I have this magic system in mind that I'm having a small problem visualizing exactly how it could be too dangerous to the caster if they're not careful or how it could be too powerful. I've labeled it as wizardry for now for lack of a better name. It essentially needs to be unlocked with either years of devotion to meditation or nearly lethal levels of mind-expanding narcotics which then grants that person access to a state of higher consciousness that they can enter/exit at will, marked by the glowing of their eyes, and with the length of time that they're in it increasing their fatigue, eventually making them pass out from exhaustion. A tiring mind over matter kind of thing basically.

While in this state they have the ability to record observed events or personal actions, simple example being their jump raising them up by X distance, and make that event/personal action happen again/replay it at will without them needing to actually jump again. In short they briefly levitate. The limiting factor is that they can't replay the same event more than once, so in order to levitate higher they need to stockpile an amount of events where they jump and then replay them one after the other to levitate higher and higher. A more complex example is that they can open a door through any wall by recording themselves opening a door beforehand, basically moving a section of the wall like they would a door, with the thickness of the wall being 'opened' being the same width, depth, and length of the door they opened. That covers personal actions.

When it comes to recording the events of observations they could observe a fire burning, allowing them to replay that fire later on when/wherever they wish. This allows things like fire spells, or explosive spells if they observed a stick of dynamite exploding, or cold spells if they observed something freezing, or lightning bolt spells if they were close enough to observe the impact of the strikes during a storm. Replaying events of observations are also limited by the one-replay-per-observation rule. The observation needs to be directly observible on their scale in their vicinity in order to allow them to fully observe what exactly is happening, in other words they can't simply look at the sun and cause a solar mass of nuclear explosions, at most observing the sun would allow them to create a blinding flash of light.

You can't record and replay at the same time, and replays of both personal actions and observations can only be done one at a time, in other words they can't replay their jump raising them up while replaying a burning fire, no high-flying fire-flinging wizards, unless they kept themselves aloft between each burning replay that would have them fall a little bit each time.

How could this magic system be dangerous to the caster and how could they exploit it to become unstoppable?

  • $\begingroup$ Do the items being acted upon by the replay have to be at all similar to the corresponding items in the recording? For example, if I record myself opening a light wooden door, can I then replay that on a wall of solid steel, or on an enemy phalanx? If I record someone throwing a paper airplane, can I replay the airplane's flight on a person, or a building? $\endgroup$ Oct 1, 2021 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ @DoctorDestructo They don't need to be 100% similar. What they observed or recorded can be applied in a generalized way(which is why they can open a section of a stone wall like they did the door of earlier instead of being limited to just opening more doors specifically. The paper airplane is an observation of a small object in flight, and as such the observation can be replayed to make another small object move like the paper airplane did. The core essence of this system is to make what happened happen again, with some flexibility as to what the wizard wants to apply the event to. $\endgroup$
    – Hearsay
    Oct 2, 2021 at 8:27

6 Answers 6


When you add disposable slaves or martyrs to the society which hosts this magic, their wizards become overwhelmingly lethal. Before a battle, have a spy sneak up and estimate the size of the enemy's army, then in the presence of ten wizards, push one tenth that many slaves/martyrs off of the top of the tallest building in town. (Let's imagine for this example that the building is 50 feet tall). While more slaves are cleanup up the mess around your prize building, transport the wizards out to within sight of the enemy army and while looking at those enemy soldiers, have them each play back what they have seen in staggered series. In the first moment of this magical attack, one tenth of the enemy army plummets 50 feet into solid rock and finds themselves entombed. One moment later, another tenth plummets. In less than a minute, the army is gone and the field where they once stood won't need fertilizing for a few years.

One of the greatest, most abusable powers of your magic system is that multiple wizards can observe a single resource-expensive event, allowing that event to be repeated multiple times without additional expense.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Also note that after observing the other wizards destroy the 9/10 of the army they didn't personally handle, each of your 10 wizards now has 9 uses of 1/10 army destruction stored and ready to use at any time in the future. $\endgroup$
    – Makyen
    Oct 2, 2021 at 4:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Makyen's point is on the money - if you can record while someone else replays then you only need two casters to acquire infinite power. $\endgroup$
    – Joe
    Oct 2, 2021 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ Would've been great if you had some pitfalls to the magic system in your answer but I have to agree that multiple wizards observing the same thing is pretty darn abusable. $\endgroup$
    – Hearsay
    Oct 7, 2021 at 11:47
  • $\begingroup$ The pitfall of your magic system is the same failing suffered by any sufficiently powerful magic system and IRW science. It is that given the power advantage granted to practitioners of that system over non-practitioners, rebellion by and irresistible dominance by the best of those practitioners is guaranteed. No king or kingdom can stand against their own agents of that sufficiently advanced magic or science. $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2021 at 12:42

The observation needs to be directly observable on their scale in their vicinity in order to allow them to fully observe what exactly is happening, in other words they can't simply look at the sun and cause a solar mass of nuclear explosions, at most observing the sun would allow them to create a blinding flash of light.


The biggest pitfall you will probably run into is inconsistencies emerging in your system by mixing how you perceive things with what they really are.

