The fantasy world I'm writing in is populated by elves, fairies, vampires, humans, etc. It has a handful of portals connecting it to large modern-day cities on Earth as we know it. These portals are controlled by the fantasy world government to keep destructive human technology out, thus keeping the citizens safe. Gov't employees occasionally sneak in smaller things like books and battery-operated items, then sell them on the black market. This society is similar to Amish in that it's primarily artisanal, agrarian and stalled in a pre-Industrial Revolution setting.

Because some races live longer than others (elves live hundreds of years, for example) they've seen the negative effects of progress on Earth's environment and are hesitant to adopt that same type of technology if it pollutes or harms. (Think how filthy Victorian London was.) This means that it's illegal to burn fossil fuels, use plastic, have guns, etc. There also are no cell phones, TVs or computers either. Windmills, printing presses, and waterwheels are ok. There's a very high premium on green technology & sustainability.

This world does have access to magic, although it requires years of dedication to learn and is heavily regulated. The different races are born with different abilities. Elves can heal (some better than others), fairies can animate and replicate objects (some better than others). Humans can't do much, other than send a kid to mage school for advanced training. Magic isn't conducted like reading a cake recipe out loud. That's why everyone's still riding horses instead of in flying cars like in Harry Potter. I've considered trains, but can't have steam engines because the coal to power them pollutes the air.

Since elves live longer and acquire more knowledge, they're the majority running the government...at the highest levels, anyway. They're struggling to keep up with modern technology, yet the more they hear about modern human inventions, the more they want these things for themselves. (Dishwashers, TVs, high-speed rail, cars, guns.) Some of the gov't employees actually live on Earth to keep a better eye on the potential threat of destructive human advances, just in case the fantasy world is ever discovered. Citizens mostly accept this double standard because "it's for their safety." I'm trying to figure out the following:

What are some magic-based environmentally-friendly alternatives that can mirror our technology on Earth?

EDITED to include more description about how magic works for different races:

Elves can heal and sense disease by laying their hands on someone and using psychic energy. They can speak telepathically to each other & animals, and read thoughts of others (unless that person knows mind-cloaking, which is pretty common). The really skilled ones can erase minds. They age 10X slower than humans, but their strength and senses are 10X better. They can see, smell, and hear things that people simply can't.

Vampires are quite similar with abilities, although the sun burns them badly and they drink blood. They also like to terrify people and then feed on that fear.

I've never considered reversing elves' healing ability to kill or destroy. Not against it, just never explored the option.

Mages can be any race, but most often it's humans or elves. Like any skill, (sports) some are born with more natural talent than others. You have to apprentice for years to fully learn how to master this magic. Instead of reciting spells like Harry Potter, they use elemental magic like "The Force" in Star Wars. A wand or sword is just a crutch since the power is coming from THEM, not the object that represents their skill. They can't move a mountain but they can create a mudslide, bring up magma from the earth, bend the water into shapes, bring on a sudden freeze, cast firebolts...that kind of thing.

Fairies can absolutely animate a dish cloth to wash dishes. They're great at helping with chores around the house in exchange for food & shelter, but they aren't materialistic so they have no ambition to amass wealth. This is frustrating to those who see all the potential of this 'wasted' magic. Fairies will assist people who are kind to them and give them protection (usually elves). Their numbers are assumed to be very low because most races rarely see them...no one knows where they live other than in warm climates. They can alter their size to be human-like, so if anyone tried to enslave them they could just shrink to the size of a gnat and escape, unless they were kept in an iron cage. Iron is their kryptonite, and steady exposure leads to death. Same goes for pesticides. If they're in a toxic environment their ability to do magic goes down. It's based on their energy, so if a fairy tells a cloth to wash a dish and then she walks away, the cloth and dish will eventually slow down and stop. An old fairy will wash slowly, and a young, excitable one will wash at turbo speed. If a fairy were to make a perpetual motion machine by animating a wheel, they'd have to reset it regularly (unless they were sitting next to it constantly).

Fairies can also change physical properties of inanimate objects, like multiplying food, shrinking multiple large objects to fit into a small knapsack.

