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  1. - Top - End - #181
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    Magic, to me, is a tool.
    And here i where I disagree with you. Magic must be more than just a tool for me. Magic isn't just an energy, it's a part of the world in the same way laws of physics are - it cannot be just a swiss-army knife of deus ex machinas and get-out-of-jail cards you can use without consequences, because then it's not a real part of the world, it doesn't fit the setting. When you're designing magic system you should consider not only the pros but also cons. And you should set in stone what your magic can and can't do. I always preffer there being some sort of boundaries to magic. In Black Company the one who knows wizard's true name can permamently depower them, so wizards tend to murder their entire family and friends and erase all traces of their names. In Earthsea using magic has consequences on the world - summoning rain will cause drought somewhere else. In Fionavar Tapestry wizards have to form a bond with another person and use their vital power as a source, if they get separated, they're powerless, if source dies, they're depowered for the rest of their lives.

    Now, evil magic is a tricky question, but you can deal with it. Magic that is destructive to einvorement or can cause user to go insane - yeah, I can see something like that as evil, if it existed in the world and caused a lot of trubles, it would be seen a evil because it causes more trouble than it's worth. Somebody trying to use such evil magic for good purposes, trying to fight back it's consequences would make a good story.

    Magic being evil just because it's evil in other stories, like it's usually with necromancy - that's something else. I could understand some kinds of magic being a taboo however and good guys refusing to use them on that ground. And I could buy guy who is evil and he is using say necromancy, because he wants to inflict fear it causes because of being a taboo.

    tl;dr: Magic isn't a tool, it must be a part of setting, consistent both with the culture and with the laws this worlds operates on.

  2. - Top - End - #182
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    Good way to put it.

    Though magic doesn't neccessarily have to have bad qonsequences. Using gravity, evaporation, friction, drag, and mechanical action to run a water mill doesn't kill the planet and drain the life force of the environment. That is, beyond the cutting of trees, diversion of waterflows and the clearing of forests for lumber or the growing of grain. That's still consequences, but using the power of gravity does not damage the nature of the universe, it just does what it always does, people just arranged that something positive would come out for them.
    But there still needs to be rules what magic can do and what it can't do, and how it is done. Even if the people doing it havn't figured it out yet.
    Even if you don't know the physics of combustion, people know that it produces a lot of heat and burns things to ash, so nobody would get the idea to use the power of combustion to cure a virus. Now there are cases in which gunpowder was used for medicinal uses, but that was for other chemical properites of the ingredients and didn't have anything to do with making it burn or explode. Similiar, even the most mystical wizard would see it as obvious that magic that can create and remove curses and see into the future, or even alter the future, can not create gold or and elephant out of thin air. Making someone find gold that already exist or causing an elephant to move to his location would be different things as this would fall under the sphere of altering the future. But even the most fuzzy description and definition of magic should include a basic concept of what it can and can't do.
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  3. - Top - End - #183
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    As a counterpoint to 'way too many zeros, why haven't they advanced technologically yet?', I posit this, and in fact use it occasionally in my homebrew.

    In real history, technology has risen and fallen as empires and nations have risen and fallen. Case in point: the Romans had the ability to mass-produce steel, the Greeks first came up with the Atomic Theory, and had Rome not declined, they may well have imported oriental gunpowder and made it widespread some thousand years before its eventual spread. Of course, we all know what happened to Rome, and the resulting Dark Age knocked civilization back to mere subsistence. The Black Plague wiped out two-thirds of the population of Europe.

    Things like this happen. When a civilization starts to become stagnant, they tend to decay, and Bad Things start to happen, generally resulting in the fall of the culture, and going back to more primitive roots.

    I will say, however, that precise dating for ancient artifacts is rather silly in most midevil settings.

    "Those are ancient ruins."
    "How old?"
    "Who knows? They've been here as long as we have recorded history."

