Passing Worldbuilding Through the Magic System Filter

Magic systems. They’re central to fantasy no matter what your brand of fantasy is. Writing down what you develop to keep the system consistent is advice I’ve stressed countless times. It’s equally important to use that system as a filter when expanding the worldbuilding later.

Courtesy: Pixabay
Courtesy: Pixabay

Fail to filter additional worldbuilding and you risk violating the established rules.

With NaNoWriMo on the horizon, and because I’ll be writing another novel in Pannulus, worldbuilding has been on my mind. Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve gone through to this point and where I’m going…

Adding worldbuilding is never more tricky than when marrying magic and technology. That means learning enough about how something works in our world. I then redesign it to pass casual inspection, and to adhere to Ontyre laws. It’s no small task, but each breakthrough makes the next technological addition easier.

The biggest culprit for giving me problems is raw magic, which is powerful and unstable. Set it off and a lot of people die.

Courtesy: Pixabay

An early innovation was the pistol. I didn’t cheat the rules, exactly, but instead dodged the issue while drafting because I knew I needed to learn more. It was a matter of kinda sorta knowing how it would work. I’ll return to this issue.

Soon after, I worked out how lifts (elevators) worked. That came about because of a non-human innovation that first appears in the novel I’m editing right now, Torment Surfacing. Let’s just say that magnets play a part.

I fell down on my next challenge and ignored how trollies operated. They just—ran. To say that meshing magic and technology was scaring me in the beginning is an understatement.

Courtesy: Pixabay

It was my Pannulus worldbuilding that changed everything. It presented countless issues I needed to resolve because it has extensive technology, all of which couldn’t operate according to my understanding of Ontyre magic at the time.

Yeah, I was intimidated. We’re talking countless sleepless nights.

As I’ve mentioned before, the breakthrough was writing a short story about the invention of the engine. In an odd twist, I then returned to the pistol with a better understanding of what was needed.

The big test was applying my theories to airships.

It worked.

My concession was that airships, while able to travel at a steady speed around the clock, were slow. I could live with that. In fact, it better suited my purposes. From there I moved on to primitive automobiles that are clunky, slow, and underpowered.

Pannulus is an island nation and ships are vital, but they must still rely more on sail, their engines an assist/backup. Unlike other Pannulus transportation, ships must also contend with sea monsters. Yes, they’re real. At present, the best protections are mysquanmic metal hulls and the leviathan drum.

Courtesy: Pixabay

Sails, there’s something I need to look at more closely…

Now I find that I must make a decision I’ve put off for ages. Are trains possible? Trains are enormous and heavy. According to the rules of magic in Ontyre, because of the dangers of raw magic they can’t burn wood or coal, nor can they utilize steam.

I’m trying to remain objective because I’d like to have trains. The country is supposed to be steampunk-esque and trains are as important as airships. They’d also be another form of mass transit that would more efficiently serve small towns. In contrast, airships are more expensive and restricted to cities.

I’m encouraged. My work with trollies and lifts are coming together in my head to point to how trains might be possible.

*It’s interesting how the magic of Ontyre always lends itself better to mass transit (aside from horses).

Pannulus - 2019. Map: CA Hawthorne
Pannulus – 2019. Map: CA Hawthorne

My work in Pannulus has also addressed cameras, telephones, and even navigation systems for airships. The magic concentration in Pannulus plays havoc with a multitude of innovations and none more so than navigation.

Obviously, I’m no engineer, but as with magic itself, the technology need only be believable and consistent. Part of that consistency is remembering to follow the rules I developed so long ago. It wouldn’t do to, on a whim, add trains and ignore raw magic or develop navigation systems and ignore the magic concentration.

My pride wants it to be right and my readers deserve it.

3 Replies to “Passing Worldbuilding Through the Magic System Filter”

  1. Pingback: Passing Worldbuilding Through the Magic System Filter | Christina Anne Hawthorne

  2. Sounds like you’re putting a lot of good work into this. I agree that making the technology and the magic consistent takes careful thought. As you say, one has to know how things work in the ordinary world to handle them consistently with that ordinary world AND the magic system. Tricky but fun!

    • Oh, is it ever fun! No matter how frustrating or time consuming, it’s so rewarding when it works out. Too, the process is akin to a puzzle at times. I have to force myself to go to bed when I’m on the trail of new worldbuilding, and none is more challenging than magic tech. 🙂

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