In my story, some people have the power of teleportation. I have constructed it in a way in which for teleportation to occur, it needs to be a water surface. All one needs to do is to see the reflection of the place they are attempting to reach in the water's surface and jump in. The water is acting as a sort of portal.

I want this to be an original thing, but knowing rules that have been used in the past would give me something to work with. I will construct my own limits for the sake of originality.

My question is, what guidelines can be put in place to restrict teleporters from simply teleporting anywhere without limit? I don't want them to require an item in order to teleport. They already need a water surface in order to teleport. Is there any other guidelines that has been used in the past to restrict teleportation that would make sense in this scenario? Original ideas would also be welcomed.

Thank you for the help.

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    $\begingroup$ When you say "see the reflection of the place they are attempting to reach," do you mean in the teleporter's imagination? Or do they need to see a literal reflection? $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Mar 28 '17 at 1:26
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    $\begingroup$ The reflection would be a manifestation of their imagination. The clearer their mental visualization of the destination was, the clearer the one could physically see the reflection. $\endgroup$ – Askance_tortoise14 Mar 28 '17 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ See Vernor Vinge’s first novel, The Whitling. Teleporting kept the person’s momentum, and he worked out implications and limitations in detail. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Mar 28 '17 at 5:57
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    $\begingroup$ Reminder to close-voters: The problem cannot be fixed if the OP is not made aware of it. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 28 '17 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre the question is too broad. any set of rules can be a good answer. I could post dozens of different answers. What OP need to get out of the "too broad" ditch (and this one is deep indeed), to put limits on what he wants. But then 1) there are already answers posted that may be invalidated and 2) when one answer is as good as any other you fall into the OTHER ditch: POP. This question is unlikely to be salvaged, hence close votes. But i won't downvote, since there is a genuine effort at worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Mar 28 '17 at 12:34

11 Answers 11


A logical limitation would be that the further you travel, the more energy (mana) would be required, this would not only limit distance but also the amount of times you could teleport.

For something more unique, where the limitation is not on the traveler, but on the pools of water, I think it would be cool that you could only teleport between places that have some sort of connection, physical or even conceptual. Some ideas:

  • Lakes fed by the same river.
  • Sun needs to touch the surface for it to be accessible.
  • There needs to be the same magic circle drawn around the water.
  • The water needs to be dyed the same color.
  • Indoors, at a church or temple.
  • Heated to some arbitrary temperature.
  • Additives to the water (e.g. Salt or minerals like in ocean water)

That way you could have very generic "teleportation pools" that allow travel to all other capitals as public travel gates, as well as unique pairs for private, secure or secret purposes.

As for the mechanisms, I see two nice options.

  1. If pools are made to be the same, they literally become the same place, similar to a pocket dimension, so it's up to the travel from where they enter or exit. Maybe it's a natural phenomen or a wizard is involved.

  2. Once a traveler enters the water, their soul leaves the body in search for similar pools and once it has found one, pulls the body along.

Of course it's impossible to make the pools exactly the same, so the more differences there are between pools, the harder it is to travel between them. So more skilled travelers could ignore some but not all of the differences - maybe easier if he knows the exact differences.

It would also open up interesting opportunities for someone to steal plans for a pool into the royal treasure chamber and fake it for a heist.

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    $\begingroup$ One really cool consequence of the "shared connection" idea might be that the link is temporary. So, to teleport to the fountain at Castle McGuffin, a wizard pours a vial of water taken from that fountain into the pond at his feet. Teleporters might carry around hundreds of vials of water taken from different destinations, and merchant caravans might carry vials from distant locations. Army quartermasters might carry portable pools for mobile reinforcements! $\endgroup$ – thegreatemu Mar 28 '17 at 17:59

Classic teleportation limitations:

  • Had to have been there before.
  • Talent or power has an impact. Not everyone can teleport across the world. Create a radius according to ability. Difficulty can relate to both distance and familiarity with the locale. Only 1% of all teleporters can teleport to the other side of the world.
  • Teleporting takes energy. Only so many times a day or so much distance in a day.

Less classic, more original--ingestion...

  • Teleporters need a certain thing in their bloodstream in order to power the teleportation. It doesn't need to be a drug, it could be something as simple as a certain spice or hot peppers or something. The difficulty of attaining it can be up to you.
  • Your teleporters actually have to have a vial of water from the location they intend to teleport to. If they have had a drink from it within a certain period of time (day, month, week, year) they can make the connection.

