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I have some kids, some of them can use magic, how can they make enough money to live without stealing too much, maybe a bit of pickpocketing. Magic is illegal unless you work directly for a king or a duke, and the kids don't. Tech is medieval.

This is how magic works:

Magic runs in your blood. It is a second life source, and if you run out; you die. The less you have the weaker you get, it is also second stamina. They way your body checks if it is physically strong enough to do something is it checks if your body has enough energy, and magic. The energy gets used up, but the magic doesn’t.

When you actually use magic that is different. When you use magic, you don’t need energy. Magic has two ways of doing something; on release, and on impact. If you were to light a fire, let’s say, and you wanted to do it with magic, you could either send out the magic, still in magic form, and when you hit the pile of sticks, you can turn it into the fire. The other way is to make a small flame that shoots toward the fire and lights in when it hits.

Some spells can be both, but some are only on impact. If you send a spell to paralyze them, make them unable to move, there is no way, unless maybe sending a spray of paralyzing poison toward them, to do it on release.

Also, everyone has magic. Some just produce more than others. This is the reason that few can do great feats of magic, though if they knew how almost anybody could conjure a candle-flame.

Another thing that you had to know about magic is the use of it. Special words, the Olde Tongue, were linked to the usage usually, but not always. The words just helped you to focus and ‘stay on target.’ These words helped magicians to focus on what they were doing and not get lost in the process.

They can't get permanent jobs, people don't want to hire street-rats, and they don't want to get too far on the illegal side, magic is so forbidden that they can't use it for healing and such, the group has about ten members.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by JDługosz May 8 '17 at 7:17

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ So legality isn't the issue just not stealing? I see them working for criminals, forgers perhaps? Could magic be used to heal the wounded and sick? $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Mar 18 '17 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ Search internet for david blaine street magic. $\endgroup$ – vodolaz095 Mar 18 '17 at 18:39
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    $\begingroup$ The title asks about magic-wielding kids, the question goes into great detail about the magic system, and specifies that the kids can't use magic "for healing and such", but the OP is repeatedly saying in comments that just about any use of magic by the kids is not an option. Is the question about magic-wielding street kids making money, or about street kids who don't use magic making money? Please clarify how their magical abilities play into this, if at all. You've listed a bunch of things they won't do with magic, because they're too afraid; what would they do? $\endgroup$ – Beofett Mar 19 '17 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ "Magic runs in your blood." "Everyone has magic." "Magic is illegal." That's a pretty draconian government. $\endgroup$ – DLosc Mar 20 '17 at 2:11
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    $\begingroup$ Can't they just use their magic to make money?! $\endgroup$ – colmde Mar 20 '17 at 11:31

14 Answers 14

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When life's kicked you to the curb, and all you have is your wits and magic, the sky is the limit what you can--and will--do to survive.

Options:

  1. Start a market stall. If one kid can use fire, cook food. If one can conjure up water, steep tea. If one can stimulate plant growth, grow and sell fruits and veggies (even when no one else should be able to).
  2. Entertainment. It's been mentioned before, but that's what a lot of orphans do: entertain the masses to get a coin. Magic shows, singing, dancing, plays, light shows, dancing fruits, whatever gets the largest crowd to stop and look and pay.
  3. Work for someone. You have a bunch of eyes, maybe someone will pay for information (business owners that want intel on the competition, contract killers that need consistently accurate information, guards that need someone to keep an eye on a suspicious group).
  4. Grow your own food. You have space, start a garden to feed yourselves.
  5. Learn a trade. If eating is a big thing, then you'll be motivated to learn something new, or you and everyone left alive that you care about is going to starve one day at a time. Chop chop.
  6. Learn to hunt for your own meats. The skins can be sold at the market, and some apothecaries would buy some of the body parts (rabbit's foot, spleens, livers, these might be ingredients to potions and whatnot)
  7. Another aspect of your world that has been left vague or unclear. These are orphans that need to survive. If they can do none of the above, they'd study the world around them and see what they can come up with together. Many brains, all attached to a stomach that likes being full.
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  • $\begingroup$ they are too scared to use magic at a market stall, if you use magic you die, and they are in a city and it's hard to hunt, but maybe they can catch rats and ally cats and make phony 'pork stew' with it. $\endgroup$ – user34780 Mar 18 '17 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ @user34780 they are in a city, but not bound to it. Yes, the city has wildlife as well. Rats, cats, dogs, pigeons, doves. But if they cannot survive in the city, they would be forced to leave it. And yes, they would lie about what they're selling if it means people will buy it. $\endgroup$ – Fayth85 Mar 19 '17 at 11:44
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    $\begingroup$ On the subject of hunting for meats and the city's wildlife, they could do some pest control. A medieval society could use the help of kids not afraid to get dirty and go into small spaces to get rid of pests eating their food. The kids would be rewarded with a pittance, and they'd get to eat their capture. $\endgroup$ – Bob Grannan May 6 '17 at 13:28
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Black Market Magic

