1. Cailinfios
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    Cailinfios Member

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    Elemental Magic System/s?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Cailinfios, Jan 7, 2014.

    so... I've heard a lot of controversy on elemental-based magic systems. People are saying they're cliche, overdone, etc. whats your personal opinion?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ideas cannot be cliche. They can be well executed, or not.
     
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  3. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I don't think it's cliche', but I have seen it done an awful lot, especially in video games. Your job as the author is to come up with a system that is unique enough that it doesn't appear as just another cliche' elemental magic system.
     
  4. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I've never read a book with the exact same magic system as another book, unless it's part of a series/spin-off. I though element-based magic was seriously overused too, until I read the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. In it, he writes uses for certain elements that I never would have thought of (I won't tell you any because I think it's better you discovered them yourself, if you want to).

    This is of course because he researched and planned thoroughly, and that's the bottom line when it comes to magic systems, and indeed most things: research and planning pays off. Do you want an in-depth, complex character? Then give him a backstory and discover things about him that even his mother doesn't know. Want a great magic system? Research all the different magic systems out there and fuse them with your own ideas. In the end, a novel is as good as the amount of time and effort you put into it.
     
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  5. beltnoire
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    beltnoire Member

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    I believe that almost any idea can be enjoyable if it's well implemented. As long as you take the time and energy to construct your system, you can make it your own.
     
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  6. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    There is always something new to be done. Add your own "twist" on the system and you can make it epic.
     
  7. Billaferd
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    Billaferd Member

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    I think that elemental magic systems have lots of life in them. I do agree with the other posters though, the execution needs to be spot on. A points based system is probably too much unless you are doing satire, but looking at D&D you could take inspiration from that. Only casting spells a certain number of times per day could be workable if you make the characters physically weaker after each cast until they sleep or perform some ritual, could be interesting. Or make magic unlimited, but trim the powers down a lot, more like elemental hexes maybe?

    As for the separation of magical elements themselves, you could go the generic sorcerer way where a person can cast any type of elemental magic. But I think that Avatar: The Last Airbender had a great system that could be expanded on. You could have hydromancers (water), pyromancers (fire), geomancers (earth) and aeromancers (air). If you wanted you could round it out with diviners (life) and necromancers (death).

    One concept that could be explored are non-standard elementals. Megadeth's song Five Magics explicitly states alchemy, sorcery, wizardry, thermatology and electricity maybe something to consider?
     
  8. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me? The whole concept of fantasy as magic and vice-versa is starting to feel cliché. Why, for crying out loud, must fantasy be based in magic or any of the other 'standard' props we see so much of these days? How about fantasy without magic?

    But that's not your question, is it? Specifically, as Cogito pointed out, if you insist on magic as a basic precept of your fantasy, it's not the magic that's cliché, it's the way it is presented. Shakespeare had magic of sorts in a few of his putative works. So did Tolkien. But they certainly did not do it the same way. Find your own way down the yellow brick road.
     
  9. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you going with a system where magic of any element can be used to do anything - in which case, why bother making it an "Elemental" system instead of an "anything" system? - or would there be a point to each element? Maybe an emotional state, or a style of combat?

    And if so, maybe give each element a different association than most people would expect, and then explain your new associations so that the reader has a reason to focus on them instead of on the cliche expectations?
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    There is fantasy without magic.

    As for the OP, I agree that a good writer can make a concept work even more if it seems overused.
     
  11. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like a softer approach to magic, less explosions and more subtle influences on everyday life. The idea of wizards and giant fireballs and loud spells and pointy hats etc is a bit boring now, gandalf and magic in the lotr universe was done well i thought, magical but softer than it could have been.

    Subtle corrupting influences is quite an intriguing one.
     
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  12. koxeida
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    koxeida New Member

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    I have thought of Colour system in place of a Magic system before. Not really sure whether it's original but it goes pretty much like this:

    Red - associated with a strong, intense persona typically. Such colour magicians are able to manipulate and conjure Red type of magic like Fire & Energy.
    Yellow - associated with a bright, aspiring persona typically. Such colour magicians are able to manipulate and conjure Yellow type of magic like Light & Speed.
    Blue - associated with a calm, flowing persona typically. Such colour magicians are able to manipulate and conjure Blue type of magic like Water & Ice.

    What I had in mind was to create more colour typed magic, and they have to be linked with the personality of the user as well. For instance:

    Green - associated with a lively, rejuvenating persona typically. Such colour magicians are able to manipulate and conjure Green type of magic like Life & Nature.


