View Full Version : Magic in World Building?

2008-06-02, 02:59 PM
Hi. I haven't really been on much at all for a while now. But now that I've started reading the forums again, I have questions. I've noticed a few threads about world building, which is something I've always (in my mind) failed miserably at:smallfrown:. There are a lot of problems I have, but the main one is magic. Most of the time, magic to me means the manipulation of objects and matter through force of will. But that doesn't really fill in the cracks. DnD has a pretty solid system of magic and how the elemental planes work and such. But using the same old thing is boring, so I've been trying to come up with a semi-scientific way of defining the workings of magic. After all, magic is really just another word for science, examples being flying=airplanes, instant communication=cell phones, fireballs=explosives. But how does it work, even assuming that humans or humanoid creatures have the ability to use such force of will:smallconfused:. Spells basically control the world, in the creatures and elements themselves. Even animating the undead is another way of controlling an object, albeit a semi-living one. So, how would this work in a way that people can control without having unlimited power? (at least until they get to a really high level :smallannoyed:)

How do YOU define magic? Theories, details, inherent workings, energies, elements, transhumanistic semi-corporeal children.

That seemed unnecessarily long for a question...

2008-06-02, 03:14 PM
After all, magic is really just another word for science...

*looks around with hunted expression*

Don't say things like that Deathtouched! You'll have them (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=81946) tearing through the place bellowing long words at one another in no time flat. It'll be 'orrrible! 'Orrible I tells ya! Only carnage and the moans of the dying will be left in their wake. :smallbiggrin:

As for the question (which is an intriguing one btw - kudos to you): I've always been one to let the players decide what magic is in the game.

Sometimes the concensus is 'this is how the world works', with magic being as much a part of natural law in the D&D world as, say, gravity or electromagnetism is in ours.

Other times magic is (pace Mieville or WFRP) an intrusive intervention into the natural workings of the world. Quite how the works with Druids around is usually just handwaved away...

The universal truth of magic in the D&D world? Don't make me laugh! I played "Planescape" for too long to bother chasing that particular time mephit. Just go with whatever suits the campaign. :smallwink:

2008-06-02, 03:41 PM
Here's one that works for me - it's not particularly a universal truth of D&D, but it mostly functions:

For the most part, Wizard's can't touch magic directly. Sure, they can do a few things every here and there, and they can apply mystic energy.... but mostly, they're stuck powering the awkward "magical circuitry" which is their spellbook. Apply energy here, here, and here for fifteen minutes, putting a variance in the energy then to control certain options, and the painted "circuits" manipulate the energies into an energy packet which can then be picked up and maintained with almost no effort. In a scroll, the energy packet is tied to the parchment; the spellcraft roll to copy represents figuring out how that particular packet of energy was shaped; the spellcraft roll to familiarize yourself with it for later casting represents tracking down which tabs for triggering are appropriate; the caster level check for activating a scroll with a caster level higher than yours represents seeing if you can manage the force needed to activate the stored spell. When using a borrowed spellbook, the Spellcraft check represents tracking down where to apply energy properly (they don't come with instructions) and how to pick up the resultant packet. The Wizard doesn't so much cast a spell as build and invoke one. It's something he picks up and uses, not something that's a part of him. This explanation also covers why it takes a 20th level specialist Wizard with in excess of fifty spell slots and 227.5 spell levels (counting 0th level spells as half a level) a full fifteen minutes to prepare a cantrip in an empty slot; fifteen minutes is the minimum needed to run and retrieve a "spell program"; it's just that the Wizard is capable of running more than one such at a time, so he can run (prepare) his fifty spells in an hour. As a bonus, this explains why scribing a spell into a spellbook is expensive - the wizard is painting magical circuitry onto the pages... possibly using things like gold and platinum directly.

A Sorcerer's magic is virtually a part of him. He touches it directly and shapes it through raw mystic force. Like most cases of the biological vs. the mechanical, it's a lot more efficient; the spell a Wizard takes fifteen minutes to put together via his spellbook, a Sorcerer sets up in one standard action. The downside, though, is that it's a lot less flexible. He can only put his impromptu packets together in so many ways, as he has to remember them all personally (they are partially instinctive, but do require practice and experimentation). He can do it more often, though, as he only has to gather a pool of energy; there's less maintenance involved in holding an energy pool together than there is in trickle-charging a bunch of spell packets.

