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Adding Details to Viral Magic - Microscope

Welcome to Part 12 of
Building a Viral Magic System

Okay… where was I again? I just had it, and now it’s gone. Don’t you hate that? It had something to do with diseases. It’s not anything to do with Covid-19…

Oh Right! The Viral Magic System! Ignore what I was saying before.

Well, we recently broke the system, finding numerous ways to exploit or manipulate the magic to potentially story-wrecking levels. Then we worked together to repair the system where we could and apply emergency patches where we couldn’t (or didn’t want to). Last time we spent more time developing the story for the viral magic. Which means today we are adding details and polishing the magic.

I knew I’d get there, eventually.

This is exciting. If we’re looking at the adding details, then the magic system is extremely close to being finished. We will still need to iterate a few steps, but it’ll be pretty much done.

What we need to focus on today is exploring and defining the magical effects. More specifically, we will look at the Portal Strain where an individual can use puddles of their infected blood as mini wormholes. This will make a great example to work through because of the massive story-breaking potential… that and because it’s gross, fascinating, and I love it.

Because of how this system works, defining the effect also means we need to define the virus itself. We’ll discuss the nature of the virus first, before moving on to adding details to the magical effect and closing out this discussion by thinking through some special uses or tactics related to this power. 

Ready? I hope so, cause things are about to get gross.

The Portal Strain

Viral Details

As I mentioned before, individuals infected with the Portal Strain can teleport objects between patches of their infected blood. Let’s take a quick look at the symptoms, how long before symptoms appear (incubation period), and the average recovery timeline. 

*Note: these numbers and decisions  came from a combination of variable analysis, boundary conditions development, and research that we won’t go into here.*


  • Extreme fatigue and lethargy 
  • Open, bleeding sores on arms and legs 
  • Abdominal pain and cramps.

Incubation Period: 

  • Averages 7-9 weeks to spread through the body and tune to the host. 
  • The virus can survive up to 6-10 days outside the body in proper environmental conditions.


  • The ability to create blood portals only exists, on average, for 4-6 days 
  • It takes an average of 1-2 months to recover from the virus
  • Until fully recovered, flareups in symptoms and magic can occur

Adding Details to the Magic Effect

Now you understand the details of how the virus behaves like a virus. Now let’s look at adding details to how this magical effect works and what it can do. When we broke the viral magic system, we found several ways this strain could break the magic system without further limitations. We discussed solutions when we tried to fix the viral magic; here is where you will see those solutions in play.

fixing the viral magic

General Details

  • There must be two smears or pools of infected blood.
  • They must be free-standing pools of blood, it cannot be absorbed in dirt or cloth.
  • Objects dropped, pushed, or thrown through one patch of blood exit the other.
  • Velocity and direction of teleported objects remain constant relative to the surface of the portals.
  • If there are multiple patches of blood (3+), the user must touch the puddle an object enters to determine which puddle it exits.

What blood can be used?

  • Only blood infected by the Portal Strain will work.
  • The blood must contain sufficient parts per billion virus particles to activate a portal.
  • Diluting the blood can disrupt the strain’s ability to create portals.
  • Blood of connecting portals must all be from the same individual.
  • Blood can be chilled or frozen, but this decreases how long the portals function.

What and how much can pass through the portal?

  • Any kind of material can pass through a portal (though liquids are tricky).
  • Like a normal door, the portal must be larger than the object being passed through.
  • Blood from the portal will coat the object that moves through, causing the portal to shrink as more matter is transferred.
  • Blood is pulled from both sides of the portal to coat an object, thereby doubling the amount of blood it would otherwise take to coat an object.
  • When blood runs out, the portal closes and anything partway through is cut in two.
  • Any object already coated in blood (does not have to be infected) will not shrink the portals

What’s the effective range and duration of the portals?

  • The distance is theoretically unlimited.
  • Infected blood can only maintain portals for 24 hours.

Congratulations. You now know 90% of how this portion of the viral magic system works. 

With these rules in place, we have resolved many of the major problems. Take the travel distance, for example. While the distance is theoretically unlimited, the limited duration of the portals a person can only teleport as far as they can travel in a single day. 

There are still ways to abuse this system, which is actually the last thing I want to discuss.

Abusing the Portal Strain

Even with these limitations in place, there are lots of things a clever or terrible character can do to get the most of the magic.

The easiest is storing the blood for later use. Drawing blood consistently over the duration of the illness, a character could preserve a rather large amount of blood. With enough blood, larger portals could be created further apart, allowing for some amazing things. 

Hell, you could mail your blood to someone else and have them create the output portal for you. The only downside is that portals from preserved blood go inert faster than those made with fresh blood.

Another potential abuse of the system is far more devious. A terrible character could kidnap or collect many people, infect them with the virus, and then drain the blood for their own purposes. Under the correct treatment and conditions, infected prisoners could provide sufficiently infected blood for months. Should a host recover or die, it becomes a simple matter of infecting someone else.

This “Peasant Farming,” for lack of a better term, is the most effective way of abusing the power provided by the Portal strain. Hey, don’t look at me like that. I said it was something a terrible character would do.

Totally not a picture of me last Thursday… I swear

My point is, as powerful and dangerous as these tactics can be, I don’t consider them breaks in the system. I’m okay with them because of the level of effort they would take to achieve. To me, the difference between a broken system and a clever tactic is all about how easy it is to perform a powerful effect.

Those Are the Details of the Portal Strain

I know we didn’t get into the specifics of how I developed these details, but that’s all we have time for. If you want more processes to follow, I recommend picking up a copy of Restrictions May Apply: Building Limits for Your Magic. I filled this workbook with exercises and examples that should help you dig into the nitty-gritty of your magic effects.

Plus, by purchasing a copy of the workbook, you’re helping me cover the expenses of this site and take another step forward in my writing career. Thanks so much for stopping by and we’ll talk again soon. Rowenson, out.

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