Is Pathfinder magic just a kind of science?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Weirdo wrote:

{. . .} Of course, it's unlikely that someone only capable of learning cantrips will have the inclination to learn wizardry in the same way you don't get people of below-average intelligence in PhD programs.

}. . .}

I agree with all the rest of your message, but unfortunately, when I was in graduate school(*), I saw multiple counterexamples to this statement.

(*)In case you have morbid curiosity:
Indiana University Bloomington

Sovereign Court

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UnArcaneElection wrote:
Weirdo wrote:

{. . .} Of course, it's unlikely that someone only capable of learning cantrips will have the inclination to learn wizardry in the same way you don't get people of below-average intelligence in PhD programs.

}. . .}

I agree with all the rest of your message, but unfortunately, when I was in graduate school(*), I saw multiple counterexamples to this statement.

** spoiler omitted **

Proving once again that in many cases it's really a matter of

Parents
Have
Debt

(Certainly not in every case. But I think sometimes we assume that Education=Intelligence.)


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
(Certainly not in every case. But I think sometimes we assume that Education=Intelligence.)

In Call of Cthulhu, they're separate stats.

Shadow Lodge

I absolutely do not believe that Education = Intelligence. (In fact I've made the distinction in previous posts on these forums.) I know some very intelligent people who are not particularly well educated, including my maternal grandmother. And certainly not everyone with an advanced degree is particularly bright.

But I have never seen someone of actually below-average intelligence in a PhD program, as opposed to merely below-average relative to most academics. While I won't say it can't happen I have a hard time picturing such a person actually completing degree requirements. It's also not a good financial investment compared to other advanced degree programs (eg Law, Medicine). I'm honestly not sure why you'd want a PhD unless you were really intellectually engaged with your subject. Heck, most of the grad students I know who are both intelligent and enthusiastic still have doubts at some point, myself included.

Though I am absolutely on board with the idea of a person of average or only slightly above average intelligence being supported through expensive wizard training by wealthy family members, due to the prestige that such training would offer. I expect I will use it for an NPC at some point.

I'd also like to, as a science grad student, reinforce the fact that scientific experiments are not as neat and tidy as you see in pop culture. And I'm not talking about the complexity of designing a course of experimentation to answer meaningful scientific questions, I'm talking about simply performing the steps of a physical experiment.

A colleague of mine could never, for some bizarre reason, get a simple test for a particular protein to work properly - even though doing the exact same thing testing for a different protein was fine, and another grad student was able to properly test her samples. I personally have spent months of my project trying to duplicate a procedure that someone in another lab has published. Sometimes problems can be caused by a difference between two batches of a commercial reagent. Sometimes the gender of the researcher stresses out your lab mice, causing differences in the result. People in undergraduate labs get weird results all the time due to mishandling something or other.

So yeah, not a nice simple brownie recipe. And you know what? I still know people who can mess up brownies.


Weirdo wrote:

I absolutely do not believe that Education = Intelligence. {. . .}

But I have never seen someone of actually below-average intelligence in a PhD program, as opposed to merely below-average relative to most academics. While I won't say it can't happen I have a hard time picturing such a person actually completing degree requirements.

Well, that's what I'm talking about. You don't have to voyage into the Dark Tapestry to find madness . . . It's right here on Earth. (And academic graduate school is not immune to the problems depicted in Dilbert, either.)

Weirdo wrote:
It's also not a good financial investment compared to other advanced degree programs (eg Law, Medicine).

I didn't say they were making a good investment . .

Weirdo wrote:
I'm honestly not sure why you'd want a PhD unless you were really intellectually engaged with your subject.

I can't figure it out either.

Weirdo wrote:
Heck, most of the grad students I know who are both intelligent and enthusiastic still have doubts at some point, myself included.

Actually, some of the dumb ones I am thinking of DIDN'T have doubts.

Weirdo wrote:

Though I am absolutely on board with the idea of a person of average or only slightly above average intelligence being supported through expensive wizard training by wealthy family members, due to the prestige that such training would offer. I expect I will use it for an NPC at some point.

{. . .}

This also works for characters (even of below average intelligence, for that matter) getting into high political office. Technical term for this: Fence-Post Tortoise. I have an idea for a character along these lines . . . .

Shadow Lodge

Well, Politician is a Charisma-based class.

There's also a bit of a distinction between intelligence and wisdom, and between theoretical and practical knowledge. This leads to a lot of "dumb" behavior even among people who are actually intelligent. For example, many Principal Investigators have a great big-picture view of their field but have lost the skills to solve specific practical problems with students' experiments.