The bard constructs his spells on the fly, similar to how a Sorcerer does. But in the Bard's case, he's using verbal memory tricks to remind himself of exactly how the spell goes, in a musically "learned" fashion, rather than drawing on instinct. He's got a lot of other things to focus on, though, and doesn't have quite the energy to apply to packet-making as the Wizard or Sorcerer.

A Divine spellcaster gets these packets handed down pre-made; the Cleric need only invoke them (Causes, if permitted, are [quasi-]deities under this Theory of Magic; perhaps Causes are what the deities were originally born of, or there's an awful lot of deities out there and you don't actually need a deity's name to pray to one [and thus a Cause cleric is actually getting spells granted by a deity who's name he doesn't know] - it is technically possible for a Cleric to have no ranks in Knowledge(Religion), after all - or whatever).

The verbal and somatic components of spells are not all the same - that's why you need a Spellcraft check to identify a spell as it's being cast. Each Wizard sets up a slightly different trigger mechanism - and, indeed, sets up slightly different trigger mechanisms even for copies of the same spell, so he doesn't fumble two spells trying to supply the right bit of extra push to the same triggers and coming up short (the Quicken Spell metamagic feat partially revolves around arranging for less "push" and redundant triggers). Much of the Spellcraft check to identify a spell on the fly is involved in tracking the energies as they come into play in order to predict the final result; the energy packet has something of an effect on the outside world while it's still being given that final push.

Spellcasters need the material and focus components because some energy packets require a pattern to draw off of; there's a little more information needed to finish the effect than can be easily contained in the energy packet (in the case of "complex" material or focus components, such as a live spider or a cocoon; Eschew Materials alleviates the need for some of it by putting a bit more info into the spell); others require something physical for a slight boost in energy or focus (for "simple" components like the copper coin for Detect Thoughts or the copper wire for Sending; Eschew Materials alleviates the need for some of it by putting a bit more force or focus into the spell). Sorcerers still need them because sometimes, there's just too much to remember, or some of it really does need to be channeled outside the body, for whatever reason. Other components are either a source of energy to power certain portions of the spell that are only quasi-magical in and of themselves, a bribe of sorts to certain forces,
or even a form of insulation against backlash. A divine caster avoids the need for most such trappings with help from above... but there are limits to what they can be bothered to do for their followers.

How do things not get absurd until high level? Fairly simple. The deities regulate how much magic they give their followers (or, alternately, they give their followers exactly what their "Spiritual Strength" permits them to carry - I. E., Leveling + Wisdom Modifiers) and the arcanists have a limit to the energy supplies they can maintain (which increases with practice - I.E., leveling and Intelligence/Charisma modifiers).

Lady Tialait
2008-06-02, 04:13 PM
Magic in my worlds is no different from science, it's a type of science. A + B = C. But that is Wizardry anyway. Spontanus Casters, such as the Bard and the Sorc..They have magical energy flowing through them. It comes out in a form laced by pure will force. Sometimes elegant, sometimes...not so much. but always very much them. Divine Magic in my worlds are not truly from gods themselves, after all then you get the ThorPrayer (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0007.html)... It's an expression of your willforce made manifest. It's not inherited, it's magic that is attracted to a purpose. It's a Magic of pure hate, love, faith, whatever it may be. That is what separates Divine from Arcane in my games, the faith put into the magic.

To sum up:
Prepared Arcane = Formula
Spontaneous Arcane = Internal Magic pushed out with force of will
Divine Magic = Sheer Force of Will made manifest

Hope this helps. Magic is a part of nature, it cannot be denayed in most games. Tapped in several ways.

2008-06-02, 05:40 PM
How do YOU define magic? Theories, details, inherent workings, energies, elements, transhumanistic semi-corporeal children.

However I want to. Sometimes, it's a kind of science. Or the power of spirits/demons/elementals fused to mortals' souls. Or an insidious mutation/corruption planted into mortal races at the dawn of time by some malevolent force. Or sheer willpower distorting reality itself. Or just smoke and mirrors. Or psionics. Or divine will made manifest. Or a grand con that fools universe into thinking you're right...

