D&D 5E Discussing Worldbuilding: Why Don't The Mages Take Over The World?

Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
@Chaosmancer Because I'm apparently a glutton for punishment...

How many years does it take to become a practicing Wizard? To go from "I literally only know how to read and write" to "I'm a 5th level Wizard," given that's your stated target. Keep in mind, we're talking about people who aren't adventurers, so they aren't delving into murder-holes and sparring with bus-sized lizards with superiority complexes and epic halitosis.

How long does it take?
In ye old days, the assumption was a wizard was in their late 30s to start! (Old AD&D age tables).

AND who says you live to get 12th level or higher? Depending on the editions they answer may vary. Leveling up in the world is very very dangerous.
 

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MGibster

Legend
Yea, I know a lot of people favor the crapsack world with rare, creepy magic (a la Game of Thrones), but that just doesn't feel very D&D to me. Eberron is the closest fit to what I feel a standard D&D world (if there was such a thing) would look like.
While I don't want Eberron levels of magic in D&D, with their trains and whatnot, I don't favor a crapsack world either. Like you, I don't think it would be appropriate for D&D. The standard D&D world is not a bad place to live, random encounters notwithstanding. It's a place where western liberal values such as freedom of religion, free speech, and secularism rule the day in most "good" places.

I think that just highlights how different the expectations of a setting can be even when playing "standard" D&D. To me, a game setting where no one had thought to use magical creatures for infrastructure would wreck any sense of verisimilitude.
I wouldn't mind an otyugh in the city's sewer or something like that. I just don't want a setting that's essentially the 20th century except with magic. At least not for D&D. For another game that might be nice.
 

Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
While I don't want Eberron levels of magic in D&D, with their trains and whatnot, I don't favor a crapsack world either. Like you, I don't think it would be appropriate for D&D. The standard D&D world is not a bad place to live, random encounters notwithstanding. It's a place where western liberal values such as freedom of religion, free speech, and secularism rule the day in most "good" places.


I wouldn't mind an otyugh in the city's sewer or something like that. I just don't want a setting that's essentially the 20th century except with magic. At least not for D&D. For another game that might be nice.
That is beauty of D&D! It is customizable.

I play mostly but DM some. I had a stone giant working the docks of a port city. There were priests and some magic fire in temples but not super high magic.

I like the standard low magic world where the “magical” or fantastic is…magic and fantastic!

My adopted giant working with his human parents and an otyugh in the sewer…
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
That is beauty of D&D! It is customizable.
Absolutely. And it's customizable without any need for codification.

If you want the ability to cast a cantrip to be limited to 1 person in 100,000, you can. If you want magic effects to be available to everyone in the setting, you can do that too. That's just the DM doing some NPC customization, which is well within their purview. Nothing about the PC building rules NEEDS to be extrapolated to the setting.

If you're worldbuilding, start with your end state in mind. Rationalize what parts of PC magic might apply to the world at large to get to the end state you want, and then use the parts you like.
 

Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
Absolutely. And it's customizable without any need for codification.

If you want the ability to cast a cantrip to be limited to 1 person in 100,000, you can. If you want magic effects to be available to everyone in the setting, you can do that too. That's just the DM doing some NPC customization, which is well within their purview. Nothing about the PC building rules NEEDS to be extrapolated to the setting.

If you're worldbuilding, start with your end state in mind. Rationalize what parts of PC magic might apply to the world at large to get to the end state you want, and then use the parts you like.
You are right. And honestly the answer to the OPs question hinges on these facts!

Some folks answered “well of course wizards would rule the world!” Vs. Some of us saying…”maybe not.” Or “sure, in your world that makes sense!”
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
You are right. And honestly the answer to the OPs question hinges on these facts!

Some folks answered “well of course wizards would rule the world!” Vs. Some of us saying…”maybe not.” Or “sure, in your world that makes sense!”
I agree. The entire answer to the OP's question hinges on assumptions on what parts of the PHB systems are actually applicable to worldbuilding.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

100% that gnome
Obligatory shout-out for Magical Industrial Revolution for all the people who want to unleash the chaos of magitech on a city and trigger multiple apocalypses due to magical "innovation" as a result.

It also works great as a prequel to your campaign, to show what the magical empire looked like at its height and what led to its fall. (Played way more tongue in cheek than the Critical Role take on the same earlier this year.)
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
@Chaosmancer Because I'm apparently a glutton for punishment...

