MY MAGICK SYSTEM
When I created my fantasy world for Meleena’s Adventures, to tell the truth, I did it bass-ackwards. I had to follow my muse, so I just wrote the story. As I ran across things I needed, I made them up. My world evolved as the story did. I didn’t sit down beforehand and create my encyclopedia or plan everything out beforehand. As I’ve mentioned over and over again in my previous articles, with the first Meleena’s Adventures, which wasn’t even titled that, I knew where I wanted to start and where I wanted to end. That was it.
I’m not embarrassed to admit it was inspired by a D&D module I created in Turkey in the 80’s. Let me emphasize, inspired. The last thing I wanted to do was have the reader see the dice rolling in their heads. At the same time, I wanted lots of monsters and mayhem. I’d read a fair sampling of fantasy, thanks to my wife, and wasn’t happy with any of them. They were all too wordy and full of intrigue where I wanted adventure as much as the fantasy world. Meleena’s Adventures was the result.
As things developed, I became deeply involved in creating my world. The story arc led me on a free-form journey where I created new characters, creatures, spells, plants, cities, you-name-it on the spur of the moment. All of this fell into place, moving the plot along. For a good chunk of the story, I didn’t have any problems, but toward the last third, I had to refer to things I’d used before. That’s when I realized I needed that encyclopedia I talked about in my previous articles.
During the writing of this novel, I was fortunate to have a long lunch with James Rollins, the second time he attended one of our writer’s conferences, and picked his brain about magick. He also writes fantasy under the pseudonym James Clemens. I asked him about magic, as he spells it. He is the one that told me that magic has to have consequences. This was in 2006 and I took his words to heart. I already had magick at this point in the story but wanted to do more with it, to make it more real. His words gave me the inspiration to develop it into what it is now.
Magick in Meleena’s world is obviously grounded in my experience with D&D and all the computer games I’ve played. It can be performed by most races. However, it takes quite a bit of mental acuity to be done well. All spells drain a person or creature’s intellect to some degree. That being said, there are certain creatures and races that can’t do it at all while to others it comes naturally. Elves are at the top of the food chain along with a few other races while Snorgs are near the bottom. Minor spells don’t take as much effort and can be accomplished by most races with lesser acuity and almost automatically by those with high acuity. These spells temporarily drain one’s intellect less severely than more powerful spells.
The higher powered spells are another matter. Even the most skilled and racially attuned magick users can only do them in limited numbers before they go crazy. The results can be disastrous for anyone around them.
In the story, wizards are not magick users. Wizards are phonies, charlatans. Kind of like what warlocks are to real Wiccans. If someone calls themselves a Wizard, they are either extremely evil or they don’t have a clue. I don’t use the word mage in the story at all.
When a character performs a spell, they don’t just do it. The take out components, rub them together, mix them, say words, or do whatever crazy things I decide for that particular spell. I make it real. I learned later on, that I had to write these elaborate setups down in my encyclopedia because I wanted to repeat a few of the spells later in the story. It turns out I deleted the repeats in a subsequent edit but plan to use some of them in the sequels. If I ever get any fans, they might remember and call me on them. It can happen!
All of my spells have flaws, though for expediency, sometimes they work as advertised. However, they can go wrong for dramatic effect, comic relief, or even as a plot device.
Having all these ingredients and incantations can make for some interesting side quests that may play a part in future stories. Keep that in mind when you plan your story out.
My magick system is an integral part of Meleena’s Adventures like everything else, but it is not a panacea.
The most important thing to remember about the rules of magick. Whatever you do, keep them off the page! There’s no bigger story killer than for the reader to see D&D or computer game rules leaking through to the story! The story is about the plot and the characters, not the rules of your world. They should be the backbone of your story and should be invisible to the reader. There’s nothing wrong with alluding to a character not being able to or smart enough to do a spell, but don’t make it sound like it’s a game rule!
How is your magick system built? How do you use it in your story?