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Wizard for Charity: What would you do?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Devor, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    One of the challenges of having wizards and magic is the need to follow through. If your world has wizards, they can't all have spent their lives doing the same things. At least one, somewhere in history, would for instance, dedicate their lives trying to help the poor. How many magic items or spells can a wizard cast in their lifetime, anyways?

    So, here's the question. If you were a wizard, in some generic medieval setting, who had to give your lives to "the good of humanity," what would you do? Magic seeds and plowshares for everyone?
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  2. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Well clearly Psychotick the Beneficent would do charitable works, but he is a strong believer in the old adage that charity begins at home. Therefore I believe he would begin by eating the poor and thus ending their suffering and donating to his own expanding waistline! It's a win win.

    Cheers, Greg.
  3. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    What's your magic actually good at? You can't really feed the starving masses if you use equivalent exchange, for instance.

    As a personal example, I have a setting where the most common magic is based around swapping traits. There are a lot of different uses for this, but the one that will always be useful is influencing other people's gifts and flaws. (Say someone recognizes that he's weak-willed and wants to change. A mage could take the sturdiness from a shield and put it in him, turning it to psychological sturdiness.)
  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I think my focus would have been on developing cheap, simple and efficient spells for common everyday needs, such as:
    Purifying water

    Simple things that can go a long way towards improving the life of the "common man".
    A. E. Lowan and Feo Takahari like this.
  5. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    Well, it's not a medieval setting, but in our urban fantasy series one of our wizards, Winter Mulcahy, runs an emergency clinic for the preternatural entirely pro-bono, where she treats everything from fairly common but serious ailments to performing life-saving trauma surgery. Our world is a dark and dangerous place, so Winter is a very busy lady.
  6. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Sort of a 'quasi medieval setting' in places, though there is considerable variation.

    Anyhow, the 'Godborn' or 'Children of the Light' are most all big into the charity scene, though most of them are also part of the 'True Church'. Things like healing, simple warding magic, and magically determining truth in disputes. It gets drilled into them early on this sort of thing is part of their 'duty to the True God'.

    Certain other wizards are more mercantile, selling charms and potions and one shot spells, but others are inclined to mysticism, especially as they grow older. These wizards, like those of LeGuin's 'EarthSea' hold that a true wizard seldom 'owns' anything other than his staff and the clothes on his or her back.
  7. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I have an elderly Magician [character currently in development] that is regretting a life of violence and killing [and loss of his own family as a consequence].
    Before he dies [and he is terminally but not immanently ill] he has decided to ease people suffering by letting them relive their favourite memories/moments just before they die.
    He creates the illusion of [or a link to] the memory of the event so they can spend their time over again; to tell someone they they loved them, to say sorry for a wrongful act, or to spend a day with a loved one.
    By reversing spells that he once used in combat, to cause pain and damage, he is able to take away their mental pain and hurt so they die in peace and feeling content.
    Casting the magic has a cost. Each spell bring him a little closer to death and leaves him in a little more pain.
    He spent a lifetime training to deal with magical pain so the pain he takes on is to him worth it for the closure he can give others.
    He doesn't take payment but will take a meal, room and board, or a lift to a new town.
    As he was a Battle Magician [I don't like that phrase and it won't appear in the story but it is apt enough for now] he has his share of spoils and loot for 40years of conquest so the money isn't important - and who is going to mess with someone that cant set you hair on fire by thinking....
    Ankari likes this.
  8. Letharg

    Letharg Troubadour

    It kind of depends how the magic works and what the limits are. If it were possible I would likely try to improve the harvest during a drought as an example. I would probably try to help out where it was needed the most, walking cross country to help people in need. But would this or these Wizards only help with food and sickness? Let's say there is a group of bandits who are threatening a village, would not the Wizard who is trying to help the helpless do something about that?

