In a fantasy world I'm building, one of the main two types of mages have innate control over natural elements. About 1 in 50 people in this world have the ability to take part in the ritual to give themselves control over that magic. The main downside of this is that if killed, or to die through natural causes, the mage would violently release their energy out into the world. Results would vary based on whatever natural element they could control (earth mages causing earthquakes, water mages creating floods, air mages causing hurricanes and tornadoes, etc). These disasters would likely take form over radii of multiple kilometers depending on that mage's power. Extremely powerful mages' deaths would change the surrounding terrain permanently into mountains, desert, etc. How would this effect society?

For extra preface, this world has been recovering from a societal collapse/apocalypse level event a few hundred years ago, so actual pockets of society are limited to sparse corners of people with limited trade. Most mages would not be long term members of society settling down anywhere or at worst shunned from society. Undeath is also an option in this setting, albeit that death from undead means like vampires being staked through the heart would still cause this "explosion", would just prevent old age at the cost of mental stability

Any other things that would have to be considered in a world like this? any sort of complications that would come from miles large natural disasters anytime a wizard dies?

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    $\begingroup$ 1 in 50 people dying can cause a disaster that extends for kilometres? I struggle to see how society can function at all. Is it only violent deaths? Are old folks' homes basically a nuclear testing ground? $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Aug 24 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ Hi @ Skittle, how the society would change is very broad and therefore hard to answer accurately and concisely. As you can see in the help-center here and here, Worldbuilding stack-exchange is best at dealing with specific, focused issues you're having. They often hapoen when you go deeper into your worldbuilding. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Aug 24 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ For instance (but you're not forced to ask it!), when I think about this exploding premise, I'm asking myself how people would deal with that : "How can my people reduce damage to buildings -and so lives- if 2% create earthquakes on death (without ostracizing these 2%)?" It's not anymore about everything, just preventing damage when earth mages dies, with the focusing constraint of not having some sort of racism or eugenism. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Aug 24 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ Is it possible to identify who is able to "take part in the ritual" before they do and before they become mages? If yes, they'll be hunted down like rabid dogs $\endgroup$
    – Bartors
    Aug 24 at 6:32
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding! Unfortunately we do not like "high concept" questions and yours runs the risk of failing "the book test": If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Aug 24 at 9:53

4 Answers 4


Any society which allowed free movement of mages would die quickly.

Every mage is a nuke. In a decent sized world, there might be a million or so mages, so a million nukes.

Unless a region establishes a mage guild where they learn to paralyze and send a mage to die in some safe remote area, that region will quickly collapse into violence, apocalyptic means and death. Civil liberties and freedom will be removed for any mages, since each are a strategic asset with nuclear power. A group of mages will be needed to suppress all potential mages.

  • $\begingroup$ Any nation that houses mages would quickly be demolished by targeted assassinations of mages in order for neighboring nations to steal land/money/etc. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Aug 24 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Any very vengeful culture like that is quickly gonna be nuked into oblivion, because their mages can just seek vengeance. A more functional nation is gonna have to quickly learn to not use mages on rival nations without great care. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Aug 24 at 23:40

If you have a society that integrates magical and non-magical people then within a generation or two you are going to find that:

  • Some Mages will abuse their power and become tyrants and hold the threat of unleashing their powers (or even their death-throes) over their community to gain a superior status which will cause a general vilification of Mages.
  • Even without that, the non-magical population will be afraid of Mages as Mages will die unexpectedly (as even apparently health people sometimes have unexpected heart attacks or fall down the stairs) and then everyone within several kilometres may also die. If there are multiple Mages within the area then chain reactions may occur following the first death.

The 98% of society (i.e. the non-magical) will want to contain the excesses of the 2% (i.e. the magical) and a portion of that 2% will probably agree with it.

Option 1: Mages are killed

Who wants to live with someone that may suddenly die of a heart attack and wipe out the nearby neighbourhood?

