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Authors are magic users who have chosen to make a fictional world the source of their magic, written in a book they try to have access to at all times, instead of training themselves to follow the usual path of magic which involves channeled energy from the soul.

The book is enchanted to simulate the workings and goings on of a world in a universe from the rules(physics, general description of the world, starting politics, etc) the author puts down on the first page of the book, with all subsequent pages flashing with sketches and paragraphs in a dizzying display of it trying to write down and remember everything that happens within the universe of the author's book. No matter how many times you turn a page past the center of the book there always seems to be more pages to go, a showing that the fictional world is technically infinite, with excess pages piling up on the left or right seeming to disappear if you turn too many pages as if they never existed in the first place.

They can enter and exit their world at will and explore and influence it at their leisure, but they must be able to fit through the portal that appears if they were to step on their book when it is laid down with its pages open. This portal is the size of two of the book's pages, and so for the most part authors try to either be very skinny or carry a very large book so that they can fit through. Should they not like something that's a thing or that's happening in their book's world they can take a quill once outside of it and rewrite reality within their book's universe on one of the pages. What they've written disappears as things on the book's pages usually do of course, but the changes have nonetheless been made.

While they are essentially gods within the worlds of their books, there is scholarly debate as to whether the art of authors is too dangerous to be practiced by the general public, because just like how an author can go into and stay in their book, things can come out of their book and stay in the real world.

Authors have used their magic to conjure up from their books whatever they seem to require at that particular moment, if their worlds have what they need, and have even been observed to conjure loyal creatures from specific books that serve their every whim.

Fortunately there are some limitations to this ability, being that things coming out of the book follows the same requirement of needing to be able to fit through the portal the size of two of the book's pages, and should the physics under which it exists in the fictional world of an author not fit with the physics of the real world it will either not function as it does in fiction or soon cease to live or exist entirely as the fictional physics holding it together has no sway in the real world.

Authors are aware of these limitations on their own magic and so try to have worlds with physics that fit as close to those of the real universe as possible. Another peculiar quirk of their magic is that whatever books they want to use for their magic needs to be leather-bound and have within it 100 actual writable pages. The quality of the leather and the paper doesn't matter, just that those conditions be fulfilled for the enchantment of the book to work. The ink and quill used in the writing of the rules on the first page doesn't matter either, just that they are good enough to write things with in a manner that is legible to more people than the author.

'Real world' physics in the setting is basically like ours, with exception to the magic that people can do which by definition basically ignores physics anyway but I thought I'd mention it regardless. For a power comparison to another kind of magic user, a fire mage can produce fire like a flamethrower and can cause tnt-like explosions. Many others exist. There's no inherent risk or cost to using magic other than being stupid with it and it costing your life, like a fire mage setting off the explosion too close to himself and subsequently dying, because I follow that just because you can use a certain kind of magic doesn't mean you're immune to its effects and would require from you to either use it intelligently or suffer the consequences. More than one magic type can be learned, usually a shielding one along with whatever else the magic user has learned just so they can be a bit more careless if they need to be, but any more than two would likely take more years of study than most people are willing to go through.

Is it possible that authors might be too powerful for your typical medieval fantasy setting?

List of changes to be made to make them less overpowered/apocalyptic in accordance to answers, and possible self-realizations:

