Setting: Magical Systems

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Setting: Magical Systems

Postby Cheesefondue » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:18 am

Here are some ideas for magic systems I've been playing around with. Basically most of them are designed either for game theory challenges (especially soul magic) or for allowing smart protagonists to do interesting things:

*Contract magic:
Make deals with the avatars of past events, allowing a repeat of those events at any time. Often the deal-makers will agree to forget the deal.
*Ten thousand voices:
There are spiritual shards with specific powers all over the place; bind them to yourself, and they grant you their powers.
*Blood magic:
Use Contract magic to grant powers to your descendants; make sure the contract is carefully specified.
*Death force:
Sacrifice yourself to return as a being with great powers of healing and harm over living creatures, including yourself.
*Enlightened magic:
Each time you reach a new understanding, you can reach out and change what you have just understood.
*Soul magic:
Gradually accumulate power inside yourself, to release it all in one powerful effect that leaves you completely drained. Repeat.
*Music of creation:
You believe you understand how the world works, you believe you are a god. You are wrong. But you can use your delusion to partial effect.


https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Yd6 ... sp=sharing
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Re: Setting: Magical Systems

Postby Cheesefondue » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:20 am

Contract magic, Magical repeats

Caster names: Contractors, (Time-)Stutterers

Idea: Great events - floods, large battles, festivals - often generate avatars. These avatars are spirits of that event, and often don’t want to die as the event resolves and ends. A clever Stutterer can pass a contract with that avatar, giving them the power to revive them at a later date - and hence call back a flood, bring back a battling army, or force a population into a festival. These “revivals” are very specific in both location and effect - the general rule of contract magic is that the more restrictive the contracts, the more powerful the effect.

Two powerful restrictions are that the avatar’s effect (or at least the triggering condition) is determined when the contract is made (thus the Stutterer loses all flexibility), or that the Contractors loses the memory of the details of the contract (and thus will themselves be surprised when the magic happens, or at least not know exactly how to provoke it). For example, it is common that a contract will specify that the effect will happen whenever the Stutterer is in a particular location, and their life is in danger - but they aren’t allowed to remember the details.

Contracts with planned triggers and erased memories tend to be particularly powerful, making them popular (but, of course, hard to use).

(Some experts argue that great events do not spontaneously generate avatars, but that the process of creating a contract is what makes that spirit, but this point is controversial).

Spell-casting: Contractors don’t need to have much magical ability themselves. The key preparatory skills are in noticing the avatar, and crafting the right contract. Multiple-use contracts tend to have weaker effects than single use ones, and everything must be specified as much as possible - ambiguity weakens the effect. That is why there are relatively few very old contracts around: they tended to refer to places which no longer exist, and situations which no longer apply. The few valid old contracts are very powerful, though, simply by selection effects: if someone bothered to keep them around, they must have been worth it.

Contracts can be written, oral, or any other variant, and can include any conditions the contract creator desires. These contracts can then be traded or passed on, and sometimes even copied, if that is permitted within the contract.

Training: Lawyers and logicians tends to make good Stutterers.

Counters: Because the contracts are so specific, Contractors must accumulate a lot of contracts and maneuver in specific ways to be effective. They might be able to call down a sudden flood in a valley, but this won’t help them cure a wound, escape a jail, or flood the valley just next door. If the Contractor doesn’t choose the battlefield, they are generally ineffective (though note that since some contracts can be oral, it’s never certain that a Stutterer has been “disarmed”).
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Re: Setting: Magical Systems

Postby Cheesefondue » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:21 am

Ten thousand voices

Caster names: Spiritual leaders, Channellers, Demons, Hosts

Idea: The world is filled with shards - small fragments of spirits, souls, or something. They seem to have very limited personalities, and specific powers - making liquids lighter, dampening sounds, increasing anger in the local vicinity. Chanellers learn to seek out these shards and bind them to themselves.

