who else gets really weird 'physics questions' regarding spells in their games?


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This potentially might only happen in groups like mine, where literally every player has dm'd at some point (and several of us dm regularly). But we're also all neurodiverse, and have a good grounding in solid science, which makes magic 'interesting'. Now, I hadn't closely looked at the rope trick spell in pathfinder's rules before deciding that that was the effect I was using to explain how a rather distressingly competent shady character just strolled out of the kitchen of a private small air-ship (the equivalent of a balloon not unlike the one in the Island at the Top of the World, an old disney movie), while said ship was in flight.

I ended up pointing out that I am sort of merging 3.5 and pathfinder 1 to a degree, and the campaign setting is custom, so yes, I could use the 3.5 version of the spell that allows you to 'pull in the rope' from the inside, to hide it, which the pf1 version doesn't have. Still, it brought up an enormous question by my science-minded players (and I don't mind this at all, only find it is something I doubt many groups really get into). We discussed the spell for a bit after he'd vanished again (as all of them are dms sometime too, I thought I'd point out to the players, who will keep their characters knowledge separate) the spell used to allow him to simply seem to appear where it would otherwise make no sense...but we had to question, how does a spell like that, which anchors to a physical space in a way, work when anchored to a vehicle that is now in motion? It led to some very interesting questions, overall, as well as completely 'outside the box' potential tactics for the spell.

Anyone else have similar experiences, where good, long-time players, will discuss the scientific oddities relating to magic in game? Wanting to come up with practical 'logical' reasons for how something worked?

(Btw, for those curious, yes, my players were very wary to have a completely covered assassin/bounty hunter character step out of a previously unoccupied room... And yes, there was appropriate 'I don't trust this guy' to the fact that his 'introduction' was along the lines of, 'You can relax now. If I was trying to kill you, you would be dead. No, instead, you seem to be a piece of a very interesting puzzle.")


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Over the years we've fielded many "physics vs rules" questions, debates, dice-hurling cussing, etc. We bent, broke, and invented new rules for answers sometimes. The advent of the internet helps a lot now.

The ones that hit me the worst are the math questions. I'm dyscalculic, and anything beyond balancing a checkbook is almost impossible to me. We used to have a guy with a degree in mathematics who could figure out the distance from the bad guy if he were fifty up the tree and you were thirty feet away from it. I can't even begin to fathom that sort of thing, but he'd throw an answer out right off the top of his head. And again, thank the Good Lord Above for the internet because he doesn't game with us anymore.


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*grins* I can understand that. My husband also has dyscalculia, so I'm familiar with it. But it's always fun to see how at least some gaming groups don't just 'handwave' magic, and try to come up with logic for *why* a situation works. And, as a writer, that's something I attempt a lot in my writing too. It just occurs to me that probably a whole heck of a lot of groups out there don't want to put forth the effort in making things make sense.


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One that keeps coming up somehow, down through the years: how does lightning interact with water? Is it a shocking grasp spell? LIghtning bolt? Fresh water? Salt water? Distilled? Rain water? Underwater? It's almost as aggravating to me as breeding and genetics questions.

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Lathiira wrote:
One that keeps coming up somehow, down through the years: how does lightning interact with water? Is it a shocking grasp spell? LIghtning bolt? Fresh water? Salt water? Distilled? Rain water? Underwater? It's almost as aggravating to me as breeding and genetics questions.

Particularly lightning as a magical effect, which by some definitions is going to behave differently than real lightning. Lightning bolt's capacity to burn things also is tricky--it can't start a fire but does it superheat the water?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I tried this with Dead Suns in Starfinder 5 years ago (and said an envoy can't taunt in space unless he's on the same radio frequency as an opponent) and I instantly regretted it because then players started being pedantic about other areas where physics conflicted with rules and that was about the last time I ever tried to reconcile the two.


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as a physicist/engineer I've thought about this over the years and editions. I think I've made my viewpoint clear in my posting history as well as my approach to the game. The game is more about having fun, learning some social skills, roleplaying out some situations, and wasting time in a fun/creative/dramatic setting. It does not confer knowledge about Reality or the real world in a technical sense (in fact it is quite misleading).

It's folly to try to make the rules in the game Real. It's a game written by creative people to be engaging, fun, and entertaining. It is a Work of Art.
One could say the general summation of reality is what you get in the game but consider that the game is far rougher that Newtonian physics which we know is wrong in the details. We know that the game fails when it comes to simple things like falling damage, scaling damage with spell level, equating damage to creatures versus objects, scaling ability scores, etc...
The game is more an artful descriptive model using simple rules of a common experience as to what very roughly happens in a game world. So Reality feeds into the Game, not vice versa.
PF2 & D&D5 stepped away from the AD&D to 3.5 design theme to model a game play experience rather than a common descriptive experience.

Why do people want to make it (more) Real? I think that is a common human ego issue. Who wouldn't want to make some aspects of fantasy world real and bring that fun, success, and understanding into Reality.
Truthfully whatever ideas and thoughts you have do not affect Reality. I like to say, "Reality is Perfect exactly as it is, it can't be any other way. It's your idea of perfection that's the problem."


One possible option, if you wish to keep things RAW and are scientifically illiterate (like me), would be to suggest that the fire/lightning/cold/etc. magical effects are not the actual elements being used but are actually magical facsimiles of those various phenomenon and, as such, don't necessarily follow the actual scientific principles that the magic is imitating. Something to the effect of a continual flame/everburning torch. ;)

Now if such things gets applied to technological items, you could go the route that various hi-tech 'safety-features' are present so that stuff can act as RAW as magical effects. ;p

Lathiira wrote:
One that keeps coming up somehow, down through the years: how does lightning interact with water? Is it a shocking grasp spell? LIghtning bolt? Fresh water? Salt water? Distilled? Rain water? Underwater? It's almost as aggravating to me as breeding and genetics questions.

Paizo's PF1e Aquatic Adventures and the Cerulean Seas 3rd Party Campaign setting has some rules for how electrical magic effects work underwater. Stormwrack for 3.5 also comes to mind but I barely remember the content since I last saw it over a decade ago. ;)


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If you play long enough, you will encounter situations that the rules either do not cover or do not cover well.

If you play with creative people, they will try to use their skills and abilities in a creative, un-anticipated way.

There will be times that you have to adjudicate something to the best of your ability and on the fly.

I always try to make those decisions based on:
1. RAW
2. Specific over general and RAI
3. Past precedent in the game
4. What makes sense based on the table's shared experience with the game world.
5. What feels 'right' to me at the time.

The GM is more than a judge or referee but I think it is important to remember that the job of a referee is to maintain an even playing field for the players.

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