Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

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Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby liberonscien » Tue Jan 03, 2017 7:34 pm UTC

What is the most realistic magic system? How could it be made more realistic without removing the magic?
I personally believe the magic system in the Young Wizard series seems somewhat realistic in that it takes into account some real physics like escape velocity and some quantum mechanics, I think.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby PeteP » Tue Jan 03, 2017 8:14 pm UTC

Define realistic. Based on some pseudo science to try justifying how it works (see some stuff with psychics)? Based on fictional physics but a logical well thought out system based on these physics? The users making use of real physical effects? The magic having physic based consequences (as in the initial action is magic but the results are derived from physical calculations from that point)?

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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Jan 03, 2017 8:29 pm UTC

While I have a soft-spot for Discworld's magic (such that at its most basic, a wizard attempting to move an object by the power of his mind alone means that the force needed to move that object applies in reaction against the caster's brain - which is squishy!), there's also a lot of implicit/explicit messing with those rules, usually in ways that the universe doesn't realise quickly enough that it is being 'gamed'...

I did, though, rather like the system developed by Weis and Hickman for the Darksword Trilogy, and then published as an RPG book. Especially that all magic (except the Ninth magic, which is why the so-called 'Death' type is considered so dangerous and outlawed by the 'Church') requires a quite specific power. Limited primarily by the caster's ability in the standard use/recover cycles, but could be suplemented by the (not banned) non-casting 'Life' order of magic, who are conduits ('Catalysts') to allow more extravagent acts of thaumaturgy. And skill/ability is needed to handle larger flows, just as you need more robust electrical apparatus to handle mains power, and you can blow fuses (if not more) if you get it wrong.

I was quite impressed with the Darksword Adventures mechanism, certainly, but that was the late '80s. I' ve never side-by-side compared it with something more recent (like GURPS Magic or the like) to spot its failings. But, for 'realism', it seemed at the time to be quite comprehensive (without being too restrictive or casually disinterested). The works also dealt with how to meld with a non-magic world (or even an alternate-type magical world, should a gaming group of either origin come across a portal leading to the Darksword world), and the question of the magic(/Life) being removed is also addressed.

Maybe I should try to look up the system again. But consider this as a pointer, if not a full explanation of the idea...

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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Xanthir » Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:18 pm UTC

All of Brandon Sanderson's novels use unique and interesting magic-physics systems, where there are hard rules that the magic always obeys.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby liberonscien » Sat Jan 07, 2017 9:29 pm UTC

PeteP wrote:Define realistic. Based on some pseudo science to try justifying how it works (see some stuff with psychics)? Based on fictional physics but a logical well thought out system based on these physics? The users making use of real physical effects? The magic having physic based consequences (as in the initial action is magic but the results are derived from physical calculations from that point)?

Any of the above.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby liberonscien » Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:19 pm UTC

I think Diane Duane's system is pretty good. It takes thermodynamics into account.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Himself » Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:38 am UTC

I'd say a good candidate is what Patrick Rothfuss came up with for the Kingkiller series with Sympathy. It basically accounts for a decent amount of physics with much of it based on applying the right amount of energy from the right source.
A close second would probably be the pymary in the webcomic Unsounded, which works somewhat along the lines of entering commands into a computer, only that computer works a bit like the Force. It works by moving around aspects such as heat, solidity, sharpness, etc. The only shortcoming I see is it is not explained what are and aren't useable aspects.

Or you could go with real life. We have mastered and largely understand processes that were once seen as magical or the work of the gods. Compared to say, ancient Greece, we are in the territory of sufficiently advanced technology/sufficiently analyzed magic.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Peaceful Whale » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:25 am UTC

Xanthir wrote:All of Brandon Sanderson's novels use unique and interesting magic-physics systems, where there are hard rules that the magic always obeys.


Seconded. Also, any other cosmere fans?

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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:51 am UTC

I'd say economic sense is a big thing.

There tends to be two major fridge logic issues:
1) How are the Aes Sedai wealthy is they don't charge money?
2) Wouldn't Storm do more good fighting drought in Africa than crime in America?
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Jorpho » Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:04 pm UTC

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality goes to impressive lengths to make sense of Rowling's world.

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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Jan 12, 2018 7:18 pm UTC

Issues with the book aside, to echo a previous post, I really enjoyed sympathy as a magic system in Name of the Wind. The idea being you bind two things and something is shared between them. So, you can bind, say, a burning building to a lake, and the lake will get hotter and the fires will dim. You can bind the momentum of a fired crossbow bolt to an oak tree, and the bolt will fall to the ground. Like-like bindings are better, so binding, say, the momentum of a wooden arrow to a stone may result in an imperfect connection, and the bolt slows down, instead of stopping outright. And links are leaky, meaning if you bind a lightening bolt to the earth, some of that energy spills over to you.

Also, it's not 'realistic', but the Long Price Quartet describes magic as being a perfectly described concept that is so perfectly described it creates a manifestation of the concept and grants the describer control over said concept. Naturally, any flaws in the attempted describing of a new concept are hugely dangerous, so, try to describe the concept of 'Merging Metals' but fail to include a clause distinguishing you from that which you hope to merge, and you become a lump of homogenous paste.

The Demon Cycle Saga was pretty campy, but the magic system is based around sketching symbols (Wards) and powering them to produce an effect. Heat wards project heat, Impact wards project kinetic force, Unseeing wards make you blurry, that sort of thing. It felt like programming.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Jan 16, 2018 4:07 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote: sympathy as a magic system ......... it's not 'realistic'...
I think certain types of realism are undesirable, and if fact, annoying and trite.

A person generally shouldn't write a fantasy story where there is magic, but magical thinking doesn't apply to it.

Sure, maybe not all magical thinking applies ("Maybe you can't cast because you don't believe in yourself?" "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard").

Star wars is fantasy because the force works based off of how people feel.
Star Wars is sci-fi because a hyoerdrive works based off of how a lifeless lump of metal was configured.
The Demon Cycle Saga ..... It felt like programming.
I feel like (in a way) programming is all an attempt to make magic real. We start with small concrete elements and we create a solid ontology for our nebulous human concepts by rebuilding them out of circuits and logic.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Ginger » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:01 am UTC

LOL Ha-ha-ha-ha men tellin' ppl how to write THEIR NOT YOUR fantasy stories by shaming them for making magic. Magic shouldn't be realistic, it shouldn't be science-based that is boring boring, and it should be based off of feelings preferably feminine ones. I liked the blood witch on Game of Thrones because there were prices to her magic namely that the person she did it on didn't quite come back the same as he was before. I liked the Bending in Avatar: The Last Airbender because it was based on stuffs like Katara's feelings and body movements and martial arts. Neither of those acts of magic was "realistic or logical" and both were excellent and the kinds of magic I wanna see in the fantasy stories I'M gonna write all over the places with the bad bad magical thinking.
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