Created By: Tallens on January 10, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on February 6, 2013
Troped

Magic Compass

A compass that operates on something inexplicable rather than magnetism

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Now has companion in Magic Map.
Will: "How can we sail to an island nobody can find with a compass that doesn't work?"
Mr. Gibbs: "Aye, the compass doesn't point North. But we're not trying to find North, are we?"

A compass is used to point to magnetic north, which allows travelers to get their bearings and find their way. The Magic Compass works on different principles to point to something else. Whether it only points to one specific place or object, or to different things at different times, its use is to lead whoever holds it to something that is lost or hidden.

To be a magic compass, it must indicate a direction. It cannot be something that leaves a trail nor is it a map. It's method of operation should be something inexplicable and/or incomprehensible, quite often artifacts of a wizard or a Sufficiently Advanced Alien.

Forms may take a traditional spindle compass or some object that indicates a specific direction by some means. May also be used alongside a Magic Map.

Examples

Anime
  • One Piece:
    • Rather than point north the Log Pose, a special compass used to navigate the Grand Line, instead points to nearby islands. This is because islands on the Grand Line have magnetic fields of their own so powerful they make any normal compass useless. Once you arrive at an island, the Log Pose "logs" the island after enough time passes and begins pointing to the next island.
    • There is also the Eternal Pose, a compass permanently locked onto a specific island which can be used to navigate to that island and only that island.
    • In the second half of the Grand Line, the New World, a Log Pose using three needles is used. The force with which the needles move are an indication of the danger level of the island to boot.
    • A non-magnetism example would be Vivre Cards, slips of paper which are linked to a person's life force and can show where they are located. Put the paper on a table or in your hand, and it will move on its own in the general direction of the person it's linked to. Luffy had once for his brother Ace, which he used in his rescue attempt in the Impel Down arc.
  • The way to Laputa is shown when Sheeta accidentally activates her pendant which, in addition to activating a dormant robot that absolutely trashes a military base, shines a beam of light in the direction Laputa is.

Film
  • Jack's compass in Pirates of the Caribbean which points to whatever the one holding it wants.
  • The Alethiometer in The Golden Compass pointed to the truth.
  • From Titan A.E., the star chart embedded in Cale Tucker's hand reorients its pointer while Cale stands on the precise spot where his father once stood on the planet Sessharrim.

Literature
  • In one of the Lord Darcy stories, Master Sean enchanted a splinter left behind by a murder weapon and used it to find the rest of the weapon.
  • In E. E. “Doc” Smith's Skylark Series, it was possible to create an "object compass" which, once attuned to something, would always point towards it.
  • Inverted with the Point Me spell in Harry Potter, which uses magic to make the caster's wand briefly point north.
  • In The Scar, when pirates are on long voyages away from the floating city of Armada, they have compasses that always point to Armada to find their way back.
  • In Tales Of The Ketty Jay, Grayther Crake makes daemon-bound compasses for the crew of the Ketty Jay that always point towards their captain Darian Fray.
  • On Gor compasses point to the Sardar Mountains, home of the Priest-Kings (the gods of the world).
  • The Kane Chronicles
    • In The Red Pyramid Amos throws sand into the air which forms into an arrow pointing to Las Cruces. It even seems to tell him how far it is. Sadie apparently has learned something similar by the second book.
    • In The Serpent's Shadow they find Apophis' shadow using the Book of Thoth, which Carter describes as a combination compass, tour guide, and farmer's almanac.

Live-Action Television

Religion and Mythology
  • The Book of Mormon: As Lehi's family is journeying toward the promised land, one morning outside Lehi's tent, they discover an exquisitely crafted sphere-shaped compass. One of its spindles points the direction they should go in the wilderness, but only when they are righteous and trust in the Lord. For example, it stops working when they quarrel and tie up Nephi, and it works when they're working together and praying for guidance.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • 2nd Edition Tome of Magic. The Elemental Compass glows yellow when its owner is headed in the direction of a planar portal or planar boundary the owner is seeking.
    • The Arrow of Direction could be thrown in the air and commanded to point toward the nearest example of one of eight things: stairway (up/down), sloping passage (up/down), dungeon exit/entrance, cave, cavern. When it fell to the ground it would be pointing the correct way.
    • Al-Qadim setting spells
      • The Wind Compass spell allows the caster to know when he's facing in a particular compass direction (south, north by northwest, etc.).
      • The True Bearing spell allows the caster to know the direction in which a specific landmark or geographical site (city, town, significant land feature etc.) lies. It only works if the caster has been there before and the location is on the same plane of existence.
  • Compasses in the Ravenloft setting do point north, but this is presumably a magical effect because the Land of Mists is not a globe, so doesn't have poles. Just what force it is that attracts compass-needles there is a bit of a mystery.

