Why Do So Many People View Science and Magic As Incompatible?


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We've all been part of at least one of these "discussions" in our times as gamers. Maybe you wanted to play a Spellslinger and your DM slapped you down hard. Maybe you wanted to be an alchemist that hunts dragons. Perhaps you were asking to bring something out of Numeria. So many players don't want any technology, even alien technology, interacting with their fantasy worlds.

Why do we do that? Where does this knee jerk reaction come from?

I think that it's because the incompatibility of science and magic has been the standard for so long that it's left an imprint on genre lovers. The sliding scale of technology and magic, I'm referring to it. Why do we treat it as the standard though?

More About The Sliding Scale Right Here


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Some character ideas don't mix with some campaigns. The GM is not obligated to allow every player option that has ever been printed for Pathfinder. It doesn't have to be about the sliding scale; it can simply be a matter of campaign flavor, balance, or anything else.


Often, it's for a sense of balance.

You can gain power from magic or technology. Pick your favourite flavour.

If you can gain power from both then it's likely that technomagical characters will reign supreme, having twice the power.


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You've more or less answered your own question. It's one of the standard tropes and has been for a long time (it certainly predates Tolkien, for example). That's one of the reasons you put a horseshoe over your door -- because the Fair Folk can't handle modern technology like iron.

Depending upon what kind of game your group want to run, Pathfinder may or may not be the best system to use, and not all parts of the Pathfinder ruleset may be appropriate. If you want to run a high-chivalry story based, for example, on the Arthurian cycle, you might want to restrict the player characters to martial types only and reserve wizards to NPC's -- and similarly all characters must be human. If your game is set in an analogue to medieval France, you might not want ninjas in angry black pyjamas or katana-swinging samurai.

And if you're doing fantasy-pirates-on-the-Spanish-Main (which Paizo calls the Skull and Shackles adventure path) you may want lots of gunpowder explosions.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Umbral Reaver wrote:

Often, it's for a sense of balance.

You can gain power from magic or technology. Pick your favourite flavour.

If you can gain power from both then it's likely that technomagical characters will reign supreme, having twice the power.

This is a total cop out. If there is an imbalance, there's a problem with the rules, not the concept. Its almost always the concept that is regected. People who have problems with the rules just generally change them.

There were tons of anti iron gods and technology guide posts long before the actual rules were discovered.

And that balance isnt really hard to manage, just make them draw from the same resource pool You gain technology either through treasure, or through class abilities. Since both of those are also how you gain magical power, you dont get double power, you get part of one and part of the other. If everything is valued properly theres never an issue.

As for why people reject the concept, no idea...its been a part of dnd since there was a dnd, actually before. The dying earth (you know, where the concept of dnd magic comes from) was science and sorcery, with space ships and flying cars along side wizards and magic items. But some people prefer a revisionist vision of the history of both the fantasy genre and dnd in general, claiming the dont want any new fangled laser guns on their lawns.

Me I am running iron gods. I love me some robots and laser with magic and elves. No real reason I need to segregate the things I like (science fiction and fantasy). Lets strap some rocket launchers and power armor on that dragon and lets do this.


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I'm typing this from my crystal ball.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

It is about personal investment in what the individual deems fantasy and science.

You say fantasy and you will get different answers. For some, it is a Tolkien-ese setting. For someone else, it might be something like Game of Thrones or the Shanarra series by Terry Brooks. Or Greyhawk or Blackmoor or the Forgotten Realms or any number of fantasy tropes.

If your fantasy is Tolkien-ese, Game of Thrones, etc like, obviously there is very little science in it so that person is more prone to outright reject the notion of scifi tropes in the game.

Now if your view of fantasy is like Blackmoor or the Forgotten Realms, there is some science elements, like crashed starships, ancient tech for the former and Lantan inventors for firearms and technology for the latter. Now, your more open to having scifi themes in your campaign.

If your fantasy is John Cartier of Mars Barsoom, then you have a whole lot more scifi themes and most likely, for those players, scifi themes would be embraced readily.

So it comes down to what the individual considers 'fantasy' and it will bear on how much science themes will be tolerate by said person.

Main thing is, there is no 'wrong' answer here. Someone who considers Barsoom/Sword and Planet as their ideal view of fantasy is not superior or inferior to someone who prefers a Tolkien like setting as their idea of fantasy.


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I was relatively bright-eyed, my tail somewhat bushy, when I started getting seriously into D&D around the time that Eberron hit. For me and mine the concept of magic and technology are not mutually exclusive at all because years of our gameplay has been in the Eberron setting. Instead we like to think that in a world with prevalent magic there would necessarily be things that people would do where they wouldn't need "industrial" technology otherwise, like electric lights or transportation or long-distance communication. Nobody's bothered to figure out the other way because it's already pretty easy to get ahold of it through magic (I mean, how many of us are sitting around trying to find an alternative to our telecommunications infrastructure or looking for a completely new mode of transportation?).

So technology tends to incorporate magic in our campaigns for the most part. Where it diverges is where we get the sort of Legend of Korra idea of people unable to do magic trying to replicate or overcome those who can. For instance, in my Reign of Winter campaign the gunslinger is pursuing his vendetta against winter witches and is harnessing a technology we've decided has been created by certain small enclaves of people who hate mages. 99% of people haven't encountered guns, and they frequently mistake him for a wizard using small metal balls as his "staff's" material components.

