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In my world anyone can use magic with the proper training. There are two levels of magic users:

  • The first level is apprentice (someone with 4 to 8 years of magic education). They can move people and medium size objects with their mind, sense what a person is feeling, and they have limited control over one of the elements (earth, fire, air, water).
  • The second level is master (for this you must have between 20 and 30 years of training). They can move large objects such as buildings and large boulders with their minds, read and control the minds of others, control all four elements and summon large storms or earthquakes.

My question is this: given how powerful the mages are, how can the kings and lords of the land prevent them from uniting together and taking over the world?

The tech level is same as that of the early colonization of America.

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    $\begingroup$ What about the bit inbetween Apprentice and Master? there is a 12 year gap of doing what? I assume they would be somewhat powerful as well $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jul 1 '16 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ You say anyone can be a mage, so I read the question as "How do I prevent a group of people from starting a revolution?" The answer is you don't really. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Jul 1 '16 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ I suggest reading the Discworld series. Specially a book called Sourcery. There are more reasons why wizards don't rule the world than all your teeth, fingers and toes combined, you can extract a lof of them from these books. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jul 1 '16 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is analogous to "People can own guns, so why haven't people with guns taken over the world." This is answered by "because the people in power also have guns. $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Jul 1 '16 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ The unasked question here is why would they WANT to take over the world? Ruling the world is a lot of work, and mages presumably have more interesting things to do, while having sufficient power to keep the ostensible rulers from controlling them. You might similarly ask why so few scientists go into politics. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 3 '16 at 5:42

25 Answers 25

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How do you keep people who've taken over the world from becoming mages?

Since anyone can learn magic young members of the nobility would routinely study magic. Being able to read and control the minds of others is a hell of an advantage for a king or any senior noble.

In this world since anyone can learn but only those with the money and time for training can become really powerful whichever way you spin it the nobles are going to make themselves mages even if nobody takes over.

Which gives us the answer:

The mages won't revolt because the richest and most powerful people already running the country will have trained as mages already. If you were king in this world you'd be sending your kids to learn magic and taking your own private classes.

Some mages might be more powerful than the king but at that point they're either invested in the system or are facing hundreds of powerful mages in the nobility who are invested in the system.

According to your answer magic isn't powered by anything external, it comes from themselves so you can't strip the manna from around mages.

If you want it to turn out differently you need to change the rules for who can use magic and how in this world.

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    $\begingroup$ So your answer is that the mages won't take over the world, they already did by default. Why would anyone NOT train to be a mage given the opportunity? $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Jul 1 '16 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ This would also have an interesting effect on succession: if you're in the line of succession and need to be a master mage to rule, then you can't succeed the previous king until you're 35-40 years old (assuming you start training at age 15). If people have a life expectancy after childhood of 50-60 years, then most "kings" would actually spend most of their life as princes-in-waiting, and agnatic seniority would be popular as a way for another highly-trained mage to take over while the king's children finished their long training periods. $\endgroup$ – Gaurav Jul 1 '16 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ What would really be a good twist based off this plot would be a peasant that has an exceptional ability to learn the arts of magic, and within 8 years of training has already mastered the art of the second level mages. Then later surpasses what any 'master mage' has ever learned and revolts against the rulers! $\endgroup$ – Timmy Jul 1 '16 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Timmy, and promptly gets squashed: there's only one of him, and hundreds or thousands of nobles. $\endgroup$ – Mark Jul 1 '16 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ ...and, as in real life, anything that threatens the existing power structure would be controlled by the power structure. They'd all learn magic, then pass laws and use existing religion and social structures to prevent the filthy masses from threatening the existing order. Only those with noble blood and members of the clergy may study magic, on penalty of death and eternal damnation. (This literally happened with written language in many parts of the world, not to mention military technologies and the like.) $\endgroup$ – HopelessN00b Jul 2 '16 at 22:28
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I feel like there is a flaw in the logic of your premise.

If, as mentioned in your setting, any one can use magic with the proper training what's to say that your kings are not already mages. I would personally find it hard to believe that they are not trained.

In the pre-industrial world education was considerably more limited and focused primarily on the upper classes. Odds are with the amount of training required your nobles/leadership caste are going to be mages more often than the common folks anyway. Its hard to study magic when you are a subsistence farmer trying to survive.

In short...odds are your leadership ARE going to be mages


Section 2 To expand on this from our conversation in the comments...