  • The book must be able survive the presence of whatever comes out of it in order for the book to allow it to enter the real world. This prevents things like conjuring a piece of a star and destroying the world.
  • Living things pulled out of a book, intelligent or not, will not be able to practice magic in the real world even if they had magic in their fictional world due to them not having souls from the real world. Soul manipulation magic might be a workaround to this but whether an author wants to involve themselves with necromantic cults or practices to grant their summons the ability to use magic in the real world(which they'll still need to learn) will be up to them.
  • Nothing in the book world has a greater intelligence or cognitive capacity or learning ability than the author that made the world, but they might know things the author doesn't that is specific to living in the world in the book, like how to play a specific song or instrument the people in the book have or how to work a smithy or what mushrooms from the book-world are safe to eat.
  • Each time something comes out of the book that is not the author an actual page of the initial pages disappear from the book, with up to a maximum of X-1 instances(to make it so that the first page stays) of things being able to be pulled out of a book for any period of time, X being the amount of pages the book was originally made of. Putting something back into the book returns the page and allows for using it for another purpose. This does not hurt the world's simulation or suddenly cause certain areas or things to stop existing in the book world, but this should at least somewhat limit the infinite wealth issue. For things that can't exactly stay separated from other things of its kind that was summoned and would be intermixed(like sand), any kind of approximate mass of the summoned things returned to the book will do and needs not be the actual original sand or whatever that was summoned from the book. This should also help curb the stockpiling of too many explosives or other items of such 'I win because I have infinite X' scenarios.
  • Authors need to be aware of the physical locations of things inside of the book world in order to summon them. This would force them to need to experience and travel the world in their book in order to find that which they might want to summon. Unless a living thing is caged up or more or less in the same place at all times anyway this may also make summoning them less reliable. This would also force them to mine for gold or whatever other raw resource in order to know where it is if they want to summon it in the real world, if their world even has it in the first place. Manually making sure the gold is present is an option but would still require knowing where it is to summon. Sure they might be able to manually make sure it's easily attainable but this would still require them to write its physical location in by using relative reference points in their writing that would only be attainable by being in and experiencing their book world, which would also need to be survivable for them in order to do this.
  • Just like the real world, the book world has a chaos factor that would make the exact simulation of the real world for future prediction or counterfeit or other such reasons hard to pull off. With enough books made with the same set of rules with the purpose of simulating the real world the author might eventually come across a book world that gets things right but the odds of that are slim and most sane people would probably give up at some point.
  • There is a degree of skill and knowledge involved/required with writing the rules of the world on the first page. Failure to account for certain things might be harmless or might prove lethal to the author entering their book due to many things that would fit the bill of 'a world with our physics and with life', as the world might not have oxygen for example and the author wouldn't survive there but it would be perfect for the simulated creatures there. Since the first page is limited it can be hard to account for everything without using an excessively huge book, so authors would need to choose their words carefully and use the space efficiently if they want to feasibly carry around their book. Edits can be made to the rules if they realized they went wrong somewhere but it would waste valuable writing space on the first page.
  • Books pulled from a book world cannot be used for the enchantment that creates an author's book. Just in case anyone is thinking of this :)
  • The 'still being able to pull casters out of your book by putting them into the world as babies' I view as a valid exploit that a morally questionable author might do. People would notice the missing babies and would try to find them or do something about their disappearance, like dealing with the author if they suspect one.
  • Books will not allow things to be pulled from them if its presence would lead to the book's destruction as a result of its breakdown due to incompatible physics or due to the function of an object not being possible in the real world, like the breakdown of a star genesis or containment device. Hopefully now there'll be no more stars from the books.
  • Author books are soul-bound to the author and only allow one per author like a unique lock and key system. A different book can be obtained by removing the enchantment on an author's book and turning it back into a mundane one. This can be used to rewrite the rules of an author's world if their previous one ran out of space or wasn't desirable, or increase the amount of pages in the book. Should an author's book be turned back into a mundane one, anything they have summoned(is still present in the real world) will cease to exist. An author that is killed will also turn their book back to a mundane one.

Still thinking about ways to deal with the other things pointed out in wizzwizz4's answer.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Nov 29, 2021 at 22:46

10 Answers 10

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Yes, as you can casually destroy the world.

If you make a book about the sun, you can casually summon part of the sun, and destroy the planet. Any magic system which can casually destroy the biosphere of the planet is too strong.

You can pull out casters and books from your book who ideologically agree with you and quickly form an endless hegomizing swarm, or pull out normal wizards who agree with you.

The ability to duplicate advanced magical abilities endlessly lets a single author quickly conquer the earth.

Since the book size isn't defined, you can just make an arbitrarily large book and pull out whoever.

You can make infinite wealth instantly and conquer the planet financially.

This allows a single author to quickly conquer the planet.