    Oh, that does bring me to a pet peeve... Ancient ruins that have stood for thousands of years, and yet no one has plundered them before the party shows up? No signs that any other intruders have been there and taken some of the loot? This goes double for ones near significant populations. Some noble or another would have decided to go plunder it long ere the party got there, either for altruistic reasons (for the historical value) or selfish (loots!).

    It's possible that there is some treasure in ancient ruins left, but it won't be obvious, and all of the readily accessible areas have already been searched dozens of times. You're going to need to get to somewhere deep within that no one has gotten to before. That's not going to be something that a group of level 1 people are going to manage.

    Throw in some evidence that it has been ransacked many times before. Have 'secret' concealed passageways left lying open on the first few levels, rubble where walls were broken through, traps disabled.

    I'm reminded of a scene in one of the Elemenster books where he was stocking a tomb with treasure for the next group of adventurers to follow. It made me laugh, because it pointed out how absurd that NO ONE would have searched ruins that are commonly known about.
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  4. - Top - End - #184
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    It depends heavily on what magic is in the setting. If it's an underlying scientific principle of the universe, there may still be dire consequences, but they would be closer to what we see in the real world. Mining gold pollutes rivers with mercury. Burning coal leads to greenhouse effects. The consequences may not be obvious at first, but you can research and quantify and even avoid them.

    But since the Dresden Files came up... in the context of the setting, it makes sense. Magic is powered by emotion and experience. Ghosts fight by throwing strong memories at each other. Angels and the divinely gifted burn up parts of their soul (which is accumulated positive feelings, in a way) to power constructive magic. Wizards are stronger when angry. Vampires are repelled by love.
    In that kind of setting, it makes sense that using certain kinds of destructive, vile magic, has a feedback effect on you. The intent to kill or control others are dark, dark emotions. Magic empowers those emotions further, makes them have physical effect. But in turn, the magic also makes you more likely to feel more of the same emotion. Warlocks, from what Dresden tells us, start out as teenagers who don't know any better. They perhaps influence pretty girls to go out with them, or blast school bullies in anger. But from there, it spirals out of control, until many of them are literally frothing at the mouth like rabid dogs and the wardens put them down.

  5. - Top - End - #185
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    Can't you have magic be something that exists in the setting as part of the setting AND be a tool?
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  6. - Top - End - #186
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    Certainly you can. I think I said that? It depends on the setting. In some settings, there is emotional feedback, in others there isn't. I like magic with consequences. But then, I think everything has consequences.

  7. - Top - End - #187
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Certainly you can. I think I said that? It depends on the setting. In some settings, there is emotional feedback, in others there isn't. I like magic with consequences. But then, I think everything has consequences.
    I was mainly referencing Man on Fire, but yeah. I'll be posting my setting shortly, and part of that involves magic. I say in the description that for this people, magic is a tool, so I wanted to see why Man disagreed with that.
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  8. - Top - End - #188
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    Quote Originally Posted by ReaderAt2046 View Post
    This is going to sound crazy, but I would argue that it's possible for a good person to use evil magic for good reasons in circumstances like those you describe. It hinges on the principle of "lesser of two evils".
    The "lesser of two evils" is still evil. That doesn't do anything to change the "this magic is evil" thing that some people don't like. I think they are looking for an answer like "no, it isn't" rather than "yes, but there are worse evils".

  9. - Top - End - #189
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    The "lesser of two evils" is still evil. That doesn't do anything to change the "this magic is evil" thing that some people don't like. I think they are looking for an answer like "no, it isn't" rather than "yes, but there are worse evils".
    Additionally, I think using evil magic for good ends becomes much more interesting if there's an actual sacrifice involved. If the consequences of using evil for good are terrible, you are martyring yourself for good by using evil. Bam, tragedy right there.

