PDA

View Full Version : Wizards can't have nice things



Anderlith
2011-09-07, 09:12 PM
Is anyone else annoyed at the fact that most people let magic users get away with anything because something is "magic" & can do anything that someone wants it to do?

I don't hate wizards. I love them, but I wish their were more rules as to what they can do. Why can't magic be a science? Why can't magic be suedo-predictable? Why can't we have a "real" magic system that can be founded on meta-physics? Historically "magic" was predictable & had a plethora of rules. Also historically, you didn't sacrifice your athletic ability to be able to perform magic, all it took was some book learning. It's like saying every geek is out of shape & pudgy (it's a stereotype but not fact)

So my question is; Why does magic have to be so much of a deus ex machina?

Shadowknight12
2011-09-07, 09:28 PM
Because most games want to emulate the magic found in stories, where (I'm sorry to disappoint you) it's actually a way to move the plot forward. That means that magic did whatever the author wanted it to do.

It's not until more recent stories that we've seen the "magic as science" approach. Perhaps games will pick up on this tendency as well, in the future.

Gamgee
2011-09-07, 09:47 PM
In my book I'm writing magic most certainly doesn't make you weaker in most cases. One character does, but there's a plot reason why. He's exerting and over extending himself beyond what his mind and body is really capable of doing.

The other mages in the book by contrast are quite physically fit. In particular a Barbarian from the north learns at the Academy and is frightful in battle using magic to enhance his already super human strength. Smashing the ground and causing a visible crater and scattering lesser men is well within his capabilities provided he uses magic.

Magic is limitless in so far as you can think and free your mind. The more you learn and the more you make use of magic and any ideas the more you can do. So someone who studies time will be quite an adept master of it, but your ordinary citizen might be capable of simple things like cleaning things easily, levitation, and getting the plow on a farm to move itself.

This nation of Mages has quite consistent catastrophes to mages losing control of their power. The latest being the lost northern city which was blown away. The notivitates were trying to impress their masters and the experiment got far out of hand leaving a blast behind much like that of a nuclear bomb. A constant storm of radiation and various magic permiates the area, and will for quite some time.

This country of mages is capable of producing special metals out of regular application of magic. Creating super dense metals and then with magical enchantment negating the weight of the blade except when it strikes on impact. Soldiers are supremely trained in mind, body, and spirit for war. Because of the countries large size and small population each and every guard is supremely capable. Being able to blink and vanish around the field of battle cutting a swathe of destruction through enemy soldiers is effortless. Unaided a single soldier can cut down scores of men unless they have some kind of magic.

Politically a country of mages is powerful, their low population and distance from the rest of the world matters little. They're the only country to perfect teleportation. First as warp gates and then next as a personal spell. Angering them is not a good thing because it could mean an elite hitman squad of death in minutes. They can project their power with ease.

Despite all of this they are only equals to the Western Empire which is stupendously vast and always expanding. They also have in the past captured and crucified mages torturing them to insanity and harnessing their power for themselves. While rare it's not unheard of to see one or two crucified insane mages being held up on a cross protecting the soldiers. The country itself looks down upon magic, and unlike the other country it's very rare for them to be capable of it. Those who do are often press ganged into work as healer, protectors, and armorers.

I could go on, but yeh. Just an example.

Fiery Diamond
2011-09-07, 10:04 PM
I'm currently playing with a story idea which involves a setting in which magic can be divided into several broad categories:

1) Wizardry: the magic art of spells, rituals, and alchemy. This is magic-as-science, and leads to the existence of magitech, which is primarily concentrated in a few highly advanced cities (read: anachronistic, but slightly futuristic) in an otherwise primarily pseudo-medieval world.

2) Sorcery: the innate, personal magic that some are born with. Some of it is controllable, some of it is not. Some is highly limited, and some is not limited as much. A significant minority of the population has at least some sorcerous power, though wizards are more common (and are still a minority). Sorcerers are generally also physically strong if their magic relates to fighting.

3) Rune Wilding: the literati's magic, essentially. You have to have innate ability, but your capabilities depend on study and mastery of the forms.

Alleran
2011-09-07, 10:07 PM
I'm personally fond of the concept that when casting spells, it takes a bit of your "willpower" or "inner strength" to get the spell out there (even if you're a prepared caster, just locking the spell into your mind takes some of your strength). As you cast more and more (or bigger and bigger) spells, you begin to drain your reserves. At which point, your body will start eating itself for the energy to power the magic. Drain away too much, and you not only age prematurely and become emaciated, but you might not have the strength left to keep your own heart beating, lungs working, and so on.

I think it's a fairly common device. I do know that the Shannara series has it (particularly for druid magic), and the Belgariad as well to some extent.

yilduz
2011-09-07, 10:26 PM
I'm personally fond of the concept that when casting spells, it takes a bit of your "willpower" or "inner strength" to get the spell out there (even if you're a prepared caster, just locking the spell into your mind takes some of your strength). As you cast more and more (or bigger and bigger) spells, you begin to drain your reserves. At which point, your body will start eating itself for the energy to power the magic. Drain away too much, and you not only age prematurely and become emaciated, but you might not have the strength left to keep your own heart beating, lungs working, and so on.

I think it's a fairly common device. I do know that the Shannara series has it (particularly for druid magic), and the Belgariad as well to some extent.

I was never really too crazy about that. I understand that in some stories it's important so that the wizards aren't overpowered and able to just end the story right there - but I just don't like the aging, draining life part. A system that I liked very much was in BESM d20. Every character (regardless of race/class) had Energy points. If you cast spells (or other certain abilities), you'd spend energy points. If you ran out of energy points, you fell unconscious. So, a similar idea, but more of a temporary issue than sacrificing your long-term health. It allows the magic to be more accessible but still keeps you from going over the top in certain situations.

Alleran
2011-09-07, 10:49 PM
I was never really too crazy about that. I understand that in some stories it's important so that the wizards aren't overpowered and able to just end the story right there - but I just don't like the aging, draining life part.
Well, in most stories (such as the Shannara one I mentioned), stopping before you reach the really overkill parts and letting yourself rest and recover would prevent it from ever becoming an overly great issue. Though even then, there remains a price (Allanon went way too far overboard with it once, and even though he was able to replenish much of his strength in time, he was still aged as a result - the Druid Sleep could only do so much).

I think Dresden Files uses it as well, particularly with soulfire. You can augment your magic greatly by using it, but it casts directly from your soul. Which will "heal" over time, but if you hit zero, then you've just killed yourself. And wiped out your soul, leading to cessation of existence rather than an afterlife.

NichG
2011-09-07, 10:56 PM
There are other systems where magic is more systematic. To do it with D&D, you'd have to completely redo the system. There are pretty much no solid rules as regards to what a spell of level X, school Y, class Z should and should not be able to do beyond some simple damage scaling rules of thumb (and even those get broken).

E.g.: There's a Lv2 Cleric spell that gives +20 to a skill check (Guidance of the Avatar), which is comparable to a Lv8 Wizard spell. A Lv1 Cleric spell does nearly as well (Divine Insight), as does a Lv1 Bard spell (Improvisation), and of course there's a Lv3 Bard spell that does a +30 on one particular skill (Glibness) and so on.

Maybe the rule is Wizards can't heal? Well, Synostodweomer, Limited Wish, and Wish would like to disagree...

So basically, plan to take all spells out of D&D and redo things from scratch. Once you do that, you could certainly make a systematized magic system, and it'd probably be pretty interesting.

If you just want a fluff explanation of magic, there's nothing stopping you really, but I think it has to have some actual impact on resolution of game to feel like it actually applies. Maybe spells are granted by spirits of the elements a la L5R, in which case you can wheedle and bribe them to exceed the normal bounds of magic, but you can also piss them off and not get a response for awhile. Maybe they're energy beamed from a facility built long ago by a powerful empire of transcended beings, where a computer looks for the appropriate symbols and routes power to those that express them. You could do a lot of interesting stuff.

For example, I'm currently in a campaign where every elemental metal has a unique and specific property, and you can combine them to make machines but it actually has to make sense. So we've got a metal that makes electric currents, a metal that reduces mass, a metal that produces heat, a metal that cools down, a metal that produces gravity, etc, and we can turn them into motors, tasers, bullet-proof armor, whatever if we can design such a thing using the elements we have access to.

Xefas
2011-09-08, 12:19 AM
So my question is; Why does magic have to be so much of a deus ex machina?

It's not in most systems. I'm guessing you're talking about D&D? Play another system. Burning Wheel, Sorcerer, and the Dresden Files RPG all have great magic systems, off the top of my head. Maybe check out Mortal Coil, where a significant part of play is defining the rules of magic for your gaming group as you go.

edit: If you're looking for a system where the way magic works and how to use it in clever and interesting ways, working around its various restrictions and oddities, is the main schtick, maybe look at Dictionary of Mu.

Greyfeld
2011-09-08, 12:46 AM
Well, in most stories (such as the Shannara one I mentioned), stopping before you reach the really overkill parts and letting yourself rest and recover would prevent it from ever becoming an overly great issue. Though even then, there remains a price (Allanon went way too far overboard with it once, and even though he was able to replenish much of his strength in time, he was still aged as a result - the Druid Sleep could only do so much).

I think Dresden Files uses it as well, particularly with soulfire. You can augment your magic greatly by using it, but it casts directly from your soul. Which will "heal" over time, but if you hit zero, then you've just killed yourself. And wiped out your soul, leading to cessation of existence rather than an afterlife.

There's a book called Feast of Souls, which I thought had a really interesting approach to it. Basically, every time somebody used magic, it would drain a little bit of their life force. You could use as much magic as you wished, but every time you did, it would shorten your life a little bit.

But there are a subset of spellcasters called Magisters that found a way around that limitation. Basically, they use magic until they're on the verge of death, and as they're dying, they reach out and grab hold of a random person's soul and make a connection to it, using that connection to extend their lives. And from that point on, any magic they use takes away from THAT person's life. And they can do this any number of times, resulting in magisters being hundreds or thousands of years old, and ultimately killing hundreds and thousands of innocent random strangers, which the regular populous was unaware of.

Firechanter
2011-09-08, 04:53 AM
Shadowrun has a rather formulaic approach to magic, and hermetic magic is actually defined as science. You can design your own spells, but there are certain hard and fast limits to what magic can do. Most importantly:
- Magic cannot manipulate time. No time travel or time stop, for instance.
- No teleportation of any kind. You can move stuff, and maybe move it quickly, but it still has to go from A to B in actual space.
- Magic does not permit seeing into the future.
- Spells are not intelligent. You can only set certain triggers. Spells do not make their own decisions.

It works quite well. In later iterations of the game, there has been a certain tendency towards "Be Mage Or Suck", but not to the extent of D&D, and for a long time before that happened, magic was actually rather balanced.

You'll notice that a plethora of D&D spells violate these rules. You can stop time, teleport to the far side of a world, see into the future, and have a spell find out not only the direction of a given target, but also line out the shortest route, to name a few.

dsmiles
2011-09-08, 04:53 AM
I was never really too crazy about that. I understand that in some stories it's important so that the wizards aren't overpowered and able to just end the story right there - but I just don't like the aging, draining life part. A system that I liked very much was in BESM d20. Every character (regardless of race/class) had Energy points. If you cast spells (or other certain abilities), you'd spend energy points. If you ran out of energy points, you fell unconscious. So, a similar idea, but more of a temporary issue than sacrificing your long-term health. It allows the magic to be more accessible but still keeps you from going over the top in certain situations.
I prefer the alternative presented in BESM: Advanced d20 Magic. Non-lethal damage in place of energy points (for non-BESM games).

The_Snark
2011-09-08, 05:09 AM
The main issue with D&D magic is that it's drawing on so many sources. Wizards in stories can spy on far-off places through mirrors and crystal balls, so D&D has spells for that. Wizards in stories call forth lighting and fire to lay waste to their enemies. Wizards in stories can transform themselves into wolves, or birds, or purple fire-breathing dragons, and they can turn those who offend them into newts and toads. They can give vague readings and omens of the future. They can imprison your soul in a gem or ensnare your mind with spells. They can conjure ifrits and bind demons, raise the dead from their graves, cross vast distances in a single ensorcelled step.

Of course, it's pretty rare for magicians to do all this within the space of a single story. Magic in stories tends to be either limited in what it can do, or rare and mysterious. But D&D tries to accommodate all the common kinds of magic and quite a few uncommon ones, and has ended up with a very broad sort of magic as a result.

jseah
2011-09-08, 06:33 AM
I am/have been writing a magic system for some time now. Given how extensive it has gotten over the last three years, and it being only 50% done, I don't expect it to be usable for a game without some pretty extreme simplifications.

The system starts from a pseudo-physics, where I consider what could be done with individual atom-sized particles of magic that follow certain rules. (some handwaving in scaling upwards is involved)

Teleportation and planar travel is fully explained, there is even some math (4 dimensional vector calculus... ^^) for it. Once again, despite heavy approximations, it is still not usable. Most of the 50% incomplete portions are teleport-related as well as a list of example spells.

A trigger-based code allows spells to act on conditionals, including internal counters and nested triggers that create logic and compute.
There's even an "intelligence" component that you can add to spells, which will process huge quantities of data and act in mildly intelligent ways (pathfinding, storing images, calculating how to bend light to create an image, pattern analysis, etc.)


So yes, I can explain how ANY bit of magic in the setting will work. And as the rules are proscriptive, exceptions aren't supposed to exist, what I am writing is essentially a theory of everything for magic.

Nope, no deus ex machina here. Magic is something you understand, use and prepare to face.

Dimers
2011-09-08, 07:00 AM
The main issue with D&D magic is that it's drawing on so many sources. ... Of course, it's pretty rare for magicians to do all this within the space of a single story.


