1. Arathald

    Arathald Contributing Member

    Mar 11, 2011
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    Poke holes in my magic system, if you can

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Arathald, Mar 14, 2011.

    I spent quite a while researching magic systems, both traditional systems from the real world and systems used in fantasy stories, and I've developed a magic system, and I'd like feedback on it. It is formally called "Ecclinism" from the ancient Greek word ekklino, to bend [something] out of its regular line.

    Please bear with me, as the description isn't short.

    The kind of feedback I want: Asking "what if" questions, pointing out inconsistencies or holes in the system, pointing out inherent flaws or things I may have overlooked. I'm also interested in hearing ways you might abuse this magic system for evil if you lived in this world, if you're up to it.

    The kind of feedback I'm not interested in: "I don't like your system", "This sucks", "You just copied this from [whoever]" (I didn't, even if it happens to resemble something else), critiques on language or writing style -- this won't be included in my work in this form

    Laws of Magic (Ecclinism):
    1. A magician cannot create or destroy energy, he can only change what form it is in.
    2. There are two fundamental ways a magician can use magic.
      • He can use his own energy to redirect energy; this takes little of the magician’s energy.
        • Moving and dynamic energy can have its path changed, or discrete pieces of it can be moved or reshaped anywhere within the magician’s sphere of influence, as long as this doesn’t violate the restrictions of that particular energy.
        • Static energy can be moved or reshaped, in whole or in part, anywhere within the magician’s sphere of influence, as long as this doesn’t violate the restrictions of that particular energy.
      • He can use his own energy to change the form of energy; this takes quite a bit of the magician’s energy. For example, magical energy can be transformed into heat energy, or vice versa.
    3. There are beings made entirely of energy that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Just like humans, they have free will, and do not have to abide by any specific ethics or morals, or their word. There are some ways that magicians can manipulate them.
    4. There are six fundamental places where magical energy resides in the world.
      • World energy is the energy that flows in and around everything.
      • Inanimate static energy is the energy that comprises the essence of inanimate objects.
      • Inanimate dynamic energy is the energy contained within inanimate objects, but is not part of their essence.
      • Noncorporeal static energy is the energy that comprises the essence of energy beings.
      • Corporeal static energy is the energy that comprises the essence of all corporeal living creatures.
      • Living dynamic energy is the energy contained within all living creatures, including living plants and animals and energy beings, but is not part of their essence.
    5. There are specific ways that each of these energies can be used by magicians
      • World energy can be redirected and transformed without restriction.
      • Inanimate static energy can be moved slightly, but must remain attached to the object it belongs to. It can be reshaped and transformed with very little resistance.
      • Inanimate dynamic energy can be redirected, reshaped, moved, and transformed with very little resistance.
      • Noncorporeal static energy can be moved without restriction, but with a moderate amount of resistance. The energy being moves with it. Holding it in place against the being’s will takes a fairly large amount of continuous effort. This energy may be slightly reshaped or transformed, with much resistance, unless the energy being allows it (this is rare as they prefer to do this themselves).
      • Corporeal static energy cannot be influenced in any way by a magician. This energy also prevents a magician from physically affecting anything inside of a corporeal living creature.
      • Living dynamic energy can be redirected, reshaped, moved, and transformed, but all living creatures have an inherent resistance to this. The higher order a creature is, the stronger its resistance is. Plants tend to have a very low resistance, energy beings tend to have a lower resistance than their order would otherwise imply, and humans, especially magicians, have an extremely high resistance. Any living creature, plants included, may allow its dynamic energy to be freely used and even taken without resistance. A magician can freely control his own dynamic energy, but cannot move it significantly outside of his body, and can only slightly transform it, enough to warm himself or to generate a small amount of static electricity.
    6. Energy beings have limited control over their own energy and world energy, generally just enough to make themselves seen and heard.
    7. Every magically inclined individual has some constant awareness of the energies around him, and can sense them, but a magician can open up his third eye, which allows him to see the energies visually, as if with his own eyes. Opening the third eye takes a moderate amount of time and effort. Anything the magician sees with his third eye is affected by the mind in the same way that things seen with the physical eyes are; therefore, the third eye vision is not inherently more reliable than physical vision, only different.
    8. Performing magic requires sustained conscious effort, even if that effort is negligible.

