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5E How do you handle the "economy killing spells" in your game?

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I think too much of this discussion devolved into how two spells in particular work. I think the more general thrust would be, given the spells and items in the game, what would a game world realistically look like? Does a setting like Forgotten Realms really work from a magical perspective? For example, take a wall-city or castle. Neither are effective at stopping aerial or teleporting opponents. Spells like Passwall render them moot as well. Plant Growth and Fabricate are just the tip of the iceberg.

It's unlikely that you will have an aerial army to contend with, so walls will still be greatly effective against an army that has a few fliers. As for passwall, you can make walls 25 feet thick, or just have a plan to let in 25-30% of the army and then dispel the passage, splitting the army and allowing it to be more easily destroyed. Using teleport, that's a fool's errand in 5e. Between bounded accuracy and the fail chance, you aren't going to get in than a handful of people, and that doesn't invalidate the need for walls or castles. Sure, it could be useful for getting in a spy or a saboteur, but those don't invalidate the need for castles or walls, either.
 

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WaterRabbit

Explorer
It's unlikely that you will have an aerial army to contend with, so walls will still be greatly effective against an army that has a few fliers.

Your thinking on this is a very conventional and doesn't really take into account the topic at hand and is very depending setting. In Forgotten Realms (which I specifically mentioned btw) flying foes are very likely. If we are talking about Wizards making items, Potions of Flying would be in very high demand. Ahghairon's dragonward is one method used in a FR setting to counter flying foes (dragons in specific).

As for passwall, you can make walls 25 feet thick, or just have a plan to let in 25-30% of the army and then dispel the passage, splitting the army and allowing it to be more easily destroyed.

If you let in 25%-30% of an opposing army, you have probably lost the battle. The concept of schwerpunkt especially applies to a fantasy setting. It is why traditional armies try to batter down gates. Making walls thicker is an effective counter and would make them harder to undermine.

Also passwall isn't the only method of invalidating walls. Also, you seem to assume that it can only be cast once and in only one place. Transmute Rock can be used to undermine walls; Wall of Fire can be used to clear defenders from a section of wall and so forth. The biggest limit on most spells is they require concentration. Take a clever group of players and ask them to bypass a cities walls to let an army in and it will happen.

Using teleport, that's a fool's errand in 5e. Between bounded accuracy and the fail chance, you aren't going to get in than a handful of people, and that doesn't invalidate the need for walls or castles. Sure, it could be useful for getting in a spy or a saboteur, but those don't invalidate the need for castles or walls, either.

Bounded accuracy doesn't really apply to the teleport spell. With magical sensors and/scrying and location becomes Very Familiar. You only need a handful of people to take down the defenses of a castle. A small group is particularly useful for infiltration and opening gates and so forth.

So when it comes to offense vs. defense, it depends on the relative costs involved. Building walls around a city 25' thick is an expensive proposition. How expensive would it be to bypass/undermine them determines their effectiveness. The Forgotten Realms in particular is a very high magic setting with lots of high level characters and organizations. So lots of "unlikely" scenarios are very likely in the Forgotten Realms. Mostly what I imagine keeps things in check is Mutually Assured Destruction. The big events in the Realms take place when one group or another forgets this or there is some sort of worldwide cataclysm (such as the Spellplague).

Using the principle of MAD, it provides an actual use for plausibly deniable assets like adventuring parties to try and tip the balance between large powers/organizations. However, walls by themselves are just expensive speed bumps that can keep primitive hordes at bay for a time.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Your thinking on this is a very conventional and doesn't really take into account the topic at hand and is very depending setting. In Forgotten Realms (which I specifically mentioned btw) flying foes are very likely. If we are talking about Wizards making items, Potions of Flying would be in very high demand. Ahghairon's dragonward is one method used in a FR setting to counter flying foes (dragons in specific).



