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A classical trope in writing (and, unfortunately, history) is that regular people are out to kill magicians, so the magicians have to run and hide (operate "in secret").

Practically, why would a group of people with crazy powers be forced to operate in secret? I'd imagine that they'd show up to the first ruler with their broomstick and show them that they can do better intelligence or special operations than anyone else.

The king tries killing them? They're wizards - blow the palace up and fly away!

Especially if they have powers like invisibility or infinite armor.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, L.Dutch, Secespitus, sphennings, HopelessN00b Mar 16 '18 at 19:23

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ It may be interesting to parallel ask on history (what were those medieval people thinking that they can fight real magic? They'd get blown to bits if they met a squad of modern marines, let alone what they thought they're up against) $\endgroup$ – magician Mar 15 '18 at 23:39
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    $\begingroup$ Traditional wizards are not Lord Voldemort-level invincible creatures. Even if they can effectively fight against armed men, they are still vulnerable and rather keep their magic secret. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Mar 15 '18 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree with your whole premise. From David Copperfield to your local TV tarot card reader, going through preachers, bishops, shamans and mythical figures such as Merlin or the roman sibiles you'll find that pretty much every wizard, mage or sage that ever was did not operate in secret at all. Many kings and other rulers had their cohort of astrologers. And all of this, without even been able to perform actual magic! A real wizard would be a celebrity, with hordes of people wanting to ask for his favour. Sure, there was that thing called "witch trials", but it wasn't related to magic at all $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Mar 16 '18 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Rekesoft "pretty much every wizard, mage or sage that ever was did not operate in secret at all" How can you know if you can't know the number of wizards etc. which remained secret? $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ As an aside to @Alexander's point, even if the wizard could hold their own against armed men, it doesn't mean they want to. Regular people are often anti-magic, because they fear the unknown, see it as challenging God, etc... However, a wizard may be peaceful and have morals/ethics. Just because he is feared (perhaps irrationally), doesn't mean he wants to hurt those after him. $\endgroup$ – Broots Waymb Mar 16 '18 at 13:49

11 Answers 11

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Ever see a nature film?

If you look, you can find a variety of videos involving small but numerous attackers defeating a larger, more powerful, foe. Fire ants are a great example. If your villagers significantly outnumber your wizard(s), then the wizard can be defeated. Eventually. Or overwhelmed. Sure, the casualties will be high. But if it stops the wizard from taking over the world, then isn't it worth it (in the humans' minds)?

Limits!

The wizard must, eventually, sleep. That's a period of vulnerability. Or when your wizard runs out of spells or spell ingredients or whatever, then they become vulnerable. Yes, they might can lay waste to entire towns at their peak, but no one is at their peak 100% of the time.

Murderers?

Maybe not all wizards are okay with destroying tens or hundreds of sad, unwizardly, civilians. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. They probably have friends and/or family in that village, after all...

Long view

Wizards are, generally, viewed as smarter than average. They know that if any one wizard destroys a village (even in self defense), the other villages will find out. And they will go on a (pardon the intentional pun) witch hunt.

Everything-Proof

As a kid, I often played pretend games. When those games involved conflict, inevitably, someone would start the weapons/armor arms race. "I have a bullet-proof shield!" 'Oh yeah? I have armor-piercing bullets!' "Well, I have..." until, eventually, the fun would stop at "Well, my armor is everything-proof!" or some variation on infinity. Your wizards have defenses of various magical sorts. But all it takes is one lucky person with a good English long bow (or sniper rifle or whatever your genre allows) who gets off a shot as your defenses fall. Or one non-wizard who finds out that salt or holy water or something will let their lead arrow-head pierce that shield spell.

Once a weakness is found, it will be exploited.

Long Odds

See also literally every alien invasion movie ever -- the aliens are always superior to us in at least one or two ways. But we overcome them through determination, luck, numbers, or some other means. Wizards are smart, they know that humans can often prevail against long odds.

Okay, many of those are improbable. But if you have thousands of humans to throw at a wizard, even a one in a thousand chance of winning will, eventually, play out.

