D&D Why not Wizard?
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  1. #1
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    Why not Wizard?

    A thread a little while ago got me thinking: why aren't all poets Bards? Why aren't all architects Wizards? Why aren't all monks (the shaved head types) clerics? If all it takes to learn magic is to be smart, if all it takes to commune with the gods is to be wise, if all it takes to cast spells with your lute is to be charismatic...why aren't they?

    Isn't pretty much everything these people want to accomplish done easier with magic? From entertaining the masses to building buildings, isn't all of this done faster, easier and more importantly: better with magic?

    This is more aimed at being a philosophical discussion on setting creation, so bear with me.

    There are of course, certain in-setting reasons that may prevent this. Magic may be restricted in some manner, ranging from illegal to simply rare. This certainly could encourage smart people to stick to drafting tables instead of summoning circles. It could also encourage "brain drain" if there is a nearby civilization where magic is not suchly restricted (and this could also cause a war). Perhaps all the "good magic" is locked away in the great halls of some university, college or religious order (as is often implied by having Wizard Schools, Bardic Colleges and so on). Perhaps those facilities are limited in size, or funding or simply self-limiting. Even still, there are mechanics for researching your own magic, which while arguably much more time consuming, is not impossible.

    But still there are largely in-setting reasons, meaning they are fluff created by a specific DM for a specific game. There is no specific mandate set forth in the rules that any smart person can't just start fiddling with the laws of reality, or that any particularly devoted person cannot become a magically-imbued servant of their god. I mean, if the level 1 nobodies we all bring to play can do it, why can't a skilled author? Or a clever contractor?

    Perhaps there is an implied opportunity cost, much in the way that a character has a "background" as a farmer and then becomes a Paladin, they can no longer be a farmer, because becoming a Paladin took so much time and effort, but they may one day retire back to farming. That is to say one cannot be both a Wizard and an Architect because learning to become either is so time consuming that you'd be half-baked in either direction. But a lot of this time consumption depends on distribution of experience. Would it benefit an Architect to leave his designs at home, pick up a spellbook, wander off into the world slaying monsters until he either dies or becomes powerful enough to be a Wizard-itect and then simply go back to his previous job now with the aid of powerful magic?

    Of course what this also begs is a question about what experience really represents. Could you become a high-level Wizard simply sitting around, reading books all day, practicing, studying, training with magic? Maybe it would be slower, but that's how we do it IRL, so to say that it couldn't happen in a fantasy setting seems a little implausible.

    Or maybe its the idea that, like with super-heroes, when you get powerful enough, instead of running off to chase down bad guys, the bad guys start coming to you, and it becomes impossible to hold down a normal way of life when you have gained sufficient power, noone will hire you to build a building because Gorg the Destroyer will knock it down in order to get at you.

    Maybe it's a mix of all of these things. But if our little guys can start off doing it, why don't more people who are clearly superior to our characters?

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    The logical outcome of a society with D&D rules is that it ends up a high magic society.

    This would require a lot of effort putting those with mental abilities in training programs for various casting classes, but it is in principal achievable, especially given how even low level magic can drastically affect the world. (Cheap access to potable water, for one.)

    Of course, the social disruption that might occur from this might be a reason those in power frown on it. Hard for a king to enforce inane taxes on a city if the majority of the population can sling spells back at his tax collectors.

    It's also possible that there are hidden costs with regard to magic like in Dark Sun, or that there is some X factor governing your magical talent that mental scores do not capture. Or perhaps the current setting is post apocalyptic, because the last time there was a high magic society, it blew itself up, like in the Forgotten Realms.

  3. #3
    Magic seems easy to us (the players), because all we have to do is say, "I magic it." Presumably, however, magic is hard enough that not everyone can do it (or wants to).

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  5. #5
    I think you start running into problems the moment you try extrapolating a world out of D&D game rules. D&D has so many rules that are there just because it's a game, but also because it's sort of haphazardly trying to evoke a fantasy world. "Haphazardly" because once you look behind the curtains, it all falls apart.

    The obvious answer is that if all those folks are magic-users, magic becomes too commonplace and the world stops being recognizably "D&D/generic fantasy" -- the type we've learned to associate with fantasy fiction from all kinds of sources.

