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Author Topic: [Escape From Illeria] Backstory internal consistency  (Read 1368 times)
Simons
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« on: January 07, 2011, 11:03:45 PM »

Hey all,

I haven’t been on this sight it a while, it seems to have changed a bit...

I’m working on a fantasy wargame (though one where I’m trying to borrow RPG elements) called “Escape From Illeria.”  The design blog is http://stumpsfirstgame.blogspot.com/.  Right now I’m struggling with the backstory, and want people’s thoughts on if it makes sense.  Below I have attached the description that is going on the inside front cover. 

If anyone would be willing to read it, I have the following questions about the backstory:
1) Does it make sense?  Do you have a good understanding of the world from this description?
2) What questions are you left with after reading this?  And are these questions, “This sounds cool and I want to learn more,” questions, or, “I didn’t understand this and it frustrates/confuses me,” questions.
3) Does the world seem to be internally consistent?  If not, then what does not make sense?
4) Does this story sound similar to other fantasy stories out there?  Has anything like this been done before?  Are the historical references in the story at all obvious?
5) What do you think?  Does this sound like an interesting world?

(As I said, it’s been a while since I’ve been on here.  If these kinds of questions are not what this site is for, then I apologize, and feel free to delete this.)

My backstory:

"If you are reading this, it means you have found my notebooks. Most likely, I am no longer of this world, or any world for that matter. These books are my research journals. They chronicle my discoveries, indeed our discoveries, along with the rise and downfall of Illeria. What happened on this island must never be forgotten.

Though I hardly believe it myself, ten short years ago. King Paris ruled Avon, there was peace, and all was right with the world. Back then magic was a purely esoteric subject. It was an art, just as music or history are arts. It was never of practical use. Why learn to make fire with your fingers, when a flint and tinder are easier to learn? King Paris hired us to be scholars of magic, because he so enjoyed learning, and because we entertained him.

His death left a power vacuum, and lead to a bloody war of succession. His youngest son, Balthazar, rose to power by being the meanest and scariest of the litter. Though the war took its toll on him. A near death from an assassin’s bullet left him with a profound sense of paranoia, and shaped many of his future policies. He began rounding up those that he mistrusted, and established forced labor camps to put them in. It should be no surprise that a small faction, still loyal to his dead brother Montano, soon rebelled.

The Battle of the Roses will forever be a day that changed the world. As Balthazar’s army closed in, a small regiment of men-at-arms came to stop them. Thinking the battle would not last an hour, Balthazar’s generals sent their forces in, only to discover that the men-at-arms were supported by a group of wizards. As arrows turned around to shoot their owners, horses became spooked and kicked off their masters, and bolts of energy spat from the ground, the armies of Balthazar became panicked and fled. Magic had officially left the ivory tower. This victory turned the entire tide of the war, and sealed our fate.

Before I knew what was happening, large men appeared at my door, tied me up, and placed a bag over my head. When it was removed, I found myself on the prison island of Illeria, surrounded by a dozen or so fellow wizards. A man with a large sword told us that King Balthazar now wanted us to take what we knew of magic, and use it to develop weapons for his generals. He said that any who refused to cooperate would be drowned in the ocean. And thus, we began spending day after day, slaving away in our makeshift labs and our makeshift libraries. Conditions were not always safe, and we soon found ourselves setting fire to our laboratories, and unleashing monsters on the land. We turned an art made for creating knowledge into a tool made for inflicting human misery.

At night they kept us locked away with the other prisoners. At first I thought I would be skinned alive, but soon came to realize that the thugs on this island were profoundly superstitious, and that we instilled fear into them. Though the common law prisoners had previously terrorized and ruled the political prisoners, that they would not touch us. The other wizards and I leveraged this power, We brought peace and community to where there was once fighting.

