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Author Topic: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on  (Read 1432 times)

Offline Yora

Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« on: December 20, 2015, 08:09:07 PM »
Every time I see these they seem somewhat problematic to me. If I would think that they would always be a terrible idea, that wouldn't be a problem.
Almost always I am thinking that such things really feel much more like game concepts instead of sensible story elements. But at the same time, the idea is also kind of cool.

I feel like I would like to do something great with naturally occuring magical materials, but at the same time I never really have idea what to do with them that wouldn't make me groan about it myself.
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2015, 08:45:21 PM »
I don't know if it will be in my current story, but I look forward to work with magic in this aspect.

I studied business and loved how Steve Jobs worked to make the Iphone. A specific kind of glass, of battery, components, where they would go to fit perfectly (even if had no technical use, just for aesthetics) and so on.

So I would use runes/gems/etc as some kind of battery/motor/etc for weapons/armor/transportation/etc. The making of such things would be almost like making an electronic device, but not by much, like chaining rings in armor and such, building towers/ships/trebuchets and such. Skill required, but not impossible for the times.

I also liked the concept of "recharging". For example, a fire sword has a gem that is able to absorb heat/fire/whatever and with the other right kind of metal and such, makes a fire sword. But it isn't infinite, and whoever uses it will eventually have to open the hilt and "refill" the gem, be in a campfire or a volcano. Possibly the more dangerous the better  ::)
Some kind of artillery that works best at rain (the worst times for a siege, I think). They can attract lightning, absorb it and redirect amplified (or not).

Some of these gems could even be worked to be inserted in the human body, weather you allow it or not.
 I thought of a healer who had gems in her palms and is able to "heal" by absorbing the disease to the gems (and thus, to her). The gems eventually purify her too, but she can always die as well. Even imagined a scene she heals some mentally disabled person and gets herself the disability.
Don't know if that would heal sword/arrow wounds, maybe it could by "transferring" blood/organs/tissues and getting herself the wound.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2015, 08:49:00 PM by Lanko »
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Offline Yora

Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2015, 09:18:01 PM »
My approach is the direct opposite of this "magitech" concept. I am working with magic that is a lot more chi based and I feel that that excludes any form of crafting magical devices. Though in a world where magic is a science and can be used in machines, having lots of special materials actually makes a great deal of sense. I think mental disconnect I have is mostly about worlds that treat magic like shamanism and witchcraft but also have fire swords or magical stun grenades. That situations feel just a lot like game mechanics and not like a natural result of the setting.

What I've been toying around with for a while and currently trying to work into stories is the idea of not having magical devices, but instead naturally occuring things like large crystals of unmatched clarity, bones and horns of powerful monsters or sorcerers, or wood from unique magical trees. They would be useless for a normal person and could not do anything against another normal person, but they might affect magical beings simply by their presence. But mages could use them to better focus or amplify their own magical powers. But only for very specific uses that are directly related to the creature or plant they come from. Say for example, if Saruman had such a great power of manipulating people because he had the finger of Sauron on a lace around his neck. Or better, just Frodo's vial of moonlight, if it where simply a chunk of crystal. It doesn't really do anything, but it's presence is unbearable to monsters of the dark when he concentrates his own power on it.
I might even steal from Star Wars (like I am doing anyway) and perhaps make some rare crystals that can be used to show a memory to other mages who hold it and spend some time to read it with their mind.
It's still almost all of the nice storytelling utility of powerful magic artifacts, but I think feels much more natural in a world where magic is not a science and magic devices can not be manufactured.

Offline Lanko

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Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2015, 09:55:19 PM »
Magitech, I liked that name  ;D

I can understand how it can look like a game mechanic if used improperly, think quests like "Collect 10 X to make Y". Also can end up with too many "McGuffins".

With those kind of problems aside, it can feel like a natural part of the setting, no more like electricity may have looked back then and today.

