1. Luxri

    Luxri Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2019
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Sweden

    Creating my magic system, help appreciated.

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Luxri, Jul 20, 2020.

    I am currently working on the outline for my fantasy novel. I have decided my protagonist, my antagonists, and I have a rough outline of the beginning, middle, and end. I have a pretty good idea about my world's races and the geopolitical situation. I am currently developing the magic system the characters in the story will use, specifically my male main character. So far it is only vague concepts and ideas, but I need them to take solid form.

    What I have so far:

    To cast magic you need a specific kind of crystal. If this crystal is not touching your skin then you physically can not cast spells. Spells themselves are made from words of another language, an old eldritch one used by the old elves and demons. Spells themselves can create wards to protect you against damage, summon fire to burn your foes, bring forth light in dark places, and heal grievous injuries.

    My problem is that I have a hard time fleshing this system out and giving it limitations and weaknesses. While this system would lean more on the soft side I do not want it to be a crutch I can rely on whenever my characters are in a hard spot. I want it to be a bit more gritty. My character can heal his severed leg, but what is the cost of doing so?

    I have gotten some really good advice on this website before, so I am hoping some of you can help me out yet again. Thank you for reading.
     
  2. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2015
    Messages:
    730
    Likes Received:
    753
    Well, you already have a good foundation for limitations. There's a couple ways we can approach this:

    Limitations in the crystals themselves. What if the crystals were only good for limited use and are rather rare? What if they are brittle and can get destroyed very easily? Or your character losses his or her crystal at one point? What if they store magic and when you use that magic up, they take some time to "charge" and they can only charge if certain conditions are met? Like he has to soak it in a special solution and leave it in the sun for it to "charge."

    There can be limitations in the magic themselves. It could be that you can do all that, but what if only if certain conditions for the magic are met. Like it can work, but only if it's not raining. Or it can speed healing, but no so much that you don't need a few days to cooperate.

    There could be negative effects. Sure, you can use magic, but it might start "poisoning" you if you use too much too quickly.
     
    jannert and Luxri like this.
  3. Luxri

    Luxri Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2019
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Sweden
    These are all excellent examples, however, if the only limitation is the crystal's brittleness that can still feel like an arbitrary weakness. I am the one deciding when the crystal breaks after all, and the same when the crystal is taken. I can still easily work around these weaknesses. I need something a little more concrete. For example, I have only read some of Brandon Sanderson's 'Way of Kings' but the magic system seems to show that you need access to stormlight for you to use any kind of magical ability. If you do not have access to that source then you are unable to cast spells. The stormlight also seems to escape your body when harvested, which means you can not hold it within you for long periods of time. This means magic is an action that requires you to think quickly and keep a steady supply of stormlight nearby.

    Something akin to this is what I am looking for. However, I would feel like scum if I just copied the limitations of stormlight. I want it to be something unique, which is why I am scratching my head.
     
  4. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2015
    Messages:
    730
    Likes Received:
    753
    What if drawing the magic "poisons" you if you don't use it or absorb too much. That forces a person to have to do two things: 1. Release the magic energy and 2. Keep a supply on hand because you can't store it.
     
    Luxri likes this.
  5. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2020
    Messages:
    282
    Likes Received:
    294
    To be honest what you describe with the crystal's brittleness is exactly as arbitrary as Sanderson's stormlight. Since he never goes too indepth on the science of stormlight he's free to decide when they run out based on when it would be the most dramatic but not result in any catastrophic failure.

    I think that the combination of needing the crystal on hand, potential frailty of the crystal, and needing to say certain incantations to cast the spell creates plenty of limitations for your magic system. If the crystals are rare that keeps them from being always on hand, and needing to learn incantations means magic will require ample training to be a successful mage.
     
    Kallisto and Luxri like this.
  6. Luxri

    Luxri Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2019
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Sweden
    I had not thought about it that way. Thank you. As I have been thinking about the magic system I also came to realize that I will need to expand how one can cast spells or make another magic system entirely. There is a race of mute elf-like people in my world, and they have learned how to cast magic using sings they can make with their hands. They would still need the crystal, which grows in the middle of their chest for in-depth lore reasons, to cast magic. However, they would be going against the verbal spellcasting I have introduced. So I feel like I would need to add another aspect to the magic system or create a separate magic system for these mute creatures.
     
