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January 13th, 2010, 06:38 AM #1
Magic System - Feedback Appreciated
Creating a unique and interesting magic system with at least a hint of originality has always given me trouble. I believe I have a central idea which will work, but I am looking for some feedback to both expand it as an idea, and to highlight potential pitfalls or opportunities it might present.
Essentially wizards must be created by killing one of a set of twins in the womb. The living twin would then be able to utilize their siblings spirit, this being the source of their magic.
I envision this as a highly ritualized procedure carried out by either established arcane organizations, or by arcanists in the employ of governments.
For the magic itself I know that I wish to invoke the twin bond strongly enabling wizards to see through the eyes of their spirits and the like, perhaps even to stray into some traditionally ghostly powers such as possession and telekinesis. I do know that I wish for wizards to remain vulnerable and steer clear of them being unbeatable by ordinary men.
I do not believe I want it to be possible for a triplet to invoke two spirits, etc.
January 13th, 2010, 07:18 AM #2
That sounds like an excellent idea, especially in regards to internal dialogue; you can have your character arguing with his or her twin inside the character's mind.
I find with creating these systems, it is always imperative to create rules that govern magic as with the laws of physics or any other scientific field. I read an interesting essay by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. called "Behind the Magic of Recluse". It outlines how he formulated his system of magic, which is deeply rooted in physics, so much so that the two kinds of magic are related to matter and anti matter. He also states that humans in a world based on magic would employ it as a tool and incorporate it into their social structure.
I guess the point is that it helps if you think of your magic in terms of real world consequences. For the lie to be believed, it must have a firm grounding in truth.
January 13th, 2010, 09:25 AM #3
That sounds like an interesting essay, I shall have to exercise my googlefu!
I definitely agree that magic must be properly integrated into the worlds society. As I plan to feature several different Kingdoms between which, and indeed within which, attitudes towards magic vary widely. The killing of a twin is certainly repugnant enough that many places would would ban it outright, and the lure of power enough that others would embrace it.
My current thought is that wizards would largely be involved in espionage and that their magic would be largely ineffectual in combat - certainly in large scale conflict.
As to arguments with the spirit it's definitely something I would like to explore. Perhaps some wizards could treat their spirits as slaves forcing them to their will while others could work with their spirits and perhaps still more could come to be dominated by them. Hmmm.
Appreciate the input Elixir!
January 13th, 2010, 12:03 PM #4
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That's at once a very simple and fascinatingly complex idea. It comes packaged with real moral depth that you should be able to use to enhance your story and world. There are some other stories out there that use twins as a means to magic but unfortunately, titles are escaping me at the moment (only one I can think of at the moment is Gary Wassner's "The Twins," but twinning isn't the only means to magic in that world -- it's just a feature of his particular story.)
The idea itself in execution, as you describe it, is very similar to the "familiar" concept, which is well-used and can be found in any number of fantasy worlds. Also has similarity to many aboriginal culture's shamans, with the emphasis on the spirit world having agency in our own. The main thing here will be the cultures surrounding the abortions of the twins, I think. Quite an interesting essay on power and reality.
What happens if the procedure goes wrong and both babies die? Do the spirits pass on to the next world, or do they remain as powerful ghosts?
I'm not sure that you'll be able to utterly remove the concept of multiple-births beyond two from your worldbuilding. That would break the basic rule governing the creation of magic, I think. Rather, triplets and more could be expanded further into your worldbuilding. In some local customs in your world, triplets might be seen as monstrous and all three culled in the womb. In others, perhaps they kill one of the triplets, and the resulting twins each carry a weaker form of magic, or secondary magic-like abilities. Maybe they're aware of the spirit, maybe they aren't. Because the spirit could be fractured between the two, the result on the psychology of the remaining twins would be an intriguing story element. Or perhaps the spirit moves between the twins, creating all sorts of interpersonal issues. Perhaps these are your seers, or twin buddhas (of a sort). Alternatively, two of the triplets could be killed and the result would be an overly-powerful mage, prone to insanity. There's a possible way to find your villain...
For quads and up, how you play it could be any combination. Kill two and the remaining two share the two spirits, or each living twin gains one spirit... How you set up those possibilities doesn't need to be fixed. You could leave it random and let your story dictate how you approach the issue. You may just want to avoid the topic all together -- there's no requirement that multiple-births beyond twins even be possible in your world.
Does anything change if the twins are identical versus fraternal?
I see the notion of a society based around rituals, controlled by the wizards. This strikes me as practical in an urbanized setting, but somewhat more difficult for rural settings. I think you have an option to have local rural customs play a role, such as midwifery playing an important role in mage-creation. Perhaps midwives in your world represent a different sort of magic, or different status. Perhaps they botch the job, or do it differently resulting in different sorts of mages (wild mages, versus the schooled urban mages?).
Does it make any difference if the twins are both male, both female, or one male and one female?
I think you'll have to really imagine what it would be like growing up with a real voice that isn't you inside your head. Your mage characters would have no concept at all what it's like to be alone (unless the spirits are able to come and go of their own agency, of course). There would be real pathologies involved here.
Also, your urban settings would likely have schools/institutions/enclaves for these young mages. But in rural settings, there might not be access to such institutions, so the nurture of your young mages would be dramatically different in these settings. They might be more Shaman-like, less mage-like, for example.
Are the spirits of different mages able to see each other? Can they interact? Can they trade mages? If they have their own agency, how does their isolation (if they can't see other spirits) factor into their own psychology? Are some mages tormented and haunted, while others are co-dependent?
Anyway... really neat idea, and I can imagine lots of potential there.
