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, probably by The Navigator.
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Anime and Manga
- Castle in the Sky: 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.
- 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 one for his brother Ace, which he used in his rescue attempt in the Impel Down arc.
- The Infinity League: The chain of events that led to Ash training to becoming an Aura Guardian began with a friend of Cynthia's giving her a compass that is supposed to point to people with large amounts of Aura.
Films — Animated
- 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.
Films — Live-Action
- Jack's compass in Pirates of the Caribbean which points to whatever the one holding it wants. It is rather difficult to use for someone like him; half the time it ends up pointing at his rum bottle.
- Inigo Montoya briefly turns his sword into one in The Princess Bride. He knows the secret entrance to the Pit of Despair is in the grove where he's standing, so he pleads with his dead father to "guide my sword" so he can find it. The sword sticks itself into a tree, and Inigo leans on the tree in despair - and, in so doing, triggers the mechanism to open the door.
- In The Dresden Files, this is one of Harry's most commonly used spells in his job as a detective. However, it can also be weaponised as a remote cause of Your Head Asplode.
- Although he can and does use a literal compass as a focus for the spell, Harry's also used various objects as plumb lines (leans in the direction of the target), sensations on the skin (gets warmer or colder based on direction), and even a wind-up toy (walks in the direction of the target) when nothing better was on hand. It's a very versatile field of magic.
- On Gor, compasses point to the Sardar Mountains, home of the Priest-Kings (the gods of the world).
- Inverted with the Point Me spell in Harry Potter, which uses magic to make the caster's wand briefly point north.
- 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.
- 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 the Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Demigod Files short story "The Sword of Hades", Persephone gives Percy, Thalia and Nico a flower that points the direction the thief who stole the titular sword is in. It loses petals the closer said thief gets to escaping.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- His Dark Materials: The Alethiometer ("Truth-meter") is often likened to a golden compass (hence the name of the first book), having four hands and many different symbols around the edges. It is stated to always tell the absolute truth, if one knows how to read it. A question can be posed by pointing at three symbols with the user-controlled hands, and the fourth will then move of its own accord and point at symbols in sequence to deliver the answer. Since each symbol can have dozens of meanings, most people who can read one rely on extensive reference books and can take weeks to decipher an answer to a single question.
Live Action Television
- 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 MacGuffin of the Half-Arc Season.)
- Once Upon a Time:
- In the finale of the first season Rumpelstiltskin enchants Prince Charming's ring so that it will lead him directly to Snow White.
- In another episode Captain Hook leads Emma up the beanstalk to steal a compass from the giant that will let them find a way between worlds back to Storybrooke.
- The Spinoff Once Upon a Time in Wonderland has Cyrus' Lost and Found, a compass which points to the thing you desire most.
- The ol' Gilbert pocketwatch on The Vampire Diaries was in actuality a vampire detector.
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.
- 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.
- Dragon magazine #220, "Arcane Lore" article "Sea Magic"
- The priest spell Home Port allows the recipient to know which way to go to return to a ship's home port.
- The wizard spell Compass enchants a device so that it always points in a direction decided by the caster. This isn't just limited to compass directions: it can be toward the ship's destination or its home port.
- Dragon magazine #235
- Article "Mage on Deck!" The spell Absolute Location informs the caster of the direction and distance to a known landmark such as a port city, an island or a mountain.
- Article "Arcane Lore". The Land Call spell allows the caster to know the direction to any port they're familiar with.
- 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.
- The Hole-Delver's Catalog has the Enchanted Lodestone. It points to the nearest source of low-grade zinc.
- James Lee Quatermain's compass in Deadfall Adventures points toward the nearest treasure item, when such an item is close enough. The rest of the time, the needle drifts idly.
- Phylacteries, in the Dragon Age universe, perform this function. Mages in the Circles of Magi are required to give a blood sample when they're first brought to a Circle, and should that mage escape or otherwise go missing, the Templars can use the phylactery containing their blood to find them.
- The compass is ubiquitous to The Legend of Zelda games. It generally shows the location of all treasures in a dungeon as well as that of the boss.
- In the original The Legend of Zelda, it only shows the boss's room.
- In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, it shows the boss's room as well as the main treasure of the dungeon.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, it shows all treasure chests, the boss's location, and also causes a chime to sound when a key is located in the current room.
- From The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time onward, it shows all treasure chests and the boss's location.
- 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.
- Luigi's quest in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door revolves around one of these. According to Luigi, the face of the so-called Marvelous Compass was split into seven shards, and each shard points to the location of the next.
- In Rogue Legacy you can get a compass which points towards a very secret bonus chamber.
- Soulbringer allowed you two different compasses at the same time: the usual and a magic one that points to hex stones.
- One item in Spelunky is a compass that points to the level exit when it's off-screen. It becomes incredibly useful in area 3 which consists almost entirely of rocks and ice hanging over the yawning abyss.
- In The Elder Scrolls, the ancient Aldmer, ancestors of the modern races of Mer (Elves), could create "waystones" - crystalline balls that rotate on their axis toward a specific direction. Topal the Pilot, the legendary Bold Explorer and poet who was the first to discover and explore Tamriel during the Merethic Era, had a "north-east pointing" waystone which he used to navigate.
- In Looking for Group there is a compass that uses a person's blood to locate them.
- In Mystery Babylon, one of the three gifts which Red gives to Zero is a magic compass. Rather than pointing North, it always points towards Heaven's Champion. It also only functions for Zero, burning the hand of anyone else who tries to touch it.
- Birdman episode "Meets Birdgirl". When the villain steals some hydrogen bombs, Birdman uses his "atomic compass" (which is "tuned to the wavelength of the bombs") to track them down.
- One episode of The Legend of Zelda had Link and Zelda using a magic compass to locate parts of the Triforce of Wisdom, which had been split into three pieces.
- In The Pirates of Dark Water, Ren has a necklace that shoots a blue beam in the direction of a nearby Treasure of Rule.
- Gargamel and his magically-created clone made one from a magic stone that would help him track down Smurfs in The Smurfs episode "Papa Smurf, Papa Smurf."
- Star Wars Rebels: In "Twin Suns", Ezra uses two pieces of the broken holocrons this way, to try and find Obi-Wan Kenobi. They instead lead him to the missing piece of the Sith holocron, which Maul used to lure him to Tatooine.
- While obviously not actually magic, some GPS devices and apps (such as those used in "geocaching") work like this.