The Fun of Temporary Magic Items

Asterik

When it comes to fantasy, people think a lot about magical items.  Rings, armor, swords, and all of these enchanted objects come to mind.  I hear them get mentioned more often than another category: Temporary Magic Items.  I also like to call these Power Ups because people who play video games suddenly know what I’m talking about.  What am I talking about?

A Power Up in this context is a magical item that has a one time use.  Potions and scrolls are the most common in fantasy.  You also have wands and rings that contain a spell that can only be used once.  That’s kind of a middle ground since they can be recharged, but only if the world allows.  The point is that once you use this item, it’s gone.  Characters either have to get a new one or hope that they won’t need it again.  This is like the rule in video games where you should save your strongest, hardest to get items for the final battel when you know they won’t be needed any more.

The effects also tend to be temporary.  It’s for a momentary burst to get through a trying situation.  For example, a healing potion repairs damage, but it doesn’t grant permanent regeneration.  Even a potion that casts regeneration will run out.  The concept with these specifically is that they will be digested and be processed out of the system in a similar fashion to alcohol.  Same thing goes for scrolls that bestow special abilities after being used.  This is another reason why authors need to make characters careful about using such things.

If you’re wondering why the effects are temporary then imagine what it would be like if they weren’t.  Power Ups tend to be fairly common, which means making them permanent would wreck the balance of the world.  Everyone would be trying to get potions and scrolls to enhance themselves, which means everyone is superhuman.  You can counter this issue by making them rare, but you will still have a great desire by most people to get their hands on one.  It’s not like with a ring or sword, which can be stolen.  Whoever gets these things will use them and they get the power forever.  Yes, there are ways around it, but they depend on world-building.  We’re talking general here for now.

Rarity is another piece of the puzzle.  Do you want Power Ups to be plentiful or hard to come by?  I’ve seen fantasy worlds where potions are sold on every corner and others where only a handful existed in the first place.  The first scenario minimizes the important and impact of them, but allows for constant use.  Readers know they’re common, so a character having Power Ups isn’t immersion breaking.  The second scenario makes them very special and, at times, essential to the plot.  Power Ups here are cause for suspense and a change in the plot path since they might appear only once or twice.

Personally, I like Power Ups and keep meaning to use them more often.  Funny thing is that I keep forgetting.  So, they’re common in Windemere, but my heroes typically don’t bother with them due to party abilities.  That might make them more of a mundane, average person item.  Makes some sense for a high magic world since potions, scrolls, and other usables would be sold to those who have a definite use.  Kind of like medicine in our world.  Probably should think about this more.

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Bringing Authors and Readers Together #shepherdforauthors #readinglists @storyempire @maeclair @bwb

Hi, SEers! Welcome to a Mae Day in May! Today, I’d like to share a resource I recently discovered that is beneficial for both authors and readers. I …

Bringing Authors and Readers Together #shepherdforauthors #readinglists @storyempire @maeclair @bwb
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A New Batch of Finished Puzzles!

So, I just finished a puzzle and realized I hadn’t posted about them in a while.  I have 9 that I completed since the last time.  Looks like the last time I posted about puzzles was back in August.  That means all of these are what I’ve worked on throughout this school year.  At least, I made progress on some hobby since writing wasn’t in the cards.  Now, let’s see what we have.  First one will probably get a reaction.

Boris Vallejo- Fearless Rider

Yes, it’s a woman in a bikini on a dragon.  This is a puzzle with art from Boris Vallejo who is a legend in fantasy/science fiction art.  He is known for having scantily clad, muscular figures alongside monsters.  He’s done pictures of Tarzan, Conan, and a variety of other characters.  Many associate ‘chicks in chainmail’ tropes with him, but he has men in barely there loin clothes too.  Used to have some collectible card sets with his stuff, so I really had to give this puzzle a try.

Day and Night Fantasy Puzzle

A random fantasy one that I found on Amazon.  This wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be thanks to the night/day theme.  It helped to go for the dragons and town first.  In the moment, this felt like a headache, but later puzzles made this a breeze.

