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Help with magic system/worldbuilding

Discussion in 'World Building' started by BloodyNine, Jul 1, 2019.

  1. BloodyNine

    BloodyNine New Member

    Hi, new here and also attempting to iron out some details for my first novella/novel. So some quick context of my initial idea, although have got many details to finish/sort out: so there are magic users (either different species altogether or humans who have somehow gained magic, either by birth, or a progenitor cell etc, again, many details not figured out) who once were hidden from the world, exposed, and centuries or so later coexist peacefully to an extent and through working with the normal humans helped the world undergo a magical type revolution, similar to industrial revolutions, creating breakthroughs, allowing technology to be infused with magical properties etc and for many years society has now become reliant on magic for their way of living and there's a society of working class wizards (taking some examples from a post on tumblr:
    Construction wizards to turn back time to root out wood worm and strengthen old buildings
    A wizard specializing in construction, casting feather fall on every worker, and enchanting every hammer to drive nails in straight, animating the living clay that makes up the core of the crane
    Wizard farmers who grow their crops in arcane sigils to increase yield, or produce healthier fruit
    things in a similar vein as tha . Now though, the world is affected by a kind of magical pollution by overuse of magic, creating all kinds of negative effects, however since undecided on exactly what powers the magic system will contain i'm unsure of which effects, but something maybe like a deadly wasteland in certain areas, creatures/monsters behaving very differently, weird affects on health when using magic etc. therefore magic has either become prohibited or usage reduced, handicapping the population. The main thing which i'm struggling to think of is creating a magical system that encompasses a large variety of different possibilities and powers, but not seem messy, arbitrary and unexplainable, and don't want to use the overused elemental fire,earth, water and air model. Any ideas?
    sorry if this just seems like quite a broad question and would appreciate any help :)
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I like to put a limit on Magic. Define what it can and cannot do. What is it's cost to use, physical, emotional, resources, sanity, time? I like that you have a magical byproduct and unexpected consequences.
    But you could go further... as examples, if a spell is cast to make a valley extra abundant, then it might cause a drought as all the water is sucked out of the ground to feed the crops. Or a magical strengthened building is too tough to change later one...
    Also I tend not to name my magic, it just is. As long as I know it's limits and how it works [and keep to them], then does the reader need to know as well?
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    It's a great idea. How much more filled out do you think it needs to be? On one hand, I can see just going straight to story development and letting that drive the details.

    I can also see a kind of strategic decision to be made here. You say there are "all kinds of negative effects" that have been created. You can let that remain unpredictable--the effect of the pollution is essentially to create creeping chaos. You could turn to real pollution for a model. Small effects that don't seem all that important (except to specialists), then sudden, major ramifications. In that case, I can see the wizards being resistant to the warning signs, because it directly affects their livelihood. Creeping chaos lets you have all sorts of fun, from comedy to tragedy, from small-scale to epic.

    In another direction, you would have something more direct. Use of A results in B, with the only variant being perhaps intensity or speed. In that case, you really do want to work out lots more details, because you are building a massive clockwork of magical cause and effect. Still plenty of room for fun and invention, though. And you can still get to a story fairly quickly, by concentrating on just one cause and effect. Maybe an early warning sign or suchlike.

    I think you're already beyond the Earth, Wind and Fire stage. I mean, how are you going to classify nail-straightening, right? You could have a good time going through all the trades and professions (a book formatting spell, please!) and figuring out a magic angle for each. This ties magic not to principles or taxonomies but to actual work to be done. Is there some sort of underlying source or system for all the varied forms of magical activity? Maybe. But do you need one? This question is left as an exercise for the student.
  4. MrNybble

    MrNybble Sage

    Making a magic system can be daunting. Decide if the system is soft or hard. There are already a few articles and videos about this.

    One thing about using magic for everything can have issues that cause problems with any social structure. If everybody can use magic, there has to be a limit or mundane tools as we know them are useless. Among other problems if magic is limitless. If a select few can use magic than it forms an unbalanced class system where wizards can control others by monopolizing magic services.
  5. Lucifer the arisen

    Lucifer the arisen New Member

    I really like the story concept and can see it going in a wide variety of directions, I can of course understand the difficulty of creating a magic system as well as your desire to step away from basic element or even specialty based magic systems. I don't mean to overly influence your story (I am an ardent supporter of allowing worlds to grow naturally). But I would personally recommend a sigil based system of magic. Now there are a couple of directions you could go with this

    1. instead of actually creating things they would simply be redirecting energy ie:to water a field of plants you would cause a drought. These results wouldn’t necessarily be consistent allowing for them to be dismissed more easily. In short magic users would be drawing energy from the natural world and redirecting it through the use of signals. (I just want to add that all credit for this idea should go to cupofjoe since they were the one who originally came up with it.)

    2. Each sigill represents a kind of theft, where a magic users power would be controlled by the complexity of the sigil as well as their own ingenuity and will power. These thefts would create a sort of magical blowback. Something which would dissipate harmlessly over time in small amounts, but corrupts and/or destroys the natural world around it in larger quantities. This would also allow for the possibility of a green magic which might later be developed as an alternative to theft. Or some kind of greater magically response (which occurs later on in the story) that is caused by wherever or whatever they are stealing this magic from.

