Catalyst or Tools?
The first thing you may want to consider is whether or not you want your magic to work with a catalyst. Do they need some kind of wand or spell book, or various herbs and tincture for the magic to activate? Then there is also the case where none of those things are needed, and the magic can be regarded as something the character just has and can do, much like a superpower.
Of course, if this is the case, it may be better to limit the powers a character can use in some way. For example, limit their use to once a day, or only controlling fire. Naturally, some limitations are always necessary in order to balance your world. Catalyst limitation could be the lack of available wands, or that one has to copy a large amount of information into a spell book. It could also take lots of time to cast the spells or brew ingredients.
Something else to consider is if you want spell words or not. Spell words add a little more mysticism to your world, as wizards have to speak in long forgotten tongues that change the very world around them. On the other hand, spell words can also be a little nonsense: for example, “bibity bobity boo”. And sometimes you can walk the line between both by making spell words necessary, but also making it possible to learn how to cast spells without words. The actual words can be based on a real language, or just be words spoken with the right power and a wand in hand. If you want to take it a step farther you can make your own language… but that has many problems of its own.
Effects on the World
Another thing you should consider is what kind of environmental damage your magic can do. For example, if they throw a fire ball, how hot is it? When it hits, will it explode or just burn? Will it burn anything around your target, or is the magical effect to just burn the opponent? Alternatively, do spells last? And how long? If you turn a tree into a wall, is it forever that way or just for a specific time frame? Leaving the effect around could also add an interesting element to your world and allow you to create locations that have been permanently warped by magic for some purpose. For example, as a defense against some kind of monster or enemy that no normal army could stand against, or as a hidden safe haven for a number of small magical creatures.
Nick is a second-year student in Algonquin College’s Professional Writing program. He is an avid reader and writer, and can usually be found hiding in a book. He likes rock music and fantasy books, and one day hopes to publish his own work.