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Old 07-15-2022, 03:16 PM   #11
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Default Re: You got magic in my scifi game!

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If you run a scifi game what do you think of MBAN? None at all, some limited stuff, equal to technology or full on unstoppable force?
For my Harpyias setting - which takes some inspiration from Star Wars - the plan is for technology to largely dominate, although the bulk of it is superscience, so some people may still consider that simply Magic by (Yet) Another Name.

There is some Woo, in the form of a type of psionics, and it's potentially powerful Woo (albeit nowhere near on the level of the Force), but not something the PC's are likely to encounter. Indeed, I only currently have three living people planned in the setting who have such powers. One is basically the immortal god-emperor of Earth - and because Earth is time-consuming enough to travel to/from that nobody* can survive the journey (you have to send a short-term generation ship if you're sending anything other than a tomb), the characters all assume said being doesn't actually exist. One is the creator of the mostly-hostile "alien" species humans encounter, and lives on a world that human technology can't travel to... and only the last of the psionic characters even knows he exists. The last is secretly the head of one of the setting's larger corporations, and has been such for several generations (he was, in fact, the original founder of it), but is largely benevolent. Characters literally cannot interact with the first two (they're completely out of reach), and would be unlikely to encounter the third unless I decided to run a campaign involving them working directly for him as some sort of specialized troubleshooters. In theory they could get it in their heads that kidnapping/assassinating him would be a great idea, but honestly they'd be unlikely to even reach him, given the quality of his (arguably-superfluous) bodyguards.
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Old 07-18-2022, 12:41 AM   #12
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Default Re: You got magic in my scifi game!

One difference in the concept of psioncs vs. magic (or other names), is that the term 'magic' is often misapplied in today's world in fantasy stories, RPGs, etc.

Psi abilities, whether or not they really exist, as conceived, are internal to the person possessing them. That is, however they work at a detail level, they are a part of the possessor, in the same sense that the ability to walk is naturally related to having legs.

Magic, as traditionally defined, is external to the 'possessor'. (Quotes to emphasize the fact that the user doesn't really possess the power.) It's a request to, manipulation of, or other ways of inducing outside beings, usually spirits of some sort, to do whatever the magic-user wants done. The magic-user doesn't possess any power, not really, even if the process works it's other beings doing the doing, and that action is rarely expected to be free.

Also, magic as traditionally understood involves dealing with beings with intelligence and agendas of their own, often beings vastly more powerful than the magic-user, far older, and sometimes seen as greater in intellect (though this last can vary).

Which in turn is a large part of why most human cultures that believe in magic have considered it a very doubtful practice. Most of the Abrahamic faiths outright forbid the practice, even cultures based on other faiths usually aren't OK with the general, casual use of it, if it's seen as permissible at all it's usually restricted to an expert/exceptional group.

Now modern fantasy stories and RPGs have a tendency to treat magic as if it was a science and/or a technical art, akin to engineering or chemistry. That is, as if it was a blind phenomenon obeying predictable laws. Which is not the traditional view of it!

In that view, magic is less a science, or even a technical art, and more like politics, or social engineering, or sometimes more like trade. You might gain authority to order a spirit somehow, or you might cajole/fast talk the spirits (but you'd better be very good at it and prepared for a high risk of backlash), it might respond to one person better than another for no predictable reason.

Maybe John Doe can get better results from the spirits because his great-great-great-great-grandfather in the paternal line cut some kind of deal or held a marker of some kind. Maybe they just like John better on a whim.

John might not even know why they'll do things for him they won't for others, or charge him less. All he or anybody else can do is observe that if John 'casts the spell' the results are better and nobody can determine what's special about him (because nothing is special about him).

Which also means his 'advantage' can vanish suddenly and without warning! He uses up his great-great-great-grandfather's debt, or he says or does something that annoys the spirits and they no longer like him as much, a different spirit becomes involved and he hates people like John. Since he's dealing with sapient beings, the reason for their change of attitude might be outside John's ken: a distant cousin he has no idea exists, say, who lives 1000 miles away, might have said or done something that left the spirits annoyed at the whole clan. When you're dealing with sapient entities, motives and incentives can and usually do get complicated and messy.

If the spirits are already evil or hostile overall, all that becomes the more so! One begins to see why magic is so widely viewed as dangerous and fickle.

Since John's magical 'advantage' is external to him, there might not even be any way for him to know that it's ended until he finds out the hard way.

