Is Pathfinder magic just a kind of science?


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

I'm not convinced. You still have wizards and the like who are special people. If it was really like science everybody who check out a spellbook could follow the instructions and fling spells. Spells wouldn't run out either. Science is repeatable by everybody all the time.

Sure, somebody else who is a caster can make a magic item and then sell them, but you are still right back to it needing somebody special. The reason why, in the real world, it takes a lot longer to develop technology is because we have generations of people who have to build on the discoveries of the previous generations. Discoveries need time for other discoveries to catch up to the point where a technology can take those disparate elements and combine them. But you don't have that with magic spells. All of them exist already. You have humans and beings with human level intelligence or beyond that already know how how to make anything they want happen. There is no lead time. There is already a spell to make a automobile-like magic carriage. Just use "Magic Mouth" to make a magic radio. The reason they don't have those things is because it requires special people with special knowledge. That is the definition of magic.

Silver Crusade

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The way I see it magic is a natural force. That force can be manipulated via SCIENCE! such as how wizards use it (and anyone can learn to use it if they undergo the training, so I don't know how "special" you have to be). However there are some creatures that can just do it naturally (sorcerers, outsiders, etc.), they are not using it scientifically.

In short, magic isn't a science any more than light is a science. Wizardry, however, is.


It's both depending on the source. Just as anyone can learn to make cars, anyone can be a wizard if you try hard enough. However, sorcerers have to be unique people (Unless you use your own fluff).

Scarab Sages

There is nothing special about being a caster. Anyone can be one. All they have to do is have levels in the right class. But class is an invention of the game that has no meaning to the actual inhabitants of the world. Leaning to become a wizard is something anyone can do, usually by apprenticeship, but can also be done just studying a found spellbook and experimentation.


The modern concept of science is so broad that it includes topics that were formerly the province of religion or philosophy. Questions like: how did the universe begin? Does God exist? And, are souls real? Are now considered to be scientific questions.

But I think Pathfinder magic would still fall under the more traditional scientific definition. For a game mechanic for magic that is unscientific Mage The Ascension would be a better example.

Scarab Sages

Goddity wrote:
However, sorcerers have to be unique people (Unless you use your own fluff).

And yet anyone can take levels in sorcerer as well. The bloodline you choose means there was something way back in your gene pool that put some magical ability into you, but mechanically, it's nothing special. Just a slightly above average CHA.

Silver Crusade

Imbicatus wrote:
Goddity wrote:
However, sorcerers have to be unique people (Unless you use your own fluff).
And yet anyone can take levels in sorcerer as well. The bloodline you choose means there was something way back in your gene pool that put some magical ability into you, but mechanically, it's nothing special. Just a slightly above average CHA.

While true, mechanics aren't what's being discussed. While any character can take levels in sorcerer, in-game it isn't something you can decided to do (mechanically, you just end up tapping into something you didn't previously know about and/or have access to).

Scarab Sages

Isonaroc wrote:
Imbicatus wrote:
Goddity wrote:
However, sorcerers have to be unique people (Unless you use your own fluff).
And yet anyone can take levels in sorcerer as well. The bloodline you choose means there was something way back in your gene pool that put some magical ability into you, but mechanically, it's nothing special. Just a slightly above average CHA.
While true, mechanics aren't what's being discussed. While any character can take levels in sorcerer, in-game it isn't something you can decided to do (mechanically, you just end up tapping into something you didn't previously know about and/or have access to).

Exactly. And if you go back far enough, every sentient creature on Golarian has an ancestor that was somehow connected to some source of power that would allow them to take levels in sorcerer.

The fact that each source is slightly different or unique is not relevant when anyone can unlock the ability to cast spells in that manner.


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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.


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There could certainly be a science of magic. Why do some spells last a set increment of time based on the caster? Does the world have a concept of caster level based on how long your spells last compared to someone else?


Pathfinder magic is defined by mathematical rules that work within the framework of an objective reality. I struggle to think of a way of making the magic system more like a science.


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Science studies how things work. In Pathfinder, magic is a thing that works, so it could be studied as a science. Just like brains are a thing that works, and we study them as a science.

I think a better question is whether magic is a kind of technology. Some people and creatures are born with it innately, but it can also be studied and learned. On the other hand, birds can fly but airplanes are technology. New spells can be researched, which certainly lends itself to technology.

