View Full Version : Magic Theory

2019-04-25, 04:09 PM
I've been having trouble making a magic theory for my world. My idea so far involves six main types of magic:

Magic formed by us mortals piecing together the infinite secrets of the multiverse

Magic given by the gods to their believers for their faith

Magic given to mortals through pacts with otherworldly, non-divine entities

Magic that draws upon one's attunement to nature

A type of magic that draws upon the energy that suffuses all life

A type of magic that draws upon pure mental energy

That's the bare bones of it; I need some help fleshing it out.

2019-04-25, 04:44 PM
I mean those are pretty typical magic sources in D&D, not sure what you want help with.

A magic theory could be: There is a single power source, a kind of floating aether of power. This is tapped into through a variety of disciplines, because direct interaction is usually lethal.

Source 1: Internal Energy. The user draws on their internal life force and directs it into changing the world around them by training and discipline. Subforms of Internal Energy are Arcane Magic, Ki, and Psionics. These differ in how the IE is used to connect to the Aether; AM creates a superstructure imposed on the aether, which then changes reality. Ki is used entirely internally, not drawing on the aether at all. Psionics uses IE to directly shape the Aether.

Source 2: Higher Beings. Just because mortals can't survive direct interaction with the Aether doesn't mean others can't. Pact and Divine Magic require drawing power from a being strong enough to manipulate the Aether for them, while Druids change themselves so that touching small amounts of the Aether is no longer lethal.

2019-04-25, 05:13 PM

For something like a mult-branched form of magic, I'd have it all come from a singular, universal energy that is converted into other things. I like the idea of a generic, grey, stable energy that doesn't do anything until someone is able to "will" it to do so. Different wills, or "intent", is used for different kinds of magic. Like this:

Arcane: The world is built upon a foundation of a universal energy. The world you live on is the aftermath of such energy being used to create matter, life, and other forms of energy. While Arcane energy is not being channeled, it has no form and no function, and it's mostly nonexistent. Only when it has been given "intent" does it ever act. Most Arcane casters have been able to use this energy to create their own physics and their own matter to suit their needs.

Divine: As Arcane energy is controlled by "intent", worship of a higher power can act as a beacon for raw Arcane energy, converting it into Divine Magic. Powerful entities provide this Divine magic for their followers, to change the world in their name and to further increase their influence.

Psionic: Some mortals have a powerful level of intent, enough to shape Arcane energy into unrefined flows. They do not create their own physics and matter like an Arcane caster, but instead manipulate what's familiar to match their vision. As this energy comes from a conversion of mortal intent and immortal magic, it has some interesting properties on energy, matter, and the minds of others.

Ki: Occasionally, the power over someone's body is translated as "intent" for magic, aiding the person in their goals. Those with Ki magically run faster, fight harder, to the point of bypassing mortal limits. It happens because it was what was going to happen, what *must* happen, and when the mortal's will demands it with such force, the magic must obey.

Druidic: The natural world also has its own "intent", forming a natural balance that relies on adapting, growing, and the cycling of the system. The repetition of the natural world created enough "intent" to manifest as a force of nature, something that ensures its own survival. Druids and other naturalists can tap into this power, so long as their goal is to preserve the balance of nature and the natural world.

Pact: Mortals, being chaotic and unrestrained by divine laws, have a connection with magic that immortal entities do not. These dark entities will occasionally create a pact with mortals to spread control on the mortal world when their own powers won't suffice. While the patron acts as a raw power source, the mortal is able to use that power, for the betterment of both parties. Often, the "intent" of the mortal isn't just their own, and the spreading of the patron's will may allow them some control over magic in the vicinity. In a way, the Pact acts as a portal, moving the Patron's Intent and power to the mortal, where it is used to shape the world.

2019-04-25, 05:14 PM
Let's start by trying to sort these magics a bit, so that we can construct some contrasts.
Secular magic: Ki/Arcane/Psionic: Not reliant on an outside being for power; may tap into something fundamental but the wielder is the only being making decisions here. From your brief descriptions, it seems as though this form of magic isn't exactly reliant on their own reserves as you might assume from psionics; rather, these forms of magic rely on environmental sources of mental/physical/planar energy that they tap into (perhaps a single characters' reserves are limited).

Aligned magic: Divine/Pact/Nature: Power is derived from an outside entity/power source; that outside being is able to dictate the rules/limitations of the relationship to some extent, and imposes its agenda upon the practitioner. The practitioner may see the power source as an adversary that must be dealt with strictly (Pact), a being that represents or carries some principles that they agree with (Divine), or have a relatively neutral attitude but be reliant on that outside source and so be forced to protect it/remain "in tune" with it (Druidic).

