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Karro
10-22-2008, 07:20 PM
Okay, so this is very tangential topic to mapping... but I got to thinking today about how culture and technology interact with the sorts of things we'd put on a map... i.e. I'm interested in some other aspects of world-building.

One thought, in particular, I've been pondering today regards how advances in technology and knowledge will affect what we see on maps and what the imaginary people that inhabit those lands think about their world. For instance, by the time an imaginary peoples reaches something of a rennaissance level of technology and culture, is there any room left on a local/regional map for mysteries, "haunted forests", "here there be dragons", or other unexplored or wild lands? Or do we have to journey to a distant and unknown continent for these things?

What about Gunpowder? How does is that going to affect these things? Are societies with access to gunpowder inevitably going to look more modern, or do feudal systems and monarchies evolve to meet these challenges?

What do you guys think?

Gamerprinter
10-22-2008, 07:41 PM
Okay, so this is very tangential topic to mapping... but I got to thinking today about how culture and technology interact with the sorts of things we'd put on a map... i.e. I'm interested in some other aspects of world-building.

One thought, in particular, I've been pondering today regards how advances in technology and knowledge will affect what we see on maps and what the imaginary people that inhabit those lands think about their world. For instance, by the time an imaginary peoples reaches something of a rennaissance level of technology and culture, is there any room left on a local/regional map for mysteries, "haunted forests", "here there be dragons", or other unexplored or wild lands? Or do we have to journey to a distant and unknown continent for these things?

What about Gunpowder? How does is that going to affect these things? Are societies with access to gunpowder inevitably going to look more modern, or do feudal systems and monarchies evolve to meet these challenges?

What do you guys think?

It all depends on your world - how big is it, how expansive are the oceans between continents, how is your climate. Consider that the "New World" was being explored in the 16th century, while European trading ships were in Asia, yet it wasn't until the late 18th century that Hawaii was discovered. Antarctica wasn't discovered until the 19th century and not explored until the 20th.

If the Pacific Ocean was bigger, you could have an island the size of Australia where Hawaii is, yet the distance is so great its existence could still be entirely unknown to the rest of the world.

Climate, vast mountain ranges, huge oceans all work to hide those unknown parts that is left for discovery.

Regarding gunpowder, consider that the Portugeuse introduced gunpowder weapons to Japan in the late 16th century and were being used at war for the next almost 3 centuries, yet the primary arms and armor pretty much was the same as that from before the introduction powder.

Think the "Last Samurai", when western-trained Japanese forces much like armies of the west, were fighting the indigenous samurai, yet the latter hardly changed at all from what would be worn to war four centuries earlier.

Its because of the nature of Japanese culture and the strength of the Shogunate, that this happened at all.

Until the 1870's Japan was barely affected technologically despite the existence of gunpowder.

It really depends on your world and allowed technologies as to how it affects these issues.

GP

jfrazierjr
10-22-2008, 10:40 PM
Okay, so this is very tangential topic to mapping... but I got to thinking today about how culture and technology interact with the sorts of things we'd put on a map... i.e. I'm interested in some other aspects of world-building.

One thought, in particular, I've been pondering today regards how advances in technology and knowledge will affect what we see on maps and what the imaginary people that inhabit those lands think about their world. For instance, by the time an imaginary peoples reaches something of a rennaissance level of technology and culture, is there any room left on a local/regional map for mysteries, "haunted forests", "here there be dragons", or other unexplored or wild lands? Or do we have to journey to a distant and unknown continent for these things?

What about Gunpowder? How does is that going to affect these things? Are societies with access to gunpowder inevitably going to look more modern, or do feudal systems and monarchies evolve to meet these challenges?

What do you guys think?


Well.. think about it this way... 3000 years ago, the Egyptians and Aztec peoples knew the world was round and had developed highly accurate maps and calenders. 2000 years ago the Romans had homes with running water and a rudimentary radiator heating systems. 1000 years ago most of the world was dumber than dirt and had lost many of these advances.

With that said, I don't think it matters. It really depends on the particular society in the end.

Redrobes
10-23-2008, 07:36 AM
A lot of technology issues are glossed over pretty thickly in fantasy stuff. Castles in D&D have towers and barbicans which would not be present with the availability of flying creatures. You see typical dark ages castles but these were refined and by the end of their days when powder came in castles went out. Some bizarre rounded ones with earth banks took their place but you never see any of these in campaigns.

Also hand held weapons made certain armour obsolete. Full plate became redundant in the latter period before powder as the late crossbows could penetrate a breast plate.

Given that there are magic and fantasic creatures in these settings then its anyones guess as to what might have really happened to castles and armour.

Jkaen
10-23-2008, 10:35 AM
There are lots of good resources scattered around the web for stuff like this, I would have had them bookmarked here, but I am leaving this job in a week so have been cleaning out my bookmarks on this computer. May be a question for our sister site?

Karro
10-23-2008, 02:34 PM
It all depends on your world - how big is it, how expansive are the oceans between continents, how is your climate. Consider that the "New World" was being explored in the 16th century, while European trading ships were in Asia, yet it wasn't until the late 18th century that Hawaii was discovered. Antarctica wasn't discovered until the 19th century and not explored until the 20th.

If the Pacific Ocean was bigger, you could have an island the size of Australia where Hawaii is, yet the distance is so great its existence could still be entirely unknown to the rest of the world.

Climate, vast mountain ranges, huge oceans all work to hide those unknown parts that is left for discovery.

Regarding gunpowder, consider that the Portugeuse introduced gunpowder weapons to Japan in the late 16th century and were being used at war for the next almost 3 centuries, yet the primary arms and armor pretty much was the same as that from before the introduction powder.

Think the "Last Samurai", when western-trained Japanese forces much like armies of the west, were fighting the indigenous samurai, yet the latter hardly changed at all from what would be worn to war four centuries earlier.

Its because of the nature of Japanese culture and the strength of the Shogunate, that this happened at all.

Until the 1870's Japan was barely affected technologically despite the existence of gunpowder.

It really depends on your world and allowed technologies as to how it affects these issues.

GP

I’m thinking an earth-like planet, all things being equal, that might have the introduction of some magical or fantastical elements, whether the possibility that fantastical creatures are real, or the presence of magic, etc.

