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Author Topic: (Angor) Magic & Technology in conlict  (Read 7306 times)
madelf
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« on: March 21, 2004, 11:21:49 AM »

I'm about to start playtesting my Tales of Angor game (pseudo-victorian fantasy) and yet I've still got a concept in it that I'm not really entirely happy with mechanically (and possibly thematically.

My premise is an  industrial age world where magic still works (though possibly not as well as it once did). Magic is even sometimes integrated with technology though the results should be unreliable.

My problem is one of conflicting goals.
On one hand I kind of like the idea of magic blended with technology by mage-scientists too crazy to know any better.
On the other hand I have a gut feeling that as technology advances, it would (perhaps) cause magic to decline. As more and more is done technologically, less and less is able to be done magically.

I have a system in place currently that sort of manages to do both.
I used the (not terribly original) idea that magic is incompatible with ferros metals (steel, iron) and based on the amount and proximity of the metal, it reduces the effectiveness of the magic. So it would be relatively impossible to cast spells while on a steam train, for instance. Tthis sort of does what I want, as advances in technology (in the steam age at least) are fairly dependant on steel. Yet magic-enhanced gadgets of brass (poor strength) or silver (expensive and poor strength) would still be possible.

Yet I don't know if that's the best solution. At times I think I'd be better off with a concept where magic dimishes as the "wonder" wears off in the world. As things get more and sterile and industrialized,  magic ceases to function properly because it is the antithesis of technology, so as the world was slowly enveloped in steel, and concrete, and man-made products...eventually magic would disappear entirely.
I don't think I could reconcile this with the "magi-gadgets" though as the whole premise falls apart. (Unless I try and do something to indicate that such attempts, though sometimes of limited success, are doomed to failure in the long run, but I'm not sure how I'd simulate that)

I'm wondering if there are any other examples where people have tried to accomplish this sort of juxtaposition, and how it's been handled (thematically and mechanically) elsewhere.
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Calvin W. Camp

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hanschristianandersen
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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2004, 12:21:18 PM »

Quote
On one hand I kind of like the idea of magic blended with technology by mage-scientists too crazy to know any better.


I agree, that is a sweet concept - in a world where Magic and Technology Simply Don't Mix, with a pseudo-Victorian backdrop, there can be a lot of appeal in playing such a transgressive role.

Are mage-scientists visionaries who are ahead of their time?  Or are they dangerous lunatics who endanger themselves and everyone around them?  Or both?

Quote
(Unless I try and do something to indicate that such attempts, though sometimes of limited success, are doomed to failure in the long run, but I'm not sure how I'd simulate that)


I would suggest articulating the failure in question.  In the long-term, do magi-gadgets:
-Break down with repeated usage?
-Always have a small, though not-to-be-trifled-with chance of detonating?
-Cause magic around them to fail?
-Cause machines around them to fail?
-Slowly warp the body or mind of the user?

Once you have the kind of failure nailed down, coming up with mechanics to represent the failure might seem much less daunting.

-Hans
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Hans Christian Andersen V.
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BPetroff93
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2004, 01:36:44 PM »

In your world what constitutes magic and what constitutes technology?  I assume that by "tech" you mean opperating under the contraints of modern science and by magic you mean, well, not.  However,  would the creations of say, Jules Vern, classify as tech or magic?  Mr. Vern would probably classify them as tech yet they are HIGHLY implossible under the science of his day, or even the science of today.  

Is magic summoning spirits?  Brewing potions? Rituals?  Fireballs?  

Conversly, is this an actual historical backdrop only turned up a notch or two?  After all during that time period the technilogical growth curve was reaching it's modern proportions AND a number of secret magickal societies were slowly emerging into the public eye.  You could just up the degree of each and have some interesting conflicts.

so......tell us more already! ;)
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Brendan J. Petroff

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
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Garbanzo
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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2004, 03:04:02 PM »

madelf-

I really like your idea of having magical brass, just not magical steel.  Hans' ideas about the various ways this barely-kosher stuff could impact the environment is especially sweet, offering a strong mechanical backdrop for crazy techno-mages.  

I'm not grooving nearly a much on this:

Quote
At times I think I'd be better off with a concept where magic dimishes as the "wonder" wears off in the world. As things get more and sterile and industrialized, magic ceases to function properly because it is the antithesis of technology, so as the world was slowly enveloped in steel, and concrete, and man-made products...eventually magic would disappear entirely.


It feels like something I've seen before (with Ars Magica's Reason), and I don't like either presentation.  It feels like a modern gloss.  

In the 20's, maybe, I can see lots of sheer geometric surfaces and concrete (and a game set there might better use this as a nice metaphor).  But one of the great things about the Victorian stuff is that it was all so ornate.  Especially steampunk, as commonly conceptualized.  The machines wern't just functional, they - like everything else - were decorative.  This is before mass-production, so each machine is hand crafted.  Curlicues, gorgeous wrought-ironwork, all the sorts of nice touches you see on antique furniture.

