Aspect Magic, Part 1

This is a very short overview of the magic system that I’m developing for my Fate Core fantasy world. I don’t have a lot of the mechanics down, and actually have a much longer description that I’m not going to go into (yet).

Basically, magic use ties directly into Fate Core aspects. Not just that when you cast spells you can declare aspects, but the very act of using aspects is magic. Aspects are a fungible thing that actually exists in the metaphysics of the game world. For the time being they are called Aspects (with a Capital A) within the game world, but I’m leaning toward something like “Virtues”. It’s kind of similar to the concept of Plato’s Forms, but not quite – an individual’s aspects are their own independent metaphysical thingies, and not shadows or copies of some higher form. All of the aspects that make up a thing, whether it’s an object or a character, are interconnected to one another – and those aspects are connected, indirectly, to others around them. I’ve described it as My Little Relationship Map: Aspects Are Magic (or, alternately, Magic Is Aspects). Normal aspect use and using magic to manipulate aspects comes from the same source – the difference is that using magic, you can bend or break the rules.This may sound a bit like metagaming the metagame, and in some ways it totally is.

I’ve been revisiting my write-up on Sigils for this. This is leading me toward this style of magic (called Evocation as a working name, but may change because that doesn’t quite fit) being worked by inscribing Sigils on to things. The Sigils take common forms, that are customized when they are inscribed for the exact effect and the nature of the aspects involved. That takes it kind of full circle, because this whole exercise is to create a magic system for the fantasy setting I’m working on that supports my inspirations in the Thief video game series, Dishonored and other similar worlds.

Thief Glyphs, from Thief: The Dark Wiki

I’ve already gotten a number of really great suggestions for setting it up, but for the time being I don’t have a lot of details. Right now it’s moving toward something similar to Tolkien’s magic or the True Names of LeGuin’s Earthsea novels (but with a slight difference, because here we’re actually changing the aspects instead of trying to compel them – no pun intended – into doing something).

The bucket list for the fiddly bits so far is:

  1. You can’t create something from nothing.
  2. “Deeper” aspects (possibly those things that affect the core aspect, or high concept) result in more powerful magic. Thanks to +Teo Tayobobayo‘s post on “flat” vs. “round” aspects, I kind of have an angle on this.
  3. There is possibly an indirect, metaphorical element to how magic is done. Not sure how far I’d go into concepts of contagion and similarity (as I was initially kind of avoiding them) but in the end it might look something like that. Thanks to +Nick Pilon for suggesting that.
  4. Powerful magic resonates more strongly among any connected aspects. In the end, it’s not that much risk to light up a magic crystal at the end of a staff. But creating The One McGuffin Artifact is something that can result in really big changes. Similarly, the more complex something is (i.e., the more aspects it has) the better the potential to do “great works”, and the more risk there is of resonance among the connected aspects.
  5. Any side effect from this resonance is taken on somehow (more than likely, as a Consequence) by the caster.
  6. Part of magic use is understanding the connections between various aspects. In this way, magic is predictable and repeatable. It’s the potential for failure that leads to unforeseen side effects. It also leads to cool scenes with scholars who keep constellation charts – but instead of stars, it charts aspects.
I’ll be posting more design-type ramblings as I continue to develop the concept.

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