Nature is revered by most as "The Divine Source of Life" so pollution is discouraged and must be offset since even wood stoves pollute. Oxen and horses draw and carry vehicles, and since they can tell elves if someone's been cruel to them, animal abuse is rare. I don't have dragons or loads of mythical creatures, although I have unicorns but hunting/capturing/killing one is akin to shooting a baby in the face--you would never, ever do it! (Unless you were a Big Bad.)

Widely-dispersed rural farmers and trades/craftspeople make up the bulk of society. Relying too heavily on magic is frowned upon...although younger generations are moving to the cities and they really like it! The largest cities are parallel to some on Earth (Paris, London) which is where the portals are to Earth. The city folk are quite modern and educated in comparison to the rural population. There's a schism between the two groups because city-dwellers are seen as not living very close to nature and thus less respectable. City-dwellers see country folks as willfully ignorant of progress. This fantasy world is on the brink of their own industrial revolution so I'm trying to determine how they get similar results to us by using magic-based technology.

I hope this additional info is helpful in clarifying my question!


closed as too broad by a CVn, sphennings, Green, Mołot, MichaelK May 12 '17 at 7:20

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ To answer your current question we need to know the laws and rules of your magic system. Otherwise the answer is anything. Alternativly feel free to consider this. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Arthur C Clarke Why wouldn't they have more of our tech and just call it magic? Since magic is so heavily regulated ayways. $\endgroup$ – PCSgtL May 11 '17 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ How your magic work matters here. They wouldn't have dishwashers. They'd have something like magic cleaning cabinets or plate trees. How would those work? It's up to you to say. After you define your magic system, we can help you understand its implications. $\endgroup$ – Brythan May 11 '17 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ Harry Turtledove's The Case of the Toxic Spelldump is an amusing read about an alternate "modern day" (though it is a little dated now) alternate Earth with magic instead of technology. It's almost entirely tongue-in-cheek, but amusing. It also doesn't technically address your question, so it's a comment, not an answer - but I would suggest it to anyone wanting to mix magic and tech. $\endgroup$ – Ghotir May 11 '17 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ Fossil fuels have been burned since the bronze age. There also quite convincing theories we've extensively altered our surroundings since before the bronze age. For example Central America and Europe have been extensive modified by us well before we the European bronze age. So where do your fantasy races draw the line? $\endgroup$ – Mormacil May 11 '17 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ How about biopunk? It is as environmentally-friendly as it gets and it can yield results that would look like something magical even in high-tech society. $\endgroup$ – Mr Scapegrace May 12 '17 at 7:16

fairies can animate and replicate objects (some better than others)

Fairies are the key to your technology. If they can animate objects, they can provide clean power through perpetual-motion devices, or even directly animate things like transportation and industrial machinery without the need for a power source. Humanity has been searching for the technology to create unlimited, clean power since we realized we could convert energy into mechanical work, and your fantasy world has it in the form of fairies.

There are some ramifications of this, though. Fairies will either rise or fall in prominence in a society that depends heavily on their abilities. On one hand, they may become well-respected and highly influential members of society. Or they could be forced into slavery as power sources for the wheel of progress.

With this in mind, the reason for elves to want exposure to the human world might be to mitigate the influence of fairies. Technology moves forward and spreads, and it won't be long before fairies have influence over every task that can be automated. That might not be bearable to elves, who are used to having the unquestioned leadership majority.



Ultimately, at the root of almost every form of power production that our technology relies upon is the ability to produce localised heat. Whether we produce this heat with coal, oil, natural gas, or the fission of unstable elements, it's all the same concept.

We produce electricity by generating heat, using the heat to convert water into steam, and using the steam to drive a turbine.

We smelt metals by mixing ore and flux with something to produce a lot of heat; normally that's coal, but other sources of heat work just as well.

If you have some clean, reliable form of magical fire, you can reproduce most of the technology that you and me use routinely. Even if all you can do is heat a boiler, that can produce electricity, and electricity can be harnessed to do almost anything - including producing even greater heat!

