Worldbuilding: Designing a Magic System

Magic! The possibilities are literally endless! That being said, that doesn’t mean you can go mad and let your character turn the whole world into chocolate (actually what I wanted to do as a child…). Magic needs to be carefully written so you don’t end up with a world where anything is possible, all problems are easily solved, and the ultra-powerful cannot be defeated. Dare I say it, but your magic needs to be believable!


In this post, I’ll be going through the things that you need to be considering when writing magic into your story.

 

Backstory


Now, I don’t mean you have to go back to the dawn of time (unless it’s relevant), but you should have a good idea of the broad outlook of your magic society. You should be able to answer these questions:

  • How does your magical society fit into the rest of society, or are they the only society in your world?

  • Are they feared or revered by non-magical races? And on that note, do they live in secret or out in the open?

  • Do they have royalty, government or hierarchy that keeps them in line? Are there multiple royal families and/or governments across the geography of your world?

Knowing these details about your world is important, as they are your first boundaries to prevent your realm of possibility from getting out of hand. Your characters may need to be wary of revealing themselves to mortals, or they might quite simply have laws to follow.


You might want to be able to answer:

  • How did the magic race come about?

  • Do magicals follow a specific religion?

  • Do conflicts exist within your magical community? Whether they be based in families, politics, races, geography, etc.

  • Are there any ostracised groups within the magical community? Why are they ostracised and by who

Whether you choose to answer the above or not will depend on your plot. There’s no need to delve into the details above if they don’t contribute to your plot in any way. If conflicts exist within your community - which they do in most, to be honest - you have your first possibility for a plot point, even if it’s only a subplot. Religions have their own implications (see my post on that here), and the origins of your magical race could be something that comes back to bite your characters in the butt.


Names

What are your magical people called? Come up with a name for your race, but keep in mind that they may have different tiles based on gender, or where they stand in a hierarchy. Some examples include:

  • Magical

  • Wizard / Witch / Warlock

  • Enchanter / Enchantress

  • Elemental

  • Mage

  • Sorcerer / Sorceress

  • Caster / Spellcaster

Also, do your magicals have a collective name for mortals? And do derogatory terms exist for ostracised members of the community?


Schooling