Red Dragon Puzzle

The picture came out poor since I was in a rush to clear the table.  This puzzle was fun, but had a moment of difficulty  Many of the shadowy parts looked the same even if they were part of the dragon.  I got slowed down a lot with having to do trial and error.

Nintendo Game Puzzle

Not fantasy because it was an impulse buy.  I loved how there were obscure games on this puzzle.  For example, down and to the left of ‘Batman’ is a game called ‘Blaster Master’ that I used to play with a friend in high school.  They even had ‘Bucky O’Hare’ right below that one.  I did see at least one game that doesn’t exist, which is ‘Smash Brothers’ next to ‘Bad Dudes’ on the left.  The first of that series was one the N64.  One of the ‘TMNT’ games got put in there twice too.  Still, fun to do.

Lego Ice Cream Puzzle

Lego Ice Cream was another impulse buy when I had a gift card.  Needed a break from the darker-colored puzzles.  This one got tricky when I noticed how many of the colors looked exactly the same when they were in pieces.  I had to go color by color here, which meant repeatedly sifting through the box.

Fantasy Puzzle (Forgot puzzle name)

Another big fantasy one that wasn’t too bad.  The issue I had was that I would talk long breaks and keep trying to put the same pieces in.  I wasn’t very focused during this one, so I dragged my feet.

The Witcher 3 Map Puzzle

This one was a lot of fun and I had to keep changing my strategies.  Finding tiny identifiers on each piece was a headache, but made the land section easier.  The water part was a lot of blue and white combos, which looked the same.  Probably took me a month to do this one . . . and then came:

The Witcher: Ciri Puzzle

Why did I buy you?  SO MUCH BROWN!  I think I ended up watching 3 Seasons of Merlin, 7 anime, and the latest season of Cobra Kai in the amount of time it took me to finish this headache.  I walked away for my own sanity a few times because I had nights where I spent hours with no luck figuring things out.  Glad this one is glued and in the pile.

Lord of the Rings Puzzle

I’ve had this one waiting for me to make it since 2020.  Of course, it ended up being slightly bigger than the table.  So, edge pieces fell off at times.  I made good progress with this because I was determined to get it done before the end of May.  I slowed to a crawl when I had to figure out the tree and rock areas.  The pieces weren’t all the standard shapes too.  So, I couldn’t always tell if it was a normal piece or one of the strange ones that went in a spot.  Several times I needed two small pieces in a place where I thought it was a single big one.

Well, these are all done and now I’ll move on to one of the big Lego sets I’ve had waiting in the corner.  Shouldn’t take me as long as the puzzles, but they should be fun.  No idea where I’m going to put them when done though.

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Goal Post: Charity Poetry Book (Get a Copy!) and a Crazy Week

First, I submitted 3 poems to the above charity project.  This prose and poetry collection will gather and send money to charities for Ukraine.  Please consider buying even the $3.99 ebook to help.  CLICK HERE!

As for the week, it was really busy as usual.  Didn’t help that my allergies were giving me issues.  So, I was suffering from either a headache or cough until near the end of the week.  By then, I was plain exhausted and struggling to stay awake.  It’s that time of year, so I shouldn’t have expected anything else.  Plus side is that I didn’t really have much hope for progress on projects.  May just isn’t that type of month.

That isn’t to say I got nothing done.  The outline for Darwin & the Avenging Elf is complete, which means I can start writing Darwin & the Halfling Hunt when I get a chance.  Might be Monday night if I feel up to it.  Next weekend is more likely after I watch my son’s Lego Robotics competition.  This book would normally require 22 days with 3 sections each, so I’m looking more at 30.  The following book is 20, so finishing both before the next school year might not be possible.  Guess starting this week gives me a better shot.  The reason for this is because I’m expecting next year to be so crazy that I can’t do any writing like this year.

