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?No oneIt's unheard of for anyone to have magic nowadays, but in legends and prophecies there are exceptions... There may also be magical artifacts or creatures that mundane humans can find.
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.
RitualMental effortUsing magic can be done with a thought, with little mental or physical effort.
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:
-Deformity: Magic deforms a mage in some minor but characteristic way. Hair loss? Skin markings? A visible aura?
-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: 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.
Transform / Destroy / Heal: Summoning, Fire, and Sun.


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. It's unheard of for anyone to have magic nowadays, but in legends and prophecies there are exceptions... There may also be magical artifacts or creatures that mundane humans can find. 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. Using magic can be done with a thought, with little mental or physical effort. 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 deforms a mage in some minor but characteristic way. Hair loss? Skin markings? A visible aura? 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: The main way to use magic is to make enchanted items, rather than casting spells directly.

Theme: Transform / Destroy / Heal: Summoning, Fire, and 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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