The biggest inspiration for The Thaumechanical Man was a fascination with how magic might be reduced to a science. For that to work, I needed magic to be extremely limited — something that could be defined like one of the fundamental forces of nature. What I came up with isn’t a great feat of mathematics, but it serves the purpose.
I started with the idea that thaumaturgy was linked to life itself. That’s a common enough theme. I toyed with the idea of it being linked to ATP, but wound up with something closer to a static charge that builds up in living tissue. That’s allowed me to theorize with it like any other hi/low pressure systems, but with different conductances and resistances, and it’s own set of quantum interactions. I may not have Maxwell’s equations around it, but it’s enough to keep my creative license from running away with consistency.
Alchemy is straightforward. It just moves traits from one material to another. At this point, the only traits that can be moved are ductility and tensile strength (tensor). There are issues with expanding beyond that.
My universe has several different grades of “magic.” The magics of each world are lesser magics — a single violation of a single aspect of physics. Nothing that requires a secondary power to survive, or that violates the laws of thermodynamics.
Bequests are more powerful. They can definitely violate the laws of thermodynamics, but usually they don’t have to.