    One thought I got when I read this though was of a guild of mages dedicated to helping the poor and the sickly, they could take request at local chapter houses and send out Wizards to help. Different Wizards with different skills depending on what was needed.
  9. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

    Since magic in my world is messy, dangerous, and difficult ( and healing is the domain of the gods) I would work on simple charms and trinkets that would make life easier for the common man. A globe that illuminates the night, Gates that keep predators out of the livestock, containers that extend the freshness of food, etc...
  10. SineNomine

    SineNomine Minstrel

    Well, there is always the option of using your magic to take control of the government by force and rule benevolently for the benefit of all your subjects as an enlightened despot! That is charity, right? :D
  11. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    This is a hugely open-ended question; we might as well call it "what ways can we throw out that magic --of whatever various types-- could be used for charity?"

    We've heard about healing and weather/harvest magic to keep people healthy-- though a more modern mind might add "Then conjure up some sanitation and and reinforce society so it can sustain that population growth." Physical magic could strengthen buildings, fire and light spells provide better cooking and light, travel or communication spells connect isolated villages, and so on.

    What I especially like is:

    Of all the things technology --medieval or modern-- can't seem to touch, maybe the most stubborn is crime. There are just so many degrees of it, from selling shoddy goods to murder and conspiracy, that all depend on someone being able to lie. Truth spells would be a town-wide, world-wide game changer.

    Of course then you get into whether the wizard can be corrupted (bribed, threatened, "slanting the truth for the larger good") and if people think he is, how much counterspells and willpower can fool the magic, whether there are enough reliable truth wizards to go around, and how often they get killed to keep things quiet. But if it were easy, it wouldn't be a story.
  12. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    You'd quickly get tangled up in the whole privacy issue then. It could still be rather interesting though; what would a society where it was possible to lie be like?
  13. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Good question.

    That's another side of it, what institutions you set up to say when the wizard has a right to use the magic-- which also relates to, how many wizards are there and how many mild crimes (or lack of evidence) aren't enough to bring in a wizard yet. Are only murders brought to the kingdom's few wizards? Or are there a few wizards who can cast the spell all day, so any crime that makes it to a big city's court has all its lies exposed? Or is the spell so common that society lives in two levels, with neighbors handling small things on their own on the basis of everyone's reputation and thinking of the Eyes as a necessary but unsettling bunch you know are there if someone steps over the line?

    The best thing about truth magic, if the users and society have basic integrity about it, is that it makes people less willing to lie, or do anything they'd have to lie to hide.

    On the other hand, all jokes aside, doesn't that much truth threaten the whole idea of politics: that there's value in people who can "present" the facts so it gets their side the best deal?
  14. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I believe it's pretty common to present fae or faeries as beings who can't lie. Despite this they are notoriously deceitful and difficult to deal with. They won't tell any lies, but they may not tell the entire truth or the truth you need to hear. They're masters at twisting words in a way that will make you hear what you want to hear while not actually saying it.
  15. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Yes it is. ;)

    Off the top of my head, though, there's only one example I can think of where a world features a wizard in the history who behaved this way: The Quest for Glory video games, where the wizardess Erana went from place to place establishing areas of magically-enforced peace for people to take refuge in a conflict.

    That's the kind of background detail I would like to see more of because a lot of times the magic in a world doesn't feel like it's been thought through the various layers of society. What would you do if you were trying to use magic to do more for people?

    I'm particularly trying to think about more permanent possibilities, like enchantments or magical items, things which might be able to have a lasting influence beyond the character.
  16. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    The usual "layers of society" magic sounds more like how mages and society would evolve together, and what forms they'd settle into. But there's always the question, how big a ripple could one mage (and his followers) make if they decided to change the rules.

    Also, there are the ways that your magic is just different from the blocks of medieval power bases. If it's genetic, would it simply take over the lines of nobility (see the Deryni books); if it's based on training, would the whole concept of widespread education have developed much faster? Or would certain traditions/lines of magic form their own power blocks, and how would they mesh with the others?

    Permanent items are especially fun. If there are enough of them, you get the beginnings of a magitech world; if not, does it draw a contrast between (one example) cities Protected By The Unbreakable Walls and those that aren't?
  17. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    This is a very interesting and challenging idea, Devor =)

    However, it does not apply well to my Fantasy settings, and now I want to explain why: In Las Magas de Shaletyah and my other Aylar stories, the non-magical people enjoy a very good quality of life without poverty and starvation because, well... They are Aylars, and Aylar worlds work very differently to human worlds.

