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I have multiple magic systems in mind, but I need one that would probably be the most stable and wouldn't allow overpowered solutions. Here the ones I have so far:

  1. A magic system that runs on mana: Humans can't use mana, but objects can pull power from it. Humans are specially trained in handling mana objects. An object's potential can only be enabled by mana, which can be bought from traders, store-keepers, and merchants. Strength is determined by how rich you are, and how much mana you buy.

  2. A magic system that tuns on magic crystals: Animals grow an extra organ "crystal" that allows them to use magic. Since they aren't sentient, they can barely use magic but humans kill and remove the crystals that turn them into watches, necklaces, rings, and other accessories. When a human has a crystal, it draws energy from the environment to do magic. Strength is determined by how many crystals you can get.

  3. A magic system that runs on birthright: Every human is born into a specific magic domain and they can utilize magic from it to cast spells and such. Strength is determined by how much you train.

  4. A magic system that runs on condensed energy: This one is more for a sci-fi setting, but humans have accidentally released condensed energy balls, which are floating balls that store a bit of cosmic energy. The balls act like living things, multiplying, and communicating but can be captured and used by humans. The amount of energy you can use per energy ball is based on mental constraint and physical ability. Strength is based on self-control, and how much you can capture.

Edit: Since there is a lot of confusion on what I mean I'll explain. By stable, I'm talking about a magic system that mostly allows improvement, and will not be biased towards certain users. This means the rich will not amass power and no one can be born with unlimited god-like powers. No 1, 2 and 3 might not seem like they fit, but I've also added the option of people who regulate the magic.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you clarify what you mean by "stable"? Or is stable basically summed up by "avoiding overpowered solutions"? $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    Dec 13, 2019 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ 3 and 4 can just follow the same rules that prevent humans from being able to toss cars or run as fast as bullet trains $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Dec 13, 2019 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ "Overpowered" is ill defined, and you haven't provided enough context for us to guess at what you mean by it. Perhaps you coudl give an example of an existing setting or system that has an appropriate power level? $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2019 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ This is really going to generate answers that are strictly opinion-based; I don't see any way of making a fact-based determination. $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2019 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ Voting to leave open. Magic is, by definition, opinion based. It's appropriately tagged (arguably the most relevant use of this tag ever), so unless we want to argue that the whole tag and all questions under it are off-topic, and indeed every other question about magic, I'm unsure this is appropriate to close on that basis. Also, there are multiple examples of fantasy worlds using each these systems, so they arguably can be compared rationally. $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2019 at 17:01

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Well, they all have the capability of reaching too much power but some are better than others:

  1. The rich are the most powerful. Simple as that, since money = power. A poor person might never be able to afford as much mana in his life as some noble's child will spend in a week. It's a big haves and have nots situation forming immediately and it will only get worse, since the rich can then use magic to get richer and use their money to deny the poorer people mana. As a simple example, the rich can just buy all of it. Or the prices can skyrocket.

  2. Pretty much the same situation. The rich will still dominate, as they can afford to buy the most crystals or even pay people to fetch them crystals. The poorer people have more of a shot here, since at least animals are more freely available...until they aren't, since the local nobleman now owns the forest and any poachers are put to the death.

  3. This is biased but fairer. Only select people can use magic but at least they don't get undue control over others' ability to cast spells. Some might be able to afford better training but overall, all mages have a fair shot at power. It's mostly down to motivation and less about means. Think of athletics - pretty much everybody can run, or jump or throw stuff, etc., yet only some are participating in the Olympics. When using the birtright system the situation will be similar - some will be better than others. But training (usually) has limits - Usain Bolt is good at sprinting but isn't "overpowered" for our world. He wouldn't be able to take on a trained boxer in a fight. Mr Bolt is not even going to be doing that well against marathon runners, although he's definitely going to do better than simply boxing.

  4. It's a mix between the first three. There is some training involved, so you get somewhat similar situation as 3. but then the availability being restricted sounds like 2., which in turn is also very similar to 1. So, some can still deny the others access to magic. Worse still, you don't need to be good at magic to be able to use a lot of magic - if you have the means to acquire enough of the energy balls and prevent others from getting them, you can beat a opponent who has trained more but doesn't have energy.

So, out of all, number 3 seems the most fair. Everything else has the potential of the haves suppressing the have nots.

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1,2 and 4 are not "stable". Reason:
Being able to collect magical artefacts to gain power will make a strong, or rather rich user will have more power than everyone else, and can use this power to collect even more. Either by killing their owners or by opression, slavery, etc... typical capitali.....I mean "Bad Guy"-Stuff.

3 seems the most fair. The creator of the world can decide what kind of magic can do which kind of stuff. So it's your job to keep it balanced. Also, it's not possible to gain power through domination.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great answer, but evil capitali... I mean bad guys, can hire magical henchmen to throw off any balance that a non-artifact-based magic system might have bought you. +1. $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2019 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor Not necessarily. When you employ people with especially valuable powers and abilities you still need to earn their loyalty. Otherwise, keeping one of them from just growing a conscience and burning your face off, or betraying you to another employer who pays better is impossible. This means ascending to the top of your bad guy organization requires a combination of wealth, political finesse, and a probably lot of magical training of your own (so you can make an example of those who oppose you). $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Dec 13, 2019 at 18:34

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