It is unlikely that kings would become full blown master mages due to what appear to be quite stringent training requirements for becoming a mage.

Most leaders would have some degree of magical training and a few would have the opportunity and inclination to become masters (Some dad's just wont die!).

On the flip side few mages are going to have the world experience and general education that future kings are going to receive.

In this case the ridiculous amount of training to become a master may end up being what keeps mages from taking over...they wouldn't even know what to do with their power.

This could lead to a couple take-over attempts by mages that end up going horribly for the kingdoms and the mages that take over. Over time they realize that maybe it just makes more sense to let the kings rule...

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    $\begingroup$ And there beings the conspiracy $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jul 1 '16 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @James you can take eight years just to reach The Apprentice level. To be a full Master takes 20 to 30 years of training. A king would too busy ruling or leading troops into battle or doing other kingly stuff to study Magic. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Jul 1 '16 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ Just to point it out, alot of princes learnt sword fighting so if they were attacked they could defende themself or part of some tradition, learning magic to defend yourself or to show off your prowess would also be a valid reason $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jul 1 '16 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ @James that's actually a pretty good point. I suppose it would make sense for Kings to have some training on how to use Magic. But I still think that it is unlikely that they will have time to become full masters. Unless of course there father of lives for a very long time. Also remember that a king needs training in other stuff to like politics and the sword fight and Military strategy. This might slow down their magic training some $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Jul 1 '16 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ @James a good answer. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Jul 1 '16 at 14:08
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Try the Pratchett option

Hand any two wizards a piece of rope and they would instinctively pull in opposite directions.

If they could co-operate they'd take over the world in a couple of days, but that would mean sharing power. They're too busy struggling among themselves to actually care what anyone else is doing.


The quote in full (Sourcery):

The reason that wizards didn’t rule the Disc was quite simple. Hand any two wizards a piece of rope and they would instinctively pull in opposite directions. Something about their genetics or their training left them with an attitude towards mutual co-operation that made an old bull elephant with terminal toothache look like a worker ant.

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    $\begingroup$ Please add a reference to the source of the quote (book and chapter). (I tried searching on Google and there are no matches for this exact phrase) $\endgroup$ – yoniLavi Jul 3 '16 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ @yoniLavi, someone has corrected my misremembered quote, it's from Sourcery. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jul 4 '16 at 8:15
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No time for such mundane matters

A profession that takes 20-30 years to master is going to take a significant amount of upkeep to maintain that level of expertise. Almost all of a master's time would be devoted to meditation and continued study of the magic arts. Taking time away from their study to deal with political matters or military conquest would drastically decrease their power.

For a real life example, look at the budō martial arts, such as kyūdō. Although originating in samurai combat training, some schools of kyūdō also have a spiritual aspect. They teach self-discipline and to involve oneself completely to the art of shooting, very reminiscent of Zen philosophy. Applying this to your world, you could have your mages constantly seek perfection in their art. To sully themselves with political affairs or to use their magic for destructive means would defy the foundations of their teachings.

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    $\begingroup$ It is possible to defy the foundations of your teachings. Though this might cause all other non political mages to come after you. $\endgroup$ – Aarthew III Jul 2 '16 at 17:30
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Create a legend to protect the Royalty's claim to the Throne.

In ages past, when great monster's ruled the realm, Magus The Mighty worked a wonderous enchantment, entrapping the great beasts behind a wall of impenetrable force and burying them deep beneath our feet. He saved us from the creatures who would make us food.

But he did more than that! He searched across the land until he found a young boy of noble and righteous countenance. Then he worked the boy's blood into the spell so that the wall would hold, only as long as the boy or his lineage ruled the land. Magus created our First King and set him on the throne which his line must keep, lest the monsters return to our lands. In doing this, Magus saved us again! This time, from the monsters which we spell-casters might become!

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    $\begingroup$ Not going to lie, I can only see Magnus being a douch in this, as humanity evolves and the kings become more aware of the fact if they die so does everyone else that they will abuse it, the origional might have been righteous but time changes everything. Still a great answer +1 $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jul 1 '16 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ Did I forget to mention that the legend could be a complete fabrication? Magnus The Mighty might not be a douch... He might be a myth. :^) $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 1 '16 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ I keep seeing conspiracys in all these answers now, since he may be a myth the nobles are manipulating the lower classes with fake stories $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jul 1 '16 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ Absolutely! A conspiracy is just a management strategy in camouflage. What's wrong with camouflage? Kings are expected to have strategies to keep their thrones. That's not only ethical, its common sense. If a lie will work better than a sword, who's to say that the lie is a bad thing. It's keeping the sword from doing the job. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 1 '16 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ That hard logic right there made we see alot more good in conspiracys $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jul 1 '16 at 14:26
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Maybe you only can activate magic powers if your heart is pure, and your heart is pure only if you are completely free from ambition for worldly power?

