Sir Jerric

What would you do with magic?

34 posts in this topic

Many of the threads in these parts are requesting help with building a system out of a particular power. I have the opposite problem. I have no trouble building systems. I tie them into the world, make schemes for how people handle the system's limitations, identify points of misunderstandings, all of that good stuff.

 

Most of these systems are based around magic users with specific, limited abilities, rather like Mistings or superheroes. The trouble is that I often find one or two interesting powers that fit my schema well, and then I can't find enough similar ideas to fill all of the other slots. And with three, four, five, . . . lots of magic systems under construction, I have lots of slots to fill.

 

And so I come to you, asking the question in this thread's title. What would you do with magic? Let's do a little brainstorming together. Think along the lines you might for a "If you were a feruchemist . . ." only throwing the doors wide to anything.

 

Need some starting points? What's something tedious that you need to do regularly? An activity you find distasteful? Something that would be nice if it could be done faster? Something that you can't quite achieve in reality because of one little technical detail.

 

For example, I've built powers out of the following ideas: Carving stone with your bare hands. Sealing an object inside a seamless crystal sphere. Repelling insects without chemical repellants. Weighing things without a scale.

 

All ideas submitted to this thread may be used by any reader as they please. Ideas are cheap. Limitations are more interesting than powers. Your limits almost certainly will vary, so stop worrying about originality and help me build a nice repository of launching-off points for aspiring writers.

 

Feel free to suggest twists of other peoples ideas. Mix and match. Whatever floats your boat.

 

Hmm . . . floating a boat . . .

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Could I get a bit more clarification on what you're asking for? Are you asking for us to throw some ideas with regard to things that magic can let people do, or are you asking us to throw some ideas with regard to the mechanics/inspiration behind a magic system?

 

I do like the idea of this thread. It's at the very least a fun exercise in an aspect of worldbuilding (which I admit I have a tendency to get caught up in >>.)

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clones that only follow one order (they have my mental capacity/memories, and when they finish the task, I absorb them and their memories back) To do my homework and deal w/ people for me. (I HATE PEOPLE)

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Could I get a bit more clarification on what you're asking for? Are you asking for us to throw some ideas with regard to things that magic can let people do, or are you asking us to throw some ideas with regard to the mechanics/inspiration behind a magic system?

I do like the idea of this thread. It's at the very least a fun exercise in an aspect of worldbuilding (which I admit I have a tendency to get caught up in >>.)

I am mostly after the kinds of stuff I put in the "For example" paragraph. Ideas for ways to apply magic. Ideas to inspire powers. Things that a character in the story might use their magic to do.

Ideas that are mundane are cool. I like scenes where the Marasi parallel comments about the Ranette parallel using magic for such everyday things.

Inspirations and mechanics are the parts I feel I have a solid handle on. I have a system based on bringing campfire ghost stories to life. I have a system inspired by the wild hair colors in japanese anime. I have systems based on dryads, on tuneless whistling, and on the weather. I built an entire world after watching a chef make handmade noodles. Many of these have robust mechanics, and the ones that don't are just "not yet".

But all of these systems are designed for a range of available powers--rather like in Allomancy--and in the course of building them I wound up with one or two powers each.

So I came here to ask people to help brainstorm more powers. I'll see what I can fit in among my myriad systems, and everyone else can use this collection as inspirations for anything that pleases them.

If you had magic powers, what would you want to do?

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Ah, fair enough. Thanks for the clarification :)

 

I've once read a book--the Vineart Trilogy--on mages who cast spells using wine. I've always wanted to build a magic system around tea. I've currently been thinking of things like making and drinking tea as the foundation for magic, particularly as I'm re-reading the history of tea at the moment ;)

 

Other things people could do with magic, just off the top of my head (not so sure if they're mundane or otherwise): use it as currency, use it in order to fix broken electronic devices (ha!), use it to make extremely fancy and intricate dishes when cooking. (I'll try to be more productive/creative later on ;) )

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You know what I don't see in fantasy? Magic being abused for sex (and other common human needs, but sex is the most dramatic to talk about). I think of Earth, and I think how ready (hint: very) we, men, in general are to hump anything with legs and parts that don't match ours, and then I try to imagine how the situation would change if we had magic. And it would be so much worse. I guess The Reckoners must've gone through this phase sometime before Steelheart, because we do a poor job at restraining ourselves even without the (semi)magical corruption that comes with the Epics' powers. I imagine it would get old pretty quickly (more quickly than building an empire would, for example), but it would be something most magic users would experience on an individual basis. 

