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More on the Magic System of My Book

Note from Cass: This is a guest blog #7 on how my husband created the world for my book. More world-building posts can be found here.


So, last time I had something of a world builders rant about setting up your main characters (on either side) and making them too cool. Too Awesome. Too big to fit in your world. Too whatever.  

But we do want awesome, unusual, powerful characters in the books we read. This is fantasy after all. It is kinda of the point. So, in the spirit of ‘the hand that just take-eth away also give-eth’ (yeah, I know, sorry) I started diving into the magic system to help solve a problem that maybe, just maybe, Cass mentioned that I had created for her narrative.  

I used the word POWER in the last post a lot as a catch all of capability, talent, general moxxi and everything else you thought I meant. I also railed against too much power, as it breaks your world. Or at least your consistency.  

When we were deep-diving into the magic system, I realized that having a singular metric for powhah! was too simplistic for me. I think it tends to make a bland world. You could effectively rate everyone with a single number and you are done. Yeah… life isn’t like that.  

I came up with three words to describe overall magical ability. These being Power (sigh), Talent and Focus. Though they are not specifically mentioned in the book (afaik), they should help frame what people can do, or at least how they get results.  To help get my point across about each of the traits, I used cars as an analogy:  

  • Power: This is the Engine of the car, the horsepower. 
  • Talent: Skill of the driver 
  • Focus: The other car components, brakes, suspension, etc. 

I drive a Jeep Wrangler (I love it, so different from my usual choice). Cass drives a Fiesta ST (which I also love, its exactly like the cars I grew up with, except better: a 200BHP go-kart).  

So… Jeep vs the ST racing on a curvy track:  

Jeep has 40% more raw power (a lot more torque too). However, the ST has tight handling, sharp brakes, more stability. So, on any track, it is not even going to be a credible race. The ‘Focus’ of team ST overcomes the 40% shortfall in power easily. The focus advantage is so great that even the skill of the driver may be irrelevant too. In this case Magical Focus beats Magical Power and Magical Talent.    

But… if the task is the magical equivalent of towing a boat. Then Team Jeep for the win. 

Let’s add another car. An old (thinking late 80’s) Lamborghini. Why? It does everything the ST does, but better. Sort of.  

In the Hands of a Decent driver an ST will get a good lap time. In the hands of a great driver they could get a little more, getting a great time. It is an easy to drive car, that allows everyone to get their best out of it. 

In the hands of a great driver, a Lambo would get an awesome time. Their skill would really use the car to its full potential.  

In the hands of a decent driver who was trying hard? Well, they would likely crash on the first turn and die. Why? The old Lambo was a beast, but really unforgiving. It is a beast in the hands of a great driver, but also still a beast in the hands of someone less talented.  Maybe to get round the track, they constantly drive slower than they could, fearful of what happens when they push. No amount of “I believe in you” is going to save you either. And, that person would always be faster in an ST. 

Magical Talent/Skill beats Magical Power and Magical Focus. 

So, what does this all mean. Each person has 3 traits of their magical ability. Each scale independently. The balance of them makes a difference to how they compare against peers. Massively out of balance mix of traits might create more problems than characters would want. They may be very capable of one type of thing, and dangerously inept at something else. These could be real challenges for characters to work towards overcoming or at least mitigating. But it also gives opportunities to be able to do some amazing or scary things without having to forget their power later.   

It also allows your characters to develop skills over time, without succumbing to the dreaded over done power creep. But let’s not get into that hot mess right now.