    The Shaletyah Mages feel very little interest in the non-magical societies, enjoying their lives in their own separate society. For them, the idea of working in charity for the ordinary people would be similar to the concept of normal people working at pet hospitals for free... It could happen, but they would regard it as some kind of comedic curiosity.

    In Joan of England it's like this: The parallel Earth where they live does suffer indeed from the same problems as our world, but instead of using their magical powers to solve the troubles through charity, the Mages focused on darker, far more ambitious plans to create a new world order, transform the planet and rule the ordinary world by means of magic.

    They are not particularly fond of killing people (at least, most of them are not) but they are not the charitable type either.

    Now, if I were a Mage or a Witch living in a Medieval-style world full of troubled humans, and I wanted to use my magical powers to help them... Maybe I would magically enhance the agriculture so they could enjoy wonderful harvests, and I would also create special medicines to fight off the deadly diseases that would otherwise kill a lot of people.

    That alone would help the people a lot, so that would be my best option.
  18. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    On thing I've included in my setting is magic for harvesting. Mechanical harvesting isn't big so magic will have to do instead. The magic required for harvesting crops is complex and requires a lot of power. The number of magic wielders who could pull this off on their own is extremely low. To get around this ritualistic/shamanistic magic involving large numbers of participants is used. When increasing the number of participants into the hundreds or thousands the required magical power or skill of the individual is significantly reduced.
    The result is that during harvest season lots and lots of people travel out of the cities to take part in harvest festivals. These are big parties that are held to encourage people to come and take part in the rituals required for a successful harvest.

    In my setting magic is very flexible and very powerful. However, it is also very complex. In theory, pretty much anything can be achieved through magical means, but in practice the skill and power of the wielder limits the possibilities significantly.
    Magic in my setting is not mystical and chaotic, rather it is ordered and scientific. Scientific research into practical and theoretical applications of magic are legitimate fields of study, just like physics or medicine. A lot of research is being done to document and understand magic as well as to simplify and improve current magical practices.
  19. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    When I think of major works of fantasy, the wizards pretty much all work for free. I mean, who pays Gandalf's salary?

    Pilgrimage is a common activity in many cultures. I could see a whole order of wizards who would maintain way stations for pilgrims, providing them with protection, healing, shelter, food and drink.

    Road maintenance is a huge issue, especially maintenance of bridges. Medieval monks did this; I could see wizards doing it. Or doing building maintenance more generally.

    I can imagine a lone wizard doing good deeds as a penance for past crimes.

    More interesting would be a wizard who went among wild folk, rather like a missionary among pagans.

    As others have said, much depends on what sort of magic we're talking about here.
  20. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

    Gandalf has a speach that's been rattling in my head ever since I heard it - quoting from memory here, so forgive me if I'm off.

    Gandalf to Frodo (about Gollum): "Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Do not be too quick to deal out death in judgement, for even the very wise cannot see all ends."

    Simple and straightforward.

    Advance the thought beyond judgement and penalties. Imagine your very wise helping. Where does the help actually help - and where does the help hurt? I don't mean this as a socio-economic judgement, believe me. But I see a wise mage wondering, more than anything, where help should go.

    Does she/he offer a spell of value to a farmer - only to have that farm raided because of its sudden upturn in wealth? Would the family live longer - if less comfortably - should she/he leave them to their own devices.

    Should he/she heal the sick or injured - giving them life and or comfort - yet removing the inspiration for the daughter to take up healing... or removing the antibody before it passes to the the ill woman's soon-to-be conceived child.

    I think my mage would spend a great deal of time trying to find the exact point of pressure to actually be of assistance. When she/he found that point, I think they'd work like a slight bump to luck. Never noticed. Never thanked. Just knowing that, in the end, they had done their very best to do exactly the right thing.

    Perhaps, then, in the first case, the mage notices a weakened support on their irrigation trough. She then spends an afternoon alone simply repairing it with mundane carpentry.

    In the second, she might leave the more immediate threat to the injured, but clear a clot that's been forming in the injured's leg due to forced inactivity, thus allowing the woman a better percentage chance on recovery.

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