1. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    Magic System Help

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by ITBA01, May 19, 2018.

    I've been struggling for a long time with creating a magic system for my book. Every time I've tried to work on it, I just find more flaws, or things that don't make sense. The main problem I've had is ways to limit what magic can do, and having races that can use magic naturally, without the need for spells. I've spent months researching the occult, magic, and mythology, but I still feel that I'm missing something.
     
  2. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    Magic is fantasy. Don't feel limited by actual physicals.

    A few of my magic concepts defy the real world just obviously and if anyone ever asks. I am gonna point to the little tag that says "fantasy" lol.

    Unless ya mean by your own standards, magic doesn't work. Which is a problem I can't help with unless you dive more into it.
     
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  3. ElConesaToLoco

    ElConesaToLoco Active Member

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    Don't worry about realism, just consistency. If you set the rules, you only need to make sure those rules apply all the way through.
     
  4. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    Do you need a magic system? Really, actually, definitely %100 need one for the plot to work at all?

    If no, then scrap it. It's holdin' ya back.

    If yes, then what do you need this magic system to accomplish in your plot? Build it around that. You're making it -- it serves your needs. Literally anything goes. It doesn't need grounding in the magical lore of our world, it only needs to make sense in the world you're making. You can devise the rules and framework to be whatever you need them to be.
     
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  5. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    Yeah, the later is pretty much my problem. The magic system I had is mostly mental, with incantations/symbols/and other things mostly being a way to focus the mind to produce the desired magical effect. The problem I had is with races that are naturally magical (fairies and nature spirits for one), and materials that have magical properties (silver), as I have no idea how they would fit in.
     
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  6. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    You might want to dive more into the issue. Cuz this doesn't sound like much of an issue.

    I mean. Actually question.

    You say mental but then reference like symbols. Do symbols matter? In my world people can use symbols to help focus but it's the focus that is required. Symbols can be discarded by people able to focus better.

    So that isn't really mental if the symbol or words matter. But even if it was mental. I assume it isn't like just imagination. There are physical limits. Then silver acting in a superior way based on it's composition makes sense.

    Maybe fairies have silver based blood which is why they are magical. Just to spit ball an idea at you.
     
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  7. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    The physical limits would be running out of energy in your body (everything in the world takes energy, and I think magic is no exception). A lot of what you said is stuff that I've been thinking about, especially fairies having different blood. The main issues I keep running into is how and why some materials have magical properties in the first place, and how to limit magic. I'm also trying to figure out what ties all the different variations of magic together so I don't end up contradicting myself down the road. It's possible I'm just overthinking things (it's one of my best, and worst qualities).
     
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  8. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    Well you kind of just said it. Magic is not this fluffy physics defying thing. It has limits based on energy. By this extension, magic is in the context of your world, a form of energy.

    An electric current or a flame affect silver differently. Right? Why would ya expect magic to affect all things equal? ;)
     
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  9. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    You already stated the solution to the first problem: focus the mind. The less magical races have somewhat different brains, and have to work very hard to reach mental states that come naturally to others.
     
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  10. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    Good point. I suppose what I'm trying to figure out is what magic energy is, and where it comes from.
     
  11. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    This is a question I sort of answered in my own work. Lol. But it's also something you don't need to answer. Were you sad that this isn't explained in Harry Potter? Or dragon Ball z. Not sure what you are a fan or lol.
     
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  12. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

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    This phrase bothers me. I feel like you're approaching it from the wrong place if you have to 'limit' magic. Maybe it's not as easy as a series of 'magic can't's.
    Your magic system sounds similar to mine. My magic can be summed up as the infliction of will upon reality. Not every strong-willed person is necessarily a mage, but a weak-willed person is a terrible mage. Reality 'wants' to stay the way it is. The 'limit' of magic is the power of the mage. Any fire mage can light candles, because it's a small flame and the amount of human will required to change that small amount of reality is not much. Now imagine a fireball; the bigger it is, the harder it is to control. You don't need a hard limit on this, because it mimics physics. Sort of like there's no hard limit to how fast you can throw a ball--the more powerful your arm, the faster the ball will fly.
    Magic is not a replacement of physics, it's a perversion of it. Very few magic systems that I've seen completely disregard physics--they change a few key rules here and there, but for the most part, everything stays within a logical ruleset that sounds familiar. Big projects require more power and more concentration. Small projects are easier and might only require the flick of a wrist, or a doodled rune.
    Few magic systems have a series of 'cant's. Harry Potter has exactly 5; everything else is flexible if you're creative, and those five rules are easy to work around (but not ignore). If you're looking to limit magic by using a series of 'cant's, maybe you need to instead look at what it is that magic can do, and think about the limits of the 'human' form.

