Power and Society

Dausuul

Legend
If you are assuming that the XP rules are part of the "physics" of the game world, then every nation would seek ways to exploit those rules, in much the same way that modern society exploits hell out of real-world physics. The form of those exploits would depend on how the rules were applied, but the goal would be the same: Level up as many characters as possible, as fast as possible, in a controllable and predictable way. Adventures would not involve going on quests and exploring remote ruins. They would look more like tournaments or gladiatorial arenas, with combat being as lethal as necessary to ensure people keep leveling up.

You'd end up with a whole world like the Magic setting of Amonkhet. This is why I prefer to say that the XP rules are a contrivance to make the game more fun, which applies only to the PCs and does not represent how the world as a whole works.
 

Coroc

Explorer
With a AC 23, if they are in positions where he can move around and "get them", they would be slaughtered.



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.
Don't forget the queen
 

clearstream

Explorer
If you are assuming that the XP rules are part of the "physics" of the game world, then every nation would seek ways to exploit those rules, in much the same way that modern society exploits hell out of real-world physics. The form of those exploits would depend on how the rules were applied, but the goal would be the same: Level up as many characters as possible, as fast as possible, in a controllable and predictable way. Adventures would not involve going on quests and exploring remote ruins. They would look more like tournaments or gladiatorial arenas, with combat being as lethal as necessary to ensure people keep leveling up.

You'd end up with a whole world like the Magic setting of Amonkhet. This is why I prefer to say that the XP rules are a contrivance to make the game more fun, which applies only to the PCs and does not represent how the world as a whole works.
Yes, I think that one has to suppose the metaphysics are not fully and expressly understood (just like physics in our world). Also that the mechanical representation may be a simplification (i.e. this is a good model of how it works, but there are complexities that are not captured).

Tournaments are lossy as pointed out by @Celebrim, so an inwardly-focused process would cause a polity to experience dwindling power. Instead, it needs to adventure outwards.

When that is contemplated in a context of layers of previous civilisations, which were at a higher power level than current (i.e. the golden ages are in the past trope of fantasy), with magic items available from dungeoning which as @dnd4vr shows are going to be very impactful, I feel able to present a consistent world that does not end up like Amonkhet.
 

Samloyal23

Explorer
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.
CCEQ? What is that?

Powerful people like high level heroes are not unpredictable. They tend to be more predictable than a common person because they are more likely to do something that is logical and strategic.
 

clearstream

Explorer
CCEQ? What is that?

Powerful people like high level heroes are not unpredictable. They tend to be more predictable than a common person because they are more likely to do something that is logical and strategic.
Oops, it's explained in surrounding text in the original, but I only copied part of that here.

CCEQ = character-class equivalent, i.e. a creature in the MM like Archmage, who has some level of equivalence with a character, without following all the class rules in the PHB. Often the level of a creature for character-class equivalence can be estimated from its hit dice and proficiency bonuses.
 

clearstream

Explorer
Powerful people like high level heroes are not unpredictable. They tend to be more predictable than a common person because they are more likely to do something that is logical and strategic.
I might reword that. It is the availability and concentration of power that is unpredictable, not necessarily the people. Heroes... they keep coming out of the woodwork like lice or rats ;)
 

Samloyal23

Explorer
I might reword that. It is the availability and concentration of power that is unpredictable, not necessarily the people. Heroes... they keep coming out of the woodwork like lice or rats ;)
Once you identify a hero's abilities and priorities, you can predict his actions, he becomes less likely to do stupidly random things.
 

Samloyal23

Explorer
Oops, it's explained in surrounding text in the original, but I only copied part of that here.

CCEQ = character-class equivalent, i.e. a creature in the MM like Archmage, who has some level of equivalence with a character, without following all the class rules in the PHB. Often the level of a creature for character-class equivalence can be estimated from its hit dice and proficiency bonuses.
Wouldn't be easier to just give a creature or NPC character levels?
 

clearstream

Explorer
Once you identify a hero's abilities and priorities, you can predict his actions, he becomes less likely to do stupidly random things.
Hmm, it seems my meaning was again unclear. The "unpredictability" cited is - specifically, and only - that of difficulty in predicting who will gain power. And not anything to do with how that person (or any person with CCEQ power) might act!

