5E How do you handle the "economy killing spells" in your game? - Page 12
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  1. #111
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stalker0 View Post
    That's exactly what this exercise is. So if we assume a normal dnd setting, assuming high level people exist (even if rare), and the standard phb spell exist....we want to have an economy that works "normally". So my original post was to get from suggestions from people on how to rationalize that. Basically....why is the economy normal? Why aren't these hyper intelligent mid level wizards not swimming in gold...etc.

    Ultimately that is what I want in my setting, and I have handwaved things to get it there. But I would rather have more rationale explanations, which is what people are contributing.
    That's cool, if the discussion is going the way you're looking for. I run it the same way. I just wanted to point out that there are two different angles to look at it from, because it seemed like the points where the discussion is hitting walls or stopping are the points where the opposite approach is being taken.

    So I'll contribute some more general methods that I go with, and maybe an example or two.

    Nothing new here, but one thing I tend to do when looking at something a player should be able to do, is ask myself what the world would look like if all of the NPCs capable of casting that spell (or whatever) also did that. If I don't like the results, then I either need to examine if I can change my interpretation of the interpretable aspects of how the spell works, or if not, what is different about the PCs.

    One thing that is different about the PCs is that they are generally adventurers. So what is different about adventurers? For one thing, they generally don't care nearly as much about social acceptability. Even heroic adventurers are generally looked at as more or less disreputable sorts. There is a funny quote from Balder's Gate 2 (I think) where one of the one-line commoner NPCs you can talk to says something about how when he looks into the eyes of his daughter he gains more fulfillment than all the gold and glory out there. That's not the wording he uses, but I think it's the basic sentiment, and it makes sense in the world. Most people don't consider adventuring to be something desirable. I mean, sure, when adventurers have just saved their village, or rescued said daughter (for example) they're just the bees knees. But that is soon forgotten, and then they get back to life with other real people who are actually a part of their society.

    What that all means is that adventurers (and often arcane casters) can get away with things that are considered socially unacceptable to the majority of people. So take that wizard who is popping out armor like a machine. Someone already brought up the point that the local competition will probably hate that. It's bad enough if you sit out there in your tower doing who knows what, but once you start taking away people's livelihood, well guess who you are now? The Evil Wizard in the tower, congratulations. Meet the adventurers they just hired to stop you. Sure you can say that the wizards find ways to hire people to work for them, but the majority of people don't want to work for wizards. They are scary. They can turn you into a toad.

    So all you really have to do to stop most of this is assume that the society isn't 100% comfortable with magic in their daily life. It's all well and good in stories, but not in my backyard.

    Clerical magic is a bit different, because the priests who are likely to be providing such services are valued parts of the community that you deal with regularly, and their miracles get the divine stamp of approval. When it comes to using things like zone of truth in court trials, sure, that might be a thing for important trials. But is that sufficient? Not only are there rare ways of defeating such spells, but there are also ways to weasel around the truth, memories can be modified etc. I would expect a just society wouldn't condemn someone solely on the basis of a zone of truth spell. Treat it like a lie detect test in the real world. Some societies might, but if you move very far to the unjust direction...why bother with zone of truth? If she sinks she was innocent.

    Let's get to resurrection magic, one of my favorites. Coming back from being a lifeless corpse in a world where evil animated corpses are substantially more common than people coming back to actual life. No, that's not creepy at all. It should probably be one of the most suspect things you can do. Are you a ruler or some other aristocrat? Congratulations, you've just committed political suicide. The common people can't know if it's really you that came back. Your body could be possessed by a fiend. Or what about a superstitious belief that might exist that for everyone brought back, someone else had to die. Your friend's son just died in an accident... Or even if there were no hitches to the spell itself, a belief that creepy stuff might happen around you, or maybe something followed you back from the netherworld, etc, would make sense. And in a D&D world it's quite possible that some (or all) of these actually are true on rare occasions. And that's all you need. Less than that, you just need a few people believing it's true. Welcome to superstition. Enjoy being a social outcast. I would think it might be just built into the way things work that ruling families do not allow their dead family members to be brought back. Even if they find some of these superstitions unlikely, they have an image to preserve, and it would reflect badly on them. Of course overtly evil rulers might not care--they are evil. Adventurers can get away with this because they are already disreputable sorts. Or maybe that great paladin hero that got brought back from the dead by the high priest of Goodness and Justice gets a pass, because they walk around with an aura of holiness and awesome. Good luck on convincing them your 6th level fighter should get the same pass. Adventurers might want to keep quite exactly how many times they've been raised.