    You get my point. I remember basing this system from colour spectrum wheel and colour psychology articles. But this is pretty much one of the unfinished project that I did back several years back.

    What do you guys think about this?
     
  13. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    Koxeida, for me personally, thats not such an original colour scheme.
     
  14. koxeida
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    koxeida New Member

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    So I guess there have been writers who have done this before?
     
  15. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    i couldnt name names or point you to them but yes, alot of games have similar systems too.
     
  16. koxeida
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    koxeida New Member

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    Alright, I see. If a similar system is already out there, it would definitely be easier for me to develop my own system!
     
  17. osu45d
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    osu45d Member

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    dont stick to earth water wind and fire if you do, be more complex, feature metals, organic matter, rock, various gasses etc.
     
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  18. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Dragon Age games had a very defined elemental system.
     
  19. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Basically no system is overdone if the author approaches it from an original direction. Just about everything has been done to death over the centuries, but people still come up with fresh ideas. Just proposing elemental magic says very little. The devil is in the details.

    For instance, imagine if the wizard/witch/whatever had to *physically consume* some of the element for each spell to work. Under ideal conditions, fairly safe exemplars could probably be found, but what about in an emergency?

    Or there was some kind of magical "Newtonian" effect. Shoot off a fireball and the area around the caster cooled by the same degree. Use a water spell and area surrounding the wizard filled with dust, and so forth.

    I'm just talking off the top of my head of course, but you get the idea. It's the application that makes it different and interesting.
     
  20. sci-fi_nerd_001
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    sci-fi_nerd_001 New Member

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    No matter how many times something has been done, you can make it work if you're good enough. But geniuses are naturally few and far between. If you make it unique, it'll work. If not, then it'll be just like another novel.

    As for being OP, it's a bit of a grey area. By it's very nature, magic should be OP. It's the ability to manipulate the natural world around you in ways that could be considered unnatural. It depends how you do it. If you want it to be OP, then make it that way. But make it a good story, and don't make it so that the guy with magic isn't invincible. Nobody's invincible and people that are make shit characters.
     
  21. AsherianCommand
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    AsherianCommand Active Member

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    Actually my complaint is just the opposite, they aren't done enough! (well enough)

    I mean what is one show you think of when you think elemental magic? Avatar the Last Airbender (The show not the movie) of course! This was unique twist and was quite awesome. Yet this was during the big harry potter fuzz and elemental/fantasy genre explosion.

    Elemental Magic is something I had to research for my story to make it feel unique, to make it work different. Magic itself is a tricky thing to write about as it is so foreign to the reader, it often confuses people when the characters try to explain.

    Magic can become overpowered, thats why you put limitations on it, like Alchemy or using up a natural magical aura in the air or something. It really adds to 'realism' in the story.
     
  22. sylvertech
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    sylvertech Active Member

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    It has been used before.
    Over and Over and Over.
     
  23. sylvertech
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    sylvertech Active Member

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    I found a rather interesting article by Limyaael.
    The author is an old favorite of mine, and you would do well to study the article. Intensely. Like, as in, deeply.

    The words of wisdom of a 30+ year-old liberal, English Literature PhD holder, and accomplished critic are not things you skim over.

    Oh, and the comments section expands upon the content and adds new points.

    This TVtropes article is a fun read to get you in the general mindset. And naturally this as well.
     
  24. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    To quote Puck (Owen Burnett) from Gargoyles "Energy is energy whether generated by science or sorcery."

    I heard this line 18 years ago and it has been a part of my philosophy in designing magic systems. Without handing over my idea, I suggest researching energy, how to transfer or remove it, and the effects on objects with a lot or no energy.
     
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  25. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're interested, I read about a shapeshifting concept a while ago that sounds like what you're saying:

    In order to conserve matter and energy, changes in body size would need to follow the basic formula

    x*H2O + y*CO2 + z*N2 + heat/radiation = biomass + a*O2

    Decreasing biomass firstly drains the oxygen from the area, secondarily converts the biomass/oxygen into various gases and a lot of energy (much like burning). Increasing biomass firstly drains a lot of gases and energy from the area, secondarily converts those gases into biomass while releasing oxygen (much like photosynthesizing).

    If a shapeshifter were to go from from a human to a whale, or from a bird to a human, then the area around her would become extremely cold, the air pressure would plummet, but it would become easier to breathe.

    If a shapeshifter were to go from a whale to human, or from a human to a bird, then the area around her would become extremely warm, and the air would become heavy and difficult to breathe.
     

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