principals of dunamancy.[16] During their study, the Assembly hired Yeza Brenatto in Felderwin to attempt to extract the power of the dunamantic field from the beacon and distill it into a potion for military purposes.[17] His experiments resulted in large areas of people surrounding the apothecary he worked in to feel sluggish or move at unnaturally fast speeds.[18] Yeza eventually was able to distill a single vial of dunamis power and there were plans to make more, even considering the costly and time consuming process.[19]

Trent Ikithon of the Cerberus Assembly had found some students who showed signs of being skilled at Dunamancy[20][19] and grounded his own laboratory in the Vergesson Sanatorium, where he was conducting research on a Luxon beacon.[21]

Independent research[edit | edit source]

The Mighty Nein gave the vial of distilled dunamis they recovered from the Brenatto apothecary to Essek Thelyss, who was interested in studying it.[22] Essek also told the Nein about two known cases of time travel using Dunamancy. In one instance, the subject never returned, and in the other, the caster returned but immediately turned to dust.[23]

Known spells[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

Campaign 2: The Mighty Nein[edit | edit source]

"Xhorhas" (2x51) After emerging from the worm tunnels into Xhorhas, the Mighty Nein were ambushed by a pack of gnolls, a Kryn Dynasty warrior, and a mage. The mage cast two dunamantic spells- Compress Gravity[36] and Vacuum Blast.[37]

"Domestic Respite" (2x62) Essek Thelyss taught Caleb two dunamantic spells during his visit in the episode. He mentioned spells that revolve around density and gravity (referencing the subfield of Graviturgy) as well as fate, destiny, and potentiality (referencing the subfield of Chronurgy).[38] In the end, Caleb chose to learn about fate and Essek taught him two dunamantic spells: Fortune's Favor and Gift of Alacrity.[39][40]

"A Tangled Web" (2x77) Essek escorted the Mighty Nein to their visit with the captive Scourger. When she attacked Caleb, Essek killed her with a dunamantic spell (likely Gravity Sinkhole). Back at the Xhorhaus, Caleb persuaded Essek to teach him two more Dunamancy spells: Immovable Object and Resonant Echo.

"Sarsaparilla, Licorice, and Red Hot" (2x127) Caleb used Gravity Sinkhole- reverse engineered from when he had seen Essek cast it- numerous times in the Mighty Nein's robbery of the Vergessen Sanitorium.

"Hunter and Hunted" (2x133) In the fight with the frost salamanders, Essek cast Magnify Gravity. In preparation for setting the Intuit Charges, Caleb and Essek both cast Fortune's Favor.

"The Streets of the Forgotten" (2x134) Essek and Caleb both cast Gravity Sinkhole during the fight with the Aeorian hunters.

"The Genesis Ward" (2x135) While investigating the Genesis Ward, the Nein found the Rejuvenation Chamber, emanating dunamis energy. When Fjord used one of the rejuvenation terminals, he got the benefit of a long rest even though only a few moments had passed. The aura of dunamis in the chamber increased strongly as time was accelerated within the cylinder. Caleb entered the cylinder but it appeared to be out of power. Essek inspected the purple gem on the second, damaged terminal and called Caleb over, pointing out that within it appeared elements of space and drifting possibilities, like a smaller, weaker Luxon beacon. Essek then used magic to destroy the cylinder, releasing the diamond-shaped dark purple gem, which he gave to Caleb.

In preparation for battle with an Aeorian nullifier, Essek used the Chronurgy subclass feature Arcane Abeyance to store the spell Lightning Bolt in a bead, which he gave to Veth.

"Where There Is a Will..." (2x138) When the Mighty Nein were concerned about having no time to rest before facing Lucien, Essek suggested using dunamancy and the crystal they had taken from the Rejuvenation terminal to create a skip in time, granting the group the benefits of a long rest. With Caleb's help, Essek completed the experimental spell, destroying the crystal and reinvigorating the party.

