For the sake of simplicity, the prototypical character of this sort will be Bob. He is as normal as normal gets.

The elongated form of my question: If a normal human from our world was transported to a world where magic exists but is only usable because biological processes make it possible, what would allow a normal human to be able to use magic despite not having those processes? (Clarification is in the following explanation.)

Character Background

Assume a regular human from our world who CAN'T use magic. He's transported to a fantasy world with magic. He has average skills and knowledge that doesn't help in being able to use or learn magic in this world. He's NOT the only person isekai'd away. Whatever works for him should work for anyone else who wants to do the same.

World Background

The world is your standard medieval, high fantasy world. The world is effectively a combination of an MMO and a unique world in its own right. There are many, many different races, more than a few unique to my story, albeit some of them share similarities to other concepts out there.

Some people in this world can use their mana to effect magic. Manipulation of their magical energy is a biological process that some have developed access to. (These people are what you'd consider mages, spell-casters, etc.) Not everybody can do so, but only because not everybody has taken the time to learn how. It's a process all of these humans have access to, but cont everybody does so, just like how not everybody chooses to become a singer in a rock band from the 80s.

Everyone in this world is "low-level". While the higher level characters can do some special skills like alchemy, it's a rarity. Magic usage is limited and mostly relegated to the basics. (It's pronounced, "Leviosaaaa!") The "master alchemists" by this world's standards can barely make potions, but those basic potions are still a marked improvement over the salves and powders made by pharmacists. Whereas a master alchemist in the game could not only make extremely potent HP and Mana potions, a master alchemist in this world can barely make a healing potion, but it's the fact they succeed that makes them referred to as "masters". This means these otherworldly immigrants can NOT rely on the people of this world to create something to give them magic or to have advanced or complex equipment to do so.

Mana Biological Process Explanation

Mana is everywhere. Think of it like oxygen. If oxygen binds to hemoglobin, we can call the chemical (likely a protein much in the same vein as hemoglobin) in the body that mana binds to managlobin (because I am very creative). Bob does not have any managlobin, meaning his body cannot absorb and maintain a supply of mana for him to use. If he does manage to get a usable supply of mana from an outside source by some means, it would dissipate fairly quickly as it can't bind to him as is.

As for people being able to use magic, think of it like breathing. Everyone breathes, obviously, but not everybody can control their breathing well without practice and training. You can look at singers and athletes as a comparison for this. They control their breathing so that they can perform as they do. Have someone who doesn't know how to control their breathing do the same thing, and they will struggle if not outright fail. As a result, most people in this world don't know/use magic. It's a minority of people who either dabbled in it in their spare time, were trained specifically to use magic, or were born incredibly lucky meaning they're basically cheating at life. (You know the type.) While there would be enough people to teach the basics of magic, that doesn't solve the issue of the natural inability of these otherworlders to hold mana to use in their magic.


Mana is basically woven into the life of this world. So, by this world's standards, Bob isn't technically any more "alive" than a rock is. A golem at least has mana flowing into it to animate it, meaning a golem is considered to be more alive than Bob as far as their indication of life is concerned.

On the upside, because his body doesn't use mana at all, he's protected from the side effects of mana deficiency: headache, loss of consciousness, pain, and (if prolonged) death.

Additionally, Bob isn't the only one from "our" world who was sent to this world. Meaning, if any of these people want to learn magic, any process that works for Bob needs to be equally available to them. Solutions need to reflect this.

Additional Notes:

We could cheat by giving him an artifact or skill that also makes it so he can use magic despite not having mana, but that is cheating and cheating is wrong. Let's not cheat. Even though it may exist in the world, Bob would have no way of knowing that, no way of finding those items, and no way of getting to the items without major acts of god basically handing them over to him. Also, others wouldn't be able to replicate that since the artifact would be gone.

They could just relax and live an easy life without needing to know how to use magic, but that is a boring answer that doesn't actually solve the root of the question.

Since these people are not built for this world they're now in, being able to manipulate mana to use magic should be a challenge; success in learning and using magic needs to make sense and be limited due to this status.

Everything in this world that is living or animated has mana in it. It is this world's version of determining life. Just as we determine life by certain variable factors; this is no different. If they try to join the local adventurer's guild, they should be unable to formally join because the registration system won't be able to recognize them as "living".

When someone like Bob gets the ability to learn/use magic, I want it to be limited, but able to grow.