It can also set up pretty nice creative stuff and thinking from who created and who uses it, along with clear limitations.
Think Frodo's armor or that elven sword that glows. It actually can include the "affect only certain monsters" stuff on it. Like silver, does nothing extra for anything other than vampires, but it is still a nice metal.
Items can also be broken, lost, stolen, ineffective at certain situations (sword against flying monster or other kinds you really don't wanna get close).
Also, only magic swords and shield would not only be too cliché, but I think people would be able to think of more uses/types of magical weapons/defenses.

Don't know if it's my mind turning magic into some kind of industry or me not getting too excited at people simply conjuring flames in the palms of their hands out of nowhere and such stuff.
Too many times the hero just conjures more magic than everyone says he is able to by simply sheer force of will or from desperation of the moment, saves the girl, wins the battle and it just feels too convenient because of how ambiguous this kind of magic can be.
Also, it allows too many Deus Ex Machina possibilities or plot holes/questions (Gandalf's eagles, Harry Potter's time travel thing, etc).

Another problem with that is people who are "born" with magical ability and thus the only ones in the world who can use it.
Even if only one or two can reach "Mozart" levels of ability, there would still be nothing stopping people to create fire like from a match, for example. Except the birth thing.
But then again, if everyone is able to use it, the world may become too high fantasy/magical. Maybe only very rich people and such could become one, like knights back then, but nothing would make it impossible for someone else to learn/become a mage as well, be it from valor, trust, political stuff, stealing material/ritual, etc.
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Offline ArhiX

Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2015, 11:11:26 PM »
Well - everything - including magic would eventually become just a technology. When magic is commonly used - it is just that. I can bet, that any fantasy world after a phase of 'industrialization' would become quite mundane just as ours now. I mean - people used to pray to the lightning. Fear them. Admire them. Today - I have a little lamp with tiny ligthings inside. I don't use it anymore. Not because it's broken but becasue I got bored of it.  We have even tinier lightnings in compact machines made from conductors and half-conductors. We call them 'electronics'. It's everywhere. And it uses a magical stuff - electricity. Electricity is everywhere, yet you can't really see it. Like magic. But our magis is industrialized. It makes us live comfortable lifes. It makes money. I can bet that if there was a 'spirit magic' in our world, we would eventually turn spirits into money as well (and don't forget about Spiri-Cola - Taste the Other World). A soul of your enemy can now power your cell-phone as it was fueling fire-swords 500 years ago. Handy - isn't it?

I think this is quite sad thing - as there's less and less magic in magic. Everything eventually turns into technology. But in the end... it doesn't really matter that much. Does it?

I will just leave one example of 'magical' crystal from a game that I really liked. In Command & Concuer there's a mineral called "Tiberium". It's a great power source, can be used as material to construct high-tech stuff. There's only one downside to it - everything it touches, slowly becomes tiberium, spreading like a cancer. Most of the planet is devastated because of it. Ecosystems are ruined, and people who are exposed to it - usually the poor - will die a very slow, and painfull death, as their bodies are turning into tiberrium.
Almost every faction wants to get rid of it from the planet - yet they keep taking profits from this dangerous crystal. It's both - blessing and a curse - as one of the characters reffers to it.

Yet again  - it's a part of game's world but this idea was already used in a movie and a book.

« Last Edit: December 20, 2015, 11:13:16 PM by ArhiX »
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2015, 12:26:10 AM »
Very interesting.

Didn't saw magical organizations for profit. Usually they are the power-hungry group, wise and good academy or the group in power themselves. Probably making money (selling heals, scrolls, etc) is something I have yet to see and would be easier for them to gain power. Although I admit my personal baggage of fantasy is not that big.

Also how magic would change society like electricity did. People conjure fire,water,ice,lightning,wind, manipulate terrain, mind control and such and society doesn't seem that affected. It's a very interesting concept and contrast to our own world.
 
I don't think there's less and less magic in magic. I think over the years (and decades) authors simply changed how they dealt with magic.

