Science and Technology

Whilst exploring the land elsethread, this is probably my other big worldbuilding question mark.

I’ve heard three technologies mentioned in conversation.

  1. Steampunk (including railroads, which may be supplanted by …)
  2. Mist Barges [magic tech, to be sure, but the pictures at least seem to imply large, forged metal sheets / steel]
  3. Firearms

My inclination here, esp. re the latter, is that less is more, as tech has a lot of potentially disruptive effects. Firearms, in particular, I can do without or would want limited to black powder / musket / low fire rate items that makes them effectively noisy bows for individual use. (It’s when you get into larger-scale cannon that you end up with all your castles obsoleted.)

Questions to go with this:

  1. Can we [current society/civilization] extrude / forge large (vehicle / building scale) sheets of steel?
  2. Can we build fine clockwork (gears, etc., pocket watch size)?
  3. Can we extrude large sheets of glass?
  4. Do we have assembly lines / factories (vs everything is hand-done, single-threaded, by artsans and craftsmen)?
  5. Have we harnessed electricity?

I’m happy with “No” being the answer to all of these (maybe with isolated and unique / unreproduceable exceptions, like the Clever Gnomes of Kingdom X). If “Yes”, all of these imply technology that radically changes the setting and lives, from the rich to the poor, how trade works, your means of transportation, how big an urbanation you can support (Classical Rome was always on the verge of facing starvation if the trade was interrupted, due to the limits of transport), etc.

I don’t want to get into too deep a dive on all of this, but coming to consensus on the broad outlines will be helpful in knowing what to expect, how to move around, and for the Overlord to make her diabolical plans.

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I’m not super interested in having definitive answers for any of these, and can see the answer changing based on where you are in the world. This is a world where we have wizards, giant creatures, and the undead just walking about. Any one of those elements can all sort of weird socioeconomic impacts and make some assumptions about the world go right out the window.

But I just want to tell/listen to stories about fighting dragons and making friends with the bug people of the underhive.

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I am totally into that.

I’ll also say that the ley lines, mist, whatever, don’t have to be anything super abstract. In the geography post, ley lines are what are holding columns of rock in place, and maybe the sky islands have some kind of mineral or composition that makes them levitate off ley lines, analogous to maglev trains.

In that case, you don’t have to say “Mist barges are magic”, you can say “Mist barges have an engine using this special rock at the heart of them, and the rest of them is a big gyroscope attached to the deck that keeps everything stable and supported”. Other engineering efforts can similarly use magic as a physical phenomenon.

(This also turns “repair the mist barge” from a problem for some advanced magical artificer to solve, into a problem for regular villagers and miners to solve, for example - simpler, letting us get right to the story)


For the rest of the question, I’m okay with “can we…” questions being answered with “yes, when it advances the story”. Mist barges were my answer to “how do we have airships without having airships everywhere”, for example, and yeah, are intended to fill the role of steampunk trains. But they also serve as plot devices, to get us to somewhere, or prevent us from getting somewhere temporarily.

If our manufacturing or travel tech leads to problems, like the risk of starvation, siege, etc., I think can bring that tech up at that time and see where it goes. For example, maybe the “trouble in the hinterlands” issue that Virens is investigating is about shipments going missing, and we find out that mist barges broke down because local ley lines are changing. But wait, that shouldn’t be possible! We should go investigate, etc.

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<Sees Bill’s drawing. Creative brain goes into high gear.>

With that sort of mechanism, mist barges should look like old-timey river boats with the giant paddle wheels replaced with those rings of steel around the sky rock.

<Creative brain is satisfied.>