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My Magic System, the Breath - thoughts?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Geldor, Jul 11, 2017.

  1. Geldor

    Geldor Scribe

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    I am currently in the process of world building for fun, I have an idea for a story that I might run with. But still, world building comes first!

    At this point, as you might've guessed, I'm currently working on my magic system. I hope that you can tell me what you think.

    Magic is not naturally occurring in Humans. For a human to gain magical abilities they must make a blood sacrifice upon a Blood Stone, the sacrifice has to be from themselves (most people usually cut off a finger). Blood Stones are huge jewel like stones that are hidden under the earth in caves and crypts. The Blood Stones are a deep crimson colour, with a smooth top, and cannot be destroyed. Once a sacrifice has been made the stone turns to purest white, the red seeming to flow into the person making the sacrifice.

    Once the sacrifice has been made the person does not gain magical abilities immediately. Instead a voice begins to talk to them, just a whisper at first, but soon it sounds as though there was somebody at their side at all times. The voice attempts to take control of their minds, if it does the person becomes a passenger in their own body as the voice takes control. However, if a person has the mental fortitude to subdue the voice then it becomes subservient to them to an extent and explains how to use magic. Few people are able to subdue the voice entirely and it is a constant struggle for the person to maintain control.

    Magic is done by a process called the Breath. A magic user, called a Breather, visualises what they want to happen and breathes out as they do, taking power from them (casting is called to Breathe). Magic is not inexhaustible in a person, to fuel the Breath a Breather must take the life of another being by breathing in near the being in question. To breathe and use magic means that one uses the life of the being to fuel their Breath. However, if one breathes and does not use magic then the life of the being they have taken becomes part of the Breather's life, hence immortality is possible for Breathers but only with restraint.

    Thank you for reading through this! Any comments would be greatly appreciated!

    Geldor
     
  2. elemtilas

    elemtilas Sage

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    Does something have to be "cut off" for it to be an acceptable sacrifice? In other words, is slicing the wrist and dripping some blood onto the stone sufficient?

    Is the voice that of some being that had been inhabiting the stone? Or a manifestation of some demon or god or genius loci?

    Curious: what happens when the magic user / passenger dies? Does the voice return to its stone?

    Is magnitude of power at all correlated with proximity to the stone? Does the voice's likelihood of entrapment of the person wane with distance from the stone?

    This is very good. Loads of stories out there about some lad acquiring magic just by picking up an artifact or something. The idea of sacrifice as a cost of magic is a definite plus, the notion that not everyone who tries to gain this power even really survives the trial is fantastic!

    Does this mean that the victims of a magic user are weakened or die? I might be missing something, but I'm not clear on this point.

    Is nearness of the victim a factor in the power of the subsequent magic?
     
  3. Geldor

    Geldor Scribe

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    Elemtilas, thank you for your comments! You have given me plenty to think about!

    As for the sacrifice; there is no specification as to what is needed to be sacrificed. The person must continue to sacrifice until the stone begins to lose its red colour. The slitting of a wrist or opening a vein are difficult wounds to treat in my world and could prove fatal if not near fatal. Therefore, a more controllable sacrifice (like removing fingers) is preferable.

    The voice; it is unknown to the people of the world as to what the voices are. Those who find out (people who have sacrificed on the Blood Stone) are usually trapped inside their own minds with this consciousness (it is probably better of me to call them consciousnesses as opposed to voices as they can take over a body), and those who master the consciousness and retain control are unable to tell or choose not to tell for some reason. When the magic user, Breather, dies the consciousness returns to the stone but the very nature of the magic system is designed to make Breathers very difficult to kill. Once the sacrifice has been made and the consciousness latches onto the person the stone is rendered obsolete until the body dies and the consciousness returns to the stone. As for the likeliness of entrapment, it entirely depends on the mental strength of the individuals after the Breath.

