Let’s talk magic. The part of a fantasy world that makes it really fantasy. Sometimes it’s understated, such as with Tolkien or Martin. Sometimes it’s vast and overwhelming, like with Rowling or Lucas. It may be rare, but in both cases it was an incredible advantage over common foes.
In your own world you have to find this balance. There will be some form of magic, whether it’s trees made of crystal or an order of magi capable of terraforming. It all depends on the moods and themes of your story and your world, along with what you can imagine.
The rules, or physics, of your magic are also important. Always keep in mind that magic becomes part of physics in your world, the rules of how the world works.
Some people have very rigid rules to magic, a trend which is growing. For the most part, Harry Potter had strict rules with some deviations. Meanwhile, Tolkien was filled with deviations. Go back even further, into the myths of old, and you’re struck by a splattering of random magical abilities which were personalized to the individual using it, even if it was a method supposedly passed down from a master. Magic was highly personalized back then.
G’desh used to have very strict rules, until I started reading Arabian Nights. Fire magic is king in my story, and while it isn’t to the point everyone knows it, most people in their life would witness it or at least meet someone capable of fire magic. It has rules that people mostly follow. The talented or determined can buck the system, but otherwise you learn from your master the same way he learned from his master.
Fire is considered so common because it’s something the people deal with on a daily basis, on a mundane level. The Bronze City, a portion of a city entirely covered in its namesake, will light anything on fire that stands on it during the noon sun. The desert is hot and unforgiving. Flames easily get out of control. The religion is based on fire, as one believes that it will purify or consume the souls of the dead. Despite the incredible power behind the fire wielders, they are simply a way of life and nothing special. This is to show the common theme of destruction and difficulty.
Alchemy is a different matter. Requiring so much studying and knowledge, along with having a wide swath of abilities, alchemy creates fear. Each alchemist has preferred methods, allowing them to create different concoctions. Because of this, the common person perceives the rules of alchemy are random. Despite it being a purely physical practice, they are given the title of witch most often.
In truth, the ability to make potions is a very underwhelming power. It takes time to titrate, calcinate, and other-big-chemistry-words-ate. You need to study what materials are needed for a potion, you have to know what individual items do, and you need to learn the correct way to extract what you want to make what you require. It can take days to make a single potion, and until then you’re really nothing. However, alchemists are capable of creating a large array of effects. They’re called egromancers, as a nod to Sir Burton. Egromancers were capable of doing many evil and wicked things, and though others share the title, alchemists are most often given such recognition. Despite an alchemist’s ability to create helpful elixirs, they are the theme of fear in the face of uncertainty, no matter it’s benevolence.
I also introduced djinn to shake up my fire system with a random element. The djinn are not simply capable of using fire, but they are fire. With the ability to shape shift and have overwhelming control of flame, they are a wild card. Parents tell stories about them to kids. One is seen in heavily populated areas every century, and those who meet the demon rarely understand who they’re talking to. Djinn are individual magic, legend, and power on a scale no other can claim.
The djinn are the heart of any myth, the reality of such legends, and the terror that such creatures may bring down, despite the idolization which often accompanies them. I would love to tell you there is some lesson behind why they shape shift and bring hurt to the world, but there isn’t. Ultimately, I thought it was cool so it happened.
Ultimately, make your magic fit your themes, moods, and, above all, make it awesome. It’s your tweak to the physics we earth beings know and love, and we better come to know and love yours as well.