The word "ambitious" isn't really sufficient to describe the scope of what they want to implement, is it?
The whole thing was fascinating, but one thing that stood out for me was the distinction they made between magic that's innate and magic that's learned (as through research). One of the first essays I wrote (around 1993) was basically a description of a categorization of systems of magic
and the kinds of social structures you get depending on which system of magic exists.
This was a four-quadrant model in which one axis was whether the power for magic was internal or external, and the other axis was whether anyone could use magic or only some people can. This yielded four major ways in which magic is usually represented:
- Inherited (some people, internal control): a few people get magic ability genetically
- Owned (some people, external control): magic is bound into objects
- Instinctive (all people, internal control): everybody has a different magical ability
- Learned (all people, external control): magic is learned through study and practice
These cover most of the most popular systems of magic, but not all. Although there are magical objects in Tolkien's Middle-Earth, for example, a crucial form of magic is supplication: pleading in extremity for aid.
Which brings me to another essay I wrote (in 2006) on the Lyndon Hardy novel Master of the Five Magics
The story in this novel was fine, but what inspired me to write about it was the system of five distinct magical styles that the author had his protagonist apply:
- Thaumaturgy: manipulation of matter through incantations and will
- Alchemy: combine and refine materials to get desired effects
- Magic: imbue objects with powers through repeated rituals
- Sorcery: spend your lifeforce through a magical incantation
- Wizardry: summon and control demons
Again, this list covers systems pretty well, but it's not complete, either. For example, it leaves out necromancy (similar to Hardy's wizardry but not identical), which (going by the Adams's wish list) is already a thing in Dwarf Fortress.
It's great fun to see -- even in outline -- other people grappling with this idea of how to represent different varieties of magic in computer games, and what the consequences of enabling particular systems of magic may be on the societies in worlds where these forms of magic exist.