But still, we continued to study the art of magic. We discovered many things; how to heal wounds, how to call animals from nothing, and how to make steel walk on its own. Many of them are written within these pages. Our greatest discovery, however, was when we learned of the Spirit World. The Spirit World is a world unlike ours. The laws which govern our world seem not to apply there. It’s like a dream that you never awake from. You discover that you have a second soul, and it is through this soul that you are able to traverse the Spirit World.

Though every other discovery was eventually taught to Balthazar’s guards and generals, the Spirit World remained a secret. It was so easily hidden, and so miraculous and beautiful, that we never wanted to see it become a weapon. Little did we know what was to come.

As rumors began floating that Balthazar had crushed the rebellion, the political prisoners became nervous as to what would happen to everyone. Soon, we began plotting to overthrow the guards and claim Illeria as our own. Knowing we would be useless without weapons, the other wizards and I began teaching our fellow inmates how to use magic. We even showed them the spirit world, and how to tap into its great source of power. When the uprising came, the guards did not stand a chance.

Before the uprising, plans had been made for a new government, and a new way of life on the island. But as soon as the guards were gone, we realized just how little food and supplies there were on the island. All our noble goals for a new society crumbled, and we began fighting amongst ourselves. What’s worse, now that the common law prisoners had learned to use magic, they no longer feared it, and the prison gangs of old began to reform. Soon, there was nothing but anarchy and death."

Thanks in advance!

Simon
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Simons
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2011, 10:34:18 PM »

Okay, I think my last post was too long.  If anyone would be willing to read an abridged version, it is below.  Again, mainly what I am hoping for is whether you think the backstory makes sense, or whether many parts in it seem like they would never happen (you know, once you’ve suspended disbelief enough to allow for magic).  Also, if you have any questions after reading this, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.  I am still working on creating a world that seems at least somewhat realistic. 

“A brief time ago, King Paris ruled the land, and magic was a purely academic and esoteric subject.  It was studied as an art, rather than for anything useful.

When King Paris died, there was a terrible war of succession between his three sons.  His youngest son, Balthazar, came into power.  During the war, Balthazar was nearly assassinated, and it instilled in him a deep sense of paranoia.  When he became king, he created a system of forced labor prison camps, and which he began filling with political prisoners (in addition to common-law criminals). 

Soon, there was a rebellion against Balthazar.  Several wizards joined with the revolutionaries, and began creating weapons for them.  This allowed for great success in early battles.  Because of this, Balthazar rounded up every wizard he could, and sent them to the prison island of Illeria.  On Illeria, they were forced to develop new forms of magic, create magical weapons, and otherwise do magical research, in order to aid the war effort.  Those who were not producing enough were killed.

Despite being locked away with political prisoners and criminals, there was an eerie peace on Illeria, mainly because the common-law criminals were superstitious of the wizards.  After a great deal of time, plans were made for revolt.  All of the prisoners would band together, overthrow the guards, and create a new society.  Because there were so few weapons on the camp, the wizards taught the other prisoners how to use basic forms of magic (albeit, with some difficulty). 

The uprising was swift, and the guards did not know what hit them.  However, in the aftermath, it was discovered that there was not enough food or resources to go around.  Soon, any high ideals of a new society crumbled, prison gangs reformed, at it quickly became every-gang for themselves.”

(and thus, when the game begins, you control a single party of prisoners, many of whom will be amateur wizards, capable of using limited or unreliable magic; games surround battles which take place between opposing parties)

Simon
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Marco M.
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2011, 06:44:57 AM »

Hi Simon!

As for me, I read your long post and just didn't find time to reply properly until now. Maybe others join in, now that a beginning is made:
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1) Does it make sense?  Do you have a good understanding of the world from this description?
Given the inner-world-logic it makes perfect sense. As for the understanding of the world your text is a little short. I think I got what has been explained, the political system and what kind of place Illeria is. Yet I don't know much of the people as there's no hint what kind of civilization Avon is or was, so we don't know what influenced the people that are now trapped on Illeria. This isn't meant as critizism as I it doesn't seem as if you wanted to give a detailed background but a quick introduction to the current setting. Nevertheless, you might want to add something like what I just mentioned :)

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2) What questions are you left with after reading this?  And are these questions, “This sounds cool and I want to learn more,” questions, or, “I didn’t understand this and it frustrates/confuses me,” questions.
It definitly inspires the wish to read more. You're nodding on some interesting topics without revealing to much, still all seems connected and there are no obvious errors. Given some spare time, I'd enjoy reading a bit more about the world you're describing.

