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This is a common fantasy villain trope, an evil wizard absorbing the soul of his enemy to increase his strength and magical powers. But how can this work? Let us assume that the wizard has the ability and means to absorb your soul, there's nothing you can do, it's going to happen.

What is the wizard looking for in a soul to absorb?

Knowledge? Bravery? Physical Strength? Karma? Wisdom?

How would the wizard determine what qualities you have, and how would this work when the wizard absorbs your soul (additive, fractional, multiplier effect?)

Bonus for unanticipated side effects.

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    $\begingroup$ "Strengths" is a bit vague -- physical strength? Mental (as in, accumulating learned skills)? Longevity?? $\endgroup$ – Wingman4l7 Jan 16 '16 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ VTC - This is mostly an idea generation question. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Jan 18 '16 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ well if the soul was made of a good balance of proteins and carbs... $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Jan 18 '16 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ This depends entirely on what souls do in your setting. This varies hugely - even from one real-world religion to the next, the definition and accepted function of a soul varies a lot. $\endgroup$ – user867 Jan 19 '16 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ As user867 mentions, it really depends on what the soul carries or is made of. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Jan 26 '16 at 8:51
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Generally the power for magic has to come from somewhere (in most magic systems). In many, life forces are the most potent sources of this energy needed to power the spell craft.

Now a human soul has this life energy and more, the human has a consciousness, maybe this is caused by a concentration of the life force causing humans to have souls. So it would be that much more potent, than say the life of grass in the yard.

Considering that human souls are fought over by the gods, there must be something there worth stealing!

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    $\begingroup$ Or to quote Owen Burnett, "Energy is energy where generated by science or sorcery." That is: magic is energy and it's powered by the soul. More souls, more power. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Jan 18 '16 at 15:41
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Unlike our physics-based world, you would need a universe that features dualism. People are souls that inhabit and animate physical bodies. This soul would have all the attributes you want to be transferred, as opposed to them being part of the physical body.

Physical strength is pretty obviously a property of the matter making up the muscles and bones. At least it is to us and any modern reader. But why does the person have large muscles? We know it's due to hormones and growh regulation factors based on the functioning og glands and metabolism. But in your universe that can be part of the vital elon driven by the resident soul.

Mental abilities including talents and skills are naturally handled by dualism as being part of the soul.

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    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't the wizard also inherit the weaknesses of his enemies? $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Jan 17 '16 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ That makes an interesting story, @XandarTheZenon. Maybe they set up some looser/slacker to appear to be the hero... $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 17 '16 at 4:23
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    $\begingroup$ Noooo! I just developed a peanut allergy while gaining super-strength! My life is RUINED!!! $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Jan 17 '16 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ So I might be extra nitpicky, because I happen to have fun debating this topic on Philosophy.SE, but it is not a universally agreed upon truth that we live in a physicalist world. In fact, I have reason to believe that the majority actually believe we live in a dualist world. (I also am sad when I see an argument that the magic we weave into our works of literature has no place in the world, when there's more than enough unknown left to let it stretch its legs). I say leave a shred of hope in the message ;-) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 18 '16 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon The management of those weaknesses is actually an interesting part of many stories that involve soul sucking wizards. I've seen worlds where there is a "purification" process that tears the soul into tiny bits, and just takes the energy, and I've seen worlds where the wizard keeps the soul wholesale. In the latter case, there is often a prison of fear and pain erected around the soul to keep it from spreading (which is rather Dark Side of the Force, if you think about it). I've also seen them where the wizard is simply so wise, he drowns the soul in his own strength. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 18 '16 at 15:42
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Well I guess you can make magic require some sort of energy. Make this energy produced by the soul of a wizard. Ultimately every wizard has the same ability to bend the world to their will but are limited by the amount of "magic" they can generate. Now if everyone have this potential to some extend but is not able to use it (because too weak/not trained to do so). Now your wizard want those soul to keep them and squeeze them like lemons when he needs more magic than his body can produce, destroying the soul in the process. (So he always wants moaaaarr souls)

in the warcraft universe there is a distinction between standard magic, using the surrounding energy without harming what produce it (including the potential of the mage casting the spell, wild life or whatever) and fel magic, squeezing those sources dry and destroying them in the process for instant, cheap, greater power (including the soul of other living things because burning your own soul isn't a clever thing to do)