A cool game setting would be a pre-historic one where wizardry has yet to be invented and magic is performed by sorcerers, shamans, skalds, etc. The magic is much more focused on things like flashy evocation, ritualistic calling spells rather than summoning spells, and so on. Creatures might be able to do more with their spell-like abilities, but humanoidanity has yet to imitate it.


darth_borehd wrote:
I'm not convinced. You still have wizards and the like who are special people. If it was really like science everybody who check out a spellbook could follow the instructions and fling spells. Spells wouldn't run out either. Science is repeatable by everybody all the time.

This is simply a result of the class system. You could say the same to have "why can't my wizard sneak attack?".

Quote:
All of them exist already.

Blatantly false, you can make your own spells through study and discovery.

But either way, no matter what, if anything exists in a setting you can use science with it. Because otherwise it wouldn't exist.


Related question: for those of you who think the Pathfinder magic system is like a science (the majority it seems) how would you make a game where the magic system is unscientific?


Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Related question: for those of you who think the Pathfinder magic system is like a science (the majority it seems) how would you make a game where the magic system is unscientific?

It'd be like real life, where magic is unscientific because we haven't had any tests supporting it. It remains the null hypothesis. (That's why I think "technology" might be a better term, since you can apply science to just about anything.)


Milo v3 wrote:
darth_borehd wrote:
I'm not convinced. You still have wizards and the like who are special people. If it was really like science everybody who check out a spellbook could follow the instructions and fling spells. Spells wouldn't run out either. Science is repeatable by everybody all the time.

This is simply a result of the class system. You could say the same to have "why can't my wizard sneak attack?".

{. . .}

Good point but bad example -- with VMC Rogue, your Wizard CAN Sneak Attack without dipping -- just takes several levels to get there. (That said, I would still like to see an Arcane Trickster archetype of Magus, and Greensting Slayer doesn't cut it.)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
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.


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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.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Magic follows a set of rules which can be tested and experimented against in Pathfinder. So yes, it's a science.

Sovereign Court

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I would argue that, while magic is a learned skill, it's not a science.

While wizards know how to do something, there's no real logic behind how/why they work.

Also - while it is a learned skill - that doesn't necessarily mean that anyone can do it. After all - painting a masterpiece is something that can be taught - but that doesn't mean that everyone can learn how. *shrug* (though that's a world-building decision)

In any world though - only about 1/2 of everyone can be taught since you need an 11 Int. Even if you just were to say that you need a 16+ (which every wizard I've ever seen has) that would drop it down to 6.94% of the population being able to learn - going by the 3d6 bell curve. (and that's for races who have/can get +2 Int)


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.

I really think Boomerang Nebula hit it on the nail here. Yes, technically anyone can perform scientific experiments. Doesn't mean that they're good enough at it to produce a meaningful result, especially without specialized training.

Similarly, anyone can attempt to learn magic. Heck, UMD is actually a great skill for showcasing how much proficient someone who hasn't made magic their career choice is at performing basic magical tasks. You may never be able to innovate new effects (that's what the people who actually devote their career to magic do) or perform magic without the right equipment (scrolls, wands, etc.), but you may become comfortable enough with magic that it becomes second nature to you (high skill ranks).


Was going to respond to LazarX's post and say that what you are observing may be just Arcane Quantum Mechanics, but I see that I got SUPER NINJA'D.


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Alchemy would be science.... Magic would be magic. You could use some science to replicate some magic... but magic is more then that.

Just think of all the different TYPES of magic they have out there... All the meta magic feats the Words of Power...

It's like saying if anyone takes these three items (material components) mix them in this particular order and put them over a flame (somantic components,) While activating these sonic tones?? (Verbal Components) Then Science indicates you could have XXXX effect.

Or someone with Silent/still/eschew feats just will something to happen and get the same result.

That last one doesn't really look like science anymore.

Not even counting the Wish spells or summoning spells and things that really don't have much overlap that ISN'T supernatural and really isn't that codified per the spell. Same components, same actions... different results.


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D&D needs to have a bunch of rules to play by but that doesn't mean that the Magic in the game is scientific. If you look in your rule books I am sure there is science to be found. But if you think of the Magic of Golarion, there isn't any science there.


phantom1592 wrote:

Alchemy would be science.... Magic would be magic. You could use some science to replicate some magic... but magic is more then that.