I think we tend to get caught up in the no technology stuff for fantasy because we either don't want to come up with a reason for it to be incorporated into the world, or we just don't want to have it ruin the aesthetic. I do love the idea of magic taking the place of steam, oil, coal, electricity, etc. that we use all the time though.


Kolokotroni wrote:
Umbral Reaver wrote:

Often, it's for a sense of balance.

You can gain power from magic or technology. Pick your favourite flavour.

If you can gain power from both then it's likely that technomagical characters will reign supreme, having twice the power.

This is a total cop out. If there is an imbalance, there's a problem with the rules, not the concept. Its almost always the concept that is regected. People who have problems with the rules just generally change them.

There were tons of anti iron gods and technology guide posts long before the actual rules were discovered.

And that balance isnt really hard to manage, just make them draw from the same resource pool You gain technology either through treasure, or through class abilities. Since both of those are also how you gain magical power, you dont get double power, you get part of one and part of the other. If everything is valued properly theres never an issue.

As for why people reject the concept, no idea...its been a part of dnd since there was a dnd, actually before. The dying earth (you know, where the concept of dnd magic comes from) was science and sorcery, with space ships and flying cars along side wizards and magic items. But some people prefer a revisionist vision of the history of both the fantasy genre and dnd in general, claiming the dont want any new fangled laser guns on their lawns.

Me I am running iron gods. I love me some robots and laser with magic and elves. No real reason I need to segregate the things I like (science fiction and fantasy). Lets strap some rocket launchers and power armor on that dragon and lets do this.

It isn't, however, a part of every person's D&D. Just because there were D&D modules that incorporate technology didn't mean that the DM was therefore obligated to incorporate technology into any campaign that they run. I had never played nor run a game with anything more modern than the old, crappy arquebus before Pathfinder--not because it didn't exist but because that wasn't how we rolled. Some folks still don't roll that way. That's fine.

To the OP, if you'd like to play a game that incorporates technology, put up an LFG or GM your own game of it! It can certainly be a lot of fun.


Kolokotroni wrote:
Umbral Reaver wrote:

Often, it's for a sense of balance.

You can gain power from magic or technology. Pick your favourite flavour.

If you can gain power from both then it's likely that technomagical characters will reign supreme, having twice the power.

This is a total cop out. If there is an imbalance, there's a problem with the rules, not the concept. Its almost always the concept that is regected. People who have problems with the rules just generally change them.

There were tons of anti iron gods and technology guide posts long before the actual rules were discovered.

And that balance isnt really hard to manage, just make them draw from the same resource pool You gain technology either through treasure, or through class abilities. Since both of those are also how you gain magical power, you dont get double power, you get part of one and part of the other. If everything is valued properly theres never an issue.

As for why people reject the concept, no idea...its been a part of dnd since there was a dnd, actually before. The dying earth (you know, where the concept of dnd magic comes from) was science and sorcery, with space ships and flying cars along side wizards and magic items. But some people prefer a revisionist vision of the history of both the fantasy genre and dnd in general, claiming the dont want any new fangled laser guns on their lawns.

Me I am running iron gods. I love me some robots and laser with magic and elves. No real reason I need to segregate the things I like (science fiction and fantasy). Lets strap some rocket launchers and power armor on that dragon and lets do this.

Sorry for being unclear. I meant societal power. As an empire, one that wields both powers together can do a lot more. Whole Civilisations aren't bound by 'WBL' or class balance.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It has absolutely nothing to do with that.

Fact of the matter is the DM is building a specific world, what you put in has a ripple affect on the character of that world, depending on the type and ubiquity of said technology. The crashed ship module in Barrier Peaks had no impact because none of the tech could be duplicated in Greyhawk, and anything you took out of the ship ran on power disks with just a couple of charges remaining turning all that gear rapidly into nonfunctional curiosities. Numerian tech is effectively contained within the region, because the generators that recharge power cells are too big to move and beyond the Numerian's ability to duplicate. And magic will serve to recharge them only in a very limited and risky manner.

Rifles on the other hand, have a major impact on cavalry troops. Numerian tech with available generators changes the game entirely.

There's no simple quick and easy definitive answer for all of these questions because the problem varies tremendously with what you want to drag in, and it's ubiquity.

It has tremendous impact on the setting, the tactics, the very flavor of the world. There's no big mystery on the answer to your question, it's about how the player is trying to define the GM's world by throwing something that's not in the inital mix.

There seems to be this undercurrent of thought that just because Paizo has published tech rules, and that there is a region with SOME partially understood tech within it, that the GM is now obligated to throw open the floodgates on every campaign run with Pathfinder from now through eternity.

That's not how the game rolled when it first came out as Chainmail, and there's no reason for that now. All these various things are a toolbox and a menu, no DM should be obligated to throw in the entire kitchen sink.


Puna'chong wrote:
I do love the idea of magic taking the place of steam, oil, coal, electricity, etc. that we use all the time though.

I think that's a major part of the issue most people have, though. One of the standard fantasy tropes is that magic is rare and romantic,... but it's much harder to keep it that way when you can buy a death stick at any Wal*Mart.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Puna'chong wrote:
I do love the idea of magic taking the place of steam, oil, coal, electricity, etc. that we use all the time though.

I think that's a major part of the issue most people have, though. One of the standard fantasy tropes is that magic is rare and romantic,... but it's much harder to keep it that way when you can buy a death stick at any Wal*Mart.

This is Eberron.

Not that I mind! I'm in an Eberron campaign currently and having a good time.