If you let in 25%-30% of an opposing army, you have probably lost the battle. The concept of schwerpunkt especially applies to a fantasy setting. It is why traditional armies try to batter down gates. Making walls thicker is an effective counter and would make them harder to undermine.

Also passwall isn't the only method of invalidating walls. Also, you seem to assume that it can only be cast once and in only one place. Transmute Rock can be used to undermine walls; Wall of Fire can be used to clear defenders from a section of wall and so forth. The biggest limit on most spells is they require concentration. Take a clever group of players and ask them to bypass a cities walls to let an army in and it will happen.



Bounded accuracy doesn't really apply to the teleport spell. With magical sensors and/scrying and location becomes Very Familiar. You only need a handful of people to take down the defenses of a castle. A small group is particularly useful for infiltration and opening gates and so forth.

So when it comes to offense vs. defense, it depends on the relative costs involved. Building walls around a city 25' thick is an expensive proposition. How expensive would it be to bypass/undermine them determines their effectiveness. The Forgotten Realms in particular is a very high magic setting with lots of high level characters and organizations. So lots of "unlikely" scenarios are very likely in the Forgotten Realms. Mostly what I imagine keeps things in check is Mutually Assured Destruction. The big events in the Realms take place when one group or another forgets this or there is some sort of worldwide cataclysm (such as the Spellplague).

Using the principle of MAD, it provides an actual use for plausibly deniable assets like adventuring parties to try and tip the balance between large powers/organizations. However, walls by themselves are just expensive speed bumps that can keep primitive hordes at bay for a time.

IMO, by and large, it's a self correcting issue.

If the setting is one of high magic, then magic counters magic. Castles would be warded against magical assault. You might even have NPCs who make the arcana of stronghold defense their speciality.

On the other hand, in a rare magic setting, this is largely a non-issue. Being invaded by magical means almost never happens. There may be not much you can do if it does happen, but if you might hear about this kind of thing once in a lifetime, no one's going to plan for it. Many people believed in magic during our own middle ages, but I'm not aware of castle design taking that into account.

Of course, if you have a high magic group come into conflict with a low magic group, odds are that the low magic group is going to lose unless they have some kind of equivalent edge (like super science). They might try, but it's unlikely that any amount of fortification can save them from a magically superior enemy.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Designing a castle to defend against flying enemies isn't all that difficult. Flat-topped towers with battlements would be out, and steep-sided turrets would be in. Courtyards might be smaller, and the interior doors and gates would be more heavily fortified instead of focusing everything on the outer defenses. But once you make those rather moderate changes, a castle would work just dandy against airborne attackers. The enemy can't land on the towers due to the turrets, and if they land in the courtyard, they have just trapped themselves in a killing zone for archers and spellcasters in the towers.

If I were a castle-builder in FR, I'd be more worried about ogres and giants than hippogriffs and pegasi. Giants with a giant-sized battering ram could really do a number on a castle's defenses.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Your thinking on this is a very conventional and doesn't really take into account the topic at hand and is very depending setting. In Forgotten Realms (which I specifically mentioned btw) flying foes are very likely. If we are talking about Wizards making items, Potions of Flying would be in very high demand. Ahghairon's dragonward is one method used in a FR setting to counter flying foes (dragons in specific).

If you let in 25%-30% of an opposing army, you have probably lost the battle. The concept of schwerpunkt especially applies to a fantasy setting. It is why traditional armies try to batter down gates. Making walls thicker is an effective counter and would make them harder to undermine.

Also passwall isn't the only method of invalidating walls. Also, you seem to assume that it can only be cast once and in only one place. Transmute Rock can be used to undermine walls; Wall of Fire can be used to clear defenders from a section of wall and so forth. The biggest limit on most spells is they require concentration. Take a clever group of players and ask them to bypass a cities walls to let an army in and it will happen.

