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What’s up, storytellers?

I’m Clark Rowenson, the magic engineer, and it’s time to talk about magic. Today, we’re revisiting a discussion from one of my livestreams. In a previous video, I gave an overview of magic system seed crystals. Now we’re going to dig a little deeper and talk about where to find your seed crystals.

When I’m working with people regarding their magic systems, the most important thing is always finding out the approach vector. Because I like magic systems so much, I can sit down and start working on a magic system. I can build a magic system in a vacuum. It doesn’t stay in a vacuum for long because it starts generating all kinds of other ideas about characters, plot, setting, and more. But I can just start with a magic system concept and go from there.

However, not everyone can do that. Thankfully, there are so many different places you can start when it comes to developing your magic system.

A high fantasy character wanders through an enchanted wood surrounded by magical fireflies in search of a seed crystal for a magic system.

It’s important to try out the different approaches to see what works for you. You may focus on one approach specifically and repeatedly, or you may need a different vector for a given story. It’s pretty simple to remember, because your approach vectors are basically the different elements of your story, plus a few other things. So, let’s dig into the different ways you can find seed crystals for your magic system.


Consulting with Subject Matter Experts

One option, and this is where we typically see a lot of the more rational and technical magic systems, is to consider speaking with an expert on a subject outside of writing. So, if you have somebody who is really into metallurgy or weaving or something to that effect, then they may be able to provide some degree of inspiration. We see this most often in worldbuilding because people tend to incorporate what they know into their story. But this can also be applied to magic systems.

For example, John Grisham is famous for his legal procedurals. He could take his expertise on the legal system and use that as a seed crystal for a magic system. He might create a magic system that allows “X,” but involves a specific aspect of the law.

It could evolve into a magic system where powers exist, but they’re also a death sentence and are only inflicted via court order as part of a trial punishment, or something like that. Or maybe, it’s the reverse. People would have to go through a trial proceeding and testing through the legal course to get a magic license and the power to do magic.

Grisham’s expertise on the subject could be applied in a lot of different ways. He focuses on putting it into the story, plot, and characters, but he could just as easily put it into a magic system. So, I encourage you to think about the things that you have a lot of expertise and knowledge in.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be your job either. These can be hobbies or things that you’re passionate about. You could potentially make a magic system that pivots around story structure, character arcs, or some aspect of writing or game design. There’s a lot that you can do.

Choosing an area of expertise to explore from a magic standpoint helps you with more than just the seed crystals when it comes down to it. When you’re getting into the definitions and restrictions, you’ll have that knowledge to fall back on. Your understanding of the topic will make for a better seed crystal because it will help guide the growth of your magic system.

A young apprentice learns from an older man with subject matter expertise regarding the creation of seed crystals for magic systems.

Transform Everyday Ideas into Seed Crystals

Another approach to finding magic system seed crystals is to evolve mundane, everyday concepts into something more: batteries for example.

In the case of the pharcanes, we started out pretty basic with magic being a new form of energy. We then took it a step further and specifically said that it is a form of quanta, which is a scientific unit of measure for different forms of energy. And that the magic is used for magical batteries. By doing that, it implies that the structure, rules, and patterns that apply to Quanta are likely also going to apply to this magic system.

It’s the same thing with batteries. We can look at the structure, pattern, and rules behind batteries and incorporate that into the magic system. This is a strong concept because it does a lot of work for us in terms of how things could potentially work. It sets us up really nicely for a rational magic system.

You can do that with anything. Think about the things that you know a lot about, the things that you’re good at, and how you might be able to use those in your magic system seed crystal.

Find the seed crystal for your magic system by taking everyday ideas and making them magical.

Blending Ideas to Find Magic Seed Crystals

The other thing you can do with seed crystals is combine the idea with something else. Remember that creativity is in the combination and distinction is in the details.

For example, if you take the Trimurti and combine it with something like the Wizard’s First Rule of the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, there’s additive magic and negative magic. You can take that concept and either further subdivide it and make it into something of yours or use it as a template and a source of ideas. Then you have the creative and the destructive, and preserving is a sort of third facet that you’re adding to it.

When you’re pitching it to people, you could say it’s inspired by the Hindu Trimurti forces of creation, preservation, and destruction. You can even add to that and say it’s like the magic in the Sword of Truth series with a third branch of preservation that nobody knew about.

Then you’re shifting even further over into story and character concepts. If you then turn that into a world where everybody has known about the creation and destruction branches, and the character discovers the third unknown branch of preservation, then you have the makings of a story.

A fantasy author works to combine mundane elements to create a magical system for his books.

That should get you started when it comes to figuring out your magic system seed. And, if you keep records of the different magic systems you’ve built, then as you build and evolve these systems, you can start combining your ideas and modifications into new systems and ideas, which is always a ton of fun.

Exploring Your New Magic Seed Crystal

I had a flash fiction story as part of a writing exercise with a writing group. I was given a nonsense word and we had to turn it into a real word and put it into our story. The word I was given was “gularray,” which didn’t make any sense. But my brain turned that into “ghoul array.” Then I had a very large array using cyber ghouls. So, they’re all equipped with sensors and then they will form themselves into a massive array to scan areas and communicate information.

Then, in a universe with cyberpunk and cybernetic elements in place, I could blend the ghoul array concept with the viral magic concept. I can also add in malware that is being spread around, blending the two genres and concepts. So, on one hand, you have cyberpunk with digital viruses that grant powers but have serious negative impacts on the user. Maybe it really amps up your powers, but also increases the chances of cyber psychosis.

That right there is just taking two seed crystals that I’ve had before and combining them together and pulling in a little bit from the Cyberpunk: Edgerunners show on Netflix. The combination makes for a very interesting new seed crystal for a whole new magic system, whole new story, whole new everything.

A magical fantasy writer examines her magic seed crystal for her book's magic system.

You can also take specific aspects from other pieces, like what I mentioned with what Marinen already had and then pulling in a little bit of extra from Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind to punch it up a little further.

When is Your Seed Crystal Good Enough?

To me, it’s very wishy-washy. I break things into concrete steps, but then I’m like, “Oh, it all depends,” which is not very helpful to a lot of people. So, when are you done with your seed crystal? It depends.

Seriously though, what really matters is if it is giving you ideas. If you’re stuck and you’re not sure what to do, or if the magic isn’t working or moving together, then you probably haven’t found your seed crystal yet. That just means you either need to keep tweaking it, or you need to step back and work on other parts of your story and try to find a different approach vector to your magic seed crystal.

An author stands in his magical world wondering if his magic seed crystal is strong enough to build a great magic system.

If you watch the Spells and Specialists series, any episode two, which is the first part on my channel, with any guest, we work on developing the seed crystal. If you pay attention, you’ll see the moment that the light flicks on in everybody’s eyes and we get really excited. That moment leads to more and more ideas.

That’s when I have to stop and say, “Okay, where we’re at now, we’ve found the seed crystal.” Otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this kind of conversation and building this kind of momentum. Then, BOOM, you’ve got it. Make sure it’s written down, make sure it’s recorded – and then you can move on.


I hope that helps you learn where to find seed crystals for your magic systems and gives you a better understanding of the seed crystal brainstorming process. Magic system seed crystals are an important part of building a magic system as well as worldbuilding and story development. You never know when inspiration will strike. Keep writing, and stay awesome.

If you need any help finding your magic system seed crystal or have questions that you’d like me to address in my live Q&A please let me know. Or, if you have other topics that you’d like me to cover live, feel free to fill out the forms.