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    $\begingroup$ "If you look, you can find a variety of videos involving small but numerous attackers defeating a larger, more powerful, foe. Fire ants are a great example. If your villagers significantly outnumber your wizard(s), then the wizard can be defeated. Eventually." Well, assuming ordinary folks are the fire ants and wizards being their prey. Now image the wizards are the humans in that scenario, with all their technology to kill of many fireants and the ants don't even know what hit them. Sure, from time to time they might get a human, but in the overall case, humans win. $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 9:10
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    $\begingroup$ @SK19: we have all the technology kill mosquitos, and yet there are still thousands of them, and one bite can immobilise or even kill a human. Malaria is still a huge, huge problem even though we have defence against it (antiparasitics) and an offensive option (kill all the buzzing things) $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Mar 16 '18 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ The alpha predator can succeed against the smaller foes in any one-on-one engagement. But when it's a thousand on one, then the alpha predator will not succeed. Sure, they'll take many foes with them, but they'll eventually be overwhelmed. $\endgroup$ – CaM Mar 16 '18 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Good counterexample. However, I think the main reason we don't kill mosquitoes seems to be that we don't want to mess our eco system up. On the other hand, I don't believe many humans (wizards or not) see other humans as part of the eco system. Also somehow I feel the wizards are the mosquitoes here $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ @CaM My point is that the smaller foes are finished at the point where the alpha predator group up $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 13:27
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1. The traditional answer: crazy powers are not all

The usual answer - for vampires, werewolves, Illuminati etc. - is that if the normal humans knew of this minority, they would blame them for every weird thing, and/or attempt to enslave and exploit them, and/or engage in racial cleansing -- and numbers will trump power every time: crazy powers are not all.

This is obviously often, but not necessarily, true - for a real life example see the conquistadores in Mesoamerica. They were a powerful minority, and they still defeated the warlike Mexica by exploiting their limits, divisions and beliefs, with the help of their crazy gunpowder powers.

Magic users are uniquely suited to do much worse, and, being still human, I don't think they would be satisfied with "living and letting live".

So the choice would be between living hidden like rats, cowering in fear of discovery, while Muggles grow more and more powerful and technically savvy, or coming out to a war of extinction. Not an occasional castle-blowing, but WW III.

A third option, the best of a very bad lot, is: strike first, strike hard, leave no survivors.

A magically enhanced plague would be my immediate choice - a few small modifications to some of the nastiest variants of variola maior to keep it slowly replicating, infective, yet completely asymptomatic for some months - then become virulent all over the world in the same instant, killing Muggles swiftly through systemic shock (or a brain haemorrhage). This would almost certainly defuse any nuclear threat, leaving a few days for prepared teams of magical engineers to safely shutdown power plants, stop trains, drain dams, pulverize wandering planes while still on autopilot, and prevent other kinds of accidents.

"A minority of powerful human Hogwarts-style wizards" == "Black Death apocalypse" (details may vary). So - why hasn't it happened (yet)?

2. A different answer: crazy powers are crazier than you thought

Especially if they have powers like invisibility or infinite armor.

That might be the point. They might not have - that, or anything else. Magic might turn out to be a weird quantum phenomenon that does not survive skepticism.

The need for a Magic Academy arises from the necessity of teaching young children to believe in magic while they're young, lest their magic disappear - which is what happens usually to Muggles.

At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
- - W. Wordsworth

Once the belief has taken roots, the children will grow able to perform magic - provided they are in sight only of other magic believers.

But let one Muggle witness the scene, and think to himself "Hey, what's that weirdo attempting to do? Doesn't he know brooms don't fly?" - and the broom won't fly, the Elven gold will become rotten leaves. That's the reason for the warnings in the old tales about not opening boxes and doors, and not looking at magic being performed. Just like faith moves mountains, so lack of faith makes them collapse.

So the magic users, if they want to reap the benefits of magic (and they do), must perforce live that part of their life in utter secrecy.

Most magicked items and effects will survive Muggle skepticism, provided they have a mundane explanation. Unfortunately, the readiest explanation for large amounts of money and trinkets is grand theft or drug dealing, so while a magic user will be able to live the good life, he must be very careful and is thus not free to use his magic to the fullest, except in private.


This is shamelessly "inspired" from David Brin's Those Eyes!, wherein the magic/alien/elves cannot abide human skepticism.

Three of those young faces still exhibit rapture as they stand uncritical, accepting. But the fourth — a gangling child-woman — casts another kind of glow. As she rouses, her eyes narrow, and her mouth forms words. Tapped into her mind, I sense her effort to see. To really see.

"What am I staring at? Why... it looks transparent, as if it isn't really there at -"

"Flee!" Fyrfalcon screams, as we are blinded by that deadly gaze. [...]

By now those teenagers are rubbing their eyes, already convinced we were hallucinations. That is what happens when humans see us with skepticism. Now we blow away like leaves, like wisps of shredded dreams.