One of the main things I’m thinking about, however, is whether a local area might remain “unexplored”. How probable is it, given certain cultural and technological developments, that legends and myths will develop—whether unfounded or not—about things within their own lands. In a well-established kingdom, can a forested region long remain a source of mystery? How about a mountainous region?

If something is dense enough to penetrate, making manual exploration difficult, I gather it might be sufficient to be a source of mystery.

I guess that’s my main goal: figuring out what it takes to allow me to inject a sense of mystery within a local or regional area during the world-building process. Being able to call something a “haunted forest” or “forbidden mountains” or whatnot because the locals legitimately believe that there’s something strange or malevolent or unknown there, whether or not their fears are unfounded.


Well.. think about it this way... 3000 years ago, the Egyptians and Aztec peoples knew the world was round and had developed highly accurate maps and calenders. 2000 years ago the Romans had homes with running water and a rudimentary radiator heating systems. 1000 years ago most of the world was dumber than dirt and had lost many of these advances.

With that said, I don't think it matters. It really depends on the particular society in the end.

True… but I ‘d like to at least have thought these things through before committing myself to a certain outlook or design. Your example, though, does demonstrate how knowledge, technology, and culture can wax and wane…


A lot of technology issues are glossed over pretty thickly in fantasy stuff. Castles in D&D have towers and barbicans which would not be present with the availability of flying creatures. You see typical dark ages castles but these were refined and by the end of their days when powder came in castles went out. Some bizarre rounded ones with earth banks took their place but you never see any of these in campaigns.

Also hand held weapons made certain armour obsolete. Full plate became redundant in the latter period before powder as the late crossbows could penetrate a breast plate.

Given that there are magic and fantasic creatures in these settings then its anyones guess as to what might have really happened to castles and armour.

That’s the kind of thing I’m interested in thinking about. In the real world, we’ve got tons of legends and myths and stories about fantastic creatures and imaginary peoples, and a lot of places became strongly associated with some of these, even as our knowledge dispelled the myths. (For instance… we know that there really isn’t a group of gods living at the top of Mount Olympus, but the Ancient Greeks thought there were… at what point was it known that there were no gods living up there?)

But this touches a related thought: if in the real world we have so many legends of fantastic creatures… what kinds of legends would spring up in a world where some of those fantastic creatures were real? Obviously, I think the answer depends on how frequent and common the interaction with such creatures is. If every time you take a short trip, you’ve got a 50/50 chance or crossing paths with a Unicorn or a Centaur, then those things start to seem pretty mundane. After hundreds or thousands of years of cultural development, those things would be ordinary seeming, and there might not be a lot of “myth” regarding them. If you happen to see one this one time, and nobody you know has ever see one, but they believe your story only because you’ve never lied before… that’s the stuff of legends and myths.

So, I’m less concerned with the specifics of what technologies follow what, per se, and more concerned in this discussion with how technology, especially early technology, influences cultural development and generally available knowledge and views of the world—including how such typically fantastic things might be interpreted through these lenses.


There are lots of good resources scattered around the web for stuff like this, I would have had them bookmarked here, but I am leaving this job in a week so have been cleaning out my bookmarks on this computer. May be a question for our sister site?
Sister site? I’m not too up on it… what is it? I guess I really should look around on the web, shouldn’t I? It’s at least a starting point for something to think about…

jfrazierjr
10-23-2008, 03:03 PM
I would also bring up that we only have so much to base these types of opinions on when trying to apply them to a fantasy world. In the end, we are all humans who are from the same planet, so our cultures are going to be somewhat polluted and there is no way to determine some of these things for sure. There are many such examples, but look at the flood myths( I don't claim to be an expert here!). Many believe that the Sumerians originated the original flood myth, however, Mayan's also had a flood myth that is eerily similar. There should be no reason given then geography that their decedents would have had any contact with each other, and yet their story is virtually identical. Likewise, look at myths about Dragons, vampires, werewolves, etc. Cultures which are separated by huge distances should not have such similar myths, but they do. Each is slightly different to reflect the local culture, but enough in common that the identification is pretty hard to miss.

torstan
10-23-2008, 03:31 PM
I would guess that satellite technology is the one thing that stops making things mysterious. Up until that, there will always be areas that could have been missed by explorers - a city deep in the Amazon, a hidden valley in the Andes, those sorts of things. Equally, we still haven't explored every inch of the Mariana Trench and our technology doesn't allow us to take visual photos of it.

I guess if there is something big then yo have to explain why no-one has seen it. So in a world with flying creatures that hidden place would have to be very inhospitable - over a high ridge no-one wants to fly over or deep in a desert where there is no water for such creatures to drink on the way.

As for, mysterious creatures - they just have to be rare and live in inaccessible places. People still hold on to the idea of a Loch Ness monster even though it is in the middle of first world developed country (well, the English might object at that description, but I won't hear a word against it :) ) because it is supposed to live at the bottom of a very deep loch with low visibility. Thus it is very hard to prove that it isn't there. In many cases people will believe something until it can be proven not to be the case - and proving a negative is always hard. It's harder if you can reduce or contaminate the sources of information.

Therefore for a source of mystery I would say that you need to look at the sources of information the culture has - eyewitness accounts, forms of surveying, satellite information and so on - and see how these could be limited, or how some place or creature could evade them. Place the mysterious thing in one of these blind spots.

Karro
10-23-2008, 03:44 PM
Excellent thoughts. I did consider that with Satellite technology, we've essentially taken the mystery out of pretty much everything in our world today.... but there's a great deal of latitude between a culture that may or may not be on the cusp of developing gunpowder and one that has satellites in the sky.

One of the things I've thought a bit about is how the ebb and flow of disasters and cataclysms, plagues and barbarians, etc. effect the development and loss of technology. I think I also need to think about how that technology flows across cultural boundaries, and how difficult or easy it is for something know in one place to reach another place.

The same is true of cultural developments and changes.

With regards to the mysteries of past mythologies across multiple cultures, the answer to that is easier in a fantasy context: it's because the myth is based on something that's real! (Sometimes that's true in the real world, too, of course).

Sure... we can't necessarily experiment with these things scientifically... but we can at least run thought experiments in our heads to reason out how, logically, these things may have come to be. That's the kind of thing I'm thinking about with regards to how to approach world-building.

jfrazierjr
10-23-2008, 04:07 PM
Excellent thoughts. I did consider that with Satellite technology, we've essentially taken the mystery out of pretty much everything in our world today....

