Sources and Types of Magic

Here's a list of some possible interpretations or meta-views of magic:

  • Inherent Gift: Only those born of a certain blood have the gift of magic.
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  • Theurgy: The magic is done entirely by spirits, often refered to as angels and gods, with whom the caster makes deals.
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  • Rule Magic: Some underlying magical rule system is applied, as in manipulation by True Name or sympathetic symbolism.
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  • Force Magic: Practitioners of magic tap into and control or weave together one or more magical forces.
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  • Device Magic: Magic performed with some form of mystical device or relic.
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  • Wild Magic: Magic that does what it wants, or just happens beyond control. In other words, non-functional magic.
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  • Word of Power: Individual words containing the raw essence of magic.

In some settings, magic is a thing you learn, a topic you study. In others, it just comes naturally to those with a certain talent or bloodline. And in some, magic is just green rocks or handwavium. There is, of course, some room for overlap. A given setting may feature more than one type of magic, and there's even the possibility that each type could have it's own laws of magic.

"Magic", by contrast, in the Cthulhu Mythos appears to be nothing more than the Platonic Image of extremely advanced maths - this is hinted at in the original material and made explicit in the modern day Laundry novels by Charles Stross. Anything that does the right maths - even without meaning to - can do magic. Yes, this includes computers but it turns out you can also work magic with a chessboard. This can have some very unfortunate effects.

A further distinction - likely of very great interest to those creating magic systems - is between direct and indirect magic. Direct magic works, as might be expected, directly on a target individual - kills them, transmutes them or makes them fly, depending upon the magician's intended outcome; whilst. indirect magic works on objects (and possibly animals, depending upon how such things work). This is very interesting when it comes to magic resistance as, logically speaking, resistance will apply only to those spells cast against a person capable of resisting (that is, direct attacks) and not against indirect attacks.