LESSON Fantasy Worldbuilding - Archetypes of Magic

Discussion in 'CREATING WORLDS & SETTINGS' started by Malkuthe Highwind, Aug 4, 2012.

  1. Fantasy Worldbuilding - Choosing a Style of Magic

    When it comes to many fantasy worlds, Magic is one of the most essential aspects. Be it a high-fantasy or a modern fantasy world, magic, or the power to do that which is normally impossible, is a central element to the setting. Granted, there are fantasy worlds out there that do not have magic, or wherein magic is so negligible it can be considered as not at all. There are enough fantasy worlds out there though, to warrant a workshop on choosing a style of magic.

    Believe me, choosing a style of magic is so much more than just choosing how your characters wave their hands about and perform feats no mundane mortal can do. The very 'style' of magic that you choose to use can have implications in the world once you think about it. For example, sigil-based magic would require either more time to wield, or prior preparation of sigils that could lead to a more tactically intelligent base of magi. On the other hand, magic that requires thought to trigger would require little time to wield, quicker thinking and greater magical strength.

    There are quite a few styles of magic, and I'll highlight the ones that I've seen most often used here.

    Ambient Energy Magic

    Show Spoiler
    This one might be the most confusing one due to the heading I've given it, but really, Ambient Energy Magic is simply magic that involves drawing the fuel for the spell (commonly known as mana) from the surroundings. It can involve magic that is dependent on the presence of certain nearby geographical features such as mountains, rivers, swamps, forests, plains and the like. Likewise, it can involve magic that is dependent on the number of certain artifacts resent in a location, or even the historical significance of a location.

    A somewhat famous example of this kind of magic is the Magic: the Gathering Trading Card Game, where mana is generally drawn from lands (Mountains, Islands, Plains, Forests and Swamps) and is used to cast spells.

    Inner Energy Magic

    Show Spoiler
    Inner Energy magic involves the very life-force of the caster in creating spells. This is one of the most widespread forms of magic in modern literature, where a magus is required to have a good constitution and physical strength to perform the most powerful of spells. Any magic that involves drawing power from within falls within this category.

    Mental magic(involving the mind), auric magic(involving an aura) and physical magic(involving using physical energy) all fall under this kind of magic.

    Sigil Magic

    Show Spoiler
    Sigil magic involves the use of magical symbols ranging from the mundane to the impossibly complex. Sigils can involve the use of words (both spoken and written) as well as runes. The purest form of this magic draws energy from the sigils, themselves having an innate power. This archetype of magic though, is often used in combination with others and rarely used in its purest form.

    This kind of magic can be seen in the book "Abarat" by Clive Barker.

    Spirit Magic

    Show Spoiler
    Spiritual magic pertains to the use of spirits, communication with spirits, or drawing energy from spirits to perform magical acts. Spirits can be familiars, guardians or ghosts of ancestors that lend power to the magus. Summoning is a form of magic that falls under this kind of magic.

    Spiritual magic is the kind involved in shamanistic cultures as well as in voodoo.

    Sacrificial Magic

    Show Spoiler
    Sacrificial magic involves the use of any form of sacrifice, be it material, blood or life sacrifice. This is one of the darker archetypes of magic, however, unless it's life sacrifice, sacrificial magic is not sinister in itself. It is usually associated with Paganistic cults as well as demonic magic.

    Divine Magic

    Show Spoiler
    Divine magic is, perhaps, the most self-explanatory of the archetypes I've put here. It is magic that stems from either prayers, direct intervention of a deity, or possession by a deity as a vassal, thereby granting divine power to the vassal. It's similar to spiritual magic, but this is focused solely on the divine.

    Angelic magic usually falls under this category.

    These archetypes are simply categories under which most, if not all magic of fantasy worlds fall under. However, some forms of magic can fall under multiple categories. Let's take for example, ritualistic magic. If the spell-caster/s chant and draw power from a god/goddess, then it's both Sigil Magic and Divine Magic.

    Describe magic in your worlds and try to classify them according to these archetypes.


    Revision pointed out one archetype I forgot to mention: Sexual Magic. After some thinking, I came to the conclusion that sexual magic is not as prolific as these other archetypes. It -can- be considered as an archetype on its own, but it will, more often than not, be linked to Sacrificial(you are using yourself as sacrifice to fuel the spell through procreation) and/or Divine(sex as a ritual to channel the divine powers of a sexual deity) magic.
  2. It's been so long since I've made a world that is my very own. One world, that which my sword mages exist in, uses a great deal of Inner Energy and Divine Magic, working together in the form of Wielders (those of great innate genetic magic and destiny) and their swords, forged by the gods. Originally, this was an alternate Earth, but has since been switched to it's own world that has yet to be fully detailed.

    The two magics combine in a soul bond that is above and beyond what most soul bonded weapons can do, drawing not only on the strength of the Wielder but the strength of the gods to protect the world. However, one of the darker magics used is a runic magic that involves tattoos. It's sorta scary to behold and grants energy that is arcane and yet divine in source.