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Jun 01, 2020 6:22 PM
A Margaret in Actualization
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Magiforms 101

"Magiform" is an abbreviation of "magical form". It's the shape you transform into with your magic. Staying in magiform costs charge, but lets you use your other powers

When you transform, any clothes you're wearing will either stay on your new form, fall to the floor if your magiform is too small, or be tucked away with your mundane form. You choose what happens to each item. The same thing happens to anything you're carrying, although you have to be fully supporting something's weight to tuck it away. 

Your magiform can be anything you like. Many people keep a human shape, but might add wings, gills, horns, or extra limbs. You can also take the shape of any real or imaginary animal, or even have a body made of plants, rocks, or metal. A body made out of solid rock or metal will cost extra charge because it wouldn't naturally bend in the ways you need, unless you add joints and articulation. For more tips on how to make sure your magiform works physically, see the Anatomy page. 

Once you have a basic shape, you can customise all the details, down to the colour and texture of each individual hair or feather. You can give it clothes, as well, and customise those in the same way. See the Fashion and Colour Theory pages for more. 

Any part of your magiform that detaches from the rest will vanish after about six seconds once you're no longer touching it. This includes clothes, accessories and weapons. If you accidentally drop something, you can easily recreate it. The six-second counter restarts every time you touch the item. 

When you are injured in magiform, you can heal yourself just as easily as any other tweak. Your magiform doesn't physically age unless you want it to, and it doesn't get ill. If you grow powerful enough to stay in magiform full-time, the only thing standing between you and immortality will be the possibility of a magical attack. 

List of popular magiforms to try
* marks forms that can cost extra charge; ** marks very charge-intensive forms

- *Wings (see Anatomy for suggested wingspan by height)
- Four arms
- Cat ears and tail (fox, dog and wolf also popular)
- Different sex
- Different body type (muscular, fat, thin, short, tall)
- Skin, eye and hair colours (both normal and impossible)
- Plants or feathers instead of hair
- Fur or scales instead of skin

- Griffin, lion, winged lion
- Wolf, fox, dog
- Unicorn, winged horse, winged unicorn
- Centaur
- Eagle, hawk, swan
- Lizard, snake (cold-blooded - make sure you're somewhere warm)
- *Dragon (see the Anatomy page for why a large dragon is a bad idea)
- Dolphin, shark, fish (in water)
- Octopus, jellyfish (in water)

- *Tree
- **Vines
- *Wooden doll with articulated joints
- **Pile of fruit or vegetables held in a shape with magic

- *Metal robot (try different metals: gold is heavy, but you could use gold-plated aluminium)
- **Rock golem
- **Sand held in whatever shape you like
- *Metal and gemstones
- Embed gemstones and/or metal patterns in an otherwise organic body


The clothes thing would have been useful to know before she showed off her form to her parents wearing a backwards bathrobe. She takes a pause from reading to sketch some ideas for shirts and skirts that accommodate her wings and tail, and also an Ultimate Coat of Ultimate Pockets.

Apparently "large dragons" are a bad idea. Being a four-foot-tall dragon is in Mariga's opinion an awesome idea, so presumably they just mean she can't be the size of a bus. 

She can embed gemstones and metal in herself? That's awesome and also she should try giving herself synthetic bones, for the greater strength and lightness and for the cool factor. Based on a quick search, she should try both titanium and carbon fiber composite in various structural shapes and see what works best. It's not like she can permanently injure herself (everything is awesome) so might as well be audacious. Also (notetake notetake) she should have an extremely high density of taste buds and look up how to give herself super hearing. Speaking of which, it's time for the anatomy page! 


The anatomy page is, indeed, of the opinion that four-foot dragons are fine and dragons the size of a bus are inadvisable. This is both for reasons of magic consumption and also practical considerations such as being able to fit on a bus.

It has formulas for working out the wingspan you need based on your height and weight, with notes that once you get much past the upper range of human height it becomes practically impossible to have wings that are both light enough and strong enough without magical assistance, and to even get that far you need to swap out bones and skin for composites like carbon fiber. There are different tables for batlike and feathered wings since the weight of feathers makes a difference. Mariga has already done similar calculations and her wings are within tolerances for non-magically-assisted flight. 

There's a list of minor tweaks that can be made to a human body to improve functionality: eyes are poorly designed, as are noses, these specific intersections of nerves here and here, tailbones, funny bones...

And here are the size limits past which a human body needs magic to function, and here are the tolerances for how thin you can make your bones and how much fat you can strip away and how much weight you can pile on...

