I must say that this is still the best group I know of for having discussions involving fantasy world building. We should form a council and charge consulting fees to other world-builders.
Shawn – yes, I’ve already been thinking of Tesla as well. Not sure I’ll do anything with him, but it’s tempting! And Victorian Dresden Files would be an excellent result, if we can manage it.
Nice post Jason! Thank you for all the effort.
Should I ever go to Comic-Con and be on a panel, I’ll brace myself for the inevitable Simpsons comparisons.
I was thinking of Thieves’ World when I suggested the idea of a shared short story world to Phil. I didn’t know there was a behind-the-scenes to read, I’ll see if I can find that. Could be very helpful. (thought I don’t expect anything to be dead-tree publishable; mainly I think we were thinking ‘web serial’ or the like, just to see what, if any short stories/graphic novelettes gained any audience at all).
I’ll look at Arcanum. It sounds pretty good and might inform the development choices I’m trying to make for 1888.
Magic and Christianity is a complicated issue. I agree with you that I don’t want to mess about too much with people’s deeply held religious beliefs. However, I also don’t want to exclude faith entirely (which is what normally happens) or let it be rigid and inflexible. (All the following is my opinion, and isn’t necessarily accurate doctrine for anybody, but I think it might give me enough leeway to do what I’d like to do) To dig WAY deeper than what the reader should ever encounter, magic has been in this world since the beginning; it’s not a recent emergence like Shadowrun or even necessarily a hostile force. IMHO, faith would’ve adapted to the presence of magic somewhat differently than it has in our world. Christianity does have segments that are clearly anti-magic; that said, ‘magic’ in traditional Christian definition always involves interaction with the forces of darkness, and that’s what makes it forbidden.
Most magic in 1888 isn’t trucking with the forces of evil; most magic is merely using your free will (which was granted by God at creation) to manipulate the natural forces of the world. That’s why it works according to natural laws, and could be argued that it isn’t a supernatural force at all, merely a hypernatural force. Or something like that.
While there are sects of Christianity that maintain that all magic is indeed evil and forbidden (I’m thinking they would make delightful witch hunters), the bulk of Christians would regard magic as a natural force no different than steam or hydro power. However, any dealing with the forces of darkness (Faustian pacts is a delightful name) would be seen as evil by all mainstream Christians (and I’m guessing most major world faiths).
Broadly, I’m thinking that Christians would be generally discouraged from using magic to harm other living things; and forbidden from messing about with any dark arts/Faustian bargains. I think some kind of militant order (Knights Templar?) would have dispensation from the Pope to use magic violently (because they are carefully trained to avoid dark arts, or some such plot flummery). Protestants would run the gamut from ‘magic is a natural force and we should all use it all the time’ to the aforementioned Witch Hunters. The bulk of the Protestants would likely agree with the Presbyterian Kirk of the Celtic Empire; magic is a natural force, but should not be used to harm living creatures. (blasting spirits and supernatural things is OK).
As Shawn mentioned, I’d like to see ‘true faith’ work something like Dresden; there might be the occasional holy relic or some such, but for the most part the faithful have the same options as everyone else, but might benefit from the occasional incident which can be seen as miraculous (by the faithful) or fortunately coincidental (by the skeptical).
Anyway, that’s far more than you probably wanted to read about that.
Does all that seem to be playing it safe enough?
I’d assumed I’d have to be the arbiter of the stories. You got me thinking about the ‘singular event’ and I think I’ve had a rather fun idea for one:
In the year 1888, the lost island-continent of Atlantis resurfaces in the mid-Atlantic ocean. The ancient civilization seems long dead; but the handful of brave adventurers who have returned report harrowing tales of lurking creatures, bound spirits, traps, etc. The handful of artifacts and treasures that have been recovered have electrified the world. Most of the Great Powers have laid claim to Atlantis (on various pretexts) and disputes over the ancient relics may spark a global conflict. (While this may having nothing to do with a given person’s 1888 short story, it could create a catalyst, or introduce a new Atlantean artifact/spirit/moldy tome; the raising of Atlantis could be related to Elder Gods or other nasty forces … could be really useful). A writer can do, or say, or theorize whatever they like about Atlantis and Atlantean things, so long as they are prepared for that to be ‘wrong’ (You can give a character a magic Atlantean artifact that does Y, but later on the fiction might decide that Atlantean magic can do X but not Y, in which case your artifact wasn’t Atlantean).
Totally agree on the sixth point. I’d like to have enough rules for the world so that another writer feels like they have their bearings, but not so many rules that they can’t tell a creative story or have fun with the world.
Anyways- interesting discussion points that are making me flesh things out in a splendid way. This seems really fun to me.
(Also curious to hear from Mark)
Phil suggested that we re-term religions; Christianity becomes 'The Faith' and we call God 'Deus' or some such; thus giving us any leeway we need as writers to fiddle with whatever we want. I thought it was a good suggestion.
- "Don't assume you are safe because there is a rational explanation for all of this."