  10. - Top - End - #190
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    How is something still evil when it's used for good?
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  11. - Top - End - #191
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheWombatOfDoom View Post
    I was mainly referencing Man on Fire, but yeah. I'll be posting my setting shortly, and part of that involves magic. I say in the description that for this people, magic is a tool, so I wanted to see why Man disagreed with that.
    Sure you can have both, we use laws of physics and chemistry as a tools. You should consider through why people see magic only as a tool and nothing else.

    How is something still evil when it's used for good?
    When it has bad consequences that outweigths the good it caused, or when it's uncontrolable and dangerous.
    Last edited by Man on Fire; 2012-11-06 at 08:56 AM.

  12. - Top - End - #192
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    This is why for me, magic isn't aligned. The caster is. Magic doesn't kill people. The caster bending it to it's will kills people.
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  13. - Top - End - #193
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    Evil is what evil does. Otherwise we could also call natural processes evil.

    Radiation is dangerous and uncontrolable, but the sun is not evil. When I push big rocks down a slope, they are dangerous and unctrollable, but neither rock nor gravity is evil.
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  14. - Top - End - #194
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Evil is what evil does. Otherwise we could also call natural processes evil.

    Radiation is dangerous and uncontrolable, but the sun is not evil.
    And what with nuclear weapons?

    Okay, this one argument defeats itself becaue it's just another way to use the radiation...olay, lets say it this way:

    Most people would agree that nuclear weapons are evil and would futher argue, that it's still evil even when used for good cause. Most people however wouldn't find radiation evil.

    Moving out of dangerous subject - we can say that magic as itself isn't evil, but certain ways it can be used can be seen as evil even when used for good cause. Good example would be SCP Foundation, they have an SCP that is a little girl who, if not regurally put through terrible traumatic experience, will give a birth to ...something, but that something will be diastrous. So they put her through terrible traumatic experience, then delete her memory about it. And they do consider this act to be evil, to the point they deploy criminals to do it, then terminate them.
    Last edited by Man on Fire; 2012-11-06 at 09:40 AM.

  15. - Top - End - #195
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    except depending on your setting magic itself can have a form of will or even out right goals and desires.
    In a setting like that magic might be twisted so no matter what you try and use your magic for you end up causing more harm then good.

  16. - Top - End - #196
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    Quote Originally Posted by Man on Fire View Post
    And what with nuclear weapons?

    Okay, this one argument defeats itself becaue it's just another way to use the radiation...olay, lets say it this way:

    Most people would agree that nuclear weapons are evil and would futher argue, that it's still evil even when used for good cause. Most people however wouldn't find radiation evil.

    Moving out of dangerous subject - we can say that magic as itself isn't evil, but certain ways it can be used can be seen as evil even when used for good cause.
    The only correction I might put to your "dangerous subject" might be actions in which using the nukes might save the world, such as destroying an incoming meteor, or hostile alien ships or other such things. Though I would say these things would be a rare thing, and the aliens might still see the nuke as evil.

    But overall, I can agree that the use of a specific magic can be deemed as evil. In D & D, generally things like necromancy and evil planar being summoning falls into this category. Summoning or bringing something back from the dead isn't evil. The way in which they are done is.
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    On the issue old unlooted ruins I have three solutions:

    1) The geography is unstable and probably quantum: Those ruins may be ancient, they may be as old as the hills but they still weren't here yesterday.

    2) Restocking: some agency is restocking or repairing the ruin continuously; be it goblins, magic or renegade nanotech. If this is the case then it could well be that the "ruin" was never inhabited at all.

    3) Existential anomaly: the ruins are a twisting semi-real dimension-scape where the contents depend more on the minds of the people who come in than what is actually there. The reason its been not been looted out is that it isn't the same dungeon twice; it doesn't actually exist in the times between anyone being there.
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  18. - Top - End - #198
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    How is something still evil when it's used for good?
    If the material component of your spell is a newborn infant and the somatic component is strangling that infant with his mother's intestines, then you're still a baby-killing murderer if you cast that spell to save a bunch of kids from a burning orphanage. Like the process for becoming a lich with its unspecified but mandatory "evil acts", there is more going on than just using a morally neutral tool for good or bad purposes.