Though one (or more) definition must be chosen when brewing a world if internal consistence is an aim. Which is, when we get down to it, a matter of creator taste. I usually favor scientific approach though that distinctly lacks mystery and wonder, therefore diminishing "magic" somewhat.

2008-06-02, 05:55 PM
There's a reason Magic is not over-powered and this is the reason: Magic is like... well.. cooking. >_< If you think about it, it is affected by tons of random possibilities, and has just about infinite possible outcomes. It depends on the abilities of the caster, their location, what spell is being cast, if there are other people around, ect., ect., ect. There might be a recipie to follow, but that sure as hell doesn't mean that the cake will come out right! -whispers- The cake is a lie... >.> -end whisper- HOWEVER, that's a BIT simplistic, but I like simple answers... At least when i'm telling them.

2008-06-02, 09:32 PM
Well this a part of a specific campaign setting that I'm running magic is god powers. See the dieties of my universe are made of pure magical energy. They can manifest physical forms, but their natural state is pretty much magic. Now everything they create has some of magical energy in it. It's like building a house. It doesn't matter if you can't see the brick or wood or whatever materials are used, they're still in there. So all species, and thusly all mortals, created by dieties are composed of both physical matter and magical energy.

With regards to classes and magic users, a mage has the sheer force of will and the superhuman knowledge to access this energy and use a non-lethal portion of it. Hence, the reason magic acts so spontaneously and has no explanation with regards to any scientific field is because "spells" are godpowers :smallbiggrin:

Of course, this eliminates a distinction between Arcane and Divine magic, because it pretty much paints all magic as of divine origin, but without the necessity to pray to a diety. I just eliminated varying types of magic users and subcatagorized the Mage class into fields of expertise, with access to limited amount of spells of other mage classes.

2008-06-02, 11:56 PM
Ok...here comes my ramble. I have divided it up into spoilered sections to facilitate reading. You might want to get a snack or something, this is a really long post.

In my campaign setting, magic is defined by the properties and interactions of subatomic particles called "dweomers." Each dweomer carries one of seven "charges," which are positive, negative, fire, earth, air, water, and neutral. Unlike with most forces in our world, where opposites attract, like-charged dweomers are naturally attracted to like-charged dweomers. Dweomers are naturally present inside of all matter as a subatomic particle and they define the matter's properties (which accounts for that thing about everything being an extension of the four elements). Furthermore, dweomers exist as a sort of haze of ambient magical energy, kind of like the background radiation in our universe, which is manipulated by spell casters to create the effects known as spells.

Casting Spells
As mentioned above, the naturally ocurring haze of dweomers that suffuses the universe is manipulated by spell casters to create spells. The exact way this works varies for the various types of spell casters. With arcane casters, the process is basically the same, but with a different mechanism of initiating the spell. Wizards and other intelligence-based arcane casters greatly focus their thoughts, causing the dweomers naturally present in their brains to align in such a way that the dweomers of the desired type gather at a single point in their minds and the ambient dweomers of the same type are absorbed into their nervous system. However, with charisma-based arcane casters, they must focus on a certain emotion which they have associated with the dweomer they require to cast their spell, and their nervous system will subconsciously move the dweomers into place as with a wizard. However, this works quite differently with divine casters. They send out a mental beacon (through praying or meditating) to their god (or other supernatural force or being) to manipulate the existing dweomers within their own mind to serve as pre-set channels to absorb magical energy that they will need to cast their spells. But with some divine spellcasters, their training allows them to modify one of these "pre-set channels" to accomodate a different spell, like how a cleric can substitute a prepared spell for a cure spell. The spell caster, whether arcane or divine, channels the dweomers they have recieved through their nervous system down towards their hands and mouth, where they are expelled from the caster's body. Gestures of the hands and arms (somatic components) define where the dweomers are expelled from the body, and the shape of the dweomer "cloud" determines how the dweomers react with eachother. Specific sounds and movements of the mouth (verbal components) provide even finer definition to the dweomers as they exit. The dweomers expelled verbally and those expelled somatically combine with eachother to complete the spell. However, often times the somatic and verbal components are not enough, and material components are required. Through casting the spell, the material components are converted from matter to energy (in the form of magic) which supplements the somatic and verbal components. With foci, dweomers are channeled through the object, and the shape of the object and the configuration of its internal dweomers gives the dweomers expelled from the wizards body more definition than possible with somatic or verbal components alone. Furthermore, some components can be left out through the use of certain feats, which represent a caster's (usually) self training to increase the complexity of the other component(s) to compensate for the loss of definition of the expelled dweomers. All manipulation of dweomers is taxing to a spell caster's nervous system, and if they attempted to do it too much they could suffer crippling damage to their nervous system. As a defence mechanism, their bodies sense the strain on their nervous system, and automatically cease the channeling of external dweomers to prevent damage to the nervous system (because the nervous system does not heal on its own), thus causing the spell caster to be unable to cast any more spells.

