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How to constrain the use of attack magic among civilians

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Sharad9, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. Sharad9

    Sharad9 Scribe

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    Magic is drawn from an alternate dimension and used to alter reality in the world around you. It generally involves three steps.

    The first is tapping into this other realm and drawing energy from it into your body. This is a slow, arduous process that cannot be rushed. Every spell has its own time frame. The analogy is compared to cooking: too slow and nothing substantial will happen, too fast and there will be a "flaw" in the spell.
    The second step involves holding the energy in your body and keeping it stable. This energy tends to leak out of pores or fizzle away, so the more stable and controlled it is, the more effective the spell.
    The final part involves directing the energy outside your body to perform the actual spell. You must activate it by performing the incantation and envisioning the spell that you want to perform, such as starting a campfire or speeding up the growth of crops.
    All of this requires much concentration and focus, and can be the equivalent of physical activity. Spells can take several minutes to hours to perform, depending on how powerful it is.

    While regular magic is almost slow and patient, attack magic is the opposite. It requires aggressively forcing energy from the dimension and imposing your will onto the world. Creating fireballs and throwing lightning are some of the ways this form of magic is used to attack or defend. This magic much quicker and more powerful, able to call down giant fireballs from the sky and create devastating attacks that can kill scores of people. But it is highly dangerous.

    Drawing energy this way can be painful. Holding it inside yourself, without the right amount of control, can cause the energy to damage your internal organs, or make you combust, infect you with a disease, age prematurely, etc. Directing it out of your body without the right amount of control can also cause you to hurt yourself, like blowing off your own arm, losing control of the spell and causing collateral damage.

    Would these drawbacks be enough to constrain usage of attack magic among people? Is more needed to control the use of this brand of magic?
     
  2. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    No matter how dangerous something is, there are always people who will do it. Look at the horrible things cigarettes do to people, yet the tobacco business is a billion dollar industry. Same with meth and other illegal drugs.

    My first thought is they could suffer the consequences - injury, disease, etc. - then use standard magic afterwards to repair the damage. One of the limits I place on magic is that using it is similar to one's physical strength - there's an upper limit that humans simply cannot exceed, no matter how much you exercise or augment your diet. Same with magic.
     
  3. Bruce McKnight

    Bruce McKnight Troubadour

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    I guess if someone used too much they would die? That would certainly place a limit on it, but to Guy's point, people would still use it. If magic couldn't heal (or at least couldn't heal damage done by magic), it would probably be a pretty good way to limit it.

    Also like Guy, I have more natural limitations on magic in my world. People are born with gifts, meaning they can do different things. Some can read minds, some can make fireballs, most can do nothing. Even if people are born with a gift, they may never realize it and will probably have a hard time finding someone to help teach them about how to use it. This serves as a great limiter, too.
     
  4. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Does regular law enforcement exist at all in the OP's world?

    Civilians inflicting bodily injury and killing each other becomes a judicial question, pretty much regardless of the method used.
     
  5. Peat

    Peat Sage

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    Risk is roughly equal to utility there though. This sounds more like splitting the atom in your back garden in case you need to nuclear blackmail your neighbour.

    Sharad, how much practice would someone have to do to learn combat magic and how dangerous would that practice be?
     
  6. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Hello Sharad and everyone else!

    The Magic that you described sounds very dangerous to me. I think that most civilians would choose to use something safer in case that they want to hurt other people, like swords and possibly guns depending on the weaponry available in your world.

    Why risk to blow up your own arm trying to shoot fireballs, if you can attack with something else?

    Also, I am under the impression that all civilians in your world have the capacity to use magic. If that is the case, then just knowing that if you attack with deadly magic any other person can do the same to you would be enough of a deterrent.

    Why attack somebody with potentially fatal magic if they (or their friends) are going to hit back?

    We all can punch and kick, but most people do not get into street fights. We all have deadly knives in our kitchens, and yet you do not see knife fights in the streets every now and then.

    Another option is to have a police force, all of them equipped with magic more powerful than usual.
     
