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Describe your magic system

Discussion in 'World Building' started by thedarknessrising, Jun 4, 2015.

  1. nck

    nck Scribe

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    You said it seems preferable for writers to operate this way, which suggested to me you think it's a bad idea when they don't do it.
     
  2. StrawhatOverlord

    StrawhatOverlord Scribe

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    It seems preferable to me yes, that doesn't mean everyone should do it.
     
  3. StrawhatOverlord

    StrawhatOverlord Scribe

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    I've been saying it's just my opinion from the start. I know I said "the author should know the rules", but that doesn't have to mean a fully codified system, just have some idea of what the magic can't do. Absolutely no rules would make all magic users omnipotent.
     
  4. nck

    nck Scribe

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    It doesn't make the magic-user omnipotent unless that's how they're depicted in the story. As a writer I can use magic to fill whatever role I need without knowing what it can't do: all I need to know is that it can do this thing that I'm getting it to do right now.

    Maybe a concrete example will help make what I'm saying clearer. Without getting into spoilers, the Robert E. Howard story "Red Nails" features, among other instances of magic, the skull of a sorcerer that has been fashioned into a helmet -- and, because it's the skull of a sorcerer, its wearer ends up being able to bring certain mystical effects to bear. It's never explained why this is the case -- the characters just accept that, yeah, of course a sorcerer's skull is going to contain a vestige of his magic. It's never even really explained exactly what the skull can do, though we're shown at least one concrete effect it has.

    Whether or not Howard had more of an idea about this magic than is contained in the story, I don't know (but my impression of his approach to writing is that he probably didn't), but this certainly seems like something someone could write into a story without knowing anything more about it than what happens in the story, and I don't see that this would present any problem for the writer -- certainly I don't see how not having in mind any strict limits on how the whole sorcerer-skull-as-helmet things can work means you've automatically made all wizards into gods.
     
  5. StrawhatOverlord

    StrawhatOverlord Scribe

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    Obviously it's not a problem, since soft magic "systems" are a thing, that approach clearly works. But I mean, the Skull-Helmet wearer wasn't invincible, so clearly the magic had limits. I guess in that case the author's process is "I want this to happen and it can happen because magic" full stop ?
     
  6. nck

    nck Scribe

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    Maybe? My point is that to a reader that reasoning and "this can happen because of rules I've carefully worked out but won't actually put in the story" work out to exactly the same thing for the reader.
     
  7. StrawhatOverlord

    StrawhatOverlord Scribe

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    I suppose so yes, with the caveat that hard systems tend to get explained at least partly. My intention is that the reader knows about as much as the people in-universe do.
     
  8. nck

    nck Scribe

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    I didn't think we were talking about "hard systems" at all, since your initial point was that the writer should know the rules of the magic even if it's presented to the reader as "soft." Obviously, stuff like what Brandon Sanderson does with his magic is predicated on both characters and reader knowing more or less exactly how magic works and what it can do.
     
  9. StrawhatOverlord

    StrawhatOverlord Scribe

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    Well my system is a hard system, what I mean by knowing more than the reader is that they'd basically know what they people in-universe know, and people in my setting don't know about the whole "imaginary dream land seeping into reality" thing. Or that gods were created by people thinking they exist. Etc. But magic users know how their particular practice works, and maybe how some other ways work if they're more learned.
     
  10. nck

    nck Scribe

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    Yes, I understand that this is how things work for a "hard" system, but the whole reason we're even having this discussion is that you said that's also how they should work for a "soft" discussion.

    My point is really just this: the only stuff the writer has to know about magic (or any aspect of the world) is what they're going to communicate at some point to the reader. That's why magic that's strange and unknowable, and is always going to be as far readers are concerned, isn't actually something a writer needs to work out in any detail. That's the basis of my objection to your initial point.
     
  11. StrawhatOverlord

    StrawhatOverlord Scribe

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    Fair enough. It was interesting to discuss the opposite perspective.
     
  12. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    fair enough. though you can write yourself into a corner - seen that happen in multi-book series.
     
  13. nck

    nck Scribe

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    To be clear, I'm not equating not knowing everything about the world with not knowing everything about the story. With careful outlining, I don't see that it's easier to write yourself into a corner with a "soft" system than any other.
     
