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This is set in a medieval world, where the only magic that exists is the magic of the four elements: fire, water, earth and wind.

When someone is hit by elemental magic, they sustain magical damage according to the respective element. For example when you get hit by a fireball, you will get burned by the fire. When you are hit by a blizzard, there's a chance you will get a frostbite. It's like in the real life. So there's a bit of science here, but not as strict.

However, for an important plot point, I would like this magic damage to be reversible when it is dispelled. The burn will disappear, as if you never got hit by the fireball in the first place.

How to explain this phenomenon? How can a magic system explain this?

The magic system is not set in stone, however what I have in mind is an avatar-style elemental bending. Ideally, the answer should also explain how the dispel process works after the target suffered damage.

For example: the Dispel spell uses anti magic particle (similar to anti matter). When it collides with the magic particle, both particles are destroyed.

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How about this?

What we need to differentiate between here is direct magic effects and indirect magic effects.

If a person is hit by magical fire and magically burnt, then that injury is superimposed upon that person, so it can be removed (though there may be a time limit on this - the body will naturally resist/disbelieve magical effects, but will finally succumb if they are not removed). It's a kind of quantum superimposition - for a while they are both burnt and not burnt.

This does not work if the magic is so strong that the person is killed outright - they simply cannot resist that, although this is more the force of the magic than the power of the magical fire.

If the fire hits an inanimate object, then there is no natural resistance and it will burn. Once alight, albeit magically, it is real fire and behaves as such. If that fire then subsequently burns someone, that burn is not magical and cannot be dispelled.

This does mean that secondary burns, such as through burning clothes as Roshiron mentions, cannot be dispelled, so fire-resistant wear is necessary.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting answer. It parallels my own notion about magic being a radically different physical order of nature. One imposed on our physical reality, therefore, it can be reversed. Plus one. $\endgroup$ – a4android Sep 13 '17 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ I am a great believer in sympathetic magic. I think that we can consider magic as something that acts not in a direct physical way, but more by a process similar to persuasion - it is not just necessary to happen, but it needs to be completely believed to have happened - until that point it is reversible if countered. 'Magic must win the argument, not just argue its case'. $\endgroup$ – Lee Leon Sep 13 '17 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ I'm always a fan of spells from Illusion school, you know :) $\endgroup$ – Vylix Sep 13 '17 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ I had a similar idea although a bit different: There exist an etheral plane(call it immaterium) where copies(shadows) of all objects of our world exist and where "magic" is the dominant form of applicating energy. Casting a spell in real world is basically performing the required action in the immaterium on the copy and then superimposing/merging the effect with the material original. However this idea does not support reversability of damage once it's transfered to the real world body. $\endgroup$ – Nick Dzink Sep 29 '17 at 15:32
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How about a Magical First Aid?

For instance, there is a counterspell from the ice(water) element to heal burns from fire element. Earth counterspell to patch yourself up from wind elemental cuts and bruises? And a way to expel heat from the body via fire elemental magic to resist hypothermia from water magic?

The list goes on, you get the general idea.

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Dispel is the mightiest healing spell in existence

The Dispel spell is in fact one of the mightiest spells that exist in such a universe. It is able to detect what kind of magic afflicted a creature by checking the magical signature that is left from the original magical impact. It then traces back this signature to automatically find out what the spell originally did. Once Dispel found what the problem was it can change its own magical signature to use appropriate healing magic.

  • If the magical signature was fire the resulting magical signature is a healing spell against burns.

  • If the magical signature of the spell cast was ice the resulting magical signature might warm the areas that were frozen and try to repair any frost related damage.

  • If the original magical signature was wind then the resulting magic might be able to heal cuts from sharp wind blades.

  • If the original was earth Dispel might choose to heal damage from blunt impacts.

A Lesser Dispel has a few magical signatures it will detect and automatically choose the most appropriate counter spell.

A Greater Dispel will give the Wizard casting it the chance to choose from a list of effects he wants to apply. Greater Dispel is basically connected to a giant database of counter spells for known magic related problems and it will choose a suitable counter and give the Wizard the chance to choose an even more suitable counter if he deems the suggested counter to be insufficient.