Though anti-magic is a smaller point, I feel that it is necessary to adress. When an anti-magic spell or effect is initiated (like the quintessential anti-magic field), a mass of all types of dweomers are expelled in a large mass towards the designated point that shall be the center of the sphere of the anti-magic field. This mass of dweomers rapidly expands, and each type of dweomer present in the mass attracts the ambient dweomers of the same type. The dweomers that form the anti-magic field create a sort of magical "screen," which prevents any dweomers from entering. By expanding, the anti-magic field removed all ambient dweomers in a small area, thus preventing any casters or magical items from absorbing dweomers necessary for them to initiate their magical effects. However, the anti-magic field is not strong enough to screen out energy that is bound extremely tight, such as the ambient dweomers of items, the souls of creatures, or the enchantments on magic items.

The dweomers which suffuse the universe are also responsible for all forms of animation (except through the use of physics that exist in our world, like mechanics or electronics). Living creatures have a net of positively charged dweomers suffusing and animating their bodies, commonly known as souls. Undead creatures have a similar net of negatively charged dweomers, which act sort of like "anti-souls." Creatures like elementals are animated through a "soul" of dweomers of their element; earth, fire, air and water, respectively. When a spell caster casts a cure spell (or something similar), the positive dweomers of their spell attract to the creature's soul. This imbalances the soul, and causes it to automatically convert the positive energy into matter of the ambient type (in this case, the different parts of the flesh, which are naturally suffused with positive energy). However, when an amount of energy of the opposite type is exposed to the "soul," like when an inflict spell is cast on a living creature, the negative energy combines with the positive energy, creating directionless neutral energy which harmlessly dissipates. However, part of the soul is missing, so it compensates by dissociating positive dweomers from the ambient flesh, causing the creature's cells to dissapear as they are converted to positive energy to repair the soul. Since cure and inflict spells work with positive and negative dweomers, respectively, they have no effect on creatures that have other forms of energy animating them, such as golems who depend on earth-elemental dweomers to animate them. Repair spells work by placing dweomers into the damaged areas of the construct and then converting them to the same matter as the construct.

Magic Items
As stated above, dweomers are present within all matter. Magic items are created by manipulating the dweomers present in items and supplementing them with external dweomers. First of all, in order to permanently suffuse an item with magical energy, the item in question must be of exceptionally high purity or quality (i.e. masterwork) so that the internal structure of its dweomers will be predictable and feasibly manipulated. The spell caster creating the magic item must imbue the item with a complex array of magical channels that will absorb ambient magical energy when activated by some pre-set stimulus (like a command word). The magic item, in a sense, casts a spell on its own to create the desired magical effect. Imbuing items with this property requires an investment two magical sources: material components to be stripped of their magical value, and a portion of the caster's own soul, which manifest themselves in the form of the gold and experience point penalty, respectively. Rare materials (such as crystals, which are magically complex) are often incorporated into the item to facilitate the item's manipulation of the ambient dweomers.