    Also, trying to make experience and levels into something tangible -- something you can do and acquire in the fictional world itself -- is a recipe for a comedic, 4th-wall breaking game and story. I mean, in a typical game of D&D the heroes can go from level 1 to 15 in a matter of months, i.e., they somehow become able to handle fighting building-sized monsters in melee combat and to survive jumping from 300-yard heights after killing a whole bunch of creatures. Story-wise, that only makes sense if you either gloss over it (probably what the large majority of groups do) or try justifying through divine/supernatural powers or potential.
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  6. #6
    Don't forget how murder improves your ability to do calculus!
    Laugh Garthanos laughed with this post

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by shidaku View Post
    A thread a little while ago got me thinking: why aren't all poets Bards? Why aren't all architects Wizards? Why aren't all monks (the shaved head types) clerics? If all it takes to learn magic is to be smart, if all it takes to commune with the gods is to be wise, if all it takes to cast spells with your lute is to be charismatic...why aren't they?
    First of all, before I actually answer the question, how many professional poets do you know? Even if all poets were bards, you wouldn't expect the society to support a great many of them. Moreover, being a bard is more demanding than being a poet. Maybe many poets just don't want to go to the trouble to learn to use a sword, cast spells, and so forth - they just want to write poems. The same basic logic applies to architects. How many professional architects existed in all of Europe in say the year 1250. Not that many. Even if every architect was a wizard, there wouldn't be many wizards. But, most architects would probably prefer to focus their studies on being an architect and not distract themselves with learning how to wield a staff in combat and cast spells. All of that time they spend learning spells distracts from being a professional architect. Likewise, not all members of the laity necessarily have what it takes to be part of the clergy, nor for that matter is it necessarily the case that the formal structure of the religion needs only clerics. Deities are particular. They may for example only except as initiate virgin females, which means that if you want to serve the deity in a formal capacity and are male, being a clergy is not an option. Someone has to guard the temple, protect pilgrims, sweep the floors, keep the books, play the musical instruments, and whatever outreach that the temple engages in. Cleric might not be the optimal choice for any of those things. Even if you technically meet the requirements, as a practical matter the clergy might be limited to demonstrating 15 Wisdom and 13 Charisma (as established by tests and interviews), so if you have a desire to serve and 12 Wisdom or 10 Charisma, chances are you end up in some other capacity.

    Isn't pretty much everything these people want to accomplish done easier with magic? From entertaining the masses to building buildings, isn't all of this done faster, easier and more importantly: better with magic?
    Not necessarily. Architects for example design buildings, and usually leave it up to tradesmen to actually build them. So there might be wizard contractors that specialize in building magic that an architect hires, and it behooves the architect to know what sort of things you can do with magic, but being a wizard doesn't necessarily give you ranks in Knowledge(Architecture & Engineering) or Craft(Masonry) or any of the actual skills.

    Perhaps there is an implied opportunity cost, much in the way that a character has a "background" as a farmer and then becomes a Paladin, they can no longer be a farmer, because becoming a Paladin took so much time and effort, but they may one day retire back to farming. That is to say one cannot be both a Wizard and an Architect because learning to become either is so time consuming that you'd be half-baked in either direction. But a lot of this time consumption depends on distribution of experience. Would it benefit an Architect to leave his designs at home, pick up a spellbook, wander off into the world slaying monsters until he either dies or becomes powerful enough to be a Wizard-itect and then simply go back to his previous job now with the aid of powerful magic?
    Assuming he doesn't die (or worse) and that he's actually well equipped to do that sort of thing, then yes, perhaps he would benefit in the same way that PC's that survive to retire benefit. But if he's a Str 8, Dex 5, Con 9, Int 14, Wis 11, Chr 12 sort (10.5 is average!), an adventuring career probably isn't recommended - though nothing might prevent him from being a very successful architect.

    Could you become a high-level Wizard simply sitting around, reading books all day, practicing, studying, training with magic? Maybe it would be slower, but that's how we do it IRL, so to say that it couldn't happen in a fantasy setting seems a little implausible.
    Presumably, yes you can. As a practical matter, if leveling up only depended on murder, there wouldn't be enough XP to support the demographics observed in D&D. Everyone would have to be dead, sacrificed to level up the few in a self-defeating social death spiral.

    Thoughts?
    A ton of them, but to start with, to understand how I understand my game world, it probably is necessary to start looking at the rules I've put in place to answer your question. Because fundamentally, what I see you asking is, "Why isn't everyone PC classed?" And the answer IMC is twofold: there are minimum requirements to enter PC classes, and PC classes are optimal for living a heroic life, but are suboptimal for living a non-heroic one. If you don't want to go on quests and face hazards and horrors, and instead want to face the challenges of ordinary life, you actually have better options.

    See for example this thread:

    http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthr...im-NPC-Classes
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  8. #8
    I thin these are valid suggestions, but let me comment something:
    1) Magic is harder than it seems for the players. Saying “being smart is all it takes to be a wizard” is like saying being smart is all what takes to be a medic or a nuclear physicist. Well, in theory yes, but in practice…
    2) If you go with older edition books, you’ll see that magic is expensive for poor people. Really, really, expensive. In AD&D 2e, just a single, blank spellbook costs 5000 GP! That’s a lot of money for peasants. However, many smart people are born in more humble families. In our world, how many brains were born on poor families and never had the chance to be great scientists? Perhaps this fellow is smart, but the path available was working as an architect or baker.
    3) It’s clear that few “priests” are able to become Clerics or other “powerful” (PC level) spellcasting classes. This isn’t what everyone does there. The same processes can be extended to other classes.

