Posted by: Jess Riley | November 21, 2008

Theme Week Trolls: Sufficiently Advanced Magic?

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the famous quote, “Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I know of at least one book that has reversed this for the purposes of making a point about the characters in the universe (Discworld, if you were curious; Ponder Stibbons tires of trying to explain a scientific discovery to his fellow wizards and so describes it as ‘magic – sufficiently advanced magic’).

Now, when it comes to technology in World of Warcraft, the trolls are known to have a peculiar view – they consider it less a science than another form of magic, having no real distinction between creating something technologically and creating a talisman or a charm. A steam-powered device is harnessing the spirits of water and air, for example, rather than an application of the scientific properties of water and air.

This is something that a gnome would probably faint to hear, and something which I think has interesting applications in roleplay. When playing a troll, or when playing with a troll, consider the conflicting views between the races on what causes this piece of technology to work properly; the tauren, for example, who have a more thorough understanding of scientific principles, will probably put a lot of technology down to the appropriate branch of science, while ascribing anything they don’t actually know either to ‘magic’ of some description (most likely the influence of the spirits or the elements, depending on the actual device in question) or to unknown science. A troll, on the other hand, would have assumed the whole time it was some form of magic, and would probably claim to be able to ‘sense’ how it is done rather than ‘see’ how it is done.

Furthermore, consider the process of development in engineering for different races. The forsaken, who have perhaps the most thorough knowledge of scientific principles, will probably plan things out, tinker with things, approach things (more or less) through the scientific method, if they work in engineering at all. Completely in reverse is the manner the trolls go about it – it’s not uncommon for a trollish engineer to receive his inspiration in dreams and work from there, rather than starting from the basic application of scientific principles.

Another consideration is quite straightforward – if the trolls have no concept of science, and the tauren have a basic understanding of the principles, and the forsaken are moderately advanced (by comparison, at least), how do they work together on scientific projects? Does the most educated take the lead and just tell the others what to do, without explanation, or do they stand around bickering about the semantics of it, or do they all speak in their terms and translate what each other is saying in their own heads?

All of these are ideas that you could take into consideration when playing a Horde engineer, and particularly when it comes to races like the trolls; with the knowledge of and adherence to basic scientific principles so different from the way we know it in real life, how do they go about working in technology?

Is sufficiently advanced technology, in fact, indistinguishable from magic, or is sufficiently advanced magic indistinguishable from technology?

Does the above question make any sense at all?

And if a tree fell in a forest and no one was there to hear it, is Jess still hopeless at philosophizing?



  1. “how do they work together on scientific projects?”

    I am thinking, if they were to work together (and I doubt such be as common as it is in the Alliance) then they would tackle a project in parts. So a troll be assigned one part, a tauren another..etc. Because regardless of their individual beliefs, they generally result in the same thing if they were to say switch projects with one another. Though I am sure there be some sort of head of the project who is familiar with all their perspectives on science and make adjustments so that the work would mesh well together rather than be all chaotic.

    Another thing, as trolls do believe in the spirits playing a part in technology as you mentioned. It be interesting how a troll would take a failure of a device. Because where everyone else be sad/mad that their device malfunctioned and blew up in their face, a troll may really feel sad/mad as they think the spirits may not favor them or something along them lines.

    “And if a tree fell in a forest and no one was there to hear it, is Jess still hopeless at philosophizing?”

    Haha.. 😀

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