The page ends with a list of places to find more detailed information on specific topics. 

Useful Links

Arguments Against Intelligent Design: The design flaws in the human body
Human Diversity: an artist's catalogue - Facial Features
Human Diversity: an artist's catalogue - Body Types
Beautiful Bodies - Celebrating Disability & Diversity

Animals and animal features
Everything Birds: Wing Shapes Guide
Smell like a butterfly, see like a bee: Animal Senses
When Is Red Not Red? Seeing The World Like A Squid
The Great Big Guide To Every Animal Ever
Why the giant flying lizards in your fantasy novel are unrealistic

Plants & inorganic materials
Flowers and their Meanings: A flower dictionary
How To Make A Robot That Works
Dollmaker's Guide To Joints
Mannequins Mastered
Amateur Puppetry An Introduction
'Iron and steel will bend and bow...' Choosing The Right Metal
The Gemcutter's Bible


Mariga might just go full robot. If she can get it working without extra magic, being designed from the ground up would be so much better than being a collection of hacks on top of biology. And she knows more engineering than anatomy already. She reads the inorganic materials pages and bookmarks the facial features and body shape pages for later, then checks out the fashion page.


Magiform Tips - Fashion

The first thing to know about clothing your magiform is that you don't have to restrict yourself clothes that are physically possible to make or put on. Any seams or fastenings you add are unnecessary and purely decorative. Similarly, you can mix materials together, or invent new ones, in ways that would be impossible without magic. 

 The second thing to remember is that anything you create with magic will disappear if you lose contact with it for more than six seconds. You don't have to be wearing it - carrying something in your hand or over your arm works just as well - but if you have something orbiting your head, for example, or hovering above you, expect to have to renew it about ten times a minute. 

Thirdly, the only criteria you should be worrying about are your own tastes and what looks and feels good on you. Don't feel like you have to restrict yourself to the clothing of your own country, era, or gender. On that note, at the bottom of the page are some guides to the fashion of different modern and historical cultures. Use these as inspiration, but mix and match however you like. 

The rest of the page is this website's characteristic well-organised list of links to further reading.

A note at the very bottom says:

Want to see some examples? The Sideways website has pictures of the team in our magiforms. 


Putting serious effort into clothes should wait until she's more confident in a particular body plan and configuration of limbs, but Mariga opens a few tabs of reference images for later in case she feels the need for outside inspiration. Color theory might actually be useful for doing her scales, eyes, and so forth, though, so she'll read that now.


The colour theory page, unsurprisingly, contains advice on colour theory, which this margin is too small to contain. Like the rest of the website, it stresses the importance of individuality over conforming to any objective standards. It covers concepts like saturation, luminosity, and the effects of texture on the way a colour is perceived in context, including some tricks it's possible to do—entirely without magical maintenance—that can make an object appear different colours depending on the lighting or the angle. 


- Pick one or two signature hues and vary the value, saturation and texture when you use them in different places. Don't use too many different colours unless you're going for a rainbow effect; three plus neutrals is plenty. 
- If you're going pastel, go pastel. If you're going for bright colours, go bright. Once you've identified a palette or an aesthetic you like, lean in. 
- Gold, the metal, is not a neutral and does not go with everything. But, like black, metals go with a lot of things.
- Caveat: mixing metals is hard mode. Lean into it or risk it looking like an oversight. 
- Consider silhouettes and contrast. Juxtapose areas of dark and light. 
- Balance is important. Use a colour in different places all over your outfit, or just once as a statement piece, but the latter is harder to pull off. Make your hat match your skirt, or your boots match your scarf, unless you have a reason to draw attention to the hat or the boots. 
- Don't forget to consider your skin tone, hair and eyes as part of your palette. You can play with colours there as well. 


The bits on making yourself look different colors from different angles are super neat. Also, she is totally going to have gorgeous ultraviolet detailing that only she (and other magicals, and bees and so forth) can see.

She can read about "What Are We Called?", "But What Do I DO With It?", and "Connect With Other Magicals" tomorrow. Tonight she's going to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Then she can wake up bright and early, shower (her new form is going to be a ROBOT and never need shampooing), eat breakfast (granola, also food is like the one thing worth being human for) and get to school early so she can hit the interlibrary loan for robotics books.


By the time Mariga wakes up in the morning, her charge is above the halfway mark and the magic thinks she could spend maybe thirty or forty minutes in magiform. 

