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 FromDisruption of physicsMagic works by selectively breaking physical laws, which might disrupt technology. What would cause this effect to exist?
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?Many peopleMagic is widespread and commonly studied; many magic-related organizations exist.
Nonhumans and MagicRare creaturesA few strange creatures like dragons exist that can use magic.
How Is It Gotten?WorshipPower comes from the gods or spirits, who must be placated on a regular basis. If someone displeases them, is it possible for the gods/spirits to revoke their gift?
FormalityVersatileThere are standard methods of achieving certain magical effects ("This is how you create ice..."), but a good mage can use magic to do any specific thing they can think of, within their power, without having to invent a rigidly-defined recipe for it.
RitualQuick ritualMagic requires a short series of actions that makes it obvious the mage is doing something and that can be disrupted, eg. a seconds-long dance or chant or a blatant aura-of-powering-up.
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:
-Limit: Preparation: Magic requires extensive preparation, whether in long rituals for particular spells or just general practice needed to maintain skill. The work takes up a substantial part of a mage's time.
-Gender Change: Magic is tied to masculinity or femininity in such a way that casters of one or both sexes find themselves gender-reversed.

Special Aspects of Magic:
-Enchanted Items: Mundane only -- Only non-mages can use magic items!

Theme / Elements of Magic:
These are the main actions and substances that magic works with.
Create: Food/Drink, and Metal.


A plainly-formatted version of these notes you can copy elsewhere:-- Magic System --
Magic works by selectively breaking physical laws, which might disrupt technology. What would cause this effect to exist? Magic can be a useful supplement to normal physical effort, eg. reinforcing a wall that's been built with solid mundane engineering. Magic is widespread and commonly studied; many magic-related organizations exist. A few strange creatures like dragons exist that can use magic. Power comes from the gods or spirits, who must be placated on a regular basis. If someone displeases them, is it possible for the gods/spirits to revoke their gift? There are standard methods of achieving certain magical effects ("This is how you create ice..."), but a good mage can use magic to do any specific thing they can think of, within their power, without having to invent a rigidly-defined recipe for it. Magic requires a short series of actions that makes it obvious the mage is doing something and that can be disrupted, eg. a seconds-long dance or chant or a blatant aura-of-powering-up. 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: Magic requires extensive preparation, whether in long rituals for particular spells or just general practice needed to maintain skill. The work takes up a substantial part of a mage's time. Magic is tied to masculinity or femininity in such a way that casters of one or both sexes find themselves gender-reversed.

Other notes: Only non-mages can use magic items!

Theme: Create: Food/Drink, and Metal.

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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