Some people just don't like the flavor taste of fantasy-sci fi. It's like putting bacon into a maple leaf donut. A lot of people like em', a few go "wtf is this crap? These things shouldn't me mixed!"


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Puna'chong wrote:
I do love the idea of magic taking the place of steam, oil, coal, electricity, etc. that we use all the time though.

I think that's a major part of the issue most people have, though. One of the standard fantasy tropes is that magic is rare and romantic,... but it's much harder to keep it that way when you can buy a death stick at any Wal*Mart.

Right, and if you're playing Pathfinder mostly as written and as intended, there'll be magic stuff all over the place. Thinking that people would be stuck in a rut for thousands of years when they can do things like fly, teleport, mold solid stone with their hands, summon otherworldly creatures, commune with gods, etc. is a little hard. If you are playing a low magic campaign though I'm totally on board, and have nothing against the rarity of magic or technology. I think rationally, though, if every town has someone who can use magic or has a store selling it then it's relatively prevalent and there would definitely (in my mind) be people pushing the boundaries every day.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Puna'chong wrote:


Right, and if you're playing Pathfinder mostly as written and as intended, there'll be magic stuff all over the place. Thinking that people would be stuck in a rut for thousands of years when they can do things like fly, teleport, mold solid stone with their hands, summon otherworldly creatures, commune with gods, etc. is a little hard. If you are playing a low magic campaign though I'm totally on board, and have nothing against the rarity of magic or technology. I think rationally, though, if every town has someone who can use magic or has a store selling it then it's relatively prevalent and there would definitely (in my mind) be people pushing the boundaries every day.

Magic isn't common in Golarion the way that tech is here. Virtually everyone in America has access to light switches, refrigerators, and fantastic communication and informtion devices. The average person in Golarion will never be teleported, nor can they even afford the price of a simple 1st level wand. For that matter hiring an NPC caster for a first level spell would break the budgets of most ordinry non-adventuring folk. Magic is certainly present enough for the average yokel to give misinformed talk about it, but the accessibility is another thing altogether.

The fact that adventuring PC's have the access they do, is part of what sets them apart from the common schlebs.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
blahpers wrote:
It isn't, however, a part of every person's D&D. Just because there were D&D modules that incorporate technology didn't mean that the DM was therefore obligated to incorporate technology into any campaign that they run. I had never played nor run a game with anything more modern than the old, crappy arquebus before Pathfinder--not because it didn't exist but because that wasn't how we rolled. Some folks still don't roll that way. That's fine.

It wasnt just modules. Rules for laser guns have been in dmgs since Adnd. And I certainly get that its not everyone's preference. And certainly it doesnt fit every campaign.

But the issue I have is the idea many have that it should NEVER fit into a fantasy game. And that's sort of what I have a problem with. Its the whole 'I'm taking my ball and going home' mentality. The intollerance and refusal to find a way to incorporate someone else's fun into your own. Is it really unreasonable for someone to expect their friend to over months or even years eventually run a campaign that includes something they want to try? Why does it 'ruin' a campaign to have a region like numeria in it? Or alkenstar? Is it really a world shattering horror?

At some point it stops being a matter of 'how you roll' and starts being about being a jerk to your friends. I have no idea where that line is, and I am sure everyone's milage will vary. But anyone who says never to a concept(not like specific rule, but a concept) proposed by their friend to include in a game they run is over some period of time, being a jerk.


Kolokotroni wrote:
blahpers wrote:
It isn't, however, a part of every person's D&D. Just because there were D&D modules that incorporate technology didn't mean that the DM was therefore obligated to incorporate technology into any campaign that they run. I had never played nor run a game with anything more modern than the old, crappy arquebus before Pathfinder--not because it didn't exist but because that wasn't how we rolled. Some folks still don't roll that way. That's fine.

It wasnt just modules. Rules for laser guns have been in dmgs since Adnd. And I certainly get that its not everyone's preference. And certainly it doesnt fit every campaign.

But the issue I have is the idea many have that it should NEVER fit into a fantasy game. And that's sort of what I have a problem with. Its the whole 'I'm taking my ball and going home' mentality. The intollerance and refusal to find a way to incorporate someone else's fun into your own. Is it really unreasonable for someone to expect their friend to over months or even years eventually run a campaign that includes something they want to try? Why does it 'ruin' a campaign to have a region like numeria in it? Or alkenstar? Is it really a world shattering horror?

At some point it stops being a matter of 'how you roll' and starts being about being a jerk to your friends. I have no idea where that line is, and I am sure everyone's milage will vary. But anyone who says never to a concept(not like specific rule, but a concept) proposed by their friend to include in a game they run is over some period of time, being a jerk.

That said, practically every major city has a huge temple with casting-capable clerics, as well as an arcane college. There are dozens of these places all across Golarion. So while people out farming might never see more than an occasional wandering bard or low-level druid, those who live in Korvosa or Egorian are a lot more likely to be face-to-face with power on a daily basis (even if it's not directed at them).


Puna'chong wrote:
I think rationally, though, if every town has someone who can use magic or has a store selling it then it's relatively prevalent and there would definitely (in my mind) be people pushing the boundaries every day.

Not at the listed prices for magic. There's obviously some source of scarcity-value in Golarion, and you can find dozens of threads offering suggestions and speculations about what it is. But it's easy enough to do the math. A typical citizen with ordinary skills makes about 3sp per day, or roughly 100gp per year. Or, if you like, a single gold piece is worth roughly $100 (US) in today's money.

