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Callos_DeTerran
2014-07-19, 01:56 PM
This is part question and part starting a discussion type thing, but for people who haven't been following Paizo's new releases for August, they're releasing a fair number of sci-fi tie-in products to Pathfinder (Iron Gods AP, People of the Stars, Technology Guide, Starship Map Squares, Numeria) though they've touched on that subject in the past with their Distant Worlds book. Now I know that Spelljammer used to be a thing a while back and, from what little I've heard, people really liked it or at least it had some vocal fans out there.

Thing is, I've been seeing signs of discontent on the Paizo forums (albeit not much mind you) about sci-fi peanut butter getting mixed into their fantasy chocolate but not really any explanations about...well...why they are unhappy. Personally, I've always been a huge fan of combining sci-fi and fantasy with one another, even if I haven't always had the tools to combine the two together at the time and I was an avid reader of the Weatherlight Saga and the idea of a ship traveling between planes (worlds) fascinated me. If nothing else it seems like a wonderful change of pace from typical fantasy settings, but now I'm a little curious about where other people stand on the subject!

Do you enjoy mixing fantasy and sci-fi or no?
If you don't, could you try and explain why?
If you do, how do you try and mix them? In other words do you just dive into the deep end of mixing the two, do you just stick the proverbial toe in by having just specific parts of your world involved with sci-fi, or is it more just light seasoning that you use to spice up an otherwise 'mundane' adventure?

Lord Raziere
2014-07-19, 02:10 PM
1. Yes, I do like to mix them

2. well I myself enjoy sci-fi fantasy mixing, the reasons why people don't like it seem to be, that they want their fantasy "pure" because they want this "mystery" feel to it, and that sci-fi somehow ruins that- hey thats just what I heard from people on this subject dude, I don't understand it myself.

3. How I try to mix them, is that I go all in. I try to figure out how mages react to technology and how technologists react to mages, I try to make a society that integrates both into it and what conflicts would arise from magic and technology working together, what changes this would make and so on. I see no problem playing an orc paladin fighting robots possessed by a demonic entity...by using holy laser guns and laser swords, while on a space station powered by a ritual circle that draws energy from the plane of hope. (and before you say anything about superheroes: Not good enough. they don't change the world enough)

Eldan
2014-07-19, 02:11 PM
That's really just another form of Fantasy to me. It can work well (Shadowrun) or be a miss (Star Wars), but that kind of fantasy is really done all over. Has usually little to do with SciFi, though.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-19, 02:27 PM
not really, Shadowrun is the only one that comes close to my idea of a sci-fi fantasy mix, and it doesn't have magic changing the tech of society enough, sure it wrought huge changes, but there is no integrating magic with the rest of life and such, its still pure tech, which just makes it cyberpunk WITH WIZARDS! to me, and that just isn't enough for me.

and if its done all over, I don't see it man. to me, everything seems to dominated by either pure fantasy or pure sci-fi with maybe some weak psychic powers added in, but that hardly counts to me.

Mastikator
2014-07-19, 02:50 PM
I dislike it and refuse to acknowledge a mixture of being sci-fi. It's just fantasy in space with a futuristic theme. Sci-fi is based on science, it's incompatible with fantasy.
Sci-fi should be entirely materialistic IMO, there can be people who practice religions or believe in ghosts, but no spirits or ghosts. If it's not potentially explainable with science then it has no place in sci-fi, and that categorically excludes fantasy.

Mark Hall
2014-07-19, 02:54 PM
Sci-fi is a form of fantasy, but I don't necessarily want sci-fi elements in all my fantasy. I like my standard fantasy, without sci-fi elements, and the capacity to mess up the combination makes me leery of mixing the two, especially when you're adding science fiction to an established fantasy setting, rather than designing a sci-fi/fantasy mix from the outset.

Take, for example, Forgotten Realms. You can add a bit of steampunk around the edges (Gondians and gnomes and smoke powder) and the setting remains pretty solidly fantasy. However, if you toss in laser rifles, and the capacity to recharge and reuse them, a lot about the game changes. The guys using the swords are now dead meat, burned to a crisp from 1000 feet away. Griffon riders of Waterdeep? Skeet. Sure, there's magic and gods and all sorts of things still around, but once laser rifles become common, a lot of other aspects of the setting change.

Compare that to, say, Fading Suns. Where psychic powers, theurgy and high technology exist side-by-side by design. That mix of fantasy and sci-fi is ok with me, because you're not changing an established setting, but rather creating a setting that works in.

Arbane
2014-07-20, 12:07 AM
Star Wars leaps instantly to mind, with Warhammer 40K close behind it.

Hytheter
2014-07-20, 12:38 AM
Sci-fi is based on science, it's incompatible with fantasy....If it's not potentially explainable with science then it has no place in sci-fi, and that categorically excludes fantasy.
Yeah because all sci-fi is totally scientifically accurate.:smallconfused:

ChaosArchon
2014-07-20, 12:57 AM
Yeah because all sci-fi is totally scientifically accurate.:smallconfused:

You're telling me that I can't break Newtonian physics and go faster than the speed of light, how dare you! :smallwink:

Ravens_cry
2014-07-20, 02:24 AM
I tend to mix science fiction in my fantasy, and I don't mean space ships and stuff. Well, not always anyway.
Rather, I like to think about the implications. For example, I had this idea that elves wouldn't have much of a written tradition in this one world because they are so long lived that it wouldn't be necessary. The history and knowledge could be stored much better in people. They would have a very strong oral history though, obviously. Another question I thought not asked enough is 'Where do Dwarves get their food'? My idea is that the mountains were basically fortresses, castles, with two distinct cultures that were at odds, the main population considering the fortress dwarves to be greedy warmongers and the fortress dwarves consider the main population to be ungrateful bumpkins.
Of course, all this leads to conflict, and conflict is the catalyst of story.

Knaight
2014-07-20, 02:57 AM
It sounds more like they're mixing space fantasy with their medieval fantasy than anything. They're distinct genres for a reason, and there are settings that are firmly in one camp or the other and work better that way. These books are also optional, so I really don't see what the fuss is about.

As for my preferences, I do mix the two occasionally. Heck, one of my current games is centered around two locations - a wizard's convent and a crashed star ship, and there's as much mixing as one would expect out of that, if not more.

Eldan
2014-07-20, 08:13 AM
Yeah because all sci-fi is totally scientifically accurate.:smallconfused:

It doesn't have to be accurate. But I think Science Fiction is fundamentally about a different mentality than fantasy. Fantasy is about imagination. Science Fiction is about conjecture. Imagining a world changed by new developments. Those developments can be realistic or not, but from there, the world should develop along lines that make at least some sense. And I think trying to incorporate at least potentially possible science is a part of it as well.

It's the difference between Space Opera and Science Fiction.

Premise: we have lasers and FTL drives.
Space Opera: let's use those for space piracy, treasure hunting on Mars and sword fights against alien cyborgs on Jupiter!
Science Fiction: now that the galaxy opened up, how would society on earth change to reflect that? What kind of people would join an interstellar colonialization effort? How do military doctrines change? Which expertise and resources become valuable and which lose value?

As for fantasy mixed with or disguised as science fiction: Star Wars. Mass Effect. The Marvel movies. Doctor Who. Shadowrun. Warhammer 40k. The Elder Scrolls.

Prince Raven
2014-07-20, 08:48 AM
As a Dark Heresy GM I very much enjoy Science Fantasy.

Mastikator
2014-07-20, 09:05 AM
Yeah because all sci-fi is totally scientifically accurate.:smallconfused:
Should've written "all good sci-fi". My bad.

Kalmageddon
2014-07-20, 09:22 AM
Should've written "all good sci-fi". My bad.

So basically the only good sci-fi is based around current technologies and the current understanding of scientific facts? So basically not science fiction... :smallconfused:

Prime32
2014-07-20, 10:25 AM
Take, for example, Forgotten Realms. You can add a bit of steampunk around the edges (Gondians and gnomes and smoke powder) and the setting remains pretty solidly fantasy. However, if you toss in laser rifles, and the capacity to recharge and reuse them, a lot about the game changes. The guys using the swords are now dead meat, burned to a crisp from 1000 feet away.But magic is already better at burning things to a crisp from a distance. :smallconfused: When a large chunk of the populace have the ability to do not only that but teleport, shapeshift, read minds, create illusions, see into the future, control the weather and bring the dead back to life (including themselves), that's far more disruptive to the idea of "guys using swords".

Besides, it didn't stop Star Wars from having swords.

Man on Fire
2014-07-20, 10:47 AM
I'm superhero fan so I have no problem with mixing the two. I see no problem with Doctor Strange existing in one universe with Silver Surfer and one of my favorite superhero teams, Runaways, features a witch and a cyborg/android.

What I hate however is "Magic is unexplained science" approach. No, don't do that. Magic is magic, science is science, best if the two simply cannot work together. Making magic unexplaied science makes it stop being magic and robs the setting from it's fantasy, now making it all very silly science fiction. If you need that in order to explain your wolrdbuilding, okay, but don't pretend it's a fantasy story, even if you have living suit of armor riding dragon that drops bombs full of werewolf goblins.

Eldan
2014-07-20, 12:23 PM
The thing is, though, if you try to approach at least character-building semi-realistically, any scientist around will absolutely want to study magic. Quantify it. Qualify it. Run tests and statistics on it. Gather data. And I can also guarantee, from personal experience, that the harder something is to study, the more scientists will want to.

Mark Hall
2014-07-20, 02:05 PM
But magic is already better at burning things to a crisp from a distance. :smallconfused: When a large chunk of the populace have the ability to do not only that but teleport, shapeshift, read minds, create illusions, see into the future, control the weather and bring the dead back to life (including themselves), that's far more disruptive to the idea of "guys using swords".

Besides, it didn't stop Star Wars from having swords.

Not a large portion of the population. Some. Enough. But Elkmonster the wizard had to study for years to be able to toss a single cantrip, and then practice for years more to be able to throw fireballs. But where things change with technology is the ability for average people to do it. You can toss a laser rifle to Billy from the farm and he can incinerate people from a thousand feet away. And with manufacturing, you can give a laser rifle to Billy and every person from his village.

Star Wars had swords, yes, but they were also a setting designed to include such things... and swords were primarily a prestige weapon for wizard-monks, who had the ability to effectively people armed with lasers. You don't see a lot of non-jedi running around with swords in the movies... because most people know not to bring a knife to a gunfight.

Introducing technology to a traditional fantasy setting is disruptive to that setting. Designing a setting to include technology is fine, though not always what I want.

Thrudd
2014-07-20, 02:23 PM
Science fiction does not automatically mean everyone has energy weapons and space travel, nor does fantasy automatically mean a strictly medieval society and technology. I love the mixture of science fiction and fantasy, in different degrees. It is all fiction, so there is no reason to limit what can be accomplished or explained. I suppose "hard" science fiction does not mix well with fairy-tale style medieval or classical fantasy, but these are the extremes.

You could develop a world with both advanced technology, space travel, and magic (as Fading Suns, or even WH40k, parts of the cosmic Marvel Universe). You could develop a medieval or classical world with magic that has remnants of advanced civilization or some anachronistic technology (Dying Earth, D&D is pretty much this already, or can support this easily). Then you've got pulp swashbuckling sci-fi/fantasy like Barsoom. Manly men and sexy women fighting with swords and rifles on flying ships, psychic powers, genetic engineering, astral projection (I guess?), alien beings and cool names. And how about your gonzo super-science/post apocalyptic world, like "Thundarr the Barbarian". Science fiction or fantasy?


Remember that AC Clarke saying? "Any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic." Magic can have almost any explanation you want, even if the characters in the society don't understand the science behind how it works. As long as the setting is internally consistent and logically thought-out, there is no reason not to use any elements of either type of fiction. You may call a setting that has magic or things which operate in ways unexplainable by current scientific understanding "science fantasy" or "space fantasy" rather than "science fiction", but it's really just a matter of degrees. Even the hardest of hard sci-fi takes some idea and extrapolates it beyond the realm of reality in ways science can not yet accomplish, creating a fictional world.

tomandtish
2014-07-20, 02:37 PM
Not a large portion of the population. Some. Enough. But Elkmonster the wizard had to study for years to be able to toss a single cantrip, and then practice for years more to be able to throw fireballs. But where things change with technology is the ability for average people to do it. You can toss a laser rifle to Billy from the farm and he can incinerate people from a thousand feet away. And with manufacturing, you can give a laser rifle to Billy and every person from his village.

Star Wars had swords, yes, but they were also a setting designed to include such things... and swords were primarily a prestige weapon for wizard-monks, who had the ability to effectively people armed with lasers. You don't see a lot of non-jedi running around with swords in the movies... because most people know not to bring a knife to a gunfight.

Introducing technology to a traditional fantasy setting is disruptive to that setting. Designing a setting to include technology is fine, though not always what I want.

Exactly. For the average person (which includes most soldiers) you'll eventually hit a balance point of cost/ease of use/effectiveness of weapon. In the Star Wars universe that appears to be the blaster.

Lightsabers lose out because (for most people) of ease of use and effectiveness. Unless you are a Jedi (or cybernetically enhanced like Grevious), the odds are that you will kill yourself with it long before you master it. And even if you can use it without killing yourself, most non-Jedi won't won't be able to reliably deflect laser fire, so they are in the position of having brought a knife to a gun fight.

If you are designing a setting that merges the two, what's your balance point? If your world contains laser weapons and swords, why does someone carry a sword when there are laser weapons? Simon Green's "Death Stalker" novels covered this by having laser weapons have a long recharge period. Chemical propellent weapons had fallen out of favor, so you fire your laser weapon then close to hand to hand with the sword. It's actually a pretty big deal when someone finds an old cache of projectile weapons (guns).

Getting the toe wet has happened a long time ago in role-playing. Remember S-3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks? That was a pretty tame exploration, and was pretty easy to self-correct if you felt things went too far.

If you're diving in full-tilt (a world with both magic and tech as significant forces), you'll have to be more careful. In most cases, tech is usually the tool of the masses. It's cheaper, easier to replicate, and easier for anyone to use. Magic is more often limited to secret practitioners, or those in elite positions. Again, look at Simon Green's "Secret Histories", where the Droods basically blend magic and tech to hide in plain sight.

Mastikator
2014-07-20, 11:41 PM
So basically the only good sci-fi is based around current technologies and the current understanding of scientific facts? So basically not science fiction... :smallconfused:

No I said potentially explainable by science, not already explained by science. Those are two different things. For example, a flying machine is today science fact, 300 years ago it would've been science fiction, it however was even back then potentially explainable by science, so it was never supernatural fantasy magic, unlike for example wizards, who explicitly aren't potentially explainable by science (because magic is "the unknowable").
So a hand held laser rifle capable of cutting a man in half is sci-fi, but only because of size issue, not because a laser is necessarily space magic. But Spock being able to read minds with telepathics is on the other hand space magic, it's not sci-fi.
Using "sub space" as a tool to explain away all plot holes without ever explaining what "sub space" is is sci-fi too, but it's bad sci-fi.

Also, good sci-fi doesn't necessarily mean good plot, just like in a movie good acting doesn't necessarily mean good plot.

BWR
2014-07-21, 04:12 AM
It depends on the setting. I have no problems with adding SF elements to otherwise 'standard' fantasy worlds. I love the Dragonstar setting, which is basically straight D&D with starships and ray guns and computers. Mystara, one of my all time favorite settings, has ahistory that is intimately tied to SF elements: Arneson's Blackmoor culture was made a canon part of the backstory, and the explosion of the starship that crashed there thousands of years ago is responsible for how the setting looks now. I loved the old "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" and "Tale of theComet" adventures. Golarion is basically Mystara 2.0 (or is it more like 3.x, considering Bruce Heard's Calidar?) so I'm more than pleased with the inclusion it in that setting.