Just think of all the different TYPES of magic they have out there... All the meta magic feats the Words of Power...

It's like saying if anyone takes these three items (material components) mix them in this particular order and put them over a flame (somantic components,) While activating these sonic tones?? (Verbal Components) Then Science indicates you could have XXXX effect.

Or someone with Silent/still/eschew feats just will something to happen and get the same result.

That last one doesn't really look like science anymore.

Not even counting the Wish spells or summoning spells and things that really don't have much overlap that ISN'T supernatural and really isn't that codified per the spell. Same components, same actions... different results.

I see it moreso as magic is a fundamental property of the universe such as gravity or electrical charge, and those with sufficient training are more efficient at harnessing its power. Yes bat droppings and chanting help with harnessing what's needed to make a fireball, but they are not needed. It is however, substantially harder to do without(hence the higher spell level).


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johnnythexxxiv wrote:
phantom1592 wrote:

Alchemy would be science.... Magic would be magic. You could use some science to replicate some magic... but magic is more then that.

Just think of all the different TYPES of magic they have out there... All the meta magic feats the Words of Power...

It's like saying if anyone takes these three items (material components) mix them in this particular order and put them over a flame (somantic components,) While activating these sonic tones?? (Verbal Components) Then Science indicates you could have XXXX effect.

Or someone with Silent/still/eschew feats just will something to happen and get the same result.

That last one doesn't really look like science anymore.

Not even counting the Wish spells or summoning spells and things that really don't have much overlap that ISN'T supernatural and really isn't that codified per the spell. Same components, same actions... different results.

I see it moreso as magic is a fundamental property of the universe such as gravity or electrical charge, and those with sufficient training are more efficient at harnessing its power. Yes bat droppings and chanting help with harnessing what's needed to make a fireball, but they are not needed. It is however, substantially harder to do without(hence the higher spell level).

In a somewhat analogous situation, my chemistry lecturer at University could tell if our experiments worked just by smelling the result, whereas I had to actually test the results to know.


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No, not really. Magic doesn't tend to have many consistent rules you'd need. It just works because it does, but consistency is rarely involved. Cast that fireball a dozen times and you're unlikely to ever get one that does EXACTLY as much damage as a different one, only a ballpark average of how powerful it might be.

Magic's a force that doesn't have rules, it's how people that learn how to use magic make it work.

Wizardry and Alchemy try to break the force down into formulae they memorize and write down. As a tradeoff, they can't access very much of it at a time compared to others.

Bards control the force through art.

Sorcerers, who have a higher concentration of magical force in their very blood, use force of personality to master it and force it to take form naturally the way most monsters with magical powers do.

Divine Magic is receiving the force in certain forms from faith in one's god, while Occult Magic is using thought and emotion, and sometimes certain special tools, to manipulate the force with mental energies.


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Blackwaltzomega wrote:

No, not really. Magic doesn't tend to have many consistent rules you'd need. It just works because it does, but consistency is rarely involved. Cast that fireball a dozen times and you're unlikely to ever get one that does EXACTLY as much damage as a different one, only a ballpark average of how powerful it might be.

Magic's a force that doesn't have rules, it's how people that learn how to use magic make it work.

If you run the 100 metre sprint a dozen times you won't achieve the same exact time on every attempt. You do any activity your results will not be exactly reproducible within the precision of known science.

Magic in Pathfinder does have rules, mathematical rules. Contrast that with the magic system in Mage The Ascension where if you cast fireball today, chances are you won't be able to cast it at all tomorrow. In that system there is no objective reality within which magic works, the mind powers magic and belief defines reality making reality itself subjective. Science works in that world because humanity believes that it should work but some people (mages) have willpower so strong that they can challenge the beliefs of the majority and bend reality to their will.


Imbicatus wrote:
Goddity wrote:
However, sorcerers have to be unique people (Unless you use your own fluff).
And yet anyone can take levels in sorcerer as well. The bloodline you choose means there was something way back in your gene pool that put some magical ability into you, but mechanically, it's nothing special. Just a slightly above average CHA.

That depends, Yes it is a choice on the part of the player, but becoming a Sorcerer might not be a choice on the part of the character. These strange magic powers might be coming to him unconciously or as part of a family curse.