They also can't just be gifted "managlobin" by one of the more inherently magical races.

This question was edited in response to the question being put on hold. I hope by cleaning it up and removing story-specific details it better fits policy.

For the sake of making sure there can be a Correct Answer:

The following is a checklist for a correct answer using only things from my original Question. (Meaning it shouldn't invalidate any previously given answers if they were valid in the first place.)

  • A correct answer will have something that ANY character from the "real world" would be able to do and gain benefit from.
  • It needs to be something that is a challenge to attain but it can't be a matter of immense fortune (in the respect of money or luck) in order to be able to hold mana/use magic. While I could make it be something where a degree of money or luck is involved, it can't be something that comes across as deus ex machina or overly restrictive. The challenge very well could be something that simply takes a long time to occur, though. It doesn't have to be physically grueling.
  • It cannot be something done exclusively through a rare artifact. As far as the people trapped in this world know, items from the game world don't necessarily exist in this world. There will be notable similarities between the worlds, but it'd be a leap in logic to say, "These places share similarities so there MUST be this powerful item somewhere in this world." Even if they do come to that conclusion, there'd be no way of finding this item without going on a Quest. (It's not that they don't exist, it's just that it'd be impossible to make use of for the average person.)
  • It cannot be done through a Quest. Not to say a quest line is out of the question (kill 10 slimes, now kill 3 beavers, now take me to see my granddaughter in the next town over, now kill 25 giant spiders, now fetch my glasses which I left back at my house when we left), but assume going on a major capital-Q Quest to an undisclosed location is too prohibitive.
  • It should not be something that could in turn make a person more or less capable of otherwise using magic. For example, a dietary reason. (Just an example.) It should only give the potential to use magic. If a person eats 50 of a fruit, they should not be inherently superior to somebody who eats 20 of the same fruit or 60 of a different fruit. While it can give some degree of boost and benefit, it shouldn't be that important that whoever has the most fruit is now god. Alternatively, if a native from that world refuses to ever eat that fruit, (still just an example,) they should not be inherently incapable of using magic if they so wished to learn. Use of magic for the natives should still be a skill derived from an evolved trait (like with good singing), but use of magic for those from "our" world should be something they can still gain.
  • It should be something that could occur through a biological or pseudo-scientific process. Eating a substance, absorption of a chemical native and common to this world, and so forth are ways people have already recommended that are similar in nature of "ingest the necessary compound and hope the body can digest and use it." Alternatively, a recommendation of "emulating the effects of magic through distilling the compound from the blood" was another way. It should be a matter of Occam's Razor for the answer. While I'm fine with using a scientific method, there should be a reason why the characters would find that as the answer and be able to use it. In short:
  • It should also be simple in its complexity. The answer shouldn't convoluted. The answer should be something accessible even if hidden. (Hidden in plain sight is valid.) This is sort of the reason why "naturally developed by eating the local cuisine where the compound is commonly available" is a better answer than "go through a long, complex process of SCIENCE! in order to synthesize a compound that can be mixed with other materials to emulate the effects of magic." Science can be an answer, but it should be a simpler form fitting of medieval science.

Most of the answers so far hit a couple of these boxes. One of which (the ingestion answer) is so far the best answer I have so far seen when combined with details given by other users in its comments. None of the answers so far hits every last one of these checkboxes, though. The whole "it can't be something that abuse makes one overpowered and lack of use makes someone underpowered" criteria being the check box that isn't being filled in the so far best answer. That said, I hope this checklist helps make the criteria more clear and to help re-open this post.


closed as off-topic by Mołot, Separatrix, kingledion, Trish, Brythan Nov 9 '18 at 22:41

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Nov 11 '18 at 5:04
  • $\begingroup$ This isn't ready to reopen. You can't ask us to explain how to modify the biology of a human to meet your world's needs without explaining the biology of your world's use of magic. I know you think that's what you did, but you haven't even decided for yourself (likely a protein, is it or isn't it? That's really important!). Everything in any body is absorbed from the outside and either used directly or converted to something useful by an organ. What organ is involved here? What is the conversion process? How is the result used? By the brain, or another organ? (*continued*) $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 19 at 2:40
  • $\begingroup$ The point is, you're basically asking two questions ((a) how does my magic work and (b) how to convert a human to it) when you only get to ask one. If you need to, let this question alone for a while and ask the first question: what is the biology of magic in your world? we're willing to help you with that (if you give us enough of a starting point and your criteria for judgement). But we can't (and won't) do both at the same time. It's too much. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 19 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ JBH I see where you are coming from and will apply that to an edit to this question. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Jan 19 at 19:39

14 Answers 14


Mana processing may depend on some chemical available in this world, which your protagonist initially lacks. As time goes by, some amount of this chemical is accumulated in his body, allowing him to use magic to some extent. But he probably can never match in magic ability the native people whose bodies are fully saturated with this chemical.

