In the alternate Fading Suns I've been brewing I was inspired by the TTC lecture about Einstein and the G+ Mad Science Circles I follow. So its no surprise I got to thinking about Nano-Tech, Bio-engineering and Materials that Defy Physics as we know it.
Sufficient Technology is so marvelous as to be considered Magic/Psionics.
In this setting, there was a purpose to making something that appeared like magic as we envision it: To create Technology that is discrete, inherent, and outside the Technology infrastructure pyramid.
The primary role of the technology is survival in the greatest extremes. It allows human to manipulate their bodies to survive the many hostile worlds they cannot otherwise colonize. In the worse case scenario, it allows humans to rebuild when cut off from the rest of humanity and technology. So before the technology could be spread and perfected the fall came.
Now there is Magic and Psionics, but lets look at it technologically:
Before "magery" there was Nano-Tech Cybernetics. This was the highest form of nano-technology, but still conservation of matter had to be followed and this required special materials to maintain. The nanites had to be "cultured" and designed. These were even more discrete compared to micro-machine and micro electronics and circuitry of mature TL10 cybernetics but this needed even a much more sophisticated infrastructure base to maintain the technology.
Lets now move to what is "Magery".
magery evolved from the need of the technology to exist outside the Infrastructure pyramid. It needs to be very permanent or self sustaining, to a level of degree not possible with even with the most advanced materials. The kind of nano-tech materials that composed magery are the kind that the annoying property of defying predictibility. Materials that were still barely graspable by TL11 quantum theory.
This gave the technology a kind of undetectability in all but TL11 tech. This stealth was a side effect of the existence-complexity of the material. This also made the technology unaffected by A TON of factors like sophisticated problems: all sorts of radiations and energies. The sorts of problems all the lower TLs faced and compensated through shielding and heavier builds and parts. So the technology was almost "indestructible" and highly reliable.
Unfortunately this is something passed on and finite (depending on the supply of raw materials). Mages were made, similar to the process of nano-tech cybernetics. It required a very sophisticated industrial base to make mages. The Stellar Church had the best of these, they had the most resources to make mages because as a Church, they had lands in ALL the worlds and fiefs, and their own trade network to pool the ultra rare materials. Of course not at the level of efficiency a real market and economy of a multi-state stellar trade network can create.
Magery was essentially a computer system with modular tools that can be created within the human body. It took advantage of evolutionary wastefullness of the human body: waste heat, chemicals, ions charges etc... powered these tools. A mage had the power to create radio communication tool within the human body, of course this is the most simplest of its incarnations and uses. Mages can easily create EMP effects to protect themselves from technology.
To manipulate these tools, Mages used TL11 mnemonics. Imagine the songs that allowed you to memorize tons of lyrics, or how we sing the alphabet to children so that they can memorize it. Now imagine mnemonics that allowed a human mind to store terrabytes of code in the form of Spells. these spells are not rigid, but can be modified the way a Skald could tell the same story a thousand ways to create a thousand different effects or a Jazz player can play the same song a thousand different ways. Thats what spells are: super mnemonics.
Magery was powerful, but it was not easily transmittable. The scientists of the republic wanted their children to be completely able to fend for themselves and thrive even in the most adverse conditions. Lets say the apocalypse came and the Terraformers all went broke, the Republic Scientists wanted to be sure their children had a fighting chance against that. Even if it would take multiple generations, they would survive even in the scarcest of technology... enter: Psionics and the rational why only the Great Houses have these.
Psion and Scions
Before the tech was perfected and spread through out humanity, the fall came. The people who had access to it, were the first to climb out of the dark age... but since these were few, human self interest took over and power centralized and coalesced to these few groups: the Great Houses.
Psionics is magery with less programming. It doesn't take enormous amount of resources to create a Psion... BUT psionics is now a weapon: and the Great Houses are in a Psionic Arms race. Ironically, the houses need each other to produce Psions (this is where arranged marriages and blood lines come in). Unfortunately another complexity is that The Great houses are dealing with materials that are highly unpredictable, Quantum elements in the genetics of the Scions/Psions of each great house.
You cannot breed Psions reliably. Strangely even bastards can become very powerful Psions. Forget restoring Humanity to its hayday and bring about peace and equality: its an Arms race and War. (Psionics is TL12).
In the world envisioned by the TL12 humanity, humans can live almost everywhere. They can shapeshift and retain their sentience despite material barriers of gass giants, space clouds/storms, or on the surface of molten or frozen worlds. Through psionics, humanity had the ability to have a part of them indestructible to many of these physical limits found in the galaxy.
Artifacts and Relics.
These serve as Power supply, Augmentations, and added resources for Mages and Psions. Unfortunately, they are rare. Radioactives are not that rare if you look at the Solar System and relative to the amount humans want to consume. Diamonds are not rare if you consider the Galaxy and that Pulsars have a Diamond Planet orbiting it
. The rareity of the materials used for Psionics and Magery, is the kind that allows a galaxy of trillions of humans, a few hundred have trace amounts of these.
Psions and Mages cannot draw energy any other way except through Artifacts and Relics. The properties that make magic and psi indestructible and other-world worldly are also the same properties that prevent it from handling common mediums of energy like electricity and radiation directly.
So a Prince and Titled Nobles of a House, will have with them artifacts that allow them to access the powersupply of their suits to create special effects: gravitic, radioactive, and electromagnetic effects.
Cybernetics Vs Psions and Mages.
Cybernetics, even nano-tech level suffer the weaknesses of Tech lower than TL11. As I've mentioned that many kinds of radiation and limitations can disrupt Cybernetics. I'm not saying Cybertech is fragile, its just that there are trade offs to the amount of shielding and protection, Cybernetics and regular hardware can take in.
Its easier to make very powerful Cybernetics, but the trade off is their weaknesses and it is easy to measure technological power. Psionics and mages are wild cards.
Typical uses of Psionics and Magery
Why use a Fireball when a grenade will do the job cheaper. The one thing Psionics and Magery is used extensively is body manipulation and augmentation. Princes have Powered Armor and Suits, you can only push these materials as far as their human body can go. So what they do is they create augmented skeletal, muscular, neural and cogntive systems.
So Mages and Psions are superhuman in speed and strength. With technology, they are incredibly powerful, indestructible and appearing omniscient. In game terms, they don't suffer much of the cognitive limitations regular people have in the fast pace of combat and emergencies.
A little Excerpt about Knights
I mentioned that Knights ran Strongholds. These Strongholds had populations of commonly within the range of 90,000 to 130,000. They provided about a battalion (3,000) worth manpower of about 2-4 years of service. Sometimes these were a mixed force. They had ATVs, APCs, and sometimes Ultra-light aircraft etc... Wealthier Strongholds provided Tanks, Artillery, Air Support Craft. Since many of the worlds they warred in were very inhospitable, land dreadnaughts were common mobile HQ for every knight, with their sizes ranging those that can house a few platoon and a few APCs and ATVs, while other can house the whole battalion.
Ideally there should be a Stronghold building spreadsheet. Allows a GM to build "Vaults" (in reference to Fallout) in the manner one can build Manors in Harn Manor.
Through fealty, Knights gain:
- Valuable Tech, supplies, trade network among other knights of the same house, alliances and aid.
- Fostering (TL9 education)
- The power and influence to maintain his absolute control over his Stronghold.