If the crown has a royal monopoly on legal magic use, but yet almost anyone could actually use magic if they learned how then there's almost certainly going to be a thriving black market in unlicensed magic services. And this doesn't have to imply immoral or otherwise-illegal activities like murder, theft, etc.

If one of the kids can, say, cast a healing spell, they might offer that to people who can't afford royal healers. Other options might involve mending broken objects, divination spells ("Tell your fortune, mister?"), finding things that have been lost, and so on.

They quietly offer services to trusted members of their local community, and then receive payment in coin or barter.

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I could see them using their magic for various purposes, but since magic is illegal, they would have to be hidden. If your kingdom has paper money, and magic can be used to spread ink onto paper with high accuracy, forgery is a possibility (and an easy one). If the king is evil or highly placed businessmen/merchants/officers are corrupt, I think your street band could reasonably make a point of only stealing from them, if your aversion to theft is moral related. Magic could also be used to stage "Magic Shows," as a double bluff. People think they are being fooled to think tricks are magic, but are actually witnessing magic. This assumes that magic shows are not forbidden by the king.

Another possibility is that they use magic to give themselves temporary disfigurements, to make begging effective enough to survive. Are there any other rival gangs in the area? If so, do they have magic or not? Is their a trade in black market magical items? If so, set to work producing these. There are a multitude of other ways magic can be used to make money, but the key is that they have to be out of sight. If you stick to that you should be able to find something.

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  • $\begingroup$ the streets are fairly dangerous but they live in an abandoned house(actually a whole row of houses attached) they have the place locked up pretty good, but one of the kids doesn't sleep so the 'watch-out' thing isn't a problem. $\endgroup$ – user34780 Mar 18 '17 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ One of the kids stays awake then. So, how about the whole forgery thing? And the magic shows. The begging? Am I on the right track here or not? $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Mar 18 '17 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ If money is coins, can they do illusions to make copper seem like gold for a while? Later, the merchant will just think he put the copper coin in the wrong spot, but the kids have food for way cheaper price. $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Mar 18 '17 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ That's the first time you said it. Might want to edit your question and put that in then. $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Mar 19 '17 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ @user34780 then how are they magic wielding streetkids? They're just streetkids that happen to have access to magic but are hardly wielding it. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Mar 19 '17 at 16:19
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The designer handbag method: Sell something, rugs, sacks, handkerchiefs, whatever; use charm magic to make people pay way over fair market price.

The shark tank method: Use magic to add value to merchandise: extra sweet apples, extra sharp knives, extra soft linen, etc

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  • $\begingroup$ sorry but they're to scared to use barely any magic $\endgroup$ – user34780 Mar 18 '17 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ @user34780 If so, I don't see how magic is relevant to your question. You might as well ask "How would street urchins make money in a medieval society?". Maybe you should explicitly state what spells are allowed. $\endgroup$ – Solanacea Mar 19 '17 at 4:11
  • $\begingroup$ they might do a bit of spell-work at home, in a dark spot with watch-outs, but not in the middle of a market. $\endgroup$ – user34780 Mar 19 '17 at 18:17
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"How can street kids make enough money to live?" For many real street kids, the answer is prostitution. If you are a streetwalker some magic power could be very helpful. The magic these kids have could be used to remedy or prevent the various hazards that come along with being a prostitute, the specifics of which are here left to the imagination of the reader. In a pinch, the magic might be used defensively to escape a bad situation, but otherwise, magic would mostly be used by the individual on the individual in private so the risk of being caught would be less. Self-spells could also be used to gain market share, by various methods which are here also left to the imagination of the reader.