  7. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2020
    Messages:
    345
    Likes Received:
    356
    Location:
    Sweden
    Right, so where do these crystals come from? Do they occur naturally or are they artifacts? How common and valuable are they? Does the shape, size and/or quality of the crystal matter? Can it be touching any part of the body? If so I could see people strapping them to themselves as part of clothing or accessories, maybe even graft them into their bodies in extreme cases.

    Any reason it has to be that particular language? Could, say, a brilliant linguistics professor figure out how it works and make some sort of conlang that's even more efficient or produces spells with more exotic effects?

    I think the fact the your main character is supposed to learn how to use this magic means you should probably go for a hard system. Soft magic systems are really more for stories where magic is something mysterious that the protagonist doesn't understand. Magic in Lord of the Rings is very soft because Frodo isn't a magician and doesn't need to understand it. Magic in Harry Potter has to be pretty hard because it's the story about a kid who learns how to be a wizard at a literal wizard school.

    Put another way, hard magic systems are far more preferable if the protagonist is meant to use magic to solve problems, rather than magic being used as an external plot device. Sanderson's First Law and so on.

    Besides, you've already begun establishing hard rules for your system, what with the crystals that require skin contact and incantations in a specific language, plus giving magic defined limitations is a rather hard approach as well. You might as well go all in.

    Well, what's the power source? Is it draining to use magic? Does it drain the crystals - like, are they magic batteries with limited uses?

    Perhaps magic works on an Equal Exchange basis, so you can't just create matter and energy out of nothing. So, healing the leg could require him to drain his metabolic reserves, rendering him very weak and hungry, or absorb the necessary matter and energy from something else. Perhaps it even requires him to kill a small animal or something.

    Or, if you're going for gritty, it could be the sort of magic where using it in general puts the magician at some sort of risk. Perhaps it draws the attention of demons, like in Warhammer? Or maybe there is a chance it will drive you insane, like for the male channelers in Wheel of Time?

    ...I dunno, I'm actually not very good at this. I'm not a huge fan of the "magic must always come at a price" approach. I tend to just treat magic as a super power that lets the characters operate on a higher power curve.
     
    Luxri likes this.
  8. Luxri

    Luxri Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2019
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Sweden
    Ok, so the crystals are naturally occurring, but they are rare. There are only a select few places in the world where they grow and most of these locations are heavily fortified and guarded to control the supply. I am basically worldbuilding as we speak since I come to the most logical conclusion about what people would do. As long as the crystal is touching skin it works. I was thinking people would wear it as an accessory, like the rich noble-born mages in the south. I was thinking the mentor character in my novel would give my main character leather gauntlets with the crystal mounted on the inside and have him wear long sleeves to hide it. It would specifically be an elven thing since human mages normally just flaunt their crystal as a status symbol.

    When it comes to the purity and size of the crystal I am uncertain. I was thinking it would have to be a bit bigger than an eye for spellcasting to work properly. I have not really thought about the purity or if a very large crystal would allow you to pull off crazy stunts with your magic.

    The specific reason I was thinking about why you can't just create a conlong is that the magic language is literally the divine tongue. The gods of the heavens speak that language and used it to birth creation. By that logic, it would not make sense that someone would figure out a way to create a different language that works the same way. Unless the gods speak different languages. Imagine that. All the gods and god-like beings having their own language to shape reality. Fucking pandemonium. No, I think I'll stick to one divine tongue, thank you.

    I suppose I will go for a hard system then. I was thinking that the magic source would be natural energies in the air that were absorbed into the crystal who then imbued the energy to your body. When it comes to the whole killing life to heal I was thinking about using that for an energy source as first. However, that would mean my main character would have to carry a shit-ton of live rats on him. Souls and spirits are also a thing in my setting. A particularly gruesome death could lead to someone haunting the place they died or someone practicing necromancy could create a shambling corpse containing a tortured soul. By burning the body or bones of the souls would be freed. Towards the end of my story, this is what would happen with the sick experiments that the villain had created throughout the story. My main character sets fire to the laboratory they are housed in.

