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: ......it's not 'realistic'...
I think certain types of realism are undesirable, and in 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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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:22 pm UTC

You can't insist that there is no rationality (within a context) to magic, either. It can be outright weird, still, such that (normally, if not always!) a Discworld wizard trying to levitate a heavy weight with his mind is going to effectively trying to balance that weight onto his squishy brain (ouch!), and a Discworld Vampiress has to turn into a whole load of bats, equal to their original mass.

(Ok, Discworld breaks its own rules both after and before the fact. A Sourcerer just pumps raw magic into anything to make it happen anyway, inertial-balancing across the Disc can swap small cannons with people across three continents, male Vampires can do the single-bat thing (and also don't have to worry about some of their transitioning bats carrying a small pack of clothes, 'cos they "rematerialise" their clothing). Some of this can be put down to the earlier stuff being high-fantasy and only later being refined to the more thoughtful. Still, the Witches tended to be consistent in 'conservation of reality', from the beginning. Granny's delayed (but not avoided) hand-wound, Tiffany+Hiver turning a person into a frog (with the surplus mass left 'spare', etc.)

Write it how you want, basically. Be prepared for the consequences either way.

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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Ginger » Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:43 pm UTC

I as well like how my little game does magic: It can raise the dead yet not if they are too mangled or souls defiled. It can keep you alive at the price of growing demoness horns and extra demonic limbs and speaking in tongues. It's based on faith for religious clerics and priestesses and logic and maths for Arcane Mages. So there's a setting that does them BOTH It doesn't have to have to be either feminine/masculine feelings and belief in yourselves/deities or hard maths and sciences to make magical effects work. And you can turn ppl into little cutey-adorbs sheeps and frogs w/Polymorph and Hex respectively ha-ha. <3 It.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:50 pm UTC

Ginger wrote:LOL Ha-ha-ha-ha men tellin' ppl how to write THEIR NOT YOUR fantasy stories by shaming them for making magic.
... wat

Ginger wrote: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
:roll:

If you have a preference for the magic you read, that's fine, and wonderful, but you don't have to be an asshole about it and shit on people discussing their preferences for the magic they read.

Ginger wrote: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.


As someone who enjoyed both of those *as well*, I'll point out that neither were specifically creations of women, nor unique to those books, nor absent of logical constraints. Feel free to copy those highly entertaining magical sources in your stories, no one is telling you not to.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:54 pm UTC

Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:sympathy as a magic system ......... it's not 'realistic'...
I found it kind of weird that you seemingly hacked my quotes together to say something entirely different to what I had actually written.

Quizatzhaderac wrote:I think certain types of realism are undesirable, and if fact, annoying and trite.
I agree! I have no problem with magic that violates logic, and am currently playing a game that deals heavily with multiple forms of magic interacting (poorly!).

Quizatzhaderac wrote: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.
I agree, and that's one of the things that I liked about The Long Price Quartet and The Demon Cycle Saga. At least in The Long Price Quartet, it was attempting to apply said programming theory to the esoteric. The Poets weren't binding "Fireball", they were binding "Removing the part that continues" for the varies applications that can have.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Ginger » Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:15 pm UTC

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

SO So right there Mr. Quiza said the exact words that, "A person shouldn't generally write a fantasy story where there is magic blah-blah magical thinking...." So the men of the thread were shitting on ME first, Mr. Good. Not me giving garbage to them. THEY Insulted the very idea of magical thinking and feelings operating magics not hard sciences and maths.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:22 pm UTC

I read that as the opposite - that Quiz was saying that if you are writing a story with magic and are not using some kind of magical thinking, you're not writing about magic.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:42 pm UTC

And furthermore that talking about 'your preference for the way people in general write' is just that, a preference, just like you stated a preference for the sort of writing in general that you preferred.

Especially because your first post in the thread was you taking offense at something someone else wrote, claiming they wrote it about you?
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Ginger » Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:19 pm UTC

Yes I suppose you're both right. I should have said something more general and less provocative. Anyways I like Lilith from a certain demon hunting show. Her magic can obliterate stuff. She can psychically manipulate objects or bodies w/her mind. And it's an infernal power source. She can as well make deals sealed w/a kiss (not in her kid possessed bodies just her adults ones) that can steal your soul, make you beautiful w/a prices, send Hellhounds after you to collect. One improvement: Invisible hell hounds are kinda silly in my opinion. I wanna see them even if they're not big huge dogs.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:23 pm UTC

I can get behind a magical system that isn't bound by rules, but I think a magic system that is simply powered by plot is a little dull. Someone who can wave a hand and maybe grunt and summon daffodils, heal a sick puppy, pick a lock, and/or make someone fall in love with them seems like lazy writing more than cool powers. Some constraints, some challenge, some reason that the person can do this or why they're doing it is in order.

