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First, a bit of background.

Let's say there are two real ways to power your magic in this world. For the sake of the question, I'll refer to them as "light" and "dark". Both kinds of magic are capable of the same results, at the same power. The question is about their allowed use.

"Light" magic only uses your own reservoirs of energy (let's call it "mana", for the sake of the argument) and is considerably more expensive to cast, mana-wise.

"Dark" magic is considerably less expensive to cast, but this is due to the fact it pulls on all the mana of everything around you when you cast it.

Everyone has different levels of mana, and as such has different amounts per day. A loss of all your mana doesn't result in death, it just means you can't use any magic until your mana reserves naturally replenish over time. There is a caste-based, very religious society that completely forbids use of Dark magic, as they see it as a violation of individual sovereignty - You're using someone else's mana without permission. As such, all use of Dark magic, no matter what the reason, is explicitly forbidden in this society.

Knowing that these people naturally tend towards systems of very defined order, what kind of society would allow use of Dark magic in this context? Clearly an anarchist would likely have no problem using it, but I'm looking for an ordered society that accepts the use of such magic, partially or completely. What kind of government would allow it? Would a religion?

Clarifications: Spells can pool the mana of everyone collaboratively casting it, to cast stronger spells, if everyone willingly contributes their own mana via "light" magic. Two "light" magic users could use their mana together to cast, but it's something willingly given, rather than taken by "dark" magic. Protecting your mana from someone else's use is extremely difficult. Such a shielding spell is something that would require a massive mana base to create even a temporary shield on a single target or area. This makes such shields rather unfeasible for anyone's use other than effectively a King or the Pope.

Edit 2: Based on feedback, I think 'shielding' is something that needs to be relatively cheap and easy in this world, otherwise 'dark' magic becomes more rampant. Thanks for the discussion, everyone! I believe this has been answered sufficiently.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can you give more information on the effects of draining magic? Does it have no consequences at all except for making it harder to use more magic in the immediate future? How do people know how much mana is in objects? Can one selectively take magic from only some parts of the surroundings, and what is the range? $\endgroup$ – sumelic Apr 18 '17 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Apr 20 '17 at 3:10
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Give your society a communal streak, like communism. Put the greater good above the individual. Your mana is there for the benefit of the whole group. I imagine Dark magic users would be government sanctioned. Perhaps a system of communions, sabbaths or other groups will be set up.

Either they have a single caster with support to extend their power. Or it’s a group of specialized individuals who share their mana depending on what needs done. Maybe firefighters in your universe would be a single water mage supported by regular firefighters that lend him their mana. As it has no physical effect they could actively work as firefighters while the water mage drains them to contain the fire.

The second group would be more like a team of super heroes or an army unit. They each shine in different scenarios. By pooling their resources they outperform any individual specialized enemy. And with their diverse composition they can take on many.

So make your society focused on the group and not the individual. They might even see keeping your mana to yourself as selfish. If it’s government sanctioned I imagine children to be selected during their formal education. Sorted by mana reserves and talent. The ones with large pools by conscripted like ‘batteries’ for the more talented casters.

In no way has this to be an evil society. They could accomplish great things.

Edit: Your edit slightly reduces the differences between Dark and Light. Still I think my answer applies. It could be considered selfish to keep your mana to yourself.

Another twist could be the use of prisoners as batteries. As punishment those who do wrong relinquish the right to decide what happens to their mana. See it as community service till their sentence is complete. If you give them much freedom during this time you probably want to mark them so state sanctioned casters know whom to use.

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    $\begingroup$ I hadn't considered the use of something like firefighters or superheroes needing people's mana in an emergency situation, where "dark" users have some kind of sanctioned use. Having someone's punishment to be mana batteries would definitely be something possible as well. Dark magic can selectively pull mana from targets for spells, so that can work. I'd imagine such punished people would have to do "community service" following say, firefighters around. $\endgroup$ – SpaceMouse Apr 17 '17 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ Would work pretty well for teenage offenders as well. See how real 'heroes' work. Perhaps decide to change afterwards by fear or learned respect. Maybe learn a trade while doing it. I also see forced use in limited groups like a ship crew. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 17 '17 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ @SpaceMouse But you said repeatedly in the question and in comments on it that having your mana drained has no ill effects other than loss of access to that mana - no injury, no discomfort, etc. Given this, I don't see how being used as a mana battery is in any way an effective punishment. $\endgroup$ – Dave Sherohman Apr 18 '17 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ Well it removes the ability to cast magic yourself and personally I envision it with communal service. So aid the firemen while the water mages drain you. Aid the nature wizards at the farms etc. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 18 '17 at 10:21
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    $\begingroup$ @DaveSherohman : You're still unable to cast anything if you don't have any mana to do it with, and having to follow around firefighters all day means you can't do anything more "fun". Community service can be a punishment, and as mentioned in another comment, you probably wouldn't want prisoners to be able to cast spells, anyway. $\endgroup$ – SpaceMouse Apr 18 '17 at 12:22
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what kind of society would allow use of Dark magic in this context?

