I am answering random questions today about world building, over on Reddit and decided to take my answers from there and expand upon them even further over here. So that's what this page is. Me rambling on about various aspects of world building techniques I use when writing the Quaraun series. The questions I am answering are embedded here. Clicking the link in the embedded question will take you to the original Reddit page where you can see the original answer along with other people's answers. If you wish to comment, you can do so on the Reddit page where a place to do so is provided.
I don't know either of the examples you gave here. I've heard of Tolkien, but other then knowing the name of the book he wrote was Lord of the Rings, I don't know anything about him, his books, his characters, or what type of magic system he wrote. I know there's wizards in it, so there must be some sort of magic, but not knowing the book, I can't say if my magic systems are like it or not as I don't know what magic system it uses. i assume since Dungeons and Dragons was inspired by Tolkien's work that Tolkien's work is therefore very rules heavy with specific step by steps of "do this to get that" type magic.
I've never heard of Sanderson before at all, so no clue what that might be referring to. Is it a book? A game? Movie? Who wrote it? What is it about? I'm afraid I can not give you a specific answer as you have not been specific with your question and I've no clue what you are talking about. I will therefore try to make a guess instead.
When you say:
I think Dungeons and Dragons, Harry Potter, or Pathfinder.
As mentioned above, when you say Tolkien, my thought was rules-heavy, because D&D is supposed to be based off Tolkien and I know D&D inside out, though I don't know Tolkien. What confuses me here is the fact that you define Tolkien magic as the OPPOSITE of rules-heavy magic.
I'm sorry, but when magic has step-by-step instructions you have to follow or else, that is in fact the very definition of magic that is rules-heavey.
I'm now left wondering, if you think extreeme OCD, annal retention of rules to the point of having to carry a spell book with you because there are too many rules to remember (which is what D&D wizards have to do - literally - if the wizard loses his spell book, he's sunk, because the D&D rules don't allow for a wizard to have a good enough memory to do his spells without his spell scrolls.) If you think THAT sort of magic is NOT rules heavy, and classify is as the opposite of rules heavy when saying this Sanderson is rules heavey instead.... then dang... whatever this Sanderson this is, it must be rules out the wooo to the point of being mgi-tech and not actual magic at all! (Which actually doesn't inspire me to want to look it up to find out what it is, as it sounds like something I've no interest in.)
When you say:
I think Enochian Magic, Ceremonial Gardnerian Wicca, or Merlin the Magician, wizard-priests and monk-mages floating around in love struck hippie like ways because their god is the best danged thing ever and they are so full of god's ever loving love that now they can poop out magic spells and no one cares how it works because god gave them the power to poop out magic spells so it must be good.
So... that's the images that popped into my mind when reading your question.
I'm not sure that I have a preference for one way or the other. I think this is partly because my world is so huge (130+ novels since 1978) and features so many characters (the 3 primary characters each have friends and family and relatives, and meet new people each volume, which means there are close to a 1,000 named "active" characters in the series, not including random unnamed cast characters.) The series follows one family through the generations from early medieval times (800) till the end of the world (2525), though the bulk of the series takes place in the 1400s and the 1970s. Which means, magic changes and evolves over time.
As the series is so massive and each character so different from every other, and magic changes over time, the end result is no one magic system is seen exclusively. Each character that uses magic has their own system, unique to them, their religion, their culture, there race, where they live, and what time period it is, etc.
I'm trying to think, is it rules heavy or not?
I think it's not, rules heavy, in that, in Quaraun's world magic is an energy field that exists in everything, and depending on the person tapping into it, it can be used to do pretty much whatever you can think of.
On the other hand it does have rules to some extent, in that, you can't just grab hold of the energy and sling it around all willy nilly. It requires years - decades- of training to learn how to focus your mind and be able to control magic, bending it to your will.
I think if I was to try to compare it to a well established magic system that it is somewhat like "The Force" used by Jedi and Sith in Star Wars, though it's not the same as that, but that's the closest one I can think of for being similar.
