Worldbuilding: Crafting Lunacy

One way to bring better magic into your fantasy is to dig into the past. What did people believe was the cause of magic, curses, and disease, and what did they try to do about it? This can lead to digging up odd and intriguing bits of lore, like the fact that some Balkan dhampirs/ vampire hunters were called “hawthorns”. Yes, after the wood their stakes were made from.

But you can also dig into cutting-edge science; looking at what we know as fact today, to work backwards into how that could affect the powers and limitations of magic in your world.

For example, the moon. Here’s three things we now know, that we had no clue about centuries or even decades ago.

First, the moon is made of some of the same crust as our ocean floors, as if something gouged out the bottom of the Pacific and hung it in the sky. Essentially something did; a mini-planet hitting Earth while it was still molten, flinging up the rock that became the Moon and settling as a rotating iron core that gives us our nifty and life-saving protective magnetic field.

Second, the asteroid impact that ended the Triassic was such a catastrophe, and flung so much material so high from the impact point, there should be actual bits of dinosaur on the Moon.

Third, apparently one of the twelve men who’s ever set foot on the Moon’s surface… is allergic to moon dust. Ouch.

So what can we get out of these facts for a fantasy magical system? Well, possibly arguments like this….

Adventuring Mage: The moon should be involved in all matters to do with water, especially the oceans. It is the Law of Similarity; as the moon pulls the tides, so moon-magic affects all water.

Scholar Mage: Similarity my foot. It’s the Law of Contagion. Once connected, always connected. The moon controls the tides because the moon is still part of the ocean, and moon-magic controls water because all water flows to the ocean.

Adventuring Mage: The moon is a symbol of ancient times and monsters because it is how people marked time when no one knew how to kill monsters.

Scholar Mage: The moon created time, we wouldn’t have night and day if the world didn’t spin. And it’s Law of Contagion again, look it up, the moon has bits of monster all over it.

Adventuring Mage: The moon appears only in darkness, so of course it is linked to Death, and the diseases that bring Death in their wake.

Scholar Mage: (Incoherent noises of frustrated scientist, possible tearing of hair.) Have you even looked at the sky? The moon’s out in daylight half the month! It’s linked to disease because contact with it causes disease! That’s – that’s not even Contagion, that’s direct cursing, what are you teaching impressionable young mages, just wait until I get my hands on you-!

…Ahem. Academic disputes settled by smoking wands at dawn. Now that would be a story!

21 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: Crafting Lunacy

  1. Another possible interaction could be light levels.

    If the moon has just enough light to make a vampire itchy, they might be kind of irritable on nights with a full moon.

    Or a monster that’s sensitive to light might have difficulty sleeping, making them grumpy.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. “Oh, you’re a graduate student, you’re now among your equals in science! Speak freely!”

        Actual meaning: “You are the lowest of peons, I don’t even have to pay you to make you take insults, don’t even think about arguing with me ever. And do all my extra work, or else.”


  2. Pedantry warning: It’s not clear if Harrison Schmidt was *allergic* to the dust, or simply sensitive to it — given that moon dust is *all sharp edges*, one could get nasal, throat, and lung irritation from inhaling it without actually being allergic.

    Apparently someone working on the lunar EVA suits Apollo 17 brought back, however, had a strong enough reaction that they had to have someone else do the work.

    When I was young, I thought I was allergic to tobacco smoke, given how I reacted to it (oddly enough, not so much anymore), but later experience suggests I was just sensitive to the particulates — my *immune* system wasn’t reacting, my airway was just physically irritated. Of course, to someone feeling like they can’t breath, the finer points may be academic. But a non-immune response probably doesn’t risk anaphylactic shock, so there’s that….

    Fun question: what happens when a werewolf touches a moon rock? “Full Moonster”, a Nick Pollata “Bureau 13” novel from the 90s (80s?) had the effect be like a small atom bomb, wrecking the landscape and instantly converting every human within a couple kilometers into werewolves. Yoicks!

    And it *could happen*. We find moon rocks *naturally* on Earth on a regular basis, and before the 20th century no one knew they were of extraterrestrial origin.

    But the *real* potential fun begins when someone runs into a meteorite that came from *Mars* — did Alexander of Macedon’s crown have a Mars rock in it? Does touching a piece of Venus rock make one dangerously alluring? Would Mercury rock make you faster? Of course, that’s just leaning on the Greco/Roman associations with those planets….

    Or… *elsewhere*. It’s just barely possible that there’s rocks on earth that came from outside the Solar System. Beware the Fungi from Yuggoth! 😀

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Here with me on Today I Just Misread

      I’m somewhat worried about what Chekhov’s Grin could refer to. It sounds almost as ominous as Murphey grinning… Just with the possibility that all the bad luck might be aimed the other direction.

      It’s right up there with misreading a very curly cursive Seize the Day as Siege the Day. Which, fair enough, but still earned a double take…


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