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

Voadam

Legend
I think the variables of how frequent and of what power spellcasting is in the population, what the gods are like, what the cultures are like, what the population structures are like, can lead to wildly different situations for different fantasy worlds using the same D&D rules set.

I don't have a problem envisioning a Greyhawk or a Golarion or an Eberron
 

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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
So an earlier poster mentioned the Gods as a source of "medieval stasis". This is actually canonical in the Forgotten Realms. In 2nd edition, two events occurred that caused firearms to proliferate across Faerun. During the Time of Troubles, Gond's Avatar appeared in the island nation of Lantan in the form of a Gnome, where he gave the secret of "smoke powder" (which actually appears in the 2e DMG's magic item tables), and Lantan began producing the Arquebus (a weapon found in the PHB). Later, a Spelljamming vessel landed in Waterdeep, and sold the technology for the "starlock" (wheel lock) pistol. Thus in 2nd edition, the Forgotten Realms has firearms. By 3rd, however, firearms had vanished from the setting entirely. It's never state how or why this happened, but since divine intervention allowed for Lantanese innovation, it seems likely the reverse is also true.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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?
You might want to read the Principalities of Glantri. I remember it being somewhat along the lines of what you are talking about.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
So an earlier poster mentioned the Gods as a source of "medieval stasis". This is actually canonical in the Forgotten Realms. In 2nd edition, two events occurred that caused firearms to proliferate across Faerun. During the Time of Troubles, Gond's Avatar appeared in the island nation of Lantan in the form of a Gnome, where he gave the secret of "smoke powder" (which actually appears in the 2e DMG's magic item tables), and Lantan began producing the Arquebus (a weapon found in the PHB). Later, a Spelljamming vessel landed in Waterdeep, and sold the technology for the "starlock" (wheel lock) pistol. Thus in 2nd edition, the Forgotten Realms has firearms. By 3rd, however, firearms had vanished from the setting entirely. It's never state how or why this happened, but since divine intervention allowed for Lantanese innovation, it seems likely the reverse is also true.

In 5e, Gond has declared a taboo upon smoke powder, and only his church can carry some quantity of it for invention purpose.

There's still some factions in Waterdeep with access to blackmarket smoke powder, as seen in Dragon Heist.
 



FoxWander

Adventurer
Wow, leave a thread for a bit and things can go a bit crazy! Sorry, I work Wednesdays and Thursdays, so I haven't been around to participate in my own thread. But thank you to the folks who tried to keep things on topic.

To answer this one...
What are you basing this on? That definitely is not the case for the D&D my group plays, but are you talking about a particular setting?

Additionally, a spellcaster "of some stripe" is potentially a really low and modestly useful bar.
I would guess this is based on the same thing I based my assumptions on. The 3.5 DMG, Ch.5 Campaigns > World-building > Demographics. This gives a system for populating every city with PC and NPC classes of appropriate level and number for their class. Roll 1d4 + community modifier to determine the highest level wizard. For a Small Town, the mod is 0, for a 25% chance to have a 4th level wizard- with a feat that might be some kind of item creation. Large towns have a +3 so will always have a 4th level wizard, and they might be one up to 7th level. Clerics skew higher. roll 1d6 + mod. So that means Hamlets (-2 mod) might have a 4th level one, with access to the same feats. All this means, spellcasters (and thus the chance for permanent, at least low-level magic) is somewhat common, by the rules as written.

Back to the topic at hand... This is what I based my idea on- what the rules allow outside of any DMs influence. That's where the limiting factors come in setting artificial limits on what can, or has, been done.

However, my thinking is that while magic would unlock a world of potential, it would also be it's own limiting factor. Easy access to magic would mean many technological advances just wouldn't happen. If necessity is the mother of invention, then the absence of a need means many things would not get invented. Speculation on what would and wouldn't get created is probably far beyond the scope of a forum thread, but it's at least a rules-based limiting factor that would keep some things static and limit wild innovation.

