1. Marius Av

    Marius Av Member

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    Worldbuilding in a gunpowder fantasy

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Marius Av, Dec 17, 2017.

    Greetings.

    I think I finally found a period of time in which I can building my world around. I believe it would be interesting to see how well technology and magic would work together in a semi-feudal age, which is the gunpowder fantasy.

    I have thought about a medieval novel for some years now, but back then I was too young to create it. I try my best to come up with my own ideas, but sometimes I find inspiration in well-known franchises, too.

    Do you have some pieces of advice about building a world that uses guns and magic? Are there any "not-to-do" things I need to know? I could use anything.

    Thanks.
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Are these magic guns, like in the Powder Mage books, or just magic in a post-medieval world?

    For the first, maybe have a look at, well, the Powder Mage books to see what's been done before. For the second, it sounds kind of like Steampunk? Have you read much of that?
     
  3. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    I would suggest looking at Renaissance Italy as your template. It's not a period that we talk about much but it's super interesting, both from a cultural and historical perspective. I think that this will provide the right kind of spirit for this kind of fantasy. In that period it was kinda, well, everyone was a mercenary. Both literal mercenaries who were hired to fight wars as well as artists being hired by wealthy patrons who knew nothing about art but wanted to show off how awesome they were with statues and triptychs.

    So instead of mages in their ivory towers being all high and mighty; think more about having a guild of mages who are hired by princes to come to their court and cast spells to help with the harvest or to fight their enemies. Magic is just another aspect of your princedom; if you can't hire a guy to sling fireballs around then you really aren't anyone. People can have magical statues made of living gold or columns of fire. But all of this stuff is still the wealthy and powerful showing off their affluence. The mages aren't doing this because they are in charge, it's because magic is the ultimate display of wealth and they get paid well for creating this stuff. They are powerful beings but the real power lies with whoever is paying their tab.

    If you take it in that direction it'll give magic the feeling that it's not that big a deal. It's for hire to anyone who can afford it and that gives it a more interesting edge I think, becoming a craft more than a calling. Something extremely useful of course, but it'd almost be like throwing gold coins at invaders to kill them.

    That then fits into the military environment quite well; your wizard becomes like an artillery piece that is awesome but also maybe a bit unreliable and can be killed by anyone with a sharp object so you have to be careful with it. And the rest of the battle is still late medieval; pikes and plate armour and early muskets. You can have the mages singlehandedly swing battles or have them just be accepted part of doing business; you accept that a chunk of your army is going to eat a fireball and just live with that.

    And to take a step back; I think you'll really enjoy looking at the politics and backstabbing and squabbling of Italy in this time period. It was still feudal but not quite as awful as previous centuries. It had lots of little princes who squabbled rather than one king that everyone had to bow down to. Same for the German princedoms too. It's a very vibrant setting, on where things can change very quickly. It lets you tell all kinds of different stories, not just ones about lords and kings.
     
  4. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    Quick warning, a lot of this is somewhat theoretical statecraft, mostly because we can't really replicate it but we can do things based off of patterns before, so, here goes:

    With the evolution of gunpowder weaponry into things like cannons and other artillery pieces that were effective against fortifications, such things started to matter less and less and instead a greater emphasis was placed on sheer numbers. While castles were still useful, they were not as effective. Over the long-term, a castle is a much cheaper investment than an army. This meant that governments needed a more effective way of gathering tax, which is why we start to see the rise of central banking, as well as a greater centralisation of governments at the same time.

    The other thing to consider is how does magic function in your world. While a previous poster has suggested that mages would be hired for such things and not be the state owners, two factors must be considered. The first being that, as much of history was "who's the biggest bastard who knows how to use their forces the best", people that can throw fireballs might end up in charge due to being significantly stronger than everyone else. The other aspect to consider is how do religions treat magic. Some might say gift from the gods, others might say outright evil.
     
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  5. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Yes that's a fair point. It certainly changes things in the equation of infantry/cavalry/artillery. I can imagine there being princedoms ruled by mages. There were ecclesiastical princedoms in the Holy Roman Empire; where the local land owner was the church and I can see something similar happening with mages. Magic is just another way to wield power, you know? And those areas might have a completely different kind of culture to other areas. They might literally worship their lord as a god; what with the fireballs and all. But of course mages are just as vulnerable to a quiet stab in the dark as anyone else, and that's kinda what makes me want to characterise them as more hired hands. A mage is a powerful man but just a man. It might be harder to just randomly stab them than a normal man, but they have the same weaknesses as everyone else. If the trust you then you can slit their throat before they can make things go boom.

    But yes, you do make a good point. I can see a world where where all princes are expected to go and learn magic before they run anything because that's a critical skill in this world. At least you have to understand what magic is before you can really be a general. You must know what is possible and you must know what exactly is happening to do this. I can certainly see smart and ruthless princes having special forces of mage killers armed with experimental rifled muskets to snipe the mages and thus help your side carry that day.