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3) Does the world seem to be internally consistent?  If not, then what does not make sense?
One thing confused me a bit. You wrote that there are wizards, which usually implies that there are people capable of summoning magic and others who aren't. Yet the wizards tought the other prisoners how to use magic, which implies that everybody is capable of using magic, at least to some degree. A clarification about this might be appropriate.

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4) Does this story sound similar to other fantasy stories out there?  Has anything like this been done before?  Are the historical references in the story at all obvious?
Well, the concepts of magic and monarchy always resemble up to a certain degree. As for what's actually happening I'm not aware of something really similar. Avon sounded suspiciously like Avalon, though ;)

Quote
5) What do you think?  Does this sound like an interesting world?
The situation on Illeria is indeed tense. Immediatly there were ideas popping up in my head what kind of problems could occur, especially with an outside treat still being present. Though - but this is just my personal opinion - I have a hard time with settings where everybody is capable of magic (question 3). Anyway, the fundamentals look promising.
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Simons
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2011, 07:54:56 PM »

Thank you so much for the response.  Glad to hear you liked it.  This was really helpful.

The idea I have is that in this world, magic is just like any other form of human knowledge.  Think of it as something like advanced computer programming or statistics, it is something that anyone can learn, but only if they possess the right teachers and the proper motivation and patience.  No one really paid much attention to it before the civil war, because they didn't really see a use in it.  However, when it was discovered that you could use it to win a battle, then there was a sudden desire for everyone to become "magic-savvy."  The wizards on Illeria were forced night and day to develop new forms of magic, and teach it or give it to Balthazar's generals, so that they could fight with it.  However, the wizards eventually figured out that they could teach this to the other prisoners.  I'll either try to make that more clear, either in here or in following text.  Would it be more clear initially if instead of calling them, "wizards," I called them "scholars of magic," or something to that effect?

So, the unanswered questions are a) the political and societal structure of Avon, b) the structure of Illeria (did you mean pre-revolt, or afterwards?) c) what prompted the uprising, and d) how is it that normal people can use magic.  Am I leaving anything out?

Oh, quick question, what did you mean, "we don't understand what influenced the people that are now trapped on Illeria"? 

Also, I'd be curious about the ideas for problems that are popping up in your head.  (The story is still slightly in development, and I'm still thinking if I need a "what's next," or if the game can just start from here)

Anyway, thanks again!

Simon
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btrc
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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2011, 04:11:48 AM »

It sounds interesting, but I do have some questions of internal consistency. On one hand you have magic being so difficult that no one wants to spend a long time to learn how to light a candle, but you can apparently spend enough time to make fire come out of the ground and consume your enemies. So, if I were comparing a wizard to the time and effort needed to train a mounted knight or a quality longbowman, if it were only a year or two more for "consume my foes with gushing gouts of flame", then hells yeah I'd go for the wizards!

Humans being what they are, if magic had this level of potential all along it seems that someone would have taken advantage of it long before. Even if it had not ushered in wizard-kings, the legends of powerful magics would have been there, and with the genuine existence of magic, been a constant source of experimentation by wizards curious, ambitious or both.

Second, if wizards are capable of this level of power, then putting them in a conventional prison does not seem to be a viable option. Especially when you put them there so they can work together to make even more powerful magics!

Escape plan, step 1: Learn how to fly (or walk on water, or turn yourself into a fish, whatever).
Escape plan, step 2: Escape!

