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Imagine a world with two allied nations (countries, kingdoms...) that are separated by a large geographical distance. Those two nations would be at about the same level of development as our (real world) developed countries. They rely heavily on human intellect and ingenuity and have no access to magic.

In between those two nations, there are many smaller, less-developed, isolationist, hostile countries. They are stuck in terms of technical and scientific development, but make up for it with access to magic (and Old-gods-like dark ritualistic magic). And the two allied nations would be in an never-ending conflict with those smaller magic-based countries.

Now, I assume it would be quite logical for those two nations to try to establish some sort of long-distance communications to coordinate their efforts in defeating a common foe (or foes). And it would be also logical for the magic countries to hinder their efforts as much as possible. This is quite easy for land-based networks. It is quite easy to cut cables or tear down a comms tower. However, it gets trickier with satellite communications. What could cause that communications over satellites is impossible, or at least very difficult (either by high costs or low reliability... or both)?

I know the simple answer is "magic"... but that sounds quite cheap to me. I could get behind an idea where an indirect sort of magic is affecting it (e.g.: the magicians can mind-control scientists, who then screw up the launch of a rocket carrying the satellites). But that seems like a one-time solution... Is there anything more permanent? Or any science-based, non-magical solution?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure how easy it is to cut down a comms tower? They tend to be more on the rear of your lines, so the magic users have to cut through all those enemies to get to the tower before they can activate. Another problem would be aircraft and signal balloons, which use height to transmit their messages and would be hard to stop, most of the time your magic users can't even see them so high will they fly! So you have to either make attacking trivial or cut the signal source: Magic can disrupt the radio signals as they travel. This limits computer power. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Jan 3 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ Magic emits (either naturally or via a specific ritual) intense electromagnetic noise, effectively jamming communications? $\endgroup$ – Gavin S. Yancey Jan 4 at 6:10
  • $\begingroup$ Or, a ritual to cause a strong solar storm, wiping out any satellites in orbit (and many other electronics) $\endgroup$ – Gavin S. Yancey Jan 4 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ Why don't the two larger nations use magic? $\endgroup$ – NomadMaker Jan 5 at 12:04
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There are a couple of fun options you have here, but one of them is Kessler Syndrome. Basically, if you clutter up the orbits with a bunch of junk, it keeps bonking together and breaking, creating even more junk, which bonks into more things... and you see how this goes. It prevents not only communications, but use of satellites in general (no GPS, no comms, no satellite imagery). This would be a cheap and easy option to completely prevent satellite use.

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    $\begingroup$ The nicest part is that it's much easier to fly up 100km and hit something important than it is to fly up 100km and stay there. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Jan 3 at 20:32
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/ It is quite easy to cut cables or tear down a comms tower./

Employ something that resides where the satellites do.

In your world, there are things which dwell high above the world. Maybe they fled there when the earth changed long ago. Maybe they were exiled there by powers greater than they are. Maybe they normally inhabit the outer Dark, but were swept up by the Earth and trapped.

In any case: they are up there, those things. They are in the spaces where satellites travel, and beyond. Maybe with magic, or science, or some combination things such as these might carry out a task, willingly or otherwise. Destroying a satellite does not seem so arduous.

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There was this Carrington Event which effectively fried all electronics of the day. It was caused by a powerful geomagnetic storm.

Your world might have a very active sun and a weak magnetic field which basically causes a lot of noise in the electromagnetic spectrum, rendering low energy wireless transmission undetectable. In addition electronic would never take of as a field as to long wires would melt/have unpredictable fluctuations. The ever present electromagnetic field might be able to explain some of the power behind magic. Although normal magic would be weaker at night.

Computation is not killed by that as water based analog computer or micro-mechanical computers would still work with some grounding. It would also be to do computation using magic fluids/magic circuits. The most effective high tech communication i can imagine would be glass pneumatic tubes.

How do you communicate it to the reader?

Since this explation can't be possibly told inside universe you need to make clear metal works differently in this universe.

  • On a trip people use copper and steel, not flint and steel to make a fire
  • A soldier swinging a Zweihänderschwert has to transport it in a water barrel, so it doesn't overheat. On the battle field it turns into a flesh that burns flesh and leaves horrible marks
  • People are superstitious around large masses of metal
  • people protest against a second smithery in the same street due to the risk and danger for their children
  • the payment of soldiers in metal not gems is a huge political issue, generals would rather payment in gems but the crown is running out of gems so that they switched to a metal currency which they can fund from mines they conquered during the war
  • traders seen taking a lot of trade in coins or giving chain in coins are cursed at whether they want to anger the gods.
  • Maybe have there be an accident or trap where a lot of metal causes thunder/fire
  • Have the war also be about mining rights, the primitive factions think metal should be best kept underground and not use metal weapons.
  • A metal sword in woods is not picked up as the isolation (leather) seems damaged.
  • Have long metal pipes be used for heating, as in they heat the water that flows through them, have their be a mechanism that seperates the pipe into 8 pieces to store them more safely. The longer antenna there is the more heat it generates.
  • Have metal veins pulse in heat and crackle and have the superstitous call it the pulse of the earth
  • Have there be a proverb: "The only reason why the crown is made from silver and not gold is so that the kings head doesn't catch fire" reflecting on different metals heating more than others.
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting solution but the amount of power needed to heat metal that much is far far above what is needed to disrupt communications. You are talking about the kind of power level of a microwave set on low. You need to be talking about the amount of power for a cell phone jammer. $\endgroup$ – BobTheAverage Jan 4 at 4:19

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