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Help with magic system

Mfarseer

New Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2019
Messages
3
hey :)
I'm just starting out on writing and need some help fleshing out my magic system on my first novella/novel.
Just to give some context on the story idea so far (fairly undeveloped and subject to change, just going off from some initial thoughts)
So basically there is this community of magic wielders who were hidden from the world however were exposed (unsure if by choice or not) and have now co-existed with the "normals" for a while now, who have throughout the years helped humans undergo a magical revolution, similar to industrial revolution by creating various breakthroughs, maybe allowing humans to be able to access magic to a certain extent, imbue technology with the magic, essentially improving various fields such as agriculture, transport etc, but along with doing this they have bridged the gap closer between the power of technology versus magic, although mages are still stronger. There are working class wizards which work in various trades, some examples may include things like:
  • casting wards to protect houses, like a stronger security system
  • wizards to use magic to increase crop yield or produce healthier produce
  • turning back time on objects to bring them back to original state, working in construction industry
However, at the time the story is set there is a large problem of magical pollution, severely affecting the general livelihood as the majority of people were reliant on magic, and using it causes a wide array of negative effects, linked to the type of magic (since I haven't exactly decided which magic is available and its extent, example effects would be things like healers who instead of healing, transfer the symptoms to themselves, teleportation sickness, etc), to the user and people around them, so it has become either forbidden or simply agreed upon by everyone to not use/overuse magic. there are also danger zones/wastelands which are very dangerous to travel in where the pollution is extreme. I do however want a grasp of the magic system before it got to this point. The problem I'm having is I can't think of a way to create a magic system which can encompass a wide range of possibilities and powers (enough to cover such a large amount of application to revolutionize many aspects of life) and not seem arbitrary and messy, i don't want it to end up in a kind of "how can he/she do this?" "oh, because you know, magic" kind of deal. Maybe magic is a raw force and can be tailored to how the person casts? via glyph, sigil, prayer etc.

One possible idea for how the magic came into the world is that there were these few powerful beings, each with various magic power who came from another dimension, somehow trapping themselves and were unable to return to their realm, and were unable to survive in a non-magical climate and eventually died off. Beforehand they underwent experiments with humans to create half breeds who were able to survive, and have an ability to tap into magic, maybe through cracks/weak-points within the fabric of reality left behind via the originals entry into this dimension. Perhaps only the types of magic that the original beings possessed were the only types that can be accessed, creating some kind of limits at least. I'm not entirely sure if all this sounds like a coherent, viable idea? any suggestions on this or any other tips for a magic system which can incorporate many types without being messy or unexplainable would be helpful, sorry if this is a very broad thing to ask.
 

scarpelius

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Messages
271
Location
Bucharest
I'll say write the story and cook the rules of your magic to fit your action. Make the magic subsequent to your story not the other way around.
Or set up a few boundaries/general rules if you really need an organized system, but don't go into details. Too much regulations kills creativity.
 

Plucky Novice

Eat sleep write repeat
Joined
May 11, 2018
Messages
228
Location
UK
You could try reading Brandon Sanderson's essays on magic systems. You can Google them or go to his website.

They establish a set of laws which may help you think about and define your magic system.
 

ckatt

Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2018
Messages
13
Location
Vancouver
I'm not super into fantasy and magic so maybe this had been done before but when you mentioned magic as a raw force an idea popped into my head.. What if magic were like pure white light and by way of a caster's 'Prism' the magic could be split like a rainbow, say into a myriad of physical and non-phisical magic types. I'm not talking colour magic though. Maybe it can split into things like time, inertia, heat, emotion, gravity, magnetism, light etc. Advanced wizards could then recombine certain threads into more complex spells. Heat and light might create growth magic, maybe gravity and time make destructive magic. What happens if you combine those two?
 

IAmTR

Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2019
Messages
18
This is kind of building on your dimensional travel idea plus what ckatt said. What if those beings came from a parallel universe and in doing so created a crack in the fabric of reality. In that universe there is magic and it is spilling into this universe. And like ckatt said, it's like a white light and in that form we don't seem to notice any difference but when it is split it creates pollution. Maybe that's because in the other universe the unused parts of the spectrum combine with others naturally to keep it "white" but this universe does not do that because magic is not native to it. The solution could be finding a way to combine all of those unused parts, or pollution.
 

