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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Goblin

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    Default Explanations for how magic works?

    Just playing around with some of the concepts I've used in the past. What are ways that you picture magic working?

    -Nannites. Magic users are surviving descendants of the people who created nannites to do their bidding. Coding and construction errors have crept into the nannites self-replication programs, descendants have varying degrees of ability to interface with the nannites, nannites are frequently destroyed in the course of performing 'magic', and nannites cluster around places where they can reproduce.

    -Discovering the secrets of the universe. The universe functions according to certain laws and those that can fathom those laws can figure out how to manipulate the universe.

    -Pushing the buttons of a lost civilization. Magic users are monkeys pushing buttons on the remnants of a structure of magic built by lost civilizations. They learn how to find buttons and push them and get an effect which might or might not be what the creators intended it to be or to be used for.

    -Binding/serving/bargaining with powerful beings. Magic users have powerful beings that they bind to a service by various means or serve as a conduit for the power supplied by those beings.

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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    It just does. That covers most settings I run. There's a wizard, and they're going to do it.

    Alternatively 'there's mystical energy, and the world is set up so that if you do certain things you can draw in it for certain effects. Why? Just because.'


    Honestly the idea I like the best boils down to 'yonks ago the universe was created, and now if you metaphysically sing in the language it was created in you can do magic. This isn't literally singing in the language of creation, this is just the best metaphor humans have for "you can do the thing."'

    So generally? 'Nobody knows, if you want to research it I can pull out Ars Magica and we can roleplay academia.'
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    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    Something very similar to what you said, but presented in a more fantasy fashion.

    Everything in the world is made of minor spirits, like very small elementals and astrals. The creator deities trained these to follow a set of rules, which defines how the observable reality normally works. But there are ways to give them new instructions.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    - Hermetic magic: If you give up something, you can get back something of equal and opposite value. What entity/powers govern this transaction is obviously setting-dependent.

    - Words of Power: Certain words, spoken in the correct way and the right intention, carry power. Perhaps they're the language of creation, and the world changes to suit what is being said, perhaps long ago spirits made a deal with dragons and now whatever is said in draconic must be true.

    - Atoms: Everything is made up of atoms, and atoms are everywhere. Magic is "just" moving them around to obtain a result - and this requires long and complex study, starting with learning how to perceive the atoms in the first place and then how to manipulate atoms properly.

    But for me it's mostly a background thing. Most of the time "it's magic" is sufficient reason, everything else is just worldbuilding, unless it ties into peculiar mechanics: a world running on hermetic magic laws probably has casters work very different from D&D.
    Last edited by Silly Name; 2020-12-17 at 06:39 PM.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    To me, the defining characteristic of magic is that access to it operates at human cognitive scales, but interfaces with things which don't. That is to say, something like 'good' or 'heal' or 'memory' or 'my enemies' can be a first-order concept for magic, despite all of those things being incredibly contextual and complex if you had to manipulate or even define them in the context of real-world physics.

    So magic is what you get when some aspect of the world or some aspect of the universe is capable of and responsive to conceptual abstractions. Based on what magic should do, its fundamentally a relationship between minds and conceptual systems. The system being contacted can be quite alien to practitioners, but its still something that exists at the level of thought rather than the level of particles or physics. It might be the collective subconsciousness of all sapient beings, the consequence of the world being simply the dream of some cthonian monstrosity, interventions by celestial servitors tasked to provide magic as a boon to the peoples of the world, etc. But there's always a mind behind it.

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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    Iím a big fan of the Lev Grossman version. There are different sources of magic, and arguably humans can only harness it due to some loopholes in creation allowing one particular source to trickle out, but that is just a source.

    To actually practice magic requires mixture of will, near genius intelligence, and the sort of obsessive compulsive academic drive found primarily at top tier universities. Even then most magicians will be third rates who arenít particularly impressive. The top few percent of the already wildly exclusive club are the ones who might really do exceptional world bending things, perhaps with decades of experience and work, using minds that would have been at the top of any field.

    Itís a science, but a science playing with elements so far out of our understanding that we can at best grasp on to what works and try the most rudimentary of empiricism, and with scientists who donít necessarily share their results. You might need to get a perfect hand gesture with fingers doing tricks like a pianist while precisely reciting something in old church Latvian and focusing your will on the outcome, all while taking the theoretical account of dozens of environmental permutations. The next component of the spell you want might be in early Japanese. Magic can and does break the minds of the very best like a mathematician finally burning out.

    On top of which, it comes with no safeties. You bubbled yourself to keep warm? Try not to cook in your own juices because you forgot to add the magical equivalent of a radiator.

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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    The whole world is a computer simulation, wizards are hackers spitting out the dev codes. They think they are pretty slick and don't realize what they could do with a run command.

