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Magic and the Economy

economy project eternity

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#101
Diagoras

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Well, in the long-run you need a consumer base to stimulate the growth of industrial society, and slave states are keeping a good chunk of their buying power as property.

A wizard-slave state entirely depends on the wizards - there are hundreds of kinds of wizard that make it plausible, and hundreds of kinds of wizards that make it implausible. It all depends on how magic works in P:E.

I'm not entirely sure about slave-states requiring constant vigilance, any more than caste societies or feudalistic ones (which all gave certain classes of people the short end of the stick). Can I get a citation on that? And to clarify, I assume we're talking about Ancient and Medieval slavery, rather than the unique setup of the American South.

#102
Mandragore

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Well, in the long-run you need a consumer base to stimulate the growth of industrial society, and slave states are keeping a good chunk of their buying power as property.

A wizard-slave state entirely depends on the wizards - there are hundreds of kinds of wizard that make it plausible, and hundreds of kinds of wizards that make it implausible. It all depends on how magic works in P:E.

I'm not entirely sure about slave-states requiring constant vigilance, any more than caste societies or feudalistic ones (which all gave certain classes of people the short end of the stick). Can I get a citation on that? And to clarify, I assume we're talking about Ancient and Medieval slavery, rather than the unique setup of the American South.


A caste or feudalistic society is different in that the people at the bottom rung have some rights and possibly some limited upward mobility. As was mentioned before, if you're a slave, as opposed to a serf or untouchable or something, a successful revolt can only improve your lot since you're not getting anything out of the relationship to begin with. Add to that the fact that they (the slaves) probably don't see themselves as part of that society to begin with and have most likely seen friends and loved ones abused at the hands of their masters and you have a group of people that, if you're the head honcho, it would be wise not to turn your back on.

History bares this out. Societies that practiced chattel slavery like Sparta and the Ottoman Empire (exempting Janissaries) were constantly under threat of revolt. Those that practiced milder forms, such as Rome or Athens were more stable, but still had pretty frequent problems. I'm not going to crack open a book to cite you anything (you can do that to prove me wrong if you want) because Its late and I don't really care that much.

Again my whole problem with the wizard slave thing is that regardless of what type they were its pretty much a given that you'd need other magic users to contain them, since their powers, even if they're minor or specialized, would probably make escape and rebellion a lot easier. I'm pretty sure this is why, In most fantasy settings, its wizards (Thay comes to mind) enslaving non-wizards and not the other way around.

Edited by Mandragore, 02 December 2012 - 08:44 PM.


#103
Diagoras

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IIRC, upward mobility existed in most slave societies, in that it was entirely possible to buy your way into freedom either in your lifetime or within a few generations. And I'm not really seeing a lot of difference between an Untouchable in a Hindu caste society and a slave, though I admit I'm not an expert on caste systems.

Again, it depends a lot on the type of wizard. If most magic users are idiot-savants, then enslaving them would be easier. If their nature allows the formation of a religious structure that advocates against them (ie. The Chantry in Dragon Age), it's easier. If there are dedicated anti-mage factions with anti-mage powers (ie. The Templars in Dragon Age), it's easier. I'm not sure you can make a blanket statement that for all kinds of wizards, enslaving them is harder.

#104
mcmanusaur

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In other words, this is why low-magic fantasy settings are better. Because magic poses an open-ended hazard to internal consistency, and because wizard players make ridiculous demands of special treatment for their magically epic self-insert characters. Can't I just ignore the prosaic magic aspects (not talking about soul or cipher stuff, that sounds fresh) of this game without resigning myself to the underclass of society?

Edited by mcmanusaur, 03 December 2012 - 04:15 AM.

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#105
JFSOCC

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what is this I don't even...

People being butchered is not the same as them being enslaved I was merely pointing out that slavery creates societal unrest, which is demonstrably true...Furthermore nobody allows themselves to be "herded and butchered" some people have guns and tanks, some don't. It's not that they just let themselves be murdered wtf.


It does disprove your assertion. If people in a much more extreme situation remain pacified and docile, allowing themselves to be murdered, then people in a less severe situation (slavery, as opposed to extermination) would too.


In ancient Sparta, one of the largest (as a percentage of the overall population) slave states, the helots revolted constantly; the militarization of the spartan state was due primarily to the constant threat of slave revolts. It was also one of the reasons the spartan army rarely campaigned far from Sparta's borders from long periods.


