If there is one thing that defines a book as part of the fantasy genre, it’s probably the fact that it has magic in some form or another in it. From stories like Game of Thrones where magic is a very mysterious force to Mistborn where it is heavily explained magic is a key part of a fantasy tale.
Creating a Magic System
When creating a magic system, you need to think about a few things. Where does the magic come from? How is it used? What are the limitations (if any) to those using it? In this post, I will use detail the magic system of my Sundered Crown Saga as an example. In the novels themselves, I’ve chosen not to divulge too much to the reader as I want to keep it mysterious and allow them to learn about it as they read the books.
In the Sundered Crown Saga magic is a power that was harnessed by the gods. The world in which the saga is set was created by it. (You can read more about that here and read the origin of humans in the saga here)
As all humans in the world in which the saga is set are descended from those created by the gods, magic is hereditary. As the aeons have gone by and people spread across the world and developed technology, bloodlines have diluted to the point where most people can no longer use magic easily. Those that can are the mages. Bloodlines are vital to the amount of power a mage can wield. For example, Luxon Edioz the main character of the series has a very strong bloodline (I won’t give why its special away).
In the Sundered Crown Saga magic can be used for a wide variety of things. From creating light sources to destroying entire cities the things that magic can do is only limited by the abilities and strength of the person using it. There are various skill levels or circles as they’re called in the saga that range from the Lowest Ring to Highest Ring. The Lowest Ring covers simple abilities such as creating light, limited enhancing of physical abilities and lobbing weak fireballs. The Highest Ring, however, covers things like levitation, devastating elemental magic and the trickiest of all; Transmutation.
Bloodlines are important but so is the skill of the spellcaster. Through years of training, a mage with a relatively weak bloodline could cast the highest ring of spells, the only difference being that they would only be able to use it once. This brings us onto the limitations.
When creating a magic system, you need to include limitations. From a story perspective, it can get very boring if the spell caster is invincible. There is a reason why characters like Superman have a weakness. Having someone who is invincible often doesn’t make for good story telling. In the Sundered Crown Saga, using magic too often leaves the caster exhausted. Concentration plays a key part in using magic and focusing for long periods of time is draining. Their natural abilities also limit casters. A mage will tire far quicker than a wizard. Even the villain of the saga, the all powerful Danon is restrained at what he can do. Too much overuse can lead to permanent damage to the caster with the worst consequence being death.