    Pretty much every one of these problems can be handled by focusing on the divide between adventurers and the common folk, superstition, or the need of elites to save face.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    I'd think, if you're working back from the kind of world you want, you would be considering which spells &c to include that would support that vision, and cut those that don't fit. Otherwise you're really back to the same exercise.
    You could do it that way too, but I'm assuming we want to keep such spells, and I think that's just as interesting, if it does require a bit more creativity.

  2. #112
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    I'm guessing the average attitude of governing bodies is not one disinclined to accept rampant poverty among the general populace.
    I'm inclined to agree. There are generally two attitudes governing bodies take with respect to their population. The first is, the wealthier the public, the greater my absolute power. The second is, the poorer the public, the greater my relative power. To the second sort, a wealthy public represents as threat in that while their absolute power has increased, their power to control the public tends to decrease. So the second sort tends to discourage economic productivity and encourage economic plunder. It's rare even in human history that the first sort prevails over a nation, and it would be rarer still in a universe where the rulers were less likely to empathize with and consider themselves the same as one of the ruled.

  3. #113
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    The simplest way I have found to manage these economy-wrecking spells is to make PC classes inaccessible (or extremely restricted) for NPCs.

  4. #114
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    Quote Originally Posted by Horwath View Post
    This could turn into philosophical debate but,

    Poverty comes from; available resources in any given area vs. number of people in that area. Attitude of governing bodies towards it's general populace and also ability of general population to use available resources.

    Just if you give someone house and land and car/farming equipment does not mean it will work for them in the long run. Or that will be used to max of it's capacity.

    Removing poverty starts with education and self-control, not with money being thrown your way.
    Yeah, no. Self control isn’t part of the equation, except on the part of those hoarding wealth that belongs to the community.

    But this is an inherently political topic, so best we leave it. I doubt either of us has arguments to make that the other can’t ever hear elsewhere.

  5. #115
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    How many of job X make it to level N?

    There's really no easy way to gauge that in a vacuum, but if I had to pick a scaling rate, I'd probably say 1/(2^N). That is, half the people studying to be wizards actually make it to level 1 (the other half just don't have the talent); half of those make it to level 2; half of those make it to level 3; etc. (Note: It doesn't mean that those who don't make it to that level die; they might have retired, or been too injured to continue adventuring, or been offered a job by the kingdom and decided it was better to have a stable job, etc.)

    With that scaling, 1 in a million people who try to become wizards make it to level 20. That doesn't feel out of line with expectations. Likewise, half the people who try to become wizards flunk out of wizard school. It feels a little high, perhaps, but then in a mostly low-tech world, actual leveled adventurers are relatively rare, and amazing, so it's not entirely out of line.

    So it feels like a reasonable scaling rate, and I'll go forward with this assumption.

    ~~

    Next, how many wizards make it to level 7? 2^7 is 128, so 1/128, or about 1%. Or 1/64 if you ignore those who didn't even make level 1.

    If we take the urbanization of a D&D world as not being higher than 1850's US, the urban population is maybe 10%, compared to 90% rural. That also matches the population split in England at the time of the Domesday Book (1086), though it's probably closer to 20% urban by the 17th century. Given the large cities prevalent in many worlds (eg: Forgotten Realms), I'm willing to go with 10%-20% urban as a reasonable base figure. (More likely leaning towards 20% after evaluating the Plant Growth section, below.)

    Looking at the variation of England's population between 1000 AD and 1800 AD, it would not be out of line to expect an equivalent kingdom in a D&D world to have a population of about 5 million. That would give it an urban population of 500,000–1,000,000, which would be the source of the vast majority of specialized classes. If 1% of those were a relatively rare adventuring class like wizard (gated by intelligence, plus split among various class options), you could have 5000–10000 wizards in the kingdom.

