I’m not a fan of (superpower) magic and pretty much only read fantasy with low/soft magic at most. The “magic” in my world is just the gods’ natural abilities, which the gods may allow exceptionally devout human to use provisionally and can take it away at any time for any reason. The gods/abilities are intertwined with a particular religion, but the religion is practically dead with only a handful of believers in the world at the current time.
As I mentioned, I don’t particularly enjoy reading about characters using magic or having magic battles, but I do like worldbuilding intricacies from a technical/academic view. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell had a good amount of magic, but I loved how (at least initially) magic was more of academic field of study and not something people used for Harry Potter battles or flying around shooting lightning from one hand with a magic sword in the other. If I have/introduce a system that could be used for more superpower uses, does it have to be used a la Chekhov’s Gun?
Going back to my system, the religion has a military-like hierarchy with the 4 gods at the top and 27 general “nature spirits” at the bottom (cf Generals and Privates). The spirits have different ranks according to their power/ability. A devout human can be granted “authority” over the spirits and command them depending on their devotion/deeds/sacrifices/etc. If a human has like Level 2 authority, they can command a Level 1 spirit (eg wind spirit) by simply saying it’s name (eg Kevoth) and the spirit has to obey. This happens only a handful of times in Book 1 and usually just for demonstrative purposes (ie not for air bender battles). I’ve thought about making this more intricate with even more potential, but I’m concerned that I would then be obligated to have it used, if not showcased.
For example, there’s a wind spirit and a fire spirit. If the devout human says the name of the wind spirit (Kevoth), the wind will blow, and saying the name of the fire spirit makes fire appear. I’m thinking that if the human says both names, essentially combining them (cf Charizard using Flame Thrower and Pidgeotto using Gust together) that might create like a fire tornado or something. I don’t mind having a magical fire tornado, but if I introduce the possibility of a more complex magic system do I need to have it brought up again and be used essentially as a tool whenever necessary? If I show Wind+Fire, does that mean eventually I have to show Wind+Fire+Stone to like have fiery meteors fall from the sky? Of course I could give magic-system rules as to why the character can’t do that at the time, but I feel that’s bringing even more attention to the magic system and it’s uses.
Originally my trilogy was going to have absolutely zero magic (besides the gods themselves), but reading The Name of the Wind gave me an idea of how to add some magic with the religious hierarchy I had already established. I really like the idea of having a technical system with like ranking the spirits and how combining them would create different effects kinda like using different ingredients in cooking, but I don’t want to have it actually being used (to any significant effect) in the books—especially in a superpower sort of way. Maybe if a character has to sneak in somewhere and avoid cameras, he’ll command the light spirt to bend the (visible) light around him so he’s practically invisible to the cameras, but I’m worried that’s a slippery slope. One possible solution is that as the humans authority is provisionally granted by the gods, if a god doesn’t agree with how the human is using it or it goes against the god’s will, then the god can take away the humans authority and saying the spirit’s name all day won’t do anything, but that might not be the best solution.
Can I have a moment or two of a more complex magic system without it really being (fully) utilized (eg Batman’s Bat Backup thing never being used/seen again) or should I leave it out of the books and just keep it in my worldbuilding notes?