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  • $\begingroup$ If you also want to add a weakness to a seemingly unbound potential, make "squeezing a soul" a costly task for the wizard he cannot perform with energy taken from another soul (and has to take from himself). So using your energy to squeeze a soul is always better than doing the task yourself and you can if you want put less energy into the task at the cost of getting less energy while still destroying the soul. It makes the potential limitless but since you'll need 100 times more soul to only double your power, it might be fair enough for a hero to crush the bad guy $\endgroup$ – Nyashes Jan 18 '16 at 16:15
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Personal diary of Professor Dr.Dr.Dr. Kim Johnsen - 01/29/2317

We live in a spectacular world. Our scientists are revealing the deepest secrets of our universe and with each generation it is becoming clearer and clearer:
God does not exist.

Whatever our scientists find, eventually shows to be a part of something else. There is no particle in the world, which we cannot understand, if we just have enough info about it.

However, something is strange.

Particles, which rebel against the law of nature.
Particles, which are at two places at the same time.
Particles, which can vanish out of a sudden, just to appear somewhere als immediately.

Why is it, that a flap of a butterfly in colorado can cause a storm in tokio?

Why is it, that people that have been dead in a clinical definition, can be reanimated and "wake up" with knowledge they simply can not have?

There is a theorie, so fantastic, scientists repel to even think about it. But in the last years, every answer they find, throws more and more question at us. It's insane. How can we think, that everything is just assambled out of little particles which we cannot break down further?

I don't think it's like that at all. This world is not assambled out of particles, but out of actions. These actions, eventually, give birth to everything you one can see, hear, touch. Not the other way round.

I don't only think it is like that, I know it is like that. The actions which are forming our physical body, are the highest form of action which we know.

There is nothing else, that pure, strong, powerful, as this kind of action, which so many people call "soul".

How can I know?

I'm a scientist. A physicist. On that one day, I was working on a device that should visualise the indifferences of photons. That day, another physicists, Robert Stein, died in our laboratory. It doesn't really matter why he died, but my the device showed something else.

As he was dying, something left his body.
I was unable to identifie the data and, after several weeks of research, I gave up. But then, decades later, it happened again. At that time, I hat a simmilar device with me, in my car. There was an car accident and I could not resist. A young mother, and a children, both died.

I was able to measure a soul, again.

That was the day, that changed my life. From that day on, I started to be, what people call a serial killer. I murdered people, homeless in the beginning, to do my research. It took me only a few souls to notice, that a soul es better, as more love they have in their live. Also, the older the carrier (person) of that soul is, the worse their action-potential gets.

So you can say, that "soul" is the energy of "life" in a person.

After years of research, I managed to identify what it is, exactly. I managed to capture it, and eventually, to consume it. So I begun killing young mothers, what else is so young and full of love.

That day, that changed my life, was on Friday the 14 June in 2013.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think Nathan Filion needs to go after this killer. Clearly only a browncoat with experience in a homicide department is going to be able to catch this guy. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 18 '16 at 15:45
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There's a particular case of wizard (warlock, I guess?) that has acquired magic power by selling his soul to demon. If he steals other's soul, I guess he could sell it, too, for an additional power.

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In our world, many branches of pagan belief, (and other religions) have a concept of a "higher self". This higher self is connected to a person's "soul" via an intangible stream of energy from their "cosmic conciousness" into the person.

An example of this is Avatar, the last air Bender. The protagonist (Ang) learns from a Guru how to connect to this "cosmic self" by opening his 'chakras'. Doing so grants immense power (and control of his 'Avatar State').

If this concept was in your world a Reality, then perhaps the Evil Wizard harvests the souls, not for their innate energy - but rather to gain the magical-energy being communed to the earthly vessel from another plane of existence / the cosmos itself.

Akin to forcing many streams to meet by digging trenches, thus forcing a river. While an average Joe may not be able to tap into this energy, if it is the driving force of wizardly-magic, the evil wizard may be able to "force open" the stream of energy granted to even an average soul. Perhaps even doing so to make up for his own impotent potential (being evil not allowing him to achieve "oneness" with the universe, like his teacher-wizard Kenobi tried (in vain) to teach him.)

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