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Designing a magic system- any ideas?


Hi guy's. I am designing the magic system for my novel and was wondering if you could throw in some ideas to help me out.

The magic system is based on seven stones each with their own magical system. The stones are the origins of these magical systems, people long time ago that found each stone and were able to access it's magic. Then each magical system is then passed down generation after generation.

Two stones have the magic systems I call light and dark. I am hitting a certain wall when deciding on the powers each one gives as I am to fixed on light as good and dark being bad or evil. This is not how I want it to be. They are supposed to be two different set of magical systems, each with their own possibility of going ether way (good or bad) depending on the user.

I know that the people that accessed the light were transformed. They now possess higher magic so to speak. That why I call it light.

The dark on the other hand have not been able to figure out how to access their in the right way and when ever they try they end up insane and when when a spell is done wrong, very wrong (part of the plot) they turn into monsters. They have been using crystals as energy sources to perform magic. These crystals are not very powerful and not long lasting, but is the safest way for them to use magic.

Can you give me any ideas on magical powers these two systems could have and that are distinctly different from one another

Thank you for your time and help. :)
Well since dark seems to change to monsters. Dark could be the power of fear, transformation, manipulation, and illusion. What about the other stones. If I could get an idea what they access we could see that we don't unnecessarily double up on powers.


You could categorize them based on medium to cast a spell (runes, incantations, enchanted items), end result of a spell, power source and so forth.
For example, what I did was the I use power-through and power-over. Power-through includes power through runes, music, words and so forth. Power-over is power over the dead (necromancy), spirits (shamanism) and so forth.

When you start out calling them "light and dark" you sort of set yourself-up to do a "good vs evil" thing with magic identified based on the end result.
I guess Taoism classifies "light and dark" as "active and passive". Maybe you could do something with that. Offensive and defensive?

What I would suggest: language-based magic vs. object-based magic. Scholar magician vs. craftsman magician. Western mythology tends to have the former while things like African or Native American mythology has the latter. I think representing both interpretations of magic in one setting could be interesting.
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"Light" and "dark" are almost impossible to separate from flat-out good and evil. They shouldn't be, but it's an uphill fight to convince readers they're anything else.

One idea might be that instead of "dark," that stone deals with flesh. (Or you might call it "Beast.") If you use it carefully you can heal or even shapechange-- but because you have a body of their own, unlike using a fire or water stone (or a stone stone?), if you lose control with a flesh stone it resonates back onto your own body and scrambles a bit of your brain, or turns you openly into a monster. It might sometimes be known as "the stone of desire" because it's powerful but requires the strongest need and runs the greatest risk to use; that would make it ominous but not evil.

With that said, it's hard to think of a "light" magic to balance that, especially since you already have another for spirit. If you weren't wedded to having seven stones I'd say make the spirit stone the "light, sixth" one, a counterpart to the Flesh stone. You might use it for harmony and truth, or maybe illusions or mind magic (which could be much more corrupting than turning monstrous, or maybe the nastier spells don't work well). Or you might have seven stones by separating immediate "mind" spells into one stone, and spirit-realm "spirit" spells into another, or one could be "knowledge" or simply "energy" to strengthen the others.


When it comes to magic I find I need to cover certain bases, the foundation. After which point everything falls into place like ducks. (Cliche I know)

I cover:
Source, where does the magic come from? From the devil? A god? Ley lines? What?
Cost, magic comes at a price. You've covered this pretty well with your "dark" magic. Figure this out for the other rune stones. Does each element have its own cost? Does using the earth magic cost strength? Or will it only work if you're physically touching the element?
Scarcity, how many people in a room of ten have the gift? Only people of a family blood line?
Difficulty, how difficult is it for the character to learn/master the magic? Easy as "'I' before 'e' except after 'c'?" Or is it as complex as astro-physics?
Complexity, how complex is it to cast the spells? Writing a rune and say some goofy word? Or writing a complex circle of magic symbols, speaking an ancient language and making precise gestures?

Once I did this for my fantasy works (I have several) everything else about the magic and even the charactes and plot spilled their ethereal guts. I hope this helps. Happy Writing!


Can each stone only be used by people that have come into contact with it? This is important, especially depending on how exclusive you want your wizards to be. Each stone could have a good and evil side, the color of the stone changing depending on how many users use it for good or evil. The stones could be different colors, fire=red, water=blue, earth=green, air=transparent, spirit=yellow, dark=black, light=white. Can these mages only control powers related to their element?

Like the others I'd tend to try and stay away from light and dark if you don't want them to be confused with good and evil. I was tempted to think of the white stone instead as the wizard stone - it grants the magic of complex spells, enchantments etc and the old meta-magic where you can transform another spell.

And then going on my gaming days I also thought of the other dimension of magic that often comes up - order versus chaos. So what say the wizard stone grants the user supreme order which is why he can use such complex magic. And the dark stone becomes the chaos stone. Chaos of course leads to madness, and madness can be of many things. Madness of the mind, think well the usual and a complete inability to cast a spell, but likely to throw out all sorts of unintentional magical blasts at random. And if the flesh is involved then chaos of the flesh would lead to things like distortion of the body. Maybe they're like shapeshifters who can never really find one solid, permanent and recognisable form.

Cheers, Greg.


This immediately makes me think of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of Fallen. Its been a while since I read them so I hope my information is accurate (or close to accurate).

Anyways he has a race of people with shared ancestry that he calls the Tiste.

At some point they diverged into the 3 races (of course they all had cool fantasy names for their race)

So it could be good to think about how the magic stones effect the user - this could either be a physical change, mental change, or just a little bit of both?
What about Dark being chaos? Chaos isn't necessarily evil, but given that Dark seems to be dangerous to use, it would make sense to me that it's basically trying to control chaos... which is contrary to the nature of chaos. Or, at least, they're trying to control it the wrong way. You can't really "control" chaos, but you may be able to "nudge" it in the right direction. So, the reason Dark turns people into monsters is because they're trying to control it in a way that it doesn't respond to very well. Maybe this creates some kind of feedback loop that results in the body being twisted and mutated.

Light could be order, hence why those using it have attained a "higher" magic. Perhaps the secret to properly controlling Dark is actually to mix in some Light, or at least use Light as a way of shielding yourself from the feedback of Dark?
Light can burn. Light can blind. Light is the harsh, unbearable truth.

It can save you. But it can just as easily set you aflame.

Darkness cools, it conceals and guards. Dark is the little lies we need to make it in the world.

Darkness is not evil. It is stealth and plotting.


Can you give me any ideas on magical powers these two systems could have and that are distinctly different from one another

Look at symbolism:
Light: warmth, fire, life
Dark: cold, ice, death

So people with light magic system would be able to heal, while those with dark would be able to kill. Or, dark magic would be offensive and light magic would be defensive: curse and counter-curse, assault magic and shielding magic. Yin and Yang, but neither necessarily evil.