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In-world opinions on mages

Discussion in 'World Building' started by ScaryMJDiamcreep, Oct 18, 2018.

  1. ScaryMJDiamcreep

    ScaryMJDiamcreep Troubadour

    I need help deciding what the public opinion on mages is, whether that be fear, hate, praise, not knowing their existance, or something else.

    I also need to decide what mages think of other mages. Should I go for supportive communities, "plural of wizard is war" or somewhere between?

    Edit: Forgot to mention, but there is no central school for a mage to learn magic in my world, and little that's acceptable in mage society for a mage to teach another mage.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2018
  2. JGCully

    JGCully Scribe

    I think this would maybe depend on if the main character is a mage?

    The general feeling in most fantasy book is one of fear and / or respect.

    Regards other makes opinions, maybe rival schools of magic? Or competition for public assistance? They could events be competing to see who has the ear of the king /appointed ruler?
  3. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Sage

    Mutual admiration among mages, but also the willingness to throw a rival under the proverbial bus. In a gig and independent contractor economy, people typically eat each other. Each mage brings their own self-taught independent skill set(s) to the table, and society values some skills more than others. Supply and demand, plus whatever the market for such skills demands, equals the public perception of mages. We admire pharmacists, but despise drug dealers. They both work with chemical or herbal substances that are in demand, just for different markets and clientele. Why is one occupation morally redeemable, and the other not? Perception.

    I see no reason why marketable magical powers and talents should work any differently; and public perceptions and opinions should be just as wide and varied as the skill set of the mages themselves.
  4. summondice

    summondice Scribe

    Where do people believe magic comes from in your world?

    That is, Night Gardener brings up a great point: a marketable skill is a marketable skill.

    ... Unless that skill is presumed to be evil in some way. What would make a person or group of people hate, distrust, or fear a magic-user in your world? I think that if you can answer that, you might find not only the answer to your questions, but the needed diversity of opinion that would likely be represented in a world where magic isn't codified in any way.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  5. elemtilas

    elemtilas Sage

    My take is that very much will actually depend on the nature of Magic itself in your world. There was a time, here in the primary world, when people believed that setting off an atomic weapon would literally cause the atmosphere to ignite in a world spanning fire. If Magic in your world is kind of like that, where something (relatively!) innocuous can set off a disastrous chain of unintended consequences, I hold that the opinions of ordinary folk on magic in general and mages in particular will range widely from "yeah, let's risk a planetwide fireball!" to "hang the wizards from their staves and burn em all!"

    Magic in the Wizarding World, for example, is actually pretty tame. Until one's powers & knowledge grow, it seems pretty controlled & guided by spells & charms & potions. And wands and schools. What we can see of magic in actual use in the WW largely boils down to self washing dishes, putting the chairs up on the tables at closing time and the machinations of the Ministry (folding leaflets & so forth). The worst of it seems to be when a bunch of baddies knocks down a bridge in London.

    In my own World, the nature of magic is that of a natural force. Its use always comes with cost (often high & unexpected) and with consequences (sometimes dire, sometimes comical). Some people have a natural affinity to working with magic, while others don't or else require wands & spells and so forth. It is not tame. Playing with magic might result in the equivalent of a mild electric shock, or perhaps the equivalent of a relatively mild gamma ray burst. There are, in the historical record, several instances of mages doing serious damage to the planet (on a geological scale) & harming large numbers of people into the bargain. The general opinion of Magic ranges quite widely indeed! The cat's been out of the bag long enough that there is no way of eliminating the practice of magic or the study of it. Many see the wisdom in regulating it via academia for the good of all. Some people fear mages and resent what they think of "unnatural" power; others respect them highly for their skill in navigating a truly but excitingly dangerous source of power; others worship & kowtow, placing them on too high a pedestal. And of course, wizards have their own (usually veiled) opinions as well. Sooner or later, any wizard with two brain cells to rub together is going to come to the conclusion that there is a Fundamental Truth to the old bromide about the most powerful mage being the one who knows when not to use magic.

    So yeah: figure out what magic actually is, what can be done with it & what happens when you try --- and go from there!
  6. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I only have one story where a mage character interacts broadly with non-mages, and that's Bellringer. The second main character, Valerie, is a mage who can heal wounds with a touch; she also practices alchemy. Most people (aside from the werewolves, whom she has rapport with) fear her "witchcraft", and the main villain tries to have her killed for it in the name of the Church.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Surely different people will have different opinions. Why not leave room for every sort of reaction?

    You can always craft a particular sentiment for a particular situation. A town was laid waste by wizards, so they don't all magic inside the city walls, period. A duke was made king with the help of a sorcerer, so he's pretty much ok with them, although others at court get nervous.

    And so on.
  8. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Years ago, on another site, I talked extensively with an elderly former petroleum engineer who spent a great deal of time traveling about the middle east in the 50's and 60's. Magic was, and is a core belief in that part of the world. He had two relevant comments for the OP, both of which I could later back up.

