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How can I come up with a good cost for my magic?


In my story's world, witchcraft is a respected institution, with the most powerful practitioners being at the top echelons of society. Due to this, society traces its lineage through matrilineal lines. Schools and research are given over to studying the occult as magic took the place of science. Spells require various components and materials, as well as the knowledge of certain chants. Time limits vary, with longer and more powerful spells taking many hours to complete.

A witch has the power to summon a familiar by using her body as a conduit between the mortal and ethereal plane. These powerful spirits are forever linked with their master, and used in a number of ways, such as magical batteries, amplifiers, repositories, or for battle. Through the connection between one and their familiar, one can manipulate their spells to degree that was previously impossible for them. It also allows for one to be able to understand spells and magic that they would have no understanding of quicker and more readily. Familiars are birthed into the world in the same way that human children are born through a year long ritual spell, and grow in power with the user.

When creating a magic system, I was taught that there always had to be a cost, to keep the magic interesting. I am looking for a drawback to explain why every witch does not go through the process. One that I was considering was that the witch must have never given birth before the ritual, and that the process renders her infertile afterwards, ensuring that they will never have a lineage. For this reason, familiars are rare in this world.

I am rethinking that scheme, because someone has told me that this concept is sexist toward women because it suggests that a female's only worth is her fertility and that having kids is the most important thing to them. I do question whether that is accurate, or if I am overthinking it.

Is this a god cost for magic? Should it be changed or added to?
Could always use the soul price. You want a familiar, it takes a piece of your soul to come to existence. How much are you willing to take for the power that comes with the familiar?


toujours gai, archie
Age. It'll cost you X number of years for that one.

Risk. You can try, but if it fails you are maimed, die, grow extra toes, lose all magic, etc.

Difficulty. Only the rare few can manage it. Either no one knows why, or the truth is a secret to be discovered.

Scarcity. These familiars are rare, difficult to find, and maybe has to be bargained with.

Money. The cost is actual money, in that all the ingredients are rare and expensive.

Horror. The familiar does awful things to the body and continues to exact a cost even after birth.

and so on


I don't know... having to give physical birth to an inhuman creature seems like a pretty good cost in and of itself. Plus they're probably going to be out of commission for at least several months due to the... pregnancy? Ritual? Maybe most people do go through with it at some point, the holdouts being those who simply decide that they're content with their inferior power and that it's not worth going through with such a grotesque-sounding process.
Interesting, but you could keep the scheme the same and have sexism a theme of your novel, make it a deliberate thing, so a flaw of your planet. Show the the good and the bad of having women in this position.

As for magical prices. I think it's fair that the price is enough for the magic required. So your soul or life of someone may be a bit much for a small amount of magic. I also read a book where you can work up a tab for the magic you use, and the character had worked up so much to owe this witch it was something huge, she wanted the life of his next born child and his wife currently had one in the oven. So He found someone else to shoulder the burden of his debt. The witch didn't care who paid him, as long as she got paid. It's just about brain-storming ideas and possibilities and ensuring paying a price plays a part in your book. Then there is the chance you pay and it doesn't work out. Then there's you pay physically like with the Rhinegold. The gold gives you power but it kills the thing you love most. So if your vain it makes you ugly the more you use it. I would do a google search and see what suggestions come up, I did and I got some very good ideas to play with.

Best of luck!
Could always use the soul price. You want a familiar, it takes a piece of your soul to come to existence. How much are you willing to take for the power that comes with the familiar?
This is a cool idea, but we need a definition of a soul, I think. Whenever I hear "oooh, every time you do this magicky thing you will lose a tiny piece of humanity" it raises alarm bells in m head. What is the worth of a soul?
I don't find it sexist at all if fertility is the price to pay. I think it's, in a twisted way, a beautiful sacrifice and a meaningful one. And if we as writers are constantly going to have to be careful what to write in order for our stories not to sound/look sexist, rascist, homophobic, etc.... Then stories will grow dull quickly. Not all societies, including fictional ones, are a utopia of equality and acceptance.

I can imagine that in that world there are going to be some men in that story that take offence that women can acquire such power, whether it's throw magic or otherwise.

So, just write whatever feels right to you, even if you are going to upset the 'handful' of readers who are going to take offense to the story. It's better if they look elsewhere then cause not all tales are meant for everybody x-x

As for using the soul as cost, that could work too.

In my world the soul is a very real thing. The soul is the person's essence; their memories, personalities, emotions, etc... The body is just a protective husk that it carries around while staying in the realm of the living. The weaker the soul the more wispy and shapeless it appears but the stronger it is the more shape and more tangeable it becomes, hence why places get haunted, etc...

Another aspect is that the soul takes shape of the person's personality. Per example if you are a person who's been known to be selfish and greedy and who holds only value in material things, then your soul could end up looking like this fiendish thing with a tendancy to hoard material things like jewelry and money in the after life.

So as a sacrifice, your character's soul could end up being horribly mishappen for dealing with darker magics. Perhaps to the extent that it starts to affect the body as well. Weird skin conditions, aging rapidly, etc...


It sounds like you have an awesome grasp of how to build a costly magic system. You've made magic into something akin to lawyering or doctoring in real life. It takes effort, time, etc., and it's not for just anyone. I do think that whoever suggested the sexist angle is overthinking it; it's up to your story itself to establish whether this cost is "the most important thing to a woman." The cost itself doesn't imply it. Perhaps it's the fact that familiars are rare. Do they have to be rare because of the lineage thing? Are lineages themselves very important in this world?

You already seem to have a societal role reversal in the fact that women comprise the upper echelon more than men. Haven't men been historically concerned with their legacy precisely because they're prominent in society?

I like Dark Fantasy's suggestion, too. Wear this cost and it's sexist implications on the story's sleeve. Maybe some witches are angry about this cost. Maybe some witches blatantly defy their ability to give birth, and gladly give it up. Maybe a lot of witches have an obsession with legacy, as I've mentioned before. Oh wait, I see you didn't specifically make women dominant. Maybe think about that possibility? But whether it's the most important thing or not, people like to have progeny. You could figure out a realistic resistance to never having kids that doesn't reflect poorly on women specifically. And, as others have said, you can write about a sexist society without yourself being sexist or the work promoting sexism.