    Eldan has a good point about accepting that it's evil but doing it anyway for the benefit of others. Like the operative in "Serenity": "I'm a monster, but what I do is necessary. I'm helping to build a better world, but I'm not going to live there. There's no place for me there."

    Ultimately, the ends don't justify the means, because there are no ends and only a continuum of means.

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    Relevant Dresden Files quote is relevant (and half-remembered, please be gentle.)

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    Nicodemus gazed levelly at me. "You know, we're not so different, Dresden. We're both passionate, fighters, willing to sacrifice for what we believe in."

    I closed my eyes, and thought about Shiro's body on the altar, about (Other bad things Nicodemus has done).

    "I think, Nick, that we have some pretty seriously different ideas about who gets sacrificed and who does the sacrificing."


    If there's consequences for [bad magic thingy], and it's "evil", is it still evil if you take on those consequences for yourself? It makes me think of the character of John Coffee, in the Green Mile. He can cure people's sicknesses by taking them upon himself (not literally, it just hurts him really badly). He cures a guy's bladder infection, a woman's terminal brain cancer and saves a mouse.

    If he had transferred the sick person's wounds onto a baby, that's evil. If he willingly sacrifices himself, even if he uses the Dark Ritual of Badguyblood Grimgloom McChaoticStupid, he's doing a good deed.

    Question to ponder:

    A paladin holds a portal from hell, preventing the demons within from exiting it until it closes, even though it means his death in a blaze of holy glory. In doing so, he saves a dozen babies.

    A priest happens upon an orphanage afflicted with a plague. He performs a ritual which involves the skull of a dying woman who willed it over to him for this purpose, a pint of blood from a willing donor, and a sword used to kill a noble man, given to the priest after the murderer's redemption, to cure them. In doing so, he saves a dozen babies.

    Aside from the aesthetics, what's the difference? One looks "evil", but the intention and the end result is the same. Magic is used as a tool, and one with consequences, but as long as they can be responsibly and morally managed, it seems morally sound.
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  20. - Top - End - #200
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    what you have described is not evil magic you have described dangerous magic and/or magic with an unpleasing aesthetic.
    Last edited by awa; 2012-11-06 at 09:37 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by awa View Post
    what you have described is not evil magic you have described dangerous magic and/or magic with an unpleasing aesthetic.
    I know. That's kinda the point. Just because something is unpleasant, or conducive to being a jerk (How much easier would it be to just kill a guy wit a sword and take a pint of blood and his skull?) doesn't mean it's evil.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyntonian View Post
    I know. That's kinda the point. Just because something is unpleasant, or conducive to being a jerk (How much easier would it be to just kill a guy wit a sword and take a pint of blood and his skull?) doesn't mean it's evil.
    I think you're missing the point. You're thinking scientifically instead of magically.

    To a scientist, a pound of lead and a pound of feathers are the same weight because a pound is a pound. In magical thinking, a pound of lead is heavier because lead's essential character is "heaviness" and the essential character of feathers is "lightness".

    To the scientific mind, blood is blood whether it's generously donated, a byproduct of a fair boxing match, mopped up from the floor after a kitchen accident, or drained from an unwilling victim bound on an altar for a painful sacrificial slaughter. To the magical mind, those are all very different things. The blade of a redeemed murderer is very different than the blade of an unrepentant serial killer because they symbolize different things. In traditional Finnish witchcraft for example, antique knives are magically active but newer knives are inert because a knife can't be used for magical purposes until the craftsman who made it has died. There is no physical change in the knife, but from the magician's perspective it becomes a conduit to the "other side" when its maker dies.

