Science in D&D

Aebir-Toril

std::cout << "Hi" << '\n';
So, having been inspire by a thread mentioning the relationship of monsters with nature as a philosophical concept, as well as [MENTION=4937]Celebrim[/MENTION] 's complaint, I've decided to stick something that I've been pondering for a while here, on EN World.

How much science do you like in your D&D? For example:

1. Do your monsters have *sigh* Lighting Blood, and are your snakes poisonous, rather than venomous?

2. Is magic a kind of science? Is magic more than just the manipulation of particles through the generation of electric potential within the brain that couples with a force known as the Weave to produce effects on 3d-dimensional structures?

3. Are your worlds planets? Do they exist in solar systems with correct mass to radius, logical core composition, rational positioning, and mathematically accurate orbits?

4. How do the planes exist? Are they separate from normal reality? How is this so?

5. Is your table of elements expanded to include metallic elements like adamantium and mithral? If so, how? If not, have you made metals like beryllium adamantium? Do you not worry about it at all?

I'm just sending this into the ether in hope of receiving insightful responses.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
So, having been inspire by a thread mentioning the relationship of monsters with nature as a philosophical concept, as well as @Celebrim 's complaint, I've decided to stick something that I've been pondering for a while here, on EN World.

How much science do you like in your D&D?
Science is incidental in our games because... wait for it... magic!
That's not to say I wouldn't consider a science-based D&D campaign. A bit more work, methinks, but could be fun.

1. Do your monsters have *sigh* Lighting Blood, and are your snakes poisonous, rather than venomous?
Now you've really done it and I can't unsee that they named those snakes incorrectly! Prior to now, I was blissfully ignorant. Hissssssss!

2. Is magic a kind of science? Is magic more than just the manipulation of particles through the generation of electric potential within the brain that couples with a force known as the Weave to produce effects on 3d-dimensional structures?
Could be. Don't like to over think it in the fantasy setting, though. And it is definitely NOT midichlorians. I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

3. Are your worlds planets? Do they exist in solar systems with correct mass to radius, logical core composition, rational positioning, and mathematically accurate orbits?
We've got two moons in the world that I run for three groups. Just because. Not too worried about gravitational effects specifically or astrophysics in general in our campaigns right now.

4. How do the planes exist? Are they separate from normal reality? How is this so?
This can cause my brain to hurt, but I do like to think about how this is even possible. Rick's portal gun has helped me visualize it a bit.

5. Is your table of elements expanded to include metallic elements like adamantium and mithral? If so, how? If not, have you made metals like beryllium adamantium? Do you not worry about it at all?
Hadn't really considered this before, but I would certainly enjoy perusing a D&D periodic table if someone were to create one!

I'm just sending this into the ether in hope of receiving insightful responses.
I chuckled a bit at your choice to use the word ether, given it's archaic usage in physics.

Thanks for the interesting post!
 

Stormonu

Hero
1) They do now

2) separate in my primary home brew; Science is a rational, natural explanation of universal constants that defines reality; Magic “happens” through sheer willpower or desire. Super science is a resource (and scientist a class) in my game where the manipulation of lesser known physical laws (think Star Trek quantum physics) can be used to powerful effect, and there was an ancient time when technology was superior to magic (but magic is a separate force, not “magic is misunderstood science”). They generally, in fact, cancel one another out - reality vs. whim - though there are a few ancient artifacts that mix science and magic (such as Lum the Mad’s engine) that are as powerful as they are rare.

3). For a brief stint of Spelljammer, they were celestial, planetoids bodies. I’ve changed it to be that my fantasy world sits inside a globe, with the oceans stretching out and up to become the sky. The gods have placed a few “palaces” in the heavens that equate to the moon and other celestial bodies (such as the Pearls of Triton, which float in the night sky to be the stars). Things like meteors are said to be celestial warriors streaking down from the heavens in a fiery descent to battle some evil, etc.

4) The planes are separate realms “adjacent” to my homebrew’s reality, but there are fixed portals to many places so that mortal residents generally believe they are an extension of the mortal realm. For example, there are stories of ancient dwarves delving so deep that they burrowed into the bank vaults of Hell and raided it’s treasury, and of heroes sailing into the skies to reach the palaces of the gods in the seven heavens.