Once I realized that mana was used for nothing but magic and that using other people's mana only resulted in them not being able to use magic (if, indeed they had the talent for it at all), my answer is absolutely ANY society of ANY structure could allow this with the right excuse.

I do find it weird that that a caste structured society is the one that's against it. "Individual sovereignty" doesn't much come into most caste systems. Rather it's about serving the whole, and in that case, I'd bet there was someone licensed to wield dark magic.

You have got to up the stakes. Because if I were running the government and the King's men were like "we need a magic shield for the King so no one can use his manna!" I would be like "Costs too much. It won't kill him or harm him in any way, he'll replenish in a day or two and we can track down the person later. The tracking spell is cheaper. Cry me a river." There must be a danger that someone tapping mana COULD, in fact, harm or kill a person if you go past a certain point, or anyone reading it will yawn and say "so what?"

A highly individualistic society is more likely not to like the use of dark magic.

I think in ANY society, there are going to be people who have permission to do it, because of rank or their job. I can imagine too, entire squads with ONE magic user, who uses the mana of all the others to cast, while they fight or whatever. Very effective, includes permission. Maybe a matching jewel or something so that the caster draws specifically from them instead of everyone.

Here are a few contexts in any society where this may be allowed/ it might happen:

For Public works: Everyone shows up to contribute mana for the magical building of the new bridge! You can say that you were part of it!(Does not have to be a bridge, can really be anything!)"See that rainbow bridge grandkids? I was just a nipper when it was built. Ain't it beautiful? There's a piece of MY manna in that bridge. I there the day it was built. There was a parade with contortionists and acrobats. They knew how to do public works in those days. Still remember the taste of the free scone they gave you. The wizard Grandor the Great did the magic. Now there was a REAL wizard."

For Private Works: So, you've got to build something/make something/magic something. Take out an ad. Pay people for their time and use of mana. If it's illegal, maybe have an excuse, like, ask them to knit or something, but they know they are really there for a mana drain.

Agent 007He's on a mission from the government. License to Dark Magic. Also to kill. Anyone in enemy territory could do this.

You weren't using that? Were you? Anyone who isn't a mage has these useless pools of magic in them. It's not like stealing if the filthy muggles don't know how to use it. It's amazing they even notice!

But back to your original question:

I'm looking for an ordered society that accepts the use of such magic, partially or completely. What kind of government would allow it? Would a religion?

The context you provided is the belief in the particular society that this taboo because of the reasons you outlined. But because the actual COST is so low, it's easy to imagine a society that doesn't view it this way at all. And in fact, it's far more likely in a rigid and organized societal context.

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    $\begingroup$ I very much like the idea of spies or "black market" usage of it. The main thing about this society is that the religion explicitly bans its every use - as the country is effectively a theocracy, they'd have to have nonbelievers using the magic as a spy, which then raises questions about can we really trust a non-believer?, etc. Black market use even in the society by those that don't follow the religion I could absolutely see as a thing happening, and the government would dedicate great resources to trying to discover/prevent such black markets. $\endgroup$ – SpaceMouse Apr 17 '17 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ Doesn't have to a non-believer, they just have to be sanctioned by the Pope or whatever. Advanced clemency and all that. These spies could be VERY devout indeed. They commit the dark deeds and "confess" to a priest who absolves them. The confession also serves as a report. kinda like Silas in the DaVinci code. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Apr 17 '17 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ "the government would dedicate great resources to trying to discover/prevent such black markets." Why in the society that doesn't follow the religion? If no one is getting hurt, why bother? Maybe you should think of it like prostitution. There's some token raids, it's illegal, but mostly, police departments don't waste the energy unless there's a reason, or they need to be seen to crack down, or there's a larger context. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Apr 17 '17 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry if I was unclear - a society not following the religion would not care. I was merely referring to a black market in the very religious society. $\endgroup$ – SpaceMouse Apr 17 '17 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ Prison! I would think that you would want people in prison to be continually drained of their mana. $\endgroup$ – G. Ann - SonarSource Team Apr 17 '17 at 17:16
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Literally any hierarchical civilization would allow your dark magic. However, I see the usage falling into 2 categories. Benign or Malicious. Benign being more of a structured logical approach, while malicious following an adverse hierarchical relationship. IE Bureaucracy vs Feudalism.