These two definitions, if followed in a story or game, mean that psi and magic are going to be different things (though a naïve observer might mistake one for the other) and behave in different ways much of the time. Psi is an innate ability, as usually conceived, magic is a social skill.
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Old 07-18-2022, 01:34 AM   #13
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Default Re: You got magic in my scifi game!

I'll admit, one thing that turned me off to Starfinder - besides the gods-awful handling of the weapons - is its reliance (perhaps over-reliance) on D&D style Vancian magic. Besides the fact that I loathe D&D/Vancian magic, it seriously made me wonder if I was even playing a sci-fi game at all at times.

I don't mind psionics - Star Trek and Babylon 5 both had good takes on psionics, notably telepathy and telekinesis - in my sci-fi, but Vancian magic almost never has a good place in it.
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Old 07-18-2022, 09:04 AM   #14
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Sorry, I already rate those things as magic pretending to be technology.
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It's the "pretending to be technology" that makes it science fiction rather than fantasy. H.G. Wells was explicit about that in discussing his own stories.

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...and then you get weird stuff like David Gemmell novels where it's never entirely clear as to whether the sufficiently advanced technology is the magic or is just how the precursors managed it. Or the cheese fondue that is the backstory lore of Harn...
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Old 07-22-2022, 01:35 PM   #15
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Default Re: You got magic in my scifi game!

Time Travel and Interstellar travel are classified as science fiction but in the unlikely event that such things are possible it is not likely that the process will be the same.

Mastodon slaying cavemen are usually credited with having a culture not unlike modern hunter-gatherers. Of course the fact is we do not have the slightest idea what they were like: if we did they would not be prehistoric they would be historic. And in any case modern hunter-gatherers are different because they universally live in contact with herders and farmers, not always friendly. It is likely enough that prehistorics were hunter gatherer of some type if they did not leave enough trace to be noted by archeology but saying more than "likely" is essentially a myth (in the literary sense of the word, not in the aggravating usage of making it a synonym for "falsehood": it is possible to be false without being mythic and possible to have a mythic appeal while being true).

As for magic, magic has not strictly speaking been proven not to exist in this world for you cannot prove such a thing. At the least it is unrealistic to expect that people in the future have given up belief in such things and a bit absurd when most science fiction postulates that they have not given up war, crime,tyranny, avarice, love, pride, etc. Not to mention much imagining that they have reinstated feudalism. Individual humans not believing in magic is plausible but a human race that doesn't just wouldn't be human. Moreover much of this is forgetting that many of the rationalizations are so tawdry that they really should call it magic and be done with it. One of the many things wrong with the Force was the "midoclorines". Not only is that a stupid Jumping of the Shark, it is making the old Sufficiently Advanced Aliens mistake.

The problem is not whether or not you have magic in a sci fi (or "something else" that is not called magic although everyone knows it is). It is how you handle it. Dune pitched psionics to such a level that it was indistinguishable from religion or magic. Yet it was pretty good. By contrast Star Wars as someone else pointed out, used the Force to much. But the problem was not that they had the Force it was that they handled it badly.

I use fantasy elements freely in my Worldbuilding for My Traveller Universe. I use them only as Mythmaking. I am building cultures and cultures have stories. That does not mean I would not use them in a primary thread if I thought it would be useful.
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Old 07-22-2022, 04:16 PM   #16
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Default Re: You got magic in my scifi game!

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Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post
One difference in the concept of psioncs vs. magic (or other names), is that the term 'magic' is often misapplied in today's world in fantasy stories, RPGs, etc.
I would go through your post and respond to your points individually, but you're just proceeding from false premises here. You're speaking of magic as if it were some specific thing that works in some specific way, but it isn't. It's as varied as any human social construct. Every known human culture has beliefs about the supernatural, and beliefs about how people can do things by supernatural means, but details vary quite a lot. Sometimes this is understood to involve the action of spirits, and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the user is held to possess a special power, and sometimes they aren't. Sometimes both criteria are true! And the definitions of terms like "magic", "sorcery", "witchcraft", etc., are nebulous and often loaded, change with time and place—and, of course, the language being spoken.