You can generate infinite knowledge and intelligence.

Since you can pull out knowledgable beings, you can pull out smarter and smarter beings. This will quickly cause a singularity, as smarter beings can write smarter books, and soon you again have a hegomizing swarm AI conquering the universe.

The same is true of intelligence augmentations.

You can emulate every other magic tradition

Since you can just pull out magic users, you can just pull out experienced magic users who agree with you endlessly.

You can easily make non nuclear explosions on the scale of nuclear explosions.

Since you can make arbitrarily large books, you can simply pour explosives out of them endlessly. This gives you enough firepower to blow up any army, castle, or country.

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    $\begingroup$ Ouch... should another rule be added that the book itself must be able to survive the presence of whatever comes out of it in order for the thing coming out to be 'valid' for the portal? $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Nov 28, 2021 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ That would help. There's a lot of other exploits that could make this overpowering. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Nov 28, 2021 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ I added more obvious exploits that make them op. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Nov 28, 2021 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ Yikes, I see I'm going to have to do some nerfing. Thanks for pointing these out! $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Nov 28, 2021 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Lemming book survival could be worked around easily enough. Instead of the sun, have your book be about a planet with 100 mile deep oceans, built a giant catamaran boat, go to far out to sea, and then open the book suspended between the two hulls and let it gradually drown the world. $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2021 at 20:23
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Here's an idea, inspired by the Myst computer game series. Writing such books is hard. You can't really specify tiny details and expect things to magically fall in place. Well, you can, but it's almost always a bad idea. There's ALWAYS unintended consequences and it takes lots of skill and experience just to write a world that doesn't kill you immediately on entering. So forget about your mountains of gold or superintelligent servants, you don't have snowball's chance in hell of making that. Still, if you do manage to pull off a livable world, there might be something interesting in there...

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  • $\begingroup$ A knowledge and skill requirement for survivable worlds with useful things would make it less likely that any particular author would be able to field something that'd change the tide of battle... hmm... $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Nov 29, 2021 at 10:57
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    $\begingroup$ +1: In particular I would suggest reading The Book of Atrus for details on how this sort of thing might go badly if you don't know what you're doing. The writing is surprisingly good for a tie-in novel. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Nov 29, 2021 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ Your classical Genie's wish limitation. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Nov 29, 2021 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ Of course the catch in the Myst novels is that writing worlds isn't as difficult as it is traditionally held to be. There's a belief by the D'ni that only they are capable of learning and becoming true masters of The Art. Anna puts the lie to that belief. $\endgroup$
    – Necoras
    Nov 29, 2021 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ @KevinArlin: I did, but was also on the verge of medicated slumber and in a hazy state of not-quite with it. It’s the Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham, which I would have remembered if I’d been more conscious. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Dec 1, 2021 at 9:56
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Nepene-nep covers how overpowered access to drastically different worlds would be, but barely different worlds can be extremely overpowered too.

Imagine you wanted to conquer the world within 5 years. Just write a book set in a world where the only changes are that it is 5 years and 6 months later, and that your conquest was successful, and ask around how it was done. The simulation will take care of the details, all you need to do is ask about them, and then you can apply them in the real world. This kind of thing should work on any goal, no matter how big or small.

The same kind of thing can be used to avoid any possible countermeasures from people who know about your abilities. Like the counterfeiting example in the comments to Nep's answer. No matter how advanced the currency gets, you can always just create a world where identical money is given to you for free.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm... good points, there. The quest of nerfing continues. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2021 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ This may not work, because no one has access to full information about the entire world. Can someone write a book about something they do not know? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Nov 29, 2021 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Otkin You don't need to know the whole story immediately. There's nothing stopping you from checking fictional worlds every day to make sure you're on the right track. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Nov 29, 2021 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm... perhaps some sort of chaos factor will fix this, makes it so that things in the book world(objects, events, etc) won't ever be able to be exactly the same as ours... $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Nov 29, 2021 at 9:25
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With apologies to Nepene Nep. All of the problems in their answer are still valid problems.