  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't even have to be clean fire, just reliable. $\endgroup$ – kingledion May 12 '17 at 14:26

Anything that generates electricity

The smallest possible change is to imagine any sort of effective non-fossil fuel based electricity production system. You can now support pretty much the entire modern economy (except trucks and planes and ships).

Simply make your magic system have some sort of electrical generation. Either you can co-opt existing eco-friendly energy sources (the elves make magical solar panels, dwarves magical geothermal power stations, etc), or you can just assume new ones. The arc-reactor from Iron Man's suit is basically just a magical source of electricity.

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    $\begingroup$ How about having the fairies animate a self-winding crank which is connected to a dynamo? $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička May 11 '17 at 20:52

Alternative forms of technology

Communication: replace cell phones with telepathy or a magic mirror Network.

Transportation: it's already noted they can create portals perhaps they can create portal shortcuts within their own world creating a soda portal Network where walking a few miles between portals can can save thousands of miles of Transportation. This would explain why they can still use horses another slower means of transportation and are tempted to import steam engines another forms of transportation.

Biological base Technologies: as you've already stated your elves have the ability to heal people if they can already heal people it's possible that they can also alter organic creatures on a genetic level. This I would allow them to produce organic Magic based technology that's compatible with the environment.

Why would they want to have contact with Earth: there could be many reasons I have a few suggestions

  1. Population: in most stories both elves and fairies reproduce very slowly it's possible, that their population could be steadily decreasing because of ( some unnamed catastrophe of some sort) it's possible that they're trying to promote immigration from the human world to their world in the hopes that fairies can elves can reproduce faster with humans than with themselves.

  2. Trade: as you said the elves don't seem to mind some forms and Technologies such as printing press. It seems like magic is difficult to mass-produce. ( hence why there are no flying cars around) so perhaps they want to do some trade of small Trinkets and maybe even medicine ( depending on how many healers you have) that would make life easier for them.

  3. Because they can't stop them stop themselves from being discovered. Perhaps too many elves cross over to our world and get seen or recorded on video. Maybe a group of scientists find a way to detect an active portal. Whatever happens the elves realize they can't keep themselves isolated from the humans for long and decide to make the first steps in the hopes that that way they can control the situation.


Anything that grants their needs

Be warned that I am about to pick apart some of the concepts of your question and dismiss them.

The big problem is this...

green technology & sustainability

"Green" is not about the environment. Sure that buzzword is used all the time to denote it but "green" is an ideological color... like red, blue, purple, brown, black. So let us just forget that bit and focus on the core: sustainability.

Again, "sustainable development" is used as a buzzword all the time by people to promote whatever it is they are selling. But Sustainable Development has a definition (PDF), established in 1987 in the UN.

Sustainable Development is... (emphasis mine)

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

This means that when you are designing this magic technology, you must first need to think about: what are the needs of the people? These "elves, fairies, vampires, humans"... what do they need?

Usually though, most need boil down to one thing: energy. Energy is that which makes things hot, makes chemical reactions happens, that moves and lifts things... energy does work. You need something that can do work, and this while at the same time seeing to needs such as "clean air", "no big scrap heaps", "not using up all our valuable resources".

This is a meta-answer — I know — but this was much too large for a comment. I am voting to close with the hopes that what I have said above helps you along in designing your world, and lets you come up with more productive questions. Cheers! :)


How about a magic lens to focus sunlight onto a boiler? There is your clean steam power.

Magic tuned crystals to use as communicators.

Manipulation of gravity using magic. This will enable human (or other :-) power to propel flying machines and many of Leonardo daVinci's machines.

Also, magical manipulation of genetics to produce woods to fill the role of plastics in our world.

Part of the story could be the race to invent new magical applications to head off the demand for earth type products.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! This looks interesting, but the community tends to prefer longer, detailed answers. Currently this looks more like a comment. You can comment once you reach 50 reputation. Please use the little grey "edit"-button to flesh out your answer a bit more to show how your idea would help the OP with his question. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus May 12 '17 at 7:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Wayne Watson I just wanted to say that I love all of your ideas, especially the idea of incorporating the storyline to include the invention of new magial applications. $\endgroup$ – Paperback Writer May 12 '17 at 16:02

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