1. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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    Explanation for Magic?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Adam Bolander, Oct 22, 2020.

    One idea I've had in the back of my head for a while (I don't chase plot bunnies, I chase friggin' book bunnies, okay?!) about a world where everything is done with magic cards. All the tools and weapons in this world are contained inside cards. You "cast" that card to turn it into whatever is contained inside. Every card has stats that determine how it can be used, and afterwards it turns back into a card again. A well made sword, for example, can be swung ten times and will cause more damage than a poorly made one, which can only be swung three times before reverting to card form. People will build entire decks out of cards they use regularly. Not just for fighting, either. There are blacksmith decks, hunting decks, mining decks, architecture decks, etc. There are also Cardcallers, the people who turn things into cards (trying to use something before it's been made into a card causes it to disappear forever), and they aren't limited to tools and weapons. They can turn elements into cards, allowing people to throw fireballs, or lightning bolts, or if the Caller is powerful enough they could even trap a raging river inside a card. Some can even use abstract concepts like emotions, making confusion cards, guilt cards, anger cards, etc. The only downside is that Callers aren't allowed to be Casters, since people think they would be too dangerous if they could create and use cards. Breaking this law is an immediate death sentence.

    Ooookay, now that that's all out in the open, here's my problem: I have no idea how or why any of this happens. I love the idea and I think I could make a cool story out of it, but would my readers be satisfied if I didn't include some kind of explanation as to how and why everything turns into cards? Or would they just be able to roll with it and enjoy the story?
     
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  2. ElConesaToLoco

    ElConesaToLoco Active Member

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    Sounds extremely arbitrary and artificial, unless you tell me the creator god of this world made things this way, which is arbitrary and artificial, but can be forgiven if the god itself is a significant character in the story. It wouldn't make sense if the world had worked with these rules from the start, too. If any manufactured item is unusable without turning it first into a card, the moment a cave dweller sharpened a stick with a stone to make a spear, it would have dissapeared, which would have made technological development impossible. The only way you can get out of this is if: A) the creator god only implemented the card system later on in human history, or B) cardcallers somehow had this power right from the start.
     
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  3. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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    I had two ideas that I was working with, but I don't really like either of them. The first was that this was all just a simulation. It's the distant future, and the only remnant of humanity is trapped in a gigantic (like, country sized) building that uses SUPER FUTURE SCIENCE to turn things into cards. It was originally a place for people to play with the cards like a game, but then the apocalypse happened, they realized they couldn't leave the building, and they eventually forgot about the outside world altogether.
    Pretty stupid.
    The other idea was that somehow the people in this world summoned a new god to rule them, and this god is completely OCD. He hates how inherently chaotic humanity is, so he created the card-system-whatever-thing as a way to make the world more orderly...or something.
    Also stupid.
    Which is why I was wondering if I could just run with the "everything is cards" idea and not have to explain anything.
     
  4. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

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    To be honest, I like the "no explanation" idea. I think it's fun because it allows the reader to make up their own thing. You can throw in arbitrary hints (that don't really mean anything) from time to time, and the readers will eat it up and make up their own theories.

    Of course, if you feel like having an explanation for whatever reason, the best thing to do is to write a list of whatever happens to come to mind, no matter how stupid, to get it out of your brain. Then pick one you like.
    - The cards are made from magical trees and are harvested by special tree farmers
    - Satan did it, and it's all a trap, and if people use cards for too long, bad stuff happens.
    - IKEA invented them.
    - Aliens.
    - Aliens, but former humans who went out into space and were mutated into something completely different.
    - Aliens, except you must amuse the aliens by singing silly rhymes to get the cards.
    - The cards are created by musicians who play special music to create the cards.
    - The cards are punishment given because humanity fights too many wars.
    - The cards only work in a special creative field, or because of the alignment of certain planets. Otherwise they'd just be ordinary game cards.
    - Like Jumanji, except cards.

    I dunno, just stuff I thought of.
     