  7. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Even if everyone in the world has the capacity to do magic, that doesn't mean everyone should automatically be any good at it.

    Everyone on Earth is capable of fighting with their bare hands, but that doesn't mean everyone can do karate.

    Anyone with fingers is technically capable of defusing a bomb, but if you don't know what you're doing, you're going to blow yourself up and everyone standing around you.

    In other words, if you aren't trained in the field, you're likely not to be effective, and there may even be a good chance you'll kill or seriously hurt yourself if you try. Seems an effective deterrent to me.

    Even if you're gifted and have the innate ability to work attack magic safely, how do you know that before you try? If you try once and there are no bad effects, what's to say it will go the same way next time? If there have been visible bad effects from the attempts others have made, that should create substantial doubt that the untrained mind would always "luck out" when making repeated attempts.

    So I think you're good as described.
     
  8. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    I think the question of what percentage of your world's population can use magic is going to be key to answering this question. The consequences outlined would probably deter most people, but there will always be some willing to take that risk. The more people who can use magic, the higher that number will be.

    Some method of countering magic could add another level of deterrent. Perhaps a spell that sends the energy back where it came from, preventing it from being used.
     
  9. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

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    Even if everyone in your world can use attack magic, what makes you think they would? Everyone in our world has access to a knife, yet how many people attack others with one. For any society to exist the members have to be willing to not kill each other.
     
  10. claramcalister

    claramcalister Scribe

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    Idk, maybe it's because i'm an American, but I don't think that argument necessarily works.

    Most people here in the US have guns for home protection- mostly because we know that criminals are more often than not armed, or we want to prepare for a worst case scenario. And we can argue ethics and legalities about that all we want, but it doesn't change the simple fact that most people, when they perceive a threat, want to be equally capable of defending against that threat. Which means owning guns and knives, knowing hand to hand on at least a rudimentary level, and... Yeah, probably learning Combat Magic even if it's dangerous.

    And as someone pointed out earlier: There's lots of people who do dangerous things despite the risks- even when the risks are "probably inevitable death". So that can't really be considered enough of a deterrent. You would need one of two things in order for any deterrent to be meaningful or work: 1. Widespread cultural ideology against whatever it is (in this case, the use of combat magic), and 2. Legislature reducing or disabling its use.
     
  11. claramcalister

    claramcalister Scribe

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    Maybe it's just because I'm an American... But I can't see where most ideas here are logical.

    In America, most people have weaponry of some sort and know basic hand to hand- and most of us do because we want to be capable of defending ourselves, or meeting any attack brought to us with an equal strength / capacity for retaliation. Do most people need it? No. Is the likelihood of needing it honestly very high? For the average person, again no. And yet people still feel as if they do and often go out of their way to ensure they have it available "just in case". And like someone else pointed out: There are definitely people dumb enough to do things despite egregious risk to self- including "probably inevitable death".

    For that reason, if Combat Magic is an option, I don't see why the disastrous consequences of it would really discourage anyone from using it- or at least learning HOW to use it in a rudimentary way. So I think, realistically speaking, that there's only one real way to curb the likelihood of using things like this. The first is a widespread cultural ideology against the use of it- and the second is widespread legislature preventing or limiting its use. Otherwise, there's no real incentive or capacity not to use it.

    And sure, it's not going to limit its use among everyone. But it does mean that people who care about being good / moral / socially upstanding / law abiding citizens are going to be far less likely to do so- and for the most part, only the criminally inclined are not going to care.
     
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  12. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    If untrained risk-takers are killed or put out of commission after a few attempts, then eventually the number of untrained risk-takers still willing to take the risk will become effectively zero, with the occasional outlier. If the stakes are high enough, they will be a deterrent, either because potential risk-takers are smart enough to know not to try, or are too stupid to live. If the stakes are not that high, they won't be an effective deterrent. So, back to the OP's stakes:

    If untrained risk-takers in attempting to cast combat magic only manage to rupture their spleens, spontaneously combust, infect themselves with polio, age fifty years, blow off an arm or a leg or a head, burn down their house, accidentally wipe out a city block, then it's very unlikely they will try to cast combat magic again. Even if they are still alive and have the physical and mental capacity to try again, they may be arrested if they caused collateral damage, and put away where they can't cause more trouble.

