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Wizarding School - NOT a Harry Potter rip-off

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fruitstripegum Take me or leave me Relationship Status: Singularity
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Aug 24th 2013 at 4:35:39 PM

I've been thinking about writing a story set in a Wizarding School. Here's what I have so far:

  • It’s a One-Gender School (all female)
  • The school sport is a version of lacrosse played on winged horses
  • There are 6 school houses – Diamond House represented by silver, Emerald House represented by green, Ruby House represented by red, Sapphire House represented by blue, Coral House represented by pink and Amethyst House represented by purple
  • All students must take an entrance test to determine their skill, and they are sorted into the house which represents their skill
  • All students wear a uniformed color coded to their house
  • You can’t be a mage unless you are born with a “gift” – a mystic power that gives you the ability to use magic
  • The subjects are: Astronomy, Alchemy, Potions, Flying, Fortune Telling, Foreign Language, Spell Casting, P.E, Origins of Magic, Music, Art, Home Economics, Magical Botany, Magical Animal Care, Healing, Maths, Shapeshifting (I may change some of this, if I can figure out what should be changed)

So, what do we think? Some feedback would be appreciated.

Meklar from Milky Way Relationship Status: RelationshipOutOfBoundsException: 1
Aug 24th 2013 at 5:40:26 PM

Purple is kind of similar to pink. How about swapping out coral (which isn't really a gem anyway) for topaz (yellow) or opal (black)?

Also, how is it that 'alchemy' and 'potions' are two different subjects? Is one of them theoretical and the other one practical?

It'd be handy to know what age range of students this is intended for, too.

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Jaqen Citizen from gimbling in the wabe
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Aug 24th 2013 at 5:54:20 PM

Not Hogwarts?

Teachers are competent. Headmaster is not evil. Dark Lord graduated from a different school. If you really Need Dark Lord to come from the school, don't give him a special award for murdering Humans.

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KnightofLsama Servant of the Golden Lady of Chaos from The Sea of Chaos Relationship Status: My elf kissing days are over
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Aug 24th 2013 at 11:59:35 PM

[up][up] It depends on what sort of purple. A darker, royal purple isn't going to be mistaken for pink easily (and a light or medium blue won't get mixed up with it either).

On the uniform issue, it might be better to have an actual uniform with the house colour as a trim or something.

As for subjects... that seems like a lot. You might want to trim that down to core subjects and additional electives.

Also, the single sport competition is going to invite comparisons to Hogwarts. It might be better to make it as part of a suite of inter-house competitions, including other sports.

edited 25th Aug '13 12:05:05 AM by KnightofLsama

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Luthen Char! from Down Under Burgess Relationship Status: Playing Cupid
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Aug 25th 2013 at 12:42:53 AM

First question: is house sorting about specialities/inclinations or grading. So Silver is just better?

Points for mundane subjects.

I'd second the Topaz/Yellow suggestion. Especially since coral is already a colour - and a very red pink at that.

If it's a boarding school then comparisons are fairly inevitable. You could make it a day school.

Also is magic behind a masquerade?

To make it less like Hogwarts make sure that the school isn't the centre point for the world's society. So don't let the headmistress be a (ambiguous) head of the government.

Another thing to avoid is two main feuding houses and making the other four unexplored. Famous Hufflepuffs?

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Aug 25th 2013 at 2:01:07 AM

Get rid of the weird magical sport™ that really looks like a Harry Potter ripoff, besides of not making a lot of sense. Despite being magical school, sports is still presumably phys-ed. It's not like people in pre-tech school do their phys-ed with remote controlled robots either.

Aug 25th 2013 at 3:33:02 AM

Also, how is it that 'alchemy' and 'potions' are two different subjects? Is one of them theoretical and the other one practical?
One is arcane, one is mundane (think chemistry and cooking)?

On sport, instead of one sport for the whole school, give each year a different 'premier' (played, not just between the houses, but between schools) sport. Or a single sport, but having to involve at least one individual from each year.

On subjects, I see you have a good range there, including several 'muggle' ones, which is actually an improvement to my mind over at least some of the other schools, which seem to focus on magic, to the exception of those subject which allow them to mix in with the other 90% of the population.

