An Issue in 'Realistic' Fantasy Stories

Discussion in 'Author Discussions' started by Scholar of Eclipse, Mar 8, 2021.

  1. Scholar of Eclipse

    Scholar of Eclipse Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2020
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    9
    Reading List:
    Link
    For some reason, I recently had the urge to say something about this problem that i've encountered in reading fantasy stories that are supposed to be realistic when it comes to life, death, power system and injury, and that is the fact that it isn't realistic at all.

    Why?

    Well, let me give you a few examples.

    A red-haired man conjures fire magic and morphs it into a colossal fireball, extracting all of his mana as he charges it at you. Yet, somehow you dodge it or counter it with ease, not feeling suffocated or burning from the heat at all, and you're supposed to be a mage with barely any defense. Is that realistic?

    No.

    I'm telling you this because I'd like these types of stories to improve, unless they have some sort of explanation or the mage specializes in 'body enhancement' or has some evolved body.

    I'll give you a few more examples.

    A group of haughty mages gritting their teeth as they channel a tsunami, commanding it to crash on you and the rest of the imaginary army. Although you summon a shield spell, you should still shiver at the cold temperature or if you drown in it for a brief moment, at least show the character gasping for breath. The same goes for ice magic when it comes to the temperature part.

    Lightning magic too, the character should be completely paralyzed, unable to move or think while being in extreme pain or something since most of the time it's supposed to be really powerful in most novels.

    Others might call it nit-picky of me, but hey, i'd like to see it once in the novels I read. I just thought that it'd be way more interesting than the usual fantasy, since the magic society in your world could be completely adjusted.
     
  2. Superioreos

    Superioreos Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2016
    Messages:
    273
    Likes Received:
    305
    Reading List:
    Link
    I think it depends whether there is conjuration or manipulation. If you block a wave of water that was conjured (therefore the water is made of magic) with a magic barrier, I could see how there might be a negation of the other characteristics of the water. But of you manipulated a pool to make the wave, then merely blocking or canceling the magic would not be sufficient.

    Mahouka koukou no rettousei is a good example of manipulation. Often times magicians will still be affected by the cancellation or blocking of magic. For example: cancelling a compressed air bullet can cause it to suddenly expand and knock people over or hurt them. There are many examples in the series of attackers using magic in ways that take into account how their spells will be cancelled or blocked so they can still hurt the opponent. Similarly, defenders need to defend in multiple ways to protect themselves from all the other effects.
     
  3. Greater thunder

    Greater thunder Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2018
    Messages:
    854
    Likes Received:
    601
    Reading List:
    Link
    I don't see why this should be a problem. I mean, even Fire Emblem (old, GBA based ones) had a difference between Resistance- Magical defense
    and Defense- Physical defense

    So a unit could be weak to either physical or magical offense directed at it, strong against both ( very good level up stat gains) but have some other weakness ( low HP, super slow, easy to get critic killed or some other weakness), or weak against everything ( weak units like the infamously weakest Lord in all Fire Emblem history, Roy).

    From the attacking point of view there is also the matter of is the mage attacking with natural properties element or with a spell that merely mimics the properties but is loaded with exotic properties ( like healing flames, mass of decay,.....)? An attack may even be lacking in that it looks like a fireball, burns the hit target like that, but surroundings have no excess escaped heat and the flame won't spread even if there is stuff like alcohol puddle around the victim.

    Because when a xianxia says a certain technique lets you throw lightning, but all beings fear xianxia world natural lightning, I am thinking the one thrown by the human is inferior to whatever nature cooked up when an enemy can defy the manmade one and still fears the natural one. Or reverse. The natural phenomenon being nowhere as potent as an Immortal's casually cast lightning bolt.
     
  4. FranckOA

    FranckOA Killer Klown From Outer Space

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2016
    Messages:
    1,124
    Likes Received:
    1,463
    Reading List:
    Link
    I read a story where this kind of situations were justified by the magic system itself : what is created with magic is not completely real so if the mage casting a fireball doesn't know that fire consume oxygen or doesn't think about it while casting a fireball then there will be no such effect for their spell.
    And the closer the imagined spell was from following the rules of physics/nature the less exepensive it was in mana and the less anti-magic mesure were effective against it, but it became weak again normal mesures like snuffing out fire with a blanket, etc...
    So if you want to create a wall of fire that won't be put out with a simple fire extinguisher, you have to avoid thinking too hard about actual fire properties when you cast it.
     