I wouldn't want it in all settings. Spaceships suddenly crashing on Krynn or Rokugan are not to my taste (though it would hardly make the canon settings worse at this point, come to think of it), but I probably wouldn't mind if FR or Eberron got some high tech elements.

Mr. Mask
2014-07-21, 04:30 AM
Can anyone think of a fantasy styled setting or story which was treated in a scifi manner? Shadowrun comes to mind, asking the question of what if magic and elves suddenly appeared in the world and treats the matter with reasonable speculation.

BWR
2014-07-21, 05:44 AM
Can anyone think of a fantasy styled setting or story which was treated in a scifi manner? Shadowrun comes to mind, asking the question of what if magic and elves suddenly appeared in the world and treats the matter with reasonable speculation.

I don't understand what you are asking. What is a 'sci-fi manner'? What is 'reasonable speculation'?
If you just want magic to be codified and explained as far as it can in universe, there are plenty of settings that do this. Most D&D worlds, for instance.
Reasonable speculation: do you mean actually thinking through consequences of what is posssible and likely to happen in the setting if you have magic that can do X? Again, there are several.

Mr. Mask
2014-07-21, 06:22 AM
Uh, yeah, I'd say that's a reasonable interpretation of what I said. It seems the definition being used for fantasy and scifi is whether you use the word "elf" or "space" in the setting (leading to conflict when stories feature space elves). I see the definitions as being rather separate, from the extreme of fairytales, to the extreme of near present day fiction with a presented speculative element.

Craft (Cheese)
2014-07-21, 06:34 AM
Introducing technology to a traditional fantasy setting is disruptive to that setting. Designing a setting to include technology is fine, though not always what I want.

This, honestly, is what I think is the reason for the grumbling about the addition of (further) space fantasy elements to Golarion: If Numerian laser rifles and space ships are something just anyone can get, then it'll cause strain against the established elements of the setting.

Now, even though I understand this concern, tonal and thematic mish-mash is something already present in full force on Golarion (and is honestly part of the setting's appeal). I think that, so long as the writers are careful, this can be handled well. And Paizo's worldbuilding is reasonably competent: I'm more worried about feat/item/class options messing things up. (Hey look, it's a laser-based gunslinger archetype!)

Man on Fire
2014-07-21, 10:19 AM
The thing is, though, if you try to approach at least character-building semi-realistically, any scientist around will absolutely want to study magic. Quantify it. Qualify it. Run tests and statistics on it. Gather data. And I can also guarantee, from personal experience, that the harder something is to study, the more scientists will want to.

Maybe I got a bit overboard with "not working together at all". I'm okay with scientists studying magic, even with there being Institute of Mystic Studies at every University, magitech and whatever you want, just without making up some "rational" explanations for magic like "really advanced alien technology".

Mark Hall
2014-07-21, 10:35 AM
Maybe I got a bit overboard with "not working together at all". I'm okay with scientists studying magic, even with there being Institute of Mystic Studies at every University, magitech and whatever you want, just without making up some "rational" explanations for magic like "really advanced alien technology".

To me, there are two basic ways to approach magic in a game, especially when the knowledge of physical science is about where it is on Earth today (or better).

1) Magic is completely ineffable; you never know quite what you're going to get with magic, even if you've been practicing it for years.

2) Magic is a science, slightly off-kilter from the science we know, but with repeatable effects from given actions.

The problem with 1 is that it's a lot harder to put into rules... ineffable magic must always be able to go outside its own rules a bit. The 2nd version, however, runs the risk of becoming incredibly common and mechanical, losing some aspect of the "magic" of magic. The 2nd version is what leads to things like the Tippyverse... magic is commodified and reproducible and starts to severely mess with the standard assumptions of the world (as another example, look to Brust's Dragaera, where easy resurrections have wildly changed society.

Callos_DeTerran
2014-07-21, 12:47 PM
This, honestly, is what I think is the reason for the grumbling about the addition of (further) space fantasy elements to Golarion: If Numerian laser rifles and space ships are something just anyone can get, then it'll cause strain against the established elements of the setting.

Having recently acquired he Numerian book and without interrupting the debate at all (hopefully), I can honestly say that Numerian laser weaponry and space ships are not something that just anyone can get, both because of the Technic League's oppressive control of all things technological or xenobiological and the difficulty in actually acquiring them in the first place since you both need to find a piece of the starship that's still intact enough to be salvaged as well as a way inside, survive the dangers within, and than get back out without somebody else taking the easy route in just waiting outside to mug you for your new baubles.

Doesn't hurt that so far they haven't (apparently) figured out a way to replicate the stuff they're using and only seem to have managed recharging and repairing (to a degree) it.

Craft (Cheese)
2014-07-21, 01:35 PM
Having recently acquired he Numerian book and without interrupting the debate at all (hopefully), I can honestly say that Numerian laser weaponry and space ships are not something that just anyone can get, both because of the Technic League's oppressive control of all things technological or xenobiological and the difficulty in actually acquiring them in the first place since you both need to find a piece of the starship that's still intact enough to be salvaged as well as a way inside, survive the dangers within, and than get back out without somebody else taking the easy route in just waiting outside to mug you for your new baubles.

Doesn't hurt that so far they haven't (apparently) figured out a way to replicate the stuff they're using and only seem to have managed recharging and repairing (to a degree) it.

I've read through Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars myself, and it's pretty good stuff. I honestly think I have a new favorite region of Golarion. I still do have legitimate fears though that they're going to do something like make a Laser Gunslinger archetype that starts out with a free laser weapon. Or a Technic League Wizard archetype with a collection of technological baubles as class features that act like spells but work in anti-magic fields.

GungHo
2014-07-23, 08:31 AM
Thing is, I've been seeing signs of discontent on the Paizo forums (albeit not much mind you) about sci-fi peanut butter getting mixed into their fantasy chocolate but not really any explanations about...well...why they are unhappy.
That's strange since the peanut butter has been there all along. Numeria has always had a big spaceship in it, along with androids, roboscorpions, and all the other crap. I guess they're worried about it not respecting borders and getting out past the setting's Brotherhood of Steel expy?

Frozen_Feet
2014-07-23, 08:56 AM
You can easily mix both, and early D&D and AD&D were doing that all around. (1st edition DMG even had conversion rules to make cross-overs with Gamma World, a sci-fi game.) Partly this is because D&D took inspiration from pulp fiction and horror just as well as fantasy, and stuff like Lovecraft's already were rife with sci-fi concepts.

A glaring example: why is seeing in the dark called infravision in D&D? Because someone wanted to do in the wizard and brought in a scientific explanation for it - seeing the infrared spectrum. The monster manuals are also rife with references to biology, paleontology and other sciences - witness a whole section devoted to (relatively accurate) portrayal of dinosaurs, including their Latin names.

The reason people don't notice this is because they have very limited (and wrong) conception of sci-fi. Basically, to most people sci-fi is synonymous with space opera, completely forgetting all other genres of sci-fi (alternate history, paleontological reconstruction and fiction, speculative societies etc.)

TheThan
2014-07-23, 03:46 PM
You guys need to check out Iron Kingdoms by Privateer Press.

Its an RPG based in the Warmachine and Hordes miniatures table top games (well thatís actually backwards, war machine and hordes are based on Iron Kingdoms). The game seamlessly integrates science and magic into one setting.

They do this in two ways. The first way is that they put a limit on the amount of pure technology there is in the setting, that limit is steam engines and effective guns, think 19th century technology.

They also merged magic and technology together. Exemplified in the warjack, mechanical automatons used to wage war. These machines are powered by steam engines, but utilize a device called a cortex. These cortexs are devices infused and powered by magic and give the warjack a primitive mind, allowing it to follow simple commands. Additionally there are special spellcasters called warcasters that are capable of merging their mind with cotexes and can mentally control warjacks, making them more effective in combat.

Theyíve adapted this concept and created ďmechanikaĒ which are mechanical devices powered by magic. These devices replicate pure magical items found in typical RPGs (the few purely magical items in this setting are VERY dangerous). So instead of a magic longsword, you have a mechanika sword. The mechanika sword can have similar properties; however you can upgrade it to give it new ones. Something you typically canít do in a pure magic setting.

So what we have is a setting where magic and technology live side by side and interact with each other, blurring the line between technology and magic.

Cronocke
2014-07-23, 05:49 PM
It doesn't have to be accurate. But I think Science Fiction is fundamentally about a different mentality than fantasy. Fantasy is about imagination. Science Fiction is about conjecture. Imagining a world changed by new developments. Those developments can be realistic or not, but from there, the world should develop along lines that make at least some sense. And I think trying to incorporate at least potentially possible science is a part of it as well.

It's the difference between Space Opera and Science Fiction.

Premise: we have lasers and FTL drives.
Space Opera: let's use those for space piracy, treasure hunting on Mars and sword fights against alien cyborgs on Jupiter!
Science Fiction: now that the galaxy opened up, how would society on earth change to reflect that? What kind of people would join an interstellar colonialization effort? How do military doctrines change? Which expertise and resources become valuable and which lose value?

Both of those are science fiction. You're talking about scale, here. Space operas are about people, and what you call "science fiction" is about societies and cultures. Firefly/Serenity is a space opera at heart, despite being fairly hard in terms of its speculation - space piracy, treasure hunting on other planets and moons (generally inside someone else's train or fortress), and big silly fist fights are all over the place.

I would also point out that both have a great deal to do with imagination. You're imagining what a world would look like with technology that is unachievable by current methods, allowing things that are not currently known to be possible. Practically speaking, what is the difference between "I have teleporters" and "I can teleport us with a spell"? Neither is scientifically likely given our current understanding of physics.


As for fantasy mixed with or disguised as science fiction: Star Wars. Mass Effect. The Marvel movies. Doctor Who. Shadowrun. Warhammer 40k. The Elder Scrolls.

You should probably add Star Trek to that list - Vulcans, Betazoids, and other races have psychic powers that do not mesh with our understanding of science or even our conjecture of future science. And really, every bit of science fiction put to television or movie screens fails to be what you seem to consider "pure" science fiction, with maybe the possible exception of Firefly and Serenity. Which is a space opera...


To me, there are two basic ways to approach magic in a game, especially when the knowledge of physical science is about where it is on Earth today (or better).

1) Magic is completely ineffable; you never know quite what you're going to get with magic, even if you've been practicing it for years.

2) Magic is a science, slightly off-kilter from the science we know, but with repeatable effects from given actions.

The problem with 1 is that it's a lot harder to put into rules... ineffable magic must always be able to go outside its own rules a bit. The 2nd version, however, runs the risk of becoming incredibly common and mechanical, losing some aspect of the "magic" of magic. The 2nd version is what leads to things like the Tippyverse... magic is commodified and reproducible and starts to severely mess with the standard assumptions of the world (as another example, look to Brust's Dragaera, where easy resurrections have wildly changed society.

I'm a fan of the way magic was treated in a little-known computer RPG called Arcanum. Magic and technology both set out to do similar things - treat injuries, cure diseases, move objects, and so on. Both were repeatable, generally speaking. But magic achieved its goals by distorting the laws of physics, thermodynamics, and so on, while technology relied on those very laws to function. Thus, powerful magic could cause machines to break, and complex machines could cause spells to fizzle out, due to the grander scope winning out. The two coexisted in the setting because magic was capable of greater miracles, but technology was something any layperson could use with minimal training or talent.

I don't mind pure speculative fiction, and I don't mind pure fantasy. But they share the same concepts and the same roots - "What would the world be like if X?" If X is magic, it's fantasy. If X is new subatomic particles and giant robots, it's science fiction. If X is psychic powers and FTL... we have this discussion. :smallwink:

Fiery Diamond
2014-07-23, 07:15 PM
That's really just another form of Fantasy to me. It can work well (Shadowrun) or be a miss (Star Wars), but that kind of fantasy is really done all over. Has usually little to do with SciFi, though.

This is untrue. Hard science fiction is not the only thing that science fiction is. There's actually remarkably little good hard sci-fi. Most sci-fi TV shows or sci-fi movies: not hard sci-fi. Good hard sci-fi is difficult to find, mostly because a large quantity of hard sci-fi is fairly boring to someone who doesn't actually have an academic interest in science & technology or sociology.

Science Fantasy is a form of science fiction; it's a subset of both science fiction and fantasy. Saying, "no, it's fantasy not sci-fi" is disingenuous or ignorant.


I dislike it and refuse to acknowledge a mixture of being sci-fi. It's just fantasy in space with a futuristic theme. Sci-fi is based on science, it's incompatible with fantasy.
Sci-fi should be entirely materialistic IMO, there can be people who practice religions or believe in ghosts, but no spirits or ghosts. If it's not potentially explainable with science then it has no place in sci-fi, and that categorically excludes fantasy.

False. There is a term for this: "hard science fiction." Claiming it isn't sci-fi because it's not hard sci-fi is... well, it makes you wrong.


It doesn't have to be accurate. But I think Science Fiction is fundamentally about a different mentality than fantasy. Fantasy is about imagination. Science Fiction is about conjecture. Imagining a world changed by new developments. Those developments can be realistic or not, but from there, the world should develop along lines that make at least some sense. And I think trying to incorporate at least potentially possible science is a part of it as well.

It's the difference between Space Opera and Science Fiction.

Premise: we have lasers and FTL drives.
Space Opera: let's use those for space piracy, treasure hunting on Mars and sword fights against alien cyborgs on Jupiter!
Science Fiction: now that the galaxy opened up, how would society on earth change to reflect that? What kind of people would join an interstellar colonialization effort? How do military doctrines change? Which expertise and resources become valuable and which lose value?

As for fantasy mixed with or disguised as science fiction: Star Wars. Mass Effect. The Marvel movies. Doctor Who. Shadowrun. Warhammer 40k. The Elder Scrolls.

My older brother, a big fan of hard sci-fi, would agree with you about your definition of science fiction here. The trouble is, it just as possible to create a story which takes MAGIC and does the same approach as your approach for science fiction. What would you call that? Speculative fantasy? My point is that surface elements have been and always will be the way in which the general populace categorizes fiction, and insisting on different definitions doesn't actually help with anything - it's better to have additional, more precise terms than to argue against the generally accepted definitions of the general terms.

Not disputing that Star Wars is a space opera, just saying that it's a subcategory of the broad umbrella that is sci-fi.


Science fiction does not automatically mean everyone has energy weapons and space travel, nor does fantasy automatically mean a strictly medieval society and technology. I love the mixture of science fiction and fantasy, in different degrees. It is all fiction, so there is no reason to limit what can be accomplished or explained. I suppose "hard" science fiction does not mix well with fairy-tale style medieval or classical fantasy, but these are the extremes.

You could develop a world with both advanced technology, space travel, and magic (as Fading Suns, or even WH40k, parts of the cosmic Marvel Universe). You could develop a medieval or classical world with magic that has remnants of advanced civilization or some anachronistic technology (Dying Earth, D&D is pretty much this already, or can support this easily). Then you've got pulp swashbuckling sci-fi/fantasy like Barsoom. Manly men and sexy women fighting with swords and rifles on flying ships, psychic powers, genetic engineering, astral projection (I guess?), alien beings and cool names. And how about your gonzo super-science/post apocalyptic world, like "Thundarr the Barbarian". Science fiction or fantasy?


Remember that AC Clarke saying? "Any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic." Magic can have almost any explanation you want, even if the characters in the society don't understand the science behind how it works. As long as the setting is internally consistent and logically thought-out, there is no reason not to use any elements of either type of fiction. You may call a setting that has magic or things which operate in ways unexplainable by current scientific understanding "science fantasy" or "space fantasy" rather than "science fiction", but it's really just a matter of degrees. Even the hardest of hard sci-fi takes some idea and extrapolates it beyond the realm of reality in ways science can not yet accomplish, creating a fictional world.

You say some good things. I've been writing as I read the thread. Glad someone else is mentioning that hard sci-fi is an actual term.


