Thursday, 30 April 2015

Worldbuilding your Magic

Magic In Relation to World Building

One thing I think we all forget when worldbuilding, is how things started, how things exist, how they work with each other. Magic is a fairly big upset to anything and everything. If magic existed from the start, can anyone, in all logical conclusion, say that their world would look anything like Medieval Europe?

Now sure, There were charlatans that claimed that magic existed, and used it to profit, or make a living. Soothsayers, Fortune Tellers, Witch Doctors. For the most part, they used perception tricks, fakery and general human power of belief to cause things to happen.

In that, we had witch burnings, and the inquisition. So imagine if those things were actually real?

A lot of recent discussion n the topic caused me to create this thread and jot down notes in it..

yeah, looks like a random search on google images
Here's what I came up with.

The Early Caveman had Shamans. [Why isn't it Shamen?]Usually a herbalist, soothsayer, most likely predicting events based on his age, experience with things.. The Cave Shaman was the Ancient version of Google. Now imagine if said Shaman had actual powers, not just perceived powers based on wisdom.

Soothsayers predicting weather more accurately with fish bones, means decreased deaths in storms, possibly more predictable travel across oceans.. smaller boats with a weather shamans are now hundreds of years in advance of our history. The Vikings would have become more efficient raiders 200+ years earlier.

Tribes were ruled by Brawn (assumed), would now magic become a more dominant trait? just that one path alone.. ignore all else, and nerds become rulers of society pre-iron-age, God-Kings are not just called God-kings, they are most likely bred together with witches to ensure magic in the royal blood.

Though Magic + Brains becomes the eventual power, the Brawn still has the upper hand in the first few years, would bullies become victims in the later years? would the alpha males be eradicated in favour of the Beta-mages. There was an article recently about a group of monkeys who lost their alpha males to poisoning, and within a generation, the tribe was peaceful, had little to no abuse, females were treated as equals. Would society mature and become utopia without the brutal power hungry alpha?

Assume that Brawn remains equally Dominant, or that Alpha Mages (Brawn + Magic) become leaders,. would now early society break far more into the Elite and the Slaves? The Elite breed with Mages Only to maintain the power, quashing all independent magical bloodlines.

The concept of the Advisor in many societies now becomes the mage, far more real than fictional variants, his/her spells are used to determine visitors/diplomats are being truthful, whole militant situations fall apart when the mage can force the diplomat to reveal all secrets.

On the subject of Wars, would you really arm hundreds of men to fight battles when you can send out a couple of sorcerers and their private guards? Imagine a Game of Civ without armies, because your opponent could just cast flame strike, now instead you need to just hire your own mage, and maybe an assassin+mage to take out his mage.

A lot of writers would probably want to 'balance' the magic, costs to cast, to ensure that the 'world' remains closer to their medieval history + magic vision. Things like, magic costs the user, the ability to procreate, or magic users are one in a million..They have their own work-arounds..

So, given that your brother is a mage, you're likely to be a mage, the council, asks you to not be a mage.. but instead marry a woman who is also asked not to be a mage. because genetically, you're both likely to have double-mage children.

If Magic Users are one in a million, then being the king who has a mage, now becomes supremely important, but careful that the mage doesn't want to be king himself.

When I talk of Wars and Advisors and Diplomats and such, I'm thinking Medieval in my head, but I really should be thinking ancient Greek or earlier.. because of my first few posts about magic coming in much earlier with cavemen, wouldn't it be safe to assume that this culture of magical Advisor to the King, or God-King exists far earlier than Knights on Horseback..moreso because there are more than a few thousand articles on the ideas that Technological advances in warfare came about because of warfare. They invented ways to get around what the enemy had invented, and in turn the enemy invented ways to thwart the new inventions.

Speculation that a "spell slinger" would make Armoured Knight obsolete as what Guns did in our History, should be taken back quite a few steps, where spell slinger comes in pre-Mesopotamia. Would anyone bother to make leather armour if a fireball is going to annihilate you anyway?

In my own world, I saw gunpowder being a very big danger to mages, an invention that gives non-mages the ability to take down a mage, as fast, if not faster than the mage can cast a protective spell, and being mages, they decided that it should not be invented. They dedicated a cult of magic users who learn several specific spells, such as Dimension Door, Scry, Mind-wipe and the like, so if (and when) Gunpowder is invented, they turn up, and erase the idea from the inventor, and destroy the laboratory. Of course a secret cult has developed it in secret, and have begun their development of the Gun, which makes a great back-drop for a campaign that I run.

There are so many possible ways that magic would interrupt, cause, hinder, help, change history, it makes little sense to try and make a medieval+magic fantasy trope.. and yet, if you go too far off from the trope, a lot of readers will not grasp what you're doing and you limit your audience..

I'm looking to put together a massive multi-player game of Civilization, which will explore this concept further, I'm not 100% sure of my approach, and how it will come about.. but stay tuned.  
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