Power and Society

clearstream

Explorer
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

Adventurer
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

Explorer
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.
 

Krachek

Explorer
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.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
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

Adventurer
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

Explorer
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.
 

Attachments

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

Explorer
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.
 

clearstream

Explorer
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.
You make a good case. Say we read my words as "they must first earn XP"; what I propose is to take the game mechanics sincerely as the world metaphysics. As you outline, it feels quite reasonable (to me at least) to suppose that there must be some other sources of it... and your intuition that those sources are a trickle compared with the less-than-zero-sum from adventure, chimes with my instincts.

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.
What I extrapolate from is that power, in our world, has largely been accrued through military force. It's not absolutely inevitable, but it is by far the norm. In our world, one person with a spear is not as strong as one hundred people with a spear, so a faculty for influence, organisation and logistics pays off for those who would rule. Economic power means being able to hire others to hold or wrest power for you, but that is because those others are otherwise divided: they are not a single puissant individual. In the darker past, personal interest in and ability to fight did allow a move to power.

In Faerun, one tier 4 person is stronger than a hundred people with spears, and yet they are scarce enough that there is a lot of space - a lot of resources - between them. That is why I think the task of organisations in Faerun is really to channel those super-humans into behaviour of the sort each evolved elite (i.e. the existing sets of tier 4 people) favours. The Red Wizards being a great example. They're often cast in terms of their opposition to external factors, but their most important job, which must occupy almost all of their time, is shaping and controlling their own membership.

Everywhere it is of vital consequence what high-tier persons do, how they behave, who they favour, what they choose to achieve. I posit this operates at an economic and political i.e. strategic level. Without ASIs, that boy sitting the throne is just not as cunning and persuasive as the bard or warlock. Others would sincerely prefer to work for the latter, if charisma and proficiency represents anything real in the world.
 

Coroc

Explorer
Except, while this might be true for former edition in 5e you got bound accuracy. 100 mobs at once might tear down one level 20 character still. E.g. let them all be archers with + 4 to attack. Even an AC20 Fighter will get hit on a 16 and up. Not even counting crits this means 25 mobs hit per round with let us say 4 points of damage that's 100 damage per round. The fighter might kill 2-4 of them per round, he still goes down.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
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.
My homebrew world had a humanoid population of about 167 million, and I had 1.5% as adventurers or CCEC's (2.5 million combined).

My breakdown, in 5E terms, was:
Tier 1: 2,315,000 (92.60%)
Tier 2: 181,000 (7.24%)
Tier 3: 4,400 (0.176%)
Tier 4: 100 (0.004%)
Epic: maybe 5-10 at most

My distribution is very skewed towards the low-level end for a couple reasons. First, survivability. Reaching ever higher levels is dangerous. In 1E/2E permanent death was more common than in 5E. Second, retirement. Adventurers often reach a point of wealth/power contentment and can enjoy the fruits of their labors rather than risk losing them to point #1. :)

Our party right now has amassed funds exceeded 50,000 gp, much more if they decided to sell major magic items they own. Since we equate 1 gp = $100 USD, this means each character could retire with over 1 million dollars if they wanted. At this point, they have to really have a reason to continue adventuring...
 

Coroc

Explorer
Good statistic @dnd4vr , but your breakdown of the society, although quite accurate has some minor problems. Asuming your game world is somhow the size of earth + - 25%, with equal gravity like earth,
then the population is wide strewn. Everybody above tier 3 will be irrelevant whereas in every village above 100 inhabitants you will find an adventurer. That seems quite about reasonable.
But also the question arises:

Is your city guard / local priest

1. just a level 0 mob?
2 a level 1...3 mob
3 a character like NPC with similar stats and class levels?


3. inserts a special problem to your campaign: While you made a distribution to make things easy, you now have to flesh out a NPC wit hall its goals and intentions.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Except, while this might be true for former edition in 5e you got bound accuracy. 100 mobs at once might tear down one level 20 character still. E.g. let them all be archers with + 4 to attack. Even an AC20 Fighter will get hit on a 16 and up. Not even counting crits this means 25 mobs hit per round with let us say 4 points of damage that's 100 damage per round. The fighter might kill 2-4 of them per round, he still goes down.
Even in a low-magic game, a 20th-level Fighter will not likely have only an AC 20. If you played a NO-magic game, maybe, but I doubt most tables play that ways. Even with Defense Style, +1 armor, and +1 shield, he would have an AC 23. Now the mob need 19's and 20's. If he is a tank, give him HAM and now your average 4 dmg per hit becomes 1. In this (more reasonable) scenario, he is taking 15 points of damage per round (which decreases as he kills some each round). Throw in the Survivor feature once he is down to half hp, and he is likely regaining 9 or 10 hp per round, nearly negating the damage he will be taking by then.

