1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Magic and Guns, How do you do it?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by osimur_wil, Aug 2, 2015.

  1. osimur_wil

    osimur_wil Scribe

    25
    5
    3
    Hey, all. I'm currently writing a setting for an RPG and I want to include both guns and magic. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, I'm having a bit of a rough time making sure they're balanced so that guns aren't completely useless or make guns so powerful that it makes armor obsolete.
    I thought that making guns powered by compressed air, using low calibur bullets would be pretty good. But then it would make guns all but useless except for hunting and unarmored enemies. Then I thought to up the calibur size from .22 to .357, but .357 bullets can punch through steel armor. Add to the fact that magic takes longer to learn and takes incantations to perform; why would anyone use armor or magic when guns make both obsolete?
    I feel like I hit a wall. How do you think I should go about balancing out guns and magic?
     
  2. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    653
    245
    43
    How advanced are we talking about, exactly? Plate armor lasted quite a while against firearms, as did bows.
     
    osimur_wil and T.Allen.Smith like this.
  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,947
    163
    That's right. Hundreds of years, in fact.

    Also, the caliber of a bullet has nothing to do with it's penetration, even against steel. It's the speed primarily, then composition. Bullet weight (or grain) is another matter entirely, which has most to do with force of impact. So, a 5.56mm NATO round is 22 caliber. So is a 22 Swift, 22-250, 22 Long Rifle, and a number of others. None of those would have any issue penetrating a thin layer of steel. I know from experience.

    Hardened steel, like AR500 steel they use for metal shooting targets is a different story. However, that type would be far too heavy and thick to be worn as armor.

    The gun powder age was a game changer because technology leveled the playing field. Where it used to take decades to train an archer or knight, now a simple farmhand with a couple months training could kill a warrior with a trigger pull. As firearm technology advanced, the separation between warrior and commoner shrank further.

    Still, the span of years where firearms and melee weapons and armor shared the battlefield ranged for approximately 250 years. That is until the invention of the flintlock, where advancements improved reliability and increased effective ranges against plate out to 100 yards or more. Once rifling, velocities, & artillery technology improved, well, game over armored soldier (until the invention of the tank).

    I'm currently writing a novel where these periods overlap. There's tons of directions you can go that make the conflict plausible. You just need to do some research, make wise choices, place limitations on magic and technology, and above all...be creative.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2015
    Kobun, osimur_wil and Ankari like this.
  4. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    653
    245
    43
    The arquebus was probably the most common and effective firearm during the time when full steel plate armor was still used. Perhaps looking at that and the tactics used with it could be helpful.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arquebus
     
    osimur_wil likes this.
  5. osimur_wil

    osimur_wil Scribe

    25
    5
    3
    It's a bit schizo-tech. While I do have knights on horses wielding swords, I also have steam powered power armor and locomotives, dwarves building replacement limbs, and the aforementioned guns. So, things are a bit wonky when it comes to that.
     
  6. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    1,908
    604
    113
    If you've got guns and magic, then why not magic guns? A bit of enchantment may give them extra force or make their bullets seek enemies' hearts.
     
  7. Kobun

    Kobun Scribe

    41
    13
    8
    Or even guns BECAUSE of magic. Like, they were discovered through alchemy rather than chemistry.
     
  8. osimur_wil

    osimur_wil Scribe

    25
    5
    3
    I never actually thought about that. Good idea, friend!
     
    Kobun likes this.
  9. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    3,093
    1,079
    163
    In my short story Respite, my MC used runic guns imbued with the souls of her dead parents.

    Please check it out. Mind you, that is a very early draft so it's a little bumpy.
     
  10. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    3,073
    1,831
    163
    If you want to balance things out, first you have to figure out what limits a gun has against magic, and vice versa. What are the limits on magic? Once you understand those things in your world, you can figure out ways to balance the two. Maybe bullets can penetrate certain magical armor that would otherwise shrug off magic attacks, etc.
     
  11. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    486
    164
    43
    Why not steam-powered guns?

    I guess the question is, if stuff combusts in your world the way it does in ours, why couldn't gunpowder and magic co-exist? In fact, to T. Allen's point, you could focus on the push back from magicians against gunmakers whose projectiles are more penetrating than the arrows their spells can usually block. To take Kobun's point in a different direction, what if magic enhanced early weapons the way later ones would be, say, by making the bullets magically harder?
     
  12. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    1,824
    711
    113
    Hi,

    You need to think about this a little differently. It's not about whether one gun and bullet / ball can overcome a man in armour or a wizard. It's about numbers. What if instead of worrying about the power of the weapon you worry about how good manufacturing is.

    I just put out the steampunk The Arcanist. My MC is a technologist mage. He makes and uses guns and fireballs. He also has a forerunner of the car. But what limits technology from overtaking magic is production. A few people on their own making weapons and preparing gun powder etc, aren't a threat to the world. To wizards in general. Or to armoured soldiers. It's armies powered up with thousands of guns and soldiers and cannons.

    Also you can never under-estimate the power of magic. How much use would a man with a killer hand gun be against a wizard who can simply blink himself invisible? Or launch a fireball from somewhere well beyond the gun's accurate range?