Because most games want to emulate the magic found in stories, where (I'm sorry to disappoint you) it's actually a way to move the plot forward.

I'll give a +1 to both of those. And to take Shadowknight's concept further, I'll note that if all wizards of fiction had access to, say, the whole Spell Compendium list, then the plot would often derail or skip right to the end. It's the only certain combinations of effects that make magic such a perfect tool. Scry-and-die wouldn't work without divination AND teleportation AND heavy offense AND certain personal protections (so that the scryer/teleporter doesn't go *POP* on a trap as soon as they arrive). A caster with one or two moves the plot along, a caster with all of them mugs the plot and leaves it bleeding in an alley.

Fouredged Sword
2011-09-08, 07:41 AM
One cannot simply walk into mordor! Thay is why we greater teleport in, drop the ring, greater teleport out before anyone knows. Now fordo, drop the ring in this lead box and head on home now. Good work finding it, now let the adults handle the situation.

Yora
2011-09-08, 08:05 AM
Mages are weakly and skinny duds, because players are optimizers and don't waste prescious character points on strength.

Anderlith
2011-09-08, 08:17 AM
Yes, I have to say Shadowrun is the best magic system I've seen. My frustration comes from people who think that magic MUST rewrite physics instead of being just another force of nature (i.e. magnets) I understand that in a limited story that your magic users must have limits, but I would like to see it in an RPG, which does not always follow the same plot framework as a normal story.



& please don't misinterpret what I am saying into "Science (Computers) is Magic" that would be a different matter entirely.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-08, 08:18 AM
*shrug* I've made wizards with 20 strength.

The Wizard with a greatsword works just fine in D&D.

DiBastet
2011-09-08, 08:22 AM
There is nothing new in my opinion, so just to point out what I believe:


But there are a subset of spellcasters called Magisters that found a way around that limitation. Basically, they use magic until they're on the verge of death, and as they're dying, they reach out and grab hold of a random person's soul and make a connection to it, using that connection to extend their lives.

This remind me of that life draining spell from FR that some archmages used to extend their lives.


You'll notice that a plethora of D&D spells violate these rules. You can stop time, teleport to the far side of a world, see into the future, and have a spell find out not only the direction of a given target, but also line out the shortest route, to name a few.

Because of


The main issue with D&D magic is that it's drawing on so many sources. Wizards in stories can spy on far-off places through mirrors and crystal balls, so D&D has spells for that. Wizards in stories call forth lighting and fire to lay waste to their enemies. Wizards in stories can transform themselves into wolves, or birds, or purple fire-breathing dragons, and they can turn those who offend them into newts and toads.

So we try to embrace all the possibilities of most sources, so players can choose from many different options. And with these options come possibilities, so magic has no limit on what it can do.

I understand the op's question, but don't share the concern. It makes no real difference for me for now (not enough to make me rewrite the magic system), but I would surely use a redesigned systematic magic system that somebody else wrote.

Jayabalard
2011-09-08, 08:26 AM
Is anyone else annoyed at the fact that most people let magic users get away with anything because something is "magic" & can do anything that someone wants it to do?Not I.


Why can't magic be a science? Because at that point, it stops being magical.


Also historically, you didn't sacrifice your athletic ability to be able to perform magic, all it took was some book learning. It's like saying every geek is out of shape & pudgy (it's a stereotype but not fact)You don't have to sacrifice your athletic ability in D&D either. People just choose to because being specialized makes you more optimal.

Mark Hall
2011-09-08, 10:32 AM
D&D has a very haphazard magic system, mostly based around wargaming-style field weapons. Because of this, you get a lot of deus ex machina based on the severity of the effect, rather than how hard it would be to accomplish what the spell is supposed to be doing.

If you're interested in more "logical" magic systems, I'd stay away from D&D. You might take a look at Ars Magica (the 4th edition is available for free from Atlas Games, though the current edition is 5th), which has a more nuanced magic system that tends to correlate to the difficulty of the act, rather than the severity of the effect.

The Glyphstone
2011-09-08, 10:35 AM
You don't have to sacrifice your athletic ability in D&D either. People just choose to because being specialized makes you more optimal.

Strictly, you do unless you're rolling high stats - point buy means you do have to sacrifice some of one to get the other, and it's an uneven trade ratio past 'above average. And even after that, you only have so many points to allocate to stat increases, so you have to choose either improving your physical qualities or your mental qualities each time...there's no working out during the day and studying at night.

Kurald Galain
2011-09-08, 01:36 PM
Is anyone else annoyed at the fact that most people let magic users get away with anything because something is "magic" & can do anything that someone wants it to do?
In most good stories, magic can't in fact "do anything that someone wants it to do". In fact, allowing that would be precisely what makes magic into a deus ex machina. Normally, magic has rules, and methods, and limits; you might not be told what exactly they are, but they're nonetheless there.

EvilDM
2011-09-08, 01:45 PM
Is anyone else annoyed at the fact that most people let magic users get away with anything because something is "magic" & can do anything that someone wants it to do?

I don't hate wizards. I love them, but I wish their were more rules as to what they can do. Why can't magic be a science? Why can't magic be suedo-predictable? Why can't we have a "real" magic system that can be founded on meta-physics? Historically "magic" was predictable & had a plethora of rules. Also historically, you didn't sacrifice your athletic ability to be able to perform magic, all it took was some book learning. It's like saying every geek is out of shape & pudgy (it's a stereotype but not fact)

So my question is; Why does magic have to be so much of a deus ex machina?

If you are the DM, what's stopping you from doing what you describe? If you have a vision don't allow someone else's vision to block it.

Mastikator
2011-09-08, 02:22 PM
Why can't magic be a science?
Because magic is supernatural and science is natural. It's mutually exclusive.

There are plenty of games that feature science.

Mark Hall
2011-09-08, 02:39 PM
Because magic is supernatural and science is natural. It's mutually exclusive.

I do not necessarily agree. I'd point towards Shadowrun, where non-magician magical theorists have made strides in understanding how and why magic works, by observing the rules it follows and accurately predicting future discoveries. While magic doesn't fit into the current conception of the natural world, if it were a real, observable, manipulatable force in the universe, it's conceivable that someone taking a scientific approach to magic (i.e. hypothesis, experiment, conclusion, repeat) could learn quite a bit.

When you get right down to it, that's what D&D-style wizards DO. While most adventuring wizards are on the order of technicians or engineers (i.e. applying concepts that others have already perfected), anyone coming up with new styles of magic (q.v. Wild Mages in the Realms, immediately after the Time of Troubles) is going to wind up having to do a bit of experimentation to get things right, and anyone designing spells, even ones that rely on established theorems, is going to likewise have to experiment.

That's actually part of the reason that technology in D&D worlds tends to be retarded, IMO. They spend thousands of years at a medieval technical level because most of the people who would do physical experiments in the real world do metaphysical (i.e. magical) ones in a magical world.

Mastikator
2011-09-08, 02:55 PM
An incandecent lightbulb would seem like magic to a stone age man, even though we know it's not magic.

In D&D Wizards are enginners who focus on The Weave. Actually calling them wizards is a fallacy, they're engineers, and calling spells "magical" too, since it's not, it's just technology.

The game world doesn't have to work like the real world, where only natural things exist and the things that exist are always natural (even if we don't understand them).
In a game world we can have things that is un-understandable. Specifically magic, having "can't be explained" as an unescapable attribute.


On a second point, that I've already touched upon. Why should magic even be technological and scientific? If magic is science, and science is science. Where oh where is the mystery and wonder that I want to sprinkle my game world with? If magic is understood then it can't be mysterious because freaking understand it. If magic is understood then it's not mysterious and wonderous at all!

And why is magitech even preferable to normal technology? Normal technology is cheaper and more efficient than magitech.

Mark Hall
2011-09-08, 03:19 PM
In a game world we can have things that is un-understandable. Specifically magic, having "can't be explained" as an unescapable attribute.

However, it's more difficult to design that, especially if you're shooting for anything like balance. Inexplicable magic is far more likely to turn deus ex machina than ones that follow explicit rules. In Shadowrun, magic cannot teleport... it just doesn't work that way. If someone SEEMS to have teleported in Shadowrun, you've either got something funny going on, or it's not what it seems.


On a second point, that I've already touched upon. Why should magic even be technological and scientific? If magic is science, and science is science. Where oh where is the mystery and wonder that I want to sprinkle my game world with? If magic is understood then it can't be mysterious because freaking understand it. If magic is understood then it's not mysterious and wonderous at all!

The same place scientists get their wonder from today... novelty ("Well, hell, I've never seen that before") or things that are not understood. They may be Newtonian scientists working in Einsteinian space, so to speak... their theorems are correct, but limited, and more complete theorems are yet to be discovered.


And why is magitech even preferable to normal technology? Normal technology is cheaper and more efficient than magitech.

Maybe. Sometimes. If you live in a world where anyone can conceivably learn minor spells and magics (e.g. Earthdawn), then magic may be cheaper and easier. You may also have situations where magic is necessary, and fills a gap technology cannot (e.g. hurting undead). It took humanity a LONG time to get past our technology being primarily simple machines (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simple_machine) and fire, and there weren't any viable competing technologies. It there was a viable competing technology, then how much longer would be have been stuck with them?

To go back to 3e, consider the magical savant, the Sorcerer. Without training, he can do all sorts of wonderful things, limited only by the energy he has (i.e. spells). Sorcerers are useful, but those without sorcerous ability can't do any of their tricks. But a wizard comes along and figures out how to duplicate the tricks. In Core D&D, that's really what a wizard does... he works out, through following natural laws, what a sorcerer does naturally. If you want a more exotic form of magic (binding, shai'ir's gen, shaman's spirits), that's great, and can be interesting... but the stereotype of the wizard in most adventure games tends towards the mad scientist... meddling with forces normal people don't fully understand to produce effects that, though they seem magical, are really just an extension of natural forces.

Fhaolan
2011-09-08, 03:28 PM
Because magic is supernatural and science is natural. It's mutually exclusive.

I've always been curious as to what might count as 'subnatural'.

:smallsmile:

Frozen_Feet
2011-09-08, 03:28 PM
Because magic is supernatural and science is natural. It's mutually exclusive.

There are plenty of games that feature science.

Once it becomes a fact of life, supernatural becomes an extension of the natural. This does not mean that scientific approach to magic makes it automatically bland and boring. Understanding is not an on/off switch; a lot of modern science is about what we don't know, thought we knew in the past but were proven wrong, and wondering about how to prove or falsify our more complex theories.

Magic as technology doesn't automatically make it lose sense of mystery either. A classic example of magic as technology is a magic potion. A magical system can have very detailed opinion on how some potion works and why. See: real-world alchemy.

Mastikator
2011-09-08, 03:42 PM
However, it's more difficult to design that, Yes if you make magic one of the main features in the game. Personally I'm of the opinion that magic should be a spice, not the main ingredient. Though if you prefer a game where wizards run the show then you're right.


especially if you're shooting for anything like balance Yes if you make the magic either powerful, reliable or without cost.
I personally prefer games where the warrior type is objectively better in combat than the wizard. It's my opinion that magic should let you break the laws of nature, but only a little, and there should be consequences, even if you only do it a little.


Inexplicable magic is far more likely to turn deus ex machina than ones that follow explicit rules. I have seen no evidence of this. In my experience with D&D, it's "powerful" and "reliable" that makes magic into deus ex machina, not "inexplicable". If anything "inexplicable" makes magic a liablitity.


The same place scientists get their wonder from today... novelty Touché.


Maybe. Sometimes. If you live in a world where anyone can conceivably learn minor spells and magics (e.g. Earthdawn), then magic may be cheaper and easier. You may also have situations where magic is necessary, and fills a gap technology cannot (e.g. hurting undead). Then magic is the main dish of the game. Everyone is using it. It's like wearing clothes to protect you from the weather. It just doesn't feel magical. And to me that's the most important thing, the feel of it.


It took humanity a LONG time to get past our technology being primarily simple machines and fire, and there weren't any viable competing technologies. It there was a viable competing technology, then how much longer would be have been stuck with them? I get that, what I'm getting at is, if you want a high-tech society, why play magitech fantasy instead of a futuristic high tech sci-fi?


But a wizard comes along and figures out how to duplicate the tricks. In Core D&D, that's really what a wizard does... he works out, through following natural laws, what a sorcerer does naturally. Right. He's not really a wizard, he's an engineer who just happens to wear a wizard robe and a pointy hat.


but the stereotype of the wizard in most adventure games tends towards the mad scientist right. And I prefer the nerfed Gandalf type wizard.


-

Once it becomes a fact of life, supernatural becomes an extension of the natural. I realize that this point I'm about to make is purely semantic, but semantics are important.
If it's not supernatural then it's not magical. That's the definition of the word. The moment magic is understood on a scientific level then it stops being magic and is instead technology.
If magic is understood and natural, then a "magic missile" is no more magical than a car. But nobody's calling cars and lamps and computers "magical", so then neither should D&D-esque spells be granted that title.

Kurald Galain
2011-09-08, 03:44 PM
Because magic is supernatural and science is natural. It's mutually exclusive.

There are several settings where this simply isn't true, including but not limited to Jack Vance's Dying Earth, Terry Pratchett's Discworld, and Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar.

Mastikator
2011-09-08, 03:50 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_excluded_middle

If something is natural, then it's not "not natural".
If something is supernatural then it's not natural.
Because super and not super are not the same.
Therefore, supernatural and natural are mutually exclusive.

Just because some authors perfer to not obey the laws of logic doesn't mean they're logically correct in doing so. No matter how good their work is otherwise.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-08, 03:52 PM
Yay...definitional arguments.

Turns out, what some people think is supernatural can be later shown to be entirely natural. True story. Science is what does this sort of thing.

