Technology in Medieval Settings

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Azmor, Apr 26, 2018.

  1. Azmor

    Azmor Happy Hobby Artist Veteran

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    Hi,

    so there is an idea I had for a long time about a fantasy setting where trains, guns and even higher technology like space ships are common in a medieval era.

    What do you think of a fantasy setting where the technology is both high and primitive at the same time?
     
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  2. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

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    So, basically steampunk. That's not a terribly uncommon theme in RPGs...

    Never been the biggest fan of it, mainly due to the rather dull colour palettes it tends to come with.
     
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  3. XIIIthHarbinger

    XIIIthHarbinger Part Time Super Villain Veteran

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    Like many things, it would depend upon its implementation.

    For example, how you explain the disparity in development between high & low tech areas. What effect these disparities have upon society economically, politically, culturally, religiously, etcetera.

    Which groups within a society are most effected by the disparity. Which societies are most effected by the disparity.

    In my experience, these kinds of worlds have a tendency to be VERY poorly developed because little to no thought is given to the wider ramifications & consequences direct & indirect to the world, due to the existence of these disparities. & are in fact often treated as wholly insulated pockets of shiny nonsense. Which is something that makes a story's narrative collapse under the slightest scrutiny.
     
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  4. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    I mean, for the sake of color and visuals, it's great.
    nothing like a knight in plate armor shooting a gatling gun on a line of stormtroopers.

    But for the sake of storytelling (serious storytelling, the kind that makes some sense) it's mutually exclusive.
    you can't have technological development without rational thinking, and you can't have rational thinking in a setting where 1- the church and the monarchy have the final say, 2- there is no schools, 3- the life expectancy is 60 years.

    you could have, however, a futuristic monarchy, as depicted in V For Vendetta, Code Geass, Dune, etc...
    if you want to keep it medieval instead of dystopian, you can add a basic knowledge of electricity or heavy machinery, and that would give you engineers and scholars experts in this weird way of moving things, that sparks and jolts, and lights things on fire...
    you know, self-propelled ballistas, automated drawbridges, central heating with huge boilers, sparking altars of crystal-empowering radiation.... you name it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2018
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  5. shadefoundry

    shadefoundry Is Sinistar Veteran

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    Something to keep in mind is that in the Medieval Era, they did have some technology. Things like primitive guns and the like were starting to see use.
    If you're interested in having a more fantastical game with magical and technological elements intermixing, you're looking at something along the lines of Science-Fantasy, which is basically a mixed genre encompassing everything from Warhammer 40k to Final Fantasy to Marvel and DC Comics.
    It can be done well, but as others have mentioned it's difficult since you have to explain why some places do and do not have technology, etc. Although I would think its easier to have some level of technology everywhere, with poorer parts of the world having less of it but that's just me.
    Personally I'm a huge fan of this setting, although I tend to skew closer to the fantasy side since the science half brings in a lot of tropes that I find difficult to work with.
     
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  6. ScientistWD

    ScientistWD Innocuous Veteran

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    My first thought is to zoom in on a specific piece of technology (or magic) that enabled advanced technology to explode in a medieval setting. For instance, some magical Blue Crystal that can be used to make lasers or charge batteries. The benefit to this is that you can explain sci-fi lasers and magnets as well as why there isn't stuff like antibiotics or combustion engines. Plus, the worldbuilding. Oh, the worldbuilding.

    That's my first instinct, anyway, to make a world like this a lot more believable.
     
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  7. AmazingKazuki

    AmazingKazuki Veteran Veteran

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    I have to push that a lot. It all depends on how you involve it and put it into your world. That is also my general opinion when mixing themes or changing things with what is a more "common" thing, like medieval times and technology as we already know of them. However, I think if you do it well that it'd end up a pretty cool thing.

    Somewhere in the game will need a decent explanation of how the technology evolved with the times. Hope to see more on this shortly! Good luck!
     
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  8. M.I.A.

    M.I.A. Goofball Extraordinaire Veteran

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    Have you heard of/played a game called Arcanum?

    It mixes technology and magic very well, in my opinion. It's an old one, but a good one. Available on Steam. Playable with some patching.
    Check it out. :)

    -MIA
     
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  9. GeraldTyler

    GeraldTyler Villager Member

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    So here's one possible justification for a disparity...any magic tech is controlled by the government, because it's their greatest military asset. As such, it's not available for civilian use, and all research and application is specifically for military application.

    So think of a Nuke. A nuke is extremelly powerful, which is why the government keeps that stuff away from the civilian population. You're not going to start a business selling nuclear arms you know?