A potion of cure light wounds or similar first level spell therefore costs as much as a car, and a hat of disguise costs as much as a house. I could buy a condominium for the cost of a teleport spell, but I can get on a plane and go halfway around the world here in the real world for a few day's wages.


I think the best answer is genre. I'm not bothered by concepts being slapped down by the DM for technology but some people are offended when rules for technology get released in the first place, especially in a pulp fantasy setting like Golarion. I also have a problem with people that don't think that magic and technology don't exist together in any setting. Like Final Fantasy, Thundercats, He-man and Ebberon don't exist or are drastically inferior to medieval Europe fantasy. I will fight on technology limits that don't make sense in the context of the rest of the setting.


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I don't really mind the occasional trove of alien or lost tech, like Barrier Peaks or even Numeria, but I do like my D&D fantasy more medieval or at least renaissance like in style than later period. I like having knights in armor and swords and archers along with my mages and priests. I find that the sword and horses and bows being commonly used in the same settings where science fiction tech is commonly used jars me. Even guns as effective as PFs are a bit of a jolt. I find the restrictions that keep them from replacing the earlier weapons seem too artificial. Having trains and steamships and the like do the same.

Nothing wrong with mixing magic with higher tech. Shadowrun is a great setting. Fantasy Westerns or Age of Piracy stuff can be fun too. It's mixing the other tropes of fantasy with common higher tech that bothers me.


I think the reasoning is that technology relies on physics being predictable and results being repeatable in order to function, and the most fundamental thing about magic is that it breaks the laws of reality (i.e. physics). Therefor magic must be detrimental to technology.

The thing that doesn't parse is that in most settings magic breaks the laws of physics predictably. That's why wizards have precise formulas for each spell in their spell book. When they perform these specific actions they get this specific result. Except in the cases of rare wild magic events, or scroll mishaps, casters pretty much always get exactly the effect that they mean to when they cast a spell. That means that in a world where magic exists, the laws of magic just become another element of the rules of physics.

There's no reason that someone couldn't create a machine capable of harnessing those rules. Really, the magic item creation rules pretty much already allow for "make things that manipulate , or create preprogrammed magical effects" which is exactly what any techno-magic doodad would do.

There is really no objective reason that magic and technology couldn't exist alongside each other, or even mix beneficially.


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Kolokotroni wrote:
blahpers wrote:
It isn't, however, a part of every person's D&D. Just because there were D&D modules that incorporate technology didn't mean that the DM was therefore obligated to incorporate technology into any campaign that they run. I had never played nor run a game with anything more modern than the old, crappy arquebus before Pathfinder--not because it didn't exist but because that wasn't how we rolled. Some folks still don't roll that way. That's fine.

It wasnt just modules. Rules for laser guns have been in dmgs since Adnd. And I certainly get that its not everyone's preference. And certainly it doesnt fit every campaign.

But the issue I have is the idea many have that it should NEVER fit into a fantasy game. And that's sort of what I have a problem with. Its the whole 'I'm taking my ball and going home' mentality. The intollerance and refusal to find a way to incorporate someone else's fun into your own. Is it really unreasonable for someone to expect their friend to over months or even years eventually run a campaign that includes something they want to try? Why does it 'ruin' a campaign to have a region like numeria in it? Or alkenstar? Is it really a world shattering horror?

At some point it stops being a matter of 'how you roll' and starts being about being a jerk to your friends. I have no idea where that line is, and I am sure everyone's milage will vary. But anyone who says never to a concept(not like specific rule, but a concept) proposed by their friend to include in a game they run is over some period of time, being a jerk.

As to the first sentence, I couldn't say; I've yet to come across the "science and fantasy can never coexist" crowd, but it seems pretty hardheaded to call someone else's idea of a good time badwrongfun. I have come across folks who didn't want science in their own particular fantasy campaign, and that's a perfectly valid viewpoint.

Right after that, though it sounds like you're against GMs prohibiting things from a particular campaign. That's the GM's prerogative. A player is always free to play another game or run her own. In fact, if you've been playing with the same GM for years, you ought to know what they like to run and whether it would be a better approach to ask them for a change of pace or simply try another GM (either rotating the GM role in the group or finding another group). But the GM is certainly not obligated to say "fine, this time you can have lasers". That's a rather childish demand. And calling someone a jerk for not doing what you want is practically the definition of childish.


Its not that cannot play magic and technology, but I prefer to run games as either/or, not in addition to. I don't use Golarian so I don't have areas of "there is magic here", "there are guns over there" and "technology way over there...". My worlds tend to be one or the other.

When I run a game that is essentially dark ages, there is no tech and no guns. When I run a game that is arcane Old West, there is magic and guns, but no tech. When I run a sci-fi based PF game magic is technology and there are certainly guns. I like all these ingredients individually to taste, but I don't mix them into one soup dish.

I like to tell a certain story and within a certain genre when I run games. Although a free-for-all with all genres can work as a game, I don't prefer that.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It all comes down to taste and opinion.

Some view the two as peanut butter and jelly - great together.

Some view it as ketchup and twinkies - individually great, yet not meant to be together.

I used to play Rifts, so lack of game balance and genre mixing isn't new to me.


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I think there are two general reasons. One is flavor, which has been discussed.

Another though is the actual mechanics of the system. I, for example, am not at all fond of how they choose to mechanically represent guns in pathfinder.

I've played plenty of RPGs with both magic and technology, one of my favorite RPGs is Rifts (the system is clunky as heck, but the world is a lot of fun) and it is a fun game to play. Sometimes though I don't want technology in my fantasy.