 

Not that I would like to read a fantasy centered around this idea. But I'd be curious to see it explored briefly, maybe even as a piece of historical worldbuilding.

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<Redacted>

I find myself forced to agree that if one gave magic to mankind, such things would certainly occur. However, the abuses of power are not the subject of this thread. I am trying to create a resource for aspiring writers who need ideas for unusual abilities to use in their magic systems.

Please don't suggest that someone concoct magic powers to augment that activity. I am more than disgusted by the thought that a fan of Sanderson's work would post about such debased minds in my thread.

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I find myself forced to agree that if one gave magic to mankind, such things would certainly occur. However, the abuses of power are not the subject of this thread. I am trying to create a resource for aspiring writers who need ideas for unusual abilities to use in their magic systems.

Please don't suggest that someone concoct magic powers to augment that activity. I am more than disgusted by the thought that a fan of Sanderson's work would post about such debased minds in my thread.

 

A fair point, my reply is (mostly) off-topic. 

 

P.S. Don't downvote him, folks... 

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To Argent: Thank you for the gracious response, particularly in light of the strong words I used. You are quite the gentleman. (Do let me know if you do make a thread for that topic. I would be quite willing to discuss such things elsewhere. That is just a really disturbing road to tread with the approach I am using here.)

 

To Ashiok: That cloning concept is a very timely suggestion. I've got a slot that could work very nicely for such a power in the ghost stories system I mentioned. Thanks a bunch.

 

To Kasimir: I don't expect you to answer any of the following. I'm just prodding at your ideas to see if anything appeals to me, or anyone who happens by later.

 

Magic as currency. What are we trading? Does the magic make units of minor power that can be passed around? Like little magic pills? Are we talking more like the Steelheart gifters, swapping access to their power for other services? Or are we talking using the fuel source as a currency, like Atium or spheres of Stormlight?

 

Fixing electronics: What comes in handy here? Avoiding shocks, suppressing currents? Tracing circuits, finding shorts? Transmuting materials, editing the circuits post-manufacture?

 

Fancy cooking: Not a field I'm very experienced in. Is the ability to blend or powder materials useful? Grind nuts to flour at a glance, pulverize fruits into smoothies? Perhaps migrating heat, chilling and heating ingredients quickly and accurately? (Might help with making tea, too. =) )

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I would like the ability to find things w- ease. (Items, knowledge, people)

I would like the ability to repair relationships instantly.

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What would I do with magic? Well, the answer's kind of not what you were expecting. I wouldn't use it - I would study it.

 

As a physicist at university, the thing about Sanderson's books that I love the most is that they are written so scientifically - Magic A is Magic A, quantised perfectly with no exceptions. I despise this apparently popular idea nowadays that magic and science are opposing forces (and this extends to fantastic religions too. This trio has to stop being looked at in this way), and would dearly love to make people start thinking otherwise, but that can almost be another thread entirely.

 

But regardless, even with the less rigorous magic systems, we do see laws happen, even if they're hidden - Harry Potter for instance needs people to say the spell incantation with perfect pronunciation. Every single system we see has laws in-built, just not shown. How else does a spell have the same effect twice?

 

So yes, rather than abuse magic for fun and profit (though perfect teleportation would be really handy), I'd just try and understand it as much as possible: I would rather like to have a PhD in Magic :P

Edited by Wyrmhero
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I would like the ability to find things w- ease. (Items, knowledge, people)

I would like the ability to repair relationships instantly.