Frozen_Feet
2011-09-08, 03:57 PM
... technology is not required to be natural. Therefore, the concept of supernatural technology is not an oxymoron, and the concept has indeed existed in the form of magic potions and rituals since the dawn of time.

Also, you're misunderstanding the idea of supernatural being extension of the natural. It's not that they suddenly become the same; it's just that if both demonstrably exist, both can be observed and made into science.

The_Snark
2011-09-08, 03:57 PM
Just because some authors perfer to not obey the laws of logic doesn't mean they're logically correct in doing so. No matter how good their work is otherwise.

Alternative explanation: magic in those authors' works is not supernatural.

Mark Hall
2011-09-08, 04:02 PM
Yes if you make magic one of the main features in the game. Personally I'm of the opinion that magic should be a spice, not the main ingredient. Though if you prefer a game where wizards run the show then you're right.

Wizards running the show isn't necessary if you've got reliable and exploitable magic, provided that magic follows rules that don't let it. Again, I'd point towards Shadowrun, especially 4e. While a mage can be ridiculously powerful, the ubiquity of technology means a well-funded Hacker/Rigger can be just as frightening.


Yes if you make the magic either powerful, reliable or without cost.
I personally prefer games where the warrior type is objectively better in combat than the wizard. It's my opinion that magic should let you break the laws of nature, but only a little, and there should be consequences, even if you only do it a little.

Can you give examples of such games?


I have seen no evidence of this. In my experience with D&D, it's "powerful" and "reliable" that makes magic into deus ex machina, not "inexplicable". If anything "inexplicable" makes magic a liablitity.

Actually, I disagree, but I think it is a difference in usage of deus ex machina. In D&D, a wizard has definable abilities. He can cast X spells, which have specific effects. It's on the character sheet... it's not a deus ex machina, just powerful and reliable.

A deus ex machina is something fixing problems that comes out of nowhere... the God who shows up to fix all the problems.

If I can summon 10,000 valkyries to destroy my enemies, it's not a deus ex machina... it's a power written on my character sheet. If 10,000 valkyries show up out of nowhere, it's a deus ex machina.



I get that, what I'm getting at is, if you want a high-tech society, why play magitech fantasy instead of a futuristic high tech sci-fi?

Because magic lets you go slightly different places. When you get right down to it, though, we're just recapitulating Clarke's law.



I realize that this point I'm about to make is purely semantic, but semantics are important.
If it's not supernatural then it's not magical. That's the definition of the word. The moment magic is understood on a scientific level then it stops being magic and is instead technology.
If magic is understood and natural, then a "magic missile" is no more magical than a car. But nobody's calling cars and lamps and computers "magical", so then neither should D&D-esque spells be granted that title.

Semantics are important, but there's a law mentioned around here, occasionally, the name of which escapes me. It goes something like "If a term has a well-understood game definition, arguing that it's not that based on a real-world definition is fallacious." Might as well argue that we shouldn't call them Druids because they aren't Celts... at a certain point, game terminology trumps normal terminology. If you're looking for a game that fits your definition of magical, no problem... but arguing with the game definition because it's not your definition is jousting at windmills, on the basis that they might be giants.

Mastikator
2011-09-08, 04:06 PM
Tyndmyr actually made the point for me. If something that is perceived to be supernatural turns out to be natural, then it never was supernatural and perceivers were merely mistaken about what they saw.

If magic was never really supernatural then it was a mistake to call it magic in the first place. Magic potions and magic rituals are actually exotic effect potions and exotic energy ritual.
Why? Because there's a logical explanation behind it. Supernatural things doesn't have a logical explanation, that's why it's called supernatural, because it's above and beyond logical explanations. Saying that you have a logical explanation of magic is a contradiction in terms, also known as a logical fallacy. And just because everybody seems to be doing it, even prominent authors, doesn't mean it's not invalid logic.

Anyway, if you don't think that "supernatural" is categorically different than "natural" then I can't convince you that magic can't be explained. Probably because I have a physicallistic world view and you apparently don't. (that is to say, I won't argue this any further)

Archpaladin Zousha
2011-09-08, 04:15 PM
Is anyone else annoyed at the fact that most people let magic users get away with anything because something is "magic" & can do anything that someone wants it to do?

I don't hate wizards. I love them, but I wish their were more rules as to what they can do. Why can't magic be a science? Why can't magic be suedo-predictable? Why can't we have a "real" magic system that can be founded on meta-physics? Historically "magic" was predictable & had a plethora of rules. Also historically, you didn't sacrifice your athletic ability to be able to perform magic, all it took was some book learning. It's like saying every geek is out of shape & pudgy (it's a stereotype but not fact)

So my question is; Why does magic have to be so much of a deus ex machina?
Wizards can't have nice things? But they DO have a nice thing! They're wizards. Gods among men. Just a few spells learned last week and a wizard's capable of swinging a sword better than the greatest swordsman in the world who trained for centuries! And wizards do have athletic ability: Bull's Strength, Cat's Grace, and Bear's Endurance.

Magic's a deus ex machina because wizards can prepare spells for ANY situation.

The_Snark
2011-09-08, 04:28 PM
If magic was never really supernatural then it was a mistake to call it magic in the first place. Magic potions and magic rituals are actually exotic effect potions and exotic energy ritual.

That's a question of semantics, though, and both fantasy and science fiction have a long history of neologism. Inventing and altering word definitions is acceptable in that context, provided that it's still comprehensible.

I think that when an author refers to an exotic force as magic, they do so because from our point of view it is. The magic in, say, Brandon Sanderson's work is generally the result of a natural force within the setting, but from our perspective it's supernatural, because no such forces exist in the real world. Therefore, from our perspective it's magic, and the author refers to it as such for our benefit. (If, indeed, they do; I know of settings where things that we would consider magical are never referred to as such, because in the setting that's just how the world works.)

Personally, I think both are valid definitions. Magic can be a mysterious thing that categorically defies understanding. It can also be a kind of fantastic science, the study and command of fictional but comprehensible forces. Calling that magic may be a stretch of the word by your definition, but I'm not terribly concerned about that sort of thing; aesthetics > semantics. If calling it magic helps set the proper mood, then that's what I'll call it.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-08, 04:39 PM
Tyndmyr actually made the point for me. If something that is perceived to be supernatural turns out to be natural, then it never was supernatural and perceivers were merely mistaken about what they saw.

If magic was never really supernatural then it was a mistake to call it magic in the first place. Magic potions and magic rituals are actually exotic effect potions and exotic energy ritual.
Why? Because there's a logical explanation behind it. Supernatural things doesn't have a logical explanation, that's why it's called supernatural, because it's above and beyond logical explanations. Saying that you have a logical explanation of magic is a contradiction in terms, also known as a logical fallacy. And just because everybody seems to be doing it, even prominent authors, doesn't mean it's not invalid logic.

Anyway, if you don't think that "supernatural" is categorically different than "natural" then I can't convince you that magic can't be explained. Probably because I have a physicallistic world view and you apparently don't. (that is to say, I won't argue this any further)

There is nothing which cannot have science applied to it. And, if it is a preexisting law of reality, it is by definition natural in it's world, regardless of how strange it is to this one.

What is natural in our world /= what is natural in other worlds. The author gets to define what is natural in his world. You do not.

Kurald Galain
2011-09-08, 06:15 PM
If something is natural, then it's not "not natural".
If something is supernatural then it's not natural.
Yeah, arguing semantics doesn't help your case any.

Magic is natural. Perhaps not in our world, but in many fictional worlds it is. Authors are not obliged to obey the laws of real-world physics.

Acanous
2011-09-08, 06:22 PM
"Sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from Magic"-Arthur C. Clarke.

Therefore, "Sufficiently analyzed Magic is indistinguishable from Science" -Phil Foglio.

Magic in settings where it exists is just as supernatural as Galvanization or Particle Physics.

Anderlith
2011-09-08, 07:44 PM
Acanous beat me to the punch.

But let me give you some examples Mastikator.

Is the Force in the Starwars universe natural? Yes it is. It occurs naturally although when you compare it's effect to our universe it appears "supernatural".

If a person was to go back into time & scare some natives with a flashlight wouldn't they consider him a magic user?

Oh & since we are arguing semantics. Don't call magic users "wizards", wizards are wise men.

Mastikator
2011-09-09, 01:40 AM
The Eberron setting is a good example of a "magitech" society.
The thing about Eberron that I am trying to argue is that there is no magic in Eberron, and the thing that they call magic isn't magic. What they have is technology with a different energy source than what we have in the real world. A "wand of magic missile" is no more magical than a car. If we don't call cars magical, we shouldn't call what "magic users" or "wizards" magical either.

Actually, why even bother calling it magic if it's not even distinguishable from science? Because science certainly isn't magic.

Yora
2011-09-09, 02:43 AM
Most societies that believe in magic do not regard a healing spell any different from medicine, or a course as different from radiation poisoning. In many parts of the world, the half the services offered by magicans are simple medical prescriptions, and the other half chanting while burning a rats heart in a fire.

The notion that magic is different from science is only possible if one assumes that science is real and magic does not exist.

Mastikator
2011-09-09, 03:33 AM
Yes. Or if that science can be understood and magic is beyond understanding.
But for that there'd have to be things that can't be understood. Which may not be true about reality, but very much can be true in a game world.
(and by extension, because I'm sure it'll be brought up, if something later becomes understood then it was never magic in the first place)

Cerlis
2011-09-09, 03:59 AM
id like to point out that Studying magic doesnt make you weak. If you are comparing a wizard to a barbarian you are doing it wrong. your suppose to be comparing a wizard to a commoner. I forget what Hit dice that is, i think d4 but even if its d6, you have someone who does almost nothing to train his body, vs someone who wrestles pigs and moves plows through solid earth all day.

it sounds like we are treating a fighter as a normal person and wizard (physically) as a cripple. when really a Wizard should be a Normal person and a fighter should be a marine or something.

and i dont know about old books, but every form of magic i've seen in recent fiction has a scientific approach. There are 3 women who walk around stormwind talking about applying This Theory to That Principle to achieve This Effect in regards to That Magic

NichG
2011-09-09, 04:02 AM
The following is going to be pretty abstract. Interesting behavior comes when you look at a system of magic that both has rules but is not possible to systematically understand. This is not necessarily paradoxical.

Essentially, you'd need a system where multiple explanations for the phenomena work equally well on all prior data, but for bonus points give different future predictions. One way to do this is to have a system where the explanation only arrives after the fact. That is, someone can say afterwards 'this was caused by X' but during the magical event there is no way to determine X.

So far this argument is really abstract, so its hard to see how you'd actually run such a thing. But think about weather, economics, climate prediction, etc in the real world. These are chaotic systems with instabilities. We can't say what fluctuation will give rise to a given instability at a given time, though we know instabilities will happen (in comparison to the magic system, people know magic will occur but not the details of how or what will cause it). However after we observe the instability we can often trace it back to an origin point or relevant factors based on measurements of the event.

I'm still not sure how one would turn that into a usable game system though. Maybe wizards are all investigators, trying to unravel the cause of particular unique magical effects that persist and threaten the populace? Sometimes its an unruly spirit, sometimes its the land suffering, and sometimes its the fact that the tea-drinking ritual used by the local populace as a tradition is actually resonating with some ancient human sacrificial rite and creating an effect.

The_Snark
2011-09-09, 04:48 AM
The following is going to be pretty abstract. Interesting behavior comes when you look at a system of magic that both has rules but is not possible to systematically understand. This is not necessarily paradoxical.

I don't know if I agree with the examples you're using. Weather patterns, economics, and ecology are not inherently impossible to understand; it's just that we don't know all of the rules governing how they work, and it's not possible (or at least not practical) for us to gather the sort of data we'd need to pin them down. But those systems do work according to logical, consistent principles, even if we don't understand them very well.

Whereas magic by Mastikator's definition is something that is inherently illogical and cannot be mapped or comprehended. If your magic has recognizable causes and effects, then it doesn't count by this (admittedly strict) definition.

(Out of curiosity, Mastikator, what settings or stories would you point to that you'd say contain actual magic?)

Mastikator
2011-09-09, 05:37 AM
Real world religions tend to contain magic that works in mysterious ways and can't be understood, usually caused by entities that also lack logical explanation for reasons that is without reason.

A literal deus ex machina would also be magic.

In the movie Conan the Barbarian (1982) with Ahhnold and James Earl Jones, it was never explained how or why Thulsa Doom could use serpent magic. (AFAIK)

The Evil Dead trilogy uses magic to explain the living dead.

Though it's true that it's very rare. I think it's for the same reason why zombie movies are more likely to use the virus-explanation than the magic one; because people prefer a bad and plausible explanation to a good magic one, it's easier to suspend disbelief than to accept that you just can't know.

Yora
2011-09-09, 06:08 AM
That conan example doesn't work. In D&D, a wizard uses something called "charm person" which is not anymore defined than being magic and causing a certain effect.
Thulsa Doom uses magic for the same effect.

There's nothing any more or less explained about that.

And in all my years studying the subject, I have never come on any scientific texts that claim that practitioners of magic believe that their magic can not be understood or has logical explainations. Magic is only regarded as such by people who believe it doesn't exist in the first place.

Mastikator
2011-09-09, 06:14 AM
So what you're saying is that this disagreement is a result of the fact that I don't believe in magic, and you do believe in magic?

Tyndmyr
2011-09-09, 07:23 AM
The Eberron setting is a good example of a "magitech" society.
The thing about Eberron that I am trying to argue is that there is no magic in Eberron, and the thing that they call magic isn't magic. What they have is technology with a different energy source than what we have in the real world. A "wand of magic missile" is no more magical than a car. If we don't call cars magical, we shouldn't call what "magic users" or "wizards" magical either.

