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

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
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.
The analogy may or may not hold. If I may grossly oversimplify, our technology benefits from standardisation. A plug will operate in an appropriate socket, and so forth. This means the Electrical Engineers can design common components and combine these components in to complex devices. These components and so forth can be assembled by people less skilled than the engineers. Some of these components are made by other specialists that also manufacture other standardised components. Screws, bolts, wires and so forth.

There was a lot of invention before you get to the kind of part interchangeable mass manufacturing that makes Electrical Engineers so productive at this point in time.

Magic for instance may not be standardisable, in which case, all workers of magic are craft specialists. There is some evidence in the rules that magic is not or cannot be standardised. That is the need to copy spells from another wizards spell book before a spell can be prepared.

For instance, I do not allow players to know in advance what spell they are countering when casting counterspell. the non standard nature of magic is the reason why.
That and I think it is more fun that way.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
No. A VERY small subset of humans did that. The VAST majority did not. (even the Japanese would still be a fuedal, middle age tech society) Take away that small subset and you have a planet in the Middle ages at the highest. And HUGE areas of stone age society.
This is false. The distribution of industrious people inventing new ways to do things in the last 2000 years is global. The highest levels of achievement move around quite a bit from region to region depending on the century, but very few cultures stayed technologically the same throughout that 2000 year period.
 

éxypnos

Explorer
This is false. The distribution of industrious people inventing new ways to do things in the last 2000 years is global. The highest levels of achievement move around quite a bit from region to region depending on the century, but very few cultures stayed technologically the same throughout that 2000 year period
This is false. The distribution of industrious people inventing new ways to do things in the last 2000 years is global. The highest levels of achievement move around quite a bit from region to region depending on the century, but very few cultures stayed technologically the same throughout that 2000 year period.
wrong. globally people didn't invent what I was referring to.
 

Mallus

Legend
This is a good time to mention one of the most famous science fiction series posited a future where a civilization capable of interstellar space flight remained more-or-less technologically static for about 15,000 years.

(and both movies made from the first book are good!)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Magic for instance may not be standardisable, in which case, all workers of magic are craft specialists. There is some evidence in the rules that magic is not or cannot be standardised. That is the need to copy spells from another wizards spell book before a spell can be prepared.
I think that evidence is pretty tenuous, though. Alchemists had to translate each other’s work for centuries before communication advanced sufficiently to facilitate standardization of scientific language in Europe and her neighbors.

But it really boils down to how common magic is, especially magic items, and how evenly dispersed it is.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, if we assume that magic is available to some, but not all, and that real big magic is a thing you see from a few people a generation, at most, you’ll see a much more recognizable world than if anyone can learn to do magic, and the basics don’t require any special x-factor or any more study than blacksmithing or cobbling.

But PHB D&D land seems to assume a world where most people can’t do any magic at all, and a few people a generation (people with PC class levels and thier enemies in a given campaign) can do real big magic, and where dragons aren’t really that rare, nor any number of other dangers.

In that world, technology should be advancing faster than most pre-modern periods IRL.
 


squibbles

Adventurer
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.
Good on ya for stating your assumptions and trying to get the thread back to the intended focus. I'm afraid the board is liable to continue refusing the premise of your question, but that's how it goes.

If Pathfinder is where you get your starting assumptions, then I would again recommend you read the Tippyverse post. It's not perfect, but it does at least do what you are asking. Also, as @Rune mentions, the Order of the Stick webcomic uses a setting that takes literally a bunch of the rules quirks of 3e D&D (often as parody).

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.

[...]

But even at a trickle of advancement, the cumulative affect would make a change in the world.
While reading your post, I had a curious recollection of season 3 of The Wire, where a neighborhood gets littered with partially used burner phones that people pick up, use, and then drop on the ground. An erstwhile D&D-land crime lord could, perhaps, do the same with wands. But, of course, lots of D&D magic items are permanent. Imagine picking up a 200 year old continual flame pebble from the street, which has basically no value, using it to find your way home from the bar, and then tossing it the gutter. Things that are durable pile up like that--even if an object was created to be grand and high status, it's liable to be sold as a cheap hand-me-down decades or centuries later.