I think also if you have a world with both technology and magic you have to explain the difference. If it is a clarkian paradigm, then you actually don't have both, you have tech and better tech. If though magic breaks fundamental laws of the universe, it makes perfect sense that technology might interact poorly with it. Usually in a game setting magic functions in that world just a predictably as technology does in ours, if that is the case then magic is a fundamental property of the universe and any science developed in that universe should use both magical and mundane principles. While this can be cool, it is often also hard to visualize.

In the end, I'm not against magic and tech in Pathfinder, but I think it really only appropriate for certain stories, not something I would expect in every campaign. Golarion being, in my opinion anyway, a world designed to allow any story to be told rather than designed to be a unique world that 'fits' together, has bits of anything you can imagine somewhere, but that still doesn't mean that a GM is obligated to allow everything into any particular game he runs in that setting.


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Also, because I feel this would be a good place to mention it, a lot of what we think of as purely modern inventions really aren't. In fact there are some pretty amazing things that were created by ancient cultures we still can't duplicate.

And while it isn't mentioned in this article, there were ancient armors made out of cloth that have been compared to kevlar. We don't see stuff like this show up, but since a lot of people are thinking that advanced technology just hadn't been discovered by the middle ages that isn't always true.

Scarab Sages

The big issue is that in pathfinder, magic IS technology. Remember that speaking, sharpening sticks, and martial arts are all forms of technology. Magic is no different, they are skills developed over time.

Technology is created via need. This is how the PF experience system is supposed to work, with PCs getting stronger because they need to be stronger. Characters that don't need to be stronger, they retire.

So, if looking for modern science and computers, or even advanced alien technology, the question becomes, why do they need it? If there is no need, it won't happen.

You can still have an especially motivated individual expanding science for science sake, but if their inventions aren't needed, they will be forgotten.

So, if DMing a setting with advanced non-magic tech and magic, side by side, you need to create situations where non-magic tech is better than magic. This could mean nerfing magic, but it could also be related to other locational effects which make learning magic impractical.

In examples, a common local species or government that actively hunts magic users and is good at it, a common building material that cannot be enchanted or otherwise further interferes with magic use, or just a dramatic decrease in those born with magical aptitude, trained or otherwise.

For a more specific example, how about Steel (yeah, normal steel/iron) in the setting has an innate anti-magic field. This grants the steel, or anyone in steel armor, a Spell Resistance of 15+enhancement bonus (cannot be suppressed, adds 15 to DC to craft magic items with steel components and stacks with spell resistances granted from other sources). You'd still have some casters, but you'd need to be high level before any offensive or healing spells would be viable on targets in steel armor.

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The inverse of Clarke's law (Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic) is that any rigorously defined magic is indistinguishable from technology.

When you mix the two, it highlights both of these in a way that (generally) does not serve the purpose of immersion.


Neal Litherland wrote:

Also, because I feel this would be a good place to mention it, a lot of what we think of as purely modern inventions really aren't. In fact there are some pretty amazing things that were created by ancient cultures we still can't duplicate.

And while it isn't mentioned in this article, there were ancient armors made out of cloth that have been compared to kevlar. We don't see stuff like this show up, but since a lot of people are thinking that advanced technology just hadn't been discovered by the middle ages that isn't always true.

Nevertheless, the plausibility of Baghdad jars in a campaign world need not actually require them, much less open the door for steam engines, firearms, or lasers.


I do think on high magic worlds, flashier magic would get the lion share of R&D funds and bright, ambitious, and wealthy types who might be drawn to science in the real world will be drawn to the more profitable world of magic, so pure science will be pretty primitive.

Fortunately, I tend to run worlds where the big acts of magic happened a long time ago and there are only 10 people on the whole planet higher than level 5, but suddenly the stars hit the right alignment (or some other big event), and high magic and outsiders start coming out the wood-works so the PC's, who would otherwise be stuck living out their lives as low level mercenaries and hedge wizards, can become masters of the universe. On worlds like that there is no problem with decent levels of tech since magic hasn't been able to solve all the big problems.


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I have always felt that the prevailing attitude with regard to the "magic vs. tech" dichotomy (that is, that "Ne'er the twain shall meet") points to an almost debilitating lack of insight.

Why do wizards throw fireballs? (Or cast any other spell in their repertoire?) They do it for the same reason that a gunslinger hauls out his pistol, and the same reason that Spaceman Spiff reaches for his trusty atomizer: TO EFFECT CHANGE IN THE WORLD AROUND THEM.

That is to say: Wizards and scientists are trying to do exactly the same thing, they are simply taking different paths to get there

With this insight in mind, it becomes extremely difficult to imagine any fantasy milieu where magic is a major factor NOT becoming extremely technologically advanced in a very short period of time.

Think about it: Wizards (especially those who reach the vaunted level of "Arch-Mage") are by definition extremely intelligent...and intelligence, by its very nature necessitates an innate curiosity about the world around them. It is utterly inconceivable that in a milieu like Forgotten Realms, which has more "Arch-Mages" in it than I have fingers; that there wouldn't be at least ONE of those mages who didn't have that insight.

Consider, for just a moment, how much easier scientific exploration would be with the aid of magic (for those of you who need a guide to your imaginations, just think about what Einstein could have figured out had he been a Diviner...). Once you roll that thought around in your head for awhile, it (logically speaking) becomes very difficult to accept a milieu that includes magic WITHOUT highly advanced technology, barring the interference of some CONTRIVED obstacle (like a coalition of divine magic users banding together, or some such). Treated organically, the dove-tailing of arcane magic into super-advanced hyper-tech is absolutely inevitable, and something that would happen in a matter of decades (yes, DECADES...NOT "centuries").

