Humans have been handed a lemon, and you have 2 weeks to make lemonade.

I have a magic system based on the Opponent Processes model of vision. This magic system has three competing pairs of colors: black and white, red and green, and blue and yellow. These colors can be mixed when casting spells, but you can never mix opposing colors. You can cast a "purple" spell (Red and blue), or a "light blue" spell (Blue and white), but never a "red-green" spell, because those are opposing. It'd be like trying to mix a positive and negative electric charge.

However, this world has both Humans and Faeries in it. Faeries, being smaller and more numerous than humans, can band together to manipulate magical fields at a finer detail than a single human can, allowing them to interlace spells with sharper gradients. The result of those interlaced spells feels like the apparently vibrating boundary between red and green lines that can make it hard to look at badly designed Christmas cards.

I don't want Humans to be obsolete, but magic is a major part of this universe! A leading species without magic will simply not be a leading species for long. Help me keep Humans relevant! So here's the question:

What's the most parsimonious justification for how Humans can continue to thrive despite Faeries' finer control of magical color gradients?

I'll choose the best answer some time around November 22, based on these principles that follow from Occam's razor:

  • Succinctness is a blessing. The fewer details you have to bring in the better. A world with multiple color of magic, 13 competing races, and a steampunk technological bent is beautiful and fun, but if the same problem can be approached with "a world that has benevolent aliens visiting it," there's something to be said for that. Keeping the answer as close to the question as possible should be rewarded.
  • Impact is powerful. Answers which satisfy the question with a powerful resonance, one that begs the next reader to dig into the effects of your solution, inspire more creativity in those around us. Feed on creativity!
  • I'm not just looking for a simple solution here. I'm looking for a creative approach which not only renders the issue raised by the question moot, but makes it look like the author started with a bigger problem, and this entire issue was the solution to it. It should seem like this question brings closure to something profound, rather than raising questions. In order words, I want something that feels more like what members of a literary analysis wiki call "justification" than a "handwave".

Credit to How Can I Determine the Color of my Magic and Tepples answer to What Changs to Human Society Would Be Necessitate By a Race With Small Size and the Ability to Fly for the content mixed together to form this Worldbuilding Golf

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    $\begingroup$ meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/502/… $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Nov 8, 2014 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ I must be missing something obvious. What on Earth is the question, exactly? Personally, I am very tempted to close this as unclear what you are asking, but since there's already a Worldbuilding Meta discussion about this question... $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 8, 2014 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a competition, which fits competition based sites such as Code Golf, but does not fit a Q&A based site such as Worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2014 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ Would there be support for modifying the question along these lines: meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/510/917 ? $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2014 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ @tepples : I agree for the edit since it improves the question (I guess) but I'm not convince it deserve to reopen. I don't understand why the fairies are better in magic. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Nov 14, 2014 at 2:30

6 Answers 6


A Fairy is born from a baby’s first laugh.

Humans are now relevant in your universe... as cattle.


Magical strength is directly proportional to body mass. Faeries are much smaller than humans. Problem solved.

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    $\begingroup$ I had thought of this. Perhaps to fit full mental capabilities into a brain the size of a nerve cluster requires much of a faerie's magical potential in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – Smithers
    Nov 8, 2014 at 17:41

Coordination of many small spells could be an issue whether or not they are contrasting. The organizational effort involved may be rarely applied in fairy efforts, whereas a dull human wizard may (following evandentremont) be proportionally powerful enough to hold his own due to being a single unit.

The direction I get from this is it gives a good reason to begin to fear a social change that regiments the fairy folk: While physically they might still not add to much, this property makes their group magic disproportionately powerful when they can get their acts together.

  • $\begingroup$ I very much like the social aspect of this. Lack of faerie coordination (and human fear of the faeries ever figuring out how to cooperate) could actually force the faeries and the humans to be tighter than before, turning it into a solution rather than a problem (similar to what is done in the archetypal East-meets-West plots). $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 8, 2014 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking along the same lines, and would like to expand this slightly by saying that Humans are blunt and able to make larger, denser, bolder changes, while Fairies are light, and perhaps a bit flakey or like to bicker, so, while a single human could make some basic clothes for themselves to wear in a moment, fairies could finely tailor it and make a beautiful ball gown, one small patch at a time, or all at once in the same moment of time if they could all agree. $\endgroup$ Jan 7, 2019 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps 10 humans could make the same beautiful garment in a moment that 100 fairies could make in a moment. IE. both the actual size and social interaction of a creature are methods by which they can affect the spell. $\endgroup$ Jan 7, 2019 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ So it's easier for 10 humans to coordinate than 100 fairies. And this is even more true if building the hoover damn, maybe 1000 humans could make a basic hoover damn, just a big block of concrete, in an instant or 1000 fairies could make the hoover damn with the detail and meticulous care needed that it's made entirely from polished granite as if it was born out of the earth, and yet has all of the inner workings, turbines of high efficiency etc, but it would take them 100 times as long, aof they would need 100,000 fairies to do it in the same time. $\endgroup$ Jan 7, 2019 at 20:08

The world has no inherent magic.

A link to the correct plane to draw mana into this one requires a certain capacity. Spending that mana to do magic also requires a certain capacity that is smaller. Faeries have a small enough capacity that they can't ever renew the world's mana.

Faeries know this and so are generally not first to start a fight, human wizards know this and accordingly start fights only when grouped together or when fighting a single faerie, etc.

  • $\begingroup$ Just realized I maybe wasn't very clear when I wrote this... 1) Everybody can cast "Gun". 2) Faeries cast it better. 3) Humans are large water taps that fill the world with mana (not themselves). Faeries add raindrops of mana to the world. 4) Even if faeries can annihilate humans they have no reason to do so. because they supply the ammo. 5) Faerie strength would dip as humans became closer to extinct (maybe they tried to kill all the humans in the past?) 6) Humans know they can't win. $\endgroup$
    – Black
    Aug 28, 2018 at 3:38

Option 1) Make faeries less powerful, so that a group of N faerie's spell power is equivalent to a human spell power/N each.

Option 2) A red and green spell together could be inherently unstable and/or cancel out, kind of like an antiphase

  • $\begingroup$ The goal of "Lemons to Lemonade" is to turn a negative situation into a positive. Option 1 is more rebalancing the negative. However, I'd be very interested in you expanding on option 2 to claim a winning answer: what sort of interesting problem could be solved by a pressing need for Faeries to teach magic in a way that results in antiphase between the colors! For instance, can we solve a fundamental psychological issue that crops up in Fantasy realms with magic (say, fairness: why are some folk wizards and some aren't) with an antiphase rule that just happens to also protect Human existence? $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 8, 2014 at 5:46

(Ab)using my original coloring answer: fairies need magic, and also need to have the right personality for any spell they use. Strong magic needs two, really powerful magic three traits, strongly developed. Really strongly developed. The colors map to personalities and elements of magic like this:

      Personality        Color         Element
      Blunt              red           Fire
      Overdesigner       green         Nature
      Normalo            blue          Air
      Weirdo             yellow        Earth
      Rash               white         Light
      Relaxed            black         Void

I can't help but imagine the Nature-Earth-Void triple prodigy. Duuuude, chill 'n listen, I tell you, it all makes sense if 'ya think of how them aliens have seen this, all of this, you know, since, like, the beginning of times...


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