On Writing: soft magic systems in fantasy [ Tolkien l Game of Thrones l Harry Potter ]


Hey subfuries! Have you ever read a story where the characters are going about their questy-business when they find themselves in a mysterious place steeped in ancient magic and there are mysterious wizards who do sparkling mysterious magic things and the magic is… …never explained? Well chances are that you’re reading a story with a soft magic system. This is part two of three of a writing series and last video we talked about hard magic systems – how to design them and how they fit into fictional worlds. I recommend watching that to give the full discussion. But to paraphrase: a hard magic system has clearly defined rules, consequences, and limitations that govern what one can or cannot do with magic. Soft magic systems on the other hand, often have a vague, undefined, or mysterious set of rules and limitations to being used. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is probably the most famous example of this. Middle-Earth is full of magical things, places, and people from Agent Elrond to Saruman to your mother-in-law. But we don’t really know how magic works – its limits, or what it requires. We know Gandalf is a wizard and all, but if you asked him about the specific limitations or costs of his wizarding magic powers, Gandalf gets a little vague. [Epic Sax] Now while hard magic systems are largely about how you design magic to work, soft magic is more about how it can be worked into a good narrative and that’s what we’ll be talking about today. This can boil down to thinking about three things: tension, point-of-view, and unpredictability. Brandon Sanderson writes stories with very hard magic, but his three laws of magic apply to writing stories anywhere on the spectrum from hard to soft and Sanderson’s first law is still incredibly important to soft magic stories. So firstly, tension. How well you can resolve tension and solve problems is essential to making a good story. This is where having a soft magic system can make things more difficult, because tension is Incredibly difficult to build if your reader has no idea of the capabilities of your characters. But that’s the thing about soft magic – the reader may not understand much about the limits or costs of it in your story. They don’t know when your swashbuckling heroes are faced with a real challenge. Whether the wizard can turn around with a wise bearded look, say [Epic Sax 2] then magic them away from danger. Using soft magic, the reader cannot predict or doesn’t understand to resolve conflicts can feel like the author is just screaming: throwing a Deus Ex Machina in your face and expecting you to get on with your sorry life. Does this mean that you can never use soft magic to resolve tension? The answer is, of course not! Magic systems can be anywhere on the spectrum from hard to soft and there are plenty of stories that find a great balance between the two. Harry Potter is a relatively good example of this. Throughout the books, very few real limitations can be applied to magic as a whole. There could be a spell to accomplish almost anything a wizard might need. Want to kill someone? There’s a spell for that. Want to repel muggles? There’s a spell for that Why drink to forget when you can just erase the memories And Rowling regularly introduces new spells for things when she needs them, like Expecto Patronum in the third book when creating spirit animals made of happiness became important to the plot. But Harry Potter himself has limited powers, he can’t just make up a spell on the spot to do whatever he needs His capabilities are limited to the spells he has learned and trained to use throughout the book. The tension is built up maintained and resolved well because when magic does solve problems in these stories, the reader understood Harry’s capabilities even if those abilities came from a soft magic system. Readers don’t feel cheated because even though It doesn’t feel like Now while readers may feel cheated if soft magic is used to miraculously resolve tension It’s virtually never a problem if it causes tension. It’s a lot easier to have antagonists with vague or undefined powers than protagonists. This is why we might not understand the powers of the Mind Flare in Stranger Things but it still makes for an interesting villain. While we do understand Eleven’s powers to an extent because her powers are used to solve problems in the narrative. It’s just important to remember to be consistent with that villain’s powers later on. Likewise, it’s perfectly okay to create challenges that the characters must solve with unexplained magic. So feel free to be the ALL-POWERFUL, MANIACAL OVERLORD YOU ARE AND WREAK HAVOC ON THE LIVES OF YOUR CHARACTERS AND MAKE THEM SORRY THAT THEY WERE EVER BORN Secondly, we need to talk about how soft magic fits in with your point of view characters. Whether you want to tell your story from the viewpoint of a magical or a non-magical character may change how you write. While this is in no way a rule, stories with softer magic tend to not be written from the perspective of magic users. For example, The Black Company has a very soft magic system, and there are even main characters who use it regularly, but it’s told from the perspective of Croaker, a non-magical character. There are a number of reasons an author might want to do this. One: if magic exists outside the point of view, you can align the reader with the main character, who may view magic as this mystical and unknown force in the world. That may be something that you want your reader to experience. Sanderson writes in his essay, the First Law of Magic that And that sense of the mysterious unknown can be harder to achieve if writing from the perspective of someone who must understand something of your magic. My favorite example of this is the Hobbit because Tolkien tells his story through the eyes of Bilbo – a hobbit and handkerchief enthusiast. He adds to the tension in the story by using Bilbo’s perspective. It reinforces that sense of the unknown in Mirkwood forest because Bilbo cannot possibly predict what enchantment spells or kind-of racist elf kings he might face in there. It would be far more difficult for Tolkien to create that mysterious tension if the story was told by Gandalf; who would know a lot more about what to expect. But let’s say that you want to write your soft magic story from the perspective of a witch or a wizard. How would you do that? There are an infinite number of ways that you can do this without breaking Sanderson’s first law. But we are only going to talk about two that are particularly common and add really interesting dynamics to a story. One way is to write characters who have magic, but do not control it directly, that only your eponymous hero can wield the ancient magical sword of plot convenience that also