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I need a simple test for magic ability.

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Anders Ämting, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. My story requires my MC to perform a very simple, basic test to see if she has any talent as a magician. (Turns out she doesn't.) So, I need a reliable method that the magicians in this world can use to measure magical talent. Not how much magical potential they have, because my MC has that is spades, but rather the talent for controling and focusing it into spells. Even so, it has to be something that anyone can do without having to learn how.

    Having a bit of trouble of thinking of anything suitable, though, so suggestions are welcome.

    Magic in this story is mostly about mentally channeling a kind of natural energy, usually with some manner of staff or other tool, and use it to enforce ones will on the physical world. It's relatively limited and not terribly flashy by fantasy standards.
  2. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    A simple crystal enchanted with the ability to detect magic, they they hold in their hand and focus their mind on it and if it glows there is magic. :)
    Anders Ämting likes this.
  3. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    Tie stones to their feet and toss them in the river. If they sink, they're a witch! If they float, they're a powerful witch!
    elemtilas, topazfire and Roc like this.
  4. Wanara009

    Wanara009 Troubadour

    While what Saigonnus suggest is fine, I think simple movement spell would more universally applicable, especially in regions where there are none of those crystals around.

    Put them in a tent/shelter with flat floor, have a small pebble in front of them, and tell them to levitate/push/pull it without touching it. If they succeeded in doing so, then they have.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
    Zireael likes this.
  5. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    I don't know what you meant by "controlling". If it requires some kind of dexterity besides being able to keep the focus you could do something in similar fashion to those games where you must get a ring through a circuit of twisted wire without touching the wire. Manually.

    It's a mundane test that could be done everywhere, a suggestion to contrast with the other ones. You don't need magic to measure the focus someone has and it's also a little funny because it's unexpected, has none of the glamour related to magic. I can imagine the MC with a "Are you f- kidding me?" face when learning the true nature of the test.
  6. Not sure I like the crystal thing, but it would be kinda fun if the test was light a lightbulb that isn't plugged into anything.

    Actually, I think that's a little too advanced. Levitating stuff seems like the kind of thing they would learn after studying magic for a while, rather than a test to see if they are worth the effort.

    You are wise in the ways of science, sir knight.
  7. I dunno, it seems a bit weird that only solving a puzzle would decide wether or not you have the talent to learn magic. I should mention that the magical and mundane worlds are fairly separate in this story - either you have magic potential or you don't, and the muggles can't even see magic stuff most of the time.

    Plus, it can't be anything you can guess ahead of time just by knowing or observing the subject. (For example, if the MC's magician sister knows she is terrible at puzzles, there would be no need to even do the test.)
  8. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    What if the person taking the test is supposed to attract butterflies, squirrels or small birds and demonstrate some degree of control over them??

    The test could be carried out in a forest so there are animals nearby, it could be a nice scene for a story =)

    Extracting the water from a leaf would be cool...
  9. The Unseemly

    The Unseemly Troubadour

    Maybe make it more sciencestific? There could be sort of unit for measuring magic (like kph or mph just more... magical), and whomever's performing the test could have the magic-measuring device that is understandable by anyone (sort of like a speed gun, as used by police forces).
  10. I'd rather it's something that can be done anywhere. Anyway, my mages don't seem to be the outgoing types and it's an urban fantasy so most of the story takes place in a city.

    Like I said, it's about measuring natural talent, not "how much magic" someone has.

    Magic energy in this story is called rí, which is literally what makes the world go around. My MC is basically a huge living generator of the stuff, but thats's the problem: Her rí is so unbalanced it threatens to destroy her body when it goes haywire.

    There are a couple of ways to manage this problem, and the first they try is to see if they can simply teach her magic so she can control her rí on her own.
  11. Nihilium 7th

    Nihilium 7th Sage

    How about a test where the person being tested has on of their senses totally cut off somehow either through magic or by simply doing something like blindfolding them or giving them a herb that numbs the body. If their innate abilities compensate for the missing sense they pass the test.
    Anders Ämting likes this.
  12. How do you mean, compensate?
  13. Nihilium 7th

    Nihilium 7th Sage

    Like if their body is numbed their abilities will find a way to give them a limited amount of feeling for a limited amount of time.
  14. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Have them pee on a stick. If it turns blue, they're magical. If it turns red then they're not.
  15. It's an interesting idea. Might suit the magic system in one of my other stories better, though.

    I don't think magic talent leaves biochemical markers.
  16. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    You say what you're testing for is control, and that levitation is too advanced for an untrained student. What about, not lifting things, but just pushing something small-- sliding a pebble on the floor, or bending a flame or the flow of smoke or water. Maybe the MC gets mad and knocks the tent down instead with his excess energy.
  17. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    It's not a puzzle, the circuit usually is obvious, it's a focus/endurance/dex test. If you look away or get distracted in this kind of test you hand may shake and you lose, you've got to be patient to finish this kind of game. This, assuming that the same "focus" you use to realize mundane tasks is used for magic.

    As you said they already knew the subject has magical potential, they don't need to retest it. Also, it probably wouldn't the only test realized to check the whole "are you fit to be a mage?" thing.
  18. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I remember hearing a WWII story about the underground safe houses for Allied pilots who crashed in Nazi-occupied France. The safe houses had to determine if they were real pilots or spies, so in the middle of their interview, they would deck 'em. At random. To see what language they cursed in.

    So a test might be something like that. If while we're talking I hurl a bucket of boiling water on you, or do something similarly random and scary, does your gut instinct make you use magic to get out of it?
  19. It still seems too advanced. Basically, if you can move things with your mind, you are already using magic. And you can't use magic naturally, it's a skill that must be learned.

    It's kinda like the Force in Star Wars. You can't have Anakin Skywalker prove his potential by levitating stuff before recieving the required Jedi training. So instead, they have to check his blood for midichlorians, which was pretty much a plot device designed for this expressed purpose.

    (And, frankly, I'm starting to feel sympathetic to George Lucas now because coming up with this stuff is kinda hard.)

    Yes, well, same difference I'd say.

    Let me put it this way: I don't think my MC being terrible at magic has anything to do with her personality or mental faculties. She is just naturally terrible at it. It's kinda like how some people are tone deaf while other have absolute pitch.

    Oh, I meant it more like focus as in "channel and project." Sorry for the misconception. The most important thing for a mage is the innate ability to manipulate magic power, as opposed to generating it.
  20. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    It's ok, sometimes I may interpret things in a wrong context. Hah.

    Anyway, just for note, the lamps idea made me remember the TV serie Fringe. This scene:
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    It's a bomb, to defuse it she must mentally turn off all the lights.

    Nothing against the idea, it's pretty cool, but it's the kind of thing that it's good to be aware of.

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