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Magic system thoughts?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Talhaiarn, Dec 22, 2020.

  1. Talhaiarn

    Talhaiarn Dreamer

    Hi all,

    Toying with a new idea for a magic system surrounding the use of the mind. Here it goes;

    Some are born with the innate ability to use their minds at a higher level than others, they possess mental powers and abilities. Just like with intelligence, memory etc not everyone is born equal so there are varying levels of power.
    To use their abilities they must draw on their own energy reserves and doing so makes them mentally tired. Overuse can lead to a ‘snap’ which is similar to a concussion and limits abilities for a while. Too many snaps and prolonged overuse can lead to dementia-like symptoms and uncontrollable powers.
    I’m considering common abilities being heightened senses and perceptions, improved memory, ability to process data and telepathic communication with others. However, beyond that exist ‘specialisms’.

    I’m currently contemplating structuring these ‘specialist’ powers as ‘external’ and ‘internal’ e.g.
    you can read someone else’s thoughts and protect your own. So the first would be external and the latter internal. So these would be bondings and most users of these abilities can only use/learn one pair of bondings due to the requirements on the brain.
    Of course a few will be able to use all of them making them extremely powerful.
    What do you all think? Can anyone suggest any ‘bondings’ which would make sense?


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    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. Spacebar

    Spacebar Scribe

    Normally, it's impossible to overuse your brain to the point that you damage it. However, you can lose touch with reality by focusing on the wrong things. What if as your mentalists delve deeper into their mental worlds, they get further from reality? So instead of breaking their brain, they become more prone to delusion and schizophrenia and other breaks from reality.

    Another alternative is that the brain does suffer damage, but from overheating, like a CPU in a computer.

    Your specialism example of reading thoughts would be an extension of telepathy. Going with that, specialists in heightening senses would gain limited precognition, like the spidey sense from Spiderman. Improved memory becomes eidetic memory (I've read that a perfect eidetic memory is able to see a picture where half the pixels at random are missing, then weeks later be shown the other half, and be able to reconstruct the whole picture in their mind by overlapping the two). With the data processing, you could further specialize in different kinds of data, just so they don't become gods who can understand and predict everything. Maybe a language specialist could even communicate with animals, for example.
  3. Talhaiarn

    Talhaiarn Dreamer

    Ah I love that idea of the CPU! I also like the idea with language! Thanks for the tips :)
    What did you think of the overall idea?
  4. Spacebar

    Spacebar Scribe

    Depends on what you do with it. It'd be interesting to see as a replacement for traditional magic in a fantasy setting.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Heightened perception isn't a metal ability. Our senses are physical. The mental part comes in with how we process that input. The classic example is Sherlock Holmes. He doesn't see what others cannot; he notices what others do not, and can do more with the information he does notice.

    So, your mentalist could be an extreme case of that. Heightened abilities could also mean the ability to read more faster with better understanding, so that person is perceived as "smarter" than most. Between a huge knowledge base and increased perception, they might ... well, what? A really good professor? :)

    On the flip side, some might become delusional. They might consistently perceive the world incorrectly, leading them into one mania or another.

    Honestly this sounds a bit like SF super characters of the sort Heinlein created. Their superior mental abilities allowed them to invent more, get richer, be wiser, and in general become a kind of world leader, though often well away from the political stage. Super scientist.
  6. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Troubadour

    I'm going to disagree with everyone else here. The neat thing about the brain is that it is so complex: it is incredibly difficult to know what things are not "perceivable" by our sensing organs and what is not "processable" by our brain. Our brains cannot handle all the raw input coming in at once, so it auto-fills in areas and skips over stuff it expects to be there: that's why "blind spots" can be "mental" instead of physical and why optical illusions work. Our brains are doing both voluntary and involuntary stuff all the time, just as we have our muscles doing voluntary and involuntary stuff (you don't tell your heart or digestive system to do things, but you move your arms and legs because you tell them to. But a lot of that is on "autopilot" once you learn how to do something).

    So now the question is...what is the brain? Scientifically we know what it is, the kinds of chemicals involved, but because the number of things involved are on the scale of billions and trillions, we cannot reproduce things ourselves. We cannot take a part of the brain and rewrite it to make a new memory or give someone the ability to do kung fu, but we can specifically excise and replace a part of DNA to put in code to cure a genetic condition. So if you want to get magical/metaphyiscal with how the brain works (especially since your magic system is based around the brain) you can run with that.

    In the Zero Escape games, they talk about several metaphysical concepts, including morphogenetic fields. The question it posits is: What if "you" do not actually reside in that grey matter between your ears? What if human consciousness resides in some central location and it is simply sending information to your body? The metaphor they used was ye olde computers, where at your desk was a "terminal" with a monitor and a keyboard, but the actual "thinking"/computering was done at the huge computer somewhere else. But if you opened up the terminal and started cutting wires, the "computer" would stop "working," so you would think that the whole computer was your terminal, when that isn't the case. The terminal could only do a limited number of things because of the limits of its hardware, but it could do a lot more if given the right stuff. For a more modern example, think of your Chromecast plugged into your TV, vs a PS5 pugged into your TV, vs whatever giant computer(s) that run the internet being plugged into your TV.

    So back to your story. What, exactly, is the brain? What is the individual? Does the individual's consciousness actually exist within the brain? When people do magic to make their brain more good, what is happening? Are they "overclocking" it and making electrical signals go faster? Are they juicing themselves up with a big influx of glucose? Are they accessing the akashic records? Are they astral projecting a little outside of their body so they're less limited by their meat suit? Are they tapping into the consciousness that all of their species share? You don't need to have the answer for it 100%, and you don't have to totally science it out. In Dune they have something similar but with a "sci fi" explanation, but let's be honest, it's magic. It's think really good to a magical level, but since there's space ships people say it's sci fi. Even if the backend of your magic system doesn't make real life sense (what is it about worm jenk makes you able to see into the future a little bit???? or makes your eyes blue? Or live a long time? or turn into a weird fish creature???) but as long as its internally consistent, it'll work out. Anyways, magic is just a tool for storytelling. It's how people use it to solve (or make!) problems that matter. How exactly spice works isn't really explained, and it doesn't matter. We just need to know that spice is VERY valuable and critical in so many ways for modern society to work (just like oil!) and it comes from the worms, so we can't kill them off. But because it's so valuable, whoever controls Arrakis controls the universe, pretty much. That's why the Atreides and the Harkonnen fight, that's why everything revolves around Arrakis.

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