Both of those are science fiction. You're talking about scale, here. Space operas are about people, and what you call "science fiction" is about societies and cultures. Firefly/Serenity is a space opera at heart, despite being fairly hard in terms of its speculation - space piracy, treasure hunting on other planets and moons (generally inside someone else's train or fortress), and big silly fist fights are all over the place.

I would also point out that both have a great deal to do with imagination. You're imagining what a world would look like with technology that is unachievable by current methods, allowing things that are not currently known to be possible. Practically speaking, what is the difference between "I have teleporters" and "I can teleport us with a spell"? Neither is scientifically likely given our current understanding of physics.



You should probably add Star Trek to that list - Vulcans, Betazoids, and other races have psychic powers that do not mesh with our understanding of science or even our conjecture of future science. And really, every bit of science fiction put to television or movie screens fails to be what you seem to consider "pure" science fiction, with maybe the possible exception of Firefly and Serenity. Which is a space opera...



I'm a fan of the way magic was treated in a little-known computer RPG called Arcanum. Magic and technology both set out to do similar things - treat injuries, cure diseases, move objects, and so on. Both were repeatable, generally speaking. But magic achieved its goals by distorting the laws of physics, thermodynamics, and so on, while technology relied on those very laws to function. Thus, powerful magic could cause machines to break, and complex machines could cause spells to fizzle out, due to the grander scope winning out. The two coexisted in the setting because magic was capable of greater miracles, but technology was something any layperson could use with minimal training or talent.

I don't mind pure speculative fiction, and I don't mind pure fantasy. But they share the same concepts and the same roots - "What would the world be like if X?" If X is magic, it's fantasy. If X is new subatomic particles and giant robots, it's science fiction. If X is psychic powers and FTL... we have this discussion. :smallwink:

You also say good stuff.

Mastikator
2014-07-24, 05:26 AM
[snip]
False. There is a term for this: "hard science fiction." Claiming it isn't sci-fi because it's not hard sci-fi is... well, it makes you wrong.
[snip]
Hard vs soft sci-fi isn't about how much space magic you're willing to accept but how much science you're willing to speculate on.
Fantasy is in a completely different category because it's based on different assumptions, science only deals with the natural world, a non-fantasy sci-fi can only make speculations on the natural world and the technology that can be invented with that scientific knowledge.

A laser weapon is not fantasy, you can in reality construct a laser that can disintegrate a human being, you could in a sci-fi world construct a hand held laser that can disintegrate part of a human being. You can in theory construct an Alcubierre drive and in sci-fi construct a space ship that transports a human to an exoplanet in less than astronomic time. You could in a sci-fi world construct a space elevator out of nanomaterials. These are all varying degrees of hard vs soft sci-fi and none of them involve any space magic.

But when Counselor Deanna Troi from ST TNG can "sense the emotion" of an individual in a different space ship that she has never had any physical contact with, then that is straight up magic, it's not on the scale of hard vs soft science fiction, no amount of "softness" would explain her magic telepathic ability to sense the emotions (and sometimes even hear their inner dialog) because its not something to do with the natural world.

Soft sci-fi does not give you space wizards, soft sci-fi gives you light sabers and stargates.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-24, 07:26 AM
yes but soft science does allow you to construct a nanorobotic cloud which you send out to monitor their brains, then transmit the signal across the cloud and back to your head as a coherent idea that they're angry.

I'm really surprised that nanorobotic clouds aren't used for the excuse to do magicky things like that more often, I mean sure they probably can't make a fireball, but the cloud can form into a sphere, project a hologram that looks like a fireball then leap upon somebody and tearing them apart particle by particle while looking like fire. we need more things like Nanomancers, but y'know without being married to Numenera, that rpg has good ideas but the execution is so BORING.

EccentricCircle
2014-07-24, 07:45 AM
I have some vague plans for a future campaign where a Wizard perfecting a new flying spell has stumbled across one of your surveillance satellites, and you have to retrieve it from his castle without any of the medieval people realising that their world is being observed. Does that count?

Joe the Rat
2014-07-24, 07:56 AM
Psychic powers is a funny one to bring up. There's a segment of D&D players that have a fairly strong dislike for Psionics because it's "too sci fi" for their concept of fantasy. Besides, everyone knows psychic powers work via sensing and interacting with the subspace imprint of the bioelectric information patterns generated by sentient organics.

Also, I'm going to leave this here to provide a take on the hard - soft continuum as compiled by a consensus of people with far too much time and interest in making these sorts of distinctions. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MohsScaleOfScienceFictionHardness)

Lord Raziere
2014-07-24, 08:16 AM
Psychic powers is a funny one to bring up. There's a segment of D&D players that have a fairly strong dislike for Psionics because it's "too sci fi" for their concept of fantasy. Besides, everyone knows psychic powers work via sensing and interacting with the subspace imprint of the bioelectric information patterns generated by sentient organics.


Yeah, I never got that. what is sci-fi about it? because psions do basically what a wizard does. but with different words, less dawn-prep and more straightforward energy being applied to a technique sort of thing. its revising the universe with your mind, just like a wizard does with their mind, but in a slightly different way. they even share the same stat of Intelligence and everything.

heck, its not even possible in the real world, and there is no really no way of making it possible, unless we discover something that really upturns physics as we know it, but at that point we might as well be discovering magic anyways, because the rules would be so different from we've been lead to believe- that we CAN'T remake reality with our minds- that discovering things like magic or psionics would lead to questioning how everything in our universe works all over again- for one thing we can rule out the nice comforting assumption that the universe doesn't respond to our thoughts and thus not having to worry about whether or not the universe outside our own brains is something separate from ourselves, something objective-or at least consistent- that we can rely upon.

so yeah, some explanation as to why psionics is considered "too sci-fi" by those people would be helpful

Joe the Rat
2014-07-24, 09:54 AM
so yeah, some explanation as to why psionics is considered "too sci-fi" by those people would be helpful

One perspective: Style. Psionics uses nomenclature that reads more like "sci-fi" (Sciences, Disciplines, n-pathy and n-kinesis, "Psionics" rather than the more mystic-friendly "Psychic" or "Mentalism"). The tendency for these to be used as a pseudoscientific stand-in for magic in technology-based spec fic settings doesn't help. Plus there is the idea of mind powers being tied to unlocking potential, a natural progression of sentient lifeforms, or due to mutation or (ack) evolutionary levels (somewhere between filthy humanoid and energy being). This does ignore the tendency for these same powers to appear in fantasy literature as innate abilities of highly magical beings, or granted by artifacts (Sauron's 3rd Age power suite reads more like an evil telepath than a dark wizard). But they are given a more mystic/mysterious presentation (and source) rather than clinical, defined, brain-driven jiggery-pokery.

Mastikator
2014-07-24, 10:57 AM
yes but soft science does allow you to construct a nanorobotic cloud which you send out to monitor their brains, then transmit the signal across the cloud and back to your head as a coherent idea that they're angry.

I'm really surprised that nanorobotic clouds aren't used for the excuse to do magicky things like that more often, I mean sure they probably can't make a fireball, but the cloud can form into a sphere, project a hologram that looks like a fireball then leap upon somebody and tearing them apart particle by particle while looking like fire. we need more things like Nanomancers, but y'know without being married to Numenera, that rpg has good ideas but the execution is so BORING.

I would not have a problem with Mr Spock doing telepathics, or Jedis doing telekinetics if they said that it was nanobots.
But that's not what they do, it's never a controlled grey ooze, it's always "the mysterious force of the universe oooooohhohooho scary mysticism", and they put this next to actual sci-fi (sometimes really good and interesting sci-fi) like nothing, like just because I could believe that a spaceship could happen I should also believe magic is just as realistic.
It's horse dung.


Edit-
I should say, I do appreciate the effort to use a sci-fi method to explain a phenomena, but we should be careful with introducing entities like mind-controlling object-moving nanobots. You can't just have those kinds of nanobots without considering what the implications would be, it would be like introducing the internet to a society that has never had anything like that, it completely changes that society on many levels. That's really what sci-fi is about (as already mentioned). Sci-fi is about exploration and curiosity, fantasy is about adventure and heroism. They are very different things, the more you scrutinize them the more different they seem.

Man on Fire
2014-07-24, 11:57 AM
While we are around psions - where do they come from in D&D? What was the inspiration for them? I must say lines between psionics and magic in fantasy can be blurry - I mean I would call what is said to be mysticism in Drenai Saga to be psionics. I heard there are psionic powers in Deryni series but never read that.


To me, there are two basic ways to approach magic in a game, especially when the knowledge of physical science is about where it is on Earth today (or better).

1) Magic is completely ineffable; you never know quite what you're going to get with magic, even if you've been practicing it for years.

2) Magic is a science, slightly off-kilter from the science we know, but with repeatable effects from given actions.

The problem with 1 is that it's a lot harder to put into rules... ineffable magic must always be able to go outside its own rules a bit. The 2nd version, however, runs the risk of becoming incredibly common and mechanical, losing some aspect of the "magic" of magic. The 2nd version is what leads to things like the Tippyverse... magic is commodified and reproducible and starts to severely mess with the standard assumptions of the world (as another example, look to Brust's Dragaera, where easy resurrections have wildly changed society.

I think there is a possible compromise. There can be magic that is acknowledged as magic, even if it's methods of study are completely scientific and rational. Original Earthsea Trilogy is a lot like that, so are 60's Doctor Strange Stories and Fullmetal Alchemist (because Alchemy there basically is magic) - magic has something mistical and mysterious to it, nobody claims it's alien technology or quantum physics, nobody is doing the wizard, magic wand doesn't turn out to be alien laser pistol, but magic is still is analyzed, used and understood by rational, scientific means and has clear rules.

Mark Hall
2014-07-24, 12:25 PM
I'm really surprised that nanorobotic clouds aren't used for the excuse to do magicky things like that more often, I mean sure they probably can't make a fireball, but the cloud can form into a sphere, project a hologram that looks like a fireball then leap upon somebody and tearing them apart particle by particle while looking like fire. we need more things like Nanomancers, but y'know without being married to Numenera, that rpg has good ideas but the execution is so BORING.

This is actually one of my beefs with William Gibson. He is supposed to have disliked Shadowrun because it included magic, while Neuromancer includes an illusionist who is able to make people see things because of "implants" that act in no specific way.

As for Troi, I think the [tech] explanation for Betazoids is that they are able to sense thoughts and emotions by reading the electromagnetic discharges from creature's thought processers. There's a lot of holes in that idea, but I believe that's the tech explanation.



While we are around psions - where do they come from in D&D? What was the inspiration for them? I must say lines between psionics and magic in fantasy can be blurry - I mean I would call what is said to be mysticism in Drenai Saga to be psionics. I heard there are psionic powers in Deryni series but never read that.

Varies, but usually just a variation of "internal power"... though I kind of like the idea that it's an external power source, and people are just limited in how much they can pull at one time.


I think there is a possible compromise. There can be magic that is acknowledged as magic, even if it's methods of study are completely scientific and rational. Original Earthsea Trilogy is a lot like that, so are 60's Doctor Strange Stories and Fullmetal Alchemist (because Alchemy there basically is magic) - magic has something mistical and mysterious to it, nobody claims it's alien technology or quantum physics, nobody is doing the wizard, magic wand doesn't turn out to be alien laser pistol, but magic is still is analyzed, used and understood by rational, scientific means and has clear rules.

Which really puts it in the second category... just because all the rules aren't known doesn't mean its not a science. Far more important is the reproducibility... if I do X and Y I will always get Z. If I don't get Z, it's because of W.

Man on Fire
2014-07-24, 01:44 PM
Which really puts it in the second category... just because all the rules aren't known doesn't mean its not a science. Far more important is the reproducibility... if I do X and Y I will always get Z. If I don't get Z, it's because of W.

Well, as I said, I'm okay with magic being treated as science, just not with "haha, there is no magic it was just advanced science you fools".

Lord Raziere
2014-07-24, 02:09 PM
One perspective: Style. Psionics uses nomenclature that reads more like "sci-fi" (Sciences, Disciplines, n-pathy and n-kinesis, "Psionics" rather than the more mystic-friendly "Psychic" or "Mentalism"). The tendency for these to be used as a pseudoscientific stand-in for magic in technology-based spec fic settings doesn't help. Plus there is the idea of mind powers being tied to unlocking potential, a natural progression of sentient lifeforms, or due to mutation or (ack) evolutionary levels (somewhere between filthy humanoid and energy being). This does ignore the tendency for these same powers to appear in fantasy literature as innate abilities of highly magical beings, or granted by artifacts (Sauron's 3rd Age power suite reads more like an evil telepath than a dark wizard). But they are given a more mystic/mysterious presentation (and source) rather than clinical, defined, brain-driven jiggery-pokery.

.....that is stupid.

"oh it too sci-fi cause WORDS! Me no like these words over other words! Even if same thing!"

:sigh::yuk::confused:

a rose by any other name....is still a rose. magic is magic even if you call it psionics. this is literally excluding something that has been around since what? second edition? over insistent terminology. that kind of thinking will just never fly with me.

TheThan
2014-07-24, 02:26 PM
While we are around psions - where do they come from in D&D? What was the inspiration for them? I must say lines between psionics and magic in fantasy can be blurry - I mean I would call what is said to be mysticism in Drenai Saga to be psionics. I heard there are psionic powers in Deryni series but never read that.




I thought psionics came from the future, a group of mentally powerful individual sent back in time to stop the Illithids from preparing the world (in a bad way) for the Yugoloth invasion. Naturally their children and childrenís children have inherited their mental powers and continue the secret war against the mind flayers and their Far realm allies.

Oh you mean who thought up the idea. Not a clue.

Arbane
2014-07-24, 02:50 PM
While we are around psions - where do they come from in D&D? What was the inspiration for them? I must say lines between psionics and magic in fantasy can be blurry - I mean I would call what is said to be mysticism in Drenai Saga to be psionics. I heard there are psionic powers in Deryni series but never read that.

Inspiration? Probably Lensman or some other Golden Age/Silver Age sci-fi with psychics in it. D&D has never been shy about yoinking any and all ideas they thought might make a fun character or an interesting monster. (AD&D has psionics rules, so they go back a way. I don't know about OD&D.)

Rainbownaga
2014-07-24, 02:51 PM
Anyone read Asimov? His books have psychic powers everywhere, but they have a scientific explanation (robots, genetic mutations and psychological training) and the early books were written at a time when it was considered a scientific possibility (the us gov was officially researching it during the cold war)

or consider the heat rays from war of the worlds. At the time they were impossible.

Both are sci-fi as far as I'm concerned because they are described in naturalistic terms. But it is fuzzy.

Grinner
2014-07-24, 03:52 PM
a rose by any other name....is still a rose. magic is magic even if you call it psionics. this is literally excluding something that has been around since what? second edition? over insistent terminology. that kind of thinking will just never fly with me.

Then answer this!

What is magic? :smallwink:

Lord Raziere
2014-07-24, 04:08 PM
Then answer this!

What is magic? :smallwink:

for the purposes of this discussion? the ability to change the world with only your mind without using any principles associated with physics as we know it.

please, do not try that trick with me, it is tiring and I do not care for it. :smallannoyed:

Grinner
2014-07-24, 04:14 PM
please, do not try that trick with me, it is tiring and I do not care for it. :smallannoyed:

I do think it's an interesting question, though. It always seems so clear-cut till you really think about it.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-24, 04:43 PM
I do think it's an interesting question, though. It always seems so clear-cut till you really think about it.

