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I'm working on a setting for a piece that has the set up of having a primitive/feudal style human civilization in the far future where the magic is based on the forgotten/mysterious relics of 'the Ancients' (advanced humans) -- I really liked the idea of having the magic in this sword-and-sandal setting being similar to comic superheroes and how each individual has their own power or niche a la X-Men. Ultimately a tension and mystery point for these far flung descendants is the source and explanation of the magic on their planet and that's what I'm trying to figure out.

I've thought about genetic engineering and utility fog (related to a planet-wide aware AI biosphere) as being able to explain away why some "Mutants" have powers, but I want to make sure it has some semblance of consistency. Been reading a lot of Brandon Sanderson and Jim Butcher and I appreciate the way they handle their "is it sci fi/is it magic??" vibe. Any ideas?

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In Neil Gaiman's 1602, (spoiler alert), the appearance of 1600's equivalents of the mutants and superheroes we love is precipitated by Steve Rogers travelling back in time - sent back by the Purple Man to dispose of him so completely. As a result, people like Doctor Strange, Sir Nicholas Fury, Matthew Murdoch and Peter Parquagh manifest and become important people to the plot of events in the series. These "witchbreed" people as they come to be known (instead of mutants) appear to counter the presence of Rogers, but it also causes a rift that threatens to destroy the universe. (Source: https://www.amazon.com.au/Marvel-1602-Neil-Gaiman-ebook/dp/B00AAJR16M)

Joan of Arc, obviously a real person, is occasionally spoken of as having Superpowers, given to her by the Holy Ghost. (https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/europe/joan-arc-woman-who-shaped-nation-8207852.html)

Here are a bunch more summarised origins of "superheroes" and legends of medieval times. I personally like the tales of William Tell, St Francis of Assisi, and The Green Knight: (https://www.medievalists.net/2015/04/top-ten-superheroes-of-the-middle-ages/)

There are many ways to legitimise "superpowers" in a medieval era, in exactly the same way as modern-set superhero tales. I like your ancients' relics idea, perhaps they could come from a mysterious metal that is shaped into swords and armour of the time? King Arthur's sword-in-the-stone is an example of power from a relic (https://www.biography.com/military-figure/king-arthur#:~:text=King%20Arthur%20is%20a%20medieval,the%205th%20to%206th%20centuries.) or from Mormon tradition the Armour of God (more metaphor really, but could be a great idea to have an armour appointed by a God, or an Ancient with powers akin to a God, have a read: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/2009/01/the-armor-of-god?lang=eng) Finally this author's blogpost gives many examples of the "Macguffin" quest type of thing as a study of a trope: http://helenlowe.info/blog/2018/08/13/having-fun-with-epic-fantasy-tropes-9-artefacts-of-power-and-doom-and-where-to-find-them/

Hope this is useful to you! :)

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