This is going to be as spoiler free a review as possible. I might slip up, but I’m going to try really hard not to do that. I’ll likely be doing another post later with some spoilers and speculations and more details as to what […]
When I was writing about fantasy last, see the Not Your Normal Fantasy article, I touched on a concept that I really didn’t have time to flesh out. That what the difference between high and low magic fantasy settings are.
Let’s jump into the top right away because there’s not much need to explain what magic is, but in fantasy, there is generally magic. It isn’t in every case, but in a lot of cases there is some level of magic. That’s where the difference between high and low magic fantasy settings come in. High magic settings, magic is common place. In your most common examples with D&D, there is generally a fair amount of magic, probably more medium magic, but magic isn’t something that’s going to be shocking to most people. Low magic is on the opposite end of the spectrum, magic and magical items – in an RPG – are rare. People covet magic, fight over magic, and things like magical healing are not to be found.
And the article is done. Or I’ll talk about why you might want to pick one setting over another.
First off, consider the story you are trying to tell. How important is magic to it? If magic is important to the plot, and gaining a specific type of magic or a specific magical item, ask yourself then, is that because magic is rare or not. Is the item important because it’s a forgotten relic from long ago with a magic that was long lost, and now a group of wizards are going to be fighting over it? Or was it thought long lost, and now that it’s been found regular people are fighting for it because magic is so scarce. But then again, it’s possible that magic doesn’t matter in your story, is that because magic is common place so it doesn’t stand out as special or because it’s so rare that the two people off to the side of the story who can use it aren’t going to drive the story?
From there you can start fleshing out your world and determining how magic is used, is it swish and flick magic or dancing in a circle under the full moon magic? If you haven’t decided this can also help make your decision. Even if you have a lot of magic users, it can be a world that is harder to influence by magic if the magic only works during a full moon and requires extensive rituals. It could even be that everyone has some form of magic but if the ability to cast magic is too complicated most people won’t do that, creating a low magic world. Or for example, in Harry Potter, magic is simple, but the world as a whole is low magic, we’re just in the high magic part of it for the series, so even with swish and flick magic, it’s been hidden away. Hiding magic is always interesting and can make your world feel more low magic though it could eventually end up being higher magic magic as time goes on, such as if in the world of Harry Potter magic was to be revealed, it would make the whole world feel lower magic in some ways, but higher magic because it isn’t as isolated.
Finally, consider what level of magic you want s you consider where you want the focus of your story to lie. If you’re doing a story about a normal person who makes it big in a world where magic is common and overcomes that perceived deficit, than you’d want to go high magic. But if you don’t want your story to focus on magic, going with a lower magic setting would make sense. It’s possible in that last example that you could have a higher magic world, but magic is just common place, but you have to worry about the restrictions of magic.
In fact, that’s another reason why you want to consider your magic level of your world. In a world with a lot of magic, a lot of problems are going to be solved by magic. Especially in stories about the hero overcoming lack of magic or just overcoming without using magic, you have to set-up a world where magic wouldn’t make that much sense to be used. That means the Harry Potter swish and flick magic might be too simple for your world because it doesn’t expend energy or resources. But if you can only cast a spell from a faerie circle, during a full moon, while dancing around in a circle and doing a chant in the fresh dew, you could have a lot of magic, because that magic is just hard to do. At the same time, if you are using magic, you don’t want to fall the other direction of making it too weak that there would be no reason to do any sort of magic, because the technology of your story works more effectively.
Finally ask yourself where your magic comes from, that is going to make a huge difference. Is it that it’s divine magic and anyone can get access to it if they believe in the right deity whether that deity is good or evil? Or does the magic come from within and some people just inherently have it like in The Magicians or Harry Potter? If you just have to truly believe in a deity, people are going to have magic, and there’s going to be a lot of it because people will believe since they can see very tangible proof. But if it’s an inherent ability, than you can decide how few or many people get to have it based off of how much magic your story needs.
These are just a few things to consider. It is interesting to look at it for books, but as well for RPG’s where you can take something like Dungeons and Dragons and turn it into a low magic setting. What do you do when a player wants to play a Wizard? It can create interesting stories as your players might have a rare character or you might not let them start out as a magical character at all.
What are some examples you like of high or low magic worlds? Have you played in a game where it was very high magic or very low magic?
