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cjke

Guns/tech coexisting with swords/magic

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Hey guys, Just want to have some open discussion on how you figure guns/tech can coexist in the same gaming universe as swords/magic. For example the Final Fantasy games, like number 7, where Barret and the Shinra guards all have fully automatic machine guns and Cloud gets a sword. I understand why they chose this way, it wouldn't be very fun if they were all lugging around m16's through Midgar, but i'm looking more at the story element. For example:: ~ Very limited gunpowder in the world ~ Firearms are hard to come by ~ Firearms are illegal, maybe only possessed by the worlds military ~ Swords have a pocket where you can store your spare change ~ etc Anything is welcome, the floor is open, use your imaginations..

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I think swords are often seen as somewhat magical, or at least very strong, making them a better match for guns. This means guns and swords are simply long and short range weapons, similar to a crossbow and a police baton.

Adding guns to the mix may therefor make the game look a bit more versatile, and you can let different races / cultures have different types of weapons while keeping the same basic gameplay.

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Hmm...

Realism:

Black powder guns in the early days were inaccurate, slow to load and prime, moderately complicated, expensive to run, prone to jamming and they didn't always penetrate armour. Rifles helped a little and technology did move along, but the old cliché of pistols at 20 paces comes from the fact that you couldn't be sure of hitting your opponent at any greater range with a flintlock and even hitting them did not mean that you would do more than bruise them.

Many nations restrict gun ownership, such as the UK, and bullets would be very hard to come by in those nations. At the same time, swordsmanship can be learnt with wooden swords or even with rebated (blunt) blades. Ergo, you have a nation with more competent swordfighters than gunfighters.

In close-quarters, a rifle is a glorified club, which is why soldiers up to WWII had bayonets and officers still carried swords.

A rapier can cut through a bullet-proof vest like a razor parting silk.

style:

It takes more skill to use a sword effectively.

Katanas can cut through tanks according to some anime... (or a car in the Matrix films)

Heroes run around with bullet-holes in them, but one good hit from a zweihander and nobody will expect them to get back up.

We are so used to Errol Flynn with a sword that we equate swords to style, finesse and panache. If they use a sword against people with guns, they must be brave enough that they deserve to win...

Sci-Fi:

In Star Wars, a light saber deflects energy weapons, can send them flying back at the attacker and can cut through even the thickest of bulkheads. Also, since Jedi have the force, they don't even need a blaster.

The Dune books included forcefields which could stop any fast-moving projectiles, so people learned to use knives or swords and martial arts styles were invented that revolved around moving your weapon slowly enough to break through the field and fast enough to get past the enemy's own defences.

In the Warhammer 40K universe, powered armour and forcefields were invented that could stop a bullet nine times out of ten. in response, weaponsmiths developed devices which could short-circuit the deflection technology; these units were big enough that they could easily be added to a sword or axe, but were too big to put into a bullet. Suddenly, you have armour that is immune to anything but melee weapons and so melee weapons become the de facto standard.

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In the Napoleonic wars, it took around 160 rifle shots to inflict a single wound. The accuracy of the weapons was not the main reason, especially since elite sharpshooters could score head shots on enemy officers. The problem was that most soldiers who used rifles had no actual training to use them efficiently, so they tended to fire volleys in close ranks (so that at least some bullets had some chance of hitting the targets) and then charged with their bayonets.

In short, if you were good with a rifle then you would definitely use one, but if you were bad with firearms you would stick to swords instead.

Then, there's the prestige factor. There has been at least one battle where the officers of the French imperial guard ordered their soldiers to enter melee directly because firing their rifles against an inferior enemy was degrading: «La garde ne se bat qu'à la baïonette.» Needless to say, enemy morale took a hit. Can't remember the name of that battle off the top of my head, though (maybe Austerlitz?)

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In close combat, you'd still prefer a gun or even a riffle to a sword. The reason there are still bayonets on rifles is that they don't use any space (they are knives with a special handle, usually not mounted) and they can be used as a last resort weapon when ammunition is depleted.

