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Elemental magic: Yea or nay?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Nimue, Dec 17, 2014.

  1. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Really? What exactly is that new definition and where does it come from?
  2. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    Some people consider air and water to be the same element. Hence why the band was called "Earth, Wind and Fire".
    I'll go ahead and point-out that at some points air, wind, sky, fresh water and salt water are considered separate elements. And then metal and earth being separate. It's weird.

    I'm saying people who use aether rarely stick to Aristotle's definition exactly.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2014
  3. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Well, obviously. That doesn't change the roots of the thing though.

    And I'm inclined to believe that the further one ventures from the classical view of the elements when using elemental magic the more likely it is to feel like it's been pulled out of the author's rear parts. The whole idea of the classical elements is that they are the elements that make up the physical world. The idea of elemental magic is that it allows you to manipulate the physical elements. The farther you stray from that formula the harder you'll have to work to justify it. That's my opinion, anyway.
  4. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    So I've recently had reason to revive a concept that included elementalism, though it's not considered magic, but the work of spirits and religion. The religion is meant to be pretty simplistic and almost video game-esque,

    At the top of the heap is the Holy Light, an impersonal guiding force embodying purity, order, and the refinement of the self.

    Serving the Holy Light are the Four Great Elemental Kings (fire, water, earth and air) and below them are the lesser Elemental Kings (other elements like lightning or ice)

    Non-elemental gods like gods of war or harvest are considered to have positions similar to Knights or so in the Elemental Kings' courts; honorable but you can't really compare a king to a knight.

    Opposite of the Holy Light is the Darkness which embodies chaos, madness, and strife.

    The darkness doesn't have Great Elemental Kings, though it has lesser ones attributed to it as well as gods (though the Darkness' gods are generally considered demons.) The gods attributed to the Darkness tend to be ones governing things that are generally considered evil, but curiously the Elemental Kings of the Darkness tend to be the more abstract ones like space or time.

    The gods tend to be single, unique individuals, but there's a huge amount of spirits for each element from basically the spirit equivalent to bacteria, to the spirit equivalent of pokemon, up to Final Fantasy summons level, and when you get into Spirit King turf it reaches Fantastic Nuke level.

    Anyone can use the smallest elemental spirits to do stuff. All it takes is some sort of ritual form of communication, most commonly incantations or runes, to tell them what to do and a small sacrifice as payment to get them to do something, however they're pretty limited in what they can do. Just household conveniences and stuff like that.

    It generally takes specialized training in order to be able to negotiate with stronger spirits and convince them to do what you want. Such shaman-priests generally also make long term contracts with one or two more powerful elemental for more reliable powers. Such powers include being able to manipulate the spirit's elements, having the spirit as a familiar (pokemon basically), having the spirit as a guardian (think less pokemon and more bodyguard), serving as an avatar for the spirit, or summoning the spirit like a final fantasy summon. They can do the same things with Gods, but they tend to be more specialized than a spirit.

    Now, a lot of all that stuff is based off the religion and they got a lot of stuff wrong.

    Neither the Holy Light or the Darkness are inherently good or evil. Actually, pretty much all of the gods and spirits are neutral. They're just guided by their nature.

    The Light and Darkness are just forces, opposite but not necessarily opposing. Unlike the elements they don't even really have spirits to give them personality. Where the two differ is in how they go about doing stuff. I got the idea for this from a webcomic I read once which based light & darkness off of how white and black work as a color. White reflects all the other colors. Similarly light augmented magic focuses on refining something into the ideal version of itself. Black is a mixture of all the colors. So darkness magic augments spells by mixing them together with the elements in the area or stealing some of the enemies power. As an example a Light mage would get stronger by intensive training while a Dark mage would get more powerful by beating up monsters and stealing a bit of their power in what basically amounts to experience points.

    None of the Elementals are good or evil. They're just ruled by their nature. Also the Four Great Elemental Kings aren't actually any more powerful than any of the other Elemental kings. People just think they are. The reason the more abstract elementals tend to be associated with Darkness is because messing around with those elements. The gods are just gods.

    What people in the setting call magic is explicitly not elemental in nature. It's basically using advanced knowledge and a strong will to hack reality. They're basically doing manually what spirits can do instinctively.
  5. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    The idea of a fifth element does exist in western thought but I still don't really like the "spirit" or "heart" ideas. It wouldn't make me put a book done or refuse to buy it if done well but it's one of the things I think are harder to do well then some others.
    In my opinion, elemental magic that doesn't include mind-reading. healing and the like doesn't have to be a problem. There's no need for every fantasy story to include every possible form of magic. We keep talking about the necessity of limits and I think it's quite elegant if those are in the nature of the magic rather than lines drawn by the author because he thinks limits are needed. A fire mage can't raise the dead because it's not part of his magic, period.
    The four elements could be given a mental aspect as well and I think that's acutally been done in Ancient Greek thinking to some extent but I'm not an expert at this.
    I've chosen this option, my magic has a mental component linked to the bonding between the elements. There are also some healing abilities linked to the properties of the element. Most of these require a group of magic users though. To answer one of the questions, they can't create the element but summon it. It's quite demanding though and only the most powerful ones can do it over longer distances. Those who have their element nearby are at a distinct advantage which adds to oxygen mages being somewhat overpowered...
    The fact that their users are relatively equal if different is definitely an argument in favour of the classical elements.
  6. Logos&Eidos

