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Magic and regulations.

Discussion in 'World Building' started by RiverNymph, Aug 29, 2021.

  1. RiverNymph

    RiverNymph Scribe

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    So I have plans to have a magic system in place, I have ideas and how I want the magic to work / I know where the magic comes from. Where I'm stuck is how to regulate it and what sort of worldly and or bodily consequences this magic would have.

    In most fantasy shows and movies I've watched magic seems to have limitations on specific parts of magic. Like healing magics are usually encouraged, whereas necromancy is usually frowned upon and sometimes illegal. Or how almost every bit of bending is allowed in The Avatar, but blood bending is illegal, it's so frowned upon that most people don't even know it exists. Where is the line drawn between acceptable uses of magic vs unacceptable uses. Is it only when it impedes on free will (like blood bending) or when it can cause death, suffering, etc.?

    If someone were to use magic to cause suffering, to raise the dead, hurt people/the environment, or anything that is usually unacceptable in most fantasy worlds, how would anyone know? What sort of consequences could come from it?

    My thoughts tend to jumble together so I'm just gonna restate my main questions, and just some extra questions I thought of while writing :D :
    • How can magic be regulated, who enforces these regulations?
    • How do the people who enforce these rules know when someone has used magic in an "unacceptable" way?
    • Are there any tropes in magic use that i should avoid?
    • Does it make sense for magic users to die faster than those who don't practice?
    • What sort of limitations should a magic system have?
    • Is the line between "good" and "bad" magic super muddy or is there a clear difference? What do you think counts as "bad" or "good" magic?
     
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  2. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

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    Every society has its own laws, and laws are based around the norms of what the average person believes. Look at liquor laws: how/where/when you can get it is different in every state in the US, there's beer vending machines in Japan (no ID checks, it runs on the honor system) while some countries have banned alcohol entirely. Makes sense when 90%+ of the population is a religion that doesn't allow alcohol, right? There's also the context of things, too. Like I call it a drug scale, but I only use it for weighing stuff when baking, but it can just as easily be used to weigh drugs to prepare them for distribution. Owning the scale is not illegal, nor is owning a bunch of little plastic baggies. But if I had those things ALONG with other drug-related items, then that's "intention to distribute" and is a big crime.

    As for detection, that really depends on the type of magic and what's possible (and how badly people want to prevent these crimes from happening). Everyone has to show their ID and get checked before going onto a plane because they REALLY do not want weapons on planes, but if you're by yourself in the middle of the woods and you make an illegal left turn, is anyone ever going to know? Is anyone ever going to care? There's a central database for people who buy pseudoephedrine because it can be used to make meth, Japan has radiation detectors all over the place, both are to prevent bad things from happening, but these things take money/effort/resources to set up and maintain, but people would rather do that than have meth all over the place or have people suffer radiation poisoning.

    For magic, let's use necromancy as an example. Cultures that believe that the body, even after death, is very important and has some sort of power/connection with the person (like in ancient Egypt) would probably have problems with people turning someone into a zombie (especially without the permission of the deceased of their family). But a culture where a dead body isn't seen as anything special probably isn't going to care. If specific materials are needed for necromancy, they can be illegal (and the "DEA" looks for it/destroys it whenever possible), tightly controlled (like pseudofed), or you need to pass some sort of licensing to own/use it (like if you want to fly a plane). Maybe graveyards are heavily guarded, so getting to a dead body is impossible. Maybe people make sure to be creamted so they can't be rezzed by rogue necromancers. Maybe there's propaganda warning people to look out for necromancers. If you see something, say something!

