Brandon Sanderson is a writer I learned about recently in the past year, however since that initial point of discovery, I have flown through his writing. His Stormlight Archive and Mistborn series are tremendous, and I expect his other books, such as Elantris and Warbreaker, to be equally as compelling once I get around to reading them. In my personal fantasy author pantheon, I believe he deserves top billing alongside Rowling, Tolkien, Martin, and Rothfuss. Lofty company to be sure, but his stories are truly excellent and he has perfected the art of switching character POV’s (i.e. by the time you finish a chapter and it switches to another character, you are irritated as you wanted more of the first character, but then by the time you have reached the end of the new character, you also want more of that character). However, I think his most interesting writing skill is that of magic system creation. His magic systems across his novels are incredibly well thought out and wildly different. In the Stormlight Archive series, magic is determined by these companion sprites of sorts who have their own personalities and bond with various characters, giving them powers. In the Mistborn series, piercing your skin with various metals (e.g. aluminum, copper) or ingesting those metals gives the user certain powers. And Sanderson is adept at slowly revealing more facets of these systems, such as the backstory, the limitations, and the strengths (of these systems), as the plot progresses. So, Sanderson is very skilled at creating and manipulating these intricate and dissimilar magic systems from series to series. But what if he wasn’t so good at it? Here are some possible magic systems that a much lesser version of Brandon Sanderson (like me) might come up with:
Note: These systems are meant to be terrible and thus I am sure they are all flawed in numerous ways, so please don’t @ me 🙂
- Magical power is based off toenail length
Yes, if you have those long, disgusting toenails that curl under your foot, then congratulations, you are virtually unstoppable in this world. Specialized footwear is obviously a must in this world. Dating suffers however, as those with the longest toenails are still considered to be gross, just like in our world. But these people can levitate and are impervious to bullets. So pros and cons.
2. Magical power is determined by the amount you urinate
Another crass magical system in which body maintenance features prominently. In this world, urinating fills you with power. Thus, the more you can pee, the stronger you become. Fluids, particularly water, would definitely be among the most valuable resources in this world. However, at the highest level of power, practitioners would likely never have a chance to use their powers as they would simply be in the bathroom all day.
3. Power is stored by silence and released all at once by speaking
In this magical place, any word spoken empties your reserves of powers immediately, and the only way in which to gain power is to stay silent. So the world would likely be incredibly quiet with brief spurts of awesome power and vocalization. The most powerful users would be ancient men and women who had been silent for many decades as they waited for the exact right moment to unleash the totality of their energy against an unsuspecting foe.
4. Power is gained only when the word of the action/ability is spoken
A near polar opposite of the previous world, this magical system grants the power to do basically anything as long as you are saying it. So in order to fly, one must say “flyflyflyflyfly” as long as they want to stay airborne. This world rewards those with strong lungs and active imaginations. It would also essentially preclude reading aloud or singing as basically any sad song or book might result in you saying “die” or death”, thus ending your own life prematurely.
5. All requests for magic must go through the Department of Magical Activity
While magic is freely accessible to anyone in this world, in order to use it, you have to file a request with the highly bureaucratic Department of Magical Activity. Want to levitate a couple feet? Well you will have to file Subsection V2 of Form 3XBCA with the Sub-Department of Elevation. And don’t forgot to file your Addendum 42-C with the Sub-Department of Location if you plan on hovering over a public area. Plus, Form 34-52-FG is a must if you also want to traverse a body of water. However, don’t you dare try and skip the process. Unlawful usage of magic is the one act that the Department of Magical Activity reacts quickly to as they respond by smiting you immediately. So make sure your file your paperwork!