10 Ways to Screw up a Magical System

1.  Watch while I pull this rabbit out of my hat!

Hey, my hero’s in a tough spot, I’ll think of a new spell for him to use!  Every time!

2.  Spell, what spell?

. . .because I need him to be in a tougher spot, so he’ll just have to forget all the magic he’s ever worked before. . .

3.  Old spells, new tricks

Or maybe, the spell will have a different effect this time!  (not everyone can get away with the Schmendrick exception)

4. No consequences, no problem!

Since I’m the writer, I get to choose which consequences stick, and which ones don’t. Besides, it’s too much bother thinking through the physical effects of magic–I’ll just wipe them away!  That’s what magic is for.

5.  Let’s see, eye of newt, toe of frog–anybody got a blaspheming Jew?

I’ll make it really complicated, because readers like magic, right?  So they’ll want to read an extended description of exactly how it works, how to learn it, and what is required.  I spent a Long Time coming up with these rules, you better read ’em.

6.  Hey, look over there!

But I sure hope they don’t notice when my character doesn’t have the components, doesn’t speak the magic words, doesn’t have her wand. . .

7.  Roll 2 D6 and call me in the morning.

I used to be a gamer, and I based this whole book on my last campaign, so it only makes sense to use the spells, rules, and terms from the gaming system.

8. Youth and beauty will always trump old age and treachery!

I *told* you he was talented–that’s why he can beat the wands off of sorcerers who have been practicing for decades. . .

9.  System?  I don’t need no steenkin’ system.

Instead of pulling out just spells when I need them, I’ll make up the whole thing as I go along.  Elemental magic, magical objects, ritual magic, wild magic, wicca, historical practice, scholarly magic, trained practitioners, natural talent, religious magic–Why not have it all?  My readers’ll never know what hit them!

10. Limitations are for wimps.

Wizards are all-powerful, all-capable, butt-wuppin’ dudes.  They never get tired, they never get sick, they never forget, and there’s always at least one more rabbit in that hat. . .

About E. C. Ambrose

I spend as much time in my office as I possibly can--thinking up terrible things to do to people who don't exist.
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