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  • $\begingroup$ @SK19 good point. Of course I should have phrased it differently. Amending answer $\endgroup$ – LSerni Mar 16 '18 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ Comment integrated in answer. I love a working system :D $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 9:06
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    $\begingroup$ This is a fascinating concept, but I can't help but see this version of 'magic'/'wizards' as a glorified club for extremely imaginative RPers :P $\endgroup$ – votbear Mar 16 '18 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ @votbear I've tried to address this concern. The skeptic effect only affects the performance of magic, not necessarily its effects. Skeptic enquiry of your magicked gold will not turn it to rotten leaves, it will just get you investigated for theft (and possibly kidnapped by the local crime lords for debriefing). $\endgroup$ – LSerni Mar 16 '18 at 12:43
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Usually the reasons fall into the following categories:

Small Numbers

The total number of magicians is typically very low compared to the mundane population. Yes, a powerful magician might be able to dominate a small town but that's one person against thousands. They might still need to eat and sleep, making them vulnerable to poison and guns.

Low Power on Average

Some magicians might be able to cast invisibility or infinite armor, but can they all? Looking at general abilities in a mundane population in comparison would suggest that not everyone has the same running ability as Usain Bolt or the physique of Dwayne 'the Rock' Johnson. Chances are your average magician can't cast those spells, making them a lot more vulnerable.

Exhaustion

Most spells in fiction require some form of energy to cast and/or maintain. This means magicians can be exhausted after constant spell use. The wise magician knows that inciting mobs of mundane humans to come after them will probably lead to an end like a stag being run down by a pack of wolves.

Disdain

They might view mundane humans as lesser folk, in a Harry Potter pureblood way. Why would they want to mingle with the unwashed masses when they could exist in communities of their own kind? In these places, they could study and trade relevant information and establish a communal defence.

Fear

Miracle workers tend to be sought after, used and abused. It's a common trope in stories about mutants, psychics, superpowered beings, and so on, and it should be the same for magicians. Governments and other wealthy individuals would send out teams to kidnap ordinary magicians to gain those powers for their own use.

A combination of any and all of these reasons would make magicians keep to the shadows, no matter how powerful an individual might be.

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Magicians are the Other.

http://motlc.wiesenthal.com/site/pp.asp?c=gvKVLcMVIuG&b=394893

Moreover, we do not know to this day which devil has brought them (Jews) here...like a plague, pestilence, pure misfortune in our country." Martin Luther, About the Jews and Their Lies,

Jewish communities existed continuously in Europe for over 2,000 years. Many of these communities were older than the countries in which they existed. Nevertheless, as the countries of Europe developed, Jews were rarely given complete citizenship status. At best they were tolerated as guests. Their social and religious distinctiveness made them persistent targets for persecution; and such persecution, in turn, intensified the cohesiveness of Jewish communities.

Like your magicians, European Jews had a lot to offer and did offer - urban jews were often literate, educated professionals who contributed much to the communities they were in. They were still hated. I once thought that they were hated because they were economically well off but the same Europeans who hated jews also hated gypsies, who were poor and disadvantaged.

Both groups were hated because they were recognizably different, and because the members of the groups embraced those differences. Hating "the Other" reinforces cultural solidarity among the people doing the hating, a principle which unfortunately is still strong in modern societies. Hate can be a unifying force.

So too your magicians. They are recognizably magicians. Despite their power and potential to be helpful, they are hated as "the other".

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I'd imagine that they'd show up to the first ruler with their broomstick and show them that they can do better intelligence or special operations than anyone else.

Funny. If that would work for people, our governments would be run by scientists instead of people which most powerful weapon is phrasing things and dodging questions.

But aside from that, there are several reasons why magicians would not do that. Which apply depends on the setting and working of magic.

