Fantasy 101: Balance (Magic and Abilities)

In this post, we are going to talk about balance when it comes to the magic and abilities of your fantasy characters.

There are a surprising number of fantasy characters that can accomplish literally anything that their creator has thought up of for their journey. The character is up against an evil entity and this entity had managed to lay waste to all other characters in the book, while the main character doesn’t get a scratch? A character that single-handedly lays waste to a whole army made up of hundreds of thousands of soldiers without lifting a finger? These examples might be overly exaggerated, but I think you get the point.

These stories often leaves the reader dissatisfied because everything is handed to the hero. What is the point in reading a story like that, where the hero doesn’t grow as a person? This is where balance comes in. For every amazing ability that a hero is given by their creator, the ability should have some sort of disadvantage that makes the hero think twice about using the awesome ability.

Here is an example: Imagine that you have written a book where the hero is able to manipulate water to attacks their opponents. Pretty cool ability, right? The obvious way to use the ability would be to have the hero able to create the water attacks from the moisture in the air, or from a water source such as a lake. There isn’t much that would need to be balanced, and people might be expecting it. Readers would not expect a hero whom uses their own body’s water for their attacks. What if every time the hero uses one of their water-based attacks, the hero becomes more dehydrated? They could begin to show signs of dehydration, which could be lead to death if not kept in check.

Another example: Your hero could have the ability to manipulate electricity and lightning. Many heroes could use this element without bringing harm to themselves. What if the hero ended up with their heart stopped every time they use their electricity ability? What if the more they use this ability, the longer their heart stopped, which could cause bodily injury such as internal and external burns, even death? The hero would be less likely to use this ability, except in dire situations.

As you can see, having a balance with the character’s abilities could bring another element to your stories to increase your options through each chapter. That is all for the moment. We hope that this lesson has been good for you! Have fun crafting your stories!

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Dungeons & Dragons Cards?

Hi! My name is Will and I am currently working on a fantasy novel that is nowhere near finished! This thread is about one of the sets of items that I use when I am stuck trying to come up with abilities and monsters for my novel.

As the post title suggests, it is the “Dungeons & Dragons” cards! Now, I do not play the card game, nor do I even know how to. I still collect them for the amazing graphics and inspiration they give me for my own stories. I’ll tell you how I use them.

First off, I have the cards all separated by sorcery and enchantment, land, creatures, heroes, and artifacts. I cannot use the names or anything else on the cards outright, as that would be plagiarism. Plagiarism is bad! You could get into all sorts of legal issues with plagiarism, but I doubt I have to tell you that! As I said, though, I do use these for inspiration. How, you ask?

If I need a creature for a battle, I try not to use the usual suspects such as goblins or dragons. Can you say ‘snore fest’? What brings the creature alive for your story is if there is something interesting about the creature in the first place. One thing you can do is to shuffle the creature cards as best as you can. If you are starting out with a basic creature, say, a goblin for example, you can draw one card. What kind of card is it? Is it an undead swamp creature? Some kind of bird creature? Is there anything to the card you had drawn that could be added onto the goblin? A body part such as talons? An ability such as invisibility? Putting both of those things together into your creature could make the battle even more difficult for your heroes. What if there is a horde of them? How could your characters get out of that situation?

I suppose this could work for the creature as well, but for the abilities and magic, I roll a six-sided dice (6d for you RPGers out there) and depending on the number of dots, I choose that many cards from the top of the stack. Look at each card carefully. You would be surprised by how many cards complement each other to make a cohesive creature as a whole. For my own goblins’ abilities, I had drawn two Illusion creatures and the Chronic Flood card. What did I do to use these cards for inspiration? First off, the goblins in my world were never supposed to use magic. They find a gemstone with magical properties which can delve into the mind of their opponents to simulate them using magic. One of my characters thinks that he is caught within a body of water (Chronic Flood) while the illusionary creatures attack him. The result? The main character thinks that all of this stuff is happening to him and he ends up collapsing due to not breathing. Why is this important? In retrospect, he was not in any danger from these “goblin mages”.

The lesson for today? If you are stuck on a story, look around you and you will be amazed by what you find that can help you with your fiction! I do hope you will find this strategy positive in everything that you do. Give it a try and see what you can come up with!