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  5. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    I actually think this sounds like a fantastic premise. "A world where X happens" is pretty normal, actually. I don't think anyone would bat an eye if yours was "a world where trading cards are magic". People will suspend their disbelief if you start out with something like that. Nobody wonders how Capsules work in Dragonball Z. Nobody questions why Egyptian pharaohs are playing with trading cards. Nobody REALLY cares how dinosaurs were brought back to life to be in a theme park--if it's the entire basis of the work, people either go "yes Im in" or "no it's not for me". But the people who are in don't need any more than "this is a world where people summoning their dinner plates from a deck of trading cards they carry around".

    I don't think you need a creator God, or an explanation, or anything. I think you need to write this story so I can read it.
     
  6. JuliaBrune

    JuliaBrune Member

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    I like "no explanation" best i think

    but if you do need one you can say that the card thing is a limitation of an original magic system, as it would explain the slightly absurd nature of the whole thing. For example :
    People used to create stuff out of nothing but they got too powerful individually and a personal quarrel turned into a huge world war that wouldn't end. Eventually someone (or a group of people) made a spell to trap *all* the natural magic into cards so that you couldn't just create stuff just by thinking about it.
    Maybe the card material or the pigments used (powdered gemstones ?) or even the quality of the artwork can only channel so much power at a time thus dampening access to that power. Higher class material lets you create higher class cards ^^
     
  7. SolZephyr

    SolZephyr Member Supporter

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    I agree that this is one case where no explanation is needed. If you can come up with a good one, write it down somewhere in case you decide you want to expand on it one day, but if it isn't relevant to the story, don't stress over it.

    Besides, no matter how much lore you put in, the ultimate why is "because the author made it that way". Deep down (most) folks know that; if they're engaged with the story, they'll suspend their disbelief -- lore or no.
     
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  8. Le Panda Du Mal

    Le Panda Du Mal Senior Member

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    It's not too crazy a concept. Throughout the world magic usually works based on some kind of correspondence between things and symbols, or like attracting like. So a deck of cards materializing things they represent isn't too weird. Chinese magic (and to some extent Japanese magic) makes heavy use of paper talismans called fu. These are strips of paper with symbols and inscriptions on them designed for different purposes- protection, healing, exorcism, curses, etc.- drawing on the power of some spirit or force of nature. Some take effect as soon as they are finished while others are activated by burning or ingesting them. The designs of these talismans can be simple or quite intricate depending on their purpose and the particular occult school to creator is trained in. There are rules as to which symbols and designs are employed for what purpose. As far as I know they aren't believed to transform into objects, though there are all kinds of stories about the outlandish feats of Daoist wizards and immortals. There's one story in Liaozhai Zhiyi of a Daoist priest who does things like manifest serving maids from a pair of chopsticks.
     
  9. Urocyon

    Urocyon Member

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    Hmm... As your idea stands in it's current form, I'd have to disagree with the others about not needing an explanation (although I'm usually of the sort who think way to deeply about the world-building and the need for everything to make sense, even if just to the author.) I do agree with @ElConesaToLoco about the fact it doesn't seem likely to work naturally or make much sence without a significant driving force, and if a big enough plot point is deliberately avoided, it could kill the suspension of disbelief, and thus the story falls apart.

    However, you could tweak the idea a little and avoid most of these problems! Perhaps in a fantasy world it's items made of unusual or mystical materials (far superior to mundane items!) that function this way, and a result of Calling the cards and/or materials into this plane of existence prohibits the individual from casting the card, etc...

    Maybe it's a sci-fi story: tools and materials have become digitized into holograms, allowing for ease of storage on a cramped colony ship, and can only be accessed as long as the "cards" have sufficient electrical power, and must be recharged. Abstract things like emotions would be pheromone or other chemical-biased emissions from the cards. Only the Callers are instructed in the digitizing process, and their rarity leads to the conflict of the story, etc...