Also, what's the masquerade like (if there is a masquerade)? I mean, if you want to get away from the Hogwarts thing you could set it in an 'actual' university town next to a forest, with the actual magical bit of the campus masked into the forest.

You may also want to put some thought into what age the students are when they start. If you're trying to maintain a masquerade, you may also want to figure out A) how children are selected to get sent there, and B) how do you maintain the masquerade when children are generally not good at keeping secrets ("Mrs Palmer can make stuff fly" is guaranteed to raise eyebrows, and eventually questions).

edited 25th Aug '13 3:37:47 AM by MattII

fruitstripegum Take me or leave me Relationship Status: Singularity
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Aug 25th 2013 at 6:11:40 AM

Well, these seem like very good ideas.

By the way, I'm not planning on having ANY Big Bad - it's sort of a Harry Potter meets Enid Blyton's boarding school stories.

And Melkar, I'm a little confused by what you mean. Is Alchemy really the same as Potions?

edited 25th Aug '13 6:15:23 AM by fruitstripegum

Aug 25th 2013 at 7:30:41 AM

Depending on your definition of alchemy, yes. Applied alchemy tended to cross over with medicine, searching for potions and elixirs to cure illness or prolong life, which caused the association of alchemy with magic potions in fantasy. The philosophy behind alchemy, 'theoretical' alchemy, is more interested in the properties of matter and the transition between various states of matter.

In my own modern-day-wizardry setting, alchemy is kind of the magical twin brother of material sciences. Alchemy can be used to enhance or weaken certain metaphysical traits of matter. Potion-brewing is a minor side effect: Alchemists can enhance the 'solvent' aspect of liquid to the point where it becomes able to store 'dissolved' magic.

Said setting also contains a boarding school for magically gifted youngsters, by the way. The first item on its list of rules is 'This Is Not Hogwarts'. Attempts by students and the more childish members of the staff to come up with some kind of airborne ballgame resulted in several embarrassing and painful incidents, after which the list of rules was expanded to include rule number 47: 'Seriously, This Isn't Hogwarts. We Mean It. Also, No More Levitation Spells. This Is Why We Cannot Have Nice Things.' note  Whether or not people actually got the hint this time is still not entirely certain.

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fruitstripegum Take me or leave me Relationship Status: Singularity
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Aug 25th 2013 at 8:39:54 AM

[up] Well, I'll keep that in mind.

By the way, I've decided to replace Diamond House with Topaz House represented by yellow (and I think the heroine might end up there), but the other houses are staying the same.

edited 25th Aug '13 8:40:07 AM by fruitstripegum

Meklar from Milky Way Relationship Status: RelationshipOutOfBoundsException: 1
Aug 25th 2013 at 11:55:23 AM

And Melkar, I'm a little confused by what you mean. Is Alchemy really the same as Potions?
Well, to me, 'alchemy' brings to mind those medieval proto-chemists who mixed together weird stuff in cauldrons, usually to try to turn lead into gold or create some kind of universal medicine or whatever. Our modern ideas of 'alchemy' and 'magic potions' come from basically the same roots. In universes where magic actually works, I would consider them pretty much the same thing, or the latter perhaps as a subcategory of the former.

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fruitstripegum Take me or leave me Relationship Status: Singularity
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Aug 26th 2013 at 6:58:55 AM

Hmmm...well maybe I'll merge Alchemy and Potions, ala Sky Rim. And Cookery, Art, Music and Drama might become school clubs.

By the way, the sport I mentioned? I probably should've mentioned, it's gonna be against other schools (I'm aiming for more "Enid Blyton" and less "Harry Potter"), but there MIGHT be a few other sports.

And I probably should've mentioned this as well, but there's gonna be an all boys school playing a minor role in the story (maybe as love interests?). And the witches and wizards MIGHT not use wands, but Magical Gestures. I still have no idea what language the spells are gonna be in, although I'm thinking maybe a combination of French, German and Russian. Or maybe a sort of butchered Italian?

edited 26th Aug '13 7:17:14 AM by fruitstripegum

Aug 26th 2013 at 10:41:01 AM

Depending on how conservative the school is, drama might be seen as unladylike, at least enough to not be offered as a class. There would still be school plays and stuff, I would think. The rest of them sound pretty spot-on for the kind of school you are describing, so you should definitely keep them.

