Do atoms exist?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


I thought about this question while reading the last book of Reign of Winter, The Witch Queens Revenge.

Reign of Winter Spoilers:
In the "Continuing the Campaign" section, it talks about Dear Grandmother's Winter Collectors, what they do, where they are, etc.

I was wondering precisely how they "leeched cold energy" considering, assuming scientific principles are the same, the absence of energy makes something cold. While the answer is probably going to be "Yes, but magic," I was wondering there was some other, more logical explanation. Maybe something akin to a quantum air conditioner lol


Well we do have radioactivity in the rules, but that's just a poison effect. Considering we have the ancient Greek elements, I'd say atoms do not exist.

(Actually, I'd mostly say that to stop players from "inventing" atomic bombs.)


Yes, atoms do exist. No question about that. How am I so certain? Well, we have fission reactors and fusion reactors in the Technology Guide, so.... Yeah, atoms do exist.

"Leeching cold energy" isn't even unscientific. Assuming the Cold Collectors function as a capacitor of some form or another, so long as the temperature on the "collection" side of the device is colder than the "delivery" side, heat will leak out, and cold will replace it. Just because they use the wrong terminology doesn't mean that thermodynamics isn't a thing.

Radiation is a poison effect because of how Golarion humans metabolize toxins. While earth humans might take weeks, months, or even years to suffer from ill effects caused by poisons, slow-moving diseases, or similar, Golarians have all symptoms manifest within a matter of days, if not less.

As for the "four elements," they represent the four primary building blocks of the universe. Fire represents energy, earth represents solid elements (and mercury and bromine), air represents gases, and water represents life, change, and similar. It's just a different way of looking at the world. Not as literal building blocks, but as metaphorical representations of reality.


Dαedαlus wrote:
Not as literal building blocks, but as metaphorical representations of reality.

Are you going to tell an angry Fire Elemental it's just a figment of our concept of reality? ;-)


Or, what we now know as States of Matter. :)


Yep.

To be more accurate, though, it's a metaphysical representation of all energy present within the multiverse. I feel like it would be happy with that.


In a world where you can create snowballs I'm sure the laws of thermodynamics are not much restrictives.


John Napier 698 wrote:
Or, what we now know as States of Matter. :)

Not quite. While this may seem the case at first, things are complicated by the fact that Earth's energy type is acid, a liquid. Which, going by the 'states of matter' theory, should instead be relegated to water, which should in turn not be representative of cold energy, ice, and steam. Also by that logic, lightning should be a subset of fire, not air. Overall, it just doesn't hold up when comparing the energy damage types.

Alexandros Satorum wrote:
In a world where you can create snowballs I'm sure the laws of thermodynamics are not much restrictives.

...Not quite. The Laws (which, by the way, were not fully what I was referring to in y statement) actually do hold true in the PF cosmology. Why? The key point is that 'in a closed system, entropy will increase/matter-energy will stay constant. Snowball is a Conjuration spell, indicating that that mass is drawn from somewhere, presumably the Plane of Water, and is not, in fact, created from nothingness. Magic is simply the art of bending planar convergences in such a way that energy from one plane can be utilized in another.


That would be a thing if cone of cold were not evocation.


Hmm. Wouldn't many transmutation spells violate the first Law then, as they make organisms bigger, smaller, or even into other organisms, therefore creating/destroying mass/energy?


Sure, but magic.

Regardless, you can't escape the fact that a fairly modern Earth exists in the Golarion universe, *especially* not in Reign of Winter.

It's a pretty common trope in such science-fantasy universes that when traveling to Earth, magic becomes less powerful and physics become more powerful.


I suppose it all depends on the setting in question. It also depends on whether the elemental planes are the equivalents of strings in string theory. I could go on about how I might do something like atoms in a Pathfinder setting, but that would be Homebrew.

I think, given evidence above, it is reasonable to assume some form of atom exists in Pathfinder even if the nature of such atoms is a bit different than what we might be used to.


I have always assumed the physics of the fantasy world are more or less the real world physics except that magic exists and enables things that would otherwise be impossible.

Creating a snowball from nothing is not a violation of thermodynamics, provided you have access to an infinite cold reservoir (say, via magic). Pretty much all thermo or statsmech violations can be explained away by Magic accessing some extra-dimensional source of matter (or place to put excess matter.)


