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What Magic Would Be Most Realistically Most Impactful?

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Any high level character is capable of matching up with veritable armies in AD&D.
Oh yeah. Drop a high-level member of any of the warrior classes into a mass combat and it was kind of like a wandering Fireball spell.* Which always reminded me of a sequence from one of DC Comics’ last stories about Paul Kirk, The Manhunter.

Alongside other heroes- most notably Batman- he is fighting his way through massed hordes of agents to get into the stronghold of his enemies. As he pushes through, he mentally criticized Batman for taking too much time with the more competent enemies in the group, while Kirk himself was just mowing down mooks.**




* the decision to drop the rules that permitted this from later editions was probably a major secondary contributor to the perception some have that warriors were mechanically inferior to spellcasters, thus less fun to play.


** it wasn’t that Kirk thought he was a better combatant than Batman, because they were pretty evenly matched, with Batman probably having the edge, one on one. But with time being of the essence, Batman kept picking out more skilled opponents, slowing him down, while Kirk was simply trying to get access as quickly as possible, and thus took the literal path of least resistance.
 

Hussar

Legend
For me, it's not so much the spells themselves, as the Monster Manual which would have a much, MUCH larger effect on society. Who needs light spells when you can breed Fire Beetles? (and probably eat them too) Giants as siege weapons/construction engines. Brown Mold refrigeration units. That sort of thing.
 
For me, it's not so much the spells themselves, as the Monster Manual which would have a much, MUCH larger effect on society. Who needs light spells when you can breed Fire Beetles? (and probably eat them too) Giants as siege weapons/construction engines. Brown Mold refrigeration units. That sort of thing.
That is a valid point, though I would quibble with the idea that you'd want brown mold anywhere near inhabited areas. It is afterall a mold and produces spores and it would keep popping up in places you didn't want it, and it is pretty darn hard to get rid of without access to magic.

But yes, the lesser sorts of giants make good laborers if you can civilize them to some degree, which isn't the easiest thing to do with a race that instinctively thinks that whomever is bigger is better and should be in charge.

And it's certainly implied that mining races do breed fire beetles, but then again, the things are omnivores that have a bite like a broadsword that can lop limbs off and they are too dumb to really be domesticated. So giant beetle raising is probably something best left to experts.

But yes, there is definitely opportunity to take advantage of magical beasts and the like. Dannyalcatraz's aircraft carriers do more or less have parallels in my world, in that all great powers have some sort of air force and definitely do utilize fliers in their navies.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
(NB: reply to OP without having read rest of thread yet)

IMO, the three most important effects of D&D style magic come down to typical 1st-2nd level spells. One of which is in fact.

I'll assume the demographics from 3E's DMG mechanics... not because I like 3E, but because it's the easiest to use.

There are enough casters of 2nd level spells to make continual flame (or Continual light for other editions) a viable income stream... at about 300-350 per year, the senior acolytes of the God of Light can make these incidental magic items, and make a reasonable income from them.

This cheap light makes a HUGE difference in life. Crime rates, work hours, and recreational reading all massively increased when Gaslight became common...
Cheap light REALLY makes a huge difference, as can be seen with the massive increase in readership when the switch from gaslight to electric happened.

The healing magics really are the second major area, not the first. Workplace hazards will be handled on a cost-basis, rather than a safety-first basis... Who cares if you blow yourself up in the firework plant, if the staff healer can healing word you to keep you alive. This permeates to all levels. Warriors will be aiming to maim, not just kill, because repairing missing chunks is much harder than keeping them alive, and a missing arm isn't replaced by raise dead... and more importantly, if you pass the severed arm back, when the necromancer raises the zombies/skeletons, the raised undead still have only the limbs in their immediate vincinity....

The third group are the charm and mind control spells. Judges will likely hire casters to cast charm person, if they themselves don't do so, to question the witnesses without resistance. Truth spells, likewise, don't result in the whole truth, but do prevent all but the subtlest of deceptions-by-omission... and combined? you get it all. Moreover, Telepathy, when used intrusively, has the advantage of being able to find out what's still being omitted...
The truthsayers will be highly paid, and vital.... But these also have important elements of work-life... the caster with Charm Person is a vicious manager... you have no reason to distrust them, and if they're smart, you're going to be SUPER loyal... expect management changes to result in huge departure waves...

And, that's leaving out some interesting bits of various odd spells.