    Less silly, the Gods made the world as a song and you can sing bits of it. Learning the whole song is impossible due to the relationship of parts to each other; each word you sing alters the way you have to sing every other part so you can't learn the song without already knowing it. All magic is bits of it; dragons breath and spells are the same thing using different bits. Ghosts are echoes in the song, etc.
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    Quote Originally Posted by jjordan View Post
    Binding/serving/bargaining with powerful beings. Magic users have powerful beings that they bind to a service by various means or serve as a conduit for the power supplied by those beings.
    Quote Originally Posted by Millstone85 View Post
    Everything in the world is made of minor spirits, like very small elementals and astrals. The creator deities trained these to follow a set of rules, which defines how the observable reality normally works. But there are ways to give them new instructions.
    The version I use for 3e-style pseudo-vancian magic rests on a bit of the same premise: the forces of nature are also embodied by animistic intelligences, with the various hierarchies and such extending into the various inner and outer planes. Clerics are agents of their gods, and their gods give them authority to demand particular services which the clerics must invoke with proper ritual incantations and gestures and trappings. The spiritual beings that respond recognize what he means even if he's not perfect about it, but he has to observe the forms with properness, at the very least. Druids are similarly empowered, but less in the sense of being agents of a divine hierarch and more in the sense of being accepted as part of the natural world. They're members of the "nature courts," so to speak. They know the animistic beings that make up the natural world well, and how to influence them, and are viewed as allies or even as weirdly handicapped brethren who need some help. They prepare their spells by doing their part to set things up, and then using words and phrases and gestures and elements of their own rituals to entice the forces to which they're aligned to complete the effect for them.

    Bards befriend some mid-level animistic spirits, charming them with song and such, and they either teach them specific songs that have particular influence with lesser beings, or agree to hang out with them and answer their calls if called in the right way. Because these spirits are either rather particular, or tenuously tied to the Material, they need a bit more precision in how they're called upon, but still, the heart of the performance is more important than the technique, to an extent.

    Magical creatures tend to either be the animistic embodiments of whatever forces they command, or have managed to obtain direct command or power over them; this is where their supernatural and spell-like abilities come from. Sometimes, their descendants inherit their rights and privileges, and can gather about them a coterie of servitors who obey them as long as they can fuel their needs with the power of the bloodline. Such sorcerers do need to be precise in their commands; they command by right and blood, and not all their servants are willing. Even those that are obey precisely, not with an eye towards a mutual master.

    Wizards are a step further removed from their magic. Sorcerers, in essence, have very strong contracts with the beings that enact their spell effects for them. Rights and rites and entitlements, bound by spiritual law as sure as any other law of nature. Wizards study these laws, learn spells from sorcerers by learning what it is the sorcerer's inherited bloodline provided as the noblesse oblige to the animistic forces they commanded. Some wizards seek out the lords and hierarchs of these "courts." In any event, wizards learn the contracts that Sorcerers base their powers on, or negotiate new contracts with otherworldly entities. These are not necessarily complete spells in their own right, but sometimes are. The contracts call for specific acts and actions to be done, and usually are weirdly esoteric and seemingly meaningless things. Some involve impossible tasks for the wizard, but are minor enough that a collection of other deeds he can perform will get lesser entities to perform them on his behalf.

    Preparing a wizard's spells involves performing a number of these contracted tasks, carefully aligned so that he has particular rights and privileges to which he's now entitled as payment. Because only purest cause and effect bind these debts to his service, the wizard must be as precise as the sorcerer in invoking these rights. Failure to be precise will waste his privileges as the spirits on which he calls respond exactly as his messed-up invocation requires, and consider their debt paid. As wizards go up in level, they get better and better at counterbalancing all of the obligations they take on and fulfill, making it possible to have more effects he knows the precise invocation of at once without screwing it up by trying to prepare another and accidentally cancelling out or expending his privileges in the process.

    Wizards' spellbooks come in a couple of varieties, as well. The kind everybody thinks about is rather rare: codified, specific spells with explicit formulas to prepare them. These are usually only made by wizards with apprentices to teach, and are still often considered valuable, but in need of extensive study and note-taking to be made useful to all but novices. This is because, as codified spells, they lack a lot of the refinements higher-level wizards use - and need - to get the most out of their preparations. More common are wizards' working spellbooks, which have a ton of micro-contracts and incomplete spells broken up into effects that help make more complete ones. Wizards' spells are often tangled together with cross-references and margin-notes to explain how each individual "piece" fits together for particular effects, and further notes and reminders on how to combine the preparations for best effect.

    This is why wizards always have to spend time studying and mastering new spellbooks, or need to transcribe spells into their own books: they need to get it in their own notation and really understand how the interactions of the preparatory steps work with the effects to which they entitle you. This is also why wizards don't always cast spells identically, but a good Spellcraft check can tell you what they're doing because there are familiar bits and pieces and people with Spellcraft recognize invocations in their individual parts.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    There's a bunch of different explanations, depending on the setting.