If you've seen deeper stupidity than that, I'll take your word for it. Maybe I've been luckier in my associates than you, maybe I'm more oblivious, maybe I just haven't been at this long enough, but...

Even if you do get academic "Post Turtles" that get a PhD they haven't actually earned, by definition that person is someone who lacks the skills expected of their position. So they don't disprove the general statement that you need some minimum level of intelligence to actually learn the skills involved in contributing to science. And, by extension, it's not unreasonable to expect that only the top 65% of the population would be capable of learning the basic skills of wizardry, even if wizardry is essentially scientific.


You know you could actually go with Magic is Science, just forgotten science that only a few people have managed to figure out how to access..

All it really takes is re-fluffing the Components

What if the Verbal component for Fireball was something along the lines of
"System access, Tier 3 anti-infantry artillery. Code access Alpha, niner, Delta Four. Fire in 3...2..1"

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
LazarX wrote:
darth_borehd wrote:

There is an argument that Pathfinder magic is just science with different rules.

Magic has elements of whim and arbitrariness which pretty much moves it out of the set laws of science.
Actually it makes it similar to quantum physics and chemistry.

Quantum Physics still has bounds defined by mathematics It's what makes doing science in it possible. Magic in literature and legend isn't bound by math or logic.


LazarX wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
LazarX wrote:
darth_borehd wrote:

There is an argument that Pathfinder magic is just science with different rules.

Magic has elements of whim and arbitrariness which pretty much moves it out of the set laws of science.
Actually it makes it similar to quantum physics and chemistry.
Quantum Physics still has bounds defined by mathematics It's what makes doing science in it possible. Magic in literature and legend isn't bound by math or logic.

Except that in Pathfinder, it is bound by logic. Perhaps a different logic, but there's logic somewhere.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
My Self wrote:
LazarX wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
LazarX wrote:
darth_borehd wrote:

There is an argument that Pathfinder magic is just science with different rules.

Magic has elements of whim and arbitrariness which pretty much moves it out of the set laws of science.
Actually it makes it similar to quantum physics and chemistry.
Quantum Physics still has bounds defined by mathematics It's what makes doing science in it possible. Magic in literature and legend isn't bound by math or logic.
Except that in Pathfinder, it is bound by logic. Perhaps a different logic, but there's logic somewhere.

The logic that Pathfinder uses is story based, not mathmatic, and frequently not consistent. Some of the legacy stuff such as the material components of lightning bolt and fireball are simply humor pieces carried over from AD+D. And some of it is symbolic.

The most important difference is that what magic does can't be produced on an assembly line by rote-trained labor with no magical talent. And much of the most mighty forms of magic can't be repeated at all. Pathfinder magic isn't bound by what players are allowed to in the rulebooks. There are magical effects that PC's can never duplicate. You can't make for instance a factory that produces Starstones on demand.

But more importantly, Magic produces answers without giving progression on questions to ask. Magic is and endall to development, rather than something that spurs an innovator to a further path of improvement.


LazarX wrote:
My Self wrote:
LazarX wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
LazarX wrote:
darth_borehd wrote:

There is an argument that Pathfinder magic is just science with different rules.

Magic has elements of whim and arbitrariness which pretty much moves it out of the set laws of science.
Actually it makes it similar to quantum physics and chemistry.
Quantum Physics still has bounds defined by mathematics It's what makes doing science in it possible. Magic in literature and legend isn't bound by math or logic.
Except that in Pathfinder, it is bound by logic. Perhaps a different logic, but there's logic somewhere.

The logic that Pathfinder uses is story based, not mathmatic, and frequently not consistent. Some of the legacy stuff such as the material components of lightning bolt and fireball are simply humor pieces carried over from AD+D. And some of it is symbolic.

The most important difference is that what magic does can't be produced on an assembly line by rote-trained labor with no magical talent. And much of the most mighty forms of magic can't be repeated at all.

You'd need rote-trained labor with magical talent, yes. But magical talent could be like advanced mathematical talent. Not everyone can do complex calculations in their head.

If we, say, substituted rote-trained labor with machines and calculators, we end up with Simulacrums and Golems.


LazarX wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
LazarX wrote:
darth_borehd wrote:

There is an argument that Pathfinder magic is just science with different rules.

Magic has elements of whim and arbitrariness which pretty much moves it out of the set laws of science.
Actually it makes it similar to quantum physics and chemistry.
Quantum Physics still has bounds defined by mathematics It's what makes doing science in it possible. Magic in literature and legend isn't bound by math or logic.

