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D&D General Power and Society

clearstream

(He, Him)
I've been thinking of how the rules - which might be regarded as the practical metaphysics - might play out if earnestly incorporated into the game world. The led to the following notes. In short, given that levelling up yields such tremendous power, it seems to me that society must form around that central truth.

Influential People and Organisations
Power pivots on PCs and CCEQs, who can count themselves as strong as a small or even large army. This results in high-tier characters occupying the rulership roles of most polities—the Open Lord in Waterdeep and Matron Baenre in Menzoberranzan are examples. Heirs to power may have great advantages—magic items and loyal guardians—but to rule they must first adventure.

The unpredictable availability and concentration of power causes volatility, which elites attempt to mitigate via collaborative structures, designed to tip the balance in favour of people that they approve of—the Red Wizards, the hidden Lords and the Ruling Council of Eight are examples.

Characters are likely to find themselves increasingly drawn into alliance or conflict with such organisations as they advance.

Characters and Elites
The unearthing and destruction of vast amounts of wealth creates a potential for social mobility, which then plays out according to the whims of a small number of powerful individuals. Characters are therefore vectors of unwelcome turmoil for societies that seek to lock inequity in, under ruthlessly organised rulership.

The elites of disrupted societies, or those that fear disruption, will seek to destroy characters if they cannot control them.
 
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Draegn

Explorer
"Kill a few hundred people they make you a lord, kill a few thousand they make you king" Bronn Game of Thrones.

All you have to do is to decide who you kill. One side will call you a hero, the other villain, traitor, etc....
 

aco175

Legend
Kill them all, and you are a god.

Seriously, I'm not sure what your question is. I think that wealth would trump power in that a wealthy person can be more accepted by the public over a powerful one. Maybe less so if you are a mass murderer and go for fear over being loved. Historically, a lot of generals may have been elected or taken on powerful positions, but I think that is less so in today's society. Depending on how medieval you game is you can decide on this. I think that more modern flair is placed in the game to make less toil and death in the games and more fun and convenience.

Intellectuals seem to get glossed over all the time though. A mage of nuclear bomb power may be different than an an Einstein.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Kill them all, and you are a god.

Seriously, I'm not sure what your question is. I think that wealth would trump power in that a wealthy person can be more accepted by the public over a powerful one. Maybe less so if you are a mass murderer and go for fear over being loved. Historically, a lot of generals may have been elected or taken on powerful positions, but I think that is less so in today's society. Depending on how medieval you game is you can decide on this. I think that more modern flair is placed in the game to make less toil and death in the games and more fun and convenience.

Intellectuals seem to get glossed over all the time though. A mage of nuclear bomb power may be different than an an Einstein.
I'm seeking to picture the consequences of individual superhuman power on the political landscape, as much as anything. Wealth triumphs in our world because a single person is not themselves a weapon that can defeat a mass of other people. My speculation is that were an individual a self-contained army - effectively - then that individual will have a compelling advantage over one that is not, when it comes to exercising authority.

Is it right that you would say instead that it is something about how you present, persuade etc that will decide? So bards, paladins, warlocks and enchantment wizards will rule, rather than the less charismatic classes: I can see that being a common theme.
 

What I think is often discard is how bad at their job are some elites.
We see often the mighty, omniscient evil leader.
But we can consider, them also as paranoid, delusive, short view, and others flaw.
Most powerful empire and kingdom in history were continually sake by internal conflict. At group of pc that play together as friend could be seen as very dangerous by other power source.

To finish, In term of cruelty historical leader and war chief is almost unmatched in fantasy. Don’t refrain yourself.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
If you are talking super powerful PCs, then they will most certainly have as much political influence as they desire. For good or evil, someone like an Archmage could destroy, dominate, etc. at will. Casters of other classes can likewise do more in many ways than non-casters, but even non-casters wield incredible power at these levels and can influence things about as much as they choose.

Our current game is only 9-10th levels, but as players we are really starting to see the potential on the broader stage.
 

aco175

Legend
Evil, powerful characters/individuals might be people who seek more power and therefore not be held back in using it. One may think that orcs fit this mold in that the strongest, most powerful rise to the top. Maybe barbarians, but as you get more civilized, you might need more than might. A fighter may be able to kill half the imperial senate before the rest bow to his power. But how long before the rest are plotting his death by poison or something.

Good powerful individuals may seek the power/influence by gaining fame over force. Many generals had the favor of their soldiers when they came home to be more political. I can see some powerful PCs be pushed into this by the citizens. He may want to retire and study, but his fame in the Orc Wars has the locals favoring him to represent them.