You can still casually destroy the world

The book must be able survive the presence of whatever comes out of it in order for the book to allow it to enter the real world. This prevents things like conjuring a piece of a star and destroying the world.

This restriction is not sufficient. Simply remove an in-use Star Genesis kit from the world of Bobo's Star.

and should the physics under which it exists in the fictional world of an author not fit with the physics of the real world it will either not function as it does in fiction or soon cease to live or exist entirely as the fictional physics holding it together has no sway in the real world.

A Star Genesis kit is clearly fictional; you can't keep a star in your bedroom. The star inside, however? Well… it's not going to remain a star, but it could certainly do some damage on its way out. “Soon” suggests there might be lee-way, where you could rapidly remove the book from the vicinity of the disintegrating stellar containment technology.

You can still pull out casters from your book

Simply put them in your book as babies. Real soul, real magic.

You can still make a lot of wealth

Pull out and assemble a gem-making furnace. Make gems. Disassemble the gem-making furnace and return it to your book.

Your medieval fantasy setting does not expect this. If you hide the fact that gems are basically worthless, you can get a decent starting budget from the wealthy.

Then move onto another trick. Climb to the top of your tallest tower, open a book, and tip out a single, really really long rod of gold. It'll cost you one page, but you can cope with that; simply include an extra page in the original book, if you think you'll still need that world afterwards. (You're planning ahead, after all… right?) Again, hide how you now have more gold than some countries; the other wealthy people need to think your wealth is as legitimate as theirs, and they will – so long as they aren't keeping track, and so long as you don't seem to threaten them politically. (Be secretive with your trades.)

You'll be able to figure out where to go from there:

You can still generate infinite knowledge and intelligence

Living things pulled out of a book, intelligent or not, will not be able to practice magic in the real world even if they had magic in their fictional world due to them not having souls from the real world.

Nothing in the book world has a greater intelligence or cognitive capacity or learning ability than the author that made the world, but they might know things the author doesn't that is specific to living in the world in the book, like how to play a specific song or instrument the people in the book have or how to work a smithy or what mushrooms from the book-world are safe to eat.

You forgot one thing: characters have an effect on their world. A large number of characters with a common purpose would create educational institutions and work together. There are probably dozens of ways to cheese this, at least:

  • An educational regime dedicated to increasing the knowledge and intelligence of the author. Either this raises the limitations on the characters, allowing a tightly-fed-back exponential increase in intelligence, or (if the intelligence threshold is set at book creation time), the author can make a new book with a slightly-higher intelligence limit.
    • If time travel is possible inside the author's world, straight up magitech handwavium intelligence boost the author, then send them back in time a few seconds to prop up the intelligence limit to make that have been possible. Sure, that intelligence boost still can't leave the setting… but does it need to? Heck, the author's probably intelligent enough to make it consistent with real-world physics, now.
  • An ancient, galactic society of AI researchers who, without ever creating a super-human intelligence (which they cannot do, due to the laws of their world), work out all of the theory necessary to produce one. Use this knowledge to create the superhuman intelligence in the real world. This new intelligence, being born in the real world, would gain a real soul, and could become an Author. Rinse and repeat.
  • Simply give your problems to the characters. Many regular intelligences, working together, can come up with much better ideas than any could alone.
    • If the world inside the book runs faster than the real world, even better!

You can still emulate every other magic tradition

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. — Arthur C. Clarke

Characters don't need to be intelligent to have nigh-magical technology. And then you can just borrow some; I'm sure they'd be happy to let you have it.

You can still easily blow up the world.

Each time something comes out of the book that is not the author an actual page of the initial pages disappear from the book,

You assume that the author cares about the book. Normally, this would be true… but how likely is an author to care about a book like:

The world has normal, real-world physics. There is a room, sealed from all outside intrusion. The room contains four hundred devices (destroyers) that can explode with such ferocity as to demolish a hill, and another (activator) that can cause them to explode. No destroyers will detonate except when activated by the activator, which is designed to permit deliberate detonation and prevent accidental activation.

?