For every measure, there will be a countermeasure, though. For every wizard that is sneaking up to the wall to cast passwall, there will be wizards to cast counterspell or perhaps an anti-invisibility area and archers to pincussion the sucker. There might be an enchantment on the walls to cause anyone flying over to fall. The result is that the wall and castle will remain important, since if everything works out like it's supposed to, the magic will counter the magic and the physical will be needed to prevail. These countermeasures would have been invented centuries before any battle the game is going to have with or without the PCs.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
For every measure, there will be a countermeasure, though. For every wizard that is sneaking up to the wall to cast passwall, there will be wizards to cast counterspell or perhaps an anti-invisibility area and archers to pincussion the sucker. There might be an enchantment on the walls to cause anyone flying over to fall. The result is that the wall and castle will remain important, since if everything works out like it's supposed to, the magic will counter the magic and the physical will be needed to prevail. These countermeasures would have been invented centuries before any battle the game is going to have with or without the PCs.

I've always assumed counter measures in my world for important well protected places. Just because a spell or ritual is not in the PHB does not mean it doesn't exist. Yes, flying creatures and spells would be dangerous. It means there would be an arms race of sorts but people are creative. Giants and ogres attacking? Good thing you had those ballista ready because they've got some big targets. Oh, they're also set up to fire nets against those pesky fliers. Tunneling monsters an issue? Good thing you set up listening posts to hear them coming (something people did to protect against sappers ... can't find the reference right now :.-( ). A simple beaded curtain (or even closed gates) or similar would foil a lot of invisibility shenanigans.

I think it's a mistake that people just plop down hippogriffs and attacking wizards on some pre-industrial time frame in the real world without considering what reasonable countermeasures could be applied. People didn't invent those net-throwing ballista I mention above because they weren't needed. Unless magic is new, unexpected or extremely rare it will be woven into the fabric of society.
 

WaterRabbit

Explorer
For every measure, there will be a countermeasure, though. For every wizard that is sneaking up to the wall to cast passwall, there will be wizards to cast counterspell or perhaps an anti-invisibility area and archers to pincussion the sucker. There might be an enchantment on the walls to cause anyone flying over to fall. The result is that the wall and castle will remain important, since if everything works out like it's supposed to, the magic will counter the magic and the physical will be needed to prevail. These countermeasures would have been invented centuries before any battle the game is going to have with or without the PCs.

But isn't that is exactly the question? Probably the best test would be to have a group of players charged with defending a site and seeing what they come up. Because they are players they are limited to published spells and items. So "anti-invisibility" areas aren't something possible in the rules, but hallowed areas would be. Give them a budget and see what kind of defenses they can build. In my opinion, to build defenses to handle the types of threats represented in a normal game world is going to be cost prohibitive compared to the methods that are necessary to defeat them.

This is probably why they haven't released the mass combat rules yet. It would be interesting to try and build a "tower defense" game just using the published rules to this point. But I don't think the rules are really robust enough to handle this situation. Back in AD&D we did run similar types of tests and found that castles were generally useless against monstrous and magical threats.
 

In my game every druid would have an interest in helping the farmers. We have a Drow druid right now who couldn't care less if the humans eat. Plus characters with powers like the characters are a a rare occurrence. Consider how many in an army are warriors proficient with the equipment that they have and how many are true Fighters? How many hedge shamans have the Magic Initiate feat without actually being Wizards? See what I'm getting at.

As for the economy. In my game world. I assume the characters have a mundane source of income appropriate to their background. An urchin might be destitute but I assume he gets food somehow an clothes appropriate to being an urchin. Money in our game is in GP. If the party needs to pay for something where 1gp. (about $400) in our world is an inappropriately large sum, I just say either that 1gp. pays for enough for everyone, or that the character is able to pay for the newspaper or a meal with smaller coins that he has on him. It's a game and if I want to be an accountant, I can do that at work.

If the party is driven by a plot point or if there's otherwise a reason for them to be short of food or shelter, we'll play it out as a skill challenge or an encounter.
 

