Showing, not telling


In the first part of my WIP, I have spent a long time showing the reader ‘oh, look at all the cool shiny magic you can do! So useful, very powerful.’

Now I want to hammer the point that there’s only so much magic. But instead of just saying ‘not everybody has magic, most of the world is much worse off’ I want to write a section that shows this in a visceral way.

I’ve been considering something like having the player return to their rural village and noticing all the poverty, but this feels like railroading the player’s worldview and background by forcing them to come from rural poverty.

What are you guys’ thoughts?


You might want to send the PC through just “a rural village” based on where the PCs will be - which might be like home or not - but if not, have some

*if noble_born (additional text indicating how you didn’t realize this was normal for everyone else)

depending on how you’re handling background.


When you say there is only so much magic do you mean that in a world sense or that magic users can only cast a finite amount of times per day (or however long their mana reserves last?)


I haven’t let the player choose background yet. When the game starts, you just entered the military-magic-user school. Puzzling out how to do the background now.

There is only so much magic in that only a few people have magic. These few are inevitably rich and powerful compared to the not-magic population.

Sorta like Cataphrak’s SoI and GoI - in his stories, ‘banebloods’ have amounts of magic ranging from almost none to rather significant, and every single one of them are various levels if noble lords, because that’s the way it is.

In my story magic is not hereditary, but if you have magic, you are an Important Person. People listen to you, flatter you and do favors, pay you three weeks’ wage for an hour’s work when you heal their sick son.


@Crotale That sounds like the PC should be less “learning this new” and more reminded, but that’s just a matter of exactly how you write the description.

I’d definitely make background somehow be “I knew many (relatively speaking) mages” or not, though it might not be expressly spelled out - if the magic gifted are by definition upper class, someone from an upper class origin will simply have seen more because that’s how it goes, but they might not have thought about if it if it isn’t as “only the magic-gifted can be aristocrats” as Cataphrak’s work.


I agree with @Elfwine it sounds like it should be something they are reminded of as opposed to learn. Maybe part of training they are sent to a rural village to show them how the non magic people live and how privalidged the player should feel to be gifted with magic.


You don’t get magic until adolescence, so you might have grown up in poverty before being ‘elevated.’

Well, I need to finish writing the big test at the end of the first semester before I write this part anyway.


Is it really railroading? You usually don’t get to choose where to grow up… But then again you don’t get to choose stuff like your gender irl either so, hum.

How bout instead of visiting a village, you could spot some non-magic using servant getting kicked around? Then some time later, baffle at the wonders of a dock worker lifting a crate by hand. Or something like that. Just include a choice something akin to; hah, that servant had it coming! Filthy muggles… The mountain can come to the prophet if need be.


I think if it’s crucial information then railroad that point. No use having the reader not understand the way you envisioned the world to be. Especially if it’s mentioned a lot later in the story. I would probably be a little confused if I was under the impression everyone had magic then it became apparent that those users are a minority. Unless that’s the desired effect.


Thanks guys, you’ve given me a lot to think about for this. Unless anyone else has further input I think this topic should die now.