It is clear cut.

technology is only physical tools with real presence. nanorobots, while normally too small to be seen count.

magic is not. it may enchant an item sure, but the real power is not physical at all, the tool is only holding the magic.

you may try to say that electricity counts as magic under this definition, but it does not. the electron, protons are particles as well, they are still physical, and can be broken down further into quarks, meaning they have physical structure. magic is not some electric current, because it doesn't even have the structure of a subatomic particle. the magic can enchant the electric current itself after all- why not? or y'know, enchant fire to be everlasting, even though fire is not what we normally think of as a physical thing- it is a reaction. yet it is possible for magic to be contained in fire to make it a walking talking thing made entirely of flame, the same thing can be done for lightning to make a being of manifest electricity.

however, no matter how advanced the science, electricity does not talk by itself. the closest you can get is a nanorobotic cloud making a hologram that makes it LOOK LIKE its walking talking lightning, and that makes all the difference. if you touch real living lightning you get shocked, if you touch a nanorobotic cloud looks like it- you feel nothing, or if you do feel anything, its certainly not an automatic shock, getting set on fire in the case of living flame.

and sure there is a lot examples of magic making the non-physical physical or whatever- but the fact remains is that the physical is not the base, it is not where it starts, it starts from something so abstract that ideas themselves can be given form from it as angels and demons, while science and technology start from the physical and work their way into the more abstract from the physical. they are completely opposite in their progression, and while you may talk about "but sufficiently advanced technology" or "sufficiently analyzed magic" the fact remains that the two disciplines have completely different starts and ends, and only look like each other when they END, when they reach so far and encompass the same range of abstract to physical. when really they're opposites.

magic and psionics- are both abstract. they both start abstract. its all ideas in the head and willpower and such. everything else is an outgrowth, a progression towards the physical, and therefore they're the same no matter what names you put on it.

TheThan
2014-07-24, 04:43 PM
I do think it's an interesting question, though. It always seems so clear-cut till you really think about it.

that's sort of the problem with magic.
It's too vague and open ended to be easily quantifiable.

Its why they created "schools" of magic for wizards:
abjuration
conjuration
divination
enchantment
evocation
illusion
necromancy
transmutation

Then there are the types of magic that don't fall under the wizard's (class) purview: cleric magic, bardic magic, druid magic, shamanism, Runecraft, pact magic, shadow magic, truenaming, sword magic etc. the list goes on and on.

Where exactly does "magic" begin and end?
An easier question might be

"What can magic do? and what can't it do?"

Grinner
2014-07-24, 05:01 PM
*snip*

Though I would phrase it differently, I largely agree with what you say. Also, I will not do the routine of debating the semantics of magic. However, I will point out that when dealing with uncertain subjects, particularly in the context of fiction, one can never be too sure.

For example, I've been working on a setting where psionics is only vaguely understood by the general populace, but there is in fact a definite physical mechanism behind it. I'm quite proud of it, really.

Mark Hall
2014-07-24, 06:44 PM
It is clear cut.

technology is only physical tools with real presence. nanorobots, while normally too small to be seen count.

magic is not. it may enchant an item sure, but the real power is not physical at all, the tool is only holding the magic.

Whereas I tend to specify physical technology, simply because repeatable magic is a technology... if you can cast CLW regularly, then you've got a technology.

Cikomyr
2014-07-24, 08:09 PM
For me, the best of magics are unreliable, fickle, subtle yet powerful.

I like it because you can handwave it's action following certain thematical logics as to steer your game into the proper direction. When you have this... surnatural force having an impact on the entire world in small or great ways, then you can handwave stuff as part of magic.

Not "explain", but "handwave". Magic cannot be explained; it can be.. inferred.


Technology is any sort of process that you understand. I agree that someone casting CLW on a regular basis is more of a technological feat than actual magic. This is why I like Warhammer Fantasy; where the magic is dangerous and capricious. But at the same time, it permeates everything and can manifest is strange, marvelous or horrific ways.

I don't understand why Fantasy and Sci-fi would be incompatible. You just have to understand what each entails. Also, Sci-Fi settings usually have the assumption that "we understand most things, we can explain everything that happens" whereas "a wizard did it" is a nice Fantasy answer.

Sci-fi has the assumption of knowledge, while Fantasy only works within mystery. Having both playing a major part of a story is delicate, but still very possible. Dune, Warhammer 40K and even a bit of Stargate all mixed Fantasy and Sci-Fi very well.

Grinner
2014-07-24, 08:42 PM
For me, the best of magics are unreliable, fickle, subtle yet powerful.

I like it because you can handwave it's action following certain thematical logics as to steer your game into the proper direction. When you have this... surnatural force having an impact on the entire world in small or great ways, then you can handwave stuff as part of magic.

Not "explain", but "handwave". Magic cannot be explained; it can be.. inferred.

I take the opposite view. Magic should be quite explicable, and when explained, it should make your head explode.

When magic is arbitrary or, worse, extraneous*, it ceases to matter. When it ceases to matter, people take no interest in it. They find no wonder in it; it's just the distant hand of fate at work.

I think that "mysterious" is often the better adjective to reach for.

*Which brings me to another point. Everything has a place, so what's the place of magic?

Cikomyr
2014-07-24, 08:47 PM
I take the opposite view. Magic should be quite explicable, and when explained, it should make your head explode.

When magic is arbitrary or, worse, extraneous*, it ceases to matter. When it ceases to matter, people take no interest in it. They find no wonder in it; it's just the distant hand of fate at work.

I think that "mysterious" is often the better adjective to reach for.

*Which brings me to another point. Everything has a place, so what's the place of magic?

My magic is not "arbitrary", but it can be.. fickle and random. Like the sea of old.

I like your interpretation of what would happen to the one who can explain it. I mean, I do like my magic to have some Rules and Logic. For example, I can see the belief of peoples shape magical node points in the world; like a place or an artifact, or even a time.

I like the idea of a "Wizard" needing to use about 90% "tricks", and only 10% "real magic". Why? Because of two reasons:

- Magic is dangerous to use, so try to use as little as possible for fear of losing control
- Tricks help reinforce people's beliefs in you being a wizard. That belief helps you control magic better.

There's a reason a wizard wears a wizard hard. There's a reason he's in robes, and chants his spells. He may not perfectly understand it, but experience and wisdom is what really helps him unlock his power. Not pure intelligence.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-24, 09:49 PM
Me I dislike Cikomyr's view

magic should be loud, proud and wizards should not be afraid to show off their might. we have too much of the "wise wizards keeping magic hidden and using it only in rare moments" going around, much like the batman clone thing, and they often go hand in hand. an unused tool is a useless one. a person with 90% trickery and 10% actual magic is not a wizard, he is a rogue with an alternate class feature that allows him to cast spells sometimes and if I wanted to mix magic and trickery, I'd play a Beguiler and have a much more even spread.

Prince Raven
2014-07-24, 10:03 PM
So Gandalf isn't a wizard?

Mr. Mask
2014-07-24, 10:20 PM
I must say Cikomyr's view is one I agree with as highly interesting. Too often I see wizards as just bazookas with robes, magical girls with beards, less creepy teen romance vampires. Those interpretation can be fun, particularly if care is used to give a real sense of power (instead of getting the impression that the world ought to be truly different, with Swiss-army knife equivalents of the nuclear bomb in human form running about). The original fantasy wizard, Gandalf, has tons of appeal with his subtlety--because you can only blow up so many cities* before people start to lose the sense of power that you can keep with subtle, rare magic.


*: I liked wizards flattening cities better when it was called Dragon Ball Z.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-24, 11:34 PM
So Gandalf isn't a wizard?

Technically he isn't even dweller of the prime material plane, and is actually kind of an angel for the real god of all things, if I remember right. he isn't even a DMPC, he is just a high level good-aligned monster who takes the form of someone that looks like a wizard. his magic isn't even arcane, its like apart of the real gods song of all things that created the world and therefore its more like him chanting a prayer or whatever rather than him actually casting any specific spell.

so the closest to a PC I'd even place him is a cleric. I could see a cleric doing the whole "divine mysterious power" thing and find it acceptable, because minds are what is really mysterious, because mysterious divine higher powers answering your prayers is all about faith, and faith inherently requires mystery

wizards however don't call upon that, they call upon energy that has no preference or anything like that, it is theirs to wield, and therefore much more worldly and not mysterious at all. wizards aren't a faithful lot, they're doubters, students, skeptics, secret-keepers. I'd hardly call them fans of mystery or faith.

Mr. Mask
2014-07-24, 11:59 PM
Wizards have a history of getting their power from gods. Often dark sorcerous gods, but sometimes benevolent ones. I don't think atheism has ever been a class requirement for wizardry.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-25, 12:06 AM
Wizards have a history of getting their power from gods. Often dark sorcerous gods, but sometimes benevolent ones. I don't think atheism has ever been a class requirement for wizardry.

so clerics that are called wizards then?

Mr. Mask
2014-07-25, 12:08 AM
Wizards named clerics, really.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-25, 12:22 AM
Wizards named clerics, really.

priests calling upon divine power from the gods is far older than any sorcerer or wizard and you know it. we wouldn't have animist traditions otherwise. clerics named wizards.

Cronocke
2014-07-25, 12:28 AM
Me I dislike Cikomyr's view

magic should be loud, proud and wizards should not be afraid to show off their might. we have too much of the "wise wizards keeping magic hidden and using it only in rare moments" going around, much like the batman clone thing, and they often go hand in hand. an unused tool is a useless one. a person with 90% trickery and 10% actual magic is not a wizard, he is a rogue with an alternate class feature that allows him to cast spells sometimes and if I wanted to mix magic and trickery, I'd play a Beguiler and have a much more even spread.

This is kinda the thing I hate about D&D and Pathfinder to be honest - the default wizard/sorcerer template is big and loud and huge and rainbows and summoned beasts and Michael Bay and all of that nonsense. And what can you do if you're not a wizard? ... Swing a sword or shoot a bow. Sure, you could play a cleric, but they're wizards-by-another-name. If you want to accomplish a task without magic, it has to be very easy to do.

I much favor the way White Wolf treats its mages - they can definitely do things that ordinary people can't, but there are downsides to performing obvious magic in front of people, and some of the things magic can do can also be done with mundane effort. Sure, you can roll through town casting fireballs and lightning at everything you see, but that's likely to end with you exploding, getting eaten by a Langolier, or some other horrible fate.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-25, 12:33 AM
This is kinda the thing I hate about D&D and Pathfinder to be honest - the default wizard/sorcerer template is big and loud and huge and rainbows and summoned beasts and Michael Bay and all of that nonsense. And what can you do if you're not a wizard? ... Swing a sword or shoot a bow. Sure, you could play a cleric, but they're wizards-by-another-name. If you want to accomplish a task without magic, it has to be very easy to do.

I much favor the way White Wolf treats its mages - they can definitely do things that ordinary people can't, but there are downsides to performing obvious magic in front of people, and some of the things magic can do can also be done with mundane effort. Sure, you can roll through town casting fireballs and lightning at everything you see, but that's likely to end with you exploding, getting eaten by a Langolier, or some other horrible fate.

Which is the downside of Mage The Awakening to my point of view. not enough room for me to actually stretch my magic. it feels like I'm casting in a cramped room

and DnD? they're too limited. they still have spell slots and encourage to save your resources too much! too much like a batman clone, sure I can cast fireball without any bad effects, but only four times at most with a wizard, and six for a sorcerer! that is not enough for me. there are too many restrictions and limitations, too much focus on boring necessities and tactics and not enough on awesome magic.

Mr. Mask
2014-07-25, 12:35 AM
Raz: Clerics are based off Catholic Saint wizards. Same story tropes, except the protagonist tends to be the wizard instead of the side character who gives you the magic potion. However, rather than making them epic heroes with Mary Sue powers, DnD just made them wizards with emphasis on their divine ties. Similar to settings that emphasize demonic ties for sorcerers or the like.

I'm not really sure what you're arguing at this point, but Animism and its wizard-like heroic figures pre-dates Saint-style priests in fiction, not the other way around...

I recommend Dragon Ball Z. It's pretty good, and sounds more like what you're looking for (power from energy without divine/demonic ties, extreme power without limitations, high levels of conflict in the story).

Lord Raziere
2014-07-25, 12:43 AM
Raz: Clerics are based off Catholic Saint wizards. Same story tropes, except the protagonist tends to be the wizard instead of the side character who gives you the magic potion. However, rather than making them epic heroes with Mary Sue powers, DnD just made them wizards with emphasis on their divine ties. Similar to settings that emphasize demonic ties for sorcerers or the like.

I'm not really sure what you're arguing at this point, but Animism and its wizard-like heroic figures pre-dates Saint-style priests in fiction, not the other way around...

no, shamans who communicate with spirits are priests, just relatively low tech ones. clerics all draw their power from another being, not by themselves. or warlocks.

wizards always draw their power without another being, they do it themselves, not draw it from gods, thats not arcane magic, that divine and only clerics do that. stop trying to apply the word wizard to clerics, your just applying the word to things it doesn't apply to be confusing. all that you have spoken of are clerics. where are the real wizards?

Edit: already watched DBZ, still searching for others like it, and yes I've seen TTGL, Fairy Tail, and so on. I'm not anime-blind here.

Cronocke
2014-07-25, 12:52 AM
Which is the downside of Mage The Awakening to my point of view. not enough room for me to actually stretch my magic. it feels like I'm casting in a cramped room

and DnD? they're too limited. they still have spell slots and encourage to save your resources too much! too much like a batman clone, sure I can cast fireball without any bad effects, but only four times at most with a wizard, and six for a sorcerer! that is not enough for me. there are too many restrictions and limitations, too much focus on boring necessities and tactics and not enough on awesome magic.

You do realize that high level mages can warp reality to their will much more flexibly than the D&D style wizard, right? They just can't do it in the streets, because ordinary people don't like that. (And reality isn't thrilled with it either.)

I'd be fine with wizards being superpowered if non-wizards could be equally ridiculous. Such a thing is modeled in games like Exalted, or in a slightly different way, Legends of the Wulin. But it's the ridiculous power discrepancy that grates on me. There is only one way, one path to power, and it is the power of arcane might.

Mr. Mask
2014-07-25, 12:59 AM
Raz: You can call cats, "dogs," or whatever you like, but you can't expect people to follow your definitions without agreeing to it in advance. Wizards communicating with and gaining power from spirits isn't unusual at all. Merlin and the Lady of the Lake... There are stories where the wizard's power is their relation to spirit beings, if they aren't a spirit being themself. Many of the very definitions of what people perceive as a wizard, Gandalf himself, are not wizards to you. That's cool... but trying to force that definition on us and complaining if we use our own is not.

And why do you say "shamans" and "druids" are low-tech priests? Druids are probably the single strongest source for what you consider wizards. If we matched your definition of a wizard, but then they did volunteer work for a religious organization, would they then become a cleric? If so, this has little to do with the nature of the wizard, and more to do with their relation to religious entities.... which highlights my point: DnD clerics (your idea of a "cleric") are wizards with a religious theme.


You're not going to find another quite like Dragon Ball Z. Many have tried. On the bright side, they're releasing another movie by Akira.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-25, 01:12 AM
You do realize that high level mages can warp reality to their will much more flexibly than the D&D style wizard, right? They just can't do it in the streets, because ordinary people don't like that. (And reality isn't thrilled with it either.)

I'd be fine with wizards being superpowered if non-wizards could be equally ridiculous. Such a thing is modeled in games like Exalted, or in a slightly different way, Legends of the Wulin. But it's the ridiculous power discrepancy that grates on me. There is only one way, one path to power, and it is the power of arcane might.

um no? Exalted goes entirely in the opposite direction and makes sorcerers unable to do anything without a long ritual. they are actually LESS power than either 3.5 wizards or other Exalts who choose not to focus on sorcery, because anything a sorcerer can do, the Exalts can do with a charm of magical mundanity much faster that makes sorcery useless.

Legends of the Wulin don't even feature wizards, they're just martial artists. they don't even HAVE blasting magic in them. so both your examples still have only one path to power.

high level Mages to do their great reality warping must go through an entire quest to do so, its essentially a big ritual, and I don't do ritual magic. I want instant kinds of magic. don't really care for reality warping all that much anyways, I hate spells like Wish. I want THEMATIC great power, not UNLIMITED great power.

@Mr. Mask: well too bad, I first saw DBZ in the middle of the Buu Saga when I was like, 9 or 10. by now I have need for that kind of crazy overpowered stuff.

