This is topic The cost of power ... and excersize for writing fantasy. in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

To visit this topic, use this URL:;f=2;t=020833

Posted by beatnix19 (Member # 5836) on :
I've not written much in a long time but I feel the need to start again and I've been doing a lot of notes and jotting things down in my spare time. Most of the stuff is world creation, character histories, general story lines, blah, blah, blah.

One thing that I find very interesting is the costs of power. In that I mean the cost on the person who is using magic. I know this is one of the exersizes OSC uses in his work shops but I've never had the honor.

An example from the most recent book I've read, Eragon by Chritopher Paolini is that each act of magic cost the person casting a certain amount of energy. The greater the spell the greater the loss of energy. Too great of a spell and the caster can spend all of his life's energy and die. Also once a spell is cast the spell can not be called back. It will take the energy it needs so the caster must know his/her limits fairly well.

So my question is what kind of cost can you come up with? I've got a few Ideas I'll share if there is any interest in this thread.

As a disclaimer: I would guess we should probably say that these are free to use for anyone who wants to participate. I know I'm looking for good ideas and don't want to upset anyone who doesn't want to share.
Posted by Brinestone (Member # 5755) on :
My wizards must enter a very restrictive contract in order to use their power. That is the cost for them.

The power comes from another race, who give the wizards their power so that others don't kill them for it (steal it). When the power is used, it is very physically taxing for this race. Thus, they make the wizards enter the very restrictive contract so they don't abuse their powers.

[ January 15, 2004, 12:12 PM: Message edited by: Brinestone ]
Posted by kwsni (Member # 1831) on :
My were-animal guys have to expend a HUGE amount of energy to become thier respective animals. it doesn't show up until they go back into human form, so they get to play around as animals, and then spend the next week as a human in bed.

Posted by Danzig (Member # 4704) on :
My magic system has no real "cost" to speak of, but it requires quite a bit of concentration, sometimes to the point of not being able to perceive one's immediate surroundings. And mental or physical fatigue can be a factor depending on how long the caster has been at it.
Posted by blacwolve (Member # 2972) on :
/random idea

Why shouldn't the cost just be a monetary value that you have to pay to someone, maybe the International Magic Headquarters, in order to do any magic. And if you wanted you could build up credit, etc.
Posted by :Locke (Member # 2255) on :
Either one must gain spiritual merit (which is often personalized to the individual, and always difficult), or one must consume another person who has merit. Generally the cannibals are regarded as evil-- it's the fact that they are more willing to kill than to work on their own to get their power.
Posted by Suneun (Member # 3247) on :
I thought a while for an idea... and here's mine. Feel free to expand on it/borrow it:

Maybe every time you cast a spell, you get tired/sleepy. If you cast greater magics, you feel compelled to take a nap. You can use teas to overcome this sleepiness in the short term, but the more powerful the spell the harder it is to ward off the sleep. In battles, a mage would have to work in concert with many mages and regular soldiers, because immediately after calling down thunder or an earthquake, they'd drift off into sleep for hours.

However, I also wanted to share a few of my favorites from books/stories...

1. Exhausting memorization to cast a spell, only to forget the words immediately after casting the spell (Dragonlance)

2. Bleaching the skin and hair from casting powerful magic (Valdemar/Tale'edras of Lackey's world)

3. Replenished stores of energy every day, differing by genetics/birth. Catalyst-class mages can transfer this energy from individual to individual (acting like a bank) but can't actually cast spells (Darksword Trilogy)

4. Build up favors with elementals in order to have them do errands/missions for you (also Lackey)
Posted by CalvinMaker (Member # 2032) on :
In OSC's Hart's Hope, power is gained from the blood of different types of animals. A hart is very sacred, so it's blood gives a lot of power. And the blood of a human child...

Similarly, I have a screenplay where my main character discovers that the more blood he loses, the more power he gains to move something telepathically. He goes power hungry and starts cutting himself in order to utilize this power.
Posted by Koga (Member # 5646) on :
I know this is not quite the same as fantasy novels, but this thread reminds me of abilities of characters in some anime. Namely the dragon of the darkness flame attack by Hiei, which destroyed an enemy but scorched his own arm in the process, or Miroku's windtunnel since it might evenetually suck him into the void like it does everything else when he uses it as a weapon, or Inu Yasha'a Blades of blood attack, since it reqires him to fling his own blood off of his claws for it to form blades in the air. I figure each of these powers has enough of a price for there use that it explains why they are not over used, except the windtunnel seems to get alot of use. I don't think any of that is quite what you seemed to be talking about, but I just was thinking of those powers reading this thread. [Dont Know]
Posted by Teshi (Member # 5024) on :
Mine merely get tired (expend energy), depending on the amount they use. If they do something very hard, death (from exaustion) is a possibility.

