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Old 06-08-2016, 01:26 PM
Lon-ami Lon-ami is offline

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Default [Worldbuilding] Classifying magic by type, element, school, etc

So in every fantasy universe or whatnot where magic is present, it can be classified in some way, either by type, element, school, etc. This classification determines the nature of spells themselves. Sometimes, there's also a relationship between the individual families derived from the classification, where one predates another, or rules over it, sometimes with multiple connections between each member. This can be usually depicted in a circle or diagram as well.

Looking at mythology, the general European model has always been "earth, fire, water, air". Then you have the Chinese with their "earth, fire, water, wood, metal".

In videogames and other fiction you have dozens of different models. For example, Pokémon is one of the universes where you can find the most families, a total of 18. Another example, Warhammer, has a total of 8, but then has additional minor types not included inside the main 8.

But I don't like any of them.


I want a good solid model, to be used as a foundation for the depiction of magic in the settings I work with in the future. Specifics of said settings don't matter for this thread.

It's hard because I'm trying to somehow... Apply math and science to magic? Kinda like, I don't know, first scientists tried to explain stuff like why it rained or other phenomena that were historically attributed to magic before. Except magic doesn't really exist. I'm applying logic to fiction.

Since there's no inherent logic on magic at all, except chemistry or other real world correlations, I want a limit, a restriction. I will force myself to create symmetrical relationships with the members of the classification. No member will be standalone, all of them will be related to each other in a specific way.

So let's go.


The first thing I dislike about classic models, and the one thing that made me go for my own unique model, is "fire".

Fire is usually tiered with earth, water, and air in the most simple models. However, fire isn't shit. It's not matter, you can't pick it up. It's a chemical reaction.

This inconsistency, plus lot of dead free time, led me through a path of theorycrafting about the topic. These ideas are more than one year old, but I figured I would share them anyway.

I think explaining the final result is easier than the step-by-step, so here it is:


First, we have 4 elements, that form a circle, clockwise:

* Earth
* Water
* Air
* Life

Each element has 2 elemental forces inside, that oppose the force next to them outside their element. These forces can be conservative or destructive, depending on how they transform matter. Clockwise, constructive goes first/left, and destructive second/right.

* Fire (D. Earth) - Ice (C. Water)
* Psychic (D. Water) - Electricity (C. Air)
* Shadow (D. Air) - Light (C. Life)
* Nature (D. Life) - Mechanics (C. Earth)

Before the explanations, note that the names aren't final, they just give a general idea of what they are about. So, explanations:

* Both forces under an element share some basic abilities. For example, both air forces can manipulate the wind in similar ways.
* Fire an ice are an obvious one, and the basic foundation for the model. Fire would cover everything from burning to lava, and ice would cover freezing as well as steam. The key is both deal with heat. Fire is destructive because it transforms matter (bark to ash) unlike water that only changes its state (liquid to solid).
* Mechanics covers stuff like earthquakes aside from what the name already implies. It understands the world, and specially the earth, as if it was a machine full of gears, and learns to control it. Sound could be included here as well.
* Nature takes everything related to life, specially plants, as well as poisons. It embodies wilderness, and relates to swarms and plagues more than happy flowers. It's the counterpart to mechanics, and both deal with the creation of "lifeforms" in their own way.
* Electricity is an obvious one under Air, and deals with lightning, thunder, your classic stuff. Shadow is all about the darkness, the night, smoke screens, deception, etc. Sand and dust are key themes of both of these forces, and the driving catalyst for their control of the wind, because wind alone is of no use.
* Psychic is the water counterpart to electricity. It's all about mind control, illusionism, hypnotization, and manipulation of time and space through gravity. Where electricity represents kinetic energy, psychic represents potential energy. It's under water because it uses water as its catalyst, specially for its reflective nature. Also because flesh is made of water.
* Light is the life counterpart to shadow, and it deals with daylight, souls and spirits.


So that's it! The mode of 4 basic elements, as well as Fire and Ice, are pretty much untouchable, but everything else can be modified.

I'm specially indecisive with Light and Shadow. Maybe move spirits to shadow? They sound like they fit better there, but it kinda breaks the equilibrium. Maybe make "spirits" a shared theme between both light and shadow? With one being "living" and another "dead"?

Note that the spellcasters from this universe don't need to be limited to a single elemental force, and could combine multiple of them.

Also, I want my magic to "make sense", so classic necromancy has no place. Zombies can be a thing under Nature, through infestation of corpses, but that's it.


Looking forward opinions of my model, as well as your own models if you have any. Don't want the discussion to be just about mine!

Note that there's other options for new models as well, from animal species to attack types or whatever, no need to stick to elements. Just go for it!

Metzen: They are one of the ancient races of Northrend that we haven't spoken of before... because we hadn't made them up before. (laughter)

~Main: Expansion theorycrafting, Expansions list, The Age of Nightmare, Empire of the Tides (coming soon)~
~Fan ficton: Anachronos Journey: The Timeless Heir~ ~Geography of continents series: Old Kalimdor (original), Pandaria~
~Locations as zones series: Azjol-Nerub, Barrow Deeps, Zul'Aman, Demon Hunter zone, Caverns of Time~

Last edited by Lon-ami; 06-12-2016 at 01:45 PM..
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