    For one of my projects, there's people who have the supernatural ability to alter reality. Regular people can't tell this is happening, but other "magic" users can...if they know what things were in the original timeline. I wouldn't be able to tell if you changed what you had for breakfast yesterday since I wouldn't know that anyways, but I'd be able to tell if my roommate did. You can also tell if somethings been changed if you can touch it. As you can imagine, a fair number of people use this to get away with crimes. The deuteragonist works for the FBI and keeps tabs on information/objects for certain groups/cases so she can tell if it's been changed, but she uses normal FBI techniques/tools (and has a very understanding boss lol). Being a magic user isn't illegal, nor is using this power, but it's how its used that's the issue. But it's also really, really easy to get away with using it, too, and no one knows how many people have this power. Any sort of licensing/surveillence program would require people to know that this power exists, and that would cause a lot of panic, so it's very hush hush. The morality of using this power is something I want the reader to explore and come to their own conclusions about, and the non-linear narrative allows that.

    So what things do the people in your story hold important to them? How much effort would regulation take? Is it worth the cost?
     
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  3. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Archmage

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    I think you should see your magic as a more integral part of your society. In an inherently magical society people will not view doing magic as being any different than doing something with technology. People don't say "I'm doing technology now" when they pull out a gun to shoot someone. And neither will they say "I'm doing some magic" when they conjure up a fireball to kill someone. It's just a part of who they are.

    In your post, swap the word magic to technology and you have your answer. Some parts of technology are welcomed, some are highly regulated and some are forbidden. And even what those are is very different from country to country and culture to culture. Take guns for instance. In the US, there are more guns then people and you can get them in the supermarket (pretty much) and a lot of people have them in their house. In the Netherlands, this is pretty much impossible. Gun ownership is very tightly controlled and even if you own a gun, you can't actually keep it in your house ,but only at designated shooting ranges etc.

    Rules and regulations are either made by a government or have a cultural reason (or both). The same would go for magic. People make up rules. Most people follow them, while some people break them. Those who break them are pursuid and get punished.
     
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  4. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    One difference from technology is the possibility of magic regulating itself.

    I mean, sure, you could use an army of skeletons as cheap labor. With skellies working the field the citizenry have more time to pursue the arts & science, but.... what if each of those skeletons is reanimated by a thread of deathly essence and they're slowly dragging the underworld closer to earth?

    Or what if there's a backlash to mind magic? Break something in someone else's head and something breaks in yours.

    Hell, maybe the human body just isn't designed for magic and with each spell you cast the energy running through you burns away a bit of your lifespan?
     
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  5. RiverNymph

    RiverNymph Scribe

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    Hmm interesting and very helpful! Thanks for the answer.
     
  6. RiverNymph

    RiverNymph Scribe

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    I plan to have heavy uses of magic to cause a shorter lifespan as they're pulling the energy from themselves instead of minor uses of magic pull from the environment/elements.
     
  7. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    I love these questions! First, a few short answers:

    Do the magic users have a governing body? That's the usual way to explain it. In Potterverse, for example, the Ministry of Magic fits the bill. But their enforcement is imperfect, as one might expect anything coming from a bureaucracy to be. Plenty of rogue magic slips by them.

    They probably don't always know. Unless they have a magical improper use of magic detector. Or they witness it. Or they hear about it from eyewitnesses. Or improperly using magic has a visible, unconcealable effect on the person who does it. Or some such thing.

    Yes. It also makes sense for magic users to live longer than those who don't practice. You could spin it as, all that magic running through you keeps you fitter, makes you less vulnerable to illness or injury. Or you could spin it the way you have done, saying magic users deplete their life fore when they do magic, thereby shortening their lives.

    Any kind you want, as long as you're consistent about it. Don't say magic can do x in chapter two and then suddenly have your wizard/witch/mage at a loss in chapter ten because x just can't be done, unless you're supplying a good solid reason why their magic is suddenly not working that way. And the limitations need to make sense. Using the Potterverse example, why can't food be conjured out of thin air while other things can? Why can they instantly heal broken bones but poor eyesight still requires glasses? There are apparently scientific laws, so to speak, around that.
     