The Nature of the Planes and Deities
Each plane is a sort of "bubble" that incorporates each variety of dweomer into its matter and energy. The borders of planes are defined by a complex array of neutral dweomers, which contain all of the other dweomers that exist in the matter and energy of the plane. The complex array of neutral dweomers allows for infinite complexity of internal forces in such a way that cannot be comprehended in any sense other than that the planes are constantly expanding. All the planes are interconnected by a series of "tunnels" made of neutral dweomers. These tunnels are known as the Cosmic Roads, for they connect all the planes together. The Cosmic roads constantly siphon dweomers from the six inner planes (the four elemental planes and two energy planes, to be exact) and destribute it to all of the planes which are infinite in dimensions to allow them to infinitely expand. Take note, however, that in the standard D&D cosmology, these "Cosmic Roads" do not exist and are substituted by the Astral Plane. By having the planes interconnected by a definite web, rather than having them suspended in an infinite sea of planar space, this allows for an existence of a place that is even more "nowhere" than the Astral Plane. The black void that exists outside of the cosmology is the home of vestiges (from Tome of Magic), which is truly a place "where you are when you aren't anywhere," and the complete lack of dweomers, matter, or mundane energy completely negates any stimuli, thus providing the vestiges for the motivation to be bound to the material plane for a short amount of time. The cosmology's mind blowing complexity and "impossible" geometry which incorporates infinite space within a "finite" space did not occur by mere happenstance. In fact, the entire cosmology, everything that is, was, and will ever be was crafted by the deities. In the beginning of the multiverse, the dweomers existed freely in an infinite void. Somehow, after an immeasurable amount of time, these dweomers began to come together and interact, and form basic consciousnesses; a sort of "magical organism," so to speak. Eventually, these entities began to grow in complexity until they formed the powerful and sapient entities known as gods and godesses. The relatively newly formed deities were bored by the uneventful chaos around them, and they decided that to entertain themselves they would need to be able to control and manipulate the environment around them. And so, they worked (basically by trial and error) and stitched the Cosmic Roads together. Then they used the other energy to craft their own domains, which would be known as planes. The remaining dweomers (an ifinite amount, of course) were placed into the six inner planes, where they constantly spring from and compensate for the planes' infinite dimensions.

Now I must admit, this is the first time I have ever had the initiative to write any of this down. There are a few reasons for this: One, I don't know all of this in the traditional sense, it's more like an understanding. This makes profound sense to me, and this allows me to sustain it in memory with ease. Two, this is horrendously complicated, and I couldn't imagine any player actually being interested in assimilating all of this information. And three, probably the most fundamental reason why I have never written it down, is simply because it is a great deal to write, and even now my wrists and fingers cramp with the pains of overexertion. :smallamused:

However, the single greatest reason that I have taken the time to record this information in this public forum is because I have never shared this with anyone (I realized they probably wouldn't be interested), but this thread seemed like an superb opportunity to record it. You asked for me to define magic, and I believe that I have to the greatest of my cognitive ability. I hope you have the patience to read it all. :smallwink:

2008-06-03, 12:54 AM
I like the theory outlined above. In fact, I felt/feel like that about magic.

In essence, according to laws that are badly understood, if you do the right things in just the right way, other stuff happens. Wizards implement this stuff by hand, by moving their hands just so, makes pressure waves in the air and so on and so forth. Sorcerers do it genetically. Some creatures are built to take advantage of this fundamental property of the universe, and sorcerers inherit a portion of that power and knack for shaping the world.

DnD is psychosomatic. If you believe something, it gets a little truer. That's why there's gods. Psions work this way. Utter, earthshaking faith in their own abilities to rewrite reality, plus total control over their own bodies. Slow/quicken your heartbeat, tense just the right muscles, and all the right arcane buttons get pushed. Bards do it like wizards, but more musically. Make the right notes, and resonate a piece of metal at the right rate, and ditto. Warlocks are like sorcerers. Wands and scrolls are complex devices designed to do the fiddly work for you, either once or many times. Wands are harder, because scrolls fubar themselves after casting once, and are harder to operate anyway. Golden wires conduct electricity, etc etc, but the magical backwash is enough to wreck the scroll, and is necessary to shape it right.

Magic items work sort of the same way. slight but precisely calculated events mess with the world somehow, then the changes change the items, and the whole thing resonates, self-sustaining.

