Ubeka

Feedback on a magic system

9 posts in this topic

Hey there!
After my binge of Cosmere books this year, I figured to try my hand at creating my own magic system somewhat in the same vein as Brandon's works. Here is a quick overview of what I've come up with so far:

The three categories:
The magic is basically subdivided into three essential categories from which abilities stem. These categories are the Expansive, the Compressive, and the Distributive category. Expansive here means that, by spreading something of your own being into the outside world you bring about magic effects. Opposite to that, Compressive abilities work based on drawing something of the outside world into yourself to perform the spell. Finally the Distributive category is neutral in this sense and works just through, well, re-distributing things within yourself or your surroundings.
Now, each category supplies three basic abilities, resulting in nine basic arts. These nine arts are then distributed to nine classes of magic wielders in pairs of twos. Thus, each class can access two basic abilities, and each ability is used by two different classes. In some cases, the basic abilities bring forth class-specific sub-abilities.

The nine abilities and classes:
Expansive abilities:

  • Ruin: Matter is aged or broken by touch, which accelerates decomposition or straight up breaks material bonds. Used by Cometflingers and Tyrants.
  • Aura: One's own presence is spread out into the surroundings and amplified to intimidate/terrify others or inspire loyalty/awe in them. Used by Tyrants and Strongholds.
  • Suppression: A thick mist is created which suppresses sight, hearing and smell. Used by Strongholds and Mistwalkers.
    • Pneuma: Additionally, Strongholds can combine Suppression with Aura and use the mist to raise and control the dead. They themselves, however, will be unable to move while doing this.

Compressive abilities:

  • Perception: Gives enhanced awareness to other people's presence and furthermore enables one to recognize the patterns of their emotions, resulting in an indirect sort of mind reading. Used by Mistwalkers and Gutthinkers.
  • Mimicry: Eating lifeless matter and digesting it allows one to take on a property of that matter, i. e. digesting glass could make you translucent. Only works once digestion has begun, and you usually wanna use up all of your material as to not poison or harm yourself. Used by Gutthinkers and Starchewers.
  • Convergence: Events in the immediate future, which have already become inevitable, can be foreseen. Used by Starchewers and Dancers.
    • Dancers can furthermore use Convergence to slow down time around themselves, resulting in more precise and quicker movement. The ability lasts only briefly, however, as it requires stopping your own heart for the duration of it.

Distributive abilities:

  • Polarization: Objects are polarized by touch to magnetically attract or repulse each other. It's possible to use this ability in fractions and on yourself. Used by Dancers and Shifters Shiftminds.
  • Focus: Reflexes can be enhanced significantly, but only at the expense of your cognitive abilities. Used by Shifters Shiftminds and Changeminds Couriers.
    • Regeneration: Changeminds Couriers can significantly accelerate and amplify healing functions of their bodies by entering a trance.
  • Arsenal: Objects that the wielder can hold in their hands can be stored away in a pocket dimension and be retrieved from there. The latter requires some concentration, however. Used by Changeminds Couriers and Cometflingers.

Eye Colour, Asheyes, and the Iridescent Elixir

The fuel required to use any of the nine abilities is Eye Colour, directly corresponding to a person's irises. Eye Colour is consumed when utilizing the abilities and cannot be retrieved or restored by humans. When a human runs out of Eye Colour, they become what is known as an Asheyes. The name stems from the white-grey colouring of their irises and the little red and orange specks therein, looking like dying embers.
Eye Colour can be replenished or even stored beyond normal humans' capacity through use of the Iridescent Elixir, a colorless liquid that someone else's Eye Colour has been stored in. Applying it like you would eye drops, Eye Colour is absorbed by your body. The eye's actual colour is not linked to what Eye Colour was stored in the Elixir and instead depends only on the person receiving Eye Colour.

The process of making Iridescent Elixir and putting Eye Colour in it is called Extraction and is jealously guarded by an order of monks. Since generally anyone could Extract Eye Colour from other people, the monks have made it their duty to keep the details of Extraction a secret and to manage and guard all Eye Colour economy so Eye Colour is only Extracted with consent of its owner. They have set up countless stations across the country to Extract and sell Eye Colour to armies or noble families or rich wielders. Selling your Eye Colour is somewhat of a last resort way to get quick money during hard times.