Books are positively cheap, compared to the nigh-unlimited power that using up its pages can bring. Unless an author can only have one book ever… but there are people who would use their one and only book on something like this. (And yes, medieval people did know of explosions; anywhere you're storing flour is prone to accidental deflagration.)

And if an author can only have one book? Simply add more pages.

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    $\begingroup$ Excessively pedantic nitpick: Flour explosions are deflagrations, not detonations. Not that it particularly matters to the baker, who's going to have a really bad day either way. $\endgroup$
    – Hearth
    Nov 29, 2021 at 1:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Hearth Fixed, thanks. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Nov 29, 2021 at 2:03
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    $\begingroup$ Unless your book and therefore the possible bombs are extremely big, the only kind of bomb powerful enough to "demolish a hill" is a nuclear bomb, which a person in a mediaeval fantasy world would have no way of knowing was possible. I suppose a bold author might try writing that just to see whether it was possible or not, though. Do the workings of the books allow for "I don't know how or even if this could be done, but do it however is possible"? And what happens if according to the other laws of nature specified it isn't possible, i.e. if the first page contains a contradiction? $\endgroup$
    – A. B.
    Nov 30, 2021 at 2:46
  • $\begingroup$ The "really really long rod of gold" plan, as described, would need serious machinery to lift the weight of the gold, given that a litre of gold (about a four-inch cube) weighs 19.3kg. Still, you could make it work, for instance have a gold wire thin enough to bend and wind it onto an enormous drum. No need to do it on top of a tower where everyone can see you, then, either. $\endgroup$
    – A. B.
    Nov 30, 2021 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ This gets the Authors much closer to something usable for a story: a credible threat that can be defeated. Creating infinite gold, but in small amounts at a time? That’s a mystery that a merchant could solve. The Author is creating superpowered babies, and raising them as his own children? Writes itself! $\endgroup$
    – Davislor
    Dec 1, 2021 at 6:50
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Would authors be too powerful for your typical medieval fantasy setting?

This all depends on what other elements are in your setting. In your "typical" medieval fantasy setting, this power could just be one of many possible overpowered abilities which inherently makes it balanced.

Let's take D&D's Faerûn as an example of a typical medieval fantasy setting. Most magic is small scale stuff: throw a fire ball that can take out a few guards, or heal some minor wounds... but then at the upper end of the spectrum, you have a world full of magic so powerful that any one of a few hundred possible foes would seem powerful enough to conquer the whole world... if not for all the competition in the over powered Big-Bad-Guy department.

So the question is not if this form of magic is too powerful, but what forces exist in your universe to check-and-balance the power of these mages. So, could an Author create a 12 foot tall book, and use it to summon an army of loyal ogres to do his bidding, or giant piles of gold, or a massive deadly cloud of poison? Absolutely! But the Lich King next door is busy raising an army of zombies from the remains of a recent battlefield, and the Artificer next door to him is building his army of stone golems, and the Emperor next door to him is conscripting an army of battle mages, and the Warlock next door to him is busy trying to open a gateway to Hell... and somewhere in the middle of all of these things is a simple farm boy bound by destiny to one day defeat you all and restore peace and prosperity to the land.

So yes, an Author could be a very powerful person, but in the typical medieval fantasy, this is perfectly okay. Even if an author technically had the power to summon a world ending explosion, that does not mean there are not gods even more powerful than an Author willing to use a little bit of miracle power, prophesy, and/or fate manipulation to stop this from ever happening.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think Ed Greenwood himself might have acknowledged, the setting (as published by corporations after he sold them the rights) doesn’t really hold together that well if you think about it too hard. There have been jokes about rules lawyers completely wrecking the setting for decades. $\endgroup$
    – Davislor
    Dec 1, 2021 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ I'm reminded of one description of the Warhammer 40k universe which suggested that there are so many apocalyptic threats happening at once that they're getting in one another's way and effectively propping up the setting rather than destroying it. A nuclear blast is catastrophic on earth, but pissing into a hurricane on the sun. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Dec 1, 2021 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Davislor That is precisely why I brought up my points about fate and gods. The gods in DnD are WAY more powerful than any monsters that go running around in the world. Even Daurgothoth at CR:50 was said to have only been allowed to continue living because Mystra liked him. While the gods certainly like to play games with the lives of mortals, they also require the worship of mortals; so, the existence of omniscient and practically omnipotent beings with a vested interest in the continued exitance of the world will always make sure that such mortal powers never lead to world ending events. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Dec 1, 2021 at 15:26
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First Law of Thermodynamics

If you want to make sure that your magic is fair, the easiest way is to follow the ultimate anti-cheat in the real world: The First Law of Thermodynamics.