Or something like that.

2008-06-03, 01:20 PM
Just wanted to say thanks for the replies. It's nice to know how others feel about this. And KingGolem, that was very concise explanation of magic. That sounds very grounded, I hope I can work out something like that. Thanks again all. :smallbiggrin:

2008-06-03, 05:22 PM
My take on magic depends on the world.

When I first started DMing a while ago, I tried to come up with "scientific" explanations ("magic is the motion of the aether" or "magic is force of will fueled by either sun or moonlight" etc.) similar to a lot of the above posts.
Now, nothing against that -- your world, your rules, it's cool.

My new direction for magic, since last year, has been more along the lines of folklore, etc. Imagining magic as a sort of science, explaining the relations of "magic particles" or what have you, to me, sort of defeats the point of magic. My goal for magic in my setting is for it to be mysterious and, well...magical. It's not applications of energy or manipulations of aether (nothing wrong with that, mind) but rather, unknowable and more or less unexplained.

So, two examples of magic I've used (or will use) in my games (copy&pasted directly from my notes):
Northern Magic

"It was a large room with three big windows and it was lined from floor to ceiling with books, more books than Lucy had ever seen before ... all bound in leather and old and learned and magical."
- from The Voyages of the Dawn Treader
They say that just behind the rain, there is another world that coexists with our own. A world inhabited by wild fey, strange dragons, and powerful spirits. Its laws are different, and even though both planes may look similar, nothing is farther from the truth. Thanks to the closeness of this plane, the Otherlands, arcane magic is possible.
The spells found in the Player's Handbook are the sum total knowledge of the secret techniques for one to become invisible, or conjure flames, or any number of wondrous things, learned from powerful magic beings long ago.
Although it is magic, the Great Art follows its own internal logic and rules - spells must be written just right, lest they fail to work, regardless of the talent of the magician. Magicians and philosophers have found two near-constant rules for magic:
1.) Circle of influence: around a spellcaster, the world from which magic stems is much closer - however, this circle limits how far their spells can travel from them.
2.) Natural Providence: A spell will eventually wear off, as the normal laws of nature begin to apply.
The practice of magic is usually centered on a workshop or college. Workshops are buildings that house magicians and provide magical services to paying customers. Anything from simple chores done by magic worked on commission, a workshop usually sets the standard for quality and craftsmanship in an area. Some workshops will tutor individuals interested in learning magic, provided that they work off the debt in service.
Colleges are slightly different, concerned with the less practical aspect of magic. Rarely will a professor or student magician use their magic on trivial nothings, but cast spells for purposes of research or other such theoretical means. The great colleges of the North are usually beyond the means of a common family, however, exceptionally bright youths may earn scholarships.
Bordering the Northern States is a rocky, forested land - the Northern Wastes. Here, as the bounds between the Otherlands and the Prime Material thin, magicians set up solitary towers or libraries. Some are exiles; others simply looking to study the Art without requests from kings, or offers of professorship. Here, the traditions of magic are much closer to the wild spells of the Otherlands - for the farther one travels north, the closer the two planes become.

And some cosmology:
"It wouldn't do for a magician to become too parochial."
-Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell
Philosophers, clerics and magicians have long agreed that there are many worlds, just beyond the bounds of the Prime Material plane. However, aside from the Otherlands, the many other worlds have been naught but glimpsed.
Assumed to be high above the world are the Heavens, just beyond the edge of the stars - or so the theory goes. The domain of angels, and where the Creator holds court, this is where those of good heart find their way after death.
The location of the black kingdoms of Hell are unknown, but their terrible depths are real enough, and the threat of demons conjured from the icy pits of Hell are just as terrifying. Said to be bitterly cold, it is the absence of all that is good.
A parallel world of perpetual twilight, the Otherlands are wild and uncanny. Here, fey politics and magical laws hold sway over the ramshackle keeps, eerie manors and strange shrines. It's closeness with the Prime Material plane is a both a blessing and curse. For while it makes magic a reality on the Prime Material, at certain times and in certain places, it is easy for the unsuspecting to wander across worlds.
Other Worlds: Strange places where history took a different course than in the Prime Material, or the nature is something else entirely- worlds of fire or water, a land of dreams, and far stranger. Despite this, magicians have been able to conjure beings from them - elemental spirits being the most common extraplaner denizen called forth. However, summoning creatures is one thing, actually going to another World, quite another. Legend has it that there is a Map of Worlds that would enable one to gate to such a destination, however…