happens to indicate he should be king for some reason. “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!” This trope can be seen all over the place – in King Arthur or Rincewind in The Light Fantastic But Daenerys Targaryen is an excellent example of this. In a Song of Ice and Fire, Daenerys has this thing called Valyrian magic, which we know has a lot to do with fire and blood but Not much more than that It’s Valyrian magic that allows Dany to bond with dragons and survive standing in a funeral pyre at the end of the first book. But George R.R. Martin said In other words, it was an example of very soft magic. But while Dany is magical it’s not an ability that she controls It doesn’t break Sanderson’s first law because it is used to make her story more interesting without resolving the conflicts in her story It’s not the hero’s magical ability to wield the sword that no one else can that allows them to defeat your totally-not-generic Dark Lord It’s that your hero worked and learned how to wield the sword. Fundamentally soft magic can facilitate the resolution of your conflict but not resolve it in and of itself. That comes across as [Epic Sax 3] A second way to write from the viewpoint of a soft magic character is with an element of unpredictability While hard magic relies heavily on it being predictable and consistent, Soft magic is allowed to be a lot more unpredictable. Having not just the reader, but the characters themselves be unsure of the limits or capabilities of their magic can be really interesting and it retains that feeling of mysticism without you needing to explain how it works precisely. The character Melisandre in A Song of Ice and Fire is a fantastic example of this. She is one of the few viewpoint characters who actively try to use magic to accomplish things But not only does the reader not fully understand the limits or rules of her powers But neither does she entirely. For example in the second book, she performs a huge sacrificial ritual for Stannis Baratheon Believing it would transform him into the ‘savior of the world and English grammar.’ “Fewer” (?) but it didn’t. She can call on the Lord of Light for guidance and other times, it just doesn’t work. While she is powerful the rules of her magic aren’t as clear as ‘magical action [x]=magical effect [y]’ But the focus of unpredictable magic should not be on its ability to solve problems, rather its role in the story should center around- ~Guess what~ Its unpredictability, and how that can enrich your narrative. Soft magic can add fantastical elements to a story in a way that is difficult to do with hard magic And authors who do that well truly enhance their writing. For example in many scenarios where characters do use unpredictable magic, it can often go horribly wrong and create more problems for the characters. In the Death Gate cycle, the more powerful, the magic the more drastic the unpredictable side effects will be. When one character performs necromancy, another random person will die One of my favorite variations of unpredictable magic is from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett which, if you haven’t read, is the perfect balance between fantasy comedy and dreadful existentialism In his books magic has something of a personality It isn’t easy to control and can simply decide to do things on its own If you really want to set your soft magic system apart, consider how its unpredictability could play into your story – thinking about how hard it is to control – perhaps giving it some form of sentience that makes it not just a tool to be used But something to be incredibly wary of for your characters and this is a major difference between hard and soft magic where hard magic will go wrong because the Practitioners didn’t understand the rules or limits of the magic, soft magic is more likely to go wrong simply because of its nature. Unpredictable magic can actually increase tension with a sense of risk to using it and is less likely to feel like [Epic Sax 4] If the reader never loses that feeling of unpredictability or risk of disaster, What’s difficult for authors is working to maintain that feeling. Of course, none of this means that your soft magic has to be unpredictable This is just one way to make soft magic interesting Especially if you’re writing from the viewpoint of magic users. Thirdly you have to ask how many magic systems do you want? Oftentimes fantasy stories only have one magic system like the Inheritance cycle, the Belgariad, or Star Wars But it is possible to include more than one magic system in your story if you like. In the Kingkiller Chronicles, there is sympathy which is a much harder magic system But there’s also things like naming magic or fae magic that are far softer In a Song of Ice and Fire, there’s an all-you-can magic buffet with the faceless man, The Old Gods, the Lord of Light, the Others the Children of the Forest, and Valyrian magic. Few of them have much or anything to with one another and they are a mix of harder and softer magic systems. You can write a story with both and which style is best is simply up to what fits best for your narrative. Though, if you really want to distinguish your novel, you might want to use multiple magic systems It’s not particularly common And I often feel that it’s a missed opportunity that hasn’t been adequately explored in fantasy Having multiple can add to the mysteriousness of your world while having one may help establish that sense of predictability and consistency Required for hard magic And fourthly, style. Soft magic systems have an advantage of being extremely versatile and flexible Authors are free to include a ritualistic magic, spell magic, theater core magic that calls on demons and angels or ley lines that create wells of magical energy They can use all of that without it feeling out of place Hard magic systems, on the other hand, typically rely on one or a few styles at most They need to be restricted for there to be clear rules. At its heart / fundamentally… This was part two of a three part series analyzing magic systems, and you voted for it so the third part I want to examine a particular magic system in detail Avatar The Last Airbender – How it’s developed, how it fits in with Sanderson’s third law of magic in particular, and where it works Or doesn’t work within the narrative. Question of the day Which do you prefer? And why? Hard or soft ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) And I’m talking about magic systems. If you like what I make, please consider supporting me on Patreon so I can keep doing the work that I do. In the meantime, please come say hello to me on Twitter, Wattpad, Facebook, or email me stuff You’ve made (?) the address or links in the description below. Stay nerdy sub furies! And thank you very much for the massive response to my last video. I’ll see you in the future