5) I hadn’t considered expanding my table of elements to account for mystic elements, though the existence of “science” would seem to indicate that at least some exotic materials would be on the chart (such as Adamantine, Mithral and Black Steel). Certain mystical elements though, would defy such classifications and be unreproduceable through mundane means (such as Soulwood).
 

the Jester

Legend
How much science do you like in your D&D?
As much as improves the game without getting in the way of it.

1. Do your monsters have *sigh* Lighting Blood, and are your snakes poisonous, rather than venomous?
I'm not sure what the lightning blood refers to. As for poisonous rather than venomous- nomenclature is often technically incorrect. For instance, a screaming devilkin is not actually kin to devils, a pitch fiend isn't technically a fiend, etc. This actually enhances the setting, in my opinion, because even in a relatively educated world, people call things names without necessarily understanding those names all the time.

2. Is magic a kind of science? Is magic more than just the manipulation of particles through the generation of electric potential within the brain that couples with a force known as the Weave to produce effects on 3d-dimensional structures?
Magic is not a science. There may be rules and the like, but it's not a science. It doesn't work the same for everyone, and the same magical act can produce differing results depending on the circumstances.

3. Are your worlds planets? Do they exist in solar systems with correct mass to radius, logical core composition, rational positioning, and mathematically accurate orbits?
No, my setting takes place on the inside surface of an enormous air bubble within an even more enormous body of water. There's no gravity, but surface tension effectively takes its place. The Sun orbits a specific island. Moons pass by once or twice in a lifetime. Basically, the world has its own set of rules that are very different from those our world operates under.

4. How do the planes exist? Are they separate from normal reality? How is this so?
I'm not sure what you're asking here. How do they exist? Like, how did they come to be? The current arrangement fell into being as a result of the Dawn War between the primordials, who dealt in stuff and substance, and the gods, who dealt in ideas and philosophy.

5. Is your table of elements expanded to include metallic elements like adamantium and mithral? If so, how? If not, have you made metals like beryllium adamantium? Do you not worry about it at all?
The elements are air, earth, fire, and water. Everything else arises from some combination of those. So, no.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
For clarification:

When you say "Science", are you referring to the concept and process of science?
Or are you asking how much our D&D worlds cleave to the Biology, Chemistry, physics etc of real-world earth?
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
For me, the answer is philosophically aligned along the "Because magic!" axis... which is "I don't care."

I personally do not DM to "world build". I care little about how magic "works" or how much science "exists" compared to magic, or "is magic science or is science magic" etc. etc. etc. I DM to tell stories with my friends.

And this is exactly the same reason why I don't really care about game mechanics either. I don't play any RPG because I want to use the "game mechanics" to their full effect. If I want to use "game mechanics" to their full effect, I'll play board games. Those are specifically designed to use and highlight game mechanics, and not get slowed down with all that "roleplaying" in between.

Now yes, someone will rightly ask why then I use "game mechanics" at all when I roleplay, if those are a potential hindrance to "telling stories with my friends". And that is a very cogent and valid question. To which the answer is "If my entire table were good enough improvisers that we COULD just narrate and roleplay everything out (including combats and such), then I probably would." I'd play things like Fiasco or Ten Candles much more often than I do if my players and friends had any interest to do so. But since they don't, then I don't (at least until I get to the Games On Demand tables at PAX.) As a result, I run D&D for them, but not get myself hung up on game mechanics or how the "world works" in the stories we play. (Unless of course there's a particular PC that cares about a very specific way the world works, in which case then sure I'll figure it out for them what this little slice is capable of. That way their story can have something juicy and weighty to work through and it doesn't invalidate their character choice.)

Is this antithetical to most other DMs or players (especially here on ENWorld)? Most assuredly. We can probably name right now the several posters here that would read this post of mine that says I don't really care much at all about the mechanics of the game, nor the need for books with MORE mechanics... and what their incredulous response to me would be. Which is cool. No skin off my nose if you'd hate playing in my game. ;)

So to make a long story short (too late!)... figuring out the science of my worlds only matters if there's a character for whom a particular branch of the science is important to them and their story. At which time I'll work some stuff out to give their story potential more weight, because that's my job as their DM. Other than that though? I'll never be concerned how far along physics research is, nor why some clockwork items get made but not others. If those questions won't ever impact the PCs, then I'm not concerned about the answers at all.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
How much science do you like in your D&D?
Note: I have advanced degrees in Physics. So, my perspective may be a bit different from others.