Or of course, maybe magic demands "mana" and mana is a scarce resource, requiring that wizards live in limited areas, close to the sources of it?

Or the warlocks know that they would struggle for power against each others, with ruinous results, so they have a pact among them that they will refrain from it?

... or... perhaps the mages already do have the power, but prefer to pretend not, for reasons of better using/enjoying it - and the power of kings, lords, and other laymen, is actually an illusion?

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    $\begingroup$ No, the kings etc. are powerful. But remember, the mages have the ability to control other's minds … how do you tell whether the king's decisions are really his own, and not the ones of mages messing with his mind? For the mages, it's much more comfortable that way, as even if there's a revolution, the revolutionaries will go after the king/nobility, and then eventually there will be a new leadership whose mind can be manipulated. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jul 3 '16 at 8:45
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Do what happened in Great Britain during the Dark Ages Witch hunt.

Incite fear of magic, claim it is evil, corrupt or devil worship and will bring death to you and all you love.

Have a reward for either capturing or killing someone who practice the cursed arts.

Or

If you want a reason for the mages to not try and take over the world, then make it so they don't care for money/power such that a king or lord has, they are after knowledge and improving their own ability.

Mages may not want to share what they have learnt with other mages for fear of it being used against them.

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  • $\begingroup$ Spanish Inquisition! $\endgroup$ – beppe9000 Jul 1 '16 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ A Witch Hunt is only successful if the hunted are relatively powerless. It's not going to be successful against powerful mages. $\endgroup$ – Christian Jul 3 '16 at 10:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Christian Catch them while they are young and inexperienced,for the more powerful ones more tatic is needed but it isnt impossible, we have questions here on how to capture gods after all :D $\endgroup$ – Mr.Burns Jul 3 '16 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ @beppe9000 Didn't expect the "Spanish Inquisition". $\endgroup$ – Shawn V. Wilson Jul 4 '16 at 0:21
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Kings and Queens are the descendants of warriors and leaders of warriors who conquered the area. In a world with magic, warriors mean mages.

By the time you build up a large civilization, the combat capabilities of an individual pale before the coordinated combat capabilities of a trained military force. Technology and techniques will be developed for the use of magic in mass-warfare, and governments who arrange for effective use will dominate, and those who do not will be conquered.

At colonization of the americas equivalent stage, I'd expect the equivalent of Britian's empire would be fueled by mass magical education, where they crack the technique required for anyone to become a mage, and maybe ritual mass-combat magic, where even relative apprentices can be leveraged for mass magical effects, and industrial magic.

If a civilization figured that out, while others did not, it could experience something like the UK's industrial revolution (where a small island dominated the world). Others would start to copy it (but, mass education requires mass educators, and the social structure of a state where almost everyone has magic is going to be different from the typical magocracy) so this is going to take decades to catch up).

Meanwhile, at the top, the monarch is likely to have some magical education. But they need not be a top-tier combat or industrial mage: their power comes from the huge mass of the state, not from their individual magic. They are likely to have combat mage bodyguards, much like the monarch is going to have elite guards.

Rulers of monarchies in the age of steam where not expert engineers or top-notch warriors. They usually had some military experience and a good education, but that was to season them: their power did not flow from their personal prowess. The admirals and warriors and engineers served the crown, they did not rule it.

So I'd build the world where most of the world magical education is limited to the nobility, and are secrets passed down in families. The rising power has created a mass magical education system, where even peasants are taught narrow types of magic be more productive, and every soldier (often drafted from the peasants!) is a combat mage capable of helping in mass combat ritual magic and individual skirmishes. All backed by industrial-scale mass production of enchanted goods (even if they are just "modern" strength alloys).