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  8. ButlerianHeretic

    ButlerianHeretic Minstrel

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    Above all, whatever answers make the story more interesting, create fascinating conflict, entices readers worry for the wellbeing of the MC, and create difficulties that seem obvious when they happen but hopefully were less than obvious ahead of time. And whatever is just cool and interesting. :D

    In the world I've been developing, anything that changes anything or which is connected to something else can potentially be an object for divination, but the diviner needs to have something to do a divination from, and ask the right questions. But there are also ways to break, prevent, or obscure those connections if someone plans ahead or knows how to work in an unfolding situation.
     
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  9. Adiam Gaunt

    Adiam Gaunt Acolyte

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    I'll throw in my two cents on the matter because these are interesting questions.

    • How can magic be regulated, who enforces these regulations?
    • -------------Well, that would depend on the society or nation I suppose. I imagine each would have it's own methods depending on the culture or even political landscape. If there's a strong religious presence and a type of magic that's seen as dangerous or offensive in some way, an Inquisition of some kind would fit right in. Or if Mages have a strong social standing and wealth, akin to or acting as the nobility, then maybe Mages can kind of do whatever they want, similar to the Grisha in the Grishaverse series. There's a lot of options, so I suppose just examine the societies you've created and try to extrapolate from that what enforcement of magic would look like.
    • How do the people who enforce these rules know when someone has used magic in an "unacceptable" way?
    • -------------There could be a test of some kind that enforcers can perform; kind of like a breathalyzer but for magic. Maybe certain classes of Mage are only permitted to use a certain amount or type of magic, and this 'breathalyzer' can determine that. The test itself is up to you, however.
    • Does it make sense for magic users to die faster than those who don't practice?
    • -------------That depends on the type of magic the particular Mage specializes in. Maybe the magic they practice reflects on their body in measurable, noticeable ways. Healers might age faster, combat magicians could overproduce hormones or adrenaline, diviners may suffer from brain disorders or other mental illness, etc. As you said that the magicians pull the magic from inside themselves, rather than the environment, consider what that does to their body's biological functions if you wish to incorporate an element of self-sacrifice into your magic system.
    • What sort of limitations should a magic system have?
    • -------------Whatever kind you want it to have. The drawbacks I listed above could serve as a guideline or you can ignore them entirely and do your own thing, whatever. But I would recommend introducing enough limitations so that magic doesn't become the catch-all cure for your character's problems. It should be AN option for resolving conflict, not THE ONLY option. That's not to say never use it, but I would recommend setting up spells or magical techniques BEFORE they become necessary in the story, or at least establish very firmly what exactly this particular spell can do.
    • Is the line between "good" and "bad" magic super muddy or is there a clear difference? What do you think counts as "bad" or "good" magic?
    • -------------Good and bad magic would, once again, reflect the culture of the particular society. A kingdom that uses the undead as free labor probably wouldn't blink if your character needed to summon the spirit of someone for questioning. Or a nation that has a strong distrust of Mages might view magical healing as a way for THEM to influence your body in some nefarious way that the rest of the world just can't see for themselves. Get creative with it.
    Interesting question all around :D Of course these are only my opinions so take them however you wish.
     
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  10. RiverNymph

    RiverNymph Scribe

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    Thank you! This was helpful!!
     
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  11. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    I made my post up thread meaning to go into more detail about a couple of these points, because they're very relevant to a wip of mine:

    I wrote in a governing body: the mages' guild. Mages are the only people capable of using magic, and they're only capable of using magic because they've been trained in it - it's not an ability they're born with - and one of the top laws, both the guild's and in civil law, is that magical training may only take place under the auspices of the guild, may only be given by mages the guild has explicitly authorized to give it, and may only be given to those who have been formally accepted into training.