I’m going to try to finish the rest of the October monster posts before my son comes home today.  These are fun since I have to do research, but that does slow things down.  I’m trying to figure out if I can put a non-image PDF file on my blog too.  This way, I can make PDFs of each ‘Raven’ story and post them one at a time on Tuesdays in October.  It’s either that or try to make a post with a link to each of the 30-31 other posts, which isn’t going to get any traction.  Every time I look stuff up, I see it’s about an image, so I can’t figure out if it’s possible with a short story/novella.

The rest of the week was spent working and helping my son with his assignments.  Got a few to do this weekend, but they’re not too rough.  He has his concert next week, so I’m gearing up for that.  As I said, Lego Robotics competition too, so May is going to be ending with a really crazy full week.  Feel like I keep filling out permission slips too.  Guess everyone plans on ending the year with a bang.  I’m just looking forward to things slowing down a little bit.

Finished a puzzle, so expect a post about that hobby tomorrow.  I focused a bit more on that than usual because I want to get to this Lego Globe that I bought a while back.  After that, I got a Lego Nintendo with TV, controller, and Super Mario cartridge that I’ve wanted for a while.  Got further in a video game when I had a few minutes to spare.  I really only had time to squeeze stuff in around the end of the day.

The non-writing hobbies took more time, but part of that may also have been that I was watching the newest season of ‘Demon Slayer’.  I didn’t want to be distracted, so I was using it to rest up.  Actually, I finished that on Sunday after I did the outline.  I started ‘Outlaw Star’ again, but there were several nights where I just crawled into bed and watched YouTube videos until I passed out.  So, everything was dropped to a slower pace because . . . oh yeah . . . Drama that I can’t talk about here, which led to my IBS going off midweek.  Almost forgot about that.

Well, that’s all I can think of right now.  I want to get to the monster posts and laundry, so my mind isn’t very focused.  Maybe it’s the possibility that I’ll have most of the year scheduled on here, which makes writing books so much easier.  Trying to get myself to believe that the school year months were successful in that I made things smoother for the summer.  I won’t have to do any more posts beyond the weekend stuff until September at this rate.  Gives me time to think up more topics.  You know I’m running out of ideas when I post about magical parasites.

Goals of the week:

  1. Start writing Slumberlord Chronicles: Darwin & the Halfling Hunt
  2. Help son with schoolwork
  3. Son’s concert
  4. Son’s Lego robotics competition
  5. Finish October posts
  6. Find something new to watch
  7. Hydrate
  8. Biking (Managed to get 2 days in last week)
  9. Begin Lego Globe

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Fun with Magical Parasites

Futurama Worms

You know, I wrote this down as a topic with no idea what I was thinking.  I’ve never used magical parasites.  Not in my books either.  Still, someone said the idea sounded really interesting and that’s all my needy ass required to stick with it . . . I can’t even think of examples for some reason.

I mean, I know of parasites from science fiction like the worms above, xenomorphs, and the Venom symbiote.  That’s a very powerful set piece when dealing with aliens.  Fantasy doesn’t have a tradition of magical parasites.  It kind of sticks to the usual kind, but altered by nature instead of magic.  A tapeworm that goes all the way up to the brain sounds gross, but it might be doing it through physical abilities instead of spells.  So, what is required for a ‘magical’ parasite?

Clearly, it needs to be connected to magic.  Being in a fantasy world doesn’t count since there are non-magical creatures there.  This parasite needs to be either born from, killed by, or the giver of magic.  Otherwise, the paladin ate a bad sandwich and his muscles are being slowly devoured by a tick that was minding its own business before its home got ingested.  Food does seem to be a common delivery system, but parasites can get in through any orifice.  I’ll give everyone a few moments to get the squirming discomfort out of their system due to the visuals they had . . . All good?

