1. Bryman
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    Bryman Member

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    Concerning magic

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Bryman, Apr 5, 2016.

    When writing a story involving magic, which do you prefer dealing with:

    A strong and highly developed system of magic that possibly contain unique mechanics to your story
    or
    A simple, basic magic system that isn't entirely integral to what happening in the story, but it's part of the world nonetheless

    This question an extend to reading as well. Do strong magic systems make or break a book for you? And conversely, do weak magic systems make or break the book?

    I've had attempted writing with both and I generally prefer the basic magic system with a small twist of originality. Every attempt I've made at creating unique magic systems either doesn't sit well with the setting of my stories or end up so convoluted that it's hard to grasp everything about it, even for me.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I like both when reading. I prefer to write more mysterious, unexplained magic systems. Magic systems with a lot of rules don't ruin a book unless an author starts deviating from them. Even when there aren't many rules you still have to avoid a deus ex machina.
     
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  3. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I have read a lot of RA Salvatore which adheres to the somewhat strict system of DnD magic. I enjoyed them a great deal. I also enjoyed Lord of the Rings which is pretty vague about how exactly magic works. Both seemed to be fine.
     
  4. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Writing: The former. It helps if I know I have to remain within a given framework. My earlier works involved magic, and it was just "yeah, they can do... whatever". My current WIP has a more "set" magic system, where things are codified and mages can only do certain things. It makes things more interesting because I really have to think about what I'm writing - will this work or won't it? If so, how? If not, what else can I do here? The magic system is rather central to the story, too, so it kind of has to be codified (as opposed to the earlier stuff, where magic was just "part of the world").

    Reading: I don't have a preference.
     
  5. Samurai Jack
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    Samurai Jack Active Member

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    I need you, the author, to have a strong grip on how your magic system works. It needs a cost to the user, a consequence to the world, and a limit, even if that limit can destroy the world.

    I don't need to know any of those things as the reader, or I can know all of those things as a reader, depending on the story you're writing. But if I'm ever left to wonder why McCharacterton didn't just use his infinite gift of all-power to wish away the plot, I'm upset.
     
  6. Yoav
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    Yoav Member

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    I think it simply depends on wethever it's medieval fantasy like ASOIAF or high fantasy like the Elder Scrolls. If it's epic high fantasy magic should be more common and more detailed. Otherwise, it should be rare and mysterious, and also could be connected to the main character if he happens to be a chosen one or something which is very common in fantasy. Also i'd imagine like Samurai Jack said, it simply needs to be consistent, and have limits.
     
  7. The Triarii
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    The Triarii Member

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    You have to ask yourself why someone would read the story. If you are trying to focus on a sense of wonder, boggling the reader down with details may pull them out of that experience. If your story is interesting because of the mechanics of the magic system then delve into them. So what are you focusing on?

    The answer will be a basic system in a romance novel between two wizards. it would be a wild and awe inspiring system in a adventure novel about a novice Mage. It would be a highly detailed and complex system in a grand strategy narrative between two wizard kings at war. It could be almost any combination in a book about a former Mage trying to break his ties to the arcane.

    There isn't a "wrong" way to do a magic system but make sure it speaks to the needs of your audience and maintains consistency ( even if the constant is that magic is wild and unpredictable).
     
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  8. Buttered Toast
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    Buttered Toast Active Member

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    I think I like simple magic, I don't want to have a lesson when reading a book so simple would be better!
    I'm writing a book with magic and I have placed a kind of evolving system, they start out immature magic users then grow, so eventually I would like them to perform amazing magic but it's not complicated and they don't have to say magic words for most of them! They just move their hands.
     
  9. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what I'm trying to do to :)
     
  10. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    You don't need to explain the rules of magic, so long as it's clear that there *are* rules. Keep things consistent. If your space wizards can run at incredible speeds to escape evil robots at the start of the film, but then one of them gets left behind in a fight because a door closed too quickly at the end, your audience will notice and it'll weaken your story. (Whether they notice conciously ir subconciously is irrelevant.)

    This was the biggest weakness of the Harry Potter universe, especially in the films. In the books, magic was mostly unexplained, but mostly consistent. In the films, though, it was never explained and wildly inconsistent.
    As Harry Potter proves, though, you can cover a lot of holes if you've got compelling characters and a decent plot. So, while it's good to have a firm grasp on your magic, it won't kill your book if you don't.
     
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  11. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    I'd like to cast my vote for "Doesn't Matter So Long As It's Consistent."
    The reader only needs to know what affects the plot. As long as you, the writer, knows how magic works in your story, and you stick to those rules, it will show in the writing.
     
  12. Shattered Shields
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    Shattered Shields Gratsa!

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    If a magic system isn't the lifeblood of the book I'm reading (like Harry Potter), then it has to be simple, with no ass-saving gimmicks. It irritates me when characters get out of bad situations "because magic".

    That's how I have to write it too, my magic system is clear cut and simple. No hooks, no exceptions, and with plenty of limits. Overuse can cause 'soul-burn', which entails a feeling of illness and also reduces the users life-span. Devoted wizards don't often live longer than thirty or forty. Too much magic at one time will straight up kill the spellcaster, it's why healers can't mend mortal wounds.
     
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  13. ToBeInspired
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    ToBeInspired Contributing Member

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    It doesn't matter if you're magic system is the most complex to date or the simplest. It's all about how your develop your story.