For example, I read The Deed of Paksenarrion, written more than 30 years ago.
It has the magical light that heals anything and is summoned by will, with no drawback, no explanation, it just happens. Magical horns and other stuff that appears out of nowhere for the exactly required situation.

I think it may be rare to find this nowadays. Not only authors changed on their approach with magic, but maybe readers as well, a good example would be Game of Thrones and Harry Potter.

Actually, probably Harry Potter would be the exception of what I said above about "contrast to our world". They have a separate, whole new society, with sports, customs and such because of their magic, but that still influences and communicates with the "real" one. It still keeps evolving and changing as new magics are developed.
A bad side of HP is that despite studying magic for years, they use the same blast attack from their magical wands the entire series, there is no individual affinity or something unique from any of them, except for the patron's shape, because their purpose is the same.

Brandon Sanderson is another very good example, that despite focusing heavily on magic, magic follows his rules of magic and how the limitations of it are more important.
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Offline ArhiX

Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2015, 12:58:10 AM »
Money is just another form of power. Just one which let's you have everything (almost) what you wish for - as long as you have enough of it... You can't find true love? But you can cast a fireball? Start a work in ironworks. Get money - then get... uh... substitute... for true love. Telepath working as a judge... or just a policeman.
In a world of benders, it would be actually really funny to see earthbenders digging trenches, and waterbenders working as high efficiency - low cost pumps for fresh water and sewage...
But they use it for art purpose or as a weapon. Man... What a waste!

Actually... Humans can be (and are) just another resource. Magical humans can be rare and highly demanded. Just as in Warhammer 40K. Psionists are 'recruited' from many different worlds. Powerfull ones can become usefull in a war (as there's always a mutant to purge and heresy to fight against) but the weak ones are just used as a fodder for a Golden Throne that keeps The Emperor alive. They fuel it, but die in a result. Just like diamonds - you take big and clear, polish them and put into jewelery, but those that are too small or too soft ends up as glass-cutters or in grinders.

...I think I drifted way to far from the main subject now. That's enough.
Crystals. Yes. We were talking about crystals.

Edit:
And herbs! It's so easy with herbs! There are many herbs - some different and more or less potent than the other. You can use one herb as a painkiller, and another to fight inflammation. You mix it and you can cure a cold. But not diabetes. It just won't work. It's an exagerration from Yora's post actually - you can use ab ancient horn to try and summon animal spirit to guide you. But you can't summon dead people. It's just... not how it works...
« Last Edit: December 21, 2015, 01:25:36 AM by ArhiX »
"The world is full of stories, and from time to time, they permit themselves to be told."

Offline jefGoelz

Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2015, 05:55:47 AM »
I did see a recent blog where several cliches were condemned, including crystals of power.

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2016, 08:57:23 AM »
Thought not necessarily magical, in my story there is a mineral or some type of rock that has a luminous property to it when heated. I'm using this as a form of lighting for castles because the whole notion of using torches is not really a good idea when you think about how much smoke it is giving off in a confined space. Not to mention how a torch actually lights an area is pretty overrated.

So basically the stone is suspended above a candle and heated by that candle for like a day, and then the candle is snuffed out and the stone provides the light. Once the stone's luminosity is about done, the candle is lit to heat it again.
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Offline Nox

Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2016, 11:09:45 AM »
Drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.


Most games wouldn't dare touch on addiction and movies tend to mainstream it so a book about a group of people stabbing themselves with crystals to get power/high, if written well, would work.

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2016, 12:10:49 PM »
Templars in Dragon Age use lyrium to enhance their powers if I recall.
“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” ~ William S. Boroughs

Offline Nox

Re: Magical crystals, metals, plants, and so on
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2016, 12:19:06 PM »
Templars in Dragon Age use lyrium to enhance their powers if I recall.


Most games.


Of course Bioware will.


Still, I was thinking a contained story focused on that rather than, basically, using a solid magic potion.