Thursday, February 21, 2002

I just finished the first draft of my second paper for Classics 171, which analyzes three documents from Ptolemaic Egypt and explains what those documents can tell us about how the Ptolemies went about attempting to legitimize their reign. In about eight hours ... not bad. And I've even got tomorrow to revise.

Apparently, though, I looked "like death" after dinner when I ran into Dr. Lear and told her what I was doing. So she comes up here with a check for her half of the Viennese bid and is feeling all sorry for me, and I'm feeling quite chipper because I just finished. Quite amusing, really, though probably not for you because you weren't there. Unless you're Simba, in which case you were here.

I've had several good conversations with The DM regarding classical Phoenix Earth. That's been good for two reasons. One, a lot of the development work for this game occurs in conversations when I have a vague conception of what the world feels like and people ask me questions. I think they assume that I already know the answers. Ha! Well, sometimes I do. But probably my greatest strength as a DM is my ability to improvise, which ability gets honed in conversations like this when I make up an answer while appearing to have known it all along. A lot about the relationships among races, and particularly among mountain trolls, goblins, and dwarves got pinned down in the course of talking to The DM. Two, he's already got a character ready to go (a liberated goblin slave named Skiviyt). That's a little scary, seeing as how the 2081 game isn't even close to done, and I feel bad about skipping around so much in the timeline on my players (the 2131 game was also aborted mid-game). But it is flattering that he finds it so exciting. I admit to finding it exciting too - as he put it, the classical period lets you have a real sword and sorcery fantasy game. And in a system that we all know and trust to be fun (as opposed to D&D, which most of us have serious problems with).

He's so excited, in fact, that he's helped me work out the basic rules basis for human magic. Which means I should probably lay out a few principles about Phoenix Earth magic now, both for interests' sake and because I'm not so down with roleplaying games that define their magic systems in a way I would find objectionable in real life.

So to begin with, one of the things Phoenix Earth says about the world that modern physics does not is that there are in fact two forces in the universe. I'm not talking about the electronuclear and gravity (as you may or may not know, the electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear forces were unified several years ago). As far as Phoenix Earth the electronuclear force and gravity get unified in 2043. The Second Force in Phoenix Earth is what most people refer to as "magic," but it's just as much a naturally occurring phenomenon as the electronucleargravitic force.

The second force is not carried via particles, which is one reason why it will never be unified with the first force. Inasmuch as there is such a thing as a "particle" (which there isn't) versus a "wave" (which is also an arbitrary human label which only vaguely describes reality), the second force is carried by waves. There are different waveforms associated with it, which more or less correspond to the various types of force-carrying particles associated with the first force (electromagnetic force is carried by photons; gravity is carried by gravitons, etc.). Different types of magic (human, elven, dragon, asil) fundamentally differ only in that they utilize different waveforms of the second force.

What's particularly special about human magic is that a mageborn human (that is, a human being who's able by force of will to manipulate the second force) doesn't use the force directly. The waveform associated with human magic actually has nothing to do with interacting with the physical world (as opposed to the dragon magic waveform, which is capable of producing all sorts of effects in the world). The human waveform is only good for manipulating a noncorporeal substance called by the five Mage Orders "ether." Ether is held together by another waveform of the second force (analogous to the way you and I are held together by the mesons and photons of the strong nuclear and electromagnetic forces) which is quite potent in contact with the physical world. The human waveform is used to manipulate the ether into a particular "shape" (inasmuch as a noncorporeal construct can be thought of as a solid) which sets the ethereal waveforms into a particular pattern. The effect produced varies with the pattern of the ethereal waveforms.

If you found that interesting, good for you. If not, thanks for reading, or at least skimming. If you haven't noticed by now I'm extremely touched when people find Phoenix Earth worthy of discussion. The larger point of explaining that, though, was in response to the very strong Biblical injunction against magic. I think there are two possibilities for that:

1). Biblical "magic," involving as it does a heavy religious element, is prohibited because God isn't down with his people consulting the demon deities the Bible puts behind that kind of magic.
2). Biblical "magic" refers to anything which can't be accomplished using the four forces\\first force.

As you've probably figured out by now, there's nothing at all supernatural about Phoenix Earth "magic." The question is: does God prohibit magic because it's supernatural and not from him, or does the prohibition have nothing to do with the supernatural?

If the first case is true, then God would have no problem at all with the heroes of my Phoenix Earth campaigns using "magic," any more than he'd have a problem with them using a computer which harnesses the power of the electromagnetic force to do things it would never do without human intervention.

If the second case is true we have to rationalize a bit more. And we rationalize that by the fact that in none of the Phoenix Earth time periods is there a functioning church (if you're curious why contact me personally), and in such a situation one would expect the rise of practices which are seemingly innocent but in fact God is not okay with it. Kind of tragic, really.

So that's my little mini-treatise on Phoenix Earth magic and the second force. In other news, should I link to other peoples' blogs? I can't decide. Comment and vote.

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