Technology Levels in the World of ChaonCompared to Earth, the world of Chaon has progressed in an unusual way where technology is concerned. The reason for this is simple in theory but monumentally complex in practice: magic has suffused nearly all aspects of life in Chaon. Since magic can break the rules of nature, technology progresses at a very uneven rate between different fields. Since magical power is often equally distributed between cultures and individuals, even very small and remote cultures can develop their own advanced technology if they need to solve a problem.
Before we continue, some important definitions apply to the Imythess setting.
- science/magic: These two concepts are hard to distinguish from each other in Imythess, since they both involve gaining an understanding of how the universe works. Some people use the terms interchangeably.
- arcane technology ("arcanotech"): An application of concepts in magic that provides a benefit to society or solves a problem.
- technology: An application of advanced knowledge that provides a benefit to society or solves a problem. Usually the term "technology," used with no other modifiers, refers specifically to non-magical technology unless context says otherwise.
- How much magic is in a given area? Some areas of Chaon are magic-rich, while others are relatively magic-poor. Areas that are rich in mana tend to be more technologically advanced, although this isn't always the case. For example, the continent of Imythess is mana-rich but not the most technologically advanced continent in the world (due to past isolationism).
- Is war encouraging rapid technological advancement? Countries that are at war for extended periods tend to improve their technology rapidly to support the war effort. This includes not only weapons and fortifications, but logistics such as producing more food or communicating more easily. Imythess' technology stagnated for a long time, but recently boomed due to the sudden escalation of conflicts and destabilization of the entire continent.
- Is there a need for the technology? Technology is developed to solve problems. If something isn't considered a problem, then nothing will be developed to address it.
It is possible that continents outside Imythess are more technologically advanced than them. In this case, we describe any advanced foreign technology we're aware of.
Imythess has never claimed, and will never claim, to be in any way "historically accurate" -- after all, there is nothing to be accurate to. Chaon is a fictional world that lacks a clear connection to the real world we live in. This gives us the freedom to indulge in a wide variety of anachronisms. At best, the setting is pseudo-medieval or just plain fantastical. Others have labeled us "dungeonpunk" or "mana-punk" or similar. But these don't quite fit either, since the technology that leads to these labels is distributed inconsistently in our setting. Whatever you decide to label us, know that we primarily care about having fun.
In addition, we'd like to briefly go on a tangent to discuss a vaguely related subject: social progression. Click the spoiler below (the green bar) to show a quick overview of the Imythess setting's general level of social progressiveness.
- [+] Spoiler
- Chaon is an entire fictional world, so these are not by any means hard and fast rules. However, there are some common trends that stretch across many different cultures and societies in the setting.
- Most cultures in the Imythess setting are native to the area in which they belong. A large number of these cultures are independent and self-governing, and always have been.
- Social inequality in the Imythess setting, where present, is usually based on faction, social class, religion, national origin, species, or similar.
- Morality in the Imythess setting is generally not based on an objective truth or inherent nature.
- Most characters in the Imythess setting do not believe that good and evil are absolutes. This is a grey sort of setting, morality-wise.
- Unlike some other fantasy settings, moral character is not considered to be intrinsically connected to species. For example, if a character in this setting claims that all dark elves are evil, people would think that person is a bigot rather than stating some kind of objective truth.
- It is common for people of all backgrounds to have the ability to hold positions of power and make decisions about their own lives.
- Communication - Movable Type, Metamana
- Daily Life - Musical Instruments
- Defensive Armaments - Super-Heavy Armor, Golemized Armor
- Infrastructure - Water Systems, Metallurgy, Construction
- Labor - Foundry System, Constructs/Automatons, Golems, Enkaida
- Magical Weaponry - Accelerators, Projectors
- Medicine - Germ Theory, Body Grafts, Alchemicals
- Non-Magical Weaponry - Blasting Powder, Rudimentary Firearms
- Transportation - Airships, Scorchliner Trains
Power comes to those who can communicate faster, more cheaply, and more effectively. In the written word, the setting of Imythess does indeed contain paper as a widely available technology.
