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What's the 'line' to not cross in adding foreign magic?

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Frickles, Apr 30, 2020.

  1. Frickles

    Frickles First Year

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    Obviously, canon deals exclusively with Magical Britain. I've read some really fun fanfics that dealt with lore/mythology from other cultures and countries, and done so in really cool and creative ways.

    I was wondering, though, what you all thought the limit is? I'm currently about 1/4 of the way through my first HP fanfic, and I plan on introducing magic and lore from Ilvermorny, ancient Mesopotamia, and Native American tribes in the U.S. I'm worried that it's too 'busy'.

    When I started writing my story, my goals were a) to have cool battle scenes (who wouldn't want that?), and b) to avoid the same old 'systems' you see in so many fanfics. I didn't want Harry finding secret spells via unknown inheritance, or training up in the Black Library, or absorbing Voldemort's knowledge through the Horcrux.

    Does having a fair portion of a story based outside of Magical Britain make it less 'Harry Potter'?

    PS - my first post here, just wanted to say it's exciting to join. This community's fingerprints have been all over some of my favorite fanfics over the years. Cheers!
     
  2. Lindsey

    Lindsey Minister of Magic DLP Supporter

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    If it does, the fic I'm writing is up shit creek.

    What gives foreign magic a bad wrap is how people use it to overpower Harry, or they try to show how much better this 'foreign' magic is. As long as you have upsides and downsides to your magic and worldbuilding, it should be fine.

    Harry Potter and the Boy Who Lived by The Santi takes a majority of its time outside Hogwarts and Britain. It's still one of the best brothers of the boy-who-lives stories.

    The Alexandra Quick series takes place in the US and doesn't have a single character from HP involved, and yet it's still considered a great work of fanfiction due to the author's amazing worldbuilding.

    Beyond the Curtain by the lovely @Bobika is one of the best fics started in the past year and the vast majority of it has taken place outside Britain.

    The only recommendation I have when it comes to using foreign magic based on historical events/cultures is to do your research. Make sure that the historical cultures and references are correct and that you aren't using them in insulting ways.

    I'm pretty sure I speak for most of DLP when I say that originality in HP is surely needed and appreciated.

    Also, welcome to HP and great first post. :)
     
  3. Frickles

    Frickles First Year

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    It definitely is a LOT of research! Thank you for the examples, I'll browse through them this weekend. I think I've read Harry Potter and the Boy Who Lived, but it's hard to say for sure. The others, though, are new to me.

    As far as making it more powerful: I'll have to really examine my outline. It's hard to resist making the 'new' magic OP, since we're all so familiar with the standard canon/fanon spells, and have 'done them to death' so to speak. My immediate thought when reading that was 'why would my character bother to learn outside magic if it wasn't better than British magic?', but I realize that's not what your're saying at all. No one is entertained by a story where the protagonist steamrolls all opposition.

    Got to keep things in moderation, I guess... (sigh) hahaha.

    Thank you for your reply!
     
  4. PomMan

    PomMan High Inquisitor

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    The only real line I have with regards to foreign magic is that it cant be stronger than the magic we see in canon. Anything that looks like it's diminishing Dumbledore/Voldemort by claiming this other magic is just naturally stronger and that they're silly arrogant British wizards for not knowing it (looking at Accidental Animagus for an example of this). It should be equally powerful, just different in some way.

    Aside from that, the sky's the limit really.
     
  5. Republic

    Republic The Snow Queen –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    Avoid comparing them when it comes to power entirely. Focus on what makes the different styles unique, not stronger or weaker. If anything, most of the known world and certainly most (if not all) of the established ministries (and by extension their countries) use wands, and there has to be good reason for that. If you do present a culture that hasn't adopted it, the why has to be something other than 'it's hugely better than wands lol'.

