# How imagination would work as a magic source?

I'm considering a world where a specific civilization can use imagination as power to invoke spells, create objects and creatures.

The range of abilities depends on the user. Some individuals sweat just to create a jar (like an artisan who can create using his imagination power), to a powerful wizard who can summon a never-ending army of giants.

I'm not expecting a very scientific explanation, but how would this works if their imagination worked as ours? The concept I'm sticking to is that the individual's imagination would deplete after long uses, or after imagining something very hard.

Example: Nero is a powerful magician who can summon nearly everything possible. After fighting a strong enemy and using his imagination to create weapons, companions, changing his form and any other thing possible, his imagination is gone.

How the "imagination gauge" could recover? Is there some "limit" to his imagination (or how I can distinguish the guy who can only create jars imagination from the god-like wizard)?

Thank you!

• I'm confused. When imagining a creature, does one need to imagine every aspect of their strengths, weaknesses, and anatomy in general? The reason I ask is because you can't create something from nothing. And once that impossible creature is created, how will it survive on its own? Would it take a continuous input of "energy" to keep a being which was designed with no lungs to keep "breathing"? I can see how one's imagination might provide a template, but what would provide the energy to actually create your imagined monster? This other source of power might be your constraint. – AndreiROM Oct 3 '16 at 14:06
• sometimes I believe as much as 6 impossible things before breakfast – Mołot Oct 3 '16 at 14:08
• Look up meditation and thoughtforms/tulpas -- there's a difference between just imagining something as a fleeting thought, and trying to imagine it actually existing -- the latter is a lot more difficult and takes practice and stamina. – Pyritie Oct 3 '16 at 14:50
• This question could be very self-referential. If you start building things in this universe, as an author, you're going to start depleting your own "imagination gauge," however you choose to define that. A key aspect of making this magic system a reality is making sure you use your own imagination about what imagination is! Would it be possible to have you expand on how you think imagination works in the real world, and how you would map that to an "imagination gauge?" Understanding that would help us not only find a rule which makes sense to us, but one which will work with your imagination. – Cort Ammon Oct 3 '16 at 14:52
• This seems very similar to the Green Lantern core universe. Incidentally, the title made me chuckle: this is basically the way our universe works, but we have a longer turn-around time between imagining and producing a magic (read: technology). Even a "mundane" mathematical proof requires creativity to formulate and then solve. – jpaugh Oct 3 '16 at 15:10

Any neurological process requires glucose and neurotransmitters. Thinking hard about anything can exhaust areas of the brain of these resources. Neurotransmitters need to be salvaged and manufactured, the receiving end needs to be cleared of NTs, and the activated ion channels need to restore their gradients so they can fire again. Typically folks just get fatigued or a little "fuzzy" when this happens, but their ability to think doesn't just stop. However, your magic imagination process could drop below a threshold necessary for physical manifestation, needing a reset period. So how well someone can wield this imagination magic may depend on how much practice they have (and how efficient they can utilize their brain). Use too much magic and they get headaches, have difficulty concentrating, and their magic starts having trouble, especially the more complex imaginings. Being dehydrated, hung-over, or in poor health may impact this, and you could even tie in degenerative diseases, sort of a magical Alzheimer's disease.

You could have a specific biochemical process that activates the magic. Sort of like how mitochondria work. The more powerful the mage, the more magic mitochondria (magichondria!) he has in the region of his brain that controls the magic. So while he can suffer from neurological exhaustion, he can ALSO suffer from magichondria fatigue as these intracellular organelles build up waste products and deplete activation enzymes with continued use.

So there are multiple steps necessary for magic use which can be fatigued or interrupted. His specific imagination memory process, the triggers to make a magic soldier for example, is tied to the functioning of these magichondria. So after they get exhausted, he "forgets" (or more specifically, loses the ability to access) the magic soldier image. It won't be accessible again until he rests. Other magichondria are tied to memories for flight, making a shield, whatever. Deliberate meditation and practice can associate memories with magichondria, but ultimately you are limited by how many you have (a finite spell reservoir).