    When I'm doing my own setting, I make it pretty clear magic is a practice. Furthermore, it is largely a human practice. It is a heuristic based on four rules derived from quirks of human psychology, why it works is obscure and not possible to solve using magic alone. There are multiple conflicting theories about why it works and it's not a given all things done in the name of magic actually consist or are caused by a single, discreet phenomenom.

    People in the setting have following funny ideas about it, to give a few examples:

    1) There is an universal language that defines everything in existence. If you know it, you can understand everything and manipulate everything. Functional magic is born out of approximating this universal language.

    2) There is no such thing as an objective reality. Reality only appears consistent because a Divine Will keeps thinking about the world as sort of a story it's telling to itself. Where the Divine Will's attention lapses, lesser wills can take over an narrate reality.

    3) There is an objective reality. Magic is an artificial layer built upon that reality that only exists in subjective realities of thinking minds.

    Other settings I use have the following ideas:

    Praedor: there is potentially endless amount of parallel universes, each with different laws of physics. By creating a connection between one world and another, it's possible to use the tension between two universes to do work. The knowledge of how to create such connections, or why they exist, is restricted to a caste of immortal sorcerers, and you do not get to play one.

    Lamentations of the Flame Princess: there are otherworldly, non-physical "plasmic" creatures which can be attracted by mental effort and bound to your service. Each "spell" is in fact an entity that is contracted to do one particular job before it leaves.

    Also Lamentations of the Flame Princess: there is a God. God has a plan for the world where everything has its place and marches towards unchanging unity surely as clockwork. Clerics, and Lawful people in general, are unwitting pawns and enforcers of God's will. Outside of the world is Chaos, a multitude of possible worlds where nothing is constant and everything ebbs and flows as ever-changing stream of energy. Magic-Users and Chaotic people in general have somehow become conduits for this energy and are in their very nature at war with ordered reality.

    Also Lamentations of the Flame Princess: a long, long time ago a race of serpent men selectively bred humans to create a number lf subspecies, each with specific traits useful for controlling a specific Lovecrafting monstrosity. Fast-forward a few thousand years and descendants of those humans have no good comprehension of who the serpent men were, what the Lovecraftian monstroties are or why humans of specific color are appealing to them. They have just played a cruel game of Telephone with instructions never intended for their benefit, to control or wrestle favors from beings that are like demons or gods to them, with the end result being a system of "magic" where humans torture, violate and kill each other in bizarre ritualized manners.

  10. - Top - End - #10
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    Rater202's Avatar

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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    All beings have an intangible form of "energy" tied to their being. They don't need it to live, per se, but expending it causes stress and expenditure of metabolic energy comparable to a degree of physical exercise. It's not a strict one-to-one ratio, and it vary from person to person.

    Most people can't use this energy, however, at least, not without immediately wearing themselves out.

    There is also a vast, infinite field of a similar energy that encompasses all of the known world.

    Some people, who have a large amount of this energy in their bodies, can use their energy to manipulate the energy around them, and by doing so manipulate the physical world or the perceptions of physical beings.

    Some people need years of training to do this. Others can just do it to a degree by instinct and intuition. some people are born with naturally vast reserves of energy, others have to slowly build up their reserves to usable levels over time.

    And other people cheat, being stealing, bargaining, or being gifted vast reserves of energy from another being with a vas surplus and using its power instead of their own.

    Anyone can belong to their third group, but only someone with the right mindset and physical abilities can be in the second and you've just kind of got to be born that way to be in the first group.

    Psionics, meanwhile, would be a mutation where you are using your own energy directly to affect the world rather than using it to manipulate the large energy field as a middle ground.
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    I have magic being a flow of energy coursing through everything - mostly through living beings, though. magic users (not limited to casters; some animals and plants can feed on magic, and even martials use it subconsciously at high level. Your supernatural feats of strenght and stamina are just that: supernatural) tap that flow to power their abilities.
    spellcasting is akin to programming. your spell is a sequence of instructions to perform certain tasks. this lets me describe magic diagrams as akin to electronic circuitry, which makes for some nice images.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    The better your understanding of a thing, the more proficient you become in using that thing. The more you understand about fire (that certain materials burn hotter than others, that fire can transfer heat to other things, that it can be started with flint and steel), the greater your control over it. The better you understand your computer (how the physical pieces interact, how coding and programing work, how to protect it from external actors) the better you can use that tool. Magic is just taking this principle to its farthest conclusion - the closer you are to perfect understanding of a thing, the closer you are to absolute control over that thing. If you understand every facet of fire, understand its inner workings, its nature, its essence perfectly, then you have perfect control over fire.

