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Magic and the Economy

economy project eternity

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#1
Tagaziel

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I have been thinking about the role of magic in the economy of the Project Eternity universe. Most fantasy settings ignore this aspect of the magical arts, treating them like other goods, ignoring their supernatural nature and ability to revolutionize and even completely ruin the market.

Take for instance the foundries. Fire magic would allow to reduce the demand for combustible materials to fuel the blast furnaces, increasing the profit margin significantly, but diminishing the woodcutting industry. Water magic would help breweries. Air magic the milling industry, and so on and so forth.

Question is, how would impact the social and political landscape? Mages would enjoy a massive influence, but their situation would be very unstable: a strategic resource, a wizard, would be too precious to just let get away, resulting in the mage having influence, but being stuck in an essentially golden cage. At the same time, reliance on mages as resources of industry would render the industries themselves vulnerable to sabotage, through, for example, assassinating mages in rival states and crippling their industrial output as they struggle to rebuild classic supply sources.

This is a good source of potential conflict and intrigue for Project Eternity. Another is the inevitable rise in unemployment and unrest that would be a result of the industry switching to magical resources. I envision a sort of anti-magical luddite movement, maybe with separatist ambitions.

Racial tensions can further add to the mix, especially in less cosmopolitan countires. As elves are traditionally depicted as masters of magic, areas where practicioners of magic have firmly established themselves as cornerstones of industry, leading to reductions in employment, would be easy to turn into cesspools of anti-elven sentiment by corrupt demagogues. It's only one step away from pogroms that way (similiar to how Jews were treated in some parts of Europe throughout its history).

Magical resources also create a few more opportunities for interesting conflicts:

- Renegade mages attempting to crash the iron/gold/silver/jewel market with magically created analogues (or even illussions, if a smaller market is concerned and only short term changes are required),
- Speculation in magical/magically created goods in areas where little to no magic is present.
- Political struggle for control over the wizard(s).
- Attempts to index and control use of magic through law and special agencies,
- etc.

Thoughts?
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#2
Osvir

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Before anyone thinks about creating gold (which you should be able to do at max Alchemy level... if you've read the "Alchemist" you know what I'm talking about, it is not just the point of getting "rich" but it is spiritual as well).

Another thought about it:

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#3
Tagaziel

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I've been trying to remember titles that would've taken this approach, but the only one that comes to mind is The Witcher, or rather, the saga, where mages are an important part of the economy. Hell, the entire city built around the Aretuza academy is devoted solely to supporting the mages.

Any ideas, anyone?

#4
PB_Popeye

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A really cool idea to mull over but a question rises. Would there necessarily be a surpluss of mages (with potentially limitless power at their fingertips) who were satisfied with being the equivalent of a sentient furnace?
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#5
PsychoBlonde

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To be honest, The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson is probably one of the best examples of this kind of "magic"-driven economy. (Well, nanotech. But it's basically the same difference in that case.) Raw materials largely lose their value--diamonds are cheaper than glass. So your economy shifts from being stuff-driven to being service-driven. Ingenuity, artistry. and judgment cannot be replicated and thus are of highest value and in highest demand.

It's incorrect to say that magic being used for any one particular thing would "hurt" other industries, though. What it would mean, is that those industries would never develop in the first place. If there isn't demand for charcoal because smiths use fire elementals to power their forges, then you won't have people cutting up undergrowth and burning it slowly to make charcoal. And you'd have much cleaner air.
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#6
Jojobobo

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It really depends how large a scale wizards will be able to cast spells on, and how well they'll be able to control their magic. Also don't forget wizards are going to have grimoires of magic, so presumably their casting is linked to them somehow and they don't have almost infinite capabilities.

All that being said, these are some interesting ideas.
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#7
AGX-17

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If it's a world where everyone can use magic, that means everyone has to buy mana potions, i'd imagine those are more expensive than wood. And who says the most basic fire spell is capable of melting iron, anyway? Maybe it's equivalent to a small campfire.

If it's a world where not everyone can use magic, why would you hire a fulltime mage to just sit there shooting fire at your forge AND buy that mage mana potions to keep them flaming? It would still be cheaper to get wood or coal or charcoal. It's an economic lose-lose no matter how you look at it.

Edited by AGX-17, 14 November 2012 - 12:19 PM.

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#8
Sacred_Path

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But it would make for a very majoor game if all the wizards had boring day jobs, rather than sitting in crystal towers plotting and laughing maniacally.
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#9
jivex5k

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Interesting stuff.
I wouldn't want magic to screw up the whole worlds economy though. I'd like magic to be special, if everyone has it then it's not that special.

