Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is MAGIC SYSTEMS

A system. For Magic. Don’t pretend y’all were not waiting for this one.

There are lots of magic systems so I’m going to list just the ones I’m most familiar with or which most impressed me.

I’m a long time paper and pen roleplayer so the most familiar system to me is the one used in the original Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game where the wizard or priest learned spell and then “forgot” it. It could only be used again after he or she slept. I believe this was originally from Jack Vance’s books.

Inherited magic is used by lots of books, comics, and games. I think I was introduced to it by the ElfQuest comics: a person is born with certain kind of magic and can use it with concentration. It’s kind of the superpower type magic. Lots of fantasy books use this magic, for example Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye.

Another one is true names: if you know the true name of someone (or something) you can command it. This is also used in ElfQuest where most of the elfs have secret soul names and also in LeGuin’s Earthsea books.

Headology is the magic used by Granny Weatherwax – and very successfully.

Magic schools: in these universes you go to school to learn spells just like any other school subject or are an apprentice to a wizard. Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series is an example.

Learning from books without formal education system: Buffy, of course, and some other fantasy TV shows, such as Sleepy Hollow.

Casting spells with music: The most recent example I can think of is Carol Berg’s Song of the Beast.

In the newest books, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series has very intricate system where the magic user can eat certain types of metals and get certain powers from them. Most people are born with the ability to use only one or two types of metals, though.

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