  14. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

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  15. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

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    This sounds like a book I would love to read. I see this thread started in 2015, please tell me you have finished it and what the title is ..... (fingers crossed)
     
  16. OberonLordofSylva

    OberonLordofSylva Troubadour

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    I have multiple things I want to write so I ended up with three Magic Systems: Symbolic Magic, Curses, and Blood Magic. There are also three phenomena that influence Spellcasting: Release, Resonance. and Soul Alter. The power and skill level of the people who use Magic is represented in supplemental materials by the Stat Star System. Symbolic and Blood Magic are the systems used in Project: Magus, Curses are used in Project: Dog Days, Project: Galfreeze uses both and lacks the nuances of each. Project: Lapis Lazuli is science fiction and thus lacks a magic system.

    Symbolic Magic, at it's most basic, is the manipulation of the forces of nature via Symbolic Energy. Symbolic Energy is a Metaphysical Substance generated by complex Souls(read: sentient creatures) when stimulated by certain things that evoke the Element(s) the Caster has chosen to specialize in.. There are 15 subtypes, or Elements currently known, of Symbolic Energy: Light, Darkness, Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Electricity, Sound, Nuclear, Data, Law, Poison, Time, Life, and Death. No Element is greater or less than another. After generating at least one of these Elements inside of themselves, Magicians then use their willpower and imagination to shape the raw Energy into a specific desired form. When released from the body the Spell then immediately applies itself to a target determined by the Caster. There are many advanced techniques a Magician can learn to unlock more of their potential such as Elemental Enhancement, Ritual Casting, and Alchemy. There are also Arts, flashy techniques that combine Magic with martial arts. Most sentient creatures have Affinities for certain Elements. These Affinities differ based on species, for example Earthangel Elves have affinities for Earth, Light, and Life whereas Storm Dragons have Affinities for Water and Wind.

    Curses are specific supernatural abilities borrowed from certain supernatural creatures via a contract of some kind. These abilities typically come in sets of four. Warlocks, the people who make make these bargains with the supernatural, usually start with the weakest, often most fundamental ability and are rewarded the "higher-level" abilities as the bond between Warlock and Master deepens.

    Blood Magic is a mysterious form of Magic exclusive to Vampires. Due to the many secrets surrounding Vampirism and Vampiric Energy itself, the exact nuances of Blood Magic are lost on most. Many stories abound of Vampires with strange supernatural strengths and weaknesses, and educated folks know that Blood Magic is at the heart of those stories. Indeed, Blood Magic may provide the essential clue to the source of Vampirism.

    Release is a transformation undergone by Hybrids and other beings with Form Seals such as Angels, Star Emperors, and Vampires to name a few. Release is the act of ripping off the Form Seal and exposing the true monstrous power hidden within. There are many different variations of Release, such as Release Break, Release Faker, and Final Release. These variations are usually much more powerful than the Basic Release. Each Release transformation has a set multiplier that increases the underlying numerical values represented by the Stat Stars. Each user of Release has a different, unique appearance they take on during the transformation.

    Resonance is a rare phenomenon where two or more individuals engage in temporary perfect harmony with one another. This is done by syncing up the individuals Souls. Resonance is very difficult to deliberately perform and most cases of it happen accidentally. Like Blood Magic, many secrets surround Resonance due to it's rarity. Resonance has little benefit by itself, rather it serves as a means further power. With Resonance, Warlocks can temporarily activate their higher-level abilities and Magicians can use Tagmagic, a method of casting Spells with multiple Elements as a group. It is unknown how Resonance would affect Blood Magic but it's probably something akin to Tagmagic.

    Soul Alter is the common occurrence of Souls being transformed by an outside influence. What the Soul turns into is determined by the thing transforming it, for example Bloodworld will inevitably turns it's inhabitants into either Devils or Hell Dragons while Empyrean grants its inhabitants the options to become Heralds of Empyrean. While Demons may act similarly to a Soul Altered they actually are born via the separate process of Spirit Pregnancy, making them a special case.

