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 FromPhysicsMagic is part of the way the universe works, and can be studied scientifically.
How Powerful Is It?MinorMagic can be a useful supplement to normal physical effort, eg. reinforcing a wall that's been built with solid mundane engineering.
Who Has Magic?Few peopleMages are rare and feared for their power. Governments want mages either working for them, or dead.
Nonhumans and MagicMany speciesMagic is a major part of biology on this world. Plants, animals etc. evolved to use it and can't live without it. Think of creatures that use spells to support their bodies, to sense their environment, or to reproduce.
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.
FormalityVersatileThere are standard methods of achieving certain magical effects ("This is how you create ice..."), but a good mage can use magic to do any specific thing they can think of, within their power, without having to invent a rigidly-defined recipe for it.
RitualPropsMagic requires having certain objects on hand, such as a staff. These can be stolen or destroyed... or secretly replaced.
Magic and TechnologySpecific suppressionA particular type of magic plays havoc with machines (the Summon Gremlin spell?), and/or a specific technology (a mana vaccuum?) suppresses magic.


The Drawbacks of Magic:
-Limit: Isolation: Magic is most powerful when the user is alone.
-Mana Level Rising: The world's level of magical power is growing, whether due to new discoveries or natural fluctuations. Will people be able to make good use of this new power?

Special Aspects of Magic:
-Power Storage: People power -- The human body stores a certain amount of magical power. Does it regenerate over time, or is there something else that needs to be done? Can mundane people store energy for mages?

Theme / Elements of Magic:
These are the main actions and substances that magic works with.
Transform / Perceive / Sustain: Energy, and Meta-Magic.


A plainly-formatted version of these notes you can copy elsewhere:-- Magic System --
Magic is part of the way the universe works, and can be studied scientifically. Magic can be a useful supplement to normal physical effort, eg. reinforcing a wall that's been built with solid mundane engineering. Mages are rare and feared for their power. Governments want mages either working for them, or dead. Magic is a major part of biology on this world. Plants, animals etc. evolved to use it and can't live without it. Think of creatures that use spells to support their bodies, to sense their environment, or to reproduce. 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. There are standard methods of achieving certain magical effects ("This is how you create ice..."), but a good mage can use magic to do any specific thing they can think of, within their power, without having to invent a rigidly-defined recipe for it. Magic requires having certain objects on hand, such as a staff. These can be stolen or destroyed... or secretly replaced. A particular type of magic plays havoc with machines (the Summon Gremlin spell?), and/or a specific technology (a mana vaccuum?) suppresses magic.

Drawbacks of magic: Magic is most powerful when the user is alone. The world's level of magical power is growing, whether due to new discoveries or natural fluctuations. Will people be able to make good use of this new power?

Other notes: The human body stores a certain amount of magical power. Does it regenerate over time, or is there something else that needs to be done? Can mundane people store energy for mages?

Theme: Transform / Perceive / Sustain: Energy, and Meta-Magic.

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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