The material plane operates according to physics when under no external forces. Some elements are altered to fit with the game system as this is not meant to directly model the real world but we have evidence all over the place that it is based off that, including Earth being a thing and the advanced, science only, Androffan civilization attaining spaceflight by purely science based approaches. In setting the natural order imposed by physics is routinely disrupted by the manipulation of external forces, alternate planes of existence that do not follow the laws of the material plane intersecting certain points, extraplanar creatures that can be thought of manifest belief or concepts being able to take physical forms and interact on the Prime Material and all of those pesky magic users that can locally interupt fundamental laws of physics.

So Stars are massive burning furnaces of nuclear fussion... that also contain gateways to the plane of positive energy in their hearts and are the source of all souls in existance. life begins when, through natural or artificial means, a shell is created that is capable of containing a soul, the shell calls out to a soul and one transits and probably FTL speeds from the nearest star to the shell and life begins. I assume the massive stream of pure positive energy at the star's heart is enough to shield the soul from the mind numbing amount of fire and radiation it is exposed to on transit.


It's magic. 'Nuff said.


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I would posit that in the setting, things which in our reality are the absence of a kind of energy are instead their own negative energies.

In pathfinder, there is darkness that is not merely the absence of light, but rather a tangible energy/matter form of its own parallel to light.

Likewise, cold in pathfinder is not the absence of heat, rather it is the opposite energy that opposes heat.

Given that we know other facets of real world physics don't apply at all in the Pathfinder setting (I'm looking at you, square cube), it's reasonable to expect there could be other variances.


Atoms might not mean hydrogen and oxygen in PF, too. Democritus' atomic theory back 2400 years or so had atoms of sharp tastes and sweet atoms, for example. Who knows what those stars are fusing?

I remember trying to put together an elemental system of magic based on the elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. It was fun but not hugely playable IMO.

Sovereign Court

Even if it did, it's a world with cosmic powers able to alter reality, so science might be valid Tuesday...and totally invalid Thursday because a god got pissed off.


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

It's an oversimplification that seems more poetic and easier to grasp than heat transference, planar heat sinks, and so on. Cold spells are considered evocation because it throws energy around, it just throws it to some other plane of existence and suddenly dropping the temperature in an area to a dangerous point.

Interesting thought - what if everyone that threw a fireball spell taps into that planar energy pocket that was filled with heat energy from every cold spell cast?


Scythia wrote:

I would posit that in the setting, things which in our reality are the absence of a kind of energy are instead their own negative energies.

In pathfinder, there is darkness that is not merely the absence of light, but rather a tangible energy/matter form of its own parallel to light.

Likewise, cold in pathfinder is not the absence of heat, rather it is the opposite energy that opposes heat.

Given that we know other facets of real world physics don't apply at all in the Pathfinder setting (I'm looking at you, square cube), it's reasonable to expect there could be other variances.

I agree. Creatures are just put together differently. square cube and falling from orbit and 'walking it off' are facts.


I feel like a shared imagined setting benefits from being virtually identical to the real world except in ways that are collectively understood by the players (e.g. game mechanics, "Elves exist", etc.)

So a GM trying to introduce some sort of "alternative theory of physics" to Pathfinder doesn't really benefit the game unless they're going to give lectures to their players about how this works. It's easier for everybody if all the physics of your roleplaying game are real ones, except when required to be otherwise by setting or mechanical constraints.

That's not to say the people in the world need to understand the physics like we do. If, in theory, Magic can tap into some sort of infinite cold reservoir, opening some sort of passage or portal to that place would cause heat energy to flow from the world into that place (assuming positive kelvin temperature.) But just like how the convention for how electricity flows was set as "from positive to negative" when electricity was first discovered it's entirely likely that magical scholars on Golarion concluded that rather than heat flowing into the infinite cold reservoir, instead we have cold energy flowing into the world. At last, that's how I would explain away "cold energy" in this game.


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My theory is that, in Pathfinder, subatomic particles are themselves aligned. You've got good, evil, lawful, chaotic, and neutral quarks that make up atoms.