• This is pretty genius, actually. Using the neurological processes as a real aspect makes sense. Mana potions from fantasy could be replaced with glucose drinks. The beauty here also lies in the fact that there are two things that can make a better wielder: inherent ability, and critical practice. – Jesse Williams Oct 3 '16 at 15:41
• This would fit perfectly for a reality fiction world - cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, science-fiction in general, etc. However, I'm aiming at something of pure fantasy (like D&D). But this answer is awesome! – Radec Oct 3 '16 at 15:51
• @Nimrod well, change "magichondria" to mana and you are GTG :) Regardless of the underlying mechanisms, you can just "fantasy it up" with fantasy loaded terms. But it sounds like you want a version of a Vancian magic system and this is about the only way I can think of to have it make sense (without going into the depths of quantum intelligence). – Jason K Oct 3 '16 at 17:10
• @JesseWilliams I'll do you even better. Instead of just glucose, a "mana potion" could contain neurotransmitters or even just rare minerals necessary for magichondria function. Of course it may be faster to SNORT the mana potion to get faster absorption so there could be a rapid effect on the battlefield. – Jason K Oct 3 '16 at 17:13

Imagination is a dangerous thing, just ask any small child - they haven't yet learnt that something is impossible.

You might want to look into adding some mental discipline into the conjuring.

Consider how difficult each task is to build up a particular spell and have your magician compartmentalise these tasks in his/her mind in order to combine them at the end of the spell. In effect, you'd have an assembly process that the mind has to coordinate.

So, the more difficult the spell, the more mental agility and capacity you need to perform it.

Just a thought. (Credit here goes to the 'Kingkiller Chronicles')

• Yes, imagination could be dangerous. "The forbidden planet" show how dangerous could be a Dream (or nightmare) if imagination could become reality. – Adrian Maire Oct 3 '16 at 14:13

Imagination as the source of power could be explained in the same way artistic talent is explained today. The minds eye - imagination - is very keen for some; they see details and shadows, shades and contours. Then there are people like me who see basic shapes, some shadow, but shades and contours elude me as do finer details. Then there are some of my friends that can't imagine a stick figure let alone the individual lines used to make one.

Each of us has imagination levels that vary just like what you've described. The more intense and detailed the imagination, the better the drawing, painting or sculpture; or the worse as the case may be. Some are excellent photorealistic drawers, while others are incredibly talented sculptors in clay. Some are very abstract, seeing stories in blobs most of us dismiss.

In your world, the imagination fuels the magic behind the creation. But imagination takes concentration and time. Tangibles take time and focus to create. The more disciplined an Imaginator, the better the Tangible. Normal things will hinder the creation of Tangibles - hunger, fatigue, distraction, emotion - only at an elevated level since the focus and concentration required are also at an elevated level.

• You artistic aproach is very nice - this would open possibilities for different imaginators (people who can create giants to people who can only create realistic shadow figures, for example). I'm considering giving you the best answer, but let's wait some more time so people can have their chance. :) – Radec Oct 3 '16 at 14:50
• @Nimrod , I was thinking along the same lines since art can be extended to music, code development,architecture etc. You could have a lot of fun with that and create a world of guilds and such. – Steve Mangiameli Oct 3 '16 at 14:53
• I'm really lured to use this aproach. The possibility of wizards musicians seems awesome. – Radec Oct 3 '16 at 14:56

Imagine a multiverse where anything you can imagine actually exists including things that pop into existance with nothing but void other than them.

Now imagine people who have an organ that can locate these objects and generate a gateway that brings them into their world. They can't travel to those worlds because the gateway locks onto an object and then pulls it into their world which means that the gateway closes as soon as the object is pulled over.

People with better imaginations can locate objects better because it crystalizes what to target and thus wastes less energy and makes it so the pull over the right thing. And likewise, all organs/muscles get better with use so someone with a good imagination is more efficient and someone who uses their ability alot has more to work with. Both of these can be worked on and both of these can have varying degrees of strength naturally. Some people are "deformed" and don't have this organ. Others are like those kids that have a scharzenegger physique at 10.

You now have "imagination" based "magic"...