The school library doesn't have any books on robotics that she hasn't already read, but there are several available on interlibrary loan. Arranging that bumps her charge up a little more, and by the end of her last class, she's not too far off fully charged. Unfortunately, that's less than an hour's worth. 


Well, no sense staying at full charge when she can't accumulate more. She tops off the rest of the way at robotics club, working on their soccer-playing RC bot while bouncing magiform design ideas off her clubmates. Then she heads out to the empty baseball diamond and works on her form, focusing on aspects that will transfer straightforwardly to an eventual robot version. Specifically, she tries out having four arms in addition to wings and replacing all her hinge joints with ball-and-socket joints. She also tries out having eyes in the back of her head, though she sits on a bench for that one in case it's problematic enough to make her fall over. Her clothes are boring white shirt and skirt with a tail-hole, for now, since she doesn't want to get attached to an outfit while so much of what it will go on is still up in the air.


Two extra arms on top of wings are enough to make her fairly top-heavy, even with the tail balancing things out. Sitting down is a good idea even before she adds the extra eyes. Speaking of which, having eyes in the back of her head is very strange, and her brain doesn't seem to know what to do with its new all-around field of vision. The visual feeds from both sets of eyes end up sort of layered over each other, like a holographic picture that's two different images at once depending on how you hold it. 

Ball-and-socket joints work, but the tendons need some reconfiguring before she can make proper use of her new range of motion. Her knees are a bit wobbly at first. 


Extra eyes are a big old Nope. Maybe she can just widen her peripheral vision a bit when she switches to cameras.  In the meantime, how about a sort of centaur-dragon body type, with four legs and four arms and wings and a tail? That should take some of the strain off her knees and help with stability, and also looks a bit better in her opinion. Only downside is it might make her too heavy to fly, even if she shrinks to four feet tall at the shoulder and takes advantage of her extra torso space to let her wings be larger and still fold up unproblematically.


Being an eleven-limbed miniature centaur dragon feels pretty cool, but there's no way to tell whether she could fly without magical help unless she tries it. The worst that can happen is she'll end up spending charge to stay in the air and lose out on some time in magiform, but as long as she's sensible about it she shouldn't run out in midair. 


Then she will take a cantering start, spread her wings and launch herself into the air!


Flying is awesome

The city falls away beneath her as her wings beat, carrying her higher with every stroke. It's not getting dark yet, but the sun is beginning to dip towards the horizon, turning the clouds interesting colours. 


On the other side of the city, silhouetted against the sky, another dragon-winged shape circles, turning in Mariga's direction—

—and is suddenly larger, or closer, or both. 


Mariga loves the world and everything in it. The trees and buildings spreading out below her, the golden light of the evening giving everything the look of a work of art, the strength of her wings as they almost bear her aloft on their own. She can tell that they're not quite enough, they need magic help, but when she's made of the stuff of airplanes instead of flesh and blood, she'll be able to make it sustainable. A little more research, a few more experiments, and she'll be a free creature of the air, carried by physics and her own magically aided design, with all the limbs she didn't know she always wanted. 

Ooh, another person! Another magical, even. She lifts an arm from where it's been folded against her side and waves in greeting.


This person has clearly realised the full implications of being able to modify one's magiform at will and is taking advantage of it to make themself lighter for flight by removing unnecessary limbs. They have two massive golden-bronze wings, bigger than Mariga's, two taloned limbs tucked up beneath them, and are otherwise basically a giant snake with scales that shimmer in shades of bronze, gold and red. As they fly closer, the red reveals itself to actually be gemstones embedded in the scales. There are a few dark purple gems along the snaky neck, and a handful of other colours dotted about. 

The other magical person slows down to make a wide, sinuous loop around Mariga, ending up flying alongside her. They peer at her curiously with one purple eye. 


"Hello! My name's Mariga, I just got magic yesterday! Flying is grand, isn't it?"


"It iiisss." Their voice is deep, hoarse and sibilant, like a stereotypical dragon in a show. 

"You look good, for your second day." 


"Thanks! I'm probably going to do it all over in a robot version later. What's your name?"


"Robot?" the dragon repeats, intrigued. They flip over to fly upside down below Mariga so they can look at her through both eyes. 

"I'm Akeri. Wayfarer." 


"It's good to meet you. Do you live around here? I haven't seen you before, unless you totally reworked and I'm failing to recognize you."


They laugh, a deep rumbling sound like rocks scraping together. "I travel. It's in the name." 


"True enough! Anything in particular you wanted to see here, or just passing through?"

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