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In my setting, a magic cast is able to alter the fate of a given person.

In this context, fate is not "set in stone" from the moment you are born, but rather given by the endless chain of causes and consequences given by your actions and everyone's else. So, someone "destiny" is like a tapestry given by a number of threads. One's choices may switch some threads or change some colors, but will never modify the whole picture.

Now, fate-magic users are able to make major changes to one's "destiny". From simple games of sheer luck (a dice rolling on a side instead of another, a coin flip) to actual skills (a person faring well in a sword fight, even if he never trained with a sword before) to, potentially, life altering changes (a person being born in a family different than its own, or never being born at all).

Those changes can be seen as "weaving" the tapestry in the example in a different way; e.g. shifting all the threads until the target person becomes a "good swordsman", as if he trained for his whole life. The intended effect may be temporary or permanent.

Now, as you well imagine, I do need some interesting drawbacks to this magic.

I've got some safeguards in place, but they are not enough against a form of magic that can potentially rewrite history:

  1. The usual rule of "the bigger the change, the more effort the magic requires" still apply, but it's not enough imho.
  2. One limit is given by the ability of the user to see the future and the past (divination is a thing in this world). For example, let's say you are tasked with saving the king. You foresee that he will die from an heart attack, due being overweight, on the following day. To "fix" that, you should change a considerable size of his past in order to make him eat healtier foods. But that's months of history to rewrite and it might be unfeasible. If only you had foreseen that sooner ...
  3. Another limit is given, in-world, by society. Strong marks of binding are placed on fate-mages in order to keep them tame. A mark of binding is a spell that keeps you from doing certain things, e.g. disobeying to your superior. Fate mages are kept on close watch by an international council. The warlords and the leaders of this world are interested in keeping the mages binded, since a unbinded mage could potentially destroy them out of spite. This is similar to what happens in DragonAge: Origins.

While both 2 and 3 are fine limits to the fate-mage powers, I'm not satisfied. A very talented fate mage could, for whatever reason, escape the marking process and just start wreaking havoc. While this is a nice concept per se, I'd like some plausible drawback other than "getting tired".

Related:

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Psychosis

In order the modify the tapestry, you must first comprehensively grasp the weave of the area you are modifying - the fate mage must internalize the threads that must be manipulated, which necessarily leaves an imprint of the weave on the fate mage's mind. The problem is that once the modification has been made, that imprint does not (by definition) match the new state of the tapestry. This causes dissonance with the mage's observed reality. This isn't a big deal for small localized changes, particularly if the events are of the sort that we routinely discard from our memory anyway. But the greater and wider the change the more severe the effect, and it is cumulative, ultimately leading to severe psychosis in a reckless practitioner.

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    $\begingroup$ This is really interesting and a good way to exploit the nature of fateweaving. $\endgroup$ – Liquid - Reinstate Monica Nov 2 '19 at 0:07
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Fate is a 0 sum game. No person is luckier than another, in the long run everyone will have half their coin flips be wins, and half be losses.

Now the trick is to win the coin flip when you bet the gold, not the copper. This is where the magic comes in, you make this big bet coin flip lucky, and walk away. You know by choosing this to be a win, a loss is coming your way soon. Just play it safer for a while, and the loss should be minor.

The problem is the more you use the power, the more bad luck debt you build. If you alter your fate that every roll in the casino is going to go your way, you are very likely to be hit by an out of control horse walking out and find yourself dead.

Any mage that alters fate knows he is borrowing against the future. Lady luck always collects, and not often how we wish. This is why every mage thinks twice before being in debt to her.