    The Stat Star System, as mentioned above, is a system exclusive to supplementary materials such as Databooks. Each character's magical prowess is evaluated by being compared to an average member of their species as well their personal feats. The values are represented by five stars. If a star is filled in blue it's a positive value and red for negative. One blue star means that a character is the average for their species.
     
    Vicki27 likes this.
  17. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

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    Wow I can see you have put a lot of thought into your magic systems (y) The world you created with the Elendar sounded really interesting as well (I know that thread was back in 2015) but it really fired my imagination and I thought it would make a great story for a book. You should write it if you haven't already. Thanks for giving me a peek into your world.
     
  18. Nigel

    Nigel Acolyte

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    How does magic work in your story? Is it common? Could it be learned easily? Who uses it?

    In the world I have created, magic is named Essence (I really hope that hasn’t been taken!).
    I’ve gone for a traditional model - wielders use a maitrir (staff).
    Wielders are born with it randomly.
    For centuries the number of these new Neophytes has been declining and the potency of those who have mastered Essence (Firelocks) has also declined. This threatens to undermine their whole society.
    What no one realises is that Essence was stolen from a parallel world millennia ago. A secret group has vowed to right this terrible wrong, despite the chaos that would ensue.
    My “hero” will be torn between preserving Essence in his own land and saving the land ravaged by the theft.
     
  19. Vicki27

    Vicki27 Minstrel

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    Hi Nigel. Basically my world has two types of magic. Elemental (earth, fire, water, wind, air and consciousness) and Blood magic, which in this case is dark and secretive and is exclusively used by warlocks. For many generations humans watched the Faerie races wield elemental magic and gradually those who are born with a natural ability started to experiment. This did not go well and eventually the high caste Elves agreed to teach those humans with magic capability. Humans are born with magic capability rarely and those who cannot use magic are envious of those who can. Male humans are unable to resist the dark perverse addiction of blood magic and become warlocks. Human females who have magical ability are called Maidens. The actual wielding of magic is called the 'craft'. Each element has a different colour and those who are able to wield magic have to mix different elements to make the correct colour of the spell they require. It's a basic story of good v evil with the usual battle at the end. I have more than one protagonist, a few antagonists and a mixture of Elves, Trolls, Dwarves and Gnomes sprinkled throughout.

    Your world sounds as if you have put a lot of thought into it. I don't know about you but I find it really difficult to come up with an original idea in certain genres because so much has already been written and explored.
     
    Dark Lord Thomas Pie likes this.
  20. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    I have a couple of worlds I have built. In one, magic is a natural-occuring field of energy, or more accurately, fields of different sorts of energy that mingle, interact and can be drawn on to make "spells"; though I rarely use that word. I like to keep the borders of magic open; limited only by the imagination of the caster and by how much life force they give to the spell. Too much and they can burn out and die, not enough and the spell fizzles or has unexpected results. It is also intuitive depending on the skills of the caster. If the caster is naturally talented at using shadow energy or lunar energy, then any "spells" they create using the power requires less life force than something they have to work hard at.

    The forms of energy can either be used directly or can have certain effects based on the properties of the energy. For example, you can use molten energy to generate a fireball (mixed with air) or simply use the heat of it to change the temperature in a localized area. You can use the natural energy of water to create water from the air, or use the properties of water to slow a potential attacker. In this way, I feel it works well for my world.

    In my other world, magic is runic, but still relies on the use of life force as the catalyst. There are two types of runes; passive and active. Active runes generally are one-time-use glyphs that have some effect beyond the "engraver". Offensive magic, traps, healing and blessings etc. are examples of active runes because once they are triggered, the rune disappears and has to be engraved again. The engraver can use nearly any medium for active runes; such as paper, sand, dirt, skin (like tattoos), but tend to go for things that are easy to use and portable; like parchment.

    Passive runes have a persistent effect, but generally only affect the engraver. Unlike active runes, passive runes linger until they are somehow destroyed or maimed. An example of this would be a rodent ward; typically a wooden disk etched with the glyph to keep rats away. If the disk was thrown into a fire, or scratched badly enough, it would ruin the glyph and it would have to be engraved again. Passive runes are often defensive magic or "boosts" for the engraver.
     
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