  • $\begingroup$ Quite plausible. For example, if mana is attached to an element or chemical found in food in this world, then by eating the local food will incorporate that substance in his body, leading to an accumulation of mana and the ability to work magic. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 9 '18 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ This could work. It'd explain quite a bit. I'm actually cleaning up my question, so check it out in a bit to see if the edit clarifies anything, but I so far like this explanation. My only major complaint being that it would imply magic usage being in part based on your diet, which isn't bad, (it makes mana effectively equivalent to blood sugar, which as a borderline diabetic I find ironically hilarious,) but it feels like that would make the solution for someone born into this world who's less naturally gifted with magic able to cheat the system by just eating a bunch. Still, good answer! :) $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 1:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If mana is attached to food, does that make fat people extra magical? $\endgroup$ – Thorne Nov 9 '18 at 2:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Thorne all depends on details of the magic system. For example, in Robin Hobb's Soldier Son Trilogy this is exactly the case. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Nov 9 '18 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ @SoraTamashii It may be a chemical that the body has to process with enzymes that also fulfil other processes and exist in our world - similar to Star Trek TOS S3E10 Plato's Stepchildren. Anyone who born & raised in the world will already be at their maximum saturation of the "processed" chemical, and all "eating a bunch" would do was build up their stored of the unprocessed chemical, with too much excess being excreted as a waste product. In which case, "Low Magic Potential" pretty much would be a copy of diabetes... $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Nov 9 '18 at 11:16

So it sounds like magic is a evolved biological process in this new world and your Main Characters simply doesn't have it. Infact his system doesn't interact with mana and instead uses oxygen.

Instead of being able to bind and use mana, your Character is able to leech off the mana of other peoples magic. When someone casts a strong spell near him, the mana is cast out and some of the mana binds to his blood like it would for any other person. This gives your character access to mana and magic, however he needs to slowly accumulate it from the people around him who use magic in their daily lives.

This is also how other species and people can gift him spells and magics that are one time use only. They bind the spell and required mana to his blood like their own mana. Your character can't generate more mana and can't interact with it properly, so he can only activate the mana/spell once before its gone and used up.

Now to allow him to slowly build up more power, as your Character is introduced to more magic, his body slowly changes. He is able to start harnessing the magic, as the magic interacts with and changes his body. Since he was originally a blank sheet with no mana, as he develops, he is able to combine the magics of different species and continue to use their spells. It takes him much longer to learn, because he has to figure it out from scratch and his mind is no longer developing and discovering things like a babies would be, and this is a foreign concept/feeling for him.

  • $\begingroup$ I should clarify: The oxygen example was just an analogy. These humans don't breathe mana in place of oxygen. It's just a similar process. That said, regular magic use isn't common. I thought I made it clear in my post, but I'll clean it up and make it more clear. It's a trained process. Like being a good singer or athlete requires control over your breathing. Your answer sort of says what I want to do, but it doesn't really give a how without (seemingly) being a misunderstanding of my (possibly unclear) question and explanation. I'll try fixing it now. Sorry for any inconvenience! T-T $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 1:25
  • $\begingroup$ @SoraTamashii I thought it was more of an evolved biological process. Like an addition to the human body that has developed. You could replace blood with just their body. So your main character has both no way to use mana initially and no knowledge of mana. So not only would he need to undergo the training process to use mana, he would need to undergo an evolutionary change to be able to generate mana and store it in his body. A bad example would be like he was fair skinned and needed to be dark skinned. Constant exposure to the sun(mana) will eventually cause his skin to turn dark. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Nov 9 '18 at 1:54
  • $\begingroup$ You're right in that it is an evolved biological process. I'm in the process of cleaning up my post to help better reflect that. That said, maybe I misunderstood your answer. Please give me a little more time. Cleaning up my post and giving it a good formatting is taking time. Sorry! Also, for your skin analogy, it'd be more accurate to say the MC is albino, meaning no melanin to absorb sunlight. I get you said it was a bad example, but I wanted to make that clarification. He doesn't have the thing that acts as a binding agent at all, so absorbing from the ambiance alone can't work. $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 2:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @SoraTamashii Yeah, Albino would be much better, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to go there... but I guess I was already implying that he turns black... hopefully you get more helpful answers. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Nov 9 '18 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ I do appreciate the attempt, so I will +1 at least! :) $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 3:48

It may not entirely fit with a typical medieval fantasy world, but what if Bob were to receive a blood transfusion after a serious injury, and the blood he was given (being of the magical world) contained managlobins and started his body producing them itself.