Actually, why even bother calling it magic if it's not even distinguishable from science? Because science certainly isn't magic.

Because the book is meant to be read by people in OUR universe, and to us, it is magic.

Midnight_v
2011-09-09, 07:37 AM
To the op. I get tired of it cause of all the arguments it causes just playing D&D. Crazy stuff like fighter as a concept shouldn't exist. In any case this:

there are certain hard and fast limits to what magic can do. Most importantly:
- Magic cannot manipulate time. No time travel or time stop, for instance.
- No teleportation of any kind. You can move stuff, and maybe move it quickly, but it still has to go from A to B in actual space.
- Magic does not permit seeing into the future.
- Spells are not intelligent. You can only set certain triggers. Spells do not make their own decisions.

I'd like it it D&D had this.
Pretty much magic needs limits. I've not given much play to 4th ed but in 3rd ed even there were rituals.
UHm...
Incantations (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/magic/incantations.htm)

And something things need to be that way I think for a fantasy genre game.
Though I've learned from being in the united states that you need to make sure you say what things can never do but also say:
"If its not on this list? You can't do it"
With Magic (Non-ritual/incantation magic) can do this:
Fire off bolts of an element.
Change the shape of the user (yes even combat forms. Many fixes exist)
Fly (Mins per level)
Provide "Telekine" style effects, Open doors, Force Choke people.
Save or Sucks. (dies)
Heal people (yeah divine magic is on the same list)
Conjure walls.
Enhance a stat/Increase fighting ability Buffing ftw
Summon Monsters off a strict list. (But GATING? HAS to be re-written like fires of dis incantation.
Create illusions. But everyone gets a save vs an illusion just by looking at it. period. Non of this "interact with" nonsense.
Protect you with deflection bonuses/invisibility.
Combat teleporting, so people can play as night crawler, that is to say short range, line of sight teleportation. No more than 30ft

Anything out side of that is either a "no" or a "ritual".

You can't get fast enuogh that you're casting time stop.
You can't teleport into mordor.
You can't see the future clear enough to pick your spells for the day. Etc...

shadow_archmagi
2011-09-09, 07:45 AM
Is anyone else annoyed at the fact that most people let magic users get away with anything because something is "magic" & can do anything that someone wants it to do?

I don't hate wizards. I love them, but I wish their were more rules as to what they can do. Why can't magic be a science? Why can't magic be suedo-predictable? Why can't we have a "real" magic system that can be founded on meta-physics? Historically "magic" was predictable & had a plethora of rules. Also historically, you didn't sacrifice your athletic ability to be able to perform magic, all it took was some book learning. It's like saying every geek is out of shape & pudgy (it's a stereotype but not fact)

So my question is; Why does magic have to be so much of a deus ex machina?

1. Role playing games *do* have systems of what magic can do. In D&D, spells have pretty rigidly defined effects and can only be used in certain ways.

2. You're not obliged to sacrifice your strength or agility to bolster your magic. I mean, you have to have a decent INT, but there's no reason your other 14's and 18's couldn't go into strength.

Gamgee
2011-09-09, 09:40 AM
Supernatural is only a superstitious label put to things we don't understand. It's false in every sense of the word. If something can be observed, then I believe some day it will be explained. This doesn't make it super natural, just unknown and not currently unexplained.

The word is a relic from its time, and it shows.

Edit
Look at it this way. If anything is perceived by our senses then it in some way must conform to some basic laws of science. If we couldn't see it with any of our tools or senses than we might enter the realm of super natural. Even that's a big maybe.

Mastikator
2011-09-09, 11:19 AM
You are conflating the real world with the game world. The same metaphysical rules don't necessarily apply. Just because the real world that you and I live in is mundane, natural and logical doesn't mean that a game world has to be that way too.
The definitions of words, on the other hand, do. You can call it arguing semantics, I call it arguing logic.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-09, 11:26 AM
You are conflating the real world with the game world. The same metaphysical rules don't necessarily apply. Just because the real world that you and I live in is mundane, natural and logical doesn't mean that a game world has to be that way too.
The definitions of words, on the other hand, do. You can call it arguing semantics, I call it arguing logic.

What, you seriously think all words in a fictional world have to mean exactly the same thing as they do in ours? No. Not at all.

I find it incredibly odd that you don't think a game world has to be logical...but words do! And then, instead of arguing semantics, you're arguing logic. That does not follow. Therefore, it is not logical.

Caphi
2011-09-09, 12:25 PM
You know what the problem is with treating magic as engineering?

Engineering is hard.

Every nontrivial engineering project in the real world is basically combining years of industry-aggregated ingredients, concepts, memes, and often whole entire prebuilt or predesigned sections of the product (building, computer, program) in ways that take an awful lot of creativity, an awful lot of training, and constant wrestling with a mind-blowingly huge mountain of specific and absolutely unforgiving rules that will, at best, make your project collapse, and at worst make it blow up if you forget a single one.

No one wants to deal with that in a game. No one should really have to deal with that in a game. Games abstract actual professional skill into a very neat series of discrete bite-sized data and interactions you can summarize in a page, tops. There's a very good reason for that.

NichG
2011-09-09, 01:31 PM
There's a lot of space between 'roll a die and I'll tell you what you can make' and full scale engineering. Games like The Incredible Machine, Little Big Planet, Minecraft, etc show that design of machines and the like can be very fun and fast. Those games omit some things in order to keep it fun: wear, fault tolerance issues, etc. The stuff that makes real engineering bog down.

So I think that has its place in a game. Heck, as I said earlier in the thread, I'm in such a campaign now and it has been quite fun. It's probably not for everyone though.

Noctemwolf
2011-09-09, 02:11 PM
I want to throw in two or three cents. =D


Yes. Or if that science can be understood and magic is beyond understanding.
But for that there'd have to be things that can't be understood. Which may not be true about reality, but very much can be true in a game world.
(and by extension, because I'm sure it'll be brought up, if something later becomes understood then it was never magic in the first place)


If it's beyond understanding, then I'm wondering if you would be willing to clarify something for me, Mastikator?
Would it even be possible to use magic?

After all, I'm pretty sure even in real world stories, the magician HAD to have some knowledge of what he was doing, even if everyone else has no idea how he/she does what he/she does. Like Merlin, for Example. We don't know what he was doing or why, but he had to have some idea. Otherwise, He would have just waved his hand and hoped something he wanted would happen.



You know what the problem is with treating magic as engineering?

Engineering is hard.

Every nontrivial engineering project in the real world is basically combining years of industry-aggregated ingredients, concepts, memes, and often whole entire prebuilt or predesigned sections of the product (building, computer, program) in ways that take an awful lot of creativity, an awful lot of training, and constant wrestling with a mind-blowingly huge mountain of specific and absolutely unforgiving rules that will, at best, make your project collapse, and at worst make it blow up if you forget a single one.

No one wants to deal with that in a game. No one should really have to deal with that in a game. Games abstract actual professional skill into a very neat series of discrete bite-sized data and interactions you can summarize in a page, tops. There's a very good reason for that.

Maybe all the Engineering work has already been done? It's just that your wizard is learning the stuff as he goes along and reads the work of other wizards. =) some of the work involved (I.E a actual word of gesture to use a spell, heck, the actual research itself) is subsumed into the system, as well as all the other specific simply being said to be known by the character.

Mark Hall
2011-09-09, 02:22 PM
You know what the problem is with treating magic as engineering?

Engineering is hard.


Here's how I tend to view the "scientist/engineer/technician" divide, as I apply it to discussions in game.

The Scientist is the researcher. He's the guy who figures out the rules of the universe, defines them, and describes how they work. In magical terms, these are the people who go outside of normal magic to figure out new things. The people who came up with Wild Magic were Scientists, as were the first wizards who distilled spell magic out of those weird things sorcerers do.

The Engineer takes the principles the scientist discovered and turns them into a useful thing. They don't make breakthrough discoveries... they put them to work. It was not a scientist who created the Fireball spell... it was an engineer, using knowledge of Invocation/Evocation magic, who put those things together, who said "We can get a 50% power increase if we use sulphur as a material."

The technician is the guy who has a bunch of tools made for him by Engineers, based on ideas of the Scientists. He may understand their principles, may be capable of doing the pure research or designing new spells... but his job is just to cast spells.

Frozen_Feet
2011-09-09, 03:59 PM
Okay, one thing I need to stress:

The idea that magic is baffling, illogical or impossible to explain is only one definition.

Other definitions, at least those relevant to fantasy games, have it being dealing with the divine or supernatural.

And here's the thing: supernatural is not inherently illogical, or impossible to explain. If you look at real-world magical traditions and religions, you'll quickly find that on the contrary, they're all about making sense and explaining the supernatural. (They do, however, tend to stress the mystical concept of personal discovery - comprehension, if it can be achieved, must come from within. External knowledge will not help if personal experience is lacking.)

I also heavily disagree with the notion that supernatural as a concept is a relic, or useless. It has its place even when discussing a world where it's a fact of life. Here's how:

Imagine that there are two sets of rules, A and B. All of B has been extrapolated from A, but you can't extrapolate A from B. All of B can be known and changed from the perspective of A, but it's impossible to know or change A from perspective of B. If A doesn't specifically make itself and the logic it operates on known, it's impossible for B to reconcile A's functions with itself.

Chess and human brains can serve as our example. From the viewpoint of a Pawn, it might be possible to extrapolate rules of Chess (B). However, since the interaction of humans with the chessboard stops outside moving the pieces, it'd be near impossible for the Pawn to unravel higher functions of strategy and the human brain (A) - even if the actions of humans are still directly related to game! For example: out of two players, one quits in rage, halting the game. As far as the Pawn is concerned, his world has frozen in place - or worse, is destroyed as the furious player sweeps away the pieces, ending the game.

A and B are, of course, supernatural and natural. Natural is a subset of the supernatural. They are part of the same continuum - and like I said, once supernatural becomes fact of life, it's just extension of the natural. But there is a clear difference which justifies usage of the word.

Finally, something that always comes to irk me about discussions of magic:

Magic is, ultimately, a buzzword that can be made to mean anything an author wants. Since its most pertinent definition is interacting with the supernatural, it has no meaning if qualities of supernatural is not specified (this includes specifying that they're ineffable). This also mean that there's no reason to use the word "magic" if more specific terms are available. Magic, as a word, is just as much smoke and mirrors as are tricks of sleight of hand that borrow the term to describe themselves.

Morty
2011-09-09, 05:02 PM
I'd like to point out something that was already said in this thread - even if magic can be, theoretically, analyzed, described and labeled using scientific methods doesn't mean it will. After all, don't we have conflicting theories, misconceptions and people accepting falsehoods as truths in all branches of science? I see no reason it shouldn't be the same in magic.

Tvtyrant
2011-09-09, 05:16 PM
I'd like to point out something that was already said in this thread - even if magic can be, theoretically, analyzed, described and labeled using scientific methods doesn't mean it will. After all, don't we have conflicting theories, misconceptions and people accepting falsehoods as truths in all branches of science? I see no reason it shouldn't be the same in magic.

What???! Scientists are infallible! Look at the aether! It is totally there!

Partysan
2011-09-09, 06:22 PM
I really don't understand the viewpoint that magic is only magic if it doesn't make sense, even isn't possible to make sense of and doesn't obey any rules. Why should that be? Magic is only magic when it works like in the last unicorn?

I agree with what has been said about the supernatural: it's called that way because it transcends our nature, because, you know, it doesn't actually exist. If the supernatural existed it would by definition be natural.

Anderlith
2011-09-09, 07:58 PM
@Frozen Feet, excellent logic, I think I'm in love : )


As others have said. If magic is only magic if it unknowable, then how do you know magic? That creates a paradox. Paradoxes are like dividing by zero...bad

As for the compare a Wizard to Commoner arguement.
A wizard does not come with Martial Weapon Proff
If a wizard were to spend his days studying & casting magic & swinging a sword why can he not have Proficiency with that weapon? Why does his base attack stay the same? What if you adventured as a Wizard & never cast a spell - instead you just hit things with your staff? How would staff swinging give you 3rd level spells?

Lord.Sorasen
2011-09-09, 08:28 PM
The problem with wizards is that they base wizards off many sources, like people are saying, but they also base wizards off many sources that would never individually be allowed as playable characters. There's a reason Merlin is advisor to King Arthur: they can have universe altering power because for whatever reasons they aren't going to use it.

I really like the rules about not manipulating time and spells being mindless and such. I would want to add that magic-missile type spells should be avoided as well... I'm referring to the "never doesn't work" aspect of the spell. I'd also want to see more negative effects for a spell being disrupted, because as far as I can tell that means "leaving the magical energies half-way". In D&D3.5, that would mean increasing the casting time of most spells, and having a disrupted spell more unpredictable. In my head is the image of a wizard casting fireball, getting hit by an arrow, and losing control; the result of which is a fireball activating exactly where the wizard is standing.

I've always liked the idea of making all wizards take longer to cast spells. They're doing very complicated things, they shouldn't be able to do it faster than a fighter can swing a sword. Certain things should take a longer time, it just seems natural.

The_Snark
2011-09-09, 09:08 PM
I agree with what has been said about the supernatural: it's called that way because it transcends our nature, because, you know, it doesn't actually exist. If the supernatural existed it would by definition be natural.

This is a good way of encapsulating what's been bothering me about Mastikator's interpretation. It's technically accurate, according to a strict reading of the dictionary, but it's not very useful.


As for the compare a Wizard to Commoner arguement.
A wizard does not come with Martial Weapon Proff
If a wizard were to spend his days studying & casting magic & swinging a sword why can he not have Proficiency with that weapon? Why does his base attack stay the same? What if you adventured as a Wizard & never cast a spell - instead you just hit things with your staff? How would staff swinging give you 3rd level spells?