In my game every druid would have an interest in helping the farmers. We have a Drow druid right now who couldn't care less if the humans eat. Plus characters with powers like the characters are a a rare occurrence. Consider how many in an army are warriors proficient with the equipment that they have and how many are true Fighters? How many hedge shamans have the Magic Initiate feat without actually being Wizards? See what I'm getting at.

As for the economy. In my game world. I assume the characters have a mundane source of income appropriate to their background. An urchin might be destitute but I assume he gets food somehow an clothes appropriate to being an urchin. Money in our game is in GP. If the party needs to pay for something where 1gp. (about $400) in our world is an inappropriately large sum, I just say either that 1gp. pays for enough for everyone, or that the character is able to pay for the newspaper or a meal with smaller coins that he has on him. It's a game and if I want to be an accountant, I can do that at work.

If the party is driven by a plot point or if there's otherwise a reason for them to be short of food or shelter, we'll play it out as a skill challenge or an encounter.
 

WaterRabbit

Explorer
In my game every druid would have an interest in helping the farmers. We have a Drow druid right now who couldn't care less if the humans eat. Plus characters with powers like the characters are a a rare occurrence. Consider how many in an army are warriors proficient with the equipment that they have and how many are true Fighters? How many hedge shamans have the Magic Initiate feat without actually being Wizards? See what I'm getting at.

As for the economy. In my game world. I assume the characters have a mundane source of income appropriate to their background. An urchin might be destitute but I assume he gets food somehow an clothes appropriate to being an urchin. Money in our game is in GP. If the party needs to pay for something where 1gp. (about $400) in our world is an inappropriately large sum, I just say either that 1gp. pays for enough for everyone, or that the character is able to pay for the newspaper or a meal with smaller coins that he has on him. It's a game and if I want to be an accountant, I can do that at work.

If the party is driven by a plot point or if there's otherwise a reason for them to be short of food or shelter, we'll play it out as a skill challenge or an encounter.

This all can work, but only if you never venture too far into Tier 2 play. However, a small orc horde would completely wipeout any civilization you have as you are implying that the warrior in the army aren't even equivalent to guards in their competence. The problem is that once you allow for magical organizations like the Circle of 8, The Red Wizards of Thay, Twisted Rune, or even the Cowled Wizards of Athkatla it forces there to be more competent and more numerous skilled individuals in the setting.

Also, your $400 to 1 GP is definitely an outlier as it is generally more a $1 to 1 GP ratio. A single gold piece in your campaign has tremendous buying power. A single haul of gold from an ancient dungeon would definitely ruin any economy you had and kill any nation (much the way Spain fell into economic disaster).
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
But isn't that is exactly the question? Probably the best test would be to have a group of players charged with defending a site and seeing what they come up. Because they are players they are limited to published spells and items. So "anti-invisibility" areas aren't something possible in the rules, but hallowed areas would be. Give them a budget and see what kind of defenses they can build. In my opinion, to build defenses to handle the types of threats represented in a normal game world is going to be cost prohibitive compared to the methods that are necessary to defeat them.

This is probably why they haven't released the mass combat rules yet. It would be interesting to try and build a "tower defense" game just using the published rules to this point. But I don't think the rules are really robust enough to handle this situation. Back in AD&D we did run similar types of tests and found that castles were generally useless against monstrous and magical threats.

How much flexibility do you give them? Can they "invent" weapons like my net throwing ballista? Create new rituals? Special wards against specific types of magic?

The way I run it the printed rules aren't all inclusive, they include rules for PCs. But it's going to vary widely by campaign and preference. I warn people that they may not be able to teleport wherever they want, that some walls may be warded against spells that bypass them.

Unless magic is new or extremely rare there will always be some sort of countermeasure built over time. The romans used what we would consider short swords until they started fighting enemies that used cavalry and they started carrying spears. Armor slowly got to the point where stabbing someone didn't do a lot of good so people switched to knocking them down or focusing on bludgeoning them to death or having a lot of power focused on a very small point. Then firearms came along and armor fell out of style because it wasn't worth the cost until fairly recently (for most soldiers anyway, there have always been exceptions).

