D&D General Should magic be "mystical," unknowable, etc.? [Pick 2, no takebacks!]

Should magic be "mystical," unknowable, etc.?


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Vaalingrade

Legend
No, these can understand only SOME part of magic, but they can't do anything about other parts and specifically not cast a spell. And some will never be able to, since multiclassing is limited at least by stats. Adventurers are not common folk, and even them have limitations in that domain.
Literally anyone can take the Initiate feats.

Bards get a class feature to steal spells from every other class.

Nothing in the game keeps any rando farm boy from becoming an adventurerer.

Again, there are entire species literally born with magic powers.

While a lot and I would say most people ignore it, magic is a part of life in D&D Land and there's no way people haven't studied it.

Yes, any of it can be changed to taste, but what's there indicates a way more magical and fantastic world than people actually run it as. I mean IIRC, at least 3 entire people can just alter self at will -- how is the world not affected by pretenders and effortless beauty all over the place?
 

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But wizards can't know why it works? They can design new spells but can't figure out, that, say, A+D=G?
I'm pretty flexible either way. I don't see it as a necessity for wizards to understand the underlying mechanics of magic to be able to cast spells or craft magic items, etc.

I would agree that whether the mechanics are knowable or not, societies would devote plenty of resources to make execution of magic more consistently effective. If it could be known, they'd try to know it. If it couldn't be known, they'd make records of what inputs were used and to what effects such that you'd have practical rules to follow to achieve the desired result.


edit: All the above assumes that knowable or not, the output of the magic is more valuable than the resources used to achieve it.
 
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Fanaelialae

Legend
@DND_Reborn A thought just occurred to me based on something you said in the other thread.

What if fighters had Extra Attack limited to 1/round. And Action Surge simply gave you one extra action (it can still have the riders that you added, like doubling jump distance). If the fighter got Action Surge at 2nd level, then one more use between levels 5-10, and then two more uses between levels 11-20, they'd end up with the same number of attacks as RAW Action Surge.

The thing that I like about this is that it's kind of like Ki points and other class resources, where you can nova hard for a big effect, or spread their use out over time. A high level fighter could also be less cautious about using one or two uses, since they'd have reserves.

It just occurred to me, so I haven't really thought through all of the potential caveats, but I thought I'd share.
 

Yes! This! What other races might call “magic elven rope,” the elves just call “well-made rope.” If they had known you had an interest in such things, they could have taught you how to do it.

Rings, as I understand them, are a little bit different though. They have more to do with the inherent power of authority. One who has authority over something has a measure of control over that thing. A ring smith can impart a portion of their authority into the ring, which can in turn impart that authority to its bearer. And that was the crux of Souron’s deception - he taught the other races of the magic of rings, and so had a measure of authority over rings themselves, which he then imparted into the master ring.
Certainly been a hot minute since I've read the books, so I'm happy to defer to you regarding the mythology/history.

Even this description of the Rings relies on systems logic inherent to the development of technology. That some crafters didn't fully understand the logic and enslaved themselves doesn't really change it. If you changed "Rings" to "sentient robots", you're still basically in the same place.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
What if fighters had Extra Attack limited to 1/round. And Action Surge simply gave you one extra action (it can still have the riders that you added, like doubling jump distance). If the fighter got Action Surge at 2nd level, then one more use between levels 5-10, and then two more uses between levels 11-20, they'd end up with the same number of attacks as RAW Action Surge.
So, just to be certain I am understanding you, it would be something like this (levels could be different, just an example)

Level 2: Action Surge (one uses per short or long rest)
Level 5: Extra Attack
Level 9: Action Surge (two uses)
Level 17: Action Surge (three uses)

Are you limiting it to one AS per turn? Or allowing multiple per turn? It seems like the later since if I have three uses of AS and can use all three in one round, I could have 8 attacks (2 normal, then 2 per AS).

The downside to that is on all the other rounds, Fighters would never have more than 2 attacks since they can't AS. Since fighters already get bested by other classes when it comes to fighting, reducing the number of regular attacks probably won't help.

Or am I missing something in your concept?
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
So, just to be certain I am understanding you, it would be something like this (levels could be different, just an example)

Level 2: Action Surge (one uses per short or long rest)
Level 5: Extra Attack
Level 9: Action Surge (two uses)
Level 17: Action Surge (three uses)

Are you limiting it to one AS per turn? Or allowing multiple per turn? It seems like the later since if I have three uses of AS and can use all three in one round, I could have 8 attacks (2 normal, then 2 per AS).

The downside to that is on all the other rounds, Fighters would never have more than 2 attacks since they can't AS. Since fighters already get bested by other classes when it comes to fighting, reducing the number of regular attacks probably won't help.

Or am I missing something in your concept?
You have the gist of it, but you would still get Extra Attack (3) at level 11, and possibly even Extra Attack (4) at 20th (I say possibly because I believe your design removed EA4).

