D&D General Is there a D&D setting that actually works how it would with access to D&D magic?


What I mean is- humans, at the very least, are a very industrious and innovative people. Look how far we’ve developed in just the past 2000 years- or even the past 100! But most D&D settings seem to have multi-thousand-year histories where the world has existed at the “default” D&D setting; that is- a vaguely medieval, feudal peasant society that happens to have magic, dragons, etc. Now monsters aside, our world does not exist like that, and we don’t have fairly accessible magic.

I’m not saying I want a D&D game that recreates modern society- except with magic instead of electricity. But the D&D rules, as written; with item creation, permanent spells effects, and more; would NOT create Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, or Golarion.

Eberron comes close, but it also invents at least three other systems to “justify” it (dragonmarks, manifest zones, and rampant exploitation of elementals). You don’t need anything extra like that to envision that most D&D worlds should be vastly different than the medieval default that’s used for most of them.

Also, I should mention, I’m not looking for an argument or reasons about WHY most D&D worlds ARE stuck in their vaguely medieval setting. I know the history of D&D’s development and all the books that Gary and Dave got their inspiration from. They took a setting, slapped rules for dungeons, magic, and dragons on it and started to play. All those game worlds I mentioned are fine. I've gamed in them for years, just like all of you have. But what would a world that has always existed within those rules ACTUALLY look like? Is there a setting that takes the rules-as-written and runs with it- as humanity would do?

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There have been attempts. The ones that come to mind most quickly for me are Ptolus and the Tippyverse.

There are also rather clever within-setting solutions why some D&D worlds might be stuck in the middle ages (here's a cool one for Greyhawk, based on Jack Vance's Lyonesse).

But there are lots of ways to interpret "actually works" and they depend a lot on starting assumptions. Eberron assumes that lots of low level magic and magical conveniences are available to basically everyone. But you could assume instead that there are many powerful archmagi callously throwing around meteor swarms and storms of vengeance while ordinary people get nothing. Quelong, an OSR setting about a fantasy version of Vietnam-War-devastated Cambodia, takes this latter tack.

Additionally, "D&D magic" is not terribly specific. What edition? What rulebooks? Ptolus and the Tippyverse are both settings based on 3e era rules, as is Eberron (though, as you mentioned, Eberron cheats). Some of the idiosyncratic weirdness in the Tippyverse, for example, doesn't work in other editions. For a lot of highly setting impactful spells, it matters what the exact rules are. Does a worldbuilding problem spell like continual flame cost 50 gold, as it does in 5e and 3e, or is it free but gradually destroys the material it is cast on, as in 2e?

To my knowledge, nobody has made available a setting that fully works out the implications of the 5e spell list. I would be very interested to read it if someone has.


Things get real dark real fast when you start moving beyond eberron's late 1800s early 1900s analog. You either have shadow run /bladerunner/neuromancer style dystopian crapsack worlds or you have some flavor of darksun/the foundation utopia a turning/turned apocalyptic hell scape. If you don't do one of those there just isn't much room to hang interesting stories as the progressively darker star trek shows.
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But the D&D rules, as written; with item creation, permanent spells effects, and more; would NOT create Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, or Golarion.
That assume a lot, as has been mentioned by others. Even where magic items are most generously available, 3E, the cost of creating and purchasing said items is so far outside the means of the average person that they are more likely to be the toys and treasures of the rich than the ploughs for the poor or the aqueducts of the common good. Other than as tools of war, and even that would be largely restricted to the use of the elite, most folk would be lucky to even see a magic item, much less ever hold one.

As for permanent spell effects, that would be even more rarely seen, as there is little reason for a wizard or other caster to go to the expense or effort for anyone other than themselves save for at absurdly high priced commission.

I always assume that there is no coal, gas or oil in the Forgotten Realms (I am not overly familiar with the other settings). I've never heard any mention of those fuels, and that's not because nobody ever digs around in the ground.

So, no easy fuel to power your industrial revolution.

That in turn means your society needs to move from medieval straight into sustainable renewable sources. That's a big leap. Concrete, steel, electricity - all those need to be 100% RENEWABLE! You say you can build hydro-power? Do you know how much concrete goes into building a big dam? That's concrete made with fossil fuels.

So, what would such a world really look like? I think it would be the medieval fantasy that we know.

The Glen

Glantri and to a slightly lesser degree Alphatia in Mystara. They give special benefits to spellcasters though Glantri executes clerics. Magic is a cottage industry in Glantri with magical appliances sold in stores. Magic items are hawked by street vendors and anybody with the gold can buy Magic items.

Voidrunner's Codex

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