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How would you safely knock someone unconscious with magic?  EelKat on Building A Magic System In Your Fantasy World

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How would you safely knock someone unconscious with magic? 

How would you safely knock someone unconscious with magic?

Discussion in 'Research' started by MikmaxsOct 15, 2017.

Short version: My setting has magic, but magic that mostly just manipulates physical laws. (So less 'Sword and sorcery' style, where you could just conjure stuff from thin air or make random crazy things happen.) I want a spell that could quickly or immediately knock someone out without any chance of doing lasting physical harm, but can't think of a good way to do it without at least a small chance of hurting your victim.

(For an example of how magic works in other circumstances: If you wanted to instantly kill someone, you couldn't just cast a 'Death' spell, but you could cast a very precise spell that would pop some blood vessels in their brain, causing massive hemorrhaging and quick death, or you could use a bit more energy and just cause a small explosion inside their skull.)

The magic can manipulate physical forces, it just can't completely ignore the laws of physics. So you can use magic to, as suggested, squeeze the carotid artery and make someone pass out, but you can't just cast an 'unconsciousness' spell to make them suddenly pass out for no physical reason.

kate zold said: Would physical laws include chemicals and hormones? Figure out which naturally occurring chemical in the body can induce a coma/unconsciousness and increase/decrease that. This could in effect be an extreme version of a "calming spell".

Yes, they technically could, but recombining molecules in someone's blood/body or else creating those chemicals out of raw energy would be far too precise for most practical applications - Not impossible, but really, really difficult verging on 'Not worth the effort of trying', especially since a minor mistake with chemical imbalances can easily prove fatal.
Hormones could work better in terms of 'I'm going to agitate (such-and-such gland) in order to cause X reaction', but I'm not sure that would be quick or effective enough in a combat situation.

Maximum7 said: You don't need to explain the process. Just use a spell that makes your body go numb and puts you to sleep

In this case, I actually need to have a specific reasoning, because it plays into a later story beat - Character #1 knocks out an enemy, and then Character #2 is able to accurately predict how long it'll take for that enemy to wake up, because Character #2 is very familiar with what magic/techniques Character #1 is familiar with. I don't want to go with a more "You always use the same spell," I want to demonstrate that Character #2 has a specific understanding of Character #1s magic. 

newjerseyrunner said: Massive changes in bloodflow can cause unconsciousness. What about a sudden g-force? It only takes about 15 Gs for a few seconds to knock someone out. Check out some astronaut training technology.

That would definitely work, but 15 Gs is (lemme do some math here) a metric crap ton of energy, which makes it an inefficient, if doable, process. (Not to mention that some precision would be required to exert 15 Gs without just sending the target flying backwards.) 

MythMachine said: The way it seems to me, your magic is some sort of underpowered "Force" (as in Star Wars), in that it can enhance and extend physical capabilities and feats, but nothing along the lines of mental manipulation or lightning generation.

Mental manipulation doesn't really exist (at least not in Star Wars levels), but lightning generation totally could. It's expensive in terms of how much energy it consumes, but fairly simple - Not as simple as 'I shove this thing really hard', but still a fairly basic force of nature. 

Illusions, mental manipulation, stuff in that range generally happens by either manipulating physical forces or with really precise brain chemistry that can't happen out of what amounts to a lab setting. Making an illusory person who looks totally real isn't possible, but making an area darker or brighter, influencing shadows or exaggerating/minimizing movement is possible. 

(For the record, healing magic also exists, but requires the practitioner in question to effectively have a medical degree if they want to do anything advanced - Barring that, they need a spell that is incredibly focused and precise.)

For what it's worth as far as setting background goes: Since magic follows fairly practical principles and rules in my setting, it's also starting to be used for simple machinery and technology. Sorcerers already use runes and sigils in order to direct and focus magical power, so people with engineering backgrounds have figured out how to directly harness that power and use those runes to control it, cutting out the sorcerer entirely. (It's still in the 'Not very efficient or precise' stage, but it's getting there.)

Not sure if this would be useful in your setting or not, but...

In my own series, the 3 primary characters are wizards (each using a different type of magic). While magic can be the classic D&D style of aim a wand, chant some words and POOF wild stuff happens, only very few, very ancient, very advanced wizards have ever learned to do that sort of thing. Most wizards are similar to our real world Hoodoo Rootworkers and Voodoo Conjure Doctors. Meaning they do a lot of mixing roots and herbs with salt or cornmeal or honey or oil, anointing said mixtures on candles or doorways or crossroads... that sort of thing.