...and just because I don't care enough to read the whole thread to find out if I've been Beamo-Chopped...

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Sir Arthur C. Clarke


I suspect it's because one is real and one is imaginary. They are thus incomparable.

In fantasy games this incompatibility seems like it would continue.

That's just my pseudo-psychological theory anyway.


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Because I prefer my magic and don't much care for the technological aspect.

Because I prefer my tech and don't much care for the magical effects on the world.

Because I prefer the blend the two to the point where it's impossible to tell what is magic and what is technology.

Because I prefer two distinct lines of skills that prevent a tech-user from learning magic and vice versa.

Because I prefer that both exist, but only in certain areas or in a highly limited, controlled manner.

These are all valid answers, but the emphasis is on the word 'prefer'. Ultimately, it boils down to what you enjoy in your game (and effectively, what your DM enjoys in their game). If the two are mutually incompatible and people feel very strongly about it, everyone will be much happier playing in different groups.

It is much the same reason that some people love using dinosaurs in their worlds, and some people find the very idea to be silly and ridiculous. This is a genre of games that relies entirely upon what people enjoy. YMMV, of course, but everyone's idea of fun is completely different, which is why every group treats huge issues totally differently. This is one of them - and it's purely a preference.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I think it's because Magic and Science, in Pathfinder, don't necessarily operate by the same rules. Magic operates in a wide variety of different ways in Golarion, Wizards who prepare spells (but note different wizards prepare spells in slightly different ways, but reach the same outcome), alchemists, witches, sorcerers, etc, these offer a wide variety of very different magical theories. The rules of the game offer an abstraction, but magic might not follow the same kind of predictable results in every situation aside from those spells that have been discovered and disseminated, like Fireball.

As for the person who mentioned why nobody is pushing the boundaries of magic I would say that they are, just about every Adventure Path at least mentions someone who has found some kind of magical doodad or ritual or what have you that nobody else has.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Personally, I prefer to think of magic as the mental manipulation of the universe through some sort of non-physical quantum field effect. It behaves in mostly predictable ways, but because it requires mental manipulation to create/arm a given effect, it can't be duplicated by non-magical machines without super-science (AIs).

Technology, on the other hand, is the physical manipulation of the universe. In many ways, it's less "powerful" than magic. However, it's also easier and can be mass-produced to a much greater degree and at lower costs (economies of scale). Also, magic is extremely useful for enhancing technology (strengthening substances, making objects easier to use, etc.).

Now, as a practical matter, both magic and technology can produce similar effects (burning hands and alchemist's fire). The biggest difference is that while magic can benefit from increased "skill"/mental power (caster level), technology requires more physical substance/power sources for greater effect; which tends to limit technology more than magic, as magic is usually more of a readily renewable resource than physical substances/power sources. On the other hand, technology can be used by many more people than a lot of magic.

TL;DR: They both have their use and have advantages and disadvantages.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Doomed Hero wrote:


There is really no objective reason that magic and technology couldn't exist alongside each other, or even mix beneficially.

There's also no reason that they have to. They can be completely antagonistic to each other as in the world of Ralph Bakshi's Wizards. or Fred Saberhagen's Sword novels, where the simple drawing of steel blades is enough to make magic very difficult to cast.

Liberty's Edge

LazarX wrote:
Doomed Hero wrote:


There is really no objective reason that magic and technology couldn't exist alongside each other, or even mix beneficially.

There's also no reason that they have to. They can be completely antagonistic to each other as in the world of Ralph Bakshi's Wizards. or Fred Saberhagen's Sword novels.

[threadjack]I dunno, in Wizards there's some strong indications it's a bit more complicated than that...

Spoiler:
what with the evil Wizard using technology extensively and magic as well, and even the good Wizard using a gun to shoot the evil one.
[/threadjack]

The Saberhagen reference is a much better illustration of your point.


Ross Byers wrote:

The inverse of Clarke's law (Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic) is that any rigorously defined magic is indistinguishable from technology.

When you mix the two, it highlights both of these in a way that (generally) does not serve the purpose of immersion.

Well, if the technology isn't sufficiently advanced or the magic isn't rigorously defined that won't be a problem. Magic with modern or near future tech generally works fine.

Interestingly, science fiction generally works with psionics when it wants to play with what is essentially magic, without actually admitting it's magic.

BTW, my favorite variant:
Gehm's Corollary to Clarke's Third Law, "Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced."

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Doomed Hero wrote:


The thing that doesn't parse is that in most settings magic breaks the laws of physics predictably. That's why wizards have precise formulas for each spell in their spell book. When they perform these specific actions they get this specific result. Except in the cases of rare wild magic events, or scroll mishaps, casters pretty much always get exactly the effect that they mean to when they cast a spell. That means that in a world where magic exists, the laws of magic just become another element of the rules of physics.

That part about magic is only true for the standard wargaming battle casting of your typical battles. In story background there's tons of unpredictable magic effects setting up idiosyncratic situations for unique adventure plots, curses are a big part but sometimes it's just leftover magic doing weird things. Forgotten dungeons also typically are reft with unpredictable magic effects as well.


Doctor Doom.

Darth Vader.

Well, there's two characters that totally mash-up science with magic (force = mysticism).