About the possible co-existence settings, the first black-powder portable weapons were inaccurate and of short range, less efficient than longbows, but they could be used by unskilled fighters more easily (aim, shoot) they just had to learn how to recharge. They also provided a shock and awe effect due to the huge thundering sound and the smoke they produced.

The production of portable guns depends heavily on the ability to found steel. One could imagine an universe where this alloy is unheard of but natural and scarce occurrences exist (like Damascus steel) or a setting where iron, its core element, is rare (like Ancient Egypt, where it was extremely valuable as its only source was meteorites)

About science fiction settings, Prince of Cats already covered most of them. Swords have a stylish feeling that many authors want to recreate. Another variants : The "Eternal War" comics tell about a device that changes the speed of light to a lower one and changes the laws of motions inside a bubble of up to a few dozen meters, rendering projectile weapons unfeasible.

In one of my pen & paper RPG game, I used a setting I found funny. In an alternate reality, there was a forest where lived a strange kind of parasitic insect : it develops in the trunks and when mature, it grows a bubble filled with explosive chemicals in order to project its spawns inside another trunk. It can be triggered by a lightning or by a shock, like the one of another insect hitting the trunk, or... a bullet hitting it. Meaning that any missing bullet in this forest had a chance of triggering a chain reaction that amounted to an automatic burst for all the characters present. You can shoot, but don't miss !

In Shadowrun pen & paper, there are monomolecular whips and blades that cut really more easily into armor than bullets. They also have a specific kind of "magic weapons" they call focus weapons, that must be on physical contact with a magic user in order to be active and that are almost the only way to damage spirits and astral creatures.

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You could have some sort of personal device that emits a magnetic field when it detects a fast approaching projectile (thus deflecting it) making swords a useful alternative. I'm sorry to all the people who are better in physics than I [smile]

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"it took around 160 rifle shots"

It took around 160 MUSKET shots. Rifles were issued to the elite skirmishing units; whose shooting was far more accurate.

"which is why soldiers up to WWII had bayonets"

Soldiers still have bayonets. The UK has only just handed out a medal to a soldier who ran out of ammunition and carried on the assault using his bayonet in Afghanistan.


"I think swords are often seen as somewhat magical"

Certainly through early warfare, swords -- and the creation of them -- was seen as a magical act, and the sword itself was a badge of office. Peasants didn't carry swords because their leaders carried swords. It was how you told who was the leader.

As early as the 15th century, handheld 'guns' were causing casualties on battlefields, but officers retained their swords in battle conditions through until the late 19th century -- because being armed with a sword was what being an officer meant. It was part of the distinction between men and officers.


"There has been at least one battle where the officers of the French imperial guard ordered their soldiers to enter melee directly because firing their rifles against an inferior enemy was degrading"

There were, through the 17 and 1800s, several doctrines of musket use.

The French tended to favour an attack called "a pret" which is a rapid march closing the distance between 150yds (extreme musket range) and ending with a brief charge with levelled bayonets. In order to dissuade their soldiers from stopping to return fire if fired upon, they sometimes actually had them advance with their muskets empty. This was considered showing their "elan" -- their fighting spirit.

The British army, quite often being outnumbered, tended to be a little more defensive. One of their tactics was to stand with loaded but grounded muskets, so that there could be no early shooting. And then wait...

Actual melee in open ground in linear warfare turns out to be extremely rare. The contest basically turned out to be a battle of determination between the defenders and the attackers. The casualties generally are caused during one or other side running away.

The attackers must march towards the enemy soldiers. It is to their advantage to get as close as possible as quickly as possible (minimising the amount of fire they will take). Hence the French not stopping to shoot. If you are going to shoot you want to be as close as possible. But crucially you still want to fire first. As you approach, the longer the defender holds their fire, the closer you'll be when they shoot... and the worse the effect will be.

The defender must try and hold their fire as long as possible. Why? Musketry exhibits extreme range effects - it falls off rapidly between 10-30 yards, quickly out to 100 yards and beyond that it's only minimally effective. You want to fire first in the hope that the attacker simply won't get a chance to shoot but the ideal, for the defender, is to hold their best shot (the one they've loaded unhurriedly) for the last possible moment. Ranges of three and five yards are mentioned in historical accounts. At those ranges, musketry is *devastating*. While the enemy is disoriented by that barrage, bayonet charge them and drive them away!