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. You know when I read Melissandres chapter in Dance of Dragons. The way she holds herself thinks and experience and other things. She seems almost alien. So maybe soft magic alters the perception of the world?

  2. In my opinion, in a fantasy novel, I love to have a soft magic system, but in a Sci-Fi novel, I prefer an hard one, that can, in someway, get along with science and technologie. Im actively writing a Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel right now and I have a really hard magic system with low costs and huge limitations, in a pretty neat style

  3. So out of curiousity, if you've read the Dresden Files, where on the spectrum would you consider magic in that world? I'd say it's more on the soft side though it does have a few more defined rules like cough the law of equivalent exchange when it comes to manipulation of physical forces.

  4. I just want to make one small correction, the inheritance cycle IS a combination of hard and soft magic. It is a soft magic world, in which there is a (hard magic) language used to control the magic. But any magic user can use magic without the language, it just very unpredictable. Some of the most memorable uses of magic in the series happen without the structure of the ancient language.

  5. I prefer the middle ground stuff like Harry Potter or the magic in the Gone series by Michael Grant. Having a general cap and explanations as to how the limits and costs work is cool, but the softness lends itself to mystery and speculation on the source and potential uses/ways to interact with it

  6. softest magic system is clearly the one from the new Castlevania series. Sypha literally does whatever the writers think is cool and there's no explanation ever. Love that shit

  7. I think that regardless of whether a writer is using hard or soft magic systems, it's important for the AUTHOR to understand all the 'rules' even if the readers or their characters never understand or learn all the 'rules' or the source/limitations/costs etc of the magic in their world. Even if mysterious and never explained, if there's enough consistency in how it's used, that too can avoid the "A WIZARD DID IT!" problem.

  8. I do both hard and soft magic systems, but that depends on my stories. My "Tale of the Kingsword" or just "Kingsword" trilogy, my magic is soft magic, used exclusively by wizards, as it was the last gift of the gods (more akin to Welsh Mythology) who reshaped the world from the ruins of an old world more akin to Eden.

  9. "Though, book-Harry acts like he literally only knows 'Expelliarmus'"

    3:14 its sneaky, but I saw you. I found your thing and now i wonder how often you actually do that.

