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Old 09-15-2019, 08:10 PM   #1
Whitewings
 
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Default Magic and Hard SF

In a setting I'm working on, the setting is TL 12 and mostly hard SF. Magic is possible in some solar systems because some stars' heliopauses are filled with an energy called "ki" in the one system in which it's been discovered. It's a recent discovery, and the only supernatural element is the manipulation of ki. So what spells need to be disallowed? Some are obvious; you can't summon demons when there are no demons to summon, and the same applies to elementals. I'm considering allowing elemental creation, with a duration limit and similar prerequisites to Summon Elemental, but I'm not wedded to the idea.
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Old 09-15-2019, 08:48 PM   #2
AlexanderHowl
 
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Default Re: Magic and Hard SF

Nothing with magic is hard science fiction. That being said, I would suggest avoiding the default magical system if you want anything approaching science fiction. There are a few options, though the best is probably Magic as Powers.
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:01 AM   #3
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Default Re: Magic and Hard SF

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
Nothing with magic is hard science fiction. That being said, I would suggest avoiding the default magical system if you want anything approaching science fiction. There are a few options, though the best is probably Magic as Powers.
I would disagree with the "Nothing with magic is hard science fiction." idea as by its very nature if TL13+ is possible then we certainly wouldn't understand the technology it produces as it would fit under Clarke's "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Heck, I would say we have a hard handle on what TL12 does that some of it goes what Isaac Arthur calls Clarketech
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:48 AM   #4
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Default Re: Magic and Hard SF

You’ll really need to decide exactly what you want “ki” to be able to do - and indeed if Basic Magic is what you want to use for it (Spells as Powers, as previously mentioned, works well here - see Chinese Elemental Powers and Sorcery). For an otherwise hard science setting, you may want to define magic as a sort of physical phenomenon and only allow it to manipulate the world in certain ways, rather than allowing the default grab-bag Magic normally falls into.
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:53 AM   #5
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Default Re: Magic and Hard SF

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You’ll really need to decide exactly what you want “ki” to be able to do - and indeed if Basic Magic is what you want to use for it (Spells as Powers, as previously mentioned, works well here - see Chinese Elemental Powers and Sorcery). For an otherwise hard science setting, you may want to define magic as a sort of physical phenomenon and only allow it to manipulate the world in certain ways, rather than allowing the default grab-bag Magic normally falls into.
I agree. If you want to keep thing "Hard", you need to define your "magic" rather precisely.
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Old 09-16-2019, 12:13 PM   #6
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Default Re: Magic and Hard SF

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I would disagree with the "Nothing with magic is hard science fiction." idea as by its very nature if TL13+ is possible
TL 13+ is generally not going to be hard sf either; definition of hard sf somewhat variable, but it generally excludes things that can't be explained to the reader in terms other than "magic" (note that 'hard sf' and 'actually possible' are disjoint sets).
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Old 09-16-2019, 12:19 PM   #7
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Default Re: Magic and Hard SF

How many of us could explain how a computer works? It's certainly a very small subset of computer users. For most of us, "there's a button and I'm fairly certain electricity is involved..."

Tv Tropes has a scale for science fiction hardness. Might be useful for calibrating what our expectations of "hard sf" are.
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Old 09-16-2019, 12:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: Magic and Hard SF

Exactly. Shadowrun has an entire world that functions on the interaction between technology and magic, and you would do worse than following their lead. A few things to determine:

First, you should probably determine the source of the phenomenon. Is it a byproduct of fusion? If so, why is it only now occurring? If not, what is the source?

Second, you should probably determine manipulation. Is it something that can only be manipulated by biological organisms? Is it something that can be manipulated by digital entities? Is it something that can be manipulated by machines?

Third, you should probably determine the hard limits and soft limits of magic. Hard limits are things that are impossible for magic to do while soft limits are things that are merely impossible for magical practitioners to do. The former sets the tone for magic while the latter sets the tone for magical practitioners.

For example, you could have magic being a byproduct of fusion that was undetectable until TL12 because of the 'noise' produced by EM and gravity. While biological organisms are capable of learning to channel magic because they unknowingly evolved in a magical field, digital entities and mechanical objects are incapable of using magic. Magic cannot violate conservation of mass or energy and is incapable of teleportation or time travel. Magical practitioners are incapable of channeling more magical energy than the equivalent of (Will^[Magery]) kW.
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Old 09-16-2019, 12:26 PM   #9
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Default Re: Magic and Hard SF

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Originally Posted by maximara View Post
I would disagree with the "Nothing with magic is hard science fiction." idea as by its very nature if TL13+ is possible then we certainly wouldn't understand the technology it produces as it would fit under Clarke's "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Clarke's Law was just his way of saying "Space gods are so, science fiction". And they are. But they aren't hard science fiction. It doesn't matter because the premise of this game is:

Humans were limited by reality (with an exception made for FTL travel) until they made a discovery that opened to the door to another form of super science.

And that's fine. Let's move on. Personally I'd avoid the elemental colleges. They're based on pre-Enlightenment natural philosophy and that tends make them clash aesthetically with science fiction. Quite a bit more actually than a planar summons spell. You might of course be still be able to burn and freeze things but that would be part of either a telekinetic or an "energy" college/powerset.
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Old 09-16-2019, 12:41 PM   #10
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Default Re: Magic and Hard SF

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Magic cannot violate conservation of mass or energy and is incapable of teleportation or time travel.
Violating laws of conservation is pretty much what magic means. I think only information spells would avoid breaking them.
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