Just keep in mind that Class is a game mechanic not a part of the world. It's a system to deliver the abilities that best reprisent the character you are trying to play.

An Abyss bloodline sorcerer can be used for a character who is possessed by a demon just as easily as someone who had a bit of demon blood in hhis distant ancestry. Or you could have it as someone who Stole power from a demon to give himself innate magical powers.

The mechanics deliver the abilities, your role-playing cover the rest.

Sovereign Court

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Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Magic in Pathfinder does have rules, mathematical rules.

They have mathematical rules from OUR perspective. But I'd argue that's just a simplification for the sake of the tactical aspect of the game.

My general rule for fantasy - if something doesn't follow Einstein's rule for how energy cannot be created or destroyed - then it's not science. (yes - I'm aware that quantum physics might not [though it might] - but we know so little about it that it's a pretty moot point)


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Greylurker wrote:
Imbicatus wrote:
Goddity wrote:
However, sorcerers have to be unique people (Unless you use your own fluff).
And yet anyone can take levels in sorcerer as well. The bloodline you choose means there was something way back in your gene pool that put some magical ability into you, but mechanically, it's nothing special. Just a slightly above average CHA.

That depends, Yes it is a choice on the part of the player, but becoming a Sorcerer might not be a choice on the part of the character. These strange magic powers might be coming to him unconciously or as part of a family curse.

Just keep in mind that Class is a game mechanic not a part of the world. It's a system to deliver the abilities that best reprisent the character you are trying to play.

An Abyss bloodline sorcerer can be used for a character who is possessed by a demon just as easily as someone who had a bit of demon blood in hhis distant ancestry. Or you could have it as someone who Stole power from a demon to give himself innate magical powers.

The mechanics deliver the abilities, your role-playing cover the rest.

Same for wizard. There's no rule I'm aware of saying that anyone can learn to do magic (assuming sufficient Int).

Any player can choose to take a level in wizard (or Sorcerer or Witch or Magus or for that matter Cleric or Oracle), but PCs are special and that's still perfectly compatible with a setting where only certain people have the necessary spark for magic.

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 instructions.

That seems a difference between science and magic.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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

Since I'm pretty sure it was my comment that made you want to start this thread, I'll point out that I didn't say Pathfinder magic is science, I said Pathfinder magic is just a natural force that can be studied scientifically.


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Another way to think of arcane/psychic/alchemical magic is hacking. You figure out ways to hack into the Force or the gigantic simulation (these are not mutually exclusive) that is the universe. Both skill and raw talent are required, although different classes put different emphases on these. Divine magic is similar except that instead of hacking in, you are granted access by your patron deity (or in some cases deity substitute, such as Philosophy of Nature for Druids/Hunters/Rangers, or some kind of cosmic accident for Oracles). Witchcraft has elements of both: You are granted access by your Patron, but your Patron doesn't have the ability to pull off a full divine magic grant, so it has to teach you how to hack, but tries to keep a backdoor-within-a-backdoor into your hacking to keep you under its control, and doesn't teach you how to codify your abilities in anything that can be easily copied such as a spellbook (of course, some more independent-minded Witch came up with the Stone Familiar . . . Shhhhh . . . Don't tell anyone . . .).


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Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Magic in Pathfinder does have rules, mathematical rules.

They have mathematical rules from OUR perspective. But I'd argue that's just a simplification for the sake of the tactical aspect of the game.

My general rule for fantasy - if something doesn't follow Einstein's rule for how energy cannot be created or destroyed - then it's not science. (yes - I'm aware that quantum physics might not [though it might] - but we know so little about it that it's a pretty moot point)

I believe the reasoning is that the energy comes from a different plane.

Liberty's Edge

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

Any sufficiently formalized magical system is indistinguishable from technology.


Melkiador wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Magic in Pathfinder does have rules, mathematical rules.

They have mathematical rules from OUR perspective. But I'd argue that's just a simplification for the sake of the tactical aspect of the game.

My general rule for fantasy - if something doesn't follow Einstein's rule for how energy cannot be created or destroyed - then it's not science. (yes - I'm aware that quantum physics might not [though it might] - but we know so little about it that it's a pretty moot point)

I believe the reasoning is that the energy comes from a different plane.

I believe the reasoning is "F$#+ Einstein."

