On Writing: soft magic systems in fantasy [ Tolkien l Game of Thrones l Harry Potter ]

40 thoughts on “On Writing: soft magic systems in fantasy [ Tolkien l Game of Thrones l Harry Potter ]

  1. Working on my own spilf with the two systems (never knew they had already been framed and named) ; one that’s mostly parlor tricks, basic medicine and chemistry ; and the other that’s quite on spot with the « soft » system you described. Lots of interesting insights, i enjoy your channel a great deal !

  2. i like learning new things, i tend to be scientifically minded, so of course i prefer hard magic systems. hard magic system have well defined rules that you can learn and i like that.

    not that i have anything against soft magic systems, i tend to consider harry potter to be more of a hard magic system than a soft magic system, it has clear rules, well defined spells with known effects, there is more of a science to it than an art.

    tolkien tends to be very soft with his magic and so does GRRM and i love those series of books as well. the force WAS very soft in the beginning but has gotten a bit more codified over time. but there is a TON of stuff to learn, and while tolkien and GRRM may not have a lot to teach about their magic systems, they have a TON of lore to learn.

  3. Ever consider making a video about technology as a magic system? There's several ways to consider that.

  4. What does that frame of text that flashes up after "learned and trained throughout the books" at 3:15? Even at quarter speed I can't stop it fast enough on mobile to read it.

  5. Fiendfyre from Harry Potter
    Soft magic because it is unpredictable and dangerous?
    Hard magic because it could be controlled but Crabbe wasn't powerful enough?

  6. I think that the actual difference between Hard and Soft Magic Systems is not the magic itself but how much the Characters in the book and by assossiation the reader understand the magic.
    You could create a super Hard Magic System for your world but if the characters don´t get the full picture then it will FEEL like a Soft Magic System.

    For example in The Stormlight Archive we are presented a couple of Magic Systems.
    Most notable Surge Binding. They are showed to us through Kaladin and Shallan who go on by trial and error discovering what they can do with it.
    But then we also have Spren. A lot more mystical feel to them. They can turn into Swords and are attracted to some emotions or natural phenomenae. But when we get to Shadesmar it starts to make a little more sense every time.
    [Spoilers for Oathbrnger]
    Like how spren on Roshar are just a part of the full spren´s body that lives in Shadesmar. And some other details we learn slowly over time

  7. Soft, hard… it’s about good storytelling. Use either, but create limitations in your own mind and be consistent. At the end of the day, nothing is more powerful than a good story 😏

  8. I really like Avatar, FMA:B, and want like the Mistborne series, which are all hard magic systems. I think a story with both is really interesting though! That's be really cool as an RPG video game too!

  9. The Dragon Prince has a mixture of Hard and Soft Magic. You have to understand what it the type of magic you want to use in an instinctual manner while dark magic is just absorb magical animals to perform magic.

  10. I have to disagree on Harry Potter. The magic system is garbage and Rowling often used a Deus Ex Machina to get out of corners she wrote herself into.
    The most horrendous example being Wand Allegiance, how do you defeat the most powerful dark wizard armed with an unstoppable wand? Well turns out if you defeat a wizard his wand will now serve you. That also includes every wand they ever turned to their side. Wrestling the thing out of their hands also counts as a defeat.
    Otherwise a great video I will recommend further.

  11. I think that I prefer harder magic systems, but with a mix of soft elements, creating some relatively known limitations– at least to the protagonists, while still allowing for some flexibility and discovery within the plot, and doesn't completely paint the author into a corner by defining every single aspect of the system from the start.

  12. After revisiting this video, for my own sake, I've come to realise a single thing about the ASOIAF: its many different forms of magic all require a sacrifice, they need blood, or some kind of physical loss.

    Also I like both.

  13. To be clear Melisandre doesn't understand her power because Candace Van Houten is magical. The Lord of Light would have to get my sloppy seconds.

  14. I think Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell executes a perfect balance between the two styles. Unpredictable uses that always seem to make sense in hindsight, with a great focus on the language and source of magic itself.

  15. I honestly think the best magic system is somewhere in the middle. Where there are things you can do predictably and without issue, but other things are a lot less predictable. Maybe some magic is rather easy to use as long as its rather basic in that world, while more advanced things have a hint of unpredictability.

  16. Hey, I am a little confused with Magic System from 'Hunter x Hunter'. The system has rules in the fundamentals part with Ten, Zetsu, Ren, and Hatsu. But once you enter the advanced part, we see every individual has something like a 'Nen Ability'; These abilities will change from person to person and are virtually impossible to predict (making it kind of soft), but we also know that every character puts rules into their ability to make it more powerful (making it kind of hard as well). Also, the story kinda just don't tell us about these rules until we reach the 4th chapter but still utilizes it even in the first arc (since the main villain, knows about Nen and use it to the point he kinda called a Magician by other characters) Whenever the author introduces a new character and he does something, the reader would be like "because Nen…". But more we start to know about the character, more it becomes less "because Nen…" as we know what rules this particular character has put into that abilities.

    It's like 'Hunter x Hunter' magic system is neither hard or soft but more like a penis; soft when it starts, hard it get excited.

  17. do something on warhammer fantasy or 40k books, i think you might have some interesting stuff to say

  18. May I simply direct everyone to the time soft magic blew up the world because of drunk karaoke

  19. I'm a DnD nerd through and through and regularly DM. As such I prefer hard magic systems for player characters (ie the protagonists) because it's a fair understanding of what they can do and how they can approach challenges with ingenuity. It's how I prefer to game, because sometimes it feels unfair when the non magic player characters can't get a pass so easily and all of us have to keep reaching on what's ok or not.

    That said I agree with you on allowing antagonists to use soft magic, because building tension is much easier to accept with soft magic. As long as the illusion of hard magic is given to players when they interact with soft magic in the setting it can work really well.

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