Contamination is the constant erosion of either physical or elemental material while present in the opposite plane.
Origin and purpose Edit
Contamination results from the collision of the two mutually incompatible frameworks that govern the behavior of physical material and raw elemental material.
As one example, water and elemental water - while often appearing visually similar - are fundamentally different substances, and as such they are not intended to exist side-by-side; if they did, the behavioral differences in an otherwise apparently consistent substance could destabilize other frameworks and thereby lead to entropy.
On highly developed worlds, it is possible to create a third framework over time which allows for the mingling of physical and elemental material, creating a hybrid substance with its own inherent properties. Given that contamination is present on all worlds by default, its absence is a telling indicator of advanced civilization. This is of course by design - or, more accurately, by Design.
Contamination begins immediately when physical material enters an elemental plane, or when raw elemental material or energy (which are roughly equivalent) enters the physical plane. The process itself is built on two things:
- recognizing that said material does not belong where it currently is; and
- eliminating it, piece by piece, until the material is entirely gone.
Material is contaminated, or more accurately disintegrated (item 2), at a consistent rate based on available surface area; on the physical plane, elemental material completely surrounded by other elemental material is immune to the effects of contamination until the surrounding material has been stripped away. This explains why elemental spirits who intend to spend as much time on the physical plane as possible will almost always take a spherical shape, which has the smallest possible ratio of surface area to volume.
Material under the effects of contamination will disintegrate entirely, given enough time; it is not replaced or exchanged with anything else, but simply annihilated.
Countering contamination Edit
Apart from the formation of the third framework mentioned above, there are two ways to counter the effects of contamination: avoidance and regeneration.
Avoiding contamination involves bypassing the recognition factor that initiates it; i.e., if material is not considered out of place to begin with, contamination will not occur. Deception forms the core of this method, and as such Deception magic works exceedingly well in this regard, although it is not the only approach.
Regenerating through contamination involves reconstructing one's form at a rate exceeding that of contamination; while the process will still occur constantly, there will be no lasting effects from it.
For most mortals, this method requires a significant and constant expenditure of energy, limiting its use to casters with high stamina or those possessing artificing skill (or the aid of an artificer). As in any other situation, regeneration may be approached in a variety of ways.
For elemental spirits, regeneration is automatic due to the existence of an internal conduit; however, as conduit strength varies widely between individual elementals, a weaker elemental - or one using its conduit output for purposes other than regeneration - may succumb to contamination and be forced back to its elemental plane after a certain amount of time. Once an elemental is strong enough, or rather has a high enough output from its conduit, it may choose to remain on the physical plane indefinitely.