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My world uses a 5-element magic system: electricity (Electro), wind (Anemo), fire (Pyro), water (Hydro), earth (Geo) and tree (Dendro) which will only appear in a spin-off series but I decided to include it anyway.

Each element has a unique property (UP), which is basically a magic effect that is exclusive to the element. I've come up with UP for most of these except for Anemo.

The only element that doesn't have a UP yet is Anemo. I've been researching about the properties of air, oxygen, nitrogen but I still have no idea about what it should be. I always though that air/wind is inert. Probably why most wind magic in a lot of magic systems/media has no sub-magic like in Avatar the Last Airbender (Firebending -> Lightningbending) and when it does, it's usually just flying or a stretch such as electricity/lightning, sound, etc.

Spatial magic is also the most compatible magic form with Anemo although every Element can use all magic forms: spatial magic, healing, construct magic, disruption magic. Magic Form and Unique Property usually have no connection, the fact that it's similar is purely coincidental due to the nature of the elements, i.e. fire burns.


Edit: I decided to readd the UP of the others, I removed it initially since the post was flagged by a bot, lmao.

Electro: Electromagnetism
Allows mages to attract or repel people or things or even magic, electro mages can manipulate the positive and negative charges. Based on the Yin-Yang, males are the positive charge while females are the negative charge.

※Electro was inspired by static electricity and Van de Graaff generators. I came across an explanation that lightning are basically giant static shocks. I liked this explanation and so I decided to make this element around this fact.

Anemo: Decay The Unique Property of Anemo is Decay, because Anemo is the closest to mana, it is capable of inducing corrosion or oxidation on magic, accelerating its decay into mana. In humans, Decay causes mana poisoning: weakness, fatigue, drowsiness, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing, continued exposure to Anemo can cause organ failure and ultimately, death. In small amounts, Anemo is able to cure illnesses caused by pathogens, although it will initially negatively affect the body.

Mana, in its purest form, is highly toxic (mana poisoning), prolonged exposure to it will lead to death. Magic has a half-life, all magic will eventually decay into mana.

Pyro: Burning
Pyro flames can burn the mana of objects, people and magic and consume it as a fuel source to sustain it. Pyro mages can choose to direct the consumed mana to themselves in order to rpelenish their own mana reserves.

Hydro: Revitalization
Hydro is capable of prolonging the life of living organisms as well as mana/magic by absorbing Hydro, this process consumes the mana of Hydro, reducing it to ordinary water so the mana must be constantly replenished.

※The UP of Hydro is inspired by the Fountain of Youth.

Geo: Fortify
Fortify is the UP of Geo, allowing it to become stronger and more durable up to a certain degree whenever it is damaged by ordinary or magical means. When the damage exceeds this threshold, the Geo will fracture and shatter, releasing a blast of mana.

※Inspired by the work-hardening of metals.

Dendro: Heart
Context: In my world, a being called the "Cultivator" is responsible for creating the World Tree by sowing its own heart, the World is the fruit of this World Tree. So everything was basically created by the desires of the heart of the Cultivator. As such, the heart is the seat of the soul of the person.

Heart allows Dendro mages to tap into the heart/soul/mind of a person, allowing them to manipulate emotions or induce dreams or nightmares.

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    $\begingroup$ There could be many different unique effects for air magic. It would be useful to know what unique effects other elements have in your system, so that the unique effect for air element fits into the overall system well. $\endgroup$ Jun 19, 2023 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ I think you're underestimating how much tactical prowess you can achieve with flight of oneself alone 🦋🔫. That being said, we can't tell if it's balanced (like with other balancing-magic-systems questions) without knowing how magic works in details and each element's UP. Think you should add that. If your question gets too long, perhaps focus on what you want air to be strong against/in : wins against a specific element's UP, be efficient in a specific domain (warfare, agriculture, logistics...). $\endgroup$ Jun 19, 2023 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ What are the "unique properties" of the other elements? $\endgroup$
    – Stef
    Jun 19, 2023 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ I feel some influence from a certain Chinese game... $\endgroup$ Jun 20, 2023 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ "I use a 5 element system composed of 6 elements..." Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Electricity, Wood... I count 6. $\endgroup$
    – Questor
    Jun 20, 2023 at 17:26

11 Answers 11

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Reactions (degration or building)

Air on Earth is rich in oxygen. Approximately 21% of our air is oxygen, with roughly 78% being nitrogen.

Oxygen is highly reactive. It is the reason it is used in so many organisms, the reason things rust, the reason things burst into flames/explosions and much more. Each of these depends on the reactive nature of oxygen. This way oxygen can either build things, or very much degrade or destroy things.

