A unique magic system is a great way to make your fantasy world unforgettable. Magic can be as complicated, or as simple, as you like. The most important thing is that it makes sense for your world and the story that you are telling.
We previously published a blog article called “5 Unique Magic Systems to Inspire Your Own,” and it was such a hit that we couldn’t leave it at that. Here are five more of our favourite magic systems that you should be inspired by:
In Brent Weeks's series, drafters use chromaturgy to turn light into a physical substance called luxin. Each colour of light has its own properties: blue luxin is hard and smooth, green luxin is springy and flexible, yellow luxin is usually a liquid. Most drafters can use one colour of light (monochromes), some are able to use two (polychromes), and a very few can use three or more colours (polychromes). Drafting comes with a cost: with each draft, luxin builds up in the eyes of a drafter, forming a halo of the colour they use. With continued drafting, it is inevitable that this halo will break, spilling colour into the sclera of the eye and signaling the drafter’s descent into madness.
There are at least six magic systems in Rothfuss's epic fantasy. For brevity's sake, we'll focus on one: Sympathy. Sympathetic magic users wield the power of their belief in similarities between objects in order to create links, called “bindings,” between them. They are then able to transfer energy from one object to another through these bindings. This magic system relies heavily on the laws of physics, adhering to them rather than breaking them (in contrast to many other magic systems we know and love).
There are many different ways of wielding magic in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, but all have specific costs and limitations. For some casters, the cost is time—spells must be prepared ahead of time, forcing them to consider what might be the most useful for what they predict upcoming situations will require. For others, the cost is physical items—bits of plants, gemstones, and other ingredients that must be used in order to create the desired effect. Spell slots are universal; each magic caster can only use a certain number of spells in a given time frame, forcing careful considerations of when magic should be conserved, and when is the right time to use it. Magic is, for all intents and purposes, a finite resource.
Two very different schools of magic exist in Discworld, though both channel the same universal force. Wizards love hierarchy, empiricism, and, above all, rules. They spend years studying magic at one of the world’s many universities, and use a myriad of tools and instruments to test and measure its effects. Witches, on the other hand, wield traditional magic. They rely on things like common sense and hard work to accomplish their duties. They are also proficient in headology, a discipline which relies on the idea that what people believe is what is real. Witches are trained through apprenticeships rather than at institutions. One thing both witches and wizards can attest to: magic has a colour, octarine, described as sort of a greenish-purple.
Shadowhunters are warriors charged with a solemn duty: to fight back the demonic forces intent on invading the world. Their most powerful tools in this war are the runes given them by the angel Raziel, marks which can be applied to the body to channel the powers and abilities needed to fight demons. Drawn on the skin with tools called steles, the tattoo-like symbols can provide anything from increased speed, to boosted courage, to healing.
Whether you love hard magic systems, full of rules and regulations, or the mystical wonder of soft magic systems, make sure you put thought into how magic works and what purpose it serves in your story.
If you’re hungry for more discussion on all things mystical, make sure to check out our magic system series over on Wayfarer’s Guide to Worldbuilding, the podcast for all worldbuilding enthusiasts.