So, of N people randomly doing stuff, it is unpredictable which ones will gain power because they can all take down grandma's pitchfork and start off on a life of adventure... that can snowball over 30 days to overwhelming (tier 4) power.
 

clearstream

Explorer
Wouldn't be easier to just give a creature or NPC character levels?
From the point of view of a DM without too much time on their hands, no. Taking, and if need be tweaking, a mage from the Monster Manual is much quicker than creating an equivalent tier spellcasting character.
 

Samloyal23

Explorer
Hmm, it seems my meaning was again unclear. The "unpredictability" cited is - specifically, and only - that of difficulty in predicting who will gain power. And not anything to do with how that person (or any person with CCEQ power) might act!

So, of N people randomly doing stuff, it is unpredictable which ones will gain power because they can all take down grandma's pitchfork and start off on a life of adventure... that can snowball over 30 days to overwhelming (tier 4) power.
I cannot even imagine gaining more than one level in a month. Yes, it is impossible to predict who will become a hero, but the more powerful that person is, the more predictable the hero's actions are. So you can plan a strategy based on what types of actions heroes of different types can perform, and prepare counteractions in advance.
 

clearstream

Explorer
I cannot even imagine gaining more than one level in a month.
Yes, it seems far too overheated, yet that is what 5e RAW entails once you work out how many rests would be needed. A key factor in protracting that would be travel time; so the campaign type plays a big part. For a party in a multi-level dungeon, travel time might be low. For those in an open-campaign, it could be months or years. I favour the latter.

So I was just drawing attention to what the RAW makes possible: not my preference.

Yes, it is impossible to predict who will become a hero, but the more powerful that person is, the more predictable the hero's actions are. So you can plan a strategy based on what types of actions heroes of different types can perform, and prepare counteractions in advance.
I see. As to that particular question, I can only speak from my experience DMing and playing. I have never experienced players becoming more predictable as they gain power: universally the opposite. One reason might be that as they gain leverage over the narrative - spells to acquire information, travel quickly, and dominate their environment - efforts to challenge them tend to increase, rather than decrease, the chaos.

Perhaps the safest thing would be to let them alone, which of course isn't too suitable if one is a member of an existing elite that they will supplant. Hence I suppose that a campaign could stabilise around the idea of elite organisations, that might prefer to recruit than confront such heroes.

Or at least, why would such organisations not seem reasonable? They exist in official sources, and I effectively am suggesting that they can be used in a way that feels plausible and consistent. If not that way, what other way might be consistent for them?
 

Derren

Adventurer
The problem with all that is that you can't measure level and XP in game. They are purely a metagame concept and thus it is impossible to assign any in game value to it.
For casters you can fuge a bit and assign in game values based on the spell level they can cast (which requires a pretty good understanding of spellcasting which is not always there, depending on the setting), but how do you test the level of a fighter? How fast he can punch someone?
 
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dnd4vr

Adventurer
The problem with all that is that you can't measure level and XP in game. They are purely a metagame concept and thus it is impossible to assign any in game value to it.
For casters you can fuge a bit and assign in game values based on the spell level they can cast (which requires a pretty good understanding of spellcasting which is not always there, depending on the setting), but how do you test the level of a fighter? How fast he can
What? What!? How fact he can... what!?! The suspense is driving me crazy! ;)
 

clearstream

Explorer
...how do you test the level of a fighter? How fast he can punch someone?
Something like that, perhaps. Does she have one or two extra attacks? Two action surges?

