Worldbuilding Questions: Post #5 – Magic and Magicians: Rules of Magic
At the request of a new reader to the blog, I want to push out another worldbuilding post today! We’re going to begin diving deep into the building of a magic system, and trust me, its going to get interesting. I know exactly how complex this particular part of a universe can get; I’m just finishing wrapping up the finer details of my own magic system, so I’ve been working in this mode for at least two weeks in two separate periods.
Magic systems take time. That’s what it comes down. Building a magic system from the ground up takes time, especially if you want it done right. And you do because it’s going to be the foundation of your entire universe. Whether magic plays a main role or a supporting role, a fantastical universe will always be held in tether with some type of magic. Patience and attention to detail are key.
Let’s get started! Follow this link to the appropriate page.
Magic: Building a Foundation
Very first question, probably the most important question of all time. What can magic NOT do? What are your limits? This is key; take some real time thinking about this. Make a list. Make it reasonable. When my boyfriend and I were going over my magic system, he kept bringing up these tiny holes, the most nitpicky scenarios of all time, to point out flaws. That’s what he does; I’m not bitter about it. Okay, maybe a tiny bit bitter. I mean, EVERY nitpicky scenario you can think of. But what it did make me realize is that I needed to curtail my magic much more than I had originally anticipated. Not just on a large scale, but on a smaller scale too.
Once you’ve established limits, now you’re going to establish how magic users try to get around these limits. Is there a way of combining spells that have a similar effect as a spell forbidden by your system? Is there a loophole that you particularly need to be exploited during a scene? This can be as simple or as complex as you’d like, just like your limits.
Now to focus on the price of magic. Magic has to come from somewhere; it cannot occur spontaneously unless you want your system to be flimsy. It won’t hold up without at least a leg to stand on. So establish whether it takes years of study to master magic or whether a user uses a bit of their life force every time they use a spell. Then just as above, is there any way magic users try to get around this price?
Let’s talk about how a user can tap into their magic power. What does it take to do that? Can they tap into their willpower to cast a spell? Is there any type of ritual? Is every spell individually cast with different processes or is it all the same? What’s the time frame on a particular spell? Can spells be temporarily stored for later use in amulets or potions?
An Important Step
I want to digress from the questionnaire for a moment because I want to hone in on a step that I feel this questionnaire doesn’t go into enough detail about. A little bit further down this section, you’ll see a few questions based on the varieties of magic practiced. You see one, maybe two questions regarding this topic and then nothing else.
I feel like this is a mistake that this questionnaire makes; it doesn’t give a young writer or a new fantasy writer enough of a basis to know how to build the varieties of magic they want in their story. Don’t get me wrong, this is the best worldbuilding questionnaire out there, but even the best can make some mistakes.
My advice: stop your progress here and take a few days to write down everything you want to be able to do in your story in terms of magic. Add things later as they arise. Organize it. Make it easy for you to read and comprehend, no matter how complex it may be. If you can easily understand it, your readers will understand it.
Here is a fantastic link to start with. This is an article that comprehensively covers the different types of magic. Be prepared to be inspired by magic you didn’t even know existed, let alone had a name for it.
I think this is a good place to stop for today; I hope I’ve given you a lot to start with. Signing off!