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An idea I've entertained for a long time (or rather, it entertained me) is mixing element of fantasy and science fiction, as well as some other stuff. Granted, I've been in a low-magic kind of mindset lately, but here's my idea of a more fantastic campaign.


High technology would allow castles to defy gravity and float in the sky. Maybe the same technology (or magic if you prefer; it's still fantasy) will have sailing ships that fly in the sky to reach those castles. Knights will wield light sabers (maybe even light lances) and ride robotic horses.


Since it's still fantasy, fantastic elements will still be around. There would be dragons, elves, and orcs. Martial artists can fly around wuxia style and shoot energy blasts at their enemies, a la Streetfighter 2 or DBZ.


The main problem would be weapons. Since light sabers exist, other melee weapons using energy should exist. Maybe maces can produce sonic blasts. Axe blades may vibrate. As for ranged weapons, how about crossbows like the one Chewbacca used? And the bows like Hank the ranger in the D&D cartoon used would work too.


Armor would probably be best handled as force fields. Maybe damage reduction would work too.



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Arthur C. Clarke:

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistiguishable from magic."


The reverse is also true.


Go with whatever you think you can get away with. Vibro-Axes, Laser-Bows, Dune-Style Personal Force Fields, Lightning bolt throwing mages, all are good. When mixing futuristic sci-fi with traditionally fantasy elements anything can and will happen. Including finding out that the guy who uses real wood arrows for his bow pops right through energy force fields designed to work against laser-crossbows which are more common.

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When mixing futuristic sci-fi with traditionally fantasy elements anything can and will happen. Including finding out that the guy who uses real wood arrows for his bow pops right through energy force fields designed to work against laser-crossbows which are more common.


Good point. No pun intended (well actually, yeah, it was).

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It sounds as though you are, to a large extent, transposing the style and imagery common to depictions of advanced technology with that of magic, to give it that "fantasy" flavor. Nothing inherently wrong with that, of course, but it might be fruitful for you to ask yourself why technology appears this way in this world. Is it just a matter of the esthetic preferences of the beings who created all this stuff, or was there an actual purpose behind casting devices in these forms? The latter could become part of a major mystery for your PCs to unravel over the course of the campaign.


One common fantasy trope is for the forces of magic to be mysterious and understood only by a very few people. You can reproduce the feel of this by making scientific knowledge the possession of the elites or secretive groups. Perhaps the bulk of the population is Dark Ages-level illiterate, ignorant and superstitious. This brings up the issues of who knows what, how different groups with this knowledge relate to each other, and what they're willing to do to protect their secrets. ("Knowledge is power," after all.)


Another common trope of high fantasy is that the knowledge and powers of the modern age are but a shadow of ancient glories, with many past achievements not forgotten. For your campaign this would likely mean that the great creations of the past, like flying castles, can no longer be duplicated. Trying to unearth some lost knowledge or mighty artifact can be the subject of an epic quest, just as in fantasy worlds. Of course such a premise begs the question of what happened to the old world that wiped away all that stuff in the first place...


Orcs, dragons and the like can be the result of genetic experiments or mutations resulting from exposure to radiation or chemicals. People with "wire-fu" or video game martial-art abilities may themselves be the product of such experiments or accidents, which they can be trained to utilize. Such beings may be revered for their special powers and be among the leaders of their societies, or feared and ostracized as witches or monsters.


Just throwing stuff out there. :)

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I think a good way of mixing sci-fi and fantasy is to layer the one on top of the other. For instance, say the world was created by an advanced science wielding culture (ala Ringworld, flying cities and all), but now that culture has departed and its knowledge of science has died out. There is, however, a high mana-level inherent in this world. The science culture never tapped into the mana because they were biased against seeing anything outside their science oriented perspective. Now, though, a wizard class has arisen that has harnassed the mana-magic to its own ends. Mixed in with this are the scattered technological remnants of the original science culture. If you can find a copy of the now out of print Ringworld game by Chaosium, it provides an excellent frame on which to over-layer fantasy elements.


All the best of luck to you.

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All good ideas. I never actually came up with a reason why the world worked that way. I didn't think much about the why's is a fantasy campaign 15 years ago; it was just the way the world worked. Now that I'm older and (hopefully) wiser, I look for more logical explanations for things. So I use science even when building fantasy worlds. Thanks for the suggestions. Definitely I would use those ideas if I ever develop this campaign.

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One version I always loved was the Japanese comic "Five Star Stories" where the ruling elite were the descendants of the Super Soldiers of a previous ruling Star Empire. Ruling resource-strapped worlds which had been mined-out, these very much superhuman rulers had one of the flaws of their origins, which was that the smartest of them actually only had what we would call "average intelligence".


One of the side effects of this was they liked to keep society simple, because it was easier for them to control that way. And they kept war simple too, since fighting between them was actually more efficient with beam-swords (light sabres) than if they used guns. (They were too fast to hit with most guns at the higher levels.) It created a real "knights in conflict" atmosphere, with these guys being massively more powerful than even troops of guys in terms of speed, stamina, and sheer combat power. (And a few even had psionics...)