Mechanically you could craft these characters however you want. No exclusive rules for science or magic are needed, just some creativity and rules mastery.

We have a player that saw the rules for chainsaws in the tech guide and has been salivating everyday since. He wants to wield one. It just hits so many nerves all at once. The power fantasy behind, the hilarious out-of-placedness of it, plus other reasons. It genuinely will bring him joy to make attack rolls while swinging one around.

In my campaign world there will be no chainsaws.

I'm not trying to be a jerk, but the tech just hasn't reached that level yet. However, little does he know that buried in a lost crypt that the players may one day find is a magical weapon of strange origin and design. Once it's identified and he asks how to use it I will look down on him and I will say, , ,

Chainsaw.

It will be glorious!

Aversion stems from fear. "Will this ruin my campaign?", usually means "will I lose control?". That belief is enough for many people to just outright ban entire books from their games. I read the tech rules and found a compromise that works for me. I am not fearful of my players or their choices. I just want everyone to have fun, but I like that they have to work for it.


Yep, everything's covered.

When I read the thread title I thought this was going to be a different question. Specifically all the people who view magic as fundamentally irrational and having NO rules rather than simply having DIFFERENT rules.

If magic creates "static" to the laws of physics that means tech and magic block each other, that has reasons as listed upthread. If magic just doesn't make any sense and can't be industrialized or codified because "magic" then you starting calling all sense of causality into question. And I hate mondays.

Expanding on "magic static" theory, the explanations for magic static become more convoluted and complicated as technology and technological know-how increase. If a magic lightning field generates a 100-meter radius "malfunction field" you can still set it at the top of a 110-meter conductive tower and use it as a generator that can power an entire city. Like nuclear power or resonance miners, proper containment allows exploitation.

As a side note, the more I understand about science, the less "science" scifi becomes. Star Trek physics are pretty much pure magical nonsense.

Edit: Oh, I thought of something that hasn't been mentioned: Population.

Tech = increased population throughout human history. Sure we focus on our tanks and our bombs and our gonz (in your head) but the driving force behind development has always been "people need stuff" and the development of food and shelter and sanitation were always the things that let people have enough spare time, resources, and people to build awesome buildings, feed giant armies, and fund research projects into death and destruction tech.

Higher populations and population density changes nations in subtle ways. Shadowrun has things that echo Earthdawn, like power structures which are laws unto themselves, and human life being cheap, but running the barrens where you can always find a street gang is different from running the wilderness where you can always find a pack of monsters. Monsters are rarely people, go-gangs are almost always people. And there's a difference between "there is no forensic science" and "forensic science is too expensive to waste on this nobody."


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Fantasy works do not usually mix the genres although you can find it if you look hard enough. It is not very commen with the major fanatasy authoers anyway.

David Gemmel- Yes with the Jon Shannow books
David Eddings. Not so much.
Tolkein. Nope
Feist. Nope
GRR Martin- Nope
Robert Jordan- Not in the early books
Terry Brooks Not in the early books, yes in the later books (lost technology in a post apocalyptic world).

etc
etc
etc

Pathfinder is more or less D&D as well and early D&D had a tech level replicating Dark Ages to the 14th century. Things like Expedition to the Barrier Peaks were isolated and contained for the most part and easily avoidable.


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actually, Star Wars was one of my favorite franchises when i was a small child and Outlaw Star was one of my favorite anime series growing up. what both have in common is you have a massive amount of species, high technology and powerful magic intergrated with the technology. for example, the Jedi are wizards who wield switchbladed swords that have blades made out of superheated Plasma and Gene Starwind Fires a heavy pistol that uses special arcane ammunition.


LazarX wrote:

It has absolutely nothing to do with that.

Fact of the matter is the DM is building a specific world, what you put in has a ripple affect on the character of that world, depending on the type and ubiquity of said technology. The crashed ship module in Barrier Peaks had no impact because none of the tech could be duplicated in Greyhawk, and anything you took out of the ship ran on power disks with just a couple of charges remaining turning all that gear rapidly into nonfunctional curiosities. Numerian tech is effectively contained within the region, because the generators that recharge power cells are too big to move and beyond the Numerian's ability to duplicate. And magic will serve to recharge them only in a very limited and risky manner.

Rifles on the other hand, have a major impact on cavalry troops. Numerian tech with available generators changes the game entirely.

There's no simple quick and easy definitive answer for all of these questions because the problem varies tremendously with what you want to drag in, and it's ubiquity.

It has tremendous impact on the setting, the tactics, the very flavor of the world. There's no big mystery on the answer to your question, it's about how the player is trying to define the GM's world by throwing something that's not in the inital mix.

There seems to be this undercurrent of thought that just because Paizo has published tech rules, and that there is a region with SOME partially understood tech within it, that the GM is now obligated to throw open the floodgates on every campaign run with Pathfinder from now through eternity.

That's not how the game rolled when it first came out as Chainmail, and there's no reason for that now. All these various things are a toolbox and a menu, no DM should be obligated to throw in the entire kitchen sink.

I'd disagree that this is the standard response players have. Rather I should think that if you're playing in Golarion then unless you're banning characters from certain regions there's no reason to outlaw certain things. It's the players job to explain how a mercenary from Alkenstar wound up in Ustalav taking part in Carrion Crown, but it's not out of the question.