Even that is not a 100% accurate statement. As an example, take Incan/Mayan/Aztec ruins. Many of these are overgrown so much as to appear as hills to the untrained even while you are standing on them. Many such structures have been found, and I am sure there are hundreds if not thousands left to be found. These sorts of things are impossible to find normal photo satellites. Ground imaging radar/sonar type stuff has a much better shot, but unless you know what you look for, you can still miss it.

My point here is that people tend to see something they are looking for and ignore anything which does not attract attention as being different. Camoflage is a great justification for many things like you speak. Of course, this also neglects other fantasy(D&D anyway) staple concepts such as underground passages connecting various parts of the world. Many in such underground passages, most people still think in standard two dimensions, so it is easy to miss something like the fact that a deep trench having either side or bottom openings which then allow much further movement, after changing the z dimension. Likewise, home many people in a cave with a semi high ceilling miss a man size hole in the "roof", which could very well lead to another whole level.

And as Torstan pointed out... it's pretty darn hard to empirically prove a negative.

Karro
10-23-2008, 04:13 PM
Even that is not a 100% accurate statement.
....
And as Torstan pointed out... it's pretty darn hard to empirically prove a negative.

Well, sure, we live in a world with few absolutes... throw a little confusing fantasy milieu into the mix, and you can find loopholes all over the place.

I just want justifiable loopholes that don't just look like "phlebotinum" mines.

Ghostman
10-23-2008, 05:59 PM
I think the discussion so far has focused a bit too much on technology. You should also take into account the impact of philosophy and religion on people's views of the world they live in. That technology has advanced to some point doesn't necessitate a prevalence of critical and rational outlook. It's perfectly possible for a culture to be immersed in a tradition of superstition and mysticism, and still develope practical inventions. Customs and social structures can also set limits on how a particular technology will be used.

For example, the invention of a printing press will greatly increase the number of recorded texts in the world - but if only the clergy are literate and it is a strict taboo for any layman to learn the occult secret of reading, the invention might not change things all that much, at least over any relatively short span of time.

Technology, in and of itself, will not necessarily lead to a boost of exploration either. Exploration tends to require a motive in order to be practiced. Take for example the "discovery" of the Americas by Columbus. He couldn't attempt the voyage without first winning the support of a monarch. The reason he succeeded was not only that technology gave him the idea and made ocean-crossing possible, but because there were major political and economic motives justifying such gambles.

A densely forested region would probably remain mysterious as long as it actually remains densely forested: most people don't have a motive to venture deep into wilderness, while a few hunters or outlaws won't be enough to convince the general populace to drop their superstitions. Deforestation brought about by the growth of population, need for farmland, or the need for wood as construction material would be the most likely reason to de-mystify the place. In a fantasy setting the presense of magic or monsters might discourage such deforestation, thus helping to keep the region sparsely populated and "untamed".

Just some food for thought :)

Karro
10-23-2008, 06:12 PM
....
Just some food for thought :)

That was yummy, thanks!

I had thought about religion, as a general rule. It's been part of my world-building conceptualization for a long time. I've only recently begun thinking about the technological side of things and how that would effect it. Until now, I'd just assumed a standard "medieval" level of technological and cultural development. But I hadn't considered how different factors might move beyond that, or how the society and culture might change as time marched forward and new inventions were developed.

But I absolutely agree that religious ideas and superstitions (are they superstitions if they're true?) can play a huge role in how a culture and society views the world around it. I've got some ideas about how I, personally, want to approach that topic in my own world-building, but the point stands as a valuable contribution to the discussion for the sake of future thread-goers.

jfrazierjr
10-23-2008, 06:35 PM
I think the discussion so far has focused a bit too much on technology. You should also take into account the impact of philosophy and religion on people's views of the world they live in. That technology has advanced to some point doesn't necessitate a prevalence of critical and rational outlook. It's perfectly possible for a culture to be immersed in a tradition of superstition and mysticism, and still develope practical inventions. Customs and social structures can also set limits on how a particular technology will be used.

For example, the invention of a printing press will greatly increase the number of recorded texts in the world - but if only the clergy are literate and it is a strict taboo for any layman to learn the occult secret of reading, the invention might not change things all that much, at least over any relatively short span of time.

Technology, in and of itself, will not necessarily lead to a boost of exploration either. Exploration tends to require a motive in order to be practiced. Take for example the "discovery" of the Americas by Columbus. He couldn't attempt the voyage without first winning the support of a monarch. The reason he succeeded was not only that technology gave him the idea and made ocean-crossing possible, but because there were major political and economic motives justifying such gambles.

A densely forested region would probably remain mysterious as long as it actually remains densely forested: most people don't have a motive to venture deep into wilderness, while a few hunters or outlaws won't be enough to convince the general populace to drop their superstitions. Deforestation brought about by the growth of population, need for farmland, or the need for wood as construction material would be the most likely reason to de-mystify the place. In a fantasy setting the presense of magic or monsters might discourage such deforestation, thus helping to keep the region sparsely populated and "untamed".

Just some food for thought :)

Great points!

Valarian
10-24-2008, 04:24 AM
Okay, the focus has been on technology and religion. What about magic?

In any high fantasy environment, where magic is fairly common and out in the open, there will be a cultural impact. A culture will form dependencies on magic that will inhibit technological advancement. For example, why bother producing a washing machine when you can conjure water elementals to do it for you. Or, why produce gunpowder when your elite guard can be outfitted with magical crossbow bolts that do far more damage. Obviously there will be some technology, as the economic trade-off between magic supply and raw muscle power balances out. There will be items that we may consider "technological" that would be powered by magical means.

Edit: I think there was a castle toilet thread somewhere around here that started down magical waste disposal for a while.

Jkaen
10-24-2008, 04:57 AM
Had a bit of a dig around online, and this is the main site (http://www.rpgmud.com/WorldBuilding/Mythopoets/tmm.html) I was thinking of which goes into various considerations with world building, also of possible interest is this site (http://www.sfwa.org/writing/worldbuilding1.htm) which lists important questions to consider.

As for sister site, not sure if thats the correct term, but I was refering to the others in the Fantaseum Alliance, specifically the Campaign Builders Guild (http://www.thecbg.org/news.php)

Karro
10-24-2008, 12:08 PM
Okay, the focus has been on technology and religion. What about magic?

