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?MajorMagic is a big part of how the world works. There may be whole industries that rely on it. If mages themselves are rare, they're probably busy crafting magic items or working on big projects.
Who Has Magic?Some peopleMagic is common enough that mages aren't abberations, though they still stand out. They may belong to a particular group or bloodline.
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.
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.
RitualPropsMagic requires having certain objects on hand, such as a staff. These can be stolen or destroyed... or secretly replaced.
Magic and TechnologySynergyThe only thing better than a giant robot is an ENCHANTED giant robot. Students study magic with an electronic device known as a Speak 'n Spell.


The Drawbacks of Magic:
-Stigma: Monitored: Everybody knows... Magic is dangerous, and people who are good with it need to be watched lest they do evil with it.
-Limit: Geography: Magic is tied to particular places or types of terrain, such as holy sites or mountaintops.

Special Aspects of Magic:
-Enchanted Items: Obligatory -- The main way to use magic is to make enchanted items, rather than casting spells directly.

Theme / Elements of Magic:
These are the main actions and substances that magic works with.
Perceive / Transform / Create: Elemental: Fire/Water/Earth/Air


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 is a big part of how the world works. There may be whole industries that rely on it. If mages themselves are rare, they're probably busy crafting magic items or working on big projects. Magic is common enough that mages aren't abberations, though they still stand out. They may belong to a particular group or bloodline. 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. 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. Magic requires having certain objects on hand, such as a staff. These can be stolen or destroyed... or secretly replaced. The only thing better than a giant robot is an ENCHANTED giant robot. Students study magic with an electronic device known as a Speak 'n Spell.

Drawbacks of magic: Everybody knows... Magic is dangerous, and people who are good with it need to be watched lest they do evil with it. Magic is tied to particular places or types of terrain, such as holy sites or mountaintops.

Other notes: The main way to use magic is to make enchanted items, rather than casting spells directly.

Theme: Perceive / Transform / Create: Elemental: Fire/Water/Earth/Air

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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