Tag Archives: magic

Basic Types of Magic

 by Andy Peloquin


One of the most common elements in fantasy novels is magic. Just as technology is what drives many sci-fi novel plots, so too magic is the driving force behind many fantasy stories. But the truth is that there are SO MANY different types of magic to use.

Below is a rough “guide to magic types”, based on my experience reading and writing stories involving magic. Each universe/novel can have their own rules to follow, but this is a general outline of some of the more popular types of magic to use:

Mage – Mages tend to fall into the category of “scholars”. Most mages belong to an order or scholastic organization that trains them to use magic. The sort of magic used by magic may be innate (within them), or they could use magic that comes from the world around them. They may also be able to use talismans and other magic-imbued items. Mages usually use spells, cantrips, and incantations to access magic.

Wizard – Wizards also tend to belong the “scholar” category, but their magic is often far less academic. Some wizards will use books to learn their wizardry, but many will have access to it innately or instinctively. They tend to have an inner wisdom that grants them access to magic, and often are talented in wizardry. Study and practice can hone the talents, but wizards often inherit or acquire magic from outside sources.

Sorcerer – Sorcerers almost exclusively use innate/inner magic, which comes from within them. Sorcery tends to be more “soul magic”, meaning sorcerers control the magic using their internal power. Sorcery is also more instinctive. It can be honed, but the power is usually connected to the power of their soul. Some sorcerers also have instinctive access to the magic in the world.

Cleric – Clerics are given access to divine powers, which come from their particular god or goddess. They may rely on religious talismans, or they may access the divine powers using a spell or ritual. Clerics belong to a religious order or sect, and they are almost always priests (or paladins).

Druid – Druids, like the druids of ancient England, tend to rely on the powers of earth, stone, wood, wind, fire, and other forces/objects of nature. They may have knowledge of lore, herbal medicines, and the hidden properties of plants and herbs. However, their magic is almost always connected to nature.

Alchemist – Alchemists are like “magical scientists”. They may use magic to transmute liquids and solids, or they can create new substances with magical-like properties. A great deal of alchemy is based on modern science, though with a distinct “fantastical” twist to it.

Remember, there are exceptions to every rule. These are the “broad strokes” categories of magic, but the rules aren’t hard and fast. Every fantasy author will use their own take on magic, including the means of accessing it, the cost of using it, and the origin of the magic used.


You can check out Andy’s books here.

The Science of Magic in Fantasy

by Andy Peloquin

The Flying Carpet (1880)
by Viktor Vasnetsov


We’ve all read books where magic is used as a tool to accomplish the impossible. The hero finds himself in peril or the heroine is confronted with insurmountable odds, and magic saves the day!

What rubbish. That sort of magic is unbelievable, not to mention lazy. To be realistic, magic has to be more of a science.

In truth, magic is sort of a pseudoscience. Well-crafted magic systems have their own very clear rules. For example, take Brandon Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic:

  1. An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.

  2. The limitations of a magic system are more interesting than its capabilities. What the magic can’t do is more interesting than what it can.

  3. “A brilliant magic system for a book is less often one with a thousand different powers and abilities — and is more often a magic system with relatively few powers that the author has considered in depth.”

Magic varies from book to book. What one fantasy author writes may be disdained by another. But a well-presented magic system is as clearly-defined (at least in the author’s mind) as the laws of gravity. If X happens, Y is always the reaction. Combine X and Y, and Z will always happen. There is a certain raw, elemental force to magic, but just like fire, water, air, and gravity, it must be understood in order for it to be effective.

As readers, we’re being asked by the author to suspend disbelief long enough to believe that magic exists. Fair enough, right? It’s why we love fantasy in the first place. But if the author doesn’t give us a sort of magic we can wrap our head around, it’s TOO unbelievable.

We may not understand how the magic works, but we have to understand how the magic works! Sounds silly, but let me explain:

  1. We don’t understand how the magic works – We don’t know where magic comes from. It could be wild magic from the earth, innate sorcerous abilities, mutant powers, or any number of magical sources. Seeing as we don’t have access to that magic, we don’t really know how the magic works. We just know that it does because the author has told us it does.

  2. We have to understand how the magic works – We have to know that when the mage waggles his fingers just so, it’s channeling magic from his mind, from the earth, from his deity, or from some talisman. We may not understand exactly where the magic comes from or how the person taps into it, but we understand their struggle with it, their limitations, their abilities, and their strengths and weaknesses.

It’s easy for an author to say, “Magic works” and trust that we’ll accept it. But that’s not the case! Magic needs to be as well-defined as the science of the world we’re reading. Just like we know that “what goes up must come down”, so too there have to be constants in the magic systems, something we can wrap our minds around. The more defined, the easier it is to suspend disbelief of what we know to buy into the premise of “magic”.


Check out Andy Peloquin’s books here.

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