 

Finding things is always a handy skill. In fact, that would fit rather well along side the "weighing things" power I mentioned in my first post. Thanks!

 

As for repairing relationships, the techniques would have to be incredibly numerous to be able to fix the full gamut of problems in that field. Only thing that comes to mind as broadly applicable would be a power granting insight into the sources of the problems, to make diagnostics faster. Doesn't take care of things instantly though.

 

On the other hand, one could just use that sentence as the definition of a soft magic system, and just start exploring the ramifications of having a society where anytime you have a relationship problem you walk down to the local branch of Matchmaker's Relationship Counseling and get a quick patch. . . . I think I'm going to back away now. The psychological paradox is making my head spin. =)

 

What would I do with magic? Well, the answer's kind of not what you were expecting. I wouldn't use it - I would study it.

 

As a physicist at university, the thing about Sanderson's books that I love the most is that they are written so scientifically - Magic A is Magic A, quantised perfectly with no exceptions. I despise this apparently popular idea nowadays that magic and science are opposing forces (and this extends to fantastic religions too. This trio has to stop being looked at in this way), and would dearly love to make people start thinking otherwise, but that can almost be another thread entirely.

 

But regardless, even with the less rigorous magic systems, we do see laws happen, even if they're hidden - Harry Potter for instance needs people to say the spell incantation with perfect pronunciation. Every single system we see has laws in-built, just not shown. How else does a spell have the same effect twice?

 

So yes, rather than abuse magic for fun and profit (though perfect teleportation would be really handy), I'd just try and understand it as much as possible: I would rather like to have a PhD in Magic :P

 

Not the type of answer I was looking for, certainly. But unexpected? Not so much. The experimental prodding at the limits of magical powers is how I design them, even how I write the replies to suggestions in this thread. If I had real access to magic I'd do exactly that: research.

 

Besides, it isn't like you failed to provide ideas. Precision teleportation is a perfectly good power to add to the non-existent list of options suggested in this thread. And using magic to improve one's ability to study is also an interesting set of powers to pursue. Memory aids, fatigue reduction, faster thought . . . okay, so the feruchemists have beat me to this one, but my point still stands. =)

 

To turn attention more to what I am looking for, perhaps this parallel will help. What would you do with a smartphone? Technology slips into our everyday lives in small but significant ways. If you had magic, what technologies would you make with it?

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To turn attention more to what I am looking for, perhaps this parallel will help. What would you do with a smartphone? Technology slips into our everyday lives in small but significant ways. If you had magic, what technologies would you make with it?

 

I think that would depend on the world in question. There's a big difference between magic creeping into our 21st century lifestyles (such as the Shadowrun RPG system) and ever-present magic (Potter, Discworld, etc).

 

In the first case, I don't think magic would really be good for anything immediately. We'd study it and study it and study it for ages, and then we'd apply it to making technology better. Of course, that depends on how it works within the laws physics as well, but if it can be used to circumvent the laws of thermodynamics, for instance, then we'd have infinite energy (though probably limited by other laws we weren't previously aware of). Essentially, magic wouldn't become obvious in our lives, but it'd be ever present behind the scenes, making things more efficient or generally better.

 

In the second case, our technology would be defined ultimately by the integration of magic and technology. We wouldn't have smartphones running on electromagnetic waves - We'd have them running on telepathic abilities or something like that. We'd have HEX instead of computers as we know them right now. I would say though that this would probably limit the development of science - Though the study of magic would in itself be a part of the science, so it's more accurate to say that 'traditional' science would be arrested a little due to magic being studied as well. And if magic has its own limits and laws as normal science does, it wouldn't be magic. It'd just be another form of science with a particularly quirky set of rules.

 

Personally though, I think the only 'new' technologies that'd spring up would be things we have no real-world comparison to. Thinking With Portals is a good example here. There are just so many applications for it - Putting aside the huge environmental benefits of not having to use vehicles to get everywhere (and thus saving money too), you'd also save masses of time this way as well. Not only is this useful for people, but anything which needs to be moved quickly (perishable food, for instance) no longer has that problem at all.