How many years does it take to become a practicing Wizard? To go from "I literally only know how to read and write" to "I'm a 5th level Wizard," given that's your stated target. Keep in mind, we're talking about people who aren't adventurers, so they aren't delving into murder-holes and sparring with bus-sized lizards with superiority complexes and epic halitosis.

How long does it take?
I'm not @Chaosmancer, but I have an answer that seems to fit for most D&D settings where we have examples.

Becoming a wizard (just level one) takes years of study. It probably also takes years to level up. The closest thing we have to an official answer on this is the "Elves and Magic" section of Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes that explains that mastering magic takes a long time and that's why it's really common for Elves to be Wizards. Here's the full quote:
There’s a reason most powerful wizards are old. The special formulas of action, item, and sound that produce wizardly magic require precision, and such precision comes only from long practice. More than that, each spell a wizard might cast requires a portion of one’s powerful intellect to be dedicated to the task, with the necessary patterns of thought and proper mindset kept in stasis, ready to be unleashed. Even after these concepts are mastered, new knowledge of magic remains elusive, and a wizard must progress steadily through deeper levels of understanding, breaking through mental barriers in order to achieve ever greater mastery.

Of all peoples, elves are perhaps best suited to wizardry. They have centuries of life to devote to their studies, and their trance effectively gives them extra time to practice, as lessons learned during study can be reinforced by recalling them during resting periods. The rigidity and studiousness required by wizardry would seem anathema to a people who can recall a life of unfettered exploration and free expression of form, but magic provides a means of regaining that power. The patience and restraint for which elves are well known serves them well in this pursuit.

Not all elven communities embrace wizardry, but most worlds of the multiverse have at least one community of elves in which the spellcasters are renowned as masters. In some worlds, elves are even credited with the invention of the art of wizardry.
So, this makes it sound like the main factor that prevents high-level wizards from being common is the fact that gaining more power as a wizard takes time and effort that other races often can't dedicate to the art. However, Volo's Guide to Monsters has a human Apprentice Wizard that's level 1 and looks to be around 9-11 years old.

From official sources in D&D, becoming a powerful wizard takes a long time, typically longer than a human lifetime. However, human can become an apprentice wizard during their childhood.

This is a bit of a stretch, but it's the closest thing we have to an official answer to this question in 5e. You can become a wizard fairly easily (given the dedication and correct resources), but becoming one of the truly powerful ones (which Mordenkainen's doesn't give a good definition of) takes more time than most humans have access to.
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Well wizarding requires opportunity. Your starting spellbook costs a lot of money, so either you have rich parents, have noticeable talent (most likely taking the form of a big brain), or a teacher who decides to train you for other reasons.

So while a lot of people could probably manage to learn cantrips, the opportunity to learn has a few hurdles before they can become widespread. I imagine it's more likely in major centers of population, and countries with higher standards of education.
 


bloodtide

Adventurer
How many years does it take to become a practicing Wizard? To go from "I literally only know how to read and write" to "I'm a 5th level Wizard," given that's your stated target. Keep in mind, we're talking about people who aren't adventurers, so they aren't delving into murder-holes and sparring with bus-sized lizards with superiority complexes and epic halitosis.

How long does it take?
There is no offical answer in any edition. Sure, there is a lot of "fluff" talk about becoming a wizard takes a long time. You can see examples all over the place, wizards that are 50+ but only 7th level, but others that are under 30 and 24th level.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
Well wizarding requires opportunity. Your starting spellbook costs a lot of money, so either you have rich parents, have noticeable talent (most likely taking the form of a big brain), or a teacher who decides to train you for other reasons.

So while a lot of people could probably manage to learn cantrips, the opportunity to learn has a few hurdles before they can become widespread. I imagine it's more likely in major centers of population, and countries with higher standards of education.
Exactly! Wizarding requires opportunity, but also opens up more opportunity than not having magic does. You get an economic advantage. It's like how it costs more money to become a doctor than a carpenter, but doctors (typically) get paid more in the long run.

You might need to dedicate most of your life to become a super powerful wizard, but you don't need to be a super powerful wizard to make a lot of money. You just need enough to cast some spells that will help you make the money you devoted to learning wizardry back and more.

Just like rich families produce more doctors, because they have the economic opportunity to fund medical school.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Some people can become wizards relatively easily. This doesn't mean that anyone could! My answer to how long it will take to become a fifth level wizard, is that it is similar to how long it will take to become a doctor of quantum physics. It is not something that everyone can do at all.
Exactly. It's like reasoning that because Balamurali Ambati became a medical doctor at the age of 17, that therefore practicing medicine is effortless. At 17, most kids haven't even graduated high school yet, so clearly it's something that anyone can do, without so much as a high school diploma.
 

Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
To a degree. At the end of the day, it's still D&D with pretty much all the baggage that comes with that. Which is good because sometimes I'm just in the mood for D&D.
Ironically in my campaign world, clerics hold sway…but not total. There are many places where this is not true…
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Oh, you mistake me.

It's not that they can't woo the populace or roast an opponent. It's that a 5th level wizard is very fragile and easily stab-able. Yeah, they have their supporters, but so does everyone else.

If we are going to talk about the inevitability of magocracies, theocracies, whatever, we need to talk 12th level or so. If we're positing that everyone wants power, for good or ill, you have to take into account assassination. 5th level, for anybody, wizard or no, doesn't give you a lock on the throne.

They are far less stabbable than most. 5th level wizard is going to have 22 hp. A standard noble according to the MM has.... 9 hp. So the wizard is already rocking double the hp of most nobles in the game.

Now, sure, it could be that we should assume the king is a fighter, but a 5th level fighter is looking at only 34 hp. But, um, Assassins are frickin' scary. The assassin can dish out, with surprise and no poison, dish out 42 damage. Feel free to add another 48 damage for the poison. By this point being a wizard or a fighter doesn't matter right?

Except the wizard is armored, and the fighter isn't (Mage Armor). The wizard is awake, and the fighter isn't (alarm spell), the wizard can cast shield, because they are awake, the fighter can't. The Wizard isn't getting auto-critted or hit with sneak attack because they aren't surprised, reducing the damage to 12 normally and 48 from poison. The Wizard can cast spells to increase their defenses still more or escape, or capture the assassin, the fighter can't.

Really weird to say the fighter is less stabbable, when they seem far more vulnerable to the assassin.

Oh, and the spellcaster doesn't have to be a wizard, giving us clerics or warlocks or bards, all of which can be more heavily armored and have more hp. Or be a paladin, and have the same hp, armor and weapons AND magic.


And finally, if we SOMEHOW must have the character be 12th level to be allowed to rule a nation, then the spellcaster is at an even bigger advantage, because it is no more difficult to level as a caster than it is as a fighter, and magic will be even more powerful by that point.

Everyone can be assassinated. Those with access to magic are LESS likely to be assassinated, because magic offers solutions to those problems.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
This is why we need Science and Alchemy.

Some fertilizer, fluoride and a few Poly-Sci majors go a long way.

So, artificers? Another type of magic user.

Or, maybe we do all that without magic... which means the magic-user also has access to that. And also access to the spells. Getting even greater gains.
 

Oofta

Legend
They are far less stabbable than most. 5th level wizard is going to have 22 hp. A standard noble according to the MM has.... 9 hp. So the wizard is already rocking double the hp of most nobles in the game.

Now, sure, it could be that we should assume the king is a fighter, but a 5th level fighter is looking at only 34 hp. But, um, Assassins are frickin' scary. The assassin can dish out, with surprise and no poison, dish out 42 damage. Feel free to add another 48 damage for the poison. By this point being a wizard or a fighter doesn't matter right?

Except the wizard is armored, and the fighter isn't (Mage Armor). The wizard is awake, and the fighter isn't (alarm spell), the wizard can cast shield, because they are awake, the fighter can't. The Wizard isn't getting auto-critted or hit with sneak attack because they aren't surprised, reducing the damage to 12 normally and 48 from poison. The Wizard can cast spells to increase their defenses still more or escape, or capture the assassin, the fighter can't.

Really weird to say the fighter is less stabbable, when they seem far more vulnerable to the assassin.

Oh, and the spellcaster doesn't have to be a wizard, giving us clerics or warlocks or bards, all of which can be more heavily armored and have more hp. Or be a paladin, and have the same hp, armor and weapons AND magic.


And finally, if we SOMEHOW must have the character be 12th level to be allowed to rule a nation, then the spellcaster is at an even bigger advantage, because it is no more difficult to level as a caster than it is as a fighter, and magic will be even more powerful by that point.

Everyone can be assassinated. Those with access to magic are LESS likely to be assassinated, because magic offers solutions to those problems.
You're assuming that the noble has no class levels. More than that, you're assuming they have no security. Leaders throughout history have been a sharp pointy object away from death since we've had leaders. They didn't survive because they personally were fighting off ninja assassins nightly.

Personal capabilities of self defense mean basically nothing in the overwhelmingly majority of cases. Personal power when compared to the strength of a kingdom is irrelevant. Besides if you have that many high level wizards running around it means you have at least as many high level assassins.
 



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