Sunday, September 2, 2012

Magic and Science

In the chat Q&A and a couple email exchanges, I’ve gotten questions about the relationship of magic and science in the world of Weird Adventures.  It seemed like a good time to do a post to clarify, as the setting doesn’t follow the strong separation of the two seen in a number of other rpgs or fictional worlds.

In the City and its world, what people call “science” and “magic” are areas of knowledge which together describe a spectrum of phenomena (or perhaps, phenomena and noumena). Science deals with the material world (the Prime Material Plane, specifically) and repeatable observations about things within that world.  Magic, on the other hand, deals with the interaction of other planes with the Material Plane.  While thaumaturgical studies have certainly led to repeated observations, the performer of a magical experiment is linked to the results, and the forces involved are not always measurable or observable.  

In the dim past or the modern age, the two areas of knowledge have never been completely separate.  Briefly, here let’s look at the spectrum of disciplines leading to technology in the modern City, from strictly physical to most metaphysical:

Science: Humanity’s accumulated knowledge and understanding of the physical world, without account for noumenal forces or extraplanar interactions. The results of this knowledge have produced technology usable by all.

Alchemy: A field focused on the magical or metaphysical properties and interactions of physical substances.  The dividing line between chemistry and alchemy is blurry; various individual experiments or techniques make greater or lesser use of magical interactions.  Alchemy can lead to mass produced products, though these are perhaps not as stable or predictable as the chemistry of our world. 

Artifice: When alchemists moved into the production of homunculi, and thaumaturgists into fashioning automata, the artificer's art was born. Constructs or automata can be made in factories, but their power supplies and mechanical brains (if they have them) are fashioned by alchemical or thaumaturgic means. These techniques can produce devices that might be termed “super-science”--like death-rays or anti-gravity.  Because of the heavy thaumaturgic influence needed, these sorts of devices aren’t mass-producible at the current level of technology,and instead are the work of lone genius (or mad) inventors.

Magic: The ancient art of effecting change in the physical world by will, i.e. the application of forces and powers often extraplanar in origin and not really measurable or detectable (except in their effects) by current scientific means. Thaumaturgy has laws, but these can be idiosyncratic, and often make more intuitive sense than strictly reasonable.

Take a look at the Weird Adventures Index for posts dealing with examples of these technologies.


The Angry Lurker said...

I think I'd like to have a go at being a artificer!

Tim Shorts said...

Good, concise break down. Now I just need to get Boris some magic bullets.

Bard said...

Interesting to see these laid out in graduated shades of gray, rather than an either/or, style.