And if you need it spelled out. This explains how some "sweat bullets" while others are practical gods. It also gives you a way to have an absolute limit by saying it takes x energy to open gateway of y size with z lock on ability. Once you know how much energy a person can produce and their lock on ability you can create an absolute limit to what they can bring over.

• That first paragraph creates an interesting side-proposition, because if we had the capability described, then you writing your post could have just created your own multiverse because, well, you imagined it. And so would everyone else who reads it. Wow. What power. – Simba Oct 4 '16 at 12:31
• @Simba I believe that that might somewhat be the case as it is. I find no significant difference between an universe I imagine and one I "create". I am god of both and have created both. I can manipulate and experience both. The primary difference between the above and reality in my view is that in our reality we can't draw things from the multiverse into our world (yet). Also, if you like this idea and wish to explore it more, check out "The Number of the Beast" by Robert Heinlein, though you might need to be familiar with more of his works to get the most of it. – Durakken Oct 4 '16 at 13:21

I have 2 very useful Limiters that Together seem to paradoxically keep these magicians both powerful and Heavily limited, but individually are quite valid all the same.

1) The biggest problem with Imagination magic is how simple it seems. They think, I imagine a Gun in my hand, its a .22 Pistol, and boom, its just done. The realistic problem with that is simply that they have no idea how a Pistol works. So, Rather than Imagining a Gun, Make it so they have to imagine each and every part, put in the correct place to make the gun. If they want to form a Tornado, they have to imagine not only the wind circling around, but the weather conditions to not have it instantly dissipate due to physics (unless they just keep imagining the wind moving, which would be very consuming, see 2nd part). This means that they cant do anythign complex, unless they understand it. They cant just imagine understanding it either, since they dont understand that either. This makes them like real wizzards, they have to study, spend long amounts of time practicing, and yet with only an understanding of rocks and basic forces, they could send a rock faster than a bullet, which would be deadly.

2) As for limits to make people not be almighty, Perhaps using Imagination Magic acts kind of like Alcohol or Anesthesia. As they perform this magic, they literally become drunk, loosing their ability to think straight. The more complicated the thing they are imagining is, the more "mental alcohol" they drunk to do it. It could make it so they cant do even basic imagination magic, Just like a drunk looses their ability to drive a car straight. As they keep on fighting, its like drinking more and more while driving, eventually, they cant stay on the road, and trying to imagine complicated things becomes impossible, as their mind is unable to focus. This sets a hard limit, as if they are constantly driving and drinking, If they tried to cast a complicated spell, their metaphsyical car crashes and it fails, resulting in say dust instead of a rock which is propelled in the wrong direction. Perhaps with training they could temporarily delay the drunk feeling, and create crazy complicated spells as a Finisher move, only to afterwards be unable to even talk in coherent sentences.

Ofcourse, Eventually they would always recover. The Brain is not fully understood, but this magic needs not cause brain damage with each use, which is realistically the only thing that would be permanent. After a few days, to maybe a week, they would be at 100% again. Though of course Brain damage could be a thing in any way you wish.

Together, these 2 make a very interesting system, One where the users need to become like stereotypical Wizards, spending tons of time researching things, and then using this understanding to in the least complicated of ways perform powerful precision magic. The smart ones would research how to increase their own capacities, or how to create tools and body modifications that could help them discover how to increase capacities, for ones that are undiscovered. They cant just wish to have a perfect memory, but the day one finds out the actual causes of perfect memory, they can replicate it on themselves or others as they wish. It really keeps them very limited, while at the same time still be walking disasters, because it does not take much effort to wish a Giant rock to fall on a city or to push and pull the water a few times and cause waves that may become Tsunamis. They just cant go and alter gravity until they know how gravity works, though with their abilities they could evolve themselves to learn how to evolve themselves further, in an ever ending loop until they could see what causes gravity and then manipulate that.

Instead of putting a limit on imagination, I would suggest you use other constraints.

1. Time: Suppose while all magic users can create anything out of their imagination they do so at different rates, for some it might have to concentrate on a cup for hours, before they can make a cup. While others can make a dragon in only a couple minutes.

