Saturday, 15 November 2014

Magic Part III

So, I've been mulling this one over for a while now. Before I get in to it though...

Mogmush frowned for a second as Gudguff threw his hands up and stomped off toward the bushes. 

"Useless! utterly useless!"

Mogmush looked back at the small pile of rocks and then at his hands.

"Why can't I just throw them like I normally would?" He muttered the question to himself while slowly reaching toward the rocks.

"Leave the pile and do it again!" Gudguff's voice snapped across the little camp like whip. 

Right. The barbarian's thoughts were crowding his mind. Clear the mind. He felt the urge for a drink and squashed it for a moment. Focus on the air. The air is my friend and will move whatever I ask it to. He stared at the rocks so hard that he thought he might have burst something. I'm asking you, Mr Air, to move those rocks. Just a little. Go on. Please.  He felt himself straining as he concentrated on the rocks, his whole body was tense like a bow string.
Gudguff stood and watched as the barbarian went slowly redder in the face. Maybe trying to turn him into a paladin isn't the best idea I've ever had. The mostly naked man was quivering slightly as he concentrated on the pile of stones. But if he can't even manage a simple budge with the air then it might be a moot point in the end. 

Goodguff's musings were suddenly interrupted as Mogmush violently broke wind and lurched over sideways.


"Well, at least you can summon your own wind."

The Rules/Laws of Magic.
So, these have been festering in my mind for a little while and I thought that now would be a fairly good time to go into them.

Magic has rules?
Well, that really depends on the author/s involved here. A lot of Magic is exactly that, Magic. It can perform great feats once directed by the will of an appropriately practiced agent. In the case of a lot of authors Magic is more or less limitless in it's reach and scope and is occasionally very nearly sentient.

The problem is that unless you have the kind of world in which boulders can float freely without any problems then Magic needs to have rules which govern it, just as much as gravity does. Now, obviously, as with gravity, some of the rules can be pretty mental and almost unbelievable (much in the way that the gravity of a black hole can bend light and distort time (it is believed)) then Magic should have some rules which will be known, to give it limits, like all good characters. Once the rules are known then you can start to bend them, or move in opposition to to them.

Rules will mean things you can and can't do. Giving your characters limits will give them things to struggle against and to strive to overcome.

You've mentioned that one before.
Yes I have! It's important, that's why!

Why though? Especially given it's magic, you can more or less do what you want.
Right, I see. Example time then!

Scenario 1

  • Goodguff is trapped in a special oubliette created specifically to trap him by the Dark Lord Sorebum. 
  • The oubliette is made out of a rare material which blocks all of the usual means of magic which are open to Goodguff.
  • Goodguff simply thinks very hard and comes up with a new form of magic which he is instantly able to master because he's an ace Wizard. Magic bitches!

So, obviously Magic without limits is actually a major pain in the arse when it comes to actually trying to have an engaging plot. 

Scenario 2
  • Goodguff is in the special prison.
  • It has been comprehensively sealed and warded against all types of Magic, sorcery and wizardry. 
  • Goodguff spends several long months in the oubliette before he finally figures out that magic might not work.
  • over the next few dozen years Goodguff spends 23 hours a day to probing the prison and finding what it's flaws are. 
  • Eventually he discovers there are no flaws. 
  • Goodguff goes somewhat mad.
  • In his madness Goodguff finds some strange anti magic.
  • Still insane he uses the anti magic on the prison.  
  • It doesn't work. 
  • Goodguff goes totally berserk and starts using the contents of his chamber pot to redecorate. 
  • The guards come in to stop him (for some reason) and Goodguff brains both of the them with the chamber pot.
  • Stepping over the unconscious guards Goodguff discovers, once outside, that his powers are now far greater than they had been, all the magic potential having been building up over the years. 
  • Goodguff sneezes and accidentally blows out all the windows and creates a massive hole in the wall of the prison before leaving and wreaking havoc.

OK, so maybe that wasn't the most illustrative but I think you get the idea. 

Rules and Structures.
Just to flesh this out properly and give you some idea of what I'm actually on about, please accept this list of basic ideas to use as a framework for the creation of magic systems.

Balance-What goes out must go in
If a practitioner creates a fireball the size of a horse's head then the energy for that has to come from somewhere. It might be channeled from the driving forces of the universe its self or it might have come from the practitioners themselves. Either way it needs to be accountable. If it is coming from a body then there will be side effects, if its directly from the universe then how much can be used before the whole thing starts to wobble, also, is it finite?

Specificity- Chronomancy, Pogonomancy, Scatomancy and more.
What might be good fun is to divide the magic systems up, make boundaries between the skill-sets which can be learnt. Can a Pyromancer also learn Aquamancy? Could a Menatlist become a Physicalist? Do some types compliment others, just as they are a bar to some?

Unpredictability- 2+2= lemon.
Even a master will admit that sometimes, even with a known quantity or something that is almost an artform because they know it so well might produce an unexpected result. If Magic is a slightly raw/untamed force then a master (if it is possible to survive long enough to become one) will be well aware of the difficulties involved in predicting what might go wrong.

Invention-Ah Ha! I knew it!
Science is constantly pushing forward, in Fantasy however Magic usually seems to have stalled or be regressing. Pushing the bounds and experimenting is part of what humans do naturally, so go for it!

Consequences-No gain without pain, through which you must strain.
This one sort of goes back to the beginning. Every action has an equally and opposite reaction. This must be true in Magic, or there would be no point. Magic is effectively just real world shortcuts with extra sizzle. 
The Big thing is that everything we do means something else happens, sometimes it is a good thing, sometimes it is a bad thing and sometimes we have absolutely no control over what will happen beyond choosing whether we start that thing or not.