#10
Tagaziel

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It's incorrect to say that magic being used for any one particular thing would "hurt" other industries, though. What it would mean, is that those industries would never develop in the first place. If there isn't demand for charcoal because smiths use fire elementals to power their forges, then you won't have people cutting up undergrowth and burning it slowly to make charcoal. And you'd have much cleaner air.


I'm not sure that'd be the case. Unless magic is very widespread or was harnessed excessively early, the industries would still develop, out of need. Magic would definitely eclipse them, if it's powerful enough to act as a resource.

A really cool idea to mull over but a question rises. Would there necessarily be a surpluss of mages (with potentially limitless power at their fingertips) who were satisfied with being the equivalent of a sentient furnace?


Good question. Most mages wouldn't, I think (unless you're an 8AM - 4 PM middle class magic practicioner who just wants a stable life). Now, assume you have a mentally handicapped person, who can cast spells (a savant, basically), fire spells. Imagine how the industry would like to take advantage of him.

#11
Solonik

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I am very much against this. I can't even begin to explain how pretentious it looks in most settings where it was implemented. Usually a blatant slap in the face like "look, we have a wizard, in a factory, because this world has both technology and magic, get it? get it? lol we are so clever! SOOOOO cleverrrr"

#12
rjshae

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I agree that magic can have a significant socio-economic impact on a society. But there's a big difference between being able to cast a spell and being able to enchant an item. If the latter is difficult, then the economic impact may be greatly diminished. The magical ability to create permanent items is not a given either; conjured items may fall apart or vanish after a period of time (or disappear based on certain "tests" such as contact with cold iron). Hence, you'll still need people to craft physical items, even if you can use magic to heat the forge or spin the lathe. But it could increase the economic output of cottage industries quite a bit.

Edited by rjshae, 14 November 2012 - 03:40 PM.


#13
Wirdjos

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I'm with Jojobobo. I think the reason that this isn't relevant to P:E is that any form of Vancian or limited cast magic isn't terrible useful in industry. However, I like were your head is at. Dragon Age had hints of this and jammed the repercussions of such possibilities into your face without restraint.

And Osvir! I'm disappointed in you. You posted here and didn't mention the Avatar world's use of firebenders to power electric plants and such. Tsk.
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#14
Durinax

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I am very much against this. I can't even begin to explain how pretentious it looks in most settings where it was implemented. Usually a blatant slap in the face like "look, we have a wizard, in a factory, because this world has both technology and magic, get it? get it? lol we are so clever! SOOOOO cleverrrr"

arcanum was clever in this, by having a very good reason why it would never happen. In fact playing a mage I went into a factory in Tarant and got told to get the F out
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#15
Rostere

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I have been thinking about the role of magic in the economy of the Project Eternity universe. Most fantasy settings ignore this aspect of the magical arts, treating them like other goods, ignoring their supernatural nature and ability to revolutionize and even completely ruin the market.

Take for instance the foundries. Fire magic would allow to reduce the demand for combustible materials to fuel the blast furnaces, increasing the profit margin significantly, but diminishing the woodcutting industry. Water magic would help breweries. Air magic the milling industry, and so on and so forth.

Question is, how would impact the social and political landscape? Mages would enjoy a massive influence, but their situation would be very unstable: a strategic resource, a wizard, would be too precious to just let get away, resulting in the mage having influence, but being stuck in an essentially golden cage. At the same time, reliance on mages as resources of industry would render the industries themselves vulnerable to sabotage, through, for example, assassinating mages in rival states and crippling their industrial output as they struggle to rebuild classic supply sources.

This is a good source of potential conflict and intrigue for Project Eternity. Another is the inevitable rise in unemployment and unrest that would be a result of the industry switching to magical resources. I envision a sort of anti-magical luddite movement, maybe with separatist ambitions.

Racial tensions can further add to the mix, especially in less cosmopolitan countires. As elves are traditionally depicted as masters of magic, areas where practicioners of magic have firmly established themselves as cornerstones of industry, leading to reductions in employment, would be easy to turn into cesspools of anti-elven sentiment by corrupt demagogues. It's only one step away from pogroms that way (similiar to how Jews were treated in some parts of Europe throughout its history).

Magical resources also create a few more opportunities for interesting conflicts:

- Renegade mages attempting to crash the iron/gold/silver/jewel market with magically created analogues (or even illussions, if a smaller market is concerned and only short term changes are required),
- Speculation in magical/magically created goods in areas where little to no magic is present.
- Political struggle for control over the wizard(s).
- Attempts to index and control use of magic through law and special agencies,
- etc.

