1. pippin1710
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    pippin1710 Member

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    Magic systems

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by pippin1710, May 27, 2008.

    For my fantasy series I am still tweaking the world and one thing i have not really settled on is a magic system. I was wondering what you found interesting about magic and which seems to work best. e.g. in harry potter it seems that there are just random words which causes an magic effect , while others have ancient spells in latin and such. Another thing I was wondering about is wands and staffs cool or unnecessary? or has the great success of harry potter ecspecially the seventh book wands being a large part in this should I try to stay away from them?
     
  2. Trave_xx
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    Trave_xx Member

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    In my book, fingers are used. I'm still thinking about it, however, since even that seems cliche.
     
  3. Anomally
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    Anomally Member

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    Wands might be considered a teensy bit cliche. But that's only because everyone and their dog has read Harry Potter. Or, at least, everyone I know and their dogs.

    I think you could create a very interesting magic system without wands or staffs. Simply by using body movement or hand signals. This sort of idea is used with the Avatar: The Last Airbender series to great effect.

    To me, the Harry Potter system of magic seems very obvious, like those anime shows where the attacker yells out a bajillion words that correspond with his attack. But that's just the way I think.

    I would much rather read about Character A describe personally how they summon and control their magic, and then shape the world around them, with plenty of detail; than Character B, who just waves a wand, says hocus pocus and then instantly changes a mouse into a horse.

    ~ Anomally
     
  4. MumblingSage
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    MumblingSage Contributing Member

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    I like magic which anyone can learn to do, not stuff you have to be born into. It gives me the feeling that I could be a part of that world.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In Peirs Anthony's Apprentice Adept series, the mode of magical expression was as individual as the adept himself or herself. For example, the central character's magic was expressed through rhyming verses, another's was invoked through music, another through making dolls, and so on.
     
  6. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    The characters in my writing make use of "elemental" magic, only it isn't considered magic...it's a sort of communication with the spirits, called manitous, and is properly referred to as "medicine" (or more generally just "power"). Anyone can have access to it, but it takes lots of training, so those who do have access to it are regarded with awe. This is very loosely based on some American Indian concepts of power being inherent in nature and being granted to humans should they ask for (or, sometimes, demand) it.

    Seeing as the powers granted are from nature, it just seemed natural (no pun intended) for them to break down into a rough "elemental" system--fire, water, wind (air), earth, and subtypes like ice, stone, sand, fog, snow, wood, etc. (In addition I added "ether," which is basically a sort of dream power.) So while there's a cliche aspect there (elemental magic), I tried to utilize the mythology/culture I'm writing about to make it make sense in context.

    Early in my writing summoning up such powers was done in a kind of hokey anime-ish way (by shouting out attack names), but eventually an explanation for this was given (the manitous won't give their medicine unless one asks for it, often aloud). And then there are people who demand medicine rather than ask for it, but they usually get what's coming to them in the end...and here is where I stop blathering. :)

    I think wands are hokey myself, but then again I'm sick unto death of hearing about Harry Potter. *shrug* I don't like magical systems that are so obvious; they're much better when they blend into the context of the story or fit into the story's unique culture. If a cliched element is going to be used (for example, wands), give a reason WHY that particular culture needs to use wands.
     
  7. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    You could use something other than a wand, such as a talisman, necklace, or any other object you fancy, might even be fun to use something not that obvious, such as a cigarette lighter or a watch. They do serve as a plot device in that if someone loses that item, then it's like a soldier losing his gun, which opens up more possibilities.

    Al
     
  8. Klee
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    Klee Contributing Member

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    One story I'm working on has magic transmitted by the eyes, and another one I wrote has a complex system that includes will to power. Try coming up you're comfortable with and can work with your plot.
     
  9. pippin1710
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    pippin1710 Member

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    I was thinking aobut using wands and staffs and hands. Wands and staffs would be expensive and would help focus the magic. I was also thinking of having different techniques very offensive magic and agressive or defence and slow and calm (sort of like sword and martial arts with karate , jiu jitsu ect..)

    I would also try to make it less general in the sense not everyone produces a standard shock of lighting after saying hocus pokus or what ever but combined with knowledge, power and most importantly emotion you would produce a spell. Emotion would be key someone full of hatred could produce a powerful spell "dark magic" while someone who is calm could produce an effective controlled spell (is this sounding to much like the force in star wars lol)

    Oh i like mumbling sages idea but as my plot has conflict between common and magic users I don't think it fits
     
  10. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    In the book series I'm obsessed with at the moment, Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson, the magic system is done by people called "Allomancers". They swallow tiny pieces of metal and use them as fuel for that magic. Most allomancers are Mistings, only able to use one of the eight base metals. The few that can use all of the metals are known as Mistborn. The way the metals work together is interesting. For instance, Iron and Steel can be used to Push and Pull metals, but always on a straight line from the user. Duraluminum increases the power of any metal being burned and burns the rest of it. The main character uses a Duraluminum powered Steel Push to rocket herself across a city and out onto the field. And by using simple Steel Pushing and Iron Pulling she takes out fifty people trained to kill Mistborn by ripping the metal struts out of the stained glass windows, anchoring herself, and pushing them all out the window.