1. Do your monsters have *sigh* Lighting Blood, and are your snakes poisonous, rather than venomous?
I don't know what you mean by the former. The latter isn't about science, it is about language use.

2. Is magic a kind of science? Is magic more than just the manipulation of particles through the generation of electric potential within the brain that couples with a force known as the Weave to produce effects on 3d-dimensional structures?
Nope. And yep. Specifically, characters in the world who try to apply the scientific method to magical investigation will fail to find unifying principles.

3. Are your worlds planets? Do they exist in solar systems with correct mass to radius, logical core composition, rational positioning, and mathematically accurate orbits?
Typically undetermined. I don't set such details unless/until they become relevant to play.

4. How do the planes exist? Are they separate from normal reality? How is this so?
Mostly the same as for (3) - basically, this only needs to be answered if the metaphysics are going to be something the PCs can interact with. Plus, you need to define "reality" for this question to be answerable.

Look at Stranger Things - three seasons, and no real understanding of what the Upside Down is, beyond "dark reflection of our world, toxic and full of monsters", but adventure happens just fine.

5. Is your table of elements expanded to include metallic elements like adamantium and mithral? If so, how? If not, have you made metals like beryllium adamantium? Do you not worry about it at all?
My D&D worlds typically are relegated to pre-1789 technical understanding - that's before Lavoisier's organization of elements. The world doesn't know what a periodic table of elements is, so I don't have to make one.
 
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It depends on what you mean by science.

There's an article pointing out how magic in D&D worlds operates according to weird pseudo-scientific rules that aren't consistent with how pre-modern societies imagined magic.

If magic exists, then your setting should be build holistically according to magical physics. Rather than being some unnatural cheat code tacked on to real physics, magic would be the fantasy world's equivalent of science and technology.

The D&D cosmology is horribly convoluted so I typically ignore it and when I do need to detail it, such as for planar adventures, I simplify everything into the omniverse/world axis cosmology. Not just because it is simple, but because it reflects how most ancient religions viewed cosmology.

Space travel is iffy. I like having fantastical magic-powered space travel, but for whatever reason it never really appealed to a lot of people. So I just use the mechanics from Aether & Flux (it's no longer being sold on Drivethrurpg for some reason, so I would suggest contacting the publisher directly). I'd either no have other planes involved, or they would be planets (similar to the "orrery" planar cosmology model). Yes, you'd be able to chart a spaceflight to Planet Hell like in that episode of StarGate SG-1.
 
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The game multiverse is not our universe, the laws of nature don't have to be the same.

Normally I expect reasonable similitude with RL locally, meaning that macroscopic effects such as gravity, combustion, heat, light and sound etc. can be expected to work like IRL.

On the other hand, beyond locally I encourage the pkayers not to care, and by that I mean beyond the reach of the characters direct experience. We normally assume the fantasy world is round (although it doesn't have to), but we don't care about going to space, or how is matter below the visible scale. Stuff at a scale much bigger or smaller than the characters' lives is not really their business.

I think of it as what could have been the state of mind of the ancients: they just didn't have the means to interact (hence study) reality beyond a limited scale, so most people just ignored the issue or make up a fancy tale about it.
 

aco175

Adventurer
A lot of things have never come up or been thought about for my games. I find that everyone believes things work the way they do on Earth unless something is spelled out. elements and special metals do not need to be spelled out until there is a reason for it such as a PC going on a quest to make some or gather some. Things like the order of the universe has never come up and most likely never will. Some things such as the difference between poisonous and venomous is just understood and does not need to be brought up in my game. If it does poison damage then it is poisonous. I suppose lightning blood could be lightningous and my players would know what I mean. Kind of like the question on how you pronounce drow.
 
The answer to pretty much all of those is "the people who live in the world don't understand how it works".

Which is pretty much like the real world (a scientist simply being someone who has a better idea of how little they know than the general population does).
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
When I run, the more powerful the magic, the more mysterious and less scientific it is. Hiring a wizard to cast arcane lock in a reliable, repeatable fashion = science-like. Cleric succeeds on Divine Intervention and some weird random :):):):) happens = not very scientific. This is sort of like Sanderson's First Law applied to gaming.
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
How much science do you like in your D&D?
Enough for things to make internal sense and consistency. I prefer to have enough semblance of real-world physics for me to relate with my character (i.e. gravity pull things downward), but with enough flexibility for fantasy to remain, well fantastic (i.e. magic can make gravity pull things upward instead).