One of the common themes in addressing this stuff is the modern reader knowing that this is the last gasp of the decorative, with modernism right around the corner.  All the Jules Verney excesses and experimentation brings up for me associations of exhuberance and uncertainty, not cold scientific dissection of nature.

-Matt
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madelf
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« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2004, 03:39:51 PM »

Quote
I would suggest articulating the failure in question. In the long-term, do magi-gadgets:
-Break down with repeated usage?
-Always have a small, though not-to-be-trifled-with chance of detonating?


I'm thinking something along the lines of those.
In the game, magic is an inherently unstable and unpredictable force, quite likely to bite the hand that weilds it. That should carry over to enchanted devices.

Roughly I'm thinking of something like the following (based closely on the "consequences" of casting spells)...

An enchanted device requires an Activation Roll for it's magical properties to function.
The Difficulty of the Activation Roll is based on the item's Reliability Rating.
The dice available for the Activation Roll are based on the item's Usability Rating.

Possible outcomes:

Success:
The player rolls the exact number of successes required for activation of the device and the item functions properly.

Failure:
The item failed to channel the magical energy contained within it and does not activate. This has no innate negative consequences but it is possible for the item to still function mechanically while being deprived of its magical properties. In some cases (such as a brass firearm which has been strengthened to stay in one piece when fired, as part of its enchantment) this could be disasterous in its own right.

Catastrophic Failure:
Whenever an Activation Roll is failed and there is a '6' showing on one or more die then the device has been activated improperly, causing damage to the item. Re-roll each die that previously rolled a '6' and add the results together. The device, or item, takes this amount of damage. If the damage exceeds the Durability Rating of the device (and all such damage is cumulative until the device is repaired), then the backlash of magical energy causes the device to explode. Any damage beyond the Durability Rating of the device is passed on to the character operating it as lethal damage.

Overpowered Success:
Again the energy within the item has not channeled properly, this time resulting in an energy surge. Each extra success beyond the difficulty of the item activation results in 1 die of lethal damage which will effect the item's target. In the case of a weapon, this result may be fortunate, but in circumstances where a more subtle effect is desired it will be rather less beneficial.

Something like that would cover the unreliability anyway. I don't know about the - just plain wrong and doomed to failure - concept though.



Quote
In your world .
-snipped-
so......tell us more already! ;)


Magic and science are different on a fundamental and functional level, beyond the fact that science is new (relatively) and magic is old as Angor itself, and has always existed.

Technology is much safer and easier to use than magic and it is slowly taking over the world, for a very good reason. Technology can be predicted. Science is based on the fundamental idea that if you do a certain experiment a certain way under certain circumstances, exactly the same each time...then the results will be the same. Each time.

Magic will have nothing to do with that idea. Magic is random and chaotic, unpredictable and only marginally controllable. So it is obvious why any sane person would prefer science and technology over magic. It is only the foolhardy who would prefer to toy with the forces of magic.

Someone like Verne in a world like mine, I think, might very well be one of those truly crazed individuals who attempt to use the reliable products of science to harness the chaotic forces of magic.

As far as the functioning of magic in the game mechanics, I've gone with skill simulation. A person can use magic to simulate anything that can be done without it, interpreted very broadly. A person could levitate up to a second floor window by simulating a climbing skill or he could make himself faster than normal by simulating a running skill, or you can attack someone by simulating a combat skill.
Theatrically magic could be all the things you mention, it's all in the "special effect". Magic can be performed by pure force of will (if you're really good) , by convoluted ritual, by any special effect the player cares to include. And all those special effects make it work better, easier, and safer.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how it works out in play.

I just wish I could decide what I want to do with the magic vs tech issue.
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Calvin W. Camp

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madelf
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« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2004, 03:50:13 PM »

Quote
In the 20's, maybe, I can see lots of sheer geometric surfaces and concrete (and a game set there might better use this as a nice metaphor). But one of the great things about the Victorian stuff is that it was all so ornate. Especially steampunk, as commonly conceptualized. The machines wern't just functional, they - like everything else - were decorative. This is before mass-production, so each machine is hand crafted. Curlicues, gorgeous wrought-ironwork, all the sorts of nice touches you see on antique furniture.

One of the common themes in addressing this stuff is the modern reader knowing that this is the last gasp of the decorative, with modernism right around the corner. All the Jules Verney excesses and experimentation brings up for me associations of exhuberance and uncertainty, not cold scientific dissection of nature.


That gives me another idea for the decline of magic (I want the decline because I'm actually toying with the idea of a pulp-era spin-off, after I finish this first one, where magic is barely functional at all) and you've given me the absolute perfect reason for it.

It's not in the growth of the tech, it's in the loss of the personal.