January 14th, 2010, 11:59 PM #5
First off thanks for the feedback Fung Koo, deeply appreciated!
Now I've made a few choices and refinements which, while not set in stone, I think work reasonably well.
I dislike the idea of escalation, "You may be a triplet, but I am a quintuplet!". So I will say that only one soul may be attached in such a way. Currently my main protagonist is the third triplet who will acquire his sisters power in adulthood - which should prove fertile ground for both some necessary exposition and for some good old fashioned emotional turmoil.
I would love to hear ideas about identical versus fraternal twins, the only thing that springs to mind is identical twins being more powerful their link being stronger in theory. But that seems rather drab, perhaps a slightly different set of abilities...
Gender will not create a power difference though it may raise some emotional issues.
I have been working on the assumption that some magicians treat their twins as servants unaware or refusing to acknowledge their humanity and treating them as things and slaves. Other magicians take the spirits into themselves and are able to fully commune with their deceased siblings. Deprived of access to a body the spirits can only communicate with radiations of emotion and perhaps by sharing memories in some form - projection into a mirrored surface, crystal ball or the like perhaps?
Magicians who take their spirits into their bodies will be dubbed necromancers and are able to utilize a broader range of abilities, but also put themselves at risk of being overtaken by the spirit. I will likely borrow some well hashed term such as Lich or Wraith to describe a body possessed by a spirit in such a way and they will probably have access to the greatest range of magics.
Culture wise there appear to be several obvious responses with room for various shadings between them. Embracing the magic, perhaps even specifically attempting to encourage the birth of twins. Denouncing the magic entirely. And tolerating it as a necessary evil. How much people and indeed the magicians themselves know about the process will also be a factor. Cultures may also embrace or detest necromancy as both it and its absence can be seen as both evil - those spirits not allowed to merge are more generally miserable creatures deprived of any interaction save orders and unable to speak with their sibling masters.
I do like the idea of their being somekind of primitive version of the mage. I'd love to hear ideas on the subject. My first thought is to combine the twins in the womb rather than kill one, which potentially sounds rather gross, but could be as simple as siamese twins (is the proper term now conjoined twins?) who share the same mind. The idea then would be for a very different kind of magic the power of an excess of living soul rather than a spirit.
January 16th, 2010, 12:26 AM #6
creation of a wizard.
And I'd not discuss this notion much further in open forums. It's too good! You should be the one to use it.
Best luck with your project -- WB
January 16th, 2010, 04:54 AM #7
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It is a good idea, but you can bet there is someone somewhere working on a similar one, who doesn't even know this forum exists.
I had just come to the end of working on a novel which centred round a murder on the Western Front during WWI, and lo and behold Ben Elton published a book, which had the same theme at its centre. Thankfully that was all the to novels had in common, but things like this do happen.
The OP needs to make his work special in its own way, though thinking on it the handling of internal dialogue between the twin and his spirit twin could be difficult to convey to the reader over the length of a novel.
January 16th, 2010, 06:03 PM #8
Greatly appreciate the input folks! It has really helped me to develop and crystalize my ideas. I believe I have enough to run with, but if anyone comes up with something I'd still be intrigued to hear about it. Thanks again!
January 19th, 2010, 04:16 PM #9
January 20th, 2010, 03:44 AM #10
Hmmm, almost worried to - if I don't read them I can maintain plausible deniability -in case they are too close to where I am going. Are they worth the read - in terms of quality?
January 20th, 2010, 04:43 AM #11
So, what's the social status of twins that actually both get born? I suppose, twins are relatively rare, and magicians are rather valuable to keep the world running as is. Is bearing both twins seen as selfish? Are twins ostracised? Other non-magical side-effects?
January 20th, 2010, 09:16 AM #12
Love your avatar Dawnstorm, brings back some very fond memories!
Generally there is no stigma towards sets of twins who are born, the ritual can only be completed before birth. I'll be featuring several political entities who regard the process differently so location is a factor and in Kingdoms where magicians are actively created most pregnant women would be checked making surviving sets very rare.
In Kingdoms where magic is regarded as evil surviving sets of twins are more common. I am also mulling over a more primitive form of magic where the twins are conjoined in the womb and become one being with a wholly different set of powers - though this is poorly defined as yet.
My MC is a third, that being the third triplet who survives, but is not attached to a spirit. Thirds possess something of the link, akin to those abilities presented to twins in real life. A third can be gifted a spirit by their sibling magician, but doing so kills the magician. Quadruplets would simply produce two magicians, quintuplets two magicians and a third, etc.
Most social stigmata comes from necromancy - where a wizard allows the spirit of their twin to inhabit their body. This engenders the most fear amongst everyday people because it can - if the magician is not careful - lead to true possession and the creation of a wraith. Wraiths are generally vengeful entities with more power than a magician - though there are exceptions.
As far as rarity goes about 1 in 90 births would be twins with about 1 in 8000 births being triplets, etc.
Last edited by Ornery Wyvern; January 20th, 2010 at 09:24 AM.
January 20th, 2010, 10:18 AM #13
January 20th, 2010, 10:51 AM #14
Having had a cursory look at a few reviews, and wikipedia, I don't think I've got to worry to much about - in that the similarities look to be fairly peripheral. I am always looking for a good series to read though and certain aspects are likely to cross over so I would like to see how they are handled - and more importantly the reviews look good!
Thanks for the recommendation tdnewton.
January 20th, 2010, 10:53 AM #15
No problem. Hope you like them as much as you think you will.
Oh, and I wasn't trying to discourage you, hope I made that clear with my last post. It's pretty apparent these days that there's no such thing as a "new idea" when it comes to something like this -- your characters and story are what makes it unique, so go for it.