    Now, I do think that it would be nice (at least) if the stuff you make with magic is not top-quality stuff. It’s something I’m working on my project. For example, if food created by magic is mediocre, even powerful wizards will have excellent cooks as employees, so they can taste good stuff ^^

    About experience levels: it clear that the XP system is aimed at PCs, not NPCs. 4e did quite a good job at clarifying that: PCs are special not only because they have PC classes, but also because they can improve their abilities quickly in this way. NPCs work in their usual, more “realistic” ways. Gary Gygax himself discussed about this. The XP system was made to reward players for exploring forgotten dungeons, finding treasure, saving damsels in distress and slaying powerful monsters. A game all about a scholar studying the theory of magic, priests preaching their beliefs, warriors training non-stop with swords, etc. was not his idea of a “fun game” (and I kinda agree with him).
    Please do note that older editions have rules demanding a training time once you gain enough XP to be of level X. I believe it was mandatory in AD&D 1e, but it’s optional in AD&D 2e. This training takes some time, and it’s very expensive, and usually you want to have a teacher guiding you – self-training was possible, but even more expensive!
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dandu View Post
    The logical outcome of a society with D&D rules is that it ends up a high magic society.
    That's really the feeling I've been getting. If the NPCs get to play by the PCs rules, then we'll end up with a high-magic society in short order (by "short order" I mean a couple generations).

    This would require a lot of effort putting those with mental abilities in training programs for various casting classes, but it is in principal achievable, especially given how even low level magic can drastically affect the world. (Cheap access to potable water, for one.)
    It is equally interesting what systems wouldn't develop if every two-big cleric/druid/whatever could "create water". Would plumbing even be a thing? Would larger societies be more environmentally sustainable?

    Of course, the social disruption that might occur from this might be a reason those in power frown on it. Hard for a king to enforce inane taxes on a city if the majority of the population can sling spells back at his tax collectors.
    Similarly, the King could probably hire spellcasters looking to make an easy buck and gain some prestige and power in town. God help us all when the IRS is scrying us while we do our taxes!

    Quote Originally Posted by Teemu View Post
    I think you start running into problems the moment you try extrapolating a world out of D&D game rules. D&D has so many rules that are there just because it's a game, but also because it's sort of haphazardly trying to evoke a fantasy world. "Haphazardly" because once you look behind the curtains, it all falls apart.
    Fair enough.

    The obvious answer is that if all those folks are magic-users, magic becomes too commonplace and the world stops being recognizably "D&D/generic fantasy" -- the type we've learned to associate with fantasy fiction from all kinds of sources.
    I don't think that's entirely a bad thing though. "Generic fantasy" only gets you through so many games until you start looking for something new, something different and something exciting. I mean I think one of the biggest appeals of the Drow/Underdark setting for me is that they're a society that specifically breeds for powerful magic users. Their society is of course smaller and they rely on slave labor to fill in the gaps, but they've come, in-game, to essentially the same conclusion I have: magic makes things better, faster and stronger, so why not magic? I think the incongruity represented there is quite interesting to play through. Not everyone may be a 20th level sorcerer, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone with no magic.

    Also, trying to make experience and levels into something tangible -- something you can do and acquire in the fictional world itself -- is a recipe for a comedic, 4th-wall breaking game and story. I mean, in a typical game of D&D the heroes can go from level 1 to 15 in a matter of months, i.e., they somehow become able to handle fighting building-sized monsters in melee combat and to survive jumping from 300-yard heights after killing a whole bunch of creatures. Story-wise, that only makes sense if you either gloss over it (probably what the large majority of groups do) or try justifying through divine/supernatural powers or potential.
    I think that depends more on the means than the end. Players gain XP at astounding rates because they're doing crazy stuff 24/7. College students gain knowledge fast because they're taking lots of courses in short order. This is entirely applicable to a fantasy setting: people in town are taking a more casual approach to life. Reading a book now and then, maybe attending the occasional class to learn how to paint with magic, and so on. I mean Harry Potter isn't particularly out of line with a generic fantasy setting: there is little magic and lots of muggles but the magic-users have figured out it's faster and safer to send kinds to magic-school.

    Fundamentally I think all sentient creatures understand "experience", maybe not "XP" but "experience" in the sense of: the more you do, the more you learn, the more capable you become of doing and learning more.

  10. #10
    Similarly, the King could probably hire spellcasters looking to make an easy buck and gain some prestige and power in town. God help us all when the IRS is scrying us while we do our taxes!
    This is the sort of arms race that would tear the setting apart, as real life industrialization did to Imperial Russia.

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