Low Magic Setting, High Magic Characters - Page 2
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  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Fenris-77 View Post
    Wizard's don't have to do anything of the sort. Benefit the populace? You make it sound like we should get out the torches if the Wizard lets his membership to Amnesty International lapse. Maybe they should just not actively hurt the populace, that sounds more reasonable. Mind you, that holds just as true for any class.
    Isn't that what I just said? But he's asking about the people who DO actively hurt the populace and how to curb it. My suggestion is to make penalties harsh. Amnesty International? By actively hurting people, you aren't benefiting the populace. By using your talents in a positive way, you are benefiting the populace. Like a black smith does by making horse shoes. Societies function because people play a role in it. Those who don't contribute positively either: fall out of it and/or become a burden(the homeless, for instance); or get removed (criminals who go to jail). A wizard, like everyone else, is a member of society.

    If a person uses a weapon to hunt game and provide for the village, they'll be looked upon favorably. If they use it to randomly hurt people, they'll go to jail or worse. A known wizard is like a person carrying a weapon.

    The point is this: If magic is rare, known magicians are going to be looked upon with wonder or fear. Fear does a lot to push people to extremes. If you want to maintain a 'low magic world' where mages aren't the rulers, it's because their power has remained in check. So, society has developed in a way to allow that.

    I'm suggesting he make the penalties for abusing magic be harsh. Just like the penalties for murder/rape etc... Then to pepper it with fear and the potential for mass hysteria.

    I'm not suggesting that a wizard need to hide his abilities but he does have to be wary of what magic he chooses to cast in civilized areas and how it might be interpreted by the populace. Just like a warrior might have to be careful about local customs and when it's a appropriate to draw a sword or Peace Bond his weapon before entering a town.

  2. #12
    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)

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    Apr 2019
    Quote Originally Posted by TaranTheWanderer View Post
    This is why wizards don't live to be very high level: they get culled early on unless they benefit the populace.
    Above is your quote. That's not the same as just not bothering anyone. I do get what your overall point was, but thatt isn't well represented by your closing statement above. I was mostly joking, not arguing for or against your point.

  3. #13
    Time Agent (Lvl 24)

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    Jun 2002
    Colombus, OH
    Quote Originally Posted by ZenBear View Post
    In my experience, most DMs run relatively low magic settings, where spellcasters of any level are extremely rare. Im curious though, if thats the case, how you deal with brazen murder hobo PCs? If your players threaten a village with violence to get their way, do you have high level Fighters as a check back? Are enemy spellcasters just as rare as friendly ones? I understand that high magic settings can get a little wonky when you consider the implications of various higher level spells on the economy, but I worry about players running roughshod over local authorities when even a 5th level Wizard is an astronomical rarity.
    You are hitting on a real problem with running a gritty low magic setting, often with 1e AD&D inspired demographics where PC classed individuals are rare. If the PC's are that different from the norm, then they can easily run roughshod over the populace.

    So there are a couple of basic approaches that depend on how you want to handle this, and you can mix and match within the same campaign setting.

    1) NPC's may not be powerful, but they are ruthless and intelligent. They may not be able to do magic themselves, but they know roughly what magic is capable of, can recognize when it is being employed, and have adopted counter strategies that deal with common problems. Push comes to shove, the just don't fight the PC's fair. They drug PC's, attack PC's when they are asleep, and dispense with norms of justice when it comes to the PC. A PC that throws around their magical prowess finds themselves grappled by a half dozen burly men in the dead of night and if overpowered, their fingers broken with a hammer, their eyes gouged out, and their tongue severed. Good luck casting spells in that situation. PC's that go murder hobo invite the DM to respond to problems in ways that they wouldn't otherwise do. For example, there is usually an unspoken table agreement not to attack sleeping PCs, because coup de grace rules means that the DM just tells the character, "Sorry, your player is dead." Well, if you are going to go murder hobo, you better be really careful where you lay down your head.