    So this allows for awesome military tech in the form of say explosives, robots, transports, but then you still have the commoners living in relative poverty.
     
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  10. Wavelength

    Wavelength The Indictables Veteran

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    I think it's fine to do something like that.

    Ideally, you want to think a little about how you develop the world, setting, and plot hooks in light of your technology - for example, if I'm using flying cars to get to a swamp, it would be ridiculous for me to have to find boots that will let me not sink in one small area of the swamp, FF3 style (I should just be able to fly over it). If high technology is being mass-produced all over the place, I don't want the rescue of a talented blacksmith to be considered an instrumental and mandatory step on the way to saving the world without a really solid explanation for it.

    With that said, don't scuttle really cool ideas just because there are one or two holes that can be poked in their logic, either. Sometimes the Rule of Cool reigns supreme - you can get away with anything that's absurd, impractical, or outright dishonest in fiction as long as it's cool enough.

    You might be able to find inspiration in our own world - some nations' people live modern lifestyles that are truly transformed from everything that human society used to be, while others live without having touched an electrical device in their lives. North Korea provides an especially interesting glimpse into this paradox, contrasting Pyongyang's essentially modern cityscape and amentities to the cloistered agrarian nightmare ten miles outside of it.
     
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  11. Muzzsjm

    Muzzsjm Villager Member

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    Phantasy Star defiantly. It's not really steampunk but kind of close to it.

    PSIII & PS4 have people living in wooden and stone buildings whilst having laser guns, spaceships and cloning technology. It's never really explained that well but it's down to the fact a higher power/computer power controls climate and to a certain extent what technology people have access to and use.

    I don't have a problem with it as long as it's explained well or not explained at all if that makes sense. It's normally the result or a higher authority or someone being selfish.

    The people in Phantasy Star III have been locked away in dome worlds for 1,000 years so have just accepted what they have is what they need. As for 4 its more a case of tech and wealth being spread by those who want or need it and have the ability to starve others or withhold.
     
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  12. Astel

    Astel The (grey) knight with that funny look Veteran

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    Going against the current... it's a really bad idea.

    How you define medieval? How can a low technology era have modern technology? Magic kind of works because you can make an artificial limit, not everyone can use magic, etc. Technology comes from building time and time again over the knowledge from previous generations, and it free for everyone to use (not everyone may cast a fireball, but anyone can pull a trigger).

    Yes, you can jump the shark to be cool, and have an armored knight firing a machine gun... which makes an armor plate and swords completely obsolete, which makes even the very concept of a "knight" absurd. I'm not a fan of making cool things just to look cool if they don't make sense...

    Just my opinion.
     
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  13. _Leviathan

    _Leviathan Envious Member

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    Only thanks to those who've gone against the current have we advanced as much as we have to this day.

    That said, it's not an easy path. First you would have to build a world in which it's history and government makes sense. What caused the 'steam revolution'? How has it affected the country's/world's population and cultures? You have to make your world feel alive, and not a simple fantasy in which everything just works out. Read up on real life history, politics and science. If you know how our world works, then you can start building a world all your own.

    I would also take into account the work you must put in your tilesets before making a decision though. I feel like creating a Steampunk tileset would be much more work, as well as a tad bit more difficult. Then again, I haven't tried yet.
     
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  14. MobileSuitSonic

    MobileSuitSonic Mod Magnet Veteran

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    I wanted to discuss this in a poll regarding my project, but the mods won't let me.

    All I wanted to know was whether or not to keep the medieval-style setting or go with an early-20th century look to it. But no...
     
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  15. EliteZeon

    EliteZeon Third-Rate Noob Veteran

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    This is pretty much the definition of Dungeon Punk,Dungeon and Dragon's Planescape and Eberron setting, the first Ultima game, and various Final Fantasy games. Hey, look at Thor 2: The Dark world...

    Heck in Final Fantasy 12, the very beginning of the game shows a world with high magical technology with high fantasy. You see airships shooting laser beams at each other, and dog fighting Star Wars styled whilst knights on the ground the Calvary charges with the support of assault mecha.

    Magic is advanced enough to allow technology similar to sci-fi/modern day, and fantasy elements allow for knights to be powerful enough to withstand against guns and explosives. A spaceship can be a flying boat enchanted by elemental magic which allows passengers to traverse the stars, and space itself isn't just a solar system, it is a grid of realities that connects the worlds such as Niflheim and Asgard. A capital city could have skyscrapers, with elevators made from air-magic. A train could be powered by steam in one region, whilst another nation uses mages with fire magic to produce locomotion. A group of soldiers that use camouflage cloaks could be instead using illusion magic to blend into their surroundings like the predator.

