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March 9th, 2007, 08:26 AM
I have gotten to the critical point in my story where I am going to have to have a well defined (at least for me to write about it) idea on magic in my fantasy land. I already have a type of gypsy magic with Tarot cards and foretelling; but now I am trying to figure out the "main" magic component.

I reflect on what has been done -

Jordan - the 5 powers and flows; saidar/saidin
Goodkind - Internal meditation, harnessing of additive/subtractive
Hobb - Skilling/the Wit
Farland - Runelords, elemental power/sorcery
Modessit (Recluse) - Order vs. Chaos (magicians control each)
Modessit (Soarers) - Harness elemental earth "lines"
Weis/Hickman - Magical splls, Lunitar, Nuitari; moon based
Freidman - the Fay; shaping of elemental magic

At least that is a start. It appears that a common thread for magic is some type of internal meditation, harnessing of power from within oneself. Typically there are people who are pre-disposed to using magic and people who are not. I don't see how you can get away from that idea; but I do wonder about modern science and how I might be able to integrate that into magic.

I am thinking of getting down into the nuts and bolts of the world and creaeting magic users that can see molecules/atoms and can change the fundamental way that the universe works. So to create an illusion they would gather all of the water molecules in the air, put them together/stretch them/spin them to create an image. I need to follow the implications of this further; but my one additional thought would be that the magic user could not interact with living cells. The magic user would have I suppose telepathy,telekenesis to change/move/prod the molecules/atoms; but wouldn't be able to touch a living person.

Any thoughts?


March 9th, 2007, 12:34 PM
A very scientific approach to magic :)

I do think having them see on such a micro level is a bit odd, though. Perhaps they have an inherent feel for the materials they can manipulate instead? Hmmm, if you can affect living cells directly, can the magic do so indirectly? IE: can they manipulate dead tissue? Wood is dead while the trees are alive, etc. Although I see telekinesis plausible, it would have its limits. Can't be used to fly or lift/move/control people and/or limbs, unless some object in contact with said things is manipulated. Telepathy I see as an entirely different discipline, since it affects the living mind. You can use it simply as a thought-reader to a thought manipulator and even so far as to take control of another's body. This seems to set up a natural good magic/bad magic scenario, not sure if that's what your working towards.

March 9th, 2007, 01:22 PM
Yeah, I almost wanted to stay away from the good/bad male/female additive/subtractive and let people use magic for their own means. That is funny about Telepathy, because I had planned to use exactly what you said there - another magic user would take over the body of a starting out magic user.

You are going in exactly the direction I was thinking. You can't touch living cells, but the clothing that people where is dead (for example). So you would be able to do things to them, or make them stop, levitate them, or that type of thing. Or since the air is dead, you could remove all of the oxygen from a localized area and suffocate people (as a more morbid thought).

My idea for Telekenesis was just to manipulate the "fabric" of the world as it were. I guess my description of how magic is working is more of a nuts and bolts description than the "feeling and flow" that most other books treat it as (more mystical).

March 9th, 2007, 01:56 PM
Well, if bodies are dead, can they manipulate those? hehe

Actually whether you see your magic system as 'nuts and bolts' or mystical doesn't matter. It how your CHARACTERS treat magic that will set how it comes out in your story. You dont have to explain the how in your story but you need to be very clear in how it works in your own mind.

World Builder
March 9th, 2007, 08:28 PM
At least that is a start. It appears that a common thread for magic is some type of internal meditation, harnessing of power from within oneself. Typically there are people who are pre-disposed to using magic and people who are not. I don't see how you can get away from that idea ...

I'm going to have to argue that point, for the sake of conversation. One example, in the Song of Ice and Fire series, the magic system is more sacrificial than meditative. Its about ritual and using an external force to accomplish a goal. Another example, in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Strond (and, I believe, "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel," by Susanna Clarke, which is still in my To Be Read pile), magic is hermetic, meaning it comes from convincing some magical creature (a demon or faerie, for example) to do your work for you. The magician him- or herself is incapable of magic and relies on this external entity rather than an internalized power.

And as for magic being in the hands of a relatively few gifted or well trained individuals, that's a paradigm I'm trying to shift with my writing. In my setting, magic is as universal as language. Just like almost everyone speaks at least one language, almost everyone in my fantasy setting can do at least some magic -- though just like most people in our world don't put too much thought into the exercise of communication, the majority of the world's people don't conciously think about doing magic and can only dabble haphazardly in the higher forms of magic. Those who view magic as an art or a subject of serious research (akin to writers and linguistics in the metaphor) can conscious control over their latent magical abilties. Still most are only mediocre, but everynow and then a Magical Tennyson or sorcerous Basho comes around and can do something really spectacular. (Currently working on a story concerning one of these truly great sorcerors).