    The issue, of course, is mortal minds cannot hold this level of understanding. Our meat brains just aren't complex enough to properly comprehend the whole truth of what fire is. Magic users have a few different ways of getting around this, but the most common way is to borrow or steal that understanding from beings which are naturally able to achieve that level of understanding. Gods and other divine forces can impart their understanding to their followers, wrapped in faith and cloaked in scripture so it doesn't rupture their minds. Wizards study the actions of inherently magical beings and copy what they see - they record the process, but only the most skilled and dedicated approach understanding what it is they do. Sorcerers are linked by blood to magical beings, and so their minds operate on a similar level - they can achieve true understanding, but only of a limited, thematically linked group of concepts. A sorcerer with the blood of red dragons might achieve understanding of Fire, and then other elements as well, but he is unlikely to also achieve understanding of Rule, or Chaos. He might be able to achieve understanding of Fire and Rule, but he would be giving up the potential to understanding, let's say, Cold.

    The dirty secret is all this is a trick of perspective. Mortals could develop understanding on the same level as the gods, we are just trained from birth to reject this as a possibility, and so our minds refuse to do it, because we already know it's impossible by the time we think to try. Of course, to change your perspective in this way means you might no longer be mortal, as we would understand it. To be divine is to see the world in a particular way, to know you can change it.
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    All beings have an intangible form of "energy" tied to their being. They don't need it to live, per se, but expending it causes stress
    They need it like one needs an immune system. It is the reason why even common beasts can save against spells, or in any way resist magics that would corrupt their bodies and minds.

    It also comes with a whole parallel anatomy:
    • The aura, or ectoplasm, a protective surrounding layer.
    • The soul, or incarnum, a concentrated reserve of energy.
    • The psi, which acts as an extension of the nervous system.
    • The ki, which connects all these together and to the body.

    Conventional spellcasters learn to shape their aura into "weaving needles" to manipulate ambient magic. This is the least straining form of magic use, but the most vulnerable to environmental hazards such as dead or wild magic zones.

    Undeath results from an individual's energy persevering after the death of the physical body. The energy might remain bound to the corpse, or develop a new ectoplasmic body. Either way, the energy does decay over time, leaving the undead in constant misery.

    Afterlife is a more refined form of undeath, often involving rebirth on another plane of existence. It presents a high risk of amnesia, the individual's memories sometimes taking on a separate form such as Stygian sediments.

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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    Back in the 1970s, I came up with this idea:

    The world was identical to ours in all respects until 1054, when the light from the Crab Nebula supernova arrived, bringing with it raw, unprocessed manna - the stuff of magic. Originally, this had no effect, since nobody knew how to shape it. But little kids started seeing the bogeymen of their nurses' stories - goblins, kobolds, orcs, etc. They existed because all the children believed they did.

    Slowly, over time, what people expected to see was what they did see. That sounds like a lot of good would come from it. But peopleís pleasant fantasies canceled each other out. If a hundred of us fantasize about being the richest in the village, then there are 99 minds keeping my dream from coming true. On the other hand, we share all our worst fears, superstitions, and horrors.

    Imagine a world in which people's worst nightmares could become real. It soon descended into chaos, filled with monsters from every story from every culture.

    Civilizations fell rapidly. But in a few places, there were little islands of sanity. If the ruler or priest had a strong enough will, and enough determination, and could sway the minds of their followers, then a certain degree of order persisted in their lands. So there were little pockets of sanity surrounded by falling civilizations and wilderness Ė lands now inhabited by every monster ever feared. [Hence, there are many ruins to find and explore in the world of today.]

    Over time, these people started to die off - but their influence remained. The essence of the great Warriors joined together into a great subconscious archetype of the Fighting Man. [Yes, that was the term in the books then.] Eventually, any Fighter who grew powerful was forced into the form of this archetype.

    Similarly, the archetypes of Cleric, Wizard, Paladin, and Thief grew. [Those were the only Classes available then. The magazine had articles on Rangers, Illusionists, and Bards, but those were not official yet.] As people gained more experience, they could align themselves more fully with the archetypes, but only in certain quantum levels, which became experience levels as we know them.

    As Europe collapsed under the weight of the nightmares, many of these great leaders sailed west in search of new land. The Native Americans, whose culture leaned more toward living within nature rather than conquering it, had been much less affected. The only real changes were that woodland Native Americans became more in tune with the woods, and this was the start of the elves. Dwarves grew out of mining communities that had been sheltered somewhat from the chaos by living in their mines.

    Since the original Heroes were human, non-humans could not attune themselves to the archetypes past a certain point. Hence, racial limits on levels. The exception was the Thief archetype, made of those who didn't really fit into human society. [That fit the rules of the time]

    The scientific method works much less well when an experimenter's beliefs change the results of the experiment, so the technological level developed very slowly, never growing beyond the Middle Ages. [In essence, the Heisenberg principle works on the macro level, and the observer always affects the experiment. Any attempt to show that in a controlled experiment the same result always occurs will instead show that it does not.]

    Besides, whatís the point in investigating conservation of energy when you just saw somebody create a fireball with his mind, or investigating universal gravitation if you have seen people levitate?

