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

Chaosmancer

Legend
@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?

Well, lets see.

The image of an Apprentice wizard is a youth, looks to be about 12 or 13, and they are 1st level wizards. The images of professor wizards able to cast 7th level spells (so far beyond 5th level casters) look like they are in their 30's. Leveling is exponential to a degree, requiring more and more to get higher.

So, I'd say about 4 to 5 years. Maximum.

Of course, that's just wizards. Warlocks, clerics and paladins will probably be more variable, and likely much faster. Bards will be about the same, maybe slightly faster. Sorcerers depend on when you want to start counting.
 

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Chaosmancer

Legend
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.

Depends. What do we mean by "doctor" and how is the person educated?

Sure, maybe if you need to graduate high school, graduate college, then get a doctorate you can't do that at 17 without extraordinary resources. You've also been taught literature, math, physics, history of various stripes, music, art, and many many other things.

If you are a kid who at 10 years old lived with your parent who was a traveling doctor, and you were helping them and learning the art of medicine, then I'd certainly expect you to be a fairly knowledgeable doctor after 7 years of dedicated study. Maybe you can't calculate the precise milligrams of medicine, or you can't perform brain surgery, but you have been aiding in the treatment of patients for seven years, and so you know the most common things, how to treat them, and a variety of the less common things and how to treat those.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
You're assuming that the noble has no class levels.

Yes, I assume that the noble statblock as it appears in the monster manual is how it appears in the monster manual. Is this some sort of criticism? Should I have deciced to make up, say, a 5th level fighter to compare with instead? Oh... I did. Gave the hp too. Did you need me to calculate out different levels or different hit dice numbers?

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.

Any mundane security the noble or fighter had, the wizard would have. There is zero reason to think that just because a king learns a few spells that their castle and guards are ripped away by the forces of plot. If the assassin could get to the wizard, they could get to the fighter or noble. If the security of the castle is enough to stop the assassin, then it stops the assassin in both cases.

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.

The assassin in the MM is already a 7th or 8th level character, more powerful than the 5th level spellcaster I'm proposing. Unless you think that 5th level characters are so terrifying that the assassins would jump to 13th or 14th level to compensate?

And you are again, correct, in the vast majority of cases the personal abilities of the ruler don't mean anything. In the minority of cases, the ruler who is less personally capable dies. More capable rulers are less likely to die. Magic makes you more capable, ergo, magical rulers would die less often. Therefore, rulers would prefer to be magical, to extend their own chances of survival.
 

jgsugden

Legend
And what about a wizard with charisma? Or a Bard, or a sorcerer or a warlock or a paladin?
They all spend time becoming heroes and investing in their powers. That is time they are not spending developing their nation. Others without the split of attention that focus on kleading a nation will be more successful. Further, all the time they spend on the nation is time they do not have for their pursuits of power.
Also, why is it costing the wizard vast amounts of their personal power to maintain control, but the mundane king is able to keep control with vastly fewer costs? If it is purely a measure of "how charismatic are you" then I remind you the average is 10, and 3d6 offers a bell curve that goes well beyond 10.

I'm not trying to fight about your setting, but your solution is less of an explanation and more just "because they can't"
I already addressed some of this in a reply before but: It isn't that the wizard and king spend different amounts of power to maintain control - they spend different types. Your typical non-wizard leader is going to have charisma, clout, allies, or other forms of power - where a wizard that spent their life learning magic often won't. They have to replace what the mundane king provides with arcane might - which then can't be used for other purposes.

Think of it this way: A wizard can decide between ruling a nation and making magic items. They don't have time for both. If they rule a nation, they get a lot of headaches. if they make the magic item, it takes time and money - but it makes them more powerful without all of the drawbacks of subjects.

It is all about the idea of opportunity cost.
 

I just assume good use and evil use of magic will cancel each other out.

An epic level wizard spent a lifetime making a great city.
Dragons raze it a decade after he dies. Back to square one...
 

Well, lets see.

