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Psy powers vs. Magic

ArthurSB73

Is there a significant difference between mental powers and magic? When writing, is it just a matter of what you call it, or is there a way to design a system of use. I am also wondering if hybrid system can exist in the same story.

Dominion's Son

@ArthurSB73

There is some overlap, but there are also some distinctions.

1. Mental powers never require more than an act of will to use. Magic usually but not always requires some form of incantation or ritual.

2. Mental powers usually involves a form of passive mind reading, the ability to hear the active thoughts around you as if they were spoken allowed with no effort on the part of the mind reader. In fact typically the mind reader has to somewhat protect himself from this or risk insanity. Magic very rarely involves such completely passive effects and never that sort of passive mind reading.

3 Magic can conjure or create things, where as mental powers that manipulate the physical environment are typically limited to working with what already exists.

To speak in high fantasy terms, if you start to get into an area where a character can convert energy into matter or alter existing matter at an atomic or sub-atomic level as a pure act of will, then you have gone beyond both mental powers and magic and are now in the realm of divine powers.

garymrssn

This is just my uneducated opinion.
They can be what ever the author decides they should be. I've seen stories where mental powers were a natural part of the environment and magic was a learned skill. In others it was reversed. They can both be natural phenomena or both be learned skills.
Whether to make them separate or combine them depends on how it affects the story.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@garymrssn

The author doesn't have to be "right". He just needs to be consistent.

garymrssn

@richardshagrin

I agree.

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

The author doesn't have to be "right". He just needs to be consistent.

As long as you define your fictional universe, and keep within those rules, you can basically take it wherever it needs to go. However, as another thread discusses, each author has to decide how 'real' to make the story. Again, that's a question of personal style.

ArthurSB73

Thanks for the feedback. I am sketching out a story universe that exists somewhere between dragonriders of pern and inheritance saga with a multi-generational prophecy aspect

El_Sol

IMO:

When you're doing mental powers... you're playing in a field where there's a lot of history and baggage. You can't say 'he/she is a telepath' and violate some of my expectations from modern literature/TV/movies.

Magic is different because there are many different systems, some which even use the same word for a class of magic to define completely different classes i.E. in one of my story the source of 'magic' are the Gods and in another it's an 'alien' and in a third story it's like gravity but intelligent.

tppm
Updated:

Any sufficiently advanced technology (relative to the observer) is indistinguishable from magic. --- Clark's Law

For instance, you touch a spot on the wall and the room lights up. You know how it works (more or less) but imagine you're paleolithic house guest.

Dominions Son

@tppm

Any sufficiently advanced technology (relative to the observer) is indistinguishable from magic. --- Clark's Law


Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced. --- Geeks corollary to Clark's Law.

Dominions Son

@tppm

For instance, you touch a spot on the wall and the room lights up. You know how it works (more or less) but imagine you're paleolithic house guest.


Either that should be your (posessive) or there is an "a" missing between "you're" and "paleolithic".

madnige
Updated:

@tppm

Any sufficiently arcane magic is indistinguishable from technology


Alexandra Erin has a quite detailed magical universe in Tales of MU, including television and mobile phone analogues, where although mental powers exist, magic is not a mental power - for instance, there is a box which can duplicate items, including magical items, without any user input. And, there's Emily, a building which has spontaneously developed a personality and which takes a dislike to the main character and keeps getting her lost on her way to a lecture.

tppm

IMHO if one knows how it works, and can replicate it it's science/technology (even if how it works depends on one's mood (which side of the bed one got up on) if it can be reliably replicated, it's science). If it can't be reliably replicated and/or one doesn't know how (at least roughly) it works, it's magic.

Perv Otaku

Wizards usually have spell books, arcane spell ingredients, incantations.

Mutants in the X-Men have a funny gene in their DNA that lets them break physics any number of ways, but no further explanation is given or apparently even expected.