DM's note: Unlike DnD cannon, planes such as the Positive and Negative planes of energy, assorted celestial and infernal domains, and the Ethereal plane do not exist. The role of Positive/Negative energy as the source for life and unlife never really clicked for me - zombies are animated by Dark Magic, and people are healed by faith and divine strength. Sourcing those powers takes away from the magic of it, at least for me. The role of the Ethereal Plane for spells such as Ethereal Jaunt is filled by the Otherlands, with ethereal creatures being "in between". Ghosts are not Ethereal, but their incorporeality just come with the territory of "ghost". Other planes have yet to be reached, and are waiting to be explored.

Magic comes from spirits. Angels, djinn, demons, etc. teach spells and grant magic to people. Magicians commonly know magical procedures themselves, but often accomplish much of their magic via the assistance of spirits -- a traveling magician will find their powers diminished somewhat, since they most likely have to deal with unfamiliar spirits for a time.
Spirits are also individuals, as opposed to the classifications of them in the MMI and DnD in general.

They are the focus of religion on both sides of the mirror, and since there is no known Creator (though many people suspect one exists) tend to be worshipped in a demiurges' stead.

Magicians are people who have been granted magic by a spirit, and who have friendship with one or more of their race. Note that once an angel, fairy, wisp, etc. gives a person magic, it is permanent - they do not have to continue communications with them to restore their magic (though the magic itself can be taken away.)

Magicians are all about knowledge. How they go about learning is based on their casting stat: intelligence (learning by study) wisdom (learning based on insight) or charisma (learning from others.) It's important to realize that magic is something seperate from the practioner -- it's something that you know, in the same way you know music. It's a talent that you have rather than a force within you.

Note that the older a spell is, the weaker. The longer it's been passed down, the more corrupted or altered the magic procedures become, and consequently, the weaker. Also note that anyone can learn a spell, though the most commonly available are so old, the words so altered by time, they rarely take effect.

Like in old folktales, magic is knowing how to do something -- saying the right words will accomplish an effect by virtue of it being magical. I've never run a game long enough to get to the level where antimagic would be an issue, but in any case, I would clip it from my game -- witches and alchemists didn't believe there was such a thing as antimagic, nor will the people in my games.

Thematically, I want magic to be a little more mystical rather than scientific. But that's just a personal preference.

2008-06-04, 05:45 AM
There's a lot of different takes on magic. For your setting, you should decide which fits the theme the best.

For one of mine, free will is kind of important.

The origin of the Universe was that it came from chaos. Affect could precede cause. Space and time were both infinite, and a single point. And, anything could wipe out everything anyone else had done.

As Order is one possibility of Chaos, simultaneously (and also not thanks to the insanity) five beings of reason were born, and built a Universe in which reason can triumph. There was no longer true freedom, but it's a place were things could have meaning.

What exactly magic is, I haven't quite decided. It could be that same chaos. Maybe it's those first five things. Or a force that they put into things. Whatever I decide, it will likely be a means and a chain.

How will it tie in with Free Will exactly? Haven't quite decided. It might spring from it, or maybe it's something only those with it can use. Maybe it will even be a trick. Magic looks like it will give you anything you want, but it actually limits you.

I bring it up, but I think it probably helped me more than it did you. I think that Magic as Freedom/Chaos probably will suit my own campaign best.

2008-06-04, 09:35 AM
I like the feeling of offering conflicting explanations of magic to the PCs. Flavor it any way you like; just don't give them any footholds. Most of my explanations fall back on the pseudoscience approach, but I think that's mostly because the sensical features of magic are the easy ones to convey. When weird, paradoxical things are happening, you still describe them in terms of rational occurances (just not ones that make sense in that particular context.)

2008-06-04, 02:40 PM
How do YOU define magic? Theories, details, inherent workings, energies, elements, transhumanistic semi-corporeal children.