Magic can combine (semi)successfully with victorian era gadgetry because it's still a labor of love. The spirit of the creator gives the device of cold metal a "life" of it's own. Later on, with assembly lines and mass production, and lack of that hands-on loving craftsmanship...the magic fades. It can't exist in a place where there's no "spirit".

It's just... perfect.
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Calvin W. Camp

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BPetroff93
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hmm
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2004, 04:10:23 PM »

That reminds me of 1st ed Mage.  Not in terms of setting or system but in terms of situation.  The flavor of magic and flavor of Tech and how they come into conflict
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Brendan J. Petroff

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Love is the law, love under Will.
The Benj
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« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2004, 11:04:49 PM »

Many firearms (especially cannon) were made of brass in the first place. No worries on that end.
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contracycle
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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2004, 12:34:17 AM »

It might be worth checking out 'For Faerie, Queen & Country' which was a TSR product under the Amaziong Engine line.  It is IMO quite good, using a farily orthodox resolution system and a verb-noun magic structure.
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madelf
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« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2004, 05:34:03 AM »

Quote
Many firearms (especially cannon) were made of brass in the first place. No worries on that end.



Actually from what I understand brass was only used for very heavy weapons (such as cannon) where the wall thickness could be sufficient to give the neccessary strength, and only in the very early days (17th century) when iron was of poor quality. It resisted corrossion better than iron, but was far more expensive and not nearly as strong as later steel.

More modern (and more powerful) small weapons sometimes had brass parts as decorative elements, but the barrel and chamber were of steel, such as this example:



I was unable to find any reference to a small weapon of any kind with a brass barrel and firing chamber. My understanding is that the material is not strong enough for such use. I would be interested in information that would indicate otherwise.
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Calvin W. Camp

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madelf
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« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2004, 05:35:29 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
It might be worth checking out 'For Faerie, Queen & Country' which was a TSR product under the Amaziong Engine line.  It is IMO quite good, using a farily orthodox resolution system and a verb-noun magic structure.


I actually have a copy of that around.
I don't recall the magic system making a big impression, but I'll take another look.
Thanks
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Calvin W. Camp

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Umberhulk
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« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2004, 01:12:30 PM »

Perhaps you could morph some ideas from "The Magic Goes Away" books by Larry Niven.  The land itself powers magic and high concentrations of magic weilders deplete the natural "magic" resource of the earth.  Maybe you could extend this to say that coal and oil are the source for magic and technology is also feuled by these same substances.   Therefore, wizards have all moved away from industrialized areas in search of untapped resources.  Magic in the major metropolitan areas is long since depleted.
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timfire
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« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2004, 02:23:19 PM »

Quote from: madelf
On the other hand I have a gut feeling that as technology advances, it would (perhaps) cause magic to decline. As more and more is done technologically, less and less is able to be done magically...At times I think I'd be better off with a concept where magic dimishes as the "wonder" wears off in the world. As things get more and sterile and industrialized,  magic ceases to function properly because it is the antithesis of technology, so as the world was slowly enveloped in steel, and concrete, and man-made products...eventually magic would disappear entirely.
Is this really an issue? I mean, how quickly is this decline going to happen? If you want items to deteriorate in the hands of the players, then I can understand worrying about it. But if the decline is going to take place over many, many years, I don't see why it has to be an issue. You create your game in a specific time, and not worry what the future will bring.

I understand the flavor it would give your game, but you could probably get away with only a loose description, and not worry about writing specific mechanics for it.
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madelf
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« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2004, 08:51:31 AM »

Quote from: timfire

Is this really an issue? I mean, how quickly is this decline going to happen? If you want items to deteriorate in the hands of the players, then I can understand worrying about it. But if the decline is going to take place over many, many years, I don't see why it has to be an issue. You create your game in a specific time, and not worry what the future will bring.

I understand the flavor it would give your game, but you could probably get away with only a loose description, and not worry about writing specific mechanics for it.



From another of my posts above:
Quote
(I want the decline because I'm actually toying with the idea of a pulp-era spin-off, after I finish this first one, where magic is barely functional at all)


I'm basically thinking of stretching the same setting across multiple timelines as sort of an experiment on how similar themes would change and evolve over various time periods.
So, for the current project, no. It really wouldn't matter. But I don't what to write off other possibilities I'm considering either.

However, I think the decline of magic can be explained seperately from actual technology as touched on above. So that part is covered.
Mixing tech and magic simply requires non-ferrous metals and caring hand-craftsmanship. The mass-production assembly-line "cheapness" (in the spiritual sense) of more modern technology is what is antithetical to magic, not the simple existence of tech. It's all in the spirit of the creator and the sense of wonder.
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Calvin W. Camp

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timfire
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« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2004, 01:04:52 PM »

Quote from: madelf
(I want the decline because I'm actually toying with the idea of a pulp-era spin-off, after I finish this first one, where magic is barely functional at all)

I guess I missed my "observation" roll on that one.
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