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Don has been a royal pain to Harry, who just so happens to be an aspiring magician, and decides to get some of his own back: he casts a curse of bad luck! Now whenever Donald rolls dice, draws cards, or does any other luck-based activity, he gets the worst result possible.

But, he loves playing poker, so he thinks of a clever way to beat the system: Before looking at their hands, he swaps with a random player! Now someone else will get his bad luck. Or will they?

Let's say that his bad luck can't be defeated or evaded. Even after swapping cards, he still always has the worst hand. But this means that the spell can somehow know that he is going to exchange hands, rather than just ensuring he gets dealt a bad one. Additionally, immediate bad luck trumps later good luck - so if he runs to catch a bus, he'll miss it, even if that bus would crash 10 minutes later.

Magic works according to specific rules, and is definitely not conscious or self aware, so how is it able to ensure his luck is bad regardless of what he does to avoid it?

Currently, the only thing I can think of is some sort of reverse causality - that whenever something good happens, the luck spell causes that to not have happened. But, that's getting into time travel, which is really messy. Can anyone think of a way to implement this spell so that it is something an apprentice magician could cast, rather than something powerful and complicated? I want the world to be very similar to ours, which means magicians can't be too powerful.

Edit: To clarify what I am asking.

For a spell to cause bad luck to someone, it needs to know the difference between a "good" and "bad" outcome. This is easy to test once the outcome has happened - just check, "is target happy?" yes = good, no = bad.

The problem is, that it needs to know this before the outcome happens. So it needs to be able to determine if a future event is good or bad. Which means it either needs to be able to send a signal back in time or be able to model the world accurately enough to form a solid prediction, which is effectively precognition. Either of these are incredibly powerful effects, which would have a huge impact on the world. Lotteries would go out of business, election outcomes would be known in advance, wars would come down to who has the best precog rather than the best army... all in all, it would cause huge changes.

I don't want this; I want a world that looks pretty much the same as ours, except that, lurking in the shadows, are a small number of people with magic powers, who can cause supernatural good/bad luck, but are sufficiently un-powerful as to have a minimal impact on the rest of the world.

The problem I am trying to solve is, how can a magic spell know that a specific nudge will cause a good or bad outcome, without being sentient, or able to see the future?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by JBH, Culyx, Azuaron, Bellerophon, L.Dutch Mar 8 '18 at 18:17

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I've voted to close this question as unclear what you're asking because you've not provided us with any background information. What are the rules of your magic system? What is the cost to the spell caster? Is magic godlike, meaning anything can be affected, or does it have limits? This is important because you've asked for a dichotomy: you want to change one of the most powerful non-forces in the universe (random chance) and you want a weak magician to do it. We need information about your world to give you an answer in the context of your world. If you provide this info I'll remove my vote. $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 8 '18 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ This is actually a fun question, but hard to phrase for this site. The bad luck in the poker hand continues...bad luck does not imply the cards he got dealt are the bad cards, it implies the ones he picked up are the bad ones. IE the time he is compelled to switch cards, he switches his great cards dealt with him with someone who was dealt horrible cards...the times he is compelled to keep his own cards are the times he was dealt horrible cards. In this case, he is 'compelled' or influenced to choose the bad cards, not that any hand was/always is dealt bad cards. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Mar 8 '18 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH I'm actually pretty much asking the same as you - what kind of rules does my magic system need in order to allow a weak magician to change one of the most powerful non-forces in the universe? I have the same intuition as you, that is's a dichotomy that is difficult to solve - which is why I'm posting asking for ideas how to resolve it. $\endgroup$ – Benubird Mar 9 '18 at 9:58
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Your luck spell doesn't actually effect causality, it simply gives psychological nudges at just the right moments, whilst knowing the immediate outcomes of various, predictable scenarios.

If Don is considering swapping hands with another player, the spell will nudge him towards making the decision if he would come out worse from it, and against it if he would come out better. If he throws a pair of dice, he may have a slight muscle spasm at just the right moment to cause the dice to start their predictable journey through physics at the point that gives him the worst result.

If he is intending to catch the bus, all that needs to happen is for a number of inconveniences to occur before hand. He accidentally fumbles his keys when going to lock his door, or subconsciously slows his gait so that he takes a little longer to get to the traffic lights meaning they change at just the wrong time, forcing him to wait a full cycle.

None of these things require anything other than to predict the logical result of an action. In some cases the logic may be complicated (such as simulating a throw of the dice to find just the wrong point to release them) but that just requires the processing power of a computer, not time travel.

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Bad luck is bad luck, so if Don decides to swap the cards, it will be the worst possible person to try and get the cards from-- maybe a cousin of the local Mafia boss? The cards swapping result would be a night spent in the gutter beat up to within the inch of his life. And without the shoes...

That wouldn't require the luck to 'know' what all the player's hands would be. You don't need to worry about that, just think of the worst possible outcome of the situation Don put himself in because of his actions.

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