    Logos&Eidos Sage

    Elementalism was the first idea that occurred to me about the how's and why's of a magic system. I'm talking back when i was single digits, in the stories that I'd make up all the people would have elemental powers. It's also the only way for me to balance one of my magic systems.

    I have three magic systems, a divine magic which revolved around getting onto a given god's frequency, and a path of self perfecting which is inspired by a lot of wuxia and manga/anime;it's basically way to let people train themselves into begin effectively superhuman. Sorcery, that was a difficult beast it was always to powerful and to abstract to feel properly balanced in my mind. With elementalism i was able to balance the system, the elements fire,air,earth,water,wood and void, took all the power of sorcery and neatly divided it into six manageable chunks.
  7. Creed

    Creed Sage

    This thread's been quite interesting so far, and I feel compelled to add on to it. :cool:
    So while we're sharing...
    I use an Elemental system, and the reason I like it is because it's ingrained into a greater system quite fluidly. My Universe has two "fundaments" called Order and Chaos (sound familiar?) and the few races I have fit onto a gradient of these two forces, and there are four types of magic based on how aligned one is to Chaos. Humans are slightly attuned to Order, which makes mages who manipulate the Pure Magic (unaspected, Chaotic energy) quite rare. This makes Pathmages very valuable in courts. So humans are more capable of accessing magic in the form of what some theorists in my Universe believe to be metaphors, by which a lens of Order has been applied to the Chaos of energy.
    These metaphors come in the forms of the Elements, and are believed to represent the emotions of the Universe.
    It's there that Elemental magic moves to the practical realm. Mages have the Element within them, inaccurately compared to a parasite. The main difference here is how emotion plays a role in Elemental magic: each Element acts as its own separate entity, and has a duality or trinity or whatever of emotional states (warmth vs inferno for Fryth, stillness vs blizzard for Leht, etc.) and these emotional states affect a mage and the efficacy of that mage's control. Harmonisation is the process by which a mage and his/her Element reach a single emotional state, gaining a terrific efficiency over their Element, but sacrificing emotional control for it (which brings its own dangers).
    I don't stick with the four classical Elements, and I don't use any model to determine how many Elements there are. The reason that Leht (ice) is separate from Zhyr (water) is that the two Elements have different emotional states, and behave in entirely different ways. Same reason I have a metal Element (Orem), because it is characteristically unique to the others. It also explains why I do not have a "Spirit" or "Heart" Element- I can't just tack things on. I used to have an Element called Zorath (soul) but it didn't make any sense in the larger picture. There are obviously many different ideas about life in my Universe, but the most commonly accepted one among magical theorists is that there is a "spark" of energy inside of us that is responsible for life.
    Domination magic complicates things in this model, as only the Elements Shayshan (sound) and Mayena (blood) can alter a mental state, and at that quite crudely. The Pure Magic, which is attributed the "spark," as it's just energy, is quite inept at domination magic.
    I don't know how original it is, I'm not well-read enough to make a statement on that. But it's not something I've really seen, and more importantly it makes sense with my other magic systems and the fundamental forces of my Universe. And even more importantly I quite enjoy writing with it! I may write a little something something with it right now!
    I'm feeling Leht... and something action-packed! }:cool:
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2015
  8. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    I like the element names, they're very evocative! So, the elements are Chaos through a lens of Order, and pure energy is a different kind of magic, which is just Chaos? What are the four kinds of magic? Sounds like there's a lot going on, but I see you have a grasp on it. ^^
  9. Creed

