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The beginnings of a magic system

Discussion in 'World Building' started by ChasingSuns, Jul 29, 2020.

  1. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

    So I recently revamped my magic system, and am looking for some feedback. It's still in the early stages, so please feel free to mention any aspects I may have missed.

    Magic as perceived by people:

    Almost no one really knows the true origin of magic, or the limitations of it. There are several ideas, theories, legends, and religions that try to explain where magic comes from. Even most practitioners aren't sure where the power comes from. As far as what is known, magic is perceived to be possibly used by quite a few people, although to varying degrees. Many perceive to be a sort of muscle of the soul, that takes time and training to strengthen (this isn't, in reality, entirely true). The common person often finds magic to be a mystery.

    Magic in reality:

    The truth of magic is that there are a series of otherworldly, Lovecraftian-style beings that are influencing the world by providing people with magical abilities. Each entity can imbue certain abilities (the details of this are not fully fleshed out yet), and can also manipulate the world in certain ways, such as changes to the environment or changing a human into something more monstrous. As I said before, the idea that magic functions like a muscle of the soul isn't entirely true. Basically, magical ability is something attained by opening your mind and soul up to the greater universe, to the point where these eldritch beings can interact with you on a deep, subconscious level. Learning to control your magic isn't actually about getting stronger, but rather about mitigating the negative effects of your soul's exposure to these beings (more on that later).

    Abilities of mages (as of right now):

    -illusion magic (glamors that can change the appearance of individuals or objects)
    -manipulation of fire
    -manipulation of life (generally the most dangerous)


    So basically, as said before, being able to use magic inherently means that you have been exposed to the powers of one of these beings (even if you are not consciously aware of it). Drawing upon their power deteriorates both the mind and the soul, and in extreme cases, the body as well. So training in the use of magic is actually the practice of maintaining your sanity. Diving to far in to quickly can cause you to completely lose your mind, or cause your soul to wither to basically nothing. This can eventually result in death in extreme cases (which results in that husk of a soul turning into an evil spirit, but that's a topic for another thread). There are those who have embraced this aspect of magic, and used to it gain power, but well... lets just say that turns them into something not entirely human.

    So yeah, basically, just a framework right now. If you have any ideas, questions, or comments, please let me know! I wanna make sure I'm taking this in a good direction, and that I'm not missing anything big that might throw a wrench in the gears.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. MrNybble

    MrNybble Sage

    One thing to consider is the combination of different magic. It can make for some interesting new uses that can be good or bad.
  3. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

    It's funny you say that, I am actually planning on having a character who uses a sort of necrobotany. Plants holding together undead and the like. The practice is a sort of offshoot of another sort of being created by one of the Lovecraftian beings. A sorcerer got in touch with some of those abilities and began melding them with his experiments on the dead. I'm pretty stoked to see where that goes.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  4. Eduardo Letavia

    Eduardo Letavia Troubadour

    I think you have to consider if you'd like your characters to have religious or superstitious thoughts about using certain magical abilities. I mean, for what I understand from your description, someone becomes a sorcerer due to be "touched", so to speak, or chosen by one of those Lovecraftian gods. This idea leads me to a few questions that might interest you to answer to yourself:
    • Can a god imbue with abilities a sorcerer created by another god? What would be the consecuences of that (beyond potential madness)?
    • Do your gods have a real need of having sorcerers?
    • What are the limits of these gods? Could they end having too many sorcerers?
      • Related to this, what are the limits for the abilities themselves?
    • Have your gods agreed in a set of rules to keep the balance of magic?
    • What determines the strength of a sorcerer? Can a god, out of a whim, make a sorcerer stronger than others?
    • Is there a superstitious/religious/legal system in the mortal realm that regulates the use of abilities?
    • Does the use of certain abilities determine the type of mental disease a sorcerer can develop? For instance:
      • Abuse of telekinesis could lead your character to develop schizophrenia.
      • A excessive taste for fire may turn a sorcerer into a pyromaniac.
      • A necromancer could turn into a psycokiller, given their dependency on dead bodies to do their thing.
    Also, I wouldn't call weakness that potential fall into madness due to the misuse of magic, I feel it's much better to consider it just the price to pay. I mean, the weakness lie in the sorcerer, not in the abilities themselves.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  5. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

    Thanks for all of the feedback! I have some answers for the questions, but not everything is totally fleshed out yet.

