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Personal Elemental Magic System


After learning about the Magic: the Gathering color wheel and how much thought had been put into working out how the different philosophies connect with each other, I started to think that my own system was underdeveloped and needed to be made more cohesive, but now I'm wondering if it may have been good enough already (at least in terms of the spells themselves; I still need to work out the technical details of how my mages will perform each of them).

Does anything about this system seem disjointed to anybody in a way that suspends disbelief?


The first thing is that magic in my world is as much an art as it is a science: there are thousands of popular forms across the supernatural world (the vast majority of which I do not know anything about yet), and the one that my villain protagonists learn was designed specifically by the character who teaches it to them.

This system was designed – both by myself and by the character in question – around the idea that each classic Greek element (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) is attached to a traditionally-associated personality state (Earth = Focus, Air = Flexibility, Fire = Passion, Water = Tranquility), but that "opposing" personality states are not incompatible. Passion, for example, is not the "opposite" of Tranquility; positive Passion is the opposite of negative Tranquility, and negative Passion is the opposite of positive Tranquility.

Tranquility can be a strength (resilience) or a weakness (apathy), Passion can be a strength (motivation) or a weakness (obsession), and being an apathetic person (negative Tranquility) does not make you a better Water mage, it just makes you a worse Fire mage.

One of my protagonists is a cold-blooded sociopath who's going to become very good at Water magic, one of my others is a hot-blooded sociopath who's going to become very good at Fire magic, but my third is a level-headed sociopath who's going to become very good at both (whereas it's also entirely possible to not be good at either).
Now for the general overview of the magic itself:

Practicing for any element lets you conjure that element, dispel whatever you have conjured, and telekinetically manipulate whatever of that element exists already (technically, all natural matter is comprised of hydrogen, helium, lithium... but a mage can still control anything that would've fallen under one of the four Classics).

"Elemental Baggage" comes into play in that it's easier to manipulate existing matter than it is to conjure new:

It takes a great deal of effort to conjure matter in the first place, it continues to cost effort for as long as a mage wishes to sustain the conjuring, and if the conjuration is exposed to anti-magic, then the conjuration will either be destroyed outright (if the anti-magic is more powerful than the mage's magic) or else tax the mage's efforts to sustain it even more drastically (unless the mage is far more powerful than the particular source of anti-magic, in which case the extra effort will go largely unnoticed).

Manipulating existing matter, on the other hand, requires far less initial effort, no sustained effort, and if exposed to anti-magic, a sculpted form will not return to its original shape.
Finally, I've come up with combinations of the four basic elements – Earth/Fire makes Metal, Earth/Water makes Crystal, Air/Fire makes Lightning, and Air/Water makes Ice – and each element, both basic and combined, has a handful of spells associated in addition to conjuring/manipulation.

Earth (Focus) – Resistance to damage
Air (Flexibility) – Flight
Fire (Passion) – Resistance to fire/heat
Water (Tranquility) – Survive comfortably underwater

  • Earth (Passion) – Strength
  • Fire (Focus) – Stamina
  • Combined – Consume/conduct thermal/electrical energy
  • Earth (Tranquility) – Resistance to movement
  • Water (Focus) – Healing
  • Combined – Dull the senses
  • Air (Passion) – Speed of thought/action
  • Fire (Flexibility) – Illusions
  • Combined – Teleportation
  • Air (Tranquility) – Breathe anywhere
  • Water (Flexibility) – Purify water
  • Combined – Resistance to cold
When my characters start out (one will be a Crystal mage, one will do Metal, and one will do Lightning and Ice), they will have to work to make even small effects happen, but as they become more experienced, larger and larger effects will come more and more naturally to them.

Early on, my two Earth mages will only temporarily be able to take punches better than normal, but as the series goes on, they will permanently be able to take small-arms fire with only minimal injury, and concentrating even more on defensive magic will temporarily make them completely bullet-proof.
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So one of the people that I showed this system to showed me that even some of the problems I was having worked better than I thought they did :D but I'm still getting myself stuck on one last issue:

I'm not sure how well the Metal spell "conduct and consume heat/electricity" fits into the Metal mindset of tackling obstacles head-on (as opposed to the Crystal mindset of ignoring distractions, the Lightning mindset of constantly experimenting, or the Ice mindset of going with the flow).

Gaining more power from adapting to the environment around you sounds more like Lightning or Ice to me than Metal, but I'm not sure what to replace it with in the Metal spell list.