Ranting Dragon’s Favorite Magic System

Magic is probably the foundation of all things fantasy. It comes in many styles, systems, flavors, and colors. Some fantasy authors use detailed, almost science-like systems for their magic, while others leave their magic a mystery for all but their world’s most skilled wizards. That variety is a good thing, for everyone likes their magic differently.

This week, our team looks at these various magic systems. Here are our favorites:


Magic from The Dresden Files
By Garrett
The system from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files just has to make the list. There’s something about every practitioner being able to customize magic to fit themselves that really appeals. Harry Dresden’s magic is very fire and force-focused, with pseudo-Latin for his incantations, while Elaine Mallory likes electricity and uses Ancient Egyptian for incantations, and Carlos Ramirez prefers water and entropy magics based on natural physics, with a Aztec or Olmec base for incantation. And that’s just for starters.
Magic with words from Spellbound
By Janea
My favorite system is Blake Charlton’s system from Spellwright and Spellbound. I love language, so the idea of being able to do magic with words is particularly attractive. If only magic spells came with spellcheck, I’d be set! Unfortunately, I think I’d end up struggling with it a lot.
Chromaturgy from Black Prism
By Ashik
Chromaturgy allows drafters (Magic Users) to harness light of a particular color(s) and turn it into a physical substance called luxin. Blue luxin is hard and brittle, green is springy and strong, yellow highly unstable but extremely strong when drafted perfectly, and so on. Some people can draft more than one color, some can draft colors better based on their ability to perceive subtle shades of color. The entire society is built around a chromaturgical leadership and economy and its just damn cool.
Fire-and-Forget from The Forgotten Realms
By Dan
I’d actually have to go with the fire-and-forget magic system of the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting. In FR, practitioners memorize their spells at the start of the day, and once a spell is cast, it is gone until they have time to rest and prepare again. I enjoy it because it’s so very hard to actually write magic vs non-magic conflict in a way that isn’t just a phenomenal advantage to the magic-user. The ability to wait out the wizard until they’re out of spells without that old tired “final burst of energy” trope keeping the caster safe really levels the playing field and makes for interesting conflict.
The Force from Star Wars
By Rebecca
While there are many fascinating magic systems I’ve encountered over the years, the Force remains the one I constantly wish was real. It’s so versatile: you can use it for telekinesis, telepathy, brainwashing, healing, meditation, illusion, extrasensory perception, and more! I know I’m not the only one who often idly extends a hand, trying to flip a light switch or summon an object to hand from across the room, before lamenting the lack of the Force and getting up to do it the mundane way.


What’s your favorite magic system? Let us know in the comments below!

About Stephan van Velzen

Stephan van Velzen
A 29 year-old Communications student, Stephan loves publicity and design, particularly web design. When he’s not designing websites, he’s busy being a total geek for fantasy. In The Ranting Dragon, he has found a way to combine these passions and discover a new love for writing too. Most of all, though, Stephan is just a crazy Dutch guy who enjoys doing things that people don’t expect.

View all articles written by Stephan van Velzen.


  1. Hmm. Favorite.  Tough.  I like just about any magical system so long as it is logical.  I love magic that is based on or tied to music or magic that has color.  But I guess my favorite magic is that of Mother Earth, magic tied to herbs that is something a little bit more, that grows and speaks through a link to earth. 

  2. I also love the customization aspect of the Dresden File’s magic. The magic in Spellwright/Spell bound was interesting but fell kind of flat. I personally love all of Brandon Sanderson’s magic systems with Alomancy being my favorite. 

  3. I have to second the love of Alomancy, it has such creative and varied uses from such a rigid and understandable structure, but I also really liked the Gift from Tamora Pierce’s novels, something about the free form nature of assigning magical power to simply do things appeals to me, and the notion of undertaking a spell that unexpectedly latches onto you and sucks your life away gives magic users an appealing sense of self-sacrifice.

  4. I prefer magic systems to have a cost. In the Black Prism, the user slowly becomes more attuned to their color and sanity dribbles away, leaving them a crystalline abomination, of which I can only approve. Also, in NK Jemisin’s the Killing Moon, magic requires the soul essence of the dying to power their spells. A particularly interesting aspect of that book is that you’re not sure if this is positive energy released from the freedom of the soul or the spirit itself trapped for magic. Deliciously creepy.

  5. I like the magic system in the Kingkiller Chronicles. Straddles the line between science and mysticism pretty well, for my tastes. 

  6. I think the best magic system in fantasy novels is the Sunrunner/Sorcerer system in The Dragon Prince Series.

  7. Note to the Editor: Fire and Forget isn’t unique to Forgotten Realms, it’s a derivative of the magic system developed by Jack Vance in his Dying Earth books.


  8. Note to the Editor: Fire and Forget isn’t unique to Forgotten Realms, it’s a derivative of the magic system developed by Jack Vance in his Dying Earth books.


  9. My favorite magic system has to be the Talent in the Night Angel trilogy, though it is called many other things as well. Having different forms of magic from different societies and places, different schools of magic, drawing the magic from light, but you can use it for so many different thing. Mage fire, invisibility, to muffle your moves, to make yourself stronger, making hands of magic. It just appeals to me in a way that no other magic has yet to do.

  10. Great list – I’ll also like to add in the tried and used will and the word, where what matters most in the end is intent and concentration. Power does play a part, but people can learn to work around that. Examples out there include the Belgariad and other Eddings novels.

    Speaking of magic through words, there’s the Young Wizard series, with the use of a universal language in spell casting.

    But my favourite would be the magic system in the Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix. Both the Charter magic – ordered, uses sound and symbols along with actions to carry out a spell. And the wilder free magic – once again coming back to will and intent of the caster.

  11. I quite like the magic in Robert L Asprin’s Myth series…

    “Spellcasters use the power of ley-lines to focus them into spells, there are ley-lines for each element, and they only appear within said element. The two typical flavors of lines that spellcasters use are Earth ley-lines, and Air ley-lines, occuring along the ground that you walk on, and the air above your head.”

     “Places where ley-lines meet are called nodes. They don’t have to directly touch, although usually they do, but the power output from these places is equal to N times the additive combination of ley-lines touching. That is, if you have three ley-lines touching, the node will provide 3 times the total of the power you would receive from drawing power from all three of those ley-lines together.”  

    That’s a quote from a Myth Adventures game, but it’s a reasonable description of how magic works in the books.  The wizard focuses with his mind (psionics?) the energy from the world around (primarily leylines) into the magic they want to create.  

  12. Surprised no one has mentioned LeGuin’s magic in Wizard of Earthsea. I loved how everything had a ‘true’ name, and to know it was to have power over it.

  13. Nice list. I’m just now reading the Black Prism.

    I really loved the magic in the Lifeship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb. The wizardwood and it’s origin is though out really well.  

  14. Personal favorites are;
    – The magic of the wards from “The Warded Man”
    – Allomancy from “Mistborn”
    – Chromaturgy from “The black prism”

  15. I’m surprised you didn’t mention any of the following:
    The Wit and the Skill from the Farseer Trilogy (and others)
    Sympathy and Sygaldry from the Kingkiller Chronicle
    The One Power from the Wheel of Time
    Allomancy, Feruchemy and Hemalurgy from the Mistborn series

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