In any high fantasy environment, where magic is fairly common and out in the open, there will be a cultural impact. A culture will form dependencies on magic that will inhibit technological advancement. For example, why bother producing a washing machine when you can conjure water elementals to do it for you. Or, why produce gunpowder when your elite guard can be outfitted with magical crossbow bolts that do far more damage. Obviously there will be some technology, as the economic trade-off between magic supply and raw muscle power balances out. There will be items that we may consider "technological" that would be powered by magical means.

Edit: I think there was a castle toilet thread somewhere around here that started down magical waste disposal for a while.

Well, this certainly adds a level of complexity to any cultural analysis, that's for sure. My high-level thoughts on the issue of magic are that the impact of magic on these items are correlated to the level of magic within a setting. While that sounds somewhat obvious, it breaks down like this, with respect to the earlier emphasis on the mystery and outlook on the world: a world with low magic might have the effect of increasing the mystery in the world, insofar as rare magic is likely more misunderstood and, well, mysterious to the majority of people. Thus, whenever something is unknown or unexplained, it will garner a magical explanation, even when there is actually a rational or non-magical one. Further, where there is real magic, it is likely to be held in fear and awe, as something unknown and conceptually powerful. In such a world, much as in our own, real technological solutions will eventually develop. The question as to whether it will rival magic as a means to solving problems depends in part on how rare as well as how powerful that magic is, and whether further study and exploration of magic will make it either increasingly common or more powerful over time. Such a world could become less magical and more technological over time, or it could become more magical over time.

Conversely, if magic is relatively common in a world, this could easily lead to a situation where mystery and fear of the unknown are reduced to a greater degree. In this case, the "magical" explanation probably is the real and rational explanation for an unknown phenomenon, and there are likely decreasingly few phenomena that lack a thorough understanding and magical explanation. Ordinary people will increasingly look upon magic, or at least upon the results of the use of magic, as mundane, possibly even beneath notice, even if they continue to regard the practitioners of magic with a sense of mystery, respect or skepticism.

Essentially, these views on magic are corollary to Clark's Third Law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke%27s_three_laws) (wrt sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic, and Niven's corollary being any sufficiently advanced magic being indistinguishable from technology). Of course, this is only one possible interpretation of the prevalence of magic in a world and the effect it will have on the outlook of that world's inhabitants on their environment.


Had a bit of a dig around online, and this is the main site (http://www.rpgmud.com/WorldBuilding/Mythopoets/tmm.html) I was thinking of which goes into various considerations with world building, also of possible interest is this site (http://www.sfwa.org/writing/worldbuilding1.htm) which lists important questions to consider.

As for sister site, not sure if thats the correct term, but I was refering to the others in the Fantaseum Alliance, specifically the Campaign Builders Guild (http://www.thecbg.org/news.php)

Thanks for the links! I will have to check them out as time permits!

Jkaen
10-24-2008, 12:34 PM
I think with regards the original "could there be a haunted woods next to my city" question it depends on outside pressures, if its monstered up enough that peasants cant jsut wander round and map it up then an official foray would have to be made into it, if no danger came out of it, and there were negihbouring countries on the borders that warranted more attnetion for the military they may not get round it it.


With regards magic, bear in mind those in the woods may well have access to high magic too (thinking of the standard wood elf illusion approach here)

torstan
10-24-2008, 01:01 PM
I guess the most important forms of magic to consider in this context are divinations. If you can cast commune and ask a deity "Are those woods haunted" and have the deity say "No" then mystery disappears pretty fast. Equally, divination magic of this form would screw up technological innvation a bit. Imagine a rather advanced technopriest casting divination "What's the relation between energy and matter?" and his god replying "E=mc^2". That gets rid of all mystery in the world. I'd make sure that such magic tools are sharply limited.

The second thing to do is consider forms of magic that mimic real world technologies. These will have an impact on your world that are predictable. Common use of Sending mimics the invention of the telephone and allows for instant communication between dispersed troops - which is very important in any warlike fantasy setting. Rock-to-mud mimics real world sappers - making fortifications very vulnerable. You'd expect the fortress builders of the world to spend the money to counter these sort of attacks. Fly allows for the equivalent of airborne spotter planes and also bombers. These appeared in the first and second world wars. Fireball mimics artillery and will mean that no fortress will have exposed battlements any more - fortresses will have overhead cover as well. Those are a few examples, but in most cases the magic proposed in fantasy settings mimic some technological advance we have today (exceptions like polymorph are fairly common too!). I'd start with those to figure out the effect they would have on the world.

And remember that people believe woods are haunted even today. They just believe science can't explain ghosts so there are elements of the world that lie outside our current means of acquiring information. The same will be true in any setting. Just make sure that there is some set of occurrences that can't be accounted for by commonly understood phenomena. Then you have a mystery.

Karro
10-24-2008, 05:38 PM
I think with regards the original "could there be a haunted woods next to my city" question it depends on outside pressures, if its monstered up enough that peasants cant jsut wander round and map it up then an official foray would have to be made into it, if no danger came out of it, and there were negihbouring countries on the borders that warranted more attnetion for the military they may not get round it it.


With regards magic, bear in mind those in the woods may well have access to high magic too (thinking of the standard wood elf illusion approach here)

Hmm. My ultimate goal is to produce a setting that's logically consistent and realistic within the bounds of reason, yet has an air of mystery and the unknown. I'm hoping for something at once familiar and yet distinct and flavorful with enough new ideas to be worth the doing. So... I wanted to see what other factors I could find in play besides the "standard wood elf illusion" you elude to. For my own benefit, I think I've seen a lot of good perspectives here...


I guess the most important forms of magic to consider in this context are divinations. If you can cast commune and ask a deity "Are those woods haunted" and have the deity say "No" then mystery disappears pretty fast. Equally, divination magic of this form would screw up technological innvation a bit. Imagine a rather advanced technopriest casting divination "What's the relation between energy and matter?" and his god replying "E=mc^2". That gets rid of all mystery in the world. I'd make sure that such magic tools are sharply limited.

