Reblog this and I’ll respond with a magic system just for you.
(limit: when I run out of ideas.)
@binghsien these are all really cool! hope you don’t mind, i wanted to collect all of them in one post to reblog:
Miracle-baiting: Magic is performed by losing your faith in God,
who will then dispatch angels who perform miracles to bring you back
into the faith. By carefully structuring the circumstances of their
faith and their disaffection, the practitioner can produce
extraordinarily specific results.
Magic is made of missed meanings. Whenever a practitioner hides a
meaning in their words, and no one understands it, the meaning gains
a magical power and works into the world as a spell. The larger the
audience that does not understand the fullness of the words, the more
powerful the spell, the more durable the words, the longer the spell
persists. But if any one has the smallest inkling, the whole is
Magic is done by disingenuous arguments. If, starting from first
principles, the practitioner shows that reality must be a certain
way, it will conform to their argument henceforth.
Magic is done with inconsequential losses. Magicians arrange for
people to lose things which do not much matter to them – moments,
loose change, (most commonly) socks, etc – and the tiny bits of
loss add up to a great and righteous power before which nothing, not
even reality itself, can stand.
Magic is performed with the ends of things: stubs of candles,
cigarettes, the heels of bread, lives. Every thing has, in its last
moment, a burst of profound meaning. By adding these meanings
together, the magician may achieve any end at all.
Magic may accomplish, easily, anything which is completely
unimportant to the magician. Anything that matters to them, however,
is impossible. The most powerful magicians are meditative monks, but
a close second are disaffected hipsters.
Magic must be grown in the earth like a plant. It must be
carefully watered and tendered – sometimes for decades – before
it gives fruit. And, once it does fruit, suddenly the magician will
be confronted with far more spells than they can handle. To avoid
spoilage (and you don’t want your spells to spoil), they are
preserved, traditionally in a syrup of sugar and dreams.
Magic is one particular fish, in the entire ocean. Whoever
catches that fish, at that moment, has all the magic in the world.
When the magic is used, though, it settles on another fish.
Magic is a cup of hot tea, warm slippers, and some fresh baked
bread at the end of a long, cold day. It’s not good for much other
than making you feel comfortable and relax but, be honest, do you
really need anything else?
Magic is lost history. Each spell–and there are probably no
more than a dozen–can only be cast once. Only when the entire
world has forgotten about its casting, can it be cast again.
Magic is a discredited school of military tactics. Sure, court
wizards throwing fireballs and lightning strikes around a battle
worked well enough in the 1100s, but it was pretty much obsoleted by
mounted archers and better command-and-control systems.
You can do magic once in your life. If you love someone, if you
really truly are committed to them with the whole of your heart, you
can allow them to use your magic in your stead. Successful wizards
are often religious leaders, but even they’re not as powerful as
the leader singers of popular boy bands.
Magic is contracts with demons. However, due to the chilling
precedent set by Scratch v. Stone (1936), it is now only available
in certain off-shore tax havens and Delaware. After intense lobbying
by the recording industry, Congress is currently considering a bill
to overturn the ruling, but it’s being held up in committee.
Ice is magic. Wizards use magic by melting ice, releasing the
trapped magic inside. How much ice melts is the power of the spell.
In 1848, the wizard James Young cast a spell to make all the people
of the world wealthier, happier, healthier, and wiser. It had some
Magic is birds. The previous masters of this world, in pursuit of
ever-growing powers, painfully and gradually crafted their own forms
into magical spells. They lost themselves, becoming magic itself, a
transcendence they claim was the ultimate apotheosis of their majesty
and power. Nowadays, successful magicians always keep a handful of
seeds in their pockets.
Magic is the end of the world. It’s not hard to do – anyone
with a little power can learn how to do it – but, through all of
history, no one has been willing to undertake it. It’s simply too
large, too great an atrocity, for anyone to be willing to take that
step, to cast that spell. Are you any different?
Magic is understanding. Magic can do anything, but, to do that
thing, the magician must understand the exact nature of what they are
doing and the exact nature of what they are doing it to. Their
comprehension must precise in every detail. It must be absent any
approximation, uncertainty, or doubt, or the spell will fail
entirely. Sadly, because all human knowledge is, ultimately, a series
of imprecise models, no magicians have ever actually been able to
cast a spell.
are some advances in machine learning, however, that we are quite
Magic is gender norms. All the mistaken assumptions people make
about you, all the bullshit that they heap onto you, every time
someone misunderstands you or dismisses you or hurts you because of
your gender – because of the gap between their understanding of
your gender and your true self – builds inside you. It starts as
pain, and frustration, and fear, but it grows and grows until it is
an incalculable power. What are you going to do with it?
