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Social consequences of my magic system

Discussion in 'World Building' started by SinghSong, Jul 10, 2020.

  1. SinghSong

    SinghSong Dreamer

    In the magical fantasy parallel world I'm working on (as a concept for a web-novel series, primarily targeting the Asian market), the magic system is essentially tantric in nature, and works in accordance with the principles of mantras (literally, "thought forms"- i.e, spoken 'spells'; typically melodic, mathematically structured meters, believed to be resonant with numinous qualities, which are also thought to have predated language itself), yantras (literally, "machine/contraption"- i.e, mystical diagrams, patterns and engravings, akin to the western concept of runes, but with the use of colors and special materials also critically important in their composition and effectiveness; which traditionally have to be consecrated and mystically energized first, and then enable their users to induce specific magical effects, activated and/or supercharged through the use of the proper mantras in tandem, until this mystical energy gets depleted and essentially needs to recharged once more) and tantras (literally "loom, weave, system", a term referring to the systematic interweaving of different elements, factors, traditions and teachings into ritual sacred/magical texts, techniques & practices- i.e, 'the mystic arts', studied, elaborated upon and refined in accordance with the scientific method, into codified systems of mechanistic rituals, which are taught in magical academic institutions).

    There are also other aspects, such as gestures (mudra), assignments of icons and sounds (nyasa), and meditation (dhyana), but they're all part of the tantric magical system. In this world, the effective mechanization of magic facilitated by yantras (and their larger counterparts, mandalas), which eventually culminated in the 'Yantric Revolution' (echoing our own Industrial Revolution, but with the Khmer Empire leading the way from the turn of the 12th century, rather than the British Empire from the turn of the 19th century) unavoidably leads to widespread societal changes. For instance, in the Indosphere/'Greater India', and Meganesia (with Australia having seen the greatest geographical and demographic changes due to the existence of magic, and still being conjoined with New Guinea), along with the Austronesian sphere, the practices of magical yantra tattooing (which the Khmer Empire introduced and disseminated across SE Asia in this period in real life) and/or body painting wind up supplanting clothing, since they offer superior protection from the elements (especially against high levels of heat, humidity and aridity), and increased hygiene (with germ and insect-repellent yantric patterns also existing). And this has the social consequence of making social nudism the cultural norm in the most developed regions of the magical world, along with the widespread stigmatization of clothing as primitive, barbaric and uncivilized.

    The reliance of magical yantras, and yantric technology, upon being mystically energized and recharged by magical practitioners (historically IRL, by priests), has also had the social consequence of greatly increasing the power and influence of the dominant religious organisations, such as the Christian Church, Islamic Madhhabs, and the Guilds of the various Tantric religions (Hindu, Buddhist, and Jainism, along with Sikhism, the Tibetan Bön tradition, Chinese Taoism, and Japanese Shintō), which all effectively became the magical world's equivalent to our world's largest energy corporations- exacerbated even further by most of these organisations also adopting elitist High MQ (magical quotient) membership criteria, and by increasingly powerful yantras/mandalas requiring increasingly higher magical quotients to 'consecrate' (i.e, install), energize and recharge them. And there are numerous yantras which are either highly regulated or explicltly prohibited by law, in the same manner as firearms, other restricted weapons, and restricted substances (e.g, illegal drugs). So, then, what do you think? And which other interesting potential social, and societal, consequences might you expect to see, as a result of the magical system which exists in this parallel fantasy world?
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    First of all, this looks well thought-out, with much potential for development. Along with social consequences, there would be economic, political, and cultural effects as well. And all these would develop and shift over time.

    I'm a historian, so my first instinct would be to look at change over time: when does all this develop and what will be your end-point? Doesn't have to mean the end of the world, just where you envision ending the narrative. Then, would every form of magic, and of magic organization, all begin at the same time and develop at the same rate, or would there be dominance by one, then by another, a recovery or resurgence, and so on. How much of all this would be driven by "natural" or "historical" forces and how much do you want to ascribe to the actions of heroes and villains--that is, to characters in stories?

    Once all that's in place, then I'd start playing with nuances and twists. Maybe someone comes up with a way to combine tantric and, er, mantric? magic as a counter to yantras. Or there would be an anti-magic pogrom. Or somehow all three come into balance to create a Golden Age. Or a terrible apocalypse.

    And so on.

    This all feels solid and worth building out. I would encourage you to write individual stories within this world. At least for myself, I've found that writing specific stories really helps in putting flesh on the bones.

    You might also consider this. In constructing my own world of Altearth, I deliberately do not try to work out everything in detail. I sketch (very much analogous to a sketch book, but in words), trying out ideas and variations, but nothing is committed until it's in a published book (self-pub). That has allowed me to keep a feeling of creativity as I dabble. So, for example, my magic system is still in flux, although the underlying principles are fixed. Everyone works differently, of course; I offer it only for your consideration.
    SinghSong likes this.
  3. SinghSong

    SinghSong Dreamer

    Like I said, this is basically world-building for the parallel-world setting of an isekai/reincarnation shonen I've been working on; the MC's originally (/mostly) from our world (or one near-identical to our own), but discovers a mysterious magical artifact which fuses his stream of consciousness (/"wandering soul") with that of its creator- an honor student at a Tantric Academy (i.e, magical school) in the other world, who created the flawed magical device as a secret personal project, attempting to facilitate travel between parallel realities (in a similar manner to the 'Stepper' from Baxter's Long Earth series). So this all started to diverges from ancient prehistory (as it would in any world where magic actually existed), and develops later on; with the 'Yantric Revolution' referenced leading to the increasing dominance of this form of magic from that period onwards.

    Though it's also worth mentioning that all of these are interconnected with one another, and always used in combination to provide the greatest degree of effectiveness, with virtually no forms of exclusively mantric/'spoken', yantric/'written/pictoral' or tantric/'ritual/sacred' magic in this setting which aren't either notoriously hit-and-miss, dangerously unstable, overly delicate, near-impotent or extortionately expensive (e.g, the extremely rare and hoarded natural dyes used in many yantras, such as indigo, 'dragon's blood', and the various ingredients which can be derived from Ti plants). And that it's because of this, with the combination of all three 'coming into balance' (though this is just as debatable as the 'coming into balance' of democracy, automation and free market capitalism in our world) that it came into its 'Golden Age'. It's all driven by "historical" forces- though I'm leaving the question of whether these are "natural" or the actions of previous "heroes" and/or "villains" is deliberately left ambiguous, at least initially.

    While the MC's already proven that a limited method of connecting two different parallel realities is possible even for a lone teenage prodigy, making it near-certain that others have 'interwoven the quantum threads of tantric entanglement' before, perhaps even better than himself, I felt that exploring that aspect fully would be best saved for after the conclusions of the first and/or second story arcs; when he's fully grounded and come to terms with living his dual life, graduated or graduating from Magical School in the fantasy parallel world, and more-or-less 'set for life' in the mundane contemporary world (with the mechanic involving him crossing over via 'The Dreaming' whenever he falls asleep or unconscious in either world, and dividing his magical essence between both worlds, enabling both his selves to use magic). It's only common sense not to introduce the 'Big Bad' from the off, after all...

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