    The nature of the Breath is life for life, as seen with the extended life aspect of the Breath. The being that the breather uses as a source for their power always dies. As for the method of taking the victim's life the most efficient distance for getting power is as intimate as kissing, the Breath doesn't appear to work beyond an arm's reach in taking life (just making the act that much more hard hitting for any magic using characters :eek:).

    Again thank you for your questions! I'm glad you like the idea!

    Geldor.
     
  4. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Seems like a pretty evil magic system. It fits better with a villain than a hero, at least.
     
  5. Geldor

    Geldor Scribe

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    TheKillerBs, thanks for commenting!

    Personally I am more a fan of morally grey low fantasy rather than the good vs. evil trope. So I wanted my magic system to reflect that; a morally good person might sacrifice upon the Blood Stone with the best intentions but then they must do seemingly 'evil' things like take a being's life to fuel their own it might affect them in different ways and their morals might change, or the weight of what they do becomes too much.

    As for the actual taking of a being's life that happens everyday. Animals are killed everyday to fuel our bodies as food, the concept with the Breath is the same but with a much more personal touch.

    The voice may appear to be evil, taking over a person's body and requiring a sacrifice to be freed. However, I believe that if I were trapped in a stone, separated from my corporeal body I'd do anything to get out, even take over another person's mind. The sacrifice may have been a measure put in place by whoever trapped the beings in the first place, not many people would be strong enough to cut off a finger or three to gain something they have nothing about.

    Geldor.
     
  6. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    What "morally good" person in this world would say, "I should become a Breather so I can destroy lives to further my own ends"?

    How would a "morally good" person in this world be all right with taking a life, without even knowing if the death would produce the desired benefits?

    Even if a life taken belongs to an animal rather than a person, a "morally good" person would not kill an animal for just any reason. If it's for survival, as is done when people kill animals for food, that's a lot different than killing animals for sport. Example: The Breather has an itch to go sailing, but there's no wind, so the Breather kills a seagull to cast a sailing spell. That would be a Breather killing for sport, not because the Breather needed to eat the seagull to survive another day.

    Some people on Earth find great joy in killing for sport, and still think they are "morally good," while others consider hunting for sport a "morally reprehensible" behavior.

    So it's all relative, depending on who you're talking to, and the society you're a member of. Society defines for itself what is "morally good" or "grey" or "evil," and what is considered "legal," "illegal," "acceptable," or "taboo" for members of the society. For me, however, no one who meets my definition of "morally good" would come within spitting distance of one of those Blood Stones. Apparently, TheKillerBs is of a similar mindset. It's not our story to tell, but we are potential readers, and it might not hurt to take into consideration what your potential readers will think of your definitions of "morally good" and "grey."

    But as long as you're consistent with your in-story definitions, many readers can suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.

    So, what I'm saying, is that I understand where TheKillerBs is coming from, but if you execute the story well, you stand a good chance of finding readers who will enjoy the tale. Personally, no matter how you executed the story, I'd still look at Breathers as "morally reprehensible," whether or not I thought of them as "evil," and I do not equate "morally reprehensible" with "morally grey." But that's me.
     
    TheKillerBs likes this.
  7. DeathtoTrite

    DeathtoTrite Troubadour

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    This is a pretty cool system. I understand the "killing for sport" objection, but what about healing, waging war, growing crops, religious rituals, etc.? I can think of plenty of scenarios where killing animals to fuel this magic would be well justified, just... unsavory.

    And about good and evil, I'd just point to -- Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Sopranos, House of Cards. Morally grey people get plenty of sympathy.

    Then again, I'm very much a fan of grey morality systems.
     
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  8. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    My observation was really just that, and perhaps I could have worded it better. My excuse is that typing on touchscreens is a right pain in the er... rear. I don't deny that a morally grey or even villainous protagonist can work well. I loved Light Yagami from Death Note. However, I believe they need more work, or perhaps a different focus, than a regular hero. Same with a morally grey protagonist (is that an antihero? I feel like that's an antihero).

