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 FromSpiritsSupernatural beings within the universe lend their aid to certain people; are these beings intelligent, and what are their motives if so?
How Powerful Is It?Barely noticableMagic is so subtle that skeptics don't believe it exists at all. The true believers happen to be right in this case.
Who Has Magic?Few peopleMages are rare and feared for their power. Governments want mages either working for them, or dead.
Nonhumans and MagicCertain speciesWhole species of creatures exist that can use magic, or that even depend on it.
How Is It Gotten?RandomSome people can use magic better than others, and it's not clear how or why. Their existence baffles scientists and philosophers, who seek a more satisfying explanation.
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.
RitualWords and gesturesA small physical effort is needed for magic; a mage who can't do some physical thing (stereotypically, talk or move their hands) is hampered.
Magic and TechnologyCompatibleMagic and technology don't interact much at all; there are no specific magic/tech hybrids.


The Drawbacks of Magic:
-Insanity: Magic tends to drive its users mad, and the most powerful mages are also the ones who are completely nuts. Not good.
-Limit: Data: It's important for a mage to keep certain recorded data handy, the way a Rennaissance navigator needed a book of astronomical measurements and a good clock to calculate latitude.

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.
Transform: Star, and Flesh.


A plainly-formatted version of these notes you can copy elsewhere:-- Magic System --
Supernatural beings within the universe lend their aid to certain people; are these beings intelligent, and what are their motives if so? Magic is so subtle that skeptics don't believe it exists at all. The true believers happen to be right in this case. Mages are rare and feared for their power. Governments want mages either working for them, or dead. Whole species of creatures exist that can use magic, or that even depend on it. Some people can use magic better than others, and it's not clear how or why. Their existence baffles scientists and philosophers, who seek a more satisfying explanation. 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. A small physical effort is needed for magic; a mage who can't do some physical thing (stereotypically, talk or move their hands) is hampered. Magic and technology don't interact much at all; there are no specific magic/tech hybrids.

Drawbacks of magic: Magic tends to drive its users mad, and the most powerful mages are also the ones who are completely nuts. Not good. It's important for a mage to keep certain recorded data handy, the way a Rennaissance navigator needed a book of astronomical measurements and a good clock to calculate latitude.

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

Theme: Transform: Star, and Flesh.

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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