As for the language, I can think of no reason those languages would be more fundamentally effective for magic than English. At least Latin had cultural things attached to it that mean it makes a sort if sense. That said, you could always have it be an affectation of the school. Or perhaps doing magic in one's native tongue is especially difficult.

I would be inclined to have magic be composed, like poetry. As well as the actual words, things like metre and rhyme could matter. Just a thought, but something like that feels like it could fit quite well.

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Meklar from Milky Way Relationship Status: RelationshipOutOfBoundsException: 1
Aug 26th 2013 at 12:43:03 PM

As for the language, I can think of no reason those languages would be more fundamentally effective for magic than English.
English is considered one of the most expressive languages in the world, so that would suggest that it ought to be more effective for magic (insofar as 'spoken magic' makes any logical sense in the first place).

On the other hand, it has been said by some historical figure (maybe Johann Fichte) that german is an especially good language for philosophy. Maybe that would give it some advantage?

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Aug 26th 2013 at 2:22:22 PM

The reason (that I've most often seen cited) for that expressiveness is that it's a very mongrel language. Personally I have my doubts about the claims of being particularly more expressive than German or French or Chinese, I suspect it's more down to English being the lingua franca (because the current and previous great empires both speak/spoke it), but that mongrelness could be used to justify English being unsuitable for magic. Of course, this brings up a whole host of ugly 'cultural purity' implications that you probably don't want.

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
KnightofLsama Servant of the Golden Lady of Chaos from The Sea of Chaos Relationship Status: My elf kissing days are over
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Aug 26th 2013 at 3:12:18 PM

[up] English's expressiveness comes from it's over-sized vocabulary which in turn comes from its hybrid nature and propensity for borrowing words from other languages it encounters. Its a noted feature that when Germanic Old English met Romance Norman French, a lot of the stuff that came from the French side became more specific in the resulting Middle English. For example mutton came from the French for sheep but we kept the Germanic version sheep as the general term for the animal while the Romance derived mutton became a specific term for the meat of the animal.

Cookery, Art, Music and Drama might become school clubs.

It might be an idea to have those as 'cultural electives'. For example compulsory Maths, P.E and at least one 'cultural subject' but students get to pick which one.

Welcome to the Sea of Chaos
Aug 26th 2013 at 3:43:40 PM

The way I went with magic is that the rituals of spellcasting are a mnemotic aid to the actual casting, which is entirely mental. You could cast a spell in the form of completely meaningless syllables if you originally learned it that way. So...casting language depends on how you learned the spell, which in turn tends to boil down to the preferences of your teacher(s) and tradition in general. This allows for both ominous latin incantations and more understandable plain-language spells...or even Calling Your Attacks in cantonese or japanese. Or, if the fancy strikes you, Harry Potter pseudolatin, but you'd have to be prepared for quite a bit of mockery :P.

Reality is for those who lack imagination.
ShanghaiSlave Giver of Lame Names from YKTTW Relationship Status: is commanded to— WANK!
Aug 27th 2013 at 6:28:58 AM

avoid "houses— try class/grade segregation, like in Baka To Test To Shoukanjuu, since you already are segregating them by skill level, this fits well— also avoid using the british boarding school system. that will distance your school a bit away from hogwarts (or Gunnerkrigg court).

"all girls school".. so lacrosse and horses makes sense, but to me "magic sports" sounds pretty Harry Potter. how about a magic glee club or something?

try having "esoteric magics" as subjects. like Voodoo, Omyouji, and Wu Xing, also, Ninjitsu. HP was pretty western in it's magics. also, try something other than spellcasting, maybe, wordless invocations (magic circles, gestures a la Avatar The Last Airbender, or some other unique way to do magic).