Perhaps it is, or perhaps not. But we do know that Pathfinder magic is modelled/approximated by rules that are mathematical. We don't really understand how quantum physics works but we do know it can be accurately modelled with mathematics. I see more similarities than differences between the two systems.


LazarX wrote:


The logic that Pathfinder uses is story based, not mathmatic, and frequently not consistent. Some of the legacy stuff such as the material components of lightning bolt and fireball are simply humor pieces carried over from AD+D. And some of it is symbolic.

The most important difference is that what magic does can't be produced on an assembly line by rote-trained labor with no magical talent. And much of the most mighty forms of magic can't be repeated at all. Pathfinder magic isn't bound by what players are allowed to in the rulebooks. There are magical effects that PC's can never duplicate. You can't make for instance a factory that produces Starstones on demand.

But more importantly, Magic produces answers without giving progression on questions to ask. Magic is and endall to development, rather than something that spurs an innovator to a further path of improvement.

To clarify, if a technique for mass producing magic is developed does that make it a science? Do real world technologies become science once mass production of the process is developed? If a real world process is impossible to mass produce even in principle does that make it magic?


Those were not intended to be flippant questions. Some well renowned scientists have stated that the origin of the universe is not amenable to scientific inquiry because it can't be reproduced.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Boomerang Nebula wrote:


Perhaps it is, or perhaps not. But we do know that Pathfinder magic is modelled/approximated by rules that are mathematical. We don't really understand how quantum physics works but we do know it can be accurately modelled with mathematics. I see more similarities than differences between the two systems.

Pathfinder magic is modeled to be part of a wargame simulation that has been having roleplaying layers bolted onto it for the last four decades.

The only theory that the design follows is gaming theory.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Those were not intended to be flippant questions. Some well renowned scientists have stated that the origin of the universe is not amenable to scientific inquiry because it can't be reproduced.

And for the most part those are scientists that are mired in an outmoded approach to science.

Cosmology is not looking to reproduce the Big Bang. What it's looking to do is to refine the present model in order to come up with the best possible scenario that predicts the universe we have today and give us a more refined idea on how it's going to evolve. We have used science to push back farther and farther in time to give us general models of what we think the universe was at a given date.

So far, we've got good approximations up to Zero Plus 10 the minus 40th power second.... the value of the Planck Constant. The current challenge is to push past that. And we may very well find out that doing so might require changing our ideas radically of the time before that point.


LazarX wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:


Perhaps it is, or perhaps not. But we do know that Pathfinder magic is modelled/approximated by rules that are mathematical. We don't really understand how quantum physics works but we do know it can be accurately modelled with mathematics. I see more similarities than differences between the two systems.

Pathfinder magic is modeled to be part of a wargame simulation that has been having roleplaying layers bolted onto it for the last four decades.

The only theory that the design follows is gaming theory.

Yeah, the big problem with any scientific analysis of PF magic is that it very quickly leads to the discovery of spell levels and character levels and different character classes and the whole paraphernalia of game mechanics.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
thejeff wrote:
LazarX wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:


Perhaps it is, or perhaps not. But we do know that Pathfinder magic is modelled/approximated by rules that are mathematical. We don't really understand how quantum physics works but we do know it can be accurately modelled with mathematics. I see more similarities than differences between the two systems.

Pathfinder magic is modeled to be part of a wargame simulation that has been having roleplaying layers bolted onto it for the last four decades.

The only theory that the design follows is gaming theory.

Yeah, the big problem with any scientific analysis of PF magic is that it very quickly leads to the discovery of spell levels and character levels and different character classes and the whole paraphernalia of game mechanics.

It's not just magic that's effected, it's the revelation that creatures and things move in quantum steps that break down into huge 5 foot stages. Try to imagine our world if quantum effects were that visible. :)


LazarX wrote:
thejeff wrote:
LazarX wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:


Perhaps it is, or perhaps not. But we do know that Pathfinder magic is modelled/approximated by rules that are mathematical. We don't really understand how quantum physics works but we do know it can be accurately modelled with mathematics. I see more similarities than differences between the two systems.

Pathfinder magic is modeled to be part of a wargame simulation that has been having roleplaying layers bolted onto it for the last four decades.

The only theory that the design follows is gaming theory.

