Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#21
As most of us, today, are products of the Industrial revolution and post-WWI/I explosion of scientific discoveries, hard magic may come easier, as we are used to a systematic, physics-esque breakdown of the world around us. We live in a world that is pre-explained for us. It is post-discovery and, as such, has lost much of its mystery

Contrast that to even 100 years ago, outside of academia, many things were still not understood or perceived as "just are".
Why do dragons breathe fire? They just do. Why do Dwarves mine? Who else? Why does Gandalf use so much fire magic? Because he hold the fire ring. It is an innate concept of magic that, as Saruman illustrates, can be studiously learned, but that is not necessarily so. ow, yes, there were supposed spellbooks and alchemical recipes dating back to the Hedge-witch/Druid/Shaman/Sangoma era of understanding in each civilization, but, even then, they were pre- or mid-Discovery. They were dealing with mythical rumors and mystical steps of logic and investigation. 

Mint has a cooling taste, so let's see if we can make a cooling poultice or use it to induce frost.
Ice trails on water pails look as though tiny sprites have skated along its surface. Perhaps we could invoke their assistance?
Albino children have ice-white hair. Maybe they could command the winter to be milder to us or more severe to our enemies?

It's dealing with supposition more than certainty and attributing a lot more to the gaps of the unknown than to our own reason.

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#22
Hard Magic (or at least 80% hard, 20% soft, in Sanderson lingo) is one of my most favorite things. I don't care for the mystery around soft magic because then the characters cannot use it to solve major problems and that's boring to me. I also hate a lack of continuity and spontaneous new things about magic that characters suddenly happen to know for the plot. I want to know the rules of magic and be thrilled by a character's clever application of magic.

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#23
It depends.

Will use Sanderson as a cop-out to say it depends on whether the author uses it to instill a sense of wonder in the world or if it is used as a way to solve problems in their books. If the way the author uses magic generally follows this principle (and writes well), I am fine with it. I like Harry Potter, but I also like the Mistborn series.

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#26
Soft. Definitely soft! Hard magic is boring. I want wonder and mysticism in my fantasy. Even when Brandon Sanderson was my favorite author, it irked me that he's obsessed with science in his "fantasy" books. Really, and I can say this now that I don't read him anymore, he writes pseudo science disguised as fantasy. Total hack of a "fantasy" writer. I'm so annoyed with him that I killed him off in one of my books, just like George RR Martin killed off Harry Potter in one of his books, lol.

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#27

LambentTyto Wrote: Soft. Definitely soft! Hard magic is boring. I want wonder and mysticism in my fantasy. Even when Brandon Sanderson was my favorite author, it irked me that he's obsessed with science in his "fantasy" books. Really, and I can say this now that I don't read him anymore, he writes pseudo science disguised as fantasy. Total hack of a "fantasy" writer. I'm so annoyed with him that I killed him off in one of my books, just like George RR Martin killed off Harry Potter in one of his books, lol.


Haha! I love it. Someone with the gall to find fault with Chairman Sanderson!

Yeah, he does hard magic well, but, you're right, it loses a measure of wonder and mystery

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#29
LambentTyto Wrote: Soft. Definitely soft! Hard magic is boring. I want wonder and mysticism in my fantasy.

It's incredible how much I disagree. I have no idea how people can find wonder in something without rules. That's just frustrating and useless, to me. I don't want more Gandalf magic.
LambentTyto Wrote: Even when Brandon Sanderson was my favorite author, it irked me that he's obsessed with science in his "fantasy" books. Really, and I can say this now that I don't read him anymore, he writes pseudo science disguised as fantasy. Total hack of a "fantasy" writer.

Fantasy is not a restrictive genre, as it's pretty much anything with fantastical elements, so I'm suspect of any definition for it that doesn't include Sanderson's writings. He's also always been upfront about his process and that his books have a sci-fi flavor because of his magic systems. He's not a "hack of a 'fantasy' writer," and I'd go so far as to say he's on the metaphorical frontier of fantasy. He's one of the few authors that doesn't just rehash Tolkien's races and ideas--not that there's anything wrong with that; everybody loves a good Tolkien-esque fantasy, but Sanderson is where I go for something new and invigorating. Everybody's done elves and dwarves. Only one guy has done koloss, mistwraiths, spren, etc, and made it all make sense across many planets and stories.

It's fine that you don't like him. I guess his ideas are pretty niche, but as someone whose special interests include hard magic, I want to see more authors like him, and I want to write like him. I don't have much interest in sci-fi, which actually does use pseudo science as its basis, but there's a reason sci-fi and fantasy are so often lumped together. We just don't get a lot of fantasy writers with the same interest for magic as hard sci-fi writers have for science and technology, which is why Sanderson's books are so different from typical fantasy.

edit: it occurs to me that this is a similar debate to the idea that scientific explanations strip wonder and meaning out of the world, but scientists are often the people that find the most wonder in natural events and phenomena.