The development of the non-magical or semi-magical technology to efficiently and cheaply mass-produce books on paper has led to tremendous increases in literacy in the setting. Printing and typography are legitimate pursuits in Imythess. Some areas of the setting still have the more outdated and less efficient form of printing on woodblocks, and a few scribes are still employed for extremely specialized pursuits or less technologically advanced societies.
Metamana is the magical transfer of information, usually voice, over long distances from a sender to a recipient. Different types of communication pieces, called simply "metamanas," are available but not widely used in the setting. They are still somewhat pricey, and militaries tend to avoid distributing their most advanced metamanas to civilians.
Most metamana information is auditory, so the sender speaks into their metamana piece and their voice is transmitted over a metamana wavelength to a recipient or recipients. Some wavelengths are more secure than others.
This technology does have its limitations. A metamana wavelength has to be set up by building a metamana tower or some similar structure, which can be destroyed or sabotaged. Metamanas generally don't work over extremely long distances, either.
Recently there have been attempts to combine scrying and illusion magic with metamana to produce visual metamanas. This would allow people in one area to actually see something happening in another location. This version of metamana is highly advanced and not widely available.
Most pre-modern Earth musical instruments exist. Modern musical instruments also exist, so long as they're not operated using electricity, batteries, or similar.
Notably, violins and acoustic guitars exist in the setting alongside much older but similar string instruments such as the lute.
Suits of armor made of an extremely protective metal such as adamantine and requiring great strength to use. Though once considered cutting-edge, super-heavy armors have fallen out of favor in recent years to golemized armors, but they are still in use in situations where simplicity is required. Super-heavy armors are generally based on adamantine, although pure suits have become a rarity when adamantine alloys are nearly as hard but considerably cheaper. Adamantine itself can only be sourced from a dozen mines on Imythess, most of which were owned by the Deep Cities or the fallen Dark Elven Empire. In this day, Balefire and the Ivory League have consistent access to adamantine. Super-heavy armors are however bulky and limit the wearer's freedom of moment considerably.
Istan and Rozanai both produce super-heavy armors, but they rely on advanced metallurgy to produce steel alloys tough enough to qualify, albeit their suits are heavier and usually require golemization.
This is a cutting-edge technology and can be very hard to get if you're not a notable member of a major military organization.
A golemized armor is one that is powered by a non-sentient elemental so that the armor supports its own weight, minimizing stress on the wearer. Super-heavy armors almost always form the basis of golemized armor, although Istan and the League are known to produce golemized medium armors. Golemized armor also almost always features its own internal air supply, temperature management and other features to allow the wearer to fight longer in any condition. These armors have made a considerable effect on warfare, permitting skilled soldiers to have nearly the same toughness as golems with combat skills that far exceed them.
Golemized armors are almost always bulkier than equivalent armors of the same weight class, albeit not considerably so. Most have backpack units to store their elemental that powers the suit, and although these units are armored they are considered a weakness of the design if the soldier is outflanked. Currently, all Imythessian nations employ golemized armors in some fashion, but their doctrinal use is generally limited by the nation's resource. Only the Deep Cities and Istan have the ability to field large enough numbers of golemized armors.
Extensive magical and mundane changes to water flows across the world allow water to be widely available in some societies. It is not especially uncommon for water to be available within or very close to the home. Some nicer locations have indoor plumbing, including sinks and baths that produce water indoors on demand. Mages can rig up their own indoor plumbing systems by setting up runes that expend mana to create and heat water.
However, many societies still do not have easy access to clean drinking water. Town wells are still a very common source of water for communities or neighborhoods.
Imythessian metallurgy is remarkably advanced for the time period, producing lightweight, strong and resilient alloys. It is only recently that this came about, as for a significant period of time most nations lacked the minerals required, the expertise and the requisite equipment. The strongest example of the new era is the Cascadian light alloy, an alloy formed of a metal that can only be drawn out of rocks with massive quantities of lightning, steel and several metals that for a long time could only be sourced from the Deep Cities. Modern metals have allowed Imythessians to build higher and even make exotic, difficult-to-produce weapons such as the rapier commonplace.
Architectural style varies wildly. Concrete is present in the Imythess setting as a potential building material.