Yeah, the big problem with any scientific analysis of PF magic is that it very quickly leads to the discovery of spell levels and character levels and different character classes and the whole paraphernalia of game mechanics.
It's not just magic that's effected, it's the revelation that creatures and things move in quantum steps that break down into huge 5 foot stages. Try to imagine our world if quantum effects were that visible. :)

Or analyze a fight in which each participant moves in turn and waits for everyone else to have a go. How long a timeslice each participant gets depends on the number involved, but they can always do the same amount.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Charon's Little Helper wrote:

Proving once again that in many cases it's really a matter of

Parents
Have
Debt

(Certainly not in every case. But I think sometimes we assume that Education=Intelligence.)

From the student's side, I recall that the meanings of the college degrees were:

Bull Stuff
More Stuff
Piled Higher and Deeper

Shadow Lodge

Boomerang Nebula wrote:
LazarX wrote:
The most important difference is that what magic does can't be produced on an assembly line by rote-trained labor with no magical talent. And much of the most mighty forms of magic can't be repeated at all. Pathfinder magic isn't bound by what players are allowed to in the rulebooks. There are magical effects that PC's can never duplicate. You can't make for instance a factory that produces Starstones on demand.
To clarify, if a technique for mass producing magic is developed does that make it a science? Do real world technologies become science once mass production of the process is developed? If a real world process is impossible to mass produce even in principle does that make it magic?

Some medical diagnostic tests cannot currently be done by rote-trained persons with no analytical ability; there are specific degree programs to train people to do these tests.

thejeff wrote:
LazarX wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Yeah, the big problem with any scientific analysis of PF magic is that it very quickly leads to the discovery of spell levels and character levels and different character classes and the whole paraphernalia of game mechanics.
It's not just magic that's effected, it's the revelation that creatures and things move in quantum steps that break down into huge 5 foot stages. Try to imagine our world if quantum effects were that visible. :)
Or analyze a fight in which each participant moves in turn and waits for everyone else to have a go. How long a timeslice each participant gets depends on the number involved, but they can always do the same amount.

So because the game rules aren't a great simulation of actual physics, it is pointless for PF characters to even attempt scientific analysis of their world?


Weirdo wrote:


thejeff wrote:
LazarX wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Yeah, the big problem with any scientific analysis of PF magic is that it very quickly leads to the discovery of spell levels and character levels and different character classes and the whole paraphernalia of game mechanics.
It's not just magic that's effected, it's the revelation that creatures and things move in quantum steps that break down into huge 5 foot stages. Try to imagine our world if quantum effects were that visible. :)
Or analyze a fight in which each participant moves in turn and waits for everyone else to have a go. How long a timeslice each participant gets depends on the number involved, but they can always do the same amount.
So because the game rules aren't a great simulation of actual physics, it is pointless for PF characters to even attempt scientific analysis of their world?

It's not pointless, it's just that the closer they look, the weirder the results are going to be. I don't actually want to play in a game where the characters are figuring out they live in a rather poor simulation of a world. (I mean, it could be fun in a weird deconstructionist sort of way, but it wouldn't be much of a high fantasy game.)


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After perusing this thread I found it entirely incumbent upon me to bring in this very important message.

GMG wrote:

Creating a Spell

Successfully researching a new spell requires time and expensive research. An optional system for researching new spells is outlined below.

The research should cost at least 1,000 gp per spell level (or even more for particularly exotic spells) and require both the Spellcraft skill and a Knowledge skill appropriate to the researcher's class. Wizards and bards use Knowledge (arcana), sorcerers use a Knowledge skill appropriate to their heritage (usually arcana, nature, or planes), druids and rangers use the Knowledge (nature) skill, and clerics and paladins use Knowledge (religion). The actual research process varies by the type of spell, often involving magical experimentation, the purchase and study of moldy scrolls and grimoires, contact with powerful magical beings or outsiders, and extensive meditation or rituals.

For each week of research, the caster makes separate Knowledge and Spellcraft checks against a DC of 20 plus twice the level of the spell being researched, modified according to Table: Spell Research Modifiers. To successfully research the spell, the caster must succeed at both checks. Failure indicates the week was wasted. Spells of 4th-6th level requires 2 weeks of successful research, while spells of 7th-9th level require 4 weeks. The researcher may employ up to two assistants in the research process to assist on the skill checks using the aid another action.

While I hate to think of magic as science from a purely story-telling perspective, the idea that a character in the game can take the time to sit and research (read: study other people's completed science in order to create a desired new result) the creation of a new spell, in my mind anyway, makes magic a science of sorts. Regardless of what other avenues there are to manipulate it, if it can be researched, recreated, and then manipulated to new results, that's science.

