1. Mesuno
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    Mesuno Member

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    World/magic system building

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mesuno, Jan 16, 2009.

    Hi folks,

    I've been tinkering with some ideas for a few days now. I thought I'd share and see if anyone had any comments. So far I've been trying to build and explore a world to see what themes/plots/characters flow from it. I've got a few basics settled.

    What I've been experimenting with is simply writing about ordinary people within the world and seeing what comes out of it. I'm enjoying the process at least and it has illuminated some elements of how the world and magic system work for me.

    So i'd love some feedback - where would you want to take this? Do the premises sound like they might interest you in a novel length story?

    Cheers for your time!

    ------
    The world so far
    The world is pre-technological/industrial - I can envisage some elements of simple technologies, supplemented on a day to day basis by some magic used widely, but at a low level.

    Magic is common place but very limited, being tied to naturally occurring minerals which slowly absorb 'energy' from the world around them. Anyone can use these stones, with some training, to perform basic tasks, but anything complex requires experience or specific training. Different uses would exhaust these stones more rapidly - boiling a pot full of water would be far more demanding than using the energy to kindle a small fire to cook over.

    The stones themselves are naturally occurring but rare and imported from a distant land. Most families may have a small sliver or pebble which gets handed down through generations. The wealthy and aristocracy may have larger stones of better quality, made into amulets, jewellery or other ornamentation at severe expense.

    Conflicts
    Magic in this world is, by its nature, limited but still useful.

    There is scope for conflict between those who do and don't have magic at their disposal. For example a neighbouring warfaring nation may decide to conquer for the wealth they see in these stones. It turns out that for warfare most magic is essentially useless. You'd exhaust your reserves striking down one enemy perhaps but then you'd be back to bows and arrows? Potential for guerilla warfare - small strikes, harassing an enemy and fleeing.

    I have also toyed with the idea of someone stumbling on a new way to access magic - for example using one of these stones to draw energy directly from the world around them, or perhaps finding a way to refine the active ingredient from the minerals to make far more potent magical reserves. This could be perhaps a major opponent - a skilled and power hungry individual using their magic to upset the status quo.

    Main Character
    This is not at all settled but what I've got so far is a young person (male/female?) who has been apprenticed in a trade for some time. They know the trade but are frustrated because they cannot develop further without a Stone of their own. All master craftsmen use stones routinely when making their best work. He/she has no prospects of gaining their own stone through the normal ways (handed down in families as prized heirlooms) so naively sets off into the world to find one for themselves. MC stumbles blindly into wider political machinations once on the road.
     
  2. Mesuno
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    Mesuno Member

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    This is an example of how an individual might use, or perceive magic being used, within this world.

    ----------------

    Jack walked through the woods, his eyes casually checking that everything was as it should be. He'd followed the same routine every day for the past thirty years, watching the seasons pass and trees grow before starting his day's work.

    Today he was heading back to work on the commission piece for Lord Shelvar; a new long bow to mark his son's coming of age. Jack had selected a fine limb of a dark native Yew tree, one with a slight curve and strong straight grain. He reached space and inspected the bough carefully with an experienced eye. He'd already spent two mornings working here and with care he'd finish today.

    He fished the Stone from its resting place in a padded leather sack beneath his shirt and placed his right hand on the timber. To a casual observer he caressed the bark with a tenderness more appropriate to the bedroom, running his hand slowly back and forth. A more attentive observer might have noticed a shimmer surrounding his hands, lingering on the bark before fading away to nothing. Jack worked steadily with the practised ease of a master Craftsman; teasing fibres straight, strengthening the dark heartwood, smoothing knots, and tiny imperfections from the yew. After a time, perhaps an hour, perhaps more, the shimmer faded to nothing and Jack straightened. His Stone was exhausted.

    After slipping the stone carefully back into its pouch he took his saw to the bough and carried the piece home to his workshop.

    ---------------

    I hope you can see what I'm getting at here - magic has become supplementary to day to day work. Jack could have done the same job without the bother of using magic, but the end result is marginally better.

    At the same time you wouldn't see Jack blasting rock in a quarry or tilling a field as that would be wasteful of such a valuable resource.

    You might see a farmers wife using a smaller stone to kindle the hearth fire at home, but you wouldn't see her using it to cook the evening meal directly.
     
  3. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    What are the limit capabilites on these maigc, meaning what is the biggest thing you can cast with these stones? Teleportation, blowing up a building, summoning a meteor etc.
     
  4. Mesuno
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    Mesuno Member

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    I'd say far smaller than anything like that, at least within 'normal' limits. Its essentially a small but useful addition to normal tools.


    One thing I might consider as a plot device would be a bad guy discovering how to amplify this magic in some way.
     
  5. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is a really interesting idea. Personally, I'm a fan of low-magic systems. I like the way you use magic as a supplement, not the main thing. The description of the bowyer perfecting the wood was very cool.

