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?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?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 MagicRare creaturesA few strange creatures like dragons exist that can use magic.
How Is It Gotten?WorshipPower comes from the gods or spirits, who must be placated on a regular basis. If someone displeases them, is it possible for the gods/spirits to revoke their gift?
FormalityChaoticMagic seems to vary so much among people, times and places that it's hard to describe or study in a consistent way. Magical instruction focuses on how to find useful patterns in one's own magic.
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 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:
-Secret: Certain magical secrets must not be revealed. This may be a mystical taboo, or part of a guild mentality -- the Mages' Protective Association of Arcadia tries to suppress those illegal spell-traders.
-Specialties: Mages tend to have a knack for one specific type of magic and to be fairly poor at others.

Special Aspects of Magic:
-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.
Heal / Perceive: Darkness, Fire, and Soul.


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 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 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. A few strange creatures like dragons exist that can use magic. Power comes from the gods or spirits, who must be placated on a regular basis. If someone displeases them, is it possible for the gods/spirits to revoke their gift? Magic seems to vary so much among people, times and places that it's hard to describe or study in a consistent way. Magical instruction focuses on how to find useful patterns in one's own magic. 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 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: Certain magical secrets must not be revealed. This may be a mystical taboo, or part of a guild mentality -- the Mages' Protective Association of Arcadia tries to suppress those illegal spell-traders. Mages tend to have a knack for one specific type of magic and to be fairly poor at others.

Other notes: 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: Heal / Perceive: Darkness, Fire, and Soul.

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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