To put it simply it means

  • You cannot create something (matter or energy) from nothing
  • You cannot completely remove something (matter or energy)
  • You can convert matter into energy and vice-versa

Any magic that violates these rules is overpowered. So for example, if I can pull even a drop of water out of a book, I can repeat that and flood the world. If I can pull any kind of energy from the book, I can repeat that, and have unlimited energy/power which can be converted to matter.

So a good way to go about designing magic systems is to follow the First Law of Thermodynamics (doesn't have to be exactly exact, but in principle). For every something you make, the magic takes something.

Examples

A very good example is the Full Metal Alchemist anime. Alchemists (basically mages) in that series use up source material, which is then converted into other material or energy.

Another example, which you can see in all sorts of media, is magic, that takes from the environment (depleting magic streams or other life), from the mage (which weakens/kills the mage) or from another magic dimension (which first has to exist, not a dimension that is created by the mage).

Application

So to apply that to your authors (really nice idea, basically Fantasy-Scribblenauts), they need to use up some resource.

Creating the Book-Worlds and going into them probably wouldn't need to use up energy, because the Book-Worlds could be imaginary, kinda like an advanced Holodeck or VR.

Taking something out of the Book-Worlds is where the whole thing breaks down, since it would create something from nothing.

So maybe the books are made up of some special material and that material is used up by weight. So if the book weighs 10 Kilograms, and you pull out 1 KG of Gold, 1 KG of the pages of the book would disapper, so that the book now only weighs 9 KG.

Since this material can effectively be converted into anything, it is also the most valuable material in the world.

As a second rule, the author would need to understand what they create in detail. It is not enough to say "I create a super-smart robot", but you actually need to know everything the robot would know. The book would work like a very advanced manufacturing process. That way, for example, the author wouldn't be able to create something/someone that is much smarter than the author themselves.

This would solve all the other problems mentioned by the other answers:

  • Destroying the world is much harder. 10 kg of Sun are hot, don't have nearly enough energy to do serious harm to the world.
  • Pulling casters/soldiers/smart beings out of a book would be possible, but those couldn't be smarter or more magically powerful than the author. Also, people weigh a lot. 50kg or more of the magic material is expensive! It might be much easier to hire people.
  • Creating wealth wouldn't work, since the magic material is worth more than anything you could convert it into (at least, in material value).
  • Generating infinite knowledge and intelligence wouldn't work
  • Emulating other magic traditions wouldn't work, since the author cannot give created objects abilities, that they themselves don't have
  • Nuclear explosions would still work, but again, it might be cheaper to just buy some uranium. Also, explosions from creating infinite explosives won't work.
  • In general, creating living things would be incredibly difficult, because the author needs to know where each little blood vessel goes and where every cell should be.
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    $\begingroup$ I thought of FMA too when I you suggested it has to follow the first law of thermodynamics. Great minds and all that. :) $\endgroup$
    – Rain
    Dec 1, 2021 at 2:42
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This sounds like The Chronicles of Amber

Amber has a similar premise. The main characters are part of the Amber royal family and can venture out into "Shadow", which is an infinite number of universes. Some universes are "lo-tech", and rely on horses and swords - in general, explosives don't work well in these universes. Some are "high-tech" and have things like cars, gun powder, and nukes.

The royal siblings don't like each other and have no issue blowing their kin to smithereens if it puts them ahead. So why don't they just trade nukes? The worlds they live in are "lo-tech" and nukes and other explosive devices don't work due to the laws of physics being different.

