Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Magic and Science

One of the things that makes talking about science and magic and how they interact is that people often mean different things when they say "science." For the most part, they're talking about 3 different things which I will call Science, Technology, and Physics. The words may not be technically accurate, but they'll do for discussion purposes.

Science: By Science, I am not referring to our bulk of scientific knowledge (that's covered in the other two areas), but instead the scientific method. The method of poking and prodding at some phenomena or other in order to learn more about the universe we live in.

Technology: Technology is specifically the plethora of devices that we create utilizing scientific principles. From the electric can opener to the Large Hadron Collider, this is what I'm talking about.

Physics: By Physics, I'm referring to the physical laws of the universe and how we perceive the physical world to work.

For the most part, I believe that magic should respond to Science. Even if it doesn't bow to the same physical laws, it does follow some rules. Especially if we are trying to encapsulate it in game rules. If magic doesn't make sense, or is overly capricious, no player would ever use it.

Magic does not have a special relationship with Technology, anymore than it does Science. Some designers and novelists like to invoke the idea that magic and technology are not compatible, having one or the other start to fizzle out in the presence of the other. Usually magic frying technology, but I have seen instances of magic fading in the presence of technology. But I don't see a strong need to reinforce this. One of the fun parts of a gonzo setting is taking all the varying bits and seeing how they fit together.

Magic and Physics are where things get tricky. Especially when finicky players try to incorporate their knowledge (or at least strong opinions) about Physics in order to get some extra effect out of a spell. Ultimately, I want to design the magic rules for BTR so that they will stand up to that kind of scrutiny, while at the same time allowing for the Roger Rabbit Effect ("Do you mean to tell me that you could have slipped out of that cuff at any time?" "Not at any time! Only when it was funny!").