The second thing to do is consider forms of magic that mimic real world technologies. These will have an impact on your world that are predictable. Common use of Sending mimics the invention of the telephone and allows for instant communication between dispersed troops - which is very important in any warlike fantasy setting. Rock-to-mud mimics real world sappers - making fortifications very vulnerable. You'd expect the fortress builders of the world to spend the money to counter these sort of attacks. Fly allows for the equivalent of airborne spotter planes and also bombers. These appeared in the first and second world wars. Fireball mimics artillery and will mean that no fortress will have exposed battlements any more - fortresses will have overhead cover as well. Those are a few examples, but in most cases the magic proposed in fantasy settings mimic some technological advance we have today (exceptions like polymorph are fairly common too!). I'd start with those to figure out the effect they would have on the world.

And remember that people believe woods are haunted even today. They just believe science can't explain ghosts so there are elements of the world that lie outside our current means of acquiring information. The same will be true in any setting. Just make sure that there is some set of occurrences that can't be accounted for by commonly understood phenomena. Then you have a mystery.


WRT divinations, I feel like the best way to handle these is not to have access to pure knowledge like that simply through a spell. Vague, symbol-laden and often conflicting prophecies are one thing for flavor... straight-up D&D-style Q&A's with the divinity of your choice are a little tougher for me to swallow. Then again... I guess vague, symbol-laden and conflicting prophecies are kind of a well-worn trope...

But your point on how magic mimics technology was similar to the stance I was taking in an earlier post, and largely I agree with what you're saying.

delgondahntelius
10-24-2008, 09:52 PM
ooooo... I Love this topic... A L O T.

Technology/Magic and Culture Advancement Rate = The relative Number of major outside influences.

All of these things will advance to a certain degree, because sentient beings (like humans) push themselves to delve into the next great mystery and move things forward to better their way of life. Barring any outside influences, the relative rate and level of achievement will usually progress in a forward manner with sporadic 'Leaps' forward. (by leaps, I mean when someone, somewhere hits on that Eureka Idea and moves their field forward... hint: E=MC²)

Outside Influences however, happen and are usually detrimental to a societies progress. The biggest one of these is probably war and being conquered. Many civilizations have met the end of their days simply by being subdued into the history books (Aztecs come to mind). Then of course.... Plagues, Massive Crop failures, Draughts, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Cats and Dogs..... you get the picture. So, that is what you can apply from real world perspective.

Add in the bit about fantasy and well, the equation is no longer an equation but more or less a gigantic web of possiblities.

Religion is a big one in a fantasy world I think. Especially in a place where the Gods do walk among mortals and have direct influence on events that shape the world. Beings of Supreme power and unlimited resources (some anyways) can have a direct bearing on culture and technology.

Its hard to think what kind of legends and myths you could have in a world chocked full of dragons, wyverns, dire toads and leprechauns. Simply the word Legend and Myth become synonymous with fact.

I actually had a point when I started, but I've had to many errands in between writing this post, so I think I'll quit while I'm ahead :D

Gamerprinter
10-24-2008, 11:16 PM
Good points, Del. And... just to return the favor, I see your sitting at 99 rep, soooo... I bonk you with my +4 bonker! Now you've got another green pip! Congrats.

GP

delgondahntelius
10-24-2008, 11:30 PM
OUCH!! and THANK YOU!! .... I was sooooo close to that double green tiles I was about to burst... thinking of what new information I could post up to garner that small bit of rep :D lol.... now.... only 97 away from triple buttons..:)

I'm also glad someone was able to to make sense of that last post....

NeonKnight
10-25-2008, 12:19 AM
Even that is not a 100% accurate statement. As an example, take Incan/Mayan/Aztec ruins. Many of these are overgrown so much as to appear as hills to the untrained even while you are standing on them. Many such structures have been found, and I am sure there are hundreds if not thousands left to be found. These sorts of things are impossible to find normal photo satellites. Ground imaging radar/sonar type stuff has a much better shot, but unless you know what you look for, you can still miss it.

My point here is that people tend to see something they are looking for and ignore anything which does not attract attention as being different. Camoflage is a great justification for many things like you speak. Of course, this also neglects other fantasy(D&D anyway) staple concepts such as underground passages connecting various parts of the world. Many in such underground passages, most people still think in standard two dimensions, so it is easy to miss something like the fact that a deep trench having either side or bottom openings which then allow much further movement, after changing the z dimension. Likewise, home many people in a cave with a semi high ceilling miss a man size hole in the "roof", which could very well lead to another whole level.

And as Torstan pointed out... it's pretty darn hard to empirically prove a negative.

Actually they are almost exclusively using Satelites to locate Meso-American ruins now because of the difficulty of overgrowth:

http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/viewnews.php?id=137115

Another example I saw them detail on TV a while back was using the imagry of the Satelite and noting specific differences from the Canopies of the forest:

http://www.thepanamanews.com/pn/v_12/issue_04/science_06.html

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/multimedia/photos/2006/photos06-018.html

jfrazierjr
10-25-2008, 01:03 AM
Actually they are almost exclusively using Satelites to locate Meso-American ruins now because of the difficulty of overgrowth:

http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/viewnews.php?id=137115

Another example I saw them detail on TV a while back was using the imagry of the Satelite and noting specific differences from the Canopies of the forest:

http://www.thepanamanews.com/pn/v_12/issue_04/science_06.html

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/multimedia/photos/2006/photos06-018.html

Thanks for the find. I had no idea that something like this was even possible.

Karro
10-27-2008, 11:02 AM
ooooo... I Love this topic... A L O T.

Technology/Magic and Culture Advancement Rate = The relative Number of major outside influences.

All of these things will advance to a certain degree, because sentient beings (like humans) push themselves to delve into the next great mystery and move things forward to better their way of life. Barring any outside influences, the relative rate and level of achievement will usually progress in a forward manner with sporadic 'Leaps' forward. (by leaps, I mean when someone, somewhere hits on that Eureka Idea and moves their field forward... hint: E=MC²)

Outside Influences however, happen and are usually detrimental to a societies progress. The biggest one of these is probably war and being conquered. Many civilizations have met the end of their days simply by being subdued into the history books (Aztecs come to mind). Then of course.... Plagues, Massive Crop failures, Draughts, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Cats and Dogs..... you get the picture. So, that is what you can apply from real world perspective.

Add in the bit about fantasy and well, the equation is no longer an equation but more or less a gigantic web of possiblities.

Religion is a big one in a fantasy world I think. Especially in a place where the Gods do walk among mortals and have direct influence on events that shape the world. Beings of Supreme power and unlimited resources (some anyways) can have a direct bearing on culture and technology.

