Episode 14 of Writing Excuses opens the discussion of magic systems and their rules. I think it’s a great topic, and there were some great points they touched on — I think my favorite one was the concept of “hard fantasy” which is the Fantasy equivalent of Science Fiction. The magic has a system of rules that effectively mirrors “the science” part of Science Fiction. I like my magic to have rules.

They talked about characters in the Harry Potter ‘verse basically “shooting magic guns” at each other, which I think is fairly accurate. When you put a restriction on characters that they can only use their powers when they have X magic device, yeah, it looks a lot like that. It certainly has that appearance in the films, with the visual style and sound effects to match. Fourth Edition magic is a lot like this.

In the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons, you have powers that are basically “magic guns” with have ammunition that runs out at variable rates. I’ve compared the powers to the Standard First-Person Shooter armaments: you have your at-will powers which are your pistol, with unlimited ammo. You have your Encounter powers which take the shotgun’s place with a bigger boom and limited uses.

Then you have your rocket launcher, or your great, big eff-off handgun that you only get to use a handful of times, but packs an enormous punch. Those are your “daily” powers. You also have utility powers that sort of bend the rules here and there, and they fill a variety of mundane purposes. Still, mostly “magic gun” stuff. It isn’t until you get to rituals that you really get weird effects. And those are pretty conservative.