The rise of powerful magic and its ability to change the world (the gameworld) is an interesting idea, but I personally see some holes in the way it is presented. It could be that I am missing something that is actually in the background, but not included in the backstory narrative, since it is written from the point of view of one person, who might not have all the information. But, you asked for opinions on the internal consistency, and thats my 2 cents on what was presented.

Greg
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Marco M.
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2011, 10:07:48 AM »

First of all I'd like to second btrcs statement. I too had that thought too yesterday while I was talking a walk and didn't find any statisfying solution. The wizards would have to make a really new discovery to use magic more efficient, maybe because they did it as a group? Otherwise Avon and its civilization or magic itself might still be a very young, dunno. Anyway, lets head to your feedback:

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I'll either try to make that more clear, either in here or in following text.  Would it be more clear initially if instead of calling them, "wizards," I called them "scholars of magic," or something to that effect?
Yep, that should work just fine.

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So, the unanswered questions are a) the political and societal structure of Avon, b) the structure of Illeria (did you mean pre-revolt, or afterwards?) c) what prompted the uprising, and d) how is it that normal people can use magic.  Am I leaving anything out?
I think it would be nice to see both Illeria before and after the revolt, after all the people there knew both states which should be reflected in their behaviour. A few words about religion would be cool too, if there's any at all.

Quote
Oh, quick question, what did you mean, "we don't understand what influenced the people that are now trapped on Illeria"?
I was basically talking about the culture they grew up in. Two humans from different civilizations will react very differently when faced the same circumstances. Where failure is a reason for social downsteps in one culture it inspires people to work harder in another surrounding.

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Also, I'd be curious about the ideas for problems that are popping up in your head.
It's nothing exciting so far, I just wanted to point out that your backstory gives room for ideas :) Anyway:
- Imagine a village held down by a group of bandits. With magic they put some jailed magically potent youngsters on frenzy who will bring havoc if released, thus giving the bandits some degree of power. Nevertheless the bandits are only amateurs and might not be able to control the youths, so they still have to use force and must fear even a single really powerful stranger who could free the youths and ruin the bandits.
- Some non-magic users will be afraid of magic users and could start a religion or something in the like that hunts lone magic-wielders. A group of persecuted inhabitants on the other hand could band together to kill the persecuters, even though some of them are just run-alongs who had no choice.
- The most powerful wizards will try to install some kind of reign over small areas, but have to carefully balance how much power they teach their troops to keep them under control, but also to make them stand up against the troop of the wizard from the next hill (damn heretical, he is!).
- The former prison might be a fortress of those who stood and were most powerful. This would be a haven under constant siege by those less lucky. Who reigns there and who decides who gets in and who doesn't?
- Most importantly: Who stops the egoists from wrecking the whole island until only they and some subordinates remain there? What stops them from slaughtering each other afterwards?
- Given the fact that their are some small souvereign rulers (which can either wield magic or have powerful subordinets): Why would they let anybody capable of magic travel around? Either they are a treat or they can become mighty assets if kept along.

You see, it's really hard to balance a world where everyone can use magic. It might be easier if there are people who have a potential for magic and those who also can shape it in some way. The discovery of how to use the magic potential of others might be the scientific breakthrough needed.

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Anyway, thanks again!
I'm glad I could help :)
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Simons
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« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2011, 09:07:30 PM »

Thanks for your responses.  They’ve been really thoughtful.  This has been really helpful to think about, and I’d much rather hear criticisms from you folks than from critics after the game has been published. 

You’re right, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that wizards were so quick to go from being too weak to be noticed to making the ground explode.  And it doesn’t make sense that magic would become so powerful on its own without someone trying to use it.  How about these for fixes:

The society of Avon has somewhat recently come out of being purely subsistence (like, Ancient Greece, or early Renaissance?).  The development of magic really requires a learned class, people who can be paid by the king to do nothing but sit around and think about magic.  As this is only more recently appeared in the society, magic hasn’t been developed to its fullest extent. 

Why do kings sponsor it?  Well, for the same reason that kings always sponsor learned researchers, they think it might bring an eventual benefit, and as a way of showing off who has the best country (“What did I tell you, only an Avonian could be the first to learn to make butterflies”). 

