Worldbuilding: Magitech

So, I’ve had an idea running through my head the last few days that has refused to let go, mostly for a setting. I’ve written down the basics, but I can’t help but keep thinking about it, so I thought I’d share.

This idea is inspired by several very different games, movies, and series. Grand Central Arena by Ryk Spoor, Spelljammer, the Starfinder RPG, and Treasure Planet. I’ll go over the basic concepts of some of them, for those who may not be familiar.

Grand Central Arena is a weird series where when humanity attempts to enter hyperspace, they end up in a pocket universe where there’s a megastructure light-years across that functions as a massive arena for different races to compete. The part of this that’s inspiration for me is that around the outside of the Arena is an eternal sky with cloud formations and other weather larger than star systems, and which is breathable. I found the mental image beautiful and fascinating.

Spelljammer is an old Dungeons & Dragons setting, where people would use enchanted ships (or mountains, in the case of dwarves) to travel between star systems in a strange in-between space. This had a lot of ridiculous aspects, such as the Giant Space Hamsters, the Spelljammer itself (a gigantic manta ray with a castle on its back that functioned as a ‘ship’ of sorts) and dozens of other weird things. I never played it, but there were a couple of novels, and a few of the ideas intrigue me.

The Starfinder RPG doesn’t come out for a few months yet, but it’s a Science-Fantasy setting by Paizo Publishing, who produces the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game (which I favor for my own games). Its core idea is that even in a fantasy world technology eventually develops to the point you have starships, plasma rifles, and the various usual bits of technology. Except that in this case, you may slap an energy cartridge imbued with the power of your god into your Holy Flamethrower. It’s crazy, but I find the basic concept fun. Yes, I’ll be buying it when it comes out, though I don’t care for the core setting of the game.

Treasure Planet is an older movie, which I only vaguely remember. It’s based on Treasure Island, of course, but I found it awesome in that while the ship the characters used looked like a classic ship, it involved a strange sort of space travel, and the black hole was neat. This meshes with the ideas from Grand Central Arena for me, creating some of my current psychosis.

So, what do we get when I throw all of these concepts into a blender and let them bounce around for a few days? We get what I’m calling the Deep Sky.

In this universe, planets still exist and exert gravity, but there is no end to the atmosphere, and people can breathe just about anywhere in the universe (of course there’ll be pockets of unbreatheable gases, but that figures). Stars are much smaller and closer to any planets, but also are still effectively their usual destructive selves. Forming a ‘ley line network’ across the universe are what I call the Light Rivers, essentially conduits of brilliant mana that cross the stars, allowing ships with the proper sails to rapidly travel from one star system to the next, without the need for gates (these exist, think Stargate). Where stars and the Light Rivers aren’t is the Deep Sky, where things grow, well, dark. Dead stars, forgotten planets, and shadowy things lurk here, many of which hate the light.

Furthermore, this is a setting where magic has replaced technology. Instead of elevators, you have levitation platforms. Golems and constructs replace robots. Instead of guns we have mana-powered fire/lightning weapons, or more esoteric energies as well. Ships are much like starships, mostly because having a solid metal shell between you and drifting until you starve to death (or between you and enemy attacks) is just good sense. Does some technology exist? Of course it would! But not on the same scale as in our world, or in a regular sci-fi universe. In this universe you might have a world that was shattered, but on which still live the inhabitants, always wary of a rogue continent crashing into their own, or a mage who built their castle on a floating asteroid.

I find all of this a neat concept. I may never use it, but it was in my head, and wouldn’t leave. Hopefully this helps get it out of my brain for a while.

6 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: Magitech

  1. The physics of a world with planetary gravity but breathable​ air everywhere make my head hurt.


  2. And smaller stars that are closer together. I don’t want to know what that’d do to planets.

    I’d probably just say that along those magical lines between stars people travel so much faster distances can stay the same. Not sure about the breathable gases, but if magic is a go, why can’t they travel around in some type magical bubbles? No need to change physics so much.

    I’m kinda thinking Alexis Carew-esque; where ships enter “darkspace” to go between systems. Technology doesn’t work in darkspace (only encased in special metal), so they effectively “sail” their starships manually, you know, with people climbing around the hull, hoisting the sails etc. Now that’s a “scifi” thing, no magic (even if the science is very weird) so outside the ship hull people have to wear space suits, but I guess in a magic setting the same could happen with people being able to walk outside due to magic.


  3. Oh, the entire thing is intended to be pure fantasy. I read the first two Alexis Carew books (third one didn’t hook me), and it was interesting as well.

    As to why breatheable gases? I don’t see why not. While I mention planets, I didn’t really bother explaining gravity or the like. This is supposed to be completely and utterly insane (sort of like another setting I thought up ages ago, where people lived inside a massive megastructure of tunnels surrounded by… well, there was literally nothing around the structure, so they were confined to the infinitely branching tunnels).

    I don’t know if I’ll ever write it, mind, but it’s a fun thought experiment.


  4. Also, just since I didn’t specify. While the idea was bouncing around my head, it has not actually kept me from reaching my daily writing goal. Halls of Power is still going according to plan.


  5. Heh. It kinda took me until the third book to get used to the setting in A.C. I don’t really mean the sailing through space thing, but just the contrived explanations for way there would be such rampant sexism out there and how the military is run. Didn’t make much sense in a technological society to me. But once I got over that I quite enjoyed it, and the end of the third one was nicely tense (although yeah, the rest maybe not so much). Still, I have a soft spot for the series (admittedly this has a lot to do with that there just plain isn’t all that much good military scifi with female heroines).


  6. Agreed on the lack of many good heroines in military sci-fi. I’ve read a few… but most seem to fall flat for me. I’ve thought about picking up Kindle Unlimited to research what other authors are doing, but I’m too focused on my own projects nowadays. Maybe after I come up for air post-Halls of Power.

    I also know I can’t write military sci-fi (not without a lot more research than I’m willing to do), so anything I do will be done to the best of my layman’s knowledge. It’s something I’ve thought about, though.


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