I think the magic is Quaraun's world is very spiritual-esoteric type, but that at the same time it takes a hell of a lot of time, dedication, and patience to master using it to your advantage, thus applying rules to it. So, I think my world's magic falls in the middle somewhere, of being both esoteric and rules.
Most people in Quaraun's world view magic as distant and mysterious and it's not seen as useful or practical for everyday use. Most people see wizards as silly old men who are too overly obsessed with religion and are too busy trying to play gos to get real jobs. So there is definitely an esoteric mindset about magic from the population as a whole.
On the other hand, the men who are actually using magic, the wizards themselves, they see it as very serious business and are devoted to mastering it and have built up this vast ritualistic system of step by step rules and guidelines that they have to follow exactly in order to master using magic successfully.
So I think too, there is a matter of character perspective at play, because some characters see it all as a load of hooey, while others see it as an exact scientific art, and other characters see it as mysterious and godlike, while others see it as a way to use people (scam artists often use magic, for example.)
Plus there are dozens of different types of magic systems, each one is then changed depending on the group teaching it to others. Schools teach magic very scientifically, while churches and temples teach magic with reverence to a god allowing them to use it by his/her will. Every school has a different method and philosophy, and so too does every religion. It's further complicated by the fact that each teacher or priest or scientist is a different individual who their own set of beliefs around magic and so each teaches it slightly differently even within one system.
In the end, I don't think magic in Quaraun's world falls neatly into either esoterical or rules based and that it is fully dependant on the character in question and how that character was taught to use magic, combined with their personal beliefs regarding science and or religion and how those beliefs effect how they use magic.
#1: Know what magic is.
For example: In Quaraun's world, magic is a force or energy that exists in everything. It can be harnessed and controlled, by someone able to focus their mind with intent of purpose. Thus a wizard can create a fire ball, seemingly out of mid air, when in fact what he is doing is pulling the life force/energy out of things (plants, trees, other people) around him. Fire ball or lightning bolt type magic is rarely seen in my world however, because attempted to harness enough energy to to that, weakens the wizard's immune system making him very weak and prone to sickness. Also it can kill whatever it is he pulled the energy out of... thus a side effect is the area may go barren because he sucked the life force out of the grass and shrubbery.
#2: Know what magic CAN do.
For example: In Quaraun's world, magic on it's own doesn't do much. Any body COULD do magic if they tried, but few people try because it takes decades to learn how to harness and control magic. Most Mages are content to be "street magicians" entertaining children at the market with simple tricks.
Wizards are people who spend decades studying and learning advanced magic skills. Wizards can control the weather, use psionic powers to "hypnotize" people to make then do things they would not normally do, and some are advanced enough to "reshape" things (turn a flower into a butterfly, turn leaves into ears of corn.) The most advanced wizards can grant wishes.
Wizards are rare, only 100 or so are known to exist (on a planet with about 3 billion people).
Most wizards were good people who used their skills to help people. However...Because Wizardry can be used to cause harm (kill crops, kill people, send storms to cause floods, etc) and the wizards who did bad things, caused a lot of harm, wizardry is now illegal.
#3: Know what magic CAN NOT do.
For example: In Quaraun's world, love spells do not work. This is because magic can not change a person's mind. While it is possible to cast a "temporary love spell" to hypnotize a person, say long enough to get them in a wedding dress and saying 'I do' the mind control wears off soon (only a few hours) and they will quickly realize what you made them do. You can alter a person's mind to enslave them, but you can not force their free will. Their body will follow commands, but their mind will hate you for it.
There is one story in the series which focuses on exactly this. A man (a Pixie) wants a woman (a Lilac Fairy) to fall in love with him and hires a wizard (Quaraun) to make a love spell. In spite of Quaraun's explaining magic doesn't work that way and no love spell is going to work, the man persists.
