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In this medieval world, I want to set up a clan system that builds up every kingdom. Every kingdoms will have at least 3-4 big clans/families, each is unique to the theme of the magic they use. For example, clan Warr'og specializes in blood magic.

Magic power is inherited, and people know "exactly" how this works. The offsprings will have, on average, the same average power their parents have.

Parents with 100 and 100 may give birth to children with 90-110 magic power.
They have a magic scale to measure magic power

Of course there will be mutations and special cases, but the system rule is roughly like that.

With this system, people will try to marry a strong wizard to increase the quality of their childrens magic power to rise in rank to the top of the society. The society values magic power highly, so there will be a gap between castes.

I imagine that the society will quickly create a noble class, which will limit the marriage between people in clans to guard their pure blood and secret magic ability.

A noble marrying a commoner will be stripped of their nobility and right and kicked from the clan, because of their "tainting" of the blood purity.

Marriage between nobles are rare, because mixing the most powerful pure-blood always results in the baby's death, because of the incompatibility between two very different magic powers. (A powerful shadow user cannot produce offspring with a powerful fire user, for example.)

So, people will inbreed only within their clan, and this creates a low-diversity gene pool, which will lead to health problems, so they will eventually be wiped out.

With this in mind, is the clan system flawed and not stable? Is there a way to escape the inbreeding, but still maintain the blood purity as high as possible? (Note that it is impossible to get an offspring from marriage of powerful magic users of different school)

Related: This question gives a good insight on why inbreeding is bad: because of the possibility of accumulating bad recessive genes. However, it does not address whether the clan will be wiped out by the inbreeding or will it survive (for at least 10 generations)?

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    $\begingroup$ you seem to have clear ideas about the magic system, but it's not a common knowledge what shadow magic or blood magic is. Moreover, you ask for science based, and I hope we agree magic and science do not mix. Can you clarify your problem? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 5 '17 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch Well, the only thing the magic does is preventing inter-clan breeding. I was about to add "magic" tag, but seems magic is not a main issue. "Blood magic" and "Shadow magic" is just a placeholder and does not affect the breeding, it's just to establish clan A has magic A, while clan B has magic B. Do you think [magic] is appropriate to be added? I think the influence is minor, only to prevent interclan breeding $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 5 '17 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ I think I get what you mean, now. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Sep 5 '17 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch Magic and science are not mutually exclusive. Science is not the laws of physics and chemistry and biology. Science is the method and mindset we use to find the laws. It's just as applicable in worlds where magic exists. $\endgroup$ – Arthur Sep 6 '17 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ Inbreeding does not necessarily result in eventual wipe out. The cheetah is an example of a species brought to near extinction with the only option for survival being inbreeding - about 10,000 years ago, but subsequently surviving. Although it is now an endangered species, it is not endangered by inbreeding. $\endgroup$ – Lee Leon Sep 6 '17 at 9:48

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Oh boy, magic wielding chinless wonders

Breeding for a single trait always causes issues, as any critic of pedigree dogs will tell you.

If you want the society to be stable, you need to allow a level of social climbing. As it stands you have a rapidly decreasing, increasingly unhealthy, aristocracy who aren't going to survive much longer. The thing with surviving aristocratic families is that they rarely let vanity stand between them and survival of the family line for long, if they do they cease to be a surviving family. "Pure blood" is a vanity issue, lack of money and bad genes are a survival issue. In this case you can add magical power to the survival side.

In the long run, (money and) power is likely to be the driving factor. A peasant with a bit of power rises a little. A rich merchant's daughter with a lot of power can rise a lot. The father can gain a lot of credit by marrying her off to some inbred scion of a great family in dire need of a little genetic diversity (and an injection of cash).

In time the wealthy and magical become junior nobility. Junior nobility can become senior nobility by some great act. Members of the establishment can in time join the aristocracy. The sons of the aristocracy sow a few wild oats among the peasants, meaning the occasional peasant crops up with magical power. This allows a little outbreeding in what is otherwise going to become a highly inbred and dying society.

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    $\begingroup$ Just as a side note, I think you'll find that even staunch supporters of pedigree dog breeding will agree that inbreeding is an issue. $\endgroup$ – Williham Totland Sep 5 '17 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ I think the sowing of wild oats should be encouraged, or at least done very regularly in secret. A family looking to gain some cash can sire a powerful child among the lower class in exchange for money, trade agreements, alliances, etc. If powerful enough, the child may be smuggled into the clan under the guise of being a pure blooded child. $\endgroup$ – BlackThorn Sep 5 '17 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ Consider old french society where the rich and powerful were functional polygamists (see also early history of New Orleans). In the eyes of the church they were married, and only had one wife. However it was an open secret that they would have a "kept" mistress, who was gifted with nice apartments, jewelry etc. A jaundiced eye might call this prostitution, but it was far more complicated than that. Children born out of wedlock were educated and cared for, it was one way for a poor woman to live comfortably and see that her children were educated. This would help with genetic dispersal.. $\endgroup$ – Binary Worrier Sep 6 '17 at 11:05
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Genetics

Ok, lets model it as Addative alleles.

http://study.com/academy/lesson/additive-alleles-the-additive-gene-effect.html

Some genes also have many pseudo-genes throughout the genome. Some traits are merely affected by many many different genes. So rather than yes/no/maybe it's more like height.

