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Arakune
2012-01-13, 06:01 PM
Is there any form of magic system that isn't keyed purely on belief alone? Most systems have some kind of methodology, but a lot of times the protagonist simply wish it very hard and a miracle even by the magic system standards happens.

Is there any work of fiction where that not only doesn't happen but can't happen?

Bhu
2012-01-13, 06:05 PM
Yup. Just off the top of my head Lovecraft portrays magic as simply an alien science we don't understand the rules too.

AgentofHellfire
2012-01-13, 06:13 PM
Is there any form of magic system that isn't keyed purely on belief alone? Most systems have some kind of methodology, but a lot of times the protagonist simply wish it very hard and a miracle even by the magic system standards happens.

Is there any work of fiction where that not only doesn't happen but can't happen?


Do you mean a system where willpower can't fuel magic, or one where magic is strict?

If the latter, then The Sorcerer's Apprentice qualifies. Even though the main character is visibly more powerful than everyone else, there's an in-setting, pre-existing reason for that (he's a blood-relative of Merlin).

If the former, then Ghostbusters. Humans can't cast, period.

Also, Season of the Witch straddles the line a bit between "can't happen" and "can happen". Because while mere belief doesn't help humans, the demon can do almost whatever it damn well pleases.

Orzel
2012-01-13, 06:30 PM
In Star Ocean, Symbology/Runology/Heraldry is a science. The strength is based on the symbol you write and how accurate it is.

Humans are just video game characters and magic SymbologyRunology/Heraldry is hacking into the game. You tattoo symbols on your skin, draw them on your items, or write them into your genetics to access the debug and create "paranormal" magical feats. It takes mental power to turn it on but it is very much a science... to 3D beings anyway.

erikun
2012-01-13, 06:32 PM
Quite a few, from what I've seen. Just off the top of my head, anything from Xanth that doesn't involve Bink should work. Vlad Taltos novels, the Mistborn series, and probably quite a few others come to mind.

Or are you talking RPG systems? Because, well, D&D will fit that.

AgentofHellfire
2012-01-13, 06:33 PM
Quite a few, from what I've seen. Just off the top of my head, anything from Xanth that doesn't involve Bink should work. Vlad Taltos novels, the Mistborn series, and probably quite a few others come to mind.

Or are you talking RPG systems? Because, well, D&D will fit that.



It depends on whether or not he means "magic not fueled by will".

But yeah.

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-13, 07:31 PM
Just to start with D&D magic works this way most of the time. You need to y'know say magic words that alter reality. In the WoT the One Power doesn't give a crap what you think, you need to have the right factor to use it at all and the proper knowledge to create your effect.

Actually I think most magic systems work this way. Even in something like the Dresdenverse that ostensibly works a lot like this... if you poke at it you find that needing to believe magic is a psychosomatic response, one you aren't going to extricate from the process but magic itself is still fundamental force of the universe.

(The major exception off the top of my head is the World of Darkness for mortal magic which is driven by the collective opinions of its population)

Now of course there are many examples of belief/faith driven "magic" which may or may not be related to the magic systems.

Stepping back perhaps the essence of magic is altering reality through willpower, but it being that simple is fairly rare. Namely you need some sort of magic source to underwrite simply wishing real hard, and most often need a knowledge base to produce anything reliable. In practice these days magic is scientific, take certain steps and you achieve certain results. Universes with magic simply have a couple extra fundamental forces that also happen to respond to human action.

Arakune
2012-01-13, 07:55 PM
My problem ins with magic systems that are apparently stated on what they can and can't do, with a whole methodology, and then a certain person comes and shatters those restriction with nothing more than "will power".

The character doesn't have better knowledge, better genetics, better nothing, and yet it can do better things than other because it is more delusional than the rest.

I wanted to know about magic systems where this stupid human thing called belief will do absolutely nothing on your innate talent with magic.

Weezer
2012-01-13, 08:08 PM
To an extent the Name of the Wind by Rothfuss has belief free magic, kind of. It takes willpower to kind of "connect" the pieces, but what can be done is strictly defined by physical laws and well defined rules (like thermodynamics and the like), it generally only deals with energy transfer (heat, kinetic energy, things like that). There is a separate system that is a lot more belief-ey and traditional magic, however it doesn't pop up much.

Orzel
2012-01-13, 08:16 PM
My problem ins with magic systems that are apparently stated on what they can and can't do, with a whole methodology, and then a certain person comes and shatters those restriction with nothing more than "will power".

The character doesn't have better knowledge, better genetics, better nothing, and yet it can do better things than other because it is more delusional than the rest.

I wanted to know about magic systems where this stupid human thing called belief will do absolutely nothing on your innate talent with magic.

In Star Ocean, Symbology is actually the Eternal Sphere's processing code. 3D People, as programs, can't do anything not programmed in by the Sphere Corporation programmers or 4th dimensional hackers.