Edit:

thejeff wrote:
It's not pointless, it's just that the closer they look, the weirder the results are going to be. I don't actually want to play in a game where the characters are figuring out they live in a rather poor simulation of a world. (I mean, it could be fun in a weird deconstructionist sort of way, but it wouldn't be much of a high fantasy game.)


I'm honestly surprised this is a real question with classes like wizard and alchemist in the game.


thejeff wrote:
LazarX wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:


Perhaps it is, or perhaps not. But we do know that Pathfinder magic is modelled/approximated by rules that are mathematical. We don't really understand how quantum physics works but we do know it can be accurately modelled with mathematics. I see more similarities than differences between the two systems.

Pathfinder magic is modeled to be part of a wargame simulation that has been having roleplaying layers bolted onto it for the last four decades.

The only theory that the design follows is gaming theory.

Yeah, the big problem with any scientific analysis of PF magic is that it very quickly leads to the discovery of spell levels and character levels and different character classes and the whole paraphernalia of game mechanics.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. I can easily imagine that in Absalom, academics would have this figured out, and various upper level inner circles of governments (but especially Cheliax) would have also figured out all this stuff, and figured out pretty good ways of testing an individual to find out just what they are with respect to characteristics that match up closely with game mechanical descriptions. After all, in this world, we have the IQ test, although last I checked this seems to have fallen mostly out of favor for the last few decades (post-1970s).


Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Most lay people are so poor at science that they cannot understand the fundamentals let alone understand what is happening at the cutting edge of science. This situation seems analogous to the sorcerer/wizard and their understanding of magic in Pathfinder.

Most of the stuff science has done for us today would be magic to people 100 years ago and even more magical to those with less knowledge. You'd probably be burned at stake or tortured to death for having a iphone in some time periods.


thejeff wrote:


As for the larger topic, one difference is that you can't do cookbook magic in PF. You can't just follow the instructions, mouth the words, wiggle your fingers appropriately and have the spell happen. Or assembly line magic items. Casting a spell requires something more - whether it's innate power or special training.
I've seen fantasy novels where that isn't true - where the protagonist, without being a mage or understanding what he's doing can cast some spell simply by following precise written...

^ This is exactly what I mean. What are the characteristics of science?

Science is 1) Measurable 2) Repeatable 3) Explainable 4) Exchangeable


  • Measurable: Imagine trying to measure a fireball spell. The effects are variable not only from casting to casting using the same person and the same ingredients, but only certain people who have "practiced" magic in general can even attempt it. If it was really scientific, there would be a measurable relationship to the amount of bat guano and sulfur. There is not. Verdict: Fail
  • Repeatable: You can only cast that fireball x number of times per day and it varies from person to person. It doesn't matter if you combine bat guano and sulfur after your spells per day are up, nothing happens. Verdict: Fail
  • Explainable: Why does bat guano and sulfur produce a fireball effect at some times for some people and not others? Maybe your campaign has an explanation, but I bet it relies on vibrations in the shadow weave or the phase of the moon or something. Explanation stops there. In the real world, we pour two chemicals together and we can explain what is happening down at the atomic level (and we're working on explaining past that.) Verdict: Fail
  • Exchangeable: Have the wizard show the fighter how to do everything he does and combine bat guano and sulfur in the same way. Yes, maybe the wizard is smarter and is able to figure it out but after he figures it out, he should be able to write it down or demonstrate it and have anybody else replicate the results. That's just not going to happen unless the fighter becomes a wizard. Verdict: Fail

So there we have it. Magic can't be a science. My disclaimer is that maybe this can vary from campaign setting to campaign setting. For most campaigns, the explanation is well, magic.


Yeah, stars in real life are all different sizes, so fusion obviously defies the laws of physics, amiright?


Cliff Clavin wrote:
Yeah, stars in real life are all different sizes, so fusion obviously defies the laws of physics, amiright?

So does the size of a fireball depend on the amount of bat guano? (Or the damage, since the size is constant, barring metamagic.)

We've got a pretty good idea what controls the size of stars - basically the size of the dust cloud the formed from, which itself is dependent on other initial conditions.

Fireball damage, while random, is largely driven by the level of the caster. Even more clearly is the distance to which a given caster may send the fireball, which will clearly correspond to the distance he can send many other spells and to the number he can cast (or prepare) every day.

