How much does magic affect your world?

Dragonlady

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Does magic affect the basics of your world? I have a world I'm revisitng the world building of. I've already established that magical healing exists, and so far haven't put limitations on this. Does this mean my mediaeval-based world will have a lower infant and maternal mortality rate? Is magic effective against industrial accidents, but not so much with infectious diseases? Does the presence of magic in your world mean that transport is easier or quicker, at least for the rich? Does magic give advantages in a domestic setting, or affect the economy? I'm fascinated that in star trek they manage somehow for cooking skills to be relevant despite food being produced by replicators. I was beginning to think, thanks to my research, that at least some of the middle aged men in the city council need revising downwards in age, but would that not be right with the presence of magic? How do you solve/get round / approach this sort of thing?
 

CTRandall

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In my WiP, magic is kind of an alternative technology. Everything is pretty much at a medieval level but with slight, magical twists that I call "craftings". There aren't any spells, as such, but engineers, for example, can build simple cranes that look like a cross between a giant spider and a tree and scholars can treat plant seeds so that they grow super-quick but strip the soil of fertility, making it a device used only in emergencies.

In essence, I use magic in my world to give it colour and atmosphere. It has little effect on the central elements of the plot.
 

Cathbad

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I guess the magic in my world is more 'traditional'.

Although magic is well-known, few can command it. Even fewer make it to a level of control to be considered 'extremely powerful'.

I also have groups in larger cities whose duty it is to protect the city from magics. One city-state has outlawed magic, and the Enforcer (ironically powerful in magic) will dole out serious punishment for its use!

Overall, the 'average joe and jane' are rarely affected by magic, and when they are, others are standing by to help them. Those most affected are those that seek it - or other fortunes.

A church in my world's greatest city works to ensure magic does not sneak into / affecting the workings of the government.

The magics in my world include elemental, aethereal, mental, healing and nature.
 

tinkerdan

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Unless magic is a character in your story then it probably is a tool.

So lets consider a hammer, nails, drill, bits, saw, files, and screw drivers and.screws.
In the hands of one man they could probably kill someone.
In the hands of another they could do as much if not more destruction than building.
Another could do a few adequate jobs with it and get by nothing to brag about. Though he might anyway..
And the professional Carpenter or the builder who makes a living at it might make them all look like magic.
The point is that there should be certain rules for their use and probably a lot of different skill levels and creative ways to use them often in ways they were not meant for, that stay within the guidelines or rules and yet come very close to warping those.
Do they make life better--sometimes maybe.
Not everyone has them or at least not the best .
Some never figure out how to use them.
And some even require licenses.
They all should have insurance.
Some might require restraints.

So just change all this to magic and magic skills and run with it.
 

Josh K

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Magic is intrinsic to ever creature in my world. Everything living thing is born with it, and creatures have learned to use it in unique ways. So yea, it's a big deal. I treat magic just like a skill - say you're learning a martial art, learning basketball, etc. Tons of people can do these things at a basic level. However, to do them at a high level takes years of work, both conditioning the mind and body. I was really sick of all the magic systems where it was like 'this person was born under the stars on the night of the solstice of the blood moon of Asheara and she drank dragon blood, therefore she's better than everyone'. Now, that being said, I will have my characters changed by their interactions with the netherborne, but it's not something they were really born with, so much as experienced.

So, in this world you have creatures with hard beaks of iron (sharpbeak), made to break through tortoises (steelshells) shells, which, you guessed it, are steel. You've got people using magic in everyday life - to cook, to clean, to heal. However, there are limits - most notably the nether core takes a while to regenerate, and once you're out, you're out. There is no getting more nether to work with. Another big limit is a person can't directly impact another with nether from a distance. However, if two people are touching then it's possible to impact another's body, and in that case, it comes down to willpower. This was to make sure people's bodies were sacrosanct. Anyways, there is a lot more to it - elementals, the god system, the nether plane, but yea, lets just say magic is a really big deal in this world.
 

Toby Frost

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I think the OP is asking really good questions. The existence of magic - and the knowledge that it exists - will fundamentally change society from the standard mock-medieval fantasy setting. Medieval people were generally deeply religious, and the presence of magic could really affect their beliefs. Also, if a peasant or a woman can zap people, but a king cannot, what does that say about the feudal system (which in turn was classically meant to be ordained by God)?