Magic is writing "A fire of 234 intensity appears 1 foot away from Dragon 234" in a series of symbols and it happens. There's no belief involved in writing "A fire of 234 intensity appears 1 foot away from Dragon 234" in a foreign language. Either you write it right or write it wrong.

Tavar
2012-01-13, 08:19 PM
Dresden Files would function how you like, as well as the Codex Alera.

AgentofHellfire
2012-01-13, 08:25 PM
My problem ins with magic systems that are apparently stated on what they can and can't do, with a whole methodology, and then a certain person comes and shatters those restriction with nothing more than "will power".

The character doesn't have better knowledge, better genetics, better nothing, and yet it can do better things than other because it is more delusional than the rest.

I wanted to know about magic systems where this stupid human thing called belief will do absolutely nothing on your innate talent with magic.

Then everything I mentioned would work. Plus DnD, as well as the magic in A Song of Ice and Fire

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-13, 08:31 PM
My problem ins with magic systems that are apparently stated on what they can and can't do, with a whole methodology, and then a certain person comes and shatters those restriction with nothing more than "will power".

The character doesn't have better knowledge, better genetics, better nothing, and yet it can do better things than other because it is more delusional than the rest.

I wanted to know about magic systems where this stupid human thing called belief will do absolutely nothing on your innate talent with magic.

99% of media outside shonen anime series?

I mean heck even with Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann hot-blooded stubbornness is the explicit nature of Spiral Power so its not breaking its own rules.

TinyMushroom
2012-01-13, 08:31 PM
If you like anime, them maybe Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is something for you.

Ravens_cry
2012-01-13, 08:33 PM
The Alchemy in Full Metal Alchemist, while going into fairly little detail, explicitly follows the conservation of mass, if not energy, and in the first anime at least the latter becomes a plot point.
As far as I can tell, there is a talent for it, as much as some people have a talent for maths, but it is mostly learned.

Anyr
2012-01-13, 08:38 PM
The Alchemy in Full Metal Alchemist, while going into fairly little detail, explicitly follows the conservation of mass, if not energy, and in the first anime at least the latter becomes a plot point.
As far as I can tell, there is a talent for it, as much as some people have a talent for maths, but it is mostly learned.

In fact, accepting that magic can't do everything is one of the defining themes for the series' main character. He's a prodigy who, heartbroken by the loss of his mother, tried to bring her back from the dead, even though it was supposed to be impossible; And it was. The ritual failed, not because he made a mistake or didn't wish hard enough, but because it could never have worked no matter what he tried.

The rest of the series (or at least the original manga and Brotherhood) stays consistent with this philosophy as well. Alchemy is simply another set of universal laws, as rigid and constant as the mundane laws of physics.

KillianHawkeye
2012-01-13, 08:43 PM
Magic in Harry Potter is based on properly spoken words and precise wand movements. Harry being so special has nothing to do with belief or willpower (things which Harry actually has not enough of), but rather the fact that the Big Bad accidentally left part of his soul behind when he failed to kill Harry. Then again, the spell which protected Harry was fueled by the power of love, so I guess this isn't a perfect example.

Aotrs Commander
2012-01-13, 08:49 PM
Discworld? I'm pretty sure, aside from faith-powered deities, that willpower doesn't have much to do with magic there (though genetics and training seem to).

Ravens_cry
2012-01-13, 08:53 PM
Discworld? I'm pretty sure, aside from faith-powered deities, that willpower doesn't have much to do with magic there (though genetics and training seem to).
Actually in the Discworld, it all has to do with belief.
It's even an element, Narrativium.
Without belief, the sun would not rise.
A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD.

DomaDoma
2012-01-13, 08:56 PM
Pretty much any system that's heavy on demon-summoning doesn't put much stock in force of will, unless you count the force of will required to be prudent around the demons.

Aotrs Commander
2012-01-13, 09:00 PM
Actually in the Discworld, it all has to do with belief.
It's even an element, Narrativium.
Without belief, the sun would not rise.
A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD.

Eh, it's late. I'm not all with it. I was mostly thinking of Ridcully and the wizards, whose (rarely seen) casting technique seems largely a D&D parody, really (at least in the early to mid-books, but equally I could be wrong about that.)

Time to go and meditate to regain my mana, methinks...

(Hey, that's a point, would my magic count...?)

Orzel
2012-01-13, 09:13 PM
I think in Buffyverse, magic used by beings that aren't naturally magical has no belief element.

As well as 90% of alchemy systems.

Greensleeves
2012-01-14, 09:28 AM
Once again, the Mistborn novels have a very strict system where no rules are broken. (Well, [s]once[/]twice, but that has to do with divine intervention, not mortal belief).

