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The Planeswalker Journal

Technology & Magic

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As much as I'm dying to get to work on a map, I think I really need to nail down this whole technology vs. magic argument that I've already set up and alluded to a couple times. To a lesser degree I think psionics need to fit in there as well too, if only because psionics has gotten a bad rap since AD&D (when it was horribly convoluted) and because I think psionics are fun and exciting. Still, one thing at a time; and obviously there are going to be a lot of fuzzy parts in here because we haven't identified any of our nations yet and that kind of history will really help define this cultural battle.

We have already established dragons as the source of humanoid knowledge in the distant past (their Prometheus, to use a Greek reference), so it's easy to say that they were the first to teach their vassals about magic. Sorcerers and those with in-born talent were identified and carefully trained, while those without natural talent but desire worked closely with their draconic masters and eventually developed the wizardry arts such as they are today. This is also the reason why all arcane spellcasting is written in Draconic.

Soon after the revolution that liberated the humanoids from the dragons, groups of [essentially] scientists and inventors (many of them gnomes and goblinoids) sprang up in some of the larger cities on <West>. One or two of these should be prominent within the respective nation(s). The more martial of these wanted to think of new things that could be used in combat and warfare should the dragons decide to try and conquer them again. While the first explosives and primitive forms of gunpowder must be attributed to Goblin Grumplekins the Third (or something), it wasn't until decades later when a pair of gnome twins in BoomBoom-bough (or something) thought to use that energy to propel a small object without destroying the container in the process. Thus, the first guns were born; they were crude and could be likened to a kind of hand-held mortar (wildly inaccurate), but they were merely the first step. Somewhere I will need to define exactly what kind of firearms are available, but I'm not worried about those kinds of specifics just yet.

As the quality of these new weapons of war and the other technologies that accompanied them started to get heard across the land, various peoples, organizations, and nations took a stance on the issue. Some heralded it as the future, and strongly urged further support of general use of these new technologies and invention of more. Others (notably many mage guilds) were vehemently opposed to these new contraptions that seemed more dangerous than the magic that was well-understood and in use in many cities across the known world to the betterment of civilization. Propaganda flew as political battles erupted; oftentimes these were merely political and superficial, as the majority of the populace could afford neither these new technologies nor the cost of magical training, but in one notable case--the White Buffalo Inn Massacre--tensions and animosities gave way to actual violence.

While some cities have openly made laws restricting the use of these new inventions, only a few (2-3) actual prohibit anyone from owning them. To most common folk on <West>, they view the argument as political frumpery that is no concern of theirs unless someone comes up with something to make their lives better.

Outside of the exploratory settlement on <North>, there is probably little if any talk of guns etc since the gnolls are pretty isolated. Outside of rumors, none of the common vassals on dragon-controlled <East> have seen one of these "guns", although almost all of the trusted humanoids in the dragons' inner circles have knowledge of them (opinions vary). The merchants of <South> are practically ecstatic at the economic possibilities, but are almost always frustrated at the very limited supply of the new technologies that they are allowed to carry.

I just realized that this will potentially allow for very "Final Fantasy"-type games where you have players wth swords fighting alongside players with guns. That's kind of the nature of it, but we can get to balance issues when we define the guns later on.

I'm not entirely certain yet where psionics factor into things, but I'm thinking definitely outside of <West>. I would be tempted to create some association with an underwater race like aboleths, but that is (to an extent) already being done with the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting. Maybe something with mind flayers... but since they are *technically* trademarked by Wizards of the Coast, I might have to think up an alternative. Hmm... more thinking to do on the origins of psionics, but I do know that I like the idea of it being "different but the same". Not an exact overlap, but say there is a 50% chance of an Anti-Magic Field affecting a psionic character. This would apply equally to spell resistance (and dispelling attempts, as appropriate) and would would vice versa as well.

While this differentiates psionics from magic, this also begs the question of do I then create some new spells/powers that protect/affect against the other? Or the alternative is to say that psionics are a very underground kind of movement. Maybe there is a famous group of assassins-for-hire that only allows psionists into its ranks, but doesn't offer up any explanation for how it accomplishes so much (smoke and mirrors)? Or perhaps psionic people are generally shunned, much like sorcerers/warlocks in a standard D&D sense? More thinking required on this subject, so discuss and we will revisit psionics again later. The map(s) will be next!

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  1. Aerthos's Avatar
    In case it wasn't obvious, all of the names of people, places, and events are just placeholders so I didn't have to use <Name1>, <Place4>, etc. That would been messy, and silly names can be fun!
  2. Lowthor's Avatar
    Just an idea and it would require a few changes to what you've come up with but how about this:

    - Psionics revealed / discovered.
    - Revolution - Dragons + Magic vs Psionics

    This then leads to the anti-dragon kingdom being the home of psionics.
  3. Aerthos's Avatar
    I don't know if I want to turn the Magic v. Technology argument into a triangular one (Magic v. Psionics v. Technology). In my opinion, psionics doesn't get a whole lot of love so I want it in there, but because of prevailing opinion I don't want it to necesitate a key part of the setting. And underlying sub-current feels more appropriate, but that might change when I get to the point of defining psionics within the setting.

    Other thoughts on this particular blog and/or what people think I should do for psionics?
  4. Ao's Avatar
    I figured that the <placeholders> were there to make it easier to do a Find and Replace All later on when ye decide on the names...

    As for psionics, I always liked the 2nd edition psionics rules. Of course, if you played by the original rules, wherein there was like a 1-3 percent chance of actually getting psionic powers, it's unlikely that one ever got to actually use them.

    Psionics were meant to be a bonus IMO. You could still be a fighter, mage, rogue, or cleric. However, if you got that one lucky roll on char creation, you could buff your core class powers with a few kick ass psionic ones.

    I don't think that Psionicists should have been made a class unto itself. Though, I will admit that psionicist classes are pretty cool.

    It could be interesting to have some inherent magic in the world that causes a portion of the population to be born with 1 random psionic talent. Think of Piers Anthony and his Xanth novels for a similar notion. Perhaps when creating a character, there could be a 1 in 4 chance of gaining such an ability.

    Now, you could still have the 3.x psionic classes available, or you could exclude them entirely.

    Allowing for the random appearance of psionic talents could lead to all sorts of plot twists though.