I mailed this to my friend, who has a masters in history (Focusing on military history), specializing in the Ancient Greek world, currently going for his Ph.D. (His thesis was about the professionalisation of Greek armies.)
This is what he had to say:

Hey awesome, something Greek has come up in your thirst for knowledge :) Where did you read this?

What it says is basically one of the theories. We don't know enough to say if it's true or not. There is only one known helot revolt, so "revolted constantly" is certainly not true; therefore probably the militarisation of Sparta was for different reasons. Still, Spartans did not often leave their home country, and fear of revolt is one sensible explanation for that.

I should point out btw that helots weren't slaves - they were not physical property and could not be bought or sold. They're usually considered serfs.


Edited by JFSOCC, 04 December 2012 - 04:16 AM.


#106
robfang

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The social and economic impact of magic has been ignored for a long time in fantasy settings. I think this is a great opportunity to form a (somewhat) stable world under the effect of magic. Thank you for bringing this topic up. 

 

The socio-economic impact of magic is there if some thoughtfully considers the situation in a fantasy world. Lighting a furnace, driving some wind-powered devices, forming frictionless surfaces are some of the mechanically exploitable magical powers. As a mechanical engineer I can list a lot more if I go through the spell list of a D&D wizard and the spells' possible exploits. If there exist such an impact it would certainly advance the economy and the technology (just like the discovery of fossil fuels). Furthermore, as the original poster pointed out the desirability of the use of magic would only increase in time as more ways to utilize "the magical power" is discovered. 

 

A portion of the consideration regarding this topic lies with the desirability of such an impact. Do we want to have a world with ongoing technological explosion? For a fantasy setting we almost certainly do not. In a fantasy world, the limitations of a fantasy world and a medieval setting could be the heart of the setting. The power of the fantastic heroes would be to overcome these limitations. Rather than using a cell phone in a car as a mundane 21th centurist, it is more intriguing to ride a tiger while talking to birds to send a message as a ranger. Furthermore, the primitive limitations of the world itself provides avenues for the heroes to maneuver in a world filled with enemies and archenemies. If you ever played in a setting where technology is too advanced you can see how it is impossible to escape from the widespread evil authority. Widespread technological use of magic can be devastating for a fantasy setting for such reasons. 

 

Another portion of the consideration is the prevention of the integration of magic with mechanics. From a metaphysical perspective, preventing direct interaction between magical forces and physical states of the matter is illogical. If magic can burn a person it can definitely burn a furnace. Thus there always be some mechanical application of magical forces. Here, one can argue by using supposed mind-body duality, saying that what if the magic only affects the mind (or soul if you prefer). Such an interaction certainly affects the physical world through the brain and the body so not much changes there. There you go, zombie slaves as a labor force!

 

Limiting the usage of magic per magician per day does not solve our problem. More magicians can provide the rest of the labor. Using a hard constraint like draining the magician of his life force could be effective but then one must answer the questions why anyone wants to be a magician if the drain is too much, why it prevents someone to use magic repetitively if the drain is too little (or too postponed). 

 

One way to prevent the widespread use of magic in technology would be to limit the use of magic in time and space. This way one would prevent repetitive extraction of magical forces at the same location. For example using magic at one place for some time would drain the magic web at that location. So if you were to build a factory that employ mages to fuel it, the fuel of the magical web would shortly be drained at that location and would only get regenerated after long period of time. Such application of magic could present interesting circumstances where in a battle, opposing mages would fight for the same resource. Teleportation for example would drain all the magical web through its path where returning back would be impossible for a long time. Some empty web locations along a teleportation path would make it even dangerous.

 

An expoit for the space-time limited magic would be moving factories such as a factory built in a ship. This would either be allowed for some interesting fantasy elements, or it would be banned by requiring magic to be cast on a land. 

 

I hope I could be of some help. 

 

TLDR: Magic and technology is bad. It kills a fantasy setting. Time and space limited magic is a way to prevent repetitive, technological use of magic. 


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#107
JFSOCC

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How about this: the labour is in short supply, most people don't have a strong affinity with their soul, or not a strong enough soul.
TO get magicians to do what you want to, provided their services are economically exploitable, which is NOT a given, you'll probably have to pay them for the time and effort, at a price which THEY can set, considering there's only so many who can do it. it's a seller's market.

Typically, if something is rare enough (like magical prowess) the labour might not even make a significant economical impact. Because you might be able to craft the finest magical swords or armour, but you will never be able to supply even the majority of demand. In such cases, it is highly unlikely that there will be any organised labour, and magical creation will be confined to artistry only.