    I don't think that the idea of using the Stones as draws would be true to the system. I mean, if you're thinking of normal people--and your magic system fits into that idea very nicely--then a sudden vast increase of possibility seems a bit cheap. Personally, I think that resource management would be the way to go for more power, and refinement of the mineral sounds good, too. For the first, your comment on starting fires instead of directly boiling points out uses in war such as starting fires, creating flaws in buildings/equipment, affecting biological systems. In essence, utilizing the domino affect so that a task taking an amount of magic available with only a few stones could have much larger effects.

    On refinement, that would open up many other possibilities. It might set off a sort of alchemy system, and more efficient stones would be great reasons for say, war or betrayal. A further possibility would be resonance/reinforcement; for example, certain minerals that may not directly absorb magic couls speed up the process or something like that.
     
  6. Mesuno
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    Thanks for the comments Etan - I'm glad you like it. I agree with you on drawing using the stones - its too open and doesn't fit nicely with the way other things work.

    I've been toying with a few mechanics
    • stones that only recharge against their owners skin
    • stones whose energy can only be used by the person who charged them

    Hence a natural limit comes in to place - you can only charge up stones that you can carry. It wouldn't be worthwhile for a normal magic user to simply carry 50 stones as they wouldn't be able to stand.

    This would fit nicely with someone discovering a way to refine stones - they would be able to make a more concentrated version of a stone - capable of holding more energy but still being able to be carried. They would suffer the same natural limitations of others - limited charge, time taken to recharge etc but would have far greater scope in what they could achieve with their magic.

    This person would have to be someone rich/powerful to be able to afford to experiment on stones.

    One idea which was knocking around my head last night was some back story to the Stones - gizzard stones left behind by a race of extinct dragons - they get carried by the dragons for many years and help them to digest their food. When they are eventually passed out they are rounded, smooth and can take a magical charge. The Stones can then be any type of rock, found anywhere in the world, but very rare. They might lie unnoticed in a field for generations before someone finally picks it up and realises its value.

    Their ability to absorb power is then something which has been imbued, rather than due to something in the nature of the rock.
    • It would explain why people have failed to refine them in the past.
    • It would explain why some stones were stronger than others (how long they spent being imbued
    • It would explain the variable size, yet normally rounded and smooth form

    I'm not sure yet that I'm keen on writing a world with dragons, but that's kind of what seems to be coming from the premise.
     
  7. Mesuno
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    Mesuno Member

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    Ok,

    I've been getting to grips with mechanics and plotting - its coming together pretty well.

    Stones
    • Imbued with the ability to gradually absorb energy from a person carrying them, which that person can then release to do magic
    • Get this from spending time in the stomach of a dragon (incidental to plot - backstory only at this stage)
    • Used for detailed, careful work, often supplementary to a trade
    • Energy is released and stored slowly (can kindle a flame or slowly change something but can't make a fireball)
    • Relatively easy to use, most people can do something with them
    • Fairly wide spread


    Recently an accidental discovery has been made which allows the imbued property of the stones to be transfered to something else (probably metal objects). These have markedly different properties

    Manufactured 'Stones'
    • Multiple stones can be used to make one concentrated item
    • They charge and discharge faster (better energy flow through metal than stone)
    • Much harder to control - takes practice to use well
    • Can't use it for delicate stuff - your are as likely to take an arm off as heal the wound
    • Can release large amounts of power quickly - fireballs, explosions etc..

    The plot is going to revolve around a MC trying to take down a character who has got hold of this technology. The technology isn't widely known, and isn't going to be spread about.

    I've got the mechanics of stuff sorted but wanted some feedback on the details here. I think this gives a self consistent system and plenty of scope for conflicts.

    • Individual who discovers the method can gain power by stealing stones
    • Not so powerful that they can't still be usurped by other indirect means

    From that there naturally develops a conflict between the established order and the new technology (new magic user in conflict with existing rulers, can usurp power/steal throne).

    Possibilities for broad a counter rebellion

    The discoverer of new technology need not necessarily be the same person as the usurper, so the usurper can be in conflict between other individuals on a more personal basis.

    I've got some specifics pinned down within these areas.
     
  8. perfectionist
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    perfectionist Member

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    Here are some possibilities for your consideration:

    A magic stone is ground into powder; what are the effects of (1) grinding it (2) igniting the powder (3) putting the powder in someone's food (4) mixing the powder with other substances such as clay or gunpowder.

    Can the magic stones be used as parts of more complex items, for example, could you make an arrowhead from a sharpened stone; what would this do? Could you carve a cog from the stone and create a clock or pocket watch that never stopped?

    You mentioned wanting to find more powerful stones as a plot element: here are some qualities that might be important - (1) size - are bigger stones better (2) purity - are most stones actually mixtures of magic ore and other materials; can stones be purified or can purer ones be found (3) symmetry - are the stones valued like diamonds? Is a perfect sphere better; or a many faceted diamond? (4) focus. I imagine the stones to be slightly translucent - could they be lenses, like glass? Is it possible for a particularly talented or resourceful individual to shape a high quality stone into something more powerful than ever seen before? can multiple stones be combined like lenses, to acheive greater effects?

    ~
    Tom
     

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