    Mages become guild members when they've completed every stage of training. At that time, they swear an oath to the guild, with magic being the binding force. They swear to serve honorably, to do their duties to the guild, to follow the code of conduct, so on and so forth. The code of conduct outlined by the guild defines what is and isn't permissible use of magic, so an oath to the guild is an oath to only use magic in permissible ways. The impermissible ways are, essentially, ways that magic would be harmful - killing someone is definitely a no go, and so is injuring someone unless it's absolutely necessary for defense of yourself or of someone you're obligated to defend - and it gets fine tuned even more. Perhaps not perfectly, but the idea is to only allow ethical uses of magic, and to ensure that only people who will abide by those ethics can use magic.

    That doesn't mean mages are incapable of breaking their oath, but few do. Breaking an oath brings extreme dishonor, and this is a culture where honor is everything, especially for a mage. Not only that, if they do, they face severe punishment, up to expulsion from the guild. Because they are bound to their oath by their own magic, which is tied up in their life force, expulsion from the guild results in severe weakening of their magic, to the point of not being able to use it effectively, and death is probably not far behind. This has very rarely happened, since expulsion would only be considered in the most extreme cases and there aren't that many oath breakers to begin with.

    Before qualifying for guild membership, mages go through an apprenticeship and then a journeyman phase. They're expected to thoroughly know the code of conduct by the end of their apprenticeship, and to abide by it as journeymen. Journeymen are also under oath, though not quite the same level of one as a guild mage is. I'm still working out the details on that one. Basically, journeymen mages are bound to follow the code and likewise face punishment if they don't, although there may be a bit more leniency shown a journeyman.

    Apprentice mages are only bound to one mage - the one who's been chosen to be their teacher - but that one mage is, essentially, the authority of the guild for them. Since apprentices are still learning the code of conduct and don't always know yet what constitutes impermissible magic, the guild won't punish them if they commit a violation, but it's the teacher's duty to teach them proper mage conduct, teach them what is and isn't permissible use of magic, set a good example, and discipline the apprentice as necessary. A teacher who fails to do that would be in violation of their oath, because that's a duty they've taken on.
    Three possible ways: evidence, eyewitness testimony, or a confession.

    Impermissible use of magic may be possible to conceal, especially for an experienced mage, but there's no 100% foolproof way to conceal it forever. Just like there's no perfect crime.

    There is also, among many mages, a strong belief in honesty. The most widely accepted school of thought holds that dishonesty weakens a mage's magic. That's one great disincentive to misuse magic - it would be dishonest - and it's also a strong motivation for a mage who has erred to confess. That, and if a mage confesses to a violation, they won't get punished as severely as if they tried to conceal it.
     
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  12. RiverNymph

    RiverNymph Scribe

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    This is really helpful, I appreciate the detailed response! This is a good system to me!
     
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  13. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    Yes, my mages think so, too.

    Their system works most of the time. But like all systems, holes can be found in it.

    The overall arc of my story follows an apprentice mage, who's being introduced to this system. First, the real conflict in it (because it's not a story without conflict) is her process of adapting to it. That doesn't go smoothly, and that's by design: the process of gaining magical ability can be difficult, there's a lot of hard work to put in, and her teacher, though very caring, is also quite hard on her. Not unkind, but hard, and she hasn't been accustomed to that level of discipline. There's a lot to adjust to. It really is working out well for her, but it's very challenging.

    Later, after she's gotten well used to the life, she learns that the system works except when it doesn't, and sees the except when it doesn't part up close and personal. That's another source of conflict.
     
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  14. Stevie

    Stevie Minstrel

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    If your story is grounded in a medieaval setting, it might be useful to think along the lines of how religion was used to set out standards of behaviour and how religious organisations monitored and policed those standards to control the community. Somebody posted about the Inquisition, which is a good point, but for more day to day stuff, communities would have a priest (or some analogy of a priest) who lived amongst them and saw to it that everyone was following the straight and narrow. Of course, these systems would be 'leaky' in terms of adhering to the straight and narrow and also rife with corruption and hypocrasy, which only adds to the fun for a writer.