As hydro has revitalising properties I would suggest air has degrading properties. It'll wear down things over time, or if used correctly (or very incorrectly) it'll accelerate the process in an fast reaction and completely destroy the original. This will also make air an interesting choice. It seems very mild in many ways, requiring an exponential amount to actively do something. A storm to onock down a hoise costs an ludicrous amount of energy compared to a fire, which releases the energy in the house. Air pressure requires a lot of air on the right place. And yet suddenly things are decaying from rust or other oxygen like reactions, making air a formidable but unexpected force.

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Air is the medium of perception* and illusions**

Ever seen a mirage? That's caused by air arranged in a specific way. The colour of the sky, the shimmering of the stars, the deadly illusion of water in the desert are all just the air tricking you.

Distant sounds appearing close, or sounds appearing to come from a different direction? That's air too.

Smells? Obviously.

Air can deafen, air can blind, air can cause hot to feel cold or cold to feel hot. To have power over air means to have power over how others perceive the world around them.


*Strictly speaking this is only true for perceiving things that are happening away from your body, but in terms of illusions it's not a big stretch to extend it to all illusions.

**In this context I use the term "illusions" to differentiate from hallucinations: illusions are real and physical while hallucinations only happen in your head.

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  • $\begingroup$ +Suffocation or lack of? $\endgroup$
    – pinegulf
    Jun 22, 2023 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ @pinegulf Lots of things are possible, I just tried to pick one major area of magic that didn't seem to have been covered by any of the other options. Not all magic has to be about damage. $\endgroup$
    – biziclop
    Jun 22, 2023 at 8:46
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Based on what I am sensing for the other four main elements, it looks like they are a metaphysical extension of what the element can or should do.

  • Electro works on electromagnetic principles applied in a metaphysical manner
  • Pyro increases its ability to exist and burn, draining the burned magic back to caster
  • Hydro work on the Fountain of Youth (specified) to extend life, an extension of the healing waters concept
  • Geo applies the idea of hardening and fortifying metals to other things, reinforcing them

Based on that, Anemo's ability should extend the premise of Air. Without air, we'd all suffocate and die -- and while poisoned air can bring swift death to the masses, likewise clean (or pure) air can bring new health to somebody. As such, I propose for an ability ... Cleansing.

Cleansing

One option for the UP of Anemo, the element of Air, is based on the premise of clean and fresh air being revitalizing to the body. Or in this case, whatever is being cleansed really.

While it looks superficially similar to Hydro's UP, Anemo's Cleansing UP cannot extend the life of a person directly as Revitalization can. Instead, it removes afflictions of the physical and non-physical form through pure Anemo. While most would think of toxins and miasmas when they consider the ability, if powerful enough a person can also cleanse one of less physical things as well, like curses for one.

While certain magics may be able to heal specific afflictions more closely tied to an element, only Anemo's Cleansing would have the ability to remove anything with one skill.

The damage that these debilitating conditions have caused will still need to be healed, but that is what the more generically available healing magics are for.

In RPG terms, Cleansing removes any and/or all debuffs from a person.

Also, I trust if these UP's can be inverted that you can see where this is going. Plenty of nasty things come in gaseous form, I assure you.

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    $\begingroup$ While reading your comment, aerobic and anaerobic bacteria came to mind. Healing magic is only limited to the regeneration of tissues/cells, it is unable to cure ailments caused by pathogens. Aerobic bacteria requires oxygen to survive while it kills anaerobic bacteria. Another idea that came to mind is the Death Zone. I like the idea of air/wind being able to buff or debuff/curse. $\endgroup$
    – GatLikha
    Jun 20, 2023 at 7:03
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Pairing up by opposites

A typical pattern in building elemental systems is to pair elements in opposites. Hot and cold, heal and hurt, creation and destruction...

If we can pair up Wind with another element, we can then devise an effect relative to that other element's effect. The focus here is to seek the missing interaction aspect in this system, rather than finding something that fits wind, but could step on another element's properties.

Straight away the pair Water-Fire seems obvious. No need for lengthy explanations here, since putting these two as opposites is a typical setup. It's nice that their UP effects are straight opposites as well.

That leaves us with Earth, Electricity and Heart. Here, Earth-Wind is a usual combination as well, probably the most natural out of the remaining candidates.

That does leave Electricity-Heart as an odd pair. The only association I could find is body-mind, or physical-mental. You could also decide that those two are "odd ones out", and that they do not pair with anything. This works especially well because you mentioned that the last one would come later as part of a spin-off series.

