What happens in a magic spike?

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Developing the Commonplace-verse meant revisiting physics, history, psychology, geography, and culture through the lens of magic. This fictional PSA explores some of the meteorological effects of an ambient magic field.

What happens in a magic spike?

Simply put, the level of magic in an area goes up very quickly and unexpectedly. These spikes are unpredictable, although actions can be taken to prevent them.

Influences and potential causes

Magic runs on and is attracted to energy. Things that may increase the probability of a magic spike:

  • Performing magic, especially several large spells at once
  • The presence of variants, as their internal magic can attract more magic
  • High emotional energy levels, especially in large groups of people, such as:
    • Excited fans at a sporting event, convention, or other gathering
    • Nervous people traveling in a dangerous neighborhood
    • People suffering high levels of stress
  • Buildup of ambient magic from previous spikes

Some areas of the city have a naturally higher concentration of magical energy and are therefore more susceptible to magic spikes.

Weather may also be a factor, as spikes seem to happen more often during thunderstorms or steady rain. Some scientists have hypothesized that this is related to rain as running water. Others have pointed out that magic is historically supposed to be hampered by running water. (Still others say that the magic may just enjoy subverting expectations.)


  • Any electronics not protected by steel or iron casing explode due to an influx of energy.
  • High winds (between an 8 and a 12 on the Beaufort scale recorded) arise.
  • Thick fog also arises, lowering visibility. It often glows. (Scientists have yet to figure out why it glows.)
  • Temperatures drop by between 20°-50°F as energy is gathered into magical activity (i.e., a pleasant day at 70°F could suddenly become chilly or even drop below freezing).
  • Surfaces such as streets, walkways, or even building interiors will ice over.


Evacuate to a sanctuary immediately. Magic has no effect within a designated place of worship, such as a church, synagogue, mosque, or shrine. These areas are collectively termed “sanctuaries” and should be clearly marked on all maps. Most sanctuaries keep supplies like blankets, towels, first-aid kids, wristbands, de-icing salt, laser knives, and laser flashlights on hand.

  • Contact the guard as soon as possible.
  • Stay away from electronics to avoid being hit with shrapnel.
  • Keep blankets and wraps on hand.
  • If you are driving during a magic spike, pull over. It can keep you from getting in an accident, losing your way, or driving into a higher and more dangerous concentration of magic.
  • Fairies should wear wristbands to keep their own internal magic from attracting more ambient magic.


In the event of a magic spike, always contact the guard as soon as it is safe to do so. If electronic communications are down, find a pathbox. Pathboxes (telepath boxes) are one of the stablest magical inventions of the century. They communicate directly with the office of the guard via non-individual telepathy, meaning anyone of any magic level can use them. They will not be affected in a magic spike.

The guard is trained and equipped to disperse the fog using atom bubbles. These small bombs have a thin shell which pops on impact to release a cloud of rapidly-moving atoms, generating dry heat that burns off fog for about a 10-foot radius per six inches of sphere diameter.

  • Laser knives and other hot objects can also be used to disperse the fog in case of emergency, but will be considerably less effective.
  • The best thing to do is to call the guard and stay in sanctuary.


Magic spikes can cause physical and mental damage. Be prepared to deal with both.


  • Shrapnel: Exploding electronics can cause injury to different parts of the body.
  • Cold: Sudden temperature changes can trigger asthma, runny noses, sore throats, muscular aches, eye irritation, and hypothermia.
  • Weather: People may be soaked, knocked down by high winds, or lost in fog or heavy rain.

Mental health:

  • Magic spikes drain and redirect energy, so people in the affected area will often experience exhaustion, anhedonia, distraction, irritability, fear, blankness, shame, nightmares and/or hunger.
  • Fairies’ internal magic may pick up redirected energy and become supercharged, leading them to be excessively angry, scared, sad, or inappropriately exhilarated.
  • Extended exposure to multiple spikes may contribute to chronic depression or anxiety.

Be aware of the effect of magic spikes on your health. Tell your doctor or therapist if you are repeatedly exposed to magic spikes so they can recommend additional protection, coping mechanisms, or a lifestyle change.

Be patient with others during and after a magic spike, as they will often have difficulty dealing with the surge of unexpected emotions.


  • “Variants are magic-sensitive to a very limited degree: they can perform one or two spells, usually involuntarily, and/or possess some visual anomaly (visual variance). Magic attracts magic, allowing the variant to act as a battery but also increasing the likelihood of a magic spike. Although a variant’s magic deteriorates over time, its inert remains continue to attract ambient magic.” — Fairies in Historical Context, p. 10
  • Fairies who want their internal magic temporarily shut off wear wristbands – decorative bracelets containing steel or iron. The ring of metal deadens their internal magic (although not the magic around them). This allows fairies to safely work in situations where magic could be dangerous, like around electronics or during a magic spike.

October 28th, 2017