The world they live in is set in something equivalent to 900s, so almost no tech, and no medical knowledge, and thus things that we see today as being herbal remedies, are seen in their time as mystical and magic.

That said...

Magic in this setting is often as simple as mixing together some herbs and brewing a tea.

Thus... for the type of end result you are seeking, to occur in the setting of my own series, a person seeking to knock someone unconscious, would go to a wizard seeking a potion for that effect. The wizard would select herbs that induce sleep (such as Opium Poppy, Camomile, and Lavender) and mix them together. The person would then dump that into the victim's tea, when the victim wasn't looking... or bake the victim some treat to eat, and put the herbs mix in it.

So, that's a less dramatic, very simple way of achieving the result you are seeking.

That said...

Gadock said: So as I gather from your info, magic works as extra energy applied to existing forces to ones will ( kinda exactly like mine  ). I can understand you can do this at distance and you're able to change basically everything, but the more elaborate the more difficult it is and can more easily cause mistakes.[SNIP]How does your magic work in general though? Can everyone just do what they want? What kind of limits are there?

I'm glad you asked that!
So, in my setting, there exists a nebulous force of energy that is created as a byproduct of sentient, conscious life, which is called 'Spirit'. This spirit exists in all humans, but is generally difficult to extract, and can be obtained in one of four ways:

  • A sorcerer can directly convert their own 'energy' in order to create spirit. (They burn calories and exhaust themselves, basically.) This is the least powerful, but also the least costly.
  • A sorcerer can also destroy their own memories, which is very efficient and powerful, but runs the risk of driving them mad or destroying memories they didn't want to - Since memories can often be intermingled and fuzzy, this is a huge risk and not a popular choice.
  • It can be extracted from fresh blood, or blood which was carefully sealed in an insulated container. (It doesn't have to be a sorcerer's blood.) This is more powerful than direct energy conversion, but less efficient than memory.
  • It can be extracted from a person as that person is killed, which is the most powerful source of Spirit by a longshot, but is also not particularly useful unless a massive spell is being cast due to how much energy is being released. 

(The last two can also be done without the intervention of a sorcerer, using modern machinery/technology, but it's not as efficient at the extraction.) 

Sorcerers are simply people who have the ability to sense Spirit and manipulate it directly. They have a 'sixth sense' allowing them to control spirit, move it from one place to another, or convert it into other forms of energy.

In order to cast a spell, Spirit has to be channeled into a vessel of some kind which has runes carved, marked, or written onto it. (Usually a staff or wand is preferred in combat, depending on the spell in question. Books are also popular, simply because so many runes can be written into a book that they can be incredibly precise.) Certain objects are better at conducting spirit than others - Most hardwoods are good choices, silver and gold are both excellent (as is electrum,) salt and iron will both ground out magical forces in the same way that rubber will stop electricity.

Once the vessel has been filled with Spirit, the sorcerer thinks about what they want the spell to do, and then says magic words describing the spell in question. The Spirit is then 'filtered' through everything, and creates a tangible result that is reflective of those filters.

For example, if you have a staff carved with the runes for 'Fire', and you think to yourself, I want this spell create a ten foot wall of fire blocking off that courtyard, and then you say the magic words for 'Fire wall', it'll create a wall of fire that's not actually ten feet long, but instead would be whatever you think ten feet looks like, in approximately the spot that you wanted it to go. (Assuming you pumped enough energy into the spell to actually create a big enough fire, and to fuel it for any length of time if there's no normal fuel nearby.)

However, if you instead had a staff with the runes for 'Ten foot wall of fire', and thought the same thing, and then said the words for 'Ten foot wall of fire', then the wall would end up being precisely 120" from tip to tail. 

You could NOT, on the other hand, have a staff carved with the word 'Fire', and then think to yourself, I want to make the room darker, and then say the words for 'Darkness'. The filters would contradict each other, and the spell would fizzle out. 

You could possibly use 'Fire' runes to create a light, or heat the air in order to create a burst of wind, but that'd require creative workarounds and a lot of effort. 

As such, general tools are preferred in combat, since they're more flexible, while incredibly precise tools (or virgin tools and a sorcerer who is fluent in runes and able to mark down whatever runes he needs, on the fly) are preferred for specific, complicated tasks. 

(As a side-note: There are other sentient, conscious species besides humans, (Dragons being the most prominent,) but they don't really interact with the story much, so it's not very relevant. (There are also dragon sorcerer-equivalents.)

