I wanted to make two points with yesterday's post: 1) that magic would enable other sciences to leapfrog forward; and 2) there would exist other sciences, because human beings are insanely curious and investigate everything.
Yesterday I mentioned Asimov's story Olympics. Curiously, there's another story in the same compendium of Asimov short stories (Nine Tomorrows), called A Feeling of Power. Zzarchov needs to read it. I think I may sum up that tale tomorrow (clever punning there, but you need to read the story to know why).
I think where it comes to the troubles of magic actually existing, we are at an impasse. When one fully considers the implications of magic in any world, given the potential of spells such as wish or permanency, Zzarchov is right about the removal of the laws of physics and the creation of a totally alien world. Or he would be if it weren't for one rather salient point. That point being, for every magic, there is anti-magic. For every individual or god that wishes a thing into existence, there is another individual or god that banishes it. In short order, the most powerful beings in the universe, topped by the DM - who obviously exists and the most powerful being - would gather together to quickly expunge any force or power that moved against the status quo as agreed upon. It may seem cheap and convenient, but if the world exists at all, it must exist according to the whim of those most powerful beings who posit its existence.
And therefore, the laws of physics, or anything else, must be in accordance with the laws of the most powerful beings. It must be in accordance with the DM. A position I will take when I argue, the DM's world must serve the players, at least with regards to enabling the player's conception of the universe to be one which they can predict the results of their own actions.
Every DM - not just me personally, but every person who wishes to run a world that is practical to play - must run according to familiar principles of causality. We can propose a world where all the effects stemming from actions in that world are random and whimsical - hammers that spontaneously shoot off in random directions when let go, horses and wagons that leave the ground and fly backwards when a trot is increased to a gallop, drink that is alternately poison or nourishing depending on the hour of the day and so on - but that world and running in it gets awfully boring, awfully fast. A player soon understands that he or she is being fucked with, and the fucking isn't pleasurable or interesting. I would argue that 19 worlds of 20 fail miserably because the DM is more interested in supposing things to be fanciful than in worrying about causal relationships. Players soon learn there's no point in making plans - the DM will screw with plans. The DM will screw with everything, and everything quickly loses its meaning.
You, me, everyone - we exist in a conditional arrangement where we wish to control everything, but in which we control almost nothing. And still, we are rewarded with seratonin chemical releases when we successfully control some part of the world ... so we keep trying. As we gain some skill at some particular process - a videogame, say - we gain experience with the observed cause and effect within that process. We learn that if we do this, that happens. And if we don't do this, that doesn't happen.
When the effects change without apparent causes, we get angry and unhappy. We ask, "What the fuck happened?" and we want an answer, right now, explaining it. From a very early age we learn to hate the answer, "Because I said so," as we realize instinctively that it is not an answer ... or rather, it is a restraint against our control. If the reason is that I'm not fast enough, or that I'm not strong enough, I can work at being faster and stronger. But if the reason is that someone else is in control, the answer is no longer self-improvement, it is the elimination of whatever is in control.
The DM and his or her world must not act as a impositional dictator over the player's actions. The world must be a learning annex, allowing for player improvement and development. The player must know why things are happening. The player must be able to apply his or her experience of the real world, and get results back from the fantasy world that make sense. One can only go so far into the Vale of Weirdness.
However right Zzarchov may be in his arguments about magic and the world, the arguments are immaterial because the world must be THIS world ... it's the only one we're familiar with. I have no idea the actual effects of magic would be in an actual world - obviously, who does? But I know what the effects have to be. The laws of physics must remain intact because ... well, they must. The game must be playable. Conjecturing about magic doesn't change that.
I'm satisfied the gods have their reasons to force players to use manual labor where a tidy spell would do. I'm satisfied that the gods allow only the set standard spells to be in existence, and that the casting of those spells is universal and controlled. I'm satisfied because I'm not running a simulation here, I'm running a game.
One last point, not really connected to the above. Why should a player feel somehow that magic missiles and their effects should depend upon the user? A hammer, a sword, a pitchfork, a car, an airplane or any other tool requires the individual to adapt to the tool's use. Why should magic be any different?