When they do so, they gain the shard’s power - if they can access enough magical energy - and take on part of its personality. The effect works in reverse, as shards that have been bound to a Host for a long time are affected in reverse. One of the greatest sources of new shards is when a powerful old Host dies, releasing tens or even hundreds of their shards into the world. Novice Hosts wanting to claim them need to be careful their personality doesn’t get completely over-written.

Spell-casting: Spell casting involves figuring out the right spell, given the goal and the available shards, and getting enough magical power to do so. Some shards can allow accumulation of magical power, but typically the way of getting power is through participants in rituals. The more participants, the more powerful the ritual; even un-sharded participants grant almost as much power as sharded participants.

Contributors can be coerced into taking part, but it’s impossible to know if any given one has contributed power; they can choose to use their power against the ritual being performed instead of in its favour, and those two cannot be distinguished.

This is why Hosts that are also political leaders (such as the elected Demon Kings of the Mayil city-states) can cast absurdly powerful spells by enlisting their populations in a vast ritual - but only as long as they remain popular.

Training: Training can start at any age, and consists of two skills: that of finding and connecting shards to the Channeller, and that of figuring out how best to combine the shrads they have available. Since no two shards are exactly identical, and two Channellers will have different combinations of shards, figuring out the best use of these shards is firmly in the “art not science” category.

More advanced Hosts can arrange to share or exchange shards, making combined training more useful at the higher level.

A crucial, but underserved area of training, is coping with the psychological effects of having so many shards bound to one.

Counters: The ability of each shard tends to be very specific, so novice Channellers tend to have narrow abilities and are relatively easy to contain, especially if they are alone. If they have many shards or a lot of experience, they can combine the shards to get many different subtle effects. Accumulating magical power, triggered spells, delayed spells, and so on, are all possible with the right shards. On the other hand, some shards allow analysis of the shards of others, or even forcible separation of shards from their Hosts. Finally, Hosts can give up some of their shards, either voluntarily or under duress, or these shards can be magically neutralised by the right approach, so imprisoning Hosts is possible.
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Re: Setting: Magical Systems

Postby Cheesefondue » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:21 am

Blood magic, Old magic, Family power

Caster names: Aristocrats, Snobs, Lineaged, Pretenders

Idea: A blend of contract magic with other types of magic. It was realised that very specific restrictions could empower more versatile effects from contract magic. One major restriction would be that the contractor would not empower themselves, but only others in the distant future. If the restrictions were narrow enough, these contracts could not only summon up the avatar of a past event, but bind any other types of magical effect as well (except for Enlightened magic, which always requires personal flashes of insight). This includes spirits, who can be bound to future mages.

Most often, these future mages would be the descendants of the casters, so some powerful families have accumulated large amounts of magical contracts around their “bloodline”. Along with some carefully managed intermarriages, this can lead to some people having vasts amounts of magical power just by their birth.

But inheritance and clan traditions have changed a lot over the centuries (without even considering cuckolding and the fact the ancient contract writers may have had a very approximate grasp of heredity and of the expected survival of their family or clan or nation). Thus the conditions of the blood magic are often ambiguous, and ambitious people from the “wrong” families often attempt to “usurp” the traditional blood magic of one group. If only the rightful Khan of the Allowines can call the desert storm; and if Mr Albert has officially changed his last name, and has been consecrated one night in the museum, by a drunken monk, next to the official Khan knife and wearing a passable imitation of the Allowine veil; then wouldn’t Mr Albert have a better claim to that Blood magic than the official Allowine descendant, who hasn’t observed any of those dead rituals?

Since the most powerful contract magics are those where the Contractor loses their memory of the details of the contract, it’s often hard for families to really keep their grip on the Blood magic.

Spell-casting: The spells can be cast using whatever magical tradition was bound to the contracts, though they often involve a lot more rituals and traditions, which may or may not be necessary.

Training: Most of the training is simply finding out about these old contracts, their effects and their limitations. A lot of historical and genealogical research is needed to figure out what contracts can be called upon, and the exact circumstances that allow them. What to wear, what language to speak, what titles to claim or take, etc... are key factors.