The image of an Apprentice wizard is a youth, looks to be about 12 or 13, and they are 1st level wizards. The images of professor wizards able to cast 7th level spells (so far beyond 5th level casters) look like they are in their 30's. Leveling is exponential to a degree, requiring more and more to get higher.

So, I'd say about 4 to 5 years. Maximum.

Of course, that's just wizards. Warlocks, clerics and paladins will probably be more variable, and likely much faster. Bards will be about the same, maybe slightly faster. Sorcerers depend on when you want to start counting.
Then we will never, for any reason, under any circumstance, actually agree about this.

I think this "apprentice wizard" people keep bringing up is a MASSIVE OUTLIER rather than a definitive guaranteed standard everyone meets. You seem to think exactly the reverse. That's a completely irreconcilable difference.

...also, are you using Strixhaven for this? Seriously?
 

TheSword

Legend
It was edited in the OP, but they were asking about "spellcasters" not just wizards.



You ask what edition, but then you don't make a point that actually makes any sense. You don't need to be a PC to be a wizard, as multiple statblocks like Archmage, Enchanter, Necromancer, Transmuter, Conjurer, ect show us. You don't need to be a PC to be a Warlock, as shown by the stat blocks like Warlock of the Archfey, Warlock of the Fiend, Firenewt Warlock of Imix, Yuan-ti Nightmare Speaker, Yuan-ti Mindwhisper, ect. And for sorcerer you have the derro Savant, Kobold Scale Sorcerer, Occult Extollant, as well as the Dragon rules.

Having a class isn't a prerequisite to being a spellcaster. And it is trivial to say that a family DOES have a sorcerous bloodline and can all cast spells, without even needing them to all be "high level" whatever that means.



How does your reply of the celestial choosing a ruler and granting them powers in any way invalidate the idea of the rulers being given supernatural powers? That sounds like you agree with me.

Sure, maybe the King can't have a warlock pact with a fey, but what about a Duke? A Baron? The common people might actually not see it as split loyalties but as a political alliance. No one gets mad at America for having a mutually beneficial deal with Canada. Why would they be upset that the Royal Family has such a strong bond with the powerful fey of the ancient forest that they are granted supernatural abilities? It is no different from having a strong bond with the nearby dwarven nation and receiving high quality weapons and armors.

Remember, a Pact is not a immediately a pact of servitude or one where you sell your soul. It is a contract. And nations make contracts with foreign powers all the time.

Additionally, there are DOZENS of warlock powers that would be insanely useful for ruling.



Why?

When rulership in France changed hands through "right of force" that didn't mean that the English Kings who had also claimed their kingdoms through force of arms suddenly had to find a new system of government.

Think about it in terms of averages. Who is more likely to rule over time? Is it the person with the biggest muscles? The strongest constitution?

No. Rulers tend to be the most charismatic, the most intelligent, the wisest. Which also describes spellcasters. They are the people in DnD who tend to have the highest mental scores. Again, solely on averages, exceptions certainly exist. But we seem to view "The King was a mighty warrior in his youth" as a nothing statement, it is a default assumption. However, "The king is a mighty wizard" is somehow being presented as bizarre. Like it could only happen if there is a council of wizards which took over the world, instead of natural selection pressures.

IRL Kings tended to be seen as powerful warriors, because a warrior leading an army was an effective way of becoming king. In a DnD world though, it makes just as much, if not more sense, for that warrior king to be a spellcaster. So, over the centuries, why would spellcasters not be the default people in charge?
I think history has proven that kings are most certainly NOT the wisest, smartest and most charismatic of their people. Not even close.

Ruling a state requires the consent (forced or otherwise) of at the very least the elites of society, but ideally the populace at large. Rulership is granted by what you provide (or prevent) stability, protection, reduced likelihood of invasion, lower taxes, national pride, law and justice etc.

Very few of these require intelligence, wisdom, or charisma. They just require other people to have them. They help of course, but I suspect most rulers were described as these things whether they were or not.
 

TheSword

Legend
Well, lets see.