In the RPGs I run I have been using a model of magic use that is similar to the one used by Le Guin's Earthsea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthsea) series (or at least by the first three books!) I know others have used Le Guin for magical inspiration, so I don't consider myself to be at all "original" in this reguard.

The root of arcane magic is linguistic; knowing the magical "name" of a thing grants power over it; use of the language of magic cause an alteration in reality so that the universe, in effect, conforms to the statements made about it.

Limiters on such power tend to boil down to making "statements" that the universe is required to obey is an exhausting activity, temporarily draining the life-essence of the speaker, and thus there is only a limited amount of such magic any given magician can invoke at a time -- both in terms of the potency of "names" they can speak and the particular ways they can string those "names" together. Likewise knowledge (what "names" you know) forms a pretty major limiter!

For example: To be able to tell the universe that someone you don't like is going to die now requires both knowing and being able to properly channel the energy required to utter the "name" (or scribe the rune) for "death" -- with the "name" for "death" requiring a heck of a lot more power (both to learn and to use) than a lot of other "names" (like, for example) "fire." Thus a relatively weak wizard could tell the universe to set his enemy on fire, but to flat out kill his foes, he'd need to be a very, very powerful wizard.

Anyway yadda, yadda, yadda ... more fluff and crunch involved, but that's the bare bones.


Also, if you're interested in the whole "what is magic?" thing, I generally recommend trying to read through Sir James George Frazer's book The Golden Bough (http://www.bartleby.com/196/) (A Study in Magic and Religion) -- particularly Chapter III (http://www.bartleby.com/196/5.html) "Sympathetic Magic" ...

If we analyse the principles of thought on which magic is based, they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first, that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause; and, second, that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed. The former principle may be called the Law of Similarity, the latter the Law of Contact or Contagion. From the first of these principles, namely the Law of Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it: from the second he infers that whatever he does to a material object will affect equally the person with whom the object was once in contact, whether it formed part of his body or not ...

Frazer identifies two "laws" of Sympathetic Magic:

"Sympathy" a.k.a. Like Produces Like.

... and ...

"Contagion" a.k.a. Once Together, Always Together.

Sympathy you can use all on its lonesome (you can have Non-Contagious Sympathetic Magic), Contagion is linked to Sympathy (you can't have Non-Sympathetic Contagious Magic).

... (When) regarded as a system of natural law, that is, as a statement of the rules which determine the sequence of events throughout the world, it may be called Theoretical Magic: regarded as a set of precepts which human beings observe in order to compass their ends, it may be called Practical Magic ...

So, if you're studying magic to understand how magic works -- just to have wisdom and understanding rather than to use it, that's a study of Theoretical Magic ... if you're studying magic to do something with it, then that's Practical Magic.

The book goes on, in exhaustive detail and (by modern standards) amazingly obtuse language, to explore exactly how "magicians" think things work -- and why they're wrong. If, on the other hand, you were designing a world where Frazer were wrong and the magicians were right, then Frazer has explored the underpinnings of a way magic could work.

Like I said, if you can bludgeon your way through the language, it's a good read for folks who are interested coming up with ideas for magical theory and practice.


2008-06-04, 03:16 PM
The Golden Bough is a really great inspiration, definitely worth looking into.
It deals neatly with a magician's role in society and interaction with religion, too, which is worth looking into even if you decide not to use his reasons for magic as your own.

2008-06-04, 05:19 PM
Magic works because the universe is an illusion, a dream in the mind of the mightiest god Gygax... magic-users come closer to this truth the higher their level, and by 'freeing their mind' are able to manipulate the dreamworld as they chose. Some are born with the splinter in their minds that makes them instinctive able to alter reality, while others gain enlightenment through years of study or worship.

2008-06-04, 05:28 PM
Magic works because the universe is an illusion, a dream in the mind of the mightiest god Gygax... magic-users come closer to this truth the higher their level, and by 'freeing their mind' are able to manipulate the dreamworld as they chose. Some are born with the splinter in their minds that makes them instinctive able to alter reality, while others gain enlightenment through years of study or worship.

Metamagic as Metagaming? Nice.