  10. I also feel like a major limitation in the Harry Potter world isn't on the wizard but on wizard laws. Like, sure, you can kill someone or create an Animagus or do a lot of other things but you are limited by the laws that would then throw you in jail. It's not a physical limitation but it's still a part of what would limit your charecters.

  11. Galaxy outlaws is a book series with soft magic and because of that is soft scifi but its pretty good never the less. Theres two wizards they focus on the most and they have different styles of aproaching doing magic.

    Magic in this series is based on the wizards personal identity and a dialogue with the universe. The first wizard argues and makes demands on the universe to cause change or make the universe act normal because he believes he has the right.

    The second wizard caguels negotiates and ingratiates herself to do similar magic. The universe also responds more readily to primordial languages which not everybody knows. It's pretty cool. I prefer hard magic dresden files and iron druid chronicles covers multiple aproachs to magic and can be considered hard magic systems.

  12. Harry Potter is more of a Hard magic system. Not as hard as Avatar or Full metal Alchemist but it has been stated that magic does follow the laws of physics to some extent. Specifically the law of conservation of mass which FMA also follows, when transfiguring objects or creatures into other things there is a limit to how much the size can be altered and they don't last forever. Whatever is changed by magic will change back to normal in time thus preserving the balance of nature and not leave a permanent scar.

  13. I prefer hard magic systems because the structure makes the magic a bit easier to manage, wheras soft magic that is undefined might make the specific, concrete goals of villains (if you prefer that) harder to find. On the other hand, if you have a wild imagination, with a soft magic you could create almost any goal for a magic-using villain.

    I myself prefer structure.

    Plus, I like having main characters or characters in the group who use magic reguarly. In my group, I have someone with Mind Powers, a Wizard with magic and a Bard with magic, and a character who used to have access to Mind Powers, magic, and then this variant of another magic variant I nickname Link-Gained Innate Magic. Also, I appreciate discussions of magic between characters. It's an interesting subject of conversation, and if magic is more undefined, that means the conversation would also be undefined (though that can be useful/fun).

    Also, I feel that some soft magic systems could lead to the emotional-magic-powerup that could make it harder to challenge characters. Eventually, one of my characters DOES gain some emotionally powered "magical effects" that the Wizard doesn't get. Because that isn't done. And that magic system is very soft and will only come up sometimes, though through the course of the story that soft magic system might become hard as it is explored (if that makes sense). Though eventually the main character will give that up, because undefined magic means undefined consequences, and these magical effects could cause worse than death eventually, since the cost and emotional backlash increases every time.

    I've basically come to the conclusion that both are great for different things, but I take the perhaps easier way (again, depending on the author's strengths and point of veiw) and head for defined structure, so as to not cause characters to use magic as a get-out-of-jail-free card (which may be the definition of the deus ex machina term I hear thrown around in magic discussions).

  14. I personally love hard magic systems as it let me put myself in the shoes of the protagonist and let me think of interesting ways I personally would have solved a probers.(the same reason I love dnd so much)

  15. Im sorry but am I the only one who hates the stupid, unessessary posing character trope that's supposed to represent these youtubers?
    So cringey first of all, and its just flat out obnoxious. It gets in the way of seeing the footage too.
    Stop doing this, youtubers.
    This one is particularily poorly drawn, not even coloured, and has stupid weeaboo style emotions on it that make my eyes want to roll into the back of my head.

  16. middle earths magic system is well explained in the books and other articles written by tolkien.
    tolkiens work is not only the lord of the rings pared with the hobbit.
    there is so much more to read…

    ofc some thing are left out but the use of magic in tolkiens world is well enough explained.

  17. I'd say that disc worlds magic systems depend on whose using it if its the wizards it closer to a science especially if Ponder Stibbions is involved, where as the Witches use it more like a soft system,

  18. Prefer hard magic every time. Soft magic just leaves you wondering what happened, which distracts from the story.

  19. "Though book-Harry acts like he literally only knows expelliarmus." Was that 1 frame? Took forever to read. That and stupefy

  20. Question on soft magic storytelling. The universe I am building has a hard magic system. However, the understanding of magic varies over time. For example, in the beginning people think of it more in mystical terms and truly don't understand how it works, versus thousands of years later where they know very well how it works. If I write a story in the early years, should It be written like a soft magic story (even though the mechanics are hard)? In theory, someone having read stories set in the latter millennia could read early stories and not find flaws in the magic system.

