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Old 02-26-2021, 07:17 PM   #2
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Portland, OR
Default Re: Making science magic feel like science, not magic

Originally Posted by Greg 1 View Post
How do you make magic-like abilities feel more like applied science and less like magic?

I'm toying with a setting idea in which a society rejects magic as the instrument of the Devil, but develops magic-like abilities through scientific study. Their technology level, leaving magic-like abilities aside, is at about the 17th century. Not many people can use these magic-like abilities as it takes much scholarly study.

Such scholars ("natural philosophers") are intended to be good PC types, able to contribute to an adventuring party. They will, save in very rare cases, be the only source of magic-like support for a PC party.

There are at least two questions here.

What sort of magic-like effects would come most easily to such scholars and which would be more difficult?
That is largely up to you as the creator. Personally, I would favor divinatory and augmentation stuff, and maybe some blasty-type magic ("prime gunpowder")

How would the scholar go about achieving these magic-like effects, so that they feel more like science and less like magic?
My mind immediately leaps to clockpunk devices and (al)chemical solutions. All of the magic is mediated through material means; you can never just wave a wand or speak a magic word to get the effect, you have to use a machine or a substance. Basically, look at Girl Genius - sure, it's "Mad Science" but the difference between that and magic is style. You might also go the magic-as-mathematics route; if you know the right equations, God bends the universe to your will. I understand this is a popular interpretation of Cthulhu Mythos-style magic.

Some key points to make it scientific are that it is materialist, repeatable, and predictable (once you understand the causes). Game magic strongly tends to be like this anyway, so you're already halfway there.
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