    At the assumed level scaling rate, about 1.5% of the wizard population would be level 7 or higher. So maybe 80–150 or so, with 40–75 having settled at level 7. Overall, I'd put the size of the pool of candidates that can be Fabricators for the kingdom at about 50 (not counting the actual crafting skill requirement).

    * Aside: Using these numbers, you could expect to, on average, have a single level 13 wizard in a kingdom this size. That would be peak expectations for wizard level, and pretty much fits as roughly upper end of tier 3 play.

    Now, the king hiring a few of those wizards for helping the kingdom? Perfectly reasonable. However not all of them are going to be on fabricate duty. Maybe at the start, allowing you to get full plate for the palace guard and some elite units, but over time they'll be put on a variety of other duties. And that's only the king, not any of the lesser nobles, who are less likely to have the resources to keep such a wizard employed fulltime. Most likely it would be a nice little favor to give a baron 10 suits of plate mail for his men. Usual political give-and-take bribery.

    So yes, I see it happening, but not nearly on the scale suggested by the OP. It's reasonable, and not economy-breaking.

    ~~

    Druids should be similarly rare as wizards, but you only need to reach level 5 for Plant Growth. So that puts 300–600 druids as being capable of casting the spell, with 150–300 as having settled around level 5.

    Modern farming methods can roughly feed one person per acre of farmed land (including grazing areas for meat sources, etc). Historical production peaked at about 1/3 to 1/4 of modern production yields (during the 1800's), and pre-Industrial Revolution produced about 1/3 of *that* (pre-1700).

    If modern yields are 20 (tons per hectare across multiple crops, but ignore the units), you'd have a 6 in 1800, and a 2.5 in 1600. Given that D&D is pre-Industrial Revolution for the most part, raw, unmodified production should probably be around the 2.5 value, while Plant Growth could boost it to 5. That's actually pretty nice, and would help explain the relative prosperity of the typical D&D world.

    If production scales with the amount of land needed to feed each person, a year-1600-level of production would need 8 acres per person, and Plant Growth would reduce that to 4. So you'd normally need 40 million acres farmed to feed a population of 5 million, but could reduce that to 20 million acres if Plant Growth was used on all of it.

    That's 62,500 square miles, or 31,250 square miles with PG. Plant Growth requires 8 hours of meditation for about 0.8 square mile.

    Math aside: Since PG's area of effect is a circle, you actually lose some efficiency (about 20%) if dealing with square cultivation areas. If you have a 1 mile square field, 80% of it gets boosted by PG, and 20% gets normal growth. Total value: 1.8. To get the entire field inside the PG area, it would need to be 0.7x0.7 miles for 0.5 square miles of field getting doubled, and some extra waste outside the field itself (about 40% of the spell area). Total value: 1.0, but you can have two fields to add up to a full square mile yielding 2.0. So do you take a 0.2 loss from a single cast, or pay for an extra casting of PG on two smaller fields? I'll assume 1 square mile fields because it's less wasteful, even if some of the crops have lower yield.

    So, with the math adjustment, it's more like 35,000 square miles need to be boosted if you want to use this on 100% of farming production. Each casting lasts for a full year, so you'd basically need 100 druids working on this process full time for a kingdom of 5 million. That's a fairly large percentage of the druids that settled down at level 5 (1/3 to 2/3 of them), and a high risk point-of-failure if the druids decide to bail on you.

    Still, the kingdom might be able to employ some without worrying about that risk. Every 10 druids so employed reduces the necessary farming area (and manpower) by 5%.

    Estimates from 1850-1860 in the US puts about 24-25 people per square mile to operate farms. 10 druids using PG would thus reduce the needed rural population by about 75,000. That in turn implies that any significant use of druids for Plant Growth would lead to a massive urbanization push, or perhaps a shift to more specialized food markets.

    ~~

    Most likely the kingdom would employ 10–20 or so druids, with a large portion of the additional production going to granaries and food stores, and probably an agreement to limit cultivation expansion from areas that the druids want to preserve. In a world of magic and monsters, you have to deal with a lot more than just random weather drought, and having ready food supplies would go a long way towards keeping a kingdom stable.

    At the same time, the improved production will likely lead to a fairly large urbanization shift, probably on the order of a hundred thousand people. (Which would likely get you a few dozen more level 5 druids, so a net positive for druid culture.) This will in turn lead to a lot more of the urban benefits that most adventurers take for granted — plus a large pool of adventurers in general. In a world with many monstrous threats, more adventurers is a good thing.

