5E How do you handle the "economy killing spells" in your game?
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  1. #1
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    Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)



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    How do you handle the "economy killing spells" in your game?

    Some campaigns couldn't give a hoot about economics, in which case this discussion isn't really for you.

    But many campaigns go half way, they don't try to replicate a full world economy or anything, but they try to establish some reasonable economics, at least enough so that players can amass and spend their gold, buy services from time to time, etc.

    A question that comes up in every edition, how does the economy work when certain spells arive? 5e is no exception, for example...there are two spells in particiular that I think are low enough level that you would see them "a fair amount", and powerful enough to turn an economy upside down. These are certaintly not the only economy killers in the game, but ones that I think are poignant. I am curious how you handle such spells (or other ones) in your campaigns.


    1) Plant Growth: If one 5th druid decided to "help the farmers", and enrichs a different area everyday, they could effectively add over 150,000 acres of farmland to a kingdom (the true answer is 183, 468...but inevitably travel time, vacations, etc play in).

    Further, its a reasonable thing for several druids to consider, enriching the land is a very drudic thing to do.

    So the idea of the poor fuedal farmer barely holding on in 5e campaigns with druids doesn't really hold up. Farmers would be the equivalent of modern agribusiness, with incredible productivity and crop yields.

    This also means kingdoms don't follow fuedal population numbers, they should be significantly larger becomes food is more prevalaent.


    2) Fabricate: No craftsman in the world can compete with a 7th level wizard....in fact, its easy to ask "why would there even be regular craftsman in such a world?". In 1 day, a 7th level wizard with proficiency can craft two full items in an hour and 20 minutes (needs a short rest for arcane recovery for that second spell). Or if hes feeling lazy, 1 item a day for 10 minutes.

    So in a standard business week, that's 5-10 items.

    Now for context, by downtime activities, it takes 300 days to make plate mail. In that 300 day period, 1 wizard could make as much plate mail as 600 armor smiths. 600! Just one wizard in a city could make enough armor to stock the stores of his city, and probably every city in the region...hell maybe the whole world!

    This means that any kingdom with just 1 loyal decently leveled wizard that wants to help his kingdom, by himself, could equip entire army regiments with plate mail in the span of a year. And that's just 1 wizard, if a kingdom had just 2-3 your entire army could have plate mail. You could argue that wizards are rare, and wizard that have armorsmithing proficiency are rarer still....but it only takes 1 to completely change how the armor economy of a kingdom works.

    So fabricate should create an interesting shift compared to normal economics. On the one hand, wizards should put all common crafters out of work. Only if you live in the boonies where there are no wizards would you be able to make a living.

    But second, in theory what should happen is....the price of labor is rock bottom, and the price of materials is sky high. Mining should be where the real money is made! When manufacturing becomes trivial, its value decreases. No one would care about the craftsmanship of a jewel (that's just 10 minutes work!), but getting the raw jewel in the first place would be where all of the struggle comes from in theory.



    So those are just a few wild thoughts. What do you do in your campaings...do you restrict these spells somehow, incorporate them into your economies, just pretend they aren't a thing...etc.

  2. #2
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    1) Plant Growth - one might say that NPC Druids have zero interest in annual crops. Instead they are more interested in using this spell to restore ecosystems damaged by industry, magic, and/or corrupting auras of monsters. Now, if a PC Druid wants, on a regular basis, to help out some farmers instead of adventuring, then one might consider some better hooks for adventures.

    2) Fabricate - the wizard proficient with smiths tools still needs to be provided with the raw material to create hundreds of suits of plate. Surely this might start some kind of resource struggle between kingdoms. Sounds like the start of an adventure hook beckoning the PCs to prevent the domination of said kingdom. Usually, though, Id say the generation of mundane objects is beneath most scholarly wizards who care far less about the wealth of nations and more about the power of knowledge.

    Im confident that there are plenty of other creative ideas out there for DMs to employ to keep spells from ruining a fantasy economy, if thats a big concern. Like the DMG says, the DM is the Master of Worlds - make some shiitake up that holds up in the fantasy world without worrying if it makes sense from the perspective of our IRL economic paradigm. Personally, Im less concerned with the details of economic realism, even though one of our campaigns is ostensibly about the flow of commerce throughout the land. Its really just a backdrop to help explain some NPC motivations while the real story is the heroic journey of the PCs.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stalker0 View Post
    Some campaigns couldn't give a hoot about economics, in which case this discussion isn't really for you.

    . . .

    So those are just a few wild thoughts. What do you do in your campaings...do you restrict these spells somehow, incorporate them into your economies, just pretend they aren't a thing...etc.
    I don't give a hoot about the economics, no, but I have found myself wanting to explain the effect of spellcasters on other parts of the setting though. My solution still probably isn't very helpful to you, but here it is:

    I decided that the vast majority of clerics/druids/wizards in the world aren't spellcasters. They might know a ritual or two, but even they're extraordinarily rare. Like, the druid in your example would be a unique individual, and I'd wind up writing a plot hook about how some evil faction is looking to exploit him.

    And from my own game, the prime example is the King's Royal Wizard . . . who is a sage with no spellcasting ability at all.

