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Street Magic lists a section of rules on the design philosophy behind spells. Basically, there is a list of the most important things not to let spells do. Core Assumption #8 is:

Sorcery Cannot Create Complex Things
Though spellcraft can transform energy, spark elemental forces, and even provide nutrition, no magicians have yet determined a way for sorcery to create complex items (such as a gun or even a hammer) from mana alone— despite the best efforts of research corps to date. Sorcery can be used to fix and sometimes transmute complex items, but the days of summoning weapons from nowhere have not yet arrived.

However, the spells [Element] Wall and Shape [Material], among others, seem to grossly violate this assumption. Ice is even specifically listed as an example under both of those spells, allowing a Magician with both to create a wall of Ice and then shape from it a sword, hammer, or other object provided it can be made entirely out of ice. While this may take a couple rounds for solid materials like Ice or inflict a -4 sustaining penalty for loose materials such as sand, it nonetheless would seem to allow players to trivially violate the listed Core Assumption. Violating other Core Assumptions by the published spells is very difficult and generally can only be accomplished in appearance rather than fact, if at all, so it is surprising to me that spells that create material (Like [Element] Wall, all Indirect Combat spells, Mist, etc) exist. Am I misunderstanding the Core Assumption? Am I adjudicating creation spells wrong? What am I missing?

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I would say it's a combination of two wrong assumptions:

A hammer is a poor example of a "complex object"

Core Assumption #8 seems to mean "objects made of several materials and parts can't be made with magic". A gun is a good example. A hammer... not so much. Sure, a hammer has almost always been made from at least two parts and two materials, but it's still very basic.

I would say the actual meaning of this Assumption is better defined by its last sentence:

Sorcery can be used to fix and sometimes transmute complex items, but the days of summoning weapons from nowhere have not yet arrived.

You shouldn't be allowed to make swords/hammers with Shape[Material]

All the examples listed under the spell are very rough:

This spell allows the caster to rapidly dig holes, redirect streams, fill balloons, create a path through a fire, construct a barricade, or create a doorway where one didn’t exist be- fore.

All those have the accuracy of a shovel, meaning they're stuff you could do with a big magic shovel. While it's not explicit, they are definitely not on the same level as "forging a balanced, solid, and sharp sword". Basically you can move the Material around, not craft it.

Even disregarding those two previous points, you still can't violate Core Assumption #8

Let's say we accept that summoning a hammer out of thin air would mean you managed to beat Core Assumption #8.

Let's say we accept that you can do more than move stuff around with Shape[Material].

You first cast an Ice Wall. You then cast Shape Ice, and proceed to shape a part of the wall into something looking like a hammer. You can't make a complex object, but you can make something that looks like a stick with a big block at the end.

Finally you look at Teg'yll McAllister, your teacher at the Magic Academy of Dublinwarts, with pride, confidence, and a "hammer" made of ice.

He looks back at you. He looks at his student who cast two spells, took a couple minutes carving something that would make the Flinstones look like an advanced civilization, and is now claiming he broke one of the fundamentals laws of magic.

He sighs, and makes you copy a hundred times: "Sorcery can be used to fix and sometimes transmute complex items, but the days of summoning weapons from nowhere have not yet arrived."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, so basically if you made a hammer out of just ice (or a really badly weighted sharp thing with a crude handle) that really shouldn't count as a complex object, even though the book kinda sorta says so, because that's dumb. Complex objects are things like cars and guns and toasters and spellcasting just isn't there yet, even if it's able to, say, make a ball-bearing or a snowman. Core Assumption 8 is not about overcoming something impossible, it's about overcoming something society will probably begin to overcome in a few decades. Is that right? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Apr 11 '17 at 5:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, an objection to your second part, "The material can be moved and reshaped in any way the caster desires, at a maximum Movement Rate of (net hits) meters per turn". But your first and third parts are the real meat of this answer ( the second part addresses a single spell, even if I picked a bad example, which I don't think I did, I could find others. Moving stuff around even with fine detail is fairly well within the scope of spellcasting), so it's not that big a deal. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Apr 11 '17 at 5:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I think that's it yeah. Not because those are technologically advanced items, but because they're made of several assembled parts. Even a sword would be out of question, since you can't make a spell that makes a hilt and pommel and blade etc, pre-made and pre-assembled. And all ways to go around it apparently involve several spells and post-processing. So basically, Core Assumption #8 might be summed up as "a spell that instantly creates/summons a complex object is not possible". \$\endgroup\$ – Cristol.GdM Apr 11 '17 at 6:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think folks are severely underestimating what it takes to craft a hammer. Gripable handle, precision head, strong enough to hammer sharp metal things, don't transmit impact to hand, nail puller, proper balance for amplification of swing, head doesn't come off. \$\endgroup\$ – Detective Chimp Apr 11 '17 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DetectiveChimp "don't transmit impact to hand" That's what I was missing! I actually searched online for the reason why hammers were made of separate parts and not of one block, and couldn't find anything. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Cristol.GdM Apr 12 '17 at 2:08

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