D&D 5E How 'magical" in your game/setting?

How magical is your game (casters first, then setting second)?

  • CASTERS: low power - low frequency

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • ------------ SETTING section below. -------------

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • SETTING: low strength - common

    Votes: 0 0.0%

I am very confused by the top part of this poll. The strength of the caster in D&D (which is what it is posted under) is pre-determined, ie. the rules. I mean, I guess some DMs can tell their casters they can cast fewer spells or not take these spells and only use this small group, but I have never met any.
Frequency, I guess can be individualistic. But again, when playing D&D, I have seen very few tables where one could tell a difference. Almost every PC at the table can do something magical; therefore, according to the PC's world view, magic is quite common. In 5e, there are cantrips, which can just be cast and cast and cast. Magic abounds 24 hours a day. For example, a sixth level wizard, cleric, ranger and bard (not an odd group). Almost all of them have tons of cantrips. If they are like any players I've met, they use them all time. Even mundane situations like at a tavern: "I use mage hand to grab my drink," "I use prestidigitation to help the barkeep clean up," "I use ray of frost to cool my drink," "I use dancing lights to entertain the cat in the corner," or "I cast thaumaturgy on the bard."
I fail to see how the DM can really limit these without enforcing it through setting. Which brings us to setting...
As far as magic in settings go, again, in D&D, it is pre-set; maybe not in stone, but certainly carved in wood. A healing potion is a good example. It would seem very flip-flop consistency to have all sorts of magical creatures, even mundane ones, like skeletons, and not have magic be "everywhere."

Note: Other settings and game rules, I completely see. But for D&D, I don't know, I just have never seen it be a low magic, low power conception except maybe in 1st edition.
 

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Fifinjir

Explorer
Medium magic probably fits best. Magic is a part of life, but not a daily part (usually). In light of the Four Curses, magic is important for the people protecting both their homes and their minds, but if things are going well this is a mostly invisible process, with the possible exception of constructs patrolling the roads. An ordinary farmer or fisherman might witness magical events a few times a year, unless there’s a crisis.
 


gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I guess I'm an odd sort of third party publisher for Starfinder, in that I mostly create hardware content - starships, weapons, armor, equipment, settings and modules, and very little in magic, despite Starfinder being science fantasy with spellcasters. I did include some magic options for starships, which not even Paizo hasn't included yet, so I'm ahead in arcane development that way. I guess I lean hard sci-fi a bit more, so that's the kind of content I focus on. In Starfinder, technology works around the reliance on magic in ways that Pathfinder could not - you can do a lot of overwhelming things in Starfinder and not even delve into magic. I prefer that, so design for that. I usually play a fighter/ranger/rogue and more rarely a paladin or a half-caster, like PF classes - don't know if D&D has any half-casters. I rarely play full casters.
 
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Oofta

Legend
In my campaign world low level magic is so ubiquitous that people don't even always realize that it's magic. The bakery sells cookies that really are magically delicious, the master smith forges items out of iron that don't rust, people heal more quickly than they do in the real world.

In addition, magic items are practically indestructible. Bury that rock with continual flame on it? Dig it up a century later and it still provides light. Something like continual flame may be expensive if you follow the standard rules, but it's also a game changer to have a reliable source of light that won't burn the house down.

I also have ritual casters as NPCs. People that can do powerful magic (both diabolic and benign) if given enough time but couldn't cast magic missile to save their lives. I don't go quite as far as Eberron, but there are some steam punk like elements to my world. To me it only makes sense that magic would be useful for things other than war or adventuring.
 

I guess I'm an odd sort of third party publisher for Starfinder, in that I mostly create hardware content - starships, weapons, armor, settings and modules, and very little in magic, despite Starfinder being science fantasy with spellcasters. I did include some magic options for starships, which not even Paizo hasn't included yet, so I'm ahead in arcane development that way. I guess I lean hard sci-fi a bit more, so that's the kind of content I focus on. In Starfinder, technology works around the reliance on magic in ways that Pathfinder was not - you can do a lot of overwhelming things in Starfinder and not even delve into magic. I prefer that, so design for that. I usually play a fighter/ranger/rogue and more rarely a paladin or a half-caster, like PF classes - don't know if D&D has any half-casters. I rarely play full casters.
ranger and paladin are half casters in dnd
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I am trying to figure out how magic a setting would be after I ban the wizard? also the cleric, the paladin the druid, ranger.
I developed with another designer Way of the Samurai (PFRPG) (PF1), and offered six different archetypes - one kind of paladin-like (with some paladin like abilities), but the rest covered the various classic samurai themes - mounted archer, a more political high skills samurai, a Miyamoto Musashi inspired duel wielding samurai, an arquebus expert samurai, a monster-slaying samurai, and a ranger archetype who was a bodyguard samurai-llke Yojimbo, with enemy clans, not monster as opponents.