Pointing out there's been another thread on this

avr wrote:

Atoms might not mean hydrogen and oxygen in PF, too. Democritus' atomic theory back 2400 years or so had atoms of sharp tastes and sweet atoms, for example. Who knows what those stars are fusing?

I remember trying to put together an elemental system of magic based on the elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. It was fun but not hugely playable IMO.

I'm curious, why neglect brimstone (sulpher)? And more importantly, did you remember the metallic aspects of hydrogen?


Ventnor wrote:
My theory is that, in Pathfinder, subatomic particles are themselves aligned. You've got good, evil, lawful, chaotic, and neutral quarks that make up atoms.

Well, in Quantum Chromodynamics there are three kinds of charge, of which each quark can be either positively or negatively charged. Traditionally we use the metaphor of "color", so quarks are red, green, and blue whereas anti-quarks are anti-red, anti-green, and anti-blue. Stable particles subject to the strong force (i.e. protons and neutrons) are "colorless" (i.e. in color singlet states; if you could measure their color there would be an equal probability of being red-antired, blue-antiblue, or green-antigreen) and there are eight gluon colors to moderate the strong force which are kinda colorless after a fashion (a basis element might be something like the superposition of red-antired and blue-antiblue).

Of course, this is just a metaphor and instead of red, antired, blue, antiblue, green, antigreen you could just call them LG, LE, NG, NE, CG, CE (or alternatively LG, CG, LN, CN, LE, CE). The math would work out the same.


Meh...I lost count of the things in Pathfinder (and now Starfinder) that purportedly "emanate cold." I wouldn't infer anything about atomic theory from descriptions like that. ;-)


The Sideromancer wrote:

Pointing out there's been another thread on this

avr wrote:

Atoms might not mean hydrogen and oxygen in PF, too. Democritus' atomic theory back 2400 years or so had atoms of sharp tastes and sweet atoms, for example. Who knows what those stars are fusing?

I remember trying to put together an elemental system of magic based on the elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. It was fun but not hugely playable IMO.

I'm curious, why neglect brimstone (sulpher)? And more importantly, did you remember the metallic aspects of hydrogen?

CHON are the four most common elements in life. And no, I was more concerned with the aspects of hydrogen related to life or otherwise on Earth (acids/alkalis, hydrogen bonds in water, and occasional explosive combustion) rather than its state deep inside gas giants, burning in stars, or floating in thin clouds in space.


5. Throat Chakra (DC 25): Speech and hearing are nothing more than vibrations, and the throat chakra thrums with the occult vibrations that govern existence. Here the urges and emotions of the lower chakras give way to more refined, cerebral vistas, making the throat chakra the bridge between feeling and thinking.

By awakening the throat chakra, the initiate can tap into the primordial mystical language underlying all things—the raw tongue of the multiverse that gives motion to atoms, keeps planets rotating in infinite space, and orders the coruscations of the stars.


Gisher wrote:

5. Throat Chakra (DC 25): Speech and hearing are nothing more than vibrations, and the throat chakra thrums with the occult vibrations that govern existence. Here the urges and emotions of the lower chakras give way to more refined, cerebral vistas, making the throat chakra the bridge between feeling and thinking.

By awakening the throat chakra, the initiate can tap into the primordial mystical language underlying all things—the raw tongue of the multiverse that gives motion to atoms, keeps planets rotating in infinite space, and orders the coruscations of the stars.

I mean, at this point, we've firmly established that atoms, in some form or another, exist (I mean, the fission/fusion reactors in the Technology Guide do that on their own) and are now discussing the nature of physics in Pathfinder.


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Torbyne wrote:

The material plane operates according to physics when under no external forces. Some elements are altered to fit with the game system as this is not meant to directly model the real world but we have evidence all over the place that it is based off that, including Earth being a thing and the advanced, science only, Androffan civilization attaining spaceflight by purely science based approaches. In setting the natural order imposed by physics is routinely disrupted by the manipulation of external forces, alternate planes of existence that do not follow the laws of the material plane intersecting certain points, extraplanar creatures that can be thought of manifest belief or concepts being able to take physical forms and interact on the Prime Material and all of those pesky magic users that can locally interupt fundamental laws of physics.

