This is going to be a difficult one, particularly given the wildy varying flavors and rules of magic out there. Nonetheless, I think it would be interesting to build a community wiki attempting to put some consistency into magical settings. The main goal is to go beyond the standard No/Low/Medium/High magical settings and allow some fine tuning in terms of specifying how magical a world is and how powerful the magic in that world can be, while remaining as inclusive and universe-independent as possible.

If anyone knows of a similar already existing scale, by all means let me know!!!

My preferred option would be civ-wide, In terms of the feats that a civilization with that class of magic should be able to accomplish. Thus, we would be effectively ranking different types of magic settings by the capabilities of magic in that setting. This would make it a lot easier to have self-consistent answers to magic-based questions, in my opinion, because you can state specifically just how magic-heavy your world is, on multiple dimensions of magic-infusedness.

  1. Measurement

    • For things whose power output can be measured (like fireballs and floating cities), what would the total power output of such magical civilization be, given the expected number of mages, and the frequency with which such powers would be used? So far, this is almost straight-up Kardashev (albeit scraping the bottom of the 0 category)
    • How many mages are there? Can anyone become a mage with study?
      • How does one become a mage? All/Anyone, Divine Grant, Heritable, Random, or Transfer from another mage [A,D,H,R,T]
      • What is the magic prevalence in society (% of pop)? i.e [R, 0.001%] would mean random magical talent, with 1 in 100,000 prevalence of magic skill.
    • Are there hard limits to magic (mana drainage from environment, mage fatigue, lyrium requirements) or is it simply skill-limited and upwardly unbounded? [Environment/Stamina/Consumables/Unlimited]
    • However, for other kinds of magic, such as illusion, gating, teleportation, mind-domination, there is no easy way to figure out power output. Perhaps use some magic difficulty/attainability level setting to tell apart hard-rare magic settings from easy-magic-infused settings? (See next section on magic types).
  2. Availability and strength of magic:

    • Type of magic Which of the following types/schools of magic exist in universe? (I will borrow freely from DnD):
      • Abjuration: Abjurations are protective spells. They create physical or magical barriers, negate magical or physical abilities, harm trespassers, or even banish the subject of the spell to another plane of existence.
      • Conjuration: Each conjuration spell belongs to one of five subschools. Conjurations bring manifestations of objects, creatures, or some form of energy to you (the summoning subschool), actually transport creatures from another plane of existence to your plane (calling), heal (healing), transport creatures or objects over great distances (teleportation), or create objects or effects on the spot (creation). Creatures you conjure usually, but not always, obey your commands.
      • Divination: Divination spells enable you to learn secrets long forgotten, to predict the future, to find hidden things, and to foil deceptive spells.
      • Enchantment: Enchantment spells affect the minds of others, influencing or controlling their behavior.
      • Evocation: Evocation spells manipulate energy or tap an unseen source of power to produce a desired end. In effect, they create something out of nothing. Many of these spells produce spectacular effects, and evocation spells can deal large amounts of damage.
      • Illusion: Illusion spells deceive the senses or minds of others. They cause people to see things that are not there, not see things that are there, hear phantom noises, or remember things that never happened.
      • Necromancy: Necromancy spells manipulate the power of death, unlife, and the life force. Spells involving undead creatures make up a large part of this school.
      • Transmutation. Transmutation spells change the properties of some creature, thing, or condition.
      • Thus a full magic world would be characterized as having [A,C,D,En,Ev,I,N,T].
    • Scale of power Can a single mage destroy a magically unprotected army of 10,000 warriors? How easily? If how, how many mages working together would it take?
  3. Setting consequences:

    • Would a setting where most people in such a civilization are medieval peasants actually be realistic, or, with artifact-level objects lying about in every inn and stable, would the amazing power of magic make even squibs powerful, with the fields plowing and harvesting themselves and the buildings raising themselves from the ground?

Before unleashing this on the Main, I would love feedback on the general feasibility of such a wiki, the dimensions of ranking, some way of quantifying (if at all possible) some of this wild variation, and other general thoughts and advice.

Edit: Abandoned for now due to lack of community interest.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think the most important is : what magic can do? and what is the cost of it. And not: how many mages there are. For example: Is magic free, free but limited to a certain number of spells by day, does it work according to the laws of thermodynamics... ? That sort of thing. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ In the end it's ranked in no magic,low, mid and high magic. In high magic it's like many can acquire Godly powers just like the Greek antiques stories. Gods and demi-gods roam around the world, entire realms are created with magic... And Gods would have unlimited powers at the same point where mankind could achieve Godhood on the Kardashev Scale. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent, yes, but I feel that's too broad. What if you can have the most amazing Divination spells, but no Conjuration? Is that hi, med, low? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ If anyone knows of a similar already existing scale, by all means let me know!!! $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 18:14

2 Answers 2


The problem with this sort of idea is that it is not inclusive. It's all well and good defining a scale like this but if it becomes something we only use to talk to each other then that means both that questions and answers become much less useful for anyone who isn't familiar with the scale. It becomes a barrier to entry for anyone new to the site.

On the other hand though the scale could become the de-facto scale and have everyone start using it, including people not on this site.

I think it would be hard to define it as well, there are some many different flavours and varieties of magic systems and some would not fit into this proposed schema at all.

  • $\begingroup$ How could we make it more inclusive? The goal i have in mind is to be able to more precisely define just how magical and how powerfully magical a world-setting is... $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ Again and again people have talked about having language for worldbuilding. Again and again the answer is a resounding no from the community. $\endgroup$
    – Mourdos
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 9:03

I don't think defining such a scale will be at all helpful. Mostly, because it fails to account for Sanderson's First Law of Magics:

An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.

The linked post goes into more detail, but it boils down to this: *If the reader understands the magic, it must be used as a tool. If the reader doesn't understand the magic, it must be used as a plot device." If you've been explaining how the magic works (a hard magic system), your characters should use it according to those rules to accomplish their goals. Breaking the rules just confuses your reader. Conversely, if you haven't been explaining it (a soft magic system), then use it to solve problems it comes across as deus ex machina handwaving. (Obviously, there's graduations and subtleties in between those two extremes.)

The reason this is relevant is that your proposed system for defining magic implicitly assumes magic is hard. Where would LotR fall on your proposed system? Who knows. I don't think there's any way to tell whether Gandalf could have singlehandedly destroyed an army of 10,000 orcs. He didn't, but that doesn't mean he couldn't. What schools of magic exist there? What are the limits?

So by trying to fit all magic systems into a single discrete set of values, you'd force it to be narrowed down, quantified, and have all the flexibility squeezed out. And often, for questions here, it's not even worth going into that much detail.


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