Tag Archives: Magic Systems

14.10: Magic Systems

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

Let’s design magic systems! We talk about how we do it, and how the principles of magic system design apply to the science fiction systems we create, and vice-versa.

NOTE: In this episode we’re talking about “hard” magic systems, where there are well-defined rule sets (even if the reader isn’t shown them explicitly.) Next week we’ll talk about “soft” magic.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.


Take a “soft” magic system, and turn it into a “hard” system. Give Gandalf rules

The Third Eye, by Mahtab Narsimhan

Writing Excuses 9.21: Sanderson’s 3rd Law

Brandon has some rules about magic systems — rules he uses as guideposts for his own writing. In his own words, “I name them Sanderson’s Laws partially out of hubris…”

Sanderson’s third law states, in effect, that a thorough exploration of a single magical ability is better than the creation of lots of different abilities–going for depth rather than breadth. And to immediately break that rule, we explore the wider application of this rule in other arenas.

We talk about how we apply this principle–depth rather than breadth–in many aspects of our own work, and then we drill back down (*ahem*) on its application in the creation of magic systems.




A magic system in which digging holes somehowe generates magic, and the depth, breadth, and location determine what kind.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, narrated by Simon Prebble