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You've only described the strengths of the mages. If you want to change the balance of the game, you should give them some weaknesses also. Here are some ideas for weaknesses:

  • Channeling time: The most powerful spells could take a long time to cast, (e.g. days or weeks) leaving the mage defenseless while they channel.
  • Cooldown time: After casting a powerful spell, the mage would probably be weakened and unable to do much for several weeks. Study what it's like for someone to recover from surgery.
  • Mana cost: As someone else mentioned, you can introduce the concept of mana as a scarce resource which might be hard to find, or maybe it's easy to find but it takes a long time for you to get enough of it.
  • Maybe the telepathy backfires on the mages, and normal people can sense the presence of their telepathic mind, making it impossible for a mage to hide from an angry crowd with pitchforks. Mages are persecuted and have to live far from the non-mages, in their own small groups.
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    $\begingroup$ +1. Expanding beyond mana: magic might require reagents. Perhaps common reagents at the basic levels, but increasingly more rare and expensive reagents at the highest levels. Control the reagent, control the magic. Also, how about anti-magic and magic resistance? Perhaps certain materials in this world exert a large sphere of anti-magic around them not allowing any magical effect to take place within that radius. The king's castle, crown, carriage, etc, are all made of this material. $\endgroup$ – Wayne Jul 2 '16 at 21:34
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It would seem to me that your description of magic is a little simplistic in the question from this standpoint. It seems almost as if you're saying that strength is based only on time put in, sort of like the way unions might promote a member from apprentice to journeyman with minimal accepted skill level + minimum number of years of experience. But just like there are generalists and experts in carpentry and plumbing, there would be generalists and experts in magic. One could be a general master mage which would mean, they have the experience to safely do advanced level spells, but maybe not all of them based on their discipline of study. Requirement for Mastery of magic might mean 20 years, plus the ability to cast safely and sufficiently strong a set of master level spells in each of fire, water, air, and earth diciplines. However, there may be more than 5 master spells each. In fact the master generalist can safely explore the master spells, but might not bother mastering all the master level fire spells because his interest lies elsewhere.

It could also be that there are hidden/rare/ultimate spells that are kept from the general public and invested in royalty/ruling class that are only know to those of highest government wizard rank. Not having access to, or in fact, knowledge that certain spells exist could be one way of controlling them. Another might be wealth and/or the existence of mana/runestones/wands/objects of power that might be licensed or sold by ruling class. If someone were to say requisition a huge amount of mana potions(or whatever) in a short period of time, it might raise red flags to watch said individuals.

Then there is just human nature. Those that strive for power, inevitably don't want to share it. It would be difficult to gather together a group of power hungry wanna-be-take-over-the-world mages together without them starting to squabble, duel or otherwise fight amongst themselves. Then there could be some magic or artifact that the rulers have that could negate magic(perhaps the castles are all erected on anti-magic fields) or have null magic shields that prevent any spells from entering. This is sort of like the steadings in the Wheel of Time series of books. Magic just doesn't work there. Then it also could be that magicians are by their very nature sort of like the stereotypical "mad scientist" who tend to be more interested in the "science" or "magic" itself rather than application or consequences of said experiments. Finally, it could just be a matter of you got your mages and the government has theirs. They might try to take it down and the government has some teeth to prevent it(not always working, after all just like governments take over each other in real life).

Brian

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  • $\begingroup$ Also, it's your story, not mine, however, I would tend to think that a more RPG like descriptions of "level" might be easier to classify mages than just two. There has to be a difference between casting evaporate on a glass of water, doing it to a lake, an ocean, the planet, removing all water from the atmosphere. Of course, there could be this, but you define a master someone who can achieve level 14 spells from the test booklet(or whatever). Still it seems more than two might be useful to you. $\endgroup$ – Brian Pleshek Jul 1 '16 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ Another thought. It may be that the knowledge needed to do magic is a bit at odds with the knowledge that is needed to manage a kingdom/empire. Just because you can take over a place, doesn't mean you can manage(rule) worth a darn. It's could be akin to the difference between a general and a master swordsman. The swordsman could kill a general perhaps with ease, but may have no ability to lead men, plan a strategy, or feed an army(logistics). Sure men might follow a winning champion, but eventually they will be overcome by strategy. $\endgroup$ – Brian Pleshek Jul 1 '16 at 21:51
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given how powerful the mages are how can the kings and lords of the land prevent them from uniting together and taking over the world?

Who's to say they haven't already?

Given the kind of society you're describing, I would expect that there would be powerful mages lurking behind the seats of power, pulling the strings. The kings and lords may think they have power, but the real power lies with their trusted "advisors" who manipulate every major decision toward their long term goals.

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To prevent mages from taking over, you need to create real obstacles to becoming a mage.

Say for apprentice level, you need to spend a year in a cave, learning how to channel the magical energy. And if you fail you may die.

