Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Magic Items and Technology"

Standard Introduction
            I have been writing about Dungeons and Dragons semi-regularly this year and in the course of writing those I found a 30-day blog challenge.  As I have done those a couple times before it seemed remiss not to jump on this one.
            If you want here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Disney Movies, here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Video Games, and here is a comically out of date 30-day challenge on Movies (it is old and the writing is rubbish).

Day 25- Magic as Technology
            Generally speaking, I like my magic to be goofy and unpredictable.  The idea that power is not only corrupting (look at yesterday’s entry on “Cursed Items” for that) but can also be hard to understand, hard to use, and just a source of chaos and disruption is (in theory) a good metaphor for knowledge in a culture.  This is basically anti-intellectual horseshit when you give it any real thought.  I regard knowledge as the cure to ills not the cause of them.
            Magic as a metaphor for technological advancement is a popular one, I think “Conan” is the perfect example of that.  Civilization is seen as an unnatural and corrupting force and magical powers are almost always the unnatural element holding such social orders together.  “The Tower of the Elephant” stands as a symbol of wealth and power because of the secret magical knowledge that rests within.

This is arguably the best of the original Robert E Howard "Conan" stories.
Especially as a source of inspiration for gaming groups.
            I also think that metaphor, that “magic = technology” is mostly wrong.  Technology is not mysterious, it can be complicated, but it exists as a consistent and ubiquitous way for normal people to harness the forces of nature and turn them toward producing something more.  To build and repair technology you do need information or training, but that knowledge is readily available in manuals, schools, or internet tutorials.  Magic is not like that by flavor or design.
            Magic is magic, it is not harnessing natural forces, it is manipulating and violating those forces.  It is not information that is readily available, it is arcane, mysterious, or lost to the mists of time.  Magic is not facilitating civilization, it is compelling it.  When a technological society collapses, the “magic items” left behind don’t work because the infrastructure that made the batteries or ammo for them to function no longer exist.  When a magic society collapses, the items left behind are the same stuff that is produced readily by nearly any blacksmith, except slightly better.

My Favorite Magic Item
            My favorite magic item is the Rod/Wand of Wonder.  It is a silly, damn near useless item that gives me the opportunity to roll percentile dice (which is pretty rare) and is just goofy.  I like that magic can be playful in a game, rather than a strictly calculated element with range, area, casting time, chance of failure, and any number of other subsections.
            I have a chart, I point the silly looking stick, and it might shoot butterflies or turn me purple.  I like it.

Coming Tomorrow
            Tomorrow I am going to talk about my favorite spell.

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