Benign

Our forefathers would wonder at the luxury of our paved streets, flowing water, and organized society. But this is not free. As a citizen it is your duty to report to your designated collection center every morning for mana collection. Your contribution keeps our city running, your sacrifice keeps the darkness at bay. Welcome to utopia.

Malicious

The masses do not need to have a choice. It is our duty and right to keep the peasants working and in their place. Our superior magical ability is God granted, and confers on us the duty of safeguarding the usage of magic.

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  • $\begingroup$ " As a citizen it is your duty to report to your designated collection center every morning for mana collection. Your contribution keeps our city running, your sacrifice keeps the darkness at bay." That's very melodramatic for what is a simple tax. $\endgroup$ – kat0r Apr 19 '17 at 8:42
  • $\begingroup$ @kat0r Oh Really? This essence / magical harvesting is of a slightly more personal nature than a normal tax. It is more likely to create animosity. Taxes are already difficult to enforce compliance, something as important as this would have a whole propaganda department dedicated to it. And when you consider a magical society would be utterly reliant on it, it doesn't seem too dramatic. I imagine slogans being plastered throughout the city, grade school <del>pledges of allegiance</del> indoctrination. $\endgroup$ – user2259716 Apr 19 '17 at 14:43
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Almost any society would allow use of dark magic under certain circumstances. For example, it's hard to imagine that any society would disallow soldiers in battle to use dark magic. If that use drowns the magic of the enemy, all the better! Also I guess police would be allowed to use dark magic, although to a more limited extent.

You mention a system of very defined order. In such a system, you'd almost certainly have ranks, with higher ranks having more permissions. That is, higher ranks would probably be allowed to use dark magic in situations where they can successfully argue it is justified, or that not using it would have done more harm.

Note that such rigid organizations usually also put a high value in maintaining their defined order. Indeed, use of black magic in order to deplete the mana of the lowest ranks might be a sanctioned use, with the reasoning that those lower ranks would likely misuse their mana anyway, as they are not educated to use their mana well. The depletion of the mana of lower ranks, together with the higher power that comes from the permission to use a limited amount of dark magic by the higher ranks, would be a means to stabilize the hierarchy.

Another option would be to trade mana. This of course requires that the source of mana can be decided by the caster. So a mage who needs more mana for his spell could just pay someone for the permission to use his mana. If that other person doesn't currently have a good use for his mana anyway, he will be more than willing to make it into money (he'll be willing even if he has good use for it, but even better use for the money offered).

Actually, instead of trading mana for money, the mana could even be used as money. Basically you pay for services (especially magic services) by allowing the other person to use some of your mana. Of course to work well, that requires a way to detect when someone takes some of your mana, and how much he takes.

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  • $\begingroup$ Selling/trading your mana would be something that can be done with Light use: you can willingly give mana. Dark magic explicitly takes the mana from you against your will. Having "levels" of sanctioned use of Dark magic is definitely a possibility, though. $\endgroup$ – SpaceMouse Apr 17 '17 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ @SpaceMouse: I had understood you that for Light use, you'd have to take part in the spell, which would require at least a minimum skill in doing so (and you probably could ruin it if you do your part wrong), while Dark use requires no specific action be the giver. If so, Dark use with permission would be preferable for the receiver if he wants to be sure that mana is really used the way he wants. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Apr 17 '17 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ You're correct in your understanding. Dark would be the only way to get mana from someone who has no idea how to cast the spell. Point taken. $\endgroup$ – SpaceMouse Apr 17 '17 at 14:40
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The majority of human societies throughout history have openly kept slaves, and generally have not had any kind of rules about what a person could or could not do with their slaves. Slaves could be raped, beaten, killed, or sacrificed without any problem.

Most likely, then, laws would be perfectly happy with dark magic, as long as you only drew from the mana of your slaves - and that means that almost any human society would allow the use of black magic. In addition, given the benefits of this form of magic, one could see those who make the most of it becoming rulers and defining everyone else as 'slaves'.

If they do not rule, they will likely instead focus on maximising their slave possessions, and on keeping one another in check.

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Virtually all systems would allow this.

A truly capitalist society will simply require you to get permission, and getting permission will usually require payment. This will of course lead to wage slaves giving away 99 year leases and the like, and create a lot of work for lawyers when wizard A uses mana from a non magic user who belongs to Wizard B.

A hybrid capitalist/plutocracy such as modern day USA/Australia, payment may not actually happen. See the current hubbub around fracking royalties for landowners. You would likely get some 'lock the gate' style protesters (lock the chakras?) pushing to have people paid.