Its hard to think what kind of legends and myths you could have in a world chocked full of dragons, wyverns, dire toads and leprechauns. Simply the word Legend and Myth become synonymous with fact.

I actually had a point when I started, but I've had to many errands in between writing this post, so I think I'll quit while I'm ahead :D

Thanks. These are very good points, I believe.

I had considered the fact that after a civilization ages a bit technological developments are bound to increase unless there is some outside factor that stalls this technological development, and I think the same would hold true with magical developments.

Certainly plagues and natural disasters and barbarian invasions can have this sort of negative effect on development. Although I think in actuality, War has a means of improving upon technology as well... it's just that the technologies that improve are typically military in nature, but these often have a way of spinning off technologies that improve other aspects of life. Of course, this is not completely true (as per the aforementioned Barbarian Invasions). Those cultures that are conquered will have their technological innovations either stifled or appropriated. But when conquered by "Barbarians", the innovation is likely to be lost as the Barbarians lack the expertise to co-opt and utelize the technologies of their enemies. (I think this is essentially what happened to the Roman Empire, more-or-less.)

The bit about myths, though, is one area that I'm still exploring... What if in a given world things like, say, leprechauns were real but dragons were not, yet there were still legends and myths of dragons?

That was the idea behind the haunted forest question: whether or not there was something real in the forest that was dangerous to people, the locals believed that there was something dangerous in the forest. At what point of technological (and magical) and cultural (and religious) development do the people stop believing the forest is haunted if, in fact, it is not haunted? (If it is haunted... then I gather at no point would they necessarily stop believing it, as the facts will prove it out.)

jfrazierjr
10-27-2008, 11:33 AM
That was the idea behind the haunted forest question: whether or not there was something real in the forest that was dangerous to people, the locals believed that there was something dangerous in the forest. At what point of technological (and magical) and cultural (and religious) development do the people stop believing the forest is haunted if, in fact, it is not haunted? (If it is haunted... then I gather at no point would they necessarily stop believing it, as the facts will prove it out.)

That's the thing, you can't answer this question. There are many places where people have a somewhat modern level of technology and yet they may still believe in one of more mythical creatures or haunted places. Likewise, you can culturally have some people who are 5, 10, 100 miles apart and one group may believe in something entirely, while the other may reject it out of hand as being totally false.

While technology may have a hand in helping dispel belief in a myth for some, for many no amount of mumbo jumbo("proof") will change their mind(I liken this to political divisions.) You can provide some people with the most intelligent and sound arguement and never convince them of the true. One good example is try to explain to a color blind person that something is green(which they tyipically see as brown IIRC). No amount of argument will change the fact that the other person is not wrong, it's just that their perception only sees what you are pointing at as being brown. End result, if they don't know they are colorblind, then either you just argee the point non stop or one of your gives up and says "ok, you win" so they can get you to shut up(or you get into a fight about it!).

Karro
10-27-2008, 11:43 AM
That's the thing, you can't answer this question. There are many places where people have a somewhat modern level of technology and yet they may still believe in one of more mythical creatures or haunted places. Likewise, you can culturally have some people who are 5, 10, 100 miles apart and one group may believe in something entirely, while the other may reject it out of hand as being totally false.


I guess you're right there, as was pointed out by you and Torstan earlier... proving a negative is difficult.

Though something along those lines was the original impetus of the post, I think I've gotten a lot of good thoughts to mull around with since then, and I'm developing some decent and hopefully logical explanations for some of the factors I want, and changing some things around in my head, with regard to my own setting.

NeonKnight
10-27-2008, 12:49 PM
I need to find the case, so I will do the search, but there was a case only a few years back in Budapest I believe where family members broke into a recently deceased relatives grave and cut their head off because they honestly believed the person to be a vampire.

jfrazierjr
10-27-2008, 02:00 PM
I need to find the case, so I will do the search, but there was a case only a few years back in Budapest I believe where family members broke into a recently deceased relatives grave and cut their head off because they honestly believed the person to be a vampire.


Did they fill the mouth with Garlic and put it into running water?

Ghostman
10-27-2008, 02:35 PM
While technology may have a hand in helping dispel belief in a myth for some, for many no amount of mumbo jumbo("proof") will change their mind(I liken this to political divisions.)

You make a point, but I think most people will at least start to doubt their beliefs if presented with credible arguments and evidence.

Rather than a matter of technology, I think the haunted forest example is more a matter of education. Karro, if you want to try and determine a 'realistic' level of superstition in an area, it may be useful to consider the following questions:

What kind of education is available for the upper classes? How common is it for an upper-class person to have received such education? How much resources are they able/willing to expend on education?
What kind of education, if any, is available to the lower classes? How many people of lower classes have received any education at all?
Are there prevailing attitudes or prejudices against teachers?
Who provides the education? Is it controlled by clergy, some political faction, local aristocracy, state, or can anyone become a teacher?
Are there many charlatans posing as teachers?
Is there enough interaction between the lower and upper classes to allow for the latter's presumably higher education to influence the beliefs of the former, or will social stratification hinder this?
Does the area contain any institutions or organizations that promote learning? (Think along the lines of Plato's academy, the early universities, or even just a library made available for local scholars.)
How well connected is the area with the rest of the world? Can scholars engage in correspondence with colleagues abroad? Are there political/scholastic/religious reasons to disregard foreign ideas and knowledge?

jfrazierjr
10-27-2008, 03:00 PM
You make a point, but I think most people will at least start to doubt their beliefs if presented with credible arguments and evidence.

Rather than a matter of technology, I think the haunted forest example is more a matter of education. Karro, if you want to try and determine a 'realistic' level of superstition in an area, it may be useful to consider the following questions:

What kind of education is available for the upper classes? How common is it for an upper-class person to have received such education? How much resources are they able/willing to expend on education?
What kind of education, if any, is available to the lower classes? How many people of lower classes have received any education at all?
Are there prevailing attitudes or prejudices against teachers?
Who provides the education? Is it controlled by clergy, some political faction, local aristocracy, state, or can anyone become a teacher?
Are there many charlatans posing as teachers?
Is there enough interaction between the lower and upper classes to allow for the latter's presumably higher education to influence the beliefs of the former, or will social stratification hinder this?
Does the area contain any institutions or organizations that promote learning? (Think along the lines of Plato's academy, the early universities, or even just a library made available for local scholars.)
How well connected is the area with the rest of the world? Can scholars engage in correspondence with colleagues abroad? Are there political/scholastic/religious reasons to disregard foreign ideas and knowledge?