Counters: The magics can be countered in whatever way is appropriate to the magical tradition they derive from. Furthermore, the blood mage is vulnerable to anything that would make them ineligible for the original contract, which might be very hard or very easy to do.
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Re: Setting: Magical Systems

Postby Cheesefondue » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:21 am

Death force, Life force

Caster names: Death blades, Healers, Gatekeepers

Idea: A Death blade is a Host who has sacrificed themselves to resurrect as a new version. They are unaging (or at least can age at any pace and in any direction they prefer), and are superbe healers of themselves and of others. They can also grow and mutate living beings, and are hence also capable of maiming and killing with ease.

They invariably develop a restless and moody personality, and can’t stay long in the same place. The reason for this restlessness is not fully understood, but the most common failure in the self-sacrifice ritual is for the personality to become static and unchanging, and hence for the wannabe-Healer to simply stop. Thus only by adding restlessness to themselves can they avoid stasis.

Spell-casting: They draw power from their own deaths and lives, and can use this for feats of healing and transformation of living things. They can gain skill and control, but their power ultimately comes through effort: the more effort they put in (physical, emotional, or intellectual), the more powerful their effects.

Training: There is only one way to become a Healer: a powerful Host, filled with shards (see the Ten thousand voices magic system) must inject their personality into the shards, and then ritually sacrifice themselves. If the ritual is performed correctly, instead of dispersing after death, the shards will coalesce and reform the Host’s personality. If the body is then destroyed, the shards can regrow it; if any shard is removed or destroyed, the other ones can recreate it. Death blades are therefore very hard to kill through natural means.

After that, they have the Healer abilities as innate, and can only grow in power through knowledge, learning how to have the biggest influence at the smallest effort.

Counters: The abilities of Healers are innate, and can only be removed by destroying the Healer, which is hard to accomplish. They can be imprisoned in isolated non-organic jails, and some other systems of magic can deny them access to their powers. But in general, its simplest to destroy their current form as punishment/deterrence, and they’ll probably move on to new places after reforming.
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Re: Setting: Magical Systems

Postby Cheesefondue » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:22 am

Enlightened magic, Rando

Caster names: Wise Student, Seers, Randos, Erratics

Idea: Humans often have moments of insight and understanding. In those moments, a Seer can reach into the world, using their flash of insight and enlightenment to change, to change whatever the subject of their enlightenment is. So a Seer that suddenly understands the subtleties of flanking tactics can shift the positions and morale of battlefield units, one that grasps economics can make some group rich or poor, one that sees the lines of force in architecture can build or shatter buildings.

However, they can only use their magic in that one moment of insight, and never again. New insights grant new castings, but they can never repeat a previous “spell” or moment of enlightenment.

Spell-casting: A lot of casting is spontaneous, as powerful Seer gets a small or large insight, and rushes to change the world in that moment. When trying to deliberately force a casting, the Seer might take textbooks of the appropriate subject, or have conversations with appropriate experts or knowledgeable individuals. In one famous example, Fain the Slow ran a five day non-stop debate with military experts, while under siege, until she finally got the insight which rusted the weapons of the attacking forces (according to legend, this was due to the casual remarks of a passing blacksmith, though the sub-Vizier Arda claims it was her explanation of physics).

Training: It’s claimed that all humans can practice Enlightened magic (or Rando, as its called by those more frustrated by its unreliable nature), but most castings are incredibly feeble. Proper Seers are generally those who used their insights as children to make themselves more powerful, gradually building up their Enlightened magic abilities, until later in life, their rarer insights granted them huge powers.

Counters: Enlightened magic is almost impossible to counter. The castings are very powerful, and hard to prevent. A Seer could be deprived of books, conversation, and constantly distracted by pain and sounds, but this doesn’t reliably prevent insights (in particular, this doesn’t prevent insights into how terrible it is to be without books, conversations, and constantly distracted by pain and sounds...). Deterrence is the only effective method, but is unreliable at best.
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Re: Setting: Magical Systems

Postby Cheesefondue » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:23 am

Soul magic, Growing pains

Caster names: Patient ones, One-shot wonders, Sparks, Soul mage.