And the flip side of this of course is that even a magical system entirely based on rules and price and consequence can still fall prey to the power of plot. You can't draw neat little boxes are 'what makes a good story'. Sometimes campy is fun. Sometimes it isn't.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:27 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Quizatzhaderac wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:sympathy as a magic system ......... it's not 'realistic'...
I found it kind of weird that you seemingly hacked my quotes together to say something entirely different to what I had actually written.
Oh, shit; those to phrases weren't even in the same paragraph.

Sorry, I'll edit my post to be less misleading.
SecondTalon wrote:I read that as the opposite - that Quiz was saying that if you are writing a story with magic and are not using some kind of magical thinking, you're not writing about magic.
Correct.
Ginger wrote: hard maths and sciences to make magical effects work
I'd say (in way) the idea that one can be so smart to just math a fireball into existence is pretty magical thinking.
Invisible hell hounds are kinda silly in my opinion. I wanna see them even if they're not big huge dogs.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby MostlyHarmless » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:56 am UTC

I haven't read this in a long time, but I really enjoyed the magic system from Rick Cook's "The Wiz Biz". The main character is a modern day (well, in 1989) programmer who is summoned to a fantasy world, so he starts programming magic by making tiny little spells that are the equivalent of machine language instructions and combining them into large, complicated spells.

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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Ginger » Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:11 am UTC

LOL Hellish Paris H. with a Hell Pomeranian on a pink pink leash or something. <3 And I remember reading about a childs' books series w/kids that were sorceresses and sorcerers and they had compendiums of spells on their encyclopedia websites, their phones, their laptops etcetera. Don't remember the name of the series though. And I tried to make an elemental magics system. The Goddess that watched over, yet did not control OR create, water was the deceptive liar liar goddess of illusions and physical attraction and water could disguise you as someone or any beast you've seen and studied enough to know how to act like and be them. The goddess of fire was the goddess of military conquests and her magic could force soldiers to follow you through charisma if they already agreed with your views to begin w/yet not conscript unwillingly.

I like magics w/heavy heavy implicit rules. Somethings a succubus doesn't state when you make a deal w/her. Some things like: Now you're a popular girl yet you're only popular for bad flirting and dates. Magics that can mess u up if you don't follow their rules. And the rules don't have to make sense. I don't don't like it when they're outright contradictory however. Stuff like, "Void magic is made out of negative emotions like despair, depression and anxiety and can somehow do everything positive emotions magics can do?" So like what's the difference between positives and negatives emotion spells then?
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jan 17, 2018 3:35 pm UTC

MostlyHarmless wrote:I haven't read this in a long time, but I really enjoyed the magic system from Rick Cook's "The Wiz Biz". The main character is a modern day (well, in 1989) programmer who is summoned to a fantasy world, so he starts programming magic by making tiny little spells that are the equivalent of machine language instructions and combining them into large, complicated spells.

You may enjoy Spellwright. It was a little campy, but fairly fun.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby Zohar » Wed Jan 17, 2018 4:56 pm UTC

Or Magic 2.0, a series by Scott Meyer (creator of the now-defunct and excellent webcomic Basic Instructions) - a programmer finds a file that alters reality. He starts playing around with it. Mostly hilarity (and some male-fantasy wish-fulfillment but not too bad) ensues.
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Re: Most realistic magic system and areas for improvement

Postby tomandlu » Sun Mar 18, 2018 3:42 pm UTC

To take a left-turn, magic in Bernard Cornwell's Arthurian Warlord Chronicles* is based on never being quite sure whether it was magic or not (and when it most looks like magic, the curtain is very quickly pulled back). Nothing that happens can't be explained as a combination of coincidence, knowledge and wisdom, and Cornwell does a very good job of making neither the approach he takes nor that judgement seem reductive. It's very much left up to the reader.

* cracking read btw - his descriptions of Anglo-Saxon period warfare are both evocative and coherent
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