Those are all EXCELLENT points! Back in the 1800's(and even up into the 1900s) many children in the US were barely educated due to their parents needing them to work on the farm to maintain the families already meager income level.

There is also a factor of self worth involved where someone with a lower self worth will usually be more ready to accept someones talking points as facts without verification(which leads to myths/legends.) I expect(though I have no evidence to prove!) that a group of people who are essentially slaves will be more open to believing things without verification than those who are allowed to earn and keep the fruits of their labor. I believe that a sense of accomplishment pushes one to more readily question the status quo, which is a prime motivation for dispelling myths (or attempting to anyway.)

torstan
10-27-2008, 03:04 PM
These are excellent points (and repped).

I'd also like to add a few more comments (I know I've already had my fair share on this one). Myths tend to live in areas of ignorance - either because people haven't been educated about the true reasons for a phenomenon, or because the educators have got it wrong, or don't know the answer.

In the current world people still believe in ghosts. This persists because they can't be disproved by current scientific method. You can't perform detailed scientific studies of ghosts really. There's a joke that a truly malicious ghost would appear to a scientist whenever he was on his own and had no means of recording its existence. No one could say whether what the scientist was seeing was real, a figment of his imagination or him telling lies.

Equally with your wood, the phenomena that everyone believes to be ghosts could just be beyond the ken of current knowledge - strange pressure vents under the ground causing wailing noises and intermittent gusts of steam. Equally, there could be such vents and also real ghosts. That would give rise to a hotly contested mystery that would run for ages.

This is especially true if they have no means to prove that ghosts do exist within their culture. Its certainly true that whatever standard you set for proof, there will be phenomena that are existent and true that lie outside the reach of those standards. As an extreme example, we all know that the world outside ourselves exists, but there is no way to prove this without presupposing the existence of the outside world. We tend to take that as meaning that our chosen methods of evidence gathering are badly chosen rather than that the world outside doesn't exist.

torstan
10-27-2008, 03:08 PM
Joe: I think the reason that the better off are more likely to question the status quo is because they have the luxury to do so without endangering their well-being. Someone who has to farm the soil all day doesn't have much time to worry about the fundamental nature of being.

Equally I guess they are less likely to rock the boat. Say they worship a God who says they must sacrifice someone every season to ensure the crops grow. Do you want to be the person that says that's wrong only to find the crops failing on you? You just can't afford to get it wrong so its safer not to make any changes at all.

Karro
10-27-2008, 03:15 PM
You make a point, but I think most people will at least start to doubt their beliefs if presented with credible arguments and evidence.

Rather than a matter of technology, I think the haunted forest example is more a matter of education.


You present a very thought-provoking list there!


Those are all EXCELLENT points! Back in the 1800's(and even up into the 1900s) many children in the US were barely educated due to their parents needing them to work on the farm to maintain the families already meager income level.
...


More good points!



I'd also like to add a few more comments (I know I've already had my fair share on this one).

But more comments = more better!

Certainly, I must agree with these points, and maybe this is what drove my initial inquiry. It seems perhaps I equated the advancement of technology with improvements in education. But there are a lot of factors that affect what people think and believe and technological developments in a society are only a single and imperfect measure of a culture's affinity for general education.

Karro
10-27-2008, 03:21 PM
Joe: I think the reason that the better off are more likely to question the status quo is because they have the luxury to do so without endangering their well-being. Someone who has to farm the soil all day doesn't have much time to worry about the fundamental nature of being.

Equally I guess they are less likely to rock the boat. Say they worship a God who says they must sacrifice someone every season to ensure the crops grow. Do you want to be the person that says that's wrong only to find the crops failing on you. You just can't afford to get it wrong so its safer not to make any changes at all.


I think it's also a question of leisure, which is perhaps related to the luxury of relative safety to question the status-quo. Earlier in history, most probing developments into the nature of the universe, science and philosophy as well as arts and music were made by those who were more highly placed in society--those who's incomes or general livelihoods were not tied to hard, physical or work-a-day labor. These advances were made, essentially, by those who had the free time to contemplate such pursuits.

Today, many more of us have such leisure as allows us to pursue a greater understanding of whatever specific fields interest us (such as cartography, for instance). Generally, this leads to improvements for all in those fields.

Essentially, I think I'm saying the same thing you just said, but coming at it from a different direction.

NeonKnight
10-28-2008, 02:02 AM
I need to find the case, so I will do the search, but there was a case only a few years back in Budapest I believe where family members broke into a recently deceased relatives grave and cut their head off because they honestly believed the person to be a vampire.

GOOGLE-FU.........He-YAH!

Ahhhh, knew I would find it.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-real-vampire-slayers-397874.html

Basically in 2004, in a village in Southern Romania, a man died, the family believed him to be a Vampire, and set upon 'slaying him'

As well as here:

http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/060414_dracula.html

http://www.free-press-release.com/news/200805/1210443412.html

and

http://exmypar.wordpress.com/2007/10/29/real-vampires/

Wish I could find the News Footage I had seen last year when they were talking about this on a program on the history of Vampires.

Greason Wolfe
12-09-2008, 12:32 AM
I've rather enjoyed reading through this thread and have to say that a number of good points have been made by those that have contributed. I've pondered this subject several times, myself, and now I'd like to add my two cents, if nobody minds.

One thing I always try to keep in mind is that the development of culture (and society in general, for that matter) is greatly influenced by the climate (geology, weather, availability of natural resources and level of isolation) in which the people in question have evolved. This influence spans across every aspect of their lives, effecting such things as their religious beliefs, social customs, means of sustenance, transportation, shelter and self-preservation in the face of hardship. It stands to reason, then, that climate would also be a major influence when it comes to the development of technology since cultural and societal needs, more often than not, act as a rudder for technological research.

The history of our world is rife with examples of how climate effects the development of technology, and one need look no further than such movies as Pathfinder and 10,000 B.C. to see an illustration of this. Of course, there are more recent examples as well, like the early encounters between Native Americans and European Settlers. But getting back to the original question, here are a few more thoughts to consider;

What defines renaissance for a culture? For instance, could we say that the Native Americans were at their own "renaissance" level of technology when European explorers first "discovered" the Americas?