The image of an Apprentice wizard is a youth, looks to be about 12 or 13, and they are 1st level wizards. The images of professor wizards able to cast 7th level spells (so far beyond 5th level casters) look like they are in their 30's. Leveling is exponential to a degree, requiring more and more to get higher.

So, I'd say about 4 to 5 years. Maximum.

Of course, that's just wizards. Warlocks, clerics and paladins will probably be more variable, and likely much faster. Bards will be about the same, maybe slightly faster. Sorcerers depend on when you want to start counting.
Who plays their 1st level character as a 12 year old? That’s seriously weird.
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
Depends. What do we mean by "doctor" and how is the person educated?

Sure, maybe if you need to graduate high school, graduate college, then get a doctorate you can't do that at 17 without extraordinary resources. You've also been taught literature, math, physics, history of various stripes, music, art, and many many other things.

If you are a kid who at 10 years old lived with your parent who was a traveling doctor, and you were helping them and learning the art of medicine, then I'd certainly expect you to be a fairly knowledgeable doctor after 7 years of dedicated study. Maybe you can't calculate the precise milligrams of medicine, or you can't perform brain surgery, but you have been aiding in the treatment of patients for seven years, and so you know the most common things, how to treat them, and a variety of the less common things and how to treat those.
By medical doctor, I mean an MD. A fully trained medical doctor.

What you're describing sounds closer to a trained EMT. Which, sure, I believe you can volunteer at a first aid squad at 18. But it's a far cry from being a fully trained MD.

I would say that in game terms of becoming a wizard, this level of training would be more along the lines of having some proficiency in the Arcana skill.

If you believe that magic is something that anyone can do after a few weeks of intensive training, rather than something a talented individual requires years to learn, it kind of makes sense that you believe that a magocracy would be inevitable. Everyone would be a magic user and therefore the leader would also by definition be a MU. Although at that point it's less a magical system of government and simply more of a fully magical society.

If that's the kind of setting that you want to world build, go for it. It's not the type of setting I'm interested in, so I start from different principles in shaping my world (namely, that for most people magic is difficult or even impossible to learn).
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
They all spend time becoming heroes and investing in their powers. That is time they are not spending developing their nation. Others without the split of attention that focus on kleading a nation will be more successful. Further, all the time they spend on the nation is time they do not have for their pursuits of power.


Why? Why is the bard more interested in becoming a hero and investing in their power than the fighter? Why is it that they care more about personal power than the running of the nation?

And, there has been talk of how this society could not last because of disparity, but how is this not worse? How is it not an even worse disparity that the vast majority of the most powerful individuals on the planet care nothing for ruling, and leave that to the plebians who have nothing better to do?

I already addressed some of this in a reply before but: It isn't that the wizard and king spend different amounts of power to maintain control - they spend different types. Your typical non-wizard leader is going to have charisma, clout, allies, or other forms of power - where a wizard that spent their life learning magic often won't. They have to replace what the mundane king provides with arcane might - which then can't be used for other purposes.

Why would a wizard noble not have clout, allies, wealth and other forms of power? You keep making this claim, but you aren't backing it up with anything. If the wizard is born as the fourth generation of a noble lineage, whose family helped found the kingdom, why would they have zero allies, zero clout, zero wealth? Does teaching magic automatically erase your family's history and accomplishments?

Think of it this way: A wizard can decide between ruling a nation and making magic items. They don't have time for both. If they rule a nation, they get a lot of headaches. if they make the magic item, it takes time and money - but it makes them more powerful without all of the drawbacks of subjects.

It is all about the idea of opportunity cost.

Nobles and kings can absolutely have hobbies. They can still make things, they just can't focus on it. And that isn't really a problem. Most of the best magic items that a ruling noble would be interested in only take a few weeks to make anyways. Also, magical items are generally permanent, so they get passsed down from parent to child to grandchild.

Again, your perspective is "You know, I could rule the nation, as is my birthright (because noble) but... you know... it's a lot of work. I've got better things to do."