    As I said, probably not an answer that will help you, but it's what I do.
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  4. #4
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    Make the populace superstitious of mages & magic. Druids on the farm? Thats how you get werewolves! You couldnt give away a magic-made weapon in this town. Folks say the blade will turn in your hand and kill you if it sees moonlight. A lot of those crazed high level caster villains started out as aspiring merchants who just had too many bad retail customers...
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  5. #5
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    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)



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    Since I've never seen PCs attempt to do either of these things, it seems to be a non-issue.

    Fabricate requires the actual raw materials, eg making plate armour requires (a) the PC could actually make plate armour normally and (b) they have the high quality steel and all the other bits & bobs necessary - eg leather, cloth padding etc. Usually in D&D this stuff costs half as much as the final object, though for jewelry it might cost a much higher proportion. Also the spell only creates one object "the fabricated object".

    Basically the spell appears to be more a time saver, and since IMC a long rest is 7 days, not necessarily even that much of a time saver! The spell could certainly make a wizard-smith rich. I'm sure in my Varisia campaign the Golemworks wizards use this sort of magic routinely. But all that is necessary to prevent abuse is for the GM to read the spell and be reasonably conservative in interpretation.
    Last edited by S'mon; Sunday, 12th May, 2019 at 08:49 PM.
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  6. #6
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    My world has plenty of magic, but higher level PC type casters are rare. So yes ... agricultural land is more productive because it's blessed but you still need people to harvest the crops. To counter the blessed fields there are magical means of harming crops as well. Not to mention verdant farms that are abandoned because of that ankheg infestation. So agriculture can be slightly more dense but planting and harvesting are still labor intensive. In addition, as others have posted druids are not in the agri-business.

    As far as fabricate, wizards that can cast 4th level spells are not common. Wizards that can cast 4th level spells that also know how to fabricate a decent suit of armor? Pretty much non-existent. Yes, they can craft crude bridges or clothing but not at a volume that's going to change the balance of an economy.

    Which is not to say magic doesn't affect crafted goods, it does. It's just more subtle. A master craftsman uses magic without explicitly knowing it, and their swords don't rust quickly if at all. The baker's cookies really are magically delicious.

    But remember this is a world where there are significant threats to humanity's survival. Magical apocalypses every few centuries, trolls, orcs, ghouls and other nasty things that go bump in the night. If it weren't for a little help from magic, humanity wouldn't stand a chance.
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  7. #7
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    Plant growth - all this spell does is double land productivity. Which is a lot less than the difference between wheat farming and rice farming! So you get fat happy peasants for a generation, population doubles, back in the Malthusian Trap. Then the druid dies and famine strikes...
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oofta View Post
    Which is not to say magic doesn't affect crafted goods, it does. It's just more subtle. A master craftsman uses magic without explicitly knowing it, and their swords don't rust quickly if at all. The baker's cookies really are magically delicious.
    Sweet!

    Also: This.

    Just yesterday, I mentioned here that the guns in my game are a dwarven blend of clockwork and magic. They were crafted by smiths who weren't wizards.

  9. #9
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    Plant Growth - Druids do help with farming and as a result life in fantasy worlds is much much better than it is in real medieval earth, Populations are bigger, the peasantry is much healthier, cities less squalid and there is enough social mobility that small parties of wandering mercenaries can make a good living being hired by mayors and village chieftains to fight off orc raiders and explore abandoned ruins.

    Also in one game I was playing there was a PC Druid Farmer who used his spells to become wealthy and buy up all the land around a town earning himself a barony. However as his farm experiments expanded he came into conflict with the local Dryads and Druids Council due to his expansionist exploitation of nature

    Fabricate - I changed all the 'Skill spells' so they add +10 bonus to Skill, so you will still need to have a Blacksmith to craft armour, but the spell makes it a much easier tasks.

    But second, in theory what should happen is....the price of labor is rock bottom, and the price of materials is sky high. Mining should be where the real money is made! When manufacturing becomes trivial, its value decreases. No one would care about the craftsmanship of a jewel (that's just 10 minutes work!), but getting the raw jewel in the first place would be where all of the struggle comes from in theory.
    Mining is where its at - why do you think there are so many underground dungeons? Of course there are barriers to people wanting to set up a new mine - Mines can only be put in certain places and the subterranean races (including Dwarfs) tend to defend those resources fiercely
    Last edited by Tonguez; Sunday, 12th May, 2019 at 09:14 PM.
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  10. #10
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    It really depends on what demographic assumptions the DM builds their world around. How common are NPCs with PC class levels? Of those NPCs who have them, how many levels do they have in their PC class?

    In your DM's home campaign setting a 7th level Wizard might be the highest level arcane caster of fixed address in the Barony, someone who divides his time between personal research into the mystic arts and acting on retainer to the Baron as his sage adviser. In Eberron, House Cannith is absolutely using Fabricate on an industrial level to produce their wares, it's one of the cornerstones of the setting. In the Forgotten Realms it seems like half the innkeepers and tavern masters are retired adventurers with PC class levels in the low teens, but the FR have never made much sense that way.

    So pick your poison. Either casters with PC levels of sufficient number are rare enough that they have more pressing demands on their time that they can't significantly impact the setting that way, or the setting is actually built with the assumption that people like that are part of the economy and goes from there, or you just sort of hand wave the issue and get on with the adventure.

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