To the extent that it's scientific, the very first thing you'll start to deduce is the existence of levels and most likely soon thereafter of distinct character classes. (Classes might be hidden for awhile, depending on how many of your test subjects are multiclassed or otherwise non-standard.)


thejeff wrote:
Fireball damage, while random, is largely driven by the level of the caster.

Long jump distance, while also having a random component, is largely driven by the speed, leg muscle strength, and technique of the jumper. The point of the reply to darth was that multiple outcomes don't in any way mean that something isn't measurable; it typically just means that we don't have enough information to make a prediction.

Maybe fireball damage depends on bat guano-to-sulfur ratio, and better casters are just better at mixing the correct amounts? But that level of granularity is probably antithetical to a functioning rule set, so we hand-wave it as "caster level."

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Anything which has underlying rules for how it works can be studied as a science. Pathfinder magic qualifies.


Kirth Gersen wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Fireball damage, while random, is largely driven by the level of the caster.

Long jump distance, while also having a random component, is largely driven by the speed, leg muscle strength, and technique of the jumper. The point of the reply to darth was that multiple outcomes don't in any way mean that something isn't measurable; it typically just means that we don't have enough information to make a prediction.

Maybe fireball damage depends on bat guano-to-sulfur ratio, and better casters are just better at mixing the correct amounts? But that level of granularity is probably antithetical to a functioning rule set, so we hand-wave it as "caster level."

I suppose and that might work for damage. It's harder to justify for distance, since that's not random and is very quantized. And you can't just tell the low level caster the right mixture or exactly how to wiggle his fingers for one spell. He gets better at all of them together.

This also leads into the question of how much the rules are actually the way it works in the game world and how much they're an abstraction to let us play in a reasonable amount of time.
If it's the former, what a scientific study of magic (or any scientific study really, but magic is the easiest) will lead to revelations of the game rules, not to any underlying reality. It'll be much easier to learn the quantization of caster level than to learn the best ratio of guano to sulfur. Of course, most of that is implicitly known already since scrolls & other items are priced by level & caster level.


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darth_borehd wrote:
thejeff wrote:


As for the larger topic, one difference is that you can't do cookbook magic in PF. You can't just follow the instructions, mouth the words, wiggle your fingers appropriately and have the spell happen. Or assembly line magic items. Casting a spell requires something more - whether it's innate power or special training.
I've seen fantasy novels where that isn't true - where the protagonist, without being a mage or understanding what he's doing can cast some spell simply by following precise written...

^ This is exactly what I mean. What are the characteristics of science?

Science is 1) Measurable 2) Repeatable 3) Explainable 4) Exchangeable


  • Measurable: Imagine trying to measure a fireball spell. The effects are variable not only from casting to casting using the same person and the same ingredients, but only certain people who have "practiced" magic in general can even attempt it. If it was really scientific, there would be a measurable relationship to the amount of bat guano and sulfur. There is not. Verdict: Fail
  • Repeatable: You can only cast that fireball x number of times per day and it varies from person to person. It doesn't matter if you combine bat guano and sulfur after your spells per day are up, nothing happens. Verdict: Fail
  • Explainable: Why does bat guano and sulfur produce a fireball effect at some times for some people and not others? Maybe your campaign has an explanation, but I bet it relies on vibrations in the shadow weave or the phase of the moon or something. Explanation stops there. In the real world, we pour two chemicals together and we can explain what is happening down at the atomic level (and we're working on explaining past that.) Verdict: Fail
  • Exchangeable: Have the wizard show the fighter how to do everything he does and combine bat guano and sulfur in the same way. Yes, maybe the wizard is smarter and is able to figure it out but after he figures it out, he should be able to write it down or
...

Measurable: Anyone with sufficient training can pull enough "magical essence" from the surrounding environment to make guano explode when it reacts with sulfur (it's similar to how you sometimes need to add heat/water/some third chemical in order to get two regents to react meaningfully). You can measure how much "magical essence" a person can manipulate by the intensity of the fireball. Verdict: Pass

Repeatable: "Magical essence" is the limiting factor for spells, not reactants. You can't measure how intense the glow of a light bulb is if the batteries powering it have drained. However, if you get new batteries or recharge old ones you can continue the experiment. Higher level spell slots and resting cover the analogy. Verdict: Pass

Explainable: There is no "one true way" to explain magic because it's something that isn't directly relatable to our world. How do you teach a colorblind person the difference between red and green? You can't, because it's not part of their universe. Verdict: Irrelevant. It will be explained in universe however it is explained.

Exchangeable: This is going to happen if the Wizard writes it down on a scroll so that the Fighter can follow instructions needed to complete the spell (a simple UMD check). Verdict: Pass

------

Seems pretty scientific to me.


