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

Voadam

Legend
Thats not really how monarchies worked. Sure you can screw up so badly that people revolt or the blame for a catastrophe might fall on you (which directly impacts your legitimacy) but generally as long as the common people and other rulers percived you as being the rightful ruler you are safe.
And this being the rightful ruler included pretending that god wants you to rule and that you are better than common people.
In D&D being a spellcaster and thus having abilities which look superhuman to normal people would also support said claim of being better then them which of course means you rule and not they.


You mean the Batman which in half his comic appearances is a vigilante and hunted by the police?
No, I am talking about the high level D&D type party that calls themselves the Justice League. :)

Also while there have been times he has been hunted by police, I'd say usually vigilante Batman is portrayed as being considered a respected hero and not hunted by the police.
Its not a level thing its a "Do the common people percive you as superior to them and do not question your right to rule" thing.
I really do not consider that the basis of political power.

Most people follow rulers because the rulers have power and the systems are set up for the incentives to get people to comply with the authority. Propaganda about superiority can support entrenching power but it is not necessary or universal.

Many people do not feel their boss is the workplace leader because they are superior, the roles are systemically that the boss has economic power over the employee and the incentives are for the employee to work for their boss.

Many people in a Democracy may feel they elected the best of the choices given, but still feel that their leaders are not superior beings who must not be questioned.

You can even take a Hobbesian view that an absolute monarchy is structurally the best system of government and should receive your support, even if the individual monarch is a terrible inferior person who got there just by inheriting the position.

Divine right claims and superiority propaganda can be tools to get and maintain power, but I'd say the general entrenched social systems of the transfer of political rulership such as dynastic inheritance of positions of power is more of a factor in general. A second powerful model for political rulership is the power structure of being a conqueror.
 

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Fanaelialae

Legend
Such societies won't survive for long in a D&D world.
The society that uses mages in secret can't possibly last any significant length of time, but the society whose nobles are overtly casters definitely would endure? Sure.

I've been trying to meet you half way by discussing things based on the terms of your premise; that of a world where magic is easy to learn. Despite that I don't actually agree that easily learned magic is a necessary or even default state for a D&D setting. I feel like you're not actually interested in engaging in a discussion on the topic, so consider me done.
 

Either in war or peace a king or other noble who can cast spells has a massive advantage over ones that can not. Not because of individual strength but by appearing superhuman in the eyes of common (and uneducated) people which makes it much easier to claim legitimacy as a ruler. (I can fly/close wounds with my bare hands/perform other superhuman feats. Its obvious that I am destined to rule while you common human toil the fields at my command)
That makes sense only in worlds where magic is rare and hard to master. If it is common and easy to learn it is not "superhuman" nor any more miraculously impressive than any other skill.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
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.
I have it on good authority that supreme executive power derives from a mandate of the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
 

Ixal

Hero
That makes sense only in worlds where magic is rare and hard to master. If it is common and easy to learn it is not "superhuman" nor any more miraculously impressive than any other skill.
No matter if its hard or easy, common farmers, so 90% of the population won't have the time and money to learn it.
If they even know that spellcasting can be learned and is not only a divine gift or expression of exceptional heritage.
 

Also, do people who think magocracies would be super common or even inevitable and magic would be widely employed on all levels of society think that this would be a fun setting? Because if yes, then, cool, do that! Make assumptions about the ease of acquiring magic that produces those results.

Personally I don't find that fun. I want magic to be at least somewhat rare, special, weird etc. I don't want it to be just another technology. And my setting has a City of Sorcerers, and it has a kingdom ruled by a divine Priest-King. But if every place was like that, then these things wouldn't feel miraculous, would they? So that's why I make setting assumptions that result magic not being super common.
 
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No matter if its hard or easy, common farmers, so 90% of the population won't have the time and money to learn it.
They just take all those freely available warlock pacts then! Or they all become druids, because why not? I'm sure mastery of nature magic would be pretty helpful in farming!

If they even know that spellcasting can be learned and is not only a divine gift or expression of exceptional heritage.
So you suggest some bizarre dystopia where the knowledge of the true origins of magic is supressed? This doesn't seem plausible in the long run.

Also, commoners don't have access to a lot of things the nobles have. So why would they be any more impressed by magic than they would be by fancy clothes, mastery of sophisticated poetry or warhorse and armour?
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Also, do people who think magocracies would be super common or even inevitable and magic would be widely employed on all levels of society think that this would be a fun setting?
Glantri, which got written up for both BD&D and 2E, suggests that it would be.

But it's not a Flintstones scenario with otyughs (which don't exist in BD&D) under every peasant's sink. Glantri is a magocracy where the mages are jealous of their power (and have outlawed clerics!), suspicious of each other, and surrounded by nervous frenemies, at best, on all sides.

Common magic no more defines a setting than uncommon magic does. There's always a lot more to it than that.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Glantri, which got written up for both BD&D and 2E, suggests that it would be.

But it's not a Flintstones scenario with otyughs (which don't exist in BD&D) under every peasant's sink. Glantri is a magocracy where the mages are jealous of their power (and have outlawed clerics!), suspicious of each other, and surrounded by nervous enemies (or frenemies, at best) on all sides.

Common magic no more defines a setting than uncommon magic does. There's always a lot more to it than that.
Glantri is only a small region of Mystara though.

I don't think anyone is questioning whether a campaign world with one or two magocracies would be fun. It's more a question of whether a setting where pretty much everything is a magocracy would be fun.
 

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