Alright, that's about all that I've worked out so far. Some things that I am still developping:

  • How does Extraction actually work? What do the monks do to people, and how is the Iridescnt Elixir made?
  • Is there only a select few people who can even use the nine abilities to begin with? How are they distinguished from others? How do you find out you can use the magic?
  • What criteria decides which of the nine magic wielding categories a person falls into?
  • How quickly is Eye Colour drained? How much do the different abilities consume, and does it happen instantaneous or at a fixed rate over time?
  • What other changes could come with becoming an Asheyes?

 

Now, I would be thrilled to read your feedback on all this! I personally am a little worried if some of this hits too close to Surgebinding and BioChromatic Breath. I also haven't been able to come up with a nice name for the system, and some of the categories and abilities probably aren't quite up to par yet either.
Anyhow, looking forward to comments, suggestions, critique, questions, anything. :>

Edited by Ubeka
Renamed some categories
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Greetings. You've gotten off to a nice start here, I think. I do have some notes for you.

The economic aspect of Extraction.
You aren't sure yet whether to make your system Global or Limited (personal terminology, but it gets the point across clearly enough, I think). A Limited system would, IMO, detract from the Eye Colour economy you propose. The Breath economy in Warbreaker works because everyone has a use for Breath, as everyone can, in theory, become an Awakener. Even non-awakeners get advantage from BioChroma (even just a single Breath) through the Heightenings (it also boost your immune system). If the only use of Eye Colour is as a fuel source for the magic, then there's no advantage for non-users to hold on to their Eye Colour. I'm not saying this can't work, but it's a choice you have to make.
If you add a benefit to keeping one's Eye Colour, it justifies the high price. If you don't, non-users flood the market with Eye Colour, meaning it's probably cheap and you lose a reason for magic-users to be sparing with their abilities (which may not be that important to you in the first place).

I did notice the similarities between your system and both Surgebinding and BioChroma (any Sanderson-fan would). The BioChroma similarity is something you can make your own, depending on how you use it; as discussed above, there can be (minor/moderate) differences with far-reaching consequences. The only similarity I see with Surgebinding is the combination of 2 abilities per user-type, which is rather superficial, all things considered; I wouldn't worry about it.

What I do worry about is the seeming randomness of the abilities. I may be missing a common theme, of course, but I see no connection between Ruin, Perception, and Polarization, for instance. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, though it does bring with it a risk of your system feeling somewhat incoherent (I'm struggling with something similar myself at the moment). This feeling may be exacerbated by only 3 of your 9 user-types having "specialist" abilities.

Pneuma: I see how the loyalty/awe of Aura could be linked to controlling undead, but I don't get how Suppresion enters into it.
Convergence and Focus: Contrary to Pneuma, you don't link these additional abilities to another basic ability, which leaves me wondering why only Dancers and Changeminds can use them, instead of Shifters and Starchewers.
Mimicry: This ability seems far more versatile than the other basic abilities (except perhaps Arsenal).

Overall, this magic system shows promise, but it could still use some more work.

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I agree with Eagle, this system shows promise. I wouldn't worry about the similarities with Sanderson's magic systems. There's always going to be similarities with other systems in some way, and it's not bad to draw inspiration from works you enjoy.

When it comes to the naming of different users, consider using hyphens or capitalization to differentiate the words. For example, when I read Starchewers, I initially read it as Starch-ewers, and then wondered what sheep had to do with it.

One possibility with the Eye Colour exchange system is making it limited from the source. Like Eagle said, if everyone has it but not everyone can use it, there would essentially be a flood of the market, making it very inexpensive and giving no incentive for people to keep it. But if only those who can use it have it in the first place, you'll retain some amount of balance. A possible point of conflict for the story that goes with this system would be a different group aside from the monks who've discovered the process of extraction.

How fast it's used depends on the economics you want to get out of it. It could be a portion is drained every time it's used, but as long as a person is conservative in their use it should last their whole lives. If you want Eye Colour to be a larger economic point, then make it so that the color drains quickly.

As for the process of extraction, it would very much depend on your magic system. Does using magic require some kind of incantation? If so, there could be an incantation that would extract Eye Colour. It could also be a delicate surgical process (another reason people would have to be desperate to sell it). A consequence of that could be the person not being able to use that eye for several days or weeks.

You get to choose how the magic is distributed. Maybe it's possible for everyone to use one of the abilities, but only some have the ability to use two, which gains them their names. The easiest way to decide is an inherent ability that they'll eventually discover (similar to Stormlight). 

