Magic system types

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Minibit, Feb 12, 2015.

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  1. Different types of Magic

    This thread outlines, explains, and gives examples of different kinds of magic systems. Furthermore, this thread attempts as much as possible to emphasize the huge variety in each kind of magic, and encourages the reader to put his or her own spin and unique style into it, should they choose to create a system based on any of these styles.

    If you know of a magical system that is not covered or touched on in this post, feel free to tack on your additions in the comment; I'll edit them into this post as quickly as I can.

    Spoken/Sound magic
    This is magic that requires some kind of sound to pull off. Like all magic types, there are many variations on what kind of sound is required, such as:
    • Chanting
    • Single words
    • Poems
    • Songs
    • Spoken commands
    • Music
    Most variations are verbal, but there are variations on how the spell should be spoken. Some kinds of spoken magic give it its own language, which is only used to cast spells and not for conversation or other communication means; some magical languages don't even have a written form. Other variations cast spells in the same language used for regular talking. Some other questions to consider are: is magic only useable in one language? How does translation work if you can cast the spell in multiple languages? There are also variations on how important tone, enunciation, and inflection are to successfully cast a spell. How long a spell takes to say/”charge”, and what happens if it is repeated should also be considered.

    Written/Drawn magic
    This is magic which uses an inscription of one kind or another in order to carry out its effects. Alchemy circles, paper charms, rune stones, and magical scrolls are all examples of written magic.
    What has to/can be written on is as varied as what should be written. Here are some of the more common examples:
    • Wishes for good luck written on small charms
    • Symbols representing the desired affect
    • Written poems
    • Written commands
    • Collections of symbols/icons
    • Single words
    • Pictures
    • Pictures of Faces
    How these things are inscribed is totally up to the designer; some spells have things 'drawn' in the air with a finger, or wand/other tool, these drawings may remain, obtain solid form, or disappear when the spell is complete. Things written on solid items may disappear after the spell is complete or a certain amount of time has elapsed, or they may 'keep running' until erased or sufficiently distorted. Another physical element is contact with the caster; does the caster need to touch the writing to activate or use it? And can spent spells be used again without rewriting them? What materials are used to write, and what materials are written on should also be taken into account. Some forms of written magic require an activation of some kind once the spell is written, which may be any form of magic from spoken to mental.

    Component/Item magic
    This is magic that you need to have certain tools, components, ingredients, or items on hand in order to perform. Magical potions, crystals, and wands/staffs are all examples of component/item magic. It is not to be confused with Enchanting, which is an action (not, to my mind, a category of magic) in which one imparts a spell via any magic system and empowers a normal object with it. The object's only role in Enchanting is as the recipient, whereas Component/Item magic uses it as part of the spell's casting process. This particular type of magic can be further sub-categorized into Ingredient magic and Tools magic.
    Ingredient magic
    This kind of magic is the subcategory which requires the combination or singular use of ordinary items in combination with magic power to cast spells. It may make use of:
    • Earth/minerals
    • Plants and/or their fruit/blossoms
    • Bones/body parts
    • Animals (living or dead)
    • Man-made items
    How these ingredients are put to use is only limited by the designer's imagination. Some common forms are to create an edible/drinkable form from them (potion/brewing) and ingest it, thus taking on the powers of the spell, others involve propelling the item(s) at the object of the spell, requiring contact for the spell to take effect. Some use a variation where some items have natural magic contained within them, and the caster uses them as a source for magical energy, possibly combining their effects to create different spells.

    Tool Magic
    Tool magic is when an item is required to cast a spell, but does not (usually) require any alteration from the caster. They differ from Enchanted items in that the tool is not the recipient of the spell, but the item used to direct/power/channel it.
    • Wands
    • Staffs
    • Crystals
    • Stones
    • Keys
    Tools are most commonly used as a means to channel the caster's own magic, which may be generated from any source the designer likes. They lend focus, direction, and definition to a spell. Some tools are 'locked' to a particular spell or type of spell, whereas others can carry out any spell the user is capable of. Considerations for this kind of magic include condition of the item (does it still work if it is broken, roughly damaged, scuffed?) What happens if the item is broken, whether or not repairs are feasible, and the effects of using two or more tools in conjunction with one another.

