This sounds good to me, but then the huge problem that this runs into is that, while magic might be presented this way from a narrative perspective, from a system/rules standpoint its scope is quite necessarily limited and pre-defined (it has to be programmed into the game somehow, just like everything else). So this can lead to a great sense of disconnect in the manner that Kjaamor mentions. Any interesting ideas for how to account for that difficulty?
I'm not sure exactly. The answer's in a lot of factors, I think. To put it overly simply? Don't give a preview of the entire spell system database to a tiny Mageling. You don't even really know what you can learn, except what is contextually near to what you are studying/working with. Or, you bump into Trainers and such who can teach you things, but they don't really just plain give you preset, globally-wielded spells (not that there COULDN'T or even WOULDN'T be ANY globally-adopted spells).
This is one of the reasons I advocate a more fluid spell system. I think it's silly that people go around all "Wait, you ALSO know Melf's Acid Arrow! Cool!". And that's it. Like... How did Melf ever cast his own Acid Arrow before it was a pre-defined spell, as recorded by himself?! I bet the first person who ever ran into Melf was like "Okay, I know this guy is a Mage, so I'm prepared with various magical defenses." And he was all "Ha-HAH! This shield repels fire, frost, AND lightning! Do your worst!" And Melf was all like "BOOM! Acid Arrow!". And the shield-wielder FREAKED out. Then, he probably ran off, all maimed from acid, and started spreading the tale, and everyone misconstrued it, and didn't know if it was true or not, and maybe other Wizards heard about it and started trying to mess around with acidic effects. *shrug*
All I know is, if it were a wee bit more fluid, it would be functionally the same as the weapon system for all non-magic classes. How do you know that Warrior isn't about to fling some throwing knives at you, even though he's currently going at you with a greatsword? Or what if he specializes in disarming? Or what if he is actually practiced enough to hurl that sword as a last-ditch effort? OR to just throw you off, drawing a couple of shortswords while you're WTFing at the thrown greatsword, and finishing it all in a matter of seconds with the advantage of your complete and utter bewilderment?
Sure, there are typical fighting styles and such, and typical weapon styles. But, you just don't really know exactly how people are going to USE what they have at their disposal. You don't even know exactly what they have at their disposal.
If you've never read any of the Wheel of Time series, you should. I think the One Power in those books is quite an excellent example. There's a healthy combination of fear, rarity, and obscurity that goes on with that. There are people who don't even know they can tap into the power, and weave it. There are OODLES of ways in which to weave it, such that even the most trained in its use are aware of just how much of its use they're unaware of. It's dangerous, because it's an externally-existing force. People can read "residues," so if you think you'll just slaughter a bunch of people, then "Ha-HAH!" your way out of there via a portal or something, others who can use the power can track you. People can detect when you're using it (if they can use it, or have a device that can alert them). So, if you think "Hmm, I'll just weave a giant explosive fireball and hurl it at-", Boom, you just got shielded. Someone wove a shield before you could finish doing what it is you were doing. Just the same, you start weaving that stuff, and some guards notice, or someone calls out? Boom. Arrows in your back. You CAN weave a shield of Air, to stop arrows, but you have to know about them, and weave it, and know that no one's detecting you while you do that, or during its duration, before you accomplish what you're trying to accomplish. Plus, if a weave (spell) is "tied off" rather than maintained (kinda like non-channeling versus channeling... heck, the spell-casting in that universe is all called "channeling," heh), it's a lot easier to dismantle/counter/affect. And, again, we're back to "you only have so much focus/effort to distribute between tasks/weaves."
Annnnywho, I could go on for ages and not make the point as well as I'd like.
A few things, I guess:
Rarity -- everyone can't be an uber powerful person. Even if 50 people in a town can use magic, maybe they all have drastically varying levels of potency/precision/effect-producing-range. This was one reason I mentioned The Last Airbender. You've got effectively "equal" people still using drastically different abilities. Some Earth benders know how to do things other ones don't, etc.
Co-existence -- it's got to coexist with the physics (for lack of a better term) of the rest of the world. With the concrete slab of reality that the fantasy world is based upon. If you can weave a fireball, you've still got to concentrate on that process until it's done. You're still only human. There need to be very real threats to even a potent magic-user's well-being. Everything else in physics has inherent limitations, and so should magic. It's just a fictitious form of physics-manipulation. It's not outside the realm of physics. It's just the source that's artificial, really. Not the effects. Not inherently, at least.
I've just babbled a bunch of stuff. I don't know exactly how to answer that question. But I'm all for exploring for an answer.
Edited by Lephys, 25 July 2013 - 05:00 PM.