I am not saying he would win, but I think the way the game runs at most tables and he would put up a hell of a better fight than you think.

Make it a 20th-level Wizard, and those 100 mobs are dead. Period. No chance. Heck, make it 1000... LOL!
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Good statistic @dnd4vr , but your breakdown of the society, although quite accurate has some minor problems. Asuming your game world is somhow the size of earth + - 25%, with equal gravity like earth,
then the population is wide strewn. Everybody above tier 3 will be irrelevant whereas in every village above 100 inhabitants you will find an adventurer. That seems quite about reasonable.
But also the question arises:

Is your city guard / local priest

1. just a level 0 mob?
2 a level 1...3 mob
3 a character like NPC with similar stats and class levels?

3. inserts a special problem to your campaign: While you made a distribution to make things easy, you now have to flesh out a NPC wit hall its goals and intentions.
Yep, the population is sparse in some regions, and void in others (untamed lands). A villiage of 100 might have an adventurer or two, probably someone who acquired a couple levels and retired or maybe a couple of friends just getting ready to begin their career? But, they will tend to gather in places of greater population where more adventure is likely to be found. So, you could have a village of 200-300 without a single adventurer.

Local guards and such were 0-level in 1E/2E and would be similarly low-powered in 5E. Using the guard stat block works well enough, but the hp is a bit high. Someone like a sergeant might be a Level 1 or 2 Fighter or the equivalent. A Captain could be Level 5-8, a general might even make Tier 3, but unlikely, probably level 9 or 10.

A village priest would be maybe 3rd level typically. I don't like the Priest stat block because at Level 5, with Revivify, preventing deaths to the populace. In a larger village or town you might find level 5-7, and certainly in a city. A larger city or port would have a "high priest" of level 9.

I wouldn't have to flesh out the NPCs completely because I don't expect my parties to fight them. Only the ones where I expect combat do I go to that extent. Levels are really only important to NPC spell-casters so I know what power they have. Can that priest raise a dead character? Can that wizard teleport someone? etc. Otherwise, some like a captain of the guard is simply a "Captain" and has authority because I, as the DM, give it to him and his guards follow him.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Except, while this might be true for former edition in 5e you got bound accuracy. 100 mobs at once might tear down one level 20 character still. E.g. let them all be archers with + 4 to attack. Even an AC20 Fighter will get hit on a 16 and up. Not even counting crits this means 25 mobs hit per round with let us say 4 points of damage that's 100 damage per round. The fighter might kill 2-4 of them per round, he still goes down.
So, I had the time, coded the fight, and ran 10,000 trials each for AC 23, 22, 21, and 20. Here are the results:

"HERO" 20th-level Fighter
AC: 23 (Plate mail +1, Shield +1, Defense Style +1)
HP: 225 (10 + 19 * 5 + 100 + 20)
STR 20, CON 20
Feats: Heavy Armor Mastery, Mobile, Tough, Shield Master, Durable, Savage Attacker, ASI 3 (+3 STR, +3 CON)
No. of Attacks: 4
Attack: +12 (Prof +6, STR +5, longsword +1)
Damage: 1d8+8 (STR +5, Dueling Style +2, longsword +1)
Critical on: 18-20
Survivor feature: +10 hp when hp < 112

100 "Guards" with shortbows
AC: 14 (Chain shirt, DEX +1)
HP: 11 (2d8+2)
Attack: +3 (Prof +2, DEX +1)
Damage: 1d6+1 (DEX +1)
Critical on: 20

RESULTS:
AC 23: HERO wins 99.75%
AC 22: HERO wins 48.75%
AC 21: HERO wins 7.50%
AC 20: HERO wins 3.60%

HERO front loads Action Surge, uses Second Wind when below 80 hp. With Speed 40, it is assumed he can move and use his Attack action for a full 4 attacks each round.

So, not surprisingly, with minimal magic items (+1 armor, shield, sword), the HERO wins nearly 100%. For 20th-level, I would consider that VERY low magic. Only in a NO-magic game, would the HERO really fear 100 bowmen.

