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Offline Strolen

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Dark Ages **
« on: June 02, 2005, 09:18:28 PM »
Moonhunter had a post that really got my wheels turning. Something that has always been there, always been questioned but I have never followed through on.

That question is why, in a fantasy world, does it seem that the land can be around for thousands and thousands of years yet never progress beyond Medieval technology?

Moon spoke of the Church suppressing innovative thought and that is enough of a surface explanation for me. But that doesn't hold true in many of our created worlds. My world of Aros is guilty of that, although I added the destruction and rebuild of the world to my timeframe so that is my excuse.

True, many worlds don't have the exaggerated timeframe, but many do mention thousands of years of history but...

So my question is, how does a world survive so long in a rather stagnated frame of technology? What excuse can you give why 2000 years ago they were wielding swords and magic and they are still doing the same now?
« Last Edit: December 03, 2005, 11:47:51 PM by MoonHunter »

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Offline Incarnadine

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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2005, 09:33:28 PM »
Well, stealing an idea from someone else, in C.S. Friedman's Coldfire trilogy it's because doubt is a supressive force of nature. Paraphrasing the book immensely (great read, by the way), any doubt that a person has directly manifests into mechanical failure. As such, machines do not work because people ahve never seen them work, therefore do not believe they will still work. All blackpowder weaponry has to be either enchanted beforehand or carried by a very powerfuly sorcerer (adept).

It's really the only excuse of seen that halts natural human progress in a logical manner.

Offline Michael Jotne Slayer

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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2005, 09:39:26 PM »
Well we do have 8000 thousand years of sword wielding ourselves, meaning that we had armour and weapons. But wars, plagues and natural disasters always sets things back a few decades. A good example though might be the ancient greeks. At that time they actually invented a primitive form of battery. Very simple. They used cobber, grape juice(acid), a few wires and some jars. This "battery" was used to make normal items golden.
They had some gold dust in the bottom of a jar, the item and some grape acid.
Anyway, the point is that this knowlegde was forgotten. Scientists explain this by pointing out that they did not have enough people. I mean they did not have a big enough society. Not enough scientists to follow up this work. So it died there. If it had not, we could have been far more advanced today.
Another example is Iceland which invented the plough and then forgot it again only to re-invent it again a few hundred years later. This was due to
wars, natural disasters and such.

But this is a wery good question though which should be considered in a fantasy setting. I'm to tired right now to go on. But i will post more here.

We might even try to make a list of all the possible reasons of why our worlds have not developed further. Taking inspiration from history.
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Offline Phoren

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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2005, 09:52:44 PM »
Magick could be a reason. The more magick available, the less need for technology. Go to a citadel owned by a mage, you probably won't see much technology, more of magickally enchanted, fairly simple, items.

Another possibility is that the gods won't let things get to where man would be as god. Get advanced enough, start making life... Maybe that happened in the past and the gods aren't willing to let it happen again.

Or perhaps people just keep advancing in the wrong area. Nuclear physics before developing gunfire, for instance. This would wipe out the discoverers when something goes wrong, and they don't have the needed technology to fix things before they're doomed.

Take a look at WoW. Gnomeragen is a good example of this.

Offline Dragon Lord

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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2005, 08:31:37 AM »
OK, I see where you are all going but I’m sure I agree.

Firstly, getting technology in the wrong order simple doesn’t wash (sorry Phoren) because most scientific concepts are developments of early ideas. Therefore by the time a society can produce the big technological items (like the atomic bomb) it will, by definition, have enough understanding of principles involved to deal with them.

I think MJS may be closest; a small scientific community combined with political turmoil can easily result in new ideas staling or even being forgotten, after all this too happened in the real world.

If the gods object to human advancement, and are powerful enough to prevent it, again we would ever gotten out of the Stone Age and the “standard� medieval setting would never happen (sorry again Phoren).

I do agree that the church (not necessarily the gods) or other established organisation might have a limiting influence, after all this has happened in the real world several times, but that could never completely stifle human innovation.

Magic might well have an effect since it does, in some circumstances, negate the need for technology (why invent the telegraph when a simple messenger spirit does the same job) but that would not prevent all advancement (messenger spirits are useful but not as useful as telephones or two-way radios).

