When you think of technology in a fictional world, your first thought might go to science-fiction. That’s not wrong, as science-fiction is dominated by computers, AI and faster-than-light travel. That’s not all technology is however. By definition, technology is the use of science to create equipment and machines for practical use.
Every tool is an example of technology. A hammer and nail can be used to join wood pieces together, creating a practical means of building a house. Similarly, the wheel creates practical transportation, both of people and goods.
That means that even in fantasy, where everything a computer can do could instead be done by use of a spell, you have to consider what sort of technology would be available. One of the big fantasy tropes is using a medieval, renaissance-like setting. That means farmers, knights, castles built of stone and a lot of hand-labor.
Even here, technology exists. Your farmers will be applying basic science to get plants to grow by turning their soil, watering their crops and yes, training horses to haul their carts. Knights need someone to teach them the fine points of swordplay, but they also need a smith to make their weapons and armor. That castle probably uses masonry, which leads into chisels, stone saws and mortar.
That’s at the base end of the spectrum. There is technology, but it is simple and doesn’t require an advanced understanding of how to work the equipment. At the other end we get into advanced technology.
Keep in mind that advanced technology doesn’t necessarily mean every character needs an engineering degree. Rather, it means that the technology has been built up and improved upon.
Take for instance glass. Organic glass such as volcanic obsidian has been used in tools such as knives and early spears. Once it was discovered that melting silica could create glass, the uses for glass began to spread. Early uses included glass beads and decorative murals. Today, we know that although silica produces a brittle glass, we can add ingredients such as magnesium, aluminium and iron to produce stronger types of glass for a wide variety of uses including windows, touch screens, eye wear and sculptures.
When building technology for your world, consider a few simple questions:
- What purpose does it serve?
- How can it be built upon?
- What needs to be built first in order to make this a practical solution?