The biggest issue is probably one of technology, in our world the first blood transfusion didn't happen till 1665, well over 150 years after the end of the late medieval period. But perhaps the use of magic allows some kind of rudimentary blood transfusion to take place despite the other inferior technology level?

The upside of this explanation is that unlike absorbing mana through eating or just living in the world he would only develop magical abilities after being saved from a life threatening injury (so you can control exactly where it happens in the story). And due to the dangerous and experimental nature of the transfusion process it's unlikely others like Bob would voluntarily undergo it in an attempt to receive magical powers unless they were really desperate.

Of course you might also have to explain how the blood types of the people in your fantasy world are compatible with Bob or other real world humans, but I think that's a fairly minor hand wave in the grand scheme of things.

  • $\begingroup$ He might got dragon blood from somewhere. dragon blood contains more managlobin or eat a golem plant ... But this is like giving him an artifact, which is forbidden by the op btw ... $\endgroup$ – user55267 Nov 9 '18 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Jannis I suppose you could see it like that, but I was thinking it would be an incidental side effect rather than something that was sought after or given to him. So instead of being handed the magic ring of mana manipulation and suddenly he's a wizard he suffers a terrible injury and later finds he is able to use magic. $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Nov 9 '18 at 11:06
  • $\begingroup$ It may be a spell to cure a curse, transferring blood from the caster to the recipient? (A bone-marrow transfusion is also a possibility, and is more likely to give him the ability to generate the managlobins for himself - it would also allow a slower and less noticeable build up of him having Magic.) $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Nov 9 '18 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal I did think of a bone marrow transplant but thought that even less likely given the technological constraints, but I suppose if you said it was magic it wouldn't be an issue. $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Nov 9 '18 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ Chronocidal, Now, if we were going with a general concept of "Take our world and make it fantasy" a bone marrow transplant would be perfect for about 6 weeks. lol :) Adaliabooks, I like the idea of a blood transfusion as a general thing, but the effects would be equivalent to an artifact, and a temporary one at that. After 4 months, he'd go back to being mana-less, unless he pulled a Sam Winchester and started drinking blood by the gallons. Otherwise, there'd be the issues you mentioned. Still, interesting idea that I'm sure some author out there could use! $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 23:23

'Managlobin' isn't a direct biological product of humans (or animals) like haemoglobin. It's a pervasive microbial organism with a symbiotic relationship that feeds on mana and produces magic.

Bob (or others like him) gain the ability to use magic by becoming infected with this micro-organism (perhaps from other magic users, perhaps by microbes in the wild). Some people's immune systems reject it, either becoming inert 'nulls' or dying a nasty death, whichever you prefer.

Some people keep this infection in check slightly better than others (producing natural variation in magic use), and the more magic/mana you use the more these microbes multiply explaining how people gain magical power with practice.

Bonus point: the debilitating side-effects of mana withdrawal are caused by this microbe. The headaches, pain, death are caused by chemicals released when these microbes starve, and evolved as a method for coercing their hosts into finding more mana.

It's like midichlorians...but nastier ;)

  • $\begingroup$ Midi-bloody-chlorians isn't it? $\endgroup$ – Varad Mahashabde Nov 9 '18 at 11:16
  • $\begingroup$ Yep. Realised that halfway through writing it :S I still hold that midichlorians is a halfway decent idea implemented terribly. If they'd gone down the road of making them a little nastier (introducing a parasitism/withdrawal perspective, or making it so that these microbes are giving visions and assistance to the Sith as well as the Jedi making their motivations highly questionable, or having someone industrialise midichlorian production for nefarious ends), it could have been an ok development. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Nov 9 '18 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ I think the midi-chlorians back-lash was because A) people didn't want a "scientific" explanation and B) it gave Aniken/Daarth Vader a almost godl origin, and they had no other purpose in the story than that. But we would have to face the fire in the Star Wars forums to know for sure ;) $\endgroup$ – Varad Mahashabde Nov 9 '18 at 11:22

Reverse the relationship between mana and magic.