Thoughts?

These are very interesting thoughts. I've actually pondered the subject myself, but not enough to collect it into one long post. :) There must definitely be magic- based communities in PE, although I'd prefer if most communities were not magic- based (for some good lore reason). As I remember Dark Sun had a very good take on this subject.

#16
Atreides

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Nice idea. Another area to explore is non-conventional industries that are enabled because of magic.
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#17
Sacred_Path

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Since guns are popular simply because they can pierce a mage's defenses, it seems that wizards don't use their magic to power furnaces. They're still of the sitting-in-a-tower, cackling variety.

#18
Monte Carlo

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Was it Eberron's D&D setting that had a sort of steam-magic (is that a genre?) take on this?

Because it sucked.

The 'logical' integration of magic into r/w feudal economies kind of breaks it IMO. Which is why the old "magic-is-very-rare" or "mages-are-closely-controlled-heretics" plot devices are so very effective.

Because, let's face it, if mages were 5% of the population then they would very soon rule the other 95% through a combination of coercion and manipulation of the means of production. A great idea for a game (evil mageocracy) but perhaps not this one.

Edit: Damn sausage-fingers.

Edited by Monte Carlo, 14 November 2012 - 10:51 PM.

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#19
Rostere

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Was it Eberron's D&D setting that had a sort of steam-magic (is that a genre?) take on this?

Because it sucked.

The 'logical' integration of magic into r/w feudal economies kind of breaks it IMO. Which is why the old "magic-is-very-rare" or "mages-are-closely-controlled-heretics" plot devices are so very effective.

Because, let's face it, if mages were 5% of the population then they would very soon rule the other 95% through a combination of coercion and manipulation of the means of production. A great idea for a game (evil mageocracy) but perhaps not this one.

Edit: Damn sausage-fingers.


Well, of course magic must be logically integrated into the economy - but like you, I would prefer that magic did not have a very profound effect on it. So then it is important that we get a lore explanation to why mages do not power windmills, make an industry out of crafting magic items, et.c.

There are a number of very important questions to answer here:
  • How rare are magic items, and why are they not more common?
  • How are magic items created - are they even created by mages in the first place?
  • To which degree is spellcasting something you're born with or a skill? How does it relate to the "soul" concept?
  • Do spells have some sort of exhaustible ingredients ("fuel") which limits the use of some or all spells? Which categories of spells need ingredients?
  • How are new spells researched, and why do we see spells such as "magic missile" and "cloudkill" but not "irrigate farmland" or "find rare metals"? Are the spells we can find in the game a complete list of different distinct possible spells, or just a small subset?
  • Are spells discrete rituals, or more like continuous alteration of reality by a trained mind? Or perhaps possibly both?
  • Are there several different distinct types of magic (like divine magic and arcane magic (with different schools), for example?)
Once again I would like to say that Dark Sun had a very clever approach to most of these questions by making the use of magic erode the soil and draw life energy from the surrounding area. That would explain completely why magic could never be used on a grand scale to benefit society. I would very much prefer a similar explanation in PE, with the small change that the "life energy" drained would only be temporary. That would completely explain why magic could never be used to create or improve foods, et.c.

Concerning magic items, I would like there to be several obstacles to making enchanted industrial or agricultural equipment. There are lots of possible ways to explain the absence of these:
  • Magic items are all artifacts and nobody knows how to create them in the first place
  • Magic items require fuel, commonly in the form of bloodshed to function (this would allow for magic combat equipment without problems, but enchanted forges or mills would require human sacrifice - which would create other interesting lore possibilities)
  • Creating magic items permanently drains magic power from the creator
  • Magic items are connected to souls somehow - perhaps they must be imbued with souls or degrades souls when they are created?
We know that there will be separate Wizard and Cleric classes, we know that there will be a crafting system (which almost surely includes magic), and we know that magic is most probably somehow tied to the souls of beings. The rest is up for us to discuss here, let's hope the devs read our discussion :)
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#20
Suen

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Magic is usually described as hard to control and master, in other words it lacks stability. Bad for mass production.

An archmage wouldn't pass his days in a factory to keep gears in motion. An idiot savant, maybe, but could be dangerous.

A magic token releasing energy could be too expensive and instable for common folks to use it.

In PE magic is linked to the power of the souls. Factory work is already soul draining, in a world where you soul is literally fuel, it sounds like suicide.

Using zombies could be a more effective method, but I'm not sure they could be up to the task, and way too questionable.

Edited by Suen, 15 November 2012 - 05:12 AM.






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