Code/Switch – Is Magic Powerful, or is Power Just Imitating Magic?

Hi, my name is James and welcome to Code/Switch. Today I want to talk about magic. Magic is pretty powerful; it can move mountains, summon extraplanar beings, bring the dead back to life, and even make you look like Steve Buschemi. People telling me how powerful is so far have been talking from a relativistic perspective; i.e. magic is more powerful than a sword, I want to talk about magics true power, using science!

This wizard has learned the power of age-reducing magic.

But James,” I hear you saying “magic is separate from science, otherwise we’d just call it science and get really bored of it and fall asleep in class.” I agree, magic isn’t science, but you can use science to quantify the power of magic. Pathfinder has 8 schools of magic; Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, and Transmutation. Each school of magic does something that’s outside the realm of our current knowledge of how the universe works. I want to look specifically at the sub school of conjuration magic called creation to explain just how powerful magic is.

First you get the magic, then you get the power, then you get the doughnuts.

Creation magic makes things, temporarily or permanently depending on the spell. These things are just made by magic, basically out of nowhere. In our world this violates that whole Conservation of Mass principle. There is one way cheat to this, the mass-energy equivalence.  If you’re not familiar with it by that name, you probably recognize it as e=mc2. This Einstein-ian equation says that the energy (e) in a system is equal to that systems mass (m) multiplied by the speed of light (c), squared (2). The cool thing about this equation is that it works in reverse, where mass (m) is equal to the energy (e) divided by the speed of light (c), squared. This equivalency lets us use creation magic and the mass of a creation to figure out exactly how powerful magic really is.

For this I’m going to use the spell Create Armaments as my subject for these calculations. It makes a weapon or piece of armor out of metal. It does require a component of diamond equal to the worth of the armament, but we’re going to ignore that as a Golarion requirement and view it as a “make sure players can’t make unlimited weapons” requirement. If we wanted to use this spell to make a longsword, we’d chant the incantation, swallow 15gp worth of diamonds, and a minute late have a sword ready for an adventure! (Assuming we passed the craft check). The longsword weighs 4 pounds, a little less than a 2 liter bottle of soda. Using that super cool mass-energy equivalence equation we learn that our sword, if made from pure energy would have a cost of 163,067,396,629 megajoules of energy, that’s 38.97 megatons of TNT. That is 1,852 times more power than was released by the atomic bomb “Fat Man” that dropped over Nagasaki. See magic is powerful!

That power would also be the equivalent of 38,974,043,171,416 calories, roughly 70.8 billion Big Macs

There is one other explanation besides that magic is just obscenely powerful. Golarion may be a world where mass-energy equivalencies don’t exist, or that they do but they’re much more equal than in our universe. I’ll leave that discussion up to you. If you have any thoughts about great magical power, leave ‘em in the comments below or come find us at our Discord.


James Ballod

James blossomed into geekdom like a piranha plant in the crack of a sidewalk. Watered by the muscle-brained lore of Warhammer 40,000 and nurtured in the rough bosom of World of Warcraft, tabletop RPGs came late in life to James. The rich lore and real-world influences in games like Pathfinder inspire James to explore them from every angle. When not being an annoying anime-fanboy he can be found discussing the history of various cuisines and over-analyzing real world influences in works of fiction.

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