And quantum physics cheats. :)


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Magic in Pathfinder does have rules, mathematical rules.

They have mathematical rules from OUR perspective. But I'd argue that's just a simplification for the sake of the tactical aspect of the game.

My general rule for fantasy - if something doesn't follow Einstein's rule for how energy cannot be created or destroyed - then it's not science. (yes - I'm aware that quantum physics might not [though it might] - but we know so little about it that it's a pretty moot point)

That is the default assumption for magic at our table as well. The problem is that the fluff doesn't match the mechanics very well and since magic is rigidly defined in the rules over time magic tends to lose it's mystique.

Mage The Ascension handles magic in a different way, which is interesting, but it relies a lot on GM fiat to represent the arbitrariness of magic and a lot of players and GMs don't like that. I wonder if there might be some middle ground that works better than both options where some extra variability is added to Pathfinder magic to make it a little more mysterious and less reliable.


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CBDunkerson wrote:
Any sufficiently formalized magical system is indistinguishable from technology.

That should be Arthur C. Clarke's fourth law after:

"3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."


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Boomerang Nebula wrote:
CBDunkerson wrote:
Any sufficiently formalized magical system is indistinguishable from technology.

That should be Arthur C. Clarke's fourth law after:

"3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

"Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced."


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thejeff wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
CBDunkerson wrote:
Any sufficiently formalized magical system is indistinguishable from technology.

That should be Arthur C. Clarke's fourth law after:

"3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

"Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced."

Got you covered.


QuidEst wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
CBDunkerson wrote:
Any sufficiently formalized magical system is indistinguishable from technology.

That should be Arthur C. Clarke's fourth law after:

"3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

"Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced."
Got you covered.

Nah, that has different implications.

My version, which is semantically equivalent to the original, implies that our tech needs to be better. :)

Technically, it's the contrapositive and it's not actually mine, it's Gehm's Corollary.

Sovereign Court

Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Boomerang Nebula wrote:
Magic in Pathfinder does have rules, mathematical rules.

They have mathematical rules from OUR perspective. But I'd argue that's just a simplification for the sake of the tactical aspect of the game.

My general rule for fantasy - if something doesn't follow Einstein's rule for how energy cannot be created or destroyed - then it's not science. (yes - I'm aware that quantum physics might not [though it might] - but we know so little about it that it's a pretty moot point)

That is the default assumption for magic at our table as well. The problem is that the fluff doesn't match the mechanics very well and since magic is rigidly defined in the rules over time magic tends to lose it's mystique.

Mage The Ascension handles magic in a different way, which is interesting, but it relies a lot on GM fiat to represent the arbitrariness of magic and a lot of players and GMs don't like that. I wonder if there might be some middle ground that works better than both options where some extra variability is added to Pathfinder magic to make it a little more mysterious and less reliable.

Yeah - it's a system choice.

D&D/Pathfinder chose to keep spell-casting more predictable from a tactical perspective - otherwise you end up with a chance of your fireball fizzling right before you're run over by a half-dozen rampaging orcs.

Mage The Ascension chose to go with a more vibe/story focus. But generally - I like the general vibe of White Wolf games but dislike the mechanics because they're far too random & GM fiat based to make the tactics interesting. Tactics are one of the things I like about RPGs. (maybe because I did wargaming well before any tabletop RPGs :P)

I'm not sure that the mechanical differences between the two mean THAT much from a world-building perspective.


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darth_borehd wrote:

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

I'm not convinced. You still have wizards and the like who are special people. If it was really like science everybody who check out a spellbook could follow the instructions and fling spells. Spells wouldn't run out either. Science is repeatable by everybody all the time.

Spellcraft and Knowledge (arcana) are the science behind the science of magic that ANYONE can do. Magic itself is more like a complex chemical reaction. Those can get really intricate and long (spell formulae / casting time), require proper training and education (like a single class level), and need the proper reagents (verbal/somatic/material components) to produce the desired result. Because magic is so complex, spellcasters who use spellbooks fill these tomes with their own personal mnemonics, codes, and formulae that, while based on universally understood elements and rules (magic DOES follow rules), vary from the preferences and knowledge of other casters. So a spellbook isn't what allows a caster to perform magic, it's his own understanding that does it.

