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A History of Magic

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Here's a high-level idea I've been tossing around in my head for a potential game project. First, the story takes place in a world where magic is hard. To be truly proficient, it requires more than a lifetime of practice - it requires mastery of upper-level biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. As a result, over 90% of people who attempt to learn fail before using any magic at all. Even still, there are no "masters" - much like in a graduate school, even the most powerful magicians typically focus on a few specific areas of magic to the exclusion of others. Second, the story does not follow one character from the time a crisis begins until it ends; rather, it follows him through the large majority of his life, covering a few pivotal points but skipping a large number of years. By its nature, it's broken into chapters (but I could easily envision it as an episodic game). Like I said, I'm only going to talk about the high-level concepts here, so here's an overview of the chapters: Chapter 1: The Struggles of Frederick Gates The first chapter introduces Frederick, an entrepreneur who moved to the other side of the world, away from his family, to pursue a failed business venture. For the last few years, he's been utterly destitute, doing odd jobs for poor pay and mostly living on the streets. He spends his nights pursuing the study of magic, but acknowledges that with his rudimentary resources it is unlikely he will make any progress. The chapter covers some of his odd jobs and pursuits until, near the end, he meets up with a talented magician who accepts to teach him. Chapter 2: The Education of Frederick Gates The second chapter covers the education of Gates by his new friend, Cyrus. Cyrus constantly pushes Gates in unorthodox ways (there are parallels here to the training in Fullmetal Alchemist, ie: pursuit of physical strength in tandem with mental, gaining experience through action). Further, Cyrus forces Gates to study fields unrelated to magic, such as languages and history. This chapter ends after the training is complete, and Gates leaves to travel and learn from other experts (similar to the Journeyman Wizard concept in a few books). Chapter 3: The Journeys of Frederick Gates This chapter - which is admittedly my least thought-out - follows Gates as he travels the world, meeting experts and getting into conflicts on more than one occasion. He witnesses, with his own eyes, the lack of cohesion magicians have; how knowledge is scattered throughout, and practically no one is united. By the end of the chapter, Gates resolves to do something about this. Chapter 4: Foundation Gates returns to Cyrus, and proposes the creation of the world's first magic university. Cyrus is put into the position of Dean while Gates, having a good bit of experience at this point, becomes a professor. A lot of this chapter is focused on the growing-pains of a new school and the establishment of magic as a serious study. There is also a significant conflict wherein an especially talented student abuses his powers, and most of the faculty is unable to stop him. This is where Gates establishes himself as a major player by doing what the others can not and putting down the student, Gerrard, who survives but is forced into exile. Chapter 5: Schism The governing body of the country begins taking notice of the university and attempts to establish some dominance, with significant resistance from the faculty. Eventually, the governing body becomes violent, sending specially trained magicians to forcefully gain control. Cyrus is forced to step up (as his first time as a combatant) to help defend the school. Finally, the body enacts an all-out assault and Cyrus is killed. Being Frederick's one close friend throughout the years, this pushes Frederick over the edge, and he ruthlessly murders the attackers. The chapter ends with Frederick visiting the governing body and declaring the school's complete autonomy from the country, establishing it as a sovereign nation and threatening violent war should the body intervene. Chapter 6: War After years of politely ignoring each other (Frederick is approaching old age by this point), the country acts out aggression toward the university. Frederick, having calmed since Schism, is not quick to turn his students into combatants even in the name of defense. However, his hand gets forced, and a full-scale war incites between the country and the university. The war is practically a stalemate, the country having far superior numbers and the university having the more talented magicians. However, Frederick is very unsatisfied with how much life he has destroyed directly and indirectly and tries to bring the war to peaceful conclusions. It is at this point that he discovers that Gerrard, his old student, has been pulling the country's strings and has no intention of relenting until the university is either his or eliminated. Inevitably, there is a cataclysmic final battle between Frederick and Gerrard, the sheer magnitude of which (literally) tears the country apart and rips the university away from the mainland. After killing Gerrard, Frederick is mortally wounded, and his last major act establishes a barrier around the now-isolated university, preventing hostile aggression toward it. He tells the next Dean of his desire for a more peaceful use of magic, and following with his wishes, the next Dean resolves the war and pushes for cooperation between the university and the mainland. The End. (That turned out a lot longer than I expected) I left out a great many events and characters, and I didn't go into much detail on the personality of the characters introduced (to my mind, great characters make a great story). But I think there's enough there that you get a reasonable idea of where I'm going. So, of course, thoughts/suggestions/comments are always welcome. Cheers, --Brian

