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 MagicHumans onlyFor some reason, humans (humanoids) are the only species that uses magic. Is this evidence of the nature of the human soul, or something to do with intelligence or the brain?
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?
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.
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:
-Stigma: Perverted: Everybody knows... Mages are perverts. What sick person would manipulate reality the way they do?
-Duty: A mage is often bound to serve some teacher or organization. This isn't necessarily bad, as this master may also provide income, protection and equipment.

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?
-Group Effects: Specific numbers -- Specific numbers of people have major effects on spells. Eg., the Great Mage had seven followers, so all the spells he designed require exactly seven assistants to cast.

Theme / Elements of Magic:
These are the main actions and substances that magic works with.
Sustain / Create: Reversal, Time, and Sand.


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. For some reason, humans (humanoids) are the only species that uses magic. Is this evidence of the nature of the human soul, or something to do with intelligence or the brain? 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? 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 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: Everybody knows... Mages are perverts. What sick person would manipulate reality the way they do? A mage is often bound to serve some teacher or organization. This isn't necessarily bad, as this master may also provide income, protection and equipment.

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? Specific numbers of people have major effects on spells. Eg., the Great Mage had seven followers, so all the spells he designed require exactly seven assistants to cast.

Theme: Sustain / Create: Reversal, Time, and Sand.

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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