It's not a single gene but a trait based on the effects of say, several dozen sites, each adding a variable amount to magical power.

Commoners

First, unless you have crusades/culls/inquisitions commoners are going to have a low base level of magic. Having even a little magic is just a massive advantage and rich&powerful people always have secret affairs.

Children having, on average, about the average of their parents power sounds about right but with quite a lot of variation, sometimes the 2 most powerful mages in the world will birth someone who can't light a candle, sometimes they'll birth someone even more powerful.

Political marriages

I think you can make this system stable and limit inbreeding by taking into account strategic marriages. Even the most powerful mages will sometimes need allies and marrying off your least magically powerful offspring is a small price to pay for a strong alliance with a magically weak but rich ally.

Inheritance

Inheritance could could go to the most powerful progeny, not merely the firstborn. This would of course make for a vicious family life since you want to prove you're the strongest to inherit.

So your society could look like a mountain rather than a totem pole, the most powerful marrying only the most powerful but surrounded by tiers of almost-purebloods with slightly less power. Occasionally exceptionally strong mages from the lower classes rise up while the weakest from the top families marry down.Rising stars make particularly appealing marriage prospects.

Illegitimate children of the very powerful stand to make quite a splash with enough power to catapult them to the upper-middle classes.

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Your magic seems to be genetic related. The following can help escaping the gene bottleneck:

  1. random mutations in the commoner population can produce new magic carriers. If they can be recognized (and I guess a toddler setting a bed on fire while burping is a sound hint he has fire magic) they can also be put into arranged marriages to bring new genes into the clan. The clan is then more defined by capacity/adoption than strict blood line.
  2. Due to the variance in the breeding outcome, I expect that you can have a Gaussian distribution centered around the average of the two parents. This means that actually you have some more choices when looking for let's say a 90, and not being limited to close relatives.
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The society values magic power highly, so there will be a gap between castes.

You're working on the premise that the magicians are the only rich and powerful people out there. This won't be the case though. Traders will mostly be normal. Soldiers will mostly be normal. And since soldiers are mostly normal, it's very likely that the aristocracy will also be mostly normal.

If this situation has been around since forever, then everyone will have a bit of low-level magic ability, from before the patterns of magic inheritance were understood. Also everyone will have a bit of ability from every magical category. So you'd need to refine your rules about no interbreeding between commoners and between schools of magic, because clearly that would need a minimum level where it starts to apply. That's a very arbitrary rule anyway - what defines a "fire" or a "shadow" magician?

If the magic-users have only just arrived though, they'll be inserting themselves into an existing non-magical society. This creates a serious problem for the society. On the one hand the ruling class can see that these people will be a powerful tool to advance their country's interests; but on the other hand the ruling class are now are faced with effectively an army who could destabilise their own interests, and the peasants are faced with the prospect of even more unaccountable overlords, so there's a very real risk of a mass mobilisation against the incoming magicians. The way this has traditionally been resolved with newly-established power blocs is with marriages between the "old power" and "new power" families to try to de-escalate these problems. This may lead to more randomised magical abilities; or if there is conscious breeding going on then you may get the "braid" concept of arranged marriages from Charles Stross's "Merchant Princes" series.

Either way, the idea of isolated clan families is not at all practical.

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Yes your magic societies would suffer from inbreeding. But you can get some energy for your story from this.

Elric

Depicted: Elric of Melnibone. The ruling class of Melnibone in this series are powerful wizards but also very inbred: Elric is an albino and has other frailties that make him reliant on sorcerous soul-sucking magic really to do much of anything.

If your mage families are comparably frail and inbred, each in its own way (sun-fearing albinos are fine; some could be very fat and ravaged by hunger, prone to madness or seizures, etc) then you have a downside for their magical upside.

The commoner with a normal body and normal abilities might think he has things pretty good! But the outbred and outcast mage / commoner offspring with half the magic ability and none of the inbred downside might have it best of all.

Until it is realized that 2 of these halfbreeds can produce offspring together. The F2 grandchild has only a quarter of the magic power of her grandparents, but a quarter of each of her grandparents - one fire, and one blood.

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I think your main problem with prohibiting them from interbreeding with commoners. Take that away and you solve all any issues with inbreeding as the mages will just carefully choose new blood to marry into their ranks every generation.

The way to explain this is to look more closely at your system of magical inheritance. A very powerful mage who marries a commoner and has children will have less powerful children, but those children will still be more powerful than most other mages. Let's assume a mage with 100 power marries a commoner with 0, their kids should then have a power ranging between 40 - 60, still pretty high. If two such children marry then they might have kids ranging anywhere from 30 - 70 depending on their individual power. It only takes a few generations to have power 100 mages again with careful breeding.

So instead of saying that interbreeding with commoners or the other clans is forbidden I would say that your clans would have a very rigid system of arranged marriages where children are carefully married off to maintain the highest levels of power and the most diverse gene pool.

