Hard or soft magic systems?

Soft magic systems are magic systems where the definition and effect of magic is very vague. To put it simply: in the end you can just say “a wizard did it” to everything. Examples: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter

Hard magic systems on the other hand have logical explanations and defined limitations, which allows the reader to think about what happens. Example: Full Metal Alchemist

Personally, I prefer very hard magic systems. In my novel series it even goes as far that I already thought about “scientific” explanations based on biochemistry.

What magic systems do you prefer? Rather Hard or rather Soft? Do you have any other clear examples for each of these two systems? Explain the magic system in your story and give your reasoning why it’s soft/hard.

Hard, but not so concrete that it feels more like science than magic.


I dabble in both in most all my works. There tend to be multiple different magic systems, and while some are much softer, others are hard as stone. In the fantasy project I’m trying to get started up on here soon, as an example, there are some places where the answer honestly is just “this is this because it’s like that, don’t overthink it”. Meanwhile the “magic” surrounding one of the main characters, and how they travel is run on a very hard magic system I’ve planned out pretty extensively, to the point it honestly reads more as fake science than magic.

It really just depends on what you’re trying to do with a work. Each system definitely has it’s place, and trying to use the wrong one for a work can make it fall apart. Hell, one of my favorite things to do is over-analyze Harry Potter and have fun poking at a lot of the holes in it lol. Great series, but it falls apart if you try to force a hard system onto it.


It depends, I like how soft magic system but it seems like there are boundaries but its mostly up for interpretation

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I actually prefer writing somewhat soft magic systems (Kinda like ATLA-esque bending) just because hard magic is pretty difficult to plan out and feels a bit rigid. Soft magic systems can be successful just as long as it isn’t abused by the author so that protagonists can conveniently use them to escape difficult situations.

like there’s unclear boundaries but there still is boundaries, not everything can be in the realm of magic and magic isn’t the explanation for everything

hard but not over explained or over thought

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Well, my magic system consists of 8 (9) [10] different magics, and I limited all of them, but with storing of the magic, way different things are possible, like time travel.

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My magic system falls in the middle a bit, but that is nature of my galactic beast. See, there are worlds that are very scientific, “They have verified that magic is simply an element that exists naturally in the galaxy though not on all planets.” While research has not been finished on exactly how it works, it is clear that the spells are a manipulation of energy through the body and area around the caster. Verbal commands are less defined on if they really do anything or if it is just for show. Movements are up for debate. Now, all the spells discussed have very clear limits to what they do, and all that, but especially on worlds with magic that aren’t so science dominant it is a soft thing where weird things happen and the answer is “I don’t know blame the mage”

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Sorry I know this isn’t 100% related, but are you by any chance a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s works? He’s famous for using hard magic systems. I think he even wrote an essay on how to do it, etc.

I can be sold on either, but generally I am much more impressed and drawn in by a well-done hard magic system. It becomes like part of the world-building, and I find it really immersive. As a writer, I’m trying to improve my magic system design skills. Turns out hard magic is HARD. Hehe. (Don’t worry, my magic system isn’t as bad as that pun. I hope.:crossed_fingers:)

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I prefer the magic systems to be flexible, but with reasonable boundaries. I don’t like it when there are no rules and there just happens to be a magic solution to everything whenever it’s convenient to the plot. But I also don’t like it when the rules are so hard and fast that it doesn’t even feel like magic anymore.

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I love hard magic systems. My favorite is chakra from Naruto. The bloodline traits especially. FMA is everyone’s go-to for hard magic systems. It is awesome and has strict rules which makes it exciting. Roy Mustang the GOAT!

The magic system is in my Knights of Lore series is a hard one. Since my setting is futuristic, magic can be used with technology. In fact magic powers kingdoms and vehicles. So much can be done with magic if one has the skill and family branches play a big part in what one can and cannot do. There is regular mana that has color based on the user and then there is dark/black mana which slowly drives one insane till they become a literal monster. One can revert back to human but its rare and the few that have are forever twisted by their dark desires and/or emotions.

I don’t use a set ‘magick’ system in my story because it’s based on the truth about what magick is really like on other universes. It’s a true story. It’s based on my spiritual and astral experiences. Energy itself exists in everything in everyone. The best way that I can explain how it works in my books is that the flow of energy or ‘magick’ naturally occurs in each and every being but it’s far different than people think. Colors can be used to heal, different flows of energy do different things, some can burn like fire, water and other things like air, shadow, spirit, etc. are all very, very different. They are conveyed by different feelings, emotions, and thought patterns. Intention is everything. And, most of the time, there aren’t necessarily give and exchange from using magick. Every being’s use of it is different. Science can have factors in magick too. Even numbers have their own power just like geometry does. It’s just another way to harness energy.


My magic systems are hard… in my head that is. I don’t know if they actually make any sense outside of it.
But I think I prefer hard magic systems. It’s a completely different story tool, it seems like.
Soft magic is like am I supposed to feel awe? Sometimes it’s okay, especially if it’s a background element, though. And hard magic is one of the biggest things I love seeing in fantasy.
I just love having the rules of an intreaguing new hard magic system explained to me, and then seeing the story play with it.

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I like the magic in the Percy Jackson series. I like how the offspring of different gods do different things. I love how they give their favorites special gifts and powers.

Is there such a thing as “medium/semi-hard” magic system.

Where the magic has rules laid out at the beginning but makes them just vague enough to allow for flexibility in what you can do in the magic system.

I’d like to think I have a hard magic system. I don’t explain everything as if it was a science but, at the same time, I like to have rules and limitations for the characters. There’s only so much magic can do. Explaining away every odd occurrence with “It’s magic, what did you expect?” seems like lazy writing.

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I don’t think that’s a term but one of my favorite anime did this.

It is lazy writing. Lol. It gets old fast.