  5. Cass UwU

    Cass UwU Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2019
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    11
    Reading List:
    Link
    I think that unrealistic part of fantasy novels are a good thing to some extent... I just can't put my finger on it but imagine in the 1st scenario, how do you win against gigantic fire ball? You can go with your route and add something to your skill set (magic shield etc etc) but that in itself makes a problem, at least in my eyes. Wayyy too many unexplained spells which I see as a bad thing if you are going hyper realistic you can't just say "well mate, you know, it's a... mana, yes mana... he just does it" I personally dont find that a satisfying answer to the question how does he do it... But putting that issue aside, I think that over time you will run into a lot of plot holes if spells keep on coming without restrictions, although I completely agree with your view on temperature and lighting parts, however it is truly hard to make hyper realistic novels... Just think of the explaining you would have to do if you wanted to make your character as if they have no plot armor at all and are just like avarage people in that world you have set up... However I'd love to see it and your explanation does make sense
     
  6. ToastedRossi

    ToastedRossi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2017
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    2,308
    Reading List:
    Link
    I think the OP is wrong. These magical attacks may look like natural phenomena, but they don't have to have the same properties. They're specifically magical and are usually depicted to work differently than the regular version.

    The obvious example here is lightning bolts. These are shown to work like some sort of fantasy laser beam. But the way regular lightning works is that it will seek out the closest ground (it'd usually be the caster), hit that, and go straight into the earth. That's boring though, so it's more entertaining if magical lightning worked like death rays instead.
     
    Greater thunder likes this.
  7. Darius Drake

    Darius Drake A poster of verbose posts

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2017
    Messages:
    914
    Likes Received:
    435
    Reading List:
    Link
    This complaint is akin to one of the characters on a video I saw about D&D Player Stereotypes. Namely, the "Overly Literal" character, who, after trying to get his Gnome to push a boulder and being informed by the DM that he succeeded, has a rant about how small Gnomes are, how heavy boulders are, and thus how trying to push the boulder should have made the Gnome a paraplegic. Basically, it's complaining about the world while ignoring the fact that magic is part of the world, and thus it doesn't conform to our world's physics.

    I'm going to be complaining from my perception of general fantasy fiction. I don't pay enough attention to whether or not a story considers itself "realistic fantasy" to comment specifically on that detail.

    Using your Fireball example, what evidence is there that magical fire consumes air, or even directly heats up the air around it? I've seen stories where Magical Fire is supposed to run on Mana, and only drains air from the environment if the person is too exhausted to properly maintain it. And that's ignoring the stories where, spoken or unspoken, everyone and everything has at least some inherent protection against magic utilised against them. It's even reasonable that people would instinctively increase their magical defences if a ball of fire was flying towards them, regardless of their intentions, because fire is just that threatening.

    Ice and Cold, meanwhile, aren't in anyway as inherently threatening. Almost everyone's scared of being burnt by fire, but how many people are scared of a cold winter's morning, especially in places where it snows? Even ignoring that, compared to the previous fire example, in this one you're actually getting the MC hit with the probably manifested water, even if it's only through the defensive spell they created (though, the way you worded it, it's more likely that they only diverted the initial surge and was then under the cold water when they either had to drop their shield, or it passed around their shield to cover them.

    Magical Lightning is usually utilised as an attack that comes without warning and hits fairly hard, sure. But nothing really talks about all the heat real lightning generates, so why are you complaining about the half-second bolt of Lightning not causing people to be paralysed in pain instead of them not being burnt to a crisp by the heat generated by the electricity travelling through the air? Hell, ignore that, part of the reason why our bodies react so badly to electricity is because they utilise it to control itself. Why are you assuming that this is still true in worlds where magic is real and can easily replace electricity in how our bodies function? Many of these stories even make lightning cause explosions when they hit, albeit usually small ones. The threat of Lightning Magic is usually in it's sheer speed-to-power, it hits about as hard as a small fireball, but you can easily hit three times with Lightning Magic in the same time as you may hit once with Fire Magic.

