In the setting of this question, magic exists. Psionics also exist, but only in a sub-sect of the world's population, in a sort of cult.

This instance of psionics requires no components, verbal or otherwise, beyond thought, though their abilities are limited in range to what they can see. They can duplicate any effect that magic can, but must be mastered through practice to simulate higher level magics, so inherently they are no more or less powerful than other wizards/sorcerers of equal practice/innate skill.

The cult keeps psionics as a whole, completely secret, but does not limit its use in any way. Those with the ability are no more inherently good or evil than any other person.

Because psionics are kept secret, assume there is no magical way yet developed to detect it, as the wizards/mages/etc have no idea what they would be looking to detect.

The question: Barring one of the psionics explaining the secret, how might it be proved that the results of psionic activity are not the results of typical magical activity?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does magic require all the components +verbal and otherwise then? $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Twelfth Yes, it does. Assume that the most basic spells used by a Master require a gesture or word, and increasingly difficult spells or extreme versions of basic spells begin to require more elaborate gestures/phrases, and eventually physical components for the most advanced. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ Try lifting Mjolnir without magic! $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 14:59

2 Answers 2


You would prove it by showing that it's not magical activity.

You point out that since psionics is a secret, that they don't know what they're looking for. But they do know that magic exists, and the way you phrased your question implies they have the ability to detect magic (they just can't use it to detect psionics because it's the wrong "frequency").

So, I'm investigating something "weird". No natural explanations come to mind. I cast my detection spells, come up blank. So, how did it get done?

At this point, it's time to quote Moscow Rules: Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action. At some point, your magicians are going to suspect, then realize, that there's another power at work. Whether this ends with them finding a way to detect your psions, or just the secret service tracking down the person who just happens to be in the neighborhood at the wrong time every time, depends on the story.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In other words, you leave the magicians (and anyone else) with a bunch of questions and no reasonable explanations for all the evidence, and pursuing the answers becomes a plot element. $\endgroup$
    – jpmc26
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 23:48

Let's say I use CounterSpell or Detect Magic on a psionic. As they are secret, we could say that they know how to stay like this, and in order to do that, they know the differences between magic and psionic powers.

So I guess they could have also developped a psionic power to simulate they magic being cancelled by a Counter Spell...And so on.

The pattern reminds me a bit of the web security and hackers. Hackers are always one step forward.

So if the psionics are able to simulate perfectly magic, I would go for registering the magic users with some kind of magic signature. It does not need to say who is it coming from (as it would be too invasive), just that it's magic.

Depending on the background, I assume that could be done either by High-Tech stuff or a Country/World Spell. In either case, the way to do this should also be kept secret, if not, psionics will be able to replicate it...

A Country/World spell done by a dozen or more arch-mages should do it, as you mention it would require a considerable amount of time to master the replication, even assuming they learn how to do it just by copying and not how the signature magic works.

So, if everything goes well -> magic without signature = psionic powers.


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