In the case of knocking someone out, that would be something that the sorcerer already has prepared - A method of knocking someone out in a quick, nonlethal manner that would work universally on most people without variation or specific changes needed.

The magic used by the advanced wizards, is very similar to what you have described in yours. Some differences being, that energy is not sentient in mine, but rather everything contains energy, and the wizard can meditate to draw energy out of something (plant, tree, rock, mountain, water, etc) or someone (people, animals, etc) and manipulate that energy to do specific things, depending on the amount of energy vs the wizard's training and skill vs the amount of focus and meditation used. They can then direct that energy into wands, staffs, knives, swords, crystals, pendants, bottles, gloves, etc in order to store the energy for use at a later point.

For example my main character, Quaraun, is an advanced wizard, and one of the few who has a "multi use" wand. It's known as "The Rainbow Wand" because it has stripes of rainbow colours on it. At each band of colour he can load a different energy source. Then later, saying the name of the colour, releases the spell embedded in that band.

Magic in Quaraun's world has and seemingly infinite amount of things it can do. At a first glance it almost looks like the wizards can do anything. Magic however has a set of "rules" (laws of nature and physics?) that governs it and drastically limits what the wizards are capable of doing.

Magic in my series can not be used for combat, because of the intense amount of meditation required to use the spell. It can take hours for a wizard to focus his mind, enough to them use the spell in his wand. He can't just point the wand and boom the spell happens. He has to meditate first on his intent, before he can cast the prepared spell. As a result, this makes wizards a liability in combat, because by the time they've focused the spell, the enemy has had time to slaughter the wizard. Also, the energy source, goes not just through the wand, but also through the wizard, thus is drains them physically, and they can not cast more than 1 or 2 spells a week without doing serious physical and mental damage to themselves.

So, while magic is very powerful and very effective, it's also very difficult to wield and is often deadly for the magic user. Many wizards are killed by their own spells. Trying to cast a fire ball, will burn them if they are not wearing specific gloves and robes made to repel fire for example. Also because wizards use their bodies as a conduit to power the energy of the spell, drawing energy out of other things... the spell is short rage, only around the wizard himself for a few feet. He can't cast a spell and have it manifest 100 feet away, for example.

Also pulling energy out of a living thing (plants, people, animals) weakens or even kills that thing, so peaceful wizards are limited to using fire, earth, rocks, and water for sourcing their energy. (Thus you have wizards who use Life Energy, generally seen as evil, vs wizards who use Elemental Energy, general seen as good.)


All that said...

Seeing how you have a very similar sort of system in your own book, it's possible you could use something similar to how my wizard does it?

If he wanted to knock someone out, he would meditate to harness the energy of the wind, put a wind spell into his wand, then cast it on the victim. The force of the wind energy, now narrow focused on a single target, casts a large blast force that would knock the person off their feet, and were they standing close to say a brick wall, the force would be strong enough to knock then out on impact. It would be like a sudden blast of hurricane winds suddenly hitting them full force.

I would assume your rune system has a wind rune that could be used in this manner.

This method would not require altering the person's blood or anything, because it would be the wizard altering the wind with enough force to cause the person to hit their head on something and be knocked out that way.

Not sure if that would work for your story setting or not, but that's how I'd do it in my own setting.

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und comes around. That's how it works. Sooner or later the universe will serve you the revenge that you deserve.” 

― Jessica Brody

"By autistic standards, the “normal” brain is easily distractible, is obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to detail and routine. Thus people on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space." 

— Steve Silberman

Attempt Something New Today! – too many people talk about doing this or that but few actually take action, it's the why behind why so few succeed and so many fail.

I'm not made of money, I'm made out of glitter and kittens. 

~CinnamonToastKen 2017

“When people see you're happy doing what you're doing, it sort of takes the power away from them to tease you about it.” 

― Wendy Mass, Every Soul a Star

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“If you're horrible to me, I'm going to write a song about it, and you won't like it. That's how I operate.” 

― Taylor Swift

Bullies should never force you to  suffer in silence. If someone has hurt you, let others know.

“One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” 
― Michael J. Fox

“I would rather be a little nobody, then to be a evil somebody.” 

― Abraham Lincoln


"Do not fear people with Autism, embrace them, Do not spite people with Autism unite them, Do not deny people with Autism accept them for then their abilities will shine" 

— Paul Isaacs

Be the hero, not the bully.

“1. Bullying is not okay. Period.

2. Freedom of religion does not give you the right to physically or verbally assault people.

3. If your sincerely-held religious beliefs require you to bully children, then your beliefs are fucked up.” 

― Jim C. Hines

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