Building a World – Magic Systems in the Broken Moon series


I’ve had quite a few comments about world building in the Broken Moon Series. So I thought I’d talk a little about the world of Ren, Asher, and the crew of the Star Stream.

One of the first things I thought about when creating the series is how to create magic in space. Which is basically what being a Star Host is – it’s a magic system. I’ve always loved sword and sorcery. I adored the Wheel of Time books and I was pretty heavy into World of Warcraft for a few years. I’ve always loved sci-fi. My love of Star Wars and Firefly is apparent.

The goal was to figure out a magic system in space. What would that look like? Who would be able to wield the magic? What could the magic do? How would that merge with technology? How would I keep the magic in check and keep it from overwhelming the world?

To answer: What would I call them? Star Hosts. And this comes from the myth in the first book where stardust inhabits certain individuals in larger quantities which gives them special gifts.

Who? Anyone who has the innate ability ie anyone who has an overabundance of stardust within them. (See this post if you are totally confused). I liked the idea of the magic being an innate ability rather than a bestowed ability. And that was a personal choice. There are certainly worlds where gifts are innate (X-Men, Harry Potter, Star Wars) versus gifts that are bestowed (Spiderman, myths like Cupid and Psyche where Psyche earns immortality, Robert Aspirin’s Myth books where Skeeve has to learn how to use magic). This is also not to say that just because someone has an innate ability they automatically excel. We have seen that is not the case such as with Harry Potter who has to attend school for years and in Luke who has to learn from Obi-Wan and Yoda to be able to wield the force. Ren is no different – see below.

What and How? It was obvious to me that Ren would be able to use his magic to manipulate technology. That felt like a natural way for magic to be used in a sci-fi world of drifts and spaceships. Ren is a technopath. But like I mentioned above, he can’t be able to manipulate technology all the time or then what would be the conflict? What would keep him from escaping the citadel within the first few pages? What would keep him from taking over the world?

To answer those questions, I created a few obstacles for Ren.

  • Star hosts aren’t well known and their history is hidden. They are myths for reasons that are explored in G&A. This makes it difficult for Ren to know what he is, for one, and it will make it difficult for Ren to master his power.
  • Ren is only just coming into his power and he sucks at it. Let’s be real, it wouldn’t be fun for Ren to find out what he was and suddenly he was able to do whatever he wanted. Ren flounders, a lot, and it’s fun to watch him figure it all out.
  • There is a cost to over utilizing his gift. For all star hosts – there is a danger of losing themselves within the power of the star. It’s like that adage – Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Ren needs an anchor (aka Asher) to call him back to his humanity when he gets lost in the thrall of the circuits. For Cassandra – it’s the danger of being lost in her visions.
  • Ren is tempted constantly. He goes from living on a planet and having very little technology available to him to living on a spaceship and visiting drifts, which are basically large rotating environments made of circuits and metal. The temptation to let go is always there and he battles it to varying degrees of success throughout both novels.

How does any of this change from The Star Host to Ghosts & Ashes?

The magic system stays the same across the books and is consistent. But there are two major differences in the world in the two books. In G&A, I open up the powers of the star hosts and we meet a few more. Here’s a quick rundown:

TSH characters and powers:

Abiathar – suggestion

Ren – technopathy

Cassandra – visions

Millicent – technopathy

G&A characters and powers (SPOILERS):

Liam – dream walking and manipulation

Katherine – suppression

In this book, through Millicent, we also learn that star hosts can have certain skills within their powers that others may not. Ren may be more powerful, but Millicent has a certain ability that Ren does not. She uses that to manipulate her situation to her benefit.

The other difference is that the myths I set up in the first book turn out not to be myths but history. Ren learns that the stories his mother used to tell him were an oral history of the star hosts. Knowing this changes Ren’s world view and adds another facet of Ren’s history and perception that he has to work through.

So there is a little bit about world building a magic system. Or at least, about how I built a magic system. There are, of course, a ton of different ways to do so and different questions to address when thinking about creating a world with magic.

Writers – what are aspects of magic that you think about when world building? Is there anything I missed?

Readers – what are your favorite magic systems?

Drop me a line in the comments. Or hit me up on twitter @FTLukens.

The Star Host and Ghosts & Ashes are available everywhere!


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