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Thoughts on my magic system?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Sword Rain Alpha, Mar 8, 2018.

  1. Sword Rain Alpha

    Sword Rain Alpha New Member

    This ended up being VERY long-winded. Read at your own risk.

    I'm currently going through the process of worldbuilding, and I've spent a lot of time developing a magic system. If anyone here is familiar with Sanderson's laws of magic, my system would definitely be more of a "hard" magic system.

    Basically, in my world, all life is created from an energy structure within the planet that is referred to as the "Lifestream". This Lifestream is made up of a sort of celestial, otherworldly energy called Aether, which is also the essence that makes up living souls. Aether has two states: Stagnant, and Active. Stagnant Aether is what makes up a person's soul; it has a definite, unchanging form, and stays that way within the person's body until they die. Active Aether is what's inside the Lifestream. It is fluid-like and can be used to alter the physical world when harnessed.

    So, essentially, the races that inhabit this world can harness the Active Aether from the Lifestream to perform magic. In modern times, the practice of magic has come to be known as "Weaving", due to the process being imagined as pulling strings or strands of Aether out of the Lifestream and weaving it into the world.

    Now, typically, when I think of magic from fantasy universes, I imagine spells to be things that are just sort of conjured out of thin air. So the distinction here with my system is that magic is actually more like "Alchemy" from Fullmetal Alchemist (if you've ever seen it) in the sense that you cannot create a magical effect out of nothing; you have to use Aether to physically alter the world to produce your desired effect. For your typical elemental magic, this process is rather simple.
    > Fire magic is really just heating the surrounding air until it combusts
    > Water or Ice magic boils down to just heating or cooling Water/Ice until it changes state
    > Electricity magic is just controlling the flow of electricity within a medium
    > Healing magic revolves around using Aether to help speed up the body's natural regeneration.

    But then you also have non-elemental magic such as:
    > Kinetic Magic, which is essentially telekinesis. Applying a stronger kinetic force to an object requires more Aether, obviously (and depends on the caster's skill)
    > Aura Magic, which involves creating a shell of Stagnant Aether around the user as a sort of "magical armor" similar to a personal barrier or force field. This shell also invigorates the user and enhances their physical capabilities. A strong aura spell can mitigate a lot of damage and amplify a Weaver's own strength and agility.
    > Soul Binding, which involves converting a physical object into Aether, and putting it into a sort of "limbo state" between Stagnant and Active, and then binding the object to a soul. It's used a lot by spellswords and warriors as a way of storing their weapons. Though most practitioners of Soul Binding are only skilled enough to bind one object at a time, since Soul-Bound objects can place a heavy burden on the soul. Weavers can also bind their Souls together temporarily to create large Aether reserves.

    Anyway, I mainly came up with this idea of Aether-fueled magic because I really wanted to create a well-understood hard magic system with clear limitations, and these limitations seem very practical and easily applicable. An ice mage can't create ice spells to sling if there's no water, and a lightning mage has to build up static electricity if they want to fling out bolts willy-nilly.
    Another limitation is the caster's endurance. Since the Lifestream is so huge, it's pretty much impossible to run out of Aether. Instead, a person's physical body has a limit to how much Active Aether it can handle. Weavers can only harness and consume so much Active Aether before becoming exhausted from having to process all that energy. So to become a skilled Weaver and have the ability to cast lots of spells, you have to improve your endurance; practicing magic will slowly but surely "exercise" your body like a muscle so that it can process more Active Aether, and do it for longer periods of time.

    Another thing I'd like to point out about my magic system is how people use it in my world. For example, one of the non-human races in my world, the Erdeians (Still experimenting with names, bear with me), have these naturally-occurring "crystalline growths" that form in their skin. These crystals can store Active Aether and release it as a chosen spell at will. Since the Erdeians can also force the crystals to expand at will (and cut chunks of the crystals off, since they don't feel anything in those growth areas), they have developed their own special line of technology by cutting off Aether-filled crystals from their body and using them to automate magical processes, like heating and cooling stuff. This process has become part of their everyday life, and they've created lots of steam-powered tech using Aether-filled crystals as a heat source. All pretty useful considering they live in some pretty cold areas.

    Another example would be the human Kingdom. At some point in their history, humans discovered naturally occurring minerals that they call "Aetherite". This Aetherite has similar properties to the Erdeian's crystalline growths in the sense that it can basically store Aether in spell form. As in, when it is activated, it casts the spell that was originally cast on it by the Weaver that was using it. Using Aetherite (which is very abundant in the human lands, might I add), the Weavers of the Kingdom created various forms of technology improve their quality of life. Like the Erdeians, they used some of the Aetherite as heating or cooling sources, as well as light sources. But they also created entire infrastructures around their cities, using Aetherite-infused metallic links to funnel Aether from energy plants to homes to power their Aetherite devices. Not to mention the Aetherite engines they use to power large airships, which use Zero-Gravity magic to achieve flight.

