Creative Anachronisms

Fauchard1520

Explorer
Do any of you guys like to throw anachronisms into your fantasy settings? If you’ve ever heard of Saonuihun’s Speeding Sphere Game, then you’re already familiar with the principle. Take a modern concept, ram it into the secondary world, and see what weirdness comes out the other end. For my money, the real trick is finding the balance between the gag and the integrity of the fiction. A literal freaking pinball machine might be a bit much, but the concept of fantasy world real estate or the anxieties of dealing with tax season can inspire some fun storylines.

So how about it? Have you ever thrown phones or cars or gaming conventions into your settings? If so, how'd it work out?

Comic for illustrative purposes.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
I have severe difficulty seeing this working except as a comic device in settings like Disc World and 'Harry Potter'.

Most anachronisms I note tend to be accidental things ships with 14th century sailing technology but which also have a "crow's nest" or expecting professional journalism to exist in a basically medieval culture. I try to avoid these things myself, and when I do mix and match technology from multiple eras I try to do it consciously as a result of the very different history of the imagined world compared to the real world. (For example, my settings tend to be a bit more egalitarian and cosmopolitan than any real world culture was, both for in game and out of game reasons, though not quite as anachronistic as say Golarion is in that regard.)

When technology shows up in my games, I try to make it look somewhat different than real world technology and I tend to apply the perhaps over worn trope of the object being from some past age of wonders when a sufficiently advanced magic creating an age where magic looked like technology was more plausible than the heroic if somewhat backwards age the PC's presently live in. So for example, various sorts of magical elevators have appeared in the plot of my latest campaign, and all though the players never drew the connection I did describe to them the ruins of magical satellite radio dishes and an electric substation complete with transformers. Had I drawn the scene rather than verbally described it through the eyes of the characters, I'm sure the connection would have been drawn, but I was quite OK with the players not realizing quite how modern the ruins they were traversing actually were.

Aside from comedic effect, the problem with a setting where magic is sufficiently advanced as to resemble technology is that it is very rough on a traditional 'zero to hero' story arc that traditional fantasy encourages. If the "normals" have guns, tanks and airplanes then you don't really have a heroic age because "normals" can mow down each other by the hundreds and daunt even formidable foes. They don't need heroes, and heroes are very likely to find that their ability to sway events is diminished compared to heroic ages when only the prowess of a mighty hero could win security from foes. Simply put, you have to be pretty darn high level already to survive a 155mm shell impacting mere yards away, or to charge across a field under machine gun fire. Such heroes have to begin the narrative already as superheroes to have much importance in their persons.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Early D&D was filled with weird and wild crossovers, like Murlynd’s six-shooters, the whole of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks; heck, the DMG had rules for conversions between Boot Hill, Gamma World, and Gangbusters (I could be wrong on that last one).

That being said, the world and game being played need to have the internal consistency and flexibility to handle that sort of thing. Putting a Ford Mustang in Out of the Abyss probably wouldn’t have worked for the campaign I was running. Just throwing something anachronistic into a campaign won’t work without the legwork to support it. A printing press in Ravenloft? Sure, that'll work there. A printing press in Dark Sun....that's going to be jarring.

In a recent campaign, one of the players made a joke about their character sitting around, reading a magazine. I had established a high magic, almost magitech world, so I figured why not? So now we have glossy magazines as a thing there.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
I'm currently running a modern setting, so there's very little anachronistic in it.
 

trancejeremy

Villager
I don't think there really can be anachronisms if it's a different world. I mean, while some technology is obviously built on earlier stuff (like you probably wouldn't have jet airplanes without propeller), sometimes it's just people missing something really obvious (like say, stirrups), or a technology that is invented, but never really regarded as more than a curiosity (like steam engines and Rome, or Mesoamericans and the wheel)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Do any of you guys like to throw anachronisms into your fantasy settings? If you’ve ever heard of Saonuihun’s Speeding Sphere Game, then you’re already familiar with the principle. Take a modern concept, ram it into the secondary world, and see what weirdness comes out the other end. For my money, the real trick is finding the balance between the gag and the integrity of the fiction. A literal freaking pinball machine might be a bit much, but the concept of fantasy world real estate or the anxieties of dealing with tax season can inspire some fun storylines.

So how about it? Have you ever thrown phones or cars or gaming conventions into your settings? If so, how'd it work out?

Comic for illustrative purposes.
Part of your post is formatted to dark print; virtually invisible to ENWorlders using the dark back.

Here’s why it may have happened and how to fix it.
http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?348563-Dark-Text-on-a-Dark-Background-Tutorial
 

Legatus_Legionis

< BLAH HA Ha ha >
Just think "Tinker Gnome" from DragonLance!

They take what we would consider modern technology, and they twist it.

For example, in Mount Nevermind, there is not a single staircase anywhere.

Going up or down levels are done via nets and catapults!
 

LuisCarlos17f

Explorer
Can we create a (expensive) steampunk-clockpunk golem but not a magic motor to a crossbow to reload itself?

Fantasy is changing and now we find the "arcanotech" or magic technology. Then fans wonder about why industrial revolution hasn't started yet. If a motor is added to a war chariot is the end of the chavalry. Maybe they are too technophobes because in the past infernal outsiders controlled machines to attack people, or there weren't enough coal nor petroleum for industry.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
It’s a tough call – I mean, is magic common and powerful enough to hold back the industrial revolution? I don’t know. Can Create Food and Drink outperform a Heinz canning factory? I suppose it could be argued that inventors are more likely to focus on magical innovations over technological, but in the Forgotten Realms alone we’ve got clockworks, some firearms, and even a deity driving technological advancement.