The man takes to threats against the wizard when the woman announces her wedding to another man. Reluctantly Quaraun makes the spell potion the man requested, but warns the man will live to regret it.
The love potion seemingly does as intended. The woman marries the man, cancelling her wedding to the man she actually loves.
As instructed the man drugs his new wife's food every night in order to keep the spell "working".
However, Quaraun is a wandering vagabond wizard and is not in the area long. A year after the wedding, the man runs out of his love potion and is frantic to find the wizard who made it as, the truth of the situation has hit him--- she doesn't love him and she never will and if he doesn't get more of the "love spell" drug fast, she's gonna leave him.
In other words, the love spell is not magic at all, but rather a potion made to bend someone's will against their will. We know this today as drugs and drug use, but in medieval times people didn't know about drugs and thought drugs were a type of magic.
Potions in the Quaraun series are classified as a type of magic, but potions are in fact not magic at all. A wizard who makes potions is simply a Wizard with the knowledge of which drugs/herbs produce which side effects and use that knowledge to trick people into thinking they are doing magic when they are in fact not using any magic at all.
This is also the primary difference between Witches and Wizards in the Quaraun series. Witches being well versed in herbs and roots and mixing them to produce a desired effect. Witches rarely use magic and focus mostly on potions and charms (charms relying on a person's faith). Whereas Wizards are using magic and can actual cause physical changes (turn a person into a dragon).
#4: Theorize what magic maybe COULD do if any one was crazy e
nough to try it.
For example: In Quaraun's world, magic can do pretty much whatever you want it to do, but it requires so much energy to do big, powerful, or long term spells, that magic becomes impractical for everyday use. There are some alchemists (quasi-scientists?) who theorize that machines can be built to harness and store energy, in a way that would make magic casting safely available for everyone. The idea is "crazy" so no one dares test it out.
#5: Know WHY it is that there are some things magic can do that are FORBIDDEN or otherwise taboo.
For example: In Quaraun's world, magic CAN bring the dead back to life, however, the life is different. Worst case, they return as a shambling dead (mindless zombie with rotting flesh). Or they may come back as a soulless beast/monster (Vampire, Lich, Ghoul, etc). If they do come back with a soul, it may not be the same soul they had in life, meaning person A is alive again in person B's body, so while you resurrected your lover's body, you did so with someone else's mind/memories. Because the risks far outweigh the advantages resurrecting the dead is forbidden.
#6: Magic always has consequences, what are the consequences in YOUR world.
For example: In Quaraun's world, magic can not be used extensively. Magic is similar to the flow of magnetic energy. Harnessing it, means you are forcibly directing the energy to flow into and through your own body. While the energy is in you, it energizes you, allowing you to do supernatural things (like shooting lightning bolts from your fingers). But you can only do it briefly, and may not be able to do it again for several days or even several weeks, as it physically drains/exhausts you. Wizards often collapse unconscious after casting a powerful spell because of this, and it may be days before they wake up.
Also in my world, magic is unstable and unpredictable, spells often back fire and wizards are often injured by their own spells. (A wizard may burn his hands to the bone in attempting a fire ball, for example.)
Because of this, wizards tend to be a frail, sickly lot, and magic has no practical uses in warfare.
In The Lich Lord's Lover the government tested out wizards in their army - the Wizards turned out to be a liability - their magic was too unstable and unpredictable, and it was days before they could cast another spell.
In that novel, Quaraun is kidnapped by a rouge commander who is convinced the studies are wrong and that having the world's most powerful Wizard on his side, will help him win. He, however failed to consider what magic is, how magic is used, what magic can and can not do, and the fact that magic's ability to do anything at all is dependant upon the emotional stability of the Wizard casting it.
Quaraun is already a nervous wreck to begin with. His personality was high strung and anxiety prone before becoming a wizard. When he is relaxed, able to meditate and focus for several hours, he is then able to cast spells that other wizards only dream of.
