stefanstr wrote:I love your writeup, Big Mac. This is exactly the kind of thinking that is missing from most fantasy. I would actually love to see a world with „industrialized“ magic like what you describe.
Thank you. I probably would not go down this route, myself, but it seemed a logical way to go.
I've been talking to people about D&D for just over 10 years, mostly about Spelljammer. And every so often somebody has turned up to the communities I've been in, saying that something* in SJ is "broken" and that it needs to be "removed" to make the universe work. So I've seen lots
of conversations where people suspect that some sort of fantasy aspect can not work.
* = Not always the same thing.
I'm not saying this is happening here, by the way. But I think this is a really easy trap for people to fall into, when they start stepping back from "suspending their disbelief" and when they start asking "how would that actually work"?
I think that the issue with dealing with magic (either magic spells, magic items or just the magical way that a fantasy world works) is that we all live in the real-world and get taught to learn science, and our understanding of science conflicts with our understanding of fantasy...so we see clashes. People come up with all sorts of questions, that seem very logical...
...apart from one-thing. Our "scientific understanding", is not based on some sort of "faith in science", it is based on "scientific methodology
". And that is what we should be using, if we want to "investigate" how a fantasy world works.
So every time I see someone suggest that it is "scientifically impossible for a dragon to fly with wings so small", I think that they are misapplying science. If you use scientific methodology, and you can observe
that a dragon does
fly, then you know that it is possible
for a dragon to fly. Nobody in a fantasy world would question it for a second.
And if we look at a fantasy world that has both magic and castles...then there has to be some sort of logical reason why wizards are not blowing up castles and killing kings. That reason might not be immediately obvious - we might need to carry out some thought experiments. But I think we need to start off with an attitude that assumes that a fantasy world does indeed work, rather than start off with an attitude that it is broken and call for people to argue that it works.
That doesn't mean that you can't have a fun discussion about how a fantasy works. It just means that you get to have different types of discussions. For example, if you have spells that create water, would you eventually end up flooding a planet with water...or would there be some sort of other factor that removes equal amounts of water (to balance things out).
One thing I would say about these questions - one thing that I think we should bear in mind - is that the answers are so obvious or unimportant to the NPCs in our fantasy world, that they do not even question them. We know this in the case of most fantasy worlds (using "scientific methodology") because if we read fantasy novels and fantasy sourcebooks, we can not usually find characters/NPCs who are complaining about wizards walking through walls.
I would be tempted to turn this question around and ask: what sort of plot-hooks can we get if we put magical attacks up against mundane defence?
Instead of finding a way to "cancel out" magic, what would happen if someone did
use magic to get past the defence in a castle?
- Would people investigating the attack be able to work out what sort of magic (and what level of magic) was used in the attack?
- Would the PCs get hired to track down the wizard who led the attack, and bring them to justice?
- Would the PCs be hired to attack whoever had paid spellcasters to attack the castle?
- Would the PCs be asked to make a magic-assisted attack on an enemy castle (possibly as some sort of magical privateering campaign)?
I actually think that questions like that are more fun. You can tweak the fantasy laws of nature in a gameworld to make it work any way you want. You can always make things work. But the point of a fantasy world is generally to have it work as the background of a story.
stefanstr wrote:Maybe I will create one myself. I feel inspired. (My usual way of solving this is making sure that magic is not really learnable, is unpredictable or has some other sort of limitation that prevents it from being paradigm-shifting. You made me wonder: why fight it if you can embrace it.)
Your usual way is just as valid an approach. I think I read somewhere (it might have been the 1st Edition AD&D Manual of the Planes
about worlds being "high magic" or "low magic". There was some sort of number scale to show how easy it was to use magic. I think that zero meant that magic didn't work at all.
So a world with "industrialised magic" could be possible, on that sort of spectrum. Although I wonder if wizards, clerics and other fantasy spellcasters (from whatever game system you want to use) would want to be put into an industrialised system.
Fantasy wizards generally seem like freelance craftsmen, who take on apprentices. Now it is possible that you could have more wizards working together and creating methods to attack and defend castles. But this is kind of like inventors to create weapons of mass destruction, instead of having them invent household items. It is a valid way to go, but focusing on that aspect of the way that magic interacts with castles is going to be a narrow part of magic. It isn't "wrong" (there are no "wrong" ways to set up a fantasy world) but by creating a world where your wizards are building "+2 Walls of Defense" (or whatever), I think you would actually be pushing the gameworld into a situation where magical attacks on castles should be a central theme.
I am reminded of the Jakandor Campaign Setting, where you had an entire society of necromancers, who thought that the answer to all of the world's problems was necromancy. You would not be doing the same thing, with "industrialised magic" but you would be creating a campaign theme that was just as dominant.
Maybe you can
do that. But perhaps the question you should ask yourself is not "Why fight it if you can embrace it?" Maybe the question should be "Would it be fun to have a world with industrialised magic?" If you think that it would
be fun, then maybe you should