I keep thinking of movies where there is a evil leader and the main star overthrows him. Half the time they become the leader. The peasants never get to elect anyone.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
If you are talking super powerful PCs, then they will most certainly have as much political influence as they desire. For good or evil, someone like an Archmage could destroy, dominate, etc. at will. Casters of other classes can likewise do more in many ways than non-casters, but even non-casters wield incredible power at these levels and can influence things about as much as they choose.

Our current game is only 9-10th levels, but as players we are really starting to see the potential on the broader stage.
PCs and character-class-equivalent creatures (that I dub CCEQs).

I currently assume a ratio of 1/250 for tier 1 (or equivalent) declining to 1/5 per tier higher (so 1/1250 for tier 2, etc). That results in about 30 tier 4 and 6 epic for a polity as large as Greater Waterdeep (which has ~2m in the period of the official material). That could be too many, although from my reading there are at least a few known epic and must be some dozens of tier 4 there. It is tricky to find a simple assumption that scales well for polities of any size. I use a concept of "settled" versus "war footing" or "center of excellence", which tweaks the scaling in either direction (halves / multiplies by ten) to provide a rough fit to places like Menzoberranzan.

My campaign just ended capped out at 16th so I have first-hand experience of the puissance of tier 4 characters.

My assumptions are in the attached if of interest.
 

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Celebrim

Legend
but to rule they must first adventure.

Must they? For the PC's, the easiest path to power is 'to adventure', to take on heroic quests and overcome challenges. But it's not at all clear that most of the XP that NPC have was earned in the same manner that PC's earned it.

For one thing, everyone is worth less XP than they have earned. Levelling through combat is a less than zero sum game that results in less and less available experience in the world. The large predators of the world might not be able to breed fast enough to create a reliable supply of XP for everyone that needs it, especially in a world where high level NPCs are common.

So I suggest that there is a secondary XP economy that PC's rarely engage in, but which is readily available to the wealthy and powerful. Even if this secondary economy only trickled in an XP or two per day, over the course of ten or forty years, it could result in a sizable accumulation of power. Throw in a few of the more typical hazards and dangers to overcome over the course of that life, and it wouldn't require a whole lot of adventuring to hit higher levels.

So what does that secondary economy look like? Well, it probably involves a lot of intense training, probably from a rather young age. It might involve the equivalent of bottled XP or rituals that transfer XP to the host. The various librams like the 'Manual of Stealthy Pilfering' represent one known sort of bottled XP, but it's possible that there are weaker less potent versions that still could be useful if applied with enough regularity. Earned XP could also involve a lot of mundane education, reading and study, especially of the ultimate class levels earned were decidedly bookish.

I also think it's not necessarily the case that political power gravitates toward the powerful. Political power right belongs to the powerful is itself a political and moral philosophy, and if that philosophy prevails everywhere it's just not very useful. I think a certain amount of durability is helpful just to avoid getting killed by every foe and rival that comes along, but that once you are above the average level by a bit, your leveled up enough. What really matters is a combination of right to rule, ability to influence and at least minimal competence so that you can do your job. And for a ruler, that might mean a lot more character resources spent on things that are the equivalent to 'Skill Focus' and less 'Weapon Mastery'.

For the purpose of the game all it means is that the NPC needs to be the sort of character that the PC's don't mind obeying, which turns out to depend on something intangible - personality and characterization. You can have a twelve year old boy on the throne whose just a 2nd level rogue, so long as the powerful in the realm such as the PC's don't mind seeing the boy stay on the throne, and are willing to work to keep him there.

“Tous pour un, un pour tous.”
 

Coroc

Hero
Kill them all, and you are a god.

Seriously, I'm not sure what your question is. I think that wealth would trump power in that a wealthy person can be more accepted by the public over a powerful one. Maybe less so if you are a mass murderer and go for fear over being loved. Historically, a lot of generals may have been elected or taken on powerful positions, but I think that is less so in today's society. Depending on how medieval you game is you can decide on this. I think that more modern flair is placed in the game to make less toil and death in the games and more fun and convenience.

Intellectuals seem to get glossed over all the time though. A mage of nuclear bomb power may be different than an an Einstein.
Do not forget that in former times there was some kind of class thinking even in Europe. The king and nobility was said to have gotten their positions directly from god, there was no easy way into their ranks,
other than being born into these. The king might knight you for your services, but that's about it already.
Nobility would only marry amongst themselves, leading to phenomena like missing ancestors means people e.g. only having 5 great grand parents instead of 8 since everybody was related and cousin somehow.
And the lower people did accept this as being god given fate. This acceptance did give additional power to the nobility.
 

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