Mana is not used for magic. In fact, mana interferes with the usage of magic. The more mana you have, the harder it is to cast.

Magic users are people who are able to reduce the amount of mana in their bodies temporarily, through breathing techniques and concentration. By doing so the amount of mana in their managlobin lowers and the "magic resistance" of their bodies is also lowered.

Because people who have just cast a spell have a lower concentration of mana than they had before, it has been assumed for centuries that the body has spent mana in order to cast the spell - but this is mistaking the cause and the consequence. The correct way to describe the process is that the body could cast because it had less mana.

As for golems being animated by mana: they are not. They are animated by the life force of their creators (perhaps the golems have some of their creators' blood in them), which is something else completely different from mana. However, since that life force is alive, it has mana of its own, hence the presence of mana in golems.

As a result, Robert is not only able to use macic, he is incredibly powerful at it. The only thing preventing him from casting is lack of knowledge. Once he learns a spell, he will be able to cast it more powerfully than any mage. This can vary from comical to outright dangerous or catastrophic depending on the situation.

His approach has to be different, though. Rather than reducing the mana in his body, he has to learn how to tap real magic wlthout overdoing it. There will be no teacher available in the magic world. Robert must learn magic all by himself, through techniques unfamiliar to mages, and with a distinct learning curve. Even the nature of his spells may be different.

If you want to see a similar situation, consider the animé Naruto. In that animé's world, people use a kind of mana to cast spells. It is also tied to phisiology, so that the amount of mana everyone has is limited, replenished through breathing and eating, and complete depletion of mana causes instant death.

The protagonist, however, cannot use his own mana for spells. He taps a different, outworldy source, which is overflowing infinitely for all practical purposes. That makes spell casting much more difficult for him. Whereas other people learn to cast by making an effort to gather the right amount of power from zero for each spell, Naruto has to learn how to reduce the amount of power from infinite to the right amount. The quality of his mana source also makes most spells unavailable for him for other reasons.

Also due to power considerations, he learns his masters' signsture move, which is power ball the size of a bowling ball; when he finally peaks in his skill with that spell, his own version is large enough that he could fit inside it while standing.

  • $\begingroup$ Remember how people hate SAO for how overpowered Kirito was? Also for gods' sake Naruto didn't have to remove Kurama's chakra to use jutsu, he had to learn to properly control his system because the seal keeping him and and the fox seperated interfered with him $\endgroup$ – Varad Mahashabde Nov 9 '18 at 11:13
  • $\begingroup$ The way I understood he was using Kurama's chackra to do jutsus, and he botched many jutsus by using too much chackra. Kurama's chackra in him is also purely yin, which is why he is never able to use jutsus like the illusion clone properly. $\endgroup$ – Renan Nov 9 '18 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ Let me just say that if I continue, mods will either shift this to chat or tell use to go the anime/manga exchange ;) $\endgroup$ – Varad Mahashabde Nov 9 '18 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ Wrong type of story. Maybe if I was writing One Spell Man, but since I made clear from the outset that I was trying to make the story slightly more on the serious side with the result being that the main character isn't, I believe the original version of this post used the words..., "an overpowered god." I already have an Ainz Ooal Gown character. I don't need a Kirito too. That said, as harsh as my comment is, I won't downvote simply because I can see this as helpful for others not interested in playing the trope straight. It is a good comedy answer and I approve in that respect! :) $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 10 '18 at 9:04

Ok so you know how oxygen binds to hemoglobin and mana binds to managlobin?

Well what if I tell you (insert Morpheus) that we can make crystals of organic compounds which bind metal ions by coordination (basically share lone pairs with it's d/f orbitals) who in turn bind oxygen by co-ordinating some more (actually hemoglobin does the same with iron binding the oxygen with one iron pere heme protein and 4 heme per hemoglobin)?

You also know how Sony's Spiderman was literally bitten by a spider and somehow developed web-slinging abilities but in Marvel's Spiderman and the new PS4 Spiderman had to make their own tech and shoot special fluid out of small containers that oxidize and become sticky upon contact with air? So basically the same for mana.

Now what is required to make this depends on what is mana? We could turn to zero-point energy or lepton field density or some other pseudo scientific explanation, but let's just make our own : sub-atomic black holes.