However, I must say I have a strong preference for birds, reptiles, and mammals to be four-limbs creatures. Some might have been obviously "genetically" manipulated (like griffons), but I otherwise prefer four-limbs dragons among other things.

Aebir-Toril said:
1. Do your monsters have *sigh* Lighting Blood, and are your snakes poisonous, rather than venomous?
Don't know about lightning blood. I use the term poisonous snake, because it deals poison damage, regardless whether it is injected or ingested.

Aebir-Toril said:
2. Is magic a kind of science? Is magic more than just the manipulation of particles through the generation of electric potential within the brain that couples with a force known as the Weave to produce effects on 3d-dimensional structures?
Magic is not a science, but one can have a scientific approach to magic. That's how I see wizards, and how they differentiate themselves from other casters.

I also like when magic has its own laws and principles, even when casters are not aware of them. I try to go easy on the "because magic!" or "because dragons!", but a certain dose is necessary IMO for the game to remain healthy.

Aebir-Toril said:
3. Are your worlds planets? Do they exist in solar systems with correct mass to radius, logical core composition, rational positioning, and mathematically accurate orbits?
Maybe... Probably... This is more of a "no peanut-butter in my Nutella" thing; I prefer to keep notions of planets and interstellar travel to sci-fi and Princess of Mars planet-fantasy type games.

Aebir-Toril said:
4. How do the planes exist? Are they separate from normal reality? How is this so?
Planes are metaphysical concepts. They exist as a place you can visit. They don't make sense. I'm cool with that.


Aebir-Toril said:
5. Is your table of elements expanded to include metallic elements like adamantium and mithral? If so, how? If not, have you made metals like beryllium adamantium? Do you not worry about it at all?
I don't really worry about it, but now that I think of it, I prefer to see them as alternate state of already-existing metals/elements, some specific alloys, or just fantasy names for modern metals such as Aluminium or Titanium (which ironically is perhaps the most fantasy-sounding element, along with cobalt)

TL;DR I like to have a world and magic that have their rules and limits, and consistent applications of these rules and limits.
 
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How much science do you like in your D&D?
I'm kinda bi-polar about it.

I like throwing in details that you might recognize from a modern/scientific standpoint. Like I described the geography of one city in a way that made it very clear to anyone with a passing familiarity of geology that it was likely built in a (hopefully extinct) volcanic caldera - or, at least, would be if the world in question was a planet with plate tectonics and such going on.

But, as far as how the world officially works, I like to go full-bore fantasy, or mine the history of science for oddities like phlogiston, spontaneous generation, etc. ;) Oh, and of course the four Elements - or humors - D&D's pretty big on the elements, so why not?

Are your worlds planets? Do they exist in solar systems with correct mass to radius, logical core composition, rational positioning, and mathematically accurate orbits?
For a long time I set my D&D campaign on a flat world inside an iron sphere.

Is your table of elements expanded to include metallic elements like adamantium and mithral?
Not in D&D, but in my Champions! campaign Adamantium was a stable island element, the final decay product of "Radium-X."
 

Monayuris

Explorer
In terms of my setting background... science and magic are different concepts but have a unified origin. My world is an actual planet that exists in a solar system that exists in a galaxy and so on.

There was a super science Visitor race that colonized the planet in the ancient past. They were wiped out after a scientific catastrophe of their own making, but their technology remains. There are teleportation networks and underground maglev train networks in my campaign world. In addition, the world is filled with the remains of their super technology (energy weapons, spacecraft, nanotech fabrication machines, etc.)

Over the generations, the primitive species of the planet became what is now known as humans, dwarves and elves, etc... unearthed many of these remains. Their original function and the science explaining them have all been lost. These remains have become categorized as places of magic or infested with demonic power or by however means their superstitions allow them to understand. Such places include dungeons, cursed locations, planar rifts and so on.