For example, if one can make a permanent daylight item... one can farm in a cavern as if in Fairbanks, Alaska in the summer. (Think Cabbages more than a meter across, 3 pound potatoes, 2' by 4" carrots and zucchini... in 3 months of growing season.)

Now, in Tunnels and Trolls, Slush Yuck turns rock to mud... for 10 minutes. Then, in whatever shape it's in, it turns back into rock. So, go up to a quarry's working face. Set out brick molds. Cast Slush Yuck. have a couple guys muck it into the molds... 10 minute working time. Then, pop the solid rock bricks out of the molds. And these molds can have tongue-in-groove.... less waste, and cheap stone tongue-in-groove bricks, possibly even pre-keyed for metal ties...
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
Thankfully, that won't work in a meaningful way - it doesn't stipulate what they have to confess to. "I confess that I think puppies are adorable!" fulfills the Command.
Eh, I don’t think the target is able to ignore context to nitpick. Also, in such a world, there would be single word terminology for “telling the entire truth about one’s involvement in the matter currently being discussed.”

For me, it's not so much the spells themselves, as the Monster Manual which would have a much, MUCH larger effect on society. Who needs light spells when you can breed Fire Beetles? (and probably eat them too) Giants as siege weapons/construction engines. Brown Mold refrigeration units. That sort of thing.
I would much rather learn a spell than keep a big burning cockroach as a pet, dude.
 
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aramis erak

Explorer
That's the cost of a car. And then, it's not "never be made uncomfortable by the weather again", it's "one specific set of clothing you won't be uncomfortable". So it needs to be washed. Is it work clothes, party clothes, outdoor clothes - it's not all fashions (that's a different enchantment). Most people also won't wash and wear the same clothing every day to every event.
While not a deeply researched list, there's a rather good price list at http://medieval.ucdavis.edu/120D/Money.html

Another, better researched but less general list is at https://thehistoryofengland.co.uk/resource/medieval-prices-and-wages/

A woolen garment (probably tunic and hose) 3 shillings.
A fashionable court gown could be in excess of 200 shillings (£10)...
A peasant's shirt 2/3 of a shilling (8d), and the tunic for over it (almost essential) 36d. shoes another 4d. ... So, 4 shillings for a common outfit... 10% of one's income. For the current equivalent - poverty line of about

A years rent of a cottage 5 shillings... A nice townhouse 20 shillings per year. base laborers getting around 40 shillings per year, tho often not in cash. Some commoners making up to 120 shillings per year, especially townsmen with master or journeyman status in a guild.

Comparing to current US, base labor is about poverty line... so $25,000 a year... a simple shirt, tunic and shoes would be $2,500... instead of the roughly $50.... $10 for cheap shoes, $25 for a set of sweats (shirt and trousers), and $5 for a Tee-shirt (plain), plus a pair of socks, which is the equivalent outfit.

It's been noted that many did not have more than 2 or 3 outfits, perhaps not even more than 1 full outfit.... and a second shirt.

Speaking of which, popular entertainment! Communication magic is useful, but I imagine that theatrical performances would be augmented with illusions, lights, and sounds. Maybe an enterprising wizard could figure out a way to "record" such performances to be played back later. Maybe you can buy crystals that display such performances.
Assuming the D&D spell lists...
The wizard likely wouldn't record the performance, so much as reconstruct it with his own memories of it. And enchant an engine for the moving illusion. If good enough, the engine goes on tour... and he gets paid to make another...

And likely as not, a troupe of entertainers would have illusions and magical costuming of major parts. The recordings being recollections rather than direct imaging, these illusions get recorded nicely, as well. You just set the engine on stage, trigger it, and it replays the play as the wizard saw it... every time, exactly the same, but in 3D, tho' the sides away may be filled in less spiffily.

D&D Demographics: The basic mode for PC Classes in 3.5E DMG (p. 137-141)

A small town of around 1-2 thousand adults will typically have 1-7 wizards, 1-15 clerics, 1-15 druids, 1-15 bards, 51-110 Adepts, 1-7 paladins, 1-7 rangers, and 1-7 sorcerers. 98-175 potential casters, but the local Paladins and Rangers likely have no spells.

So 0.8 to 1.1% total adult population of potential casters...

So, all in all, around 1 in a hundred by the 3.5E DMG process. 1 in 100.
Oh, and due to caveats, hamlets can have some high level druids or rangers living within... and their students.
 

Hussar

Legend
That is a valid point, though I would quibble with the idea that you'd want brown mold anywhere near inhabited areas. It is afterall a mold and produces spores and it would keep popping up in places you didn't want it, and it is pretty darn hard to get rid of without access to magic.