For instance, it's doubtful a large scale revolution would take place. In our world that required society-wide technological advancements that would have no reason to be developed in a highly magical world. Steam power is a thing in some fantasy settings precisely because of the artificial limits on the proliferation of magic. While humans are innovative and industrious, they can also be lazy. Why invent a hard, messy way to do something when it can already be done easily with magic. So without a driving need to power the engines of industry, it's doubtful any sort of high-yield fuel source would be needed either. So technology is likely to stay at pre-steam, pre-electric levels.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Why invent a hard, messy way to do something when it can already be done easily with magic. So without a driving need to power the engines of industry, it's doubtful any sort of high-yield fuel source would be needed either. So technology is likely to stay at pre-steam, pre-electric levels.
Because steam power makes things easier and leaves magic for other things. Would they develop it the hard way? Probably not. Would they trap fire and water elementals together to create a magical steam engine? Sure! Why not?

They would still invent many modern conveniences, because as you note, humans are lazy. They'd just do it in a magical way. Heck, with illusion and some inventiveness with conjuration, they could make a magical way to transmit images of a play done at a studio to receptive screens in people's homes. And (A)rchmages (B)roadcasting (C)ompany is born.
 

dave2008

Legend
I would guess this is based on the same thing I based my assumptions on. The 3.5 DMG, Ch.5 Campaigns > World-building > Demographics. This gives a system for populating every city with PC and NPC classes of appropriate level and number for their class. Roll 1d4 + community modifier to determine the highest level wizard. For a Small Town, the mod is 0, for a 25% chance to have a 4th level wizard- with a feat that might be some kind of item creation. Large towns have a +3 so will always have a 4th level wizard, and they might be one up to 7th level. Clerics skew higher. roll 1d6 + mod. So that means Hamlets (-2 mod) might have a 4th level one, with access to the same feats. All this means, spellcasters (and thus the chance for permanent, at least low-level magic) is somewhat common, by the rules as written.
OK, I skipped 3/3.5e and with good reason it seems!
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
I was in a similar discussion to this not long ago, and someone cited the fact that posted prices for spellcasting services in 3rd Edition was clear evidence that one could acquire magic for gold. There was an older player who argued mightily that such a thing was a modern contrivance and that spellcasters would ("never") barter their magic for money. I mean, the argument is absurd on the face of it, scribing spells, having backup spellbooks, enchanting items, and magical research has always cost money- being a Wizard is not a cheap profession.

But carefully reading the 1e DMG, on pages 103-104, sure enough, Gary has provided gp values for spells. Some of these are pretty significant, of course, and a few examples are for very short duration spells (I can only assume Bless is on the list in case you have to fight a Rakshasa), but the examples are here. Of course, Gary is careful to note that these prices generally require you to A) go find the home of the caster in question, and B) have a similar alignment (in the case of bartering for priest spells). He prefaces this list with an example of a Fighter having to track down a Wizard in a city, so there is a "plot tax" involved. Food for thought, regardless.

As to how common spellcasters are, that is somewhat setting dependent. Mystara and the Forgotten Realms have many spellcasters, and of quite high level present in the campaign (indeed, just flipping through Forgotten Realms Adventures, the amount of individuals with class levels is astoundingly high (I vaguely recall somewhere seeing the daughter of an Innkeep being presented as a 2nd level Fighter, despite still being a tween or young teen!). Greyhawk has it's casters organized into secret societies. Krynn has one such society, and casters who do not belong to it are apparently hunted down as renegades! Some campaigns support schools of wizardry with reasonably sized student populations (I guess all those 1st level M-U adventurers have to come from somewhere!).

However, only Eberron attempts to justify the impact a large amount of casters have on the setting in a player-facing way (and indeed, high-level spellcasters are rare, even there). Others have the reality be unknown to most people, such as Ed Greenwood's "magical cold war", where floating cities and airships exist, but the secrets of their construction are held by a small percentage of the populace.

Individual adventures, over the years, however, have made magical advancements appear with regularity, but the impacts on the settings they are found in are kept small regardless. Sure, maybe there was a magic steamboat in one adventure, but somehow it never becomes a thing.

A good example as to why is illustrated in an old Dungeon adventure. A scribe, annoyed by how hard his job was, had a stroke of genius and invented a fountain pen. He is found dead, stabbed in the heart with said pen! The players eventually solve the murder, finding out it was done at the behest of the scribe's guild, as this new technology would put them out of business!

So think carefully before creating a magic steam boiler or printing press! There are wealthy, organized people out there who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo...
 

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