Isn't there a series or a book where the more a wizard uses magic, the more he hears this strange noise calling him (or her?) until it dominates their lives and they disappear in the night and eventually get 'swallowed up'?

What series is that?
Posted by Eaquae Legit (Member # 3063) on :
Have you ever read any of Gordon R. Dickson's "Dragon Knight" novels, blacwolve? He does something very much like you describe. He calls it the "Accounting Office" and the magicians need to rack up credit which can then be expended in the form of spellcasting.
Posted by pooka (Member # 5003) on :
Mine is a sci fi concept, but power to intervene on a seemingly superhuman level comes from living at 30 times the speed of normal people. It's why I was so fascinated with the description of Matzah watching.

Then, by virtue of the very technology they are using, they find a way to prevent themselves from aging if they square the acceleration of one individual. But the anti-aging is elective, and there is a couple where the husband wants to do it and the wife does not.
Posted by beatnix19 (Member # 5836) on :
The cost I am currently thinking about using is as follows.

Spell casters/magicians/wizards or what have you only come into their power through the willing sacrifice of a blood relative. Since the power came through blood it also only works through blood. It drains the user of their blodd leaving in them a blood thirst. Small spells can be satified by simply eating rare/raw meat but the larger the spell the greater the need for blood, building up to blood thirst and maddness that can cause the user to black out only to wake and find they have killed the closest thing they could find, human or animal. Most learn their limitations and with time come to control their thirst by limiting their use of power save for extreme situations. Also with time the eyes grow a blood red as more power is used. This marks them as wizards. In the story I'm trying to write Wizards have died into legend and are now thought of as a type of vampire, only capable of evil.
Posted by Dan_raven (Member # 3383) on :
I am intrigued about suttle payback types of cost.

Shape shifting into an animal drives one to more and more association and identification with that animal until one no longer wants to be human.

To cast an emotion based spell one also succumbs to that emotion. So if you want to make Jane your slave you cast a spell that would make her do anything for you out of love, but then you in turn fall in love with her, to the point that you let her go. If you cast a mind numbing spell on a person, you also go dim witted.

To cast an elemental spell either results in something like the animal spell, where you start becoming more Earth like when you cast an earth spell, or these things come from within you, so a ball of fire will leave you chilled, and a spray of water will leave you dehydrated.

This allows for a lot of play with the seductive addictive qualities in power and in each of these areas.
Posted by Dan_raven (Member # 3383) on :
The other question is "what is the cost of using Power" for such a being as a wizard.

Wizards are not all powerful or all knowing, but they come much closer to it than regular humans. They make life and death decisions that effect others.

What is the cost to the psyche of sending people off to die, or of not sending people off to die and watching as even more fall to the hands of another?

You can change reality if you dare, but what will be the consequences of that change, and what will be the consequences of not making that change.

In one of my books:

Dar Jon realized then that the wizard had killed Sir Nerdronian. Sure, Sir Nerdronian had been a fool. He had been a great fool that would have gotten Dar Jon killed with his asinine quest. That did not matter. The great and powerful noble wizard had killed him in cold blood, and done so not to save Dar Jon's life, or rather to save it so that Dar Jon could stand here, outside the gates of Manon, ready to fight this stupid demon.
Posted by blacwolve (Member # 2972) on :
What about spells causing physical deformaties. Therefore, if you cast a small spell, maybe you'll sprain your finger, as the spells get larger the deformaties get more noticable and more permnant.
Posted by Maccabeus (Member # 3051) on :
One fairly traditional concept I have been trying to add to a story is that the sorceror himself has no power, but is asking help from spiritual beings--who are not, of course, necessarily helping out of the goodness of their hearts. These sorcerors end up obligated to their patrons and often find that they are being used to some unpleasant end.
Posted by Koga (Member # 5646) on :
I thought Sorcerers commanded help, and Witches or Warlocks asked for help. Though I never got what the sorcerers could do that gave them the leverage to comand spiritual beings.
Posted by pooka (Member # 5003) on :
I like the Genie idea. Phenomenal Cosmic Power yadda yadda yadda

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2