The laws of magic

Magic exists… really. Whether or not in the real world, it certainly does in the worlds I create. I have to believe in it, and somewhat paradoxically it has to have rules to be believable.

For a good long while I didn’t structure my magic in Warlords of The Dreaming God because whilst it is important to the story, it wasn’t the key driver. I came from years of role-playing a very early incarnation of my fantasy world with my friend Anthony, using a blend of Rolemaster and Middle Earth RP systems (by Iron Crown Enterprises). They had very structured magical systems, which when it came to writing became a straight jacket, so I wanted to back off and see what came out of my Ideas Channel, what suited the plot and characters.

From time to time things emerged which slowly began to define magic in my world, rather than any other fantasy world. Other fantasy writers would sometimes bring an interesting slant to magic, which I could learn from. Other sources of inspiration over the years has come from reading Alistair Crowley and trying out both Shiatsu and Qi Gong, which brought a very eastern way of looking at internal and external power.

So now, magic in my world is more defined and ‘logical’ (if that doesn’t sound too wierd). I know, to a certain extent what works and what doesn’t. What is within the realms of possibility. There is still a long way to go before it becomes complete, but I am building a system which is internally consistent, let’s see where it goes. Hey, where’s the fun if everything is predetermined?

In Warlords of The Dreaming God, there are five Forms which define most magic. These Forms have existed for thousands of years, gradually refined from the more primal power the very first magicians wielded.  So great is the dedication required to study magic that only the most experienced or talented magicians can learn more than one form. Excuse the rough manner in which I describe these Forms, but these are:

Mind

  • Mind reading and control
  • Farsight and extra sensory perceptions, psychometry
  • Telekinesis, and powers to move or stop physical objects, create invisible walls
  • Astral projection

Force

  • Elemental magic
  • Illusions
  • Healing
  • ‘Teleportation’ and manipulation of the body/physical forms
  • Telekinesis

Spirit

  • Shamanism
  • Spirit walking
  • Spirit conjuration and control, banishment
  • Sight of the past and the future, psychometry (through spirits)

Lore

  • Alchemy
  • Decoding signs, ciphers and languages
  • Prediction of the future
  • Creation of wards, runes
  • Defensive magic, creating magical walls and barriers against physical and non physical attack
  • Anti magic – draining magic from things/people
  • Science

Dark Magic

  • Necromancy
  • Demonology
  • Destruction  
  • Death magic (various methods for draining life energy, destroying life)

 Alongside the Forms there are some general skills which any mage can learn, for example…

  • Magical sense
  • Defensive magic, shields against physical and magical attack
  • Detect and dispel magic
  • Draw and share power
  • Create light

To understand the art and science of magic in my world I began devising the Codex Arcana, on a range of laws such as application and control, energy, creation and destruction, and harmony. The Codex is purely background information for the novel, but it gives me a useful guide to consult when writing about matters of magic. I include a short extract below:

The Codex Arcana – By Archmage Andros Kelenmyr, Master of the League Arcana

“On creation and destruction

The two most powerful forces that we mortals are aware of. Agents of change, causality, driving forth all that is and all that will be. It is the law of nature that creation and destruction oppose each other. All things that come to be, in time cease to be. Destruction appears the greater power, affecting all things, but it is endlessly thwarted by the power of creation. New replaces old. Nothing can truly be destroyed, it changes form and returns to us in a different guise. The stone of the mountains is eroded by the elements over countless millennia until they become dust… taken by rivers to become the sand upon the bed of the sea, to be cast forth onto land again and become the shore of some new continent.

The laws of creation and destruction also affect magic. It is easier to destroy than to create. All things will fail in the end or be destroyed, it is merely the right application of force and time. A new life takes a miraculous turn of circumstance, years of growth and learning to come to fruition, yet is easy to destroy by much simpler and less sophisticated means. It is a reason our world is scarred with so many terrible wars. Destruction is kept in check only by continual renewal, rebirth, the new replacing the old.

As a result of this natural law, the destructive powers of dark magic tempt some magicians, granting them power that they would not otherwise have. In turn they are only kept in check by the majority of right-minded people who may act against them. That, and the tendency of evil to consume itself, in time.

When applying this law of creation and destruction to our use of magic, one sees that it is easier to use magic to strike or destroy than to shield against such. A strike takes a moment, a shield must be maintained against continuing possibilities of attack from many directions, so consumes more energy. Tactically in battle this makes it imperative for a magician to prepare, to shield themselves or be ready to act at a moment’s notice, not to be put on a defensive foot. And in turn, a magician who can achieve a surprise attack can be devastating.”

As the Codex evolves I may write some more about it, but for now, I hope this gives you a flavor of what you will find in Warlords of The Dreaming God.

About Scott Foley

Scott Foley is a British fantasy writer based in Manchester. He is author of Knight of Aslath and the Dreaming God Chronicle. Brought up on a steady diet of Tolkien, roleplaying games and a never-ending fascination with the question ‘what if?’, writing fantasy novels seemed the only sensible and worthwhile thing to do with his life. Knight of Aslath is his first novel, and he is currently working on the sequel Warlords of the Dreaming God. Both novels form the beginning of the Dreaming God Chronicle and are set in the fantasy world of Teth-Kiran. Knight of Aslath is available on Amazon, and you can find out more about Scott's work at: http://www.scottfoleybooks.com