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    $\begingroup$ In this system, it sounds like it'd be prudent for fate mages to make a habit of manipulating fate against their own interests when the stakes are low, thus building up a debt of good luck to be spent (or randomly repaid) later. That'd be interesting. $\endgroup$ – Someone Else 37 Oct 31 '19 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ Seems like this could create a feedback loop of two fate mages constantly improving each other's odds in spite of the price, but if the pact is broken they are both screwed $\endgroup$ – krflol Oct 31 '19 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ @krflol if it zero sum all that does is waste a huge amount of effort to get the same effect as if they had done nothing. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 31 '19 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ @SomeoneElse37 Not necessarily, one could just declare that actively manipulating fate always counts on the good luck side of the balance. The amount is proportional to the amount of change away from not interfering. Who actually benefits and who loses out from the spell is not relevant to the 'bad luck cost'. $\endgroup$ – quarague Nov 1 '19 at 10:27
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    $\begingroup$ I guess if fate catches up to the recipient or the caster is up for debate. I was always thinking the caster, because he always in some way benefits from manipulating fate, It does not matter if humans or objects are involved. Giving good luck for your friend to win, is still luck for yourself. $\endgroup$ – Andrey Nov 1 '19 at 13:43
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You could play the evil genie game. You wish for wealth but not where it comes from, so the genie will kill a loved one and have you inherit the wealth.

The fate mages would create their own fates by changing past events, but each event has an effect outside of the mage's reach. Change the eating habits of the king to buy a few more days for more extensive magic, but this will have effects for the people who sold foodstuffs and all the interactions they had from appointments, things they heard or learned, people they met, accidents that did or didnt happen and especially when and where you have sex has immense consequences for when you get pregnant and what spermcell reached the egg or not.

So basically short-term changes are easy to oversee the consequences. But if you start fiddling with large timescales you can radically change everything about your life in unexpected ways. Teach yourself swordfighting? Most of your current friends dont know you as they werent part of that type of scene and you have a completely different set of friends and family history.

Small things like a dice-roll can be manipulated by a single fatemage. But for larger scale changes like the king's food habits or learning sword fighting? You'd better bring a lot of mages. One changes the food habits while the rest continuously guides the altered fates of the people around it as closely to their original fates to reduce the amount of impossibly complex changes it would otherwise bring. Even so some changes are too radical for the fates to make true, IE "a bag of gold fell out of the sky and made me rich" or "the king suddenly turned into a jovial man and didnt jealously conquer his neighbours". The changes required to pull it off and the subsequent fate ripples are too large to handle.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes. I didn't consider that changes would propagate exponentially, so your explanation makes sense. $\endgroup$ – Liquid - Reinstate Monica Oct 31 '19 at 21:16
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Lose free will.

The more you use Fate, the more prominent your weave is, in the tapestry. Harder to modify your own as each cast interlocks your own mark with more stitches.

One who avoids any Fate manipulation, an agent of chaos, could go against PROPHESY. You who have dabbed in it, could alter it by the skin of your teeth.

Some who are so enamored with fate, are unable to alter it. The very prophesy will be written in stone for them.

Gain knowledge and lose free will.

The gifts of the gods seldom are without a price.

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    $\begingroup$ A good twist, and reminds me of divination as in Dune. $\endgroup$ – Liquid - Reinstate Monica Oct 31 '19 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ Must confess my ignorance on the subject. On myth the heroes can change prophesy. Seldom are those oracles questing. So what gives? Maybe because they CAN'T. $\endgroup$ – Gustavo Oct 31 '19 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds like it has great potential, more examples would help! $\endgroup$ – Vogon Poet Nov 2 '19 at 0:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Vogon Poet from the top of my head, Kasandra from Troy. Blessed with foresight, yet even screaming her knowledge she could not change the minds of those who listened. $\endgroup$ – Gustavo Nov 3 '19 at 12:19
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Weaving Fate is a lot like actual weaving.

If you need to get a thread to a certain "lane" you must swap it with another thread. Swapping in good luck in the next coin flip could be as easy as swapping in another closely related event (a guaranteed fail on your next flip) or the farther you swap the more threads that shift by one space (instead of a guaranteed fail on the next flip you guarantee to burn your next meal).

However many permutations that lead to these less harmful results can cause lots of unintended consequences in those threads. so moving from catastrophic events in your future timeline to a minor one could cascade into a thousand really bad luck events to mitigate the threads you moved.

God forbid you bungle your weaving and create a knot!

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The price is a dear one as FATE pushes back.

Fate itself is self-aware and doesn't like being trifled with.

Any mage who pushes too hard against FATE will enourage the wrath of FATE. FATE is also unpredictable and may ignore some slights, and not others, so there is always a risk. FATE may get frustrated with all of these mages interfering, and punish a mage as an example to others.

FATE is fickle, temperamental, vengeful, and unpredictable. Mages tempting fate will be cautious/

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