The same is true for your books. Every book has it's own physics, which may not translate to the writer's world.

Sure, you can write a book about a planet destroying weapon (aka Death Star), but on this side it's a giant hunk of metal that shoots a flash-light beam.

Want a 50ft tall giant with armored scales? His body structure wasn't designed for our atmosphere and gravity and he falls down a moment after stepping out of the page. Same goes for the super-genius visiting our world. He's the smartest man in any universe where 2 + 2 = 5

Throw in a couple of other rules such as the book becomes increasingly difficult to open the more materials are pulled through and you can limit the power of your authors.

EDIT

I don't think author mages are overpowered. It's a fine art matching book physics to real-world physics. After the first few "planet of gold" books, all precious metals and gems will be effectively worthless, and your world will be the ultimate knowledge economy. The devil is in the details.

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  • $\begingroup$ Amber's an example of pushing this. They were able to eventually discover and pull in high tech (guns and computers, as I recall) from these imaginary worlds -- effectively they used them as custom-designed huge research labs. $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2021 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ @OwenReynolds - The later books did manage to pull in gun powder and eventually computers and some other things. $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2021 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ "fountain of gold and jews" conjures up all the wrong images, but it's too short for me to edit... Please fix that... $\endgroup$ Nov 30, 2021 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ Insert WandaVision spoilers here. :) $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2021 at 17:15
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Books are not truly portals to another realm

The common perception that Authors can enter their books and bring back artefacts or even people is not exactly true.

Authors can project themselves into their works and interact with the world they have created. That much is true. But nothing can truly enter or leave the book. The book is in truth a simulated reality and the projection of the Author is merely an avatar, not their physical selves.
The Author themselves simply enters a tiny hyperspace oubliette which serves as a kind of simulation-chamber. Projecting what their Avatar is seeing and experiencing, and reading what the Author is attempting to do.

They are effectively playing a video game rather than truly entering the world they created.

Something more like a Star Trek holodeck than a Myst style world-writing/interacting mechanic.

The Books themselves can however Conjure physical matter in a manner similar to other more conventional magics. The Author benefits from this as a way to keep themselves fed and watered while interacting with the Book-Verse. After all, it's just a simulation and the Author is emphatically not..

The fringe-benefit is that anything the Author wants to bring back is Conjured by the Book within the Sim space and not removed from them when they leave.

Clothes they wear in the Book are not lost when they leave. Weapons or artefacts are theirs to keep. Coins and money are theirs to keep and (depending on the book) may be indistinguishable from real-world money.

Magical Counterfeiting is a whole issue in itself, but the Books do nothing that a skilled Wizard can't accomplish with some work.

The upshot is that the Book isn't actually doing much outside of the normal scope of Conjuration and Illusion magics that any qualified wizard can do. The normal rules apply, it's merely a highly sophisticated implementation of it.

A Book-Portal to the Heart-of-the-sun Dimension isn't going to work as a Weapon of Mass Destruction because the Book has only a limited maximum magical output to produce fire with. It has not created a universe of infinite sun-fire, only a passable simulation of a small part of one.

It might well generate a giant fireball that incinerates everything for a hundred meters, but that's nothing a capable Fire-Wizard can't do.

More realistically, it'll produce an uncomfortably high heat, and the otherwise convincing illusion of a portal to a realm of fire and light.

It's up to the Author whether their book is actually capable of harming its users.

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    $\begingroup$ Hmm... I'm tempted to run with this. Nice answer by the way! $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Dec 1, 2021 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ As an addendum, if this is still too powerful (the ability to effectively mass-produce enchanted swords for example) then make it so I can emerge from my book-realm wearing realm-appropriate clothing and carrying realm-coinage, but the matter that made it up will degrade over time because it's effectively held together by the magic of the book. Fine for when you're inside the book/sim-space, but once you leave, you only have a relatively limited time to find new clothes before they literally disintegrate to dust. Basically a more forgiving version of holodeck matter from star trek. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Dec 1, 2021 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ In this way, you can have your magic-sword from narnia, but only for a little while before it loses its magic, and then crumbles to dust.. It also puts me in mind of Leprechaun Gold, which famously vanishes overnight after you spend it. Making shopkeepers very very angry indeed. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Dec 1, 2021 at 16:41
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While they are essentially gods within the worlds of their books, there is scholarly debate as to whether the art of authors is too dangerous to be practiced by the general public, because just like how an author can go into and stay in their book, things can come out of their book and stay in the real world. [...]

