You mentioned you were recently coming up with some magic systems. How do you start coming up with magic system ideas?
I have a little form I fill out when I'm making a magic system; what are the limitations of the system, what are the actual powers of the system, which sometimes when people are designing magic systems, they forget to have what the system can do, because they've talked about what the system can't do. I have what kinda what makes it work, what are the costs and limitations, what the history of it is, and I have all these little things that I fill in. Usually what happens, what I have to do is narrow down, because of course a generic magic system can do anything right? its magic. So I'm usually picking one narrow theme or set of abilities that it can do. Which means I'm really choosing a set of things it can't do, so usually when I'm working on a magic system I then am thinking about all the things it can't do which then suggests another magic system. That's how I actually did it when I came up with a bunch of magic systems in a row. It normally gives me inspiration for what any other magic system could do.
one of the other things I do, interestingly enough, I come back to D&D because there's a lot of stuff you can think about in D&D, like wizards are just better than non spellcasters in D&D, so the problem that some people refer to is, linear fighter and quadratic wizards, so wizards improve exponentially and fighters improve linearly, because of course wizards can stop time and fighters can swing they're sword a little harder. There's kind of an inherent issue with having magic users and non magic users, that issue being, one of them can use magic, and the other one is inherently bound by the rules of physics, and I don't like that. So I've tried to develop a lot of magic systems, kinda like in Cradle, but in Cradle, everyone is a magic user, and that's the obvious answer right? you have everything be an extension of the magic system, that's the easiest way to solve that.
One of the things I've thought of, is I've been trying to do different expressions of a D&D system, even one that would fit in a real table-top RPG, where the martial characters are not inherently outclassed by the arcane characters, because they can do such supernaturally amazing stuff thats its effectively magic but it's just martial magic. It becomes magical. I've done various approaches to that, there's a lot of ways to solve that problem, so I have that problem in my head, and that set of criteria, so then I try to design systems that have the things I want and dont have the things I don't want, so I've approached that many different times.
Is that process how you came up with a whole bunch of magic systems along side each other in the Traveler's Gate series?
Actually, no. The Traveler's Gate series really is one magic system. The gates work the same way, every territory requires the key, something to open the gate. But then I just added another set of restrictions onto each one. So this is a unique thing. So yeah, Tarturus travelers open gates quicker, Endross travelers, their gates slowly grow and grow and grow but they also get harder to control, Helgard travelers have to know the names of things they summon, so on and so forth. And I did that just to kind of-each one is a little unique, in addition to being thematically unique. And that was just a way of distinguishing each Territory from one another. I did not really design 12 magic systems. I designed 1 magic system with 12 different expressions.