And, the 20th-level Wizard would never lose. Ever. Period. End of Story. :)
 

Coroc

Explorer
Even in a low-magic game, a 20th-level Fighter will not likely have only an AC 20. If you played a NO-magic game, maybe, but I doubt most tables play that ways. Even with Defense Style, +1 armor, and +1 shield, he would have an AC 23. Now the mob need 19's and 20's. If he is a tank, give him HAM and now your average 4 dmg per hit becomes 1. In this (more reasonable) scenario, he is taking 15 points of damage per round (which decreases as he kills some each round). Throw in the Survivor feature once he is down to half hp, and he is likely regaining 9 or 10 hp per round, nearly negating the damage he will be taking by then.

I am not saying he would win, but I think the way the game runs at most tables and he would put up a hell of a better fight than you think.

Make it a 20th-level Wizard, and those 100 mobs are dead. Period. No chance. Heck, make it 1000... LOL!
Not if the archers deploy hit and run tactics and use elevated positions etc, if they just stand there they will maybe be slaughtered.
 

Coroc

Explorer
So, I had the time, coded the fight, and ran 10,000 trials each for AC 23, 22, 21, and 20. Here are the results:

"HERO" 20th-level Fighter
AC: 23 (Plate mail +1, Shield +1, Defense Style +1)
HP: 225 (10 + 19 * 5 + 100 + 20)
STR 20, CON 20
Feats: Heavy Armor Mastery, Mobile, Tough, Shield Master, Durable, Savage Attacker, ASI 3 (+3 STR, +3 CON)
No. of Attacks: 4
Attack: +12 (Prof +6, STR +5, longsword +1)
Damage: 1d8+8 (STR +5, Dueling Style +2, longsword +1)
Critical on: 18-20
Survivor feature: +10 hp when hp < 112

100 "Guards" with shortbows
AC: 14 (Chain shirt, DEX +1)
HP: 11 (2d8+2)
Attack: +3 (Prof +2, DEX +1)
Damage: 1d6+1 (DEX +1)
Critical on: 20

RESULTS:
AC 23: HERO wins 99.75%
AC 22: HERO wins 48.75%
AC 21: HERO wins 7.50%
AC 20: HERO wins 3.60%

HERO front loads Action Surge, uses Second Wind when below 80 hp. With Speed 40, it is assumed he can move and use his Attack action for a full 4 attacks each round.

So, not surprisingly, with minimal magic items (+1 armor, shield, sword), the HERO wins nearly 100%. For 20th-level, I would consider that VERY low magic. Only in a NO-magic game, would the HERO really fear 100 bowmen.

And, the 20th-level Wizard would never lose. Ever. Period. End of Story. :)
Interesting that some points of AC make such a big difference, very interesting. High AC is already known to be a problem for DM, but it seems that metastat is still heavily underrated.

To return to the thread, a 20th level wizard should be more rare in society than a 20th level fighter, even though that does not apply to the player characters. But if you got NPC with class level then most of them should be fighters (few Paladins / few Rangers) some of them rogues(few bards) some clerics and few of them arcane casters.
Why do I think so? It is partially because of what your example explains. In typical RL leaders tended to be fighters. In a fantasy world if there were as many arcane casters of high level as fighters, most leaders would be level 20 wizards (some sorcerers). Arcane magic would have a much higher da to day meaning than depicted in your typical FR campaign world.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Not if the archers deploy hit and run tactics and use elevated positions etc, if they just stand there they will maybe be slaughtered.
With a AC 23, if they are in positions where he can move around and "get them", they would be slaughtered.

Interesting that some points of AC make such a big difference, very interesting. High AC is already known to be a problem for DM, but it seems that metastat is still heavily underrated.

To return to the thread, a 20th level wizard should be more rare in society than a 20th level fighter, even though that does not apply to the player characters. But if you got NPC with class level then most of them should be fighters (few Paladins / few Rangers) some of them rogues(few bards) some clerics and few of them arcane casters.
Why do I think so? It is partially because of what your example explains. In typical RL leaders tended to be fighters. In a fantasy world if there were as many arcane casters of high level as fighters, most leaders would be level 20 wizards (some sorcerers). Arcane magic would have a much higher da to day meaning than depicted in your typical FR campaign world.
The class distribution depends on the table/game world. In RL, the politicians would be the spellcaster equivalent IMO. And clerics are already leaders, I mean the Pope is the world leader with probably the most followers (over a billion catholics and all), with maybe the leaders of China and India (over a billion each) having more.
 

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