OK I am joking with that, but let's just have mana droplets irradiated by stars that are an active biological component here. Of course, in that case, as the MC breathes this world's air, she will also start accumulating the stuff, but let's just say that his biology makes him allergic, so he needs to work with the locals to ensure he doesn't get too much of it. But of course, if he stores some for magic use outside his body, no harm done right? He won't have an allergic reaction and should someone cast a "mana vaporiser" spell to deplete people, he wouldn't be affected, just left with some useless bracelets

  • $\begingroup$ For the point at which you answered this, this is fair and reasonable for the most part. I hadn't clarified the limitations of people's skills and abilities, so the concept was valid. I will treat the answer with the context of how my question was. The base idea of developing an external system to replicate the effects is a good one. The problem I have is with the mana-absorption gear which would fall in-line with "artifact". That said, using the base concept and getting something like that made may still be valid and applicable. The problem then is accessibility for the others & implications $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ of how it could help people who already can use magic to have further access. Regardless, I do like the suggestion. It just misses on a couple of details that your answer could benefit from expanding on. Still, quite helpful. $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 21:50

If he hasn't mana in his body, he uses the mana around him.

Mana should be everywhere. And Bob takes the mana around him to cast spells. The spells are not always the same, since mana around him is either stronger or weaker, or has ,if you have a system like that, different elements or properties than other mana.

Bob just has trained to or, if you're quite the funny guy, if he's drunken he can feel and use the mana around him to cast magic. There are plenty of other reasons why he could gain this ability. (You could ask another question on worldbuilding).

But: people feel, when their mana is robbed and try to keep it. So he cannot take mana from persons.

Like Naruto can collect chakra from the surrounding, Bob ... well he cannot collect but use mana instantly
I hope this helps :)

  • $\begingroup$ Ok, but OP says that the species using magic/mana have a special protein which helps them manipulate mana. How will MC interact with mana without one present? $\endgroup$ – Varad Mahashabde Nov 9 '18 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ @VaradMahashabde Maybe with negative pressure? The mana is everywhere, so it tries to float somewhere where it isn't, He uses his emptyness to create negative pressure and gain mana for a short moment. That could be a reason... Good question. do you have other ideas? $\endgroup$ – user55267 Nov 9 '18 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ But that doesn't provide an interface for him to voluntarily use it. It means he has the some 'ambient' mana concentrations as any dead object would, as stated by OP. Maybe the drunken idea could work as the alcohol directly binds to mana and brings it to his neurotransmitters, permitting use? $\endgroup$ – Varad Mahashabde Nov 9 '18 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ Thats a cool idea, make an answer out of this @VaradMahashabde :) $\endgroup$ – user55267 Nov 9 '18 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ Drunken Bob is your idea; add it to yours. I have done one with a different approach anyways :) $\endgroup$ – Varad Mahashabde Nov 9 '18 at 14:06

Bob is unable to use magic because he has not enough alcohol in his blood ...
Mana isn't stored in mana globin, but in alcohol. That being said all the normal people have a little amount of alcohol always in their blood, which they replenish since it's used for basic living functions. Funnyly, the bodies of the people cannot deal with an overflow of alcohol and the people easy get drunk (and maybe die earlier of alcohol).
He being a great guy can store and use much mana, but only drunk.

Also you see here thats the reason why elves can spell wonderfully good.

This was inspired by @Varad Mahashabde

  • $\begingroup$ I want to object but this *answer made me laugh out loud while I'm responding at the library. You get a +1 for that alone. It would make it so many of the "real worlders" could access mana and use magic, but it would cut off for minors. The main character is old enough, so that would also make it available for him. Honestly, though? While I have to object to this answer based off my story's demographic range, the sheer novelty of this answer is enough to make me happy. I can't accept it, but oh my lord... Brilliant! XD $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 10 '18 at 17:39

One possibility is a virus. A virus can damage DNA. So it can be used to alter the DNA. Bob gets sick after meeting some of the indigenous people. This changes his DNA to a certain extend. Over time as his cells reproduce with the new DNA he will get mana in his body. The longer he lives the more Mana he will produce until finaly all his cells were produced with the new DNA. The more mana he has the easier it gets for him to learn and use magic.

If you talk about viruses in your story you might want to give Bob a decontamination before entering this new world. Otherwise he will introduce the viruses from earth to the indigenous people like it happened to america.