Quaraun truly is the most powerful wizard of all time, but, his ability to tap into that power, requires him to go off by himself and meditate for days on end, to be able to fully use his powers. Denied this, and his ability to cast spells becomes laughable at best.
The more nervous he becomes, the greater chances his spells have of literally blowing up in his face and hurting both him and anyone around him.
In the Lich Lord's Lover situation, Quaraun is being held captive against his will, and his lover Unicorn is being used as a blackmail bargaining chip, with the soldier's beating his lover whenever Quaraun doesn't do what they ask. The end result is a very high stress situation that completely shuts down Quaraun's ability to cast magic at all. Yet the soldiers are forcing him to cast spells on command in a battlefront. Which results in many members of their own army being injured by Quaraun's inability to cast spells in this situation. This in turn causes them to beat him up claiming that he miss cast his spells on purpose with the intent to harm them.
The soldiers, know nothing of magic and think magic can do anything, so they refuse to believe Quaraun is telling the truth about the limits of his ability to cast magic in a battle front or while they are holding his lover hostage or while they are threatening him. They think of Wizards as being like a vending machine - pop in a coin and out pops a toy, only in this case, tell a wizard to to cast a spell and his does no questions asked. The soldiers next decide to punish him, by forcing him to watch while they beat his lover to death. This triggers the other side of Quaraun's magical ability, and the true reason people are scared of him.
In situations where his life is threatened, Quaraun will make random attempts to cast spells of protection. However, with his fear levels off the charts and his adrenaline going overtime, he inadvertently sucks the life force out of everything around him. Quaraun is physically unable to contain the amount of energy passing through his body and passes out. No one knows what happens, not even him. All he knows, is when he wakes up, everyone is dead. EVERY ONE. Everyone as in, everyone for miles around. Every person. Every animal. Every plant. Every bird. Every tree. This magical overload, happens in several novels, including BoomFuzzy, Swamp of Death, and Lich Lord's Lover and results in people calling Quaraun the Most Feared Wizard, because his powers when not under his full control are lethal.
I like this list and actually use several of these things in the series:
Depends on the spell. For example, you often see Quaraun seek out a volcano to cast his spells near. This is because he's drawing on the energy of the fire inside the volcano. Bigger spells require more energy and bigger items (such as a mountain) have bigger energy sources for Wizards to use.
Potion making does, but potion making has more in common with medicine and drug use, then with magic arts, in the Quaraun series.
Superstitious magic users say one must do this spell by that moon phase, or whatever, but more advanced Wizards like Quaraun, laugh at this and same it does not matter the time, what matters is you belief. They then point out if a spell only works at certain times, it's because said caster BELIEVED the spell would ONLY work at that time and it was the power of the caster's faith, not the spell itself that caused this to happen.
It can and often does, though this is not always the case.
Magic is a wild, untamed, chaotic energy that exists in everything. To use it, it has to be harnessed and controlled.
This one is not used. Any one can use magic if they take the time to learn.
However, Wizards are generally people who had a natural gift for psychic abilities and usually as people with a calm temperament, able to meditate quietly.
This has been mentioned. Quaraun cast a very big spell in one scene in Into the Swamp of Death, then later in the same novel, he's at a tavern and a random stranger approaches him, accusing him of having killed the Katopas, a herd of gentle gazelle like beasts. Quaraun is clueless as to why the herd died, but later realizes, that by casting a big spell, he has to suck the life energy out of something somewhere....
...before this point, Wizards in his world were unaware of how magic worked and did not realize they were pulling life energy out of living beings, killing them, in order to cast their spells.
Once Wizards realized this was happening, many ceased to practice magic, thus why Wizards became so very rare.
Not usually, though there are some instances of this. Usually if the spell requires a designated place, it's because of the place itself and not the spell. For example, blood rituals need to be done in the place where the end result is desired. If you are sacrificing someone to call up a demon, you have to go to the place the Demon chooses. Or another example is resurrecting a person, needs to be done in the exact location where they died, not their grave where they are buried, because the spell needs to grasp hold of their life energy, if it is still on Earth at all.