Keep in mind that a parasite doesn’t always mean full bad.  Look at the examples I used two paragraphs ago.  Xenomorphs are bad due to bursting out of their host.  Futurama worms are good because they made Fry smart and strong. The Venom symbiote depends on the person wearing it because it does like eating people, but the host can find alternatives.  So, you can go with a beneficial or debilitating parasite depending on your need.  Basically, the can work as a challenge for the host because they weaken or a boon because they grant strength.  I know the urge to make parasites bad is strong since it involves invading a body, but an author should leave all possibilities open.

A big aspect of the magical parasite should be that it needs to have an impact.  You can’t just drop one into the story and have it gone a few pages later.  Any other monster can be used for that.  The parasite needs to infect a host in order to show how dangerous or useful it is.  Telling the audience that the leech would have reverted the thief into a baby has less impact than actually having that happen.  It creates a problem for the hero to solve either by getting rid of the parasite or finding a way to work with it.  Character growth is inevitable here.

Again, that can be done with any type of parasite, so you don’t have to make it magical if you only want to temporarily screw with your characters.  That’s why you have to make it special by using one of those three mentioned additions:

  1. Born of Magic–  This is similar to a curse, but it has sentience.  The parasite was created either intentionally or by accident through magic.  It might not have magic powers, but it’s origin isn’t entirely natural.  For example, a parasite created by a fire and ice spell clashing can get into the skin.  It simply eats away that body and steals nutrients, but it was born from magic.
  2. Killed by Magic–  Regardless of how the parasite was created, it can only be purged and destroyed by magic.  Regular medicines don’t work.  Surgery doesn’t work.  You need a potion, artifact, or spell.  This can be combined with the other two since it’s all about how it’s destroyed.  You can also get away with not giving the parasite an origin at all here.  These tend to be harmful too.
  3. Grants Magic–  Typically a beneficial parasite, it gives the host a magical ability.  It can and usually does come at a cost.  The host may be able to use magic now or gets a single ability.  Not much else to this one.  You can reveal the cost down the road, which has them question if they should keep the parasite.  Other people may want it for their own purposes, which tend to be evil.  I think this is where you can have the most amount of fun with the concept.

So, that’s all I can think of about magical parasites.  Maybe I’ll work hard to create one for another story.  Darwin will need some magical creatures in one story.  Got time to figure that one out.

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Poetry Day: Baby Babble

(Guess we know what was going on when I wrote this poem.)

Nonsense noises

And makeshift words

They use to talk to us

A patchwork language

That only they can know

Adorable and frustrating

With tantrums on the rise

Adding screams into the mix

You push for words

And clear descriptions

So you no longer have to guess

But you missed a flaw

The downside of your plan

For now your child can talk

Let the sassing back begin

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How Far Should a Hero Go for Power?

Jujutsu Kaisen

To explain the gif, the guy is swallowing the mummified finger of a power demon.  He swallowed one early on without knowing what it would do and the series pretty much follows that trend.  Entertainingly, of course.  We’re not here to talk about ‘Quest for Yummy Jerky Fingers’, which I really want to watch again now.  Nope, we’re going to talk about gaining power.

Many of us have followed a story where the hero needs to get stronger.  Sometimes they have to find a magic item like Arthur getting Excalibur.  Other times, they need to train like Goku in Dragon Ball.  For the most part, heroes will follow the acceptable paths to strength.  After all, they are heroes and have to be nice.  Sacrificing souls and eating body parts are for villains, right?  Right?

First, I know somebody is going to bring up anti-heroes, who do get away with doing bad things to meet their goals.  Still, they have their limits.  The Punisher will kill to stop crime, but he won’t shoot through a hostage’s head to get his target.  Same goes for gaining power even for anti-heroes.  If they cross that line then they become a villain with heroic intentions, but a villain nonetheless.  Many readers will get turned off after the line is crossed, especially if it was a line that was established as impassable.  So, don’t think an anti-hero gives you free reign to throw all limits into the wind.