I think this is an absolutely horrible answer to the question "why aren't mages in charge" because it says that they absolutely could be, they just see running a nation as beneath them and leave it to the mundanes.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I just assume good use and evil use of magic will cancel each other out.

An epic level wizard spent a lifetime making a great city.
Dragons raze it a decade after he dies. Back to square one...

Why do you therefore not assume that good use and evil use of martial might will cancel each other out? That an epic level fighter spent a lifetime making a great city, but then a gnoll horde razes it a decade after he dies and they are back to square one?

Why is it that only spellcasters reach perfect equilibrium?
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Then we will never, for any reason, under any circumstance, actually agree about this.

I think this "apprentice wizard" people keep bringing up is a MASSIVE OUTLIER rather than a definitive guaranteed standard everyone meets. You seem to think exactly the reverse. That's a completely irreconcilable difference.

...also, are you using Strixhaven for this? Seriously?

Why would I assume the apprentice is an outlier? The bandit isn't an outlier. The guard isn't an outlier. The wolf isn't an outlier. Why would the apprentice mage be an outlier? Let alone a MASSIVE OUTLIER?

And, yes, I used the art from Strixhaven. Most of the art from Monsters of the Multiverse for the various wizards depicts people like gnomes and elves. Despite the fact that those statblocks are completely universal, if I brought them up, people would say that "in reality" any human with that statblock would be a wizened old man, and only the fact that they are of another race makes them appear young. Strixhaven had artwork of human mages.

I guess I could have used the Archmage from the MM, but I didn't think about it in time. I assume you have some problem with me referencing a DnD sourcebook using DnD art for a discussion about DnD? We see the same pattern with the Dragonborn bard in the Monsters of the Multiverse, but you wanted wizards specifically,
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I think history has proven that kings are most certainly NOT the wisest, smartest and most charismatic of their people. Not even close.

Ruling a state requires the consent (forced or otherwise) of at the very least the elites of society, but ideally the populace at large. Rulership is granted by what you provide (or prevent) stability, protection, reduced likelihood of invasion, lower taxes, national pride, law and justice etc.

Very few of these require intelligence, wisdom, or charisma. They just require other people to have them. They help of course, but I suspect most rulers were described as these things whether they were or not.

Of course, but I don't think it is a stretch to say that smarter and wiser kings rule better, and kings who rule better tend to live longer and great more prosperous kingdoms, since they require less need to force others to consent. And if that ALSO comes with magic that makes them better able to "provide (or prevent) stability, protection, reduced likelihood of invasion, lower taxes, national pride, law and justice etc." then that's a double victory.

Who plays their 1st level character as a 12 year old? That’s seriously weird.

I've seen it more than once. People like playing the "child prodigy" and so will make their character between 8 and 12 years old. Which makes Role-playing a challenge.

But also, that was just going off of the artwork in the book.
 

And, yes, I used the art from Strixhaven. Most of the art from Monsters of the Multiverse for the various wizards depicts people like gnomes and elves. Despite the fact that those statblocks are completely universal, if I brought them up, people would say that "in reality" any human with that statblock would be a wizened old man, and only the fact that they are of another race makes them appear young. Strixhaven had artwork of human mages.

I don't think examining people attending a magic academy gives us a good idea (or any sort of an idea) of how easy it is become a spell-caster when examining the population as a whole. It's like saying that because people in NASA's astronaut basic training do it in two years, anyone can become an astronaut in two years. This is a tiny group of people selected due their special aptitude in the first place and thus are massive outliers. This should be obvious.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
By medical doctor, I mean an MD. A fully trained medical doctor.

What you're describing sounds closer to a trained EMT. Which, sure, I believe you can volunteer at a first aid squad at 18. But it's a far cry from being a fully trained MD.

I would say that in game terms of becoming a wizard, this level of training would be more along the lines of having some proficiency in the Arcana skill.

If you believe that magic is something that anyone can do after a few weeks of intensive training, rather than something a talented individual requires years to learn, it kind of makes sense that you believe that a magocracy would be inevitable. Everyone would be a magic user and therefore the leader would also by definition be a MU. Although at that point it's less a magical system of government and simply more of a fully magical society.

