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Mana benders are individuals who can impose their will on reality by altering it based on their perception, usually interpreted as "magical abilities". These powers can take a number of forms, including telekinesis, transmutation, matter manipulation, etc. Benders access their abilities by use of their Mana, which they access through concentration and focusing.

Benders have limited range and cannot affect what they don't perceive, and cannot impose their will on anything if they have no will to impose. Nevertheless, using their abilities has unintended consequences. These effects happen elsewhere, outside of the user's control, and are seemingly random. However, the strength of these effects depends on the power used by the bender. Say they transmuted a coffee maker into a toaster; the unrelated effects would be small, like a flock of birds dropping dead from the sky. Bringing the dead back to life would create a stronger effect, like an earthquake.

Since users have limited range and cannot create these strange happenings with their powers how is it that they happen indirectly?

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  • $\begingroup$ Reminds me of the ancient Arcturan Proverb: “How ever fast the body travels, the soul travels at the speed of an Arcturan Mega-Camel.” $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 18 '20 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ At the beginning of your second paragraph, did you forget a not? Because it doesn't really make sense for mana benders to be unable to affect what they perceive. $\endgroup$
    – No Name
    Apr 19 '20 at 19:11
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Conservation of Mana + Billions of Interconnected Tendrils

Everything on the planet is powered by mana. As living beings move around they create billions of invisible mana threads that connect to each other and to the core of the planet, which is the source of all life and mana.

Usually the threads can pass through each other, provided they move slowly. Also the amount of mana contained in one thread is small.

When you cast a spell you send a sudden request for a large chunk of mana from the core. The core pulls the requested mana through its tendrils from all over the world. Some of the threads short-circuit. Others suddenly bang into each other and the results are long-range and unpredictable.

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Inefficient use of mana.

Whenever you use mana its not a perfect 1/1 conversion. A lot of the mana upon release will not be completely consumed and will then roam free. It'll clump together as it floats freely and invisibly through the air. The Mana as explained warps reality, as its floating about it'll change its composition until it accidentally changes into something that affects the local reality.

Since larger mana usage means larger mana residue the consequence will be larger when it happens.

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The mana goes up, where it comes down? That's not my department, says Magus von Braun.

(With apologies to Tom Lehrer.)

When a mana-bender uses their power, they draw up the mystical power from within their bodies, envision the change they want to happen in the world, and push that power out to make it happen. All well and good... except that the power doesn't stop there. It keeps going until it runs out, and once it's out of the bender's radius of control, it won't do what they want it to do.

It might do things completely at random. It might drift into other peoples' zones of control, doing what they want it to do - even if those are just idle whims and not well-thought-out spells. In your world, animism (the idea that each object, like a bush or a table or a hammer has its own living "spirit") is true, and the spirits of objects will try to grab that excess mana to do whatever it is they've always wanted to do.

This is why you don't see side effects in the bender's zone of control, where they can keep the mana "on task", and why larger spells have not just more intense but also wider-spread fallout. (Conversely, a very simple spell might not cause any fallout, if the mana naturally dissipates before reaching the edge of the bender's control.)

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Similar to Daron's answer, I was thinking that everything is interconnected by the mana equivalent of quantum entanglement. That is, if you change one thing, then other things "mana-connected" to it also have to change to balance out the mana universe. ("Manaverse"?)

For example, if you have water in a hose, and add more water in one end, then water has to exit from the other end. Electrons in a wire work the same way when an electrical charge is applied. Reality Benders would know how to (metaphorically) "add water in one end" or "apply an electrical current at one end", but wouldn't know where that effect would "squirt out" at the other end.

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