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General What do do when a setting doesn't have magic?

That’s nine whole classes you can’t play out of twelve.

Barbarian, Rogue, Monk and Fighter are the only non magical classes in the PHB, and of those classes at least 1 archetype from each in the PHB is capable of casting spells.

And Monks and some Barbarians can fly, turn ethereal, walk on water or similar, and Fighters are capable of nocking and fire an arbelest 8 times in 6 seconds, so there is probably some magic in there as well.
 

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akr71

Adventurer
Even if 5E functions well without magic, there are games out there other than D&D. Another game might give the OP what they want more than trying to shoe-horn 5E into the space you are looking for.
 

As others have said, you can do it, but there already are games that do this much better.

That being said, if the players want to play 5E, and you don't have unusually large party I think there is enough options that you can perfectly feasibly run a campaign without the options starting to feel stale. The large number of subclasses means that characters of the same base class can still be pretty distinct.

And of curse you can remove magic from some classes without it being terribly difficult to rebalance them. Like an easy solution for rangers would be that they all get a pet but no spells, and beastmasters get more powerful pet.
 

I know that the totem barbarian technically does magic and is therefore eliminated of no-magic martial classes, but it lives very well without its three spells that, I’m willing to bet, dont see that much use in most games.
It’s a bit of a bummer to skip the 10th level feature, but the archetype remains good even without that. (In a pinch, 10th level could grant a second 6th level totem feature)
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Lets say you find a setting you want to set your next DnD campaign in, but it's a setting with no magic. A good half the classes use magic, so so how do your address this? Do you just add magic, just not include wizards? Don't worry too much about the answer. It's a discussion not a actual problem to solve.
5e works beautifully as a low magic or no magic game; it's all I've ever run with it and I frankly see no reason to run it any other way.

Certainly, some assumptions needed to change in my games, and players/PCs need to approach many situations quite differently. But there is a host of literature that approaches settings from this perspective, which can be a great guide.

When I run 5e, I use the Primeval Thule setting as a baseline, integrating aspects of the World of Xoth. It's very Sword & Sorcery, very Conan/Fafhrd & the Mouser esque.

I ban all full casters except warlocks and all magic-using subclasses of other classes. As others have noted, this approach leaves plenty of character class/subclass options. In my games monks are a goblin tradition, which adds some interesting background to any character that wants to follow that path.

I DO allow the Ritual Caster feat, as well as Magic Initiate and the feat chain stemming from it that was in one of the playtest packets. I also add the Ritual tag to Magic Circle (why wasn't it there already?).

Now, I don't go NO magic (obviously from the above), and I still have some magic items, but my approach is that any item with a name (i.e. Flame Tongue) is unique and there is only one of them in the world. More generic items (arrows +1) are non-magical, so they might still provide an attack and damage bonus but do not bypass damage resistance/immunity.

I've run three campaigns this way since 2015, with a total of 11 players, and the campaigns were awesome. The biggest was Tomb of Annihilation, which was also the only "official" one I used in its entirety, and all were roaring successes both in my opinion and according to the players in them

Especially if you've already put a bunch of money I to 5e books, there's absolutely no reason to pick up a different game to do what you want here. It works fine.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Your characters will be severly limited on what they can do to affect an obstacle...

On the other hand, depending on what is meant by "no magic", the obstacles may tend to be rather mundane, such that you don't need that huge magic toolbox to address them.

And that can be a good thing - it reduces the amount of time the players spend on "how do I address this," and they can spend more on "what do I choose to address, and why?"
 

DMMike

Guide of Modos
Lets say you find a setting you want to set your next DnD campaign in, but it's a setting with no magic . . . It's a discussion not a actual problem to solve.
So you're looking to play some Dn? That could be fun!

. . . You could probably even include the ranger class and just drop the spells . . .

Edit: Actually, without magic there might be far less need to call for saving throws. I might end up replacing the fighter's indomitable with brutal critical as well.
I don't think that I saw this in the thread yet...but throw out the full casters and try some reskinning on the others' spells. Here's an example, probably inspired by Aragorn and his Big Adventure:

2nd Level Ranger SpellsReskinned
Animal MessengerAnimal somehow understands you, and you attach a note to its collar
BarkskinAny number of reasons to become less hit-able
Darkvision"Ignore" other senses to gain more vision
Find TrapsRangerly intuition
Lesser RestorationHerbs. Good ones.
Locate AnimalsRangerly intuition
Locate ObjectRangerly intuition
Pass without TraceMad skills
Protection from Poison"Old shaman prayer" said to be protective
SilenceSpecial stomp that upsets eardums
Spike GrowthWhisper to the plants...plants are natural, right?

@cbwjm: interesting thought about the saving throws. Since they're just proficiencies used in high-risk situations, you could offer the PC a new proficiency in a skill instead of taking the feature as-is. Then record that choice for future reference... :devilish:
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
D&D and 5e functions with no magic. Very well.