Examples

  • Having magicians leading because of their power just reeks of power abuse against the non magical citizens as it can be seen in many dictatorships on our world already. A notable example from fiction is Magnostadt with Mogamett as its ruler from the manga Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. In fact, the history of Mogametts rise to power is very exciting and I can only encourage you to read this arc of the manga. Especially since he basically answers your question "why would magicians be scared of regular people?" with "Yeah, why exactly?".
  • If it is usual for magicians to blow up castles without a sweat (which is not the case in the aforementioned manga), then they are very powerful. If two magicians of that power level battle, they could lay waste to a small country. It's worse if they are on a Sorcerer power level, two of them fighting may be an extinction event. On that case, you may look into chapter 20 of Supernormal Step. (Note Supernormal Step has nothing to do with Disc World, I merely used Sorcerers as an example for power level "there is nearly nothing he can't do", which is basically the premises in the chapter.)
  • If you are willing to say that two wizards would never get into a fight, you would imply a serious constriction on their mindset. This is unrealistic for humans, you may as well have AIs which "magically" let their nanobots do what they want, "for the best of humanity" of course. Powerful "it's for your best" beings have been observed in fiction and sometimes reality. Notable examples are the robots of Asimov, best known for I, robot, and an omnibenelovent God. We know that both didn't seem to work out optimal.
  • So let's assume wizards are just like normal people but with an additional power set. It is really important how this power set is defined to work out how society would react on it. For example, if you say the power set (or magic or whatever) manifests in each person differently but still feels like magic, you get Fairy Tail. There is a Magic Council as some sort of parallel government to the worldly governments in a way the church is for us. However, in the course of the manga, they fail miserably on several occasions and are played because, well, they are just humans. Later in the manga there is also the Alvarez Empire, filled with very powerful magicians who just invade other countries when their leader says so.
  • Now if you say "Okay, magic as a power set doesn't needs to be so flashy and magic-ly." you get My Hero Academia. In this world, almost anyone possesses some specific kind of magic (it's called "Quirk" there, but it's all handwavium, so who cares?). In this manga the history of how people learned to deal with these new appearing quirks is told: Basically, since the magic wasn't OP (well, not all of it) the government was able to handle it. As almost all people got a quirk, they institutionalized it (the title of the manga is not just for show). Got a quirk? Only use it if authorized, or you are a criminal and will be hunted down by our licensed heroes! The main enemy in this series are mafioso and organized crime that uses their quirks to do bad deeds.
  • Okay, we handled flashy magic and unflashy magic. What about some classic element manipulation? That is Avatar: The last airbender. Four elements to control/bend: Fire, water, earth and air. Amusingly, in the very first episode, it is established that bending is not perceived as magic in-universe, but as I said, handwavium. In Avatar, benders and non-benders live together without secrecy, but humans are garbage, so they had wars anyway, additionally powered by bending to make up for their lack of guns, but don't worry, in the sequel series they got a mecha. However, in the first season of the sequel there was a movement that opposed the bending that wasn't possible to all of society. In the season after that, the origin of bending was told in two episodes, see Wan. I should note that one particular form of bending is forbidden in the sequel, "blood bending" (a form of water bending), which allows one to control other people. It was again a mafiosi who made use of it. And it was pretty clear established in the third season of the sequel that air benders need to be peace loving nomads or they would pose the biggest thread. The "Kill it with fire" approach was previously done in the complete original series.
  • A reference for classic magicians (not the Fairy Tail otp variant) living in peace with the society is the enjoyable webcomic Gaia. People are well educated on magic (also in academias as such) and abide the law and order the kings imposed. If they don't, in worst powerful mages loyal to the king intervene. And, not surprisingly, the bad guy in this story is also a magician who got too powerful.

Conclusion

As you see, there are a lot of settings where magic, in one form or another, is known and accepted. People grew up with it in some cases, which is the easiest way to install acceptance. In other cases, magic was to big to ignore. In some cases, magic is just too strong to allow a long lasting society, if it isn't watered down in some way.

Practically, why would a group of people with crazy powers be forced to operate in secret?

Given all the examples above, as a human, a simple thought comes to mind: "Wouldn't humanity be better of without magic?"

Currently I think "Wouldn't humanity be better of without nuclear weapons?" This is a clear yes, but even if I would be able to make nuclear weapons undone, there is no way I could prevent people of inventing them AGAIN! Now, assume you live in a world where real magicians exist, but you don't know how they work, physically. It is not unreasonable to assume that magic may came from somewhere, but since then was genetically embodied in people. So if you would kill all people which show signs of magic, wouldn't you be able to remove magic from the world? If faced with no consequences, people can do bad things to people of other factions they don't like. If you, additionally, have no idea what magicians are capable of, you could be really worried about your world. Fear about getting attacked can make you want to attack first.

So finally, in a world where magic is not widely understood and where magicians are not organized, it is likely for them to be prosecuted and blamed for all the bad things, because that's sadly how humanity works. They have to hide to survive. In other scenarios, it could work out better, as the examples above show.

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This is a duplicate of https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/14087/why-is-the-magical-world-kept-hidden-from-the-muggle-world

Which was answered here.

