Friday, December 8, 2017

Limiting Magic #OurAuthorGang

Rich Feitelberg

With my world-building posts behind me now, I'm going to start a new series of posts, focusing on another topic I'm interested in: magic.

I'm not talking sleight of hand or tricks by Houdini. I'm talking about magic in fantasy stories. Magic of this type comes in all shapes and sizes and is one of the elements that sets fantasy stories apart from other genres.

In this series of posts, I’ll explore a few of the different types you might want to consider.

To start, consider how prevalent magic is in your story or your world. If everyone can do magic then it is not very special and it becomes more like using a cell phone or browsing the internet with a computer.

So I recommend keeping magic limited. Perhaps only one group of people can cast spells. Or perhaps only those who are taught can. Or perhaps magic is restricted to one part of the world by law or physical limitations.

The Harry Potter approach is that the use of magic is limited because the existence of wizards is secret. In a heroic fantasy story that’s not likely, but the use of magic could be outlawed because people of scared of wizards who can wield so much power. To balance that, you might set limits on how much magic any one people can do. Perhaps some spells are more costly than others. Or perhaps the trick is to break the spell caster’s concentration so he or she can’t cast spells.

Another aspect to think about is where does the power for magic come from? It is in the air or are wizards using a piece of themselves when they can spells. If the power is in the air, it can be like heat or light, something that exists in the environment that the wizard can draw upon. The limiting factor here is that casting spells is like physical exertion so eventually the wizard needs to rest. If the power from within the wizard, then each time the individual calls upon the power, the spell caster is eating away at him or herself, like a cancer. The effect of that is the wizard ages, grows gaunt, loses their hair, as if dying from cancer.

Regardless of the limiting factors you select, there are likely to be rules among the wizards about how and when to use spells. Likewise there probably rules for casting spells. We’ll look at these in the next post.

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