He can have proficiency - if he takes the appropriate feat. It's not optimal but it's very easy to represent within the system. His base attack bonus will increase as he levels up.

In the unlikely event that a wizard is gaining levels in the class despite never casting a spell, it's assumed that he's studying and practicing magic around the campfire. If he's explicitly not doing those things and gaining levels in wizard anyway... then the player in question is trying to create a nonsensical situation, and it is entirely his fault.

jseah
2011-09-09, 10:21 PM
You know what the problem is with treating magic as engineering?

Engineering is hard.

I might like to note that in the system I am making, the problems that face engineering that Mark Hall and NichG have pointed out do not exist. Magic has a bunch of clip-on modules.

Even so, making a spell that does what you want in the way you want it can take a long time. There are at least four fundamentally different ways to make fireball and a number of variations on those themes.
Each of those ways work slightly differently, but their main purpose is to go somewhere and blow up.

Deciding which to make, and then writing down the condensed form of the modules that make up the spell took me, the system creator, half an hour. With a calculator.

Even when half the engineering is done for you, doing it is still hard.


I toyed with the idea of making spell disruption work out exactly what remained of the spell (module casting order and time), but eventually threw that out as too much work. It wouldn't be difficult to design all your spells to fail safely anyway.

Caphi
2011-09-12, 11:42 AM
Here's how I tend to view the "scientist/engineer/technician" divide, as I apply it to discussions in game.

The Scientist is the researcher. He's the guy who figures out the rules of the universe, defines them, and describes how they work. In magical terms, these are the people who go outside of normal magic to figure out new things. The people who came up with Wild Magic were Scientists, as were the first wizards who distilled spell magic out of those weird things sorcerers do.

The Engineer takes the principles the scientist discovered and turns them into a useful thing. They don't make breakthrough discoveries... they put them to work. It was not a scientist who created the Fireball spell... it was an engineer, using knowledge of Invocation/Evocation magic, who put those things together, who said "We can get a 50% power increase if we use sulphur as a material."

The technician is the guy who has a bunch of tools made for him by Engineers, based on ideas of the Scientists. He may understand their principles, may be capable of doing the pure research or designing new spells... but his job is just to cast spells.

I agree with all this and I've derived it myself. I've come to the conclusion that wizards are designed to be your "technicians" who view their spells primarily as a toolbox of things they've "collected" more than a part of them or something that defines them (beyond simply selecting what spells you will prepare often), and the provisions for "engineering" are very broad and honestly terrible.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-12, 12:04 PM
He can have proficiency - if he takes the appropriate feat. It's not optimal but it's very easy to represent within the system. His base attack bonus will increase as he levels up.

Meh. I played a wizard who started with 18 str, and his int was...marginal. I recall having enough int to cast levels of spells being an actual concern. I went human paragon for the proficiency and another +2 to str. He also had a fantastic con.

The spells were used solely for buffs. He was...perhaps not the best wizard ever, but he was a FANTASTIC melee char.

There's nothing that says the wizard class HAS to be played as a weakling. It can work quite well otherwise. Sure, you can't master everything at once, stat wise...but that's kind of necessary. I'd even argue that it is in books as well. Otherwise, you're kinda pushing Mary Sue territory.

Asklepian
2011-09-12, 04:20 PM
You are conflating the real world with the game world. The same metaphysical rules don't necessarily apply. Just because the real world that you and I live in is mundane, natural and logical doesn't mean that a game world has to be that way too.
The definitions of words, on the other hand, do. You can call it arguing semantics, I call it arguing logic.

Here's the problem with this: you are the only one setting the definition of magic as 'involving only supernatural forces.' Having just looked it up in the dictionary, I give you the definition of magic:

1.
the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc.; legerdemain; conjuring: to pull a rabbit out of a hat by magic.
2.
the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature. Compare contagious magic, imitative magic, sympathetic magic.
3.
the use of this art: Magic, it was believed, could drive illness from the body.
4.
the effects produced: the magic of recovery.
5.
power or influence exerted through this art: a wizard of great magic.

So, yes, using incantation or other techniques to manipulate the forces of nature is a perfectly acceptable usage of the word magic.

Mastikator
2011-09-14, 07:24 AM
If magic is using the forces of nature, and fire is one such force for instance, then combustion engine cars are indeed magical.
This means that all technology and science is by definition magical, which means that magic doesn't have an opposite, there's nothing that isn't magical, it's useless to call something magical.
You win. Magic is not unlike technology, nor technology unlike magic. I'm typing this message on a magitech computer, because technology is magic after all.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-14, 07:32 AM
If magic is using the forces of nature, and fire is one such force for instance, then combustion engine cars are indeed magical.
This means that all technology and science is by definition magical, which means that magic doesn't have an opposite, there's nothing that isn't magical, it's useless to call something magical.
You win. Magic is not unlike technology, nor technology unlike magic. I'm typing this message on a magitech computer, because technology is magic after all.

Or, we could use magic to describe fireballs, and tech to describe computers, and both words are entirely useful and understandable to average people.

This seems a lot more reasonable.

Mastikator
2011-09-14, 07:45 AM
But that's just a matter of flavor. But that flavor is gone once you introduce magitech that puts fireballs and molotov cocktails on the exact same level.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 08:11 AM
As for the compare a Wizard to Commoner arguement.
A wizard does not come with Martial Weapon Proff
If a wizard were to spend his days studying & casting magic & swinging a sword why can he not have Proficiency with that weapon? Why does his base attack stay the same? What if you adventured as a Wizard & never cast a spell - instead you just hit things with your staff? How would staff swinging give you 3rd level spells?

Take Weapon Prof as your first level feat? Stop leveling in wizard and multiclass into Fighter? I don't see the problem here.

Continuing taking levels in wizard implies that you continue to cast spells.

And by many definitions thrown around here, Magic is indeed just another technology or science. Throwing a fireball and a molotov cocktail may appear similar, but one uses chemical knowledge to turn chemical energy into heat, the other uses magical knowledge to turn willpower into heat. Different disciplines, similar outcome.

As has been said before, Scientific Theory can be applied to anything. You can study the outcome of casting a spell. You can measure the energy output. You can do statistics on the variability in that output and find factors influencing that variety. You can formulate a hypothesis. You can run experiments by casting the same spell under different conditions. You can falsify theories.

Partysan
2011-09-14, 08:19 AM
Exactly. Because at its core, Science is a method, not a field.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 08:23 AM
Actually, the only way I can, right now, see "Magic" that isn't (easily) scientificized (tm), would be if there were distinct Miracles, that each only happened once. Let's steer around Religion here and use older mythology instead: Zeus only turned into a Swan once. Thor only drank one ocean of beer. And so on. One data point gives you little to work on.

Mastikator
2011-09-14, 08:24 AM
And by many definitions thrown around here, Magic is indeed just another technology or science. Throwing a fireball and a molotov cocktail may appear similar, but one uses chemical knowledge to turn chemical energy into heat, the other uses magical knowledge to turn willpower into heat. Different disciplines, similar outcome.

In D&D 3.5e a fireball spell uses bat guano and sulfur, making it a chemical reaction.
Doesn't say anything about willpower though. I'm not sure where you get the idea that willpower is turned into anything. Can you cite a source?

Eldan
2011-09-14, 08:30 AM
Did I say I was talking D&D 3.5?

I was talking about, more or less, "general" fiction magic. The kind where the spellcaster thinks hard about what he wants, i.e. uses his "willpower" and makes an effect happen.

Alternatively, you have what is often called Hermetic magic, which is probably a bit closer to D&D. It's the vending machine of the universe, as Harry Dresden calls it. You make the gestures, throw the pixie dust, light the candles, and the universe hands you your desired effect.

Mastikator
2011-09-14, 08:45 AM
In general magic fiction, magic is not science at all, it's usually an inherit supernatural part of the user. In general magic fiction the magic users don't really understand the magic, they only know how to use it and what happens when you do it, and the experienced ones will also know the price.
When this is the case then the magic users are few and not everyone can become one. For example, Harry Potter, Merlin. Magic users are supernatural beings, beyond the ken of morals.

Hermetic magic sounds more like what is used as magi-tech than the "willpower" one.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 08:59 AM
You misunderstand me. Magic is not science in the same way as Magnetism is not science.

It's a phenomenon that can be studied scientifically. But people used compasses long before they had any idea what a magnetic field was. In the same way, people can cast spells without ever applying scientific theory to it. That doesn't mean it isn't possible to do so.

Similarly, not everyone can become a scientist in the same way that not every stone is magnetic. Or, if you want a closer analogy, not every human can do magic in the same way as not every human can grow to be six feet tall. There has to be a factor or factors determining magical ability, just as there is some factor or factors that determines height.

Mastikator
2011-09-14, 09:06 AM
People didn't think compasses were magical.
And Magnetism is a scientific theory, it's as science as science can be.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 09:09 AM
Science is a method. IT can be applied to the phenomenon of magnets as easily as it can be applied to the phenomenon of magic.

I don't see the problem.

Mastikator
2011-09-14, 09:16 AM
Magnets are magical. I already conceded this. It makes the term "magic" meaningless, but apparently that's not a compelling reason to differentiate it from science or technology.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 09:19 AM
And as I said, I don't see why it should be.

Magic is a phenomenon that can be observed in some way. It must be, or we wouldn't even notice if it existed in a given world.

If it is observable, science can be applied to it.


Now, only because science can be applied to something does not mean it has been applied to a given thing in a given world. As far as I can tell, Gandalf never measured the explosive force of his pine cones.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-14, 09:24 AM
Magnets are magical. I already conceded this. It makes the term "magic" meaningless, but apparently that's not a compelling reason to differentiate it from science or technology.

Magic is a descriptive term. We use it to describe things like a man gesticulating and making a fireball appear.

That is a useful term. Trying to strive for some definitive equivalence by playing with the definition of words is not.

And yes, science is a method. It can be applied to anything. There is no particular reason you could not approach magic with such a method.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 09:32 AM
However, the term "Magic" is incredibly vague, at least as it is applied here. Within a specific work of fiction, it is often very clear what is magic and what not. However, as a meta term, applying across genres and works, it becomes broad to the point of uselessness.

I mean, look at Wiktionary, as an example I have available here.

1. Allegedly supernatural charm, spell or other method to dominate natural forces.
2. A ritual associated with supernatural magic or with mysticism.
3. An illusion performed to give the appearance of magic or the supernatural.
4. A cause not quite understood.
Magic makes the light go on
5. (figuratively) Something spectacular or wonderful.
movie magic
6. (computing, slang) Any behaviour of a program or algorithm that cannot be explained or is yet to be defined or implemented.

Okay, then. So, definitions 1-4 are what we mean here. For clarification, let's ook up "Supernatural" as well.


1. Above nature; that which is beyond or added to nature, often so considered because it is given by God or some force beyond that which humans are born with. In Roman Catholic theology, sanctifying grace is considered to be a supernatural addition to human nature.
2. Something that is not of the usual. Something that is somehow not natural, or has been altered by forces that are not understood fully if at all.
Something that is neither visible nor measurable.

And finally, "Nature".


1. (uncountable) The natural world; consisting of all things unaffected by or predating human technology, production and design. e.g. the natural environment, virgin ground, unmodified species, laws of nature.  
2. The innate characteristics of a thing. What something will tend by its own constitution, to be or do. Distinct from what might be expected or intended.  
3. The summary of everything that has to do with biological, chemical and physical states and events in the physical universe.


So, in the end, magic comes down to "something unusual that affects something that is not part of the physical/scientific universe". And by a broad enough definition of nature, it really becomes "things that affect things which don't exist."


So, how do we define magic here, then, so it makes sense for the discussion?

Mastikator
2011-09-14, 09:46 AM
Since I am apparently unable to convince anyone that in fiction there can be things that is beyond measure and logic by anyone ever, no matter how advanced, (and that it is here that should magic preside). I will simply have to concede your point, "it becomes broad to the point of uselessness". And that really pulls into question why something should be described as magical.

I am not the one insisting that magic is mundane here. I am the only one insisting that magic shouldn't be a meaningless term. I don't understand why I am receiving so much backlash for this. I want magic to be mystical and beyond understanding, why does that make me the weird one!?

Tyndmyr
2011-09-14, 09:55 AM
I am not the one insisting that magic is mundane here. I am the only one insisting that magic shouldn't be a meaningless term. I don't understand why I am receiving so much backlash for this. I want magic to be mystical and beyond understanding, why does that make me the weird one!?

Because the idea of "beyond understanding" immediately brings up the question "Why is it?". And while we have examples of real life things we don't understand yet, we have a lack of things that are confirmed to be truly beyond understanding. This is something that is not even theoretically a realistic thing without literally tossing out everything, starting with causality.

And, without that, you can't have much of a story OR game.

Mastikator
2011-09-14, 10:58 AM
Sure you can, just because it would be beyond understanding doesn't mean it's beyond limitation or consequence.
What goes further is to make magic a spice, not the main dish, and instead have the things we care about, the people, be the main dish of the story/game/whatever.

Anarchy_Kanya
2011-09-14, 11:14 AM
For my "magic" and "technology" are different in following ways:
Magic is something that can be used, but in the end we don't know or understand how exactly it works. Yes, you can make some gestures and chant some mystical words to shot a fireball from your hand, but you don't actually know why it works that way.
Technology is something that we understand, either thanks to scientific research or through first-hand experience.
Magic can very likely be called technology, or BE technology that just isn't yet understood by us. Lets take magnetism as an example. Today we know how/why it works, but hundred years ago we only new what it do (pointed towards north), but not how.