For master level, you need to spend 10 years in such cave. While other mages (employed by other powers) might try to detect and interfere.

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To be a king, to rule, you have to be able to inspire the people. It's very unlikely that a Mage would have the charisma or be a people person given the level of solitary study required. Rather like Steve jobs, techno wiz but no ambition to be a politician. While trump couldn't change a fuse but can inspire people to vote for him. Of course, a Mage may rule the world through a puppet King... Mwahaha :)

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  • $\begingroup$ Good point: mages are just like engineers in our universe. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 2 '16 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ A person with mind control magic doesn't need natural charisma. $\endgroup$ – Christian Jul 3 '16 at 10:51
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As Ronan and some others said, the Discworld offers some ideas here.

The Discworld MUD has gone through this too and they balanced off magic use quite nicely I think.

One reason that wasn't mentioned is that magic on the disc is

(1) dangerous as it is unreliable and has a mind of it's own which can easily backfire and kill the caster. More powerful magic = higher risk (2) is a little inconvenient to use as it often requires components and ingredients you have to carry around on you.

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There have been a lot of good answers, and a number retreading the same ground. I'd just like to add one more.

Consider adding a Bane. Something antithetical to magic.

Like the classic, Cold Iron. Iron forged without getting above a certain temperature (say, it can be heated but not to the point of actual visible glow). Cold Iron sinks and dispels magic with 100% efficiency. So a Master Mage can crush a castle and burn an army with a wave of his hand, but a single warrior wearing cold iron plate and carrying a cold iron sword is immune, possibly pulling and grounding out spells like a lightning rod, protecting those around them as well.

A king or queen keeps at least a small elite guard equipped with the magic bane, a royal crown is lined with small amounts to protect the lords and ladies minds from being controlled, and so on.

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Sheers numbers.

Wizardry takes a lot of time in your world to be truly powerful. COnsider this similar to a PhD in our world. Only a small percentage of the world population has a PhD, so it would follow only a small percentage of your worlds population would be master level wizards.

Sure, a master level wizard could kill 1000 men. But could he kill 10,000? 20,000? Eventually, a master wizard could be taken down by enough men if they stepped out of line.

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You should watch the X-men movies through. The mutants are essentially mages, and indeed, a group of them, led by Magneto, basically keeps trying to take over the world.

Humans don't stand much of a chance against them, there's only another group of good mutants that can successfully do that - - the X-men. The X-men believe in peace and coexistence with humans. Many humans, however, do not understand the mutants thus fearing them and thus acting hostile towards them. For Magneto this basically justifies his war.

So in your world, why would the mages take over? Have they been given any reason to do such a thing? It doesn't sound like that, I gather that they are actually valued members of the community. And like someone else already mentioned, ruling is hard work, many of the mages can certainly think of something more interesting to do.

There's also that quote that says that often those who crave for power the most are the ones who are the least capable of handling it. Take some power hungry mage, and you can be certain there are other mages who would much rather not see them reign.

So overall I suppose I can summarize by saying that there are luckily more good people than bad people, within mages too.

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Mages are like feudal knights. They are experts at what they do and are devoted to their lord/king/queen. This arrangement is mutually beneficial - mages are given the time and resources to devote themselves to their craft, and the rulers gain powerful allies.

The rulers themselves are rarely mages, because the dedication required conflicts with the responsibilities of ruling. However, it is common for the non-inheriting children of important families to study magic, and they become important contributors to the family's strength.

Sufficiently intelligent and studious people of lower rank can rise in status by becoming mages - the usual route for this is to seek patronage from an important family, and then repay them with service. Self-taught prodigies are extremely rare. Mages who betray their patron are seen as treacherous and ungrateful. Eventually, a "commoner" mage can gain their own lands and start their own noble house, so they are rarely interested in bringing the whole feudal system toppling down.

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When a mage exercises power they are not generating the energy involved, they are only bending and directing what is already around them. Two mages cannot manipulate the same energy at the same time. Similar to destructive interference.

The more powerful or skilled or experienced a mage, is the wider an area they will be able to effect in their manipulations. Consequently, they do not want another fully trained mage within their territory.

The result is that they don't work together, or even gather together.

Getting trained as an apprentice (the only stage the requires formal education, the remainder is up to self study) requires a teacher willing to set aside time where they relax their grip on the ether while the students practice. Even so, dedicated students will find that they need to travel into the wilder areas to gain the solitude necessary to gain skill. This is part of the reason it takes so long. Additionally, a teaching mage will require some exorbitant fees in order to mitigate the loss of time spent within the ecstasy of total mastery of their demesne.