This also helps keep the mage families in power as the lower classes are constantly striving to be seen as worthy to join them and marry one of their members.

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For how long? If the starting parental group is clear of lethal recessive genes then inbreeding can proceed for extended periods, over many generations, the only reason the gentry in Europe started to actively pursue out-cross breeding was that they picked up/mutated a Haemophilia complex that spread through the aristocracy. Before that the breeding pool had been pretty stagnant for centuries. The longevity of your system would, in my opinion, be dictated by the top end, more powerful mages are generally going to wed more powerful mages because in this set up magic power is political power. in effect the breeding pool at the top is going to be much smaller than the overall size of the magical community would suggest and if a lethal/dangerous genetic complex formed or was introduced into that top end then the collapse could be fast and deadly. This would be especially true if the dangerous defect didn't effect physical fitness, in survival terms, and didn't effect magical power, do the words "mad King" ring a bell.

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According to this answer you need about 160 genetically diverse individuals to maintain a healthy balance for 10 generations in isolation. If each kingdom has 5 clans, and each clan has 5 families, and there's 5 kingdoms, that's about 125 genetically diverse sources. Considering you'll find random people here and there who either marry well or are able to "prove" their genes to be worth adding to the your gene pool (phrase it however you want...) then you should be fine to prevent inbreeding.

It's also possible that each family has sub-families (think duke-to-count-to-baron relationships) where people can marry up from. Someone with a high magic ability, or other very favorable attributes (mediocre magic but high physical strength or intelligence) to add to the pool might find him or herself married to a lordling from the higher up family. And of course, the child prodigies (the Gausses and Mozarts of the world who come from nothing) will find themselves heavily courted both for their obvious current power and future sustainment of a guild.

Alternatively, magic people don't suffer from inbreeding because magic. =)

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There are a few things that you're going to have to "relax" a bit.

Parents with 100 and 100 may give birth to children with 90-110 magic power.

Ok, but let's say a non-magic and a magic user (100) mate, then the scale could be something more like 0 - 90. That wide range is why....

A noble marrying a commoner will be stripped of their nobility and right and kicked from the clan, because of their "tainting" of the blood purity.

They made a weaker child. There was no chance to make a stronger one. That is why it's frowned on.

But the clan, understanding the importance of new blood, allows the child to stay part of the clan. They are adopted by another family, and raised as if they were full blood. After a couple of generations everyone will forget that the bloodlines mixed.

In fact, knowing that they need new blood clans "compete" to recruit "commoners" that somehow were born with magic into an adoption arrangement. Once adopted they are full blood. Of course fire clans can only adopt fire commoners.

As a later reveal, side plot, or whatever, you can show that all the "commoners" with magic are just from the nobles not knowing how to keep their pants zipped, and being horrible parents. You could even show how "dads" get away with it more, because it's much easier to hide "borked a tavern maid" then "impregnated by a stable boy".

You get your fresh blood, a new hypocrisy to explore (that mirrors RL close enough to count) and a stable system built on a nice plot-able lie.

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Hmm ... how closely can these people rate one another? Can they boil it fairly accurately down to a number like you do above, or is it more of an impression ("Hey, she's strong!")?

In either case, if you don't want a story about decaying clans of inbreds you'll need some genetic/social mobility. So you might have a notion of the clans -- or families within clans -- scooping up the most talented children of the next tier down. This serves a dual purpose: first, you get fresh genes; and second, each tier is stopping the lower tiers from breeding up into a position of parity with their social betters. There's plenty of story-fuel in these marriages. Do the talented scions of Clan Unter desperately want to "marry up" into Clan Uber? Or does Clan Uber coerce the resentful Unterites into giving up their beloved children to forced marriages? You could have both dynamics going on at once.

In the same vein, can you get "demoted" into a lower clan? Can a sneaky youngster conceal his power level, seeming either higher or lower than his real level? Plenty of possibilities here.

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  • $\begingroup$ They have some sort of magical scale, so pretty accurate. My bad I haven't updated the question just yet. $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 5 '17 at 18:46
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There are two opposing dynamics.

It helps society as a whole for strong males to spread their seed far and wide. In such a society, marriage would be highly regulated but bastards would be common and would hold mid level positions in the rest of society (they are stronger than most people but not strong enough to threaten the full blooded mages).

It helps the clan to have all the power within the clan. Therefore, they would resist any any "magical genes" being spread outside the clan. The men's interactions outside the clan would be much more highly regulated. The reasoning there is that half breeds might not be as powerful but quantity has a quality of its own.

The best of both worlds would be to set up the half breeds under the umbrella of the clan. Give them power over commoners and keep a tight reign on them. You can do this by having competitions to become an "outer disciple" of the clan. Make them work for it. Then, most half breeds (and the few spontaneously generated commoners) will try to become part of the clan.

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There needs to be some kind of acceptance from the outside. Possibly commoners with innate magic abilities. They are unaware that they have these powers, but it can be discovered with this magic meter you have. Also, you said there are mutations, so it could be possible that a non-magic born commoner has innate magic powers. It could be a thing that these clans need for survival and thus highly regard commoners that have magical abilities.

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