Another posibility would be a symbiant. This symbiant may like his body which has no own managlobin so there is no clash between its magic and its hosts. As the symbiant gets stronger Bob will be able to leach more mana from it.

  • $\begingroup$ The virus will kill his cells as it reproduces. If it doesn't reproduce, it won't infect all of Bob's cells. $\endgroup$ – John Locke Nov 9 '18 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnLocke Viruses can insert genes to our DNA: link $\endgroup$ – Patrick Nov 9 '18 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ You're referring to a retrovirus, yeah? As I compare the suggestion to the desired criteria, I find it does conflict with one of them, and it's one that is important enough. By the time Bob is registering at the guild, he'd have been in the world for a while. As a result, he'd have likely already been infected meaning it would already be multiplying. In that case, the guild should have been able to recognize him as living. Living about as much as a gnat, but alive nonetheless. I do like the answer as an idea, though, but it would overcomplicate things for the reason you mentioned. $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ Symbiant idea: I like it in theory, but I'd have to question how he'd contract it and a variety of other things. It's not that it couldn't work, but it seems to reliant on other factors. That said, it would be possible. Honestly, from the answers I have read so far, technically a symbiant does meet the checklist. I'd argue getting the symbiant would be a little too difficult to get seeing as people would try to take care not to get infected so sources of infection would be down, but it is technically a possibility. A good one too, even if I seem like I'm trying to rationalize it away. XD $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Patrick The DNA of those viruses has been switched with the desired gene. How will the viruses infect all of his cells if they don't reproduce? They don't have machinery to synthesize their own DNA so they hijack other cells. One virus can infect one cell. $\endgroup$ – John Locke Nov 9 '18 at 22:42

Bob will learn to be an alchemist and a blood mage

Bob does not have managlobin. But other things around him do like plants and animals. He can use basic processes (like distillation) to harvest the managlobin from the plants in the world and, after some trial and error, he can reproduce some of the reactions that make certain kind of spells (distilled managlobin + sulfate = fireball for example). Some of the more powerful rituals will require him to acquire bodily fluids from animals and people (like blood). This could have social implications, but he might even be able to create more powerful effects if given enough basic materials.

  • $\begingroup$ Exactly. "Harvest it using technology" was my very first thought when reading the question. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Nov 9 '18 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, that could work, in the same vein as hiring an alchemist. I'd then have to justify how he knows what to look for, how to do the process, and a few other things, but it's a possibility along the same lines as @Ethan Fields's comment on the original question. It's possible, just difficult to work with, but not to say that I CAN'T make it work for the question at large. $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 18:57

Bob has a tapeworm

Specifically, Bob has a fantasy-world tapeworm.

Whereas, Bob cannot generate his own useable mana, the native-to-the-fantasy-world tapeworm does.

You remarked:

If he does manage to get a usable supply of mana from an outside source by some means, it would dissipate fairly quickly as it can't bind to him as is.

The seems to imply the main problem is that he isn't generating his own mana. Enter (literally) the tapeworm.

Why don't normal denizens of this world use magic-generating parasites?

Maybe they do, unintentionally. However, the reward / cost of having a little more mana and, well, a tapeworm, is going to be different for someone already generating their own mana. And maybe non-magical humans somehow stimulate parasites to produce more mana for their host.

Incidentally, whereas overusing the mana might cause withdrawal for the parasite - even lethal withdrawal - the cost would be limited to a (theoretically temporary) loss of magic for Bob.

  • $\begingroup$ As I told Patrick: I like it in theory, but I'd have to question how he'd contract it and a variety of other things. It's not that it couldn't work, but it seems too reliant on other factors. That said, it would be possible. Honestly, from the answers I have read so far, technically a symbiant does meet the checklist. I'd argue getting the symbiant would be a little too difficult to get seeing as people would try to take care not to get infected so sources of infection would be down, but it is technically a possibility. A good one too, even if I seem like I'm trying to rationalize it away. XD $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ How commonly people get parasites depends on things like climate and sanitation. But if Bob is wandering around in the country and drinking questionable water (like someone lost in another world or something), his chances of getting one go up. $\endgroup$ – Jedediah Nov 10 '18 at 0:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's... actually incredibly fair and accurate. Touche. $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 10 '18 at 1:06

Bob has detailled knowledge about the game he played, so he knows about items that enhance abilities either permanently or temporarily. As in any game, these items are quite rare.

