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Explain Your Magic System

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Black Dragon, Mar 18, 2019.

  1. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I don’t want the reader to understand it, and I don’t explain it, because the characters don’t understand it. But it is a system, and a nuanced one with specific rules for magic’s interaction with metals, compared to gems, compared to dead organic materials, compared to living organic materials...

    It’s all elemental, my dear Watson. And every culture sees it a bit differently. That’s my 5 lines or less, anymore starts down the rabbit hole.

    I’ve had readers say its a system based on prayer, but nope, that’s just one culture’s view... prayers is based on the power of the gods, and the power of the gods is based on the elements. And more than earth, wind, fire, water.
    Malik likes this.
  2. Malik

    Malik Auror

    Be ready for a rash of DMs, emails, and five-hundred-word reviews explaining why your magic system makes no sense.

    I'm not saying to change the way you're doing it. I'm just saying, be ready.

    I did exactly this. I wrote this series in third omniscient from the POV of a narrator who has spoken with several of the characters, none of whom understand the nuances of magic (even though I have hard and fast rules, as I posted above), so the narrator doesn't understand the rules either. Therefore, to the narrator, magic is weird and scary (because, to the characters he's spoken with, magic is weird and scary) and I refuse to use an "As you know, Bob," scene. I'm getting crucified for it.

    I seriously wonder if this would have been easier had I gone full-bore LitRPG, with flashing Hit Points signs in the sky, and Manna points or whatever appearing over the wizards' heads.
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  3. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    LOL, flashing hit point signs, love it.

    But no, I "explain things" to the best of the character's knowledge... which readers assume is correct. It's all coherent, it all makes sense, but how magic works will unfold over many books. The world is a character in the story, so to speak, and the system is part of that character. With the Earthling in a weird world, it makes total sense for magic to be unexplained. And yeah, the as you know scenes are BS.

    Getting that crit from New Magic? Cause I didn't have an issues in Dragon's Trail, at least.
    Malik likes this.
  4. Gotis

    Gotis Scribe

    My magic system is basically, source of magic plus force of will power. Some races, like elves, produce magic from their own bodies while others, like humans, must rely on things like wands or crystals. People can "run out of magic" by depleted their source or by mentally exhausting themselves. A person's "life force" can be used as a source of magic, though this typically results in that person's death. Iron can partially nullify magic and silver can penetrate magically protection.

    Whew! I think I'm too long winded! Narrowing it down to five sentences was grueling for me.
  5. C. R. Rowenson

    C. R. Rowenson Scribe

    All magical power are granted to a user when infected by magical viruses. The power of the magic is directly linked to the "population" of the virus, so the sicker you are, the stronger your magic. There are three types of viruses which produce different classes of effects. Vector strains infect others around the user, manipulating their behavior, host strains alter the core functions of the user, and environmental strains produce tangible effects in the world around the user.
  6. Corwynn

    Corwynn Troubadour

    There are two types of Thaumaturgy: Alchemy, which manipulates matter and energy, and Spiritualism, which manipulates mind and spirit. By default, both Alchemists and Spiritualists draw upon Thaumaturgical energy within their own bodies, but Alchemists can also consume matter and other forms of energy to replenish their supply, and Spiritualists can draw upon the latent Thaumaturgical energy of other life-forms. Both can also create Infusions, which are basically enchantments. In theory, anyone can learn to become an Alchemist, a Spiritualist, or even both, but each requires years of training (which is not available to everyone), and natural talent (which not everyone has) makes a big difference.

    That's pretty much it, minus some minor details. In terms of theme, Alchemy and Spiritualism represent the two basic "flavours" of fantasy magic. Alchemy is more rational and scientific, and it is easier to get an idea of what it can and cannot do. Spiritualism is more mystical and harder to quantify.
  7. Knight Viking

    Knight Viking New Member

    Alright. I'll do my best with this. One thing first: "wyr" is magic.

    A connection to a Lödstar provides the mental alacrity to incant Wyrwords - the language of inherent meaning - and the energy to cast or shape them into the desired effect; a bond only available to elves, fae, and their descendants depending on the concentration of elder and fairer blood.

    Since the War of Elder and Fairer and the death of the god Kœlach, permissible magic has been reduced to twenty Wyrwords along ten thematic Domains (i.e. fire, air, earth, etc.) and two S'idhe (pronounced, SHEE; or, "sides"), Unseen effects for the elves and Seen effects for the fae.

