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Seeking Ideas For Magic-Users In The Early 19th Century

Akira444

Scribe
The TTRPG game Victoriana presents a pretty cool example of what the world would look like if magic, nonhuman races and divine forces existed in the Industrial Age. There are plenty of pdfs around, so feel free to take a look for some inspiration.
 

SinghSong

Minstrel
You have to wonder, how would religion factor into the world-building of a setting like this? Especially in places like India, Arabia and Persia, as well as Africa and South East Asia, where the cultural perceptions of 'magic' and religion can be so intertwined. For instance, is there any doubt that Sufism would be the predominant form of Islam, in this world? And would the Khmer Empire have ever fallen, or would it have only grown more and more dominant in SE Asia over time, given its historical cultural dominance and mastery in the field of magical artificing IRL? The equivalent of runes (mystical/magical diagrams/patterns), in cultures across 'Greater India', are known as Yantras (as opposed to chanted/spoken magic, which is known as 'mantras')- and Yantra tattooing, aka 'Sak Yant' is a form of sacred tattooing, practiced by wicha (magic) practioners in Southeast Asian countries, including Cambodia and Thailand, with its origin attributed to the founders of Angkor Wat and the Khmer Empire (derived from the ancient Tamil practice of Kolam, with the practice of yantra tattooing, believed to offer protection and other benefits, having spread to be recorded everywhere within the Chola dynasty's historical sphere of trade influence).

These yantric designs are also applied to many other mediums, such as cloth or metal, and placed in peoples' houses, places of worship, or vehicles as means of protection from all kinds of dangers or against illness (with specific designs , to increase wealth or attract lovers, to channel specific elemental energies, etc. And in Cambodia, dating back to its implementation by the Khmer Empire, they have a specific set of yantric tattoo designs, known as Sak Yant, used for self-protection, which are still especially popular among military personnel to this day, with these tattoos supposedly guaranteeing that the person cannot receive any physical harm (as long as they observe certain rules). And it was because of the supposed yantric (i.e, runic) magical protection, bestowed upon them by their military 'Sak Yant' tattoos, that the Khmer Imperial soldiers fought naked and barefoot, wielding only lances and shields; refusing to use bows and arrows, trebuchets, body armor, or helmets. Because of this, and the ineffectiveness of 'magic' in our world beyond the placebo effect, the Sukhothai Kingdom subsequently defeated the Khmer soldiers and laid waste to Khmer lands in repeated wars, with Thailand eventually attaining predominance over South-East Asia as a result.

In this world though, where magic and artificing is confirmed as being completely real and tangible, one would imagine that the Khmer Empire's standing army of 5-6M soldiers, each covered in an array of Sak Yant tattoos which all actually possessed the mystical properties attributed to them- enchanting their skin to confer increased resistance against piercing, crushing and/or slicing weapons, increased resistance against damage from specific elements (though only those against fire were typically used militarily, with the exception of those Sak Yant tattoos which were typically only applied to the soles of Khmer soldiers' feet, which were supposed to protect against earth damage), and increasing their strength and their healing factors, as well as other Yants dedicated to affect people around the wearer (i.e, invoking fear, ill fortune, and other 'curse' effects)- could, and should, wind up being incredibly overpowered instead (even if the tattoos' effectiveness does still wane with use, and over time, to the extent that they have to be re-empowered on at least an annual basis by the wicha practitioners who applied them, as was believed to be the case).

To the extent where, even if they didn't get or develop enchanted weapons of their own (akin to the staves, firearms, brooms and such-like wielded by your Germanic “Zauberer”, and other European equivalents), the Khmer's naked, barefoot soldiers, protected by the Sak Yant permanently etched into their skins, could well be a massive problem, and still pose a serious threat when going up against the Europeans' colonialist armies even at the dawn of the twentieth century, as well as providing a pretty big culture-clash. And could we see at least some of these patterns, and/or concepts, appropriated by the Europeans, in a manner akin to how several Indian cloth patterns were by the British IOTL, and incorporated to their own magi-tech, even if they don't engage in tattooing? Just imagine the potential of engraved runic/yantric metal plates, in the production of the first generation of magi-tech armored cars, battleships, tanks and aircraft...
 
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