Citing the Dragon Age franchise and his own Frayed Knights as examples, Jay 'Rampant Coyote' Barnson posts about, as some of you might have guessed by the title of his editorial "Guns, Phones & Magic", the attitude towards and the impact of magic in fantasy settings, and obviously, considering Jay's background, we're talking mostly about RPG settings. Here's a sampling:
One of the few pen-and-paper RPGs I have played that really had a different feel to magic was Mage: The Ascension. In that game, magic was pretty open-ended, flexible, and most interestingly had to be kept secret. Flinging fireballs around in Times Square was just not going to end well. Magic practiced in the presence of mundane witnesses ((sleepers)) was best performed with subtlety, lest their subconscious reinforcement of their expectations of reality make the magic to backfire in some way. In fact, the whole background story involved an (Ascension War) where two major factions of mages were warring over the sleepers' perception of reality to make their style of magic more dominant. and the (Technocracy) was winning.
I have loved that system and how well it incorporated magic into the the world. Whereas in most games, magic has something of a tacked-on feel. Usually, the worlds are just idealized variants of medieval Europe, but with the lots of wizards and magical monsters. But wouldn't these beings alter the entire world and culture by their very presence? Would we even get anything resembling medieval European culture if wizards, druids, and reliable magical healers could be found in almost every community, and most regions sported at least one dragon and other powerful monsters?
And what would be the attitude of the commoner or anybody without access to magic towards all these magic-using folks? Or does everyone have access to magic in some way?
I sometimes use the firearms analogy particularly how the presence of firearms (and cannons) changed the face of medieval warfare. Although I think the longbow did plenty of that on its own. But when arrows, bolts, and gunfire could allow any farmer with minimal training to take down a fully-armored knight who'd spent a lifetime in the saddle practicing warfare, things were gonna change.