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 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.
RitualWords and gesturesA small physical effort is needed for magic; a mage who can't do some physical thing (stereotypically, talk or move their hands) is hampered.
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: Damned: Everybody knows... Mages are going straight to Hell for their wicked lifestyle.
-Death: Magic is so destructive of life that a single spell often kills the caster. What spell is worth dying for?

Special Aspects of Magic:
-Familiars: Can be created -- Some mages create "familiars" out of normal animals or spirits, maybe as assistants or for their own amusement.
-Power Storage: Ritual items -- Certain objects are natural sources of magic energy or useful as batteries. Mages might be over-dependent on foreign crystals, and threatening to drill for mana in endangered dragon preserves.

Theme / Elements of Magic:
These are the main actions and substances that magic works with.
Destroy / Control: Explosion, Reversal, and Storm.


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. 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. A small physical effort is needed for magic; a mage who can't do some physical thing (stereotypically, talk or move their hands) is hampered. 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... Mages are going straight to Hell for their wicked lifestyle. Magic is so destructive of life that a single spell often kills the caster. What spell is worth dying for?

Other notes: Some mages create "familiars" out of normal animals or spirits, maybe as assistants or for their own amusement. Certain objects are natural sources of magic energy or useful as batteries. Mages might be over-dependent on foreign crystals, and threatening to drill for mana in endangered dragon preserves.

Theme: Destroy / Control: Explosion, Reversal, and Storm.

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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