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I am working on a fantasy world with a rich history, but most of it is forgotten by the races that inhabit the planet. This happened because of some kind of magical shockwave that wiped out most humanoids on the planet. What kind of magical effect could it be that specifically targets humanoids?

What are the 'rules'?

  • The magic originated from a single point and as a shockwave spread across the planet and the few survivors live mostly on the other side of the planet.
  • The magic only affects humanoids, all other animals and plants are unaffected.
  • The event is triggered by a demon, but after the event a magician that tried to stop the event gets the blame.
  • When you hear what the magic does it should be clear why it only affected humanoids.

Clarification of the question, because it is unclear what I am asking:

As stated before, I want the spell to target all humanoid species. So what could the spell target that really sets humanoids apart from other lifeforms?

Speach/song has been suggested a few times, but animals can also speak. We humans can't understand what a dog barks or a bird sings, but it is their way to communicate. So it has to be something that only humanoids have. I have been searching for differences in the brain between humans and animals, but I couldn't find much information on that subject.

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    $\begingroup$ It's magic, isn't saying "it only affects humanoids" enough? $\endgroup$ – Samuel Apr 13 '15 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel: I would like to be able to explain the mechanism of the magic. If I just say 'wel it's magical' you would be able to do basicly anything with the magic. But I want it to be limited. There have to be rules to the magic. The rules are not set yet, but i want this event as some ultimate example of what can be acomplished with the magic. $\endgroup$ – Len Wolff Apr 13 '15 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, so you want some magibabble to hand wave the mechanism of the magic. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Apr 13 '15 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Samuel: Not just that, but I also want to develop the magic system for the world and I want it to make sense. Well, I want to suspend the disbelieve anyway. $\endgroup$ – Len Wolff Apr 13 '15 at 22:15
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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, this question probably needs to be rephrased to bring it clear of the ever-fuzzy "no idea generation questions" rule. Trying to find a magical effect that meets a rule set would skirt that rule in my opinion. However, given that you are looking to build the magic system around this event, there are far too many details which affect the answers that we cannot know. The magic system does not need to just do this one operation, but countless other acts in your book. The only way to know which answer is "best" is to see how they adapt to creating rules to fit the other acts. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Apr 14 '15 at 5:09
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I would say, humanoids have souls and that is what is targeted. Being a Demon started the spell it makes even more sense. The spell could be feeding him the energy of the souls (or that is what it was SUPPOSED to do) and so all beings with souls (at least not super strong ones) are destroyed.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow, thank you! This is the answer I needed. This is perfect for me. I could even make it so that only the souls are destroyed and the bodies still wander around like empty vessels. $\endgroup$ – Len Wolff Apr 16 '15 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ Glad to be of help! $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Apr 16 '15 at 22:14
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Have you ever heard of a thought paradox? Basically they are infinite loops of reasoning (much like the concept overload) but they only work on pure logic machines. One famous example (as in Portal 2 famous) is: This statement is false. AS previously stated, this type of trap doesn't work on humans as they lack "perfect" logic. But a similar type of mind trap (probably telepathic in nature) could easily fry someone's brains.

Alternately, have a DNA-sequence dependent spell that... kills things, in any manner you want, if you have a demon powerful enough to make a world-wide magic doodah, this shouldn't be that much harder.

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A song that acts like a disease, with three parameters:

  1. Anyone who hears the song must start singing it too.
  2. As you sing it, you sing your years away, aging to dust (or drives you mad, etc)
  3. You must be able to understand and fully voice the song for it to have an effect.
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    $\begingroup$ This is the song that never ends. Yes, it goes on and on, my friends. Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was, and they'll continue singing it forever, just because this is the song that never ends. Yes, it goes on and on, my friends... $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Apr 15 '15 at 16:05
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Make it a "concept overload meme". The magic will make humans or sapient creatures that have the capacity to do so think of a concept that creates a recursive infinite loop, thereby consuming all of their brain time to the point that the body shuts down - essentially an infinite loop meme.

