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?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?Many peopleMagic is widespread and commonly studied; many magic-related organizations exist.
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.
FormalityDiscrete spellsMagic is divided into standard "spells" like "Fireball," with fairly consistent power levels and effects. Inventing new effects is a long, hard process and often worth getting the new spell named after yourself.
RitualMental effortUsing magic can be done with a thought, with little mental or physical effort.
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:
-Stigma: Perverted: Everybody knows... Mages are perverts. What sick person would manipulate reality the way they do?
-Gender Change: Magic is tied to masculinity or femininity in such a way that casters of one or both sexes find themselves gender-reversed.

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 / Sustain / Perceive: Space


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 can be a useful supplement to normal physical effort, eg. reinforcing a wall that's been built with solid mundane engineering. Magic is widespread and commonly studied; many magic-related organizations exist. 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. Magic is divided into standard "spells" like "Fireball," with fairly consistent power levels and effects. Inventing new effects is a long, hard process and often worth getting the new spell named after yourself. Using magic can be done with a thought, with little mental or physical effort. 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: Everybody knows... Mages are perverts. What sick person would manipulate reality the way they do? Magic is tied to masculinity or femininity in such a way that casters of one or both sexes find themselves gender-reversed.

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 / Sustain / Perceive: Space

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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