The cost of magic is hope. Successful magicians begin as either
the dreamers of great dreams or the sufferers of great oppression,
people whose lives are defined by hope (either because they have
given themselves to it, willingly, or because they have nothing else
remaining to them. ) They consume their hope, little by little, with
each spell they cast. Magic
can make great changes but in the end it is all the same. In the
end, they are left utterly devastated. In the end, they are left
without even hope.
Magic is done with mirrors. Sure, it may seem that a magician is
making the sun move backwards in the sky, or granting your heart’s
desire, or summoning demons from hell and angels from heaven, but,
trust me, it’s all a trick. It’s done with mirrors. Some of
those mirrors are very large, or very small, or don’t resemble
mirrors in most particulars. But it’s all a trick. Magic isn’t
real. Just smoke and mirrors. Mostly mirrors. Trust me.
Magic is flowers. Each flower – not each type of flower, but
each individual flower – has a name, and if you call it by name, it
will answer. For its friends, and flowers are very particular about
their friends, it will perform its magic. There are two complications
to this. One is that flowers are fond of very long names. The other
is that flowers have no brains at all, so don’t really understand
Animals are magic. Each animal has a particular type of magic that
the cast. Dogs, for the most part, cast spells of joy. Cats, for the
most part, cast spells of discernment and divination. Birds cast
spells of understanding. The greatest spell of all, the spell of
mutual understanding between people, which is to say, the spell of
peace, was cast by the dodos.
Magic is cast through your nerves. It runs from your brain – you
will – to your heart and then out through your nose, lips, and
fingertips, spreading outward, opening up to the world. The happiest
of magicians are the ones who only cast small spells inside
themselves. The most powerful magicians are in constant irritation
and pain, their nerves rubbed raw by the entire universe.
Magic is the works in progress. Witches are constantly starting
things – quilts, novels, pies – but never quite managing to
finish them or abandon them. Having so many open tasks allows them
great power, if only they get could around to using it.
Magic is fire. It consumes, creates, and transforms. It can harm
and can cure. It gives life – it is life. There is no trick, no
catch. Anyone can do it. It’s just how fire works. Fire is
Magic is in the bones of things. Witches do their magic with stews
and potions, cooking down bones into marrow, broth, and gelatin.
Warlocks do their magic with the bones of animals (and people) that
they sacrifice, not caring whose bones they use up in pursuit of
power. Wizards do their magic with ancient bones, old bones of
dinosaurs and dragons, bones that have turned stone and back again.
Doctors do their magic with living marrow, extracting cures from the
stem cells hidden within. Sages
do their magic alone, at peace, nourishing their own bones so that
they never need any others.
Magic is making sense of the world. When you understand something,
that first moment when it clicks for you, that is the source of
magic. Hold onto that understanding. Never learn another thing
about it. Because if you ever doubt it, if you ever learn that you
were wrong, or that the situation is more nuanced than that, you will
lose your power.
Magic is desire, unfulfilled. When you want something that you
can’t have, there is a power in that, a power that the learned can
wield towards fantastic ends. Powerful magicians want everything,
and have nothing. You could use your magic to gain what you desire
but that would be a mistake. It would leave you weak, open to
attack. It is better to simply want it, and never have it.
Magic is time. A flashy street magician will make a dozen
illusions in a few minutes, none with any power. Sorcerers might work
on a single spell for a dozen years. Real wizards are born already
casting their spell, and will die before its completion.
Magic is amazing. Magicians gain their power from the amazement of
those who see their magic. Clever practitioners will create larger
and larger spectacles for larger and larger audiences, tailoring them
specifically to delight and impress and, most importantly, to amaze.
When they lose their audience – when they become, as it were, an
old hat – they are forced to retirement. Many take jobs as
children’s party hosts, hoping to find that amazement and restart
Magic is skepticism. The only people who can successfully
practice magic are those who don’t believe it works. They start by
casting spells to debunk them and then, as their spells keep working,
their rationalizations grow increasingly complex and their magic
grows yet more powerful. Eventually, in the end, they admit to some
tiny shred of doubt. Maybe magic is real, after all? And, with that,
their magic is lost forever.
Magic is rhymes. Of course, there’s a lot of practice to it, and
training, and research, but the most important part is that whatever
spell you cast has to rhyme. Magic is very strict about this.
Research wizards are presently constructing a language that only uses
a single consonant, and have great hopes.
Magic runs on the wires, like electricity. Once, it could only be
practiced by esoteric wizards and extremely talented blacksmiths.
But, as wires have become better, finer, more precise, so too did
magic. As they became widespread, so too did magic. Now, nearly
every developed nation has on-demand magic in their homes, and
carries portable glyphs in their pocket for emergencies. Sure,
magic is unevenly distributed, but
the UN college of wizardry predicts that most if not all developing
nations will be fully enchanted by the year 2080.
