Types of Magic Systems

Types of Magic Systems

A magic system is a set of rules, however strict or loose, that govern magic in a fictional world. It may determine where magic came from, how it works, or the consequences of magic.

This little guide outlines five of the most common sources of magic in fiction, as well as giving you some ideas of how these magic systems are designed. Yes, they may have been 'done before', but they're so broad that there's room to write your own creative spin on them.

 

 

Bloodline

Magic is inherited through family lines. If your mum’s magic, you will be too! Maybe it’s inherited in the form of a curse that gives you a dark, twisted power.

Maybe you inherit a general concept of being magic but not the exact power, or maybe everyone in the family all has the same power.

This could lead to powerful houses who have the same power (e.g. they all have fire powers), leading to some pretty fun worldbuilding opportunities (the sigils!! The surnames!! The ancestral home in a volcano!)

 

Tool-Based

Magical abilities are controlled through the use of a tool or artefact such as:

  • Wands
  • Staffs
  • Amulets
  • Crystals
  • Rings
  • Cloak
  • Trident
  • Sceptre
  • Magic sword

This type of magic system comes with a built in limitation, meaning you can easily write tense situations without readers going “well why don’t they just magic their way out of it?” No wand = no magic. Conflict!

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Elemental

Manipulation of the classical elements:

Earth Soil, rocks, and minerals. Potentially also creating earthquakes. Could be unique with it and have them control soil fertility (creating plentiful harvest, or famine).
Water Moving water, potentially also freezing it. You could go down the Avatar route of “well technically plants and even humans have a lot of water in them” too
Fire Create, control, and extinguish fires.
Air Create storms, generate gusts of wind. Often air-powered characters can fly.

 Some writers also include other elements like elements of the periodic table.

 

Spoken

You say the magic words (like in Harry Potter or Uprooted) and magic happens, corresponding with the word you just said. Limitations could be moments when the magic user is unable to form words (underwater, gagged, lost their voice, non-verbal) or barriers in pronunciation and language.

 

Gifted

Your magic is given to you by a more powerful being such as a deity, a spirit, a magical elder, or a creature like a dragon. You may be gifted your power by a group of people in exchange for your protection of them.

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