I must say that I rather like Incarnadine’s idea. In a truly magical universe raw belief can be very powerful and new technologies might not work simply because people don’t believe that they ever could work. This wouldn’t halt progression completely but it would slow it down since new technology has a kind of “belief threshold� to overcome before it gets accepted.

Overall I’d say that fantasy worlds do advance but, for all the above reasons, they might do so at a significantly slower rate than the real world. So several thousand years stuck in the Middle Ages (or the Iron Age or Bronze Age or whatever) makes some sense, just don’t forget to allow a little technological advancement every now and then.
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2005, 09:29:42 AM »
I'd say that this whole question could be answered by a review of the properties of that most important of elements, Handwavium.
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Offline MoonHunter

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« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2005, 10:11:28 AM »
Quote from: "Phoren"
Magick could be a reason. The more magick available, the less need for technology. Go to a citadel owned by a mage, you probably won't see much technology, more of magickally enchanted, fairly simple, items.


Actually, it seems quite easy to "get the spirit". The catch is "how much does the wizard get payed to do this?"  He may be the equivalent of Fed Ex, sure you it will get there immediately... but is it worth the cost?  I mean how many years did this person train just to summon that thing? And what about the cost of his supplies? And what about supporting himself in the style he wants to be accustomed to? If it costs you 100 gold per week to live in a middle class manner, plus 20 gp worth of material components, and you only send two messages a week... you get a cost of 70 gps per message. If he wants to factor in the years of training or paying off his apprenticeship... the price goes up.  If mages are rarer, he might be able to live in a better manner, bumping up the price because his weekly expenses are more. If the mages find this message sending an inconvience, they may bump the price to twice or three times... making it possible but less likely people will want to do it.

Actually, once people realize that messages can be sent by wizards... they will be more inclined to think there are different ways of doing this. Many things could of been invented decades, if not centuries, before they were... all the components were there, but nobody thought it was a) possible and b) anyone would want to do it. The Fax machine actually could of been made in 1862, when all the pieces were in place (telegraph, plus auto printer, plus photographic plate development and static plates).  But nobody thought it was possible until after the copier and cable television (1963 and 1948). The fax machine came to be in the late 70s

so sure they will work on it... perhaps someone will want to "break the power of the mage guild". They may not want certain messages to be carried by a mage of perhaps questionable allegiences.  Perhaps people will want to find cheaper ways of doing this (inventing signal towers and a morse code... which will lead to an initial kinentic telegraph then an electric one).

The idea is the dangerous part. You have to supress the idea.

Quote from: "Phoren"
Another possibility is that the gods won't let things get to where man would be as god. Get advanced enough, start making life... Maybe that happened in the past and the gods aren't willing to let it happen again..


Can't argue that one.

Or Can I?

Prometheus... one of the "Gods" defected and game gifts to Humankind. That Deity would be worshiped and the other ones would not.

If there is more than one pantheon:  If the Gods are repressing HumanKind, the Humans of a God that is not repressing them will come and kick their human's butts. They will then take over.

Then alien Gods could see the world and go "hmmmm. Tasty".  They could grant people the benefts that the other Gods have taken away.  Eventually the Gods will give their people some of the benefits (mostly so they can defend themselves) OR the Humans will just support the alien Gods.

Quote from: "Phoren"
Or perhaps people just keep advancing in the wrong area. .....

Technology is generally a step by step process, building upon the foundation of what is before.  It is very seldom that someone invents something that did not have supporting devices. (Now you can discover things by some accident.. but things need to be build up from there).

The problem with many technologies is the population that knows of them is quite small. If these people covet their knowledge, hiding it in cyphers and symbolism... and make the teaching of it a large scale duty... their numbers will stay small.  The amount of occult lore that has been lost, regained, and lost, and distored over the last few centuries is more prominant than the amount of technology that has been. All because the chain of apprentice master initiation limits their numbers.

Yes just because the number is limited, does not mean people will lose the "idea of it", just the technique to do it.
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2005, 05:25:02 AM »
Actually, I took steps to ensure that the technology of my world wasn't stagnant.  In fact, right now it's on the verge of its renaissance.  Technology and other magic, treated as social trends, are vital & evolving things.  
 
