Talents are people born with specific psychic abilities. Some people have more than one Talent, others have rather broad Talents and others have limited Talents. These abilities work through a combination of biology and instinct encoded on a genetic level. For most, they do not have to learn how to perform the action so much as they have to learn how control it.
By comparison, the average person lacks the biological and instinctual differences that allow for some of the more specific Talents but are still capable of performing magic, shaping or channeling.
Magic works by sort of telepathically tapping into the instincts involved. The lack of any microscopic biological differences and the effort of maintaining the connection to the sample providing the instinct does produce a significant lack of efficiency, but a magician or magi can reproduce most Talents this way. The downside is, of course, that magicians need to have access to the appropriate blood or other sample while magi have to accept the price of whatever spell they cast.
Shaping is a roundabout way of coming to the same result of a Talent. While the Talent will go in a straight line from intent to action, a shaper will have to take each step with deliberation. There’s often a lot of careful, slow manipulation of Life-Force going on during the course of a shaping. Even so, shaping rituals always include a large amount of inefficiency and reducing that inefficiency in established rituals is one of the most frequent aims of shaping related research.
Channeling forgoes the desire to reproduce exact effects and simply makes use of brute force manifested Life-Force. By condensing Life-Force to the point that it not only visibly manifests but actually has a discernible physical impact, channellers are able to create protective auras or make damaging attacks. By flooding their bodies with Life-Force they are able to support the body and allow to surpass normal limits with little to no physical injury. However, the range of effect is quite a bit more limited than what is displayed by the variety of Talents and for every channeling trick there is at least one set of Talents that generally performs that trick better.
Looking at the basic facts, one would assume that Talents are the most dangerous psychics while in practice that title falls to the magi, magicians and sorcerers. This is the truth despite the significant differences in efficiency between the learned psychic skills and Talents. The reasons for this are fairly simple.
One reason is versatility.
A Talent usually has one particular thing they do very well, whether that is creating fire or being super strong. That one thing they are exceptionally efficient with and can often learn to be even more efficient. A channeller, shaper, magi or magician will often have a large range of tricks that they can perform. True, there are some things that do not overlap very well. A channeller can’t raise two auras at once, and adding more and more enhancement effects on top of each other gets progressively more difficult. Still, the fact remains that a channeller can make it so that they are both superhumanly agile and superhumanly strong at the same time. They may also use Life-Force as a direct assault on either the opponent’s body or their own Life-Force while protecting themselves. A Talent might be born with one or two of these four abilities.
Likewise, shaping is slow compared to a Talent but has the same benefit of versatility. An electrokinetic might be able to build up power instantly and a death seer might be able see and hear ghosts just as a matter of course, but a shaper is capable of both producing electricity and seeing ghosts if they take the proper time. So, again, it is a matter of a Talent being born with masterful level efficiency in one trick as compared to someone who is aware of many tricks.
In addition, Magic requires a source for the borrowed power, but again, they do not have near as many limits as to the sorts of effects they can produce. Magic falls between shaping and channeling for speed of use and is probably the least efficient of the psychic skills. That said, it allows for greater versatility than channeling and takes less time than shaping. The down side is that improvising magic spells or recipes is usually much harder than it is to improvise channeling techniques.
Another factor is mastery. Talents are born with an instinct for using their particular Talent, but they don’t particular know how it is their Talent works. Channellers and shapers, who have to learn each step in the process with deliberation, are often far more aware of the implications, limitations and limits of any particular Talent they’ve attempted to replicate. Magic falls behind in this case, with particular recipes and spells generally only recreating specific applications of a Talent rather than the Talent as a whole.
In addition, it is possible for a channeller, magi or magician to master a particular technique or spell to the point that it becomes indistinguishable from a Talent. With magi, this occurs only in avatars and apprentices who each have very close relationships with their patrons. If a particular spell is drawn on often enough, it produces a steady genetic drift in the magi until that spell becomes a part of their being rather than a spell. With channellers, this occurs with frequent practice of a specific technique until the steps become second nature. While not quite the same, shapers are capable of producing some limited bodily transformations so that a person might acquire a Talent, though it is usually not safe to transform the self.
Another factor is mindset. Not all Talents are like or are even interested in their abilities. Some just don’t think about them at all, others actively dislike them. Of the population of Talents, those who learn more than the minimum necessary for health and safety are rather limited. Trained psychics have actively sought out their skills and worked hard for them. It is thus much more likely to find a sorcerer or magician who has thought of multiple practical applications of their abilities than to find Talent that has spent exhaustive time mastering their own ability.
Mindset is especially important when thinking about how dangerous channellers and, by extension, sorcerers are. Throughout all history, the primary purpose of channeling was to prepare for war. While some channeling techniques, like accelerated metabolism or enhanced strength, have broader applications than just fighting, the fact remains that channellers are trained to be ready for battle. They are the most likely to effectively improvise some battle appropriate stratagem or technique on the fly. They are less likely to be shocked by the realities of combat and they are more likely to keep a tight rein on their own emotions.
The last factor that applies to all three of the psychic skills; magic, shaping and channeling; is the fact that almost anybody can learn these skills. This sounds like it’s a concession at first: “oh, you can’t read minds naturally, but you can sort of learn a weaker version of it from so and so.” This is overlooking the point, however. Talents narrowly outnumber trained psychics in general and heavily outnumber channellers and sorcerers in specific. This is true even if you count the overlapping cases where a Talent has picked up one or more of the skills. But there are a lot more channellers than there are of any one Talent.
What this means is that there is a broad pool of training and tricks for magi, magicians, channellers and shapers to draw from. Any ritual, spell or technique developed or improved upon by one person can be used by another regardless of species. By comparison a firestarter or telekinetic will be mostly self-taught. Even if they have family members that are also Talents, those family members will likely have similar categories of powers without having exactly the same powers, and controlling telekinesis is not quite the same as controlling pyrokinesis. The sorcerer and magician Families have extensive training programs and technique, ritual and spell libraries. Among Talents, only telepaths and death seers have established schools of thought and training programs.
More than any other psychic, sorcerers and magicians benefit from the discoveries of those that came before them.
The Domains and Realms of Gods and Demons actually represent the extreme potential of what channeling can do. The Gods and Demons are able to achieve such things through a combination of their Understanding and their interconnected mindscape allowing them to draw on others within the same mental framework for extra power as they need it. But here cultural differences come into play since each individual Immortal focuses their efforts on developing the uses of their power within the theme set by their Domain or Realm. As such, they are mostly self-taught psychics taking advantage of their lack of aging. This is of overall benefit to the Gods and Demons, however, given that the spells that each develops for their Domain or Realm can be relatively easily accessed by anybody else in the same mindscape via magic.
It should be noted that Gods and Demons still default to channeling itself for the purposes of battle. In addition, the Immortals also turn to shaping when they are performing some task like treating Life-Force corruption, enchanting items or building dimensional shards. The reasons are the same, there are for more existent tricks for channeling and shaping than there are for even each Domain and Realm.