So I ran an unpublished one-shot based on the Seven Samurai for my playtesters, less the paladin samurai, and one playing the PF standard samurai to run a zero magic adventure - it worked out great!
 
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nevin

Hero
in my setting there are 1st world countries where high levels of magic are common. There are rules, mages that work for law enforcement. In those countries if you need to buy a teleport, wish etc you just need the money. Now abuse that wish and you and the criminal mage that cast it could be in deep trouble. the Magical NSA will have you on thier watch list. What this means for the Quadratic Wizards is that any official group coming for them will have researched all the powers they've exhibited, considered past actions and be fully equipped with magical items for all scenarios they've postulated. Imagine seal team 6 with a combat mage and a 10 or so clerics and mages on call as needed.

As bad as that sounds your even more screwed if you mess with reality enough to get a church on your tail. They only follow the rules of thier order and thier diety and if the diety says you get captured or die anything goes. All combat arms of the church , it's inquisitors and any other resources needed can be brought to bear. Details change from country to country but abuse of magic in those 1st world countries is almost never forgiven. It's hard to maintain an orderly society with mages wishing reality away or building unlicensed demiplanes to hide criminals or worse.

go to the 3rd world areas and it's much much harder to find that kind of magic unless it's titans, dragons or outsiders and because of the 1st world humans they mostly hate humanoid casters and thier allies.
 

I developed with another designer Way of the Samurai (PFRPG) (PF1), and offered six different archetypes - one kind of paladin-like (with some paladin like abilities), but the rest covered the various classic samurai themes - mounted archer, a more political high skills samurai, a Miyamoto Musashi inspired duel wielding samurai, an arquebus expert samurai, a monster-slaying samurai, and a ranger archetype who was a bodyguard samurai-llke Yojimbo, with enemy clans, not monster as opponents.

So I ran an unpublished one-shot based on the Seven Samurai for my playtesters, less the paladin samurai, and one playing the PF standard samurai to run a zero magic adventure - it worked out great!
cool, I want to see it?
also you any good at fixing the 5e monk?
It is not that I dislike those classes more that I do not what to deal with some of them and the themes they bring into the setting, miracle dispense is a bad class idea for a setting with some semblance of normality and druids are too strong and ranger to niche for what I want.
still kinda want another kind of magic and some half casters just not divine casters.
 

An analogy I've used in the past: my default assumption is that magic in DnD is about as common as air travel: not a daily part of most people's lives, but most people have experienced it. For middle-class people, they might experience it once a year, for working class people it's once every few years. Some wealthy people interact with magic much more often.

If you live in a city, you see evidence of magic every day or close to. In the countryside it sometimes appears overhead.

A high-magic setting is one where magic is as common as car travel. A low-magic setting is one where it's as common as space travel.
 
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gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
cool, I want to see it?
also you any good at fixing the 5e monk?
It is not that I dislike those classes more that I do not what to deal with some of them and the themes they bring into the setting, miracle dispense is a bad class idea for a setting with some semblance of normality and druids are too strong and ranger to niche for what I want.
still kinda want another kind of magic and some half casters just not divine casters.
Hah, it was largely off-the-cuff, I had encounters written up, that was about it - with the story in my head. Nothing I can show.

I will step into 5e eventually, but haven't so far, wanting to stay in my lane. But I have thought about updating my PF1 published Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror to PF2 and possibly 5e - I conceived, researched, developed, project managed, art directed, played technical advisor, did all the maps, some illustrations, the graphic design and page layout and wrote one one-shot. I had better writers, more experienced designers and other contributors to take my life's work into a masterpiece (I'm biased). I own the IP, so I may do that in the next year, perhaps... I've got a lot of Starfinder to do, yet.
 

An analogy I've used in the past: my default assumption is that magic in DnD is about as common as air travel: not a daily part of most people's lives, but most people have experienced it. For middle-class people, they might experience it once a year, for working class people it's once every few years. Some wealthy people interact with magic much more often.

If you live in a city, you see evidence of magic every day or close to. In the countryside it sometimes appears overhead.