    -As of right now, I don't see one of these deities being able to bestow abilities of another. I kinda wanna keep them each in their own niche so to speak.
    -The need of sorcerers isn't fleshed out yet, although I'm kinda thinking so far that it is a way to maintain a connection from their plane of existence to ours. Like the mages are a sort of link between them and our world. Not sure if I'm gonna stick with that though.
    -I haven't worked out the limits of these gods yet. I am imagining them to be pretty powerful, but I might also keep some of the extent of their power a mystery. I'm not even sure if they will make a direct appearance in the story yet. In regards to the limits of the abilities themselves, I'm still kinda working on where I want that to be. Theoretically a mage can get pretty powerful, but that would wear both their body and mind down pretty quickly.
    -As far as them setting a set of rules for magic, I'll have to think about that. I'm still kinda fleshing out how many of these beings there are in the setting, so when that gets figured out I'll probably have a better idea of what the relationships between them are like.
    -The strength of a mage is determined by themselves to a degree. It's sort of based on how much they are able to open themselves to the greater universe without going too far. I don't see the deities being able to make a mage stronger on a whim.
    -Different kingdoms have different ways of regulating magic, mostly through creating orders of mages to both train and monitor mages. Some places see magic as a gift from the god of their people (not real gods, but just ones that they follow via their religion), and have mages as members of their religious orders. There is one kingdom, however, that is very against the use of magic. They have a sort of holy order that functions as a type of inquisition that seeks out and kills mages. They make use of magic-dampening crystals in weapons and armor, which makes it much easier to deal with mages when they find one.
    -I haven't thought about an answer to the last question as of yet, but I do feel like that may be an interesting way to go. I'll probably just have to play around with it as I write and see where it takes me.

    As far as the weakness thing goes, I agree that it is more of a price to pay. That includes the physical/spiritual deterioration of the individual. I guess you could argue that this forces a lot of mages to hold back their abilities, for fear of the repercussions. Outside of fear of the potential price, the one big weakness that I have sorted out thus far for them are those magic-dampening methods used by that one order. But those aren't exactly common.

    Also, I suppose that I should add that in the end, magic getting out of control is basically gonna be a huge part of the story. A good chunk of the continent is gonna be pretty messed up by the end of it all. I'm actually planning on doing another series of stories in the future that take place in the same world, but much later. It's gonna be more of a steampunk-ish story, where people from the land have grown to hate magic due to all of the destruction it caused.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  6. Eduardo Letavia

    Eduardo Letavia Troubadour

    I happen to have a few more ideas for you to consider, so here I go!
    • How Lovecraftian are your gods? Are they fully Lovecraftian? I mean, if they were, that means that they're totally alien to your world and they don't care at all about any of it's living beings or even the planet itself.
    • If your gods were fully Lovecraftian, how then someone becomes a sorcerer?
      • Maybe the gods are slumbering in remote places of the planet, and their bodies emit a kind of radiation that enables the abilities in the creature (person or not, mind you) that goes deep into that radiation field? A variant of this would be that the creature should have to eat some sort of god's excrescense to get the powers.
      • Or the gods are in a higher plane of existance (as you mentioned in your last post) but connected to the mortal realm by some sort of magical anchors that manifest themselves in unexpected places all over the planet. Again, maybe those anchors have a radiation field of sorts, or ooze some substance out from them(again, any creature could be affected by the radiation or the substance), or a combination of both. In this case you'd also have to think why the gods really need these anchors, something that'll give you a good excuse to justify the existence of sorcerers as some sort of caretakers of these anchors. Going this way easily gives you an excuse to have many beliefs systems all over the world that revolve around those sources of power.
    • I wouldn't narrow the abilities of each sorcerer too much, otherwise you're in risk of getting into narrative or worldbuilding corners. I mean, if you have sorcerers with very concrete powers like necrobotanist, you may find them pretty much useless for too many situations. So, I would rather work the magic system based on simple affinities, which also gives the possibility of exploring the gray areas between affinities that might be closer than they seemed to be (for instance, fire/heat and ice/cold in the end is about agitating or slowing the vibration of elemental molecules).
    • About that kingdom that is against magic, you'll have to consider how common is magic in your world. I mean, if having magic gives you a military edge, it would be very strange for one kingdom not to use it at all when everybody does around you. Also, those antimagic cristals may have to be refined, tuned or something like that by some sort of holy person that, in the end, is nothing more than a sorcerer. This can give you an opening to explore the contradictions of that kingdom regarding their attitude towards magic.
    • Another thing you might like to think about is the madness itself:
      • One thing is to develop some sort of mental or neurological disorder due to the abuse or misuse of magic, that would be a medical mental disorder.
      • Something else is that, for the common people, a sorcerer could look mad. I mean, not necessary hate them or anything like that, just that some experience sorcerers could end being extremely detached from reality that might behave or talk in nonsensical ways sometimes. This apparent madness it would be more a philosophical stance due to their better understanding of the world and the gods attached to it.
      • Also, you could have doctors or sorcerers that know how to cure or mitigate this problem.
    • Finally, hold dear that concept of madness as a consecuence of magic usage. As far as I know, is not widely used in fantasy and can give you many narrative possibilities.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  7. Hyacinth Cornerstone

    Hyacinth Cornerstone New Member

    What do you really mean when you talk of eldritch beings?
    Demons? Spirits? Deities? Or gods??
    To my point of view, all these are meant just as supernatural beings. And for a character to be able to interact with them needs a certain amount of energy and concentration, if not ritual, on the part of the character.
    On the story that I'm currently working on, the vessel only recieves magic willingly and ritually and not by birth or forcefully
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  8. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

    Lovecraft-esque unimaginable monstrosities of tentacles.
    ChasingSuns likes this.

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