    If that makes sense. I'm tired, I may have misrepresented something.
     
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  13. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    The magic in Harry Potter never made any sense to me. They literally have a liquid that makes you lucky, along with various other potions that should be insanely powerful, yet they never think it might be a good idea to use them in the fight against Voldemort? Maybe they explained in the book why these incredibly useful things aren't mass produced, but it was never explained in the movie as far as I remember. As for Dragon Ball Z, while I enjoy the series, they constantly kept removing the sense of danger, to the point where it's pretty much nonexistent in Super.
     
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  14. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    The thing is. This isn't what I meant.

    Yes, you are right about super. But your talking about the dramatics of the plot and situation. Not the magic system.

    Dragonball z never explains for example, what created their magic or why it exists and what it is composed of "like electrons and stuff" and that never bothered me. Did it bother you?

    With Harry Potter, its a similar thing. Yes I agree with you, much of that is crap but what you are talking about is that they didn't really explain the limits and applications of magic. But that again isn't the same as like, where it came from. Ya know?

    Since you were concerned with that. I was trying to establish. Those things didn't suffer for not explaining. Sometimes keeping things back can help you. ;)
     
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  15. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    Oh, okay. You have a point with that.
     
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  16. WaffleWhale

    WaffleWhale Active Member

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    First of all, in Harry Potter, even the luck potion wouldn't stop a good Avada Kedavra (death curse) so I just think it wouldn't be helpful.


    And moving on to the question, magic is supernatural, yes? which means by definition it doesn't have to follow our laws, even the energy ones. Some may argue that if it follows any of our rules it's not magic at all, just science.
    It's magic. the whole point is that it doesn't make any sense with science.


    Also, you could just say there are no limits on the magic, but since it can literally do anything its way too powerful and dangerous to use to it's full extent.
     
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  17. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    I am curious what the 5 Harry Potter cants are!
     
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  18. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    As other have said, you can make magic sort of work with rules of physics, and it usually shouldn't do anything too weird. But, it doesn't need to be explained unless you want to, and any rules are essentially just your creation. So, with that said, and given the primary thing is comprehension and consistency, at a certain point you can just silver magical because whatevs. I mean, it's not like rocks are made of minerals because someone specifically wanted them to be, unless you believe in that sort of thing, they just are. In the same way, magic, whatever it is and however much you try to give it some semi-realistic explanation, can be tied to whatever you want it to to because you define its properties and that includes where it is naturally occurring in the world.
     
  19. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

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    I actually had to research this, because 4 of them are largely speculation, but in addition to food ("which can be multiplied if you already have some, or summoned if you know where it is"), these are the speculated other four exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration:

    - Money and Shelter: This is two items, but they are often inextricably linked: one can’t have a beautiful or large home without having money to pay for it. Although an interior of a room or area can be expanded, as the Weasleys did while camping at the Quidditch World Cup and while riding ministry-borrowed cars, and valuable objects can be multiplied, if the intention is to suffocate a thief inside a vault at Gringott’s, they can’t be created from scratch.

    - Clothing: Even wizards of great skill—Remus Lupin and Molly Weasley included—cannot seem to conjure up new robes and are instead stuck with old, patched ones, ones that are too short, or ones that are hopelessly out of style. If clothing were not one of the exceptions, Lupin would have long ago conjured a new wardrobe, and Ron would have avoided his dress-robe embarrassment at the Yule Ball.

    - Body Part Removed by Dark Magic: In the wizarding world, all sorts of body parts can be repaired and even conjured from scratch (like the regrowing of Harry’s bones after his quidditch accident in The Chamber of Secrets.) But these same body parts—and the entire body, in the case of the Killing Curse—cannot be replaced or repaired if Dark Magic was involved, no matter how skilled the healer.

    - Temperature: The conjuring of heat or cold or the transfiguring of something warm into something cold (and vice versa). Although wizards can produce water (Aguamenti!) and can emit steam from their wands through the hot-air charm—steam that lightly melts objects like snow or dries objects like sopping-wet clothing—wizards cannot raise or lower the temperature of the air, stop rain or snow from falling, slow or speed the wind, or heat or cool large bodies of water.
     
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  20. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks for the response. Though after reading through those. It seems so random lol.