    Creed Sage

    Thank you! :cool: I try to make the names match the Elements and their emotional dualities as best I can.
    You're quite correct. Chaos is the realm of energy, motion, change, creation, and destruction. Order is the realm of control and limitation. Pure Magic is aligned to Chaos, and allows for portals and wards and such.
    The last two types of magic are the Tongue and Blood of Chaos, and can only be accessed by races aligned heavily with Chaos.
    The Tongue of Chaos is an evocation of the Blood that essentially allows the user to temporarily alter the Laws and Natures of reality, which are spawned from the battle of the Fundaments (Chaos brought motion to the Universe, Order imposed control, ergo the Law of Gravity). So this is where the physics aspect of magic that was mentioned before comes into my system: no more metaphors, beyond the manipulation of energy, and to the limitations that control it.
    The Cred'an were an Elder race capable of the Tongue, but attuned invariably to Creation. Their use would be to create new Laws or tack on limitations/stipulations to a Law or Nature to achieve the desired effect. These include abstract Natures like "distance" allowing for portals. The Orthic were attuned to Destruction, and could only break parts of the code of Laws and Natures, and would instead rely on a technique akin to instantaneously destroying all distance from point A and B to teleport there.
    The Blood of Chaos is, essentially, the direct control over Chaos. It comprises of the spilling of Chaos' blood and the command of it to alter reality, make true the false, rewrite the code, etc. It's only accessible by the First, beings who pulled themselves into creation from the body of Chaos itself and sacrificed their Blood to kickstart the Universe, and to a lesser extent Godlings, who pulled themselves out shortly thereafter. The power the First wield is quite strong. Though they remain asleep in Chaos for most of my planned writing in my Universe, their magic can do stuff like shatter stars and manipulate the flow of time.
    Though only if they really, really want to.
    Hope that wasn't too wordy/long/complicated!
  10. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    So, in my elemental magic system, there used to be air/water/fire/earth but it's changed. In the same way science and philosophy evolves over time, so too did magic. There are currently eight forms of magic...

    Energy magic, called the Radiant Union, evolved from fire magic. The idea is that a person could manipulate things like heat and light through careful movements of their body. It's kind of like a martial arts system. If you want to shoot a fireball, you move so to create a burst of heat. Reverse the movement and you create a burst of coldness, shooting ice.

    Matter magic, called Alchemy, evolved from earth magic. It's basically just standard fictional alchemy: manipulation of matter through processes and formulas.

    Flesh magic, called Pliantform, evolved from water magic. It's just shape-shifting. Pretty simple.

    Air magic is the only form of "pure" elemental magic that is still around. It's called Windrunning. Windrunners are able to do things like turn invisible, fly, pass through solid objects and so forth. Basically, they turn themselves into air.

    Space magic is called the Way of the Open. It's used for things like teleporting and creating portals. Basically, you bend space around yourself through thought, words and movement. It was initially developed as a sub-form of Air magic that combined Air magic aspects of Energy magic. Eventually, it developed into its own system.

    Time magic is called Axial Logic. The idea is that the fabric of time can be altered by those who understand it. Through thought alone, the Axial Logician is able to manipulate the flow of time.

    Meaning magic, called Shift-speaking, is the most powerful form of magic. It's the power of argument - with this magic, you can win any argument. If you don't like gravity, you just argue that gravity doesn't exist and then gravity stops existing. If you don't like a person, you just argue that they don't exist and they'll disappear. You argue against reality itself and you always win.

    And finally, Thought magic, called Dreamweaving, asserts that reality is an illusion and through enlightenment, you could take control of the illusion. The goal of this school of magic is enlightenment and transcendence. It's kind of like a passive counterpart to Shift-speaking.

    Magic in general is pretty uncommon.
    There are a (relatively) decent amount of Air, Matter and Energy mages.
    Space and Thought mages are pretty rare and there's only a handful of Time mages.
    Flesh mages are basically gone.
    There's only one Meaning mage but one is more than enough.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2015
  11. Vendzzz

    Vendzzz Acolyte

    I do it as elemental magic is like bending from the avatar series and light and dark magic are more classic magics.
  12. Akira444

    Akira444 Scribe

    My magic system is based off the magic system from Witchlands and Magic: The Gathering. In my world, magic is the manipulation of the elements. It is a practice that can be learned, but whether or not a person is good at it depends on their skill, training, and talent; kind of like music and art in a way. There are seven elements: five "physical" elements-fire, water, earth, air, and lightning-and two "abstract" elements-light and dark. Every person has an affinity towards one of the seven elements, and a mage's powers and abilities vary depending on what element they have.
    Each element has its own set of powers and abilities related to it. For example, fire magic has spells that deal with transformation, warmth, rage, passion and affection. Light magic deals with illusions, psychic abilities and communication with spirits. Dark magic (manipulation of darkness) deals with space, gravity, curses, and summoning.
  13. C. R. Rowenson

    C. R. Rowenson Scribe

    Personally, I don't think elemental magic is overdone and I'm not sure it can be. There are lots of people out there looking for more of what they already love, so if you use the exact same system as Avatar the Last Airbender but deliver it in a new and compelling story, thousands of people will happily devour it. :)
    As for your system, I think you bypassed a lot of the common tropes and cliches by making the elements symbolic of different effects rather than it being tied to the control of the elements themselves. For example, wind might not let you fly but you could use it to perform rudimentary mind control, forcing people to follow simple commands.
    Anyway. I really like what you have so far.
    Akira444 likes this.
  14. Akira444

    Akira444 Scribe

    Do you have an idea of how you want individual spells to look like for each element?

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