If you’ve got gods in your world, chances are you have magic. Herein I’m going to give you the tools necessary to develop an in-depth god-based magic system for your fantasy world. A “Miracle” based magic system works better when you have multiple gods, because it allows you to assign a different school of magic to a different god. In my world [Etheros] there are 5 gods; Wind, Water, Stone, Fire, Life (very captain planet) and each one gifts its chosen in different ways.
The first thing you need to know is; who are your gods? I’ll be writing a separate section on manufacturing religions in world building, but for now, I leave that up to you. But consider what role your gods have played in the world, and what they represent. The god of love is not going to rain hell fire on one of her disciples enemies.
Monotheism is a religion that worships a single deity, and unless you are creating a Christian fantasy I would recommend avoiding mono-theism. When creating a magic system powered by gods, there needs to be rituals and homage paid to a god to generate the desired spell. If you have a single god, it could get confusing for the reader.
Questions to answer
You need to answer the same questions that apply to every other article on world building magic, but there are a few extras when creating deity powered magic.
Ceremonies – Does calling on the gods for magic require a ceremony?
Homage – Human or animal sacrifice? Acts that the god likes?
Commune – Do characters speak with the gods? Do the gods talk back?
Will of the Gods – How much of the god’s own will a part of the magic system? In Etheros, magic combines all the systems, and is believed to be the will of the gods. Though, it may not be. I leave it up to the reader to decide whether the gods are real, or whether it is the belief of the people in Etheros.
Personality of the Gods – Is the god jealous? Tricky? How does that effect the way in which magic is used.
The limitations of miracle magic is defined by the strength of your gods. Can your gods shift mountains? Split the earth? Part seas? They do require some limitation though, which you can define by the characters connection to the god. Which is why I would advocate using a commune or ceremony to invoke magic of your gods. So unless your character has eighty goats handy, he won’t be able to lay waste to an entire army.
What do you think about miracle based magic systems? I actually don’t know of any outside of Norse, Greek and Roman mythology. Have you read a book where the gods where the source of magic wielded by the people? What did you think of it?
Thanks a lot for reading,