What physical obstacles does the culture in question need to overcome and how strong in their desire to overcome such obstacles? (i.e. if the people don't need to expand because of low population levels, why would they bother exploring beyond their needs)

What means of record keeping does the culture use? Is it a written alphabet or more hieroglyphic? Do they use paper, stone, wood or papyrus? How long would it take them to make a detailed map of their world versus a crude map?

How inquisitive is the culture? Even if they don't need to expand, are they curious enough to explore beyond their local community?

Do they actively pursue "foreign" commerce, or are they self-sufficient?

Are they compelled to conquer other lands or are they content to live out their lives in their own little corner of the world?

These are just some of the questions I ask myself when developing fictional cultures and, in the end, it all comes down to who (in their society) is making the maps for them. As for the influence of foreign technology, my best suggestion would be to look at what has happened in our own history and compare cultures of varying technological levels for an answer.

Karro
12-09-2008, 01:33 PM
snip.

Thanks for your thoughts. It's an interesting take. I think you're right that environmental concerns definitely affect both cultural and technological development. They say that "necessity is the mother of invention", and the environment is probably one of the primary sources of necessity in humanity's quest to make life easier for itself.

I'd also say that how the environment helps or hinders food production is part and parcel with that. In areas where the environment is very conducive to farming and mass food production, populations grow very quickly, which influences all kinds of cultural developments. Meanwhile, in a harsher climate, new means of obtaining foods need to be developed (i.e. new technology) in order just to survive, and this also influences cultural developments. The interaction of the two is probably a third factor.

Greason Wolfe
12-09-2008, 02:39 PM
Thanks for your thoughts. It's an interesting take. I think you're right that environmental concerns definitely affect both cultural and technological development. They say that "necessity is the mother of invention", and the environment is probably one of the primary sources of necessity in humanity's quest to make life easier for itself.

I'd also say that how the environment helps or hinders food production is part and parcel with that. In areas where the environment is very conducive to farming and mass food production, populations grow very quickly, which influences all kinds of cultural developments. Meanwhile, in a harsher climate, new means of obtaining foods need to be developed (i.e. new technology) in order just to survive, and this also influences cultural developments. The interaction of the two is probably a third factor.


Absolutely.

And, of course, there are other natural resources besides agriculture. What about heavy and precious ores or wood?

Mortality rates also play a big role in the development of technology. Shorter life-spans don't always lend themselves well to new discoveries on an individual level, but if several people are working together across generations, it is certainly possible. It might just happen a bit slower.

IMHO, there are just so many factors that influence the development of culture and technology that it sometimes seems impossible to consider them all. More often than not, what I end up doing is selecting one or two major factors, a few minor factors and then play Twenty Questions with them to see how they influence one another. It doesn't always work out perfectly, but sometimes those imperfections are exactly the thing that is needed to make the settings unique.

Oh, and you hit it on the head. I'm not sure why I used Climate when I meant Environment. But thanks for the subtle correction.

jfrazierjr
12-09-2008, 02:58 PM
Bah... you guys are a bunch of "heady" folks. I tend to just make stuff up that interest or amuses me(mostly the later) and rationalize it as in "its my world, and if you don't like it... tough!"

Karro
12-09-2008, 03:15 PM
Absolutely.

Oh, and you hit it on the head. I'm not sure why I used Climate when I meant Environment. But thanks for the subtle correction.

Climate is a function of the environment. Didn't mean to be pedantic!


Bah... you guys are a bunch of "heady" folks. I tend to just make stuff up that interest or amuses me(mostly the later) and rationalize it as in "its my world, and if you don't like it... tough!"

Hmm... that could explain a lot about the real world around us. ;)

Ascension
12-09-2008, 05:32 PM
Here's an example of climate affecting technology. Take the scimitar. Why is it made curved with a heavy weighted end? It has to cut through many layers of clothes. Why is that? Because the Arabs didn't need or want heavy plate armor since they lived in a hot desert climate. If you want to poke holes in armor you need something different, like a poinard or arrow or narrow thrusting blade. The katana, also, is curved for slicing through clothing and bamboo armor. Battle axes and war hammers are made for smashing shields. Climate is all pervasive. If you wear heavy furs to keep warm then a slashing sword isn't going to do much.

Then you get into tactics and strategy being based on the current technology of offense and defense. If everyone is wearing layers of robes then you can hang back and pelt them with stones and arrows but if everyone is wearing heavy furs then ya gotta get face to face and beat 'em up. A society that wears heavy furs would never be caught dead using arrows because of their pride for hardiness and thus hand-to-hand while a culture that uses bows would consider hand-to-hand as barbaric.

My two bits.

Steel General
12-09-2008, 05:58 PM
Boy that just blows "The 13th Warrior" out of the water, they used a bit of everything.

Still a enjoyable movie to watch though...

Ascension
12-09-2008, 06:12 PM
I watch it every time it's on...don't know why, it's kinda crap. Something about it mesmerizes me though.

Steel General
12-09-2008, 07:43 PM
I bought the DVD, I just enjoy some of the characters.

Ghostman
12-10-2008, 12:33 PM
Here's an example of climate affecting technology. Take the scimitar. Why is it made curved with a heavy weighted end? It has to cut through many layers of clothes. Why is that? Because the Arabs didn't need or want heavy plate armor since they lived in a hot desert climate. If you want to poke holes in armor you need something different, like a poinard or arrow or narrow thrusting blade. The katana, also, is curved for slicing through clothing and bamboo armor.

Actually, Arabs did not invent scimitars. The sabre was invented in the steppes of Central Asia. It was brought to the Middle East by invading Turkic nomads, and then slowly replaced the traditional Arabic swords, which were straight cut & thrust weapons. Sabres go by many names and vary a great deal by design, but they all have single-edged curved blades. The reason for this is that it is advantageous when used from horseback. The same quality does lead to powerful draw-cuts against lightly armored targets, which may explain why sabres came to be adopted as infantry weapons also (even though cuts are pretty useless even against chainmail, which wealthier Arab soldiers did use). As for the katana, yes it's good for cutting lightly armored targets. A quality which is kind of wasted given the popularity of metal armor in Japan - but then again, those swords were typically treated as side-arms anyway. Bamboo armor is probably a myth.