Sunday, 19 March 2017

Clarke's Third Law... Librarians Style

Clarke's Third Law is a popular trope amongst GMs particularly for those running Sci-Fi games and stems from this famous quote:

Arthur C Clarke
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
You've seen examples of this in the movies include:
  • Star Trek Into Darkens - When Kirk orders the Enterprise to move in order to save Spock, he breaks the prime directive by revealing the ship to the volcano worshipping Nibirans, who immediately begin worshipping the ship.
  • Star Wars - On seeing C3-P0 the primitive Ewoks believe him to be a physical manifestation of their long prophesied deity "The Golden One" and do his bidding.
  • Apocalypse Now - The primitive tribesmen are easily swayed by the imposing god-like Colonel Kurtz, and become followers of his own personal army/religion.
However, in the The Librarians episode "And the Rule of Three",  writers Paul Guyot and John Rogers  flipped the trope around, making a magic spell indistinguishable from a mobile phone app.

The central premise of the episode was that each time you played a wishing game on your phone you actually cast a wish fulfillment spell and were rewarded by things happening in the real world.  This instant gratification becomes addictive, just like Candy Crush or Angry Birds. 

A Conceptual U-Turn

This conceptual U-Turn opens up all sorts magical and supernatural possibilities for modern day games like Cthulhu Now, Shadowrun and The Laundry RPG which take place in our current technology obsessed world.  Even though we use these devices every day, very few of us really know how they operate, ie: at the machine code level, for all I know 4G might just be the fourth gate to Hell.  Is it a coincidence that the Steve Jobs chose "Apple" as the name for his company?

We put a lot of trust in our tech, we don't really want to know how it works, just that it does.  We are okay with that, our devices enrich our lives and make things easier (mostly). 

Our global IT Networks are central nervous system connecting us all together through our devices, much like the Ley Lines of myth, through nexus sites like Stone Henge.  Why wouldn't modern mages piggyback this global telecoms network in some way, harvesting energy from the unsuspecting masses, or feeding energy into it or even just piggybacking on the signal.

Arthur C Clarke - The Father of Global Telecomunications

Arthur C Clarke died on this day in 2008 at the ripe old age of 90.  Coincidentaly, Arthur C Clarke is most famous for inventing the concept of the geostationary orbit used by telecomunications satellites and underpins the whole shebang.  Is it a coincidence...

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