You can also do a combo platter.

  • Perhaps there's natural ability concerning distance, but that can be augmented by ingesting the water from the locale.
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    $\begingroup$ If you haven't been there yourself, there's always a chance that you will end up someplace that looks the similar to your intended destination. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Mar 28 '17 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ how about having to see the place you want to go to, as in, looking at it in real time, to prevent teleporting inside an object/person. Teleporting as far as you can see, or watching a live stream from a place across the world $\endgroup$ – sch Mar 28 '17 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ Something potentially neater than the "radius" analogy; Power determines how far up or down stream in water you can go. upstream is harder/more restricted. Novices can easily skip a mile down stream. only 1 out of 1000 can travel through seas and only the grand masters dare try the oceans. Either way, the "caster" has to know and visualize the path through the water. $\endgroup$ – padleyj Mar 28 '17 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ A spice? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guild_Navigator $\endgroup$ – Matteo Tassinari Mar 28 '17 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ @MatteoTassinari Shockingly, I have never read Dune. And the only part of the movie I recall clearly was...Patrick Stewart carrying a little dog and the phrase: "The Spice Must Flow!" But yes, this seems like the same sort of concept--but it doesn't have to be addictive. It can even be personal (like each teleporter can a have a different "spice" or thing they have to ingest or take in order to do what they do--magic is more representative and less scientific like that, if you want to go that route). $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Mar 28 '17 at 15:02

In The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester used ubiquitous teleportation, called 'jaunting', which everyone could learn through some effort. To jaunte, you had to know where the starting and ending points were by seeing both in person. So you couldn't teleport from a room you entered in total darkness (the prisons had no lights) you couldn't teleport into a place that had moved since you last saw it (extremely secure rooms were on rails) and and you couldn't teleport to a place you'd never seen (so for the first trip you needed to hitch a ride, or go line of sight.)

Perhaps not entirely comprehensive rules, but maybe a good place to start?

Bester also limited teleportation to the speed of light, and his characters couldn't teleport through outer space... sort of. He never really infodumps how the jaunting works, but I think that's the gist of it. Anyways, I recommend reading the book if you have the chance, it's very well done.

  • $\begingroup$ Looking at a later answer, I seem to recall that in TSMD, some people were able to jaunte further than others. $\endgroup$ – Shokhet Mar 28 '17 at 5:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Shokhet - Yeah, although this was mostly a mental thing, in my understanding; everyone had the potential, but some people just didn't have the determination? Kinda similar to how jaunting was discovered, with a near-death accident.Well, there's also the thing at the end, but... spoilers! $\endgroup$ – Hat Mar 28 '17 at 7:48
  • $\begingroup$ I guess if you wanted to escape the jail you could try to jaunt a few thousand feed straight up. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Mar 28 '17 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Joshua I believe some people in the book did do that; they called it 'blue jaunting'. But because the prison was built under a mountain and they had no idea of the depth, the chances of hitting a survivable height above the surface was slim to none. The main character sometimes heard the explosions of people who intersected solid rock. $\endgroup$ – Hat Mar 28 '17 at 18:27

Depending on how hard you want to make things - and what kind of weaknesses you want to allow - I can think of some ideas:

  • Both the target area and the pool of water to be used need to be flat, i.e. no teleporting to an wavy ocean or an area with rain, unless there is a prepared node to be used in the target location.
  • The teleporter creates the portal by astral projection of sorts: they have to astrally travel to where they're going (which obviously needs to be orders of magnitude faster than normal travel, possibly near-instantaneous). This means that they need to know where they're going, but not necessarily have been there before. Once they've created the "other end" of the portal and return from the projection, they see the other side on the reflection in the water.
  • Teleportation requires time and effort, making excessive use for shorter distances counter-productive.
  • Weight / amount / whatever constrained by physical/mental capabilities of the user.
  • Use of teleportation is risky, either due hostile forces trying to prevent travel and/or attacking travelers / teleporter or possibly due to the corrupting / corrupt nature of the forces used in the process.
  • Teleportation has a non-item cost, like reducing lifespan, burning a lot of calories, pretty much any weird / fantastic cost that can be paid by the teleporter himself. For humors sake, imagine a massively overweight mage summoned by the king to transport his army to relieve an allied force, with the mage emerging from the other side looking malnourished and skeletal from the effort.
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the bullet about source/destination being flat... perhaps, instead, the jumper gets motion sickness if there is motion in the water? Watch those storm swells... $\endgroup$ – Ghotir Mar 28 '17 at 14:08

If you want a more scientific limitation, say that teleportation preserves momentum, so if you teleport very far in any direction (on a spherical rotating planet) you end up moving too rapidly to survive.