 

Barriers between countries would dissipate overnight as everywhere becomes close and the world becomes so much smaller. You could even use portals to generate energy by utilising a waterwheel and water falling forever. Sadly, I think this tech would just become so regulated that it'd never get rolled out, because governments and the world's financial institutions would be so afraid of it. :P

Edited by Wyrmhero
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I thought about the relationship repair angle after I posted and went offline.

So the idea of repair/ restoration could be interesting. One might have a knack for

Fixing items. Another might be healing physical illnesses. Yet another might be character defects.

That gets interesting: how do we decide which is a defect?

Are those that "heal" them the enemy because a good idea w/ good intentions went

poorly? Meh...that's probably been done to death.

Hmmm.

Well for my own tedious real life application, I think it would be Great to delve into a person, see where they are hurt

or confused/emotionally blocked or off-course and be able to repair that for them.

I wouldn't want to do it in a way that keeps them from learning something

from the experience, just speed that process up significantly.

Why spend 20+ years with Daddy issues (or whatever) if we can

get to that new perspective/wisdom and repair more quickly?

Sorry for syntax and format issues. Posting from my phone and it's not going very well. ;-)

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I think that would depend on the world in question. There's a big difference between magic creeping into our 21st century lifestyles (such as the Shadowrun RPG system) and ever-present magic (Potter, Discworld, etc).

 

<snip>

As with Argent, you raise some interesting worldbuilding questions that would be very interesting to explore in full. And as I said to Argent, I hope you will make a thread in which such a discussion can be fully explored, and will let me know if you do. But I'm really hoping to keep this thread focused on magic powers, and the tasks that people might want magic to accomplish.

 

Personally though, I think the only 'new' technologies that'd spring up would be things we have no real-world comparison to. Thinking With Portals is a good example here. There are just so many applications for it - Putting aside the huge environmental benefits of not having to use vehicles to get everywhere (and thus saving money too), you'd also save masses of time this way as well. Not only is this useful for people, but anything which needs to be moved quickly (perishable food, for instance) no longer has that problem at all.

 

Barriers between countries would dissipate overnight as everywhere becomes close and the world becomes so much smaller. You could even use portals to generate energy by utilising a waterwheel and water falling forever. Sadly, I think this tech would just become so regulated that it'd never get rolled out, because governments and the world's financial institutions would be so afraid of it. :P

See this? This part is much more in line with the topic. Particularly that first sentence. Tasks that cannot be achieved with Real science. That is one of the things we want magic for. That is what breathes life and creativity into fantasy and space operas. Exploring the impact of being able to do things that we cannot quite do, or definitely cannot do. But there are people who have at some point or another wished they could bypass those boundaries. I want posts about those wishes.

 

And you offer two of them here. Instant transportation via portal, and inifinite energy. Tasks that magic might do for us.

 

I thought about the relationship repair angle after I posted and went offline.

So the idea of repair/ restoration could be interesting. One might have a knack for

Fixing items. Another might be healing physical illnesses. Yet another might be character defects.

<snip>

Well for my own tedious real life application, I think it would be Great to delve into a person, see where they are hurt or confused/emotionally blocked or off-course and be able to repair that for them. I wouldn't want to do it in a way that keeps them from learning something from the experience, just speed that process up significantly. Why spend 20+ years with Daddy issues (or whatever) if we can get to that new perspective/wisdom and repair more quickly?

Thanks for the breakdown of tasks. Nice to have someone else's take on applications to achieve the ends.

If anyone is curious, my "psychological paradox" came from the conflict between that last sentence and the natural understanding of "Taking the easy way causes more problems than it fixes." That would be the normal storyline attached to shortcutting one's problems, but since the magic is supposed to be actually fixing the problems, then it shouldn't have that consequence. But breaking that means breaking natural behaviors, which leads to a false feeling story. But if the magic is built into the plot properly, then it shouldn't fix everything, but if it doesn't, then it didn't do what it was meant to have done . . .