Other countries adopted other firing mechanisms believing that it was worth the extra time in the advance to cause extra casualties, or to shoot at advancing infantry as early as possible and try and cram as many shots in as possible as they closed.

There's a lot of interesting psychology in there...



(My other hobby is military history :-)

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Quote:
Original post by cjke
For example the Final Fantasy games, like number 7, where Barret and the Shinra guards all have fully automatic machine guns and Cloud gets a sword.


Range wasn't a factor in that game. When the time came for cloud to attack, he could rush clear across the battle area, do his attack, then jump back as easily as the characters could aim and fire thier projectile weapons.

This mix of swords and guns workes because combat in the battle system is very abstract and stylised...completely negateing the longer range weapon advantages yet allowing characters to have "signature" combat styles...Really, if Square wanted, Barret could be blowing kisses to the enemies inorder to damage them and the battle system could work just as effectively.

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Guys, some great and varied replies!

Really like the points that Prince of Cats bought up, esp. the later points.

Its great people are thinking both in a literal sense and also outside the square

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Has anyone mentioned Arcanum? Highly technical contraptions tend to fizzle and explode or fail to work when in the presence of powerful magic users. And powerful magics sputter or are diminished in effectiveness when used against technical people or contraptions.

Arcanum was a great setting. A wonderfully depressing game, though. Not your typical hero saves the world, but more of a hero uncovers a sad, sad chain of events.

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Magic and Technology both have advantages. Technology can do some things, and then magic can do things that technology can't do. It gets more interesting when you assume that magic has an underlying physical mechanism, which technology might actually access. Suddenly, you have magical machines. And of course, if a person has either a gun or magical abilities (or a sword for that matter), they're going to have an advantage over someone who has nothing, regardless of which they have. Magic and Tech can simply be different options, with neither of them necessarily being better than the other.

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Quote:
Original post by kru
Has anyone mentioned Arcanum?


Was going to mention that when I saw the topic. Also check out Shadowrun, which is a futuristic blend of tech and magic. World of Warcraft is also a blend of tech and fantasy with guns, tanks, and hybrid tech-magic machinery. Star Wars is as well (sort of) with the Force being the equivalent of magic.

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No one said that magic and technlogoy had to be exclusive to each other. Why not just make magic a separate force of nature, able to be manipulated by technology? Much like light, heat, or what have you. This opens up a lot of possibilities if you get creative.

As for swords and guns, it's going to boil down to realism and era, as has been discussed at length already. If guns are new, then people will still keep melee weapons because they're important. Early guns sucked. Once technology begins to improve though, melee weapons are just plain not going to cut it on a large scale battle. When this happens is subject to debate, but a scenerio like Final Fantasy 8 isn't going to happen in real life: some of the soldiers wielded swords and stood beside soldiers with wrist mounted machine guns...

If realism doesn't matter to you, then you can make melee weapons like swords more attractive by making ranged weapons weaker and shorter ranged than in reality. Even games like Medal of Honor do this sometimes: getting shot or getting clubbed by a gun does the same damage in at least one of the games, and you could get clubbed a lot faster than you could shoot...

Anyway, if magic is present, then why not just use that as an excuse. Maybe it's easy to make personal force fields strong enough to stop bullets? The field would stop swords too logically, but maybe swords are large enough to be enchanted so that they can penetrate the shield, whereas bullets can't or the gun can't impart such an enchantment.

Forgive me if I reposted something for the 5th time, I don't have time to read the whole thread at the moment.

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I've never understood why soo many people keep magic and tech separate. The truth of the matter is that magic is technology in your world. As a matter of fact even a lowly foot soldier is likely to know some magic, just like any of our soldier's know some physics.

Now for logical reasons along these lines why guns are new and why people still use swords:

The first thing you need to realize is that human populations have a limited capacity for innovation. So adding a few dozen more branches of science will slow down how quickly they will learn the branches of science that "we" know. Likewise populations will reuse previous solutions, this further distracts a bit from the sciences "we" know(since a different science provided the same solution).