Mind you, some people can make the fireballs without using the guano or sulfur. Other than that, the effects are identical.

And the scroll isn't just instructions. It contains the magic itself. You couldn't copy the text of the scroll and follow the instructions again and have them work.

Shadow Lodge

johnnythexxxiv has the gist of it. The mechanic of spell preparation indicates that there is a mental/energetic component to spellcasting in addition to the simple words/gestures/materials. The mental component explains limits on spells per day as well as how metamagic can remove physical components (you're compensating by adjusting your mental component).

For a real-world example of mental states influencing physical results, see the placebo effect. For an example of deteriorating mental state over time (as might happen when expending spells), see decision fatigue.

thejeff wrote:
Weirdo wrote:
So because the game rules aren't a great simulation of actual physics, it is pointless for PF characters to even attempt scientific analysis of their world?
It's not pointless, it's just that the closer they look, the weirder the results are going to be. I don't actually want to play in a game where the characters are figuring out they live in a rather poor simulation of a world. (I mean, it could be fun in a weird deconstructionist sort of way, but it wouldn't be much of a high fantasy game.)

As much fun as it is to joke about characters moving in discrete 5ft increments or patiently waiting their turn in combat, I don't think many people believe that's actually how the characters experience it. So why get hung up about similar oddities in how magic is represented like spell levels existing in discrete intervals?


Weirdo wrote:

johnnythexxxiv has the gist of it. The mechanic of spell preparation indicates that there is a mental/energetic component to spellcasting in addition to the simple words/gestures/materials. The mental component explains limits on spells per day as well as how metamagic can remove physical components (you're compensating by adjusting your mental component).

For a real-world example of mental states influencing physical results, see the placebo effect. For an example of deteriorating mental state over time (as might happen when expending spells), see decision fatigue.

thejeff wrote:
Weirdo wrote:
So because the game rules aren't a great simulation of actual physics, it is pointless for PF characters to even attempt scientific analysis of their world?
It's not pointless, it's just that the closer they look, the weirder the results are going to be. I don't actually want to play in a game where the characters are figuring out they live in a rather poor simulation of a world. (I mean, it could be fun in a weird deconstructionist sort of way, but it wouldn't be much of a high fantasy game.)
As much fun as it is to joke about characters moving in discrete 5ft increments or patiently waiting their turn in combat, I don't think many people believe that's actually how the characters experience it. So why get hung up about similar oddities in how magic is represented like spell levels existing in discrete intervals?

Because it's so much more blatant in the magic case. It's hard to even say anything about magic in the world without running into those obvious cases.


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thejeff wrote:
Weirdo wrote:

johnnythexxxiv has the gist of it. The mechanic of spell preparation indicates that there is a mental/energetic component to spellcasting in addition to the simple words/gestures/materials. The mental component explains limits on spells per day as well as how metamagic can remove physical components (you're compensating by adjusting your mental component).

For a real-world example of mental states influencing physical results, see the placebo effect. For an example of deteriorating mental state over time (as might happen when expending spells), see decision fatigue.

thejeff wrote:
Weirdo wrote:
So because the game rules aren't a great simulation of actual physics, it is pointless for PF characters to even attempt scientific analysis of their world?
It's not pointless, it's just that the closer they look, the weirder the results are going to be. I don't actually want to play in a game where the characters are figuring out they live in a rather poor simulation of a world. (I mean, it could be fun in a weird deconstructionist sort of way, but it wouldn't be much of a high fantasy game.)
As much fun as it is to joke about characters moving in discrete 5ft increments or patiently waiting their turn in combat, I don't think many people believe that's actually how the characters experience it. So why get hung up about similar oddities in how magic is represented like spell levels existing in discrete intervals?
Because it's so much more blatant in the magic case. It's hard to even say anything about magic in the world without running into those obvious cases.

Eh, electrons have discrete energy levels in real life, so why not let spells have discrete energy levels as well? Makes enough sense for me. Works for spell slots as well, electrons can't be in the same phase as nearby electrons, spells can't utilize the exact same "piece" of "magical essence" for multiple effects, hence slots.

Minor Tangent:
Having said that, I do greatly prefer spell points over spell slots, especially when you can use spell points to augment the spell level. Psionics is fantastic, sans to a tiny degree the flavor.

Heterodyne's Law : Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.