Opposite to fortification?

As for the nature of this "opposite" pair, there is a fairly straightforward answer which comes from the following idea : choosing between defense and speed.

It is a common idea that more resistance is to be balanced with less agility. The typical choice between heavy armor, which relies on absorbing damage, and light armor, which focuses around avoiding attacks altogether.

If your Earth focuses on the resistance aspect, then Wind can focus on the evasive aspect, increasing agility and speed. You could also extend that to weight, giving the ability to make other objects (or people) less heavy.

The system is complete

Another advantage of this system is that those aspects of the different elements are balanced with one another. Each element portrays major aspects that contribute to a system with a feeling of completeness :

  • Creation/healing/giving for Water
  • Destruction/harming/taking for Fire
  • Preservation/resistance/immobility for Earth
  • Change/evasion/movement for Wind
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Wind or Air magic could create a vacuum, and basically suck things up into the air, or suffocate things.

You could blow down buildings, blow down trees. Make planes and helicopters fall out of the sky, no air (or thin air) means no lift. The wings, propellers, and blades don't work.

The practitioner could literally fly by manipulating currents and pressure.

You could create tornadoes and hurricanes, water spouts in the ocean. Tidal waves, tsunamis, rogue waves on a lake. You'd never want for sail power.

Given a turbine, you could have endless electrical power.

Wind magic could be awesome. My lawn would always be clear of leaves!

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Since you seem to be looking to real life for inspiration, perhaps you could glean some inspiration from Atmospheric pressure (or barometric pressure), the pressure within the atmosphere of our world. As I understand it, it is the force exerted on a surface by the air above it as gravity pulls it to earth. Air has weight, it presses against everything and is everywhere except in some manmade examples (Pressure Chambers/Vacuum Chamber).

Weather magic is a possible use of this power since Atmospheric pressure is an indicator of weather. Low-pressure systems usually lead to clouds, wind and precipitation while high-pressure systems usually lead to calm weather.

Directly effecting atmospheric pressure could lead to some pretty destructive magic if the mages use it directly against humans, namely creating a vacuum around said humans. They won't blow up like the movies make characters do in space, an actual vacuum, and it would be a little more destructive than simply asphyxiating someone like Zaheer did in Legend of Korra. Looking at previous exposures to vacuums (https://www.livescience.com/human-body-no-spacesuit) sees a loss of consciousness within 10 seconds, some losing control of their bladders and bowel systems, and the swelling in their muscles constricting blood flow to their hearts and brains. We also know from a survivor that a person could potentially feel the saliva in their mouth start to boil before passing out. In the absence of pressure, the liquid water in our bodies would boil - changing immediately from a liquid to a gas and causing all of your body tissues that contain water to expand.

The official opinion from this article is that death is likely in less than two minutes.

According to NASA's bioastronautics data book (second edition),

"the vacuum of space would also pull air out of your lungs, causing you to suffocate within minutes. After an initial rush of air surged out, the vacuum would continue to pull gas and water vapor from your body through your airways. The continuous boiling of water would also produce a cooling effect — the evaporation of water molecules would absorb heat energy from your body and would cause the parts near your nose and mouth to nearly freeze. The remainder of your body would also cool, but it would do so more slowly because not as much evaporation would take place."

Considering Earth isn't space, the last paragraph would be more inspiration than what would happen but I thought I would add it anyway. Pretty long answer, but maybe useful.

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Dendro's Heart power allows you to access the soul of a living being. But what about all the inanimate stuff in your world, like rocks and swords and stuff? Enter Anemo's Animate power, which breathes the Breath of Life into these objects. Perhaps the user is lending a piece of their own soul as they make that boulder levitate. With Animate (maybe you want to spell it Anemate) and enough control over your own soul, you can make your sword fly around like a boomerang.

Anemate doesn't work on living objects though, since their soul has already filled the space that yours would try to enter. Unless you're really powerful. Then you can bloodbend (I mean, soulbend) and finally get the person in the seat next to you to stop stealing your armrest.

Good luck finding your sibling, Traveler.