    You can present different ways of using magic, but imo keep it in terms of using the same thing in different ways, not drawing power from different sources. It's not DND
     
  6. Silirt

    Silirt Minister of Magic DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    I've written it as different understandings of the same, elusive nature of magic, but it was only relatively recently proven that magical skill was not bound to any specific ethnic groups, with people being raised far from their genetic origins. Basically, magical theory moved around and interacted with other magical theory, either coming into conflict or merging, and you end up with different magical practices all over the world, like shamanism and necromancy.
    My point is, I get wanting to explore more of the world than we see in the books, but there's just so little written about it in canon you might as well make it up. To have a fleshed out world, I've had to make assumptions like 'the world is interesting and diverse' and 'magical theory is intertwined with culture'. Do not lose sleep over making it take place outside of Magical Britain; I can't tell you how many interludes I've written that take place in Africa.
     
  7. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    British magic best magic. Rule britannia
     
  8. Thaumologist

    Thaumologist Dark Lord

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    Using different magic can be interesting, so long as it's done well. As mentioned upthread, you shouldn't shit on canon, and you should be aiming to make the magic distinct, not just better.

    One thing I've seen before is that different Western countries might have slightly different incantations. So whilst some British wizards use "Incendio", the Bulgarian equivalent had a much shorter incantation. It wasn't quite as good, but in a low-tier duel, it was useful because it was two syllables shorter, even if the reach wasn't quite as long.

    The other thing I've seen before is having magic focus entirely on different things. "Eastern" magic was more of a siege-engine, in that it was useful for huge and powerful spells that could deal large amounts of damage, or enchant entire fields of crops. But if you wanted to do precision work, or anything small scale, you were out of luck.
    African magic was almost entirely internal - Wizards and Witches from Africa were all the equivalent of Captain America the multi-animagus, but if they wanted to hurt another being, they had to punch it.

    Be very careful if you go down this route, because you would probably want to avoid any "problematic" declarations in text.

    If you go down this route, then you need to think about why - could a 30 year old African wizard come to the UK and learn transfiguration, or is magic limited by bloodlines? What about a muggle-born who was born whilst parents were on holiday? Did global colonization have an impact on the magical traditions worldwide, or did local Wizards and Witches go unnoticed in European counquests?

    Because if anyone can learn anything from any tradition, then why isn't every Wizard or Witch a superhuman?
     
  9. Republic

    Republic The Snow Queen –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    Imo, if you want to use a different system than canon, and aren't looking to compare them in power levels ... why aren't you writing original fiction?
     
  10. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I think there are two rules.

    1. Don't make foreign magic OP, as explained by @PomMan

    2. Don't pay too much respect to foreign cultures.

    The second one requires a bit more explanation.

    A while back there was a Twittergasm around JKR's use of American Indian folklore in a way that didn't accurately reflect the real-world belief systems (historical and contemporary) of American Indians.

    The problem with this is that the essential approach of the HP magic system towards folklore, myths and legends is to subvert that mythology. With very few exceptions, the HP universe takes mythological things and changes them dramatically:

    • In mythology, Pegasus was a unique, legendary figure, the offspring of a god. In HP, winged horses are used to draw carriages and they drink whisky.

    • In mythology, dragons are majestic, powerful creatures. In HP, they are kept in reserves and farmed for wand/potions ingredients.

    • In folklore, ghosts are terrifying malevolent spirits. In HP, they are mascots who celebrate their death like a birthday.
    All of this fits with a magic system where magic is principally used for cooking, cleaning and office work. The tone of the HP series is one of taking magic and grounding it in the normalcy of day-to-day life, while retaining the spark of romanticism that makes the magic feel magical.

    With this in mind, I think that paying too much respect to the folklore of various cultures will result in worldbuilding elements which fundamentally contradict the established tone of the canon worldbuilding. If you want to produce material for non-Western magical cultures which matches the tone of the HP worldbuilding, you need to change and subvert that mythology, not incorporate it faithfully/accurately.
     
  11. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    I think I agree with Taure on this. Use folklore and mythology as inspiration, but don't be beholden to it.

    Personally I'd probably take the approach that the style of magic taught in most "civilised" countries is roughly the same, maybe some slight differences in the spells taught with some regional preferences being taken into account. I say this because I struggle to think up a system of magic that would be as useful in every day life as Harry Potter magic. That sort of low level usefulness would definitely result in it effectively taking over from native styles over the centuries.

    "Its super cool that you can turn into 15 different animals and can change the weather with a song. But I can do the dishes, fix my damaged clothing, and sort out dinner with a wave of my wand."