2. Mental energy: Suppose that using your imagination in this way use of some sort of mental energy and a magic user may fall unconscious for several days if he uses up too much energy. In this case you're stronger Mages will be those who have larger amounts of mental energy and therefore can make more things from their imagination before falling unconscious.

3. Physical Danger: I read a book once about a girl with similar abilities. She sadly was in danger all the time as she was frequently attacked by monsters created by her subconscious mind. If you risked unleashing your worst nightmare every time you use this ability then that might limit how much you are willing to use and when. In this case you're more powerful magicians would be those who had years of training to minimize the risk of using imagination Magic.

4. Madness: in the book series lightbringer. By law all Mages have to be killed once they use a certain amount of magic. Who is this because continual use of magic leads to Madness. Because of this most magic users limit their use of magic. Your imagination magic could use similar constraints. In this case you very powerful Mages I'll be there with that just don't care about becoming insane from the over use of Magic.

Imagination requires intense concentration for a long time. Wizards have learned how to focus their mind on the object they are creating long enough for it to form. Some people just can't concentrate, and their mind wanders and so their creation comes out wrong, or fails to materialize.

You can't create something from nothing.

I can see how one's imagination might provide a template, but what would provide the energy to actually create your imagined monster?

This other source of power - call it mana - will be your constraint on quantity, while the ability to focus and imagine grand creatures will serve as your constraint on quality.

With such constraints in place, someone with a "poor" imagination, or unable to focus (a novice) would only be able to bring simple objects and creatures into existence. Masters, on the other hand, might create dragons, or other fantastic beings. Both would be constrained by the availability of mana, however, so that no one could spawn an infinite number of jars, dragons, etc. (this would destroy any economy your world might have, as well as representing an ever present threat that a mad-man might summon millions of monsters and destroy mankind).

Make this power source sufficiently rare and difficult to obtain such that your world isn't constantly on the brink of destruction, and you're set.

You may also want to add a feature such that a fantastic creature which wouldn't be able to biologically exist in your world would need a constant input of energy to exist, thus making it extra difficult to summon an eldritch monstrosity capable of consuming the world.

## It would probably work like Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a crypto-currency that is "mined" by performing complex calculations to come up with a string of characters that match a valid bitcoin value. Because there are only so many valid values, there are a finite number of bitcoins, which means that the more bitcoins are mined, the harder the calculations become. Therefore, you could present imagination as a matter of solving imaginative problems with an increasing scale of difficulty to conjure more and more powerful magic.

The interface is up to you, but I would see it as a natural intuition to be presented with problems or puzzles that immediately pop into the imagination/magic user's head, and as the user considers a problem they are mentally absorbed in the context of which to solve the problem, perhaps with a time dilation to attempt to solve a problem by actually carrying out the creative solution. For example, a problem could be how to harvest all the tea leaves from a mountain, and the user would actually go through the process to harvest the tea. A perceived solution that simply does not work will be rejected, and they have to start over.

You likely have two options when applying the rules of bitcoin to "imagination as a magic source." One would be to view the "imagination blockchain" as a universally finite amount, like the real bitcoin blockchain. Therefore, the continuous use of imagination to create magic makes it harder and harder for people to use such magic, except for people with exceptional imaginations.

The other option is to have an exponential difficulty tied with a local "cooldown," so that the use of imagination to create magic becomes exponentially harder in the short term, but after a while things settle down and you can use easier problems again.

It's also up to the writer to decide whether exponential difficulty results in a linear increase in magic output (like Bitcoin - each correct calculation only creates one Bitcoin), or if exponential difficulty results in an exponential increase in magic output (unlike Bitcoin, but could be more dramatic as a character has to solve extremely difficult problems to cast a gargantuan magic spell in the nick of time).

Likewise, it could be determined that particularly clever or optimal solutions result in a greater magic output than others. Using the tea mountain example from earlier, a solution that has the harvester gathering the lowest-altitude leaves and depositing them at the bottom of the mountain, then repeating as they work steadily upwards, would probably result in less magic being created than a solution that starts at the top and moves steadily downwards, as it requires less time and effort going up and down as the first solution. Therefore, the more optimal solution would mean more magic being created for use, rewarding the most clever with the greatest amount of magic.