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A bunch of ideas of things related to air and wind:

  • sound: create silence or deafening sounds by helping/stopping sound from propagating through air;
  • weather: make clouds appear or disappear, or even more turbulent weather;
  • flying: make yourself fly, or send your enemies flying, or make birds drop off the sky;
  • speed: like a boat picking up speed in the wind, make yourself run faster or make your fist faster so its punch is stronger;
  • pressure: could be used to create powerful blasts, or to seal things (don't want people to get your treasure? put it in a sealed box and decrease the pressure inside so the lid can't be opened);
  • walls of air: make the air so dense that it becomes an invisible wall or an invisible staircase;
  • rust / acceleration: accelerate all reactions involving oxygen - and frankly you can push this one to the extreme and say that you can accelerate anything, including make plants mature faster or people age faster.
  • conservation / freezing: going the opposite direction, you can preserve food by stopping its interaction with air, and you can push this concept to the extreme and freeze anything, stop people aging and turn people into statues.
  • support for other elemental magics: fire needs air to burn, electricity comes from the weather which comes from air, trees rely on oxydoreduction chemical reactions of which oxygen is the most important component, etc.; in a way, wind/air is a central element that is related to every other element; perhaps wind mages have the ability to support other elemental mages; for instance, maybe there are some complex powerful spells for other elements that the other elemental mages cannot perform alone, but they can perform them if a wind mage joins their magic to them.
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Travel movement and (upon occasion) invisible force

Wind is never still, always in constant movement. It can rise above the tops of the tallest mountains, cross oceans, slip through the smallest of cracks and tear down the mightiest of trees and bend fire and water to it's will.

So wind is the domain of movement and deflection allowing practitioners to cover long distances quickly or with little effort, to send messages long distances (or listen to distant conversations). It can also divert or deflect various forms of magical & physical attacks and while not perhaps the form of magic best suited to attack spells and certainly not the most obvious wind magic can hurl assailants off their feet, fling objects at them, blind with smoke or dust or (more subtly) suck the very air from their lungs.

And probably a lot more too.

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I have a somewhat simplistic take but it makes some kind of sense, as for UP the could have the ability to user specific chemicals (call it whatever for the story) that would slightly modify theyr spell, or change certain chemicals, lets say someone is underwater , air magic could turn all the CO2 in the lungs of a person into O2.

Besides theres some real, solid advantages to air magic over fire water etc.As the other awnser touched on, climate as in: -Oxigen + Fire = more fire -CO2 + fire = less fire -Less excited air (less energy/colder) + water = Ice? -More excited air (more energy/hotter) + water = Vapor/Boiling water -Less excited air + earth = brittle earth (breaks easly) -More exicted air + earth = Lava

Besides your missing the coolest point of all, an air mage would be able to agitate the particles in the air, like a microwave does to water, you could make a certain region unable to be habitable due to sheer cold/warmth.

They wouldnt be particularly good in anything, but overall they would be the best. They throw rocks ? i can throw rocks too. They make a tsunami ? Cool, its now vapor. They make fire ? No oxigen no fire boi.

Also it could make eletric useless since energy its just excited particles travelling through ionized air so they could have some nice combos too, the options are endless.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea in your second paragraph, being able to alter the composition of air by converting CO2 to O2 or the amounts of its other components. $\endgroup$
    – GatLikha
    Jun 20, 2023 at 6:43
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To match the pattern of the others, it seems like all have external effects, that may be supernatural like "healing." It also doesn't seem to rely on the primary trait of the element itself, so electromagnetism can simply work on everything.

This means lightning wouldn't be off the table (air -> clouds -> thunder -> lightning). Telekinesis (the manipulation of air to move objects) is essentially like electromagnetism. Flying is not external, and if it was about changing the gravity of objects, it wouldn't fit the air-theme.

I'd rethink if air shouldn't do control of air and thus telekinesis, and electromagnetism shouldn't be something else. It doesn't fit the theme anyway - it's too modern, while air, earth, water, fire are ancient concepts. And without electromagnetism, air could have a secondary attribute to alter the weight of objects (gravitation) to allow them to fly, or to be heavier. Earth allows an increase of durability and stability, effectively allowing light armor to become as protective as very heavy armor, so why not give air the ability to wear very heavy without its greatest disadvantage, its weight? They would also be somewhat opposite in effect, but rather complementary.

Anyway, if you want modern elements, you'd have to go for things like electromagnetism, gravitation, matter, thermal, energy. Ancient elements would be something like fire, water, earth, air, order, chaos, nature, light, shadow, life, death, etc. Mixing the two domains of old and modern may work, but not if you are doing things like "healing", which in itself would be simple as "magic" (it just works), but in modern settings it would be extremely complicated. Aka restoring cells (how? based on read genetics?), restoring energy storing cells (creating matter out of nowhere?), what about pain, what about blood loss, trauma to the body and mind, infections, what about damage to body parts in the periphery, precision of the process, etc.

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