  21. Magic in Middle-earth is actually very well explained, just not in LotR specifically.
    Magic, as Men define it, doesn't actually exist. Everything is either natural or spiritual.
    Eru Ilúvatar is the one God that created everything else, and even if you consider God's power to be magic, then you don't need any further explanation than that he's God. The Valar and Maiar are all just powerful, spiritual beings. They're not magical, per se. They just have abilities above those of mortals and therefore above their comprehension. Just like Elves seem magical to Hobbits when they're not, they just know more and are more closely knit to the natural side of Middle-earth.

  22. The magic of wreath in Saga! I think it's one of the best uses of soft magic in fiction and ticks of all the boxes here. It's also kept both mysterious and real at the same time.

  23. As a scientist and game programmer I prefer the hard magic system. It gives the reader/audience/player something to explore and allows imaginations based on logic, that could become true some moments later. However, I like your idea of trying to implement both, hard and soft magic. And to be honest: After thinking about my fantasy book I'm writing and having your videos in mind I realized, that I already have two magic systems. They are both connected to the same source of power, but the one so mysterious, that even the ones who use it do not fully understand it, while the other magic system is used mostly by magicians, who work with it more like scientists. It's a bit of like spiritual power for the one and science for the other system.
    Thank you for the insight!

  24. But, then, what kind of magic system are the Stands of JoJo's?. I mean, a stand can do anything, but every particular stand does a thing and just that thing with its own rules and limitations.
    What kind of magic system Is that?

  25. In a week or two, I am going to begin running a DnD game, where I want the magic to be fundamentally different from how it is set. I have watched the previous videos to decide what kind of part it plays in my world. How it affects the economy and magic items/scrolls, the industries based around said magical items, the relationships between countries/continents because of how differently they believe it should be used, the way people go about their daily life, etc.

    I am making a magic system directly in between hard and soft, where it makes sense that your average Joe wouldn't be able to use magic, but of course a magic user could use it. In other words, knowledge is power. You must understand how the magic works in order to use it. Think of it like Yaomomo's quirk. She can develop any item, as long as she understands its molecular structure/atomic configuration.

    However, in my magic system, instead of having "a wizard do it," and have it pop out of nowhere, the caster must understand how it can draw from the living energy from the planes of existence, (the Fire Plane for casting Fireball, the Earth Plane for Wall of stone, or the Extra Plane for more obscure magics, like abjuration, divination, illusion, etc) and manipulate it to conjure whatever effect it is they want in their plane of existence.

    But along with using magic from the other planes, what if you are in the plane that corresponds to the type of magic you're using?

    You just don't expend a spell slot. =)

    Because you understand how it is you must manipulate it, you can just move it from where it is. I consider transferring object that you know exist from the planes of existence, expending a spell slot. To keep it logical, non-living substanes from the elemental planes (Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Ooze, Ice, Ash, Magma) are the only things that can be transported. (the planes are endless in size)

    Any opinions? Mistakes? Ideas? I'm trying to get some feedback on this.

  26. Why does Star Wars pop up when people talk about magic? Psychic ability is not magic. There is no magic in Star Wars. That being said, it is a system with rules.

  27. It's done really well in Good Omens. The two main characters can do literally anything but are such major dumb asses, they never even consider the easiest solutions.

  28. One other thing that made Melisandre's magical unpredictability work is that the viewer/reader is almost never sure what her alignment is. The audience had a fair reason to suspect that she was quite evil, but also that she was doing good. They suspected that she was going to betray Stannis, and it was hard to pin down if Stannis succeeding was something "good" or "bad" in the first place. The problems she solved were usually not problems that the audience could easily agree on as "good".

  29. I think, Ghibly films a great examples, of balances between hard and soft magic. We see how Howl draws pictogram, and we know, that he finished, school, but we don’t know, how the hell does it’s works. Or Kiki, we know, that some witches can create potions, or read somebody’s fate, but she just can’t do it, and the list can go on.

  30. for me I liked the hard system more, it just makes it more interesting. It's one of the reasons I love the Inheritance series

  31. I prefer hard magic. However it is still nice how the opposite works. It is nice to have a sense of wonder. It is easier with a soft magic system and a nonmagical protagonist. I still like to have a magical character use magic in a hard magic system. It makes for a good power fantasy. I actually have something that is in between. In my main story, Luspear is the protagonist. She starts out as a non magic person living with other non magic people. Then she finds magic in the outside world. This gives a sense of wonder. Later Luspear learns magic. She becomes incredibly powerful. That gives a power fantasy. Interestingly the same thing happens to Harry Potter. I do like having a variation of magic in soft magic. I think it is possible with hard magic. One just have to add more tools in the magical toolbox. I like the idea of having multiple magic systems. It is amusing to have goofy Gandalf. A wizard did it.