Magical construction techniques allow for extremely rapid production of buildings. However, modern magical construction techniques produce buildings that only look good temporarily -- then they soon deteriorate to a more dilapidated state. Non-magical construction is slow but much more reliable in the long-term. Techniques are currently being developed to blend nonmagical and magical techniques to balance speed and resilience.
A foundry in the Imythess setting is a building that houses a large number of craftsmen. These craftsmen work together to produce goods as quickly as possible. The goods produced are generally cheaper and of lower quality than goods produced by a craftsman who runs their own practice.
Foundries are used most often in nations experiencing rapid technological and economic growth, such as Balefire. They are associated with civil unrest. Working conditions in a foundry are generally poor: long hours, hazardous conditions, and corporal punishment are all present to some extent in virtually every foundry.
A construct, sometimes called an automaton, is a non-sapient piece of arcane technology that uses magical programming to perform some kind of action or operate within a set of defined behaviors. Constructs can be made of anything from metal (small, interlacing metal pieces that perform a function are called mechaniks), to flesh, to plant material or anything else that can be magically programmed to do something.
In many cases, the construct receives its magical instructions through arcane etchings on its body. For example, a wooden construct might have its programming cut or burned into the inside surface of its hollow body.
For more information, view the full Golems lore article here.
A golem in the Imythess setting is a sapient, incorporeal entity that is using some kind of artificial body to interact with the corporeal world. An example of a traditional golem would be a set of armor plates that is occupied by, and moved using, the power of an elemental. This elemental has its own name, personality, and goals. Most golems are powered by elementals, but anything incorporeal can occupy a golem. A golem powered by the soul of a dead person is called a proscribed golem.
Since these are sapient creatures, they are usually paired with a handler: a partner who helps the golem and guides its work. However, many golems recently have forged their own lives without a handler necessary.
Golems are frightening combatants, but not especially common in most cases. They can take a truly huge amount of punishment before losing functionality, and they often lack an accurate conception of death.
This is a cutting-edge technology that is not widely available outside of the Ivory League faction yet.
An enkaida is a homunculus: an artificial creature made using advanced magical techniques. Specifically, enkaida are homunculi designed for a specific purpose, usually combat.
They often have an alien appearance. The earliest enkaida were an obvious combination of different types of animals, but recent creations are more unique in appearance. Some enkaida are highly intelligent and capable of spellcasting, but many common enkaida types possess a simple intelligence similar to that of a raven. Many of these "limited-intelligence" enkaida speak in a characteristically simple manner. Some enkaida require a handler or multiple handlers, similar to a golem.
Since enkaida can range so vastly in size, shape and level of intelligence, they can be found building structures, acting as guards, being part of living weapons and armor, carrying heavy weapons on the battlefield -- and anything inbetween. At the moment, the only faction that uses enkaida widely is the one that created them: the Ivory League. However, the League's ally Rozanai is interested in developing its own enkaida strains soon.
These special types of weapons are considered bleeding-edge technology. They are extremely deadly and generally unavailable to civilians or low-ranking military personnel.
An accelerator is an advanced type of heavy weapon that uses a magical pulse to propel a non-magical projectile to immense speeds. A specific type of accelerator that shoots spherical projectiles is sometimes called a mana cannon to distinguish it from all the other forms of ammunition used in these weapons. Common projectile shapes include metal rods; chakrams; spears or harpoons; spiked spheres; lengths of chain; and exploding packets of smaller projectiles such as flechettes (steel darts) and caltrops.
Although accelerators themselves are cutting-edge, researchers are scrambling to adapt the technology for use with magical and alchemical ammunition to increase the weapon's already-high lethality.
A projector is an advanced type of heavy weapon that charges up, condenses and then shoots a destructive beam of magical energy without any direct input from a mage necessary. Projectors come in many different elemental flavors, but they all have the ability to create massive carnage on the battlefield. The pattern that a projector beam creates can be modified to some extent.
It is widely understood in technologically advanced societies that non-magical disease is caused by pathogens that are too small to see with the naked eye. Medical professionals know that washing your hands and wearing clean clothing are important parts of giving effective medical care.
