I'm trying to design a world for a fantasy setting where some disgruntled god decided to give the general population magic powers. However, rather than recite a spell or use sheer will to use magic, people use runes.
In this world to use magic you have to write the runes involved in whatever change on the item. Your intention also matters. For example if you wanted to start a fire you could write the rune for "Flame" on a sheet of paper and set it in a fire pit, and it would do nothing. But writing runes for "Bind Will Fire" (As in, bind it to you, effect will happen when the person or thing it is bound to wills it to happen, and the effect is fire) and setting the paper in the fire pit, then willing it to happen, will cause the fire to ignite converting the matter of the paper into energy to fuel the effect.
There are also some rules and restrictions. You can only perform magic on things that you have considerably more willpower than. Everything living and nonliving, but not things that were once living, have sentient or semi-sentient spirits, and therefore wills. So you cannot perform magic on the planet Earth, as the spirit of the Earth has a much stronger will than any person. You'll also find that magic on another person is very weak, as most people have around the same level of willpower.
My questions are:
How do I make magic that works like this interesting in a combat situation?
What do I call someone that uses this magic?
If the first question is too hard to answer, what changes can be made to the system to make it interesting?
I have gone with Grapheiomancer as a name for someone who uses this magic. It came from the Latin word 'Graphein', which means 'to write'.
When no power source is specified, the atomic bonds of the object the rune is written on are broken to release energy. If the rune is written on a tablet or something of that nature, it consumes the whole object, and any excess energy is released as light and force, unless specified otherwise by the caster. Otherwise, if it's written on something they have a stronger will than, or if what they're writing on consents to the magic being preformed, then it leaves a crater, with the same way of dealing with extra energy.
A power source can be anything that stores or produces any sort of energy. A battery for example. For extrasensory magic, many Grapheiomancers prefer to use their metabolism as a source of energy.
There are spirits and gods in this world, and most spirits are bound to certain parts of the natural world. These spirits have a strong effect on how runes are used. For example, you usually can't trigger magic written on the ground, or stone connected to the ground, because the spirit of the Earth would destroy the rune and send you flying for even trying. Plants also have spirits, but most people can overpower them. You can't perform magic of the wind, but you can ask the spirits of the wind to do things. This requires a special rune, which most Grapheiomancers have tattooed on the backs of their off hand.
The tech levels of this world are from the 'Anachronisms because plot' era. This means it's got a dark age peasant vibe going in the commoners villages, but there are elements of gearpunk thrown in, and a guy who was pretty much Nikola Tesla caused an electrical revolution. So the gears are fading out and giving way to arcs.
Runes have an effect and draw energy at the time of triggering, and can have ongoing effects as long as they have a power source.
The runes are the language of the gods, so they are the only ones who can create new ones. They grant knowledge to those of their followers who they think deserve it. They don't get mad when the knowledge spreads. (Usually.)
The magic format is Trigger-Power Source-Effect-Modifiers, and anything included in the modifiers can be omitted and left to will by masters, but if a novice tries to do it, they will most likely end up injured by runaway magic.
Because of the spirits, some magic is stronger and weaker depending on where it's being casted. A fire spell in a forest will be dampened or disabled because the forest spirits don't like fire. (Understandably.)
- You need to know what a rune does as you trigger it to actually use it. If you don't, then it just does nothing. Assuming you can even READ the trigger condition.