    While some have pointed out a power monopoly of the druids, I don't think it will scale to 100% use of PG in all farming. However even a 10% boost to production gives you a strong edge, and options for food storage, without granting a great deal of power to the druids. And even if you lose the druids you have employed, you likely still have a large food surplus in storage to last you until you can negotiate another deal.

    Overall, I think it will balance out reasonably well.
    Last edited by Kinematics; Saturday, 18th May, 2019 at 10:57 PM.
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  6. #116
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kinematics View Post
    How many of job X make it to level N?
    This was a wonderfully rationalized post, I greatly appreciate the effort. It also helps solve some of the cleric questions such as: If 5th level clerics can cast Create Food and Water...do you even need farming? (the answer based on your numbers: you could feed 3,000 people or so if every 5th level cleric did the job...a nice boost, but certainty not supporting a 5 million person kingdom).

    If we continued with your model and assumed numbers, for this 5 million person kingdom, how many specialized crafters would you predict exist?

    In my OP I assumed that even a small number of crafting wizards would dominate certain crafting markets...aka replace a large number of crafters. But the key check in that statement is...how many crafters does the market have? If wizard replace 600 out of 1000 crafters, thats a huge deal. If its 600 out of 6000, its a factor but doesn't completely change the market, etc.
    Last edited by Stalker0; Saturday, 18th May, 2019 at 11:25 PM.

  7. #117
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stalker0 View Post
    If we continued with your model and assumed numbers, for this 5 million person kingdom, how many specialized crafters would you predict exist?

    In my OP I assumed that even a small number of crafting wizards would dominate certain crafting markets...aka replace a large number of crafters. But the key check in that statement is...how many crafters does the market have? If wizard replace 600 out of 1000 crafters, thats a huge deal. If its 600 out of 6000, its a factor but doesn't completely change the market, etc.
    Assuming the 20% urbanization rate, then you'd have 1 million people in urban areas doing work. Very few of the rural population would be crafters, though they'd likely do at least some of the material gathering (eg: wood, leather, wool, etc). Regardless, for simplicity, I'll only work off of a percentage of the urban population.

    Then after factoring out underage (about 20%), military/law enforcement (about 10%), and non-professional service workers (eg: merchants, traders, shipworkers, food service, adventurers, etc; maybe up to 60% overall), that leaves about 20% of the population, and I'd probably allocate about half of that to various professional/crafting services, for a total of about 100,000 — not all of which are the masters; there's plenty of apprentices and journeymen in there, and spread across the entire kingdom.

    While the full plate armor has been used as an example, that's really only a wizard attempting to dominate a single market. And really, he's only dominating one particular good within that craftspace. There's no reason that the blacksmith that didn't get the full plate armor order didn't make a bunch of rapiers instead. If the wizard tries to fabricate easier stuff, it very quickly reduces his impact on the market.

    With 100,000 crafters and an overall population of 5 million, that means each crafter provides products for 50 people per year. However since the crafters should be analyzed in groups based on crafting type, if you choose a dozen main craft types (for simple math), each crafter for each craft type would be providing products for 600 people per year — roughly one product per every other person per day. Which is a reasonable pace, all things considered, since most products are cheap and high-throughput.

    Anyway, assuming each crafter generates 300 work days' worth of product each year (50 weeks x 6 days per week), that means the kingdom-wide production is 30 million crafter days per year. The wizard using Fabricate, meanwhile, can generate 30 weeks of production per day, if you use the highest cost basic item, full plate armor. That's 180 days of production, 300 times per year, for 54,000 excess production days (twice that if casting the spell twice).

    That's an increase of 0.18% – 0.36% in production in the kingdom per such wizard. Three such wizards using the double casting would be about a 1% increase, which is actually pretty substantial, but still not enough to break the system.

    The issue is that crafting skill is fungible (ie: other blacksmiths can make other goods, even if they aren't getting the orders for plate mail), whereas the plate mail market can saturate. 3 Fabricate wizards trying to max their output could get full plate made for 10,000 people in 5 years. Based on my estimation of the military (100,000 total, 10,000 of which would be elite that could make use of the armor), that would be enough to fully equip the portion of the military that the armor would be useful for.

