Is It Magic?


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Basically, magic is ignorance. We can work with that.
Magic is understanding of alternative processes and occasional bargaining with other intelligences.

Truly, it depends on how you want to define magic and its degree within the rules and your milieu. For me, there are several gradiations of "weird", some magical and some not. Some are super-science, some not.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Magic is understanding of alternative processes and occasional bargaining with other intelligences.

Define "alternative". I mean, if I go next door to my electrical engineer friend, who knows how to repair computers far better than I, and I offer him pizza to fix my laptop, is that magic?

Truly, it depends on how you want to define magic and its degree within the rules and your milieu. For me, there are several gradiations of "weird", some magical and some not. Some are super-science, some not.

What's the difference between magic and super-science? How is bargaining with a demon different from bargaining with an alien from the planet Gotropos VI?
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
So, if you don't have natural philosophers, scientists and/or engineers... everything is magic! Willow bark tea? Magic! Rain falling in regular seasons? Magic!

Basically, magic is ignorance. We can work with that.
this is the Riddle of Steel

essentially this indeed is what magic is, African iron smelting involved both technical skill and propitiation of supernatural forces. Even today, real world carvers will talk about working with the Essence or Nature of the Wood or Stone to nring out the forms that are already there.
Its only 19th century svientific materialsm that tells us that technology and magic are distinct.
Tomas Aquinas defined supernatural as the secondary acts of God whereas Preternatural events were caused by the actions of created beings (including humans, demons and spirits). Newton looks to the divine order of the Pantokrator/Divine Providence.

DnD magic is a weird artifact of post industrial materialism but in the prehistory of DnD worlds
no doubt proto-Dwarves had to deal with earth and fire elementals to learn smelting, and then techniques to tame forge spirits and transmute raw ores, which others saw as magic but which the Iron Smiths developed as an Art.
Perhaps as these wild spirits were tamed and eventually domesticated their nature changed to conform to the Smiths Art - the Iron monger was now able to manipulate the material form of fire and iron without needing to tame the spirits, magic become civilised and systematic with a dualistic split between wild spirit and material art - at a philosophical level the split is divine/arcane. Eventually you get the post-industrial materialism of Arcane magic along with the older remnants of wild Scorcery, divine clergy and warlock propituation of greater Powers
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Its only 19th century svientific materialsm that tells us that technology and magic are distinct.

No, it is not only that, says the physicist.

...but in the prehistory of DnD worlds
no doubt proto-Dwarves had to deal with earth and fire elementals to learn smelting

No doubt? I have doubt.

Because... why? Are dwarves stupid? They can't interact with their environment on their own and figure things out on their own? The only way they can do anything new in the world is if someone tells them?
 

Define "alternative". I mean, if I go next door to my electrical engineer friend, who knows how to repair computers far better than I, and I offer him pizza to fix my laptop, is that magic?

What's the difference between magic and super-science? How is bargaining with a demon different from bargaining with an alien from the planet Gotropos VI?
Well, no. Of course not. I think one of us has lost track of the conversation. Read the bolded part again.

Truly, it depends on how you want to define magic and its degree within the rules and your milieu. For me, there are several gradiations of "weird", some magical and some not. Some are super-science, some not.
If you are really interested in the answer here, I am more than happy to have this discussion with you. We can discuss my levels of Mundane --> Uncanny --> Preternatural --> Supernatural, how it relates to the classes, abilities, and milieu. Where I found ideas, the differences between magic and super science, &c.

But, while I am happy to explain, and even discuss, I am not going to debate my conclusions. You have already lost. I have formed them over decades of reading a multiplicity of topics, including how various real world societies interacted with the unseen world. I am certainly open to new ideas and may modify or change some of the background of my milieu. But, sure as anything, I am not just going to throw it away because of some facile snit you seem to be in. The actual existence of supernatural phenomenon is irrelevant.

A question about the degree of magic in a setting came up, about a localized phenomenon. Your tone and presentation of point make you look like you're spoiling for a fight. I'm not interested.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Well, no. Of course not. I think one of us has lost track of the conversation.

No. I have not lost track. I'm just noting that the answers given are including hefty assumptions that aren't being mentioned.

But, while I am happy to explain, and even discuss, I am not going to debate my conclusions.

I'm not trying to debate conclusions. I am pointing out that things like "alternative" and "other intelligences" are poorly specified.

There is a tendency to be circular here - like, "it is magic because you call on demons to learn it". I ask, "What's a demon?" and the answer is, "Well, it is a magical being..." and we find the answer turns out self-referential.

So, I ask things like, "What's the difference between an alien and a demon for these purposes?" They are both "other intelligences".

You have already lost.