Yeah, it's intended that you can use all of your Surges in a round to get the equivalent of a RAW Action Surge. But with the added flexibility that you can also spread their uses out. Also, since they now only grant one attack (because Extra Attack is changed to once per round), there's more incentive to use those actions for non-attacks (IMO, sacrificing 3-4 attacks for a dash or disengage is a bad trade, but sacrificing one extra attack isn't).

Edit: I forgot about the 2nd RAW Action Surge at 17th, but you could duplicate that functionality (if desired) by adding a once per short rest ability that recharges your Surges.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
You have the gist of it, but you would still get Extra Attack (3) at level 11, and possibly even Extra Attack (4) at 20th (I say possibly because I believe your design removed EA4).
Whether or not EA 4 ends up removed depends a lot on exactly how AS functions, to it is still there for the moment.

Yeah, it's intended that you can use all of your Surges in a round to get the equivalent of a RAW Action Surge. But with the added flexibility that you can also spread their uses out. Also, since they now only grant one attack (because Extra Attack is changed to once per round), there's more incentive to use those actions for non-attacks (IMO, sacrificing 3-4 attacks for a dash or disengage is a bad trade, but sacrificing one extra attack isn't).
Ok, but if EA is only usable once per turn, then AS (3 uses) would grant 3 additional attacks, one per surge, correct?

If so, that was my current iteration anyway, but rewriting Extra Attack is a more elegant solution than specifying the restriction under Action Surge, so I like that. :)
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Whether or not EA 4 ends up removed depends a lot on exactly how AS functions, to it is still there for the moment.


Ok, but if EA is only usable once per turn, then AS (3 uses) would grant 3 additional attacks, one per surge, correct?

If so, that was my current iteration anyway, but rewriting Extra Attack is a more elegant solution than specifying the restriction under Action Surge, so I like that. :)
Well, as I understood it, your design was one use of Action Surge that grants X actions. My idea is to change it so that fighters have X uses of Action Surge that grant one action.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Well, as I understood it, your design was one use of Action Surge that grants X actions. My idea is to change it so that fighters have X uses of Action Surge that grant one action.
Yes, it was one AS (at higher levels Heroic and Marvelous Surge) would grant 2, then 3 and 4 actions. What I meant more was it accomplishes the same goal: one version grants more actions for the feature, the other grants more uses of the feature (giving just one additional action).

At maximal, the net result is pretty much the same, the difference being as you said allowing fighters to take one extra action (regular AS) on a turn instead of having to use 3 or even 4 at higher levels, which could be overkill and a waste of the feature.

Going to multiple uses of AS instead of escalating the number of actions by improving AS keeps more in line with the fighter (as is), so should work out to a more elegant solution. I'll work on the write up later before we play tomorrow and show it to the group.

I'll have to dive into the analysis, but I think (gut feeling) fighters will end up losing EA 4, but will be replaced by a 3rd use of AS...
 

No, I'm saying that ancient peoples didn't understand the principles of architecture (at least not to the extent that they are understood today) and yet they built impressive structures nonetheless.

Obviously we can understand architecture. But is it so impossible to imagine that in a fantasy world, beings that are FAR more intelligent than the most intelligent mortals (ie, gods) could create a magic system that is literally beyond the grasp of even the most advanced mortal mind? I don't think so.

Hence, while aspects of magic (such as individual spells) are by necessity knowable, the actual principles that underlay the workings of magic may be fundamentally unknowable.

Your car example is flawed. By that reasoning, wizards would be creating magic systems themselves. That's atypical for fantasy, wherein magic is usually pre-existent and mortals merely figure out how to harness it. In other words, just because you can drive a car, and even come up with new driving stunts, doesn't mean you necessarily understand how the internal combustion engine works. It might be useful to know in some cases, but even if it's a complete mystery to you, you can still drive the car.

D&D magic certainly can be knowable. But it's equally fair to have it be fundamentally unknowable.
This might be the point of confusion: how would you define "unknowable"?

Because to me, if you can predict how something will work, you know it, at least somewhat. If you can understand the rules well enough to predict how it will work in not-before-seen scenarios, then you know it pretty well. You don't need to understand it at the quantum level, or perfectly understand any aspect of it. If you know it somewhat, it's knowable. To be unknowable, you need to not know anything about it at all.

I say this because I don't find cars mysterious and unknowable just because I don't understand general relativity.
 

I'm pretty flexible either way. I don't see it as a necessity for wizards to understand the underlying mechanics of magic to be able to cast spells or craft magic items, etc.

I would agree that whether the mechanics are knowable or not, societies would devote plenty of resources to make execution of magic more consistently effective. If it could be known, they'd try to know it. If it couldn't be known, they'd make records of what inputs were used and to what effects such that you'd have practical rules to follow to achieve the desired result.
To me, that falls under "knowing about magic." If they can reliably use it, because they understand how it works, it's not unknowable.