    I spent a long time developing it. It was much more carefully worked out, and explained everything in the rules I could find a way to fit. I explained character classes, experience levels, the hodge-podge of monsters from many cultures, racial level limits, the essential arbitrariness of magic spells, and many other aspects of the rules of original D&D.

    I eventually abandoned it when I realized that, however clever I thought it was, it did not help the game. It did not help any player, DM or character in any way. An in-game explanation for the limitations of the simulation is meaningless unless it can improve the experience somehow. [In fact, its purpose was not to improve the game, but to explain away its inconsistencies.]

    I learned a great deal about how simulations work from it. A simulation should only simulate aspects that need to be simulated. Anything beyond that is a distraction, and makes the simulation less useful as a tool. (Years later, my Mathematical Simulations professor said, ďA simulation should be as complex as necessary, but no more.Ē Also, "The simulation is supposed to be simpler than the reality. If we wanted to observe reality, we'd observe reality.")

    But it still lurks in the back of my mind as an explanation for how magic works (despite the fact that it does not happen to include how the magic actually works).

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    To me, the defining characteristic of magic is that access to it operates at human cognitive scales, but interfaces with things which don't.
    It is a certainly a common trait (although I did read too far into it for a moment with "but objects and positions are at a cognitive scale") although some magic as science attempts have done it. Or maybe that's just me? I can only think of my systems right now but it feels weird. Maybe it is a matter of how you bridge the gap.

    By the way I have tons of magic systems I've made over the years. I've done literally done "magic is outside normal rules" where magic effects tend not to leave traces as reality tries to erase them. Right now I have three in stories I am working on: One; All magic comes from nature spirits and there are only two types of magic users, those that ask for magical help and those that have managed to force the spirits to obey. Two; magic is a raw energy dissipated through-out the universe and living things can direct it (this is one of those really direct ones where nothing is automated unless the automation is set up first). Three; Magic comes from the stars, it is absorbed by planets and then to the creatures that live on them, each planet has its own magic system (plus the base rules) and the scale of the story is such that this is relevant. I just make a system for every story and setting I do.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    Back in the 1970s, I came up with this idea: [...] Imagine a world in which people's worst nightmares could become real. It soon descended into chaos, filled with monsters from every story from every culture.
    You know the most terrifying thing about this set-up just occurred to me: the "isms" become real. Oh you are part of a minority group that is thought ill of? Now you are cursed to be stupid and lazy by the power of thousands of minds. On the other hand it would explain some really weird stat penalties I have heard of in the early edition.

    On a brighter note one of my favourite versions of this idea also had the "Liars Guild" a group you could hire to actually change things because they could spread rumors so well. They wouldn't except any job but everyone knew that once they did it was only a matter of time.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    It is a certainly a common trait (although I did read too far into it for a moment with "but objects and positions are at a cognitive scale") although some magic as science attempts have done it. Or maybe that's just me? I can only think of my systems right now but it feels weird. Maybe it is a matter of how you bridge the gap.

    By the way I have tons of magic systems I've made over the years. I've done literally done "magic is outside normal rules" where magic effects tend not to leave traces as reality tries to erase them. Right now I have three in stories I am working on: One; All magic comes from nature spirits and there are only two types of magic users, those that ask for magical help and those that have managed to force the spirits to obey. Two; magic is a raw energy dissipated through-out the universe and living things can direct it (this is one of those really direct ones where nothing is automated unless the automation is set up first). Three; Magic comes from the stars, it is absorbed by planets and then to the creatures that live on them, each planet has its own magic system (plus the base rules) and the scale of the story is such that this is relevant. I just make a system for every story and setting I do.
    Basically this is the thing where if I'm playing a magical scientist, the fact that magic is so conveniently able to handle human abstractions and to render the world into human abstractions is like this big salient sign that has to be addressed somehow. E.g. stuff like 'why does Wish understand phrasing?', 'how is it that Polymorph can rewire my brain to handle a different number of limbs, and I can use them naturally and still remember what it was like afterwards?', 'how does Geas know that it was broken?', etc. Even things like 'how is it that I can target a teleportation effect, where the details are only in my mind?' or 'why do spells not have ridiculously lethal byproducts all the time?' or 'why do enchantments localize themselves to objects, rather than regions of material or areas of effect?'.

    There's a sort of 'bringing the world to you' personal character to magical elements in stories - you manipulate outcomes and forces purely with your mind and body. Whereas natural science tends to require you to go to the world - things aren't intuitive and don't fit have consequences within human scales (chemical reactions can take days, or be so fast as to be instantaneous; by the time you've noticed you've made a criticality mistake with nuclear materials you're already dead; etc), often the only way to get an effect is to build tools to build tools to build tools because the relevant stuff is quite far away from human scales, ... With science, often the things we think should be easy turn out to be hard or impossible, whereas things we didn't consider as even making sense based on daily experience turn out to be easy.
    Last edited by NichG; 2020-12-20 at 08:56 PM.