Video Games
  • A Minecraft compass points to the world's player spawn point.
  • Finding Monkey Island and the ghost ship of the undead zombie ghost pirate LeChuck tends to involve constructing one of these.
  • Soulbringer allowed you two different compasses at the same time: the usual and a magic one that points to hex stones.

Web Comic

Western Animation
Community Feedback Replies: 36
  • January 10, 2013
    bulmabriefs144
    The Alethiometer in The Golden Compass pointed to the truth.
  • January 11, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons, 2nd Edition Tome of Magic. The Elemental Compass glows yellow when its owner is headed in the direction of a planar portal or planar boundary the owner is seeking.
  • January 11, 2013
    Antigone3
    In one of the Lord Darcy stories, Master Sean enchanted a splinter left behind by a murder weapon and used it to find the rest of the weapon.
  • January 11, 2013
    McKathlin
    Video Games
    • A Minecraft compass points to the world's player spawn point.
  • January 11, 2013
    McKathlin
    Religion and Mythology
    • The Book Of Mormon: As Lehi's family is journeying toward the promised land, one morning outside Lehi's tent, they discover an exquisitely crafted sphere-shaped compass. One of its spindles points the direction they should go in the wilderness, but only when they are righteous and trust in the Lord. For example, it stops working when they quarrel and tie up Nephi, and it works when they're working together and praying for guidance.
  • January 11, 2013
    JohnnyCache
    Literature
    • In EE Doc Smith's Skylark Series, it was possible to create an "object compass" which, once attuned to something, would always point towards it.
  • January 11, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Pirates could make for a good page quote.
    Will: "How can we sail to an island nobody can find with a compass that doesn't work?"
    Mr. Gibbs: "Aye, the compass doesn't point North. But we're not trying to find North, are we?"

    In the original The Legend Of Zelda, the "compass" item merely highlighted the location of the dungeon's boss on the Level Map Display, allowing you to judge which direction it is relative to your current location. It did not, of course, tell you anything about how to get there. Leter Zelda games gave it additional features, though Skyward Sword combined it with the "Dungeon Map" item.
  • January 11, 2013
    arromdee
    In One Piece the Log Pose, which looks like a compass, points to the next island on the trip.
  • January 11, 2013
    jatay3
    When you think about it, the first compass was probably considered magical. Just like the first iron tools(which goes a long way toward a mundane explanation for magical weapons).
  • January 11, 2013
    henke37
    Finding Monkey Island and the ghost ship of the undead zombie ghost pirate Le Chuck tends to involve constructing one of these.
  • January 11, 2013
    Tallens
    Wow, 12 examples in the first day already. Looks like we're off to a good start.

    ^^^That's the exact quote I was thinking of for this. Guess that confirms it.

    I'm thiking of starting another YKTTW for magic maps, since we don't seem to have that one either, as a companion to this. The Zelda examples sound like they might fit that one better.
  • January 11, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr Socrates is given an object which glows when pointed towards an Orb. (Orbs being the Mac Guffin of the Half Arc Season.)
  • January 12, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • The Arrow of Direction could be thrown in the air and commanded to point toward the nearest example of one of eight things: stairway (up/down), sloping passage (up/down), dungeon exit/entrance, cave, cavern. When it fell to the ground it would be pointing the correct way.
  • January 13, 2013
    justanid
    • Soulbringer allowed you two different compasses at the same time: the usual and a magic one that points to hex stones.
  • January 14, 2013
    Karalora
    Does it have to be specifically magical? Avatar The Last Airbender episode "The Desert" featured a compass that pointed to a specific rock formation...because said formation had a magnetic charge of its own which was locally stronger than the planet's magnetic field.
  • January 14, 2013
    SharleeD
    • Compasses in the Ravenloft setting do point north, but this is presumably a magical effect because the Land of Mists is not a globe, so doesn't have poles. Just what force it is that attracts compass-needles there is a bit of a mystery.

    Not sure if that's an inversion or a subversion, but it's certainly related.
  • January 14, 2013
    Tallens
    ^^No, I think that for this to apply it has to be working by something other than magnetism. The Point Me spell in Harry Potter, for example, would be an inversion. It uses magic to point north.

    ^I'll have to think on that one.
  • January 15, 2013
    sgamer82
    Also in One Piece

    • For the New World, the second half of the Grand Line, a different Log Pose is used that can point to three different islands.