    There are many ways you could play this that wouldn't require too outlandish an explanation...
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2020
  10. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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    If you're still interested, I posted the first chapter for critique HERE.
     
  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    You mentioned in the title of that post that your setting has a unique magic system.

    I hate to break it to you, but it's not unique. It's the basis of almost every trading card card game on the planet, from Magic: The Gathering to Yu-Gi-Oh and beyond. Even the original AD&D had an item called "The Deck of Many Things" which does pretty much what you describe.

    Take care that you are not seen as a rip-off of those card games.
     
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  12. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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    The difference is that this isn't played like a typical card game. The cards have stats, weaknesses, etc., but the "game" (if you can even call it that) depends more on the wielder's actions. You don't lay cards out on a table, you use the cards to summon a sword and then attack your opponent with that sword. If your sword has 10 strength and 9 damage, and your opponent's shield has 20 strength and 4 defense, you will deal 5 points of damage to the shield, bringing its strength down to 15, while it reflects 4 points of that damage back into your sword, reducing its strength to 6. When one of them runs out of strength points, it is destroyed and is automatically shuffled back into your deck as a card again. You don't win by achieving some game-ish goal, you win by taking whatever weapon you summon and killing your opponent with it.
     
  13. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Just like Yu-Gi-Oh. If your monster has 2000 attack and the other guy has 1500 defence, you do 500 points of damage.

    Have you ever played any of these card games? If not, I suggest you do. There are no "game-ish" goals to achieve, you win by beating the other guy. In Yu-Gi-Oh, that means reducing his life points to zero.

    Keep in mind that many young adults will be familiar with these kinds of trading card games, and may well think that it's a rip-off. While that may not be true, that was my instant reaction.
     
  14. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    I think this idea is one of those where you should just "roll with it". It is so out-of-the-left-field that it is pretty much better to not even try and explain it, and simply expect reader to accept it on the face value.

    I cannot say I have ever read or even thought too much about "card game with real life implications" (the closest I came is the movie Jumanji, the original, not whatever screwed-up remake they did), so I can't offer you much beyond this.
     
  15. Urocyon

    Urocyon Member

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    To play off @Naomasa298, this also sounds like the Pokemon anime show and card game, with the minor difference that instead of summoning critters out of a pokeball and having them duke it out in a fight, it's an item out of a card. That was my first reaction to reading the piece, as I'm less familiar with Yu-Gi-Oh. The Iron Trials also sound quite a bit like a Pokemon gym fight. And those critters can get injured too, fainting being easier to portray on a children's TV show than critter death.

    And to reiterate my previous statement, I recommend that an explanation behind the mechanics/phenomena be made at one point, if for no other reason than it's another avenue to add originality to the idea. Otherwise readers might just take the world at face value and see it as little more than a "knock-off or rehashing" of these card games, which isn't your intent.

    Just my two-cents...
     
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  16. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    This sounds exactly like a typical card game, sorry. Sure, real things materialise from the cards. Hello, Yu-Gi-Oh.

    There's nothing wrong with having a premise that's similar to what's already out there, but you really need to just admit it and say either you don't care, or change the premise. But there's no point denying that it's exactly the same. I'm sure how you use the premise will be different, so you should be fine.
     
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  17. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Duel starts at 7:20.
     
  18. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I would probably make it so you don't HAVE to get all your tools and weapons from the cards. It makes the magic system slightly less needing an explanation and having everything be dependent on it feels weird and pushed. But a magic system based around cards? A lot of magic in folklore and history was based around tools, potions, rituals, artefacts and the like.
    I think it's good to give your magic system at least some rules and a vague sense of what is it/where it comes from but magic generally is define by a certain mystery and wackiness.
     
  19. Urocyon

    Urocyon Member

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    @Naomasa298 I know it's a bit off topic but...
    Gees! I can't get over how huge their eyes are. Almost octopus proportions.

    And yeah, first time I've watched this Yu-Gi-Oh, and its very similar. Even the arm thing is scabbard-like. Sorry, Adam.
     

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