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Author Topic: Magic users in a Steampunk world.  (Read 3788 times)
Stormcat
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« on: January 16, 2018, 07:29:20 pm »

So, I am writing a science-fantasy steampunk story where people can utilize the ambient energy around them to perform amazing feats. To the untrained observer, this appears to be magic, but there are actually sound scientific principals behind it. Like the Sparks from the Girl Genius series, the "magic" users are all super intelligent and seen as crazy by non-magic users. The setting is a world where using "magic" has been banned because of religious reasons, but the ability to use "magic" is innate and cannot be suppressed forever. My heroes realize that there is nothing sinful with using their innate talents and learn about how to harness them for the greater good.

However, I'm having difficulties fleshing out this "magic" system in regards to the story. Here's all I have so far:

-"Magic" can only be used by Humanoids called "Chimerids". One can be born a Chimerid or be born human and transformed into a Chimerid later in life, but a Chimerid can never revert back to being human. There are some physical differences between humans and chimerids, but most are undetectable to the untrained eye.

-Chimerid "Magic" is merely a transference of energy that the Chimerid initiates with their mind. They can transform any form of energy into any other form of energy, but they cannot create it or destroy it themselves. Very similar to the Alchemy used in the series "Fullmetal Alchemist" but more emphasis is placed on the energy transference rather than the matter that is manipulated.

-Chimerids also have a sort of "electro-sense" that helps them determine how much energy is around them. This sense relies on more tactical sensations rather than audio or visual input, so the cannot "see auras" or hear electricity coursing through wires.

-Using "Magic" requires a certain degree of mental fortitude. A chimerid in emotional distress is less likely to "cast a spell" properly and may cause unintended problems like explosions or accidental creation of toxic substances. The proficient "magic" user can achieve a state of serenity that allows them to transfer energy at the perfect rate, like a craftsman who is so devoted to their project that they lose awareness of the world around them.

-To keep the average citizen of this world from utilizing their "magic", the theocratic government had branded it witchcraft and a great heresy against the national god. They even use psychological warfare techniques on their citizens so they can never have a clear enough head to use the "magic".

-"magic" is generally consistent with known laws of physics. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, energy seeks the path of least resistance, and high voltage electricity straight to the heart will kill you.

As you can see, I've got the theory of it all down, but I'm having trouble visualizing how this ability can be utilized in the story. Any advice on how to turn this from theoretical to practical?
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RJBowman
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2018, 11:30:46 pm »

You could go the "X-Men" route where the magic users are like superheroes, or you could go the "Shadowrun" route where the magic users hire themselves out like mercenaries.
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Atterton
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« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2018, 08:01:39 pm »

Are you asking for a plot?
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Stormcat
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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2018, 08:55:45 pm »

Are you asking for a plot?

No, I'm asking for ideas as to how these creatures might use their powers.
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morozow
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2018, 09:02:02 pm »

For some reason I remembered the electric ray.

They may be able to affect the nerve centres and brain areas. To cause pain or pleasure.
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Stormcat
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2018, 11:31:48 pm »

For some reason I remembered the electric ray.

They may be able to affect the nerve centres and brain areas. To cause pain or pleasure.

I'm a little fuzzy on my bioelectricity studies, but I've heard that most of the body's reactions to stimuli are driven by chemical reactions rather than say, an electric current. Indeed direct stimulation of nervous tissue can make it dance around, but it may be more difficult to make a happy person fall into the pits of despair just by sticking the electrodes in the right places.

I actually have some "Witchsmeller" characters who are high up in the theocracy but utilize magic to manipulate those beneath them (Sometimes they claim God granted them permission, but most of the time, it's kept secret). It's easy to apply electric shocks, but harder to make a person fall in love with you.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 11:35:08 pm by Stormcat » Logged
RJBowman
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2018, 01:38:11 am »

Find the book "The Coming Race" by Edward Bulwer Lytton; etexts are available if you search for them. This is a 19th century book about an explorer who encounters an underground civilization of people who control a mystic energy called "Vril", and this seems similar to your idea for magic users that harness the energy around them. The book might give you ideas for how characters might use magic in your world, or it might inspire a character. The book is a product of Victorian culture and its ideas might fit nicely into a steampunk setting.
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Synistor 303
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2018, 03:31:38 am »