    Elemental Magic
    This is magic that draws its power from, or uses elements of the natural environment. The most common elements are Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water, but elements such as light, darkness, spirit, lightning, and almost any other part of nature can also be used. The most common ways of using this magic are either
    1. The elements as the source of magical power
    2. The caster as the source of magical power
    In the first, the caster taps in to the element's natural power, and uses it to their will. In the second, the caster must force their on power on the normal elements, and manipulate them in this way. The results are similar, but the method varies. A common theme in elemental magic is for the elements to have a sort of personality and require sympathy from the caster to be used to their full potential. An additional variation to the version where elements are the source of power is for various things from a given element to have different effects; a certain flower may lend power useable for one kind of spell, and a certain berry a totally different kind. How the elements are controlled has varieties too numerous to list; common examples include the user directing them with their mind via telekinesis, others the use of Tool Magic or Written magic to tap into the Elemental magic.

    This is magic that requires nothing more than the user's own power. In this case, the source of magic is almost always the user themselves, and could be described as their soul, their spirit, their chi, or any other variation on these terms. What a person could conceivably do with their mental/spiritual magic is limited only by the designer. A common theme with this kind of magic is for the kinds of spells which reflect the caster's personality. The actual method of casting is also widely varied, and usually crosses over with or simply utilizes one of the other methods in this list. Some versions require physical gestures or movements to channel one's personal magic into a spell, others can be used while standing still.

    Summon Magic
    This is magic which allows the user to call a thing or being to them from another place, or to create it out of nothing but their own magical power. Beings that are summoned can be either independent or completely controlled by the caster, and may be from the same plane/world as the caster, or a completely different one. Things that could be summoned include:
    • Spirits
    • Fantasy creatures (fairies, etc)
    • Normal animals
    • People
    • Ghosts
    • Tools
    • Benign items (i.e: food)
    This kind of magic is often used in combination with written magic, allowing the caster to summon things they have made some sort of mark or enchantment on. How the summoning takes place is hugely varied, but the most common forms seem to be spoken, written, and mental/spiritual magic. It is also vaguely related to Teleporting, where a caster can essentially summon themselves to a different location using magic.
    #1 Minibit, Feb 12, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2015
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  2. Hello @Minibit and everyone ^^ I am here to add my system of magic or arcane arts to your thread. I may even complain a bit to release some pent up frustration regarding the matter involving magics.

    I've always been interested in magic ever since I was a child, maybe because of the flashy fireworks and the way magicians are pictured in games and animations. As I get older, I wondered what if spell casting is real in life. How would people be able to cast these spells? Not everyone would be able to cast spells just like not everyone can be great in sports. Everyone won't just simply be able to cast any spells they want because if they did, magic wouldn't be miraculous, extraordinary and mysterious as it is today.

    In most games, the magicians would usually chant words to cast certain spells. Some may draw sigils and magic will be formed. In dragon ball, they would simply exclaim their spells.

    Spoken/Sound magic
    In my kind of magic system, the words spoken to create spells are ancient words derived from the ancient language of the old gods. Ancient old words are joined like poetry. Old words from the language of the gods are combined into sentence and paragraphs to create reality bending spells.

    Written/Drawn magic
    Other than speaking the ancient language of gods, magicians could also write the ancient letters or runes of gods to create spells. These old symbols. letters or runes are drawn into sigils like beautiful art to create magic.

    But without intent, the spell will not happen. Therefore, a person speaking or drawing a spell will easily be interrupted without steel will and focus.

    Spells bend reality with equal trade of matters. In dark themed worlds, these matters may be part of your limbs or somebody else's limbs. In my kind of world, I prefer the matter to be mana or spiritual energy instead of precious organs.

