Refine Your World’s Magic Source

It might take the form of a glittering crystal powering a dragon’s acid breath. Or a river of power that can be tapped to create a wizard’s fireball. Or a demonic pact granting awesome healing powers. Along with knowing the source of magic, I also like to decide how the source acts and is used.

NOTE: I try to throw some ideas out there and hope some of them help. I make clear-cut categories only for the sake of simplifying the explanation. I know no reason writers can’t blur, erase, or redraw these lines to suit their desires for a world.

In “Choose Your Magic Source”, I suggested the ideas of concrete and abstract sources; I also said abstract sources can be difficult or impossible to map. Mapping a magical resource — concrete or abstract — becomes easier if the writer decide the source varies across space. Two possible types of variance are strength and density.
Maybe the magic source exists everywhere, but it is more potent on mountaintops. Perhaps magic crystals are common but the strongest ones are found in ruins occasionally uncovered by the shifting desert sands. Or an oath to Thing A is stronger than an oath to Thing B. These are examples of magic sources varying in strength or potency.

Another way to vary magic sources is to make them more concentrated in some places than others. As in power portals that cluster close together in the forests of dark elves. Or ley lines cross the lands and where they meet, the power gathers and packs tight into nodes. Perhaps magic gathers around not objects but pivotal moments in history, strong-hearted wishes, or powerful determination.

Other issues worth considering:

-Is it mobile or static? An immobile magic source could pose a challenge for magic users and significantly influence where cities are built and civilizations rise. A magic source orbiting the planet versus teleporting randomly within an ocean would create a very different pattern for civilization growth.

– Can the source or its energy be channeled, transformed, repelled, or stored? These are all changes to its natural state. Which raises the question: Can it be influenced or controlled accidentally or only with intent? This question touches on an entirely different topic — conditions for using the magic source — which I hoped to address in this post but ran out of room. No worries, consider this a teaser for the next post.

– Does the source have a will, consciousness, or conscience? Imagine a source with only two of these. A magic source with awareness and intent but no moral code is very different from a magic source who is moral and aware but has no ability to control the ways others use its magic.

All these points lead in to the how the magic source affects the rest of the world. This is tied to the use of the source but the two are not the same. For instance, time might flow differently inside a magical forest. There’s no spell on the forest, that is just one of the rules. Or, conversely, a magic addict who travels too far from a magic source and experiences severe mood swings or hallucinations. Maybe the ley line sucks life force from the immediate surroundings (in which case this ley line is more of a catalyst or transformative agent). Therefore, ley lines become both a power source and a tool for war.

Does a writer need to consider all of these ideas? No, but it could help make a richer world. (I hope you think of more ideas and share them with me.)

This finishes the second post about knowing about magic sources. The next two posts handle another layer of this magic system: magic use. Specifically the conditions and consequences. Then I’ll move into crafting different magic user types, followed by magic-specific world-building.


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