    I am currently developing my magic system. I haven't figured out all the details. I like to put various things together. It helps to create a unique magic style. Hopefully I can streamline this later, when I develop it a bit more. I still want magic use to be diverse. I did start off with a very hard magic system using video game logic. It is used mainly for combat. A second major use is shapeshifting and summoning creatures. There is also transportation and gathering resources. I did think of other things on top of that. I played with an idea that magic can be used in place of technology. This would still be hard. Technology magic is like combat, in that it is limited by the cost of magical energy. Then there is a divine kind of magic. This may be a bit softer. Divine characters are overpowered, so they are less limited. Luspear gains divine power in the story. Her adventuring companions also gain divine power. In the story, this power is underdeveloped. So there is still resonable limits. The magic is tied to emotions, especially love. It can be very risky. If one feels good with lovers, it can cause great things to occor. It can make the plants grow all over the land. It can blast down enemies and defeat them. If one feels bad with heartbreak, it can cause bad things to occor. It can ruin the land and make it barren. I was thinking of using the power of romantic love. Luspear and her love interest, Soram, use this power in attempt to save the world. Then I find I can move beyond that. Luspear and Soram have a bunch of supporting characters with them. They are good friends. So they can use the power of friendship love to defeat foes. One thing about magic that is not often talked about is that it does exist in real life. It just doesn't work the way it does in tv. In the New Age movement there is magic that people do. One performs a magic ritual. Later the effect happens. There are no flashy bursts. The effect may or may not happen, and it makes no logical sense. It would be interesting if something like this did happen in fiction. I have played around with this idea. New Age is a wonderful source of inspiration. If anybody is trying to design a magic system, I highly recommend it. A major draw for me is the deep philosophies behind the magic. I even get more interested in the thory than the practice. This helps my own writing because it becomes more profond and unique. Luspear is a hero who goes on adventures and fights foes, which has been done to death. Yet she is also gaining mystical enlightenment along the way, which is not done very often. Luspear adventures with a group of friends, which also has been done to death. Yet these friends actually form a secret society. This is an origional idea of mine, and I never seen this done before. The closest is the Robert Langdon books by Dan Brown. It deals with secret societies. However the protagionst, Robert Langdon, never joins one. It was inspiration for the idea nontheless. An important part of my magic system is the variety of magicians. Variation is done through both element and class. It is an origional idea of mine to combine them together. Element varies with earth, fire, water and air. Beyond that they are further broken down to sixteen elements. This leads to more elements like light and dark. I recently incorperated another origional idea. All classes are different kinds of magicians. So I drop non magic classes like warriors, rogues and hunters. I really incorperate New Age ideas and makes various styles for classes. Shamans have nature magic. It involves things like trees and animals. Mages have arcane magic. It involves wizardly abstract magic as well as lots of books. Priests have holy magic. It involves things like religion and divine blessings. Warlocks have occult magic. It involves creepy stuff and secret societies. Warlocks are not evil. They simply pursue the philosophical kind of magic that most people don't understand. From those four I break things down into sixteen classes. I even add witch and wizard as classes. They are the two most famous kinds of magicians. However they are not used in RPGs. So I like to add them to my own system. The sixteen classes and sixteen elements multiply to 256 types. That is good for variety. I origionally imagined the different types in terms of fighting style. Then I figured that I can add personalities and mystical ideas as well. This is such a fun process.

  32. I kind of have that type of Soft Magic System, in the begin where the protagonist can use magic and doesn’t know or understand why they can use it until taught then the story enters the Hard Magic System.
    Like the character is Harry before learning his a wizard, then someone shows up telling him to go to Hogwarts to learn how to control his magic.
    Or in my characters case, why they are able to use magic. Whether its from birth, a accident, or by chance the Soft System is used until they learn why and the Hard System is explained.

    And I do use multiple types of magic in my system, from six to three with multiple side system to it and why.