    So maybe a given untrained person is willing to try using combat magic, but after the first try, if they didn't succeed, and it sounds like chances are good they won't, then they probably will not have the opportunity to try again. The OP's stakes sound severe enough to be effective deterrents overall, even if they don't stop some people from trying once.
     
  13. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    In other words, if you owned a gun, and every other time you fired it, it blew up in your face and did nothing to your target, you'd either throw the gun away or go get training on how to use it.
     
  14. claramcalister

    claramcalister Scribe

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    I've literally seen someone poor vodka on themselves at a birthday party, catch themselves on fire intentionally, get horrendous 3rd and 4th degree burns that required months of hospitalization and numerous skin grafts... Only to go right back to doing the same behavior that got him those burns less than a month after finally getting back out of the hospital; I've literally watched a guy jump off a cliff at the lake, and land horribly on the rocks- breaking several bones in his body.... Only to be right back out there at the exact same cliff within a month of getting his casts off, doing the exact same thing. I've watched people on Youtube intentionally try to put so many rounds through a gun as to make it blow up, melt, or otherwise destroy itself- at great personal risk to themselves.

    Both in person and online I've seen people shoot themselves, wreck their vehicles, and all number of things- and then watched as they did it again and again and again and again as soon as they were able, without even remotely reconsidering the behavior or caring about the injury it caused them (or the fact that if they keep doing it, it will likely result in their death).

    Pardon me when I say that I think you give humanity way too much credit.
     
  15. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Yeah but the idea behind this thread is how to constrain the use of deadly magic between civilians.

    I am sure that there would be at least a few clueless and stupid people that would try to use it for whatever purpose that comes to their twisted minds, no matter what. At least, that's what would happen if a scenario like this was possible in my Fantasy worlds.

    Fortunately, in my highly magical settings only Mages are powerful and the regular people cannot do anything magical at all.

    With deadly magic available for everyone there would be some magical incidents every now and then, but in general how dangerous the magic is and the fact that anybody can retaliate in kind would be enough to deter most people from the casual use of magic in that world.
     
  16. claramcalister

    claramcalister Scribe

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    And that's where I disagree. Certainly it would dissuade those who care about safety or are otherwise not dumb enough (or are too scared) to try it. But based on what I've witnessed from the Human Race, I doubt that's a significant portion of any population even in a fantasy one.

    My biggest problem with that assertion, though, is that it doesn't realistically take into account all the reasons why we as people choose not to perform certain actions; it ignores the fact that constraint of action ultimately has 3 main factors that influence it:


    1. Social / Cultural Ideology: What cultural mores and beliefs exist about harming others that could extend to- and thereby limit- the use of Combative Magic?

      For example: In the culture, killing people is considered wrong. Ergo, using Combative magic is frowned upon and considered socially immoral (etc); or Alternatively: In the culture, killing yourself through negligence and irresponsibility is considered wrong. Ergo, using Combative Magic (which has a high chance of killing you) is frowned upon and considered socially immoral (etc).
    2. Legal Regulation and Retaliation: What laws exist to prevent or limit its use, and why do they exist. Furthermore, does the Government have the capacity to adequately enforce these laws and provide punishment for those who break them?
    3. Inbuilt System Limitation: In other words, what about the way Magic operates in your universe prevents people from using it, or otherwise limits its use through natural law?

      For Example:
      According to the rules of magic within the Universe, the use of Combative Magic is limited by birth. Ergo, only certain groups born with the capability for Combative Magics can logically use (or learn to use) them; or Alternatively: There are severe consequences for using Combative Magics- such as loss of life or limb, injury, etc.

    Basically what I'm trying to say is that if your method of constraint is wholly (or largely) reliant on "too great a risk for injury or death", then your method of constraint ultimately fails.