However due to how much you must cut, the modus operandi of the party members will be so narrow it would border on that of a TV killer. Your characters will be severly limited on what they can do to affect an obstacle unless the DM is very very permissive.

You will be hammering a lot of nails because all you have is hammers.
Why?

Are humans in the real world this limited because they don't have magical spells? Orcs in the way? Sure you could fight them. But you could negotiate with them, intimidate them, trick them, spook them, bribe them, sneak around them, lure a monster to fight them, find another way where there are no orcs... and that's after thinking about it for 30 seconds.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Why?

Are humans in the real world this limited because they don't have magical spells? Orcs in the way? Sure you could fight them. But you could negotiate with them, intimidate them, trick them, spook them, bribe them, sneak around them, lure a monster to fight them, find another way where there are no orcs... and that's after thinking about it for 30 seconds.

People can do all of that.

D&D player characters become more and more saddled by the focuses of their classes as they level.

It works fine at low level vs appropriate obstacles. When you get higher up, you can slowly morph into a hammer if your DM doesn't keep threats under you.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
How many are going to be in the game? There is nothing wrong with playing with a barbarian, two fighters and a pair of rogues. What else do you need?
 



billd91

Hobbit on Quest
That's a Rogue subclass if I ever heard one! Write it up, @WayOfTheFourElements! Get on it! ;)

Rogue subclass, pfft. One of my players in a PF campaign did it with levels in ranger and barbarian. Granted, neither of those classes were really directly involved other than to make him one exotic halfling. The cosplaying did add to his cachet, though.
You may think I'm joking... but I'm really not.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Rogue subclass, pfft. One of my players in a PF campaign did it with levels in ranger and barbarian. Granted, neither of those classes were really directly involved other than to make him one exotic halfling. The cosplaying did add to his cachet, though.
You may think I'm joking... but I'm really not.
Yeah, but I dunno if I want to play a gigolo without having Expertise where it counts. :)
 


jmartkdr2

Adventurer
Short short answer: add more non-magic content.

Classes have definitely been covered (only 5 subclasses in the PHB) - you don't need as many as the base game but you need more.

Then you have to think about monsters and treasure: both of these lists tend to favor magic stuff, so you'll want more options there. More special items that are just well-made or otherwise cool without needing magic. More high-level enemies to fight without supernatural boosts that break your version of the no-magic rule, things like that. These things aren't hard to make, but it's a lot more prep work than a usual game.

Then you need players who also think it's a fun idea, and you're ready to go!
 

Right offhand, I think you play the classes that don't have magic in them. That's because TSR in the 1990's published a series of "Historical Reference" books that were about playing D&D in various time periods, from Bronze-Age antiquity until circa 1650.

They included three options for magic level: a fantasy-history where D&D classes worked as usual in a magical version of the past and the setting was just a bit of historic flavor on a normal D&D game, a low-magic game where magic was rare and special and spellcasters and magic items were unique. . .and a "Historic" setting where there was absolutely no PC magic and what little there was were very, very rare NPC's and even "routine" magic items were of artifact-scale rarity.

So, you can't say it's never been done before as an official D&D setting or option, since it was an option presented for historic settings.

Admittedly it was a bit of a stretch, and the historic games that I ran used the middle option for low magic instead of no-magic, but it has been done before.
 

I'd play a game more suited to the setting than D&D!

Adventures in Middle Earth for 5E does low magic quite well, but it's not completely no magic,

Yeah, it's worthwhile to investigate other games when they stray too far from D&D's assumptions. D&D is a good game, but it's not a universal RPG. Even GURPS isn't really a universal RPG.

If we acknowledge that rules and mechanics can reinforce and contribute to the verisimilitude of a setting or campaign, then it's reasonable to seek out the best set of rules and mechanics for the type of campaign we're running.
 

Wasteland Knight

Adventurer
Lets say you find a setting you want to set your next DnD campaign in, but it's a setting with no magic. A good half the classes use magic, so so how do your address this? Do you just add magic, just not include wizards? Don't worry too much about the answer. It's a discussion not a actual problem to solve.

You can run most any flavor of D&D sans magic. It's going to change around the dynamics of the game. Anyone running such a game needs to carefully consider which monsters and abilities are used. Healing will be hugely reduced, so the game would most likely need to have most of the "resource depletion" encounters removed, and focus on a smaller number of more focused, storyline important encounters. Probably need to change around advancement as a result.

Because there won't be any "magic items", treasure will become far less important. This will also mess with various "CR" systems for balancing encounters.

I think it can be done, but to be a successful game it's going to take some thinking on the part of the GM.

Personally, for such a game I'd skip any flavor of D&D and opt for something like Mythras.
 

Halloween Horror For 5E

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