Magic System:
The following is a set of notes on a randomly-generated fictional magic system -- that is, a set of beliefs and practices about magic -- designed for a fantasy/science fiction setting such as a story or game. It can be wholly or partly true in the context of that setting, or just help to stimulate further ideas. The words "mage" and "mundane" refer to anyone who can or can't use magic, respectively; exactly what "magic" means is the point of this exercise. This generator program is meant as a reaction to fantasy settings like those of "Final Fantasy," "Lord of the Rings," and old-school "Dungeons and Dragons," and what are now cliched representations of magic. Let's come up with something new and creative for our own work!

The notes below may seem inconsistent, but that's a hint that something's inaccurate about them -- people's beliefs are wrong, or the situation is changing due to new discoveries, or you should re-interpret one comment in light of others.

This program's output is public-domain; use it freely. The program itself is by Kris Schnee.

The Nature of Magic:
Where Magic Comes FromGod(s)One or more powerful supernatural beings outside the universe grant certain people a part of their power to alter reality... but why?
How Powerful Is It?MinorMagic can be a useful supplement to normal physical effort, eg. reinforcing a wall that's been built with solid mundane engineering.
Who Has Magic?EveryoneMagic is truly democratic! It's so common that people use it in their daily lives, debate it in politics, and study it in school. Magic may be part of the biology of the people's bodies.
Nonhumans and MagicHumans onlyFor some reason, humans (humanoids) are the only species that uses magic. Is this evidence of the nature of the human soul, or something to do with intelligence or the brain?
How Is It Gotten?TrainingMagic requires long, hard study and practice. Those who can train mages have a great deal of influence, and may confuse the necessary skills with superstitious rituals -- or ones that encourage loyalty.
FormalityChaoticMagic seems to vary so much among people, times and places that it's hard to describe or study in a consistent way. Magical instruction focuses on how to find useful patterns in one's own magic.
RitualMental effortUsing magic can be done with a thought, with little mental or physical effort.
Magic and TechnologyOne-way interferenceMagic makes technological devices mysteriously break, or the presence of any complex technology suppresses magic -- but not both. A mage is unlikely to also be a user of much technology.


The Drawbacks of Magic:
-Stigma: Eccentric: Everybody knows... Mages are weird, nerdy people. Shouldn't they play sports or something instead?
-Secret: Certain magical secrets must not be revealed. This may be a mystical taboo, or part of a guild mentality -- the Mages' Protective Association of Arcadia tries to suppress those illegal spell-traders.

Special Aspects of Magic:
-Group Effects: Specific numbers -- Specific numbers of people have major effects on spells. Eg., the Great Mage had seven followers, so all the spells he designed require exactly seven assistants to cast.

Theme / Elements of Magic:
These are the main actions and substances that magic works with.
Perceive / Control / Create: Star


A plainly-formatted version of these notes you can copy elsewhere:-- Magic System --
One or more powerful supernatural beings outside the universe grant certain people a part of their power to alter reality... but why? Magic can be a useful supplement to normal physical effort, eg. reinforcing a wall that's been built with solid mundane engineering. Magic is truly democratic! It's so common that people use it in their daily lives, debate it in politics, and study it in school. Magic may be part of the biology of the people's bodies. For some reason, humans (humanoids) are the only species that uses magic. Is this evidence of the nature of the human soul, or something to do with intelligence or the brain? Magic requires long, hard study and practice. Those who can train mages have a great deal of influence, and may confuse the necessary skills with superstitious rituals -- or ones that encourage loyalty. Magic seems to vary so much among people, times and places that it's hard to describe or study in a consistent way. Magical instruction focuses on how to find useful patterns in one's own magic. Using magic can be done with a thought, with little mental or physical effort. Magic makes technological devices mysteriously break, or the presence of any complex technology suppresses magic -- but not both. A mage is unlikely to also be a user of much technology.

Drawbacks of magic: Everybody knows... Mages are weird, nerdy people. Shouldn't they play sports or something instead? Certain magical secrets must not be revealed. This may be a mystical taboo, or part of a guild mentality -- the Mages' Protective Association of Arcadia tries to suppress those illegal spell-traders.

Other notes: Specific numbers of people have major effects on spells. Eg., the Great Mage had seven followers, so all the spells he designed require exactly seven assistants to cast.

Theme: Perceive / Control / Create: Star

Links:
Seventh Sanctum: A collection of random content generators like this.
World Tree, an RPG with a great setting and detailed magic system.
Ars Magica: An RPG with a detailed magic system, especially re: familiars. A version of it's available for free.
Rym: A detailed fantasy/sci-fi RPG setting, maddeningly incomplete, with an emphasis on magical technology.

Other Suggested Reading:
Steve Jackson Games' "GURPS" books (fictional background on many topics, Religion is an especially good one), Stephen Pinker's "How the Mind Works" (a readable guide to a lot of real mysteries), E.O. Wilson's "Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge" (the universals of human culture), and Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle In the Dark" (re: why people believe the things they do).

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