Obviously we can't know of the concept or we'll die ;)

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  • $\begingroup$ This sentence is false. Yet I'm not dead and my brain is definitely still functioning. I think this answer needs a rethink. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Apr 13 '15 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ I'm thinking this has already been done. Broadcast TV was v1.0, cable was v2.0, and the internet is V3.0. Someone wants us dead, lol. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Apr 14 '15 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ Obviously we can get around things like "This sentence is false", it's not a "magical" concept ;) and also, by the very nature of seeing it and not being obsessed to the point of death with it, it's obviously not the "concept overload meme"! $\endgroup$ – euxneks Apr 15 '15 at 18:48
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The magician is searching for the fabled ether flow origin that powers the lay lines all magicians draw their power from. After finding an ancient tower he breaks a magical barrier holding an imprisoned demon. As they race to the location of the ether origin they find their powers increasing. As they reach the source, the demon cast a spell to enslave all of mankind while the magician cast a spell to destroy the demon, the power streams from the ether going to each cross and results in a near world wide eradication of all humans.

Egon Spengler: There's something very important I forgot to tell you. Peter Venkman: What? Spengler: Don't cross the streams. Venkman: Why? Spengler: It would be bad. Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad"?Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light. Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal! Venkman: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

Now if you could just fit in the marshmallow dude.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just so that someone comments on your xkcd reference... xkcd.com/517 $\endgroup$ – justhalf Apr 14 '15 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ @justhalf Techncially it's a Ghostbusters reference, and xkcd is also referencing Ghostbusters. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Apr 14 '15 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB ding ding ding chicken dinner winner $\endgroup$ – feas Apr 14 '15 at 16:58
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Disease. Plenty of necromantic style diseases in fantasy genres. Some diseases only affect people, and do nothing with most other animals. Hardly a problem for plants. Demons are supposed to be nasty anyway. Cover the world in a plague. Might take more than just a instant for everyone to die... but it's much more cruel for whatever survived to witness.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, A magical disease would do the trick. I have already concidered this possibility, but I would like to use something more 'exotic' and truly magical. $\endgroup$ – Len Wolff Apr 15 '15 at 20:35
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Babelwave -- the Tower of Babel revisited.

One of the unique features of humans is the ability for speech. Something that randomly changed humans to one of a thousand different languages should do the trick. The survivors could eventually rebuild civilization.

In an advanced and highly interdependent civilization the sudden removal of the ability to communicate would result in a collapse of society ultimately killing a large percentage of the population. Perhaps the ability to renew large-scale engineering spells would cause failures of magical dams, transportation systems, irrigation systems, medical care, floating cities, etc. to contribute to the fall. If magic was a dominating cheap resource it could unravel civilization to a very devastating degree. Even education could be largely magic-based -- Want to learn something? Easiest way is to drink the corresponding learning potion.

Perhaps the Babelwave also causes the magic-users lose the ability 99.9% of the time due to the loss the use of the language of magic. And the Babelwave could have included a component that causes existing magics to decay more rapidly than normal until the Babelwave was cancelled out.

The magician that "tried to stop the demon" could have actively been using a universal communication spell at the time of Babelwave. Maybe there could be a few others with the same spell in effect -- presumably this spell would be rare, perhaps very complicated to perform. Defeating the demon would not necessarily restore the prior language abilities already affected. But victory over the demon could have stopped the progression of Babelwave shortly before it completely encircled the planet. In the resulting confusion, it would be very easy for the hero to be stuck with the blame.

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"Poison Fingers"

Literally, this silly phrasing; the wave expands and as it passes through objects that classify as fingers, it transforms a small amount of blood in them into toxin. It might exploit demonic name magic, where name of an object gives you a measure of power over that object.

People, who lost all fingers or both hands would survive. Plus total crazies who renamed their fingers.

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The spell should poison human food as bread or baked rice. Also, it could affect to drinks like wine or beer. Animals will not be affected as they do not eat this kind of food (maybe some unfortunate dogs).

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this. All this time I was thinking it would have to do with some form of brain meltdown. But this is a nice thought! $\endgroup$ – Len Wolff Apr 15 '15 at 20:09

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