Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Magic changes the world, part I

I've been thinking some more about the world of Gai, which is the setting for Warrior's Legacy. (Warrior's Legacy was the first full-length novel I actually finished in over a decade; unfortunately, I had a kid right after I wrote it, which has effectively prevented me from reworking Warrior's Legacy - or completing much of anything else, for that matter.) What the book needs is not so much a second draft as a complete rewrite*. In preparation for that, I put together a large file of world-building material, which you can look at here if you're interested.

However, there are at least two elements of the world that I think I need to look at more. Both of them are directly related to the way magic works, so let's take a moment to recap the relevant bits:

1. Magic ("Gai-Cha") is a sort of tangible energy field that surrounds and permeates the world.
2. Essentially everyone can sense magic, and most people can do at least one or two little things with it; some can do a variety of related things; and a very few can do almost anything.
3. There are two (arguably three) major limitations on the use of magic in this setting:

  • You can't affect the flow of time; this is sacrosanct. (This includes any sort of long-term prophecies; those don't exist in this world.)
  • You can only directly affect things within about twenty feet of you. (A lot of the flavor in the setting comes from how you get around this.)
  • You can't raise the dead. (This is the arguable one; it's theoretically possible, but very difficult.)

4. Magic in this world lends itself especially well to shapechanging and other sorts of transformation. In addition, essentially any injury short of death can be healed: lost limbs can be regrown, nerve damage can be repaired, etc.

The other thing you need to know about this world is that it's post-post-apocalyptic; that is, a planet-wide civilization collapsed (almost completely) about sixty years ago; there are now two big nations, a handful of smaller nations, and scattered settlements in varying degrees of isolation. There are also a lot of ruins.

So, back the two bits that require extra work: these are medicine and the economy.

Medicine is probably the simpler of the two. For most of the world, all medicine is done with magic. (The exception is Loklaria, which has antibiotics, nanites, etc., mainly because they despise magic.) Magic is freely available - a little over 1 in 50 people have the potential for full-on wizardry, and healing (of some sort) is reasonably common among the 'small magical talents' that most people have. So, most injuries and diseases can probably be addressed, even in relatively small communities. As in the real world, major injuries and serious (or prolonged) diseases may require the services of a specialist. Unlike the real world, healing requires little equipment, so it's probably a lot more common to bring the healer to the patient than it is in our world. (There are likely to be situations where it makes sense to do it the other way around, too - some holy places are aspected towards healing magics.)

Isolation is still a problem, just as it is in the real world; if you can't heal yourself and you can't get help, you're in trouble. So, in this post-post-apocalyptic setting, there's probably a market for traveling healers, and local healers (even of minor or moderate skill) likely get a fair amount of respect for their work. There are also going to be some traveling scam artists, too; either outright frauds, or just not as skilled as they claim.

This is long enough already, so I'm going to cut it off here. I'll look at the economy - specifically, how you have a working economy when 2.6% of the population can theoretically create (or transform) more or less anything they need - in another post.

* In fairness, my brother and his wife - who were two of my three best proofreaders - think that the book in its current form is good enough for a first novel. I can't say (I don't trust my bias), but I think there are some fundamental problems with it, which could be corrected by a full rewrite if I can ever manage to do that. I've talked a little about that in my older blog entries.

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