Technologic and genetic evolution do not progress at a steady rate.  Rather, they erupt in spurts, leap forward, have false starts, fall backward, try new paths, and die to be later redeveloped.  
 
This is not to say that there haven't been stagnant cultures in Midian, but that this is not the case currently.  Elves and other Fae, being immortal, aren't going to develop at the same pace as short-lived Humans.  Since the best way to advance your ideas isn't to convince your detractors, but outlive them, comparatively few new ideas take hold in a society of immortals.  Changes do occur over time, and new ways will develop, but this can take millennia rather than a few short years.  Technological and magical growth didn't really pick up among the Fae races until a mutation ooccurredamong a young Goblin child.  She was born with a gene for mortality--passed this along to her offspring, grew old, and died.  With a new--and mortal--race of HHobgoblinsmucking things up, things began changing at a greatly increased pace among the immortals.  Unfortunately for them and the world at large, this new pace wasn't nearly as quick as the development speed of the Hobgoblins.  
 
Among the other sentient species of Midian, they were pre-civilised, and some even pre-sentient at this stage.  Dwarves were discovered by the Hobgoblins and quickly enslaved.  Orcks and Ogres were a single primitive species, about as developed as chimpanzees. Firps were non-sentient.  And no one considered the Trolls as anything other than "monsters," sometimes even other races of Trolls.  Humans had not yet arrived, and the Killian were only recently so.  The Killian at the time had voluntarily given up an incredible amount of technology for religious reasons.  
 
This is all about 4000 years ago in the game world.  As technology's rate of development is directly connected to how quickly information can be exchanged, this situation doesn't change readily.  Consider the changes in the Meat World between 3500 BCE and 200 CE--it took that long to go from the invention of the wheel to the invention of the wheelbarrow.  Another sad fact of technological and cultural development seen throughout history is that aggressive "barbaric" cultures destroy more advanced and peaceable ones with frightening regularity and ease.  In Midian, this meant that the Dwarves, who had only recently began forging iron, were reduced back to the stone-age level of the Hobgoblins (bronze casting was developed shortly prior by Kobold mages and kept a closely guarded secret).  The violent and aaggressivenature of the Hobgoblins' Olde Empire and its policies was not conducive to the development of new technologies at all.  The only technology that they approved of was those that aided in battle, and then only if the inventor was of the warrior caste--herder caste Hobgoblins weren't supposed to even be thinking about weaponry, much less developing new ones. Magical development was right out for the Olde Empire; the Hobgoblins didn't trust it.  This placed the further development of the mystical arts almost exclusively in the Elves' four-fingered hands.
 
Humans eventually arrive, and do what Humans do best:  kill, breed, destroy, and aaccumulatemore and more stuff.  Humanity was quickly reduced to barbarism, and had to re-invent much.  Over the next two millennia, Humans obliterated the Hobgoblins' Old Empire, and founded their own nations.  Human technology developed during this time, stunning the Empire's soldiers with horrific tools of war, such as the bow, armour, and horse riding.  Humans were also aided magically, thanks to the Elves greatly contributing to the Human's growing body of magical arts, but the Humans then rapidly developed new ideas of their own.  These included such strange new magics as necromancy, neithermancy, technomancy, and other previously unknown magics.  
 
The world does not stay static and unchanging.  The game world continues to grow and develop internally.  New technology, new types of magic, new political, economic, and social changes change the world and its inhabitants.    
 
The printing press is a recent invention, and only time will tell what effects that will have.  New refinements of the arts of killing and sorcery are under development.  Trade routes are now readily open between all three continents.  Enterprising entrepreneurs are linking divers financial institutions.  Formour has a network of linked messengers.  Changes in navigation techniques are making ocean voyages quicker and safer.  Large armies of heavily armoured soldiers are becoming less feasible and popular, while small groups of light and highly skilled experts can achieve much of the same goals more cost-effectively.  Pride, curiosity, lust, and greed continue to mold the world of Midian in its present and future as it has in its past.
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