Cronocke
2014-07-25, 02:44 AM
Legends of the Wulin don't even feature wizards, they're just martial artists. they don't even HAVE blasting magic in them. so both your examples still have only one path to power.

Priests!

Yes, everyone has some form of kung fu, but the fun thing is, you're never required to use Strike to make attacks. The right investment during character creation lets you use paper talismans to toss magic spells-of-a-sort at your enemies.

Courtiers, similarly, can render foes unwilling or unable to resist them with carefully chosen words. And there's also doctors, who use carefully crafted poisons and medicines to similar effect.

Yes, all your powers come ultimately from the same source - Chi - but the way you express them is very flexible. You only have to be "the martial artist" if that's what you're conceiving of.


high level Mages to do their great reality warping must go through an entire quest to do so, its essentially a big ritual, and I don't do ritual magic. I want instant kinds of magic. don't really care for reality warping all that much anyways, I hate spells like Wish. I want THEMATIC great power, not UNLIMITED great power.

To do 6-dot and higher spells you have to do a ritual, sure. But even at 4 and 5 dots in an arcana you're able to do some insane things, like stop time, create pocket dimensions, give your toaster a mind and personality, change other people's memories, and so on.

Cikomyr
2014-07-25, 06:22 AM
Basically, Raz wants a big button that can blow up reality on a whim.

I utterly despise this meaningless interpretation of magic. It makes it cheap and devoid of spirits, and it does not handle the least amount of socal scrutiny when it comes to its own impact on a world.

I am glad you went out and said that you wanted DBZ-like powers. Its exactly the sort of superpowered storirs that irks me and that i will never touch with a 10-foot pole for an RPG experience.

But whatever rocks your boat. I just prefer to go into more meaningful experience of the mystic. Hidden meanings, following the examples of classic litterature, rather than just going into a power trip.

Mr. Mask
2014-07-25, 07:02 AM
Dragon Ball gets a bad rap, but it's actually about a lot more than blowing stuff up. Series which focus on the super destructive aspect without the other details which give meaning to the power, they often fall flat.

I do have trouble thinking of a good example of super powered wizards that was particularly interesting.

Knaight
2014-07-25, 07:15 AM
But whatever rocks your boat. I just prefer to go into more meaningful experience of the mystic. Hidden meanings, following the examples of classic litterature, rather than just going into a power trip.

I also tend to favor the low powered mystic approach, but to call it "following the examples of classic literature" is a bit much. There's plenty of classic literature which features the big explosive magic you associate with "power trips". Even if we ignore more solidly mythological sources, there's still stuff like Journey to the West.

Cikomyr
2014-07-25, 07:40 AM
But Journey to the West is part of Wuxia litteracy genre. Completely different. I was referrencing more to Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, The Graal stories.. Even stuff like Conan, where magic is powerful but hard to muster.
I got nothing against a wizard summoning Heaven's Fire to toast a city. But goddamnit, it should be damn hard, and costly.

Especially costly.

GungHo
2014-07-25, 09:42 AM
One perspective: Style. Psionics uses nomenclature that reads more like "sci-fi" (Sciences, Disciplines, n-pathy and n-kinesis, "Psionics" rather than the more mystic-friendly "Psychic" or "Mentalism"). The tendency for these to be used as a pseudoscientific stand-in for magic in technology-based spec fic settings doesn't help. Plus there is the idea of mind powers being tied to unlocking potential, a natural progression of sentient lifeforms, or due to mutation or (ack) evolutionary levels (somewhere between filthy humanoid and energy being). This does ignore the tendency for these same powers to appear in fantasy literature as innate abilities of highly magical beings, or granted by artifacts (Sauron's 3rd Age power suite reads more like an evil telepath than a dark wizard). But they are given a more mystic/mysterious presentation (and source) rather than clinical, defined, brain-driven jiggery-pokery.

As our understanding of the universe has evolved, "sci-fi" psionics is increasingly more and more "magical", honestly so I increasingly just don't see much of a difference except in style of presentation. Maybe I'm just over-sensitive about it due to the impending release of Lucy, but I nearly drive off the road in hysterical laughter when I hear him start saying that if she uses "ova forty pah-cent of her brain, she can control matta... ova sixty-fiiive pah-cent, and she can stop tiiiime"
"what can she do if she controls 100 percent of her brain?"
"I don't know."

Prince Raven
2014-07-25, 10:44 AM
I wanted to know who started the "humans use only 10% of their brai ns" myth so I can wish bodily harm upon them.

Mark Hall
2014-07-25, 11:09 AM
So Gandalf isn't a wizard?

In D&D terms, especially AD&D terms, I think his abilities most closely match those of a druid, minus shapechanging.


Wizards have a history of getting their power from gods. Often dark sorcerous gods, but sometimes benevolent ones. I don't think atheism has ever been a class requirement for wizardry.


so clerics that are called wizards then?

Ok, here's the thing... magic, through history, has usually been of a type called "Theurgy"... basically, invoking gods to do the things you want to happen. That is, of course, what priests in D&D do, but it's a common trait of wizards, witches, and all sorts of other "magic-users" through history.* Even in modern contexts, you see this... Dr. Strange has a tendency to invoke names in his spells, for example, and Willow invoked Osiris to raise Buffy from the dead.

A more modern conception of magic (common to chaos magicians and Thelema-types) views magic as energy, and wizards as those who know how to manipulate that energy. That's the kind of magic that wizards in D&D tend to do... they're not really calling on an outside intelligence to grant them power, but using the power around them to create effects.

Now, a lot of modern fictional sorcerers do a combination of this. They invoke entities for powerful effects, but less powerful effects (such as levitating a pencil with which you stake a vampire) is done through personal power. This actually somewhat mimics the AD&D conception of clerical magic... 1st and 2nd level effects came from the priest's own faith, 3rd and 4th came from servants of their deity, and 5th-7th level effects came from the deity themselves (I might have made a mistake on those breakdowns, but the jist is correct). D&D wizards completely ignore this... while they CAN call upon powerful entities with certain spells, they mostly do things through the "science of magic"... a lot of "do X to achieve Y".

D&D has really muddled the discussion of magic, because they've spent 40 years using a mish-mash of words to describe in-game concepts, which confuses things when you try to use them in their traditional context... such as my use of the word "invoke/invocation" here, which doesn't necessarily have anything to do with fireballs.

*Leaving aside the question of whether magic is real or not; that's how they claim their magic works, and we're not going to argue whether or not they're right about it.

BWR
2014-07-25, 11:37 AM
I wanted to know who started the "humans use only 10% of their brai ns" myth so I can wish bodily harm upon them.

You and me both.

Grinner
2014-07-25, 02:05 PM
*snip*

Wow. :smalleek: Well...That's...certainly a concise summary...


Color me impressed.


:smalleek:

Lord Raziere
2014-07-25, 02:39 PM
well too bad, I have no time to research real accurate spellcasters of myth, and neither do I care for them because I want to play my elfgames not be a historian on mythology. the wizards I know and care for are the modern ones, the clerics I know and care for are the modern ones. historical definitions should remain that: historical, in the past. I don't care what some ancient person thought of them, this is what I am thinking now and therefore far more important as I am still alive.

lets get back the point of this shall we? no matter what we think of wizards, its clear that there are different styles at work here that all need to be somehow represented:

Gandalf Wizardry: Subtle, Mysterious Magic (I am including Mage: The Awakening under Gandalf style)
Vancian Wizardry: Consistent Rigid Tactical Magic
Freestyle Wizardly: looser, more showy magic of a more freeform nature (Not necessarily blowing up cities, just more flexible and less limited than the other two styles, like say Fairy Tail or Avatar the Last Airbender)

So what can we do to make sure all these styles are represented? and if I missed any, please let me know so that I can add them in.

Grinner
2014-07-25, 03:17 PM
well too bad, I have no time to research real accurate spellcasters of myth, and neither do I care for them because I want to play my elfgames not be a historian on mythology. the wizards I know and care for are the modern ones, the clerics I know and care for are the modern ones. historical definitions should remain that: historical, in the past. I don't care what some ancient person thought of them, this is what I am thinking now and therefore far more important as I am still alive.

I don't think (mostly) anyone's attacking your particular preferences. I think they're just debating the strengths of different approaches, including the classical sort. Some more vehemently than others.

Mark Hall
2014-07-25, 03:21 PM
The problem is, Raziere, that understanding something means understanding its history, and dismissing the history just because you don't have time to research it doesn't make it go away. The history and metaphysics of things plays into the archetypes you cite... knowing the background makes it a lot more intelligible.

You say "I want these three kinds of magic." But then you give examples that are actually completely unrelated to the magic you're talking about, because you don't know the history.

Gandalf doesn't practice magic, for the most part. Most of his abilities are simply knowledge; they're subtleish because Arda doesn't have a lot of big spellcasting, as we usually think of it... the "mighty spells" are more likely to be woven into objects or be long rituals, not 6 seconds and a fireball. The rest of his abilities come from being somewhere between a deva and an avatar.

Vancian Magic? Do you mean traditional D&D, or how Vance presented magic... because if you mean the second, I suggest reading "Eyes of the Overworld", especially the end, where Cugel accidentally awakens half a hundred sleeping magicians because of a miscast spell.

You're tossing around terms, but when other people say what those terms mean, you're getting upset that they don't match your definition.

Now, if I were going to do something like these types?

Subtle Magic: Give the wizard a stash of points, either daily or on some other slow replenishment basis. Most of these come out in the form of bonuses... spend a few points here and there for happy coincidences that help you and your party... similar to Hackmaster's Luck points. Bigger effects... items being coincidentally where you need them... cost more points. Really big effects... stuff that requires a lot of "off camera" movement (someone showing up in the right place at the right time) cost big points, and more the more tortured you have to make the logic.

Standard Spells: I'd probably do something similar to 2e's Complete Psionics. Every spell requires a roll. Failling the roll means burning resources. Botching the roll means something went wrong.

Freestyle magic: Having watched a bunch of Avatar, recently, I'd lean towards a "Constructible DC" method, similar to what Dragonlance SAGA did... choose your time of casting, the amount effected, etc., to decide how much it costs and how hard it is to do.

Aedilred
2014-07-25, 03:24 PM
well too bad, I have no time to research real accurate spellcasters of myth, and neither do I care for them because I want to play my elfgames not be a historian on mythology. the wizards I know and care for are the modern ones, the clerics I know and care for are the modern ones. historical definitions should remain that: historical, in the past. I don't care what some ancient person thought of them, this is what I am thinking now and therefore far more important as I am still alive.

D&D isn't the only source of definitions of modern magic, you know. Just because something is called that way in D&D doesn't mean it's the universal modern definition superseding all others or that traditional definitions are no longer appropriate. D&D does shape the way a lot of roleplayers think about magic, but that doesn't mean that all other applications of it are inaccurate (especially since, taking the population as a whole, roleplayers, especially those who've played a D&D-inspired system, are in a fairly small minority).

You're entitled to think of things however you like. That doesn't mean that anyone else is wrong for disagreeing with you, or that anyone is wrong for presenting a wizard as something that doesn't gel with your personal conception. Like someone said earlier, you can call cats "dogs" if you like, but don't be surprised if you get confused by other people calling cats "cats", or imagining a dog when you're talking about a cat without other means of differentiation.

Mark Hall
2014-07-25, 03:32 PM
Wow. :smalleek: Well...That's...certainly a concise summary...


Color me impressed.


:smalleek:

I did a LOT of research before writing Mysteries of Magic. Not all of it got into the first book, unfortunately, after the hatchet job in editing and fitting it to Palladium Fantasy.

Grinner
2014-07-25, 03:43 PM
Gandalf doesn't practice magic, for the most part. Most of his abilities are simply knowledge; they're subtleish because Arda doesn't have a lot of big spellcasting, as we usually think of it... the "mighty spells" are more likely to be woven into objects or be long rituals, not 6 seconds and a fireball. The rest of his abilities come from being somewhere between a deva and an avatar.

On the subject, he's not exactly subtle in his spellcasting. I recall one instance in The Hobbit where he burns a pack of worgs with a fireball. Probably in about six seconds, now that I think about it. I could be misremembering that particular passage, but I'm pretty sure that's what happened.

Magic is very much a tool when used the way D&D treats it. D&D rarely takes the time to explain how it works beyond the letters V, S, and M. There's little rhyme or reason to it. From the player's perspective, it's all just nonsensical cause and effect. With no underlying ontology, it's ripe only for exploitation, not reverence.

Edit: Found the chapter where he sets wolves on fire, and it was burning pinecones he uses, not fireballs. Material component, I guess?

TheThan
2014-07-25, 04:48 PM
Didnít The Hobbit go through several re-writes?

Because I distinctly remember Gandalf basting the goblins with lightning when they were captured and taken to goblin town. But when I re-read the book
may years later, that didnít happen.

Since I donít own a copy, it must have been two different printings with some changes made in between.

Cikomyr
2014-07-25, 05:15 PM
You will notice, however, that regardless of Gandal's exact actions when using magic, its only good at making things worse (or just average).

Zapping the gobbos dont make them flee.
Setting the Wargs on fire only give them an incentive to wait for the gobbos, who then use said fire to roast the dwarves.

Ultimately, its Gandalf's gift at making friends with the Eagles and Beorn that save the day, not his 1337 wizard spellz.

Let me ask you a question: if you have a person able to summon at will a firestorm at the place of his choice. It doesnt cost him anything, he may limited to a few times a day. Or at least to practical limits. What do you call this ability?

I call that a Directed Airstrike.

Whats the difference between Rapier's definition of magic and fancy technology? Thats the entire point of this thread: see how fantasy and sci-fi can mix. Treating magic like its just another tech tool is basically removing the fantasy aspect of the equation.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-25, 06:38 PM
......oh god, I just can't muster myself to care about any of these criticisms and the people being difficult because of stupid semantics, I'm out, I'm just getting frustrated and stressed from this and its not going to be helpful to the discussion. :smallannoyed:

Edit: ok somewhat cooled down, only one question: how can understanding historical magic possibly help me get the magic that I want? its not historical, so its not relevant to it.

Mark Hall
2014-07-25, 06:51 PM
Edit: ok somewhat cooled down, only one question: how can understanding historical magic possibly help me get the magic that I want? its not historical, so its not relevant to it.

It helps you know what you're looking for and how to phrase things so others understand you. It gives you more perspective on types of magic.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-25, 06:59 PM
It helps you know what you're looking for and how to phrase things so others understand you. It gives you more perspective on types of magic.

any idea on how to go about that aside from half-hearted google attempts and wikipedia?

Cikomyr
2014-07-25, 07:22 PM
any idea on how to go about that aside from half-hearted google attempts and wikipedia?

There is a video on youtube made by... Err.. Tasteful Underrated Nerdrage (TUN) about the nature of magic in video games and fictions. It actually adresses certain classic litteracy elements, and while his voice is deliberately droning, i find him to be extremely entertaining.

I think his account name is JBond or something like that.

Mr. Mask
2014-07-25, 07:30 PM
Good post Mark. I think I'll look into Mysteries of Magic. Do you have anything in it to the lines of stories of monks, exerting influence to negotiate with or rebuke spirits but not having any directly magical powers?

Mark Hall
2014-07-25, 07:54 PM
Good post Mark. I think I'll look into Mysteries of Magic. Do you have anything in it to the lines of stories of monks, exerting influence to negotiate with or rebuke spirits but not having any directly magical powers?

I wouldn't suggest it; it's heavily oriented towards Palladium Fantasy. I created a psionic class based on the Commune with Spirits power in PF, but I don't recall it getting in.

Grinner
2014-07-25, 07:55 PM
any idea on how to go about that aside from half-hearted google attempts and wikipedia?

I'd actually avoid Wikipedia. It's great if you know what you're looking for, but being encyclopedic, it tends to lack things like introductions and overviews.

Edit: Actually, if you have the money for it, I'd recommend GURPS Thaumatology. It goes through a plethora of practices without resting too heavily on their philosophies. Grade-A game material.