Dumbledore's notes on The Wizard and the Hopping Pot do go into a little more detail regarding Muggle persecution of witches and wizards. He mentions that Nearly Headless Nick was stripped of his wand prior to being thrown in a dungeon to await execution and was unable to magic himself out of the predicament. Further, the younger the witch or wizard, the more at risk they were to execution, due to their lesser ability to control their magic (as seen with Ariana Dumbledore and her subsequent attack by three Muggle boys after they witnessed her doing magic and Ariana was unable to reproduce the trick at the boys' demand). See page 41 in Tales of Beedle the Bard for complete details.

The bottom line is that there are a lot more Ordinaries than there are wizards. When you're constantly defending yourself against Ordinary range weapons, you can't do anything else. And if you destroy the castle, then everyone else really sees you as a threat.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is not a Harry Potter question and no duplicate. "When you're constantly defending yourself against Ordinary range weapons, you can't do anything else." Spell of deflecting arrows, maintaining with minor effort. I roll with +3. So, depending on the setting of course you can. And others seeing you as a threat doesn't mean you don't get to be the bad dictator, as our world shows. $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ @SK19 "I roll with +3" How many Spells of Deflecting Arrows are required if multiple archers are firing continuously, while trebuchets are firing? And what can you do in the meantime? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 16 '18 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ @SK19 bad dictators that cause trouble in other countries cause the other countries to bad together to isolate, embargo or overthrow you, as our world shows. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 16 '18 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, in other countries. For themselves, they are left alone, or face little consequences. China and Russia are the most prominent examples. Not much overthrowing there. In fact, the last overthrowing in Russia (killing of the Czars) led to Stalin, someone much worse. $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @SK19 Remember your European history: invading neighbors to save coreligionists from persecution was not unheard of. Just as importantly, Russia and China were/are large empires, not kingdoms. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 16 '18 at 13:34
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Religion

"Suffer not a witch to live" Exodus 22:18

Wizards are still people that need to eat, drink and sleep which means you are vulnerable.

The great unwashed masses hates and fears you which means you suffer from constant attempts on your life be it assassins, traps or poison.

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Maybe they're not so certain of their skills.

There are many martial artists out there which look beautiful in practice, but fall apart under stress. They have full control of their capacities when no one is touching them, but they lose control and collapse when someone else interferes. This is particularly noticeable in softer arts like Tai Chi and Aikido. Just by their nature, it's very easy to look pretty, and look like you've "got it," when in fact you only have an illusion and it could be disrupted by anyone.

Your magic might be similar. It may be very easy to do great spells when nobody is interacting with you, but far harder to do it when there's interference from another living creature. Wizards would obviously practice how to deal with interference, but they may never know when that one person just happens to do something that collapses their entire skill.

I find this to be an attractive reason because it means, to the outside world, it's hard to tell the difference between a hardcore wizard who knows their stuff and a wannabe that's good at posturing. That creates a really good wizard/normal-human dynamic that's a lot of fun to play with.

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1: Humans don't really want to harm other humans, it helps them survive. The magic user might be tripping on power and will abuse it to get his way, but he won't be murdering people left and right. Unfortunately, group mentality of people and the anonimity it brings, combined with a fear of the unknown (will that magic user kill us? Did that plague that hit my crops come from him? I'm sure I had more money on me when I left, did he cast a spell on me to forget that he stole it?), these people would be much more violent and likely to kill the magic user.

2: Magic users will be dumb. Despite the general culture that magic users are smart, hard working people who devise incredible rituals and learn complex magical spells, magic users would usually turn out to be dumb, lazy people (unless basic magic is also extremely complex). The reason for this is that there's no incentive to learn. A Blacksmith faced with a tricky problem will have to be inventive and do research to create a better tool. A magic user will just magic most of his problems away and not learn a lot of the things he would learn as a normal human, even if he does learn how to use his magic better. When this magic user is then faced with a bunch of people who are smarter than him in everyday life and very angry with him for being a dumb butthat for accidentally setting their crops on fire (or it was a natural fire but hey the magic user was walking by and that bloke is weird man), he has plenty of reasons to be afraid. If only because he doesn't understand all the implications of his actions.