A high-magic setting is one where magic is as common as ca travel. A low-magic setting is one where it's as common as space travel.
wait working-class people are supposed to have experienced air travel? nice analogy by the way.
Hah, it was largely off-the-cuff, I had encounters written up, that was about it - with the story in my head. Nothing I can show.

I will step into 5e eventually, but haven't so far, wanting to stay in my lane. But I have thought about updating my PF1 published Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror to PF2 and possibly 5e - I conceived, researched, developed, project managed, art directed, played technical advisor, did all the maps, some illustrations, the graphic design and page layout and wrote one one-shot. I had better writers, more experienced designers and other contributors to take my life's work into a masterpiece (I'm biased). I own the IP, so I may do that in the next year, perhaps... I've got a lot of Starfinder to do, yet.
shame I liked the sound of that class, you should give classwork a go in 5e lot of classes need a good fix and you sound like you could do it.
 

cbwjm

Legend
From these, I would vote Casters as high power, and either medium or high frequency.

The setting (as far as magic items, creatures, and locations) would seem to be at least medium or high strength, and common to very common. You'd have to judge best since not a lot of information was provided in your post about setting other than the academies and such.

Hopefully that will help with your voting.
Yeah, I had to finish my post because my train was pulling into the station and I needed to get off.

The world is fairly high magic, almost anyone will know of at least one spellcaster of some type. Floating earthmotes exist in some areas, rituals (not the regular ritual tag found on spells) of great and small power are able to be performed by anyone though they may have a prohibitively high cost and likely unique components that must be found.

In Arkhosia, they have magic shops, they typically only have consumables in stock so you're able to buy many of the uncommon potions and scrolls with maybe a few rare items. For something even like a +1 dagger you need to wait to see if the store owner can find a seller. In other locations, like the grand duchy, you won't find much in the way of magical items for sale beyond some common items and healing pots.

Dwarves are a special case, every dwarf has the ability to forge some sort of item of power, all they need is an understanding of the mystical processes (via training in arcana) and a tool proficiency and they can create something. I have no dwarf players to try this, but they have encountered an NPC who is crafting something.

Ended up just selecting the highest values for both.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
wait working-class people are supposed to have experienced air travel? nice analogy by the way.

shame I liked the sound of that class, you should give classwork a go in 5e lot of classes need a good fix and you sound like you could do it.
Well the class archetypes and a couple prestige classes, plus some feats - and 11 pages of non crunch deep dive look at samurai beyond western cliche, and a mini setting samurai town, rules to create custom samurai clans, plus 36 kammon (samurai house crests), but it's PF1 and it ain't free, so if you want to look - I get half the profit! ;) (It's only $4.99) - you can find it HERE.

Edit: I take that back, you can find all my class archetypes at d20pfsrd.com - find the class, look at 3PP Rite Publishing, and you'll find them. Plus my samurai clan rules are there too - search "create samurai clan", you'll find it - and it would work for 5e too.

I'm half Japanese, amateur historian/folklore researcher, lifetime gamer, and family in Japan, so I have some insight to Japan that many don't...
 
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Cruentus

Adventurer
I try to create worlds where magic is present, but not experienced by the vast majority of people. There may be wizard advisors serving kings, rumors of great spell weavers to the west or in the deserts, but they're usually just that. Most clergy are normal humans who can perform non magical ceremonies, and where actual clerics and paladins are rare. Likewise, magic is rare, someone who can cast fireball is outright feared and sought after by lords, bandits, etc. as they can wield immense power.

Of course, "I try to do this" is the operative word. 5e actively fights me without heavy hacking of the rules and classes. When I present my group with the "low level magic" campaign, they agree, then all create spellcasters or spellcaster multiclasses. +facepalm+ So, I either move away from 5e to something like Adventures in Middle Earth, or OSE or other OSRs that are built specifically for that style.

I like magic to be present in the background, weaker at low level, but powerful when someone survives and reaches higher levels.

With regard to magic items, and magic being around, there are no magic shops. No potion sellers. You can get healing balms and salves from the healers/herbalists or the clergy, Kings and powerful lords might have continual light spells here are there, but magic items and the like aren't everywhere. Scrolls, potions, and other consumables can be found adventuring, but any magic items of lasting duration will be fairly unique. I'll either use scaling magic items (they have x power at levels 1-3, add or increase power to y at level 4-6, etc.). This would be a family heirloom, tied to background, something they have heard rumored and found or taken, etc. So fairly unique, with a name, and hopefully becomes the character's signature item (and I'll work with the player around these things if they want to).

I also use 3rd party rules for upgrading armors and weapons to have non magical bonuses or be able to accept runic charms, or other things to assist martials as well.