That said, there's absolutely nothing wrong with a magical system that's mediatative and uncommon among the people. But be sure you use those concepts because it works for your story, not because everyone else is doing it. As Mama Cass Elliot has taught me, no one call tell you there's only song worth singing. :)

As for the rest of the post: Yes, i think your nuts and bolts analysis of how the your system might work is very feasible. I have guys lurking in the backstory who use Transubstantiation, a magic that functions by manipulating matter on an atomic and sub-atomic level -- though, as Dazzlinkat suggested, the magicians themselves are truly aware of the physics of it, just the metaphysics. Of course, they're using matter-manipulation for different purposes than you seem to be doing (a favorite trick for these guys is turning water into wine or designing box to hold a black hole). Still, I think it matter-manipulation is a viable way to handle your magic. It would be interesting if your characters were aware of the physics, of the nuts and bolts, as you said. No reason that magic has to be mystical (see Elliot, above).

also, you might find something useful in You might find something useful in this thread (http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8498). There's not much there but you never know when you might find something that strikes the imagination.


March 9th, 2007, 11:45 PM
Your idea for a magic system reminds me very much of the alchemy in the anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist.

In that world, what we would call "magic" is seen as the "science" of alchemy. Alchemists who are highly educated in this science can turn physical objects and substances into other things. They do it by breaking something down into its most basic components and then restructuring it.

For example one character wears gloves made of a material that sparks when he snaps his fingers. He uses alchemy to split the water molecules in the air into the elements of hydrogen and oxygen. By adjusting the oxygen densities this way through alchemy, he can create flames anywhere in the surrounding area at will and manipulate them as he desires.

It is forbidden to use alchemy (also called transmutation) on living things, but of course some people defy this law, which is what drives the plot in the series.

Anyway I just thought I'd mention it. :)

James Carmack
March 10th, 2007, 03:05 AM
While we're bringing anime into the discussion, the latest Doraemon movie, Nobita no Shin Makai Daibouken, would be a rather instructive example of World Builder's concept of petty magic being widespread and applied to the mundane aspects of daily life. The basic concept involves Nobita using the Moshimo Box to venture into a world of magic. In this parallel world, magic dominates daily life. You see Nobita's mom use it make breakfast, it's the center of the school curriculum, and so on. Nobita's complete lack of any talent whatsoever crosses over, though, and he's teased for being unable to use magic (much in the same way he gets teased for being at the bottom of the barrel in all his subjects back in the real world). While it would be an interesting exercise simply to play out the trials of Nobita attempting to succeed in this world (since he swears he won't go back until he's able to use magic), the creators opt for a more action-packed plotline involving an invasion of Earth by the Demon King Dema'on. After that, it becomes more of a conventional quest story, but the early part sounds like a good illustration of the kind of setting World Builder's after.

As far as the nuts and bolts of magic go, I don't see any reason why different characters shouldn't have different views on how it all works. It would be interesting to see the interaction between those who take a more scientific approach to magic and those who treat it as a spiritual exercise. Even more interesting would be showing how the results of the differing approaches affects the convictions of the differing practitioners.

March 10th, 2007, 04:48 AM
Your idea for a magic system reminds me very much of the alchemy in the anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist.

In that world, what we would call "magic" is seen as the "science" of alchemy. Alchemists who are highly educated in this science can turn physical objects and substances into other things. They do it by breaking something down into its most basic components and then restructuring it.

That alone pretty much got me hooked on that show. :)

I'd be interested to see magic played out in a scientific/spiritual context as well, perhaps to the point where it is widely discussed among intellectual circles on x world(s) and there are a string of competing theories and practices regarding its origin and form. Perhaps something like the evolution vs creationism argument and even laws that surround it. Haven't quite figured out how to make this idea interesting without resorting to infodumping though. >_< Something to keep working on I suppose.

March 10th, 2007, 06:51 AM
Why have just one form of magic in your world?

Different races of people or creatures, or even different nationalities may access magic in differing ways, much in the way that different religions in our world access the divine.

There also could be different schools of thought in magic.

Just food for thought.


March 11th, 2007, 12:20 PM
I agree with question "why just one?"

The magic functions how your characters perceive it. You could have separate schools of thought -- just like on earth. The practice and ideas of Hermetic magic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeticism) are far different than the teachings of Vodou (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vodou). And this works just fine if you're never going to describe the "how" in your writing, but it appears you want more.

Do you want the "how" from the author's perspective, or from the readers?

The author's knowledge is the base, so perhaps you're looking for a magic to create a consistent world. Manipulating atoms through willpower is a fine way for magic to work. However, having TK begs the question why they couldn't touch living tissue. Perhaps its all about willpower and something with a will of its own automatically negates/shields them from another's TK ability.

And you could still have different schools in this kind of world because its all about using the mind to alter atoms. How the schools teach focus is the key. One school could require incantation and precise formula, while another relies solely on body movement (kata), and a third requires proper placement of material components.

And World Builder pointed out: magic systems don't have to depend on focus. And you could have separate schools teaching different methods of manipulation.

But back to the reader and how you're going to write the story. A reader only sees your world through the character's eyes. Thus all of your design ideas are yours alone, unless the characters understand atoms and the "physics" behind magic. And do you really want to have the characters go into that detail in your story?

Be consistent -- your atomic manipulation has merit -- but my advice is focus on how the characters understand magic. It will make the experience better for the reader.

Hope the rambling wasn't too bad.