1. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    Trying to make an alchemical system.

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Mouthwash, May 30, 2019.

    My main character relies heavily on alchemy, and I'm having a bit of trouble with it. His use of potions doesn't feel very interesting or engaging, plus I'm afraid of backing myself into a corner later on by making some things over/underpowered.

    I'm mainly looking for resources or fiction to draw from (Google has surprisingly little on the subject, and God knows I'm not just going to copy from some vidya game), but personal thoughts on the matter are welcome.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2019 at 2:36 PM
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  2. GrJs

    GrJs Member

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    Add a technological aspect to your alchemy. How is your character applying age old systems? What is unique about the way your mc uses this technology? Are they using it in a way they shouldn't but that actually gets the results they want?

    With things like alchemy and magic systems it comes down to how your character is utilising what they have and if it's consistent or not with the status quo. Or if your character is predestined for greatness or is just born super powerful.
     
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  3. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I'm sure you already know of The Philosopher's Stone. But did you Know Isaac Newton wrote a book on the concept?
    I was just talking to a friend of mine about the complicated methods used in processing some metals. I'm sure in a fiction or fantasy form you could design your own process that would seem complicated for the time period.
    My suggestion would be to Google "How is tantalum made" and Iridium and so on... I did that for Titanium and came up with the Kroll process. From all of that information you could glean out what you need. I love the research as much as the writing.
     
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  4. FaceOff

    FaceOff Member

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    This is interesting because, in almost any popular book, alchemy would be "hard magic" as defined by Sanderson.

    But... that's just chemistry. Whereas alchemy as found in old books is pure, utter illogical nonsense. Truly wacky stuff.

    So the question is, can you make wacky illogical nonsense consistent? If not, you risk having an unpredictable and therefore unsatisfying story.

    In all plots I can remember involving alchemy, the process itself is, in a way, no more than a plot device. It's the in-between process that explains how you can save your mother's life by killing an underwater golden drake (e.g: the cure for your mother's deadly curse can only be made with an underwater golden drake's heart). I find this to be justification enough plot-wise, but you'll notice they never go into the mechanics of it, partly because it takes away from the sense of wonder. Any sufficiently explained magic is just technology.

    Just a few late-night thoughts, hope they make sense.
     
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  5. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    I'm not an expert on the subject besides reading some second-hand sources, but it might be worth starting with historical alchemical traditions--not just the mechanics of what they were trying to do, but also the philosophies behind it. A lot of the time, alchemy wasn't seen as just a way to get rich quick or live forever, it was a means of spiritual transformation, purifying the body or soul in the same way that physical substances could be refined by burning away the dross. In order to move matter or living beings between states of existence, it was important to understand the world as a whole, and how everything fitted into the grand design.

    Even if your protagonist is in it for more practical reasons, such things could give a backstory to how the tradition of alchemy came about, and what he might eventually aspire to or start exploring. If you tell us a bit more about the setting, we could probably give some more practical advice.
     
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  6. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    Undecided.
    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/the-accidental-alchemist-950-words.156812/
    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/all-that-glitters-is-not-lead-about-1600-words.157504/
    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/rumplestiltskins-smile.157879/


    I wrote something about this. Actually, I wrote three somethings about this. The first two didn't work as stories but the third one stayed afloat even though it didn't have much to do with the alchemy. Feel free to use any and all of them. According the atomic theory (and it still is just a theory) lead is just a little heavier than gold. Might be able to exploit that.
     
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  7. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Try readjusting their costs. Like, the more powerful the alchemy/magic, the more has to go into creating it, or the more it takes from the person using it. Equivalent exchange and all that.
     
  8. Antonius

    Antonius New Member

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    I'd try and answer these questions to figure out if it is the right thing to include:

    1. What does it tell us about the characters that there's alchemy? Is this a world of magic and someone uses alchemy because they're bad at magic? Or is it a very studious person who bothers with learning all the details? Or is it someone willing to risk permanent disfigurement in the way someone in our modern worl risks themselves when they make bombs at home? Is it forbidden and this person flaunts the rules?

    2. What parts of alchemy is common knowledge and what part of it is undiscovered? Will new possibilities or limits be discovered during the story? Is it a compelling and necessary part of telling the main story?



    And I'd try and answer the following questions to make it logically consistent:


    1. What problems does alchemy solve? Why do people bother using it?

    The answer would describe why people bothered with alchemy and it has to solve problems better than other ways that people could do this in your world.

    2. What are the limits of alchemy? Where does it cease to be the best way to solve this?

    For example one might have a potion that would allow you to levitate. That would be incredibly useful for a number of reasons, why would people even bother with carts and pack animals if they can just put some heavy stuff on their shoulders and levitate to where they need to go? So maybe the ingredients are expensive, or they're common ingredients but the process to make them costs a lot of time and the potions lose their potency pretty soon, so there can't be mass production either. Is it legal? Are people socially shunned for it?

    I remember reading one novel that had very powerful magic, but when magic was pitted against magic, it tended to nullify most magic, so you couldn't equip an army with magic swords, because if both sides used magic, they'd end up not having swords at all in all the nullification going on. When you create limits, it helps create a internally consistent story, with all the threats to have good conflict.
     
  9. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Senior Member

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    Anyone working with alchemy becomes interesting the moment you notice that he/she does not fully understand things he/she does and tends to make a lot of mistakes.

    And put something priceless nearby...
     
  10. IHaveNoName

    IHaveNoName Senior Member Community Volunteer

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    Not to be pedantic, but despite what various video games (looking at you, Elder Scrolls) call it, alchemy is "the art of transforming matter". What you're talking about is brewing.

    How does you alchemy system work? Does it replace magic, or supplement it (or incorporate it)? Does it rely just on plants and herbs, or does it require animal parts and/or exotic materials and/or magic? How are potions used, and for what purpose? Are they only drunk, or can they be poured/spread over something like oil? Do they react differently with different substances? For example, pouring one into a fire creates a cloud of gas, while dumping one on a tree makes it grow. Can you use them as bombs, like poison flasks? The possibilities are endless.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2019
  11. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    Actually, the broader definition is basically what I have in mind here. Most of the actual magic in my setting is very subtle, and alchemy does most of the impressive stuff.

    I haven't figured that out yet. There are potions and strange substances, but so far they've just been seen in action. I haven't even properly defined a single one, much less created a general theory for them.

    Should require the use of magic or rare magical items to create, uses all sorts of ingredients, most purposes that there is a demand for (not in ridiculous ways like giving +2 intelligence, instead let's say it could be used to create a hyperfocused state of mind), typically ingested in liquid/solid/vaporous form but some are applied externally, I imagine that would apply to any alchemical system, and of course.
     
  12. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Before molecular theory, if you put two substances together and it made a third, that was transmutation.
     

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