Mfarseer

New Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2019
Messages
3
I'll say write the story and cook the rules of your magic to fit your action. Make the magic subsequent to your story not the other way around.
Or set up a few boundaries/general rules if you really need an organized system, but don't go into details. Too much regulations kills creativity.
In a way i agree but at the same time I don't want to come up with rules as I go along as it might feel as if the magic system is too contrived, but I do want the magic to be central to the society, embedding itself into culture etc, but the story takes place when magic is too unstable, with various negative effects impacting the world, so I kind of want a semi detailed feel of what magic there is in order to know what kind of negative effects can take place. But as you said, maybe deciding on what problems arise first can indicate what magic there is/was, maybe i'll have a look at it from that angle, so thanks :)
 

Mfarseer

New Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2019
Messages
3
I'm not super into fantasy and magic so maybe this had been done before but when you mentioned magic as a raw force an idea popped into my head.. What if magic were like pure white light and by way of a caster's 'Prism' the magic could be split like a rainbow, say into a myriad of physical and non-phisical magic types. I'm not talking colour magic though. Maybe it can split into things like time, inertia, heat, emotion, gravity, magnetism, light etc. Advanced wizards could then recombine certain threads into more complex spells. Heat and light might create growth magic, maybe gravity and time make destructive magic. What happens if you combine those two?
I really like this idea, and althoguh I dont know much about the subject, but aside from there being various magic types, the caster can generate different affects with each type by using a different prism (reflective, polarizing, dispersive, deflective etc, after looking up on wikipedia xD) definitely food for thought. although I think i'm leaning towards more subtle effects, nothing too groundbreaking or OP.

This is kind of building on your dimensional travel idea plus what ckatt said. What if those beings came from a parallel universe and in doing so created a crack in the fabric of reality. In that universe there is magic and it is spilling into this universe. And like ckatt said, it's like a white light and in that form we don't seem to notice any difference but when it is split it creates pollution. Maybe that's because in the other universe the unused parts of the spectrum combine with others naturally to keep it "white" but this universe does not do that because magic is not native to it. The solution could be finding a way to combine all of those unused parts, or pollution.
YEah that's the kind of idea that im leaning towards in terms of the magic leaking from the cracks, maybe the weaker fabrics of the universe at first simply allowed magic to be cast through them, but now the magic itself is spilling through. Good idea.
 

Karn's Return

P-A-R-A-K-E-E-T. Penguin!
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Oct 24, 2018
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280
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Chocobo Races
The way I put my own magic system in is actually relatively scientific, with a bit of old psychic thrown in. Pretty much, within my universe, everything has its own wavelength of energy, and what magic users are able to do is to adjust the wavelength energy of their minds and body, getting in tune with ley lines throughout whichever planet they are on, and are able to sort of impose their own will upon said energy to perform what they are wishing to happen. Not everyone in my universe is able to do this-in this instance, kind of imagine X-men logic there, where there are certain genetic sequences that must be passed down through lineage or engineering, that allows production of certain hormones and other bodily chemicals for one to be able to perform these acts. Sounds a little like midi-chlorians from Star Wars in that regard, it's pretty much the same thing. There's also those who are able to specialize in one or more fields of magic, aspects of the universe, both solid and abstract, that one might find they can tune into better than others, while other mages are just generalized. And ultimately, for the average magic user, some aspects-mostly the more abstract ones like time, tend to be much more difficult and much more draining upon the mind and body than others to tap into. Exhaustion and mental degradation to the point of permanent madness can be deadly side effects of trying to tap into abilities that are beyond the caster, just to keep anyone from becoming a Superman character through such abilities.
 

psychotick

Dangerously confused
Joined
Apr 8, 2011
Messages
1,908
Location
Rotorua, New Zealand
Hi,

It's fantasy so I'd tend to avoid the science-y type explanations. I'd just go with it's a natural energy out there that some people can see. And a few of those who can see it can also bend it to their will. They may have to use a variety of techniques to shape it - words as in spells, arcane symbols for enchantments, and for those who are less worried about accuracy - sheer force of will. Meanwhile the presence of other spells in a region will distract a caster - rather like light pollution affecting the view of the stars. It spoils concentration perhaps.

Cheers, Greg.
 
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