Fantasy, like all fiction, is a function of the imagination. One common element in fantasy fiction is magic, a mysterious force which breaks normal physical and scientific laws. It has been said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and this is certainly true in fantasy. Take the example of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. Although based on a science fiction premise, these books share a fantasy flavor by the effortless use of instantaneous travel, or teleporting. In fact, the Dragonriders series has three points of magic: teleportation, telepathy, and time travel. These three magical points are all based around the dragons of Pern. Although some non-dragonrider humans can telepathically communicate, they do not share the teleportation or time travel abilities of the dragons and fire lizards, which can go between.
In another classic fantasy example, Ursula K. LeGuin’s Wizards of Earthsea can use many types of magical spells, but they all rely upon names. Any object or creature to be magically manipulated must have a known name, which the wizard uses to command that creature’s essense. Wizardry, then, is the study of names, and the responsibilities inherent in knowing another creature’s name. So, if a wizard wishes to teleport a rock from one space to another, he must know the rock’s name, and possibly that of its destination. This system seems to work best for enchanting creatures and objects, transforming them into other objects, and ensnaring them. Telepathy seems unlikely in this kind of world. Calling down pure magical energies is also unlikely, although calling lightning is not (and who is to say that the one is really less destructive than the other?) The fantasy worlds of Dungeons and Dragons are a popular magical base for much of fantasy fiction, especially novels based in the D&D worlds. However, these worlds have a definite “D&D” flavor to them, which anyone familiar with the games can recognize. Starting with the common player character classes (fighter, ranger, paladin, mage, cleric, druid, thief, bard), these novels are rife with gaming references which non-gamers (and gamers who are tired of such unimaginative creations) find irritating. Perhaps one of the most common problems with these novels is the fact that they rely so heavily on the exact same system of magic. I’m going to refer heavily and often to my gaming experience as I write this manual, but my object is to make it possible for other authors to create new systems of magic that are as rich and diverse as that provided in the D&D books.