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You specifically note magic education. As it doesn't seem that you have any issues with the nobility being magically gifted as well, perhaps magic instructors are prevented from teaching the common folk or are so rare that the nobility snatches them up as tutors before any old dirt farmer could learn powers that make rebellion a bit more possible.

Perhaps the common folk of your world can get somewhere with self study, but you could use this to limit their magic to things that wouldn't assist a rebellion. For example, farmers use their knowledge of water magic to irrigate their farms completely.

In addition, perhaps the commoners won't rebel if they don't think they can. Have the average citizen believe magic is only for basic support and making lives easier. Perhaps the kingdom has instituted public education to teach just that, at schools or churches. Thus the common folk live believing magic is a convenient tool, and the nobility can rest easy.

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If you look at the world we live in, the world is not taken over by those with the most physical prowess, not the smartest (arguably), and not those with the most refined social skills who hold the power.

Power resides where people think it resides. It's a trick

Power is largely held by frail old men with weired quirks and poor behaviour. It's more a matter of intent and being in tune with the intent of the group mind.

The mages in your would would probably - most of them - be instruments of someone else actually making plans and holding power.

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Why isn't the most powerful person king of everything?

The same reason why the best fighter in this universe isn't the king of everything.

Being a fighter is hard work. You commit your life to it.

Being a king is also hard work. You commit your life to it. If you need to fight, you get a whole group of top fighters to fight for you. You can't be a good fighter yourself, you're too busy running a kingdom.

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The question is moot, because it cannot happen. There is a symbiotic relationship between magic and goodness. Look at the grand magic that Jesus pulled off, water into wine, parting of the seas, etc.. But the best example is of course God. The creator of life itself, there is no greater magic trick than something from nothing.All that was created in goodness.

The goodness is so entwined with the magic that one cannot exist without the other. A simple example of reading another's mind is impossible without the honesty needed to communicate on that level. If the motive was to take over the world, then that would poison the attempted mind communication to an extent that the mind reading [earthquake, bending spoon, interstellar travel etc..] simply would not take place as the energy is bad, like trying to run an electric car on sand, it won't work.

This was the fail-safe code written into magic by God. It must be good or it cannot happen.

If you want to be a grand master of magic, first you must be a grand master of goodness. If you are, you will not want to take over the world.

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    $\begingroup$ to be fair in the the bible some bad people were able to do a some supernatural feets, however they weren't very affect against someone with the Creator on his side, the Witch of endor or the Egyptian prest for example. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Jul 4 '16 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ 2 Kings 21:6, for starters, or Acts 8: 9-13. There are lots of people and demons using magic for 'bad' purposes in the bible. It clearly can happen, unless the Bible is a falsification of history...? $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Ford Jul 13 '16 at 18:43
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A simple way of preventing mages from just overthrowing everything is to make them vulnerable. I propose adding some such problems, they work on their own but in combination they are lethal to mages who get rebellious ideas.

In order of importance

  • Make it really obvious to anyone when someone uses magic. I would make it so that even untrained people would sense when a mage cast a spell (say within twice the casting range) and allow other mages to trivially identify exactly which spell and what the targets and other parameters are within 10 times the casting distance.
  • Ensure that there is no magic that easily protects from a well placed arrow
  • Dissalow affecting things you can not see or in some other way sense
  • Disallow or restrict magic enhancing the senses, so that a mage can not sense things more easily (adding senses like read thoughts is ok, but not improving existing ones)

This combination of restrictions makes mages vulnerable to anyone with a bow and better eyesight than them. I would envision that this makes mages valued members of any despotic system of governance while still allowing for non magic users to be at the top, a king can just order them shot on sight in the capital if he is paranoid.

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  1. Casting time: how long the spell takes to cast
  2. Mana: how often you can cast spells
  3. "Miscasting": Your head explodes because you swapped a syllable or got distracted.
  4. Eldritch Beings: scary creatures that are drawn to magical power
  5. Weapons designed to kill magic users, made by other magic users, ironically
  6. Range: anything less than the range of a bow and arrow and you have a problem
  7. Rarity of Books: books are rare and expensive
  8. Misinformation: Some/Many/Most books on magic have "traps" written in...
  9. Shady Guilds: anyone whose not a member has a bounty placed on their head.
  10. Etc.
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