    ETA: A "good" person using this magic system would need to tread a fine line, lest they fall. Course, that could be the whole point of the story...
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
  9. elemtilas

    elemtilas Sage

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    Right! This is definitely not a kind of magic that anyone with a shred of morality can even contemplate using. I mean, if you have to kill someone just to effect a magical healing, how is the result worth the price?

    It's still grey, but perhaps if the source of Breath, the victim, willingly sacrificed himself, then I might be able to accept.

    I'm not clear if animals can be used as a source of Breath or not. That would certainly relieve the moral objection as morality applies to people (without getting into the definition of "personhood" here!) not animals or plants. I can see such a magic user even having a revered place in society --- a thaumic butcher! He gets to take a life and thus builds up his power for magical purposes. The life taken would have been taken anyway to serve as food.

    If there's a hierarchy of power available (a mouse gives you perhaps enough power to enchant a paper bird to fly; a cow might provide enough for a moderately substantial healing), then I can see a clear road through temptation to perdition with this system. I wouldn't wonder if the being that enters a magic user demands ever more victims! How much power can one get from a non-human person (if they exist in this world)? How much from a baby? How much from a hale young fellow?
     
  10. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    I also understand the killing for sport objection, and I get it's a tad facetious, but I think this is entirely the wrong question. As is often the case in fiction, a character doesn't decide to take up a quest / learn magic / interact with a dangerous artifact for no reason. For the last one it's often accident. For the others it's necessity and plot. So let's try...

    Q: What morally good person would watch their village get slaughtered by orcs instead of running to the Blood Stone and cutting off a finger in an act of desperation and self-sacrifice? What morally good person would choose not to use this power in order to do immediate good?
    A: Someone who is too scared or detached to make an interesting story. Sure, the person who does the opposite is in way over their heads, but that's what makes them interesting. Also, it's way more intriguing to read about a "morally good" character (whatever that means) who has to balance their morality with Breathing.

    I'd also like to point out that this shares some very obvious characteristics with vampirism, and there are most certainly vampiric characters whom audiences root for.

    All in all, a cool system, Geldor! One with lots of potential for character development.
     
  11. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Do they have to kill the person they draw their magic from? Because that seems a bit extreme and you wouldn't want to have to kill someone every time you just cast a spell of wizard light!

    But mainly this magic system seems like a system designed to corrupt. Yes a person might have the best of intentions for accepting the magic at the start - your orc attack. But as time passes, they begin to value human life less and less and draw more and more. The magic is a curse - just as many regard vampirism.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  12. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    That's a useful model for some stories, but as we've seen with similar sinister power sources (including vampirism) the good guy will usually abstain from using it unless they find it absolutely necessary. The temptation is there, of course. I think the internal conflict involved in this model is more interesting than a slow fall into immorality, violence, hedonism, whatever.

    It depends on the story Geldor eventually wants to tell.
     
  13. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    There are no "wrong" questions, only additional questions. We're addressing different scenarios. I'm looking at the scenario where the aspiring Breather has plenty of time and opportunity to think upon the decision to become a Breather. That's not the scenario you propose. Both scenarios have merit for a potential story.

    Whatever the scenario, the author does not have to label the character as "good" or "evil" or "grey." My point is that each reader will develop their own views of any characters who become Breathers, based on the reader's personal views and values.

    Regardless of all the above, this system of magic is intriguing, and sure to evoke emotional responses in readers, as evidenced by the replies on this thread. That's story gold.
     
  14. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    A slight twist to Creed's orc scenario could give rise to a story where a "morally good" person survives an orc onslaught that wiped out his village, and decides to become a Breather with the intent of destroying all orcs. The character only draws life from orcs, and uses his Breather power only to empower spells against orcs. Some people come to think of him as a "lawful-good" orc-slayer. His name becomes a source of fear among orc tribes.

    But in the process of driving orcs to extinction, the hero meets and falls in love with one particular orc who changes his mind about orcs in general. Aw, romance. It could work. :)
     
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  15. Viorp

    Viorp Minstrel

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    I'd say that the system is certainly unique.
    I had simmilar ideas, this systems seems hard to pull off in praxis though.