"Rebirth" (2x139) In preparation for the fight with Lucien, Essek cast Fortune's Favor on himself, Caduceus, and Jester. He used Arcane Abeyance to store the Haste spell, and gave it to Yasha. During the battle itself, both wizards cast Gravity Fissure.

"Long May He Reign" (2x140) Essek cast the spells Tether Essence and Gravity Fissure in the battle with the Somnovem Omega.

"Fond Farewells" (2x141) When Trent Ikithon attacked the Mighty Nein, he was wearing a necklace of condensed dunamis energy, which he used to cast Time Stop.

Campaign 3: Bells Hells[edit | edit source]

It was heavily implied that Ashton's head injury was repaired in part using a Potion of Possibility stolen from Jiana Hexum,[8] which was verified after Bells Hells retrieved a similar potion from the Paragon's Call[41] and after Imogen and FCG, while probing into Ashton's memories, saw Milo pouring that potion into Ashton's injury.[42] Imogen also saw a number of different possible Ashtons as she probed their mind.[43] Ashton also saw the dunamancy symbol in their dreams, and had drawn it on the back of their jacket.[44]

Bells Hells later noticed an object that matched the description of a Luxon beacon in the Malleus Key, though they could not identify it as such at the time, and Ludinus Da'leth was able to accelerate the passage of time.[45]

Allura Vysoren was finally able to identify the source of Ashton's powers definitively as being dunamantic, and indicated that they seemed to oddly balance out his elemental nature as imbued in him by the shard of Ka'mort.[46]

Behind the scenes[edit | edit source]