If I'm understanding correctly, Eye Colour is in the iris. A human's eye is black in part because it absorbs color and light. If it becomes white, it would then reflect light. One possible consequence of becoming Asheyes could be blindness. It could also be that if they become a full Asheye, they can't regain Eye Colour.

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Hey guys, thanks for the feedback!
 

On 28.10.2018 at 8:09 AM, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

A Limited system would, IMO, detract from the Eye Colour economy you propose. The Breath economy in Warbreaker works because everyone has a use for Breath, as everyone can, in theory, become an Awakener. Even non-awakeners get advantage from BioChroma (even just a single Breath) through the Heightenings (it also boost your immune system). If the only use of Eye Colour is as a fuel source for the magic, then there's no advantage for non-users to hold on to their Eye Colour.

That reasoning definitely makes sense. I'm tending towards making the magic (in theory) available to everyone. I've been wary of giving some baseline buff to people just holding Eye Colour as it treads dangerously close to BioChromatic Breath but since I kinda want the same economical aspect for my magic system it might not be avoidable.

13 hours ago, Elandera said:

One possibility with the Eye Colour exchange system is making it limited from the source.

It certainly would provide some more conflict of interest, though I'd prefer to keep Eye Colour a "common good" but still finite. I'll brood a little over this and maybe use it as a starting point for refinement of the availability problem.

13 hours ago, Elandera said:

If you want Eye Colour to be a larger economic point, then make it so that the color drains quickly.

Definitely agree with this. Ideally, if two magic users fought, one "serving" of the Iridescent Elixir should roughly last them for the whole duel. For more extreme cases it'd be paramount to find a place to retreat and delicately replenish your Eye Colour.

On 28.10.2018 at 8:09 AM, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

What I do worry about is the seeming randomness of the abilities. I may be missing a common theme, of course, but I see no connection between Ruin, Perception, and Polarization, for instance.

Well, that is true, there is not really a common theme for these abilities. My workflow for this magic system basically was first to just brainstorm as many cool abilities as possible. Afterwards, while looking at Mistborn's Allomancy and its categories, I figured to set down rough categories myself to help me create a selection from that pool of ideas. I knew I wanted nine basic abilities and so I put forth the three categories Expansive, Compressive, and Distributive (which tie in a little with some worldbuilding from earlier drafts of the story this is supposed to be included in). Hence the actual abilities are widely diverse and perhaps not streamlined enough yet.

On 28.10.2018 at 8:09 AM, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

This feeling may be exacerbated by only 3 of your 9 user-types having "specialist" abilities.

Yeah, I can definitely see that. It's a bit of a problem since the specialist abilities were introduced sorta to include some more abilities I liked but also to create some more balance in the magic system between different classes. StarChewers, for example, seemed powerful enough with just foresight and perhaps the system's most versatile ability Mimicry so I figured they couldn't have time slowdown as well. For Dancers I meanwhile felt that it fit in with their whole motif of moving about elegantly and precisely.
But you're right, there should be some in-universe reasoning for this as well. That said, there's still the possibility of some more specialist abilities appearing. Just not necessarily for each class.

On 28.10.2018 at 8:09 AM, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

Pneuma: I see how the loyalty/awe of Aura could be linked to controlling undead, but I don't get how Suppresion enters into it.

The mist is the medium of the ability in this case. Being an Expansive ability, it basically spreads your own being over the perimeter. In the case of Pneuma this is literally spreading-yourself-thin and hence why you yourself remain motionless while controlling the dead around you. If you can dispel the mist, you can also effectively cancel a Stronghold's hold over their puppets.

On 28.10.2018 at 8:09 AM, Eagle of the Forest Path said:

Mimicry: This ability seems far more versatile than the other basic abilities (except perhaps Arsenal).

Yeah, that's true. It's something I've been worrying about for some time now but just the concept of this ability was fascinating enough that I really want to keep it. I probably need to impose some more limitations on this like for example that you can't really change density of your body (i. e. turning to smoke or similar stunts won't work). I could restrict it to only give access to properties of solids (translucency/opacity, brittleness/toughness, roughness/slickness). Or perhaps reduce the overall effect, making it so you can become MORE transparent, but not completely, sorta by a rule of averages between your own body and the material consumed.

14 hours ago, Elandera said:

Maybe it's possible for everyone to use one of the abilities, but only some have the ability to use two, which gains them their names. The easiest way to decide is an inherent ability that they'll eventually discover (similar to Stormlight).