Also since you have a dozen or so branches of science that are focused more on the power of the "scientist"/magician you're going to have a culture that's radically different and more focused on people skill sets. IE a culture where we change the world because we thought it, rather than we change the world because we used other parts of the world(like ours). A culture that has access to magic and where the person using the magic matters most, will be a culture that favors weapons where the user matters more than the weapon which means "swords"(every culture subconsciously slowing down gun research and similar, people paying for science just "not seeing it"). Granted it's almost impossible to cover this point unless you're doing dimension travel or similar.

Now since we have a world where thought can consciously and unconsciously affect the world that means strange things happen that just shouldn't. For instance it's pretty often that "we" have close calls with things that can hurt us, strange feelings ect. Now we're in a world where these freak chances happen more often and are more accurate(even if there is a lot of cancellation). This means that if there's a chance someone will survive, they're more likely to. So we're going to favor things that reduce this as much as possible(IE massive sword/blunt wounds).

They also live in an "exotic" world. This means things like spider silk and similar strong materials are available without "advanced material sciences"(fantasy universes have HUGE spiders - it's a given), meaning the scientists "we" have researching spider silk for theoretical better bullet proof armor are researching something else or ways to improve it with the dozen other branches of "magic"/science, likewise they've probably started researching this at a much earlier period in their history.

You can only shoot a bullet so fast due to terminal velocity and similar physics based things. However at this point we'd admitted that magic is science so we're going to amp this up a bit more. We'll eventually get to the point where to make our ammo go faster we're spending massively more energy to do so safely than we're shooting at the enemy. Depending on the universe this could mean that armor is more effective, bullets themselves can't be enchanted do to being enchanted separately(only gun/barrel can), and other things.

We also have a completely different battle field to contend with. For instance stealth becomes much much more practical, even on a modern magical battle field. Just cast stock invisibility spell or similar, have your telepath fix those few chance encounters, use your druid to amp your camouflage or cover your tracks Which means loud guns are unpractical, close combat more likely. Likewise our commanders are completely different due to our culture established previously. Depending on the races you have terrain that would normally be considered useless becomes pretty lucrative. This like navel battles become completely different if you have water breathing races, likewise navel battles are over someone's territory/cities when you do have them.

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Since these folks can survive dozens of bullets and most of the fighting is done in cramped places, close combat weapons are a much smarter choice than guns. If these games were reality, they would most likely die if some giant behemoth would stomp on them. These guys not only survived town-destroying-giant's feet, they also destroyed them! I'm not sure any logic can explain that so putting giant swords, magics and automatic weapons in the same package for the coolness factor is a valid explanation.

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Quote:
Original post by lithos
I've never understood why soo many people keep magic and tech separate. The truth of the matter is that magic is technology in your world. As a matter of fact even a lowly foot soldier is likely to know some magic, just like any of our soldier's know some physics.
And that is exactly why many people keep magic and tech separate. Magic is used as a device to give more power to specific individuals (usually incarnated as the players or the villains). In settings where magic has a little background theory, its use is usually binded to some "active" people (the players) or to some rare items (collectible by the player).

Another argument that my grumpy-scientist half whispers to me is that many people (including players and game designers) are more comfortable with a magic system that can do about anything suitable for the game ("how does it work ?" "magic!") than with technology that comes with a lot of constraints for it to be believable.

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I'm still convinced that "magic" would be used just like technology would, I doubt "natives" would even be able to tell the difference between science and tech or have any real reason to "need" to tell the difference. In the end to the "natives" it's just an application of skill, knowledge, and time.

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This is a similar question to another thread about would cyborgs of the future use swords and shields? Given a magically augmented human who could move faster than normal, tougher and stronger, would guns even magically enhanced ones be effective against them?

My guess is probably not, the same issue arises, magic will allow the attackers to evade, conceal or deflect the projectile weapons long enough to get into close range combat where swords and shields will be more effective.

Guns will still have their place, like artillery or snipers for surprise attacks. Then their is the issue of level of magic and tech in general. If your talking about technology levels of middle ages and magic levels capped at something like your mid-level D&D wizard or something then the above would hold true.