As soon as someone starts to manifest magical powers they are subdued and taken far from society to sacred/traditional place in the wilderness where they will be killed so that their magic can be "harmlessly" released (obviously not without harm to the Mage but so that the harm to society is eliminated or reduced).

Option 2: All Mages must be undead

If the transformation to the undead does not trigger the death-throes of Mages and the undead are less likely to expire due to unexpected medical issues then Mages may be forced to become undead (for the good of society and themselves).

Once the biggest issue (dying) is dealt with then Mages can be trained to work for the betterment of society (although maybe on the fringes of society) and given all reasonable comforts so that they continue not-dying.

Option 3: Mages are forced to the fringes of society

No-one wants to live with an unexploded bomb. Let alone next to 10 or more unexploded bombs that may cause a chain reaction when the first "detonates".

Mages are forced out of non-magical society to live away from the normal population. This could take the form of:

  • Shunning the Mages, although that risks alienating them and causing Mages to retaliate against society.
  • Giving Mages remote places to live (isolated from other Mages) and the society supplies them with everything necessary for their continued well-being (maybe even luxuries) on the condition that they stay in that remote place. Different societies could implement this differently with Mages being lone hermits in one country, worshipped as part of the religion in another country or given palaces somewhere else.
  • Guilds of Mages (again away from main society) where they can be trained to control their powers. However, this may be risky as one Mage dying unexpectedly may cause a chain reaction with the rest of the guild.

Option 4: Mages as suicide bombers

A combination of options 1 and 3, Mages are identified at an early age and removed from society to multiple remote locations where there only company is a small number of non-magical teachers who indoctrinate them with the "good" that they can do in helping fight the neighbouring countries (which are obviously "evil") by travelling there and sacrificing themselves.


I have several "Questions":

Can the catastrophies be somewhat contained by the mages?
I mean do they have little anti earthquake spells or protection barriers?

  • Yes -> they can contain damages, allowing many mages to live in this society -
    Kind of requiring mages to be around to contain nukes, that happen randomly. Nukes wouldnt happen so often since they obviously lock mages in death chambers when they're about to die, or similar constructs/infrastructure
  • No -> Well, power is always attractive, even the nuke aspect. Thats why mages will of course exist, but in more military/kamikaze or rich environments (my guess)

The re-nuke aspect of undeath is also interesting. Since you haven't explained the cost of undeathing someone (give another soul or require a timely or time costly ritual or similar) or the limitations (are undead thinking? do they have to follow orders?), I could only guess wildly what that could mean in effect

"Most mages would not be long term members of society settling down anywhere or at worst shunned from society."

As they could be valuable assets (in war, and hopefully they have some peaceful spells like "make rain", "lock up bad man", "heal animal or human"), shunning them does seem counterproductive and is up to the teller to explain why they are still shunned

Hope you could take away something that helps you. TLDR : What can your mages do except blow up?



It isn't feasible to round mages up and relocate them to remote areas. Mages can threaten to suicide if forced to do anything, and if they resist arrest, detonation (or whatever) could happen by accident - just tripping and hitting their head badly could trigger disaster. It is better to treat mages with utmost courtesy and give them everything they want. If a mage gets very sick or when they get old, they could be politely asked to leave for a remote area, such as a small island. They are likely to comply if hitherto treated well.

Accidents could still happen, but I imagine that an decent mage would have all sorts of protection and health spells running 24/7. A failsafe spell could exist that instantly transports the mage to a preset place if their heart stops or becomes wildly erratic, which would help with anything but instant death. Alternatively, the failsafe could put the mage in temporary stasis, given people time to evacuate or move the static mage to a safer spot. Maybe the spell is triggered and powered by the massive power buildup when the mage dies. Of course, a mage could threaten to discontinue this spell if feeling cranky or threatened, so politeness is still a good policy.

Some non-mages could of course take advantage of this by pretending to be mages, but real mages would instantly recognize a fake and relocate the fraud to the same distant place mages go when about to die. This should keep the problem in check.


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