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

Ixal

Hero
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!


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?
Because commoners know what clothes are and have at one point in their life seen and maybe even handled horses or at least an oxen. They know that nobles have the better stuff, but those things are still mundane.

But do commoners know about magic and that everyone can learn it? Or would they be in awe when a noble does something that is completely impossible for them and might only know something similar from that one priest they heard about (or if they are lucky seen themselves) who is directly empowered by the gods?
 

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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
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.
Look, Alphatia is doing its best, muggle. If you'd all stop resisting, you too could enjoy the fun of a worldwide magocracy.

(Alphatia not conquering the world is arguably the least believable part of Mystara and a relic of how late they fleshed it out. That many 36th level magic-users are an awfully big advantage.)
 

But do commoners know about magic and that everyone can learn it?
This statement is fraught with issues. It is ignorant of real world practice and choices that are highly setting dependent.

Do commoners know about magic? Witch bottles were a very common thing. A bottle filled with nails or iron, urine poured over the iron, and the bottle sealed and hidden. The bottle drew curses and ill intent and neutralized them. So, yes, I would say that commoners had an excellent understanding of the existence of magic and knew of low-level practitioners for access. For a period of time it was very common folk magic.

Can anyone learn magic? I don't think so. I think it is pretty rare in the grand scheme of things. Sure, sorcerers exist as do magician guilds. But to what level and amount is DM fiat. Examples of magician superiority involving first level spells is laughable. As far as I remember, the first "You Can't Hurt Me" spell is stoneskin at 6th level. That's why I mentioned 12th level as a start to have a reasonable shot of having a wizard coming to rule just by the virtue of being a wizard. You have to think of how you would defeat your peers of the same level.

How would a fighter deal with spoiled grain and poisoned wells? Same way we did. Take the grain and feed it to livestock, compost it, or roast it and make beer. Poisoned well? Walk a hundred yards and dig a new one, filling up the old.

I'm not saying you can't, or shouldn't, have magocracies in your game. They're just not inevitable; whether or not they truly are is an interesting topic but ultimately it depends on a number of setting assumptions. Or, "adjudications", if you will.
 

Oofta

Legend
Because commoners know what clothes are and have at one point in their life seen and maybe even handled horses or at least an oxen. They know that nobles have the better stuff, but those things are still mundane.

But do commoners know about magic and that everyone can learn it? Or would they be in awe when a noble does something that is completely impossible for them and might only know something similar from that one priest they heard about (or if they are lucky seen themselves) who is directly empowered by the gods?
There are many things people never see and have only heard about. Whether they would be in awe, think it was interesting but not spectacular or flee in terror just depends on the campaign.

If someone was flying under their own power in our world it would be amazing. In FR where you can't throw a rock without hitting a caster, less so.
 

But do commoners know about magic and that everyone can learn it? Or would they be in awe when a noble does something that is completely impossible for them and might only know something similar from that one priest they heard about (or if they are lucky seen themselves) who is directly empowered by the gods?
But that won't be the case in a world where magic can be learned easily and reliably. The idea that only nobles have access to magic and thus non-nobles are in awe of them is not particularly plausible. You could of course create fiction which resulted such a setup, but it is far from obvious outcome.
 

Shadowedeyes

Adventurer
One thing I've been thinking about it this idea of exceptionalism. It's being assumed that casters, by virtue of having magic would be the only ones receiving this, but any high level class is going to seem almost godlike to commoners. "Sure, that guy can fly, but did you hear about the knight that slew that ancient dragon. You know, the one that wiped out a village a few summers back?"
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Look, Alphatia is doing its best, muggle. If you'd all stop resisting, you too could enjoy the fun of a worldwide magocracy.

(Alphatia not conquering the world is arguably the least believable part of Mystara and a relic of how late they fleshed it out. That many 36th level magic-users are an awfully big advantage.)
They more or less tried.

Alphatia made war against the combined forces of Thyatis and Glantri. As a result, the Immortals sank the continent of Alphatia.
[Glantri - Kingdom of Magic - The Grimoire, pg 16]

Alphatia isn't likely to be conquering anyone unless they all had Water Breathing memorized.
 

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.
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.
Am all magocracy (or at least, everywhere you could go is a magocracy) setting could absolutely work. Why not, but specifically you now have reasons for magic-using adventurers to be treated as special people who can wander about getting involved in things that aren't really their business and no one tries to stop them because they're nobles, obviously.

It doesn't work for survival-horror games, but could be great for a wandering hero / freelance police-like game.

Anyways, to turn the question on it's head: I don't believe magocracies are inevitable in general - it'd be weird if none appear in your setting's 10,000 year history but they don't need to be common or normal. What would be weird is a setting where spellcasters are both rare and not part of the aristocracy.

Because while the king might not be a wizard, the king absolutely keeps track of all the wizards he can find, and the easiest way to do that is to pay them handsomely. Wizards would be at least knights in the social order (if feudal - adjust accordingly to other economic structures), even if being a better wizard doesn't correlate directly with political rank.

Put another way, trying to treat a dude who can blow up your castle like a common serf often ends badly.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Alphatia made war against the combined forces of Thyatis and Glantri. As a result, the Immortals sank the continent of Alphatia.
[Glantri - Kingdom of Magic - The Grimoire, pg 16]

Alphatia isn't likely to be conquering anyone unless they all had Water Breathing memorized.
Or they start with taking out hostile Immortals first next time.
 


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