Lord.Sorasen
2011-09-14, 11:32 AM
Sure you can, just because it would be beyond understanding doesn't mean it's beyond limitation or consequence.
What goes further is to make magic a spice, not the main dish, and instead have the things we care about, the people, be the main dish of the story/game/whatever.

I think the problem is that what is magic vs. science doesn't seem to be all that well defined. I forget the word... a slide rather than a switch? Hopefully you'll know what I mean.

Anyway, take a simple "fireball" spell. With 0 understanding, the wizard can't cast this. I guess sometimes they just fire off on their own, but the wizard has no way to know why.

Give him a little more understanding and now the wizard knows that, if he moves his hands and says a few words, he can summon a fireball. He's not entirely certain why but he at least knows enough to realize he can manipulate it to some degree.

Eventually this wizard begins to test how much freedom he has. Can he cast it underwater? How precise must his movements be, and how clear must the words be? Can he whisper the spell? Is there any way to vary the size or intensity of the resulting spell?

Perhaps this system is entirely random, but if not the wizard is going to recognize some patterns within different spells. And he'll start asking why things work the way they do.

The parallel is gravity. We can't see gravity, and any object with enough of a gravitational pull to notice is also too large to be seen in full. But through constant study we've come up with theories. They might all be wrong, even, but they still represent a scientific endeavor.

What really interests me here, though, is that just maybe, all our theories on gravity might turn out to be false. What if we find out that gravity is completely beyond our understanding after all? In other words, what if we find out that it's just "magic"? I personally believe we wouldn't take that answer. We'd keep searching for an understanding even after seeing that any attempt we find to match pattern to logic falls flat.

My point here is that in my mind, the wizard is going to always be searching for the workings of magic. He's going to write out ideas and discuss them with others, and even if he's wrong there will be an attempt. What's more, from the perspective of a person living in such a world, there will be no real way to distinguish false understanding and true understanding without seeing evidence to the contrary. "Fireball" could be magic, and it could be sufficiently advanced technology, but it turns out the line between each is fuzzy and the difference is at times almost negligible.

Partysan
2011-09-14, 11:56 AM
Let me put things like this:
Premise: In any fictional universe, Magic exists.
-- I will omit defining magic as to preserve the generality of the argument.
Premise: (The existence of) Magic has observable effects.
-- This premise is neccessary, because otherwise the existence of magic would be pointless and make no difference.
Conclusion: (At least some) Persons in this fictional universe are able to know/find out about the existence of magic and/via its effects.

Possibility 1: Magic follows rules. Those may be obscure or complicated or clear and simple, they can be exclusive to magic or run parallel to (other) laws of nature.
Conclusion 1: By observing and experimenting with magic, people might be able to find out some of these laws, enabling them to use them/the magic to their advantage. This methodology is called science
Note that people might not actually do that, it's just that it's possible.

Possibility 2: Magic follows absolutely no rules but has completely independent, inconsistent and random effects at independent, inconsistent and random times.
Conclusion 2: There is absolutely no way to interact with magic. Its effects can affect people, but people can never affect magic. Thus, it is nothing but a number of random occurences.
Now magic cannot be approached scientifically, but also in no other way at all.

Tyndmyr
2011-09-14, 01:21 PM
Sure you can, just because it would be beyond understanding doesn't mean it's beyond limitation or consequence.
What goes further is to make magic a spice, not the main dish, and instead have the things we care about, the people, be the main dish of the story/game/whatever.

Humans innately understand causality. "What makes x do this?" is imminently understandable. It is testable. Therefore, if it obeys causality at all, it can theoretically be understood.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 01:39 PM
Yeah, I must agree with the last few posts here: I don't see how anything that follows neither rules nor logic can be used in a game. Could you perhaps provide an example how you'd see that kind of magic working, from the viewpoint of the character/player/viewer/reader?

Mastikator
2011-09-14, 02:01 PM
Humans innately understand causality. "What makes x do this?" is imminently understandable. It is testable. Therefore, if it obeys causality at all, it can theoretically be understood.

If magic inexplicably doesn't work sometimes, or sometimes has random effects instead/also, then it's not causal. You can make rules that allow the DM to decide some/all of the random effect (with guidelines for balancing effects).

Tyndmyr
2011-09-14, 02:08 PM
If magic inexplicably doesn't work sometimes, or sometimes has random effects instead/also, then it's not causal. You can make rules that allow the DM to decide some/all of the random effect (with guidelines for balancing effects).

No. That just means your cause has changed to "What the DM wants". From an in universe/story point of view, you're not explaining anything.

So, it's just metagaming of trying to figure out what the GM wants. It's still causal, but it's not GOOD.

Mastikator
2011-09-14, 02:11 PM
Of course I haven't explained anything, it's magic, there is no in-game explanation. Sometimes there are unexplainable phenomena

Tyndmyr
2011-09-14, 02:13 PM
Of course I haven't explained anything, it's magic, there is no in-game explanation. Sometimes there are unexplainable phenomena

How do you use what is unexplainable in a game or a story?

I mean, isn't a story, by definition, explaining things to you?

NichG
2011-09-14, 02:16 PM
Let me put things like this:
Premise: In any fictional universe, Magic exists.
-- I will omit defining magic as to preserve the generality of the argument.
Premise: (The existence of) Magic has observable effects.
-- This premise is neccessary, because otherwise the existence of magic would be pointless and make no difference.
Conclusion: (At least some) Persons in this fictional universe are able to know/find out about the existence of magic and/via its effects.

Possibility 1: Magic follows rules. Those may be obscure or complicated or clear and simple, they can be exclusive to magic or run parallel to (other) laws of nature.
Conclusion 1: By observing and experimenting with magic, people might be able to find out some of these laws, enabling them to use them/the magic to their advantage. This methodology is called science
Note that people might not actually do that, it's just that it's possible.

Possibility 2: Magic follows absolutely no rules but has completely independent, inconsistent and random effects at independent, inconsistent and random times.
Conclusion 2: There is absolutely no way to interact with magic. Its effects can affect people, but people can never affect magic. Thus, it is nothing but a number of random occurences.
Now magic cannot be approached scientifically, but also in no other way at all.

There's other possibilities though, the simplest set being gradations between these. The real trick (in all of these) is what 'random' really means when you're talking about effects and not just a well-defined number system, since knowing the bias of randomness and the 'table' from which it draws can be construed as a form of understanding.

Possibility 1.25: Magic follows rules that describe when it is invoked, and rules that describe what broad class of effect results, but is completely random as to the details of the effect. I.e. you know that this particular set of actions brings forth something to kill your foes, but you can never tell if it will be a fireball or a big clown mouth that chomps them or a swarm of invisible fish, or they just rot in place.

Possibility 1.5: Magic is invoked at random, perhaps only by a subset of the population but with no rhyme or reason beyond that. However, when invoked it does something at least roughly predictable (i.e. it grants the wishes of the invoker). This variant is interesting because its entirely useful, but really hard to pin down. It's always beneficial, so one can't claim that its useless, but its like winning the lottery. Not so good as a tabletop concept, but fine for fiction (people with a charmed life, etc).

Possibility 1.75: Magic follows rules that describe when it is invoked, but you get something random or at least fundamentally unpredictable in some sense when you do so. Sort of like having a Slaad as an ally, and probably not very useful.

Another variant would involve something that actively evolves to remain mysterious. That is, of course, the rule behind it, but knowing that rule doesn't actually help you understand it. There'd still be some observable repeatable rules, but the majority of it would be cloaked. So it'd go something like, the second that two mages share notes on how 'fireball' works, both of them lose the power to cast it (and it was different for both of them anyhow). Essentially, every mage would receive via dreams or whatever, different for each mage, the recipes for their spells, and their function would be dependent on them remaining secret. It would be extremely hard to ever really figure out magic in such a system, though you could give it a good shot by looking at historical records of spell recipes from mages long dead and try to see if there are any common elements. Of course, doing so would prevent that spell from ever working again, so it'd kind of be a weird system.

Eldan
2011-09-14, 02:20 PM
If magic inexplicably doesn't work sometimes, or sometimes has random effects instead/also, then it's not causal. You can make rules that allow the DM to decide some/all of the random effect (with guidelines for balancing effects).

That is not an unexplainable effect necessarily. Some things only appear random at first. To employ unnecessary hyperbole:
"Today, it rained, yesterday it was sunny! Weather can never be explained!"

There are hidden factors at work.

Frozen_Feet
2011-09-14, 03:09 PM
People didn't think compasses were magical.
Actually, yes they did. In several points of time and space.

And Magnetism is a scientific theory, it's as science as science can be.

Theory of magnetism is scientific. The phenomenom just is. Gravity existed long before people started grasping it in a scientific manner. (As a funny note, explaining gravity and reconciling it with other theories is still one of the biggest stumbling blocks of science.)

In the same vein, if you take magic to mean "invoking the supernatural", or just the supernatural affecting the world, it can exist entirely independently of any science, or even any sentient life at all.

The_Snark
2011-09-14, 04:32 PM
I am not the one insisting that magic is mundane here. I am the only one insisting that magic shouldn't be a meaningless term. I don't understand why I am receiving so much backlash for this. I want magic to be mystical and beyond understanding, why does that make me the weird one!?

For the record, I like this sort of magic too. I just don't think it's the only possible version.


That is not an unexplainable effect necessarily. Some things only appear random at first. To employ unnecessary hyperbole:
"Today, it rained, yesterday it was sunny! Weather can never be explained!"

There are hidden factors at work.

But in the kind of story where magic is inexplicable, those hidden factors (if there are any) will never be explored, and therefore might as well not exist. It doesn't have to be categorically impossible to understand (though it might be), so long as nobody understands it yet. The key is that magic in these stories is mysterious, an unknown, the space on the map marked Here Be Dragons. It is used to evoke a sense of wonder and/or terror, not to be explored and dissected and understood.

Many fairy tales are a good example of this kind of thing. Nobody cares exactly how Koschei the Deathless hides his soul in the eye of a needle, or why Puss in Boots can talk but other animals can't, or what happens to the witch's gingerbread house when it rains. There are no answers to these questions. They're not important to the story.

Alex112524
2011-09-14, 10:40 PM
The problem I have with people saying that science and magic cannot mix (and it has been said before) is that science is not a tool that creates technology, it is a method that allows us to attempt to understand the workings of the world and universe around us in a methodical way. This computer that I am typing at and that magnet on my fridge are not science. Gravity and nuclear fission are not science. Science (as applied to magic) would look something like this.

One day I wave my arms and yell "Yabba Dabba Do!" (don't ask why) and a ball of fire shoots out. Now this gives me a hypothesis. If I wave my arms and yell yabba dabba do, will fire shoot out every time? So I experiment, and do that a few times. And it works. So I come up with the conclusion that yes, it will do that every time. So now I publish my findings to my circle of scientists. And by that I mean I run back to my village and show everybody what I can do. This gives other people the idea to try it out as well, and whenever they do, it works. But one smarty pants decides to try sweeping his arms and yelling "Excelsior!" and to everyone's surprise, it works! So now the last theory is debunked. So instead I wave my arms and yabba dabba do it up, but instead try to make a lightning bolt. And this works to! So my new theory is that magic happens because I will it to, and the gestures are merely superfluous. But when I try do magic without moving or yelling, it doesn't work! So after generations of following the thought processes that follow that, my village became the first ever college of wizards.

If science and magic cannot be done together, then there is no way that a "Magic User" or "Wizard" can exist, as the way to make magic happen cannot be found out. Magic will then only exist as a plot device, purely up to the game master/creator to determine when it happens, and the players only able to benefit or suffer from it's effects for as long as the magic happens, then things go back to normal. So either you can apply science to magic, or players can only ever make use of whatever magic the storyteller gives them.

jseah
2011-09-14, 11:38 PM
There are no answers to these questions. They're not important to the story.

In which case, you require that ALL characters don't have that mindset. The moment anyone starts poking at them, the whole thing falls apart.

Using this sort of magic in a game would then mean that you have to tell all your players to suppress their curiousity wrt magic.

Anderlith
2011-09-14, 11:48 PM
@Mastikator
If your magic isn't logical you come out looking like the Sword of Truth Series's take on magic. i.e. Bad

The_Snark
2011-09-15, 12:45 AM
In which case, you require that ALL characters don't have that mindset. The moment anyone starts poking at them, the whole thing falls apart.

Using this sort of magic in a game would then mean that you have to tell all your players to suppress their curiousity wrt magic.

Pretty much, yes. It's easier to use in a non-interactive medium, but that doesn't mean it can't work. The players just have to be willing to play along with the mood. This is true of many genres: horror game won't work with players who aren't willing to let themselves be scared, a comedy game won't work with players who want to be serious, and a dark fairytale game won't work with players who insist on knowing how magic works.

Eldan
2011-09-15, 03:46 AM
Which, I think, I actually said (or at least meant) above.

Magic can be scientifically explained. Doesn't mean it will. My example was Gandalf, because I guess we all know him, but fairy tale examples work just as well.

The problem, I think, arises when you have a story where there are actual colleges of magic. These are collections of more or less intelligent people who somehow get funded to do nothing but magic all day. I can't imagine that these people wouldn't eventually start to research their magic. Sure, they might not have a proper grounding in scientific theory and philosophy, but eventually, something has to come from it.

If you have magic as a force that is rarely used, highly dangerous, badly understood and probably not even directly known at all to people then, by all means, have it be unresearched. That doesn't make it unresearchable, mind you. Just badly understood at the moment.

Another, for me, recent example:
Yesterday, the Nostalgia Critic (a comedian reviewing movies in an exaggerated fashion, basically) reviewed a movie based on Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. The very first scene? Kid with two parents on the beach, talking. Suddenly, the weather changes to dark and stormy, and the kid is on the beach alone. The narrator explains: "But a Rhino ate his parents." We see a shot of a gigantic black rhinoceros up in the storm clouds.
The reviewer explains how silly it was, to him, that there is no explanation for the Rhino. Are cloud rhinos common in this world? Was this a specific thing to this boy? Did anyone actually believe him? Was he hallucinating or hiding a trauma about the real death of his parents? No idea.