Initially, since he is virtually "dead", he is not affected by spells that target living matter (like mind control or paralyze). But he is very much affected by spells that target nonliving matter (like necromancer spells). His only luck is that these spells are usually not casted in populated areas and on moving and breathing targets.

Bob needs to find a permanent magic enhancer and use it. It could be a potion he drinks that causes his body to create managlobin or a prolonged stay in a sacred cave where he inhales natural gases that enrich his body with managlobin. He should feel the effect of the enhancement like a high, feeling connected with his surroundings and experiencing everything more intense.

Bob notices that he is now affected by spells targeting living matter.

Then he needs to start training the control of mana. He should realize that the amount of managlobin in his blood is barely enough to create the smallest magical effects (no more than harmless poltergeist stuff), so he starts searching for the next magic enhancer.

During his adventure, he realizes that temporary magic enhancers work on him as well, giving him enough managlobin to cast one bigger spell for a limited amount of time. But the more managlobin in his blood, the more intense the effects of spells are on him.

That adds the strategic element to magical confrontations. Is the opponent casting a fireball and he needs to drink his mana potion now to defend against it or is the opponent casting a paralyzing spell and not drinking the mana potion protects Bob against the effect?

  • $\begingroup$ "Things like that would exist in this world, but Bob would have no way of knowing that, no way of finding those items, and no way of getting to the items without major acts of god basically handing them over to him." It needs to be something he'd be able to come across, not have to go on a Quest to find. If he went on a Quest for that, it'd change his story drastically. Not to say a quest line wouldn't work, but a Quest certainly wouldn't. Additionally, while he isn't living, he isn't dead either. He's no more alive nor dead as a rock is. $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 18:50

Perhaps the solution to your problem is magic; some powerful good witch casts a spell to transform Bob, out of kindness for something brave and selfless that Bob did. Or she gives him a device, a ring or bracelet that once he puts it on he cannot remove it, that is (magically) taking mana from the air and transfusing it into his blood.

So you have a mentor or ally or grateful stranger Bob meets; early on he has no magic, but after a week wearing this device he starts being able to do small conjurings, then more, etc. Turns out he is a natural.

  • $\begingroup$ Transformation: The only major issue I have is that this would need to be something anybody could do/earn. I have a more minor issue in that I can't see transformation magic allowing a change of small details like a specific protein and nothing else, but as I said, that's a minor issue that could be handwaved. Ring: Can't be through an artifact-type deal. If it's something that rare or hard to come by, then it wouldn't work on others. Your ideas work for the other points, but t need accessibility to be a key detail. (That said, I had toyed with the ring idea before writing this, but other bits $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ of worldbuilding made me have to turn that down, but I understand where you're coming from with the suggestion at least!) $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 21:34
  • $\begingroup$ @SoraTamashii I did not think it needed to work on others; Bob is unique in his biology, everybody else has at least some managlobin, he has zero. The witch sees this, and has not seen it before. So in gratitude for his selfless act, she, for the first time, decides to solve what she sees as his biggest problem: She gives him the equivalent of a retro-virus that allows him to start producing managlobin. Bob risking his life to save her loved one is something anybody could do, and anybody could earn the witch's favor. But she would not see a lack of managlobin as they're worst problem. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Nov 9 '18 at 22:27
  • $\begingroup$ From the very first version of my question I stated that Bob was not the only person from the "real world" who was isekai'd away. As a result, he's not unique because of that. This is why I wanted a method that was not individualized. I can live with Bob himself not having magic. I'd prefer for him to, but it's not a necessity. It'd just be another step in his story. I'm looking for a process by which he could get it, though, simply so it's available for any character that would use it. I just used Bob as the example so that you know what baseline to work with since he is so simple and basic. $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 22:41

Essentially since bob has no mana he is the perfect conduit which allows for a mana-like being to bind with bob. The mana-like being can then use magic through bob.

Much like a rock that becomes a golem.

Mana-like beings are something like ghosts. They are pure living mana essence.

  • $\begingroup$ It does not meet the criteria of repeatability. Additionally, it then brings up an interesting question of "is he still Bob?" if he's a blended entity. Finally, how would that event reasonably occur? It'd be convoluted and out of Bob's control. I'm sorry, but this wouldn't work. Thanks for the answer, though! I do appreciate the attempt! $\endgroup$ – Sora Tamashii Nov 9 '18 at 20:01

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