This scenario is probably not going to be taken up by Brandon Mull anytime soon.

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An everyday guide for the magically gifted street-kid:

  1. Conjure up food.
  2. Conjure up stuff.
  3. Eat the food.
  4. Sell the stuff.
  5. Repeat.

Intelligent street-kids should be able to come up with whatever little measures would make sure that they don't get caught doing magic by the guards. What these might be will depend on how magic is policed in your world, but should typically include things like:

  • Doing it in a nice, secluded spot.
  • Alternating between the sellers of the stuff so that a few kids don't become recognized as "those kids who always have some suspiciously good merchandise that they may have needed either magic or theft to acquire."
  • Giving conjured items a bit of "weathering" so that they don't appear immaculately new. Should not be taken too far, just a smudge of dirt here and there, and perhaps some light scraping in strategic places.
  • Not conjuring up anything too ridiculously expensive that will get them noticed immediately.
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  • $\begingroup$ good idea but conjuring takes up to much magic $\endgroup$ – user34780 Mar 18 '17 at 23:50
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Use the magic to clean clothes and shine shoes. Use the magic to mend things. Create lights for people on dark nights. Create "umbrellas" on rainy days.

All of this is stuff that anyone could do.

However, most people may be loathe to use up their mana on such trivial tasks. Paying the kids to do it would be seen as a double public service.

  1. You give money to the kids.
  2. The kids use up their mana doing trivial things and can't build up enough to get into real mischief.
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  • $\begingroup$ They don't want to use magic in the open $\endgroup$ – user34780 Mar 19 '17 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ From your description I thought that magic was common enough that everyone was expected to be able to use it. Then maybe they open a tinker shop. Then they can use the magic in a back room out of sight of the public. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Mar 19 '17 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ good idea with doing magic in the back but I don't like the shop idea, maybe a stall, they like to move around a bit, as so not to get caught. $\endgroup$ – user34780 Mar 19 '17 at 18:19
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This answer is on the edge of what might be legal in your world and depends on the amount of gullible and/or overconfident people (a.k.a. tourists or drunks) in town, but it's worth mentioning.

The children could play the Shell game with said gullible or overconfident people. A few would watch out for trouble, a few would play, a few would do the encouragement etc. Any evidence of having played this game would be easy to get rid of. Cups and shells can easily be discarded and recreated.

Playing this game wouldn't even require magic, just sleigh of hand, but the effect could be increased by a very small magic spell. The child operating the cups could use a mantra as the focus words for the spell, something like "pick a cup, any cup".

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  • $\begingroup$ The advantage real magic has over the classic shell game is that actually impossible results could occur. Minding of course, that there's a guy who does it with clear cups and glass balls. It wouldn't take much true magic to accomplish even more grand feats than that if the user is skilled at the game to begin with. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s May 6 '17 at 15:58
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Use magic to live longer than everyone else. Accumulate knowledge, and thus power via longevity. Rule the world by modern times by inventing every relevant piece of technology, pretending that magic isn't real erstwhile killing off competitor mages.

Magic is for doofuses unless it can make you live longer. A rifle beats a fireball every time and not dying is the only way to beat death.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, DeadBadger, you make good points about magic in general. Unfortunately, this doesn't touch on the question of how magic-using street kids can prosper without theft. Your answer can be improved on focusing on this issue. It should have facts, information & reasoning to back it up too. Dollops of commonsense & logic would also be good. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – a4android Mar 19 '17 at 6:51
  • $\begingroup$ Would probably require some really advanced magic to do that. How would the kids be able to get time to practice enough to develop such longevity spells given they have to spend time getting food to avoid starvation? $\endgroup$ – mathreadler Mar 19 '17 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks but it doesn't help $\endgroup$ – user34780 Mar 19 '17 at 12:37
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They could try to group up and use their magic to get an information advantage over the authorities. If the magic works to gather information and also to do illusion/charming magic to convince any guard who happen to suspect things they didn't see anything. With enough practice they should have gotten an information advantage over any guard service and that's when the real fun begins. They could start feeding guards wrong information so they start watching the wrong people. Probably mostly people deemed smart enough to unfold their plans but also some real madman once in a while (for plausibility).