Magic is in the hearts of stars. In each star, there is enough
magic to cast a single spell. So wizards have built great fleets of
starships and sent them hurtling through space, seeking out new
stars, with new hearts, in order to cast their magic. It will be
millenia before the ships arrive, and more time still for the wizards
to understand the heart of the star enough to claim its magic. But
the wizards do not mind. They are patient.
Magic is incomprehensible. If you understand how magic works, it
is lost to you. If you master it, it is gone. Some sorcerers choose
a life of willful ignorance to maintain their power. Others keep
pushing the limits of their own ignorance, seeking new things that
they do not understand, finding magic at the fringes of human
Magic works just like in a D&D, complete with spell slots and
everything. It’s uncanny.
Magic is willpower. Which is to say, it’s pretty much a factor
of whether your well-rested, well-fed, and have a low stress load.
Accomplished magicians eat balanced meals, go to bed on time, and
don’t take on too many projects at once. If they’re in a tight
pinch, they have a granola bar, drink some water, and take a few
deep, calm breaths.
Honey is magic. Bees gather magic from flowers, collecting all
that life energy and transformation and intensity of purpose, and
then witches take it from and do what they will with it. Agribusiness
doesn’t like witches. They’re the sort of stubborn old ladies
who won’t sell their plot of land in the middle of your vast
planned agricultural development. They’re annoying and old, and
clearly not the way of the future. But what’s to be done about it?
are powerful, and their magic is fearful. One day, an executive had a
clever idea about insecticides.
Magic is like love. The more you give, the more you have, and so
on and so forth. But it is dangerous. You give your magic to
someone, to help them, and they hold your magic in their hands. They
can hurt you with it – even kill you. They can betray or misuse
your magic. Sorcerers, who are powerful, love widely, and openly,
who-ever strikes their fancy and who-ever they can get into bed.
Wizards, who are wise, follow the path of Narcissus and love only
love by contract and within prescribed bounds of legal marriage.
Sages love the entire world, all at once, seeking safety in
diffusion. Witches, always practical, love their cats very much
Magic is the moon. Once, it was mystical, obscure, unknown. Neil
Armstrong, in one small step, claimed it for all of humanity. But
Buzz Aldrin, wicked at heart, kept some for himself, and devoted it
to a dark and patient power. At the end of time, when all
civilization is laid waste, Buzz Aldrin shall rule the ruins as an
immortal sorcerer king, laughing at the foolishness of Armstrong’s
Magic is done through hurting other people. It’s not possible to
be noble or self-sacrificing about it. It’s not possible to lessen
the blow. You have to hurt them – physically, emotionally, or
spiritually – for the magic to work. The more your hurt them, the
better it works. That’s it. There’s no clever twist. All there
really is to power is the suffering of others.
Magic is fashion. Successful mages ride that edge of being
different enough to be cool, without being so different that they’re
bizarre. Others, lesser talents, follow in their footsteps, buying
their spells from name-brand sorcerers and bragging about how much
they spent on them. Normal people have to find magic coordinating
the things that they can find at the thrift grimoires – a few of
them are sharp and can make that work for them, but most just try to
make do. No
one wants to get caught casting last year’s spells. Wizards have
all been casting almost exactly the same spell for over 100 years. It
keeps working. No one knows why. Witches just knit comfortable spells
for their grandchildren. It works, for them. No one knows why.
Magic is missing home. When you learn magic, you’re taken away
from your home, to some magician’s tower in a far away city. You
learn all sorts of amazing, powerful secrets of the universe, ways to
change and manipulate the world, and yet, you miss home. This is by
design. The more you miss home, the stronger your magic will be.
Wizards are great, and mighty. They can accomplish great things.
Kings and priests bow before them. But they can never go home. If
they set foot at home, even for a moment, their power is lost
forever. Eventually, though, they retire. They resign their mighty
posts. They put away their spellbooks and their wands and potions.
They pass on their responsibilities and undone tasks in an orderly
fashion to their trusted apprentices. And then they walk back home.
When they cross the threshold, home is there, just as they left it.
And they will never have to do any magic ever again.
Oh come on! You have magic systems, like, coming out of your ears.
You married one! fine. Magic is forgotten gods. Each god, when they
are forgotten, becomes a spell. Each time a spell is cast, a little
more of that god is let back into the world. If a god is
rediscovered, the spell is lost. Sorcerers are the enemies of
historians and archaeologists. They are friends to atheists, and
Hey cool, someone did all my magic systems in one post.
(Note: currently closed except to people I know and maybe people who asked nicely.)