Although this reality would seem really impressive, there is one hurdle wizards would have to overcome, and that hurdle is the amount of detail that we imagine. Most people can't imagine things in a very high level of detail, so wizards would not only have to increase their mental energy, the amount of time it takes to conjure something, and how well you can control what you have created after it is created, wizards would also have to practice adding immense amounts of detail to their imaginations.

• Map is not a territory. Nobody would be able to create an apple if all it took was just imagining it in a atomic-level resolution - and atoms are not, well, atoms. Yeah, some people have maps with better resolution in some areas but those are still not competely accurate. If completely accurate map is needed then nobody can into magic. If inaccurae map will suffice then delusional megalomaniacs will spiral up the power ladder. – Daerdemandt Oct 3 '16 at 19:32

Reminds me a little of the Monster from the Id in the Forbidden Planet movie (1956).
Or more recently the creatures in the story Sphere by Michael Crichton.
In both, people's imaginations are able to create things seemingly from nothing while their concentration is left undisturbed.

One way to get limit it is if it takes a lot of mental concentration to do. Someone with a lot of mental discipline would be able to do more than someone that can't concentrate as much. Also a well imagined thing would be stronger.

Mental effort takes energy just like physical effort does, so powerful magic could take a lot of energy to maintain and make real.
It could also affect the body in other ways, raising blood pressure, giving a migraine, etc.
A powerful wizard might be able to summon a horde of creatures to do battle, and then be laid up for a few days with an epic migraine headache.

First, a look at imagination: it is, simply put, creative thought. However, there is a very real possibility for "creativity burnout"; in fact, if you search for "creativity burnout", you'll find self-help articles from writers, artists, entrepreneurs, architects - the list goes on. No matter how creative you are, it's possible to hit a wall. More importantly, there are multiple reasons why someone would suffer from creativity burnout:

• Mental blocks: after coming up with many new ideas, you start circling back to the same old ideas, or simply run out entirely. You get stuck in a rut, or your mind goes blank. The fix: work on something else, move to a new location, or otherwise change the scenery. New scenery, new ideas.
• Physical blocks: if you're tired, dehydrated, or in pain, your brain simply will not work as well, which means your creativity suffers. The fix: sleep, eat, and/or exercise! When the pain is gone, the creativity will return.
• Mental limitations: humans all have different personalities; some are more creative than others, be it because they are just wired that way, or because they know how to eke the smallest smattering of creativity from themselves, or some combination of both. The fix: hard work. You can change your personality, but it takes time and effort.
• Lack of knowledge: the more you know, the more creative you can be. Stand-up comedians can react to the crowd because they know a lot of jokes, not because they invent them on the spot. If you run out of ideas, it may be that you simply ran out of knowledge about that problem. The fix: learn more!
• Insecurity: if you aren't self-secure, you may discard ideas rather than use them. If you're afraid of what others think, you freeze. The fix: practice! If you're confident in your ability in private, you'll be confident in practice.

In your example - the powerful mage who tires after a long battle - it may well be that he has simply tired himself out; he needs supper and a good night's sleep before he could do that again. Then again, maybe he ran out of ideas, and needs to sit down with a gook book to refresh his thoughts.

All that to say: base it on the real world. Some people have more imagination; some have less. Some people can be creative for hours on end, others get headaches after just a few minutes. When you're out of ideas, rest, food, and new stimuli will boost creativity. Or, y'know, browsing Worldbuilding!

In fact, you don't have to make this up. Imagination is already the core of how people (who believe magic works) believe magic works. Magic has been a little known central aspect of human civilization for thousands of years, with the "knowledge" (i.e. consensus) of how it works being passed down through mystery schools which were the beginnings of not only fraternal organizations like the freemasons but also modern universities. Even today there are subcultures even in the west who believe this is possible. So there is already plenty of precedent for the relationship between imagination and magic.

All schools of deep esoteric religion are also schools of magic, and vice versa. The each have enormous proprietary symbol systems, that they insist are necessary to understand to perform magic, but at the core of all of them is essentially the idea of "gnosis" which means "direct knowledge/experience of a thing by having touched it or become one with it".