Not sure I get the latter half about an "inherent ability" like in Stormlight. Do you mean just the ability to draw in Stormlight here?
I'd like to keep it to just the nine double-ability classes. Having another nine groups with just one ability would be too much in my opinion. Main issue here is just deciding on a determining characteristic and whether it's character-specific (something linked to personal beliefs, behaviour, morals, ect. like the Nahel Bond) or just being randomly born with it (like Mistings in Mistborn). For the latter it may correlate with the actual color of the eyes, which then would not work by our laws of genetics probably.

13 hours ago, Elandera said:

As for the process of extraction, it would very much depend on your magic system. Does using magic require some kind of incantation? If so, there could be an incantation that would extract Eye Colour. It could also be a delicate surgical process (another reason people would have to be desperate to sell it). A consequence of that could be the person not being able to use that eye for several days or weeks.

I'm definitely a fan of the idea of the procedure leaving you temporarily blinded. It'd provide a very good deterrent and reason why the Order tightly regulates the Eye Colour economy. Only thing is that I'd want Extraction to basically be an "all or nothing" process. I'm imagining it to look really weird when you drain only one eye. I think making the Iridescent Elixir requires a human's full Eye Colour supply. Only then can Eye Colour be distributed in fractions.
Logically this would raise the question why people don't just have their complete Eye Colour Extracted, then be given back at least a few drops of it. It'd result in a smaller payout, but it would be the easiest way to avoid becoming an Asheyes. Perhaps it's something to do with the Elixir requiring some time to become stable or generally being somewhat volatile under air so you'd usually want to only apply it in a full dose as well.

13 hours ago, Elandera said:

human's eye is black in part because it absorbs color and light. If it becomes white, it would then reflect light. One possible consequence of becoming Asheyes could be blindness. It could also be that if they become a full Asheye, they can't regain Eye Colour.

I have played with the idea of blindness for Asheyes but I think it's too extreme. One or two characters I have intended for the story would start out as Asheyes, and I feel blindness would be too big of a handicap. The pupil of Asheyes remains black, meaning they can still see. But perhaps the loss of Eye Colour decreases vision in regards to contrast. Asheyes would have a harder time making out precise differences in brightness/darkness.
Not being able to regain Eye Colour would also not quite work for my plans. The Order actually Extracts Eye Colour of all their new monks upon joining (a sign of humility and to cut them off from using magic). A select few, however, are allowed to replenish their Eye Colour - to use magic to hunt down runaways and traitors that might spill the beans on how Extraction is performed. This wouldn't be possible if Asheyes cannot regain Eye Colour.
So far I was considering that Asheyes are generally associated with being poor and that there is also a bit of a religious prejudice against them where Eye Colour is viewed as a divine gift. I agree that there needs to be more of a drawback to Extracting your Eye Colour (or reversely, a benefit to keeping or even amassing it).


Oof, big post. Again, thank you very much for your feedback so far! It's giving me a lot of things to consider for optimization and refinement of the system. Any further input is, of course, just as appreciated. :>

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3 hours ago, Ubeka said:

Not sure I get the latter half about an "inherent ability" like in Stormlight. Do you mean just the ability to draw in Stormlight here?
I'd like to keep it to just the nine double-ability classes. Having another nine groups with just one ability would be too much in my opinion. Main issue here is just deciding on a determining characteristic and whether it's character-specific (something linked to personal beliefs, behaviour, morals, ect. like the Nahel Bond) or just being randomly born with it (like Mistings in Mistborn). For the latter it may correlate with the actual color of the eyes, which then would not work by our laws of genetics probably.

Sorry, that's my mistake. I meant inherent ability like Mistborn (where they're born with it). You could make it genetic, so it runs in the family. I do like the idea that it correlates with eye color.

4 hours ago, Ubeka said:

I have played with the idea of blindness for Asheyes but I think it's too extreme. One or two characters I have intended for the story would start out as Asheyes, and I feel blindness would be too big of a handicap. The pupil of Asheyes remains black, meaning they can still see. But perhaps the loss of Eye Colour decreases vision in regards to contrast. Asheyes would have a harder time making out precise differences in brightness/darkness.

This is another part where I got mixed up. The pupil is the part that determines what we see, not the iris (that's what happens when I'm writing things half-distracted :P). Instead of blindness, maybe it results in color blindness. If it's the color that drains out of the iris, the part that controls light-intake, maybe a consequence would be slow reaction to rapid light changes.

