Magic Systems

I’m going to admit, I’m not really a “systems” or “rules” sort of person.  I’ve always preferred a good story, and never really cared about how exactly the magic works.  Which left me in a bit of an awkward spot when I realized that magic is an extremely important component of City of the Dead.  So during this last #WriteFriday, I spent a huge chunk of time trying to think through the magic system of the world.

To that end, I needed some help.  So I went online and found a couple of great articles to get me started.  There were three in particular that I found really helpful:

  1. Janice Hardy’s Do You Believe in Magic? Building a Magic System for Your World
  2. Brandon Sanderson’s First Law
  3. Sanderson’s Second Law

(I also found Sanderson’s Third Law of Magic, but that was after I was done working on City of the Dead for the night).

Sanderson’s First two Laws were great for helping me think through the beginnings of my magic system.  Do I want it to be a soft magic system?  Hard magic?  Somewhere in between?  What will people be able to do with this system?  What are its limitations?  By the end of the night (and with some help from my friend Scott, who let me bounce some ideas off of him), I had a basic system that I was rather happy with.  Of course now, I’m going to have to rethink through some of the setting pieces, which no longer work.

On a related note, that Apocalypse Madness story I wrote for January no longer works either.

Hardy’s article likewise had some great advice for starting off, but didn’t go into as much depth as Sanderson did.  So I definitely recommend starting with Sanderson’s laws.  But once you’re past the initial stuff, Hardy gives you some great questions to think through how magic will work in both your larger world and your story.

If you’ve found any other articles to be helpful when designing magic systems (or have your own tips), please post them in the comments!  I’d love to see what other people have to say on the subject.


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Filed under Worldbuilding, Writing

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