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?Non-existantMagic doesn't really exist! Everything below is a lie, a delusion -- but people believe it anyway! Look at the profusion of magical beliefs in the real world for evidence that this is possible. Even though it's fake, it can have major social effects.
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 MagicCertain speciesWhole species of creatures exist that can use magic, or that even depend on it.
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.
RitualQuick ritualMagic requires a short series of actions that makes it obvious the mage is doing something and that can be disrupted, eg. a seconds-long dance or chant or a blatant aura-of-powering-up.
Magic and TechnologyCompatibleMagic and technology don't interact much at all; there are no specific magic/tech hybrids.


The Drawbacks of Magic:
-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..
-Silly Curse: Magic has embarassing and unpredictable side effects, eg. making one's clothes vanish, causing bad breath, or summoning harmless but annoying spirits. Maybe they're pranks by the gods.

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

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


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 doesn't really exist! Everything below is a lie, a delusion -- but people believe it anyway! Look at the profusion of magical beliefs in the real world for evidence that this is possible. Even though it's fake, it can have major social effects. 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. Whole species of creatures exist that can use magic, or that even depend on it. 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. Magic requires a short series of actions that makes it obvious the mage is doing something and that can be disrupted, eg. a seconds-long dance or chant or a blatant aura-of-powering-up. Magic and technology don't interact much at all; there are no specific magic/tech hybrids.

Drawbacks of magic: 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.. Magic has embarassing and unpredictable side effects, eg. making one's clothes vanish, causing bad breath, or summoning harmless but annoying spirits. Maybe they're pranks by the gods.

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

Theme: Create / Sustain: Elemental: Fire/Water/Earth/Air, and Matter.

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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