My point is that magic wouldn't be "disruptive" unless it was only introduced recently.

Ultimately though most people just accept some things about D&D that don't really make a lot of sense. Yes, there are orcish hordes, but where do they come from? From the mountains? Okay, what did they grow to eat? How are there viable populations of dozens of different intelligent humanoid races, especially if they're constantly trying to kill each other off?

How much any of that matters, or how much it affects your particular taste is going vary pretty dramatically from campaign to campaign. I try to keep things logical, but I also just hand-wave some details. I want castles so I assume they're worth building. I'll come up with details of why when and if it matters.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Also, your $400 to 1 GP is definitely an outlier as it is generally more a $1 to 1 GP ratio. A single gold piece in your campaign has tremendous buying power. A single haul of gold from an ancient dungeon would definitely ruin any economy you had and kill any nation (much the way Spain fell into economic disaster).

While I agree that $400 to 1 GP is out of line, $1 to 1 GP is too far the other way. Just looking at common goods, that would make a set of clothing 50 cents. A bucket would be a nickel.

Prices in the PHB may not make a lot of sense and I'm sure someone else has done the math but I think of a GP as being roughly equivalent of a 20 dollar bill.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
While I agree that $400 to 1 GP is out of line, $1 to 1 GP is too far the other way. Just looking at common goods, that would make a set of clothing 50 cents. A bucket would be a nickel.

Prices in the PHB may not make a lot of sense and I'm sure someone else has done the math but I think of a GP as being roughly equivalent of a 20 dollar bill.

Going with roughly $1600 per ounce, and a gold being fifty coins per pound regardless of denomination (I think that's a 5E standard, but I might be mistaking it with 3E) that leaves us with about $500 per gold piece. So your typical suit of plate is $750,000 or you know the cost of a brand new Bugati Veyron with all of the bells and whistles, or a run down hobo shack in Vancouver, BC (actually, that would be a steal of the hobo shack in Vancouver, totally worth the teardown the build costs, flip that sucker for 4000 gp).

I think the best cost my be looking at the value of a silver piece, since it usually hashes out better for easily comparable things like food, and then scaling up to gold pieces.

On Fabricate, why not have a wizard turn out quantities of high carbon bar stock steel? Or huge sheets of steel ready to be turned into weapons or armour by smith? They could in theory churn out vast quantities of wire coils to make mail hauberks.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Going with roughly $1600 per ounce, and a gold being fifty coins per pound regardless of denomination (I think that's a 5E standard, but I might be mistaking it with 3E) that leaves us with about $500 per gold piece. So your typical suit of plate is $750,000 or you know the cost of a brand new Bugati Veyron with all of the bells and whistles, or a run down hobo shack in Vancouver, BC (actually, that would be a steal of the hobo shack in Vancouver, totally worth the teardown the build costs, flip that sucker for 4000 gp).

I think the best cost my be looking at the value of a silver piece, since it usually hashes out better for easily comparable things like food, and then scaling up to gold pieces.

On Fabricate, why not have a wizard turn out quantities of high carbon bar stock steel? Or huge sheets of steel ready to be turned into weapons or armour by smith? They could in theory churn out vast quantities of wire coils to make mail hauberks.

Why are you assuming that gold has the same value as it does in the real world? I start with some basic goods and services from the PHB to work out a ballpark.

I agree that we probably shouldn't have a GP standard, a SP standard would be more "realistic". But in a game with dragons why do you assume that alchemists aren't occasionally successful at transmuting lead to gold?
 