Is it possible that authors might be too powerful for your typical medieval fantasy setting?

Everyone is correct that the short answer is "Yes, with such powerful magic you can destroy the world." But your typical medieval fantasy setting has at least two innate corrective principles:

Wizards are old and wise. Either axiomatically (cf. Tolkien's Istari) or simply because the young stupid ones are killed off early (cf. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. This quote is from Chapter 20, but I believe the same motif comes up in several chapters):

"Those fool Muggles will kill us all someday!" Professor Quirrell's voice had grown louder. "They will end it! End all of it!"

Harry was feeling a bit lost here. "What are we talking about here, nuclear weapons?"

"Yes, nuclear weapons!" Professor Quirrell was almost shouting now. "Even He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named never used those, perhaps because he didn't want to rule over a heap of ash! They never should have been made! And it will only get worse with time!" Professor Quirrell was standing up straight instead of leaning on his desk. "There are gates you do not open, there are seals you do not breach! The fools who can't resist meddling are killed by the lesser perils early on, and the survivors all know that there are secrets you do not share with anyone who lacks the intelligence and the discipline to discover them for themselves! Every powerful wizard knows that! Even the most terrible Dark Wizards know that! And those idiot Muggles can't seem to figure it out! The eager little fools who discovered the secret of nuclear weapons didn't keep it to themselves, they told their fool politicians and now we must live under the constant threat of annihilation!"

When the world is threatened by annihilation, a hero arises. Sure, the Big Bad might pervert his Authority and try to destroy the world, and he might even come close to succeeding; but the whole point of your story is to explain how the hero(es) thwarted him in the end. Cf. So You Want To Be a Wizard (and also basically every fantasy adventure with this level of stakes).

"A hero arises" works only if you're willing to write that story with those stakes. If you're aiming for a smaller scale (Thieves' World, Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser? I dunno enough about the oeuvre to know for sure the names I'm dropping match the semantics I mean), then you probably avoid this trope... or, scale it down to match! Cf. The Mysterious Red Tape Gang or Scooby-Doo. Old Man Withers is working on a book in his basement that won't destroy the world but will make the village of Marian Mede slightly more unpleasant to live in? Warrior-Hermit Janus Marple discovers the plot and destroys Withers' book just in the nick of time!

Finally, here's a non-traditional alternative, just to prove I can do it ;) — Fork the blockchain. A sufficiently skilled Author can with a few deft words evoke the entirety of the current physical universe within the pages of his Book. Such Authors always keep a "go Book" near at hand, so that if the current universe seems about to be destroyed, they can quickly step through and pronounce, "I define myself to be on the outside."

There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

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  • $\begingroup$ Another place the trope comes up in HPMOR is Chapter 4, where Harry discovers that the wizarding economy survives only because nobody has ever bothered to crash it. We don't really need a pre-thought-out reason for this. "Well, nobody's ever done it before" suffices for fantasy purposes, and even for HPMOR's own purposes. Chalk it up to "People are fundamentally good and/or stupid," and move on with the story. :) $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2021 at 17:46
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Destroy the ecosystem:

From medium orbit: Toss out a long rope with a substantial weight on the end--it will orient vertically with the author at one end the weight at the other, now he's in a very low gravity environment. Pour out a rod of anti-lead. When it reaches thick enough atmosphere the results will be spectacular.

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  • $\begingroup$ What question are you answering with this? The premise is how to limit the power of this ability to something that isn't universe-breakingly OP. Not how to destroy the world with this power. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Dec 1, 2021 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Ruadhan I'm saying the current version isn't limited enough. I don't know how to limit it adequately, though. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2021 at 16:00

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