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D&D General Need wheat. Too dangerous. (worldbuilding)

Chaosmancer

Legend
I find it sometimes interesting to think about all the "pure utility" spells that are almost hidden amongst all the war magic in the PHB.

Imagine if you were a local hedge mage in a peasant village (you have the magic adept feat). You know unseen servant (or perhaps summon familiar?), mending and move earth. The locals would adore you.

Holy crap.

Plowing a Field.

Depending on how common that magic is, you could change so much with just that one thing. No oxen or plowhorses, no plows at all. And potentially (I'm not soil expert) better plowing and faster plowing
 

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Dausuul

Legend
Holy crap.

Plowing a Field.

Depending on how common that magic is, you could change so much with just that one thing. No oxen or plowhorses, no plows at all. And potentially (I'm not soil expert) better plowing and faster plowing
It would take about 3 hours to plow an acre of land using move earth. The traditional way requires a team of oxen and a full day, so that is a significant improvement. But unless spellcasters are as common as dirt (pun intended), it's not going to have a significant effect on agriculture. Wizards can find more lucrative uses for their time than taking the place of 4 peasant farmers.

This is the reason I rarely fuss about the worldbuilding impact of utility magic--most of it doesn't scale to the extent that would be needed to affect the world. The exceptions generally involve the rich and powerful, because their numbers are small enough to benefit from the similarly small supply of casters. For example, resurrection, healing, and restoration magic means the rich never have to die except of old age. The clone spell makes it possible to overcome even that. Zone of truth changes torture from "mostly pointless sadism" into "highly effective interrogation technique," enabling a powerful surveillance state.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It would take about 3 hours to plow an acre of land using move earth. The traditional way requires a team of oxen and a full day, so that is a significant improvement. But unless spellcasters are as common as dirt (pun intended), it's not going to have a significant effect on agriculture. Wizards can find more lucrative uses for their time than taking the place of 4 peasant farmers.

This is the reason I rarely fuss about the worldbuilding impact of utility magic--most of it doesn't scale to the extent that would be needed to affect the world. The exceptions generally involve the rich and powerful, because their numbers are small enough to benefit from the similarly small supply of casters. For example, resurrection, healing, and restoration magic means the rich never have to die except of old age. The clone spell makes it possible to overcome even that. Zone of truth changes torture from "mostly pointless sadism" into "highly effective interrogation technique," enabling a powerful surveillance state.
Except move earth is a cantrip, a beginner's intro to magic spell. Doesn't even need to be a 1st level caster.

The other thing is that the books only reflect spells applicable to adventurers. I've always though it would be a bit silly that the only spells in existence are the ones listed in the PHB and related books. D&D, by and large, is not a world building game. So when it comes to issues like this, it's really up to the DM and group. You can go anywhere from strict real world norms to magi-tech science fantasy. For me I've settled on "it's not too in-you-face, but it has impacts." Recently the group was in a null magic zone eating pastries from a local bakery, I let the group know that they weren't quite as good. Unbeknownst to them, the cookies really were magically delicious. Most people don't even think about it any more than most people don't think about how much technology and investment goes into making toilets work.
 


Dausuul

Legend
Except move earth is a cantrip, a beginner's intro to magic spell. Doesn't even need to be a 1st level caster.
You're assuming that casters below 1st level have unlimited usage of cantrips. (And I mean really truly unlimited. You have to cast mold earth 1700 times to plow one acre of land.) Since there are no rules for casters below 1st level, that is entirely up to the DM. The PHB neither requires nor implies such a thing.

If you want profligate use of spellcasting in society, of course, nothing's stopping you.

However, even if you do make that assumption, you still need an absolutely enormous number of apprentice casters to make a dent in agriculture on a large scale.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
You're assuming that casters below 1st level have unlimited usage of cantrips. (And I mean really truly unlimited. You have to cast mold earth 1700 times to plow one acre of land.) Since there are no rules for casters below 1st level, that is entirely up to the DM. The PHB neither requires nor implies such a thing.

If you want profligate use of spellcasting in society, of course, nothing's stopping you.

However, even if you do make that assumption, you still need an absolutely enormous number of apprentice casters to make a dent in agriculture on a large scale.
Mold earth is one of the few spells in the book (barring some druid things) that would be useful outside of combat. It's just an example of what magic could do, I'm assuming that other magic exists. Maybe the layman version only goes down a foot but encompasses a larger area while taking a full minute to cast. Maybe it takes multiple people to cast the spell.