Dispel is therefore a detection spell that will choose an appropriate healing magic.

If you want to assign colours to your magic you could for example go with classical colours:

  • red is fire
  • blue is water
  • white is wind
  • brown is earth

Dispel would be visible as a mixture of all these colours. A whirl of different variations, most of which each Wizard handling magic has never seen on its own. Beautiful patterns ever-changing. After a moment this whirl of colour will have identified the magic that it is supposed to dispel. You could indicate this by a quick flicker of the corresponding colour. After that it changes to the appropriate counter colour.

Dispel is a generic healing spell connected to a big ethereal database of known magical effects, able to identify the magic used and able to adapt to the circumstances to apply the best fitting healing.

This of course opens up the possibility for unknown spells that have never been observed and therefore not been included in the database. In these cases a Lesser Dispel could simply not work and a Greater Dispel might offer the Wizard to choose a fitting strategy and will input a first entry into the database. That would be interesting for fighting an especially Bad Guy, because he could use unknown magic tricks and thereby fool the standard Dispel magic or it would take more time to dispel a magical effect. For normal day-to-day fireballs this would be a very good and easy way to heal the effects for every somewhat educated healing mage.

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The burn will disappear, as if you never got hit by the fireball in the first place.

Why not make this literal? Dispel is a "timebending" spell: it warps the fabric of spacetime so that the spell was never cast in the first place. It's like you were never hit by a fireball because you really were never hit by a fireball. (This may not affect memories, so you might still remember getting hit.)

"But wait! If I introduce the ability to bend spacetime, that'll completely break my story!" Not if you make timebending really, really difficult. Dispel merely involves bending your own timeline, to erase a single specific event that took no more than about a second, and which may have only occurred a few minutes ago in the same location you're still in. That takes a little learning, but it's within the capability of most magicians. If you want to:

  • Bend someone else's timeline
  • Bend anything more than a couple of seconds
  • Actually change events rather than just erasing them
  • Bend things that happened a large physical/temporal distance away

...then that's either beyond all but the most powerful, well-trained magicians, or just straight-up impossible.

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Magic is not some kind of energy that is flowing somehow invisible to those without magic prowess. Instead of the phrase "with magic you can influence reality", it is much more like "magic is reality". But it has it's rules, there is a natural way for things to go. You can alter this reality with spells, but the nature of magic tries to return things back to their natural order.

This way, you would be able to dispell an injury, even though "dispell" may not be the right term for it. You would return whatever was hit by a spell to its natural state before it's reality was changed. This is also the reason why you cannot reverse entropic effects like aging using this method, and neither would you be able to reverse profane injuries.

However, this would have other implications. For example, if you had a magic way of healing people including from magic spells, dispelling such a spell will reverse any healing made via direct magic influence, instantly returning a seemingly perfectly healthy person back to being on the death bed.

Reviving people may or may not work, depending on your take on "soul" or whatever. In principle, yes, it may work if the cause of death was a spell, but if you want to, you could let the soul depart, in which case you would essentially revive a corpse to its undead life.

After some time, changes made to reality cannot be reversed anymore by dispel, as the changes made to reality become the new natural order. This would be to prevent large-scale cascading effects that change the world (maybe there is still a ritual that does this, and dissuading an enemy from doing this might be a great plot hook)

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You can't explain it away by "dispelling the wound". If he uses fire magic and burns you, that burn isn't magic, it's a burn, and it's going to have to be healed though regular or magical means but not dispelled.

Now if the character is currently on fire and no matter how much water or rolling around the victim does the fire won't extinguish (reminiscent of Greek fire) then you can say that he's dispelling the fire, but only the magic that's fueling it, he still has to put-out the fire that's already there burning if the fire is surviving independently through natural means (burning clothes).

Similarly you can also dispel a moving boulder or a gust of wind that's heading towards you but you can't dispel it if it takes a life of its own. You can dispel a boulder moving horizontally because it's fueled solely through magic but you can't dispel a boulder that moved in an arc once it stops rising, because on the way down it's all gravity which can't be dispelled.

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