Proficiency in the Arcana skill takes "10 workweeks" or 50 days. according to Xanathar's, minus a number of days equal to Int mod*5. That is also the same amount of time given for learning Medicine.

So yes, according to the rules of the game, it is a few weeks of intensive training to get started. Teaching magic itself could take longer, but we are talking the span of a few years, not the span of decades.

If that's the kind of setting that you want to world build, go for it. It's not the type of setting I'm interested in, so I start from different principles in shaping my world (namely, that for most people magic is difficult or even impossible to learn).

Which is fine. The point of this thread is to discuss ideas. I think my main problem though is that saying magic is difficult or impossible to learn flies directly in the face of what DnD itself is telling us. Magic isn't hard to learn, many of the magical classes DON'T need to learn anything.

So while you can run a world where magic is impossible for other people to learn, and therefore there are only a small handful of casters in the entire world... that just isn't how DnD presents itself anymore.
 

TheSword

Legend
I've seen it more than once. People like playing the "child prodigy" and so will make their character between 8 and 12 years old. Which makes Role-playing a challenge.

But also, that was just going off of the artwork in the book.
It’s your game table. I just think it’s pretty bizarre to have 12 year olds killing lots of people and getting attacked and potentially killed in turn. Maybe because we have a few teachers in our group, it just isn’t done.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I don't think examining people attending a magic academy gives us a good idea (or any sort of an idea) of how easy it is become a spell-caster when examining the population as a whole. It's like saying that because people in NASA's astronaut basic training do it in two years, anyone can become an astronaut in two years. This is a tiny group of people selected due their special aptitude in the first place and thus are massive outliers. This should be obvious.

So, the fact that I could find artwork of a 30 something professor of magic, who was hired by a magical academy, doesn't tell us how quickly a magical education system could train people to high levels of magic?

But alright, fine, can't use the Strixhaven artwork. How about the Archmage from the MM, am I allowed to use that? Guy looks like he is in his thirties, human, and he has access to the "highest levels" of magic in 9th level spells. Is he also a specialized outlier who we can't use to determine how long it might take someone to learn magic?

What about Rath Modar and Azbara Jos, found them by searching DnD beyond. They are Thayan wizards, high level casters, and they also look middle-aged, not old. And they are still human.

How many "outliers" would I need to find before it becomes obvious that they aren't actually outliers?
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
It’s your game table. I just think it’s pretty bizarre to have 12 year olds killing lots of people and getting attacked and potentially killed in turn. Maybe because we have a few teachers in our group, it just isn’t done.

Not my table. I was a player. I agree with you. However, it wasn't my place to tell other people what characters they were allowed to play
 

TheSword

Legend
Proficiency in the Arcana skill takes "10 workweeks" or 50 days. according to Xanathar's, minus a number of days equal to Int mod*5. That is also the same amount of time given for learning Medicine.

So yes, according to the rules of the game, it is a few weeks of intensive training to get started. Teaching magic itself could take longer, but we are talking the span of a few years, not the span of decades.



Which is fine. The point of this thread is to discuss ideas. I think my main problem though is that saying magic is difficult or impossible to learn flies directly in the face of what DnD itself is telling us. Magic isn't hard to learn, many of the magical classes DON'T need to learn anything.

So while you can run a world where magic is impossible for other people to learn, and therefore there are only a small handful of casters in the entire world... that just isn't how DnD presents itself anymore.
That’s a pretty large supposition. It takes a PC that length of time, those rules don’t apply to NPCs.

It also depends on the demographics of the world, what the spread of intelligence is amongst NPCs.

Being able to learn arcana is not the same as being able to use magic as well. There is a big step between learning anatomy and being a surgeon.

D&D 5e presents magic as present but not common. Magic items aren’t for sale on street corners, and in typical location there will be a handful of casters described. It’s one in a hundred, not one in four.
 

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