    2) The populace recognizes that the PCs are basically demigods, and treats them accordingly. This is the opposite approach. If it's clear that the PC's can't be overcome, well just treat the PC's like royalty and ingratiate yourself to them. If the PC's are the BBEG, then the villagers and townsfolk decide the best approach is to accept them as the new Dark Lord and hope their wrath and abuse is mostly visited on their neighbors. We never much cared for people from Overhill in this town anyway. Rather than trying to punish the PC's for acting like they are so much more powerful than the NPC's, just go with it and try to have people respond realistically.

    3) High level magic is rare, but low level magic is prevalent. In this model, it's not so much that spellcasters are rare, it's just that ones over 5th level or so are rare - and most of those are in their 50's or 60's and not really fit to be out adventuring. In this world, while high level characters - especially young high level characters - are rare, every decent size town has a variety of 5th and 6th level NPC leaders, who can back themselves up with a couple dozen 2nd and 3rd level minions. If the PC's get too big for their britches early on, they are likely to get smacked down hard using the resources of the townsfolk plus the generally ruthless strategies employed in solution #1. Later on, the PC's are big awesome heroes or villains, and it will naturally make sense for the townsfolk to defer to them as in solution #2. What you'll generally find is this creates a good metagame, because most players that are going to pull a murder hobo lack the patience to wait around until they can actually get away with it, and as such you'll quickly winnow out the problem. This works especially well if you force said players to create new starting characters or otherwise penalize them for losing characters. You end up training the players to adopt at least some sort of sensible functional strategy toward play. One real advantage of going this route, is that you can have pervasive low level counter measures created by the low level spellcasters in the setting. For example, every successful merchant in the setting may own and employ a set of scales which gives off a warning chime when anything magical is placed on it. They use this to routinely check whether an item is illusionary or glamored when conducting transactions, and - unless they are skilled spell-casters themselves - will refuse to do business when magic is involved. PC's that fail this sort of check more than once, may find that word has gotten out and no one will do business with them. They'll also likely find that the law will take an interest in them, and if captured as a suspected abuser of magic will not get much in the way of a fair trial.

    And remember, regardless of how you play this, nothing that the PC's try however rare in the setting will be something that hasn't been tried before, and the setting if it is internally consistent will have evolved defenses to protect itself from this sort of thing. Even if high level characters are rare, it doesn't mean that other high level characters won't proactively treat the PC's as a major threat to their current comfortable positions and act to intervene. Even if towns can't muster much in the way of a response, nations or continent spanning religious cults or organizations probably can muster a massive response. If a PC group murders a couple hundred low level commoners somewhere, you can expect every Paladin, Inquisitor, Mercenary, Assassin, and Court Wizard that can be mustered will be out to avenge those deaths.

    This topic has come up before in a variety of contexts - are castles sensible in a world with magic is a common variation. It would be worth searching through past threads.

  4. #14
    Enchanter (Lvl 12)

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    May 2008
    somewhere in Canada...
    There is always a bigger fish
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  5. #15
    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)

    jgsugden's Avatar

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    Feb 2002
    Soon to be Fort Mill, SC
    D&D is an RPG. A role playing game. Characters play a role in a story.

    If the PCs take on the murder hobo / ruffian / bully role, what is a good story response? That depends upon the campaign, but here are a few twists:

    1.) The threatened locals hire heroes to drive the PCs off.
    2.) A local makes a deal with a Devil to deal with the PCs, as they are the lesser threat.
    3.) A nearby Metallic Dragon takes note and approaches the PCs as something that needs to be handled.
    4.) Give a PC a stake in the community and a reason to see it treated correctly. If you have good role players, there are a lot of options... such as the Love of the Life of a PC standing up for the community.
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  6. #16
    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

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    Mar 2014
    The best solution is to not play with people whose preferred style of play is murderhobo.