In order to define these well, I'd suggest creating fairly explicit "faction pies" of which abilities different magics are best at, in order to better differentiate the different magics. For example, Pact magic users might be able to use compulsion and truth-related magics much more easily and effectively than any other magic type, just because their magic is founded on the creation and enforcement of an agreement- regardless of their patron. Druidic magic might differentiate itself from Ki enhancement by granting its buffs via shapeshifting; instead of Bear's Strength, they give literal bear arms.

With that in mind, here are my thoughts on your descriptions, trying to fill them out a bit. The strengths/weaknesses are free to be changed.

Arcane: Magic formed by us mortals piecing together the infinite secrets of the multiverse

Arcane magic is often really poorly defined and hard to differentiate from Ki or Psionics because it's so vague about what kind of energy it's actually accessing and manipulating- it's almost always just generic "energy". However, the mention of the multiverse here seems really interesting. Maybe Arcane magic is about pulling aligned planar magic to perform an effect. For reasons of symmetry, I don't think that nonspecialists should have access to the Negative Energy plane and necromancy unless you also have access to the Positive Energy plane as well (going from the Great Wheel cosmology).
Strengths: Elemental evocation: fire, water, earth, air, drawing from the Elemental Planes. Raw blasting power, as well as elementally related buffs. The unquestioned experts in summoning magic, due to their planar connections; they create their minions wholesale from planar magic. Dimensional magic specialists.
Specialists may get access to one of the "weird" planes: the Plane of Shadow, to gain access to replication/mirror magic via illusion(shadow) spells; the Positive Energy plane, to become doctors; or the Negative Energy plane, for necromancy. The Ethereal plane, for advanced teleportation and invisibility, plus probably some weird spells?
Weaknesses: Subtle magics such as divination, illusion, enchantment, transmutation of creatures, and some forms of abjuration; they do not interface directly with magic, and so may be able to work through proxies if they dabble in Pact magic.

Ki: A type of magic that draws upon the energy that suffuses all life
Ki magic is significantly better defined, but is usually limited to combat experts. I have some trouble envisioning a ki adept that is neither a martial artist nor a healer, to be honest. There's a little space for reverse-healing vampires, I guess? I'd rather expand it a bit; maybe use it as a sort of pseudo-Exalted power, letting you generally enhance all forms of human action- not just strength and speed, but also intelligence, perception, etc, even to the point of supernatural effects
Strengths: Hitting hard and fast; raw combat numbers; healing probably to a low level. If you can boost anything, it goes a bit further, gaining significant social tactics and information via knowledge skills, but only through normal media. If you can boost to do normally impossible things, then everything I just said but breaking the limits a bit about "possible".
Weaknesses: Esoteric effects; lasting effects that persist even though the caster leaves and goes elsewhere.

Psionics: A type of magic that draws upon pure mental energy
Hot take: Much like arcane magic, psionics is usually heavily overloaded; I'd ditch the body enhancement stuff since that falls more under Ki, and probably the energy blasts to some extent since that's more Arcane. I'd go hard on the mental aspects; mental coordination, body-jacking, etc. Able to modify minds, but not manipulate the underlying brain (which is connected to Ki).
Strengths: Anything to do with someone's mind, beliefs, perceptions, etc. Significant social abilities, obviously, as well as divinatory abilities through accessing the summed knowledge of a whole population.
Weaknesses: Anything physical. Outright mental enhancement (damage is perfectly possible).

Divine: Magic given by the gods to their believers for their faith

Pact: Magic given to mortals through pacts with otherworldly, non-divine entities

Magic that draws upon one's attunement to nature
I'm batching these together since I'm gassing out, and they're pretty similar.

1. Assuming the properties/strengths of their patron, or otherwise suffusing things with the energy of their patron. See: Druid shape****ing + plant manipulation, Pact users turning into masses of tentacles, clerics doing miracles related to their domains.
2. Performing magics in tune with the method they use to recieve their power. Cleric can lead people through an extended service/prayer to bestow power (see: Atonement, Geas/Quest, Heroes' Feast); Pact users are good at contractual magics; Druids are good at generalized divination to get a feel for an area(low-power perception effects) and fit in to it (camouflage, but also disguise via fitting into the crowd)
Weaknesses: Relatively limited in versatility; they're powerful within a particular slice of magic, so everything else is more limited. However, this can cover pretty much any hypothetical slice of magic effects, due to the variety of patrons/gods.

2019-04-25, 09:48 PM
Ki is just Adrenaline.
At least according to one martial arts grandmaster I once studied with.