    I do prefer the interpretation where it remains "who's the biggest bastard" but with an added edge of "if you're really rich you can just fireball everyone to death". That kinda has a nice rock/scissors/fireball element to it. So, your worlds version of the Lannisters (say Renaissance Venice) can have a lot of mages in their army and that's scary and hard to deal with. But your worlds version of the Starks/Baratheon (say Naples/Florence) who are well led and have a strong martial spirit and a grim determination to bring swift death to the enemy are something that you can't just out do with magic. They have their own mages who aren't interested in gold but who are psychotically loyal to their local lord and to their local nationalism. Especially with cavalry and long range black powder weapons you can imagine the skirmish to kill/wound/drive off the mages being critical to the battle, but the battle still matters.

    In fact, if you'll indulge me, you can look at the Warhammer world (as was, pre Age Of Sigmar crap) for how this stuff works out in practise. That is a world that has gunpowder and magic and ends up with them being about equal. It was often said of the game that to win you need to dominate in two phases of the game; those phases being movement, shooting, magic and combat. Even against the hyper magical armies (Lizardmen, High Elves, Vampires) you can beat them by dominating movement phase and forcing them to fight on your terms. Sure you can throw Purple Sun Of Xereus or Dwellers Beneath at them, but your dudes are still getting charged in the flank and that's bad times for all. That's something I see coming through in this world. There's four phases to a battle and magic is one of them. You don't need to win at magic to win a battle, you just need to have just enough magic to ensure their mages don't get it all their own way, and then use your dudes well and you can come out ahead.

    Since I'm on that subject actually; you should think about how magic works in your world. In the Warhammer world magic is more... It's somewhat random but not quite but a bit and not always long ranged and if you screw up it can hurt you instead. That's because it's a tabletop game of course; it's about being fair and balancing risk. But you should think about that. Can mages just rain fire across vast distances no matter what? Or do they need rare and difficult to obtain things to cast spells? In the Warhammer world there's something called "The Winds Of Magic" that represents the local magical fluxes and it's somewhat random. Sometimes your mages can hurl their killer spells all the time with irresistable force but sometimes you'll be lucky to cast a few little things.

    Anyway, interesting things to think about :)
     
  6. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    I will fully admit that of the main flaws of my worldview is that mages almost end up as the ruling class to me, as magic within my work tends to be genetic. I can see some standard people getting some power via scheming, but not institutional power. However, if learned, I think it could actually create an interesting system where it makes sense for peasants to be educated to a certain level, such as knowing spells for water, healing, and general agriculture, while the upper class keep the more combat orientated stuff to themselves.

    Anyway, Blood for the Blood God. Skulls for the Skull Throne
     
  7. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    I can say what you should do. I am assuming your story is somewhat combat based. What you need to do is think about other aspects of how magic works and the level of science technology in the everyday world. How common place is magic in your world? Can everyone use it to some degree? If so maybe they don't need flint-lock guns because practically everyone can conjure up a flame; perhaps magical ability to some degree is a requirement for soldiering?

    At the everyday level what about machinery? Research exactly what level of understanding is needed for gunpowder to be developed. Obviously we can assume that a degree of chemistry is understood, and perhaps combustion and steam power are already in development. If not we can then assume that the magical element of knowhow has made scientific understanding it that particular field more or less redundant?

    These kind of things are worth thinking about even if they may not serve as a active portion in your narrative. If you understand your world it will shine through in your writing.
     
  8. Marius Av

    Marius Av Member

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    It took me some time to read your answers. Thank you all :p

    @BayView , the guns are not influenced by magic.

    As for what I figured about my worldbuilding so far...

    Magic is very hard to practice in my world. In fact, all lands have a mutagenic toxin which was analyzed for a long time by a talented scholar. The properties of the toxin were accidently modified in the process and the scholar didn't know she created a new substance which could increase the abilities of humans beyond the limits. That's magic and is very difficult to obtain and master. It was just a myth for mere peasants, that is, until now.

    That mutagenic toxin is a key in building my world. Do you have any suggestions about it?
     
  9. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think you know what those words mean. Toxin means a poison, and mutagen means it will cause mutations, meaning it will work on a genetic level. Your world is literally filled with poisonous cancer causing stuff. While our world is as well, you're going to have to be a lot more specific.

    Part two is that, if this stuff is everywhere, and the change is caused by nonmagical means, it wouldn't actually be that difficult to replicate the change that happened before. Not to mention that scientists tend to have a habit of writing what they do down, and then making sure no one else can steal their research.

    Part three is the "beyond human limits" part. Because that just sounds like extending current human abilities instead of creating new ones. E.G Making someone stronger, not giving them the ability to create fireballs. Not to mention that if it's a substance that is taken, being able to "master" it doesn't really sound right in the same way that people don't master steroids.
     
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  10. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    Honestly? I wouldn't even talk about it. The top line to me is that magic used to be a myth that has now become a huge deal. That's what matters to the average person. Finding out why can wait for later. What matters is that we used to be pike and shotte and now your soldiers are being destroyed by magical tornadoes.

    Finding out why this is happening sounds like something that the characters slowly unwind, not something that you drop on the audience first off because, well, toxin is toxin but magic is frikkin magic.
     
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  11. Marius Av

    Marius Av Member

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    That is what I mean by the term I used.

    Thanks for pointing out the flaws. They're not that big of a deal, but the problem here is with my explanations. I tend to say little. For now, I will get back to my outline.
     

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