Idea: The concept of soul magic is very simple: the Sparks diverts part of their natural magical energy into a personal magic reservoir, which they can use to power many magical effects. This reservoir can only be accessed in one way, though: it’s all or nothing. Any casting uses up the whole of the Spark’s reserve, forcing them to start accumulating again. The reserve can be used in many different ways, making soul magic the most versatile magical system.

Spell-casting: Soul mages prefer to cast in one way: by not casting. A Spark full of magical energy is a terrifying threat; once that threat is used, they’re empty. So Sparks prefer to use the threat of their immense power to extort concessions from others. Small groups of Sparks, if they trust each other very strongly, can band together and alternate castings so that they can do occasional magic, while still being protected by their comrades.

Soul magic results in many “Death Spells”, where a Spark, seeing imminent or inevitable death approaching, uses their vast reserves for one last spell. These can be the most powerful discharges of magical power in the world, and their effects can be varied, fantastic, and terrifying; many older Sparks spend time designing the ideal Death Spell.

Training: The main trick to becoming a Spark is to master the setting aside of personal magical energy. This can be trained, and can be improved: some put aside magical energy at a higher pace than others. The rest of the training is mainly theory, figuring out how power can be used most effectively to achieve a goal. Because they can rarely cast - some teenage Sparks learn by casting tiny spells every hour or even minute, but after that they generally settle down to accumulating power for the long haul - Soul mages rarely make the most effective use of their immense power.

Counters: A “discharged” Spark is a weak as any human. If they’re imprisoned, they can be compelled to cast an effect every day or so, emptying their reserve. If the Spark has power reserves, then the whole trick is to get them to cast it for some reason (for a positive effect, or a negative effect targeted at someone else), and go after them subsequently (though an occasional contrary Spark has “discharged” their magic into simply making themselves a superhuman warrior for a time, which makes it inadvisable to attack them immediately).
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Re: Setting: Magical Systems

Postby Cheesefondue » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:23 am

Music of creation, Divine magic

Caster names: Gods, Changers (of the way), Demons (also a term used for those using the Ten thousand voices magic), Artists

Idea: Artists have a burningly clear idea of how creation works, and a crisp and certain vision of how they can change it and influence it.

They are wrong about this. But they could have been right. Reality might have worked how they thought it did. And so, when they are focused so strongly on their understanding, it does work that way, at least a little.

A connection to a story of how creation works

Spell-casting: Spell casting is unique for every Artist. They focus on how they believe creation works, how they should be able to change it, and then change it. This never works as intended, but always has some partial effect.

They only cast massive, world changing powers (“I will split the moon asunder to give light in the darkness every night!”) and only get partial effects (a reflection of the moon hovering in the sky for a few weeks). Whenever they do this, it generates large amounts of shards, that Channelers will try and grab; inspections of these shards reveal them to be connected with the magical effect that didn’t happen (eg shards of rock breaking and gravity nullification would naturally emerge from the failure of the power above).

Artists are the only known source of new shards on a large scale, but statistics indicate they cannot have generated all the shards in the world, so the original sources of shards are unknown.

Artists can only cast these effects at moments that are appropriate according to their own visions of reality (eg if implored by a town to do something about the bandits that raid the countryside every moonless night, if the implorations are heartfelt and other attempts have failed).

Training: Gods are generally made, not trained, though some parents have tried to bring up their kids with persistent delusions. This does work, to some extent, but the problem is that Gods are always headstrong, and so keeping them under parental control for any length of time is very difficult.

Deliberately seeking out delusions rarely works, but some who have been overwhelmed by life can spontaneously transform into Artists if their denial is strong enough. If a country is invaded and sacked, it’s likely that some of the most dedicated defenders may transform into Artists, full of a vision as to how that defeat was an illusion. Frenetic scientists and pseudo-scientist have also made the transition, if their self-belief was strong enough and reality was different enough.