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Extraction could be the use off all three types to remove eye color. Compress the eye color-> Distribute it into a special exlirlir => Expand it into that exlilir, and the only people who can perform extraction are ash eyes using the last remnants of there eyecolor

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On 29.10.2018 at 3:12 PM, Elandera said:

The pupil is the part that determines what we see, not the iris (that's what happens when I'm writing things half-distracted :P). Instead of blindness, maybe it results in color blindness. If it's the color that drains out of the iris, the part that controls light-intake, maybe a consequence would be slow reaction to rapid light changes.

Ooh, I am a big fan of the adapting-to-light-changes slowness. Added it to my personal notes alongside with reduced contrast perception and a general oversensibility to brightness. :)

On 29.10.2018 at 7:58 PM, MountainKing said:

Extraction could be the use off all three types to remove eye color. Compress the eye color-> Distribute it into a special exlirlir => Expand it into that exlilir, and the only people who can perform extraction are ash eyes using the last remnants of there eyecolor

That's not really how the categories work. Compression is called that because you compress something from outside in yourself. Expansion is the opposite, and Distribution is just changing "entropy" for lack of a better work. I do like the idea, however, that only Asheyes could Extract Eye Colour. It would make sense for most monks to be Asheyes then and also put some interesting restrictions on the characters that already have some Eye Colour themselves.

 

I also remembered something about the Asheyes, namely that they tend to be easier influenced by the effects of Aura. It makes for some not-so-pretty historical anecdotes where Tyrants were prone to enlist Asheyes to better control them and use them as shock troops in the many bloody wars the continent has seen.

 

Currently I'm working a little on a name for the system overall. Tried a bunch of things with Color-, Chroma-, Spectra, ect. somewhere in there. So far the only ones that really tickle my fancy are Chromancy or Prismancy. I'm not 100% settled on these yet, though.

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17 hours ago, Ubeka said:

Ooh, I am a big fan of the adapting-to-light-changes slowness. Added it to my personal notes alongside with reduced contrast perception and a general oversensibility to brightness. :)

That's not really how the categories work. Compression is called that because you compress something from outside in yourself. Expansion is the opposite, and Distribution is just changing "entropy" for lack of a better work. I do like the idea, however, that only Asheyes could Extract Eye Colour. It would make sense for most monks to be Asheyes then and also put some interesting restrictions on the characters that already have some Eye Colour themselves.

 

I also remembered something about the Asheyes, namely that they tend to be easier influenced by the effects of Aura. It makes for some not-so-pretty historical anecdotes where Tyrants were prone to enlist Asheyes to better control them and use them as shock troops in the many bloody wars the continent has seen.

 

Currently I'm working a little on a name for the system overall. Tried a bunch of things with Color-, Chroma-, Spectra, ect. somewhere in there. So far the only ones that really tickle my fancy are Chromancy or Prismancy. I'm not 100% settled on these yet, though.

How about this, a monk would expand the eye color of the person, redistribute it into an elixir, then set up the compression spell, so when someone starts to drink it, the elixir compresses itself into the person's eyes. And if the elixir doesn't have a compression spell

Edited by MountainKing
Adding more
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Been a while!
In the meantime I have brooded over some of the mage category names and decided to change Shifters and Changeminds after I had some ideas as to everyday uses of the latter. Changeminds, which have now been renamed to Couriers, are actually rather cherished as message runners and delivery men for the rich and the nobility time. Their abilities lend themselves well to travelling long distance in short time and quickly getting their strength back when resting as well as transporting highly important letters or even packages since they needn't carry them on their person and therefore are fairly safe from being stolen.

Shifters got renamed to Shiftminds since I still kinda liked the Changemind name and figured it could well work for people who basically "shift gears" or play around with magnetic repulsion and attraction.
I've also decided that the reason why Iridescent Elixir isn't returned in small parts to the donor is because it significantly reduces the quality of the entire Eye Colour sample. In order to maximize magical output, the Elixir has to be applied in one full dose to the same person. Spreading it out over several people will trade in a lot of the potential use.

I've also settled on two major candidates for the magic system's name. Looking over my long list, I figured most of them were just a little too technical or focused too much on just the Eye Colour part, which really is just a little facet.
So, the two options on the table right now are either Chromastery or Varna (after the Sanskrit word for colour). They're both still very related to the colour aspect but they're not quite as blatant in my opinion.

Would love to see what you folks think of the new bits. :>

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