Unknowable magic would have unpredictable resuts because you don't know any of the rules possibly because there are no rules.) But if you know that combining these ingredients, saying these words and making these gestures make a fireball: you know about magic. If you know about magic and how to use it, it cannot be unknowable.

edit: All the above assumes that knowable or not, the output of the magic is more valuable than the resources used to achieve it.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
This might be the point of confusion: how would you define "unknowable"?

Because to me, if you can predict how something will work, you know it, at least somewhat. If you can understand the rules well enough to predict how it will work in not-before-seen scenarios, then you know it pretty well. You don't need to understand it at the quantum level, or perfectly understand any aspect of it. If you know it somewhat, it's knowable. To be unknowable, you need to not know anything about it at all.

I say this because I don't find cars mysterious and unknowable just because I don't understand general relativity.
My definition of knowing is that you have to understand the why, not just the how. You don't have to understand the why perfectly (at the quantum level, as you put it) but you need a solid understanding how why it works, not just how to make it work. If you've learned how to fix your car's engine, but you can't extend that knowledge into fixing other engines, then you don't actually understand how an engine works, you've just figured out how to fix your particular engine. Which isn't really knowing (or, at best, is an extremely narrow and limited case of knowing).

If your definition is that you just need to understand how (ie, you repeatedly try random things until you get the result you want, and then just repeat that) then, sure, I agree that D&D magic is by definition knowable.

That's a really low bar though. That's like someone claiming that because they can brute force a combination lock by trying every possible combination, they know how combination locks work and how to circumvent them. If that's the extent of their understanding, then I would argue that they do not understand combination locks.

And while we can certainly combination locks in the RW, it's not hard to imagine a "combination lock" designed by a godlike intelligence that is simply beyond the capacity of lesser intelligences to comprehend, and hence, unknowable to those lesser intelligences.
 

To me, that falls under "knowing about magic." If they can reliably use it, because they understand how it works, it's not unknowable.

Unknowable magic would have unpredictable resuts because you don't know any of the rules possibly because there are no rules.) But if you know that combining these ingredients, saying these words and making these gestures make a fireball: you know about magic. If you know about magic and how to use it, it cannot be unknowable.
I see it like the button next to an elevator. You push the button and sometimes the doors open right away, and sometimes you have to wait for the doors to open (also sometimes the doors open even when you don't push the button). Maybe the doors normally open faster between the hours of 2 and 4pm and slower at 9 am, 12 and 5 pm, but could be slow during those times too.

With that set of information, what do you "know" about how the button and the elevator doors work?

I can think of wizards as operating with this level of understanding. They know that if they press the button something will happen eventually but also that unexpected results may occur (e.g the door opening without pressing the button). Maybe they develop schedules to try and optimize the fastest result, maybe those work consistently, maybe they don't.
 

My definition of knowing is that you have to understand the why, not just the how. You don't have to understand the why perfectly (at the quantum level, as you put it) but you need a solid understanding how why it works, not just how to make it work. If you've learned how to fix your car's engine, but you can't extend that knowledge into fixing other engines, then you don't actually understand how an engine works, you've just figured out how to fix your particular engine. Which isn't really knowing (or, at best, is an extremely narrow and limited case of knowing).

If your definition is that you just need to understand how (ie, you repeatedly try random things until you get the result you want, and then just repeat that) then, sure, I agree that D&D magic is by definition knowable.

That's a really low bar though. That's like someone claiming that because they can brute force a combination lock by trying every possible combination, they know how combination locks work and how to circumvent them. If that's the extent of their understanding, then I would argue that they do not understand combination locks.

And while we can certainly combination locks in the RW, it's not hard to imagine a "combination lock" designed by a godlike intelligence that is simply beyond the capacity of lesser intelligences to comprehend, and hence, unknowable to those lesser intelligences.
Begging your pardon, but doesn't everyone have the same potential intelligence now?
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
The thing is that everyone can understand science to a degree. But the principle of D&D is that only some people can understand and manipulate magic.
Read my whole post.

Just like science, magic can be someone gets part of but barely a quarter of the whole. I like magic where magic is an barely understood science. Wizards know some knobs but not others and some parts don't makesense because most elements are not discovered yet.

"Fulmia Dododun Amascar is the magic word for fireball. We know Fulmia is fire. We don't know what Amascar means. Some mage traded his soul to a death god to learn the word. We lucked out that Dododun is close to an elven cuss word. That was an accident."
 

Read my whole post.

Just like science, magic can be someone gets part of but barely a quarter of the whole. I like magic where magic is an barely understood science. Wizards know some knobs but not others and some parts don't makesense because most elements are not discovered yet.

"Fulmia Dododun Amascar is the magic word for fireball. We know Fulmia is fire. We don't know what Amascar means. Some mage traded his soul to a death god to learn the word. We lucked out that Dododun is close to an elven cuss word. That was an accident."
I absolutely hate everything about that idea. Not even sure why.
 



When you get used to posting on a place like ENWorld, filled with attractive vivacious individuals with godlike intelligence, it's easy to think of the rest of the world in the same light.
As someone who takes public transportation to work I can assure you that's not the case.
 


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