There was a pattern like this in the price of swords in the middle ages. They start out expensive but gradually become cheap and common. Here's a link about that from scholagladiatoria (which is a spectacular resource if you want to know things about medieval kit--and not just the D&Disms about medieval kit)

A lot really depends on assumption. If magic is rare then magic items are rare and the PC's are rare and power beings.
Yes, absolutely! And, fortunately @FoxWander has helpfully provided some, so we can go from there.

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.
I disagree. To my thinking, both strategies are reasonable.

The fun of starting from assumptions and trying to play them out is that it often leads to unexpected places. Trying to be "realistic" can get you to a setting that is more creative and strange than what you would have invented yourself. Even if it isn't really possible to a fully worked out fantasy world, the constraints are good for creativity.

This is a good time to mention one of the most famous science fiction series posited a future where a civilization capable of interstellar space flight remained more-or-less technologically static for about 15,000 years.

(and both movies made from the first book are good!)
I'm glad someone brought this up. Dune is a very good example of technological stasis done right.

Herbert posits a technobabble law, the Holtzman Effect, and a religious taboo against AI, the Butlerian Jihad, that do a lot to explain the stasis of Dune tech and society. The tech creates a feudal social system and the feudal social system maintains the tech. You can listen to an actual historian nerd out about it at length in this podcast.
 

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?
Adventures in ZEITGEIST posits a fantasy world that is undergoing an industrial revolution. Scholars are starting to understand the building blocks of magic the way we understand atoms in our world, so wondrous technology is possible, though the resources to build it to industrial scale are limited, so only some technologies are widely adopted enough to change the whole world.

So one justification for why schools don't teach everyone how to do magic is that the energy to perform magic is a finite resource, especially for more powerful stuff. Some cultures have found ways to produce more of those resources -- for instance, large organized religion harnesses the collective belief of worshipers so that the ordained can easily call upon it for divine spellcasting -- but mostly magical knacks are hard to hone into real power.

For things like teleportation, it's possible, but nations try to safeguard against the security risk it poses by building teleportation beacons to deflect planar travel to certain secure locations with a lot of military nearby. Resurrection magic is also possible, but the setting has a metaphysical limit that souls can't be restored if the body travels more than three miles. Plus the largest organized religion has a cartel that hunts down people who offer resurrections that they don't approve of.

The setting book just came out last week: Level Up: Adventures in ZEITGEIST (A5E) - EN Publishing | ZEITGEIST Adventure Path | D&D 5th Edition | Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition | DriveThruRPG.com
 

Lamp oil was made from olives for rather a long time before petroleum was refined in an industrial process. No reason to think plant-based fuels like lamp oil, fruit-based sugar alcohol, etc, wouldn’t be developed at an accelerated rate in a world with no mineral fuel sources.
Oof. You propose to fuel the heavy industries with plant-based fuels? Maybe with a lot of druids that go around casting Plant Growth it might be possible to at least grow enough plants. In our real world, we don't even have nearly enough surface to grow all the plants on. We'd need another earth just to grow all the fuels we use. But Plant Growth doesn't solve the other challenges of biobased fuels, such as the huge need for fertilizers, and all the effort needed for harvesting and converting.

It's probably just as realistic to use charcoal, in terms of yields per hectare, the effort needed to make it and the applicability for heavy industry. But I consider charcoal part of the medieval fantasy setting.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Oof. You propose to fuel the heavy industries with plant-based fuels? Maybe with a lot of druids that go around casting Plant Growth it might be possible to at least grow enough plants. In our real world, we don't even have nearly enough surface to grow all the plants on. We'd need another earth just to grow all the fuels we use. But Plant Growth doesn't solve the other challenges of biobased fuels, such as the huge need for fertilizers, and all the effort needed for harvesting and converting.

It's probably just as realistic to use charcoal, in terms of yields per hectare, the effort needed to make it and the applicability for heavy industry. But I consider charcoal part of the medieval fantasy setting.
You do not need fuel to fuel heavy industry when you have magic. You can smelt and forge metals with modifications of existing spells and I am pretty sure you could create magical effects to run a Stirling engine.
 

dave2008

Legend
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?
The big issue I have with this task is that we really have no idea how a world with magic, and magical monsters, would work. Really anything could be justified when magic and monsters come into play. Determining what would "really" happen will always be a complete work of fiction and dependent on a lot of assumptions that don't necessarily hold true from table to table.
 