But yes, the lesser sorts of giants make good laborers if you can civilize them to some degree, which isn't the easiest thing to do with a race that instinctively thinks that whomever is bigger is better and should be in charge.

And it's certainly implied that mining races do breed fire beetles, but then again, the things are omnivores that have a bite like a broadsword that can lop limbs off and they are too dumb to really be domesticated. So giant beetle raising is probably something best left to experts.

But yes, there is definitely opportunity to take advantage of magical beasts and the like. Dannyalcatraz's aircraft carriers do more or less have parallels in my world, in that all great powers have some sort of air force and definitely do utilize fliers in their navies.
Umm, which edition are we talking about? 5e Fire Beetles do 2 points of damage on a hit. Significantly less than a bee swarm could do and we DO breed those. And, let's face it - there are lots of animals that we keep around pretty regularly that can and do kill humans on a fairly regular basis - cows, pigs, dogs, etc. Having something like this isn't much of a stretch.

What giants think that whomever is bigger is better? Where did that come from? And, why would you stick to lesser giants? Larger giants are quite intelligent and could see the value in working with smaller races quite easily.

As far as Brown Mold goes - well, we used lead and asbestos in our buildings for centuries. It's not like we haven't had lethal toxins and materials around, never minding sleeping with animals indoors, the house for generations. Brown Mold absorbs heat. You can recreate the greatest invention of the modern era - refrigeration. Next to refrigeration, nothing comes even remotely close to creating modern societies.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
The first carriers hit the waves in the 1920s- first the British, then the Japanese. By the mid-1930s, all of the major sea powers operated several, mostly with airplanes specifically designed to be flown from carrier decks. Usually with folding wings as well.

The powers that had them in numbers understood their power quite well. It’s not an accident the way the strike forces that the Japanese and American military deployed in the Pacific were so carrier-centric, or that the Germans tried to trump them with U-boats in the Atlantic.
Sure, many nations adopted carriers, but that's not the same as grasping their impact or significance. There were still many skeptics in the naval command staffs of Japan, Britain, and the US who underestimated aircraft carriers and felt that naval encounters were won by battleships, including Winston Churchill and a number of the IJN officers, many of whom still followed the older doctrines that viewed battleships as the most critical pieces as part of "decisive battles."

Admiral Yamamoto, however, was a big believer in aircraft carriers, which is why six were deployed for Pearl Harbor and he was disappointed that US aircraft carriers were not in harbor. Pearl Harbor definitely was a game-changer, but that's also the primary reason why the US naval task forces were primarily carrier-centric: those were really the only major pieces undamaged after Pearl Harbor.

Consider this, the first time that aircraft sunk a battleship in a sea battle was not until 1942: Naval Battle of Malaya. The first time that aircraft carrier battle was also not until 1942: The Battle of the Coral Sea. So while aircraft carriers were around since the 1910s, it would not be until about thirty-years later before their impact could actually be observed in the context of actual naval warfare.
 
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Umm, which edition are we talking about?
That does seem to be important. I was looking at the 3e.

Larger giants are quite intelligent and could see the value in working with smaller races quite easily.
Now it is my turn to ask where that come from? Being intelligent in no way implies that they see the value of working with lesser races. Typically D&D has always asserted that giants either want to be left alone or else only want to rule over and receive tribute from the smaller races. I know giants have been though all sorts of lore revisions over the years, but when did their lore suggest that they see the value in working with smaller races?

I know there are have been a lot of lore changes over the years but Thrym and Surtr's peoples are known more for wanting to annihilate all lesser races and rule over the world in their place than cordial relationships with humans.

As far as Brown Mold goes - well, we used lead and asbestos in our buildings for centuries. It's not like we haven't had lethal toxins and materials around, never minding sleeping with animals indoors, the house for generations. Brown Mold absorbs heat. You can recreate the greatest invention of the modern era - refrigeration. Next to refrigeration, nothing comes even remotely close to creating modern societies.
Yeah, but you can recreate refrigeration with something like 'chill metal' or any other similar cold magic. Simply chilling things can be done with Prestidigitation based effects. Brown mold doesn't just chill the air - it magically siphons heat out of living creatures. Getting near brown mold knocks most people unconscious more or less instantly and unless rescued (difficult to do unless you also get in range) those people will die. And unlike asbestos, brown mold is alive. It spreads. It produces spores. And it can get a hold near a fire, it can expand to enormous size very very quickly. It has an exponential growth rate in the presence of fire. Brown mold is nasty stuff. It seems to me that a brown mold base refrigeration system is just as likely to apocalyptically destroy a town as provide a valuable economic resource.