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johnnythexxxiv wrote:

{. . .}

Explainable: There is no "one true way" to explain magic because it's something that isn't directly relatable to our world. How do you teach a colorblind person the difference between red and green? You can't, because it's not part of their universe. Verdict: Irrelevant. It will be explained in universe however it is explained.
{. . .}

Actually, I'd like to take a shot at explaining color to somebody who is colorblind. (For the sake of simplicity and greater difficulty, assume that they are TOTALLY colorblind, which is actually pretty rare.)

"See these pieces of optical filter plastic here? I wrote on them what colors of light they transmit, that correspond approximately to the colors perceived by the cone photoreceptors that most of us have. You'll have to take my word for it that I wrote the right thing on them, but if you look through them, you'll see that things that people tell you are of colors that match or include (more on that in a moment) the colors that I wrote on them appear most of the way as bright as when you look at them directly, while things that people are telling you that have colors don't match appear relatively dark. Furthermore, when you look at things that people are telling you have colors that include but don't exactly match what I wrote on the plastic, they will appear relatively bright with two of the pieces of plastic instead of just one. Practice with these and then get used to looking at intermediate intensities as well, and you will find that the colors people tell you about correspond approximately to consistent relative intensity profiles. You can even cut out pieces of these filters and put them on color wheels to attach to glasses so that you can spin them for faster alternation, and as long as you overlay some patterned visual cue on them that you can distinguish, you even have a pretty good chance of getting used to them to the point where you can use them rapidly. You can even order more of these filter plastic sheets using the provided catalog numbers, or if you Google long and hard enough, you might even be able to find the chemical compositions need to make them yourself."

(As far as I know, nobody uses the above scheme on a regular basis to assist their vision for navigational or social interaction purposes, because the apparatus would be bulky and look really weird, but in science and engineering, such use of filters to see colors that we can't see very well on our own.)

Silver Crusade

Magic in Pathfinder is not as special as you might think.

Any adventurer can become a Wizard and if they have an Intelligence greater than 9 they can cast spells too. Likewise the theories of magic, Spellcraft and Knowledge(Arcana) can be studied by anyone.

Those spells are predictable, repeatable formulas that can modified due to well-know rules.

The rules of magic could be tested by science. A large reward paid out to someone who could demonstrate magic would be rapidly collected too.

So considering the availability and variety of magic in a Pathfinder games, special is not the right term to use.


You don't even need to be an adventurer, anyone with enough wisdom to not have a penalty can perform magic with merely training as an adept of a magical tradition.

Silver Crusade

Milo v3 wrote:
You don't even need to be an adventurer, anyone with enough wisdom to not have a penalty can perform magic with merely training as an adept of a magical tradition.

Exactly, although I was sticking to Wizards for illustrative purposes.

There has been much discussion about how magic does not behave like real world processes. That is because science has so far discovered that this is all there is. In a Pathfinder word there are different systems to be discovered by science.

What could be problematic is ruling out external influences on an experiment. There are all kinds of ways a hard to detect third party could mess up an experiment, which could be used to start to discredit the process of science.


One thing I find interesting, that if push comes to shove you can go to modern day earth scientists with the golarion setting as a high level wizard and collaborate with them.

Silver Crusade

Milo v3 wrote:
One thing I find interesting, that if push comes to shove you can go to modern day earth scientists with the golarion setting as a high level wizard and collaborate with them.

As far back as AD&D there have been jokes about fantasy adventurers playing games like Papers & Paychecks. People unfamiliar with this can google AD&D DMG cartoons.

Therefore the most likely interaction would a Wizard working out the right kind of Gate or doing the right kind sort of Summons (choose between Scientist, Bureaucrat or Middle-Manager). Another one might be a Wizard sent to a random destination in the multiverse ending up somewhere rather more mundane than expected.

A scientist transposed in a fantasy world would have to shift quite a few paradigms, I believe. The reason we resolve everything in science down to numbers is because people proved it could be done, this might be the case elsewhere.


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I feel that when we are talking about "magic as science" we are mixing up phenomena and the study of that phenomena.

For example:
Stars are not science, astronomy is science.
Catapults are not science, physics is science.

Therefore:
Magic is not science, the study of magic is science. (we can call it thamaturgy :) )

And you can use science to study anything you want. Say that magic is a sentient force that actively changes when you try to study it. You can still study it. That study just becomes more like psychology than like physics.


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Knight Magenta wrote:


Magic is not science, the study of magic is science. (we can call it thamaturgy :) )

Measured with a thaumometer, of course.


Pestilence of the Four Horseman put a blog post on www.d20pfsrd.com about this.

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