Often, yes. Small, simple spells tend to be harmless, but bigger more advanced spells often have serious side effects. If a Wizard wants to cast fire balls, he better have fire proof robes and something to protect his hands, because he WILL get burned. It is for this reason fire casting spells are rare and the wizard will use a wand, so that the fire comes from the wand and not his hands.
This is a big one. Thus why people call my Wizard "Quaraun the Insane". He's done what no other wizard before him has done, reached levels of power no one thought possible, and has done so at the expense of his mental stability.
In Quaraun's world one fact about magic remains consistently true regardless of any other variation: wizards are all insane.
The rigors of their studies, push them physically, mentally, and emotionally, beyond what the normal body can hold. Becoming a Wizard has the same general side effects of becoming a "test pilot" for experimental air craft. The mind is not made to deal with the things Wizards must face, and so the deeper they delve into magic, the more desperately insane they become.
There is no known case of a Wizard not sinking into madness.
This was mentioned briefly in one of the Quaraun novels, though it was not explored in depth. But there was a scene where his friend & lover Unicorn, was wounded by another Wizard, and Quaraun tries to use healing magic to help his friend, but the spell fails. Quaraun has cast healing spells in the past, but it was a long time ago, before he became a Necromancer, before he had used magic to take a life. Before he had become a murderer, using Blood Magic to kill people.
The scene shows Quaraun confused, not understanding why he, a Wizard who's reached levels of power beyond anything he ever could have imagined, is unable to cast a simple healing spell that a student would have cast with no trouble. The Sun Elf Wizard laughs and points out that Quaraun's inability to cast a healing spell is a side effect of his having become too far advanced in Necromancy and Death Magic.
In essence what happened was the more he used Death energy and Blood Magic, pulling life forces out of the living.... the more it corrupted (corroded?) his ability to work with life energy in a positive way. He became so adept at taking life, that the energy in his body was now rejected the ability to restore life any more (in much the same way the ends of a magnet reject each other.)
Outside of this one scene, however, I have not explored this side effect magic has in any greater detail. I should because it would make for interesting stories, to see what other abilities he has unknowingly lost to gain the abilities he now has.
This one is used as well. Humans rarely become Wizards because it takes so long to master advanced spells. Quaraun (an Elf) studied for 300 years to reach his level of skill.
Spells take an amount of energy in tune with the size of the spell. A simple spell, like making tea sweeter, may have no noticeable effects for a powerful Wizard, but could seriously drain a student just learning. Likewise, calling up a tornado to attack a town, takes tremendous power and could put even an advanced Wizard into a comma.
Wands are like rechargeable flashlights. Good for so many uses and then you have to recharge it. Number of uses and methods of charging vary depending on the skill of the Wizard, the type of spell, and the material the wand is made from.
This is used a lot. Wizard's like Quaraun have to meditate and focus their mind on their intent, and it's not a quick, think it and it happened. They have to meditate for hours - sitting silent, not moving for 8 hours or more. This factor about advanced wizardry is one of the reasons there are so few Wizards in the world, because few people are able to just sit and do nothing for so many hours on end.
There is also a similar method, where wizards charge not only themselves but also their tools (wands, staves, crystals, etc). Quaraun has multiple wands, and he charges each one separately with a different intent. If stored properly the wands will stay charged until they are used. Typically in the Quaraun series, each wand has a separate use, and only very advanced Wizards are able to charge multiple spells into their wands. Quaraun has a "Rainbow Wand" that can hold 6 spells, each attuned to a different colour. He's one of the few Wizards whom has mastered the art of multiple spells in one wand, but, he's a bit absent minded and frequently forgets what each spell does, and often casts the wrong spell when using his Rainbow Wand.