    Alternatively, something like magna carta from 13th century England, which is basically a charter of rights, policed (I think) by local aristocracy and their minions. Same could apply to a magic system, with a charter of magic 'laws'.

    Does magic make you die sooner? I'm very much in the camp of magic having a cost or consequences to the user. In my WIP, magic use incurs nausea, vomiting, haemorrhaging, paralysis, loss of limb function and ultimately, death, depending on how big the magic use is. Serves the purpose of limiting its use to dire need.
     
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  15. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    • How can magic be regulated, who enforces these regulations?
    In my WIP there is an Imperial Ministry of Magical Affairs which establishes overall magical policy. If a mage commits a crime the police deals with it. Anything that involves a rogue mage, necromancers, heretics or those mages who advocate certain political viewpoints Branch IX of the Ministry of Internal Security deals with it. Branch IX is a cross between the Spanish Inquisition and the East German Stasi.
    • How do the people who enforce these rules know when someone has used magic in an "unacceptable" way?
    In my WIP every time a mage casts a spell it leaves a mage mark that is unique to a specific mage. Only other mages can see it. If a mage uses forbidden magic such as necromancy or performs magic when they're not allowed to their mark will usually give them away. Most police stations will have a mage or two on the payroll who can be called in to identify the mage marks left behind if the police suspect magic has been used in a crime.
    • Are there any tropes in magic use that i should avoid?
    The magician who never screws up their spells, the bumbling sidekick who never gets them right, the know-it-all female magician who bails out the good guys and the bad guy whose magic is always foiled by the heroic magician.
    • Does it make sense for magic users to die faster than those who don't practice?
    Mages in my WIP rely upon the body's energy levels to do magic. Thus, they need to be physically fit and healthy to do magic. Most mages tend to burn out by the late 50s and die by the time they reach about 60.

    Whether or not magic users in your story die earlier than non-magic users would depend upon the type of magic and how it is generated.
    • What sort of limitations should a magic system have?
    In my WIP the limitations are mainly imposed by a person's physical health and fitness but the other limitation is that only half a percent of the population is granted the gift of magic by the gods. There are also legal restrictions as well.
    • Is the line between "good" and "bad" magic super muddy or is there a clear difference? What do you think counts as "bad" or "good" magic?
    In my WIP the definition of good and bad magic is largely left up to individual consciences but there are a few things that are uniformly viewed as bad: (1) Necromancy, (2) Experimenting on subjects who haven't consented, (3) Using magic to torture, kill or otherwise harm people and (4) Using magic if one is a beginner or novice without supervision.
     
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  16. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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  17. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    Actually, that depends on which state you're in. The states with the laxest gun control laws (i.e. Texas) are pretty much like that, except that there's NO state where guns can be sold at supermarkets. They CAN be sold at sporting goods stores in states with lax gun control laws, including big box stores that have a sporting goods department, but that's not the same thing as a supermarket. A supermarket is a grocery store. A big box store - Walmart, for example - usually has a grocery department, but it also has a clothing department, a hardware department, and usually a toy department and a sporting goods department, too. Supermarkets have none of those things.

    In states with tight gun control laws (i.e. California), only licensed firearms dealers can sell guns, and background checks and waiting periods are required. You can't just decide to buy a gun, walk into a store, and walk out with one, and you can't buy a gun at Walmart. You can't even buy one at a sporting goods store. Firearms dealing is a separate kind of business.

    Most of the states have tighter gun control laws than Texas but laxer ones than California. Who's allowed to sell guns, the extent of the background check requirements, etc., all varies. So do the laws around carrying a gun: where you're allowed to carry, who can carry a concealed weapon, all of that.

    In all states, too, there's more gun ownership in rural areas than urban ones.

    What is true is that in all U.S. states, if you own a gun, you can keep it in your home. You're supposed to store it unloaded and inaccessible to children, but there are plenty of people who don't, and all too many fatal accidents as a result.
     
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