BUT, I've never been able to actually pull it off. It invariably slips back into "regular DnD" and so then I just go with it, as DM, and hope that "next time", I can run this type of game.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I try to create worlds where magic is present, but not experienced by the vast majority of people. There may be wizard advisors serving kings, rumors of great spell weavers to the west or in the deserts, but they're usually just that. Most clergy are normal humans who can perform non magical ceremonies, and where actual clerics and paladins are rare. Likewise, magic is rare, someone who can cast fireball is outright feared and sought after by lords, bandits, etc. as they can wield immense power.
This is basically what I run in my game. PCs understand when they reach 3rd level spells, they are the exception, not the rule, even among adventurers.

Of course, "I try to do this" is the operative word. 5e actively fights me without heavy hacking of the rules and classes
Yeah, this is why I've been posting hacks (nerfs to the caster-lovers ;) ) to slow down spell progressions. When comparing what other classes can do, I equate 3rd level spells to 7th-9th class levels, not 5th. Likewise, 5th level spells belong in tier 3 IMO, not tier 2.

We had a long discussion in my group yesterday about it all. What it comes down to for PCs is basically this:

PCs have powerful spells and too many of them.

So, we discussed two possible approaches:

1. PCs will keep the current spell level progression, but have fewer spell slots. So, magic is not as common, but is just as powerful as ever.
2. PCs will have a slower spell level progression, but have more spell slots. This makes magic more common, but not as powerful.

I prefer approach #2, but we have to decide as a group what we want to play.
 
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Cruentus

Adventurer
+snip+

We had a long discussion in my group yesterday about it all. What it comes down to for PCs is basically this:

PCs have power spells and too many of them.

So, we discussed two possible approaches:

1. PCs will keep the current spell level progression, but have fewer spell slots. So, magic is not as common, but is just as powerful as ever.
2. PCs will have a slower spell level progression, but have more spell slots. This makes magic more common, but not as powerful.

I prefer approach #2, but we have to decide as a group what we want to play.
I like both of those, and would likely be an easy sell for almost all of my group.

I still am trying to fiddle around with spell points to help to manage things. You can use your known spells however you want, but if you cast high level stuff, it drains the points quick, or you could cast more low level spells. The net effect would hopefully be judicious use of points/casts, with added flexibility for the caster. But maybe the clear-cut lower spell progression is even easier.

But I have enjoyed reading your hacks and alternative approaches!
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I like both of those, and would likely be an easy sell for almost all of my group.

I still am trying to fiddle around with spell points to help to manage things. You can use your known spells however you want, but if you cast high level stuff, it drains the points quick, or you could cast more low level spells. The net effect would hopefully be judicious use of points/casts, with added flexibility for the caster. But maybe the clear-cut lower spell progression is even easier.

But I have enjoyed reading your hacks and alternative approaches!
Thanks! Here a couple of other ideas we are currently exploring, for different reasons:

1. Forget spell slots or spell points. Casting spells cost you HIT POINTS! Yep, full-casters spend 1 hp / spell level of the spell. So, a fireball is 3 hp to cast it. Half-casters spend 2 hp / spell level, including things like smites. The idea comes from d20 SW where Jedi had to spend Vitality for their Force powers.

This creates two benefits IMO. First, it makes casting in combat a bit more cautious in many ways. Second, it makes out of combat healing automatic if you have anyone with a healing spell. With a bit of resting time, the healer can max out everyone's hit points.

Second, this means you really have unlimited spells as long as you have hit points to spend.

With this variation, higher spell levels access would be delayed a bit so slower.

2. You can cast X number of spells per encounter, where X equals your spellcasting ability modifier (so, typically 2 - 5 spells). You also have a number of spell levels (or points, as you wish) equal to your caster level to spend on those spells.

With this variation, spell level access would be RAW.

For example, at 5th level you have access to fireball, but only 5 spell levels you can use for the encounter. So, if you cast it, it costs 3 of the 5 spell levels, leaving you with just 2 spell levels for other spells.

This allows for powerful spells (if you want to pay for them), but limits how many spells you can do before you are spent.
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
Thanks! Here a couple of other ideas we are currently exploring, for different reasons:

1. Forget spell slots or spell points. Casting spells cost you HIT POINTS! Yep, full-casters spend 1 hp / spell level of the spell. So, a fireball is 3 hp to cast it. Half-casters spend 2 hp / spell level, including things like smites. The idea comes from d20 SW where Jedi had to spend Vitality for their Force powers.