Mostly you can do any damn thing you want, the question is how much suspension of disbelief are you asking of your audience. If you want to roll out technobabble to explain something, it better sound good. If you are leaving something unexplained (yet commonplace) it better be awesome enough that nobody will care that it doesn't make real-world sense.

docholladay
Updated:

I would think the first thing to do when creating a story line based around Mental or Magical abilities is to create a set of rules for those abilities. Sure rules can be broken and usually are but at least it should help a writer in controlling and explaining various abilities.

Make it sound logical for the story line or universe, then it will probably work.

edited to add: I remember one time in a restaurant with obvious gang members present. Being asked "who in this restaurant is the most dangerous person"? I pointed a baby in one of those carrier things out as the most dangerous person. No one could figure out why.

Dicrostonyx
Updated:

@ArthurSB73


Is there a significant difference between mental powers and magic?


Realistically, no, there isn't really any different except for what you want for your story. I have seen systems in both fantasy and science fiction worlds with either one, both, or neither, and there are ways of interpreting magic & psionics so that they are both the same thing.

However, there is one important distinction which affects genre: psionics has a history of appearing in space opera and lighter science fiction, and is less likely to break suspension of disbelief in that audience than magic is.

So if you're planning on writing high fantasy, then you can use any terms and structure for your magic system that you'd like. If you're writing low fantasy or a softer variety of science fiction, then using psionics oriented terminology with a carefully laid out system of rules will probably work better with that audience. With a harder science fiction, you'd probably have to drastically limit the range of abilities and couch them in term of other technologies.

For example, having a cybernetic implant which allows users to share thoughts via a computer terminal is functionally a limited form of telepathy, but the implementation uses technologies which, while fictional, would make sense to an SF reader.

P.S. - Oh, and as with all story background, there's a big difference between you figuring out the rules for your magic system and you telling your readers what those rules are. It is completely fine if you don't explain everything, but don't make it up as you go along.

ArthurSB73

Thanks for the feedback and discussion, I am developing a story concept involving dragonriders, and the better candidates for bonding would be psy-sensitive. The rider bond would then unlock abilities and access to power

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@ArthurSB73

Thanks for the feedback and discussion, I am developing a story concept involving dragonriders, and the better candidates for bonding would be psy-sensitive. The rider bond would then unlock abilities and access to power

You should read the "Dragon Riders of Pern" series, as the author laid out many of the basics in the subject matter. As Dicrostonyx stated, it's important to target your audience and determine whether you're writing fantasy, science fantasy, or hard-science fiction. That'll affect how you write the story.

ArthurSB73

Read Pern series thru several times, and Inheritance, Cheysuli, Tolkien, Magic Ink, Harry Potter, as well as others that are influencing the universe taking shape in my mind.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@ArthurSB73

Read Pern series thru several times, and Inheritance, Cheysuli, Tolkien, Magic Ink, Harry Potter, as well as others that are influencing the universe taking shape in my mind.

The biggest commonality (spanning most authors and works) is that dragons are very intelligent, but prefer their isolation. They rarely let anyone hang-around/ride them, but will if they think a high-ranking human will further their status (with the other dragons).

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

Maybe Jesus qualified. It is reported he rode an ass. But maybe his ass was dragon.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID

@richardshagrin

Maybe Jesus qualified. It is reported he rode an ass. But maybe his ass was dragon.

I think you might have Jesus confused with Andrew "Ender" Wiggin.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Not_a_ID

@richardshagrin

Maybe Jesus qualified. It is reported he rode an ass.

I'm sure that Jesus, like all humans, rides on an ass, his, all the time. Though I don't think he's done so for the last two millennia, so he may be out of practice.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID

@Crumbly Writer

I'm sure that Jesus, like all humans, rides on an ass, his, all the time. Though I don't think he's done so for the last two millennia, so he may be out of practice.


Aww, that wasn't actually a reply to me. :(

But in that respect, there are the Bible jokes involving Moses/Abraham/Jesus tieing their ass to a tree and then walking a not insignificant distance usually given in miles.

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