I always thought this would be a cool setting to run in, I just never got around to it....yet.








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Well, for sources of technology looking like magic, there is the techno-mage on the short lived B5 spinoff Crusaders, or Excalibur, or something like that. They are looking for a cure for a plague. Anyway, one of the characters is basically a fantasy wizard, but it is explained away with the inverse of the rule mentioned. There is also the Anarchy Online MMORPG where NanoMages control Nano swarms to produce their effects. I think there was some mention of it in the new incarnation of Gamma World as well. If you are thinking a fantasy world with "High" science instead of magic running everything, then it might be worthwhile to wonder where the intervening tech went, like guns. I've often pondered the other direction, where magic progresses and science stagnates, until you end up with Spelljammer and an Ether-net as in magical Ether, and so on. If you want to mix them, you can't get much past Steampunk before bullets start looking like a really good idea compared to a pointy bit of metal, and become cheap enough that the common folk can avail themselves. I suppose, with a high enough magic level, most people could have counter measures.

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Ooh, another Undocumented Features fan? I don't meet many of those. At least, not many who bring it up.


I thought a little bit about a UF campaign. All I've got so far is that it would have a fairly high point level, and that all PC's would be required to know how to play the electric guitar (or some other rock instrument).



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Non-Hero Sources to mine for ideas


I have a couple of things that are interesting melds of fantasy and sci-fi in my collection of gaming books. I am very fond of mining other systems for settings and ideas and using them in my hero games. Some you might want to look into are:


Shadowrun (cyberpunk meets spellslingers)

Deadlands, Weird West (cowboys and spellslingers)

Deadlands, Wasted West (mutants and spellslingers)

Deadlands, Weird Wars (Nazis and spellslingers)

Dragonstar D20 (Spaceships, hi-tech and D&D3)

GURPS Technomancer (Alternate earth where magic replaces technology)

Feng Shui (wuxia martial arts, cyborg-demons, transformed animals, chinese sorceror eunnuchs, two-guns blazing shooters)


Those are just the ones off the top of my head. I hope that might help. For what it's worth, I consider the Star Wars setting essantially science fantasy, not science fiction.

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Some other examples


The tradition of Fantasy settings being descended from High tech origins has a long tradition. Examples from literature include The Sword of Shannara series by Terry Brooks (post apocalyptic fantasy...all races except Elves are decended from mutated humans), The Cycle of Fire by Janny Wurts (The whole inhabitiable portion of the planet was terraformed after a star probe crashed. Humans are decended from the crew... Demons from the psionic alien captives onboard... The Faerie Folk are actually the Navigation Computer) The Black Sun trilogy, by C.S. Friedman (Humans colonize a planet only to discover a strange power..."magic"...that manifests their desires and fears...including those of the subconcious), and the Recluse books by L.E. Modesitt Jr. ( human socitey is founded by refuges from a great war between two factions with opposing religious beliefs...loosely Angels and Demons. The pot is stirred when another ship from the oposing side crash lands generations later, forming a culture that reprises the conflict on a lower tech scale)

An obvious Gaming setting already published, and with its own thread, is Kulthea the Shadow World, published by ICE for Rolemaster and FH. look hard enough in the ruins of the ancients, and you may well stumble across a holographic projector, or a blaster pistol for that matter.

And while it has no real tech remaining that I've seen, the Warhammer Old World has its origins in a high tech civilization as well....

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My take on it was that rather than having a fantasy world rise from the ashes of a technological one, science and magic developed simultaneously. It's just that certain things like swords and chivalry never went out of fashion. And I'll admit it, of course I ripped off all those knights with light sabers from Lucas. I like Shannarra and Kulthea; they're just different from my vision.

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The biggest constraint on making a society where technology exists, but a medieval flavor still flourishes is rationalizing the "why".


Societies that don't make sense end up feeling "wrong" when you try to play in them. AmadanNaBriona mentions a lot of great settings, and there are many more in Scf-fi/Fantasy literature. McCaffrey's Dragon series and Julian May's Pliocene Epoch series are some of my favorites.


There are many ways of creating these societies. They include the aforementioned "post-apocalyptic descent from technology", "magic exists, therefore industrial revolutions never took hold", or my favorite "technology and magic interfere with each other, so a balance must be struck".


I like the last one because if magic existed, and was discovered/utilized first, then those in power might actively suppress the use of forces like electricity and magnetism, if those forces disrupted the use of magic. It sets up a society with plenty of possibilities for conflict and intrigue. :D

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Book suggestions


For some books to mine ideas from try the following


Empire of the East - one of my favorite trilogies. I've written about it before on this forum so just do a search to find it.


Silverberg's Majipoor books. Great stuff.


Jack Vance's The Dying Earth books. Written in the 50's but fresh today still. That's saying something!



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One television show that hasn't been mentioned but has both science fiction and sorcery is the animated show Samurai Jack. It is a futuristic setting ruled by Aku, a powerful shapeshifting wizard. It has both mythical beast and magic along with aliens and ray guns. Very cool cartoon.

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