Which Fictional Magic System Would You Most Like to Be Real (If Any)?

After recently completing the amazing conclusion to the 5-book Lightbringer series, I posed a question to Megan: If any fictional magic system suddenly became real, which would you choose?

There are a variety of ways to look at this. Do you make your pick based on the type of magic you’d most like to try? The type of magic that would do the most good (or the least harm)? Or maybe the type of magic that simply makes the most sense in 2020.

I’ll rank a few of my favorite magic systems below, with #1 being the version I’d most like to exist. Before I do, one quick observation: Almost all of these systems rely on hereditary magic; that is, you’re either born with it or you’re out of luck. I think I prefer merit-based magic systems–they’re a bit less elitist. 🙂

10. Lord of the Rings: I’m sure an uber-fan will correct me on this, but it seems like most of the magic in Lord of the Rings is controlled by wizards (of whom there are only a few in the entire world) and magical objects. I’m not sure that would go over all that well in the real world.

9. Game of Thrones: What I know about Game of Thrones magic is entirely from the TV series. It seems a little all over the place–lots of different magic systems tied to religion. I think that could be pretty dangerous in reality.

8. Stormlight: I love Brandon Sanderson’s descriptions of magic systems. That’s mostly why this system is on the list, because it’s been a while since the last Stormlight book, and I can’t remember all that much about it. I just know it’s robust enough to function in some version of reality.

7. Mathilda: When I read Roald Dahl’s classic tale as a kid, I was convinced that if I tried hard enough, I could move objects with my mind too. I like the simplicity of this system, and because it’s so specifically relegated to telekinesis, I think it could work pretty well in the real world.

6. Mistborn: In this world, some people are able to swallow small fragments of metal and use them to turn their bodies into giant magnets (oversimplified explanation). I like magic systems that involve the consumption of something, as it creates an interesting limitation and economy around the consumable.

5. Lightbringer: In this world, some people are able to draft “luxin,” which is a physical manifestation of a specific color (or multiple colors), with each color serving a specific purpose. Brent Weeks describes the system really well in the books, and I like that there’s a limit to it–you have a limited amount of luxin you can draft in your lifetime. There’s a dark side to it, though–that part may not work well in the real world.

4. Harry Potter: Okay, honestly, I don’t think the Harry Potter system is all that great on paper. You’re basically saying a Latin word, and if you say it correctly (and if you’re a wizard by nature), cool stuff happens? However, I love the variety of ways this magic system is used and how the wizards of the world could help the muggles without them even realizing it.

3. Star Wars: Nostalgia certainly plays a role here, but I like the idea of a magic system that flows through and connects all living creatures and plants. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so high on the list, given that it’s very driven by good versus evil, while I think the real world is more of a gray area. But I really just want to use the Force.

2. Jade City: This and my #1 pick are so high because anyone can wield magic in these worlds. In Jade City, it requires the person to acquire and wear jade, and you get better at using it the more you practice.

1. The Magicians: I love the Magicians book series largely because the people who use magic in this world are those who have gone out of their way to discover, study, and master it. That’s the kind of magic I’d want to exist in the real world.

A few I didn’t mention because I don’t know/remember much about them are The Witcher, The Name of the Wind, and Doctor Strange.

That’s my list! There are many, many other magic systems not mentioned here, including those featured in books, television, movies, and games. Of all fictional magic systems, which would you most like to exist in the real world and why?


5 Responses to “Which Fictional Magic System Would You Most Like to Be Real (If Any)?”

  1. Len Kedrow says:

    The Wheel of Time series had and interesting magic system where you wove patterns to get specific effects. This was similar to the RPG “Mage the Ascension”9. Both I find fascinating as you can do anything thing based on mixing the energy from different schools. So people can cast similar spelles with different mixes.

  2. Adam Buckingham says:

    The Stormlight magic system is actually a merit-based system more than hereditary. Mild spoilers:
    Spren bond with people who embody the ideals that they represent. So an honorspren bonds with an person who displays extraordinary honor. A Cryptic bonds with a person who admits to difficult truths. A Highspren bonds with someone who brings people together. And the bond strengthens (And magic) as the radiant discovers and swears greater and more difficult oaths. In fact, one radiant in the books specifically convinces a spren to bond with him/her. There are also ways for unbonded people to do magic via technology (fabrials)

    Mistborn can also be a chosen system of magic through hemalurgy and some forms of Feruchemy.

    I enjoy magic systems that are sort-of scientifically based. Sanderson does this exceptionally well. China Mieville does it well in his Bas-Lag series, where the magic (thaumaturgy) is a field of study, similar to engineering. Lightbringer does this to some extent, through the luxin-built structures and a school that teaches drafters to use their gifts to the greatest extent.

    My favorite system is Sanderson’s over-arching Cosmere system. There’s a lot going on, but in a nutshell, there was once a powerful being, who was destroyed and split into 16 different shards that were taken up by 16 different people. Each of those people took their shards to the different worlds in the Cosmere, and they invest the power of their shard into the world they enhabit, allowing its population to perform magic. On Scadrial, that manifests by the various magical properties of metal when ingested, or when in contact with or piercing skin. On Roshar, it results in the spren, stormlight, and the abilities of the Singers. On some worlds it has been splintered, resulting in broken or out of control systems of magic (Elantris, Threnody, Roshar). But all the magic works in ultimately the same ways, just via different means.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thank you for refreshing my memory about Stormlight, Adam–I was way off! 🙂

      • Adam Buckingham says:

        Oh, it’s easy to lose track of everything going on in the Cosmere, and most readers may not even care what underlies it all. I’m a hopeless nerd who has read WAAAY too much extra material outside of the books. 🙂

  3. Andrea Schoembs says:

    Living in England almost feels as if Harry Potter and Hogwarts were real with so many filming locations and the Warner Brothers studio around.
    I can see were J. K. Rowling got her inspiration from. Several years ago I was hiking in Scotland in the Loch Tay area (that’s were Ms Rowling is living or used to live at that time) and stayed at a bunkhouse/farm. In the evening I joined the staff at the kitchen table for dinner and they started telling ghost stories. At first I thought they were made up stories but I soon realised that these people genuinely believed that a recently passed relative stayed around for another couple of days to say goodbye. The owner of the farm also owned a small castle and was adamant that it was haunted by 3 ghosts.

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