    To use wyr, one must establish a connection to their Lödstar, channeling its energy; identify the Elementals, or the twelve constructs present, in some quantity, in all living and nonliving things; incant the Wyrword(s) necessary, thereby unlocking command of the referent; and maintain focus upon the desired effect.

    Uttering a single Master Word (one of the twenty) allows the mage to shape, which is liberated control over a limited preexisting effect; whereas incanting a Master Word with Servant Words (simpler words that bear no power separate from a Master Word) allows the mage to cast, which is limited control of a powerful conjured effect.

    While elves have full access to the Unseen S'idhe and fae of the Seen S'idhe, depending on one's ancestry, mortals only have access to one or two Master Words, the First of which is revealed to them sometime in their adolescence during a time of immense emotional upheaval (the Second is typically learned through study and is always the Dominal Binary to the First).

    Wow. I did it. Although, I may be stretching the rules will all those semicolons. Feel free to ask questions! I like questions.
    Futhark likes this.
  8. Blairjay

    Blairjay New Member

    Okay, I'll jump on this. (Also hello, I'm new!) My magic system is based off and around DnD due to the fact my world started as a homebrew DnD world, so bear with me.

    1. Everyone and everything has magic, which is called Lōksai, otherwise known as Spark.
    2. The color of one's Spark shows what they may be inclined towards and cannot have more than two colors; this is genetic.
    3. Technically there isn't anything magic cannot do, but you can run out quickly, especially untrained.
    4. Overuse and extended use of certain spells can cause scars (mental and physical) and a multitude of other issues.
    5. Magic can be dampened using Suppressors (a type of handcuff or ankle cuff) and can be lost temporarily due to an illness called Mage's Blight.

    There's more but that's the core of it!
  9. Lycaon

    Lycaon Acolyte

    Magic is the result of a symbiotic relation of an unnatural kind, if it is parasitic or mutualistic is in the eye of the beholder. Spells require personal sacrifice, a quid quo pro kind of situation, which could be of physical, mental, or moral origin. Spells, called whispers (because of reasons beyond these five sentences), are words of an unknown, eldritch language (used by the symbiont), and are often rather abstract concepts. The effects of these whispers can be endless, depending on the creativity of the magus. For example, [former] could be used to repair a broken knife, to re-open a healing wound, or to have a cold skillet experience the heat of the fire of a past moment once again.
  10. MrNybble

    MrNybble Sage

    Magic is a means to change the fundamental rules of a given reality. The more one wants to change, the more talent and magic they must call upon. An energy in its raw form that degrades everything from living to non-living, so wielding it will cause damage to said person or object over time. Magic is a technology for some and naturally intuitive for others if they have the sixth sense to feel it. There are many ways to shape magic from sigils, runes, incantations, thoughts, etc to create a diverse system depending on culture or race.

    This magic system is simple, self regulating, and yet adaptive enough to keep things interesting as the times change throughout the stories.
    Akira444 likes this.
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    MyrNybble's post made me realize that most magic systems are in one way or another about how magic subverts or changes the "natural" order. This isn't a criticism, just an observation. I'm not sure how I'd go about thinking along different lines, but I suspect someone or other will explore them. Magic as the natural order.
    Firefly and Saigonnus like this.
  12. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    I have a world that I have been working on where magic is a natural force that anyone can tap into. Obviously, it requires knowing how, and some cultures are more adept then others, but anyone regardless of race can access it.

    I have a culture called Talutah Ooljee, druids so to speak that use magic for just about everything, while their neighbor (as yet unnamed) once held sway over most of the continent with magic, but was banned from using their obelisks (magical amplifiers) or possessing schools of magic. It happened so far in the past that no one really remembers, it has just become normal.
  13. Esudeath

    Esudeath Dreamer

    Magic resides within you. If you burn out you turn into a horrible monster with no self countrol. To prevent this you always use/wear siphons. The three main classes are Padona, Fenwa and Sévan.
  14. In "Paper Gods" a short story I've been tinkering with, each person wears a small hand-bound book on a cord around their necks. These contain writing that lists, in brief simple sentences, the moments of their life that have altered their path and formed them. Most are small, seemingly meaningless moments or interactions: a chance meeting, a missed ferry, a simple kindness shown. While no one knows how or why only certain moments of their lives appear in the books, it is known that one can change/remove one or more of their entries, and alter all of it's far reaching effects — for a price — by visiting the village where the books are made and applying to the Redactor. However, the price is steep, the effects can be far reaching, and only an Oracle (also costly) can divine which moments can be removed without affecting, not only their own book/life and future but those of others, which sometimes are changed with fatal results.
    Firefly likes this.
  15. Vaporo

    Vaporo Inkling

    I have 3 magic systems that I've been developing for different stories as of late.