Humans being what they are, if magic had this level of potential all along it seems that someone would have taken advantage of it long before.

Why weren’t fireballs learned earlier?  Perhaps magic has to be learned in a very step-wise fashion.  Like, there has always been uranium, but before you can build a nuclear reactor, you need to know about radioactive decay, which requires a working model of the atom, which requires understanding that there are these things called atoms, and so on.  Same way, before you can animate skeleton warriors to attack your foes, first you need to know how to make objects “think” at some basic level, which requires knowing how to make objects move on their own, which requires being able to move things with your magic...  Get the picture?  What if this was really the first time in history that there had been this sort of a coming of age (sort of a magic enlightenment)?

I think maybe some confusion I would need to explain is that in a world like this, a “powerful sorcerer,” would be like a 3rd level D&D wizard (or at very most a 5th).  Magic in my game tends to be rather limited, and the strong stuff unreliable.  There aren’t really archmages who are moving mountains and throwing round after round of fireballs.  And if the perception of a “wizard,” was something more like a 1st or 2nd level D&D wizard, you can perhaps start to understand why kings weren’t training battalions of them. 

This might also explain why they weren’t guarded quite as heavily as they should have been, because 20 soldiers with strong armor would still easily be able to overcome 5 scholars.  Although, maybe that doesn’t work well enough.  Maybe they had to separate the arcane scholas (and they were only able to communicate effectively via the spirit world).  Maybe the guards actively tried to repress certain kinds of magic from being studied?  Maybe they kept everyone in chains, and constantly had swords and pistols pointed at them.

Out of curiosity, how much could be blamed on ignorance and incompetence before it seems unrealistic or a cop-out?

So how could magic progress so quickly?  That’s actually something I’m stuck on.  Maybe it’s just that arcane scholars had never used what they did for war before, and so no one really understood that it could be used for that.  Do you think I would need to include something about going “against the wizard code,” to invent magic to harm people, or would that be superfluous?  Maybe there was already a great deal of knowledge of magic, and it was just waiting for a reason.  Kind of like when WWII broke out, and it was suddenly important to be able to detect airplanes, physicists said, "Hey, we might have a way to do that," and invented RADAR.

It could also be that perhaps the Battle of the Roses was won using relatively simple magic, but it was still enough to frighten all of the enemy troops and scare them off (and then go home and tell embellished stories).  In my game, spellcasters using high power magic tend to be one-shot wonders, but if the enemy generals didn’t realize this, what else could they do but retreat?  Alternatively, if you had never seen someone use something like this for warfare, it would catch you off guard (even if it was more bark than bite).

That said, I’ll probably need to keep thinking about this last problem... (any thoughts would be appreciated)

Oh, and one more thing...
- Most importantly: Who stops the egoists from wrecking the whole island until only they and some subordinates remain there? What stops them from slaughtering each other afterwards?
To a large degree, anarchy like this is what begins breaking out.  What stops this from happening is that no one is so much stronger than all the others that they can kill everyone (despite the fact that they try).

Simon
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btrc
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« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2011, 05:19:03 AM »

I'll try not to be too picky, but I'll make a few points that might be worth addressing.

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The development of magic really requires a learned class, people who can be paid by the king to do nothing but sit around and think about magic.

Even subsistence tribes and hunter-gatherers can have shamans. The size of a professional class increases with agriculture and urbanization, but even small groups can support one or two specialists.

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Like, there has always been uranium, but before you can build a nuclear reactor, you need to know about radioactive decay, which requires a working model of the atom, which requires understanding that there are these things called atoms, and so on.

A good point, but flawed. For your analogy to be correct, people would have had to have been using uranium all along, just in an inefficient manner. Magic is not something new, you are merely using the same thing in a vastly more powerful way. It would be like "hey, you know these swords work a lot better if you strike with the sharp pointy end instead of the other way around!"