    At that point it tanks the amount of impact that the Fabricate wizards can have on the economy, losing (at least) about 75% of the value that could be obtained during the peak plate armor years because it's hard to get the same effort scaling.

    It'll be a gold rush when people try to cash in on it, but it will mostly burn itself out within a few years. Even during the gold rush, if you have multiple competing wizards each trying to squeeze as much out of the market as they could, each will probably try to undercut the others to the point that they aren't gaining nearly as much profit per suit of armor as the default prices imply. Further, regular merchants are almost certain to move to block out the Fabricated equipment from the market. They have the experience and the contacts to make contracts and get laws passed.

    They don't even have to go after the wizards themselves. Go after any merchants selling armor that hasn't been stamped with the seal of an approved craftsman or quality control (real world example: diamond market), and the wizards just won't be able to sell their goods, which leaves them stuck. Maybe try via black market, but that means you're giving up control and profit, and risking other legal repercussions.

    Since people aren't dumb (and are greedy), you can probably assume that this gold rush has already happened in the past, and thus is largely irrelevant in the present. I would even expect a few families to have made their fortune during that time, possibly with lingering grudges against each other, and a lot of legal mercantile bureaucracy left behind as a legacy.

    There's still some money to be made using this, but it's not a pot of gold for players, nor a destabilized economy. The only extra clarification I might add in is that you can't Fabricate unique/personalized/highly custom products. Fabricate requires an extra level of skill just to make ordinary weapons and armor; it's not sufficient to make the high priest's robes, or Inigo's rapier. Top-end product markets flat out cannot be usurped by Fabricate wizards. (This also further limits production time scaling advantages, since you're just left with standard market goods.)
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  8. #118
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    I agree with @Kinematics, about the only difference I see is that there would be no "gold rush". If wizards have access to fabricate, they've probably had it for millennia unless magic is new in your campaign. Would the odd wizard here and there do it? Perhaps. But it wouldn't even have to be plate armor, it could be custom carriages for the well to do. But a smart wizard wouldn't flood the market, they'd make enough that their brand was exclusive and maintain their profit margin. So I'd say it would be similar to plant growth which is the equivalent of adding good fertilizer to your world.

    Assuming that the wizard spent the years it takes to become a master craftsman with the skill to build the item by hand which is the prerequisite of course.

  9. #119
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    Another wonderful article! You have completely sold me that such spells would not wreck the economy.

    So now all that is left is the PC question. So as you have stated, a Pc wizard selling weapons and armor wouldn’t break the bank, the market can likely absorb the extra goods...unless it was glutted already.

    So if we assume “average profit” for a given crafting day (since the wizards will mostly be selling regular weapons and armors and only the occasional plate). If the pc did go to town for this for a year, how much profit would he make? Let’s exlcude the cost of running the business, at the end we can assume he hired someone and then lower their profits based on that...so this would be an upper limit

  10. #120
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stalker0 View Post
    Another wonderful article! You have completely sold me that such spells would not wreck the economy.

    So now all that is left is the PC question. So as you have stated, a Pc wizard selling weapons and armor wouldn’t break the bank, the market can likely absorb the extra goods...unless it was glutted already.

    So if we assume “average profit” for a given crafting day (since the wizards will mostly be selling regular weapons and armors and only the occasional plate). If the pc did go to town for this for a year, how much profit would he make? Let’s exlcude the cost of running the business, at the end we can assume he hired someone and then lower their profits based on that...so this would be an upper limit
    That's a very difficult question, because the scenario can vary in a ton of ways. Based on some quick math with common weapons (the most common sales item that costs enough to even consider using this for making money), plus maybe 1 plate mail per month, I'd estimate a profit of about 18k GP per year. Half of that is from the weapons, and half from the plate.

    Normal crafting is hard-limited by the way "time taken" is defined by cost. You can craft 50 GP worth of goods per week, so about 2500 GP per year, with half of that being profit. Thus, 1250 GP income per year from normal crafting. Fabricate bypasses that, but would likely be commercially limited to about 10x to 20x that amount.
    Last edited by Kinematics; Tuesday, 21st May, 2019 at 01:47 AM.

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