3: In early human society, we didn't beat up the strongest guy in his sleep because he punched anyone who came to the food first until he had his fill. In fact, we revered those guys, just like we rever movie stars and the like (which is an after-effect from this old behaviour). So we even let him eat first! But it comes at a price, should danger appear, we also expect the strongest guy to step up first. They received more food and social boons than others but held more responsibility in the group as a result. Now the magic user would be a strong guy. Strong in a different sense than muscles, but strong nonetheless. Much like the "witches" of old who were often tolerated for their "magic" through the use of medicine, these guys would hold a special place in the group/village/city. That is, until things go wrong. If the strong guy in the old times ran away from the danger, it was a clear signal that he was no good and he would feel the repercussions, if he stepped up to the danger he was good. But the actions of a magic user are much more opaque: He can cure my pigs, can he make them sick as well? He gave each of us a special fire to keep our houses warm this winter, but did he also set Jake's house on fire? Jake might not be the smartest and might have accidentally set his house on fire himself, but it could have been that magic user right? So again, the mystery of the unknown would threaten the magic user even if he had good intentions, although enough magic users would naturally be corrupted by their power and thinnk they are better than them. It's easy to fear your own people if you've been threatening them to give you what you want or even enslaved them to your will.

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  • $\begingroup$ Humans are ready to harm other humans, it helps them survive. $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ "magic users would usually turn out to be dumb, lazy people[...]. The reason for this is that there's no incentive to learn." You are basically saying that child prodigies are damned to be lazy. $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ @SK19 allright a correction: humans arent ready to permanently harm or possibly kill other humans. This is a problem that armies in history have struggled with as their soldiers would rather try to look busy than actually shoot another human being, even if that human being is possibly trying to kill them. As for the "prodigy" thing. A prodigy is completely different from a magic user, just like a human who has a natural build for strength or sports will focus on those traits rather than intelligence like a prodigy (assuming it means high intelligence, even though it can mean anything else) $\endgroup$ – Demigan Mar 16 '18 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, counterexample. Humans are ready to permanently harm other people if it grants them some amount of benefit, as long as the other humans are not in the vicinity of the ones causing the harm. Example: People elect leaders that allow selling weapons from the nation into dictatorships (like Germany). We could argue about how much harm an individual causes to others indirectly, but that is too much for this comment section. My point: There are humans of both kinds, and the "don't kill even if it results in own death" faction is very small. Take gun violence in the U.S. $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ "A prodigy is completely different from a magic user" And an apple is different from a tomato, but both are eatable. You write "Magic users will be dumb." with the reason "A magic user will just magic most of his problems away". That looks like you have never read a story about magicians. You say because they have an exclusive way of immediately solving problems (like child prodigies), they will not experience hardship of life and be "dumb". This view is too simplifying and not true in to many scenarios. E.g. in de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marvel_Comics using Magic has a(n ugly) price. $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 14:47
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Magicians are empowered by deities to do their bidding on this world. Unfortunately for these deities, their power comes directly from the people that worship them. Thus, every human the magician kills reduces the power of the deity that human worshiped. If the human worshiped a different deity, that's fine. But if the magician was anywhere near those humans, then a magician who worshiped that deity would quickly drive him out or otherwise defend the humans.

Thus the magician's responsibility is to protect the humans that worship his deity. Now, humans are fickle creatures. If they see magicians with power, they start to think they maybe the magician is the deity worth worshiping. The easiest way to avoid this is to remain secret, or at the very least keep the powers secret.

These magicians may also be tempted to try to steal the worshipers for themselves. After all, if they can get people to worship them, they would begin to receive powers of their own. This would anger the deity who originally empowered the magician. So the deity lays out rules that he expects the magician to follow, including limiting access to the humans. If the magician starts to overstep the rules, the deity will take action to prevent the loss of followers, either by removing the powers, sending in a stronger magician to subdue the errant magician, or both.

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Magic is a product of attention and intent. The magician's effects are produced by the direct application of his will. What this does not produce is a "mechanistic" process which applies to things which she does not perceive and concentrate on.

As a result, any magician is vulnerable to being stabbed in the back, or shot from a distance by a hidden marksman. To put it differently, a magician can produce an impenetrable shield between him and a known threat, but not a Sphere of Protection.

Since the powers of a magician toward the things which she knows about are potentially unlimited (up to an including death, depending on your concept of a magician's powers), each magician is potentially an enormous threat to the mundanes around him. Killing magicians is, after all, the only way to ensure that one does not wake up one morning as a toad.

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  • $\begingroup$ "What this does not produce is a 'mechanistic' process which applies to things which she does not perceive and concentrate on." Such things exist, rune magic for example. There are settings where magic can be automatized. Also sphere of protection can be possible. And killing humans is the only way to ensure one does not wake up one morning with a knife in the back. $\endgroup$ – SK19 Mar 16 '18 at 12:32

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