The kids (who are probably grown men at the time) will be free in their magic practice and the ones who could be a threat at exposing them will be the default suspects.

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  • $\begingroup$ good idea, but they're really scared of doing magic in the open $\endgroup$ – user34780 Mar 19 '17 at 12:38
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    $\begingroup$ They are probably scared of starving too. Sooner or later their hunger will grow bigger than their fear. $\endgroup$ – mathreadler Mar 19 '17 at 12:40
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Use magic every day.. Unconsciously

Since magic is restricted and using magic is uncommon, it's possible that kids even don't realise what they are doing is magic. No, sir, I don't know about magic. Everybody knows witches are eating kids like me. If I were a wizard I would live in a duke's house

So this gang of kids is acting like another street kids, but more effective because they sometimes use magic. There are numerous options:

  • panhandle. I could see who could give more money. I just ask and get silver shilling and once got gold coin!
  • pickpocketing. I could see how much money in someone's pocket. I whistle the song and he don't see what I'm doing
  • gambling. I just wish to win and sometimes I really win. But I'm exausted after that
  • etc etc. Anything! I just [doing] and I [get it]. You say it's a magic, really?
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  1. Begging. If your medieval city has any religious orders which have vows about giving alms to the poor, the kids can turn to these for a handout. Otherwise, just generally begging on street corners. Be aware that your kids will be in competition with other street kids, with adult beggars and possibly with organized gangs of beggars. If you are not too squeamish or too empathetic, watch the movie Slumdog Millionaire to see a plotline about adults deliberately maiming children to make them more "pitiful" and thus more lucrative as professional beggars.
  2. Child Prostitution has been mentioned elsewhere.
  3. Picking through cesspits and rubbish heaps. Medieval societies didn't throw away the volume of stuff that we do, so didn't have out massive landfill sites. But there still might be stuff worth scavenging (food scraps) or reselling (cloth rags, bones). Again, bear in mind that they'll be in competition with other street kids and poverty-stricken adults for any spoils. Also, depending on where in the world you are, they might also be fighting wolves, feral dogs or vultures for the food scraps.
  4. Sell their urine. Various medieval cloth making processes and leather tanning processes used urine. People used to sell it to the Fuller or Tannery. Probably earn a little cash, but not enough to live on.
  5. Do the jobs no-one else wants to do. You say no-one will employ street rats, but there may be some horrendously smelly, unpleasant or dangerous jobs which someone will pay them to do. Collecting wheelbarrow loads of chicken dung to take to the tannery, or emptying full cesspits, for instance. The TV series The Worst Jobs in History might give you some ideas. However, also be aware that there were lots of Guilds and 'closed shops' in the Middle Ages. There might be some appalling jobs in a tannery, but perhaps only apprentices in the Tanners' Guild were permitted to do them.
  6. Random odd jobs for dodgy people. Desperate kids can be exploited. Street kids are 'invisible'. Put these together and the kids might earn a copper here and there. Carrying a message to someone. Acting as a lookout for some dubious goings-on. Reporting back on when Mr. Smith comes and goes from his house, or listing every man who Mrs. Jones talks to when she's at the market.
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  • $\begingroup$ On #2, they could use magic to heal themselves. Or numb the pain beforehand. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Mar 19 '17 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ Or even just generally keep themselves clean and healthy. Not too clean (begging doesn't work unless you look grubby) but if you're digging around in the rubbish, you definitely don't want to come down with something. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s May 6 '17 at 16:03
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If magic is a second stamina, perhaps they can use a (banned) olde tongue word to transfer some of their stamina to an interested customer-- for a price. Essentially trading their life force for a bit of coin so they can eat for another day. (This strikes me as something actual street kids do in the real world, allegorically anyway).

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Magic circus with with magic on impact but does nothing on impact. It's just flashy while traveling creating a spectacle of images and/or sounds, attracting a lot of viewers on the streets.

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