Prince Raven
2014-07-25, 07:55 PM
On the subject, he's not exactly subtle in his spellcasting. I recall one instance in The Hobbit where he burns a pack of worgs with a fireball. Probably in about six seconds, now that I think about it. I could be misremembering that particular passage, but I'm pretty sure that's what happened.

Actually he uses the Spark cantrip on a Pinecone and throws it at them.

In fact, I can't remember Gandalf using anything but cantrips in The Hobbit and LoTR.

Aedilred
2014-07-25, 07:59 PM
Edit: ok somewhat cooled down, only one question: how can understanding historical magic possibly help me get the magic that I want? its not historical, so its not relevant to it.

The point is that the conception of magic as it permeates the fantasy (and related) genres is informed by a long literary tradition which in itself is informed by beliefs which people actually held historically about magic in the real world. The idea of the D&D-style "Wizard" is actually a relatively recent addition to this corpus. There's a reason it's called Vancian magic, after all. Also, the tradition as a whole draws relatively little distinction, if any, between the D&D system's classes: "sorcerer" is often, probably usually, used interchangeably with "wizard" (as are some of the more specific titles like "conjurer" or "enchanter"). What D&D would call clerics or druids, even paladins or rangers, are be called wizards or sorcerers elsewhere.

Some of your statements about what magic "should" be like have been rather narrow, ignoring the vast majority of the fantasy and pre-fantasy tradition in favour of an ideal of magic heavily influenced by D&D magic systems. Now, it's fine if that's the sort of magic you prefer, but some of what you've said has suggested that you think that's the only type of magic that's valid; that anything else isn't really magic, or that characters who use it aren't really wizards, etc. All of which is only true from a certain perspective, and I think the original question was, and certainly the conversation has become, rather more broad than that.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-25, 08:20 PM
There is a video on youtube made by... Err.. Tasteful Underrated Nerdrage (TUN) about the nature of magic in video games and fictions. It actually adresses certain classic litteracy elements, and while his voice is deliberately droning, i find him to be extremely entertaining.

I think his account name is JBond or something like that.

kay watched it, yet another "magic should be rare and mysterious" complaint that I do not care for. I am unimpressed. if that is what you prefer though....I'm not stopping you.

@ Aedilred:
ok whatever, my magic is not the only valid one, but all of what you people said sound like excluding my own preference for magic over my own, which makes me feel like that mine is not valid.

but whatever, I'm the kind of guy that wants magitech, thematic magic that is more of expression of will and the flexibility of thought than any rigid spell or subtle working, and other such things in a world where everyone else seems to prefer more subtle hidden things, limits and restraints yet at the same time reality-warping that I don't care for. I guess I just....have a preference that probably nobody else shares, and will probably never be shared because I have a weird mind that apparently doesn't get anyone else and only wants this narrow one ideal. argh. :smallfrown:

Edit: or I guess, my own rules or whatever. argh.

Mark Hall
2014-07-25, 08:28 PM
but whatever, I'm the kind of guy that wants magitech, thematic magic that is more of expression of will and the flexibility of thought than any rigid spell or subtle working, and other such things in a world where everyone else seems to prefer more subtle hidden things, limits and restraints yet at the same time reality-warping that I don't care for. I guess I just....have a preference that probably nobody else shares, and will probably never be shared because I have a weird mind that apparently doesn't get anyone else and only wants this narrow one ideal. argh.


Which is cool, but harder to design. The problem with a lot of freeform systems is coming up with a way to adjudicate the possibilities of creativity... in universe, you simply do it, in game, you have to come up with a system.

Which, for a flexible system, is why I keep pimping the old Dragonlance SAGA system, where they walked you through a series of tables to relatively quickly create complex effects. Since there's a large amount of examples, a GM has a fair amount to work from. It's just too bad the rest of the system was unworkable.

Cikomyr
2014-07-26, 12:35 AM
Well.. A thematic-based approach to superpowered magic that lets you manifest what you want while still restricted by certain rules...

You could always dust up the good old Mage : the Awakening system, do away with Paradox rules, and find ways to enforce one's thematic in the magic.

For example, a wizards using what he believes to be godly magic would be able to pop spells on the fly, but only if it follow the God's rules and agenda. As opposed to a Vancian wizard who have to painstakingly prepare the spell he will cast, but can use them for whatever purpose he wants.

Itd be a very valid system, while retaining a strong thrmatic feeling. Just remember a cardinal rule of litteracy magic: its costly.

Be it Time. Work. Blood. Soul. Gold. Friendship.

Magic is always costly one way or another. You are meddling with the Rules of the Universe.. Why do you think you can get away with it? ;)

Lord Raziere
2014-07-26, 12:44 AM
when I say thematic magic, I sort of mean more like being able to only use illusions, or only use fire, or only use hope magic and such and so on, but the magic itself is flexible within its theme for any purpose you can think of.

and that at most you'd have two themes? like fire and truth, or water and adaptation, enough to make it flexible and interesting but not enough to make you godly and all-powerful. and you sort of have to justify the combination- fire and destruction, is different from fire and happiness, and thus has different capabilities. vancian casting is just too unrelated and artificial.

Arbane
2014-07-26, 02:53 AM
I call that a Directed Airstrike.


That's why they're called MAGEs: Mobile Arcane Gun Emplacements. :smallbiggrin:

Cronocke
2014-07-26, 03:35 AM
when I say thematic magic, I sort of mean more like being able to only use illusions, or only use fire, or only use hope magic and such and so on, but the magic itself is flexible within its theme for any purpose you can think of.

and that at most you'd have two themes? like fire and truth, or water and adaptation, enough to make it flexible and interesting but not enough to make you godly and all-powerful. and you sort of have to justify the combination- fire and destruction, is different from fire and happiness, and thus has different capabilities. vancian casting is just too unrelated and artificial.

This sounds a lot like Mage: The Awakening. You could houserule that game to where you can only take your two favored arcana and one other, and that would ensure that you get more power instead of more variety.

Another game system that could work is Geist: The Sin-Eaters. In it, you get Manifestations, which determine what you can do, and Keys, which determine what you do it to. Again, some houseruling would be required.

Fate would work decently for this - stunts and aspects would be great for determining what your powers are, or just create specific skills for each type of magic.

There's also a homebrew magic system for D&D 3.5 called Elements of Magic, which gives you more flexibility in terms of what you can do - instead of learning new spells, you learn a new effect+element combination, like Evoke Metal or Abjure Fire. Of course, since you keep learning new combos and new signature spells, that might not be to your liking.

EDIT: Oh, I forgot one! Nobilis. You only have one Power, but what that Power can do tends to be very flexible, and there's lots of room to interpret things creatively.

VoxRationis
2014-07-26, 12:38 PM
What I hate however is "Magic is unexplained science" approach. No, don't do that. Magic is magic, science is science, best if the two simply cannot work together.

It is fallacious to conflate "science" with "the rules of the real-world universe." Science is a process, a methodology of systematic analysis and discovery. If magic actually exists in a setting, science is not automatically opposed to it; in fact, it should embrace it. Science can absolutely work together with magic, in the same way that it can work with physics and chemistry, if magic exists in a setting. The fact that wizards in D&D apply their Intelligence scores to the effectiveness of their spells, learn from books and field notes, and develop their spells in more powerful ways as they learn and observe their effects suggests that they are in fact scientists of a kind, merely ones who are far stingier about sharing knowledge than the real-world scientific community (and with good reason; how many people do you trust enough to give them intimate knowledge about how to rewrite the universe?).

Lord Raziere
2014-07-26, 01:25 PM
What I hate however is "Magic is unexplained science" approach. No, don't do that. Magic is magic, science is science, best if the two simply cannot work together. Making magic unexplaied science makes it stop being magic and robs the setting from it's fantasy, now making it all very silly science fiction. If you need that in order to explain your wolrdbuilding, okay, but don't pretend it's a fantasy story, even if you have living suit of armor riding dragon that drops bombs full of werewolf goblins.

technically your wrong: the quote is "any sufficiently advanced TECHNOLOGY is indistinguishable from magic" science is a philosophy and process.

and I really don't get it.

its like taking a look at gravity and going "No don't explain gravity! or magnetism! I'm interested in them, so therefore keep them rare so that I may gasp when they actually happen and not actually investigate it at all!" :smallconfused: or "This is wondrous and awesome! keep it away from me, before I start seeing why!" It doesn't follow any train of logic I can think of. especially when all the greatest minds, the people who would become wizards would be the ones most interested in seeking these things out and being a nerd over them, and if there is one thing nerds love to do, its explain, explain, explain. I can't say something even slightly wrong about a subject without getting someone who know the subject better correcting me about it in some minute way, what makes you think that an entire order of wizards who can call upon the forces of the universe to destroy those who anger them won't be launching into rants and lectures about people using improper terms or distorted stories of superstition for what they do and trying to make them understand this stuff? not just out of nerdiness mind you, but making sure the people around them don't become suspicious of what they are doing and interrupting what could be important work. not everyone is as wise as Gandalf, nor is everyone as secret-keeping as Guardians of the Veil.

that and not finding any wonder or magic in technology is kind of unimaginative, don't you think?

VoxRationis
2014-07-26, 05:22 PM
I do understand the ideas behind keeping magic mysterious and rare. Knowing something gives you a sort of power over it, and that power makes it harder to feel awe about it. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say, and while "contempt" might not be exactly the right word for it, you can see how having intimate knowledge of exactly how something works ruins some of its majesty. Think of any of the highly advanced pieces of technology you use every day. Do you feel more awe-struck by these masterpieces of human ingenuity today, after many months or years of using them, than when you first acquired them?
Or, to use a different example, somewhat less related directly to magic but in keeping with the "mystery is awe-inspiring" idea, take the Covenant from the Halo series of video games. In the first game, they didn't speak English (except for the cannon-fodder troops), you weren't familiar with many of their units and weapons, and your information on their motivations and society were limited. Consequently they were more intimidating than in the second game, where they speak English, you are afforded glimpses into their society, and where you can see their decision-making processes and failures. There are enemies in one of my campaign settings that I really like and want to gush over but don't simply to make sure they don't lose that awesome quality in the same way.

Anonymouswizard
2014-07-26, 05:30 PM
that and not finding any wonder or magic in technology is kind of unimaginative, don't you think?

This actually a fairly insulting thing to say. Most people do find no wonder or magic in most technology, except maybe stuff like the large hadron collider. I mean who sees magic in a toaster, or even their computer?

I think that the wonder people have for magic in a story should be inversely related to how often they encounter that magic. If everyone can create fire but clicking their fingers then most people won't see the magic in that, but will see the magic in a spell that causes people to double in size for 20 minutes. Why is this relevant?

Because in each case there are people who are different. Those who never stop being amazed at the wonder in the seemingly ordinary. These are the people who want to chase that wonder and understand it, in order to find more wonder.

In a D&D these people are wizards.

In our world we call them scientists and engineers. I'm studying to become an electrical engineer at the moment, and I can say that every day I am amazed at the basic things my computer can do. Every time I cook I'm baffled by the magic of the cooker, even though I know it's gas lit by a spark. My favourite lecture on my course was when I learnt how assembler code is created. If I ever met someone with a cybernetic limb I would squee. But I except that most people, even some people on my course, aren't anywhere as near as excited about modern technology as I am. So I except that some people do not want their magic systems as detailed as I do. Some of those who find no wonder in technology actually have a lot more imagination than I do.

As a side note, I don't think that fantasy and science fiction can mix well, as fantasy looks for wonder in the extraordinary, but science fiction wants to be in a place where it's world's everyday inspires wonder.

Grinner
2014-07-26, 06:11 PM
It is fallacious to conflate "science" with "the rules of the real-world universe." Science is a process, a methodology of systematic analysis and discovery. If magic actually exists in a setting, science is not automatically opposed to it; in fact, it should embrace it. Science can absolutely work together with magic, in the same way that it can work with physics and chemistry, if magic exists in a setting. The fact that wizards in D&D apply their Intelligence scores to the effectiveness of their spells, learn from books and field notes, and develop their spells in more powerful ways as they learn and observe their effects suggests that they are in fact scientists of a kind, merely ones who are far stingier about sharing knowledge than the real-world scientific community (and with good reason; how many people do you trust enough to give them intimate knowledge about how to rewrite the universe?).

Well, that's one interpretation...And that's really the problem here, isn't it? There's just so many different possible interpretations.

In the case of D&D, it's entirely reasonable to interpret magic as science, for the very reasons you just pointed out. However, for those very reasons, it lacks a certain profundity or even, dare I say, magic. Now, I could just be projecting, but when I hear people draw an artificial divide between science and magic for the purposes of keeping the latter mysterious, keeping it wondrous, I think they really don't know what they want.

The allure of mystery lies in its resolution. People want to understand. The problem with D&D is that its magic is just so mundane. Understanding it bears no novelty. It does not open the eyes to vistas of insight. It just is and on the most paltry of justifications.

Mark Hall
2014-07-26, 06:31 PM
Well, that's one interpretation...And that's really the problem here, isn't it? There's just so many different possible interpretations.

In the case of D&D, it's entirely reasonable to interpret magic as science, for the very reasons you just pointed out. However, for those very reasons, it lacks a certain profundity or even, dare I say, magic. Now, I could just be projecting, but when I hear people draw an artificial divide between science and magic for the purposes of keeping the latter mysterious, keeping it wondrous, I think they really don't know what they want.

The allure of mystery lies in its resolution. People want to understand. The problem with D&D is that its magic is just so mundane. Understanding it bears no novelty. It does not open the eyes to vistas of insight. It just is and on the most paltry of justifications.

Which comes back to "What do you want from magic" back in post #29 (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showsinglepost.php?p=17803544&postcount=29). Magic in D&D is very much a technology... it's something that can be used, in a repeatable fashion, to solve problems. Magic in D&D is also a science, in that you can seemingly investigate it and draw conclusions... if I do X and Y, then Z will happen.

The problem with creating a "magical" magic system is making it one that you can deal with in static probabilities... i.e. "I want to do X with magic, and want to know if that's reasonable and possible." There's a lot of ways of making it seem more "magical", usually by increasing rarity (so it can't be used to solve mundane problems).

Having been watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, recently, I was thinking about Sokka, especially in the early episodes. He's been living for 2-5 years in a very low-bending environment.... most of the benders left the Southern Water Tribe, leaving Kitara the untrained as the only bender left. For him, bending was rare, magical (and somewhat useless). He continued to hold bending as magical until he spent a lot of time abroad in the world, and saw how much of a science and technology it was... bending, in many ways, drove the world in which he lived. Though bending is pretty magical by our standards, it was somewhat mundane by the standards of the society it exists in... still with the capacity to amaze people (much as I am frequently amazed by the power of the computer I keep in my pants), its principles are understood, deducible, and its effects repeatable.

If you're mixing Fantasy and Sci-fi, what role do you want magic to fill? Is it the role of "things science can't do"... so science may give you FTL transportation, but magic can do instantaneous travel and creation of matter and energy? Is it "innate abilities similar to physical technology"? So science can shoot a laser beam, and magic can shoot a slightly different kind of laser beam, but without the need for a tool? Where do you want the lines drawn?

Lord Raziere
2014-07-26, 06:46 PM
and yet I hear everyone speak of the wonders of mundane human smarts and ingenuity from people who like Batman, Solar Exalted, Conan and and every other hero with no powers. People apparently don't like other forms of awesome being everywhere but quite willing to talk endlessly about what humanity does without end.