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You do not need fuel to fuel heavy industry when you have magic. You can smelt and forge metals with modifications of existing spells and I am pretty sure you could create magical effects to run a Stirling engine.
True. But that depends a lot on the DM. In any setting that I played, magic is rare because high-level spellcasters are rare. Therefore magic is not able to produce the equivalent of molten metals/concrete that you'd need to make our modern society.

In 2020, total world crude steel production was 1877.5 million tonnes [wikipedia]
That's roughly 500,000 tons per day.
In 2014, the world's production of cement was 4180 million tonnes [wikipedia]
That's roughly 1,150,000 tons per day.

And that's just two examples of important materials. There's also plastics, paints, fabrics, etc.

You're gonna need a LOT of wizards to produce that. So, if your DM makes magic sufficiently common that this is possible, then sure.
 


beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
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?

It would look like it does. Magic essentially replaces scientific advancement in D&D. (beyond renaissance technology)

Once scientific advancements start "taking over", you no longer have D&D, you have some other game.

Have you tried Star Finder? It's a technologically advanced world with wizards. It may be what you're looking for.

(btw, I know you didn't want reasons why D&D worlds are stuck in a certain age, but there have been times in RL human history when there were no meaningful advancements for thousands of years. So a D&D world being "stuck" is not unprecedented or unrealistic)
 
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vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
There's also the fact that destruction is easier than creation: magic spells that actually create something are generally higher level spells than the ones that go boom!

Even druids, who tend to have more ''creation'' type spells, would hardly be grateful participant in a possible mass-industrialization if said process threaten the source of their powers aka nature.

And if your gods are real, how would they react to mankind becoming more and more independent in their world-shaping power? You could have an ''American Gods'' effect where divine Powers fight to stay relevant and take on new portfolios. But I guess they would prefer to act preventively and enforce the status quo to avoid mass-spellcasting to affect their prerogative.
 

HaroldTheHobbit

Adventurer
If one of my players would get thoughts about why the campaign world doesn't progress like our real world, I would just blame the gods. No worries.

With that said, late-stage capitalism as a source of evil usually sneaks in as a side focus in most of our campaigns anyway, even without industrial revolutions ;-)
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I think a looking at 4e's Points of Light Nentir Vale setting illuminates a lot of the issues.

In Nentir Vale, there are tons of spellcasters. Humans have them.Elves have them. Gnomes have them. Dragonborn have them. Orcs have them. Hobgoblins have them. But why does magic progress so slowly.

1) Lack of research partners
2) Limited economic freedom
3) Lack of personal freedom from patrons

Technoloical advancement typically requires a community. D&D setting typically lacks magic communities. And theones that do exist are cutthroat or rigid that research ishoarded or impossible. At best you get a wizard/sorcerer master and their 1-3 apprentices. And you can only hope none of the apprentices get killed, recruited, or blackmailed by an outside force. Nentir Vale uses the "get killed" a lot.

This is why archmages hold up in towers or become liches. It takes a long time to advance magic alone.

TLDR: D&D Magic users are closer to the Sith. They die a lot and can't/don't help each other advance.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
snip

The fun of starting from assumptions and trying to play them out is that it often leads to unexpected places. Trying to be "realistic" can get you to a setting that is more creative and strange than what you would have invented yourself. Even if it isn't really possible to a fully worked out fantasy world, the constraints are good for creativity.
Ok I will concede starting from a particular premise can get you somewhere interesting but I think that you have to accept that you will not spot all the possible ramifications. If I may use the Tippiverse for an instant. If one posits that leaving a cart inside an unactivated teleport circle blocks the circle. Then the world building would be very different. The gates would be more defensible, you would need sending stones or some other communication method at both ends to authenticate incoming traffic and it would be more Stargate then the Tippyverse. This would create a more traditional settlement pattern.
This is what I mean that you can end up where ever one wants to, by tweaking back and forth with the premises.
 
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