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    The universe is a computer simulation. Wizards have figured out how to tinker with the code from inside it.
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    My personal setting multiverse thingie grew out of a superhero setting, so I had to work out a way for magic to co-exist alongside science. In my universes, there are always three ways to interpreting the world:
    • Science. The world is waves and particles and the four fundamental forces (and also maybe stitched together out of quantum entanglement? Physics is weird) Everything works as we know it does in the real world.
    • Magic. Everything is made up of nine elements (Air, Earth, Fire, Life, Light, Sound, Thought, Water, and Wood) combined in a myriad of ways to create everything that exists. The interaction between elements determines the course of the natural world, but the right words can act as machinery to move and transform elemental energies, ultimately changing reality.
    • Will. Ours is a consensus reality-- gravity holds us down and fire burns because, ultimately, we expect them to, and a sufficiently powerful mind can defy that consensus and force the world around them to work differently.

    The trick is that all three viewpoints are correct, always. Any given culture tends to stick to a single approach, but no matter where in the multiverse you go, gunpowder will still combust, magic carpets will still hover, and psychics will still be able to speak inside your head. If you try to understand one facet through the lens of another-- analyzing a wizard with science, say-- you can get... almost all the way there. A sufficiently skilled scientist could follow the chain of events set off by a spell all the way down to quantum fluctuations before being forced to throw up their hands and say "well, I can tell you that these lead atoms underwent quantum fluctuations that carried them through this series of virtual particles where these protons decayed into b-mesons and so on and so forth until you're left with nothing but photons and gold atoms, I just can't tell you why all fifty million atoms in the lump of lead did the same thing at the same time when the chance of even one atom making that transition is too small to fit on a hard drive full of zeros."

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    Stable isotopes of naturally occurring E115 (magestone). Where this exists, life forms have adapted an innate sensitivity to the force of gravity, and can manipulate it on a subatomic scale in order to bend energy to their will. Those who are aware of this ability learn to harness it alongside the gravitational influence of heavenly bodies, hence why the ability is generally limited to a certain quantity of uses per a given cycle. Those who devote themselves can further develop this talent to convert matter as they see fit and employ gravity in order to fold space, cause or silence vibration, induce and direct proton streams and microwaves, etc. all of which have tremendous physical effects on the natural world and living things and especially the consciousness of thinking creatures.

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    The reminds me of this thread from a ways back about magical theory.

    My post from that thread, which covered how I view magic, because I've always worked within most default assumptions of things in D&D, because I want my world to resonate with most players. The following is a re-post of my post from that thread:

    As far as Magical Theory, one of the things I use is that Bard magic is different from Sorcerer or Warlock magic drastically. Bards tap into the Echoes Of Creation, the lingering effects of the sounds of the world, and magic itself, being formed. Some Bards claim it was "sung" into existence, others perceive these echoes as the tones that the creation created, like the high-pitched ping of a drop of water striking a pond in a cave. At any rate, it is these echoes that Bards learn to tap in to, attune to, and replicate to a degree. The Seeker of the Song Prestige class in 3.5e was a great example of this, as they learn to more precisely replicate the actual forces and energies of that creation, instead of using those echoes to create distinct spell effects. These echoes are still dependent on "the Weave" (as Forgotten Realms terms it, in any other setting this would just be the flow of magic throughout the multiverse) in order to bring the effect into existence.

    Other arcane casters also tap into the Weave. The best explanation for HOW they do it is to compare it to kids in school taking a test. Let's use a math test for the analogy. Wizards are the kids that studied the material and know to get the right answer by following the correct steps. Sorcerers just "know" the answers. They go by some instinct, natural knack for the material, and they can get the exact same answers as wizards, but cannot show their work, even for incredibly complex equations. Warlocks...they cheat. They made a shady deal in a back alley, and someone gave them the answers to the test. Some of the answers anyway.

    Divine Magic uses the Weave to work, but the source for the knowledge of it, to include the proper incantations/hand movements, comes from an external source. For Clerics, this is easy. They either get it from an actual divine being of intelligence (a deity), or from the collective unconscious of all those who share similar beliefs (for deity-less Clerics, and the Clerics of quasi-agnostic settings like Eberron). Druids sometimes worship Nature Deities, and for them, their magic works like Clerics' does. Most druids, however, revere Nature as a force in and of itself. The same principle of the Collective Unconscious grants them the knowledge of their magic, too. This comes from other Druids, Fey, Primal Spirits, and even knowledge stored in the very bones of the earth, latent and waiting to be tapped. Rangers tap into this in the exact same manner.