    So yeah, guess I did get a little long-winded. Sorry about that. Anyway, what I wanted to get at is: How functional/practical would you guys say this magic system is? Any tweaks you would suggest? Any holes or inconsistencies that you'd like to point out? If you were reading about this in a book or playing an RPG that utilized this system, what questions would you have about it? Are there any other possibilities you can think of? Other ways that you could potentially use it that I didn't mention?

    I'm really curious to see what people think of this before I start defining my characters' personal magic styles and combat techniques...I mean I've kinda already done that for some of them. BUT HEY, new ideas are still welcome. This is the first fantasy universe I've ever tried to come up with so I could definitely use the feedback.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Other folks will chime in, so I'm going to speak to only one thing. You have two types of Aether: Active and Stagnant. First off, I'd change Stagnant to Static, or maybe Passive. Stagnant conjures up images of swamps and clogged drains.

    More importantly, what's the point of Passive Aether (pardon my arbitrary name change)? I don't see it mentioned. If it doesn't have a function, lose it and just go with the Aether. Go with the flow!
  3. Sword Rain Alpha

    Sword Rain Alpha New Member

    I think the main reason I decided to differentiate between the two was because at first, I did only go with a singular state of Aether. Then I realized that if Aether was essentially both the essence that makes up souls AND the energy used to fuel magic, the mortal beings in my world might end up having problems accidentally using up the Aether that makes up their soul rather than what they harness from the Lifestream. I guess I could come up with a different term/material for souls and keep Aether as a magic source...but the catch is that Aether being BOTH of those things is supposed to tie into the whole origin of the Lifestream and the Gods of the world, and I would rather not open that can of worms in this thread. That has more to do with the lore/creation myth of my world. Still relevant but...eh. Complicated, y'know?

    But I digress. Thank you for bringing up that point. Essentially, Passive vs Active Aether exists to explain how the Aether used for spell-casting doesn't fuse or interfere with the stuff that makes up a person's soul. Other than that, you're completely right. Passive/Static/whatever Aether doesn't serve an actual function. And yeah...now that you mention it I should change the name.
  4. Vaporo

    Vaporo Inkling

    Well, just going off of what I've read here, the idea of having different elemental magics seems a bit tacked on. Is there a particular underlying reason why there are different elemental magics? Or is say, an ice wizard just someone who has chosen to specialize in a series of similar spells related to cooling things down? If that's the case then I'd considering cutting the elemental aspect entirely and just say that some wizards eventually choose to specialize in a particular field of magic.
  5. Sword Rain Alpha

    Sword Rain Alpha New Member

    Yeah, actually perhaps it would be better to go ahead and cut that terminology out. It's really just something I use to categorize stuff in my documents. Perhaps instead it would be better to categorize them by the process used to created a desired magical effect (so Fire/Water/Ice magic could be grouped together into "Thermal" magic)

    Or maybe I should just ditch the categories entirely? I mean, I don't really imagine my characters actually using the word "spell". As in, they're not going to neatly categorize each individual spell. Creating a fireball and creating a steady "stream" of flames essentially involve the same process, so I guess there's no need to classify them as different spells. Its all just fire, essentially. Some mages might specialize specifically in creating heat, and therefore, creating fire. Some might be better at manipulating water and ice. But they probably wouldn't need regimented categories for all that.

    Now for some of the non-elemental magic types might still need their own categories due to the fact that they're very specific fields of study, much like specific fields of science in the real world. The way a mage would generate an aura or perform soul binding is pretty distinct. So maybe those would be worth setting apart.
  6. Yora

    Yora Maester

    I had the same thought as Skip. As presented here, differentiating between two kinds of aether seems unnecessary.

    Also, if the Lifestream is all the aether in the world, then I think it would be enough to just call it aether. This also avoids being too obvious where the concept is taken from. I used the very same idea and went out of my way to come up with some other name for it, even though it turned out hard to find something else so catchy.
  7. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    In that case, I say lose any unnecessary complexity by cutting non functional detail. Which I believe the stagnant/active division qualifies.
  8. Vaporo

    Vaporo Inkling

    You know, I actually like your idea of the static/active magic. It's underdeveloped as it's presented here, but I think it's an idea worth pursuing. Perhaps your wizards simply believe that there is a difference between static and active magic, but it's eventually just discovered to be all the same thing, just more difficult to manipulate in some cases that others.

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