    If a spell requires "the blood of pain and loss mixed with the tears of a mourning maiden", you can't just get those from a young woman who says "Oh, sure, let me just prick my finger to give you a blood sample and cut some onions to make my eyes water. I'm happy to help." Trying that is pointless, because not just any blood and tears will work.

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    i really liked that idea of magic

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    Semi-relevant example: I've been working on an idea for an Avatar RPG campaign. The relevant bit is that after discovering the existence of bloodbenders, an ex-firebender trades his soul to the devil for the power to annihilate every waterbender everywhere and ensure that none will ever be born again. The two interesting factors:

    1. This guy believes with every fiber of his soul that stripping a firebender of his power will cause him to turn completely and utterly evil, and condemn him to an eternity of justified torment. So he believes he is trading one soul (his) for countless others (everyone whom the bloodbenders would still if he didn't annihilate waterbending)

    2. Since he himself has been stilled, he believes the devil will get his soul anyway.

    If what he believed was true, would he have made the right choice.

    P.S. I know there's no devil in Avatar. Technically, he traded his soul to the "Spirits of the Void", but "devil" conveys the proper idea better.
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    no hes evil even if it were correct. It would be evil even if he did not make a deal with the devil to do it.
    blood benders are incredibly rare, blood benders who can remove bending even rarer still. So the number of fire benders that would ever lose there bending is a tiny number while water benders are at bare minimum 2 ethnic groups and 3+ nations.

    So it's a raw numbers game he is hurting thousands or even millions now for the possibility of maybe saving a small number in the future.

    that's not even going into all the stuff about putting the world out of balance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by awa View Post
    no hes evil even if it were correct. It would be evil even if he did not make a deal with the devil to do it.
    blood benders are incredibly rare, blood benders who can remove bending even rarer still. So the number of fire benders that would ever lose there bending is a tiny number while water benders are at bare minimum 2 ethnic groups and 3+ nations.

    So it's a raw numbers game he is hurting thousands or even millions now for the possibility of maybe saving a small number in the future.

    that's not even going into all the stuff about putting the world out of balance.
    You're misunderstanding the scale of what he feared. For him, stilling a firebender would condemn them to an eternity in hell. Each time this happened was an evil of essentially infinite scale.
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    On the topic of magic being evilish or not, I've been working on some d20 moder stuff. The first one, is basicly a Leech. He wants magic? Sorry, humans don't pocess enough to normaly cast spells. So why not drain enough so they have some?

    And the Binder ones? They have magical powers only because they bind a Spirit into their body, and fuse it with their soul. And theres the possibillity that it could go out of control, consume them and start going "DESTROY" on everything nearby. Even the angel one.
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  28. - Top - End - #208
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    as far as i know in the cannon of avatar one blood bender (now dead) has that ability and all the people so afflicted were cured anyways.

    so a hypothetical threat vrs the murder of a thousands or millions

    hes evil no question.

  29. - Top - End - #209
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    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

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    We say he's evil, simply because we're onlookers. To him, the evil here is condemning a firebender to an infinite torture. Even just one person condemned to that is an evil infinitely greater than the genocide he will commit.

    From his point of view, genocide is the right thing to do because just the threat of such an evil is too great to allow to exist.
    Last edited by Sgt. Cookie; 2012-11-08 at 08:33 AM.
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  30. - Top - End - #210
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Jun 2009

    Default Re: World-Building Turn-Offs

    Honestly i find this premise fairly stupid. But taking it at face value i don't believe relative morality applies here, were talking about mass genocide to prevent something that will probably never happen and can be reversed even if it does.

    By that logic killing every literate person on the planet is a good act becuase one might start a nuclear war destroying the whole planet and becuase that is an inffintly worse the very threat of it happening justifies the act even though it's incredibly unlikely and virtualy 100% of the pepole killed have nothing to do with the threat.

    on a related not this has nothing to do with the thread topic so im done with it.
    Last edited by awa; 2012-11-08 at 10:44 AM.

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