Imagine shaking someone's hand, and being able to 'see into their heart', ie you know the minute you shake their hand if they are intent on doing you harm or if they would be a good ally. Always shaking hands in Victorian times... It might not kill the bad guy, but you would know straight off that he was bad. Magic powers don't have to have sparks shooting out or fireballs exploding - magic can be subtle and quiet and well mannered.
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Antipodean
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« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2018, 09:14:49 am »

Babylon 5 comes to mind with the Technomage.
They are described as using "science to create the appearance of magic".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technomage
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morozow
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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2018, 09:53:30 am »

For some reason I remembered the electric ray.

They may be able to affect the nerve centres and brain areas. To cause pain or pleasure.

I'm a little fuzzy on my bioelectricity studies, but I've heard that most of the body's reactions to stimuli are driven by chemical reactions rather than say, an electric current. Indeed direct stimulation of nervous tissue can make it dance around, but it may be more difficult to make a happy person fall into the pits of despair just by sticking the electrodes in the right places.

I actually have some "Witchsmeller" characters who are high up in the theocracy but utilize magic to manipulate those beneath them (Sometimes they claim God granted them permission, but most of the time, it's kept secret). It's easy to apply electric shocks, but harder to make a person fall in love with you.

What would cause pain by exciting nerve endings in the skin that magic is not needed. Enough electrical capacitor.

But that would be through the nervous system to transmit a pulse in the right part of the brain. Here and need magic Smiley
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Stormcat
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« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2018, 07:34:34 am »

Imagine shaking someone's hand, and being able to 'see into their heart', ie you know the minute you shake their hand if they are intent on doing you harm or if they would be a good ally. Always shaking hands in Victorian times... It might not kill the bad guy, but you would know straight off that he was bad. Magic powers don't have to have sparks shooting out or fireballs exploding - magic can be subtle and quiet and well mannered.

Reminds me of Vulcan touch telepathy.

Though I am concerned that this may cause the chimerid culture to become a bit "cold" and reject physical contact.
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Stormcat
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« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2018, 09:15:46 pm »

Okay, random idea.

If my "magic users" can utilize the energy around them, could they use themselves as a living battery for electronics? The device wouldn't run on their life-support or anything, they'd just act as a conduit through which electricity can power the device.
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The Frozen Salix
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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2018, 04:57:07 pm »

What about other forms of energy output? Sound or Light? Using the 'magic' to influence how particles react?
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Stormcat
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« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2018, 07:07:39 pm »

I was thinking that perhaps my magic users can actually turn one form of energy into another (with some residual loss) So light or sound could be turned into electricity through these people.
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The Frozen Salix
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« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2018, 11:46:32 pm »

Interesting, how about magnetics and using electricity to disrupt and create fields as long as they have something to magnetize, and depending on what polarity it will either attract or repel metal object?
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Stormcat
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« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2018, 12:24:06 am »

Yes! Unfortunately, all I remember from my high school physics class was "Energy cannot be created nor destroyed", and that's about all I have to go on unless I find an online course in physics 101.
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The Frozen Salix
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« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2018, 02:07:24 pm »

Try reading some comic books about people with the powers you are trying to replicate. All of it has some merit and can give you some good ideas.
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CPT_J_Percell
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« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2018, 09:10:40 pm »

I don't know if this will help but,
Magic has no element (as you say) it is just energy.
Magic is not good or evil.
Just as metals can interact with electricity, gemstones, metals and other materials can interact with magic to cause different resaults.
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MWBailey
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« Reply #18 on: April 21, 2018, 02:40:19 am »

Okay, random idea.

If my "magic users" can utilize the energy around them, could they use themselves as a living battery for electronics? The device wouldn't run on their life-support or anything, they'd just act as a conduit through which electricity can power the device.



Interesting real-world fact: an experiment that used to be commonly conducted was to wrap a glass tune or cylinder with foil and wire and use these to tap into the electrical field of the human body to cause a (very) low voltage bulb to glow, or to deliver an extremely weak electric shock. Given that these are possible in the manner described, I would think it would be more than possible for the chimerids to run devices with the auric electrical fields of their bodies in a similar fashion. Just a thought.
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