And now my head is spinning again. =)

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To eliminate the lessons we learn through negative experiences would be bad. I only wish to come to those perspectives and move through the process faster. Most uses I think of for magic involve ways to save time. Time is my most limited resource. If your world construct includes immortality, I suppose most of those ideas are not very good.

I have wished to be in more than 1 place at the same time. I have wished to have 5 lives going at the same time. Teleportation, time travel, pushing a giant Pause button on Life: yes please!

Maybe it's my double X chromosome but I tend think of my interactions with people more than other things. I have wished I could get in someone's head for a bit and just know what it's like to be them. What's their version of normal feel like? How do they see the world, or themselves or me?

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To Kasimir: I don't expect you to answer any of the following. I'm just prodding at your ideas to see if anything appeals to me, or anyone who happens by later.

Magic as currency. What are we trading? Does the magic make units of minor power that can be passed around? Like little magic pills? Are we talking more like the Steelheart gifters, swapping access to their power for other services? Or are we talking using the fuel source as a currency, like Atium or spheres of Stormlight?

Fixing electronics: What comes in handy here? Avoiding shocks, suppressing currents? Tracing circuits, finding shorts? Transmuting materials, editing the circuits post-manufacture?

Fancy cooking: Not a field I'm very experienced in. Is the ability to blend or powder materials useful? Grind nuts to flour at a glance, pulverize fruits into smoothies? Perhaps migrating heat, chilling and heating ingredients quickly and accurately? (Might help with making tea, too. =) )

With regard to magic as currency, I was thinking of trading discrete, quantisable units of power around: things that might (potentially!) get around problems of counterfeiting in our world. And depending on whether or not this base magic can be considered the same across cultures and nations? You have global currency right there.

For fixing electronics, I was thinking about it really as a way of simplifying the way people generally try to fix electronics now. Usually, when something doesn't work, you check the manual and troubleshoot and troubleshoot. If you're experienced (and lucky), you can narrow it (the problem) down and get it fixed fast. So I was thinking about being able to more quickly troubleshoot what's wrong with those things. In fact, perhaps not having to pry open sealed casing to fix something might also be useful. Or to handle fine, small parts.

For cooking: no great shakes at it either :/ The direction of my thoughts concerned allowing people to push the limits of how creative you can be with cooking. Maybe instead of having to carefully squeeze icing into patterns, you can make finer, more intricate patterns. Moving patterns. Maybe people could literally put emotions into cooking. Would give a whole new dimension to people who've fallen ill drinking chicken soup that someone's made for them.

Thinking in more broad/expansive terms (and set somewhere in the past), I would say magic that allowed people to lift a lot more than they could otherwise, to reinforce and strengthen materials, etc, would all be useful. Even something that could grant people a burst of speed must have been very useful in the days before walls were effective ways to stop horsemen from overrunning: magic creating early versions of traps that could kill horses, bursts of speed to take down horsemen...etc etc.

Edited by Kasimir
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I want to magically stop the grass mover and that thingie that blows dry leaves off the walkway which my neighbour uses at 7 o'clock in the morning. And mute his loudspeakers. :P

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I want to magically stop the grass mover and that thingie that blows dry leaves off the walkway which my neighbour uses at 7 o'clock in the morning. And mute his loudspeakers. :P

YES to all the things!  Perhaps a way to silence or amplify sounds in general? I would also mute all motorcycles.

 

 

 In fact, perhaps not having to pry open sealed casing to fix something might also be useful. Or to handle fine, small parts.

This is also how I see the fixing and restoration of Things. It might involve telekinesis. 

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YES to all the things!  Perhaps a way to silence or amplify sounds in general? I would also mute all motorcycles.

 

Absolutely. And the women who shout into their mobiles in the bus about their family and relationship problems. I can't blame the guy for leaving you if you shouted at him like that as well. ;)

 

Wouldn't that be fun if they moved their mouth but no sound came out. Hehe, I'm evil.

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Just pulling a few standouts that caught my attention this time, as my window is brief. So hard to not talk about them all!

I have wished to have 5 lives going at the same time.