Counters: Gods are even harder to contain that Randos. Even killing them might not be enough, as they may have beliefs about the afterlife, that allow them some sort of return. Some have managed to trap them by putting them in a world where all their delusions make sense (either through illusionary magic or through a staff of agreeing attendants), and there is no need to change anything. After several years of this treatment, some Gods have completely lost their powers, and reverted to humanity.
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Re: Setting: Magical Systems

Postby Cheesefondue » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:24 am

Magical (in)compatibilities

Complete incompatible:
* Music of Creation and Enlightened magic; the first projects their understanding on reality, the second understands reality as it is.

Mostly incompatible:
* Soul magic and Ten thousand voices (it’s hard to use Ten thousand voices without using up the reserve of Soul Magic, meaning that combined mages are generally just empowered Soul mages).
* Death force and Ten thousand voices (Death blades have magically strong personalities, meaning that shards connect only weakly to them).
* Death force and Soul magic (the Death blades’ restlessness prevents them accumulating the high power reserves of Soul magic).
* Death force and Blood magic (the “Death” of the practitioner normally breaks all the lineage effects in Blood magic contracts).

Minimally compatible in practice:
* Enlightened magic tends to require strong focus on that one path.
* Music of creation is more a way of living that a magical technique, so is often incompatible with other paths.
* Death force is incompatible with any path that requires continual focus or patience.

Maximally compatible:
* Contract magic and Blood magic are compatible with all other magics, and often leave time for pursuing other paths.

Most broken combinations:
* Death force and Enlightened magic (the restless Death blades can continue to develop deep enlightenments and moments of inspiration all through their extra life, often reaching insights beyond that of any normal mortal).
* Contract magic and Ten thousand voices (those two schools of magic don’t interfere with each other at all, and are both narrow in different ways, so a clever practitioner can use one to compensate for the weaknesses in the other).
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Re: Setting: Magical Systems

Postby Bluelantern » Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:33 pm

Cheesefondue wrote:Death force, Life force

Caster names: Death blades, Healers, Gatekeepers

Idea: A Death blade is a Host who has sacrificed themselves to resurrect as a new version. They are unaging (or at least can age at any pace and in any direction they prefer), and are superbe healers of themselves and of others. They can also grow and mutate living beings, and are hence also capable of maiming and killing with ease.

They invariably develop a restless and moody personality, and can’t stay long in the same place. The reason for this restlessness is not fully understood, but the most common failure in the self-sacrifice ritual is for the personality to become static and unchanging, and hence for the wannabe-Healer to simply stop. Thus only by adding restlessness to themselves can they avoid stasis.

Spell-casting: They draw power from their own deaths and lives, and can use this for feats of healing and transformation of living things. They can gain skill and control, but their power ultimately comes through effort: the more effort they put in (physical, emotional, or intellectual), the more powerful their effects.

Training: There is only one way to become a Healer: a powerful Host, filled with shards (see the Ten thousand voices magic system) must inject their personality into the shards, and then ritually sacrifice themselves. If the ritual is performed correctly, instead of dispersing after death, the shards will coalesce and reform the Host’s personality. If the body is then destroyed, the shards can regrow it; if any shard is removed or destroyed, the other ones can recreate it. Death blades are therefore very hard to kill through natural means.

After that, they have the Healer abilities as innate, and can only grow in power through knowledge, learning how to have the biggest influence at the smallest effort.

Counters: The abilities of Healers are innate, and can only be removed by destroying the Healer, which is hard to accomplish. They can be imprisoned in isolated non-organic jails, and some other systems of magic can deny them access to their powers. But in general, its simplest to destroy their current form as punishment/deterrence, and they’ll probably move on to new places after reforming.

Is it possible for someone else to do the ritual? And how hard is the ritual?
Sorry for my bad english

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