    The next best solution is to realize that all actions have consequences. How you choose to respond (and there have been many great options already given) should simply fit the setting of your game. I like the idea of allowing the players to run roughshod for a bit, then sending a balanced (but hard) encounter to stop them. If they defeat that, have an archmage show up and ask "are you done?" He then mentors them about the responsibility of power, and should they fail to learn the lesson... well you'll need to start a new campaign

  7. #17
    Time Agent (Lvl 24)

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    Sep 2015
    Twin Cities, MN
    I have a "no evil" rule for my PCs, but I also make it clear that PCs are not above the law. In a world where high level magic users exist, people have developed ways to deal with them. Unless the PCs raise a literal army, they are vulnerable.

    So yes, there are high level PCs (although they are rare). If they are truly going on a rampage of evil they may find themselves fighting good dragons or celestials in addition to small armies. They have to sleep sometime.

  8. #18
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    Jun 2003
    If the PCs are powerful enough to take over the village/city/country/planet/multiverse, and that's what they want to do, then that's what they do. I don't really see the problem.
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  9. #19
    Scout (Lvl 6)

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    Aug 2008
    Sunnyvale, CA

    There is a lot of advice here about how to stop characters from running roughshod over local authority or how to reach into the GM's endless arsenal of potentially infinitely powerful NPCs to teach those players a lesson.

    It isn't even necessarily wrong advice.

    Another approach is to simply not worry about it if you are willing to embrace your players' evil characters and encourage them. The stories will be different, of course. Your PCs are not Xena and Gabrielle dealing with the evil warlord of the week terrorizing the innocent village of the week. Your PCs are doing the terrorizing, and D&D is all about challenging the players, so your players get set pieces in which they kill heroes, sell unicorns for parts, and deal with villagers who make up for their weakness with numbers and tactics, kind of like kobolds.

    Maybe the king has limited power more than 10 miles from his capital because the land is ravaged by bands just like yours, and of course there are opportunities for your PCs to band together with some of those other bands in pursuit of some greater enterprise, and opportunities to fight or betray them.

    No need to rub their noses in it either. Just quietly and simply have them start fighting clerics of Pelor or whatever, always CR appropriate. Roleplaying has a part in it too, as NPCs react according to their nature, with decent folk manifesting fear, hatred or revulsion as appropriate.

    Then things can get more complicated. If the PCs demonstrate that local authorities are impotent, what do they do when the weak villagers turn to them for help instead of the authorities to arbitrate disputes, dispense justice, defend their turf, effectively making them the authorities? (In a sense, isn't real feudalism pretty much about armored thugs on horses sometimes having to do a little more than despoil the people they have enslaved, pretending even to themselves that they are something better?)

    So, there's a game to be had here.

    But if you don't want that kind of game, if you want heroic PCs, it is best to be clear about that, and to handle players who don't or won't get it out of character rather IC.


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  10. #20
    Defender (Lvl 8)

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    Jun 2012
    I have a setting which is something of a reaction to this sort of thing.
    In this setting, the average fully-trained adult is the equivalent of a level 3 character. The players started as recent graduates at level 1.
    Roughly fifth level characters are considered to be particularly skilled - people aspire to casting things like fireball, and there are quite a lot of people able to do it. Things tail off sharply, though, and even legendary heroes fit into the level 9-10 range. Abilities beyond that are not even legendary.
    It's a world where magical education has been taking off for the last 50 years or so. Everyone with a decent level of education can cast at least one cantrip. Everyone can attempt to cast rituals from a prepared text - but the effects of fifth level spells are mythical, and things that can only be done with sixth level spells or higher aren't even contemplated.

    It's been interesting, especially giving the party pointers on where they might learn more powerful things when they eventually reach higher levels. Having basic adults being 3rd level equivalent is useful. It means my city guards and soldiers tend to be quite hard-hitting, especially since they grouped into sensible numbers (not a "fair" encounter for the players)
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