For example, the ancient Druids uncovered the teleportation nexuses. They didn't understand the technology, but figured out if they built these henges and collected the correct fetishes they can sort of operate them. Now there are several of such nexuses discovered and marked by henges. The ancient Druids also found areas that had a focus of high energy waves and found if they built their menhirs on these sites, they can have audio and visual communication between them.

The catastrophe wiped out most of the Visitors (some remain in stasis deep in the earth) but has continued to affect the world. The radiation given forth by the event probably is what allows magic to happen, is the reason undead exist, and has likely mutated multitudes of creatures into what they are now.

The understanding of these effects as magic has led to an alternate revolution of thought. The concept of science in trying to understand the world never became a thing, in a way magic is the method in which the denizens of the world qualify and quantify the world around them. The sages and academics of the world explain it in terms of magic not science.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
In my opinion, fantasy is at its best when it doesn’t matter whether it’s magic or science. Are the stars portals to the Far Realm? Are they pinpricks in the plane’s crystal sphere bored by nautaloid spelljammers? Or are they balls of nuclear energy light years away? These are interesting questions for scholars of the arcane to ponder in their ivory towers, but at the end of the day what matters is that they’re lights in the sky, and Aberrant creatures came from them to our world. Are dwarven-made weapons better because of the ritual significance they put on smithing? The specific ritual processes they perform while they do their craft? The runes they carve in the weapons? Or simply advanced metallurgical techniques they employ? Who cares, Dwarven weapons are better, the reason they’re better doesn’t really matter.

Because of this, one of my world building design goals is to leave these things ambiguous. Leave the possibility of scientific explanation, without weighing in on whether or not it’s The Truth.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
So, having been inspire by a thread mentioning the relationship of monsters with nature as a philosophical concept, as well as @Celebrim 's complaint, I've decided to stick something that I've been pondering for a while here, on EN World.

How much science do you like in your D&D? For example:

1. Do your monsters have *sigh* Lighting Blood, and are your snakes poisonous, rather than venomous?

2. Is magic a kind of science? Is magic more than just the manipulation of particles through the generation of electric potential within the brain that couples with a force known as the Weave to produce effects on 3d-dimensional structures?

3. Are your worlds planets? Do they exist in solar systems with correct mass to radius, logical core composition, rational positioning, and mathematically accurate orbits?

4. How do the planes exist? Are they separate from normal reality? How is this so?

5. Is your table of elements expanded to include metallic elements like adamantium and mithral? If so, how? If not, have you made metals like beryllium adamantium? Do you not worry about it at all?

I'm just sending this into the ether in hope of receiving insightful responses.
1. Dragons are essentially a genetic blend of snake and lion − often recombined with eagle and goat − designed to prey on human instinctive phobias − sometimes the snake-lion can blend other animals (eel, angler, gazelle, deer, wolf, bat, etcetera). The ‘firebreathing’ is either projectile snake venom, actually fiery methane, or electrical field.

2. Mysticism is to modern science, as folk medicine is to modern medicine. The traditions evolve within cultures because they work to some degree but remain less well understood scientifically. Science will eventually understand precisely how it works. Mysticism relates to existential ‘being’, the ‘quantum observer effect’, space-time relativity, and related weirdness. There is a nexus between consciousness and quantum states, and human mental archetypes appear to be an organizing principle.

3. Normal planets.

4. Beyond the material plane are nonmaterial ways of interacting − subtle mental influences, energy states, and so on. Ether = patterns of space and light. Also virtual reality via internet. Essentially, planes are ‘modes’ that are subtle aspects of this universe. ‘True telepathy’ is an overlay of entangling minds. ‘Virtual telepathy’ is essentially a wireless computer implanted as wetware in a brain.

5. Adamantium is Hellenistic Classical ‘adamans’, a kind of gem. It relates to a modified clear corundum (ruby and sapphire) and resembles diamond. Once this gem crystallizes it cannot be reshaped. The transparent plates are sometimes gold-leafed underneath for visual decoration.
 
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If we're discussing fantasy science anyway, then something I'd like to note is level progression. It is commonly treated as an abstraction, but what if it wasn't a simple abstraction? What if, for example, monsters evolved into higher HD/CR monsters to mirror the way that PCs advanced in level? This concept appears in some GameLit like Overlord and Tensei Slime: skeleton mages progress into elder liches, ogres progress into ogre mages, etc.
 

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