You have two power escalations to deal with at both a fundamental and social level. The first is going from "lighting a candle" to "fireball", and the other is the spirit world power increase. Each of which has overall political and magical implications, as well as the human element. How long will it be before one wizard lets the "spirit power" secret out of the bag? Once its existence is known by those who would exploit it, you're right back to the "put the wizards in jail until they use their powers to further your ambitions" scenario.

It seems to me an obvious solution is a change in the way magic works, one which occured over time and simply went unnoticed. If past wizards had tried and failed to generate extremely powerful magics, despite their training and effort, then it would become "accepted knowledge" that such things did not work. There would be no myths or legends of powerful magics, and no one would notice any change in the upper power limit until someone actually tried it. It's like if tomorrow morning, sand mixed in your motor oil and Mountain Dew mixed in your gasoline gave you 100% more horsepower and 200 miles per gallon fuel economy. How long would it be before someone actually noticed the change from "accepted knowledge" to "wow!".

As far as the D&D power level comparison goes, I don't see any problem with wizards being the equivalent of low level spell casters, so long as their level of power and frequency of use is sufficient to be consistent with your backstory. How many fireballs would it take to rout an army of thousands? If you've got a dozen guys who can only cast one so-so fireball per day and can only do so while being inside enemy bowshot range, you might have a nice shock value, but it is not going to change the outcome any more or less than a dozen catapult shots of a goatskin filled with flammable oil. If wizards are a "game changer", their abilities have to be game changing.

Greg
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Simons
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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2011, 04:59:12 PM »

Hey Greg, thank so much for your response.  If you want to be more picky, I would actually really appreciate that.  As I said, better to get this from you now than reviewers once the game is published. 

I have a few questions and thoughts about your responses.

Even subsistence tribes and hunter-gatherers can have shamans.

That’s a really good point.  I might say that the tradition of magic grew out of something like that.

For your analogy to be correct, people would have had to have been using uranium all along, just in an inefficient manner. Magic is not something new, you are merely using the same thing in a vastly more powerful way.

I’m actually not sure if I understand your point here.  Let me try another analogy, to see where my misunderstanding comes in: People have always been killing each other with weapons, pretty much since that first monkey stood in front of that black obelisk in the movie 2001.  They have always been looking for the best and most efficient ways of doing this, and have suffered greatly when they couldn’t.  However, how many generations did it take to develop the medieval pole-arm, the battle-axe, the long bow, the katana, and so on (not to mention the strategies for using them effectively)?  Similarly, guns first hit Europe in, what, the 1600s?  The 1400s?  And yet, the guns used, say, in the US civil war were vastly superior to those in the US revolution, but paled in comparison to WWII guns.  Most of these order-of-magnitude shifts have taken generations.  Where is the difference with magic? 

It seems to me an obvious solution is a change in the way magic works, one which occurred over time and simply went unnoticed.

Could the knowledge coming from the rest of society be the change?  To draw on a former analogy, people have been looking for ways to generate energy since the Industrial Revolution, but it required a change in our understanding of the atom to begin using nuclear power. 

If wizards are a "game changer", their abilities have to be game changing.

This is a really good point.  Maybe here is a fix:

What if wizards of various levels existed, but still, the most powerful wizards in the land (the equivalent to maybe 7th level D&D) could only attain this after a lifetime of study.  Thus, 60 years of studying magic may begin to seem less efficient than 10 or 20 years of studying the longbow.  They never really tried to take over the world, for two main reasons.  First, a level 7 wizard, while able to take on a large squad, would be unable to face an modestly-sized army.  Thus, even though they were strong, they weren’t world-conquering strong.  Second, the “wizard’s code,” required that magic could not be used to harm.  Since arcane scholars were such a small and tight-nit group, this was actually decently easy to enforce.  Those who didn’t obey could be cast out, or even killed by the other wizards.  Third, in part because of the second reason, arcane scholars who could potentially become strong enough to really pose a threat were never interest in political power, and as never tried to overthrow the king or cause a muck.  They were too comfortable, and too much in their own world.

