I'm doing a series of world-building for an alternate world in a very low magic setting, basic premise is that 3000 years ago, in a dnd like a world, Wizards in order to prevent magical wars from destroying everything, removed all magic from the world. 3000 years later the world looks a little different and similar to our own around the late 1700s to mid-1800s

Basically, I have a massive empire that's a British analog. Seaghast has been fighting a 400ish year long war against the Draconian Empire. I'm wanting to see if I can mix a handful of technology for story stuff and aesthetics, curious if there is a way to explain some differences and what might not be believable.

Could they have ships like the Great Eastern, and early ironclads like the HMS Warrior and HMS Temeraire, while having more 1920s era trains?

Could the Marines or Army have a version of the French Soixante-Quinze, the 75mm rapid-fire cannon while most Naval guns being similar to the BL 9.2 inch early breechloaders or larger caliber muzzleloaders?

Then with all this tech, could a nation say, three times the distance from Europe that England is, keep their tech level to a point where they have these techs and the nations on the continent still be dealing with things like Napoleonic cannons and weapons or even matchlocks?

  • $\begingroup$ For anyone voting to close - doing so with no explanation does not help a new user. However, Roxanne, this site does work on single questions. I suggest that you edit this question to focus on the developmental differences in the "empire" and post a separate question regarding whether it is plausible for distant nations to be at a lower tech level. (For the separate question, more detail on frequency and nature of trade between the "developed" and "less developed" nations would be useful.) $\endgroup$ Oct 4 '21 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ VTC:Needs More Focus, from the close reason description, "This question currently includes multiple questions in one. It should focus on one problem only." (@KerrAvon2055, while I agree with your basic complaint about close voters, no close voter is obligated to explain their vote... after all, the OP can click the "close" link and see for themselves the descriptions of the reasons.) Roxanne, please read this help center page and this help center page to better understand what you can and cannot do here. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Oct 5 '21 at 0:41
  • $\begingroup$ ??? Both HMS Temeraire (1876) and HMS Temeraire (1907) survived to 1921; the point being that they actually were (briefly) contemporary with 1920s era trains. (And the Great Eastern was ... let's put it politely, a wild vision of a brilliant engineer. Its only historical justification is that, after completely failing as a passenger ship, it eventually found a second life as a cable laying ship, helping to build the telegraph network which connected the world for the first time.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 5 '21 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP I think the OP meant that the early ironclads would be the state of the art at the same time as 1920s trains. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Oct 5 '21 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ You mentioned the Draconic Empire. If their enemy flew, technological advances could be more focused on airships and land defenses rather than naval assets. Naval tech could languish as other technologies flourished. $\endgroup$
    – Sonvar
    Oct 5 '21 at 15:24

This is how the real world works.

Advanced nations arm themselves and oppose each other with the latest technology. They are rich and powerful. They develop this technology themselves. They have the resources to pay outside makers for the latest and best stuff. Access to advanced weapons is limited because of the expense, and also the user nations limit access on purpose because they want the competitive edge these weapons provide.

Nations that are not as rich and do not expect to fight an advanced nation buy or acquire technology that is several decades out of date. The F5 fighter jet has been superseded by later models in the US but lots of other countries still fly them. Dated weapons are still formidable and will serve to oppose other nations similarly or less well equipped.

If you are not a military but a militia type group on the frontier, or you are bandits or rebels, you do not need to equip yourself to fight a military. Those folks would mop the floor with you and plus you are on a budget. You expect to be fighting militia from rival colonist groups, or natives, or noncombatants. You could do those things fine with military gear 100+ years out of date. People die the same way they did 100+ years ago.

  • $\begingroup$ The part that doesn't make sense to me is that in this nation, which is apparently hugely dependent on the sea, the navy and maritime trade are less advanced than the army and land-based trade. You'd expect the most vital institutions to get more budget and better tech. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Oct 5 '21 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence - Maybe they are largely unopposed on the sea so there has not been the stimulus to develop and match the opposition. I was reading about how late Age of Sail French naval vessels were encouraged to run from British ships, but the French of that period were ready to take on the Brits or anyone else in land battles. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Oct 5 '21 at 16:08

I'm going to imagine that the original, multi-question version of this post has been split out to separate single-question posts and that the question which remains on this original thread is the first one, involving a disparity between naval and railed transportation technology levels.

I find this disparity to be very easy to explain away, after all, trains sink when you try to use them on water. The technology of dry land transportation at this point in history involved massive machines with voracious appetites for coal, diesel or hardwired electricity. The opportunity to apply that kind of technology to naval vessels doesn't seem very obvious to me and upon reflection it is pretty unbelievable that we did it as early as we did in the real world.

I think the secret to selling the technological discrepancy to your audience lies in justifying the expenditure of resources and mind to the advancement of land over sea-based transport. This can be as easy as inventing a friendly land-bordered neighboring nation which trades valuable resources with you, while your trade routes with sea-bordered neighbors are crippled by piracy and storms.

Give the problem a voice by having one of your naval characters witness a highspeed train's arrival while on shore leave. Have him bring questions back to his ship's engineer, wishing they could have engines like that. Then let the engineer have some fun explaining buoyancy to the tech-struck sailor.

Note : Please read AlexP's comment below as he points out a significant shortfall within this answer. I still think that frequent storms and pirates could justify a train-centric utilization of transportation technology, but as AlexP points out, several of my technical assertions were wrong. - Henry Taylor

  • $\begingroup$ Steam engines are much better suited to ships than to locomotives. Ships are large, they can accomodate large crudely made engines, and they can make do with very low power-to-weight ratios. Locomotives have severe constraints, and need small powerful engines; and trains need very expensive infrastructure. On the other hand, ships can be powered by wind while remaining fully practicable as commercial transports. The mixture of engineering constraints and financial and commercial incentives made it so that in the real world steam ships and steam locomotives developed simultaneously. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 5 '21 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks AlexP. Always keep me honest. I had all of that backwards in my head. To me, "historic naval vessels" brings up images of glorified rowboats, not 20th century titanic size behemoths. I stand corrected and grateful. I'll leave my answer in place as I think the trade route justification still have value, but I'll add a note to read your comment so that nobody takes my skewed historical view too seriously. $\endgroup$ Oct 5 '21 at 14:52

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