    Paladins also tap into the Collective Unconscious of Belief, for the actual knowledge of their spells, but the various editions of D&D have changed what a Paladin even is so much that it requires an edition-by-edition breakdown. Pre-3e paladins: Get their powers, to include their spells, from a devotion to righteousness. As we know that Good/Evil/Law/Chaos are observable, quantifiable, dispassionate cosmic forces in D&D, it is through alignment with the forces of Law and Good that the paladin receives her powers. The immunities, auras, and lay-on-hands powers are no different than the spells in that regard. If they ever strayed from alignment with the forces of Law and Good, to include even one act of intentionally committed evil, they lost the communion with those forces that granted them the powers. 3.x Paladins actually worked the same way, but COULD also get their powers and spells from a deity, much like a cleric. It is a common misconception that 3e Paladins got their powers from gods, I blame the 3.0 supplement Defenders of the Faith. 4e Paladins got their powers from the rituals that invested them as Paladins, same way Clerics worked in 4e. 5e Paladins, now that's a clincher, as they SEEM to be more in common with their pre-4e ancestors, but with no alignment restriction. From all appearances, it would seem that their Devotion to their Oath is what grants them their power. And the knowledge of spells likewise comes from a connection to that ephemeral Collective Unconscious shared by those with the same beliefs.

    The Collective Unconscious Of Shared Belief is, by the way, why divine spellcasters of the same class all have the same spell lists. It's kind of based in Jungian principles and theories, but it perfectly explains how a Cleric can choose from ANY Cleric spell EVER when choosing his daily spell allotment.
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    I've been wondering about this.

    In a campaign I'm running I've been thinking about revealing humanity travelled there via generation ships so initially only had access to pact magic, thus explaining artificers being tech and not magic based.

    Elves, dwarves and other races arrived by various means involving travelling through the planes whether the Feywild, Shadowfell, elemental planes, etc..

    That travel and their survival resulted in developing magic initially sorcery and druidism with cleric's emerging originally through ancestor worship thay eventually evolved into the pantheons with humanity being responsible for renaming them!

    Pact magic existed even back then so humanity brought the darker versions thanks to Lovecraft books being brought along with them and then the Fey got into the act.

    Then explain why the gods can't manifest in the flesh because some Gith Warlock created a set of artefacts that allowed him to create the divine gates to seal them away forcing their dependance on their worshippers with the only "deities" who can defy this is a trapped celestial archon and will-o-wisps which are the polar opposite of lantern archons.

    Needs more work obviously!
    Last edited by Hopeless; 2020-12-24 at 03:10 PM.

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    For me, it varies by tradition.

    Primal spellcasters, like Druids and Rangers, get magic from the planes. The planes constantly overlap reality, bridged by possibility (the ethereal) or thought (the astral). By acting as a bridge, a primal spellcaster allows planar bleed into an area in a known quantity.

    Arcane spellcasters work with energy in a fixed system. They tap leylines to gather energy for spell use during their daily preparation, and shape and release that energy. Shaping may be done on the fly or during prep depending on how Vancian you are.

    Divine spellcasters hold a well of divine energy within themselves; their own faith acting as a miniature plane, absorbing nearby faith similar to their own. They may either shape this energy through their own knowledge, or surrender control of the power to their deity to shape it for them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jjordan View Post
    -Discovering the secrets of the universe. The universe functions according to certain laws and those that can fathom those laws can figure out how to manipulate the universe.

    ...

    -Binding/serving/bargaining with powerful beings. Magic users have powerful beings that they bind to a service by various means or serve as a conduit for the power supplied by those beings.
    Pretty much these two. For me, magic is just figuring out how the universe works and using it for your benefit. Whether it be through your own understanding or using something more suited to do it (like a demon), you're still working within the rules of that universe.

    Sort of like how an antimatter weapon isn't breaking the laws of our universe, it just requires figuring out the pre-existing laws and working within those rules. Same with casting a Fireball, it's an effect that can be reproduced reliably (as opposed to the exact same steps producing chickens, a storm or Fluffles the Super Dragon to appear instead of a ball of fire), so it's a simple rule of reality that people managed to figure out how to use.

    That said... I'm loving the comments about people having an energy source tied to their beings, along with the ones about an energy that permeates all things.
    Last edited by AntiAuthority; 2020-12-25 at 12:07 AM.

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    It's magic, I ain't gotta explain sh!t
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    Several additional fundamental interactions beyond the real world's four, including several that aren't conserved, whose charge is carried by things that are moving or shaped in certain ways, that are extremely complex, and/or that work in a primarily top-down fashion.
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Several additional fundamental interactions beyond the real world's four, including several that aren't conserved, whose charge is carried by things that are moving or shaped in certain ways, that are extremely complex, and/or that work in a primarily top-down fashion.
    It's been too long for me to be able to find it easily, but I once read an interesting article that explained why, given what we know of the forces of the universe and the scales on which they act, "a secret force we've yet to discover" is not a feasible explanation for psychic phenomena e.g. telekinesis. The short version is that any force that had both the range and the power to lift an object "telekinetically" and yet could come from the biological construct of a human body would have been detected by now.

    In more depth, though, it also discussed how any force which had the range would have to be vanishingly weak for us not to have detected it, and any force with the strength would have to operate on so localized a scale that it can't leave the nucleus of the atoms whose particles generate it for us to have been unable to get close enough to detect its presence.

