What Do You Think of Magic Items?

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One of the big things in fantasy books happens to be oddly controversial too. The use of magical items is common, but many people disagree with how they should be used.  Some people don’t want them at all in the stories unless they’re an ancient item of great power that is essential to the plot.  Others think they should be forbidden items and only villains have them even if there is a heroic spellcaster.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have worlds where magic items are commonplace such as Harry Potter.  I could keep going with the list of beliefs on magic items, but I’m sure people will voice some more in the comments.

Personally, I think it depends on the world and characters.  If it is a low magic world then items of power shouldn’t be common.  Of course, the exception would be if the only sources of magic are these items, so they’ve been mass produced.  Now a world with magic everywhere like Windemere makes it believable that such items are easy to find.  There would be stores for magic rings with high prices and not every magic item will have the power to change the world.  For example, there is a class of item called Durable Gear, which means they’re stronger than normal items.  As the Lich says ‘everyone and their dog seems to have one of these items’.  Nobody said a crafting caster couldn’t be in it for the money.

There is also a question of who can wield magic items, which is another world-dependent entity.  I’ve never understood the idea that only spellcasters can use magic items with the exception of scrolls and wands.  A magic sword is something that sounds like it can be used by anyone who can swing it.  If the system states that one needs to study magic to awaken an item’s power then that’s how the world works and I’ll go along with it.  I might question a spellcaster wielding a magical great axe, so I think the items have to be crafted accordingly.  I’ve gone for magic items that everyone can use if they are in the proper situation.  Luke’s new ring requires a catalyst as do a few later items.

So, what do people think of magical items in stories?  Do you want them to be around, limited, or absent?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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33 Responses to What Do You Think of Magic Items?

  1. I think that it’s like you said — it’s dependent on the world. If it’s a D&D-esque world, then there can be magic items all over the place. The only issue with D&D-esque worlds is that there can sometimes be so much magic around that it can actually take away the importance of hard work. Does that make sense? It’s like … this guy has trained for years and years with his long sword, and he’s finally ready to go make a name for himself as an adventurer … and then he runs across some pathetic little village thug who came across a magic sword (or got it as a family heirloom or whatever), and gets beaten down into the dirt by him despite the thug having no sword-fighting expertise whatsoever. But then as soon as the hard-working swordsman gets his hand on a magic sword, he’s back on top. So I’d say I prefer worlds where magic isn’t quite so common — maybe subtle magic is okay, like runes around a pig pen to ward off wolves, but then getting into proper magic, like enchanted weapons and armor and whatnot, that should be something that you really have to work at to acquire.

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    • Too much magic does make sense, but it really comes down to how it’s done. That swordsman/thug scenario can be done well. Most magic weapons still require some skill of use or they’re cursed items that take over the user, which makes awkward fighting style. This is all personal opinion, but training in a fantasy still gives you an edge against untrained magic weapon users. A world where ‘magic always wins’ makes me think an author is lazy and has to rework the system. I’m actually gearing up towards a fight where a guy has a magic sword and he’s fighting a woman with a non-magical weapon. Should be interesting and not a one-sided fight.

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  2. Oloriel says:

    Like you say, I think it depends entirely on the world, heck, even scenery,characters, weather conditions, there is so much variables that I’d honestly say people should find something else to pick at 😛
    I personaly love them and love reading them in the story in every shape, lenght and form!

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    • I guess people always need something to complain about with fiction.

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      • Oloriel says:

        Maybe its jsut me, but I am used to reading (especialy fantasy) with people who would later on discuss about it, defend their characters, show emotion. You know, it felt like we were those characters, we would even roleplay them.
        Now it feels like people are reading something just so they could find something they hate and go AHA! then go on a bad review writing spree.
        I don’t know why would anyone disslike magical items in a fantasy setting. I can think of a “its been voerdone” kind of replicas, but my reply to that would be “Life is overdone too, yet you are still living”. Its magical items! Cmon!
        I can see how sometimes it can be cheesy. Like the Sword of Shanara (SPOILERS AHEAD!). I was at first read a bit dissapointed, because I anticipated the outcome with the sword. I knew it as soon as that goblin appeared. But later on, I read the book as though the main character is me,instead of judging the writer and I had a blast.

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      • I’ve noticed the same thing. As kids, we loved what we read and acted it out. In some ways, it felt real to use and gave us an escape from chores, schoolwork, and whatever else had us down. Maybe we get more jaded and stuck in reality as we grow older. Instead of entering the story as we read, we remain observers of these fictional worlds. I hear a lot how it’s the author’s job to draw a person into their world, which is true to most extents. Yet, the reader has to put some effort in too. If a reader is focused more on staying outside of the story and critique then they’re not getting the full effect. At least that’s how I see fiction writing/reading.

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      • Oloriel says:

        I would agree. What you said now immediatly flashbacked me to times where I would just pick a random stick from the ground and suddenly,it would’ve been my staff that shoots lighning. A tablecloth would become my cape and I would put jewels on my head (when I allude the grandmother who possesed these ofcourse!)
        I think it is our role to play to, if we don’t really want to be immersed, no matter what the writing is, we will not experience it fully.

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      • I had a garbage can lid shield and a paint stirrer for a sword at one point. It was pretty easy to get the toys though. I recently saw a toy sword with a big warning about how it isn’t a real weapon and should not be used against another person.

        This is an interesting thing with present tense writing. From what I’ve been told, it does help immersion because you’re seeing things unfold instead of hearing about them already occurring. Yet, it requires more suspension of reality by the reader to ‘believe’ they are in the fray instead of watching it. If that makes any sense.

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      • Oloriel says:

        Man, I wish I had my photo album with me! When I will retrieve it, I’ll send you a photo 😀 I hope you will use it, as a meme or something, whenever someone shits about magical items, inspiration, creativity and such 😀

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      • I’m not sure how to make a meme, but now I’m really curious.

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      • Oloriel says:

        You can just scribble on it something like:
        The drunken paladin thinks you’re missing on the loot! 😀 I will show as soon as I get my hands on it! Couldnt take 90% of my belongings when leaving for solitary life 😛

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      • Got it. Solitary life?

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      • Oloriel says:

        Moving in with my husband and the wee one. My parents have a 2 story house, we have a 2 room appartament, so all my D&D props had to be left behind 😀

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      • I remember doing that. I missed having a house when I had to leave a lot of stuff behind.

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  3. dmauldin53 says:

    I like the use of magical items used in fantasy stories. I, personally, would use lots of small magical items used in rituals and spell-casting. If a book is centered around one large magical item, that is okay too.

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  4. I like the use of magic items if they are not gratuitous. They must add something to the story for them to be worth including.

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  5. Nina Kaytel says:

    I’m new to reading fantasy. I like the items when they belong in the world. A magical item in a fantasy is akin to a gun in a zombie story; if it belongs it belongs.

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  6. I think you pretty much nailed it, Charles. It is at the writer’s discretion, but thought must be given to the ramifications of the “rules” of the author’s fantasy world.

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  7. I think magic weapons are a good idea. They can help give new twists to your plots and characters, in my opinion. Just think, where would Harry Potter have been without his wand? 🙂

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  8. In Harry Potter, the magical items were often wondrous or mysterious. Like imagine shopping for a wand, or the warning to stay away from the mirror. Magical items can help to add fascination.

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  9. Pingback: Two for Tuesday | Tommia's Tablet

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