Early I asked how to distinguish between magic and science. Now I need to know how to distinguish magic from divine intervention.

Note: In my world there is God and several less spirits who at time intervening in our world with the impossible.

Note: There are also magic users.

How do I make my magic system in such a way that people and my readers can easily differentiate the two, without make my magic into just other form of science?

  • $\begingroup$ Possible dupe of this, which has been marked as a dupe of this. $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Apr 20 '16 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a difference? Is there anything at all which distinguishes magic from divine intervention other than the source of the ability (person or God)? If it's all dependent on the source, what tools does your world have to determine the source of an ability? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Apr 20 '16 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Cort Ammon So your saying intent tools that can people can use to tell were the sours of the magic your using comes from. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Apr 21 '16 at 2:05
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps magic has easily discernible side effects, such as an eerie glow emanating from the magician's hands and/or the target of his spell, when the spell is cast. Perhaps sparkles appear in the air around any magical effect. Or, contrariwise, miraculous power might always manifest accompanied by the sound of a choir of angels singing, or all the onlookers get a tingling in their toes. // If some of these suggestions appear flippant, I'm just trying to get you to think outside the box. Humans have five senses (actually, they have more), so pick one and use it. $\endgroup$ – Lensman Apr 21 '16 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanMcClure Yes. Its a bit of a philosophical trick, really. If there's no way to tell the difference between the two cases, it is extremely unlikely that anyone in the story or the readers will care about the difference (because there is no difference to them). If you want the people in your world or the readers to care whether the effect is magical or not, they'll need some distinguishing factor. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Apr 21 '16 at 4:05

I can't recall reading your other answers, so please forgive if this has been covered elsewhere, but there are a couple of possibilities, the first that spring to my mind are how each is 'cast'.

1) Direct Divine intervention requires some form of request/prayer (i.e. "[insert name of god], in thy name [please do xxxx]")

2) There is a direct visual effect (i.e. a golden halo/glow appearing around the caster, the gods/spirits symbol appearing briefly)

3) Divine intervention/spells are only available to the truly faithful or devout, and may need some form of holy symbol to use as a focus (i.e. crucifix etc)

4) Magic requires the use of spell components and incantations. Material items that are used as to cast the spell but are consumed in the process (I think this used to be a requirement in D&D - too many years since I played it), whereas Divine magic doesn't.

5) Possibly, the divine intervention can only occur if the 'caster' is possessed by the God/Spirit that could leave a visually noticeable imprint on the caster, literally becoming a vessel of the divine will - eyes glowing, tattoos appearing that kind of thing.


Any sufficiently trivial act of divine intervention is indistinguishable from magic. And vice versa.

What's worth considering is scope, intent and presence.

Divine intervention, to be considered as such, should either be an act designed to gain influence or protect a people. There's little difference between 'ritual magic' and 'ritual' in that sense. A 'minor' spell, like feeding a couple of hundred people with a few loaves of bread and some fish, or a tiny transmutation spell turning water into a somewhat tastier alcoholic beverage might be construed as divine intervention if enough people believe in it enough.

Alternately scope. Set someone on fire, and you're a pyromaniac firemage. Set a whole nation on fire, and you might be an angry fire deity (or a divine monkey with his tail on fire). Something like the 'kamikaze' or divine wind in Japan was thought to be divine intervention cause of timing. In short, divine intervention could be beyond the scope of one or more casters.

And of course, turning up, 'incognito' in 'divine voiceover' or even the 'GAZE UPON THE GLORY OF THE SUPREME BEING' some hindu gods were fond of would be a clear sign it was divine intervention


Assuming 'Magic' in this world is a skill people posses, the Fate system could be used to model this. It has "fate" points that characters receive at the start of each session (5 at the beginning of each). These points can be used to represent "fate" or in your case, divine intervention. Basically, if a PC makes a bad roll, or messes up really badly, they can use fate points to bring them out of situations in which they would otherwise be utterly hopeless.

Having magic, or other branches of it, could be represented as a skill. This type of system makes magic seem a lot more useful as a casual thing if the character is a mage or wizard, while the 'divine intervention' would seem a lot like divine intervention. The Cardinal difference between magic and divine intervention then, would be that magic would be used a lot more often in skill checks and such, since it is represented as an actual skill, while the divine intervention aspect would be used much more sparingly, and seem a lot more like a miracle event the the characters than magic would.

Fate System: http://faterpg.com/dl/FATE2fe.pdf

  • $\begingroup$ Your comment doesn't appear to address the actual question, which was how bystanders in a story, and readers of that story, could easily tell the difference between magic and divine intervention. The question doesn't seem to be aimed at RPG game mechanics. $\endgroup$ – Lensman Apr 21 '16 at 3:42

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