    You didn't even complain about people using fire magic to light up underground passages while trapped underground and never having to worry about being able to breathe, despite complaining about other fire-oxygen related issues.
     
    AliceShiki likes this.
  8. Scholar of Eclipse

    Scholar of Eclipse Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2020
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    9
    Reading List:
    Link
    Actually, I wasn't really 'complaining,' I just thought that it was an interesting idea and shared it here (though maybe I shouldn't have called it an 'issue.') And I was sort of giving off random examples I thought of in the spur of the moment.
     
  9. Greater thunder

    Greater thunder Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2018
    Messages:
    854
    Likes Received:
    601
    Reading List:
    Link
    There are some that handle it okay though.

    DxD had researchers who concluded physical toughness = magical resistance. There wasn't any reason to suspect otherwise given all mages dump their magic into throwing elemental attacks after they already used teleport, barrier, some meat shield summon or ritual they were capable of to tilt things in their favour.

    So the Magical defense was also Regular Defense. It also handwaves away the consequences your rant was about. Most times, magic only wrecks their clothes and inflicting physical harm is as expected from normal people and signifies the MOFO who threw it is serious business. Also, the surrounding terrain gets obliterated which is the reason why barrier use and repair magic are widespread tools to keep up masquerade.
     
  10. LinXueLian

    LinXueLian Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2021
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    74
    Reading List:
    Link
    Ehhhh. Realism in fantasy is highly subjective though - it really depends on what's written, how it's written and how it fits into the context of that particular world.

    Being singed by a fireball flying by or feeling a great chill are for the most part additional details - they're minute details at that. Peppering them in I can get behind, but add a little too much of that sort of thing and you'll end up jarring your audience right out or it'll make the work feel too heavy and cumbersome.

    I believe most writers skip them for audience retention purposes. We don't necessarily need to describe everything to the T. Our readers aren't dumb or unimaginative enough to need everything spelled out for them.
     
    AliceShiki and Feng Tian like this.
  11. Feng Tian

    Feng Tian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2018
    Messages:
    896
    Likes Received:
    743
    Reading List:
    Link
    Air is a pretty shitty thermal conductor. Its how blankets work, and most building insulations. The character should feel next to nothing trough his clothing (which is hopefully some form of armour). And yes, it really depends on the magic system, the type of spell, the authors style and the novel in general.
     
  12. LinXueLian

    LinXueLian Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2021
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    74
    Reading List:
    Link
    If you're writing Wuxia, you don't even need clothing to protect you. You can actually wrap a layer of qi around yourself if your cultivation is high enough, lol

    NOT that I'd recommend running around naked while carrying a sword.......... OH WAIT. I may have just created a new perverted hero....
     
  13. Darius Drake

    Darius Drake A poster of verbose posts

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2017
    Messages:
    914
    Likes Received:
    435
    Reading List:
    Link
    Yeah, but that should be universal for both Heat and Cold, and it's not. Admittedly, the OP just made up examples rather than taking them from an actual written work, but let's say that a character dodges a fireball, and later dodges an ice spell. When dodging the fireball, nothing would be mentioned about the heat of the flames, but when dodging the ice spell, the chill of the ice would likely be mentioned as "lingering in the air". I suspect this because I've seen the lingering cooling effects of the ice spells specifically mentioned significantly more times than I have the lingering heating effects of fire spells, or, probably, even the side effect of setting things like dry wood on fire.

    Now, LinXueLian was right in the fact that most authors just skip over details like that, due to the fact that mentioning "the fireball shot down the street landed on the dirt and didn't ignite anything" would merely elongate and harm the work as a whole. Doesn't change the fact that numerous stories have Fire Mages casting spells in areas with lots of dry wood and exposed cloth and nothing, ever, catches on fire, despite the fact that it has been shown that fire spells can ignite things, which is what the OP was talking about.

    Also, if you're close enough to a blazing fire, you'll feel it, even if it just started, and most stories have people dodge mere centimetres from what they're dodging. At most a few inches, so less than 8 centimetres.
    Someone similar has already been created: The Streaker is an Historical Speedster from the Magellan Universe of Superheros. He claimed that his nudity made him faster, and ran while only wearing one of those tiny Super-hero Eye-Mask Things. He might have worn shoes in some comic pages, but in the one main-story comic he showed up in, which was more of a history lesson in which he's mentioned, he wasn't even wearing those.
     