#108
Atreides

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A portion of the consideration regarding this topic lies with the desirability of such an impact. Do we want to have a world with ongoing technological explosion? For a fantasy setting we almost certainly do not. In a fantasy world, the limitations of a fantasy world and a medieval setting could be the heart of the setting. 

The world could be on the cusp of the industrial revolution, though whether to power it through tech or magic's an interesting question.  In most situations, economics would be the driver - people making choices to maximise benefits given limited resources.  Getting the job done the easiest/cheapest way, giving due consideration to consequences like the environment and society.

 

Ok, the last part was partly a joke.



#109
Diagoras

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A portion of the consideration regarding this topic lies with the desirability of such an impact. Do we want to have a world with ongoing technological explosion? For a fantasy setting we almost certainly do not. In a fantasy world, the limitations of a fantasy world and a medieval setting could be the heart of the setting.

 

I have no idea how you would have a medieval world that wasn't an ongoing explosion of technology, especially in the Late Medieval/Early Modern period that all fantasy stories appear to be set in. Contrary to what Edward Gibbon said, the entire Medieval period is best characterized as period of history created by an explosion in revolutionary technology that brought the old Empires (in Europe at least) to the ground, and was defined by incredibly rapid and constant innovation in military technology at the very least.

 

As to the topic at hand - I stand by my assertion that the best magic system is one that's truly magical, not just a fantastical version of technology. That means unpredictable, uncontrollable, personal, and mystical. D&D magic doesn't quite apply.


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#110
JFSOCC

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The early medieval period was like the Cambrian explosion. The fall of Rome and the interesting period we known very little about known as the Migration Period basically left fertile soil for new ideas and social constructs. I see it as a new evolution of society. Historians don't like the term Dark Ages any more. Because it implies that it was somehow less advanced than the late ancient period, which it wasn't.

#111
robfang

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A portion of the consideration regarding this topic lies with the desirability of such an impact. Do we want to have a world with ongoing technological explosion? For a fantasy setting we almost certainly do not. In a fantasy world, the limitations of a fantasy world and a medieval setting could be the heart of the setting.

 

I have no idea how you would have a medieval world that wasn't an ongoing explosion of technology, especially in the Late Medieval/Early Modern period that all fantasy stories appear to be set in. Contrary to what Edward Gibbon said, the entire Medieval period is best characterized as period of history created by an explosion in revolutionary technology that brought the old Empires (in Europe at least) to the ground, and was defined by incredibly rapid and constant innovation in military technology at the very least.

 

As to the topic at hand - I stand by my assertion that the best magic system is one that's truly magical, not just a fantastical version of technology. That means unpredictable, uncontrollable, personal, and mystical. D&D magic doesn't quite apply.

Perhaps your understanding of a technological explosion and mine is different. By explosion I meant what we have been going through in 20th and 21st centuries and even more, due to the factor of magic in these developments in the hypothetical fantasy setting. What most people expect from a medieval fantasy setting does not even include the gunpowder which was a prime factor in a lot of battles in the so called dark ages. Thus, the medieval fantasy setting does not necessarily replicate the reality of the dark ages. What my point is that the limitations in the dark or early ages make the medieval fantasy appealing.



#112
Diagoras

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By explosion I meant what we have been going through in 20th and 21st centuries and even more, due to the factor of magic in these developments in the hypothetical fantasy setting.

 

 

The terms you used to describe this seemed to refer to any technological explosion - thus it had our primitive hero riding a tiger and talking to birds. But if your just talking about maintaining a Medieval aesthetic, then you do need to keep the setting Medievalish. Sorry about the misunderstanding.

 

What most people expect from a medieval fantasy setting does not even include the gunpowder which was a prime factor in a lot of battles in the so called dark ages. Thus, the medieval fantasy setting does not necessarily replicate the reality of the dark ages.

 

The Dark Ages tends to refer to the Early Medieval period, while gunpowder was used in the High/Late Medieval period. Otherwise agreed.

 

What my point is that the limitations in the dark or early ages make the medieval fantasy appealing.

 

I would say the aesthetics, more than the limitations. Almost all standard fantasy settings that use a pseudo-Medieval setting give their protagonists magic powers and fantastic abilities that overcome any and all such barriers. But you're absolutely correct that the overall society needs to retain the Medieval aesthetic and sensibilities - which is an argument for having magic be something other than a stand-in for technology, as it is in many systems. When you look at traditions and stories of magic throughout history, you tend not to see the sort of mechanistic magic that we take for granted in the modern era. Technology is one thing (the reliable mastering of the consistent forces of the natural world) and magic another (the unreliable bargaining with the whimsical forces of the supernatural world).







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