In fiction, we’re certainly seeing things like Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, Sanderson’s Alloy of Law, and even Discworld started having more and more magical-technology and technology-technology.

Fantasy is changing and now we find the "arcanotech" or magic technology. Then fans wonder about why industrial revolution hasn't started yet. If a motor is added to a war chariot is the end of the chavalry.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
It isn’t so much tha magic holds off the industrial revolution, it’s how magic would be used as a tool within it.

And, of course, what would be the unintended consequences of using it that way?

There are many magical ways to power things via magic that, AFAIK, violate the laws of thermodynamics. You could, for instance run a water mill with the outflow of one (or more) Everful Bottle. Of course, that water has to go somewhere, right? The main “waste product” would be water- a great externality, especially in an arid climate. But over time, it could cause flooding, and you know the mill operators won’t take to kindly to being told to shut down.

Likewise, you could run a mill using constructs or undead labor, or even magically animate it itself. But what happens if a golem or skeleton gets loose- not escapes, but simply gets loose due to their “leash” (or whatever contaiment) breaking?

Who would want to live near a factory powered by zombies on treadmills? Not just the smell, but the ethics of it are potentially unsettling.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Even the most mundane magical items could have massive economic repercussions. That Decanter of Endless Water, Wind Fan, or Eversmoking Bottle sitting at the bottom of some adventurer's backpack, in the right conditions, could be a source of power for countless people.

There are many magical ways to power things via magic that, AFAIK, violate the laws of thermodynamics. You could, for instance run a water mill with the outflow of one (or more) Everful Bottle. Of course, that water has to go somewhere, right? The main “waste product” would be water- a great externality, especially in an arid climate. But over time, it could cause flooding, and you know the mill operators won’t take to kindly to being told to shut down.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Let’s talk waste management:

A Sphere of Annihilation works great for waste disposal...until someone unauthorized gets ahold of it.

An army of otyughs could be happy as employees of the city as sewage workers.

An Elemental firepit as an incinerator, perhaps? Maybe even ventilated to the quasi-Elemental plane of smoke?
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Quasi elemental portals to the plane of ice would make for great icehouses.

Continual light/flame spells on posts make the Lamplighter’s Guild virtually obsolete, though they might survive if people don’t want light pollution. If so, then they’d go about shuttering or opening the lanterns.

Mending & cleaning cantrips would make for a tidier world, especially if tied to cheap magic “wands”. Skilled pros would still be needed for the specialty work, though.
 

Samloyal23

Explorer
Early D&D was filled with weird and wild crossovers, like Murlynd’s six-shooters, the whole of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks; heck, the DMG had rules for conversions between Boot Hill, Gamma World, and Gangbusters (I could be wrong on that last one).

That being said, the world and game being played need to have the internal consistency and flexibility to handle that sort of thing. Putting a Ford Mustang in Out of the Abyss probably wouldn’t have worked for the campaign I was running. Just throwing something anachronistic into a campaign won’t work without the legwork to support it. A printing press in Ravenloft? Sure, that'll work there. A printing press in Dark Sun....that's going to be jarring.

In a recent campaign, one of the players made a joke about their character sitting around, reading a magazine. I had established a high magic, almost magitech world, so I figured why not? So now we have glossy magazines as a thing there.
Athas is an interesting place. Look through all of the art in the original boxed set and the different supplements, you will see figures that look like they are from the 17th or 18th Centuries. The previous ages, the Blue and Green Ages, are almost totally forgotten, society has broken down so much that history has disappeared. I think a printing press could be found there, maybe even a steam engine, but buried under a mound of ruins thousands of years old...
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Entirely plausible, depending on how the DM decides those past eras played out. Though I'd think they'd just end up getting scrapped for the metal, considering how rare it is on Athas!

The previous ages, the Blue and Green Ages, are almost totally forgotten, society has broken down so much that history has disappeared. I think a printing press could be found there, maybe even a steam engine, but buried under a mound of ruins thousands of years old...
 

Samloyal23

Explorer
Entirely plausible, depending on how the DM decides those past eras played out. Though I'd think they'd just end up getting scrapped for the metal, considering how rare it is on Athas!
Yes, Athasians would think of pillage first because hard metals like iron are so hard to come by on Athas. But it could set up all kinds of mysteries and make players wonder about the history of the planet, which except of the genocidal wars is largely a blank sheet. If you want to say that the Athasians in the Green Age had a tech level like WWII on Earth, go for it. Just find a way to explain away how rare metal is in the time of the campaign. Maybe all of the ancient steel and concrete buildings, car, planes, and tanks are buried under centuries of dust. Maybe someone made a plague that turned metal to dust. Maybe the planet was overrun by rust monsters. Pick an answer and run with it.
 

Fauchard1520

Explorer
Let’s talk waste management:

A Sphere of Annihilation works great for waste disposal...until someone unauthorized gets ahold of it.

An army of otyughs could be happy as employees of the city as sewage workers.

An Elemental firepit as an incinerator, perhaps? Maybe even ventilated to the quasi-Elemental plane of smoke?
I actually worked on a module that featured a boatload of slime and "municipal slime herds" as waste management. Adventuring opportunities were frequent in that particular city.
 

So how about it? Have you ever thrown phones or cars or gaming conventions into your settings? If so, how'd it work out?
D&D's rather prone to that sort of thing, sometimes more subtly than others. Like, a player noticed that the 'Sending Stone' was rather like a walkie-talkie or cell phone (or Sending itself rather like a telegram). So, I placed the epic-level version: the Sending Tablet, that was literally a roman-style wax tablet and functioned rather like a fantasy smartphone. ;P

It's amusing in more light-hearted campaigns, beer-and-pretzels gaming, and comedic one-shots.
 

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