    While I won't claim my fun little theory here is in any way backed by math or science other than it fits the boundaries left by these limitations, your post made me think of it again, and so I want to share it as a fun way to sci-fi explain telekinesis via as-yet-undiscovered forces.

    Imagine a PAIR of forces: one super-weak but reasonably long-range, and the other actually quite strong but unable to operate outside of the atoms that generate it due to its super-short range. Let's call them the "communicative" and "motive" forces, for purposes of this discussion, respectively.

    Imagine that the communicative force can cause minute changes in the particles that it operates on, but those minute changes can re-align the particles responsible for the motive force and thus direct the motive force to push around the atoms it's generated within. The communicative force thus talks to every atom in a thing the psychic wants to move, and causes the motive force of each of those atoms to move those atoms in a desired direction.

    Telekinesis, under this model, would be like having a radio remote control that directs an RC car. The remote control isn't actually generating the power nor the force that moves that car, but is controlling that which does generate both. Similarly, telekinesis wouldn't be drawing the power (whether to slide a penny across a table or to lift an X-wing out of a swamp) from the psychic, but from whatever is being moved. The power the psychic puts in is just whatever drives the communicative force.

    Telepathy, then, could be the communicative force, alone, as it interacts with whatever is in another's brain that reacts to that force to generate thoughts via similar mechanisms that the psychic uses to turn his thoughts into communicative force projections.

    Notably, this would lead to a valid discussion of the actual energies being used being external, but sensed by those with strong connections to them, much the way Star Wars discusses the Force. I say this is "notable" because I was in no way trying to replicate "the Force" when I came up with this, but the similarities became apparent as I thought about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    It's been too long for me to be able to find it easily, but I once read an interesting article that explained why, given what we know of the forces of the universe and the scales on which they act, "a secret force we've yet to discover" is not a feasible explanation for psychic phenomena e.g. telekinesis. The short version is that any force that had both the range and the power to lift an object "telekinetically" and yet could come from the biological construct of a human body would have been detected by now.

    In more depth, though, it also discussed how any force which had the range would have to be vanishingly weak for us not to have detected it, and any force with the strength would have to operate on so localized a scale that it can't leave the nucleus of the atoms whose particles generate it for us to have been unable to get close enough to detect its presence.

    While I won't claim my fun little theory here is in any way backed by math or science other than it fits the boundaries left by these limitations, your post made me think of it again, and so I want to share it as a fun way to sci-fi explain telekinesis via as-yet-undiscovered forces.

    Imagine a PAIR of forces: one super-weak but reasonably long-range, and the other actually quite strong but unable to operate outside of the atoms that generate it due to its super-short range. Let's call them the "communicative" and "motive" forces, for purposes of this discussion, respectively.

    Imagine that the communicative force can cause minute changes in the particles that it operates on, but those minute changes can re-align the particles responsible for the motive force and thus direct the motive force to push around the atoms it's generated within. The communicative force thus talks to every atom in a thing the psychic wants to move, and causes the motive force of each of those atoms to move those atoms in a desired direction.

    Telekinesis, under this model, would be like having a radio remote control that directs an RC car. The remote control isn't actually generating the power nor the force that moves that car, but is controlling that which does generate both. Similarly, telekinesis wouldn't be drawing the power (whether to slide a penny across a table or to lift an X-wing out of a swamp) from the psychic, but from whatever is being moved. The power the psychic puts in is just whatever drives the communicative force.

    Telepathy, then, could be the communicative force, alone, as it interacts with whatever is in another's brain that reacts to that force to generate thoughts via similar mechanisms that the psychic uses to turn his thoughts into communicative force projections.

    Notably, this would lead to a valid discussion of the actual energies being used being external, but sensed by those with strong connections to them, much the way Star Wars discusses the Force. I say this is "notable" because I was in no way trying to replicate "the Force" when I came up with this, but the similarities became apparent as I thought about it.
    You don't really need a workaround here though because in D&D it has been discovered. And with much less advanced equipment no less. Telekinesis is an established phenomenon there.
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    You don't really need a workaround here though because in D&D it has been discovered. And with much less advanced equipment no less. Telekinesis is an established phenomenon there.
    Sure. But this isn't a D&D subforum; it's a general RP subforum. And this would be a valid sci-fi "magic" explanation.

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    You could also have consciousness be a distinct force, where all thoughts are actually where the force enters reality. TK involves opening a new connection between the object and the mind-universe so it can be effected.
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    Default Re: Explanations for how magic works?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tvtyrant View Post
    You could also have consciousness be a distinct force, where all thoughts are actually where the force enters reality. TK involves opening a new connection between the object and the mind-universe so it can be effected.
    This sounds like a nice starting point for psionics in general, especially in a Great Wheel cosmology that includes the Astral Plane as "the plane of thought."

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