    Mana is used in the creation of spells. But where did mana came from? In my kind of world, mana is in the air all around us but it is thin as the thinnest thread of silk. Your body inhales mana through the pores of your skin and it is stored in your mana veins. Mana is stored in a person's veins like blood is stored in the blood veins. Mana in my imagination is like oxygen where you can condense into liquid form. Because mana in the air is thin, it cannot be used directly. This liquid form of mana is called ether. A person drinks ether to replenish their pool of mana in their body instantly. Just to make things interesting, I imagine mana as a kind of drug where it would cause to to hallucinate if taken in a heavy dose. A person may get addicted to ether or may even die from ether overdose. Therefore, the selling of ether is controlled by the government. In my opinion and logical thinking, using your body's stored mana wouldn't actually tire your muscles and exhaust you like running would since you are not using your body stamina and muscles to create this magic. But you will have a sense of gauging the amount of mana in your body. The complete depletion of mana in your body would mean the lost of your life similar to the depletion of blood in your body.

    The amount of mana your body can store is not unlimited. Therefore, in my logic, spells such as summoning, teleportation, and time travelling would be impossible. It would require a world amount of mana to manipulate time and space in a large scale.

    Component/Item magic
    In my kind of world, you do not need wand or staves as an implement to cast spells. But for bigger and powerful spells, a tremendous amount of mana is needed. Therefore, magicians store their unused mana in gems to be used another day. The amount of mana a gem can contain varies for each gems.

    Type of magic
    Because you are joining your words to bend reality, you can do many kind of spells. But mysteriously, you cannot effect matters that are belonged to a living creature directly, be it a plant, an animal, or a sentient being. You cannot effect their limbs, their items, or anything three feet from where they are, including the earth and the air. You will not be able to read a person's mind directly with magic. But if you were to grasp the living creature's true name, you will be able to do as you wish.

    To effect a living creature, you will have to cast the matters three feet away from their body and move it to them. For example, you can create a fireball and throw it to the living creature to burn it. You cannot simply cast a person to erupt in flames.

    Honestly, the reason why this part is created is to prevent power-playing or god-modding. But the scientific logic is there to explain things. Claimed things cannot be effected directly.

    It really irritates me when a person creates a type of magic where their powers are unlimited. I dislike when a person is able to bring back a living person without having to sacrifice anything. I dislike when a person teleport himself to the ends of the world or summons something from the end of the world to his side without having to use any energy. In my opinion, the mana in ones body is limited and not all kind of reality bending is possible. You can bring back the dead, but you cannot bring back their memories. The amount of energy you use to animate life should be equal to the amount of life you are giving the lifeless matter.
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  3. Keep in mind when attempting to create or use magic...
    • Output: The total amount of energy which a character can wield. Someone with low output struggles to light up a room, someone with high output can make a tidal wave. Made out of fire.
    • Input: The rate at which a character can summon energy with which to wield a spell. Someone with low input will spend a long time gathering enough energy to cast a spell. Someone with high input will be able to cast spells near instantaneously.
    • Knowledge/Intent: The skill with which someone can cast or use magic. Someone with low knowledge/intent will often cast spells with unknown effects, or unintended effects, sometimes completely overriding their original intention. Someone with high knowledge/intent will always be able to wield magic exactly as intended, assuming no other factors.
    • Resistance: The ability for a person (magic user or not) to resist magical abilities. Someone with low resistance will probably die a horrible, painful death if a fireball so much as whiffs their hair. Someone with high resistance could probably walk through the aforementioned tidal wave of fire--without caring one iota about it--and be perfectly fine.
    • Detection: The ability for a person (magic user or not) to sense nearby things of magic, be they spells, summoned creatures, et cetera. Someone with low detection would probably be unable to detect magic even if it was used right in front of them. Someone with high detection would probably be able to instantly detect any magic and pinpoint the general location it occurred in within miles of it being used.
    Generally, to stay balanced, you'll only ever want to excel at two of these things, be weak at two of these things, and be moderately decent at a wild card. Here's a couple examples.

    High Output/Input, Low Knowledge/Intent/Resistance: Character is able to wield powerful spells at the snap of their fingers, but rarely gets the exact results they want and often hurts themselves to wield magic at maximum power, limiting what they can do.