I thought it was great, actually. Mysterious, unexplained, out of the blue, and absolutely atmospheric, scary and hilarious at the same time. Roald Dahl, I guess.

It worked in that story. But if this were a typical action fantasy RPG and the storm rhino just ate the party's wise old master? You bet there would be complaints, knowledge checks, attempts of vengeance on said rhino, detection spells, a few lightning bolts and probably someone trying to fly after it.

jseah
2011-09-15, 03:47 AM
and a dark fairytale game won't work with players who insist on knowing how magic works.
You mean it won't work if they even try to find out, whether they succeed or not.

And the mood is spoilt if they think to ask at all, whether they actually follow through with an experiment.

Fair enough, players must match the mood or it will be ruined.


I think you probably gathered that there are quite a few players that prefer the understandable kind of magic. Sure, I wouldn't be a suitable player for a fairy tale but I'm not likely to join one.

Parody of a fairy tale though... =P

Tyndmyr
2011-09-15, 09:13 AM
@Mastikator
If your magic isn't logical you come out looking like the Sword of Truth Series's take on magic. i.e. Bad

This. Oh, wizards have rules. Oh, apparently, we're just going to change the frigging rules and add new ones. The whole thing changes in just about every goddamned book. And magic is apparently poorly understood, but nigh on without limit.

Pretty soon, it just looks like you have a Mary Sue stumbling onto increasingly improbable amounts of power mostly by luck.


You mean it won't work if they even try to find out, whether they succeed or not.

And the mood is spoilt if they think to ask at all, whether they actually follow through with an experiment.

Fair enough, players must match the mood or it will be ruined.


I think you probably gathered that there are quite a few players that prefer the understandable kind of magic. Sure, I wouldn't be a suitable player for a fairy tale but I'm not likely to join one.

Parody of a fairy tale though... =P

Nah. Fairy tales work just fine with rules. The idea of fairies being subject to rules is a very, very old one. See also, Dresden Files, Seventh Sea, etc. Or, pretty much anything Gaiman wrote. The rules might not be known to everyone in the tale...and they might not be NICE rules at all, but behind the scenes, they exist.

GungHo
2011-09-15, 03:14 PM
While rare it's not unheard of to see one or two crucified insane mages being held up on a cross protecting the soldiers.
I will use this.


Because magic is supernatural and science is natural. It's mutually exclusive.

There are plenty of games that feature science.
"Science" like cold fusion, briefcase nukes, disintegration lasers, and faster than light travel?

Tvtyrant
2011-09-15, 03:48 PM
Of course I haven't explained anything, it's magic, there is no in-game explanation. Sometimes there are unexplainable phenomena

Duex ex machina doesn't work nearly as well in games as in books, because a book is about telling a story and a game is about creating one. If the DM randomly overthrows the plot on a frequent basis it isn't a game, its a play centered around the DM.

mykelyk
2011-09-16, 03:40 AM
Making magic random doesn't make it less scientific, just not deterministic (like the quantic theory). So addding random chance of failing, doing something different ecc, simply means only that you have to add probability to the mix.

GungHo
2011-09-16, 11:02 AM
Even science has a "random" chance of failure. Sometimes reactants don't mix in the lab like they should. Sometimes a plant doesn't take. Sometimes the car doesn't start.

Frozen_Feet
2011-09-16, 06:25 PM
It gets worse in smaller-scale events. When you get to quantum phenomena, what you can do is determine the range of possible outcomes - but which one of those happens is probabilistic. For an analogy, when throwing a six-sided die you know the result's going to be between from 1 to 6, but the exact result will only be known after you've thrown it.

Acanous
2011-09-16, 06:56 PM
However, the term "Magic" is incredibly vague, at least as it is applied here. Within a specific work of fiction, it is often very clear what is magic and what not. However, as a meta term, applying across genres and works, it becomes broad to the point of uselessness.

I mean, look at Wiktionary, as an example I have available here.



1. Allegedly supernatural charm, spell or other method to dominate natural forces.
2. A ritual associated with supernatural magic or with mysticism.
3. An illusion performed to give the appearance of magic or the supernatural.
4. A cause not quite understood.
Magic makes the light go on
5. (figuratively) Something spectacular or wonderful.
movie magic
6. (computing, slang) Any behaviour of a program or algorithm that cannot be explained or is yet to be defined or implemented.

Okay, then. So, definitions 1-4 are what we mean here. For clarification, let's ook up "Supernatural" as well.




1. Above nature; that which is beyond or added to nature, often so considered because it is given by God or some force beyond that which humans are born with. In Roman Catholic theology, sanctifying grace is considered to be a supernatural addition to human nature.
2. Something that is not of the usual. Something that is somehow not natural, or has been altered by forces that are not understood fully if at all.
Something that is neither visible nor measurable.

And finally, "Nature".




1. (uncountable) The natural world; consisting of all things unaffected by or predating human technology, production and design. e.g. the natural environment, virgin ground, unmodified species, laws of nature.  
2. The innate characteristics of a thing. What something will tend by its own constitution, to be or do. Distinct from what might be expected or intended.  
3. The summary of everything that has to do with biological, chemical and physical states and events in the physical universe.

So, in the end, magic comes down to "something unusual that affects something that is not part of the physical/scientific universe". And by a broad enough definition of nature, it really becomes "things that affect things which don't exist."


So, how do we define magic here, then, so it makes sense for the discussion?


You know, by this definition, an argument can be made that the economy is magic.

NichG
2011-09-17, 02:48 AM
Stochastic isn't mysterious is a good point, actually. So lets make it weirder and continue with the quantum mechanical example.

Lets say (as the premise of a d20 modern campaign in the near future) someone went and looked at quantum randomness in detail, and found subtle correlations in it that shouldn't be there. Since the correlations cause it to be a lower entropy than should be, there was information flowing into the universe at a rate they could measure, etc, etc. So thats all fine so far, scientific approach applies, etc.

However, when they looked further, they realized that the information flowing in was somehow personally meaningful to the person who looked. That has a 'rule' (the information being pushed into the universe is personally meaningful) but it isn't really an explanatory rule. It'd be hard to do engineering with it beyond a few small tricks, because the nature of the inflowing information isn't repeatable. However, you could do fairly reliable 'magic' with it, using it for divination into the future, the present, what have you.

You could do some engineering with it, but it'd be more incidental with the fact that the correlations make things break. Use it to hack quantum cryptography, crash quantum computers (which is not exactly useful unless your setting is pretty far future), etc.

Is it something that is 'never explainable no matter what'? Probably not. People would make theories almost as soon as it was discovered, but if the information needed to test those theories and confirm or deny them was outside of the reach of the setting for the course of the campaign, it might as well be magic, it just ends up being magic cloaked in a veneer of scientific respectability :smallsmile:

Lord Raziere
2011-09-17, 04:35 AM
Magic is whatever you want it to be.

The World is Magic

Science is Magic.

Humans are Magic.

It always comes down to perception, if you desire it, everything or nothing can be magic.

Therefore I can say that Everything is Magic. Including Science. I cannot find any reason for them to be mutually exclusive.

shaddy_24
2011-09-17, 10:07 AM
Mysterious magic only works in a world where it's assumed that few if any people have tried to understand how it works. Maybe magic was only recently discovered. Maybe it's very dangerous, and people who tried got killed before they uncovered how it worked. But mysterious magic doesn't work very well in a game, especially one where players are allowed to play magic users. There's a difference between using fire without understanding how it works (rapid oxidation of substances, producing heat and therefore light), and developing nuclear fission reactors without knowing how they work (which I know very little). The second requires a deeper understanding of the theories behind it, and that's how I see a lot of spells. What are the odds of someone accidentally mixing some sulfur and bat dung, saying a specific series of words that have no meaning in other circumstances and waving their arms in a specific patter? Those are the requirements for a fireball spell. Without some idea of why those might cause something to happen, no one will perform it. So it requires knowledge before you can even start researching a fireball spell.

I had a lot to say on the subject of science and magic, and why the two weren't mutually exclusive, but that subject seems to have worked itself out already, so I won't add anything else uselessly.

NichG
2011-09-17, 10:47 AM
Mysterious magic only works in a world where it's assumed that few if any people have tried to understand how it works.
Maybe magic was only recently discovered. Maybe it's very dangerous, and people who tried got killed before they uncovered how it worked. But mysterious magic doesn't work very well in a game, especially one where players are allowed to play magic users. There's a difference between using fire without understanding how it works (rapid oxidation of substances, producing heat and therefore light), and developing nuclear fission reactors without knowing how they work (which I know very little). The second requires a deeper understanding of the theories behind it, and that's how I see a lot of spells. What are the odds of someone accidentally mixing some sulfur and bat dung, saying a specific series of words that have no meaning in other circumstances and waving their arms in a specific patter? Those are the requirements for a fireball spell. Without some idea of why those might cause something to happen, no one will perform it. So it requires knowledge before you can even start researching a fireball spell.

It could just be that they utterly lack the tools necessary to really understand it, and are just 'stamp collecting', e.g. noticing that certain things 'work' and taking advantage of that. It doesn't work with D&D magic, which is really not built as mysterious magic since (as you say) its so arbitrary it wouldn't be discovered by accident. On the other hand, it'd work with a magic that was based on meditation and revelation (so the information was coming to them externally, and so it didn't need to be discovered), or one that is more folkloric in nature (which tends to be strange, but simple, like horseshoes bring good luck).

Of course then there's the question of 'why can't everyone use it?' if its so simple. Often the answer can be things like 'it has to be in your blood' (inherited ability), 'you first need to do this ritual to become a shaman' (culturally controlled access), or its just really expensive and purely a past-time of the rich.

For example, look at what people thought in real life about alchemy. They knew a bunch of combinations of things that did things, and developed highly involved religious and philosophical explanations for why the reactions they saw happened. They were able to synthesize a number of things, but had no idea at all why their syntheses worked. There were steps like 'bury this under a pile of dung for a week' in the process and other such things, some of which might've been necessary to get some reactant into the system they didn't really have access to, but other times were purely pointless and just there because the guy who had discovered it had included it in the process and never realized it was unnecessary.

GungHo
2011-09-19, 02:55 PM
Lets say (as the premise of a d20 modern campaign in the near future) someone went and looked at quantum randomness in detail, and found subtle correlations in it that shouldn't be there. Since the correlations cause it to be a lower entropy than should be, there was information flowing into the universe at a rate they could measure, etc, etc. So thats all fine so far, scientific approach applies, etc.
By observing the experiment, you've screwed it up. Yay Heisenberg.

hiryuu
2011-09-19, 06:11 PM
By observing the experiment, you've screwed it up. Yay Heisenberg.
That's not the Heisenberg principle, that's the observer effect. Heisenberg's principle basically says that you can't denote both the position and speed of an object using the same notation, but this can be accounted for by plotting it as a function. The observer effect is what happens when, say, you try to measure voltage: the tools you're using represent resistance to the very thing you're trying to measure. This can be overcome by using different tools to figure out how much resistance the tool represents, and modifying the variables to suit.

The observer effect does not include most visually observable phenomena. People do not shoot magical experiment-ruining eye beams.

hangedman1984
2011-09-20, 12:49 AM
People do not shoot magical experiment-ruining eye beams.

pfft, maybe you don't

jackal912
2011-09-20, 05:37 AM
Another variant would involve something that actively evolves to remain mysterious. That is, of course, the rule behind it, but knowing that rule doesn't actually help you understand it. There'd still be some observable repeatable rules, but the majority of it would be cloaked. So it'd go something like, the second that two mages share notes on how 'fireball' works, both of them lose the power to cast it (and it was different for both of them anyhow). Essentially, every mage would receive via dreams or whatever, different for each mage, the recipes for their spells, and their function would be dependent on them remaining secret. It would be extremely hard to ever really figure out magic in such a system, though you could give it a good shot by looking at historical records of spell recipes from mages long dead and try to see if there are any common elements. Of course, doing so would prevent that spell from ever working again, so it'd kind of be a weird system.

Have you ever read the "Twenty Palaces" series by Harry Connolly? Because that's almost his system in a nutshell. There's three or four original 'spellbooks' (though they aren't actually books, only one's shown up physically in the series, and it was a liquid that grants knowledge through osmosis). These spellbooks can never be truly duplicated.

Coming in contact with these 'spellbooks' causes you to have dreams and visions over the coming months, wherein you write down the knowledge from these visions in a book, as this true understanding fades with time. You are now a "primary", the most powerful type of spellcaster - each spell they cast is incredibly potent and has less downsides (for example, a spell that made your skin tough and caused you to regenerate from grevious wounds works faster, while you otherwise feel perfectly fine. On the other hand, if you were a lower spellcaster it would not only be slow, but you'd lose your sense of touch and your skin would become leathery and rubbery).

Now, the second someone else studies the book YOU wrote, they become secondaries, still very powerful, but a noticeable step down from a primary's power. Reading the spellbook hasn't granted them, perfect knowledge of what you experienced, so they do not understand it as well. Now, the odd thing is how if the secondary copies the spellbook himself, even word-for-word and someone reads it, or if a third person reads the original, they become a tertiary, below even a secondary, despite having learned from the exact same source, even if he attempts to imitate the secondary in every way, his will never be as powerful. Then quartaries and quintaries and septaries and all that - and even a septary still has a significant amount of power (one of the main characters is a septary). This is actually apparently on a spell-by-spell basis (passing around only one spell will weaken only that one spell)

The only way to stop this 'decay' is to come in contact with one of the original spellbooks and write another version of your own. Each original spellbook appears to grant a different variety of spells, and it appears that not everyone receives the same knowledge, even from the same spellbook. Written spellbooks are named after the whoever wrote them as well as the original spellbook (so if John learned from the original Book of Oceans he'd write John's Book of Oceans), but the interesting thing is that even different spellbooks by different people might have the same spell.. that's performed in an entirely different way - one person learning the spell from one book will not weaken the spell in another book.

