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I'm in the midst of worldbuilding a science fantasy story where once, many of its inhabitants were capable of using magic including the kings who ruled over it with harmony. Eventually, an industrial revolution swept the world and the Kingdom incorporated technology into its society along with magic. However, the Kings abused the power of technology which led to its downfall and turned the land into a wasteland. Years later, the surviving members of the royal family had begun rebuilding that Kingdom in the heart of its ruins and decreed the following laws:

  • Any and all non-magic machines and industrial technology are outlawed within the kingdom.

  • Allied kingdoms who use said technology can enter, but cannot bring their technology within the Kingdom's borders.

  • The king, the queen, or anyone else in the royal line cannot use magic.

  • Any affairs, threats, and activities related to magic within the Kingdom are presided over by the court mage who shall advise the king on the application and uses of magic rather than decreeing its use themselves.

Can someone explain how this seems plausible or not?

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    $\begingroup$ It's always difficult to gauge questions this setting specific, but I'd say you basically want to answer two questions. 1) How many people have means and motive to break the law? 2) Who has the means and motive to shoot or jail them if they try? A single court mage might have some trouble, depending on how common magical knowledge is and what you mean by industrial tech. $\endgroup$ – Era Jun 26 '17 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ If industrial tech means "anything with a steam or internal combustion engine" you're going to have more trouble than if you mean "factories and power plants". Technical innovation is possible wherever you have education, and can be useful in isolation, say, if you really want a better pump for your mine. A factory is more obvious, and requires workers, land, and raw materials, shipping to be profitable, not to mention the confidence of the investors that no one will be along to shut them down until they've gotten a return. But having the law broken here and there doesn't break the scenario. $\endgroup$ – Era Jun 26 '17 at 4:41
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your input, a4andoid. What I mean to ask is if it would be rational for an isolated magic-oriented nation to be ruled by a "muggle" with the decrees above in place, as well as what other decrees should be put in place. $\endgroup$ – VoydDixon Jun 26 '17 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is - how would they defend? Military against other countries? Economy against companies with industry? Science against deep understanding of magic users? And do on. I guess you have some idea about that, please share it if you do. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jun 26 '17 at 5:49
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    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by plausible? Even if those laws would destroy them, not saying they do, people have made up all kinds of bad laws in reality over the years $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 26 '17 at 6:43
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Plausible, with caveats. It pretty much requires that your mages are, or at least were, the bad guys.

The fundamental difference between magic and technology in the real world is that magic is known to not exist. (I suppose if it were discovered, the word would stick, though.) In a typical fantasy world, magic is a fact of life and a part of nature, so there has to be a distinction between putting people to sleep with sand and putting people to sleep with chloroform for conflict to arise.

Traditionally, the difference is that magic is personal, disproportionately powerful and therefore undemocratic. Mages don't have a use for non-magical people, from crap-covered farmers to kings. Technology, on the other hand, works on a scale and requires the consent of the governed in some shape or form.

Fantasy settings often face existential threats from individually powerful monsters, and individually powerful mages and magic-wielders (collectively, adventurers) hold them at bay, presumably because they like the world being there. Adventurers are effectively the rock stars and gods of a setting. As in any society, there exists a system of ethics which justifies the current [im]balance of powers: it glorifies duels, individual achievement, and either hereditary nobility or allegedly fair meritocratic nobility. In this system of ethics, magic specifically and power in general is to be deserved, fought for, initiated or born into, and definitely not claimed by mobs of uneducated, undeserving rubes.

From this point of view, technology is exactly the latter. Learning the fireball spell is thought to require hard work, personal responsibility, dedication and a certain allegedly cultured mindset; meanwhile, anyone can just whip up a technological fireball in a pressure cooker. Mages don't like that.

What's [in-universe] bad about this setup is the adventurers' total unaccountability to the public. In the real world, we wish / pretend that the wielders of the biggest fireballs answer to the electorate. In a fanasy setting, even the pretense is absent: If a dragon can eat a 10k pop town and an adventurer can kill the dragon, then his or her wishes count for more than the wishes of 10k people. Technology promises a solution to this and a complete overhaul of the power [im]balance.

Also, the rise (and abuse) of industry, given an existing magical tradition, doesn't happen overnight and doesn't have a reason to happen if the needs of the populace are met by magic. There's no need for trains and vaccines if portals and cure potions work and are available on demand. Furthermore, traditional fantasy magic would complement real-world technology: manipulating inertia and friction, superconductivity, waste disposal and of course sources and sinks of infinite energy.

So a plausible setup looks like that:

A faction of magic-wielders (of course) decided to kickstart an industrial magitech revolution. The "old guard" mystics saw the "undeserved" enpowerment as yet another existential threat to the world, something between werewolves making peasants into more werewolves and posting launch codes on 4chan. They went to war and the mystics won; the land was despoiled as a result of said war (but the mystics blame the technocrats who "forced their hand").

Mages look down on mundane humans: depending on whether magic is inherited or can be learned by anyone, the mundanes are either untermenschen or idiots/cowards who deserve their lowly station (suppose you came home after a tour fighting ISIS and heard someone complain about their selfie not getting enough likes). They also don't involve mundanes in mage-mage conflicts (because mundanes are useless).

Thus, mundane affairs are managed by the king, a mundane appointee by design: this way, mages don't have to fight for the position; a sorcerer-king would be a genuine highest office in the land, a mark of great prestige and a constant source of conflict. Because the ability to request and then dispense magical aid to the populace outweighs any possible mundane advantage, the king is fairly secure in his position and can hand it down to his children. The king's spies look for unsanctioned sources of magic, confiscate it from peasants and report particularly troublesome occurrences to the mages. And technology that could be a threat to the status quo is, of course, banned.

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It seems plausible. Not very smart but plausible.

For start no magic and no machines would be a major disadvantage compared to other countries. And not even in the meaning of war and conquer. Just simple prices of clothes would be different between handmade and industrial ones.

Also you mention that the kingdom is a wasteland so peasants would flee to other kingdoms to seek better life. Something like Scottish and Irish people during a famine.

Kingdom would need to be self-sufficient to not be pushed into some sort of slavery AND it shouldn't have any sort of unique artefacts (be it fountain of wisdom or uranium deposits) as that would probably start a war with a neighbour which noble savages would lose.

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