If your tech level was something like our modern times and magic was something you would see of high level wizards then anything can happen then. You could have time traveling bullets which kill you in the past wiping out entire timelines or singularity devices capable of destroying everything in all dimensions, etc..

-ddn

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Quote:
Original post by lithos
I'm still convinced that "magic" would be used just like technology would, I doubt "natives" would even be able to tell the difference between science and tech or have any real reason to "need" to tell the difference. In the end to the "natives" it's just an application of skill, knowledge, and time.

Oh, I agree completely. In a realistic setting, the use of magic would be incorporated like any other technologies to everyday life, military campaigns and romance drama. I am merely pointing at the fact that magic is used, as a game design device, as a way to enhance a character in an exaggerate (and downright unfair) way. Usually the designers do not take into full account the way magic should completely change their universe.

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Quote:
Original post by ddn3
This is a similar question to another thread about would cyborgs of the future use swords and shields? Given a magically augmented human who could move faster than normal, tougher and stronger, would guns even magically enhanced ones be effective against them?

My guess is probably not, the same issue arises, magic will allow the attackers to evade, conceal or deflect the projectile weapons long enough to get into close range combat where swords and shields will be more effective.


That's just silly. You're saying that magic humans will be able to evade magically enhanced guns? Got any reason to guess that? You can't just make that kind of jugdements on magic which we (per definition?) know nothing about.


On topic:
First of all, why is swords/magic grouped together? Since magic does exactly what you the game designer wants it to do it can coexist with tech in any number of ways.

Swords are trickier since they are actually defined in the real world. What explanation you use really depends on what atmosphere you are looking for. Do you want swords to be a valid choice in an full scale war, so the 4th Melee Division can defeat the 1st Cavalry Division? Or put another way, how effective would you want a sword to be against a gun, regardless of restrictions, traditions, laws, etc.

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When your talking about magic anything goes you can argue either way, but i think the attacker has the advantage. Magic cloak completely hides you from your enemy allowing you to close the distance with ur enhanced speed or magic blink spell (like the Sorceress in Diablo) allows you to teleport into close combat melee range before anyone can even fire a shot, etc.. etc.. Anything goes but from what i see unless you allow super homing self aware bullets which can overcome all magical cloak, teleport and resistance spells, then their is the matter that the gun still has to he fired by the user which can be influenced by magic (magic blindness, magic smoke to cover, illusion spells, mind affect spells etc..), doesn't look good for the gun users.

I'm just using popular magic spells which have been used in movies, comics, games, etc.. If that isn't what magic is to most people then obviously we have no basis to even discuss how it would effect technology until that is determined.

-ddn

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For every spell a counter-spell can be introduced, like "detecting magic cloak". It's just a question if the designer wants it or not. The designer can then tweak which of these two spells are the easiest/cheapest depending on if cloaking is a major part of gameplay or not. So in the end magic is just a tool to introduce cool effects/atmosphere without having to deal with the suspension-of-disbelief issues that comes with technology. As others have already said.

But in your case, why can't the gunman be cloaked as well? Or teleport away from the angry swordsman? At the end of the day both characters should be able to do the same things, including mind spells, illusions and all that. Except that gunman can kill at a distance. Swordsguy can't. Unless they can kill using magic in which case their weapons are pretty irrelevant.

Though I suppose magic more often favor the swordsguy in movies and games and such as you say. I'm guessing it's for the same reason that there is no posts on how guns and swords can coexist realistically without everyone just using swords.. :)

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I agree every thing used by the attackers can be countered or used by the defender as well. It's more of initiative, which gives the attackers the edge. The defenders might not even know they are under attack until its too late.

In a realistic magic/tech world I suspect the tactics will boil down stealthy first strike strategy, similar to how sub warfare is fought. The weapons are so lethal (magic augmented acid poison armor piercing homing exploding bolts for instance) that whoever gets the first strike usually wins. So people will focus on stealth tech/magic like invisibility cloaks, teleportation, illusion etc.. Sneaking around with their one shot ultimate weapon looking for the backstab bonus.

-ddn

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