    Souls and necromancy of course brings into question how magic can bring back the dead.
     
  9. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2019
    Messages:
    232
    Likes Received:
    152
    I think you might have crystals draw on the external energy source. So basically crystals "feed off" the user / mana in the air / etc., and accumulate energy over time. Crystal then uses that energy to heal injuries, but amount of energy needed depends on the injury being healed. What this means is that after crystal is depleted, you need to wait for it to charge up to a certain level - say, an hour to heal a cut, a day to reattach a severed finger and a week to reattach a severed leg. And other uses of magic would have similar limitations as well (so a spell to burn an enemy would need more energy than one to light a candle, etc.).
     
    jannert likes this.
  10. hankas

    hankas New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2020
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    23
    How about this? You need energy to cast spells. Without crystals, if you were to heal your severely wounded leg, you would have to pay it with your life energy and it would add a few years to your physical body. If you have crystals, you consume the crystals instead. The crystals may get smaller or even dissipate after you use them. Crystal is just one of the many sources of magical energy and different artifacts hold varying amount of energy. These magical artifacts are formed naturally by the Earth and it takes a long time to create one. Since they are scarce, wizards generally do not go around wasting spells and spend most of their time collecting these artifacts instead. Common people may view these wizards as weirdos collecting useless rocks and broken things, and the wizards generally think it is not worth spending the magical energy just to get back at those people. You may even create a trade system among wizards to exchange these artifacts. These artifacts are the currency of the magical world.

    I hope this gives you some ideas.
     
    jannert likes this.
  11. .Nameless.

    .Nameless. Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2020
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    36
    Location:
    Chillin' in an igloo, Alaska
    One of my favorite authors is Brandon Sanderson & he has an article on his fansite that gives a pretty good rundown on how to lay the foundations of a magic system & how to weave it into the world you create. It's as good a place to start as any other.

    Brandon Sanderson's First Law
     
    jannert likes this.
  12. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    17,486
    Likes Received:
    19,447
    Location:
    Scotland
    Presuming you are creating this magic system in order to write a story with it as part of the setting, maybe approach the situation from a slightly different perspective. What would make it most difficult for your mages to employ their magic? If a character only has to turn up and wave a 'magic wand' and everything is all better, that makes for a pretty dull and predictible story. There isn't much sense of jeopardy or suspense.

    So what would create the jeopardy or suspense? Would it be the rarity of the items they need? Would it involve some kind of sacrifice or trade-off each time the magic is used? (Maybe think about the 'dark side of the Force' in Star Wars. You can use it, but you have to guard against using it for the wrong reasons, and it's awfully easy to start down the slippery slope?) Or, as @Aldarion and @hankas suggest, maybe try an automatic depletion of the magical force ...either a permanent depletion, or something that needs a re-charge? In other words, any strike the mage makes needs to be a telling one—he won't get another chance right away?

    I'd concentrate on what your story is going to need, and what your characters will be like. Make things hard for your characters, not easy. And try not to make the magic system too complicated? Just ensure that it's consistent, and contains inherent pitfalls.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2020
  13. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    3,202
    Likes Received:
    3,680
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    Think about this in terms of your plot.

    Presumably, you will want your characters to cast spells at some point. So, what consequences do you want them to have that drives the plot?

    For example - if the characters need to go on a quest at some point to obtain a MacGuffin, then make the MacGuffin part of your magic system. Need them to go on a journey? Build in the need to go and find a rarest, purest crystal there is.

    Need the antagonist to be vulnerable at a critical point in the story? Make magic consume physical strength, and the bad guy has just cast a major spell.

    The development of your magic system and plot should go hand in hand.
     
  14. .Nameless.

    .Nameless. Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2020
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    36
    Location:
    Chillin' in an igloo, Alaska
    I'm gonna be a little selfish & ask a question for myself here. I'm currently working on building the bones of a possible story & one of the magic systems I'm thinking of using would be based on some form of Jewish Kabbalah, possibly mixed with a more 'magical' kind of magic (maybe Wicca). What I want to avoid is people reading into things too much & think I'm being antisemitic or something stupid like that because of the role these magicians would play & their history within the story. Any suggestions?
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice