There is one writer at the moment who is more identified with concrete and developed magic systems than any other. That man is of course Brandon Sanders.
For Spellcraft and Heavy Artillery I need a complete and crunchy magic system. It need to have well defined internal rules, ways it can be exploited, issues, etc.
So of course I’m turning to Brandon for inspiration. I’m building up a complex and complete magic system for my world. I’m not doing this alone, I have recruited my son to work on this. He runs the magicbuilding subreddit, and when he plays an RPG the first thing he does is try to break the magic system.
I know elements of the system, and in the end it doesn’t change the plot as a whole, but it is important to the story – so working it.
Here’s what I know so far:
Magic is innate to some people, a small minority of the population. If you have the ability to see magic (the actual forces involved) you also have the ability to do magic. If you do not have this ability, you can’t work spells.
Once you can see magic your ability to work it depends almost entirely on your ability to figure it out, although manual dexterity does factor into it.
Most enchantments are done on objects, and those objects can be triggered by non-magical people. You can have magic weapons and use them despite not have any magical ability at all. This is because magic takes time, doing it on the fly is extraordinarily difficult.
So, those are the basics. Now, some thoughts on what I might do:
I am thinking that magic is kind of like weaving/knot making. Magic exists as strands of force, and you can tie those strands into intricate forms, which allows those forms to take on new properties. Taking heat, air, kinetic energy, a few other elements maybe, and twisting them into the right patter creates a fireball. There are many, many, many forms of energy. It’s more like an expanded version of the periodic table than it is like the four elements.
The more of an element that exists in an area the easier it is to make that spell happen. Fire is easier when there is heat and wind available in plenty.
There are more directions in magic space, it’s an n-dimensional space, and the magician has to construct their knots in more dimensions than a standard human can understand. The spells they chant have no power, words have no ability to influence things. They are just a mnemonic device, a way to remember how to make the damned knot.
The arcane symbols are the same kind of deal, a detailed diagramming system used to explain the knotwork. Celtic knotwork is also the same sort of thing, just a different notation system. In fact many cultures developed their own method of notation.
So those are my thoughts so far. It is still being developed, and I hope to have it more detailed by next week, when I need to release chapter 3. Chapter two is written and will come out this Friday. The plan is a new chapter every Friday until the entire thing is available. Check out the story so far.