Warbreaker, also by Brandon Sanderson, is in the same position. You want to use Breath to give life to something? Then you have to pay the price and the price is the same for everyone. No amount of willpower will change that.

In general, Brandon Sanderson is amazing at keeping within the rules of his own magic systems.

Z3ro
2012-01-14, 09:58 AM
The Wheel of Time books have a magic system that follows strict rules and isn't based on a person's willpower. Oh sure, most of the main characters are overpowered, but that's due either to inborn talent or being chosen ones. Their spells are produced and function the same as others.

Brent Weeks Night Angels trilogy is another, similar system, where you can will all you want and if you don't have the talent, it won't happen. The characters have personal limits that are hard lines they can't cross (again, except the main character, but he has an artifact and doesn't really do anything that amazing with it).

Mewtarthio
2012-01-14, 10:08 AM
To be honest, I think it'd be easier to just list settings where magic is keyed to belief. Because I don't think such settings are as common as you seem to think. I mean, really, there's The Matrix and... what else, exactly?

Brother Oni
2012-01-14, 10:41 AM
To be honest, I think it'd be easier to just list settings where magic is keyed to belief. Because I don't think such settings are as common as you seem to think. I mean, really, there's The Matrix and... what else, exactly?

The Belgariad by David Eddings (in fact, I think belief powering magic is a common theme in all his books).

Harry Potter to a degree as mentioned by KillianHawkeye (the Patronus spell I think runs on belief).

In RPGs, Mage: The Ascension, although most of it runs in the background (two very different beliefs can generate the same end effect, but it's generally glossed over).

Soras Teva Gee
2012-01-14, 11:38 AM
Harry Potter to a degree as mentioned by KillianHawkeye (the Patronus spell I think runs on belief).

One spell isn't really a system though. There's plenty of belief based magic running around in small capacities.

douglas
2012-01-14, 12:35 PM
In general, Brandon Sanderson is amazing at keeping within the rules of his own magic systems.
With one caveat - the characters' knowledge of those rules is usually incomplete or flawed in some way, and any exposition telling the reader what the rules are is always from a character's point of view. The characters don't have the advantage of a recorded Q&A session with the magic system's designer, after all, so they have to figure out the rules with trial and error, experimentation, and study, and that can miss obscure details. Said missed obscure details can turn up as plot points in the books - but don't worry, it's never "willpower can boost the magic beyond normal limits". There might be limit breakers occasionally*, but willpower has yet to be one.

* Actually, the only limit breaker(s) I can recall from Sanderson's books is/are in the Mistborn series, and come(s) early enough that figuring out what the heck happened after stumbling across it/them becomes part of the plot later on.

Gnoman
2012-01-14, 02:45 PM
Harry Potter to a degree as mentioned by KillianHawkeye (the Patronus spell I think runs on belief).

Nope. It runs on emotion. This is because t is an emotional projection, taking every good feeling you have and trowing it at an enemy. It does take signifiant willpower to use, as you have to focus on the emotion it exploits (Avada Kedavra and Crucio work the same way), but that's not really "clap your hands if you believe."

Greensleeves
2012-01-14, 02:51 PM
With one caveat - the characters' knowledge of those rules is usually incomplete or flawed in some way, and any exposition telling the reader what the rules are is always from a character's point of view. The characters don't have the advantage of a recorded Q&A session with the magic system's designer, after all, so they have to figure out the rules with trial and error, experimentation, and study, and that can miss obscure details. Said missed obscure details can turn up as plot points in the books - but don't worry, it's never "willpower can boost the magic beyond normal limits". There might be limit breakers occasionally*, but willpower has yet to be one.

* Actually, the only limit breaker(s) I can recall from Sanderson's books is/are in the Mistborn series, and come(s) early enough that figuring out what the heck happened after stumbling across it/them becomes part of the plot later on.

Absolutely. Which is part of what makes his books something of a whiff of fresh air. The magic systems are unique, they are treated seriously and incorporated very, very well. I'm very much looking forward seeing what he intends to do with the magic systems in The Stormlight Archives.

As for limit breakers in his magic (Mistborn spoilers):
I assume you are referring to Vin being empowered by Preservation during the end of The Final Empire? While it is indeed a limit breaker on the magic system, it comes in the form of divine intervention by the deity that created that entire form of magic, so it's a rather easy one to swallow. Which, as far as I can tell, is also your opinion on the matter.

thubby
2012-01-14, 02:53 PM
"the warded man" has magic down to a science.

douglas
2012-01-14, 03:43 PM
As for limit breakers in his magic (Mistborn spoilers):
I assume you are referring to Vin being empowered by Preservation during the end of The Final Empire? While it is indeed a limit breaker on the magic system, it comes in the form of divine intervention by the deity that created that entire form of magic, so it's a rather easy one to swallow. Which, as far as I can tell, is also your opinion on the matter.
That's one of them, yes, and it's also foreshadowing of when Vin ascends to semi-godhood herself by absorbing all of that (by then dead) god's power at the end of Hero of Ages.