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Belisaurius Artisan of Auspicious Artifacts from Big Blue Nowhere Relationship Status: Having tea with Cthulhu
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lordGacek KVLFON from Kansas of Europe
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Aug 29th 2013 at 3:04:58 PM

"Esoteric magics" sound like a good idea for a class devoted to providing the students with a quick round-up of differing magical traditions. Sort of like a class on international relations, stuff like that. Or perhaps even better, the magical variant of "[Insert Foreign Culture] Studies" (makes me think of magician weaboos crowding the Onmyodo or what it's called class, heh heh). I'm not sure if I'm explaining it well, but I guess you get what I'm trying to say.

edited 29th Aug '13 3:05:34 PM by lordGacek

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ShanghaiSlave Giver of Lame Names from YKTTW Relationship Status: is commanded to— WANK!
Aug 29th 2013 at 10:37:36 PM

[up] I wasn't thinking of that when i suggested it but foreign culture studies is a great idea! pretty hilarious Take That! too. i just pictured a class of tweens gushing about their favorite omyodo shows. assuming this is set in our world and anime is as it is in real life.


[up][up] that's a character type like the Magic Knight and the YKTTWed Magic Marksman. was actually thinking more in the lines of Supernatural Martial Arts, Magical Gesture, Full-Contact Magic, Simplified Spellcasting... basically Spell Construction other than saying things out loud while holding a stick. it's up to the OP how she executes that.

Is dast der Zerstorer? Odar die Schopfer?
fruitstripegum Take me or leave me Relationship Status: Singularity
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Aug 30th 2013 at 12:09:45 PM

These all sound like good ideas, but aren't we getting a little TOO Dungeons And Dragons?

And Shanghai Slave, I'm NOT segregating the girls by skill level - the houses are similar to the Hogwarts houses. It's just that there's more of them.

Aug 30th 2013 at 3:33:20 PM

It would make sense, with such eclectic subjects, for this school to teach at the university and/or post-university level, making it a magical college which offers non-magical courses as well to keep things interesting and not have to share its paying customers with mundane schools cool

Why girls only? Sexual segregation in higher education is an awful idea (to be fair, sexual segregation in school is an Idiot Ball idea to begin with). Selection to houses has already been dealt with to my satisfaction in this thread.

If it's NOT an institution of higher learning for adults, what's with all the crazy subjects? I'd imagine a pre-U level school for magically gifted that didn't actively try to destroy the lives of its students (see also: Hogwarts) would include much of the same subjects a normal school would, with an added subject or two for magic as the main difference, where students at lower grades would learn to keep their gift under control, perform exercise-type tasks with it, and learn the laws and rules that come with having this probably-immense power at their disposal just because biology.

In a modern society with magic these rules and regulations would probably be very padded and time-consuming to learn, especially for children not accustomed to studying law. But just as Real Life practitioners of highly regulated activities, such as shooting firearms, have to bone up on a lot of legislation, practitioners of magic would have to do the same - only Up to Eleven because magic with so many applications would spawn legislation of tremendous scope and complexity. Which EVERYONE with the Gift would need to learn, else they land themselves in prison until the second coming of Crystal Dragon Jesus.

Teaching children magical flight and how to use their gift for prescience or alchemy sounds like a horrible, horrible idea from which disaster must inevitably result (see also: Hogwarts).

edited 30th Aug '13 3:34:43 PM by rottenvenetic

Aug 31st 2013 at 1:57:30 AM

Gender segregation of schools actually leads to better performance for girls. More importantly, it's a staple of the kind of fiction OP is trying to evoke.

As for the subjects, the only really important things missing there are maths and science (notably two of the subjects in which girls gain the most benefit from being in an all-girls school). Science may be skippable, depending on the culture of your wizards etc. overall, but I'd think that maths would definitely be taught.

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
ShanghaiSlave Giver of Lame Names from YKTTW Relationship Status: is commanded to— WANK!
Sep 1st 2013 at 12:05:46 AM

And Shanghai Slave, I'm NOT segregating the girls by skill level - the houses are similar to the Hogwarts houses. It's just that there's more of them.
are you sure?

*There are 6 school houses ...
  • All students must take an entrance test to determine their skill, and they are sorted into the house which represents their skill
and my quoted example bakatest segregates student by performance, the dumbest are in F and the best are in A. yet all classes can reasonably up any other class. so in reality, they're only segregated by how they performed in the test, not how actually smart they are. just like how Harry got in Gryffindor despite being Slytherin material.

Is dast der Zerstorer? Odar die Schopfer?

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