Create a Magic System: Magic User Backstory

Magician. Pierpont Morgan, Visconti Sforza
Magician. Pierpont Morgan, Visconti Sforza (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Know your typical magic user before you start getting creative. Know who can do it and why, as well as how it affects the character on a personal level. This will give you part of the typical personality, background, and life of a magic user. While these traits might vary between types of magic users, some might be the same. But within a type, what they are should affect who they are. Today is about the who.

Know how common magic users are. This may vary by area – either because some areas produce more magic users or because magic users gravitate to certain areas. These areas might be places of high magic resources, places that welcome magic users, or places that teach magic users. Also consider whether there are non-human magic users with their own set of rules. Some options are gods, intelligent races, magical creatures, and summoned beings.

Know the role of heredity in passing on the ability to use magic. Maybe ability is passed on only through genes. Or maybe some magic users can be born from families without a history of magic. I’llo go ahead and say that if magic ability relies only on a single gene, you will end up with a lot of magic users unless there is some sort of check on the expression of the trait.

Possibly – but not necessarily – tied to heredity is the option to give magic users a shared set of physical traits. For instance, the ubiquitous red-headed witch. But it may be a combination of features. Shape-shifters sometimes are given physical traits that reflect their altered state. For shape-shifters, speech patterns are also sometimes used. But the appearance trick does not have to be restricted to shape-shifters, especially if there is a genetic component to the ability.

Knowing where magic users are likely to be found gives you a choice of likely settings for your WIPs and suggests that the typical magic user makes a journey or aspires to making a journey to a place of learning or acceptance. Maybe there is a place that all aspire to reach but where only a chosen few are welcome. This gives the typical magic user a sense of awe or embitterment towards the elite.

Together, these elements can help shape the backstory of your magic using characters. Tomorrow we will continue to look at the magic user but on a more personal level.

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