It's an interesting way of doing it, but the series is still in progress so a lot of how the books and magic works hasn't been explained in detail (the main character is largely in ignorance - magic that weakens when more people know it leads to jealous, violent, magicians who almost never share knowledge - he's just a peon), so there's still a lot of speculation on exactly what's going on. Though you're right - there's been next to no 'science' done on the magic here, because not only does it weaken by being understood by others, but the magic is very much 'follow the instructions and get your result' for lower-order casters. Plus, it's extremely dangerous, as the one type of spell that hardly weakens at all (and as such spreads the widest) is the kind that can summon a flavor of an eldritch abomination to serve you - which is almost guaranteed to backfire, and since even the weakest abominations could end up killing millions or wiping out all life on earth if set free, it makes magicians even more paranoid about sharing magic.

GungHo
2011-09-20, 03:44 PM
The observer effect does not include most visually observable phenomena. People do not shoot magical experiment-ruining eye beams.
Point taken

Frozen_Feet
2011-09-20, 03:49 PM
The observer effect does not include most visually observable phenomena. People do not shoot magical experiment-ruining eye beams.

Presence of the observer often has impact when there's someone looking back, though. If magic is in any way a life-like entity, it might take notice and alter its function depending on who's watching.

hiryuu
2011-09-20, 04:32 PM
Presence of the observer often has impact when there's someone looking back, though. If magic is in any way a life-like entity, it might take notice and alter its function depending on who's watching.

This, of course, might certainly be true (and is the case in, say, Forgotten Realms, even though it's mentioned that Mystra doesn't have a direct say on who uses the Weave and how). If it is the case, this is something GM should get out of the way early on, since it will affect greatly how things like wizards act, and I would assume that in any setting, this is how most deity-interventionist spellcasters act. However, this can adjusted for by adjusting the observer to suit, which would be an awesome experiment to try.

Memetic magic like this might be an interesting thing to play with.

The Reverend
2011-09-21, 04:12 PM
In case no one has mentioned it the is always Mage: The Ascension its rules for magic are some of the beat I've ever seen. They balance power, control, fluff, and the ability to create new effects on the spot. Werewolves? I use matter three to change the air surrounding them to have the same deleterious properties as silver, boom burning choking blinded werewolf. Now how u did it is just as important and u better have a good explanation.

The Reverend
2011-09-21, 04:20 PM
I can point to two universal phenomena we do not understand

Why is ice slippery and how do bicycles remain upright? Seriously go do a couple dozen hours of research on the subjects I dare you.

hiryuu
2011-09-21, 06:47 PM
In case no one has mentioned it the is always Mage: The Ascension its rules for magic are some of the beat I've ever seen. They balance power, control, fluff, and the ability to create new effects on the spot. Werewolves? I use matter three to change the air surrounding them to have the same deleterious properties as silver, boom burning choking blinded werewolf. Now how u did it is just as important and u better have a good explanation.

Eh, I always had problems with Ascension. The first being that personal incredulity about science and a love of ignorance are a personal strength in that setting. The other being that I used to get into arguments with my players about what's paradox and what isn't, and about what they could do with their spheres. Power ramps up too exponentially in WoD for my taste.


Why is ice slippery and how do bicycles remain upright? Seriously go do a couple dozen hours of research on the subjects I dare you.

You know, ice is covered with a thin layer of semi-liquid molecules that can't bond correctly with the ice beneath it (as ice crystals build up, these layers are subsumed and solidify)? I bet that has something to do with it.

As far as bikes go, you don't think the fact that our inner ear is freaking awesome and can automagically combine with sensations of angular momentum, in addition to the trail created by the distance between the steering axis and the wheel, has anything to do with it? This is why going faster makes it more stable: the trail between wheel and steering axis becomes more rigid.

Seriously, we've known about this stuff for over a decade now at least.

The Reverend
2011-09-21, 10:56 PM
Yea power does ramp up quickly when you can lucid dream while awake, I found the trick is to take their time scale on how long it takes to gain a sphere somewhat literally. I think its five years to get to three and ten more to get to four. I played a hermetic with three dots of life studying his ass off to get to four and develop an immortality treatment

Paradox is very simple to explain to players. Reality, a metaphor for metaphors, is a democracy and like most democracies most of the voters are asleep at the wheel and are just along for the ride. If no sleepers are around you can stretch, bend, edit and change reality. If they are around the reality cops come down on you. Sometimes its just a warning, sometimes grass grows wherever you go for a couple of hours, and sometimes you get ejected from existence. If your the story teller and they have a problem with always generating paradox tell them to get a familiar, another character I had spent almost all my bonus points on getting three high level familiars just so I could blow mortal minds riding around on a pillar of fire. If they had a problem with paradox at all obviously they weren't very bright, incidental magic will cover 80% of public uses I found

. Gotta be pretty smart to play with Will workers, as the dumb vampires and werewolves found out after the lawn chair incident. Love of ignorance applied to a mage game is a very weird idea, one could say the same for a bioethics course, ethics dont exist we just made them up, or a book on British poetry, my heart is a muscle that is electrically controlled in no way does it resemble a broken base or a winter mountain slope. It takes a lot of thought and investigation, occult research, history, and anthropology to make a decent mage character. We had one guy in our group that didn't get it and everytime he wanted to cast a spell carved a rune in his cauldron or drank an herbal potion. The dm felt sorry for him and didn't even require a list of basic rotes.

Obviously if a person is involved we can adjust the most ungainly of systems to stay upright but recently scientist built a bike that canceled its own gyroscopic force and built the wheel alignment to cancel the trail effect and the bike still balanced. Are technical has a great write up their crazy looking bike. As for ice I refer you to the newyork times article available online
Explaining Ice - the answers are slippery. Very nice summation of current research up to now and why the intrinsic liquid layer does not function as an explanation, neither does friction or pressure

hiryuu
2011-09-22, 02:19 AM
Obviously if a person is involved we can adjust the most ungainly of systems to stay upright but recently scientist built a bike that canceled its own gyroscopic force and built the wheel alignment to cancel the trail effect and the bike still balanced. Are technical has a great write up their crazy looking bike.

And removing the negative trail is counteracted when the bike starts moving. Seriously. The faster you go on a bike, the more stable you are. It's a very well known bit of engineering. In fact, it's so well known we can make all kinds of crazy bikes to test it! I'm not an engineer, so I can't elaborate much more, but do know that I am getting a rant from my engineer roommate about it right now, and may be able to explain better later.


As for ice I refer you to the newyork times article available online
Explaining Ice - the answers are slippery. Very nice summation of current research up to now and why the intrinsic liquid layer does not function as an explanation, neither does friction or pressure

Haven't read the article. Hate science news reports. Especially from the New York Times, which has a track record of not reading the actual papers involved.

Let me try again, since I'm typically terrible at these sorts of explanations. Ice molecules are lined up, forming a crystalline lattice, this is why water expands when it freezes: the little buggers form up in tight ranks. In fact, that's a good example. Imagine water molecules that are freezing are trying to form up into ranks like a big game of musical chairs. The guys running around on the outside are trying to find places to fit, but they can't find a place unless there's a break in the line. So then, regardless of pressure exerted, there still this big bunch of guys running around trying to find a spot.

Also:


Paradox is very simple to explain to players. Reality, a metaphor for metaphors, is a democracy and like most democracies most of the voters are asleep at the wheel and are just along for the ride. If no sleepers are around you can stretch, bend, edit and change reality. If they are around the reality cops come down on you. Sometimes its just a warning, sometimes grass grows wherever you go for a couple of hours, and sometimes you get ejected from existence. If your the story teller and they have a problem with always generating paradox tell them to get a familiar, another character I had spent almost all my bonus points on getting three high level familiars just so I could blow mortal minds riding around on a pillar of fire. If they had a problem with paradox at all obviously they weren't very bright, incidental magic will cover 80% of public uses I found

The problem isn't with what knowing Paradox is. It's a very simple concept. The problem is when you're handing out Paradox. If you have no idea what kinds of screaming matches can erupt when the ST is handing out Paradox, you've never played Mage.

The Reverend
2011-09-22, 06:22 AM
Engineering isn't understanding, although I like engineers practical bent of "yeah but it works" which is where we are with bikes. Why the stand up we dont know, but we can do all kinds neat stuff with the practical experience we have with it even if we dont understand exactly how it works. Like the Romans and concrete or the ancient Chinese and chromium plated metal, the didn't really understand the process in how it worked, but had enough experience with the process they could predict its outcome and how it would function.

Ice's water layer doesn't provide enough slipperiness to account for it being slippery, compression exerted by the average human foot doesn't cause enough of a phase change to account for it either. My favorite theory right now is that ice is so rough that its slippery.

Being an ST in mage is Hard. Way harder than DMing, gurps, warhammer, or even (shudder) vampire the masquerade. Paradox is one of toughest parts, it has to walk that line of punishment and not ruining the game. I remember a buddy of mine at the end of one campaign took 4 paradox for teleporting in front of a bunch of sleepers. The rest of the game he was followed around by "Auntie Em" who would only let him travel by foot, bike, or horse "like everyone else does." she said. I played mage with 4 Different storytellers, all of them had dm'd other things with me and i thought they were pretty good overall, but when it came time for mage two of them rocked and two were kind of meh. And the players have to be really good as well, otherwise it will blow. Kind of sounds like they weren't the best group to have the experience with especially if the were literally screaming at you sorry about that.

Eldan
2011-09-22, 06:34 AM
So, everyone else in this thread reads Cracked too, then? :smalltongue:

The Reverend
2011-09-22, 08:42 AM
Yes god yes I hope everyone reads cracked here, but I was already aware of the issues before cracked brought back up.



Why wizards can't have nice things?

MY example is Load Bearing Paint. My son of ether whipped it up to use as an emergency sealant and construction material. Its one giant atom that is sprayed onto a surface giving it the physical resistance equal to the strong nuclear force.

Another example, also son of ether, is the aerosole exploding dinosaur. First rote makes synthetic life forms that explosively decompose after a set amount of time, larger the creature the shorter the time. Second rote allows life forms to be compressed into an aerosole form, a large hairspray container would hold ten large hamsters. So you drive a truck near the target aerosole the t-rex into existence who then rampages ending in a Very Large explosion.

The Reverend
2011-09-22, 11:11 AM
The five magics is an interesting from Master of the Five Magics by Lyndon hardy.

Thaumaturgy- uses principle of contagion and sympathy to affect things. Want that huge boulder over there first break off a small pebble, then receit chants make sigils etc then build huge whopping fire to provide energy to move the boulder or borrow it from a nearby waterfall, and puppet the boulder into the castle. Like gravity the most and least powerful magic.

Alchemy- pretty straightforward combine ingredients in specific order under specific conditions and hope it comes out right. Every step is a chance for failure, the more steps the greater the chance at failure. If a given process works 6 of 10 times it is very very very good. Usually its more like 1 in 10. Very capital intensive assembly line like process working with dangerous substances. Slave labor is common.

Magic- I think of it as artificery. Well known exact almost scientifically understood formula to make eternal magic items. Steps in the Rituals to perform them range from simple "ring a brass gong hanging from a silver chain with a raw iron hammer" to insanely complex, " douse the nearly completed sword in the blood of a virgin born on the night of the rising of the great comet and raised for 29years on a diet of millet and honey, who is wearing an ermine robe trimmed with emerald triangles numbering ...". Items sometimes take a lifetime to complete. The cluster in orders, small cities, due to the huge outlay of time and resources sell most of their eternal wonders. One guild for example had subsisted for several generations on the sale of five sets of armour. Rituals can be set aside for lengths of time, the steps in them must be completed when they are started

Sourcery - i say magic words that come to me in a trance, spend a portion of my life force and your mind is affected, eye contact necessary.

Wizardry - use fires to summon demons who do stuff for them, if they manage to dominate them otherwise the wizard is dominated. Each time u summon a demon it gets harder to co trol that demon.

GungHo
2011-09-22, 01:29 PM
The problem isn't with what knowing Paradox is. It's a very simple concept. The problem is when you're handing out Paradox. If you have no idea what kinds of screaming matches can erupt when the ST is handing out Paradox, you've never played Mage.
That crap causes almost as many broken hearts and busted lips as putting up wallpaper and building swingsets.

hiryuu
2011-09-23, 04:50 AM
That crap causes almost as many broken hearts and busted lips as putting up wallpaper and building swingsets.

Until they discover the best and easiest way to reduce paradox without absolutely eliminating it: hiring a full on camera crew with booms and panavision cameras with some local studio's logo stamped on cans and boxes.

You can't imagine how much leeway you can get with anyone, anywhere, even the universe, just by saying "we're shooting a movie."

Also it's been my firm opinion that NASA is made up of technomages since ever. It's the only reason they can't get funding for trying to expand our minds, and all those damage reports are from paradox catching up.

The Reverend
2011-09-23, 05:31 AM
Weird we never had any problems with dishing out paradox. But our groups was rally really good. We had a player join in and was playing a vampire. A couple games later we get attacked by undead nastys and our hermetic just lets loose with divinely reinforced light, he figured the vamp will probably survive if not....well he's not me. Afterward the new guy wanted a list of all his sunlight radiant style rotes, this was his first mage game, he started reading the five page printout. I didn't think it could happen but his jaw just kept dropping meeeep.was almost audible.