As far as spells being limited and such, you can't make ten tons of soap from one ounce of lye. Likewise, the end result of magic is typically seen as energy being manipulated in a manner that requires the focus and mental clarity of the caster. In both cases, what comes out of the result is dependent on what went into it in the first place. You need enough lye for the soap and you need enough mental 'oomph' for the spells. That's why a wizard requires a minimum mental ability score for each level of spell they can use and needs 8 hours of sleep to prep their spells. If you're rested enough to put your focus into it and smart enough to understand how to pull it off, you can trigger an arcane reaction that channels energy in some pre-determined way to affect reality. Once you've done this enough, though, your ability to properly focus on your magic deteriorates to the point you can't pull off these awesome effects anymore. Simple reactions like cantrips are easy to do endlessly, though. That's more akin to using a flint and tinder to make a spark, rather than consuming fuel to use a lighter or a flamethrower. While both methods can start a forest fire, one has a lot easier time of it due to the energy being used for the process.

darth_borehd wrote:
Sure, somebody else who is a caster can make a magic item and then sell them, but you are still right back to it needing somebody special.

Master Craftsman would like a word.

darth_borehd wrote:
The reason why, in the real world, it takes a lot longer to develop technology is because we have generations of people who have to build on the discoveries of the previous generations. Discoveries need time for other discoveries to catch up to the point where a technology can take those disparate elements and combine them.

Exactly. Golarion actually has a parallel for this with arcane magic. Old Man Jetembe basically reverse-engineered arcane magic back into the world from studying with divine casters after the Aboleths caused Earthfall and ushered in the Age of Darkness. A LOT was lost in the Age of Darkness, like most of the advancement made in magic by the Azlanti and Thassilonians. The knowledge of how to use arcane magic wasn't "always there", it had to be recreated by a genius of mythic capability. Sorcerers, summoners, and other spontaneous casters are, of course, a rather odd lot that doesn't exactly fit into this mold, but I believe the example still stands.

darth_borehd wrote:
But you don't have that with magic spells. All of them exist already. You have humans and beings with human level intelligence or beyond that already know how how to make anything they want happen. There is no lead time. There is already a spell to make a automobile-like magic carriage. Just use "Magic Mouth" to make a magic radio. The reason they don't have those things is because it requires special people with special knowledge. That is the definition of magic.

The spell blood money exists in approximately two locations in the Multi-verse when the Rise of the Runelords AP starts. I would not say that means anyone in existence can use their own blood for a stoneskin spell, for example. So, knowledge and advancement in magic can be lost (and potentially found again) just like any other discovery about the world around us. If someone in current Tien Xia comes up with a similar spell, they'll have gone through a different development process and the end result will be quite different in some key respects. It will require different magic words, gestures, that kind of thing because it's a different spell than blood money. It's like convergent evolution, but with the science of magic.


Charon's Little Helper wrote:


Yeah - it's a system choice.

D&D/Pathfinder chose to keep spell-casting more predictable from a tactical perspective - otherwise you end up with a chance of your fireball fizzling right before you're run over by a half-dozen rampaging orcs.

Mage The Ascension chose to go with a more vibe/story focus. But generally - I like the general vibe of White Wolf games but dislike the mechanics because they're far too random & GM fiat based to make the tactics interesting. Tactics are one of the things I like about RPGs. (maybe because I did wargaming well before any tabletop RPGs :P)

I'm not sure that the mechanical differences between the two mean THAT much from a world-building perspective.

Totally agree, I thought the GURPS version of world of darkness was better than the original due to superior game mechanics.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I would say that while magic CAN be studied scientifically, that does not mean it is being done. Just because magic is a natural force does not mean people are applying what we would recognize as scientific method to it, sharing that knowledge, peer reviewing, etc. It is more like a trade secret kept within specific guilds and schools for the most part, making it far easier for the tricks to the system to be lost, or used without truly being understood. Things like concrete or methods of steel forging STILL haven't caught up to some ancient methods that were lost in the real world because they were guarded as trade secrets and died out.

Put another way, science can be seen as the method of learning, not the thing it studies. The thing is always true, if we know about it and have documented it or not, and what most people think of a science is the act of understanding and documenting the forces of nature.


Cerberus Seven wrote:

{. . .}

Master Craftsman would like a word.
{. . .}

With this feat, in Pathfinder, if you aren't a spellcaster, you can at best be a script kiddie.


