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Any technology sufficiently advanced...

Clark Timmins
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Publius Quinctilius Varus. He won many battles before marching his legions through muddy forest trails with wet bowstrings and waterlogged shields. Before the Battle of Teutoburg Forest was over he'd taken his own life rather than face the shame of defeat, capture, and torture. Bowstrings made of sinew were the height of ranged technology. They just wouldn't work when they got wet. German spears worked wet or dry.

Guy of Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, took his army to the Horns of Hattin to face Saladin. Face Saladin he did. Saladin had caravan of camels bringing goatskins of water from the Sea of Galilee. Guy of Lusignan had 20,000 men and 1,200 knights with nothing to drink. Soon enough he had 1,200 knights without their heads. I imagine he pondered water quite often during the subsequent year of his imprisonment as the non-King.

Babur Badishah had just 12,000 Mughals in his forces. Against him Ibrahim Lodi arrayed some 100,000 men and 100 war elephants. Babur selected his ground carefully, forcing Lodi to attack on a narrow front. But Babur really sealed the deal by bringing guns to Lodi's knife fight. Babur's cannons stampeded the war elephants back through Lodi's forces; Babur's muskets mowed down Lodi's forces and Lodi himself. Lodi dynasty out; Mughal dynasty in.

Envar Pasha devised an inordinately complex plan of mobile battle to crush Nikolai Yudenich's army. Pasha's forces outnumbered Yudenich's forces by at least 3:1 so it should have been a cinch. But Pasha split his forces up into numerous little groups and sent them away on circuitous marches through the Allahuekber Mountains with complicated movement deadlines. Without coats. In December. The few frozen survivors did make a valiant bayonet attack against the Russians, who'd been sitting warmly in Sarikamish. But the battle was over before it even got started. Pasha's 90,000 dead and 50,000 captured bear testimony to the power of cold.

Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. Man of legend. He won many battles (forget that he lost all three major campaigns). An enthusiastic early supporter of Hitler, he eventually was implicated in defeatism (forget that he rejected the conspirators). His negotiated suicide seemingly clears him of Nazi wrongdoing (forget he was a Nazi with a State funeral). His biggest deficiency as a commander was a seeming blind spot for logistics and supply. He mastered the mobile use of tanks and mechanized infantry, but never could keep them fueled.

I suspect that when considering Super Technology and Magic the obvious thought that comes to mind is Clarke's third law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." But for me that's boring. Yes, Numenera's billion-year fusion of magic and tech into one and the same thing is cool. But to me there's an even cooler fusion of technology and magic. A sort of magical plug in a technological leaking bucket, if you will. Let's look at Varus in the Teutoburg Forest . He made lots of really stupid mistakes. But when it came down to the German units attacking the Roman units, it came down to spears against bows. Almost always, bows are going to win that situation. But it was wet and raining. Varus' bowstrings were made of sinew - the super technology of the day. Sinew bowstrings don't work when they get wet. If Varus had been able to "magically" keep his bowstrings dry the Romans might have had a fighting chance. If Guy of Lusignan had several "Decanters of Endless Water" he might have died as a King. If Lodi had been able to silence Babur's cannons, he might have won the battle. If Pasha had just kept his men warm. If Rommel had just kept his tanks fueled. I think it's more interesting to look at magic fusing with technology as a solution to a limited technology problem than as a wholesale replacement of technology.

Throughout history there have been numerous interesting technologies that would have been great "except for" one little thing. Along comes magic and provides that one little thing. Now you have a successful technology. For thousands of years, all mills were located by waterways. The flowing water spun the waterwheel that spun the shaft that worked the mill (except windmills where the wind did it). But without a waterway or perpetual winds, there were no mills. Without mills, the land remained essentially wilderness. Take some "perpetual motion machine" like a magical golem or even a lowly zombie and hook them up to a crankshaft. You've just brought a mill away from water and wind. Put a Decanter of Endless Water in the desert and you've just built a city. Figure out how to put a harness onto a water elemental and you've just replaced the steamship.

In today's world, the automobile is pretty high tech. But no matter how cool the automobile, it still stops for gas every couple days. If you can have a Decanter of Endless Water, surely you can have a Decanter of Endless Gasoline. That'd be exciting. The world's militaries all use machine guns with various complicated belt feed systems to supply (nearly) endless ammunition. If you could just invent a Magazine of Endless Ammunition I'm pretty sure you'd be a billionaire. All of the complicated robots and shielding at nuclear power plants are the height of technology. I suspect a Clay Golem inside a Sphere of Force would be a better solution. In these examples, magic does not replace technology - it augments technology. It takes the "weak point" of an otherwise nearly perfect technology and replaces it with magic. It's not indistinguishable, though - it's magic because it's definitively not sufficiently advanced technology. And it's not the billion-year-blend into the same thing. It's clearly and obviously magic that's used to support technology.
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