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#30
To be honest, the difference between Soft and Hard tends to come down to explanation. Soft magic just doesn't really get explained. There are still rules and limitations, and you see them crop up in lots of stories. For instance, Artsymarsy mentioned Gandalf. He had limits and restrictions, there were rules to his magic, they just weren't explained to the audience immediately (though he did go on to expound on them in later books).

The reality is that there have to be rules, otherwise you've no longer got a magic system, you have a wish fulfillment system (not to say that there's anything wrong with a little wish fulfillment every once in a while). Possibly the softest, most ill defined magic system I've seen is that of Oz (as in the Wizard of Oz and associated stories). Magic in Oz just works, it seems to be capable of all sorts of things, some of which just don't make sense. Heck, Ozma has a belt that just straight up grants wishes. Yet there are still limitations, rules that have to be followed. For instance, in Oz if you've been transformed by another magic user, you can't be transformed back by anyone else (except by taking a dip in the Pond of Truth, but that comes with other consequences, like being unable to ever again utter a lie).

In conclusion, Rules exist, even if you can't see them or they're not immediately defined.

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#31

artsymarsy Wrote: edit: it occurs to me that this is a similar debate to the idea that scientific explanations strip wonder and meaning out of the world, but scientists are often the people that find the most wonder in natural events and phenomenon.


This is entirely a fair and correct point. My wonder at the universe and creation (from a theological sense) is it magnified by what I know of the complexity of life around us

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#32

KaapstadMK Wrote:
artsymarsy Wrote: edit: it occurs to me that this is a similar debate to the idea that scientific explanations strip wonder and meaning out of the world, but scientists are often the people that find the most wonder in natural events and phenomenon.


This is entirely a fair and correct point. My wonder at the universe and creation (from a theological sense) is it magnified by what I know of the complexity of life around us



Same with me. Understanding only makes me realize how little we actually know. lol

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#33
First I was surprised how many people were saying Hard. Now I realize that maybe my conception is wrong. How popular is soft magic anyway, if your definition is correct...? I certainly can't recall seeing many stories as vague as LOTR. 

Quick question: has anyone here read Pact/Pale? Would the magic system there categorize under soft or hard? Because, a lot of time and effort is spent explaining the rules, principles and machinations. But ultimatively it is still extremely versatile, free and unbound. It is art, as much as science, if not even more so. The furthest thing away from having static, fixed Skills with exact, quantifiable effects.

I like Pact's magic a lot. And the magic in The Bartimaeus Sequence. Or Narnia (that one is completely soft, I know).

So, if Pact's magic is hard, then I guess I like both.

If at any point the magic starts involing numbers/cooldowns, I automatically dislike it I think. It's not magic anymore: it's numbers that add and subtract, it destroys the feeling of wonder for me. Not to mention, how those Systems all seem to be so similiar to one another. How many stories have you seen on RR, where there's 10k words of explaining a magic system, that is completely identical to the ones you have seen already. "Look inside you, swirl this energy in your stomach. Yes, indeed it is called mana... There are 5 main Elements, blah blah...". Or a story where the magic system seems to be the main focus, but it is uninteresting or unoriginal. 

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#35
I'm a software engineer, and the way my brain works means I'm inevitably gonna lean towards the rules based, quantifiable end of the magic system spectrum.  If a think happens, I'd like there to be a reason for why it happens as it does and to the degree that it does.  Though I don't necessarily need to explain every minute detail.  But if the math can be done, I'll do the math to make sure what I portray makes sense, so if a reader also does the math they won't discover a massive plot hole ;)

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#36

arashifufu Wrote: First I was surprised how many people were saying Hard. Now I realize that maybe my conception is wrong. How popular is soft magic anyway, if your definition is correct...? I certainly can't recall seeing many stories as vague as LOTR.



Well Star Wars also has a soft magic system. The Force is hella vague. lol Even if they tried to introduce the mediclorians, the fans rejected it strongly. To them, trying to explain the force in a hard magic sort of way destroyed the mystery and wonder of the Force. I, as much as I love hard magic systems, agreed with this position.

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#37
I prefer soft magic systems, the mystical nature of the power has charm however i think the author should always have somewhat of a harder magic system in mind when writing, even with soft magic systems a reader can tell when an author is breaking the rules of the world.

I do enjoy harder systems occasionally however these works of fiction often get too bogged down in their mechanics versus storytelling, also this is not to say having stats = bad but explaining how the system that gives said stats works almost always results in poorer fiction.

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#39

FAHyatt Wrote: In any case, its just an example of world building.  A lot of people try to write novels without any structure. One or two manage it. Most readers find unstructured literature flawed and to simplistic to hold their attention.  Some actually like fairy tale level stories, and seek them out. Different strokes.

I wouldn't quite call the likes of Star Wars "fairy-tale level stories". The magic being vague doesn't make the whole work "unstructured". 

Re: Hard Magic or Soft Magic Systems?

#40
I almost exclusively stay away from hard magic systems as past a certain point my complaint against hard sci-fi crops up where you're not so much telling a story as you are lecturing us on you dissertation. All I really need, and what I try to give my readers, is the feeling that there are consistent rules in play by the author. Spending too much time on "the rules" just kind of kills things for me and you lose that sense of wonder and or mysticism.