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

Rune

Once A Fool
I think such a setting would look a lot like our real, techno-mancy-based world.

Almost every single one of us carries around and uses a smartphone with no real understanding of how it functions or what human and environmental resources were exploited in its construction.

We have means of flying from anywhere in the world to anywhere else, with most of us, again, only vaguely aware of how it works, or what resources it demands.

We can communicate with absolute strangers individually, in mass, in real-time, or asynchronously. And again, we don’t need to know how it works, or what resources need to be exploited to make it work.

Those are just three examples. They all suggest one thing: The vast majority of such a setting’s inhabitants would neither need to, nor care to know exactly how their everyday magics work.

The people who do know therefore have the power to extract whatever price they wish in providing them. Likely money, but probably also scrying, the results of which can be far more valuable.

In such a setting, the trappings of a pseudo medieval/renaissance society would mostly be a cultural (or counter-cultural) fashion. But, like all fashion, it would evolve constantly and quickly, especially in a world that is as connected as such a setting would be.
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
You've made the assumption that spellcasting is rather common, despite the evidence that it's not
Except the evidence says otherwise. Most decent-sized villages have a spellcaster of some stripe. There's more spellcasters than some real-world minorities and we've had a profound effect on the course of the world without punching reality in the face.
 


It all depends on how you view magical ability. Is magical ability knowledge or is magical ability power?
If it is knowledge, as in, anyone who has an opportunity to learn it can use it to some degree, like math, then yeah, it would naturally proliferate to some degree over a large enough timeline.

But I would expect that Magic is power. And power is concentrated. Horded.

I think the OP makes assumptions about how post enlightenment thinking is so inset into our wordlview. How we view learning.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
I don't think a setting is apt to "fully work out" the implications.

I mean, it isn't like we can fully work out the implications of even simple technological advances. That's because one person, or a handful of people, thinking about a thing in theoretical sense are no match for entire populations of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions, working for decades to make ends meet, taking trial and error guesses and seeing what works.
Oh sure, that's an impossibility.

What I mean is that, to my knowledge, there isn't a setting that does the 5e equivalent of what the tippyverse does for 3e.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
Oh sure, that's an impossibility.

What I mean is that, to my knowledge, there isn't a setting that does the 5e equivalent of what the tippyverse does for 3e.
I would suggest that the Order of the Stick comic does a better job of it than the tippyverse. The tippyverse (as far as I remember) kind of assumes that the only choices that have ever been made in the setting’s historical evolution have been purely optimal. But actual historical social evolution certainly doesn’t play out that way. There’s no reason to think a D&D history would.

Unless they’re modrons, of course.
 

You've made the assumption that spellcasting is rather common, despite the evidence that it's not
Spellcasting seems pretty common in the published adventures. Literally every adventure has multiple casters. Plus "rare for thee, not for me" results in the game favoring casters even more than it already does.

If spellcasting isn't common, where's the tech? Full plate armor was briefly used in our world. In the FR you have dwarven smiths making armor for hundreds of years, following thousands of years of tradition. Where's the innovation? Are they just a bunch of dummies?
 

FoxWander

Adventurer
Thank you for all the replies.

I guess I should have specified at least a rule set for my thinking. My original thought for this question was for the Pathfinder rules, since that's what I mostly play with, but it would apply to any 3.5 or higher ruleset.

According to those rules, here are the main points that lead to my thoughts that an actual D&D world would be different than most published settings.
  • Anyone with a casting stat of 11 or higher can cast spells, the only impediment is learning them.
  • Anyone can switch classes when they level up. So switching to a spellcasting class isn't an issue by the rules. So NPCs can switch from whatever to Adept.
  • The general population rules show that most villages will have some kind of spellcasters, so magic is available and accessible to most people- assuming those spellcasters are cooperative.
  • Any caster that makes it to 4th level can choose an item creation feat and craft wonderous only requires 3rd level
Those four factors point to a world that would have a lot more permanent magic than is currently in most setting- especially low-level utility magic. This is barring of course any setting-specific reasons why this HAS NOT happened. I'm only talking about what is possible by the rules as presented. Most settings probably have some reason why the world isn't like this, and that's fine. I'm interested if there is a world, or at least a resource, that explores what's possible.

Yes, item creation and even low-level permanent magic (like continual flame) are expensive, but it's easy to imagine scenarios where that wouldn't be a problem.
  • A wizard could live at the local inn indefinitely by providing them with Continual Flame lanterns.
  • Temples might be tax-exempt in the city by providing free healing to the population once a week
  • Wizards could get the same deal by providing a certain amount of enchanted items per year
  • And so on and so on.
There are hundreds of ways to mitigate the cost of magic that would provide vast benefits to individuals and society- beyond making a +1 sword. Heck, an eccentric, altruistic caster my provide some casting or creation services just because it makes a place nicer and more comfortable to live in.

And the thing is, humans at least would do this. I'm not saying there would be a magical "industrial revolution"- that requires a seismic shift in societal thinking coupled with widespread, common "technological" advancement. Magic, at least in the rules as presented, is inherently personal in scope, and a limited daily resource. So that would bare magical factories churning our self-heating cooking pots. But even at a trickle of advancement, the cumulative affect would make a change in the world.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Spellcasting seems pretty common in the published adventures.
The published adventures are not representative of the world as a whole. They cover exceptional events more or less by definition, and focus on the activities of exceptional people.

If spellcasting isn't common, where's the tech? Full plate armor was briefly used in our world. In the FR you have dwarven smiths making armor for hundreds of years, following thousands of years of tradition. Where's the innovation? Are they just a bunch of dummies?
This one I generally agree with. "Medieval stasis" is an incredibly common trope, not just in D&D but across the entire fantasy genre. It snared even Tolkien himself, who was otherwise a very rigorous and well-informed worldbuilder. IIRC, steel weapons and armor were already being manufactured in the First Age, thousands of years before the "present day" of LotR.

