I’ve found I have two methods for developing my magic systems in Stars Fall Out, and I’ve used each one exclusively for a single type of magic.
First there’s the Painstaking Research method, which I’ve used for shadowmancy. It involves poring over lists of root words, drawing diagrams, and researching real-life machines and devices that I can modify into crazy magic stuff. Coming up with secondary world terminology and items is the kind of worldbuilding task that can lead to heavy procrastination, so I try to avoid it as long as possible, and engage in it only as needed.
For my second magic system, oneiromancy, I’ve engaged in almost none of it at all. I’ve never sat down and said, “Today I am going to create magical jargon.”
What happens with oneiromancy–and I’ve only just realized this–is that a character says something, and it becomes part of the magic system. And when I say “a character,” I mean the same character every time.
When my character popped into my head blithely explaining that the magic vial works on “a double manifest with stabilized water as an anchor,” I finally had an idea of how the book’s main magic item works within the magic rules of my world, but didn’t necessarily expect to use that information in a scene. However, part of the book’s climax involves a hearing in which the Nirsuathu University council tries to determine the circumstances behind the theft of the magic vial, and also what the hell it actually is.
That seemed like as good a use as any for the jargon I had lying around. I decided that, prior to the “lying and setting enormous fires” portion of the hearing, I’d have my oneiromancer explain how the item works. After months of living as a human test strip for a dubious magic test, he finally gets to show that he is quite intelligent and competent, and in doing so, pisses off some of the other characters. Win win.
Piroszehlt didn’t so much as flinch at Zanhrori’s use of his oneiromancer’s name, but took a deep breath and straightened his papers once more. “First, for those of you who were unaware, or who had heard but not believed, the magic vial does in fact allow transport from place to place when used to consume water from a natural body. In oneiromantic terms, it’s a double manifest with stabilized water as an anchor.”
Ghordaa snorted, under his breath yet meant to be heard. Vilari looked at Piro as though she were about to spit in the soup of the Great Pon.
Ghordaa unfurled his hand like a spring fern. “I would only like to caution against the intellectual laxity of using borrowed terminology to describe what I have created.”
“Noted. Would you like to give the council a lesson on the proper terms at this time? I understand you’re supposed to be a teacher.”
“And is this to be a classroom now? I’m not certain how receptive or capable my students would be.”
“You’d have to test them, wouldn’t you?”
Next to me, Tirsan gave a close-mouthed chuckle. “What? I enjoy watching them snipe at each other like that.” He spoke so low that no one else heard him.
After a pause in which Piroszehlt and Ghordaa both seemed to be deciding if other insults were necessary, Piro spoke first. “I shall continue using my borrowed terms. Unless you intend to train all here in the practice of your new discipline, I think they will suffice for the sake of understanding.” He rolled his paperweight in his hand. “Now, to go back to the question from before the interruption. Sunivar?”
And then he gave them all coronavirus.