What this actually means is essentially holding an image in your mind's eye at maximum clarity, for a length of time. For this reason, meditation is central to magical training. The ability to hold a clear image is the very purest form of mental discipline (or in another word: Will). It is a muscle that no one in our culture exercises. You try to visualize a red triangle and the color changes, the proportions move, you think of your dog, and then forget what you were doing while your mind wanders on some train of thought. What meditation is, is practicing noticing that wandering and correcting it back. Meditation is exercise for your mental focus "muscles".

What separates an average person from a sorcerer is the average person can't visualize a clear X for 5 seconds, whereas the wizard has worked on his meditation until he can visualize any elaborate thing with enormous detail, and hold that image in his mind with herculean strength, letting the image in his mind grow to fill his entire perception, becoming gnostically "one" with that image and holding that state of consciousness in a trance for "long enough". Long enough for what? Long enough that the image gets imprinted deep into his unconscious mind, which is fundamentally connected to the hidden structure of the universe (as above, so below. The microcosm (mind), is a reflection of the macrocosm (the universe). The act of conjuring it in your mind is a reverse-echo of conjuring it in reality.). In this way, as the magician is reprogramming his own consciousness, he is reprogramming the universe at some scale. Possibly by steering the multiverse of probability in order for the universe to arrive at the state he was visualizing.

For a wizard, "the struggle" is the herculean task of controlling his own mind, retaining his focus on something complex with photographic stillness. Without meditative exercise he wouldn't be able to do it at all. The more complex the image, the more difficult it is to visualize. The less probable (more far fetched) it is, the longer he has to hold it to mutate the universe into the shape of his Will. Holding any image, in real life, a very literally draining thing to do. You get mentally exhausted, like how a race car driver feels after 5 hours at 200mph, like you've been awake for 48 hours straight. You brain is literally depleted of chemical nutrients and signalers. In this regard, your "mana" is regained by the wonderfully mundane process of eating food and resting.

I implore you, rather than trying to make up your own version of how magic works, to pick up some books on the occult and read how it "actually" works, at least, how people for thousands of years have thought it works. I recommend at minimum, reading Alister Crowleys "Book 4" (the short one with only parts 1 and 2 in it). I also recommend reading about Chaos magic, which is a magical school that strips out all the mumbo jumbo to the brass tacks of doing the magic. Specifically a book called "Psychonaut" by Peter Carrol. There's also an online story you might be interested in on qntm.org called "Ra" where magic is real and considered a field of engineering.

• While I really enjoyed Ra (at least the bulk of it), I do not see how it applies to the post, have you read through to the end? – Joshua Drake Oct 6 '16 at 20:39

## How good are you at lying?

Some people are naturally very good at lying, while others are not. Some people can create entire alternate lives for themselves, and maintain these illusions by remembering who they have told what to whom and when, to keep the lie going.

Other people cannot lie to save their own lives, as they lack the will, concentration, or moral flexibility to do so.

In your world, spells are "physical lies", where people who witness them believe they are real as they do not know they are lies. If you have no reason to doubt the "truth" of what you are seeing, then you'll believe everything it does to you as well and probably die of a heart attack out of the fear of being eaten by the imaginary creature, or disemboweled by the imaginary sword etc.

And herein lies the method to control characters being too powerful. Someone who is highly imaginative, and capable of imagining more creative lies, may find themselves more susceptible to suggestion as well, so they are actually weaker to the magic of others. If you already live in a demented world of monsters and magic, one more monster chasing you is believable.

If you are the kind of person who will struggle to imagine a blue jar as you have never seen a blue jar before, then a flying shark with frikin' lasers on it's head is literally unbelievable to you and will have no effect on you at all. An angry house cat is maybe more believable, as you've seen one before, but is less likely to do serious damage to you before you shoo it outside.

This also demonstrates how lying too much will make your creations unbelievable to even the most creative minds, and therefore they are a waste of energy. In the time you have wasted, you've probably been eaten by the more believable war-bear your enemy chose to imagine.