I think the answer is to follow it through to a logical outcome, although there may be several possible ones. The powers that be might decide to stamp out magic by killing all wizards, perhaps through some kind of inquisition. More subtly, the rich might hire or kidnap wizards to work for them, or the wizards might form a guild and punish unlicensed practitioners. But much like medicine, if the poor can't afford licensed wizardry, they might turn to street practitioners or local wise-women. In the reign of Elizabeth 1, a guy published a book denouncing the rule of women (he got the option to shut up or have his head cut off, IIRC). You might find the same thing if someone denounced wizards. I suspect that the answer is that whatever happens, it won't be like medieval times with some wizards dropped on top.

In the books I've been writing, magic exists, but isn't especially strong or common, at least not in the casting spells variety. Alchemy tends to work, but the majority of wizards are skilled in calling winds and changing the weather, and work on big ships or in ports, speeding trade. Occasionally, magic is dramatic, bit it generally just makes everything easier.
 

Brian G Turner

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Magic has always existed in Europe - from sympathetic folk magic to the Qabalah. While we may look on these as superstitious or baseless now, it's important to note that people in ancient and mediaeval times very much believed magic was real and a part of everyday life.

That's the way I include magic in my own writing - from a more historical fiction perspective - and IMO the history of real-world magic is far too under-used as a resource.
 

Dragonlady

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Loads of fascinating answers! My world is a bit backwards as a religious, magic-distrusting regime have just been overthrown, and it was largely the women who preserved knowledge of it. Basic knowledge of magic is not uncommon, but like anything hiring a practitioner costs money. And I wonder whether for osme magics, other knowledge, for example of anatomy, is required?
 

Karn's Return

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How much does magic affect things within my world? A great deal, as I go with the ley line, mental manipulation style of magic, but the very basics of the world, like atmosphere, climate, etc., generally not too much unless manipulated by a conscious entity. It's nothing like what Piers Anthony did with Xanth.

I guess I'd be kind of old-fashioned when it comes to magic use, but it's the kind that simply isn't seen anymore outside of some very old, established series, such as Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms/DnD. The system of use, however, is much, much different than the way those old systems worked.
 

Phyrebrat

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I tend toward the Brian Turner end of the spectrum as I write weird fiction/horror and most of my supernatural stuff comes from an Abrahamic vs Nature direction. One important theme in my wip is nature vs religion.

But magic-magic? I don’t think I’ve written anything that uses such.

pH
 

sknox

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I can only say how magic affects the people within the confines of a given story.

There's not merely a blurry line, there are many blurry lines in Altearth. There's what people believe, what they directly experience, what they're told, and the perceptions of any one individual might change over time. Depending on the time period, some people will insist there's no magic at all, that it's all science. At the other extreme, some philosophers argue that there's no such thing as magic, there's just things some people can do. Altearth gnomes, for example, don't call what they do magic, but other people do call it that.

When people talk about magic, it's sometimes too clear cut for my taste. Not as a reader, mind you. Tell me a good story and I'll cheerfully toss all my caveats and hesitations out the nearest interdimensional portal. But when I'm in author mode, I'm more skeptical. To say magic exists means the person speaking as a clear and unambiguous understanding of the line between the natural and the supernatural. That distinction gets foggy fast. If the person is religious, they'll ascribe certain events to the action of gods. There'll be a whole set of events that the person will call incomprehensible without necessarily saying those events were magical. Then, for certain worlds, there's the perfectly natural, mechanical or chemical manipulation of magical forces, which forces may or may not themselves be truly magical or maybe they're just imperfectly understood.

I think all these considerations are part of why I don't have a full-fledged magical system for Altearth, though I do have certain principles and certain clear violations of Real World physics.
 

The Bluestocking

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The folks who people my story world both ARE magic and WIELD magic - the demons, the fox spirits, the gods and goddesses, the wraiths, the Bloody Marys, Death himself. Nobody bats an eyelid at a banshee wailing someone else to oblivion or a kitsune shapeshifting for spycraft, or a godling hurling power blasts at their foes or a reaper using a special chalk to open portals to cross over souls.

As everyone says - it really does depend on what you're writing and your approach.
 

Toby Frost

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I think all these considerations are part of why I don't have a full-fledged magical system for Altearth, though I do have certain principles and certain clear violations of Real World physics.
It's definitely a matter of each to his own, but I always a little bit surprised when someone says that they're working out the magic system for their fantasy setting.
 

