Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words 8/17/2009

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Magic Systems

Last month, the Magical Words posting from A.J. Hartley talked about Too Much Power. This week I thought I would circle back to an old post from David B. Coe on magic systems.

Magic in fantasy and powers in superheroes contain an affinity for exponential growth, reaching Too Much Power without much effort. The challenge is reigning in the power systems to make the story as much fun to read as it was to create the powers. 

Mr. Coe suggests three structures to control the systems:

  1. Limitations – Example, planetary gravity wells are limited to a certain distance from the planet.
  2. Costs – Example, escaping gravity takes propellant.
  3. Rules – Example, all matter is affected by gravity. Energy is not affected by gravity.

Be careful introducing exceptions to the rules to make your life as a writer easier. Gravity doesn’t get to change its rules. Well, it shouldn’t. I am sure some physicists will have a conversation with the universe creator someday about the deus ex machina of light which is both energy and matter.

The full post is here:

WRITING EXERCISE: Create one power or take one from a work in progress (WIP), just one power, for a fantasy, sci-fi, or superhero world. Define a limitation, cost, and two rules. Write a flash of 50-1000 words based on it.


Ancestral warrior. Limitation – most powerful in the ancestral lands, close to normal outside of the lands. Cost – obligation to protect all those of the tribe from those lands. Rules – (1) Lineage/blood-line only. (2) Peak physical, but not natural spell caster.

Look for the story Ancestral Warrior to be published Sunday 1/5/2020. You may recognize the protagonist if you have been following this blog for a while. This is where Honestly meets its Atlantis Wardens beginnings.