Me? when I see something fantastic, I want more. I want to see more, I want to share more, spread it! I don't want it kept from me, I don't want it locked away. Its fantasy! why are you so keen on keeping the entire point of the genre so rare, why must I subsist on little scraps that don't satisfy me? Its frustrating to me, and leaves me dissatisfied that I don't get more.

and maybe the initial "whoa" effect wore off- but thats only initial wonder. I know that the computer I type on is a great achievement establishing communication like never before! understanding it only makes me know how much I should be thankful for its existence! the wonder only fades if I stop thinking of it, if I stop valuing it, and most people stop thinking about it, they let it fade because their mind is on other things. but just because your not thinking of it, doesn't mean the value goes away- only that its hidden and that you must think upon it discern more wonder, more value!

why is there only wonder in rare flashy effects that don't mean anything? there is a deeper wonder and value than some surface liking of mystery and subtlety. I don't see why I should stop considering something wondrous just because its common, why ever consider that it might be wondrous BECAUSE its common? why look at comic books, we didn't used to have those at all, and now look at the stories we can tell using them and how many people can see that story! Or TV, imagine the wonders of so many people across the world watching it, so many different things to so many different people, almost unimaginable 40 or 50 years ago. maybe I am a person of science fiction. maybe my idea for magic and magitech stories isn't what you consider fantasy. but that is hardly something bad to my point of view. rather it is the greatest thing about it to me.

because if your idea of "fantasy" is walking about experiencing mostly boring mundanity then suddenly magic for no rhyme or reason then it just as suddenly disappearing, and not showing up for a while more, I want no part of fantasy or your idea of it. I do not read Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire for their magic- their magic is pointless and meaningless because they write it so, I read them for the characters involved. but what I want is the magic to be expressed, and I want it to be valuable, not this mysterious force to go "Wo0o0o0o0o0o0o0o, you don't know anything about it, w0o0o0o0o0o0, gaze in wonder" at. :smallsigh:

Arbane
2014-07-26, 10:37 PM
and yet I hear everyone speak of the wonders of mundane human smarts and ingenuity from people who like Batman, Solar Exalted, Conan and and every other hero with no powers.

One of these things is not like the others....


People apparently don't like other forms of awesome being everywhere but quite willing to talk endlessly about what humanity does without end.

I don't _mind_ magic, but I do mind magic being _always_ better than non-magic.

As for 'awe and mystery', the necessary codification and systematization needed to make magic playable in a RPG makes most magic systems about as awesome and mysterious as ordering the Extra Value Meal at McD's.

BeerMug Paladin
2014-07-27, 12:42 AM
I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately. And to me, it seems the primary distinction between the two is mostly presentation. Both things are fantasy, overall. Fantasy just becomes science fiction if the magic is presented in a way that attempts to be consistent with the audience's scientific knowledge.

Generally, consistency is a quality that is paramount for anything with a scientific explanation to make sense, so sci-fi tends to also emphasize consistency in general. For this reason, sci-fi tends to focus on how well justified that magic is using real science. This is why some people consider Star Wars to not be real sci-fi, there's no time spent on explanations. The magic just is. (As opposed to Star Trek as of late, which is barely sci-fi. Lately, they just justify the magic with stupid/nonsense explanations hoping to fool their audience, but the token effort is there because it's supposed to be sci-fi.)

Fantasy isn't necessarily inconsistent, it's just not as critical for the subject matter, since being realistic isn't necessarily the goal. The goal with the magic here isn't to show how it's done, the goal is what would happen if it was done. Phillip K. Richard wrote a lot of his stories with this approach, yet it's categorized as sci-fi. Honestly, I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because he had a philosophical approach to his subject matter, or just wrote about sci-fi concepts in general.

I think a good sign of creativity is taking a common element from one type of setting and transplanting it into the other type of setting where it's rare. I don't think there's any reason why any single element from either genre makes sense to limit to just that one genre.

Cronocke
2014-07-27, 01:42 AM
Getting off the subject of the nitty gritty details of magic for a minute...

There was an obscure 90's anime I had a VHS of called Genesis Survivor Gaiarth, set in a post-apocalyptic world where instead of paladins, there were "war-roids", and magic items were replaced with poorly-understood technology, like a back-mounted device that projected a spherical force field (and the user chanted a spell before powering on), various types of railguns and plasma cannons in place of bows and fireball spells, and high-tech cybernetics in place of permanent self-enhancement spells.

I wouldn't say it was exactly brilliant, but it was certainly one of the more interesting ways I've seen of reinventing the fantasy genre. (It's part of why I don't feel Numenera goes far enough, but that's another story.)

Anonymouswizard
2014-07-27, 04:20 AM
I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately. And to me, it seems the primary distinction between the two is mostly presentation. Both things are fantasy, overall. Fantasy just becomes science fiction if the magic is presented in a way that attempts to be consistent with the audience's scientific knowledge.

Generally, consistency is a quality that is paramount for anything with a scientific explanation to make sense, so sci-fi tends to also emphasize consistency in general. For this reason, sci-fi tends to focus on how well justified that magic is using real science. This is why some people consider Star Wars to not be real sci-fi, there's no time spent on explanations. The magic just is. (As opposed to Star Trek as of late, which is barely sci-fi. Lately, they just justify the magic with stupid/nonsense explanations hoping to fool their audience, but the token effort is there because it's supposed to be sci-fi.)

How do you decide if something is justified using real science? As an example, I have a science fiction setting with the following timeline:

2008: the world significantly departs from ours, with an event happening that reduces the effectiveness of most governments.

2010s: megacorporations begin to rise, technology begins to advance slightly faster than in our world. By 2018 there are commercial fully functional cybernetic arms.

2020s: nerve-based inputs for computers are developed. Augmented reality begins to become the norm.

2030s: nerve based outputs are developed, nerve based inputs become efficient, the internet begins to evolve into the 3d matrix.

2056: project eternity discovers a way to slow aging, but not significantly. Governments begin to reclaim power from megacorps.

2060s: colony on mars is established. Terra forming begins.

~2100: project eternity potentially doubles human lifespan.

2160s: terraforming of mars complete. Humanity is spread across the inner solar system.

2200: humanity begins to colonise the outer solar system.

2250s: warp drive is created.

2300+: space opera with no aliens present.

Doe the above timeline ever break from being justified by 'real' science (by which I assume you mean modern scientific knowledge)? If so, can you please tell me approximately where it becomes fantasy instead of science fiction. This is to understand the point better, so I'm sorry if it sounds insulting.

Grinner
2014-07-27, 05:02 AM
As for 'awe and mystery', the necessary codification and systematization needed to make magic playable in a RPG makes most magic systems about as awesome and mysterious as ordering the Extra Value Meal at McD's.

It's all in the fluff. If your fluff is terrible, your game's going to be mediocre, at best.

Lord Raziere
2014-07-27, 05:31 AM
which is why things like Exalted and Mage make me want to play them even though I hate like, one of the big parts of the premises about them: very well written fluff.

Arbane:
trust me. the same people who talk about the limitless power of human mundanity and such are the same people who love Solars above all else, and compare them to both Conan and Batman. I have nothing against mundane awesome though, part of the reason I want a different magic system is to make sure magic ISN'T overpowered while still being fun. being Gandalf is probably only fun for maybe one character, while Vancian casting makes sure you eventually acquire a vast assortment of unrelated spells that dominate over everyone else in the game. I prefer being a 3.5 warlock as its both not bound by limited casting yet is more balanced than it, or a Beguiler which while bound to limited casting, can only cast illusion or enchantment spells which I find an interesting concept that I want to play because its NOT the all-reality warping powers of the wizard or whatever, its thematic in its own way.

so perhaps I should be specific about the magic I want:

-the magic should be thematic. no random assortment of spells. it should be focused towards a specific purpose, or put it another way, I only want to wield one school of magic, or only one element, stuff like that.

-magic should be able to be improvised, flexibly used in the situation to pull off certain stunts

-while I know I want my magic with unlimited use, I know this won't fly with everyone, so as a compromise I can work with a mana system, because I can plausibly see getting "tired" magic-wise.

as for the actual thread topic:

I like magitech. simple as that. to make such a setting, I'd probably include a certain magic user specifically devoted to integrating magic and technology together somehow, like an artificer- but y'know still bound in a thematic way. like their tech isn't just any old enchantment, its enchantments all based around hope, or water or copper and they have to figure out how to make their magic work with technology.

like say your magitech guy with water magic. you can't use fire magic or anything like that. yet you have to figure out ways to accomplish various things using water magic enchantments on the stuff you make to solve problems. thats how I'd integrate my own preference of magic with technology- make you have to be creative, because unlimited magic AND unlimited tech only lead to outright godhood no matter how you slice it.

BeerMug Paladin
2014-07-28, 12:29 AM
How do you decide if something is justified using real science? As an example, I have a science fiction setting with the following timeline:

2008: the world significantly departs from ours, with an event happening that reduces the effectiveness of most governments.

2010s: megacorporations begin to rise, technology begins to advance slightly faster than in our world. By 2018 there are commercial fully functional cybernetic arms.

2020s: nerve-based inputs for computers are developed. Augmented reality begins to become the norm.

2030s: nerve based outputs are developed, nerve based inputs become efficient, the internet begins to evolve into the 3d matrix.

2056: project eternity discovers a way to slow aging, but not significantly. Governments begin to reclaim power from megacorps.

2060s: colony on mars is established. Terra forming begins.

~2100: project eternity potentially doubles human lifespan.

2160s: terraforming of mars complete. Humanity is spread across the inner solar system.

2200: humanity begins to colonise the outer solar system.

2250s: warp drive is created.

2300+: space opera with no aliens present.
Doe the above timeline ever break from being justified by 'real' science (by which I assume you mean modern scientific knowledge)? If so, can you please tell me approximately where it becomes fantasy instead of science fiction. This is to understand the point better, so I'm sorry if it sounds insulting.
That sounds like there's an attempt to link it to the modern world using modern ideas for what might technically be possible. Although the details of what makes these things real in the setting is, in effect, magical (if they were not, they would exist in the real world), in a practical sense there's nothing radically unreal about most of what you said that would render the setting to be strictly based on magical just because rationales.

Generally, I'd probably say the warp drive is more of a fantasy element than a sci-fi element. Just because it's so outside our modern understanding of physics that it's hard to imagine how it's connected. But what I meant more is that what the fantasy tech does isn't an issue. What matters is how the fantasy tech is presented.

It's been a long time since I saw it, but I believe in Andromeda, space was navigated through the power of the human spirit or something. (If I am thinking of the right thing.) That's fantasy warp drive.

In Star Trek, space is navigated through warp bubbles and space-time folding. It's BS as real science, but the people in the setting who perform warp travel have their science-pants on.

In Star Wars, the space travel just sort of happens. It's kind of in a grey area just because they don't explain it one way or the other. Space travel just happens when the space button is pushed. (I'm referring to the movies to make my point about this)

You don't sound insulting. These are just my thoughts, and I hardly expect people to universally agree with me.

To be clear, I don't think this creates a distinct line between what qualifies as fantasy and what is science fiction. I just think the approach between the two differs in this distinct way. Science fiction is just about taking some time off to geek out over the cool technical details.

hamishspence
2014-07-28, 06:30 AM
In Star Wars, the space travel just sort of happens. It's kind of in a grey area just because they don't explain it one way or the other. Space travel just happens when the space button is pushed. (I'm referring to the movies to make my point about this)

They do call it "travelling through hyperspace" in the movies.

Mastikator
2014-07-28, 06:54 AM
They do call it "travelling through hyperspace" in the movies.
That's just technobabble nonsense, they might as well have been saying "teleporting through the astral plane". They should've not talked about it at all and just leave it up to the audience to suspend disbelief.

Cronocke
2014-07-28, 08:20 AM
That's just technobabble nonsense, they might as well have been saying "teleporting through the astral plane". They should've not talked about it at all and just leave it up to the audience to suspend disbelief.

They don't devote any time to explaining precisely what "warp" is in Star Trek either, it's just a convenient way of moving faster than light.

Prince Raven
2014-07-28, 08:26 AM
They don't devote any time to explaining precisely what "warp" is in Star Trek either, it's just a convenient way of moving faster than light.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warp_drive

hamishspence
2014-07-28, 09:44 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warp_drive

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperspace_(science_fiction)

Cronocke
2014-07-28, 02:12 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warp_drive

None of which is explained in episodes of the show.

Mark Hall
2014-07-28, 03:26 PM
None of which is explained in episodes of the show.

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Warp_factor

With annotations, but I agree... they generally don't lay out the explicit warp mechanics except insofar as required for the tech-problem-of-the-week, and sometimes ignore their existing technobabble for the next tech problem of the week. But Geeks are Geeks, and will try to reconcile everything, anyway.

VoxRationis
2014-07-28, 06:15 PM
They do call it "travelling through hyperspace" in the movies.

Also, it doesn't "just happen;" it apparently requires a hefty amount of prep work and navigational calculation: "[Hyperspace travel] isn't like dusting crops, boy!"
That said, I would list Star Wars as fantasy. There's a substantial supernatural element and the technology is handwaved at best. Often it's not used properly; I have posited that many sci-fi settings would beat Star Wars, even if they have inferior technology, because they know how to use it properly (i.e., not fighting ship-to-ship at ranges better suited for pre-rifling cannon).

Aedilred
2014-07-28, 06:49 PM
Generally, I'd probably say the warp drive is more of a fantasy element than a sci-fi element. Just because it's so outside our modern understanding of physics that it's hard to imagine how it's connected. But what I meant more is that what the fantasy tech does isn't an issue. What matters is how the fantasy tech is presented.
...
To be clear, I don't think this creates a distinct line between what qualifies as fantasy and what is science fiction. I just think the approach between the two differs in this distinct way. Science fiction is just about taking some time off to geek out over the cool technical details.

I've always found it kind of ironic that Warhmamer 40,000, which makes no apologies about being fantasy in space, has in principle one of the more plausible warp drive/FTL technologies I've encountered. The drive allows the ship to move through a dimension not normally perceptible (the warp) which is temporally out of sync with the perceptible universe. There is a small population of mutants who can "see" in warp space; otherwise you have to do a lot of calculations in advance, and even then you can only make relatively short journeys before you have to stop and recalculate.

Of course, once you look at it in any detail beyond that, it's basically just magic, and the alternate dimension is the "sea of souls". But the general idea is something I could see being used even in Proper Sci-Fi.

Cikomyr
2014-07-28, 07:43 PM
http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Warp_factor

With annotations, but I agree... they generally don't lay out the explicit warp mechanics except insofar as required for the tech-problem-of-the-week, and sometimes ignore their existing technobabble for the next tech problem of the week. But Geeks are Geeks, and will try to reconcile everything, anyway.

The difference between fantasy and sci-fi nature of storytelling, I think, is pretty clear when you consider how FTL travel goes between Star Trek, Star Wars, Warhammer, Dune, etc..

It's obviously all mumbo-jumbo. But there are story implication to the thematic of each mumbo jumbo.

How do Trekkies got around speculating so much about Warp Travel and its inner working? Because, at times, its properties have been used for stuff other than FTL travel. It has actually be stated in multiple episode that the crew tried to use the Reality-warping properties of a Warp Field to achieve stuff, like moving an Asteroid out of a dangerous orbit.

Compare to Hyperdrive in Star Wars, which has no other practice than FTL travel. It's never explicated, it's merely a plot convenience meant for the plot to happen; which is fine in a good fantasy story. you can't pull off weird stunts with Hyperdrive; it's meant to do one, and only one thing: go from A to B. When you start factoring in the Interdictor Cruisers and the "gravity wells" into the storymaking, it's a clear step made into the realm of Sci-fi, which is again fine.

Warhammer 40K's is a bit different. It's a very interesting mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy (But then again, Warhammer 40K hits on all notes quite well). The non-transitive application of Warp Engines might make it a "fantasy" staple, but the Warp dimension itself has multiple, multiple application to the universe outside of its core FTL application. It's a weapon, it's a den of monsters, it's a labyrinth for lost souls.


Dune is probably the most interesting application of Sci-fized Fantasy. I mean.. the Spice itself is just one Plot Convenience Coupon. It allow for all the strange stuff in the universe, and that's it. How it does it, how people did before the Spice, how it was discovered.. all of it is completely irrelevant to the story. However, the idea that men hooked on Spice might be able to see distance space and fold it to facilitate travel... and that this ability is also somehow related to a capacity to see into the future, and navigate the present through the potential timelines...