    The first was that if a sorcerer took sufficient offense at somebody to curse them, then that person, regardless of religious and tribal affiliation, considered themselves a 'dead man walking' and so did *everybody* else who knew the victim and of the curse. Rather predictably, something would invariably happen with a few weeks, and said victim would die. (in connection with that, one of the more bizarre - to western minds - episodes of the first Gulf War was sorcerers literally singing curses at the other side over the radio. The locals took this completely dead seriously.)

    The second was what he termed 'white mans magic.' A lot of the places he traveled, he was the first white man these people had seen, and the nature of his job demanded he take quite a pile of equipment with him, much of which required specialized training to operate. In the minds of the locals, these elements conflated: the equipment became arcane devices that only a white man sorcerer could properly employ.

    Worth noting, in that part of the world, all magic save the most trivial is assumed to be the work of (usually) malicious spirits or demons; the sorcerer's spells were actually the 'demon in action.'
    Night Gardener likes this.
  9. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Hello everyone!

    I agree that the perception of Mages by regular people is important in the realm of world building, and so it can be very important in stories as well. You need to know your characters and your story, but yeah sometimes imagining worlds just for the details can be loads of fun.

    In most of my Fantasy stories, Mages are not simply magical people. Instead they are Magic themselves, something like superior spiritual beings of some kind. I guess they are similar to Gandalf in that aspect, and I like it. Actual people are often afraid of these mysterious Mages of great and unknown powers, so the Mages are sometimes revered and often they rule entire worlds.

    In other worlds of mine, people pretty much ignore the fact that there are Mages around and they just live their ordinary lives.

    I also love the concept of two separate societies, one in which regular people live and another one for Mages and their unique social rules and leaders. Something like the Harry Potter world, even though I have done it in a different way.

    Low-powered Mages would most likely be forced to live as part of non-magical society, but highly powerful ones are a very different story.

    Just how powerful are the Mages in your world?
    Night Gardener likes this.
  10. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    Are Magicians seen an external group? or as individuals?
    I could see Magic users being seen in the same light as Sports Stars. You might appreciate the skill and power of a Magician but if they "played" for the wrong team you would hate them with a passion [even if you did it very quietly and nowhere near their hearing]. Someone loud and opinionated [obnoxious to some...] could be seen as cocky or as an upstart, or a role model not willing to take the status quo.
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  11. ScaryMJDiamcreep

    ScaryMJDiamcreep Troubadour

    There are definitely some magics that I think would be Forbidden Magic, such as hemomancy and necromancy, so no matter what public opinion on mages is, practicers of Forbidden Magic would be shunned and might even have a permanent "Wanted very much dead" sign in settlements that know of them.

    As for regular mages, I feel like there's enough weak and mediocre mages that the strong ones don't make up more than 1% of the mage population, so mostly people would have only heard stories about the strong ones. Then of course you've got the Apostles. Everyone knows not to mess with an Apostle if they value their life. The Apostles are well known throughout the world, but strong mages rarely do anything special to their appearance to show that they're strong, so unless a strong mage has a very unique appearance that makes it's way into their legend, people will think they are a lot weaker than they actually are at first.

    If you were to compare mages to guns, the average mage would probably be a revolver, strong mages would be stronger than a pistol, but not quite a machine gun, and only Apostles would be able to be compared to an RPG.
    Night Gardener and Sheilawisz like this.
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Sorcerer Wanted Poster:

    dead or alive
    but not undead!
  13. Halfman

    Halfman Acolyte

    If there is no mage school or anything like that to bring mages together, then it wouldn't be odd to think they don't like each other. Determine if you want conflicts between mages in your story, if you do, then that would be a good result of them not having a system that brings them together.
  14. SoulThief

    SoulThief Scribe

    In my world there are a lot of different types of magic and magic is not uncommon, although strength, ability and use vary. Depending upon your world you could have public opinion of mages being similar to public opinions of public figures in our world - so the full range.

    In mine they treat each other a bit like different groups of tradespeople would treat each other - meaning a full range of opinions based upon a) what one type of practitioner might think of the magic of the other type, and b) reputations within particular types of practitioner.

    Given that you are writing a story, some form of conflict/dissonance/arrogance between mages at some point is a useful vehicle.

    Apprenticeships - the way trades used to be taught. :)
  15. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Sage

    A mage is a person who can do magic. As such they are going to arouse a response in the community. How they are viewed is almost certainly going to be similar to how anyone in the real world who has the power to make your life hell or even to end it would be viewed.

    Think of the police. A white middle class person in suburbia will not experience the same type of policing or encounter the same type of police as a black poor person in a housing project. Thus, their perceptions of the police will be very different. Even among poor black people and white middle class people opinions will vary considerably about the police. Within the police themselves there are rivalries, office politics, perceptions of who is a better or worse police officer etc.

    Depending on the exact functions of a mage the best way to address how they would be perceived in your fantasy world is to think of a profession or job in the real world that would wield the same sort of power and status then find out how people in that profession are perceived.

    In my WIP mages have had their status in society reduced in recent years because medical science and technology has advanced to the point that mages are becoming increasingly irrelevant outside of areas where people can't afford doctors or get to a hospital. Opinions are divided over the status of mages and even if the gods should continue to gift people with the ability to do magic (i.e. cast spells). Scandals involving mages haven't helped either....
  16. Malik

    Malik Archmage

    Ireth and Ban like this.

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