    3. Very similar to #2. Except humans capture magical creatures and harness there magical energies for their own profit. However these energies might possibly become violent and resistant to containment or usage since they were stolen.

    4.whatever direction best works for you. This is of course your book and only you know the best path for it to follow.
  6. BloodyNine

    BloodyNine New Member

    Yeah that's the trouble I'm having, essentially the idea is that the magic is to be varied enough and has enough variation of application to revolutionise many aspects of human life, be it agriculture, wards for protecting homes etc, as skip. Knox mentioned, enough variety to be applied through many different trades. But at the same time I do want there to be at least some kind of unifying system or classification system so it doesn't end up being like a "hey, how can he/she do this?" "oh cos you know, magic" kinda deal, without much thought
    Thanks :)
    I think I'm definitely leaning to a kind of mixture, as in there is major hotpots declared as very dangerous to enter where there are unpredictable effects as well as effects linked specifically to the magic, so for example healers may have the chance of removing a symptom from a patient but it manifests in themselves, or teleportation sickness etc (again, just random examples throwing out there to give an idea, not that I plan to include teleportation)
    I agree that it would largely effect social structure and there would be an unbalance, I don't know if I'm thinking too hard about this seeing as the time I'm planning to set it at is essentially at a point when magic is too dangerous to use and is either prohibited by the governing power, or simply agreed upon by the majority of the population or both. Where there will be citizens unwilling to give up their powers so try to hide away, maybe certain magic is found not to have much of an effect so that magic has more leeway, thus causing conflict that way, that kind of vibe. So as far as I'm aware so far magic isn't going to feature too much in the story. But I do want a solid enough knowledge of how the system works or at least some limits and parameters in place and a source but otherwise a fairly soft system. I'll have to look up those articles thanks :) was just in a rush for some help so haven't explored yet.
    Thank you, that seems like it could be a good way to incorporate different magical abilities in a logical way. Each idea is something I could work with :) especially number 2
  7. BloodyNine

    BloodyNine New Member

    Just thought I'd add in another idea I've had, one that was actually a seperate story idea which could fit into this one. involving multiple dimensions, where some kind of diety/beings operate in each dimension a part of a council of some sort that can control entropy, a sliding scale of chaos. Maybe the representative of this settings realm upset the others in some way, gets punished by the council who ramps up the chaos of his realm, who plays it off as "pollution" of the citizenry's magic. What do you guys think, plausible to add into this or not?
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2019
  8. Nessa Phoenix

    Nessa Phoenix Acolyte

    Hi! So...

    Having a limit on magic is great and gives more plot to the stories in my opinion. I'm tired of the "it's magic, deal with it" kind of answers some people give when they hit a plot hole.

    You say that your world is affected by magic pollution because of how much magic has been used. For me, this kinda sounds like our pollution and global warming. In our world we have natural disasters and sickness caused by pollution and global warming. So maybe the magic users in your world could be getting sick and losing their powers slowly? Or maybe humans are being affected by magic? You can have magical disasters? Kind of like how we have natural disasters. Maybe a long time ago wards were put around an evil being and now the wards are gone and that being is free?

    You can also add magic regulation to your story, have some kind of magical government and laws that punish magic users when they use more magic that they are allow. Magic prison? Maybe, now magic users need to wear a bracelet or something that blocks some of their powers?
  9. C. R. Rowenson

    C. R. Rowenson Scribe

    here are a couple of links that might help with the Hard/Soft magic types
    Types of Magic Part 1: Hard Magic, Soft Magic, and In-Between ⋆ C. R. Rowenson
    Sanderson's First Law | Brandon Sanderson

  10. C. R. Rowenson

    C. R. Rowenson Scribe

    Magic pollution... that's FANTASTIC!!!
    It seems to me that your best next step would be to spend some time figuring out exactly what kind of story you want to tell and what kind role you want the magic to play in that story. Everyone has already given a lot of great suggestions for you to consider. Were it me, I would spend some time identifying the driving component of my story and magic. Here are a couple of articles that might help with that.
    Stage 0 of Building Marvelous Magic: Where to Start Building ⋆ C. R. Rowenson
    Speed-Dating Your Magic System in 9 Minutes ⋆ C. R. Rowenson
    I actually help storytellers of all kinds of craft, repair, and optimize their magic systems for their stories. So, if you would like more help, direction, or just someone to bounce ideas off of, please let me know. I'd love to work with you to further develop this awesome idea.
  11. BloodyNine

    BloodyNine New Member

    Thanks, watching those videos were really helpful, and one really weird thing is that upon watching and browsing the channel i realised some of the advice mentioned along with the choices of stories he chose to express them were similar to something i'd already read. Eventually I worked out that the guy who runs the youtube channel is the author of a worldbuilding book I purchased on kindle a little while ago which i've read small parts of. It's called on writing and worldbuilding volume one, in case you weren't aware of it's existence.
    I'm still deciding which direction to take the story in but i'm leaning towards mainly a soft magic system, mainly because the magical pollution concept causing unpredictability and chaos pretty much lends the story towards having a softer magic system, or at least a hard magic system which became more vague and inexplicable after the pollution took place.
    I'd definitely be up for talking with you in regards to bouncing ideas between us, as creativity isn't a strong point for me unfortunately and currently I'm struggling to get past the initial concept and flesh out a story with it.

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