This creates two benefits IMO. First, it makes casting in combat a bit more cautious in many ways. Second, it makes out of combat healing automatic if you have anyone with a healing spell. With a bit of resting time, the healer can max out everyone's hit points.

Second, this means you really have unlimited spells as long as you have hit points to spend.

With this variation, higher spell levels access would be delayed a bit so slower.

2. You can cast X number of spells per encounter, where X equals your spellcasting ability modifier (so, typically 2 - 5 spells). You also have a number of spell levels (or points, as you wish) equal to your caster level to spend on those spells.

With this variation, spell level access would be RAW.

For example, at 5th level you have access to fireball, but only 5 spell levels you can use for the encounter. So, if you cast it, it costs 3 of the 5 spell levels, leaving you with just 2 spell levels for other spells.

This allows for powerful spells (if you want to pay for them), but limits how many spells you can do before you are spent.
I like the Hit Point angle, especially as casters in 5e don't really have fewer hit points comparatively, unless you're talking Barbarians and high Con martials. In the last game I played, I was a F2/W14 with about 114hp. The Barbarian had about 180 (and with bear totem damage reducing all incoming damage by 1/2, lots more in practice). Casting against those HP would actually cause decision points, which is good.

I think I had mentioned the Midnight setting re: spell casting. Where casters are also the usual classes: fighters, thiefs, etc. There are not really any pure casters. Casting is done via Feat for school access, and you can cast a number of spells equal to your Ability Score bonus (so, 0-4?, minimum 1), where the spell level is the casting cost. If you want to cast a 3rd level spell, but only have 1 'spell point', you can lose Temp Con to power the other two points. The idea is that the character can then fall back on other skills when the spells (albeit very limited spells) are used up. For a very low magic, casting as exhausting, it could work easily as an alt system.

But I do like the HP spend variation. The encounter variant is interesting, but my mind isn't able to wrap around 'encounter time' as a measurement of anything. I'd have to sit with that one, but it does raise the obvious question: what if the fight goes longer than the round or two, and you are out of spells? What does the Wizard do? (And I'm perfectly fine with wizards twiddling thumbs. I love the old school one spell for first level wizards per day, makes you really branch out on how to contribute meaningfully when you're "one trick" is gone :)

It always does seem to come around to 1) power/utility of spells, 2) number of spells, 3) recovery of spells as the three headed monster. And trying to get them all in alignment is a fascinating thought experiment.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I like the Hit Point angle, especially as casters in 5e don't really have fewer hit points comparatively, unless you're talking Barbarians and high Con martials. In the last game I played, I was a F2/W14 with about 114hp. The Barbarian had about 180 (and with bear totem damage reducing all incoming damage by 1/2, lots more in practice). Casting against those HP would actually cause decision points, which is good.
I always liked it thematically for Jedi, so transferring it to casters for D&D wasn't a stretch for me at all.

And yes, everything has more HP. Since casters (typically) aren't in front and under direct danger for most groups (you can never make that assumption in my game ;) ), spending HP for spells shouldn't be too much of a burden IMO.

The encounter variant is interesting, but my mind isn't able to wrap around 'encounter time' as a measurement of anything. I'd have to sit with that one, but it does raise the obvious question: what if the fight goes longer than the round or two, and you are out of spells? What does the Wizard do? (And I'm perfectly fine with wizards twiddling thumbs. I love the old school one spell for first level wizards per day, makes you really branch out on how to contribute meaningfully when you're "one trick" is gone :)
This is a blend from what 4E did (so I am told, I never played it) and an observation I had running my own game. 90% of the time, there was enough healing to go around (short rest HD, healer feat, healing magic) to bring the party back up to max or close to it before the next encounter, I never felt the attrition of HP. So, I thought of the idea: what if HP was lower in general, like half or two-thirds, but auto refreshed every encounter? You wouldn't need to spend stuff to heal, just survive the fight and have a few minutes (?) of a breather to regroup, bandage wounds that need it, etc.

It extended to spells. Yes, many battles for most groups are 2-3 rounds (our are longer, typically 5-8 rounds) that if you could cast a few spells in each encounter, shouldn't that be enough for you to contribute? If you run out, you have cantrips and weapons, or can maybe help in other ways? Maybe you have a wand or staff to use instead of spells?

I'm exploring extending the whole game to either encounter-based use or "day" (long rest, etc.) use. If you have enough time to restore HP, IMO, you should be able to restore just about any feature you have. 🤷‍♂️
 

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