Let's say the power is perception based. Because of the way perception works, scaling down distant observations, without also scaling up distant effects means you have no fixed relationships to work with. If you stand across the room from someone and they jump, they seem no bigger than a mouse that is right in front of your eyes. So if a mouse jumps and is close enough, can you use that to make a distant person jump? If I stand close enough to fire, can I use that memory to burn a city that is far away? Can I use the memory of a firecracker to destroy millions of distant galaxies in the greatest cataclysm our universe has known since the big bang?

My guess is you don't want these things. So, let's look at real world copy-pasting memories. In this case, observations of a distant thing like a mouse or a person can be moved too or away from you and affect things at the same scale, but then, your limitation of copying the sun right on your head no longer makes any since.

To fix this you should limit the volume of space a wizard can copy, but they can do it at any distance. So, if your limit is say 100 m^3, then when you look at the sun and copy it on any enemy, you will be conjuring 100 m^3 of super heated plasma on his head. Still a devastating attack that will likely kill you wizard unless he is standing very far away, but no stupidly OP planet killer.

Would wizards be unstoppable?

No magic system that is limited to the directly observable is undefeatable. In the modern context, war is now mostly fought by "over-the-horizon" weapons. This means that if a wizard gets out of hand, you can just take him out with an air-strike or artillery before he can do anything to defend himself. Even going back to a more primitive setting, assassination can happen faster than a person can respond to an attack. One minute you are walking down the street, and the next a crossbow bolt is hitting you in the head, or some random passer by is thrusting a dagger into your neck.

In a duel between two aware people, the wizard could have one heck of an upper hand, but that does not make the unstoppable. Even having to stop to think about what memory to use, may be distracting enough in a duel to allow the opponent a quick kill because the wizard was split focus.


Muscle memory sometimes leads to accidents.

Highly trained martial artists have broken bones of unsuspecting people when they were spooked, reacting before being able to assess the situation.

Program yourself to "fly" when you are about to fall into a hole. Cept this time there is a hazard over your head and you need to duck. But the pre-programmed trigger does not cover that. Hole. Fly. Smash head against the wire/ceiling/jagged metal whatever.

Another pitfall would be to be predictable and your foes abusing that. Create a hole under your feet and your next location would be going up. So your foe can aim one foot above your head and your doom meets you there.


World shattering. Wizard compress large sponge. Now he can compress any matter as much as he can compress sponge. But compressing eg. iron he can create LOT of energy from nothing and this energy will be released as soon as it becomes normal compressed iron. Do it with sub critical amount of radioactive material and with enough compression you can make it critical.


After reading many of the other answers, the recurring pattern seems to be that your wizard has too much power when applying this, because they are only limited during acquisition but not during application.

In many traditional magic settings the act of performing the magic is actually exhausting too. Why not turn your premise around: The wizard can observe an event and only needs some good focus to get the details right. Maybe without many years of training, the observation is not good enough and the subsequent conjuring up will fail spectacularly:

Wizard Master: Now don't forget Cubert, without modelling the electroweak force, the doorknob exploded in your hand. Cubert: proceeds conjurign up door BOOOM Wizard Master: Sigh, next one...

Anyways, come time to apply your observed power, you have to bend matter to your will, which is excruciatingly hard. The larger your willpower the more energy you can spend on doing this. But the bigger the intended bang, the more willpower is needed. This is in some way an energy conservation law, with your willpower being some sort of energy as well.

Regarding these replication loops where wizards watch each other do the thing. There was already a proposal to simply disallow this. Here might be a reason why: The wizard really has to see the thing happen "naturally" to observe what is happening, e.g. which forces are generated, to then emulate them via their magic. Maybe the most advanced wizards can "compute" these forces in their head without actually needing to observe, but that takes even more training...


Feedback Loops:

Could a wizard observe another wizard, thus replaying ad infinitum?

If so, then Wizard 1 performs action, Wizard 2 and 3 observe. Wizard 1 observes 2 and 3 performing actions.

Now Wizard 1 can perform the action twice. They can repeat this scheme to create infinite actions.

I would suggest that a magical event can not be "observed" to prevent this kind of abuse from happening.


What exactly does recording mean? Do I have to be close to the event or just see it?

I'm going to assume stuff like video recordings don't exist, but if they did would by observing powers still work through video?

Could I observe an event in a mirror?

If so, and the speed of light still exists, I could set up observational mirrors that split the photons from the event, so I could observe it more than once.

Could I use a telescope to view a star, and then destroy the planet in a supernova explosion?


Does it replay EXACTLY, or does it replay a similar event. Your explanation with the door, where you move a piece of wall with the same thickness as the door and it still counts as a door indicates similar but not identical events.

If I observe a rabbit die, and then come across a new rabbit. Do I make the old rabbit appear and die in front of it, or do I kill the new rabbit in the same way?

If I observe a person being stabbed, can I only replay that stabbing onto the same person, or any person?

If any person, then why not any animal? Really think about what recording and replay means.

There feels like a major disconnect between them.

I don't see a logically consistent way that "replay" actually physically affects the world and isn't just a visual hologram phenomenon, inherently, because interacting with the world means you are no longer "replaying" what you observed, but changing it.


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