  • "Dunamis" is the classical pronunciation of the Greek word δύναμις (dynamis), meaning "power", "potential" or "ability", and is central to the Aristotelian idea of potentiality and actuality.[47]
  • Caleb disintegrated the time machine to remove the responsibility and worry of the missing potential of time travel from anyone who could've found it. But Liam imagines that, for the next 20 years, once a day, Caleb will be internally regretful, thinking: "Maybe it would've worked". Matt was worried that, if Caleb used the machine, it would've radically changed the story. He would've allowed Caleb to travel back in time, but capped him from "doing anything too crazy and unraveling the whole timeline", or gave him a limited amount of time.[48]
  • Matt did a lot of research in anticipation. When the party got closer to Aeor, he invested time reading research papers on time travel and diverging timelines, single timelines to make sure he understands the theories based around its capabilities or a lack thereof. [48]
  • Matt revealed in "Critical Role Campaign 2 Wrap-Up" (Mx10) that if Essek and Caleb had failed the check to get a long rest with the dunamis crystal, rather than getting a long rest instantly, the party would have been sent one day forward instantly without any rest.[49]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Dunamis appears to heavily rely on a notion not entirely unlike the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics - that multiple versions of us exist based on possibilities explored or left to explore across multiple timelines. Each of the members of the Mighty Nein, save Mollymauk Tealeaf, who opted never to use the beacon, have experienced this sensation in their use of the Fragments of Possibility. However, having much more experience with this magic, the Kryn echo knights and dunamancers seem able to call upon their alternate selves to aid them in battle, in the forms of shadowy echoes.
  • Although some spells (like Reverse Gravity) are not considered part of the dunamantic studies, it is believed that facets of this magic are blended in their essence. Trent Ikithon proved this by using condensed, manufactured dunamis energy to cast Time Stop.[50]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "The Fancy and the Fooled" (2x97) at 3:56:13.
  2. Matt Mercer on Dunamancy - Explorer's Guide to Wildemount for D&D
  3. 3.0 3.1 Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 182.
  4. "Red Moon Rising" (3x50) at 3:27:03.
  5. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 183.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 184.
  7. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 185.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Promise and Potential" (3x22) at 3:54:40.
  9. "Critical Role Campaign 2 Wrap-Up" (Mx10) at 3:34:45.
  10. "The Genesis Ward" (2x135) at 1:11:20.
  11. "Hell or High Water" (2x136) from 48:09 through 57:06.
  12. "Hell or High Water" (2x136) at 56:31.
  13. "Fond Farewells" (2x141) from 6:39:05 through 6:45:58.
  14. Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 6: "Wildemount Treasures", p. 268.
  15. "Unwanted Reunions" (2x88) at 2:59:25. As of 14 Thunsheer, had been found a few weeks ago
  16. "Commerce & Chaos" (2x31) from 1:40:21 through 1:41:00.
  17. (@VoiceOfOBrien) on Twitter: "Liam O'Brien "[.. refining the method with each step until we can certify its use in combat"]" (January 18, 2019).
  18. "Homeward Bound" (2x48) at 3:32:43.
  19. 19.0 19.1 (@VoiceOfOBrien) on Twitter: "Liam O'Brien "Attempts to isolate a substance capable containing and sustaining the dunamantic energies within a casing has proven both time consuming and costly, but I believe it is only the beginning stages."" (January 18, 2019).
  20. "Homeward Bound" (2x48) from 3:31:51 through 3:35:49. Jester and Nott read Cerberus Assembly notes on Dunamancy.
  21. "Unwanted Reunions" (2x88) from 2:15:55 through 2:18:54.
  22. "Stone to Clay" (2x91) at 1:17:05.
  23. "Stone to Clay" (2x91) at 41:56.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 24.5 Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 189.
  25. "Intervention" (2x63) at 1:57:10. Caleb casts Gift of Alacrity.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 186.
  27. "Xhorhas" (2x51) at 1:56:25. Then named Compress Gravity
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 188.
  29. "Intervention" (2x63) at 1:20:52. Caleb casts Fortune's Favor.
  30. Although initially the spell did not consume the pearl, this was changed with the release of the Explorer's Guide to Wildemount. See Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 186.
  31. "A Tangled Web" (2x77) at 1:58:54.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, Chapter 4: "Character Options", p. 187.
  33. "Xhorhas" (2x51) at 1:58:07. Then named Vacuum Blast
  34. "A Tangled Web" (2x77) from 2:02:11 through 2:04:54.
  35. Matt teased a spell consistent with the description of Tether Essence: Matthew Mercer (@matthewmercer) on Twitter: "Oh don't worry...there's a higher level spell specifically dealing with Quantum Entanglement. ;)" (February 16, 2019).
  36. "Xhorhas" (2x51) at 1:56:25.
  37. "Xhorhas" (2x51) at 1:58:07.
  38. "Domestic Respite" (2x62) from 1:53:30 through 1:53:53. Essek Thelyss mentions the possibilities with dunamis spells
  39. "Domestic Respite" (2x62) at 1:54:15. Caleb learns two dunamis spells
  40. Images of two new dunamancy spells acquired in "Domestic Respite" (2x62): Liam O'Brien (@VoiceOfOBrien) on Twitter: "CR SPOILERS . . . . . . . Doom a Nancy." (May 17, 2019). (backup link)
  41. "What Dreams May Come" (3x34) at 2:24:30.
  42. "Pyrrhic Return" (3x35) at 3:42:24.
  43. "Pyrrhic Return" (3x35) at 3:51:25.
  44. "San Diego Comic-Con 2023: Fireside Chat & Cast Q&A" (Mx19) at 23:13.
  45. "The Apogee Solstice" (3x51) at 3:16:57.
  46. "A Gathering of Heroes" (3x76) at 1:10:03.
  47. Definition on Wikipedia and Wiktionary.
  48. 48.0 48.1 "Critical Role Campaign 2 Wrap-Up" (Mx10) at 3:10:15.
  49. "Critical Role Campaign 2 Wrap-Up" (Mx10) at 3:44:57.
  50. "Fond Farewells" (2x141) at 1:55:16.

Art:

  1. Official art of a drow dunamancer, by Irina Nordsol from Explorer's Guide to Wildemount. This file is a copyrighted work. Its use in this article is asserted to qualify as fair use of the material under United States copyright law.
  2. Official art of Yeza Brenatto researching a Luxon beacon, by Tyler Walpole from The Mighty Nein Origins: Home. This file is a copyrighted work. Its use in this article is asserted to qualify as fair use of the material under United States copyright law.