Communism would have a tightly controlled system where you need permission from the government to use it, and need to prove it is for the greater good. Of course, the guy granting permission would be horribly corrupt.

Monarchy/Feudalism/Dictatorship would allow taking the mana of anyone below you on the pecking order. A wizard acting on behalf of the King could use mana from anyone. A wizard acting on behalf of a knight could only use mana of squires or peasants.

Fascism would give unchecked rights to use mana to the government, military and police.

Theocracies would have people willingly lining up to give their mana away. Ideally, this would involve a village's population turning up to church so the priest can heal the sick from that village. However, muggles will have no idea how much mana is required to heal the sick, so it'll mostly be used about as fairly as when tithing lead to the construction of lots of grand churches/cathedrals, and not a lot of feeding the poor.

Military and police, in all systems of government will have the right to use it without asking for permission - you wouldn't want the [blank] to win, would you?

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As you outline it, magic that draws on somebody's mana is a violation of individual rights because your mana is something that is your private property. So; what if it isn't private property? You have a society with an alternate theory of mana, that treats it as a (useful!) waste product, whose creation is simply a side effect of being alive. An elephant produces much more carbon dioxide than a mouse; why does the forest care where the carbon dioxide comes from?

Similarly, why does a wizard care if the mana they're using is theirs or yours or whatever? If a king and a schlemiel both produce mana, and the stuff is interchangeable, and you don't even have to do anything to make more of it beyond just continuing to breathe, where do you get off implying that this stuff is special and yours just because it came out of you?

This alternate society treats mana the same way we treat water. You don't want to be dehydrated, but as long as there's water around, you aren't going to be. Next door, there's this real weirdo who refuses to drink anything but filtered and recycled body water because all other water is owned by other beings; you try to avoid making eye contact with them.

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The True keys to this are to adjust the way of looking at magic from a philosophically different point of view. Magic is Power, regardless of source.

It would also be critical to have the ability for the state to draw off someones mana well codified in the law.

Since you specifically mentioned Dark Magic violating an individuals knights, you could actually weave it in to your criminal justice system.

In the US we have it in our founding documents that no one will be denied life, liberty, or property without the due process of law. Count Mana into this. As part of the incarceration, State Sanctioned "Dark Wizards" can draw on the energy in a prison at will and without recourse. It would be done for the same reason that we don't allow inmates things like knives, guns, etc. etc. If everyone can use magic to a greater or lesser extent, denying them the ability to use magic would be the wise and sane thing to do.

Draw the magic off and use it for well defined and codified projects. Water treatment, Defensive spells, sewer cleaning, whatever.

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  • $\begingroup$ The problem with this take is that people are put into prison to be rehabilitated, or kept away from society. We don't drain their blood and harvest their organs for transplants. Larry Niven's Known Space goes into detail about possible effects this would have on a society. Also, these prisoners, some of them will be adepts, surely, right? What's to stop them from harvesting the non-adepts and escaping? The time in prison would be time spent mastering the nuances of this. $\endgroup$ – chiggsy Jul 26 '18 at 2:16
  • $\begingroup$ @chiggsy I'm not sure the impact would be all that dramatic. Shielding over an area would prevent unauthorized mana harvesting by adepts on the inside. Also, Prison serves as both rehabilitation AND as deterrent. It should be unpleasant, and having your life force drained by a little from time to time would be part of that. According to the OP, drawing life force is not a death sentence and it does regenerate. Your example of organ transplants misses the fact that organs don't regenerate and you die if someone harvests your entire liver $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Jul 26 '18 at 13:45
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I think with the question as set, it would be almost impossible to stop the use of dark magic. Magic is power. Dark magic is less expensive (=easier?). So the first person with magical ability to grab mana from the greatest number of people will be in a position to do whatever he wants. Of course, it weakens society. The society where this happens may be a lot like a society where an addictive but damaging drug such as opium is available for pennies, or to anyone who can grow a common weed on a hidden patch of land. Might there be invaders or liberators from outside who can better resist having their mana stolen?

It surely works better if dark magic is the more expensive. It takes a lot more out of its wielder, and it is horrible for those whose mana it steals who will seek revenge on the dark mage. So users of dark magic must practice on mere animals (with very little mana) and conceal their nature and abilities until the moment when they can gain the most from a single devastating strike that will leave them weak, but (they hope) the opposition dead (by, say, fireball, not total mana loss) or disorganised for long enough that the dark mage can seize absolute power.

Good thing total mana loss is not fatal, or you'd be looking at necromancy, and mass human sacrifice - like the Aztec empire, except it would actually work. Yuk.

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