Some societies and individuals still believe that disease is caused by "bad air" or noxious miasma.
Advanced magic and medicine allows body parts to be added or replaced. These parts are called grafts. Grafts can be made of all kinds of materials, from metal to flesh to plant material and more. (The delicate moving parts in a metal graft are called mechaniks). Body parts harvested from one individual, living or dead, can then be transported and applied to a different individual -- but this practice is heavily regulated by Imythessian governments, and some parts are only available on the black market.
Graft quality ranges from back-alley chop doctors and hedge witches to small-time grafting mechanics and even to high-end royal surgeons who create grafts that are like works of art.
Grafting has great implications for medicine, but in some cases it can also be a status symbol, a pragmatic tool, or a personal upgrade.
In some cases, individuals must contend with their own bodies rejecting a new graft. Humans in general tend to deal with this problem less than other species.
Alchemy, the expression of magic in physical substances, is a booming industry in the setting. The creation of potions, explosives and other concoctions has huge implications for other institutions including medicine, military, and construction, to name a few.
Also known as black powder, this explosive compound is magically inert -- not anti-magical, just incapable of accepting any kind of enchantments. Although black powder has been around since ancient times, used in some specialized situations such as mining in the Deep Cities or fireworks in the Astendan Islands, a resurgence of interest in the substance is beginning to stir. However, this resurgence faces huge opposition from proponents of magical technology, who consider it a dead end and more work than it's worth. Blasting powder becomes useless when wet and requires more careful storing conditions than many magical compounds.
A weapon that uses blasting powder -- such as a bomb, cannon or firearm -- is called a blackfire weapon in general. These types of weapons are known for their magically inert properties and can be very effective when used well, but also have a reputation for being dirty, smelly and unreliable weapons. They are generally associated with merchants, pirates and common folk. Arcanotechnology is usually considered more advanced and refined than blackfire.
This is a brand-new technology that is not widespread in the setting yet. No major militaries have gotten their hands on them yet.
A firearm is a non-magical weapon that propels a small metal ball down a barrel at immense speeds using a controlled blasting powder explosion. At close range, this weapon has huge armor penetration capabilities (and killing ability in general) without any magic necessary whatsoever.
Firearms in the world of Chaon are very primitive and in many cases are outperformed by more traditional projectile weapons like bows and crossbows. (A skilled archer with a high-quality bow would likely destroy a musketeer in a fight, at this point in time). Reloading these muzzle-loading weapons takes a long time and can be dangerous in the hands of someone poorly trained.
Although deadly when they do hit, firearms have poor range and accuracy. Still, this technology's magical inertness is of great interest to some. The few who are aware of their existence also know that firearms have proven extremely effective in fights against magical beasts.
Guns are so new to the setting that the average person on the street would not be able to recognize one and likely had never even heard of them before.
For more information, view the full article on airships here.
An airship is a vessel designed to fly through the air rather than sail over the surface (or under the surface) of the water. They come in a huge variety of designs and are in common use by almost every major nationstate in the setting. Airship docking towers, called aeries, are located in every major city in the continent and many minor ones as well. Airship travel is faster than water or ground transportation, but is costlier and has to consider weight more than other methods.
A scorchliner (also called a scorchliner train, a liner or just a train) is a new form of ground transportation that uses huge amounts of magical power to levitate large objects along a track called a scorchline. These objects, which range in shape and size, are often lashed together into long trains to increase the amount of cargo levitated at one time. Levitating an object along a scorchline is slower than using an airship or water-ship, but faster than a horse-drawn wagon, allowing for the movement of people and goods in huge amounts. Most scorchliner cabs are rectangular or spherical.
The actual scorchline or track consists of a long, shallow ditch -- scorched black with magic, hence the name -- which is then lined with mana spikes that channel ambient magical energy. This pulls the scorchliner along while keeping it floating a few feet above the scorchway.
First pioneered by a partnership between Balefire and Cascadia, the first scorchline station opened up in central Balefire City and connected their city center to the outskirts of Richimon Lake. Another major scorchway connects Balefire to the Striberg coast, cutting through disputed territory in Norwood. Other scorchways are currently being built, but none are complete.