Cathbad

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It's definitely a matter of each to his own, but I always a little bit surprised when someone says that they're working out the magic system for their fantasy setting.
If you don't have your magic system worked out before you write your story, you may end up writing nonsense. That's what fantasy-haters claim: the 'anything goes' claim.
 

Josh K

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Yea, or when the author uses magic to get them out of a plot hole - that always drives me nuts. Going through the early parts of my novel, I'm finding places to flesh out and improve how I describe my magic - mainly because I've fleshed things out since I've had a whole novel to get to know it better. Truth be told, magic is really hard to write. It's hard to stay within the limitations of the system, hard to make it vibrant and real....because, you know, magic isn't in real life. Compared to writing a romance scene, human, or description, magic has to come wholly from imagination. This is why I've always thought people who write fantasy, and to some extents sci-fi, are some of the best writers. They're starting with nothing.
 

sknox

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FWIW, I published four novels without having worked out a magic system. All the story needs is to have clear and consistent (and evocative) magic that works within the parameters of that book. Altearth magic is observed by characters in the stories. Being human (or dwarf or ogre or sprite), they might misinterpret or exaggerate what they see. This gave me the flexibility to develop Altearth magic in context, organically. I'm not saying this is the only way to do it; it's just how I did (am doing) it.

Think of it as like character development. It's possible to contend that an author must work out each character fully before setting pen to paper, or else there will be inconsistencies, or even outrageous errors. But another approach is to sketch out the character and start writing, learning more about the character the more one writes. Arguably this happens often with characters who are in a series--I'm thinking especially of detective novels. So it can be also with a magic system.

To circle back to the OP, here's another thing to consider. How much does magic affect the world? How about asking, how much does *belief in* magic affect the world? One need only look at our "real" world to answer that question. So there are at least two layers here. Probably more.
 

Toby Frost

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Following on from what @sknox has said above, I think it depends on the point of view and the story itself. I very much doubt that Tolkien had a magic system worked out for Gandalf and Saruman. The tone of the story and the point of view of the characters is pretty much enough. Nobody in Aliens says "We can't just teleport out of this place", but the feel of the story tells you that they can't. Given that magic is rare in the books I'm writing, especially the showy fireball sort of magic, and there aren't any magical POV characters, I would expect readers to think that any magic would be fairly weak and of a ritual nature. But whatever works, really. I'm just a bit wary of how much worldbuilding can go into a fantasy novel before the story is started.
 

tinkerdan

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I can live with this to a certain extent:
Following on from what @sknox has said above, I think it depends on the point of view and the story itself. I very much doubt that Tolkien had a magic system worked out for Gandalf and Saruman. The tone of the story and the point of view of the characters is pretty much enough. Nobody in Aliens says "We can't just teleport out of this place", but the feel of the story tells you that they can't. Given that magic is rare in the books I'm writing, especially the showy fireball sort of magic, and there aren't any magical POV characters, I would expect readers to think that any magic would be fairly weak and of a ritual nature. But whatever works, really. I'm just a bit wary of how much worldbuilding can go into a fantasy novel before the story is started.
However it really is important that the writer knows how the magic works.
Lets say for instance you have a magic healer who heals the hero somewhere earlier in the story.
Then something happens to the magic healer and he doesn't even try to heal himself though it is apparent he might die.
There has to be an explanation why he can't heal himself-whether it's that magic depends on health and lowered health from near death trauma makes it impossible for the healer to heal himself-or maybe just that the magic works on others but not on the magic practitioner. The physician can not heal himself.

Fezzik: 'What is wrong healer?'
Healer: 'I've been wounded.
Fezzik: 'How bad.'
Healer: 'Mortally I think.'
Fezzik: 'Good thing you know magic."
Healer: 'I'm afraid I'm finished.'
Fezzik: 'I don't understand you just healed Vassini from something worse, two chapters ago.'
Healer: 'It doesn't work that way.'
Vassini: 'What's wrong with the Healer?'
Fezzik: 'He's going to die and can't heal himself.'
Vassini: 'What can we do.'
Healer: 'Nothing unless you know magic.'
Vassini: 'That's ridiculous, if I knew magic I would have healed myself two chapters ago.'
 
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