The other is duralumin, which just becomes another part of the rules once they figure out what it does.

J-H
2012-01-14, 03:58 PM
There's a book, or series, I don't remember the name... but probably published by Baen... I think in their Free Library online.... where a computer programmer gets pulled into a world where magic works.

Most people can only do small magic.... but magic is repeatable and works the same way every time... and thus can be automated (after a fashion) and thus scaled so that small magic "programs" have a large effect (self replication, etc).

douglas
2012-01-14, 04:10 PM
There's a book, or series, I don't remember the name... but probably published by Baen... I think in their Free Library online.... where a computer programmer gets pulled into a world where magic works.

Most people can only do small magic.... but magic is repeatable and works the same way every time... and thus can be automated (after a fashion) and thus scaled so that small magic "programs" have a large effect (self replication, etc).
A bit of quick googling says it's probably the Wizardry series by Rick Cook (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Cook#Wizardry_series).

Sanguine
2012-01-14, 07:37 PM
As for limit breakers in his magic (Mistborn spoilers):
I assume you are referring to Vin being empowered by Preservation during the end of The Final Empire? While it is indeed a limit breaker on the magic system, it comes in the form of divine intervention by the deity that created that entire form of magic, so it's a rather easy one to swallow. Which, as far as I can tell, is also your opinion on the matter.

There is also Vin breaking through a Coppercloud with her bronze. But that is do to interaction with another magic system and is thus fine. It also was first done by a nameless Steel Inquisitor not a protagonist so that helps.

jseah
2012-01-14, 08:25 PM
Warning, long rant:
Part of the problem with dissociating magic from people is that you end up with magic being able to be used as technology.

Why this should be a problem escapes me, but I get the feeling that many people would frown upon excessive magitech in RP or in stories.
(I say this because it is so rare to find stories or games that deal with technological magic)

In any case, if we accept that magic technology is bad, then you need some way to "make people special".
One of the core ways something becomes a technology is when it can be done without people involved (push a button and receive result). If magic spells could be cast by pushing buttons and doesn't matter how the button gets pushed, then you have the basic ingredients for a magic gun that shoots spells (and an magic flywheel to drive machines, or if spells are sophisticated enough, magic sewing machines)

Furthermore, magic very often is defined in human terms. And the universe *doesn't* run in human terms.
eg. "One object" is very often used, either explicitly in rules or implicitly when observed. Unfortunately, attempting to define "object" can be very tricky indeed.
If you require that magic be defined in human terms, and also strictly follows its own rules, then the edge cases where human terms don't behave well become places where extremely weird stuff happens.
I remember one discussion I had while hashing out details of someone's magic system revolved around the definition of "stationary".
Some of the thought experiments involved mages running circles around apple carts using "stop" spells to push the cart (with the intention of eventually using long range magic to "stop" objects a hundred miles away and allowing differences in rotational speed on the planet surface to turn it into a deadly projectile)

And so, you have magic systems that are defined in human terms and have "people are special"; then is it any wonder that a fudge like "willpower" exists?
The other way, all too often taken, is to have magic not follow its own rules strictly. The interpretation of magic rules are also in human terms.


To remove the "people are special" aspect of magic, and defining it strictly and not in human terms, would make it not-magic to all too many people.

The Extinguisher
2012-01-15, 04:33 PM
I'm working on a magic system that is actually a direct manipulation of the fundamental forces. So it's limited not by how much you believe, but by the property's of the universe, and how clever you are at manipulating them.

Knaight
2012-01-15, 04:52 PM
99% of media outside shonen anime series?
I suspect that applies to most shonen anime as well, and almost all non-shonen anime that still has magic. Full Metal Alchemist has already been mentioned, then on top of that, even within my limited knowledge there is Seirei no Moribito on top of that as a near perfect demonstration of what magic not keyed to belief looks like when done well.

MammonAzrael
2012-01-15, 04:57 PM
It sounds to me like you're asking for examples of "Hard Magic." Read this essay, Sanderson's First Law (http://www.brandonsanderson.com/article/40/Sandersons-First-Law).

Aons in Elantris
Breath in Warbreaker
Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy in the Mistborn series
Soulcasting and Surgebinding in the Stormlight Archives

Channeling in The Wheel of Time
Magic systems in DnD

I don't know if there is a TVTropes page for this sort of thing, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if there is.

hamishspence
2012-01-15, 04:57 PM
L. E. Modesit's Spellsong Cycle (with magic as music and the protagonist as a music teacher who's been transported to the fantasy world) does avoid "willpower" in favour of musical skill.