L is for Law

The Logistics of a Magical Society

For the most part, in fantasy worlds, the legality of magic is a given. It’s fantasy, so there is magic, and with many people using magic regularly, it must be normal and good, right? Well… it doesn’t have to be that easy.

It’s very common in stories for certain types of magic to be off limits. Usually these are things like black magic, necromancy, etc., but you can easily create conflict in your story world by making magic itself illegal, or for the use of it by certain groups or in certain situations to be illegal.

When magic is illegal or regulated, this implies that there is a group responsible for—and capable of—enforcing those laws. It might be a government who turns around and actually uses magic to enforce the rules of non-magic use, or it might be an armed force, etc.

As you consider what legal issues might arise for magic users, you might also play around with concepts like magical liability insurance (in case a wayward spell destroys someone’s house or injures a person), whether a magic user must be licensed, and how those breaking the law are (successfully) detained.

Worldbuilding Exercises:

  • What laws or codes of conduct, whether explicit or implied, govern the use of magic in your fictional cultures?
  • When laws are in place to regulate the use of magic, or to forbid it entirely, how are those laws upheld? What punishments exist for those who break those laws?
  • If you do have laws governing magic use, what is the most ridiculous law that exists, and why was it instated?
  • What about worlds where there are magic users and non-magic people? Do the laws favor one over the other?

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  1. I’ve read a few stories where magic was forbidden to some group of people or to everyone. I found those storie sparticularly fascinating. I mean, a world where magic exist, but cannot be used immediatly creates a conflict.
    Then the question arises: but does magic really exist, or is it only in the mind of people? If magic are not used for a very long time, because forbedden, does it fade away?

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