So Stars are massive burning furnaces of nuclear fussion... that also contain gateways to the plane of positive energy in their hearts and are the source of all souls in existance. life begins when, through natural or artificial means, a shell is created that is capable of containing a soul, the shell calls out to a soul and one transits and probably FTL speeds from the nearest star to the shell and life begins. I assume the massive stream of pure positive energy at the star's heart is enough to shield the soul from the mind numbing amount of fire and radiation it is exposed to on transit.

That's pretty good for this world. I have trouble remembering my past lives because my soul was massively degaussed by passing through the sun.


Gisher wrote:

5. Throat Chakra (DC 25): Speech and hearing are nothing more than vibrations, and the throat chakra thrums with the occult vibrations that govern existence. Here the urges and emotions of the lower chakras give way to more refined, cerebral vistas, making the throat chakra the bridge between feeling and thinking.

By awakening the throat chakra, the initiate can tap into the primordial mystical language underlying all things—the raw tongue of the multiverse that gives motion to atoms, keeps planets rotating in infinite space, and orders the coruscations of the stars.

Robert Mitra taught me that the throat chakra relates to actual space and time. I can speed up traffic and lines by opening my throat chakra. This might be saying the same thing a different way, like having the schools of magic being a different form of quantum mechanics.

I believe that atoms are made up of sub atomic particles that are energy, and that they in turn are made up of actual thought and emotions. They are waves crystallized by their present relationships to other waves. The 3 mystical elements are emotion, thought, and divine inspiration.

This is like how orientals have 5 elements, and planer travel works differently for them. A wizard might have difficulty IDing a thought forms elemental because it would look like what their concept of the idea was.


VRMH wrote:
(Actually, I'd mostly say that to stop players from "inventing" atomic bombs.)

I'd agree; a cube composed of six permanency'd walls of force, filled with a bunch of decanters of endless water set to geyser.

As someone said previously, atoms exist given the fission and fusion reactors of the tech guide. So, eventually the density/pressure of water will pass some kind of critical threshold, resulting in fusion. Probably.

It critically depends on two factors. The first is the durability of the jugs; if you can make them magically invulnerable somehow, you just have to worry about the second, more complicated problem; the physical cosmology of pathfinder.

Is the pressure higher on the plane of water? Is there infinite water on the plane of water? If so, that'd imply something analogous to dark energy...

Assuming those problems are dealt with, then you'll end up with either a fusion bomb (I'd say nuclear fusion is a fair approximation for a disintegration effect) or a black hole.

To clarify, obviously there are a lot of assumptions involved here, and if you try pull this at a table not keen for this kind thing in their game, it's basically a textbook justification for Rocks Fall And Everybody Dies, And Please Don't Call Us Anymore.


Titanium elemental
Chlorine elemental


I'm thinking of putting that water cube in a dungeon, as well as a staff of negation. Can you say epic water bomb? A bottle of too much water (which is always set to geiser) puts out water till pressure equalizes. It's basically a tiny gate to a very deep part of an infinite ocean.


If you are a fan of Star Trek, you have noticed that magic is always just beyond the reach of science. The cat lady was from a realm of pure thought, while the devil was hidden in the center of the galaxy till they put a massive black hole there.

Basicly, I agree that atoms exist, but some atoms are composed of sub sub atomic particles of only one alignment or charge.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
White Hilt wrote:
Do atoms exist?

No, but snakes do.


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Give your bodies to Atom, my friends. Release yourself to his power, feel his Glow and be Divided. Come forth and drink the waters of the Glow, for this ancient weapon of war is our salvation, it is the very symbol of Atom's glory! Behold! He's coming with the clouds! And every eye shall be blind with his glory! Every ear shall be stricken deaf to hear the thunder of his voice! Yea, your suffering shall exist no longer; it shall be washed away in Atom's Glow, burned from you in the fire of his brilliance. Each of us shall give birth to a billion stars formed from the mass of our wretched and filthy bodies!


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Ravingdork wrote:
White Hilt wrote:
Do atoms exist?
No, but snakes do.

At the smallest scales, all matter is made of vibrating strings snakes.


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The Sideromancer wrote:
At the smallest scales, all matter is made of vibrating strings snakes.

Herp Energy Physics? Yep. That checks out.

*Hey, it was that or a CsssssssssERN joke.*

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