    As you'll need to set a lot of math to make it viable.
     
  16. elemtilas

    elemtilas Sage

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    Sure! Love conquers all!

    But of course, "falling in love" with an Orc implies that the Orc in question can reciprocate. This implies that Orcs aren't just magically spawned monsters, that they are people too, that they have souls and free will and self awareness and all that other stuff you get with people. This brings you right back to the moral question.

    I guess if the question of what a morally good person is like was asked in earnest, well, for starters a morally good (or even a lightish tint of grey) person doesn't kill someone else just to do magic. Even important magic. Even to defend the village from an Orc raid. Evil can never be a firm foundation for good.

    Killing an Orc to gain enough power to kill other Orcs might be understandable, is perhaps excusable and in some senses and contexts commendable. Usually, those circumstances will be where Humans depersonise and demonise the entirely evil, soulless non-humans.

    Your scenario puts the kibosh on that kind of thinking! Once the magic user learns more about his victims, they become people to him. His thinking has to change. Lots of good room for stories here with any of these
     
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  17. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Even if the orc couldn't reciprocate, that wouldn't stop our hero from seeing something "good" within a particular orc character, and being persuaded by his observations of an individual orc to reevaluate the entire species. Whether or not the orcs do indeed have souls and free will and self awareness and all that other stuff you get with people might still be questionable.

    Say that the hero secretly observes an orc save a young human from drowning with no one else around. If the orc had seen someone else around, perhaps the human would have been left to drown. But now the hero knows there's something about orcs that he hadn't realized. Could he now in good conscience take the life of this savior orc? What if later the savior orc is seen aiding a group of other orcs burn down a human dwelling? What if orcs do have souls and self awareness, but they only have free will some of the time?

    Yeah, lots of room for greyness in all this.
     
    elemtilas likes this.
  18. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    We're totally derailing the thread, so I'll try to bring it back to Geldor, but that's an interesting situation. Having seen one orc do this good act, that means that broader orc-kind is in fact capable of good. They're not automatically bent on destruction, murder, etc. Therefore can Elemtilas's "good" character in "good" conscience continue to kill any orcs, since they are actually multifaceted creatures capable of both good and evil?

    That lets alone the "soulless non-humans" perspective. Could a Breather even draw energy from a soulless antagonist, like that conception of an orc? Is there a distinction between a soul and a life-force?

    Switching monsters, what if the Breather was fighting viral zombies, or a werewolf army? Can the Breather draw energy from innocent people who have been infected with this disease? What if the raided village has become part of the scourge? Geldor, in these situations is the voice trying to push the Breather to kill and draw energy? Maybe this fuels the voice, feeds it.
     
  19. Geldor

    Geldor Scribe

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    Wow, I really did not expect this thread to get so big!

    You guys have given me a lot to think about, the main point is that I don't have a clear narrative worked out as of yet! You guys have given me so much to think about and I cannot thank you enough!

    In my head the whole morale system that I want to think about is 'do the ends justify the means?' Does, for example, sacrificing yourself and a number of individuals (yes, the Breath kills the victims, and yes, soul and life force are the same i just wanted to avoid soul) worth ending a war on a seemingly global scale? Or should the protagonist allow thousands to die in battles and hundreds of thousands more through plague and famine? What if an enemy possesses the power of a blood stone?

    All these things are constantly going through my head, I'm trying to figure out how different people would react to these situations and figure out how my characters would react.

    Again thank you guys, you are what makes this forum amazing!

    Geldor.
     
    Creed likes this.
  20. elemtilas

    elemtilas Sage

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    Heh!

    Sounds like you could pretty much copy-n-paste what those of us who've responded have said! Loads of different perspectives and lots of room to tell different stories.

    Or even one story from different angles.

    Hopefully you won't keep us in the dark! Tell us more about this place!
     
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