This means, you need to think before you have a hero take action for the sake of getting stronger.  I don’t mean to save the world, but to gain enough power to defeat their enemies without fear of failure.  This can come down to several factors:

  • The rules of the world can determine right and wrong.  If an action that reality sees as bad is good in this world then establish that.  For example, a hero absorbing the souls of his friends to gain enough strength could be seen as bad.  After all, he has just stolen their life energy and killed them.  This isn’t bad if you show that the souls will go back to the friends and they aren’t dead.  Simplistic example, but I hope you get the point.
  • Personality of the hero is another issue.  Would they be willing to do evil in order to gain enough strength to defeat someone worse?  If they are the type to do whatever it takes then it can work, especially if the author is ready for them to fall in the eyes of the audience.  More noble and lawful heroes are less likely because they are the types to stay within the black/white definition of good/evil.
  • Does the bad action have payoff? This is something you won’t know until you’ve done it.  Hopefully it works or you catch it being a problem before publishing.  Basically, the hero crosses the line after struggling with the idea for a while.  They do it and the power boost makes absolutely no difference.  Maybe they learn a move that doesn’t work or another hero takes the villain down.  You really need to make sure that this sacrifice of standards is met with a payoff.  That is unless the point is to have this hero come off as a foolish chump.

Struggling and sacrifice are pretty big in this too.  If the hero is doing something they know is wrong then they need to be shown thinking about the consequences.  They can’t just dive right into devouring babies, letting a demon possess them, or insider trading with no second thought.  They aren’t the villain who would do these things without a care.  The fact that these characters won’t is part of what makes them a hero.  So, show them struggling internally or discussing it with others.  Having them grapple with the potential consequences of both taking the action or not.  The sacrifice comes into play here since that is something they have to think about.

Of course, it can be more than doing bad things.  I know that’s what I focused on, but that is when this question can come up.  So, what about gross stuff?  Eating the demon finger isn’t bad since it’s to contain the energy before another demon can eat it.  Yet, it’s definitely an action that most people wouldn’t accept with a big and a jar of mustard instead of concerns.  The factors I mentioned above would still come into play, but on a different level.  Now, it’s just gross, so it’s more about character personality since they have to decide if they have the stomach for the experience.  In many cases, literally.

So, how would you tackle this situation?

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Fictional Characters and Their Political Interests

Hello Story Empire readers, Gwen with you today and together we’re going to consider the political interests of our characters. This is Part 2 of …

Fictional Characters and Their Political Interests
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Happy Dinosaur Day! (Bite into These Non-Extinct Series)

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Chomp into the magical adventure of Legends of Windemere 1-15 for $2.99/volume.  Volume 1 is FREE!

Legends of Windemere
CLICK FOR AMAZON PAGE

OR

Devour the fang-filled fun of War of Nytefall 1-8 for $2.99/volume!

Cover Art by Alison Hunt

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Stand Together- Poetry & Prose for Ukraine

An eclectic collection of poetry and short prose for Ukraine. Poetry about war, warriors, hope, and sunflowers; multi-genre stories, featuring work from:

A. L. Butcher
Roman Nyle
Charles Yallowitz
Vickie Johnstone
Andrew P. Weston
Rebecca Miller
Michael H. Hanson
Charles Yallowitz
Victoria Zigler
Joe Bonadonna
Richard Groller
Rhavensfyre
Andrew P. Weston
Vickie Johnstone
Anthea Sharp
Marta Moran Bishop
Colene Allen
J.C. Fields
A.L. Butcher & Diana. L. Wicker
Inge – Lise Goss
Sean Poage
Rebecca Lacy

Donations from the sale of this book will support a Ukraine charity.

So, this is a project forged by A.L. Butcher, which I submitted some poems to a few weeks (months?) back.  How could I say no, especially since the poems were sitting around?  Nice to have some of my tinkering work become useful.  You can find Stand Together on several platforms, but here is a universal link that lists them all:

STAND TOGETHER!

It comes in ebook ($3.99 on various platforms), paperback ($12.99 on Amazon), and hardcover ($16.99 on Amazon).

Please consider buying a copy and helping to spread the word about this charity collection.  Thanks and enjoy.

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