    Practical Implications
    • Converting energy is very expensive, so there is a limit to what a practitioner can do with it. A moderately advanced magician can bend light and ignite candles, but even an master would struggle to create enough force or heat to seriously injure another, if he tried to do so directly.
    • Because all magic stems from manipulating other energy with one’s own, a magician’s range is very small – master magicians can only directly affect energy within about 50 feet of them. Many higher-level magicians have learned tricks to get around this, like manipulating energy close to them to form a chain reaction that in turn manipulated energy farther away, though more than one or two jumps this way is untenable, and the technique is extremely hard. An accomplished may have indirect influence to about 1000 feet away from him, though with more clever techniques like using heat to create wind aren’t unheard of.
    • Telekinesis is extremely difficult because it isn’t just moving energy, it’s moving matter by converting energy into kinetic energy. An advanced student may be able to lift a large book. Less direct methods like moving objects using wind are more tenable.
    • Remote viewing in time or space is impossible, though a magician may gather information from energy beings.
    • Spells that magically affect the future, such as blessings or curses, do not exist. Magic is a direct, immediate manipulation of energy. A magician could conceivably set up a chain reaction that affects things in the future, but this would be subject to the same kinds of conditions and limitations as a purely physical chain reaction.
    • Since a magician cannot affect anything inside a corporeal living being’s body by direct energy manipulation, he cannot do things such as instantly kill a person with a spell that stops their heart, or influence someone’s mind magically.
    • While theoretically possible, shooting someone with electricity (or anything of the sort) in any amount sufficient to harm them is wildly impractical, as the magician would have to expend enormous, potentially fatal, amounts of his own energy to transform energy into electricity.
    • A magician cannot be unintentionally killed by draining too much of his magic. Since magic requires conscious sustained effort, even for the most trivial of manipulations, to die by expending all of his own energy would require some level of intent from him.

    Examples of Abilities and Applications
    • Being aware of energies and energy beings (Skill: Low, inborn; Effort: None)
    • Hunches about things in the present are more generally reliable in people sensitive to energies (Skill: Low, inborn; Effort: none)
    • Opening the third eye to see energies – This also allows a practitioner to see where and when energies are being manipulated, and with more practice and skill, determine who is doing the manipulation, and how (Skill: Low to Medium; Intial Effort: High; Continuous Effort: Very Low)
    • Moving different kinds of energy around in one’s own body – This gives wizards incredibly dexterity, and can give them a boost of physical strength, if needed. This technique should be used carefully, as if a wizard accidentally moves the energy outside of his body, like in other forms of magic, he can begin to affect the world around him. (Skill: Medium; Effort: Low to Medium).
    • Lighting a flame by transforming world energy into heat energy at a particular point (Skill: Medium; Effort: Low to Medium, depending on the energy used)
    • Creating continuous light (Skill: Medium; Effort: Medium to High, depending on the amount of light)
    • Creating electricity, for example, to power a small device (Skill: Medium; Effort: Medium to High, depending on the amount of electricity)
    • Making an object look different or disappear from view by changing its internal energy to bend the light in a certain way. This requires a fair amount of continuous conscious effort and a good grasp as to how to bend the light (Skill: Medium; Initial Effort: High; Continuous Effort: Medium)
    • Summoning individual energy beings – they are each drawn to certain specific energy signatures (Skill: High; Effort: Low)
    • Trapping an energy being by manipulating its energy and holding it in place – it is recommended that magicians be on friendly terms with the energy beings he wants to interact with to avoid having to expend energy in this manner unless it is absolutely necessary. (Skill: High; Initial Effort: Medium; Continuous Effort: High)
    • Using energy beings to see remotely, and to communicate remotely – energy beings have a high, but limited, rate of travel (Skill: Medium to High; Effort: None to Low)
  2. Ziggy Stardust

    Ziggy Stardust Active Member

    Mar 13, 2011
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    Well to me it just seems like Magic will be largely irrelevant in your story. In almost all instances it seems as though non-magical solutions would be easier than magical ones.
  3. tiggertaebo

    tiggertaebo Member

    Feb 20, 2011
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    Cumbria UK
    It depends really on how much and what sort of a role you need magic to play in the story, some of the power level limts you've set are very low and there don't appear to be many gains to be had from using magic. If this is the sort of thing you are aiming for then that's fine as I could certainly see ways that a magic system with such restrictions could be useful from a plot point of view but if you're just trying to avoid magic making things too easy for the characters to do then you have, in my opinion gone too far. That said I do like the general prinicples of the system.
  4. Thanshin