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What is the technological level of the world? For the final conflict it could have large ramifications, and it might add an interesting spin.

What happens when magic goes wrong?

Are you going for a "fling the fireball" or a "draw the hexagram" magical feel?

is the location of the university in such a place that it would magnify magical power? Thus allowing the faculty and students to fight with a power higher than possible anywhere else?

Are the journeys of Fredrick going to be tied in, to give the classic "second wave" scene in which the still unorganised magicians choose sides?

What is it that Fredrick is trying and failing to do when Cyrus finds him? Trying to find a connection between birth signs and fate for example, which could give reasons for him to feel unease when Gerrard comes to the university.

When the governing body attacks, how is it that they rationalise it to the surrounding area?

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Thanks for the questions. Here are some answers:

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
What is the technological level of the world? For the final conflict it could have large ramifications, and it might add an interesting spin.

The world has not exceeded beyond a steam-powered technological level. Trains exist, as do primitive guns, but automobiles and beyond are out.
On a tangential note, this follows a natural phenomena I thought up wherein technology and magic are linked - those worlds that focus on one typically fall behind on the other, and those that try to focus on both fall somewhat behind on both. Not horribly important to this story, though, which only takes place on one world.

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
What happens when magic goes wrong?

Typically, nothing. Most spells simply "fizzle" when not done properly. A handful of the more complicated spells might have deadly backlashes, but they are rarely used as the learning process often involves making mistakes.

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
Are you going for a "fling the fireball" or a "draw the hexagram" magical feel?

A combination, depending on the spell's complexity and power. A large majority of the spells can (eventually, after intense study) be controlled by will, but some require reagents or significant geometric figures. (This could obviously have gameplay ramifications)

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
is the location of the university in such a place that it would magnify magical power? Thus allowing the faculty and students to fight with a power higher than possible anywhere else?

No, the location is not significant. The only "advantage" students have over those outside is that they are profoundly more dedicated to their magical studies and have a group of people to collaborate and learn from.

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
Are the journeys of Fredrick going to be tied in, to give the classic "second wave" scene in which the still unorganised magicians choose sides?

I'm sorry, I don't quite follow this. Could you rephrase?

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
What is it that Fredrick is trying and failing to do when Cyrus finds him? Trying to find a connection between birth signs and fate for example, which could give reasons for him to feel unease when Gerrard comes to the university.

Nothing so abstract. By and large, Frederick is mostly just trying to survive. His magical studies are still very rudimentary, and he hasn't yet reached a point where he can use a single spell effectively.
I'm trying to avoid things like fate, prophecies, meaningful dreams, etc in the story. Frederick does feel some unease toward Gerrard, but it is because of mannerisms, actions, attitudes, that sort of thing.

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
When the governing body attacks, how is it that they rationalise it to the surrounding area?

Let me think about this one and get back to you, as I hadn't honestly considered it.

Thanks again,
--Brian

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What I was referring to was the stage of Fredericks life in which he traveled, and saw the disorganised state of the magicians.

In the next chapter, when he is building the university, there has to be at least some who do not come. Patriarchal/matriarchal clans, splinter groups, and the such.

In the final chapter, there is a chance for such groups to resurface, choosing sides. such that, at a time when it looks like the university might fail, in comes a "second wave" with the hitherto ungathered groups coming in to defend the university and what it stands for.