Oftentimes the explanations of a particular thaumaturgical practice, and the terms and categories used to characterize it, are contentious even within their native cultural context. Is she a vile witch, or just a harmless cunning-woman? This even applies to the miracles of Jesus, with the 2nd-century philosopher Celsus polemically accusing Jesus of having practiced mageia—an obvious cognate of magic, but one that has exotic, sinister connotations analogous to the lowercase-v version of the term voodoo.

But we're speaking Modern English, not Koine Greek. Magic and mageia are different words. The modern meaning of the term "magic" has influenced by centuries of linguistic drift, and has never referred to any one practice or set of practices. Saying that the word "magic" can only correctly be applied to practices understood to involve spirits is like saying that the word "religion" can only be applied to the worship of gods.
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Old 07-22-2022, 06:23 PM   #17
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Default Re: You got magic in my scifi game!

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I would go through your post and respond to your points individually, but you're just proceeding from false premises here. You're speaking of magic as if it were some specific thing that works in some specific way, but it isn't. It's as varied as any human social construct. Every known human culture has beliefs about the supernatural, and beliefs about how people can do things by supernatural means, but details vary quite a lot. Sometimes this is understood to involve the action of spirits, and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the user is held to possess a special power, and sometimes they aren't. Sometimes both criteria are true! And the definitions of terms like "magic", "sorcery", "witchcraft", etc., are nebulous and often loaded, change with time and place—and, of course, the language being spoken.

Oftentimes the explanations of a particular thaumaturgical practice, and the terms and categories used to characterize it, are contentious even within their native cultural context. Is she a vile witch, or just a harmless cunning-woman? This even applies to the miracles of Jesus, with the 2nd-century philosopher Celsus polemically accusing Jesus of having practiced mageia—an obvious cognate of magic, but one that has exotic, sinister connotations analogous to the lowercase-v version of the term voodoo.

But we're speaking Modern English, not Koine Greek. Magic and mageia are different words. The modern meaning of the term "magic" has influenced by centuries of linguistic drift, and has never referred to any one practice or set of practices. Saying that the word "magic" can only correctly be applied to practices understood to involve spirits is like saying that the word "religion" can only be applied to the worship of gods.

If you wish to extend that that far magic just means "everything". It certainly does not stop with nature when several beings that are credited with being magical (like Odin) have been born and/or will die. Or are limited to a specific Earthly effect, like sympathetic magic: we will have better crops because of the number of consummations, Mrs Jones will have a difficult birth because we did not untie a knot, a sword will be more deadly if you pour sacrificial blood on it (as opposed to just being carbonized by the blood) etc. In that case by magic you just mean "weird" and that is so vague a definition as to make it impossible to say whether it should or should not be included in sci fi. Most of the effects of technology are pretty weird, even fairly primitive technology (isn't it cool that when I whack that cave man with a bone instead of my hand, I kill him and isn't it even weirder that the trailer to 2001 then plays).

If you define magic like that than magic definitely belongs in sci fi. Because everything is magic.
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Old 07-22-2022, 06:27 PM   #18
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Default Re: You got magic in my scifi game!

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If you wish to extend that that far magic just means "everything".
Nah, it means "everything supernatural", which is reasonably accurate.
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Old 07-22-2022, 08:01 PM   #19
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Nah, it means "everything supernatural", which is reasonably accurate.
Most instances of magic have some aspect that impacts on the natural and much has nothing in it that is not natural (a god that dies permanently even if he does not do so until Ragnorak is effectively a big human). It is far from necessary for a mythos to have anything outside of nature, much less having magic be uniquely supernatural.

In a pantheist universe, everything is natural. Period. In an animist universe it is not necessarily clear whether or not there is anything supernatural, but fairies and totems are in fact no more supernatural than humans.
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Old 07-22-2022, 08:38 PM   #20
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Nah, it means "everything supernatural", which is reasonably accurate.
It's less "magic is everything supernatual" and more "supernatural things cannot be objectively categorized". Real thaumaturgical practices ("real" in the sense that people actually do them) are variously categorized as magical, miraculous, psychic, or some word in the native language of the practitioners with no direct English translation based on criteria that are no more empirically verifiable than whether the practices have any actual power, and observers of the practices may categorize them differently than the practitioners do. Fictional thaumaturgical practices are categorized however the author wants, and from a factual perspective, it's impossible to argue against those categorizations, not simply because Magic Don't Real, but because the real-life counterpart to magic has no widely agreed upon definition.

TL;DR: what is and is not "magic" depends on the setting, in real life as much as in fiction.
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