    Thanshin Active Member

    Jun 1, 2010
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    The first hole I'd poke is: Your system needs a one sentence description before starting with the details.

    i.e.: You do need to know it yourself, but you also need a way to explain it to a reader in a shorter form.
  5. Smoke

    Smoke Contributing Member

    Mar 1, 2011
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    You might be overthinking the magic just a little. It's easier to come up with magic as the plot demands, except for the risk of plot holes. If someone who doesn't know the rules suggests something that could be solved by magic, you can say that magic just doesn't work that way.

    How hard and fast are the rules? Skilled Dungeons and Dragons players can get really convoluted about how their intended action could work within the rules. Likewise, any time a comic-book superhero uses their power in a very odd way. (Susan Storm's ability to make invisible shields and her ability to make things invisible can be combined in several hundred applications.)

    The most interesting point is using one's own chi to boost strength.
  6. Ellipse

    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

    Jun 8, 2010
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    It's nice that your magic system is well thought out and so detailed. At least you know how everything works, should the need ever arrise to explain things. I doubt you'll ever need to explain all of that in your story(s). This is not a bad thing.

    So what happens if a magician in your world tries to make an energy being do something against their will?

    And is there an finite source of energy in the world or is it limitless?
  7. Arathald

    Arathald Contributing Member

    Mar 11, 2011
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    The goal of the system was to construct a magic system that a hero or villain couldn't use as a crutch, and to keep the focus on the characters. A master of Ecclinism magic relies on his wit and creativity rather than relying on being able to shoot a hotter fireball then the next guy. That said, I'm not entirely sold on quite how restrictive I've made the energy transformation -- I might scale that up a bit if I find my magic is too weak.

    Right. This isn't all the material I have on it, just the technical details. I designed it from the top down, so I have a good idea of the overarching concepts that the rules naturally spring from, and I'll certainly not start going on about corporeal static energy before the system is introduced to the readers (and likely never in those words, unless an old-timer is talking about some technical detail for a relevant reason). Take a look at my description above ("A master of Ecclinism..."), as well, it's not quite the summary I'd give to the reader, but it's certainly a lot closer than my list of details.

    The rules themselves (the first 8 points) are hard and fast. These are the laws of magic that a magician cannot violate. It's pretty easy to see, however, how different magicians might apply their skills in different ways. The examples I listed are just a few of the many I thought of, picked to clarify what kinds of things could reasonably be done by users of the magic system.

    Not all of the characters, or even the readers, will know the laws of magic inside and out, and, in fact, your scenario of having someone suggest that something be solved with magic, only to find out it can't be done was already figured into my story.

    I have two reasons I'm defining my magic system up front:
    • The magic system is part of the story world, and in this sense, not defining the magic system is like not knowing the layout of the town your character lives in. This is fine for some writers, but some of us like setting up a structure before diving in. Different writing styles will approach defining the world differently.
    • An undefined magic system is prone to bouts of deux ex machina. For example, if the characters are in a sicky situation, and suddenly, a magician can teleport, with no previous indiaction that this was possible, and saves the day. Having rules set up ahead of time provides consistence to the magic system. Again, some writers can handle this well on the fly, others of us like to set up the framework ahead of time.

    A magician can't control the will of an energy being directly, but they're not bright enough not to come when they're summoned (it's instinctual for them), if the magician knows their particular energy signature, and from there, a decently powerful magician can hold them against their will or torment them by reshaping their dynamic energy in ways they don't like, and eventually force them to agree to do their bidding. The energy being isn't bound by its word, but could reasonably be motivated out of fear of the magician.

    The energy in the world is virtually limitless (is there a finite amount of water in the sea?), but a magician's own reserves are not, and bending and transforming energy uses up a magician's own energy. This is why the most powerful magicians aren't just the ones who have the most raw power, they're also the most clever -- they figure out how to do things in less direct ways with less energy.

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