My point was that it doesn't make sense to me for magic to be limited to what are effectively military applications that can be cast with the snap of the fingers. Of course, do what makes sense for your campaign.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
a few comments:

  • I don't think a caster can cast cantrips indefinitely. Your mind will get tired. But still, useful
  • I know that wizards are not very common, but this isn't even a level 1 wizard - it's someone with the magical powers provided by the feat "magical adept" - a hedge mage, if you will.
  • Familiars could be used to carry small messages between villages
  • the sheer utility of magic should have a major impact on the acceptability of spellcasting in general. Would necromancy be so bad if the local necromancer raises some skeletons to help in the heavy labor period of the year (harvest and plowing/planting, normally)?
  • another example of the "hedge mage" would be an NPC with the feat "ritual caster"

When something is useful for survival, people use it.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
a few comments:

  • I don't think a caster can cast cantrips indefinitely. Your mind will get tired. But still, useful
  • I know that wizards are not very common, but this isn't even a level 1 wizard - it's someone with the magical powers provided by the feat "magical adept" - a hedge mage, if you will.
  • Familiars could be used to carry small messages between villages
  • the sheer utility of magic should have a major impact on the acceptability of spellcasting in general. Would necromancy be so bad if the local necromancer raises some skeletons to help in the heavy labor period of the year (harvest and plowing/planting, normally)?
  • another example of the "hedge mage" would be an NPC with the feat "ritual caster"

When something is useful for survival, people use it.
It would be fun if each village or area knew a different Cantrip, seeing how that would change daily life.

Edit: hit reply too soon

So how would a village with Mold Earth be different than a village with Control Flame or one with Light?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
a few comments:

  • the sheer utility of magic should have a major impact on the acceptability of spellcasting in general. Would necromancy be so bad if the local necromancer raises some skeletons to help in the heavy labor period of the year (harvest and plowing/planting, normally)?
This is a huge thing that gets ignored. Ideas around magic are less superstitious than IRL, because people know that clerics, druids, Paladins, and Rangers, all exist. Even if they’re all rare, people would know about them. The life changing utility of cure wounds, good berry, accurate weather prediction via druidcraft, and others would ensure that.
  • another example of the "hedge mage" would be an NPC with the feat "ritual caster"
Even just three rituals spells makes a huge difference. Unseen Servant and Alarm would be very high demand.
When something is useful for survival, people use it.
Absolutely. And find ways to think well of it.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
You're assuming that casters below 1st level have unlimited usage of cantrips. (And I mean really truly unlimited. You have to cast mold earth 1700 times to plow one acre of land.)
But it could still be very useful for household vegetable and herb gardens. Also mold earth could still be useful for large-scale farming not to entirely plow a field, but to help just to remove obstacles, or to aerate packed sections of ground. The majority of the work could still be done the nonmagical way, but the parts that are extra time-consuming could be quickly accomplished by magic.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
It would take about 3 hours to plow an acre of land using move earth. The traditional way requires a team of oxen and a full day, so that is a significant improvement. But unless spellcasters are as common as dirt (pun intended), it's not going to have a significant effect on agriculture. Wizards can find more lucrative uses for their time than taking the place of 4 peasant farmers.

This is the reason I rarely fuss about the worldbuilding impact of utility magic--most of it doesn't scale to the extent that would be needed to affect the world. The exceptions generally involve the rich and powerful, because their numbers are small enough to benefit from the similarly small supply of casters. For example, resurrection, healing, and restoration magic means the rich never have to die except of old age. The clone spell makes it possible to overcome even that. Zone of truth changes torture from "mostly pointless sadism" into "highly effective interrogation technique," enabling a powerful surveillance state.

How common are Elves? Variant humans can get the Magic Initiate Feat which gives a cantrip. It is a druid cantrip as well, which means it doesn't need rigorous study, just faith in the power of nature, even worshipping say... a goddess of the harvest? Lots of races get the Druidcraft cantrip, which means it isn't unreasonable to imagine they could instead learn Mold Earth.

I'm not going to say that every farmer should be a magic-user, but it isn't hard to imagine a family of pious farmers getting blessed with this minor magic that makes a BIG difference.
 

cbwjm

Hero
As much fun as it can be to sort out the whole logistics and population and such to determine how much grain can be produced (I can't be the only one that occasionally does this), I do also like the dungeonworld tags, makes things like trade and such easier as well since you can say Egypt has the tag supply (grain) and Rome has the tag need (grain). Throw on a couple of trade tags for each to show where they are trading and you're done.
 

