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 FromPhysicsMagic is part of the way the universe works, and can be studied scientifically.
How Powerful Is It?DominantMagic IS the world's technology. It's used for all sorts of common, ordinary tasks: locking doors, cutting wood, fetching water.
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.
FormalityDiscrete spellsMagic is divided into standard "spells" like "Fireball," with fairly consistent power levels and effects. Inventing new effects is a long, hard process and often worth getting the new spell named after yourself.
RitualLong ritualGreat preparation goes into most magic, with fragile props and lots of opportunity for the mage to be interrupted in various ways. Can a mage step aside and have an assistant fill in during a ritual? What happens if someone wanders into the magic circle?
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:
-Calculation: Magic requires some difficult mental gymnastics, something like poetic composition or mathematics. Not everyone is good at it.
-Elemental Aura: The types of magical energy the mage works with surround them for a while after use. Air mages find papers fluttering around them, life mages find themselves *ahem* eager to start families, and summoners find magical creatures drawn to them unbidden.

Special Aspects of Magic:
-Power Storage: Living things -- Many living things store magical energy in their bodies... but how do you get it out? And does it actually get generated by them, or are they absorbing it from somewhere?
-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.
Heal: Sun


A plainly-formatted version of these notes you can copy elsewhere:-- Magic System --
Magic is part of the way the universe works, and can be studied scientifically. Magic IS the world's technology. It's used for all sorts of common, ordinary tasks: locking doors, cutting wood, fetching water. 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 is divided into standard "spells" like "Fireball," with fairly consistent power levels and effects. Inventing new effects is a long, hard process and often worth getting the new spell named after yourself. Great preparation goes into most magic, with fragile props and lots of opportunity for the mage to be interrupted in various ways. Can a mage step aside and have an assistant fill in during a ritual? What happens if someone wanders into the magic circle? 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 some difficult mental gymnastics, something like poetic composition or mathematics. Not everyone is good at it. The types of magical energy the mage works with surround them for a while after use. Air mages find papers fluttering around them, life mages find themselves *ahem* eager to start families, and summoners find magical creatures drawn to them unbidden.

Other notes: Many living things store magical energy in their bodies... but how do you get it out? And does it actually get generated by them, or are they absorbing it from somewhere? 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: Heal: Sun

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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