That's very solid sci-fi applied on fantasy elements.

Grinner
2014-07-28, 08:04 PM
The difference between fantasy and sci-fi nature of storytelling, I think, is pretty clear when you consider how FTL travel goes between Star Trek, Star Wars, Warhammer, Dune, etc..

It's obviously all mumbo-jumbo. But there are story implication to the thematic of each mumbo jumbo.

...

That's very solid sci-fi applied on fantasy elements.

To play off this, I recall Isaac Asimov once said there are essentially three kinds of science fiction. They can be summarized as:

How a particular technology works.
What we did with it.
How it impacted life as we know it.

Fantasy, interestingly enough, can be interpreted as following a similar pattern. Since it tends to operate on the Rule of Cool, Type 2 stories are often emphasized. In my experience, only Brandon Sanderson worries about explaining magic in the excruciating detail common to Type 1 stories, though I'm sure other authors do the the same. As the Tippyverse demonstrates, Type 3 stories tend to be less common as well, since the assumptions made in following the Rule of Cool will cause the setting to deteriorate when taken to their logical extremes.

Star Wars is resoundingly a Type 2 story and thus is easily categorized as being fantasy. That it follows many tropes common to fantasy, including the Hero's Journey, does not help.

Edit: But you know what? Let's be honest with ourselves here. There's a reason why fantasy and science fiction are often shelved together; at the end of the day, it's all just fiction.

Aedilred
2014-07-28, 08:40 PM
Edit: But you know what? Let's be honest with ourselves here. There's a reason why fantasy and science fiction are often shelved together; at the end of the day, it's all just fiction.
I have in recent years come to believe that it would be better if - as far as shelving goes - fictional genres were ignored and they were all just shelved together under "Fiction". Partly this is out of frustration at wandering around trying to work out if a given book I want is in "Sci-fi/Fantasy" or "Dark Fantasy" or "Horror" or "Fiction", the placement of which often seems arbitrary, but I do also just think it would be an improvement in general and help to erode the snobbish perception around "genre fiction" that can see a kind of ghettoisation.

Obviously, for more general categorisation purposes, webstores and so on, genres are still a useful tool, but when you're not dealing with where to put a single physical copy you can afford to have more robust and comprehensive procedures in place.

Cronocke
2014-07-28, 08:58 PM
I have in recent years come to believe that it would be better if - as far as shelving goes - fictional genres were ignored and they were all just shelved together under "Fiction". Partly this is out of frustration at wandering around trying to work out if a given book I want is in "Sci-fi/Fantasy" or "Dark Fantasy" or "Horror" or "Fiction", the placement of which often seems arbitrary, but I do also just think it would be an improvement in general and help to erode the snobbish perception around "genre fiction" that can see a kind of ghettoisation.

Obviously, for more general categorisation purposes, webstores and so on, genres are still a useful tool, but when you're not dealing with where to put a single physical copy you can afford to have more robust and comprehensive procedures in place.

I would still separate it a bit - "Speculative Fiction" and "Contemporary Fiction" - but otherwise I agree, that would be very nice.

Arbane
2014-07-28, 09:17 PM
I would still separate it a bit - "Speculative Fiction" and "Contemporary Fiction" - but otherwise I agree, that would be very nice.

What about historical fiction?

But yeah, I agree in general.

Mr.Sandman
2014-07-28, 09:55 PM
I have in recent years come to believe that it would be better if - as far as shelving goes - fictional genres were ignored and they were all just shelved together under "Fiction". Partly this is out of frustration at wandering around trying to work out if a given book I want is in "Sci-fi/Fantasy" or "Dark Fantasy" or "Horror" or "Fiction", the placement of which often seems arbitrary, but I do also just think it would be an improvement in general and help to erode the snobbish perception around "genre fiction" that can see a kind of ghettoisation.

Obviously, for more general categorisation purposes, webstores and so on, genres are still a useful tool, but when you're not dealing with where to put a single physical copy you can afford to have more robust and comprehensive procedures in place.

Multiple times at my local library I have been unable to find one book in a series in the Sci Fi/Fantsy section, gone to General fiction and found it there, presumably because that one was slightly different in theme than the rest.

Klaatu B. Nikto
2014-07-29, 03:42 PM
Well.. A thematic-based approach to superpowered magic that lets you manifest what you want while still restricted by certain rules...

You could always dust up the good old Mage : the Awakening system, do away with Paradox rules, and find ways to enforce one's thematic in the magic.

For example, a wizards using what he believes to be godly magic would be able to pop spells on the fly, but only if it follow the God's rules and agenda. As opposed to a Vancian wizard who have to painstakingly prepare the spell he will cast, but can use them for whatever purpose he wants.

Itd be a very valid system, while retaining a strong thrmatic feeling. Just remember a cardinal rule of litteracy magic: its costly.

Be it Time. Work. Blood. Soul. Gold. Friendship.

Magic is always costly one way or another. You are meddling with the Rules of the Universe.. Why do you think you can get away with it? ;)

It's an immutable law of the universe: Equivalent Exchange.

Cost one of the Elric brothers an arm and a leg while the other his entire body. But Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood weren't quite so scifi until you get to the origin of the homunculi, especially Wrath IMO. But also the mooks that the Elrics have to go through to get to the Big Bad near the end of the second series (Brotherhood).

MLai
2014-09-21, 02:28 PM
Sorry, this thread is dense. I've read the 1st 2 pages and can lurk no more.


Cronock: I'm a fan of the way magic was treated in a little-known computer RPG called Arcanum. Magic and technology both set out to do similar things - treat injuries, cure diseases, move objects, and so on. Both were repeatable, generally speaking. But magic achieved its goals by distorting the laws of physics, thermodynamics, and so on, while technology relied on those very laws to function. Thus, powerful magic could cause machines to break, and complex machines could cause spells to fizzle out, due to the grander scope winning out. The two coexisted in the setting because magic was capable of greater miracles, but technology was something any layperson could use with minimal training or talent.
That doesn't explain how magic distorts physics.

By your explanation above, it seems that the author assumes the laws of physics is some sort of external construct laid upon the fabric of reality, and magic is a competing construct that can be laid upon the same base fabric. But the truth is the laws of physics is better termed as the laws of reality; physics is the fabric of reality.

An actual explanation would be that Magic is a way for humans to bring in a competing reality. That is, open an inlet for another universe, with its own laws of physics, to leak through a tiny bit. There, now Magic and Super-science are on equal footing in terms of background explanations.

But guess what, alternate universes is just the Multiverse and String Theory and all that. Now you just have Science, vs More Science. There is no Fantasy. That is what happens to Fantasy when you say "Let's mix in Sci-Fi." This is because Sci-Fi is not about processes, it's about how ppl think. Fantasy societies and Sci-Fi societies think about, and interact with, power and knowledge in different ways.


Mastikator: But when Counselor Deanna Troi from ST TNG can "sense the emotion" of an individual in a different space ship that she has never had any physical contact with, then that is straight up magic, it's not on the scale of hard vs soft science fiction, no amount of "softness" would explain her magic telepathic ability to sense the emotions (and sometimes even hear their inner dialog) because its not something to do with the natural world.
It can be soft sci-fi if you accept the Quantum Mind. Hey you already accepted FTL.


Lord Raziere: heck, its not even possible in the real world, and there is no really no way of making it possible, unless we discover something that really upturns physics as we know it, but at that point we might as well be discovering magic anyways, because the rules would be so different from we've been lead to believe- that we CAN'T remake reality with our minds- that discovering things like magic or psionics would lead to questioning how everything in our universe works all over again- for one thing we can rule out the nice comforting assumption that the universe doesn't respond to our thoughts and thus not having to worry about whether or not the universe outside our own brains is something separate from ourselves, something objective-or at least consistent- that we can rely upon.
Real, cutting-edge science already does all that already. Just watch some Through The Wormhole, and see how much of reality you start to question (assuming you Deny nothing). The only thing separating "knowledge" from "mystery" is the presentation.

Cronocke
2014-09-21, 11:08 PM
Sorry, this thread is dense. I've read the 1st 2 pages and can lurk no more.


God, I hate this discussion.


That doesn't explain how magic distorts physics.

Nor does it need to. Machinery uses observable, repeatable phenomena to produce consistent results and actions in a way that is useful or beneficial. Magic is a strange force that skews probability or even possibility in order to produce a desired result. Somehow, people are able to be trained to manipulate it at will. The exact processes are impossible to examine because, hey, none of the normal methods or devices for doing such work.


By your explanation above, it seems that the author assumes the laws of physics is some sort of external construct laid upon the fabric of reality, and magic is a competing construct that can be laid upon the same base fabric. But the truth is the laws of physics is better termed as the laws of reality; physics is the fabric of reality.

{{scrubbed}}


An actual explanation would be that Magic is a way for humans to bring in a competing reality. That is, open an inlet for another universe, with its own laws of physics, to leak through a tiny bit. There, now Magic and Super-science are on equal footing in terms of background explanations.

But guess what, alternate universes is just the Multiverse and String Theory and all that. Now you just have Science, vs More Science. There is no Fantasy. That is what happens to Fantasy when you say "Let's mix in Sci-Fi." This is because Sci-Fi is not about processes, it's about how ppl think. Fantasy societies and Sci-Fi societies think about, and interact with, power and knowledge in different ways.

Psionic powers.

They are all over the place in science fiction.

The explanation is typically "MIND POWERS AND A STRANGE MINERAL, YO!"

In other words, there usually isn't one.

The most well known examples are Vulcans, who... yeah, that's magic, just low-powered stuff... and The Force, which is so close to clerics, paladins, and antipaladins that you could squint and they'd be indistinguishable.

But somehow the lines are rigid and there's no intermingling ever. It's either hard sci-fi where everything is grounded in modern physics, or it's fantasy and they never have anything more complex than a door with working hinges. Right?

Sheesh.

MLai
2014-09-22, 05:11 AM
Nor does it need to. Machinery uses observable, repeatable phenomena to produce consistent results and actions in a way that is useful or beneficial. Magic is a strange force that skews probability....
You didn't grasp my drift.
I was saying that you put physics and magic as competing opposites, but 1 force is much better explained/grounded while the other is ill-explained. You can't do that; the scales don't balance narratively speaking.

{{scrubbed}}

As for "psionics"... it is no more fantastical than FTL. Discard naive realism, and extrapolate quantum mechanics to the macro scale while accepting the conjecture that consciousness affects reality... and psionics isn't so weird.


Getting off the subject of the nitty gritty details of magic for a minute... There was an obscure 90's anime I had a VHS of called Genesis Survivor Gaiarth...
Oh... Oh... OHHH MY GOD!
GENESIS SURVIVOR GAIARTH!!! Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
I've been thinking of this anime for the longest time! Its images haunt me in my dreams! But I forgot the title so I could never find it again, now matter how hard I googled and tried to use keywords.
But as soon as you said the title, I KNEW IT WAS THE ONE. And I was right!!
OMG!!!! Going home to -ahem- ACQUIRE!!! :smallbiggrin:

No srsly, you don't know how much this means to me.
It's not quite as cool as when I finally placed a name on the Nintendo Power artist "Terra": Katsuya Terada (he illustrated Legend Of Zelda, Dragon Warrior, and Final Fantasy... and I saved all those issues). But it's sort of close.

Agree that this old obscure anime combined magic and technology in a way that I've never seen since. Even though it's just "Magitek", this anime not only pioneered it but did it SO WELL (IMO). Time to see what this old anime looks like to me today, without nostalgia/memory goggles.


because if your idea of "fantasy" is walking about experiencing mostly boring mundanity then suddenly magic for no rhyme or reason then it just as suddenly disappearing, and not showing up for a while more, I want no part of fantasy or your idea of it.

so perhaps I should be specific about the magic I want:
-the magic should be thematic. no random assortment of spells. it should be focused towards a specific purpose, or put it another way, I only want to wield one school of magic, or only one element, stuff like that.
-magic should be able to be improvised, flexibly used in the situation to pull off certain stunts
-while I know I want my magic with unlimited use, I know this won't fly with everyone, so as a compromise I can work with a mana system, because I can plausibly see getting "tired" magic-wise.
Dude, you don't want Magic. You want superheroes, period.
You know why some ppl take umbrage at this? Because to them it's like someone screaming "This Bruce Lee movie sucks because it doesn't have teen vampire romance! Why doesn't it have teen vampire romance?!"


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warp_drive
This is total retconning based on the real science of Alcubierre Drive. Warp Drive did not have these sciencey details until Alcubierre worked out his "warp drive" (yes, inspired by Star Trek) theoretical physics.

Psyren
2014-09-22, 08:09 AM
Not a large portion of the population. Some. Enough. But Elkmonster the wizard had to study for years to be able to toss a single cantrip, and then practice for years more to be able to throw fireballs. But where things change with technology is the ability for average people to do it. You can toss a laser rifle to Billy from the farm and he can incinerate people from a thousand feet away. And with manufacturing, you can give a laser rifle to Billy and every person from his village.

Star Wars had swords, yes, but they were also a setting designed to include such things... and swords were primarily a prestige weapon for wizard-monks, who had the ability to effectively people armed with lasers. You don't see a lot of non-jedi running around with swords in the movies... because most people know not to bring a knife to a gunfight.

Introducing technology to a traditional fantasy setting is disruptive to that setting. Designing a setting to include technology is fine, though not always what I want.


That's really just another form of Fantasy to me. It can work well (Shadowrun) or be a miss (Star Wars), but that kind of fantasy is really done all over. Has usually little to do with SciFi, though.


Exactly. For the average person (which includes most soldiers) you'll eventually hit a balance point of cost/ease of use/effectiveness of weapon. In the Star Wars universe that appears to be the blaster.

Lightsabers lose out because (for most people) of ease of use and effectiveness. Unless you are a Jedi (or cybernetically enhanced like Grevious), the odds are that you will kill yourself with it long before you master it. And even if you can use it without killing yourself, most non-Jedi won't won't be able to reliably deflect laser fire, so they are in the position of having brought a knife to a gun fight.

If you are designing a setting that merges the two, what's your balance point? If your world contains laser weapons and swords, why does someone carry a sword when there are laser weapons? Simon Green's "Death Stalker" novels covered this by having laser weapons have a long recharge period. Chemical propellent weapons had fallen out of favor, so you fire your laser weapon then close to hand to hand with the sword. It's actually a pretty big deal when someone finds an old cache of projectile weapons (guns).

Getting the toe wet has happened a long time ago in role-playing. Remember S-3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks? That was a pretty tame exploration, and was pretty easy to self-correct if you felt things went too far.

If you're diving in full-tilt (a world with both magic and tech as significant forces), you'll have to be more careful. In most cases, tech is usually the tool of the masses. It's cheaper, easier to replicate, and easier for anyone to use. Magic is more often limited to secret practitioners, or those in elite positions. Again, look at Simon Green's "Secret Histories", where the Droods basically blend magic and tech to hide in plain sight.

I don't have much to add to the thread that is not summed up in these three posts.

Basically, one of the hallmarks of magic that makes it feel like magic (i.e. special) is exclusivity. A lot of folks don't want to admit that, because exclusivity = inequality = unfairness. But ultimately, that is the main separation between magic and technology - how much of the setting has access to it, and how easy it is to use.

BeerMug Paladin
2014-09-23, 03:31 PM
By your explanation above, it seems that the author assumes the laws of physics is some sort of external construct laid upon the fabric of reality, and magic is a competing construct that can be laid upon the same base fabric. But the truth is the laws of physics is better termed as the laws of reality; physics is the fabric of reality.
That is a matter of metaphysics about the nature of reality, and for a given fictional setting there's no reason to think that would hold. Mage, (as far as I understand the setting), is based on similar metaphysics.

There's no reason to assume that a given metaphysical assumption has to hold in (of all things) all possible fictional universes. Fictional settings are a big category of universes.