1. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

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    Magic System - Does this make sense?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Alex Brandt, Apr 4, 2017.

    I'm working on a magic system for a modern fantasy novel. I'm trying to obey Sanderson's Laws of Magic and Orson Scott Card's rules for magic. I need to know if this makes sense:

    Various "elements" (fire, water, death, chaos, etc.) bond with people. The deeper the bond the cooler the magic they can use.
    - At the most basic level, it increases strength, agility, etc.
    - At the intermediate level, the bond allows for more impressive abilities like control emotions of others, telekinesis, etc.
    - At the advanced level, the bond allows manipulation of that element (fire control, Necromancy, plant manipulation, animal shapeshifting, etc.)

    In order to use the magic, the wielder must use some of that same element and creates a Burnout (Weakens organs, dulls senses, physical pain, permanent damage to the heart and possible mental damage) And a specific side-effect for each element, that causes these.

    My question is, does this follow the rules? And more so, does this make sense?
     
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  2. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I think it sounds interesting ;) My system of magic is a little-more free-form, but I always love it when a system makes sense, and I always love it when characters have to start small and work their way up (and when you see the costs of magic impact the characters).

    How many elements have you come up with? Are some elements more "accessible" than others?

    What kind of time-frame are you looking at for the story? Is it a standalone novel, or a series where the characters don't have the most powerful abilities for the first few books?
     
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  3. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

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    Thank you Simpson! I'm hoping this will be four novels. I'm debating on whether the characters can develop a deeper bond or if they're just set at the bond they have initially and they just use those abilities creatively.
    My MC is a young guy who doesn't know anything about the magic, but has the ability to use every element and has to learn (with the audience) about the magic.

    I've got 13 elements so far:
    - Air - Water
    - Electricity - Ice
    - Earth - Life
    - Plant - Animal
    - Fire - Shadow
    - Light - Technology
    - Death
    In later books it will be revealed Chaos, Order and a last one that can predict the future (I think psychic ability)
     
  4. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Whenever I find myself asking if I should write X or Y, the correct answer has almost always turned out to be "both" ;)

    I'm writing an UrFan about characters learning about magic for the first time, and my plan is that they start out creatively using the smaller spells, then they learn stronger ones and keep coming up with new ways to use the smaller ones.
     
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  5. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    Have you used your magic in your story yet? I'm writing a fantasy series that also involve creating a magic system. I've discovered that my magic system develops along with combat systems, characters and story elements as I write drafts of my story/books. While I've kept my intent for my magic system intact (it's inspired by Jack Vance's system) it has changed and grown with the various drafts of my story and then books. I'm very satisfied with where my system is at, but, it has only gotten to this stage through the writing and rewrites of the story and then books.
    Godspeed!
     
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  6. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Same here :) I learned so much about my how Villain Protagonists relate to each other as friends once I came up a bunch of scenes about the magic they'll be practicing, and I've learned so much about how my system of magic works in general based on what my VPs are going to be using it for.
     
  7. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

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    Thanks Stormburn! I have used it a bit, but mostly in a nebulous way - specifically, because I didn't know how it worked. I'm hoping the magic can be understated until I really go all out.
    I'm curious as to what you both mean about developing the magic along with the combat systems?
     
  8. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I've noticed that magic, in all media, tend to be used as a plot mechanic instead of something works as part of the world the story is happening in. I wanted magic, at least in between the lines, to be as real of a tool as a weapon or armor. I had planned to write a story based in the Forgotten Realms, so, started with the D&D magic system. If I like something, I then look for the sources and inspirations for it. I traced the D&D memorization system to Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories.
    Then, I came up with the basic system, and started writing. I wrote the first draft of my story, and as I did, took notes on what I needed to work on (weapons, armor, characters, locations, you get the idea). After finishing the story, I worked on elements of it, and then redrafted it. I wrote three story drafts and then broke that story down between 4 books. I'm currently finishing the first draft for Book 2.
    The entire time my magic system developed and evolved. What is the source of magic? How is it accessed? How is is used? Now, my magic works inside the world and I plan its use the same way I do swords or any other tools the characters use.
    I don't info dump the readers on how magic works, I keep that between the lines. But, I hope to reward the reader by keeping it uses consistent, that they will actually be able to figure it out for themselves.
    Godspeed!
     
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  9. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    I would never use that for any reason. The cost is too high.
     
  10. IHaveNoName

    IHaveNoName Senior Member Community Volunteer

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    I assume that your mages can only use one or two elements each? How is he able to use all 13? Is it important that he can do so (like, is he the Avatar)? Making him special is great - he's the MC, after all - but there's such a thing as too special. I'd rather see someone who's maybe a little more powerful than most, or who's average but can use his abilities creatively to overcome obstacles (see Butcher's Codex Alera series).

    This. I agree - it's not nearly common enough. I used to play D&D back in the day. The world where we played was high-magic, and magic wasn't just about how many orcs you could slay - we had all kinds of everyday spells that adventurers would never use, but NPCs used all the time. It made a huge impression on me, though I didn't truly appreciate it until I was older and wiser. Still, it's helped me to add more depth to my world and its magic system.

    Amen. Having a cost is good, but that's just too much. It kinda reminds me of Devon Monk's urban fantasy series, where mages set a cost for their spells - anything from a minor cold to a full-on migraine. Many become addicted to things to take their minds off the pain - meds (obviously), cutting, working out (seriously), etc.
     