    System 1:
    The world was cast from the memories of two great spirits. By "Turning your mind sideways and thinking outward instead of inward," a person can touch the world-memories and reshape them with their mind.

    System 2:
    Magic is summoned and shaped by creating various "forms." By performing a "dance of calling," a person can summon magic to create immediate physical effects such as lighting fires, creating explosions, etc. By focusing the magic into a premade form such as a necklace or other piece of jewelry, much more varied and subtle effects can be achieved.

    System 3:
    Magic is the ability to see and manipulate the future by taking one of two drugs. The drug "Mihn's Eye" allows a person to see several minutes into the future. The drug "Mihn Fire" allows users to access "shadow futures" to create impossible effects like fireballs and superhuman strength, depending on what chemicals it is mixed with. Pure Mihn Fire can also cause its users to spontaneously espouse detailed prophesies about the distant future.
  16. Loremongre

    Loremongre Dreamer

    Magic works weirdly in my world.

    1) Magic isn't a kind of mystic force, rather an evolved kind of technology from a remote future adapted to the world (like nanomachines, but integrated in the world at the atomic level). The connection between this technology and the races that live in the world differ by continents, mostly for past events.

    2) Races that are naturally connected to magic are elven races, orcs, dragons and Sea-folks. This is thanks to the fact they are connected to the Divines, the higher gods, however the only difference between them and those that born with a connection, like humans or dwarves, is their control.
    Magic work like a flux, and each inhabitant is like catalyzer; if an inhabitant is particulary powerful, the flux will flow into his or her body to the point they will become walking bombs.

    3) To help those that don't have a natural control on magic, the Mages and Scholars of important magic adacemies, like Saamak or Craint's School of magic and divination, found that a series of peculiar, colorless gems grow underground, and are capable of stabilize the flux, helping the mage control itself, but one have to wear it all the time. This gems, however, are a kind of solified Flow, thus is made out of that same ancient technology.

    4) Magic like Elemental and Mystical, and Black too, are considered "standard", since revolve around forces of the mortal plane (elements, energies from nature and life, Death, darkness…), but some unusual or "Abnormal" exist, like Cosmic magic, Plane/dreamwalking, Chronic and all that revolves to more External forces.
  17. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    In my work in progress the magic system operates as follows:

    1. Magic is randomly gifted to 1 in 200 people by the gods during their Transition to Adulthood ceremony (held on their 16th birthday at a temple) in the form of a lightning bolt called the Spark.
    2. Magic relies on the body's natural energy reserves to work so mages need to maintain a strict diet and undertake physical exercise to be able to get the best use of it.
    3. Mages are ranked on the basis of their competency in basic, advanced and specialist spell casting.
    4. Rules and laws governing magic differ from country to country and sometimes even within countries.
    5. While spell casting can only be done by those gifted with the Spark other magic can be taught to others who are referred to as conjurers.
  18. Rob Ball

    Rob Ball Acolyte

    Magic is a way of turning your mental process into a physical one. To do this you need a conduit that is both physical and mental, i.e chanting is not physical but has a presence or a totem that has been given a mental meaning. Most magic is charms and curses and though based on tradition doesn't have to be.
  19. Dee

    Dee New Member

    I'm a bit late to this, but I'm enjoying looking over how people approach the problem (and it is a tricky thing-the choices you make can make or break the audience's ability to suspend disbelief and enjoy the story without thinking too much about how the character is managing to levitate or whatever). I've been sticking with how people have used 'magic/magick' in history; from Shamanic traditions through to John Dee and Aleister Crowley. My protaganist is tightly connected with the spirit world and an accomplish wonders, but the more wonderous the wonders, the less connection to the material she has. Historically some cultures believed that in order to interact with mortals, it was necessary for spirit beings to have something material to latch onto. Animzl blood sacrifices, stone idols and the like. In order to grapple with magic, you need to think through your own ontological approach to reality itself. Is the world maya- illusion? Or is there some aethyric well of power people can draw upon if properly trained?
  20. ClearDragon

    ClearDragon Minstrel

    My magic system in five sentences.

    #1 Magic is like a programing language.
    #2 Anyone could use it, but not everyone is good at it!
    #3 You need strong spirituality to power spells.
    #4 Magic can do amazing things, but it can't resurrect people or make you young forever!
    #5 A very, very small number of people have far stronger magic power!

    I don't know if thats any good.
    Dee likes this.

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