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We all know fantasy pretty well, at least I’m assuming that we do. We’ve seen and/or read Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. We might have read the Shanara Chronicles, Wheel of Time, Mistborn, or so many other epic fantasy series or watched shows […]
There’s an adage that all stories have been told. That everything written, every new story, is derived from something that has come before it. Your story is the heroes journey, it’s about death, love, taxes, or some other constant in the world, and all the stories about those things have been told.
I think the idea that all the stories have been told is false, but I’ll explain what I mean with that later. First, let’s break down the idea of a story a little bit. A story tells something as we follow a character or characters around and see how they interact with the world that they have been placed. These stories generally boil down to a handful of concepts, dealing with death, love, overcoming a monster, rags to riches, and a few more. So it might be correct to say that all the stories have been told, once the seven or so different basic plots have been told, is there a need for more or a need for something new.
Now, obviously I’ve already stated that I think this answer is yes. There is a need for more things to be written, having a few basic plots and stories with those plots is nice, and they can help ground your work as you realize what type of story you are trying to tell, but there’s more to a story than just a basic plot. There are several reasons why all the stories haven’t been told and even if the basic plots have been told a million times before, there are reasons to keep writing them.
The story you are telling is yours. This first reason is one of the biggest to keep writing a story with a plot that has been done before. You are writing a story in the way that only you could tell that story. I couldn’t write the same story that you are writing, you couldn’t write the same story that I might write. That’s because every single human being is shaped differently from any other human. You might have grown up in a very liberal or conservative town, you might have grown up in an urban area or in a rural area, you might like spaghetti and not chocolate. Some of these things might be bigger in shaping you, but everything about you shapes the story that you are telling. For that reason, whatever you write is going to be uniquely you. It is going to be a voice that is written in a unique way that can only be written by you.
The story you are telling is not yours. Now, this clearly contradicts the first point. But I’d argue that both of them are true. While the story you are writing can only be written by you, you are not writing it only for you. Now, maybe it is a story that is never published and only you ever read it, but you are still not just writing it only for you. You are writing it to release it from you and to send it out into the world on it’s own. Even if that world is just the hard drive of your computer, when the words are down on the paper, they are separate from you. This id a difficult process a lot of the time, you want your story to be yours and to have everyone see it the way that you did. If you get the chance to put something out there, people are going to read it differently than you thought they would. I’m going to repeat that, other people are going to read your writing differently than you intended. And that is great. Go back to the first point that I made about why you should write, the same is true for the reader, everyone comes from a different spot. However, people reading it differently is a good thing. These people are getting something out of your story that is meaningful to them that they might not have gotten out of any story, even if it isn’t what you had thought it would be. That is another reason to tell a story, even if the plot has already been done before.
Stories have a time and place. While there are some stories that hold up to the test of time, Lord of the Rings for example, or are at least considered classics that people should read, there are a lot of stories that don’t. Twenty years from now, heck, even now, people aren’t talking about Dan Brown and his literary prowess. That’s because he isn’t a good writer, and while I would argue that his books haven’t impacted anyone deeply, I do think that people read his writing and most likely it’s encouraged some people to take up writing. The hope, always, is to write the next Lord of the Rings that stands the test of time, but if you don’t, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have written it. There are certain books that will hold a place as something important for a given time or a certain place. Even a certain person might be influenced by your book. So while there are great books out there in every plot, if you adhere to the basic 7 plots, there is a time and a place for what you might be writing. And it is a way that you can hit on something for a certain time or place that a classic couldn’t because they aren’t part of that time or place.
Finally, Every Story is Unique. This ties back into a number of the other things, in particular the first one, but I wanted to talk about it in a different light. While your story might be about love, there’s never been a story written about the alien race of the Snarblax who are looking to conquer the universe in hopes of finding their supreme leaders true love who the oracle computer of the Bathari planet calculated must be out there. Sure, the story is about finding love and possibly then losing love, but everything else about it is uniquely mine. The places, people, and things of the world are uniquely yours, and that is why 200 people can be finishing up a story on love each day (or whatever numbers might be) and each publishing.A story about love or about death could be fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, alternate reality, a mystery, thriller, horror, romance, and each one of those is different from the other.
So, has every plot been written, sure? If you subscribe to there being seven unique plots, they have all been written. But the story that you are telling is uniquely yours and deserves to be told. Don’t feel like it might be redundant or that it might not matter, whatever story you write, no matter how long or short will impact someone, even if it is just yourself getting the idea down onto the paper, it will shape who you are for the future.
