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?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?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?BirthrightMagic comes with a certain bloodline, ethnicity, or humanoid species. Racism is justified in one sense.
FormalityImprovisedThere are distinct, named "spells," but it's possible to combine and modify them in various ways.
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 TechnologyMutual interferenceMagic and technology badly disrupt each other. Bringing a simple good-luck charm near a helicopter would make it crash, and gods help you if you trick a kitsune into approaching a nanotech lab.


The Drawbacks of Magic:
-Specialties: Mages tend to have a knack for one specific type of magic and to be fairly poor at others.
-Limit: Number of Spells: A mage only has access to a limited set of powers at any one time, out of a larger potential set. This may be due to incompatibility of some magic items, mental states, times of year etc..

Special Aspects of Magic:
-Enchanted Items: Temporary -- It's possible to put spells temporarily into/onto physical objects for later use.

Theme / Elements of Magic:
These are the main actions and substances that magic works with.
Destroy: Elemental: Water/Fire/Earth/Wood/Metal, Death, and Darkness.


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 is so subtle that skeptics don't believe it exists at all. The true believers happen to be right in this case. Magic is widespread and commonly studied; many magic-related organizations exist. A few strange creatures like dragons exist that can use magic. Magic comes with a certain bloodline, ethnicity, or humanoid species. Racism is justified in one sense. There are distinct, named "spells," but it's possible to combine and modify them in various ways. 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 badly disrupt each other. Bringing a simple good-luck charm near a helicopter would make it crash, and gods help you if you trick a kitsune into approaching a nanotech lab.

Drawbacks of magic: Mages tend to have a knack for one specific type of magic and to be fairly poor at others. A mage only has access to a limited set of powers at any one time, out of a larger potential set. This may be due to incompatibility of some magic items, mental states, times of year etc..

Other notes: It's possible to put spells temporarily into/onto physical objects for later use.

Theme: Destroy: Elemental: Water/Fire/Earth/Wood/Metal, Death, and Darkness.

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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