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Magic Systems, Soft Or Hard? (1 Viewer)

TheMightyAz

Mentor
For my novel The Sixth Chamber I've chosen a soft magic system. I'm not prepared to put in the hours someone like Brandon Sanderson does to create a hard magic system with definite rules and limitations. Having said that, I also do not want and will not overstep the mark in order to pull a fast one and allow my magic system to be used in ways it shouldn't to 'save the day'.

This is what I have so far:

Magician: Small tricks and effects. Can manipulate smaller objects and create minor illusions. This level of magic is primarily used for entertainment, much like the magicians we have in our time and age, although it can be used successfully for grander and more ambitious purposes. There is no real emotional or physical cost to the user because the magic isn't particularly strong.

Witch/Warlock: Specialise in curses, can also manipulate object but to a greater degree than magicians. This form of magic does have emotional and physical costs. There are three main schools of magic within this group. All three can be used by witches or warlocks at any time but the constant use of one strengthens their natural ability to use it, and weakens their ability to use the other two. Some hybrids are known to exist and can use all disciplines equally but they are not the norm:

Mesmeres: They control people’s minds
Puppeteers: They manipulate matter and flesh.
Whisperers: They specialise in curses. This is the most common discipline and taxes the user the least (which is why it's the most common)

A few well known curses:

Déjà vu: The Cursed constantly believes they’ve heard, seen and experienced the same thing before
Truth-be-told: The cursed can only tell the truth about others but can only lie about themselves
Two-Step: The cursed hears steps behind them constantly and feels the presence of another in the room at all times

Wizard: Can do all the above but because of codes, stay away from Witch and Warlock practices. Their speciality is controlling the elements. The emotional and physical cost is high. These don't feature heavily in the story or at least the first book (yes, I've now got 3 books in mind). Most are Riftshifters and stay in Nilathro, the Riftshifter's realm, the setting of the third book. Riftshifter live to around 3,000 years old and it's not uncommon for some to reach 5,000. Legend tells of another group that possibly live forever but through the passing of time and epochs, these become nothing more than children's stories and most doubt their existence.

Vivic: A rare kind, beyond anything any of the above possess. These have past into legend and have powers that are said to make them almost gods. They choose solitary existences in realms of their making, or so it is said.

Riftshifter’s Artifact: Objects imbued with magic that can be wielded by mortal men/women.

Of course I'll be building on these far more when I start the story proper come Feb, but felt I needed at least the basics for now. Limitations will be put on each group at some point too. Each will require something, be it material or essence, to use their powers, giving me the opportunity to strengthen or cripple their abilities at will depending on the availability of those things. This is really roughed out in my head right now but felt it had to be there.

So, which do you favour, hard or soft systems? Having asked that, am I inadvertently building a hard system?
 
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JBF

Staff member
Global Moderator
So, which do you favour, hard or soft systems?

The one time I planned on having a world with magic it was rare, small in scale, and pretty much in decline. I think I may have implied there was workable magic one time, and certain events in history (most with logical explanations) were sometimes attributed to extra-human abilities, but by that point things had moved on sufficient that magic was down to parlor tricks and the stuff of idle gossip. Most of what remained wasn't very impressive to see and needed a high degree of belief on part of the witness.

I suppose industrial revolutions will do that.

Having asked that, am I inadvertently building a hard system?

I'd call it soft/softer, but I'm probably not versed enough in other systems to give a straight answer one way or the other.

Shocking, I'm sure.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
The one time I planned on having a world with magic it was rare, small in scale, and pretty much in decline. I think I may have implied there was workable magic one time, and certain events in history (most with logical explanations) were sometimes attributed to extra-human abilities, but by that point things had moved on sufficient that magic was down to parlor tricks and the stuff of idle gossip. Most of what remained wasn't very impressive to see and needed a high degree of belief on part of the witness.

I suppose industrial revolutions will do that.



I'd call it soft/softer, but I'm probably not versed enough in other systems to give a straight answer one way or the other.

Shocking, I'm sure.
Yeah, I want something that is in the world but isn't necessarily what solves all the problems in the story. My main focus will be on magicians and witches/warlocks to try and keep it limited and to 'ground' it more, although, because this is also horror, I'm going to lean into it with certain scenes.
 
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Llyralen

Senior Member
Soft works very well for me, although I think some consistency is needed for me. I have worked out a few magic systems before and it seems like mine are not super strict but they have a lore....I always think of basing them on already existing folk magic ideas from different cultures. Hopefully I will stop myself from including any Deus ex Machina.

BTY just last week I watched Brandon Sanderson and Marie Brennan on youtube talking about non-genetic (uninherited) magic systems. They were mentioning that if you set up a world where people are accepting of some magical aspects of the world without explanation and get them in that "along for the ride" mind-set then the magic system is less criticized, but this was just kind of an interesting side-line. The most memorable moment of it for me was that they both mentioned Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay as their vote for he best single-volume fantasy ever written. I am a big fan of Kay but of neither of these writers. It was gratifying to hear they have my same taste.
 
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