    My world is sort of more simplistic. There are some base line rules and limitations of magic, in a very physics sense. And people can do whatever doesn't defy those rules. I suppose the same applies to Harry Potter can'ts but to say like. "You can create paper out of nothing, but not a coat cuz you can wear a coat" just strikes me as odd. Lol
     
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  21. ocean blue

    ocean blue New Member

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    Maybe a little late to the party here, but this is actually pretty similar to the magic system I came up with. Magic-users can influence the nature of reality in a very specific way, which allows them to summon energy from nothing. With practice, the energy can be released in numerous ways, from setting things on fire to speeding up the growth of living things. Powerful magic-users can even change the weather or cause floods and earthquakes, but doing so requires immense strength.

    To make sure magic-users can't become too powerful--I mean, it's possible for them to cause natural disasters if they're determined enough, so there have to be some restrictions--I've introduced these limitations:
    1. Magic functions as a projection of the user's actual thoughts, and is not controlled by any medium or language. Because of this, magic-users must be explicitly clear with what they want to happen, to the point where they can visualize the magic's effects in their head. They also have to understand how the summoned energy will manifest. For example, if I wanted to light a candle, I wouldn't necessarily have to know exactly how many Joules of energy I needed based on the properties of the wick and the wax, but I'd need a mental image of the candle igniting and have a rough idea of how much energy it would take.
      • Also, magic requires intense focus to use properly. A magic-user must concentrate on what they want to happen, so it's hard for them to use magic reflexively, or when they're in significant pain, or while they're experiencing some extreme emotion.
    2. Magic is inherently chaotic, and is extremely dangerous to use to its full potential. If a magic-user attempts anything that alters the fabric of reality too dramatically, the magic could backfire on them, driving them crazy or doing something completely different from what they were expecting.
    3. Magic saps vast amounts of energy from the user. A trained magic-user can summon more energy while depleting less from themselves, but all will eventually reach a point where they collapse from exhaustion and must recover before they can use magic again.
    Actually, when I was writing this, I had to confront a few problems with my own magic system, notably that it was too unlimited. Before, it had functioned by "causing events to happen spontaneously" which is pretty vague. I cut it down to "releasing energy in some way" which is still kind of ambiguous, but easier to place limits on.

    I don't know if this is actually helpful in answering the original question in any way, but it's just another idea on how magic might work in a fantasy world.
     
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  22. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I noticed this post didn't get a response from the OP like the other posts in this thread did, but this is what you need to think about, I believe. Are you spending as much time on the story as the magic system? None of it's going to matter without a good story. And @izzybot is right about building your magic system around your plot and, perhaps, not the other way around. And anything does go as long as it makes sense within the confines of your story.

    I recently wrote a science fiction story, and, like you (OP), I kept finding flaws in this world I was trying to create. I had some of the story down, but the world around it was leaving too many holes and unanswered questions. I thought some more about my story and about my approach. And I figured I had to start again and start with a story that needed this world just as much as this world (in my head) needed this new story to really showcase how things work and what is going on. I had a loose idea for this science fiction world, but it wasn't until I started writing the right story that I could make my world work. Story and world building have to mash up at some point. I think if you try to work on the separately instead of simultaneously, it will make things harder and can throw things off.
     
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  23. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Active Member

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    Everyone has made great suggestions. I think I'm getting on the right track, but now I need to figure out how to limit magic in actual combat (I don't want magic to just be able to kill someone instantly, or take control of their mind like it was nothing).
     
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  24. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    You are in control of this. You can limit the magic in any way you want.
     
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  25. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    There are magic systems you're used to that you might not even realize are magic systems. Take Superman as a classic example.

    He's basically a wizard who casts spells without verbal or material components: flight, super strength, breathe without air, energy projection, spin at high speed, freezing breath, clairaudiance, x-ray vision, and so on.

    What you need limitations or rules for in your magic system revolves around two issues: how the magic affects the setting, and how it's used as a plot device to solve problems. You don't need rules for things that aren't problem solving uses, and you don't need rules for problem creating uses, so long as such and such a thing always causes a problem.

    For example, Superman has X-Ray vision. We all know that. We know he can't see through all substances. But if the problem is behind drywall, we expect him to see it. We know he has heat rays, so he can shoot through the wall. It's fair.

    We also think superman has a limit to his physical strength. A one-ton asteroid is going to hit metropolis. We know he's strong, and we accept him stopping it. He will probably struggle and groan and barely be able to do it. Again, we think it's fair.

    Superman becomes corny when later, he performs a feat of strength, or manifests a new power, outside of what we think the rules are, and he solves a problem with it. If one day he flew so fast he tore a hole in the sky and a demon came out, we'd probably accept it (though we'd have a speed limit for him). However, if a demon came through a portal and he flew past it so fast he closed the portal, we'd say that was corny because he's fixing the problem in a way that wasn't explained.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2018
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