Waiiiiit.

If in Pathfinder:
Magic is a science
Religion is magic
Religion is science?

I have a sudden urge to write up a Cleric of science

Shadow Lodge

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I think there are three factors that explain why wizards can treat magic as a science without magic being as easily reproduced as a recipe in a cookbook.

1) Trade secrets, like xobmaps mentioned. Arcane magic is very powerful, and wizards may be motivated to obscure their magcial knowledge in order to profit from being one of the few people who have that knowledge. This hoarding of knowledge isn't even dependent on wizards actually losing spell theory to incomplete documentation – think of modern countries trying to keep the knowledge to build an atom bomb secret.

2) Casting spells is a lot more complicated than your average recipe, and in fact high-level spells are about as difficult a mental problem as building a nuclear bomb. The average person can't just pick up a book and duplicate the procedure – especially since thanks to (1) the recipe is likely to be somehow muddled or incomplete. As a scientist, I see this even in some experimental protocols/”recipies.”

3) Magic depends on the state of mind of the caster to function, with wizardly spell preparation linking it in particular to your ability to hold a spell in a slightly longer-term version of working memory. Basic intelligence and probably some specific mental training would be required to manage that task even if they did have the process of spellcasting demonstrated to them in detail.

Charon's Little Helper wrote:

Also - while it is a learned skill - that doesn't necessarily mean that anyone can do it. After all - painting a masterpiece is something that can be taught - but that doesn't mean that everyone can learn how. *shrug* (though that's a world-building decision)

In any world though - only about 1/2 of everyone can be taught since you need an 11 Int. Even if you just were to say that you need a 16+ (which every wizard I've ever seen has) that would drop it down to 6.94% of the population being able to learn - going by the 3d6 bell curve. (and that's for races who have/can get +2 Int)

You only need a 10 Int for cantrips. That's 65.5% of the human population, assuming an even chance of the racial +2 ending up in intelligence. 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.

Charon's Little Helper wrote:

D&D/Pathfinder chose to keep spell-casting more predictable from a tactical perspective - otherwise you end up with a chance of your fireball fizzling right before you're run over by a half-dozen rampaging orcs.

...
I'm not sure that the mechanical differences between the two mean THAT much from a world-building perspective.

I think the mechanics are relevant from a world-building perspective, because magic that is less random is not just more predictable and reproducible for the players but for the characters, meaning it is easier to study in a scientific manner.

Charon's Little Helper wrote:
My general rule for fantasy - if something doesn't follow Einstein's rule for how energy cannot be created or destroyed - then it's not science. (yes - I'm aware that quantum physics might not [though it might] - but we know so little about it that it's a pretty moot point)

The scientific process, interestingly enough, is not dependent on specific scientific rules or theories being true. It is only dependent on your ability to test the rules that are being followed. This is why science as a whole can survive specific models – such as the heliocentric model of the solar system – being disproved. Or if, as you indicated, it turns out that something in our world doesn't follow Conservation of Energy.


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Goddity wrote:
It's both depending on the source. Just as anyone can learn to make cars, anyone can be a wizard if you try hard enough. However, sorcerers have to be unique people (Unless you use your own fluff).

Only in certain people do the tendons in your fingers allow you to properly make the Vulcan live long and prosper sign. Only certain people can troll their tongue in certain ways. Only some people are double jointed. Some people have synesthesia and can see colors as sounds or hear music as colors. Some people's brains are able to to do absurdly complicated equations in ways normal people just can't in their head.

Why is only certain people having the brain structure needed to perform sorcery so unscientific once you accept the existence of sorcery in the first place?


darth_borehd wrote:

I'm not convinced. You still have wizards and the like who are special people. If it was really like science everybody who check out a spellbook could follow the instructions and fling spells.

Anybody with an INT of 10 *can* pick up a spellbook and fling spells. The instructions are just a lot more complicated than programming your DVR. If I handed you, say, the plans to the large hadron collider, and the parts, written in full technical jargon, you wouldn't be able to build the thing without studying the subject to learn the jargon (which would be taking a level in scientist, so to speak). Same for wizardry.

Spell Research is a thing.

You should look up the Eberron setting (best setting EVAR), where magic actually has an impact on societal development.

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