Ah. You are under the misapprehension that I am trying to win? Sorry. I'm not.

Your tone and presentation of point make you look like you're spoiling for a fight.

I am spoiling for non-self-referential clarity.
 

No. I have not lost track. I'm just noting that the answers given are including hefty assumptions that aren't being mentioned.

I'm not trying to debate conclusions. I am pointing out that things like "alternative" and "other intelligences" are poorly specified.

There is a tendency to be circular here...
Excellent! I am all for discussion. My apologies for apparently misinterpreting your posts.

Give me a moment.
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
No doubt? I have doubt.

Because... why? Are dwarves stupid? They can't interact with their environment on their own and figure things out on their own? The only way they can do anything new in the world is if someone tells them?
I said Dwarfs had to Deal with elementals and thus learned new techniques and skills not that the Elementals told them how to do it. For instance Hawks in Australia have been observed carrying burning sticks and actively helping to spread bush fires in order to herd prey - they have learned to Deal with fire. Hominids probaby had to deal with wild fires from lightning strikes and lava flows too eventually learning to control them.
proto-Dwarfs probably had to deal with similar wild magma flows but those dwarfs also live in worlds where those Wildfires might be intelligent and are often malicious. They learn to Deal with those sentient fires developing ways to keep the malicious ones at bay, or taming them and bending them to their will. Even real world superstitions and magic come from similar deals - knocking on wood to invoke wood spirits, hanging horseshoes above the door too keep out fey, tossing runes and chanting spells - all ways of Dealing with the world via magic.
Eventually the proto-dwarfs Art changes the nature of the world, the fire becomes tamed in the forge, horseshoes work to keep fey away and wizards develop formulaic expressions that get physical results
 
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Give me a moment.
Well, that was an awful, no-good, terrible day.

What's the difference between magic and super-science? How is bargaining with a demon different from bargaining with an alien from the planet Gotropos VI?

Magic is using chaos to shape the world according to your will.
Technology is using law to shape the world according to your will.

Law provides us with the natural laws. Through experimentation we can figure out how to exploit systems to do work for us. For example, channeling water over a wheel, turning an axle, performing some work. Chaos provides us with randomness and disruptive change. Through experimentation we can figure out how to change systems to do work for us. With the previous example, instead of water we animate some skeletons to turn the wheel. There are rules to the manipulation of chaos, but a person of sufficient will can sometime override them. Regardless of the amount of will a person has, they can not change natural law. Because of this there are some things that can be achieved with magic that can not be achieved by technology, and vice versa.

When communicating with various entities, it might seem at first that calling B'Melekek of Gotropos IV on the holovid and summoning the Tailor in Scales of the Azurine Drifts in a special circle are the same despite superficial differences. The first principle difference is that B'Melekek is a physical being and the Tailor is spiritual. B'Melekek has a physical body, a metabolism requiring food or sustenance of some manner, and will ultimately die from trauma or old age. The Tailor is a spiritual being. Their substance is ultimately immaterial and only minimally affected by physical means or forces. When summoned the magic provides a physical body for the Tailor, which takes an appearance based on the Tailor's personality. This body is incomplete; there are sufficient muscles, bones, integument, &c. for the Tailor to productively interact with others. But, it requires no physical sustenance, and besides a primitive lungs and GI track, it has no organs besides a heart which is there for mythic reasons.

But, if you are looking for lost treasure and they both have a map, is there still a difference? Aside from the means of contact, still the answer would be yes in the area of payment and enforcement. If you try to cheat the Tailor, you might find yourself in a summoning circle specially made for you. If you cheat B'Melekek, they're not able to instantly affect you three systems away, but you will have some bounty hunters sent after you.

Another difference between magic and technology is ease of use. You need an engineer to design and build a rifle*, you need a wizard to design and build a wand of magic missiles. Once the engineer has the raw materials and tools, they can make the rifle whenever they wish. The wizard has to rely on a number of astrological correspondences, special woods known for their affinity for weaponry, and perhaps a sacrifice to Sagittarius for permission and aid in the endeavor. Whatever makes the gathering, infusion, and stabilization of chaos into this item. Once the item is made they can use it. The engineer can then give the plans and the rifle itself to someone else and they can build it or use it. Since the rifle relies on natural law, anyone can use it. For the wand, only someone at least minimally proficient in the managing of chaos can harness the ability. Technology allows for mass production, magic is by necessity artisinal.

Going back to the OP, a lever opening a cleverly disguised portion of the wall is to me obviously an application of law, of technology. It might require some maintenance, but for narrative purposes everything looking worn or making creaking noises (if the mechanism would be percieved) when it activates would be enough.

Later, super science vs. high magic.

*Not wholly, but work with me for a bit.
 
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