I do think it's fair to suggest that dwarves, with their long lifespans and devotion to tradition, are probably not going to be big innovators. But in any world where humans and dwarves have coexisted for thousands of years, one would expect humans to mimic and then surpass dwarven technology.
 

Dausuul

Legend
According to those rules, here are the main points that lead to my thoughts that an actual D&D world would be different than most published settings.
  • Anyone with a casting stat of 11 or higher can cast spells, the only impediment is learning them.
  • Anyone can switch classes when they level up. So switching to a spellcasting class isn't an issue by the rules. So NPCs can switch from whatever to Adept.
Both of these assume that the chargen and leveling-up rules represent general truths about the world as a whole.

If you make that assumption, though, the prevalence of magic is the least of your concerns. You're living in a world where you can go from a rank newbie to god-slaying champion or all-powerful archmage in a matter of months... and the way you do that is to kill a lot of people. All D&D worlds should look like the unholy spawn of Mad Max and Highlander.

The alternative is to set the chargen and level-up rules aside as deliberately unrealistic, gamist constructs that apply only to the PCs and say nothing about the larger world.
 

The published adventures are not representative of the world as a whole. They cover exceptional events more or less by definition, and focus on the activities of exceptional people.
There's almost always multiple casters in even podunk villages. Compare that to today where there's often not a GP, let alone a specialist like an OBGYN in areas.

D&D wants to pretend it's low magic to let people imagine it's Tolkein. The reality of the setting and published material doesn't reflect that. Sort of like how in 1st edition magic items were "rare" then you'd pull double digit permanent items out of a module, and if you actually rolled per the treasure tables it was clear that magic items were not.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
I prefer a society like in Dragon Age; mages are somewhat common, but because of a specific taboo, spellcasters are really controlled and feared. In this case, even with easy access to magic, the actual effect on society is quite small because it is either hoarded in secrets or held in check by common superstitions of the masses.
 


UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
There's almost always multiple casters in even podunk villages. Compare that to today where there's often not a GP, let alone a specialist like an OBGYN in areas.
I am not sure that this is true of recent adventure paths. As for the lack of local GP services, that is a US issue, there are 4 or 5 GP practices with 10 miles of where I live.

D&D wants to pretend it's low magic to let people imagine it's Tolkein. The reality of the setting and published material doesn't reflect that. Sort of like how in 1st edition magic items were "rare" then you'd pull double digit permanent items out of a module, and if you actually rolled per the treasure tables it was clear that magic items were not.
That did appear to be the case for Forgotten Realms, but it does not have to be for an individual DM. Though I think 5e can work well with no magic weapons or items.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I am not sure that this is true of recent adventure paths. As for the lack of local GP services, that is a US issue, there are 4 or 5 GP practices with 10 miles of where I live.


That did appear to be the case for Forgotten Realms, but it does not have to be for an individual DM. Though I think 5e can work well with no magic weapons or items.
even in the US you need to get into some of the more extreme rural areas where the nearest hardware store/home depot might be a 30-60 min drive between livestock crops trees & just empty nature, possibly because you need to drive through some other town or city before you can get to a highway. There's also some degree of former boom towns gone bust in some areas where the mill/mine/factory/etc closed down & the town built around it with nothing else slowly collapses. Doctors aren't setting up in those places for the same reason stores aren't either
 


Amrûnril

Explorer
How common spellcasters are will (and should) vary dramatically from setting to setting. It strikes me, though, that the PHB and DMG suggest a lower baseline than is often assumed. These books make a point of emphasizing that not every priest is a Cleric, nor every travelling musician a Bard, and they describe a level 5 character as a hero of the realm. I don't know how this should weigh against the conventions of published adventures, or against anecdotes about what's common in homebrew settings, but it's definitely worth considering.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
so assumeing a none murder world nor magic industrial revolution what do we get exactly?
A lot really depends on assumption. If magic is rare then magic items are rare and the PC's are rare and power beings.
Magic may require a lot of maths, memorisation of arcane rituals, esoteric words of power and the lore concerning their use. There may an organised scholarship magic users but given the time and learning to become a magic user the most of them come from the upper classes and given a social taboo on gentlemen working with their hands there may be very few magic items but quite a lot of magic spells and arcane rituals lying about in old libraries and scriptoria.

On a different set of assumptions, Magic may require a strong grounding in blacksmithing and alchemy before you get to the fun stuff so you end up with Eberron. Lots of magical knickknacks lying about for a relative scarcity of spells and spell casters.

Just because the books have about a third of the page count in spell descriptions, the world need to be dominated by spells or spell casters.

I don't think that it is useful to try and extrapolate from a set of assumptions to a final world state. First off, that is pretty much beyond anybody. Which is why people are so crap at working out the full implications of innovate and society changing tech. I am pretty sure that the inventors of the TCP/IP protocol envisioned cat memes and Tiktok videos.

You are better off deciding where your end point is; and working backwards from there.


Supposing you want some kind of Modern Arcana setting. Like the Dresden Files, so magic works but it screws up modern technology. The more modern and electronic the more it screws it up.
Now, is this because the magic users are actually innately inefficient in their spell work and generate a lot of EMP noise. So can you track active casting by monitoring for EM pulses? Does it have unique characteristics?

May be gnome casters are more efficient and less noisy and their casting works fine with modern tech.
 


ECMO3

Hero
You've made the assumption that spellcasting is rather common, despite the evidence that it's not
I would say spellcasters in D&D are more common than say Electrical Engineers in modern society and look at everything Electrical Engineers have brought us.

Also in some areas spell casting is common. In Halrua in the Forgotten Realms a third of the population are wizards.
 

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