Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Magic As Technology

I'm quite fond of the 'Magic as Technology' paradigm. But Why? today I examine why I love this paradigm so much, and what its strengths are.

Magic as technology takes the focus off of character points and places it on the character. When I introduce magic as technology, I don't have people asking "If I take a  rules exemption perk can I take ritual adept (connection) anyways?". Instead they say "can I have this cool device that your description made me think of that isn't in the setting but totally should be?" But shouldn't the focus be on the characters and how cool they are? Yes, the GM's focus should be on the characters. Conversely, the player's focus should be on the plot and on the setting (and on the other players). Everyone should work together, and I love how magic as technology helps focus the players on the setting even before the game starts.

I love how magic as technology simplifies point concerns. In campaigns that use supernatural powers, balancing who has how much of each power and how that's effected by guns being around can be a huge headache. You pay for the skill to use the magic, and that's that.  It also pushes players towards having at least a little skill in magic.

Speaking of point values, I also like settings where everyone or most everyone has access to magic. I world build in part for the sake of world building, and alternate technologies fascinate me. What happens if flying ships as heavy as land ships show up at TL 6? What if mind control is something you just pay for? Exploring these questions become easier when you present the supernatural as technology, rather than as something that might change with every character.

Magic as technology does have a few conditions for it to work well.It needs to be universally or near universally available. Magic as technology is only balanced when everyone has access to it. That isn't to say no-one can be excluded, rather that they are the exception rather than the rule. In the refuges setting many characters will have access only one flavor of magical technology, with a mixed group being possible (and indeed likely). Magic as technology also struggles with 'open-ended' magic systems -- magic that does 'everything'. Probably because of the first rule: if anyone can do anything you get very unwieldy settings.

I love magic as technology. I use other paradigms as well, but I feel this approach is underappreciated. I hope you find place to use it.