RE: Need help finishing my magic system

Helping people flesh out a system of magic should, frankly, be one of our foundation strengths. This question was closed as Primarily Opinion-Based (POB).

SE's definition of POB invalidates all questions about magic. No one has "facts, reference, or specific expertise" in the OP's magic system (or any other form of magic). This led me to ask Magic is primarily opinion-based by definition, so what does a POB VTC mean? which, itself, led me to make this proposal for a WB-centric definition of POB.

In my opinion (and I grant that it's only my opinion), the target question does not fail the proposed definition for POB. The OP has provided a reasonably complete description of his/her magic system and answers that meet basic WB.SE standards (e.g., no one-liners, should have a paragraph of description justifying your answer) are easily judged against the proposed magic system.

Further, the OP is asking a reasonably scoped question. (OK, to be fair, he/she's asking two, but they're so related that I'm willing to be forgiving and not close as too-broad.)

Therefore, I invite people to either vote to reopen the question or please post explanations below that justify the cause of closure so we can better refine our review standards.

For the record, after 18 months on this site, I could be convinced to completely remove "primarily opinion-based" as a rationale for closure, leading to asking about Allowing a site to modify VTC text or disable a VTC reason altogether on meta.stackexchange.com. But for now, it's a thorn in our side.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ From the Help center: "magic questions must explain how the magic system works" From a quick glance at the question, at least that doesn't seem to be the issue here. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe I would agree if the user explained how he got his elemental combinations because some of them make no sense. Earth+Water=Ice $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 0:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Vincent, That's an issue for clarification-asking comments, not justification for closing the question. The vast majority of his choices make sense. Helping people work out the kinks is supposed to be what we do. Ultimately, however, "why" the user came up with any system of magic (or any question) is not our business and often leads us to chasing rabbits we shouldn't be chasing. If there's a legitimate issue with that background info, it would make a good frame challenge, but once again, not a VTC. At least 90% of the Qs asked here have insensible backstories. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 4:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @aCVn But if you start to explain how a magic system works and how its integrated in with your world, people just say its a high level concept and close it anyway. If you define magic laws, people just tell you to make more magical laws to do what you want. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ Upvoted because I agree with you in general; too many questions get closed even though they can generate good answers with helpful information. But this particular question was just too confusing. A lot of times closed questions will have multiple answers, but this one had none. Maybe it got closed very quickly, but to me it's a sign that it wasn't a good question. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 6:19

1 Answer 1


I didn't comment on the question, I didn't upvote, didn't downvote and didn't vote to close -- I seldom, if ever, take any action on magic-related questions. But this specific question needs heavy work in order to make it answerable, even for those members of the community for whom magic is an attractive subject.

  1. There are four different questions in the question:

    "My protagonist uses prana that allows making things light or heavier. I was thinking of just saying it’s a subclass to the earth element, but if it's possible to do that with one of these that would be great."

    "Also, my protagonist fights someone that shows you your inner demons; for this, I was saying it’s a subclass of wind, but if this could be explained with one of these it would be great as well."

    "Fire(dominant) + Wind = ?"

    "Water(dominant) + Wind = ?"

  2. The question does not actually describe a magic system. It consists mostly of meaningless psychography, without any discernible structure or identification of rules. An illustrative example:

    Humans call any other animal besides themselves with spiritual energy, Spiritual Beast. Spiritual Beast cultivate precisely like humans, but more efficiently. The best I can describe this is, a big vacuum and a small vacuum. Spiritual energy circulated inside a living thing is called prana. Prana is circulated throughout the body which eventually leads to the chiasma. The chiasma to me is the dantian, specifically the upper one, but more focused on eyes.

    • This the first time the word “cultivate” appears in the text. I posit that its meaning is impossible to discern for any reader, no matter how attentive.

    • The use of jargon is not helping at all. The word “dantian” has nothing to do with Dante (to the surprise of naïve readers), but rather it’s a Romanization the Chinese word 丹田 (dāntián), an “energy center” which is a “focal point for meditative and exercise techniques such as qigong, martial arts such as t'ai chi ch'uan, and in traditional Chinese medicine”. A hyperlink would have helped.

    • The (optic) chiasma is an anatomical structure. The “dantians” are Chinese metaphysical / surreal / supernatural structures or concepts. How can a metaphysical “energy” be circulated to an anatomical structure, and how can an anatomical structure be (identical with) a metaphysical / surreal / supernatural structure (or concept? I cannot tell) is left as an exercise to the reader — the querent does not bother to explain.

  3. Any answers would be both subjective in the extreme, and form a major part of the creative background of the story. Of the top of my head:

    Using prana to make things light or heavier is of course possible using water; or using heat; or using wind: who’s to say that it isn’t? Choosing whether it is or isn’t possible is what the author should do depending on the story they want to tell.

    • The protagonist can fight someone that shows you your inner demons using fire; or using ice; or using metal: who’s to say that they can’t? Choosing whether it is or isn’t possible is what the author should do depending on the story they want to tell.

    • Fire (dominant) + Wind = Air; or Life; or Aether; or Power; or Light: who’s to choose? Well, the author is to choose, obviously, depending on the story they want to tell. But how could the community choose?

    • Water (dominant) + Wind = Air; or Life; or Death; or Chaos: who’s to choose? Well, the author is to choose, obviously, depending on the story they want to tell. But how could the community choose?

  4. The only way the community could choose between answers is by judging their artistic values: are they consistent? Are they well written? Do they produce pleasure when read? Is the composition balanced?

    But we do not generally do that, or, at least, we like to believe that we don’t base our votes mainly on esthetics. (We cannot honestly say that literary esthetics are totally unimportant; but we generally strive to upvote answers which are objectively good.)

In conclusion, I don’t believe that all magic-related questions are unanswerable; writing an answerable magic-related question may be hard, and it may take the magic out of the magic, but it is possible. Unfortunately, this question is just too hazy, and it attempts to offload too much authorial creativity onto the community.

  • $\begingroup$ From the link: psychography is a claimed psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. Frankly, I don't see how this applies. On the other hand, you've provided fabulous insight that I hope the OP finds. It does suggest that either we're trying too hard to impose structure where no structure may exist (i.e., someone's seeking help creating the structure and we're penalizing them for not having created it) or we haven't defined what the heck we mean by the phrase "magic system." Either way, I consider the more general issue to be our fault. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ And as I put more thought into this: part of the problem is that working out the kinks in a magic system almost requires a discussion - which is specifically what SE doesn't do. It's one of the weaknesses of a creativity-based theme. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH: "Psychography" in the sense of automatic dictation as used by surrealist writers. Unfortunately, since the advent of computerised secretaries, "automatic dictation" has acquired the meaning of automatic transcription, and thus can no longer be used in its traditional sense. My English is too limited to find a better word or phrase... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ Ah! But I see your point now. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ I wish we could give bounties on meta. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if I recall correctly, as it was a while ago, but I believe my close vote on that question went to the "unclear what you're asking" category, for precisely the reasons outlined in this answer. $\endgroup$
    – Gryphon
    Commented Feb 6, 2019 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Gryphon I personally flagged the question as POB for some of the reasons stated here. I can also see it as Too Broad. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Feb 9, 2019 at 11:48

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