    Cheers, Greg.
     
    osimur_wil likes this.
  13. osimur_wil

    osimur_wil Scribe

    25
    5
    3
    Thank you for all the feedback, everyone. I think I've found a solution that will work well with my world. Guns are made in sparse numbers, being produced for military marksmen. Mages have developed spells to combat the power of the superior penetrating power of bullets, making suits of armor stronger through magic. Unprotected, guns can punch through steel plate and even the scales of young dragons.
    Thank you for all your feedback, it's been a big help.
     
  14. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    4,500
    1,555
    163
    Couple of fairly obvious (to me, anyhow) ideas.

    1) Gun Control. Authorities, out of self preservation are going to take a dim view of guns outside their direct control without good reason;

    2) Gun Guild. Only certain groups are allowed to manufacture guns. Unauthorized gun manufacturers get shut down hard.

    This way, the advantage a gun gives in a fight is nearly equaled by the harassment a gun possessor can expect from government or guild. 'Hmm...somebody used firearms here. Lets take a look at the list and ask around.'

    Now, if the gun wielders are sanctioned (soldiers, police, or some such), they are still accountable to internal discipline within those groups. 'Where were you last night and why is half your ammo missing?'

    Head out into the wilderness? Ammunition is finite. Replacing it could be a serious pain. Do you trust the homemade cartridges put together by that crazy hermit out of god-knows-what?
     
    Feo Takahari and osimur_wil like this.
  15. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    1,233
    326
    83
    Consider how commonplace a gun would be. How expensive and difficult to manufacture.

    Yes, flintlocks with smoothbore barrels would be easier for a blacksmith to make, but also far less effective than say a muzzle-loading rifle on the mid to late 1800s. But still that's slow to fire and load compared to even a single action revolver. But each advancement is more complex to manufacture, and unless there's some form of mass production, if a part breaks, it'd have to be specially made. That would be a limiting factor.

    Then there's the manufacture of the gunpowder and/or the cartridges. Also a limiting factor.

    Cannons would alter sieges of castles and other fortifications, and in some ways may be easier to create/forge than a smaller firearm. But again, the amount of gunpowder would be something to consider. Alchemists, for example, may know the formula, but might charge a high price to create it.

    How effectively can a mounted knight in armor stand up to an accomplished magic user or sorcerer? Maybe not so well, depending on the circumstances. But does your world have legions of spellcasters marching into battle wielding fireballs and calling bolts of lighting from the sky? Or snapping bones from a distance with their spellcraft? And even if so, there would be legions of those creating defensive wards...or creating magical wards on a warriors armor. Could not that warding harden armor or protect it from projectiles such as firearms?

    Just a few thoughts to consider.
     
  16. L M Rush

    L M Rush Scribe

    42
    10
    8
    I've always avoided going as far as guns when writing. Too scared of the conflict, I don't think I could mould it in well. Plus one of the things I love about history/fantasy worlds is the lack of guns. The talent and skill required by the warriors make for very interesting characters. No doubt you can create the same with guns etc, but personally the furthest my stories advance is cannons. No handguns.

    I do like some of the suggestions though, the main thing seemingly being how to not overpower your magic/guns whilst deciding on their common usage or rarity. Perhaps if so few could use guns, it would seem useful in a world full of bullyboy magicians thinking they are untouchable!
     
  17. A'elie

    A'elie Acolyte

    8
    2
    3
    There are urban fantasy stories, that have modern weapons and magic melding together.

    If you want an example, I can show you Arcanum

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
  18. glutton

    glutton Inkling

    553
    91
    28
    Seems weird that guns would make magic obsolete, the magic would have to be pretty limited in both power and versatility for that I'd think.
     
  19. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,947
    163
    Limited, or dealing with the world and enemies in a completely different manner than the brute force of a bullet. That's how I'm doing it in my WIP. Magic is subtle, not overt like a firearm, but no less powerful in its own way.
     
  20. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    1,233
    326
    83
    In my First Civilization's Legacy Series, magic vs. technology (basically WW II era and also late 1860s era) is one of the main elements in a conflict/war. You have dragons vs. Stukas, Earth wizards and their magic pitted against Panzers. Think WW I era chemical warfare and how magic would counter that. Ogres and giants and zombies and more, like magical healing are in the mix. You have one faction that can in essence nullify magic, and are largely immune to its direct effects, but that has it's drawbacks.

    What I'm indicating based upon my experience, is that firearms and magic can exist and can be part of the world created and a conflict, considering that there might be a lot of complex, moving parts. It's all up to your imagination.

    Maybe in the end, one will come to dominate. Firearms triumph over magic use, simply by attrition. It takes too long to train, or there are too few able to cast powerful spells. Or the smiths and manufacturing centers where firearms are engineered and built are destroyed by the magic and all those with the knowledge of such firearms and weaponry are wiped out...or somewhere in between.

    Maybe one side decides to incorporate both technology and magic? There is ample opportunity for so many storylines and directions.

    Harry Turtledove created a fantasy series (see Into the Darkness) that used WW II and the powers engaged in the world wide struggle as a template, but magic was used instead of tanks or guns or bombs. Dragons dropping explosive 'eggs' created by spellcasters. Large beasts with heavy magical beam weapons as tanks, etc. There are so many plausible directions it can go.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2015
Loading...

Share This Page