  14. ToastedRossi

    ToastedRossi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2017
    Messages:
    2,554
    Likes Received:
    2,308
    Reading List:
    Link
    This probably is because of the different ways these attacks are perceived. Ice attacks are all about coldness whereas the perception of fireballs is as just another form of damage. This perception may be incorrect, but it's all about how we compartmentalize information. It's similar to how nobody ever associates lightning attacks with heat even though it produces incredibly amounts of heat.
     
  15. Feng Tian

    Feng Tian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2018
    Messages:
    896
    Likes Received:
    743
    Reading List:
    Link
    Cold air sinks, hot air rises fairly quickly. Its kinda bs either way and in my setting most advanced armour has elastic suit under it, insulating against thermic and electric energy, plus half way decent against blunt trauma.
     
  16. Secluded Meditation

    Secluded Meditation Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2017
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    14
    Reading List:
    Link
    Your examples are not related to realism in my opinion. What you are describing is entirely dependent on the physics, specifically magic system in question.

    For example, the spell could be using a predefined distance to trigger a binary outcome. You are either inside the range of the fireball and thereby feel the heat of it or you are not and the heat has no impact.

    Naturally this is not realistic in our understanding of physics but neither is conjuring a colossal fireball. Further depending on the magic system there could be several factors that impact this. Heat transfer occurs in three ways: convection, conduction and radiation. Therefore another explanation could be that the clothes you wear could have low thermal conductivity and therefore anything other than a direct hit will represent a negligible threat.

    The same applies for all your examples. It is not really an issue of realism as much as it is an indirect consequence of bad writing.
     
  17. AliceShiki

    AliceShiki 『Ms. Tree』『Alice is Friend, Not Food』

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2016
    Messages:
    20,840
    Likes Received:
    84,696
    Reading List:
    Link
    For me I just use a simple logic that says Magic>Physics.

    Basically, the story normally follows the laws of physics... Except when Magic is involved. Because Magic is above Physics and doesn't need to care about its laws. You can create a giant boulder out of nowhere with Magic because Magic is simply above the laws of Physics.

    I mean... I already have to think of the proper laws that Magic has to follow and how it functions in order to properly work in my story... I don't need to add a 2nd constraint with the laws of Physics on top of the laws of Magic. I'd rather just say that Physics don't apply to Magic.
     
    Greater thunder likes this.
  18. Feng Tian

    Feng Tian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2018
    Messages:
    896
    Likes Received:
    743
    Reading List:
    Link
    To an extend magic has to follow the laws of physics. Its unavoidable. And especially matter (transmutation and conjuration) and energy (evocation) are relevant in this regard. If you unleash a massive amount of thermal energy stuff will happen. And where goes the energy after the spell is no longer a thing? Where does the boulder go? Does acceleration magic scale exponentially with the kinetic energy of the object in question? If no, how do you avoid the situation where even a tiny increase in magic output can level a city?
     
  19. AliceShiki

    AliceShiki 『Ms. Tree』『Alice is Friend, Not Food』

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2016
    Messages:
    20,840
    Likes Received:
    84,696
    Reading List:
    Link
    I don't get your question.

    One used magic to create a giant boulder out of nowhere. You created matter out of nothing, so you just broke the conservation of matter law. The boulder remains in place once the spell is cast, that's why it broke physics.

    And I don't get the last question either. Why would a tiny increase in magic output do anything other than give a tiny increase to the spell's power? What's the connection between that and leveling a city? You totally lost me there.
     
    Greater thunder likes this.
  20. Feng Tian

    Feng Tian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2018
    Messages:
    896
    Likes Received:
    743
    Reading List:
    Link
    Simple math.
    Thermic energy scales linearly. If you double an objects temperature it now contains about twice the energy. Kinetic energy grows exponentially with speed. The result gets pretty stupid pretty darn quickly.

    2+2+2+2=8
    2^4=16
    vs
    2+2+2+2+2= 10
    2^5=32

    And this only gets worse the further away the power floor and power ceiling are. Because of shit like this your magic system will bend to physics sooner or later, or becomes horribly broken.