    So on that basis I'd probably take the line that different schools probably have random other classes added on which tie back to magic that used to be common in their regions. Maybe paper charms in Asia (the folds of the paper are analogous to wand movements, but the spell is stored in the charm), other forms of shape changing magics or maybe some form of ancestor related necromancy for Africa. That sort of thing. Taught alongside "modern" magic, some folk get really into it, others find it a waste of time and drop the class as soon as possible.
     
  12. Newcomb

    Newcomb Minister of Magic

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    I think a good question to ask yourself whenever you're adding foreign magic to your story is, "why is this not widespread in magical Britain?"

    If your answer isn't a common-sense, basically reasonable one, if it feels like you have to contort yourself around your premise or force it, or if the answer ends up using any variation of the "wizarding Britain is actually very backwards and dumb" trope, re-consider the magic you're trying to introduce.
     
  13. aAlouda

    aAlouda Groundskeeper

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    Don't copy from anime(or any other modern fiction) and add it as foreign magic. I don't think I need to explain ehy thats just bad.
     
  14. Frickles

    Frickles First Year

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    This actually gave me a ton of insight into my story in an entirely different way, and made me realize I've set up a narrative point that - so far - hasn't been explored whatsoever. Thank you!
     
  15. Othalan

    Othalan Death Eater DLP Supporter

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    This^.

    I remember reading a fanfic eight or nine (?) years ago where a character went up against foreign wizards (from the Caribbean, iirc) who used a book, a string of prayer beads, and knots in string as magical foci. None of them seemed as flexible or as fast as a wand, but they were surprising and of comparable power to some wand spells. Don't remember much else about the fic, but I remember thinking that those elements were well done.

    If you can, as has otherwise been mentioned, try to avoid the trope that Magical Britain/Europe is some kind of wizarding backwater clinging to obsolete methods and magic out of pure arrogance/stupidity. The fics dealing with foreign magic that I personally enjoy the most are those that treat it like it has its place, but that there just isn't an answer among foreign traditions for the sheer usefulness of European-style wands and spells.

    I also enjoy it if an author shows that a Hogwarts (or Durmstrang/Beauxbatons) education is actually a big deal compared to the educational standards of other parts of the world. Like if the Chinese analogue to the Weasleys (basically magical peasants) would only amount to the skill and knowledge of a Hogwarts fourth-year. Or if magical mountain tribes in Peru have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of magical creatures and potions, but are blown away by British wizards' facility with Transfiguration. Like most posters have pointed out, balance is key.

    Canon hints that magical cultures around the world have been in contact with each other for centuries. Logically speaking, that implies that if there were significantly better magics and/or tools out there , they would have been adopted by European wizards already. Superior foreign magic can exist, but it should come with some sort of price that most wouldn't be willing to pay (even if the price is something relatively dumb, like the animagus transformation or the patronus charm simply being "too difficult" to master easily).
     
  16. Frickles

    Frickles First Year

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    Creative magical foci is really cool!

    And I agree with you, especially about Hogwarts actually having an international rep. Ilvermorny in my story has a bit of an inferiority complex in regards to the euro magic academies.
     
  17. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    On this note, I think its interesting to posit that the magic wand evolved out of larger foci such as staffs or sceptres (the logic here is that miniaturisation is a reasonable technological evolution to expect). If this is the case it probably came to Europe via Egypt and Mesopotamia, given that the sceptre occupies a significant ceremonial role in their culture.

    I quite like the idea that european tribes were pretty backwards in terms of magic, maybe relying on rituals and potions, until the Greeks took wand "tech" from Egypt and then the Romans spread it across Europe.
     
  18. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Fun idea for fanfic, but no longer possible within canon:

     
  19. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

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    Does it stretch that canon too far to suggest that my idea is still valid, if the miniaturisation from sceptre to wand happened at the Greek or Roman point in the spread, rather than in Egypt?
     
  20. Othalan

    Othalan Death Eater DLP Supporter

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    Bah, half of the background info Pottermore pumps out is idiotic anyway. I have no problem reading a fanfic that cherry-picks canonical background details in the name of more compelling world-building. I personally like the Egyptians-as-wand-inventors idea, and have zero compunction about ignoring Pottermore here.
     
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