  11. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    One of the elements that I've discovered from working to create a...working magic system...is that it gives me the freedom to be creative. In my world there two power sources for magic. Now, the catch is how does one access those sources and then put them to use. The most common system used in my world is my variation of Vancian spell casting. But, there are others. Variations of different magic systems can be made to work in my world. It is very cool to have all of those elements to play with in a story.
     
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  12. Stormsong07

    Stormsong07 Contributor Contributor

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    One of my favorite magic systems is one I only recently read about. It's in The Arinthian Line series by Sever Bronny. If you're looking for a magic system where you have to work your way up the ranks, (and it really takes a lot of actual work) his series is a great example.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Q5M78KW/?tag=writingfor07a-20
     
  13. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

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    Yes, it is very important that he uses them all. Like a Mistborn, or the Avatar. The rest can only use one element, but only one small aspect of that ability.
    The problem I'm coming up with is that I don't want him to be overpowered or too special. I plan on using all of the characters to use the magic creatively, but the other characters to show the creative use of the ability.

    As to the cost being too high, that's kind of the idea. It's a low level of pain at first, and increases the more frequently the magic is used. The magic is supposed to be caustic to humans and way too dangerous to use often, thus it's used by very few and only in rare circumstances. And almost nobody grows old using such a painful and harmful way of life, unless they retire and stop using magic.

    Thank you guys! God, I love this forum.
     
  14. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    I don't see how he can be OP if he only rarely uses it due to the extreme cost and if he has to win fast or risk organ failure. So he has the elemental advantage in every fight. That's hardly unbeatable.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2017
  15. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    One of the reason I believe (I do not know this for a fact) that Jack Vance's magic system was adopted by D&D is that is works well within a game. D&D grew out of a table-top/miniature war game system. Magic, in that system, is a form of artillery. Every weapon system has strengths and weaknesses. As the marines say;"amateurs talk tactics, experts talk logistics". Spells are really shells and the caster is a delivery system.
    I try to draw real life parallels to what I create in fantasy and then develop from there.
     
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  16. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

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    I agree.
    Brandon Sanderson has his laws of magic which try to keep the writer from using it as a deus ex machina. I tend to do that and I'm trying to break myself of it. Stormburn, you also mentioned keeping the rules between the lines. I'm so excited you know where I'm coming from, that's exactly what I'm going for.

    I may have misspoke. In order to keep my MC from being too powerful, I created such a high cost. Otherwise, it's exactly like Avatar. This way the audience will be wary when he's using too much, the tension will come from knowing he shouldn't do something but he's doing it anyway.
    Think of it like a hangover: you use one spell, you're probably going to be okay. You use more than one, and you risk some serious pain when the "high" of using it is done. The more you use, the worse the damage is.
     
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  17. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

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    Just ordered it! Thanks Stormsong!
     
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  18. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    If you can lay on potentially crippling physical symptoms after an indefinite number of spells, you have an in built mechanism of exerting total control over how effective in magic he is.
     
  19. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I have never been a magic guy. I like swords and arrows. I do recall and old pc game that parodied your typical fantasy quest. One of the spells was Ye Ole Call o' Airstrike. Seriously, though, when I started my fantasy series, I wrote the magic by not writing about magic. Yea, right. So then, I actually did some research into D&D spells, watched a couple of SyFy channel movies and I was ready to go. Yea, right.
    Well, after a few more examples of charging machine guns with bayonets, I realized the obvious: I did not understand the magic in my own world enough to write it. At that point, I started telling myself that magic is my friend and I got to work. Now, where once magic was the red-headed step child of my world, I'm as proud of it as the sword fighting style I developed from capoeira. Maybe a little more, really.
    Godspeed!
     
  20. IHaveNoName

    IHaveNoName Senior Member Community Volunteer

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    Never read Mistborn, but I have seen Avatar. The only person who can use every element is going to be "too special" by definition. :p I had the same issue - my magic system is elemental, but normal casters can only use one element. I have "hybrids" - people who, through a genetic mutation, can use more than one type; initially, someone could use up to all four types, but I eventually scaled it back to just two (and changed the cause) as I developed it further - it worked better that way. The question is: why does he have to be able to use all 13 (or 16, or whatever)?

    (And a minor nitpick: Some of those things you listed aren't really "elements". I would call them "schools" or "disciplines". It might even work better for what you want to do.)

    Again, this begs the question: If magic is so dangerous, how can he learn that many disciplines? He'd kill himself before he mastered five of them.
     
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  21. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

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    I don't think I'm explaining myself properly. Using one spell at a time has negligible consequences. Even if there is a serious Burnout effect, once the user has recovered, he's good to go until he uses it again. Like drinking alcohol. The long term effect of abuse is very damaging to the body, but in the short term, and in moderation the user is fine.
    Drug addiction has a big part in the first book and the system is thematically tied to using.

    Or is the Burnout too much? Is it enough to just have to use the element? And after years of using magic, the burnout sets in?

    I like that! I'll use that. Thanks!
     
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  22. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Taking another step toward heart failure or arrhythmia doesn't qualify as good to go.
     
  23. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe that's just a sign of how desperate the characters are if they're using magic?
     
  24. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Not the issue. This is:

     
  25. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe there are hundreds of people who are capable of learning all 13 schools (still incredibly rare as a percentage), but the MC is the only one desperate enough to risk it?

    I love seeing stories about actions that require great cost from the characters.
     
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