    The issue with more complex systems is that it's easier to fall into inconsistincies. The positive aspect is that it becomes more believable and gives more depth to your world building.

    The issue with simple systems is that it is usually used as a blanket "magic fixes everything." The positive aspect is that you don't have to thoroughly explain every situation.

    Let's use an example.

    In my example world magic is based off four elemental powers: wind, fire, earth, and water.

    In the more complex system by using scientific explanation you could have a win master put air bubbles in a person's blood stream, create a vacuum, etc.

    In a simpler system that would seem overpowered. You would be more limited to such things as air blasts or increased attack speed.

    The issue with more in-depth world building is that most of the information is going to be private and left out of the books. You could make a hundred maps, complete biographies for every minor character, etc.

    Unless your book becomes ridiculously famous, no one is going to be interested in perusing most of it.

    My opinion?

    Go with a complex, in-depth magic system. However, do not fully utilize or explain every detail in your book. Have it as a reference, for yourself, while writing the book. Make sure that whatever magical action your characters commit to makes sense in what you had previously decided on. You'll have a lot less inconsistincies and be able to decide on the amount of detail you wise to use. Hell, still go simple if you want. Just spend the time to plan your world out first.
     
  14. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    The complexity of your magic system should correlate to the overall tone of your novel.

    If your novel is epic, sweeping, with deep social and political systems then your magic system can and should have similar depth.

    If your novel is light hearted adventure for example, then a simple magic system no more complex than pointing and shouting the magical thing you want to do might be more appropriate.
     
  15. Jordan Hoffman
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    Jordan Hoffman New Member

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    I find that understanding a magic system makes seeing magic spells being cast and battles occuring to be more meaningful and engaging.
     
  16. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Echoing what the others have said, you need to know everything about your magic system or you'll have holes in your story. Don't have to tell the readers every detail, but the structure needs to be in place. I'm working on an urban fantasy, I guess you'd call it, that's set in the real world. Magic can work, but the reason no one knows it is because it can only work under very, very limited circumstances, and I'm spending an inordinate amount of time working out exactly what those circumstances are (hint, if you haven't had a near-death experience, you'll never know magic)
     
  17. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I created a really complex magic system for my fantasy and what others have stated is definitely true. I had trouble developing any plot before I completely understood the magic system I wanted to make. Otherwise I would make inconsistent plot holes right off the bat and have to change it immediately. But the problem is that you can expand on how magic systems work like world building. So you have to find a balance that allows you to tie all your work into your plot without too many unnecessary things.

    Over complexity can be a bad thing but it is really easy to use it to your advantage and tie it into the plot anyway, simply adding to the overall depth of the story. Just cut anything too unnecessary and it will simply cost you the time you spent on that part you cut. In my opinion under building is more of a problem for me, but I think that is because I try and create over the top, yet realistic plot lines with a lot of complexity, so the world has to reflect that tone.
     
  18. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    I could go either way, but I truly enjoy enjoy those who manage to swing a relatively simple type of magic within a complex system or having the two separate systems clash.
     
  19. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I've been working on something kinda like what @Seraph751 is speaking of. Mixing a few simple magic elements with tech and sci-fi type stuff. (And no not like Star Wars) And don't come back with that smart ass "but the force is scientific" malarkey, cause yeah it is magic with a complex explanation. So if you feel the need to make your special pleading on that issue, I will refer you to: Bite Me. Now let's be friends and move on to more productive things, mkay? Great, you're lovely. :supersmile:
     
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  20. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    So basically, sounds like you need to take a step back from your characters and create the two systems. Start with whatever is easiest for you. Then take your characters and start playing puzzle pieces with them and your systems. What works what does not etc. It needs to be chaotic and messy. There will be things that conquer each other out and that is ok, because that encourages the growth of magic within each system. Make sense?
     
  21. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    Or you could divide it into 3 categories

    Simple Magic/Chaotic

    Cancels out Complicated/Structured Magic

    Playing Nice Magic
    2 Systems work cohesively

    Complicated/Structured Magic

    Cancels out Simple/Chaotic Magic
     
  22. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @Seraph751 C'mon, ye of little faith. I am one of those who has a knack for chaos, it is the rest of it that goes all to hell. :supergrin:

    But yeah I got ya. It has to be strategic, like a game of chess if you will.
     
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  23. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    @Cave Troll I hear ya! Let the Chaos come, let me just grab a surfboard!
    However you can have a whole lot of fun juxtaposing the two against and with each other.
    For example, I had 2 sets of twins,
    Contract (female) and Law (male)
    Feral (Male) and Spirit (female)
    Siblings all four of them and meant to cancel and build/back each other up.
    So the question you gotta' ask yourself is

    1. How can I use the 2 systems to build on each other
    2. (You'll love this one) How do I use the 2 systems to tear each other apart?

    Voila! You have the makings of Binary Magic System!!!!
     
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  24. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Curse you... Now I must reveal my latest piece that I started yesterday evening, is kinda inspired by the Warhammer 40K to a small degree. (I have been binging on the lore of the universe and it inspired me to do my own thing, based on concept.)
     
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  25. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    Epicness!!! My story is giving me fits and I am getting ready to whack it with a beat stick if it does not start cooperating. Grr.....
     
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