91
$\begingroup$

In a JRPG-like setting; Spells are chanted, mana is consumed, and spells can be learned through grimoires or spellbooks, how would it make sense that a spellbook teaches only one spell?

If it is like cooking, like say, how to bake a cake. Why would it take a whole book to learn? How could I make sense out of this?

$\endgroup$
  • 38
    $\begingroup$ Lots of good answers here, but as an addition; consider real factual books. There are entire 600pg volumes dedicated to the behaviour of Soil for use in Civil Engineering. It would easily take a week to read cover to cover and far far longer (maybe years - the length of an Undergraduate Degree) to understand all the intricacies involved. amazon.co.uk/Craigs-Mechanics-Eighth-Jonathan-Knappett/dp/… You're solution - to me - is to consider different spells or forms of magic not as cooking but as a substantial set of knowledge like a university degree. $\endgroup$ – Smeato Sep 12 '17 at 12:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Actually a related question (that I may make a separate question for now that I'm thinking about it) is how to make it logical that each spellbook only teaches to one person. Like, in many JRPG games (eg. the original Final Fantasy) there's a spell shop and you buy spells for individual wizards just like weapons for individual warriors. $\endgroup$ – jhocking Sep 12 '17 at 15:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @jhocking I think the way grimoires are used in that aspect is that once read, or mastered, they are automatically "consumed" by the user and the grimoire will be rendered useless. (Such as disappearance of the magic ink, etc) Therefore making it some kind of one-time-only consumable goods. $\endgroup$ – Bwrites Sep 12 '17 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ So the wizard doesn't need to have the spell written down anymore once mastered? That's a good thought; When I make my question I'll link it here so you can post your answer there. (Incidentally, that's similar to how DnD scrolls work, which perhaps answers both our questions: it's only a scroll not an entire book, and the "energy" of the scroll destroys it when released.) $\endgroup$ – jhocking Sep 12 '17 at 16:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/91767/… $\endgroup$ – jhocking Sep 12 '17 at 16:51

33 Answers 33

0
$\begingroup$

Metaphor, symbolism, narrative device and effective mechanics are far more important than slavish realism. Most things in fiction do not mean precisely what they mean in the real world; so attempting to reduce everything to mechanical plausibility shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the way fiction works. This is true even for fiction which relies heavily on worldbuilding.

In some cases this site's focus on mechanical plausibility makes sense, but in this case the question is just badly framed. Asking the right question is often more important than getting an answer in accurate detail. In this case you are asking the wrong question.

So in a game this device makes for an effective leveling mechanism, creates a narrative of progress and development, and it provides a reward mechanism. It is necessary, in order to maintain the challenge of the game, that spells not be learned too quickly so the player does not become overpowered. The one-spell-in-a-book trope is an abstraction of the process of learning which suits the needs of play and narrative, it is not a simulation of learning.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So your answer is "it doesn't need to make sense"? $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Sep 14 '17 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ No, it's that it doesn't need to make sense the way the OP wants it to. It makes sense in a completely different way. This is a common thing in literature through the ages. Devices have meaning beyond their literal real-world referents. $\endgroup$ – DanBennett Sep 14 '17 at 15:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree with this. A game designer or story writer should be prepared to turn their backs on things that don't make sense if explaining it would damage their work. You don't need to show enemy wolves giving birth and raising cubs, you can and should just have them appear out of nowhere. $\endgroup$ – PStag Sep 17 '17 at 8:28
0
$\begingroup$

Giving a fireball steam, ice, extra damage, silent invocation, or lack semantics, faster time, or any paraphernalia (or to add them), would require one chapter per affectation. Perhaps there are substitutions or better ways to make magic items for that spell. Like an Ogre Maji horn for a wand of magic missiles, or the liver of a hydra to make a regeneration potion, or spell substitution.

I used to use Braille for underwater adventure spell casting, and lozenges for potions, or an athame for spell adaptations (silent, extended, or semantic substitution). They would require some pretty thick books to gain those talents, or to make those items. What could you make with a Kraken's eye? Right?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! We're glad you could join us! When you have a moment, please click here to learn more about our culture and take our tour. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 9 '18 at 19:59
0
$\begingroup$

The spellbook/grimoire is translated into hundreds of languages

Why not have spellbooks in one language with hundreds of spells? Because none of the languages are normal speaking languages. In fact, these arcane languages are essentially inherited by birth and innate to the individual, but in such a diverse way that the only practical way to ensure spells are usable by as many people as possible is to translate every spell into each of the few hundred compatible languages. Conveniently enough, there is a spell that does this translation process, so all you really need to do is write the spell in your native arcane language and then run the translation-copy spell on it to fill in the rest of the pages.

Why not write it in "common"? Magic doesn't work in common. There's no canonical pronunciation of the spells because it's a manifestation of pure thought. Much of the process of learning to become a mage involves discovering your innate arcane language and learning to understand the associated texts. Basically you just have to look through spellbooks until you reach a page that you magically understand- but even then you need to understand certain core concepts to cast spells. Mage schools help you understand those concepts.

This can also explain why mages might be able to learn some spells but not others- not every spell can actually be translated into their innate arcane language, perhaps because of the language's inability to convey certain concepts. So you might pick up a spellbook, try to find a page you understand and if you can't, you can probably assume you are totally incapable of casting that spell.

$\endgroup$

protected by Community Sep 18 '17 at 13:09

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.