Also, in chapter five, when Fredrick is pushed over the edge, and uses magic for whole sale slaughter, does this inhumane use of magic cause a backlash against the user? What laws govern the magic? I know you said it is a science, falling under laws of physics and the ilk, but does it have an additional dimension? To set it above pure technological research? Certain arcane symbolism, such as drawing your hexagram with blood in stead of chalk would mean what in this world?

On the subject of the mechanics of magic, is enchanting a part of things? Not the "magical blade of flame" angle, but as a replacement for equivalent-era technology? A form of magically engineered fluid to replace oil lamps for example, done in such a way to not be any "better" but simply a different way to the same end.

Also, what sort of governing body is it? I know it is not a Magocracy, is it a sort of Monarchy, a Theocracy perhaps?

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Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
What I was referring to was the stage of Fredericks life in which he traveled, and saw the disorganised state of the magicians.

In the next chapter, when he is building the university, there has to be at least some who do not come. Patriarchal/matriarchal clans, splinter groups, and the such.

Not clans/splinter groups so much as individuals, but yes, I see your point.

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
In the final chapter, there is a chance for such groups to resurface, choosing sides. such that, at a time when it looks like the university might fail, in comes a "second wave" with the hitherto ungathered groups coming in to defend the university and what it stands for.

I like that. I think I'll use it. :-)

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
Also, in chapter five, when Fredrick is pushed over the edge, and uses magic for whole sale slaughter, does this inhumane use of magic cause a backlash against the user?

From the government, no more so than the subsequent declaration of independence. That is to say, there is no immediate retaliation because it would incite a fierce conflict.
Within the university, very little. A few of the faculty/students leave in protest, but by this point most have acquired a strong loyalty toward the late Cyrus and Frederick. At any rate, only a handful of people were actually witnesses to the brutality.

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
What laws govern the magic? I know you said it is a science, falling under laws of physics and the ilk, but does it have an additional dimension? To set it above pure technological research? Certain arcane symbolism, such as drawing your hexagram with blood in stead of chalk would mean what in this world?

It is, by-and-large, bound by the same laws that govern nature, twisted where appropriate. Creating something from nothing is impossible. Manipulating matter is possible, but becomes more complicated given the nature of the manipulation; on a related vein, the same is true for energy. Things which require sustained effort and the constant manipulation of forces - for example, flight - are reserved only for the most well-studied, whereas throwing an object is much easier. Rearranging molecules to, for instance, cause a chemical reaction is possible, but again varies in the complexity.

Keep in mind that magic isn't fully understood - it is an open area of research. As such, many of the laws that restrict certain things from being possible have yet to be discovered. For instance, nobody has succeeded in reviving the dead, but nobody has proven that it is impossible. Further, nobody has successfully done anything involving time. However, people also find clever little tricks that make certain techniques easier.

As for arcane symbolism, no, it has no real implication. In the case where some geometry must be drawn, it is the geometry that is important, not how it was created. On a similar note, reciting verses/incantations is never necessary.

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
On the subject of the mechanics of magic, is enchanting a part of things? Not the "magical blade of flame" angle, but as a replacement for equivalent-era technology? A form of magically engineered fluid to replace oil lamps for example, done in such a way to not be any "better" but simply a different way to the same end.

For some things, sure. A lamp substitute would be OK. The process of coordinating mass flight would be entirely too complicated, so flying machines of sorts would not exist.

Quote:
Original post by Elhrrah
Also, what sort of governing body is it? I know it is not a Magocracy, is it a sort of Monarchy, a Theocracy perhaps?

At the top, there is an elected counsel of about twenty people who are given nearly complete authority.

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What are the relations to the outlying hinterlands?

With the countries forces decimated in the conflict with the university, what will stop others from invading?


Whats the name of the country? What are the titles of rank? Economic theories?

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