    High Resistance/Detection, Low Output/Input: The basis of a Templar from Dragon Age or similar anti-magic knights. Capable of finding magic and protecting themselves from being affected by it, but very poor at using it, if they can even use it at all.

    High Knowledge/Intent/Output, Low Detection/Input: Character always knows exactly what spells to use in a situation and is capable of putting out powerful spells, but takes a long time to generate the amount of power necessary to use their most powerful spells and never truly knows how powerful their opponents are at using it.

    Everything else is generally secondary, though it should be noted that these fields of magic are generally the most troublesome to balance properly. (Not impossible, but quite difficult to balance it without nerfing it straight into the ground of uselessness.)
    • Chronomancy: Control over time, of any sort, is generally a troublemaker. It can make already excellent melee characters nearly invincible, or render powerful enemy characters into eighty year old men with Alzheimer's syndrome.
    • Teleportation: Especially any form of instantaneous teleportation or "combat blinking" will take assassin-archetypes especially and essentially make them into Demigods that only engage in combat when they know they can win.
    • Telepathy: "I knew you'd do that because I can read your mind. Therefore anything you can do, I can do better."
      • Note: I know that telepathy is one of the most popular forms of "plausible magic" that people go for, but it's also got the potential to be one of the most broken pieces of garbage imaginable when it allows you to metagame hard without consequences.
    • Mimicry: Of any kind. Any magic that allows you to duplicate other magic or physical abilities, or really anything of any merit, will allow you to take your power curve and throw it out the nearest window.
    • Powers of Creation or Death: Most primarily, powers that allow you to instantly create or kill like a deity are obviously troublemakers. Think Death Note, but the notebook is a fucking person.
    • Shapeshifting: Specifically where it allows you to duplicate mimicry-type abilities in gaining or losing mass, muscle, strength, et cetera. Just being able to change forms from one human to another isn't all that terribly hard to balance. It's when people can become giant super crocaducks that you've got a problem, if it isn't immediately handicapped by limiting the number of forms they can take.
    • Any Magic that allows you to control, contort, or instantly cause harmful effects against other people on mere sight alone: This should be self-explanatory, shouldn't it? If you can instantly light people on fire with your mind, or turn them into your meat puppets, or hypnotize them instantly, or other such powers of that nature... This is going to be inherently difficult to balance without some pretty hardcore and common magic resistance throughout the universe.
    These are the most common and worst culprits. There are a few others, but these are definitely the worst. :ferret:
    #3 Brovo, May 1, 2015
    Last edited: May 1, 2015
  4. Characters with mana sensing abilities are troublesome in my opinion. Other than magic, I also love ninjas. I think random jump flips and sneaking in the shadows is so so cool. But characters that have mana sensing abilities seems to always notice everyone. I would be okay if the character casted a detection spell to detect his stalker, but him automatically knowing that someone is following him is boring.
  5. Which is generally why I consider it a skill that should limit what else you can do in terms of magic. Also, for every detection ability, there's typically a counter-detection ability. (ex: ECM exists for target locks, why not apply the same logic to magic detection? Stealth magic.) In-universe rules can also limit what detection can do. After all, not every universe with magic would want it on power levels associated with the apocalypse (tidal waves of fire), so... :ferret:
  6. In designing and understanding a "magical system", I really think the idea of "magic" itself limits the entire endeavor. It is an insanely broad spectrum to describe the metaphysical. What Brovo did is create a general and very applicable guide to understanding most systems we consider magic by isolating the concepts observed in most systems and describing how they interact. Magic, however, is not universal. The concepts Brovo created, for the most part, are. I would believe that teaching these systems as independent of "magic" so that when applied to a roleplay they can be formatted to the setting more easily would provide a very effective and more widely-used resource for Iwaku. You could go on listing and describing every type of magic, and that would be fine; as a matter of fact, there are "power" wikis about that. But, teaching someone to understand the underlying system to use it for themselves, then apply it to different "schools" of magic however they want to interpret or modify them could potentially create an astounding guide not only to magic, but to the metaphysical powers of multiple genres of roleplay as well.
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