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I’m continuing my way through the Dresden Files series, and I was noticing something in Jim Butcher’s writing style that I really appreciate, and that got me thinking about other book series as well. That idea being, how much do you describe about the world you […]
Another article on a concept that I’ve been tossing around for a while is how to write time travel, and what generally makes for the most effective time-travel stories. This is going to be focused more heavily on writing about the time travel side of […]
As I may have mentioned on the blog a time or five, something I often struggle with is finding enough time to do the ridiculous amount of nerdy things I want to do. I have so many hobbies that I could comfortably fill about three lifetimes with all the things on my to read/watch/make/play list, and as one might expect, it gets a little overwhelming. However, that’s starting to change due to my new favorite hobby-related strategy!
I’ve talked before about managing your time as a nerd, but I want to take a more in-depth look at a trick that helps me maximize my free time, set goals for the things I want to tackle next, and even get a better sense for which of my many hobbies I most value and want to devote more time to. While your mileage may vary with this tool, I’ve certainly found it useful enough to want to pitch it to other nerds who might find themselves having the same difficulty I do.
I call it…the Hobby Calendar!
Lackluster name aside, I’m of the opinion that it’s one of the better ideas I’ve had in a while. The concept is simple, but I’ve found it really helps me stay focused and keep from being paralyzed with indecision every time I have a moment’s free time. I find myself thinking, “I could do anything…anything at all! But what will I choose?” and then end up waffling endlessly over it and consequently wasting a sizable chunk of that precious free time, without making progress on anything whatsoever.
Last year, I decided I’d had enough, and that it was time to take charge. So I sat down, opened up a new spreadsheet, and made a list of my main hobbies in one column. In another, I listed the months of the year, and then proceeded to arrange the hobbies by month in a way that I felt made sense. Here’s what I ended up with:
As you can see, there aren’t many moving parts, and there’s nothing to regularly record (yet, anyway); it mainly serves as a reminder for what’s coming up next. Unsurprisingly, choosing what to put where was the hardest part. Some of the choices were arbitrary, but there was a method to my madness for others — for example, November is National Novel Writing Month, so naturally, that one had to be writing. And I know February is always the month that I end up feeling apathetic and really bogged down by winter, so I picked video games for that month since it’s low-key, doesn’t require much work, and allows me to hibernate.
You’ll also see that some months are doubled up — instead of breaking my hobbies down into twelve different activities, I chose to keep things more broad so that, while the calendar removes the “blank canvas” effect, I still have some freedom to decide what “crafting” or “writing” means to me on a given day. However, this is another spot where you can change things up to work for you. Maybe you work better when things are parsed out in more detail, or maybe you like the freedom that comes with broader categories — either method can be useful; it just depends your preference.
I’ve been using my calendar since June, so I won’t come full circle until May, but so far, this method has been really helpful — and even eye-opening — for me. One thing I’ve realized is that the thing I most often wish I were doing when I’m doing something else is crafting. This tells me that when push comes to shove, if I really had to narrow it down, making stuff would be my top priority. Knowing this, I can proceed with planning future months accordingly (whether that means setting aside more time for crafty activities, or keeping more variety on the list so that I’m more likely to branch out and learn new stuff).
As I more or less expected, some months have gone better than others — for example, reading month was easy, since I can pick up a book for just a few minutes and still make a little progress, which isn’t something I can do with, say, a story I’m working on or a show I want to watch. And sometimes months just end up being really full and I don’t end up with much free time at all (Artwork month just wrapped up, and, well…let’s just say there are a lot of ideas in my head that haven’t made it to paper yet).
But regardless of what I accomplish in a particular month, the sense of focus I get from the calendar means that I still get more done than I would have otherwise. And beyond getting rid of some decision fatigue, the calendar helps me put aside the guilt I’d normally have while working on something, wondering if my time would have been better spent in another way. Say in February I spend an afternoon playing Legend of Zelda, and the thought strikes me that maybe I should be getting more done on the craft languishing on my shelf instead. But when that thought comes, I can just remind myself that it’s video game month, and regardless of what else I could be doing, this is what I’ve chosen to do, and therefore, I have permission to not feel bad about it. In fact, I can enjoy it even more because of that!
So, what do you think, friends? Would you give the hobby calendar a try? What are some other tricks you’ve found helpful in your quest to do All The Things?
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