    Inbuilt system rules that limit or otherwise discourage useis not realistically going to be enough to dissuade or prevent its use altogether- let alone in any sort of widespread manner; you can't rely on the idea that people would be smart enough and / or care enough and / or be scared enough not to mess around with it- largely because threat of consequence isn't always a large deciding factor in whether or not we choose to do something (let alone always a deciding factor at all)... Likewise, you can't rely on the idea that those who are dumb enough will eventually kill themselves off until there's no one dumb enough left at all.

    It really, really doesn't work like that.

    In order to have a successful, equally balanced method of constraining its use... You have to take into account all three elements that generally affect our decision making on both personal and societal levels: Social Convention, Legal Regulation, and System Limitations.

    And that's still not going to prevent the most idiotic of the idiotic- or the most criminal of the criminal- sure. But all three factors do still play important roles in limiting action far more than just one or two do on their own.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2017
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  17. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    I agree that social convention and laws would also be an important part of the constrain.

    Something important is that we are analyzing all of this with the idea that the people in Sharad's world are exactly like us Earth people. Who knows, maybe they are a different species with some other views of society and the world.

    It would be good to know more about the world in question, since every Fantasy world is different.

    In my Wander's Land world, if ordinary people suddenly obtained magical powers they would be far too scared of themselves to even consider the idea of trying any magical action.

    In my Aylar worlds, even ordinary people are Aylars and they are vicious creatures with quite deadly powers.

    They would be regarded as magical beings in all of the Fantasy worlds that I know. What happens between Aylars is that they respect each other very much, and so there is rarely any real fight between civilians.

    They do go to war, but that's a totally different situation.
     
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  18. claramcalister

    claramcalister Scribe

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    That's kind of my point. Relying wholly on the idea that people wouldn't do it because "you could kill yourself doing this" is flat and unrealistic. Ultimately it's arguably either a crutch or a cop out for an underdeveloped culture / world; if you're not also taking into account the social mores- and legal regulations- of the culture in question and how that would also inevitably effect (affect?) its constraint then there's something wrong with your worldbuilding. And I think that's true regardless of whether or not we're analyzing it from a Human perspective or a fantasy one.
     
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  19. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Well, in my first post in this thread I did suggest that having a magical Police Force would also be a good way to constrain civilian magic.

    I have said that most people would have some good judgement and they would choose to avoid using that kind of Magic, for the reasons that I explained. I never expressed the idea that everyone would be dissuaded, and I agree that the points that you mention are important too.

    A good example would be this:

    In my street, a few of the neighbors sometimes throw extremely loud parties that last almost all night. When this happens they make me so mad that I would love to go and throw some high powered and life-threatening firecrackers at them, because I have an entire arsenal of those things.

    However, I know that they would attack me in retaliation and I would be outnumbered and in great trouble. Even if there were no laws against throwing deadly explosives, I would still not do this.

    Some stupid people would do it anyway, I know.

    In the case of Aylars, they do have severe laws against hurting and murdering each other. Still, even if they were a completely anarchic society they would respect each other a lot.

    Another good example is the Harry Potter world:

    In the Wizarding society they all have magical powers, and even though not everyone knows Dark Magic they still have the potential to cause great harm to each other. This does not happen often because there are magical laws against it, there are magical police forces (Aurors) and also there is the fact that anybody can retaliate in kind.

    It's really a combination of several different factors.
     
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  20. claramcalister

    claramcalister Scribe

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    Sorry, I was replying mostly within the context of Michael's additions and the points you made which were relatively in line with it. Specifically the statement that:

    I didn't mean to make it seem as if I was saying you had the same ideology or that you wholly believed the same. I apologize if it came across that way. I simply meant that that was my only point of contention with the argument- because realistically speaking consequences like "probable death and bodily injury" aren't actually enough to deter people. There have to be other consequences as well, with far more power.

    Your examples using your own world were / are pretty much the epitome of the point I was trying to make (albeit badly; it's almost 3am for me); your examples illustrate really well how social mores (at the very least) played a role in curtailing certain activities. Which is why (IMO) it's a bit ridiculous to ignore those as an integral contributing factor when trying to find ways to limit certain magical types and activities- such as what I felt Michael was saying at least in part.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2017
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