As you point out, casters are easiest to decipher. The apprentice wizard, mage, Dwarf mage, Drow mage, abjurer and archmage sequence suggests a flexibility around class structure, while directly referencing spellcasting levels. Yet even the guard, knight, veteran, gladiator, champion sequence follows a discernible power progression. While I'm undecided whether XP is something my world inhabitants know about, I find it plausible and useful to suppose that they are aware of this power progression.
 
I take the simplistic view that to have power in society you need two things: actual power and people power (friends, allies, cronies, whatever).

The powerful sorcerer might have the actual power to defeat the palace guards and kill the current ruler, but if they don't have a number of people they can rely on, they are not going to keep that throne.

You can't be everywhere - you need to have certainty that when you give the order for taxes to be raised, that someone is going to go places and collect the tax without you personally needing to visit every noble to get the gold out of them.

Having social power requires a network of relationships and agreements and understandings. If you don't have that then you are just a sorcerer sitting on the throne while other people actually run the country (eventually overthrowing you since you have no power base to resist them).

In summary, being a level 20 warlock is not, in itself, enough to take over and rule a nation.
 

clearstream

Explorer
The powerful sorcerer might have the actual power to defeat the palace guards and kill the current ruler, but if they don't have a number of people they can rely on, they are not going to keep that throne.
Yes, exactly: that is the view I am not taking. I am saying that whereas in our world, a ruler doesn't have the physical force by themselves - in the form of their own body - to overcome a group of other people working in concert, in the fantasy world a level 20 sorcerer does have the physical (or rather arcane) force by themselves to do that. This is a profound difference, not often dwelt upon.

You can't be everywhere - you need to have certainty that when you give the order for taxes to be raised, that someone is going to go places and collect the tax without you personally needing to visit every noble to get the gold out of them.

Having social power requires a network of relationships and agreements and understandings. If you don't have that then you are just a sorcerer sitting on the throne while other people actually run the country (eventually overthrowing you since you have no power base to resist them).

In summary, being a level 20 warlock is not, in itself, enough to take over and rule a nation.
The tax gathering is a good point, as that wealth could serve as a force multiplier. Yet I feel that the minimum one might concede is that being a level 20 warlock is a massive boost toward taking over and ruling a nation. For one thing, your exceptional charisma is going to come in useful. A spell like glibness could be incredible to that ends.

So my speculation is not that it would be flatly impossible for anyone other than a CCEQ to rule polities, but that the advantages of the latter make it very likely they will be the ones to do so. In the official background, many or most polities do have such characters in ruling positions. Silverhand is a L19 Wizard for instance, or the ruling council of Amn is filled with tier-2 and tier-3 characters. I guess in some sense, my thinking is digging into why things might be as they are.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
I guess in some sense, my thinking is digging into why things might be as they are.
Well, it makes sense that in a fantasy world most ruling people would be adventurers or CCEQ-types. Just as in our world, most leaders/ rulers are not "normal" by ordinary standards. Leaders of industry, military commanders, religious figures, and other occupations whose fame and influence is wide-spread, including actors and other performers, athletes, etc. Even on a more local level, this tends to be true.

Such people would be the CCEQ's IRL. Every once in a while you have someone who is more ordinary that runs for office and wins, but usually that is not the case.

The difference is that even a L20 Sorcerer could not hold his position through power alone--eventually he would topple, for there are others who have abilities as well that would defeat him. Granted, the people who also defeat him would be extraordinary, at least as a collective if not individually more powerful than the L20 despot they are overthrowing.
 

clearstream

Explorer
The difference is that even a L20 Sorcerer could not hold his position through power alone--eventually he would topple, for there are others who have abilities as well that would defeat him. Granted, the people who also defeat him would be extraordinary, at least as a collective if not individually more powerful than the L20 despot they are overthrowing.
Yes, there would be others with the same power who would defeat them. And then they would rule. That is literally what I say about existing elites who "attempt to mitigate via collaborative structures, designed to tip the balance in favour of people that they approve of " i.e. form organisations with in mind the capability to do as you outline. I will put that in plainer language, since it has been overlooked.
 

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