    The easiest way to think of these settings is, "What if Magic IS Science?" or "What if we have Physics but also with Magic?"

    [​IMG]
    D&D's Eberron setting: Dungeon Punk at its finest.

    Let's gets some ideas from this image! A fully mechanical knight is ready to rob a speeding train powered by elemental magic and has a whole crew of men on his airship. The town below was made after a great war, inside a massive bomb crater.

    [​IMG]
    D&D's Planescape setting: medieval-fantasy cities co-exist with spacefaring races, their space ships all equipped with magical death beams.

    An idea with this image: A villainous empire has already conquered half of the realms in the multiverse, surrender is not an option. The power hungry Spacefaring Emperor seeks godhood to prevent an even worse cataclysm foreseen in a prophecy, in which an alien power upsets the balance of the realms.


    Finally here is FF12's opening cinematic which shows a good mix of medieval-fantasy and high-fantasy technology.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2018
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  16. LaFlibuste

    LaFlibuste Veteran Veteran

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    I would personally disagree with this statement. Steam punk is not just "the mix of medieval and technology", it is very specifically a setting based around the tech-level of the second half of the 19th century (or early 20th). People have pushed what the machinery could do in fiction, true, but it's still the same base.

    So back at the OP, it's not that it can't work at all, but you have to give serious thought into how that's possible (if you want to create a credible world). I mean, there's a reason why we mostly use guns as weapons today: they are easy to use and can kill/wound reliably, effortlessly and at a distance. And there's a reason why people don't use full plates anymore: the are complex to make, hard to put on, cumbersome, and most of all, they downright suck against guns. Not only can guns pierce them very easily, but they actually splinter (might not be the exact right word) inward, continuously hurting the wearer after a gunshot.

    Steampunk (aka the victorian era) had some sort of mix of the two, but there are some reasons for it: guns were unreliable and had limited shots before needing to be recharged, so melee weapons were still relevant in some key situations. Also they had ditched full plate because of the guns, but creating a key opening for melee weapon use. Machines were large & heavy, complex (gears and steam) and limited in application.

    So I'm not saying it's not possible but it will require careful consideration...
     
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  17. L.W. Flouisa

    L.W. Flouisa NumeroHex Veteran

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    I like a variation of this concept. Back when I was working on Advent Innocuous (this is "Tentacles" by the way), I was really into blending Cyberpunk technology and medieval society. I think there is a lot of potential in this concept.

    Fun fact, even though that game concept was abandoned, I was able to salvage it into a story for Tevun Cruz on Wattpad.

    But one thing I really like is giant underground Cybernetic catacombs, with a primitive medieval society living in the above world. And the underground cyber catacombs acts as a kind of technology discovery of a lost era.

    Now the bizarre thing is my own writing has shifted into a Tech Suspence/Magical Realism direction, so I'm not sure if I could quiet match this vision.

    But I do think other game develops could easily make that work.
     
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  18. Jhale M.

    Jhale M. Goddess of health, purity and truth. Veteran

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    Well, there are three examples I am thinking of with this setting at work.

    One is actually a whole genre. There is the post-post-apocalypse setting for stories. These are stories where an apocalypse has happened, destroying a whole lot of things, but the struggle to reconstruct things after the apocalypse has already finished and things are rather stable, but they interact oddly with what remains of the destroyed society and likely are not able to recreate what once existed, having it remain as artifacts or sacred tools.

    Another is Breath of Fire 3. Breath of Fire 3 is special in a lot of ways and one is its setting. Technology is somewhat scarce. Much of the world looks medieval, but some parts of it range from steampunk to very futuristic and there is also talk about stuff like environmental issues and genetically modified plants. The technology itself has a strange origin and is based partially in magic I think.

    Number 3 is a world where multiple realities have fused together. This sounds most like what you are proposing. It makes me think of the show "Once Upon A Time" (although that wouldn't be a very good example). Basically, societies from different dimensions and such have been combined into one location or world. It would give a good reason for different sections to not be well integrated with each other and for the technology range and level of understanding to be very wide in variance.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2018
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  19. L.W. Flouisa

    L.W. Flouisa NumeroHex Veteran

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    I'm liking this question more and more, as I recently published a varient of Medieval Society/High Tech on Wattpad. In this context, the framework of the novella is being rewritten from my earlier work, until a screenplay that's set inside a Virtual Reality game.
     
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