Hussar

Legend
Never minding that, how about a Forge Priest as your local blacksmith. A blacksmith as priest is hardly a stretch of the imagination and most communities will have at least one smith. A second level cleric with Forge Domain, can turn any raw materials up to 100 gp into any metal item up to 100 gp in an hour. And can be repeated on a short rest as it uses Channel Divinity.

It's the ultimate in recycling. Bring me anything of equal value and 1 hour later I hand you a completed item up to 100 gp.

Sure, the blacksmith/cleric is still doing the day to day stuff of making horseshoes and whatnot, but, that ability would be huge. And it's not like it's too far out of reach to think that experienced blacksmiths would be 2nd level clerics.
 


S'mon

Legend
Rome had 1 million people who were kept fed by Egypt and the entire north African coast, thanks to the Roman Empire having complete control over them.

And Waterdeep has 2 million inhabitants.
I'm not sure why they added an order of magnitude population to Waterdeep for 3e-4e-5e. I'm sticking with 100,000 or so within the walls, with an agricultural hinterland of 20-30 miles; Goldenfields being on the edge of settled territory. All those Waterdhavian nobles need their landed estates outside the walls. Looks like about 1500 square miles of farmland which at 180/square mile can feed 270,000 people, although the agricultural surplus will be much less. Goldenfields can probably feed another 50,000 with only 5,000 workers. Waterdeep also has fishing fleets, and likely imports some food too.
 

S'mon

Legend
The people who live in Ravenloft, for the most part, dont think of their world as surreal and inexplicable. For them, it was just as real as the Realms. Scary, maybe, but real. They could do this because the world looked like a real place (albeit one filled with monsters). Making the unreality of the demiplane so very explicit in the new books makes it harder to see it as a place worth saving or even caring about.
Totally agree. I really really hated Curse of Strahd for that reason.
 

S'mon

Legend
I do think the Princes of the Apocalypse depiction of the Dessarin Valley was silly and the whole thing pretty disappointing. Definitely not Ed Greenwood's fault! In 1e & 2e AIR Red Larch is a substantial well defended town, presumably with its own hinterland of hamlets and farms. 5e basically 'Skyrimmed' it, the way Skyrim turned substantial Elder Scrolls towns like Riverwood into villages to suit the gameplay, so POTA did with Red Larch et al.
 

Totally agree. I really really hated Curse of Strahd for that reason.

One observation for me with Ravenloft discussions is they often reduce this topic to a binary: all surreal and fake versus super detailed and the counting the grains. My sense from the period where I was most invested in the line, is it was more of a balance. In most of the books, supplements, novels, the people lived in a world that to them was real, it just had a different cosmology and was subject to the whims of the dark powers and the lords (so a certain unreality and dreaminess could creep in; we didn't tend to squint to hard at the logic of whether the homesteads and villages in Tepest had a sustainable ecosystem, but we did expect the people there to act and feel like real people. There was always this argument on the edges, or maybe just a question, of how real it all was (given the premise of the setting). Reading Tapestry of Dark Souls those characters all felt like they inhabited a real place (even if it wasn't a place that attempted to explain population sizes, food sources with anything more than a broad stroke). But I feel like people not being real, or less real than in other worlds is something that worked better in specific domains where that might be a theme (for example a domain with a mad lord).
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Totally agree. I really really hated Curse of Strahd for that reason.
I prefer to run Ravenloft where the PCs are natives, so from that point of view the weirdness is either completely accepted or unable to be seen, because reality rewrites itself. Mind, it'd be a lot more overt now with VGR, but as I see it, that'll just make the players better realize just how deep the dread is.

I've had a ton of problems with CoS myself, and have had to write huge chunks of it, both to make it actually scary (to me, at least) and to remove some of the stupidity. I've grown to accept the souls thing, though. It kind of makes sense to me that the Dark Powers can make people but not actual souls. That's why they draw people in from other worlds--to steal their souls once they die, since it's no fun terrorizing soulless people.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
...

Anyhow, using Town vs Villiage for walled and unwalled in D&D would make a lot of sense.

....

Vi...
Totally disagree. All the charts I have seen have village having a population smaller than a town. Difference for me has always been a town is bigger than a village. And you can add Walled to both village and town.
 

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