    ^^My understanding of this trope is that it involves a compass pointing to something besides north, regardless of reason. The Log Poses in One Piece is said work due to magnetism, but still never point north except by coincidence. Though if that is a requirement, the Vivre Cards mentioned below are the straighter example.
  • January 15, 2013
    TBTabby
    One Piece also has the Vivre Cards, slips of paper which are linked to a person's life force and can show where they are located. Luffy had once for his brother Ace, which he used in his rescue attempt in the Impel Down arc.
  • January 15, 2013
    billybobfred
    99.9% of video game compasses, really.

    • The compass in Spelunky points to the level exit.
    • The compass in the Legend Of Zelda series indicates which room the boss is in, as well as various other features such as beeping when there's a Treasure Chest in the room.
  • January 16, 2013
    randomsurfer
    On Gor compasses point to the Sardar Mountains, home of the Priest-Kings (the gods of the world), which is not north. Well, if you're south of there then I guess it is north, but if you're north of there it's south, and if you're west of there it's east, etc.
  • January 16, 2013
    sgamer82
    Not sure on the others, but this definitely applies to the first:

    • In Grandia, this gets played both ways. In the corner of any area is a compass. North is marked by a red portion of the compass, but there's also a yellow arrow which points in the direction of your next goal.
  • January 16, 2013
    BOFH
    Literature
    • In The Scar, when pirates are on long voyages away from the floating city of Armada, they have compasses that always point to Armada to find their way back.
    • In Tales Of The Ketty Jay, Grayther Crake makes daemon-bound compasses for the crew of the Ketty Jay that always point towards their captain Darian Fray.
  • January 16, 2013
    Tallens
    I changed the laconic and the description a bit. I hope that clears things up a little.
  • January 16, 2013
    sgamer82
    ^ In this case, the Log Pose in One Piece may not be an example. It's initial explanation quite clearly spells it out as being via magnetism. To offer an entry style explanation:

    • One Piece:
      • Rather than point north the Log Pose, a special compass used to navigate the Grand Line, instead points to nearby islands. This is because islands on the Grand Line have magnetic fields of their own so powerful they make any normal compass useless. Once you arrive at an island, the Log Pose "logs" the island after enough time passes and begins pointing to the next island.
      • There is also the Eternal Pose, a compass permanently locked onto a specific island which can be used to navigate to that island and only that island.
      • In the second half of the Grand Line, the New World, a Log Pose using three needles is used. The force with which the needles move are an indication of the danger level of the island to boot.
      • A non-magnetism example would be Vivre Cards, slips of paper which are linked to a person's life force and can show where they are located. Put the paper on a table or in your hand, and it will move on its own in the general direction of the person it's linked to. Luffy had once for his brother Ace, which he used in his rescue attempt in the Impel Down arc.

    (That last is pretty much just copy/pasted from TBTabby's entry)
  • January 17, 2013
    Tallens
    I don't know that much about One Piece, but the Log Pose doesn't sound like it fits in here. The Virve Cards sound like they would fit better on Magic Map.
  • January 17, 2013
    sgamer82
    Take away the magnetism aspect and Log Poses are pretty much this. They specifically point to your next destination as opposed to a consistent direction. I'll edit the Vivre Card entry to make it clearer how it may fit. (specifically you hold the paper in your hand and it'll move on its own in the general direction of whoever it's connected to).
  • January 17, 2013
    JuniusGallio
    New troper here, with another example. In Looking for Group (category: Webcomic), that has an example of such a compass here: http://www.lfgcomic.com/page/552
  • January 22, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons.
      • Al-Qadim setting spells
        • The Wind Compass spell allows the caster to know when he's facing in a particular compass direction (south, north by northwest, etc.).
        • The True Bearing spell allows the caster to know the direction in which a specific landmark or geographical site (city, town, significant land feature etc.) lies. It only works if the caster has been there before and the location is on the same plane of existence.
  • January 23, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    In the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, Jack's "compass that doesn't point north" is initially thought to be an indication of how poorly equipped he is, but actually points to the heart's desire of the person holding it.
  • January 25, 2013
    Tiiba
    Dragon Ball has a dragonball radar, as well as the scouters, which detect ki.

    Do you count radars?
  • January 26, 2013
    Tallens
    ^Radars are not compasses and both of these seem to fall under The Little Detecto.
  • January 31, 2013
    Tallens
    Gonna hold out a few more days for some more examples here and especially on Magic Map.
  • January 31, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Film-Animated
    • From Titan AE, the star chart embedded in Cale Tucker's hand reorients its pointer while Cale stands on the precise spot where his father once stood on the planet Sessharrim.
  • February 4, 2013
    Cassis
    Should the Golden Compass example go under literature, since that was the original (and better known, I think) version?
  • February 6, 2013
    Tallens
    Looking to launch this by this weekend.
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