Magic in Edgewhen depends on a person’s ability to resonate with certain elements and on the skill a person has in manipulating those elements. How common are these skills?
The easiest way to answer this is to make an analogy with a skill in our world. Let’s consider singing.
How common is singing?
Most little kids sing. Maybe not very well, but they sing.
Most adults don’t sing. Unless they’re in the shower. Or drunk. Or at church. (So if you want to hang out with uninhibited singers, you should build a church with a giant shower in the sanctuary and serve free liquor.)
Among the Children of Knowledge, magic is kind of like that. Everyone practices elemental manipulation in school, but once they grow up, they leave the magic for the talented people.
I said most adults don’t sing, but of course that’s not true. In my culture, most of the adults I meet are less likely to burst into song than I am. But in other cultures, people are less embarrassed about singing.
Every culture has situations where singing is appropriate. In some cultures, these situations are more frequent.
It’s like that in Edgewhen, too. Some peoples have common magical talents that most everyone uses every day. Among other peoples, magic is practiced by only a select few.
Everybody can sing, but not everyone sings well. Some people just can’t hear pitches. Some people have unmelodic voices. Some little kids can go on tour before they turn ten.
In Edgewhen people do have innate limitations on their magical abilities.
No matter how hard a soprano trains, she’ll never be able to sing bass.
In Edgewhen, the same is true of magic. No person has affinity for all nine elements. Affinity for more than three elements is very, very rare.
You Can Improve With Practice
When you practice something, you get better. If you don’t like the way you sing, you probably won’t believe me when I say you could get better with practice. So let’s talk about woodworking.
If a carpenter showed you how to make a chair, you could probably make one. And if you made a hundred chairs, you would be better at chair making than when you started.
The same is true of magic on Edgewhen. People who practice magic get better at it.
But as with singing, people who think they can’t do magic never practice and never get better.
So How Common is Magic?
Magic is a skill that everyone on Edgewhen has in some degree. Usually this degree is so small that they believe they cannot do magic.
People who are willing to use their meager skills can do very, very weak magic. Those who practice get better.
But very few people put in the effort required to develop their skills to the point where they could use them to earn a living. They choose to spend their time on other pursuits.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Do It?
Magic is pretty cool. It might be hard to believe that someone would choose to ignore their magical talents.
But in our world, rock stars are pretty cool. In fact, “rock star” is sometimes synonymous with cool.
Everyone is born with some ability to sing. So why don’t we all grow up to be rock stars?