The issue I was discussing isn't trying to sandwich power armor into a low-tech setting; rather it's when there IS a setting where these things are part of the canon and a player wants to explore it as part of a concept why do so many people knee-jerk to say no? If a DM is building a certain flavor or world then it's pretty common for that tone to be explained to players before creation, which should eliminate most of these discussions. But if someone's running a Golarion module or adventure path, then why not bring in something exotic? As long as the player understands that there will be difficulties associated with rarity, cost, and other issues that come with maintaining advanced technology instead of simply using magic.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
boring7 wrote:


As a side note, the more I understand about science, the less "science" scifi becomes. Star Trek physics are pretty much pure magical nonsense.

You'll find that most popular "science fiction" is simply fantasy dressed in blinky lights, plastic, and chrome. Dr. Who is worst than Star Trek in this regard, but it never had any pretensions to be otherwise.


Dragonchess Player wrote:

Personally, I prefer to think of magic as the mental manipulation of the universe through some sort of non-physical quantum field effect. It behaves in mostly predictable ways, but because it requires mental manipulation to create/arm a given effect, it can't be duplicated by non-magical machines without super-science (AIs).

Technology, on the other hand, is the physical manipulation of the universe. In many ways, it's less "powerful" than magic. However, it's also easier and can be mass-produced to a much greater degree and at lower costs (economies of scale). Also, magic is extremely useful for enhancing technology (strengthening substances, making objects easier to use, etc.).

Now, as a practical matter, both magic and technology can produce similar effects (burning hands and alchemist's fire). The biggest difference is that while magic can benefit from increased "skill"/mental power (caster level), technology requires more physical substance/power sources for greater effect; which tends to limit technology more than magic, as magic is usually more of a readily renewable resource than physical substances/power sources. On the other hand, technology can be used by many more people than a lot of magic.

TL;DR: They both have their use and have advantages and disadvantages.

That's a lot of it, in my mind. Magic is, and remains, more art than science. You have to actually have the knowledge and understanding to do make or make magic items. You can't just do it by rote. No assembly lines of grunts assembling magic items.

That's even in the worlds like PF where magic is pretty rigorously defined. Many fictional magic systems are even more so: where magic driven by emotion or done through spiritual intermediaries.


LazarX wrote:
boring7 wrote:


As a side note, the more I understand about science, the less "science" scifi becomes. Star Trek physics are pretty much pure magical nonsense.

You'll find that most popular "science fiction" is simply fantasy dressed in blinky lights, plastic, and chrome. Dr. Who is worst than Star Trek in this regard, but it never pretensions to be otherwise.

True enough.

Though that reminds me of the somewhat apocryphal bit of trivia that someone in the BBC tried to bill Dr. Who as an educational show (for a very short period of time at the very beginning) because of all the time travel to historical eras.


Elbe-el wrote:

I have always felt that the prevailing attitude with regard to the "magic vs. tech" dichotomy (that is, that "Ne'er the twain shall meet") points to an almost debilitating lack of insight.

Why do wizards throw fireballs? (Or cast any other spell in their repertoire?) They do it for the same reason that a gunslinger hauls out his pistol, and the same reason that Spaceman Spiff reaches for his trusty atomizer: TO EFFECT CHANGE IN THE WORLD AROUND THEM.

That is to say: Wizards and scientists are trying to do exactly the same thing, they are simply taking different paths to get there

With this insight in mind, it becomes extremely difficult to imagine any fantasy milieu where magic is a major factor NOT becoming extremely technologically advanced in a very short period of time.

Think about it: Wizards (especially those who reach the vaunted level of "Arch-Mage") are by definition extremely intelligent...and intelligence, by its very nature necessitates an innate curiosity about the world around them. It is utterly inconceivable that in a milieu like Forgotten Realms, which has more "Arch-Mages" in it than I have fingers; that there wouldn't be at least ONE of those mages who didn't have that insight.

Consider, for just a moment, how much easier scientific exploration would be with the aid of magic (for those of you who need a guide to your imaginations, just think about what Einstein could have figured out had he been a Diviner...). Once you roll that thought around in your head for awhile, it (logically speaking) becomes very difficult to accept a milieu that includes magic WITHOUT highly advanced technology, barring the interference of some CONTRIVED obstacle (like a coalition of divine magic users banding together, or some such). Treated organically, the dove-tailing of arcane magic into super-advanced hyper-tech is absolutely inevitable, and something that would happen in a matter of decades (yes, DECADES...NOT "centuries").

...and just because I don't care enough to read the whole thread...

While it's certainly possible to conceive of magic working that way, it's equally possible that, of all people, spellcasters are the least able to do anything resembling scientific investigation. Perhaps doing magic requires learning to think impossibly: like find the coordinates of the spot where parallel lines intersect and divide that by zero, then raise the result to the power of blue. If that's how magic works, then perhaps magicians and scientists are literally incapable of understanding each other's specialty.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
boring7 wrote:
LazarX wrote:
boring7 wrote:


As a side note, the more I understand about science, the less "science" scifi becomes. Star Trek physics are pretty much pure magical nonsense.

You'll find that most popular "science fiction" is simply fantasy dressed in blinky lights, plastic, and chrome. Dr. Who is worst than Star Trek in this regard, but it never pretensions to be otherwise.

True enough.

Though that reminds me of the somewhat apocryphal bit of trivia that someone in the BBC tried to bill Dr. Who as an educational show (for a very short period of time at the very beginning) because of all the time travel to historical eras.

It's not apocryhal. that's how the show was originally intended to work, and how it was run, at least at first. Remember that the Doctor was not truly codified in character, even in species, until nearly the end of Hartnell's run.

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