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Old 12-18-2012, 02:41 AM   #3
Prince Charon
 
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Join Date: Dec 2012
Default Re: Five Earths, All in a Row

If you have access to a copy of GURPS Thaumatology: Age of Gold, that will help you get some of the general feel: a lot of the really implausible stuff is magic, mostly alchemy and Weird Science, along with more than a little sorcery; how the magic works is covered near the bottom of the post, as I'm using the same magic system for all five Earths. The rest of the 'impossible' things are the result of alien technology (mostly from Krypton, caught in the fold-radius/hyperwake/whatever of young Kal'El's spacecraft), or a combination of both. The Super-Soldier Serum (which takes weeks to work, and requires that the subject eat a great deal while it does) is an alchemic preparation, as is that rocket fuel. The 'vita-rays' that enhance and stabilize the serum's effects are likely magical, as the generator hasn't worked since Dr. Erskine died. The android Human Torch is a fire elemental who's fond of humanity, embodied in a very humanoid golem. Dr. Fate and the Green Lantern are humans using powerful magic items (though Dr. Fate's flight and more basic PK powers are those Kent Nelson learned from Nabu - as shown in his first Origin - rather than powered by the Helm). Whether time travel exists or not is uncertain, but Superman appears to have a Legion flight ring, which he uses sparingly (recharging the battery is... very difficult). Most materials with implausible properties, such as the Nth metal or Wakandan vibranium, are magical in nature. Vibranium itself, as far as anyone can tell, is a form of titanium, with no structural properties that can account for its strange powers. The most common superpower on this Earth is probability alteration, in the form of character shields. Oddly, this seems to be mildly, and semi-randomly, contagious.

The study of magic on this Earth, at least in the West, is divided more-or-less between the 'mystery guilds' (along with a few religions and subcults), who study sorcery and sometimes create magic items; the weird scientists, who create technomagic items and rarely realize sorcery exists; and the alchemists, who somewhat overlap both, but use little, if any, sorcery. The mystery guilds are rather like a mix of medieval guilds and Greco-Roman mystery cults (in the historical sense - they rarely have any interest in how initiates live their lives, beyond how they practice magic and maintain secrecy - not secrecy of the existence of magic (which they pretty much given up trying, since around 1908), but of who's doing it, and how), many of which are devoted not to deities or powerful spirits (commonly the Lords of Order or Chaos), but to philosophies, such as the Ethical (from their PoV) Teaching and Use of the Great Art. Mystery guilds tend to exist in small cells of a Master, one or more Apprentices, and the occasional visiting Journeyman. Often, they are hidden within local Lodges (Freemasons, the Loyal Order of Moose, and so forth), Gentlemen's Clubs, or Ladies' Associations, some of which may contain several cells, from different guilds - the London Hellfire Club has three, none of which trust the other two, for example. Weird scientists (some of whom are truly Mad) cast spells, in order to create inventions or experimental results that others cannot. In most cases, they do this unconsciously and unknowingly, and become confused and frustrated when hardly anyone else can get the same results, or get their inventions to work properly (or at all, in some cases). Often they make use of magical materials, which helps non-mages to some degree. Alchemists make more use of magical materials, but generally behave as much or more like mystery guild initiates, as like scientists. In the Mysterious Orient, there are a number of ancient temples, martial arts schools, meditation schools, and so forth, that are generally like similar organizations in our 1940, save a little more secretive, and the Masters and most elite students have demonstrable magic powers. Eastern weird scientists more often know they're using magic, and face less skepticism from mundane Eastern scientists. Lone practitioners in East and West, learning from old books and magic items, vary wildly in attitude.

Scientists wishing to study the theoretical physics of magic are advised to be polite to the weird scientists (especially the mad ones), wary of but polite to the alchemists and martial artists, and just avoid the sorcerers and most spirits entirely. The mystery guilds will strongly, and sometimes violently, object to any in-depth, scientific study of magical physics, though the followers of the Lords of Order will at least be friendly enough to give a better explanation of why than 'Mankind is not ready, you mad fool!' Unfortunately, they lack the background to give the short version that I can: scientific inquiry, by its very nature, requires the sharing of knowledge with all, which includes immature twits who get three letters wrong when spelling 'cool' (when they use letters at all), and try to crash hospital computers for a lark. I don't want to experience a system crash from inside the system, do you? (It's not that anyone currently knows how to crash reality, but advanced thaumatology could potentially reach that point, long before we'd have the sense not to (sure, the atmosphere didn't catch fire and kill everyone, but they thought it might, and set the bomb off anyway!) - especially as there are now more realities to experiment in.) Of course, some of them, especially the more religious ones, have other reasons - Chaos cultists, for example, just really don't like science or scientists, and if not for the Order cults fighting them, humanity on that Earth would be stuck in the middle ages, at best. Regardless of motivation, the sorcerers, spirits, and gods have a variety of ways to screw with anyone who comes to this Earth to understand why magic works. Whether they can and will apply it to the other Earths remains to be seen. If they do, it'll likely be the ones who are sincerely (patronizingly) concerned for us. After all, didn't your parents stop you from doing a lot of dangerous things, when you were a child? For those wondering why they're not interfering with the weird scientists, who says they aren't? Lots of weird engineers and chemists and biologists, but hardly any weird theoretical physicists - and even when you do hear of one, like Ted Knight, he goes and invents some neat gadget to risk his life with, that completely distracts him from theoretical physics.

Continued next post, due to character limit.
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Five Earths, All in a Row. Updated 4/06/2018: United States Department of Extraordinary Operations, Uniformed Division has been posted.
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