Dausuul

Legend
Going with roughly $1600 per ounce, and a gold being fifty coins per pound regardless of denomination (I think that's a 5E standard, but I might be mistaking it with 3E) that leaves us with about $500 per gold piece.
We aren't trying to exchange D&D gold for real gold (if we could, I'd retire tomorrow). The whole point of estimating a conversion rate between gold pieces and dollars is to get a sense of the purchasing power of a gold piece. If your conversion rate says that a loaf of bread costs $20, it's not telling you anything useful.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
We aren't trying to exchange D&D gold for real gold (if we could, I'd retire tomorrow). The whole point of estimating a conversion rate between gold pieces and dollars is to get a sense of the purchasing power of a gold piece. If your conversion rate says that a loaf of bread costs $20, it's not telling you anything useful.

Other than that for that price it should be a really awesome loaf of bread. Or you bought it at Trader Joe's. :p
 

Gold has greatly increased in value because (to oversimplify) central banks went off gold/silver standards to fiat currency. Modern production has really changed the relative value of a lot of basic goods (and for that matter services), too. I can't think of a valid way to get what 'prices in D&D mean' to map to familiar mediums of exchange, today.

Relative prices within that context are potentially meaningful. The price list says a meal costs so much and a suit of armor so many times that. That says something. Put it all together and still probably doesn't say anything coherent, but it's the most you can reasonably shoot for.
 

Mistwell

Legend
Other than that for that price it should be a really awesome loaf of bread. Or you bought it at Trader Joe's. :p

What has happened to your Trader Joes? It's a DISCOUNT market, not a high price market! They not have the lowest prices, but they have on average lower prices than most supermarkets on most items. Are you thinking of Whole Foods?
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
Why are you assuming that gold has the same value as it does in the real world? I start with some basic goods and services from the PHB to work out a ballpark.

I agree that we probably shouldn't have a GP standard, a SP standard would be more "realistic". But in a game with dragons why do you assume that alchemists aren't occasionally successful at transmuting lead to gold?

I'm not suggesting that gold be world what it is in reality, for comparative purposes. I supposed I'm more poorly point out that gold pieces aren't a good starting point for most stuff, in a cheeky way that didn't quite come across. Even realistically using a silver standing shouldn't matter, since we'd be better served by figuring out what the relative cost of items are like food, and comparing roughly to modern values of similar items. Most common stuff every day stuff is priced in silver. If we look a the cost of a meal at an inn and the cost of a meal at a fast food restaurant, we're getting a reasonable comparison of purchasing power. Gold pieces can be extrapolated from there, and so can copper pieces.

On that note, I actually don't think its unreasonable to assume a PC could buy a suit of plate mail for their 1500 gp, or a small farm.

Still, what about wizards turning raw ore into high quality homogenous alloys in usable billets?
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I'm not suggesting that gold be world what it is in reality, for comparative purposes. I supposed I'm more poorly point out that gold pieces aren't a good starting point for most stuff, in a cheeky way that didn't quite come across. Even realistically using a silver standing shouldn't matter, since we'd be better served by figuring out what the relative cost of items are like food, and comparing roughly to modern values of similar items. Most common stuff every day stuff is priced in silver. If we look a the cost of a meal at an inn and the cost of a meal at a fast food restaurant, we're getting a reasonable comparison of purchasing power. Gold pieces can be extrapolated from there, and so can copper pieces.

On that note, I actually don't think its unreasonable to assume a PC could buy a suit of plate mail for their 1500 gp, or a small farm.

Still, what about wizards turning raw ore into high quality homogenous alloys in usable billets?

Well, having 1 price list for all items across all cultures is always going to be problematic, especially considering the inconsistencies of armor and weapon types. On the other hand if plate mail isn't "expensive enough" maybe that's because there are too many wizards casting fabricate. ;)

As far as the fabricate, I posted long ago that I saw a lot of issues, especially depending on level of technology and how you define "raw materials". Do you need high quality steel? Does it need to be properly hammered into plates or do you just need iron ore, a source of carbon and some other trace metals? I lean towards the former, which along with the expertise of how to make the armor (which takes a master armorer level of expertise) I just don't see it happening all that often.
 

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