    In my own personal world there are three magic systems, actually. The first is "Magic", or Numinology. The Mages of the world are people naturally born with a thing called Numina that flows through a secondary circulatory system. The Numina is burned when magic is done. It's not like Wish Magic, where you just wave your hand, there's real consequences for going over your head, and it's really not even possible to go to far unless you already know that. It's mostly just things like shooting fireballs, but can be a bit subtler as well, and numanic energy is used to power technology, like computers, trains, and airships. And robots.

    The second is Alchemy, which was originally created in the world as a way to heal people. Used for stitching up bones and stimulating bloodflow. It's more based on the median system, kung fu, Feng Shui, and a little bit of Taoism. The actual array alchemy is done by making a circiut like pattern and pushing the energy into it. Alchemists realized the other uses for alchemy, and started using it to break bones as well as heal them. It's weeaboo fightan magic. Alchemists can do more with a single punch than a normal human could. Of course, most "Alchemists" are just scientists, even though rudimentary combat alchemy is taught to soldiers. Anyone from Vindae can do Alchemy.
    Alchemy can also be used to do magic. Don't have numina? Tattoo yourself with someone else's, a wyvern's, or some of the synthetic kind, and do alchemy on it while it's on your skin!

    And the last one is Esperism. While the term is usually used for psychic powers, they're psychic only in the fact that they come from the mind. They're more like the powers in Heroes, it comes from the brain, but you're more likely to be able to fly or regenerate than you are to read minds. Not many people have the power in the world though, so I've left it purposefully vague. The people who have it mostly become religious figures, and it's seen as either a curse or a gift from the Gods.
     
  11. edens garden
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    edens garden Senior Member

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    I always felt like a characters relationship with magic should be personal, that there shouldn't be a set way to do things but rather basics that adapt to the individual. Just like someone would attune to a certain element they would also come into their own way of doing things.

    Perhaps you could 'enchant' certain items? Have a ritual, prayer, what have you to ask the manitous to lend their power to a certain item, maybe shown by a carving on a staff or a talisman or something. That way you could know they have the magic without having to yell cheesy attacks and commands every third word.
     
  12. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    I sidestepped the issue of having to explain magic too deeply by not giving any of it to my protags. Only one 'hero' has any magic at all and due to religious and backstory issues he never uses it anyway. Thus, because all the magic is on the side of the villains. I'm spared having to explain it too deeply.

    The way I did what development I did however, was to divide magic into six categories:
    Telekinesis
    Fireballs
    Lightning bolts
    Teleportation
    Healing
    Creation of magical objects

    With the exception of the last (which I gave no thought to at all except as a handy source of magitek, the magic relies completely on mental concentration and willpower. Fireballs and lightning bolts require you to point your hand in the direction want to shoot at, and healing means you have to place your hands on the wound, but that's about it. The villain uses hand gestures when he's performing telekinesis, but that's just because he's a flamboyant showoff and not because he needs to.
     
  13. pippin1710
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    pippin1710 Member

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    Well I have decided on a way i hope works and casting magic is not a large part of it. you use your magic to make you able to be able to "power up" although "casting" is still tactical when it is a wizard upon wizard battle so now the question is are wands cliche? and is summoning demons starting to be cliche too?
     
  14. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    It's "wizard", not "wizzard". Anyway, wands are pretty cliche *coughharrypottercough*. If you want something magical to focus power, try another item. But, it's your story, so do whatever you want.
     
  15. BluePaladin
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    BluePaladin Member

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    The one thing people should always remember is that incantations, motions, and magical tools are never necessary. If you want them, that's great, go ahead!

    But if your only reason is, "It gives me a way to limit the character by gagging/binding/disarming them", then you should think harder.There are various ways to prevent your characters from utilizing magic: substances that are immune to magical energy, enchantments/hexes that seal one's magical capabilities, "irregular magical flux", you name it.

    At the same time, incantations and motions allow for growth. Having to learn how to cast a spell means that our fledgeling wizard will not be able to cast world-destroying sorceries from the very beginning. But there are different ways to go about this, too. In on of my favorite series, The Wheel Of Time, magic relies entirely on "weaving" together five different elemental energies. No incantations or motions required, simply thought. How these elements are mixed - both how much and in what shape - creates different effects. In order to cast a new spell, the character must learn how to "weave" it.
     

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