Pushing a giant Pause button on Life

Do you get to play a Mega-Groundhog's Day with your entire life? Or is this a hive mind where the magic-user flits between lives like TV channels?

Getting mad? Take a moment and count to one hundred. ;)

I have wished I could get in someone's head for a bit and just know what it's like to be them. What's their version of normal feel like? How do they see the world, or themselves or me?

Now that, that one could be an awesome book all by itself. You should write that one. =)

 

Maybe people could literally put emotions into cooking. Would give a whole new dimension to people who've fallen ill drinking chicken soup that someone's made for them.

. . . magic that allowed people to lift a lot more than they could otherwise . . .

Literally putting emotions into cooking. That deserves some consideration. There is something deep there, for sure. I just can't quite put a finger on why that sounds so neat.

I've been designing an enchanted item based on the Legend of Zelda's power gloves. Rules like when both gloves are in contact with the item, its effective mass drops to 10% of normal. So it is like connecting a circuit, but if you take one hand off, well . . . I hope you're fast on your feet. :P

 

Absolutely. And the women who shout into their mobiles in the bus about their family and relationship problems. I can't blame the guy for leaving you if you shouted at him like that as well. ;)

 

Wouldn't that be fun if they moved their mouth but no sound came out. Hehe, I'm evil.

I used that power on a world I designed almost 15 years ago. Still considering using that world for a story at some point. Might not hurt to try stuffing the base concept into a different system, though. After all, half of Sanderson's systems have physique boosts, so why not mute sound in two different rule sets? Probably would fit best in the Anime-hair system; although, I had been trying to make magic seem really dangerous in that world. . .

Thanks again to everyone submitting powers and wishes. This is getting to be a nice little idea quarry.

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Literally putting emotions into cooking. That deserves some consideration. There is something deep there, for sure. I just can't quite put a finger on why that sounds so neat.

I've heard of this before. Like Water For Chocolate. I never watched the movie or read the book but when I read the summary, it certainly gets Weird. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Like_Water_for_Chocolate_(film)  When I was Googling the words to try and remember the name I came across this as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simply_Irresistible_(film)  At least there's a crab in it which could remind me of Roshar a little bit.  :unsure:  Surely someone can take the food idea and make it Really good.

 

 

I have wished I could get in someone's head.....

                  Now that, that one could be an awesome book all by itself. You should write that one. =)

I should Live that one. I think the idea itself is so tempting that it blocks my ability to explore the potential outcomes and embed it into a story. I would definitely read that book though! Any fiction I've written was mostly nonfiction with the names being changed. I don't think I could do world-building fantasy writing. That seems really hard to me. Maybe it's because I'm so new to the genre. I'm sort of disappointed when I learn of the various tropes. I'll get over that soon, I hope. *wink*

 

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Actually, I have another one I'm just going to throw out here. Any one familiar with the (philosophical) concept of possible worlds? (It's mostly just a tool to be able to think about modality in a way that doesn't drive people nuts, but some people, like David Lewis, who pioneered that concept, think those are actually real things.) I guess our closest analogue would be the idea of alternate universes.

In any case, kind of like burning gold (but not very much like it)--it'd be nice to be able to access the memories, skills, and mental states of your possible world counterparts. Need to fix your car but not sure where to get started? Sure. Just access the skills and memories of the counterpart who was an automechanic in a presumably distant possible world. [Edit: I do mean Allomantic Gold. Kind of like having the gold shadow who can advise you on how to do it, and you can kind of access their memories, but not in the Forgery sort of way.]

 

Another idea: it might be interesting to have time-travelling powers restricted in specific ways. Think about being counselled through your mid-life crisis by your future self!

Edited by Kasimir
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Simple: Jump to the front of any que with either mind-control or physical force.

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Magic that changes the weather to how I feel, or in a few specific cases, want very strongly. Of course, if everyone's giving suggestions to the clouds, whoever has the most emotion and/or willpower behind their request is going to come out on top - so, take emotion-altering drugs, gain specific kinds of weather control?

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