However, when Balthazar became king, there was a real shift in many scholars’ views of the world.  A small group of the most powerful wizards were the ones who decided that acquiescing to Balthazar’s rule would actually do more harm and cost more people their lives than helping the revolutionaries.  Thus, the spellcasters fighting at the Battle of the Roses were amongst the strongest in the land.  This, combined with the fact that no one expected what was going to happen (I mean, think WWI, chlorine gas was not that hard to counter, but if you’ve never seen it before, you’re looking at entire regiments wiped out), might make them game-changers.  I might also add something about how, during the Battle of the Roses, it was not a full army, or somehow they were fighting at a disadvantage.  The first thought that came to mind is that, worried that the revolutionaries would escape if he delayed, Balthazar sent only his cavalry after them.  However, when a group of men-at-arms revolutionaries was able to defeat a large number of cavalry (or possibly even turn them back by the shock-and-awe of magic), this became something of legend.  I mean, didn’t the battle of Agincourt become so famous because there were archers killing unmounted knights in hand-to-hand combat (despite that they may have had a clear advantage)?

As to why the wizards didn’t try to escape Illeria before, my best thought is that the only arcane scholars that Balthazar could capture wouldn’t have been the strongest ones.  They would have escaped.  He may have been able to capture some powerful ones, but not necessarily ones that could take on an entire battalion by themselves.  Especially if they were shackled and pistols were pointed at them at all times.  Or, alternatively, if the other scholars were in many ways held hostage (i.e. if one scholar tried to escape, others, many of whom she was close to, would be executed).  Alternatively, it could be that the various had their families held hostage with them, and so they didn’t dare revolt until all else seemed hopeless.

What do you think?  (and anyone else who wants to chime in, feel free too)

Simon
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btrc
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« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2011, 04:16:06 AM »

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Most of these order-of-magnitude shifts have taken generations.  Where is the difference with magic?

In your case, the difference with magic is that an existing, fairly well understood "technology" goes from "scientific curiousity” to “change the face of warfare as we know it” in the course of a few years. You can't make parallels with the A-bomb, because radiation as an understood and utlized phenomenon had not been around for centuries, unlike magic. It's hard to even make a comparison with guns. Even when guns were inefficient, people were still making them bigger, and trying to make improvements in the rate of fire. The situation with them was not stagnant and people did recognize the possibility for improvement.

I'm just saying the shift in magic is very large, very important and should be internally consistent with the history of magic (and human nature).

You could have input from other parts of society be a factor, but then you have to factor them in elsewhere. Modern computer programmers require modern computers to run their sophisticated programs. You could not run your web browser on a 1950's mainframe. But, to use this analogy, you would also have to include every non-programmer (wizard) change that happens in the world coming from easy access to more powerful computers (magical precursors). I am going to guess you don't want that level of change in the non-magical sector.

Remember, part of your backstory is that common prisoners are being taught useful levels of combat magic in a reasonably short amount of time. This does not jive with "highly educated wizard needs a lifetime of study to become powerful". This would be a parallel to early firearms. They might not have been all that powerful in an individual sense, but when you mass them together, they become useful. The notion of putting low-powered wizards together would surely have occured to someone before if magic could be easily trained to commoners. As a D&D example, if all 20 guys in the "king's guard" have 1 "magic missile" spell per day, then no commander or king will ever get close to his enemy counterpart, for fear of taking 20 magic missiles between the eyes.

As a side note, it is implied that magic is a fully accepted part of society, and the uneducated and superstitious and religious types have no problem with it. I say this because wizards have not been all that powerful, so a group of angry or fearful peasants with pitchforks and torches would be a threat to lone wizards keeping themselves separate from the world. Also, I think it is kind of optimistic to assume that everyone who learns magic is going to follow a code. Even if they are worried about retribution, they could always go to someplace remote and violate the code to their heart's extent (Island of Doctor Moreau, etc.).

Greg
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