  • $\begingroup$ Or it could go the other way - you slow down the further the distance, but you can skim across closer portals to keep the momentum up. $\endgroup$ – Darren Bartrup-Cook Mar 28 '17 at 10:27

Regarding specifically the use of a reflection for teleportation, in Leaper by Geoffrey Wood, https://books.google.com/books/about/Leaper.html?id=ja4QOQAACAAJ&hl=en the main character James teleports to locations known to him as he concentatrates on them sometimes with the aid of the reflection in his watch or a window.

He gradually learns that clearly visualizing his intended destination, such as when he can see it in a reflection, helps him control the leaping experience. This story includes his deduction that it is a divine gift that only works when he is attempting to do good, and he envisions that this is a super-power gifted to him by God.

I happen to be currently only half way through reading this book, so I don't know if there are any other rules involved yet to be explained, but thought it was quite similar to your proposed idea. The whole story so far explores the character's discovery of and examination of the purpose and mechanics of his new superpower. The author also alludes to use of meditative practices to encourage the calming of the noisy mind to better concentrate to facilitate use of the teleportation power, albeit from the nicely sarcastic viewpoint of the caffeine-addicted James character.

Hope this is helpful.


You mentioned in a comment that one would need to visualize their destination in order to get there; as a start, I recommend limiting teleportation to places that the person had previously seen.

You don't mention the technology level, but if televisions exist you need to make a judgment call on whether seeing a picture or live stream of a place counts as seeing it.

There will also (obviously) be a limitation of your particular teleportation system, in that teleporters will have difficulty traveling to landlocked locations.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a very good idea for me to consider. I hadn't thought about televisions or pictures yet, so I thank you for your suggestion. As for the landlocked places, I think that any area that had any body of water (even a puddle) would work just as well. That would also limit teleportation to simply one body of water to another. $\endgroup$ – Askance_tortoise14 Mar 28 '17 at 12:45

The water idea is interesting. The wrinkle I'd add would be that aim is tricky, and takes an unbelievable amount of concentration. So the further away the two locations, the larger the body of water required at the destination.

So for somewhere nearby, perhaps a bathtub is sufficient. But the other side of the planet for all but the most skilled would probably require an ocean.

  • $\begingroup$ That's not a bad idea at all. It certainly limits the scope of even the most skilled. But now this opens up another question, and that being, how do people increase their skill? Would it be simply by practicing, or by meditation or even learning more advanced techniques? Haha it seems with each answer, more questions arise. $\endgroup$ – Askance_tortoise14 Mar 28 '17 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ I'd think it would be like any other activity requiring aim and focus, eg: being a great surgeon...or marksman...or pool player: a combination of practice, good technique, and natural aptitude. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Mar 28 '17 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. Thank you for the contribution, T.E.D. This is certainly something I was keeping in mind in order to create some sort of categorization of teleporters. $\endgroup$ – Askance_tortoise14 Mar 28 '17 at 17:49

Two easy limits would be:

  • Require water to be present at the exit.
  • Require size of the mass of water both at the entrance and exit of the teleportation to be in proportion to the size of whatever is to be teleported
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding. I edited your post to make is a bit easier to read, I hope you don't mind. I hope you will enjoy your stay; do take the tour and check out the help center when you have a moment. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Mar 28 '17 at 9:31

As you are using water as a medium for teleportation, you may think something like using water flow. Something like you can't go up a waterfall, only follow the flow of water


The teleporter has to visualize the place he wants to go in his head. The better he is able to do this the more accurate the teleportation. This means they need to have seen that place before. Unskilled teleporters may teleport to somewhere not that close to where they wanted to go while skilled teleporters may be able to teleport to places they have only seen on pictures.


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