  33. 11:59 o_O What's the source of that clip? It looks like Guild Wars 2's art style, but is it a series? Would love to know.

  34. Hard because I don’t like feeling like anything can happen and it also allows writers to break that creatively making for better surprises to me.

  35. Also: Wizards of Waverly Place.
    Actually I would love a look at that magic system even though it's a kid's comedy. Man the finale was great though :')

  36. I disagree about how The Inheritance Cycle has only hard magic. While there is using magic with the ancient language the dragons and sky vipers also have a vague soft magic system.

  37. 8:27 Isn't the point of Melisandre that her magic is divine? So she doesn't use magic, her God answers her prayers and uses magic.
    So this is more a case of "God did it." than "A wizard did it!"

  38. "Which do you prefer, hard or soft? And I'm talking about magic systems."
    Ah, I almost thought it was for taco shells before the clarification.

  39. I think my favorite soft magic is from D&D hags, they don't use normal magic wizards and clerics use. Their magic is normally "Want to never been angry again, sure but you can't fall in love again." "Want to be able to revive people, alright but a part of your soul drains away every time and they'll have a hard time understanding emotes." "Like the jar of heat seeking bees on my shelf, dude here take it, I have ten of these."

  40. As I discovered the broader work of Tolkien, I really liked his magic system.
    There, if one has magical power, they can loose but not as easily gain them, except when gaining them from other more powerful beings, which then in turn, loose some of their powers.
    Be it Melkor, the Valar, Sauron or Feanor. All them use magic to build or craft something, but they also kinda cripple themselves to some degree to do so. Magic in general gets kinda diluted, as the Story goes on.
    That's why middleearth is soaked in magic in the first ages, but later, ther're only those small elven-colonies where magic is found.
    I think this is a great way of having a very soft and vage magic system but also make sure that magical characters are limited in the way they use their powers.

  41. 4:55 i still love that in the movies the hobbits say: look elves! and in the books its the elves that say: Look hobbits! still makes me giggle 😛

  42. I'm trying to make it so that the magic in my book is just part of their physics and cosmology and has basic principles that are explained well enough, but, if you put everything together, basically anything is possible.

    I also have a writing complication in that my current plot relies on one of the "rules" of the magic (or maybe just a rule about certain magic-users' abilities) actually turning out to be misinformation. This feels a lot like cheating, so I think I need to focus on writing it so that it's clear, after the fact, that this "rule" didn't have adequate proof.

    I think I have a solution to this though. Basically, a certain aspect of their physics/cosmology implies that certain technologies (which they may have) are possible, while there is no clear way to accomplish certain other effects that the reader will probably think of. Later, it will be revealed that a known group of magic users has actually had the ability to do it for a long time, via a method that is explained in basic terms (but is not comletely explained, because if it were that simple to do it, others with less time to think about the problem would certainly figure it out.

    My story also centrally involes juxtaposing characters, groups, and forces with such drastically different powers, amounts of history, intelligences, and so on that it tends to be analagous to soft magic.

  43. One interesting thing I thought about is the fact that you can make the argument that all games (tabletop or digital) with magic have hard magic systems, since games are defined by their rules.

  44. A great example of a relatively soft magic system is The Paper Magician trilogy, and its companion book. It’s similar to what he was discussing in the section about soft magic systems from the POV of a magic user. In The Paper Magician, magic is a relatively unexplored art, and while there are some hard rules, for instance, magic can only be performed on manmade materials, there’s a lot of magic that is unexplored. New spells get invented all the time, but it never feels cheap because the reader knows there’s room for the magic to be expanded. Even master magicians don’t know the limits of their magic because those limits haven’t been reached. It’s absolutely fascinating, and it’s a trilogy you should definitely read.

  45. I vastly prefer harder magic systems. Creative problem solving using specific powers is usually more interesting than "a wizard did it".

  46. this is the very reason why I hate Gon from HxH, lost both of his hands? no problem magic solves it! Used so much power that basically would die or at least never be able to fight again? no problem MAGIC WILL SOLVE IT

  47. Man, you can clearly see the possible positive way to integrate a soft magic system in the Star Wars before Disney and the negative version in the new trilogy,
    as that is almost entirely "a wizard(Rey) did it."

  48. You should look into "The 13th Child" series by Patricia Wrede. It has several magic styles. Most people learn Avropan (European) magic, but the main character ends up learning Aphrikan (African) magic.

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