Lead and asbestos are not remotely good comparisons.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
[MENTION=6779310]aramis erak[/MENTION], I was going in response to the person who was commenting who mapped D&D listed wages vs. D&D listed prices. Anything else is welcome for verisimilitude but not relevant to that specific response.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Sure, many nations adopted carriers, but that's not the same as grasping their impact or significance. There were still many skeptics in the naval command staffs of Japan, Britain, and the US who underestimated aircraft carriers and felt that naval encounters were won by battleships, including Winston Churchill and a number of the IJN officers, many of whom still followed the older doctrines that viewed battleships as the most critical pieces as part of "decisive battles."

Admiral Yamamoto, however, was a big believer in aircraft carriers, which is why six were deployed for Pearl Harbor and he was disappointed that US aircraft carriers were not in harbor. Pearl Harbor definitely was a game-changer, but that's also the primary reason why the US naval task forces were primarily carrier-centric: those were really the only major pieces undamaged after Pearl Harbor.

Consider this, the first time that aircraft sunk a battleship in a sea battle was not until 1942: Naval Battle of Malaya. The first time that aircraft carrier battle was also not until 1942: The Battle of the Coral Sea. So while aircraft carriers were around since the 1910s, it would not be until about thirty-years later before their impact could actually be observed in the context of actual naval warfare.
Fair points all.

OTOH, the sheer expense of aircraft carriers means they wouldn’t have even been built in the numbers they were by the 1930s with at least a plurality of those in command of the military- or at least, of the major policy and tactics influencers- seeing their potential, and convincing their governments to foot those bills.
 
OTOH, the sheer expense of aircraft carriers means they wouldn’t have even been built in the numbers they were by the 1930s with at least a plurality of those in command of the military- or at least, of the major policy and tactics influencers- seeing their potential, and convincing their governments to foot those bills.
We seem to have a side discussion going on the history of naval air power. I'm not sure either side of the discussion is wrong, just brief.

Another point that effected the ubiquity of air power in the inter-war period is that the majority of Naval powers were tightly confined by treaty obligations to only produce weapon systems with certain capabilities and in certain numbers. So in the case of air power, whether or not anyone really believed in it, the major powers would have still invested in air power because treaties limited the numbers and capabilities of pretty much all classes of major combat ships and since there were slots and tonnages in the treaties allocated for aircraft carriers, maximizing your total naval effectiveness meant maximizing your aircraft carriers whether or not you believed that they had a role beyond harassment and scouting. Plenty of US navy leaders even if they still felt that aircraft carriers would never be the major striking arm of the navy, would have allocated for strong carriers simply because the treaty rules - which were heavily based on the fear of a battleship arms race - very much limited battleship technology while leaving carriers much more open to spend money on. Had naval leaders had the option to spend that money on bigger and more capable and more numerous battleships, it's not clear that the carriers would have gotten as much attention (however ironic and absurd this would latter prove to be).

The degree to which this was a very serious controversy can be found in the ups and downs of the career and reputation of Billy Mitchell.
 
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aramis erak

Explorer
[MENTION=6779310]aramis erak[/MENTION], I was going in response to the person who was commenting who mapped D&D listed wages vs. D&D listed prices. Anything else is welcome for verisimilitude but not relevant to that specific response.
And I was providing background data that shows your incredulity was slightly off base.

It's also worth noting that the prices in shillings are reasonably close to the D&D OE and AD&D price lists.

The comparison - a single common outfit being 10% or more of annual income - makes the use of magical garments in the 1000% annual income isn't that untoward. Especially since the base labor vs court garments in the 20£ to 30£ range (some 400 to 600 shillings)... a shirt that provided permanent comfort for a few years base-level income is not something that will go unsold - especially to merchants or senior guildsmen. Be almost de rigueur for nobles.
 

TheSword

Explorer
A simple disguise self spell would bring down our entire criminal judicial system. CCTV would be useless, eye witness testimony, even security passes, photo ID. All would become useless just because of the risk of someone using this spell.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
And I was providing background data that shows your incredulity was slightly off base.
Respectfully, you were not.

You providied non-D&D information that in some ways looked compatible, but was at odds with the labor costs/pricing in the book that we were discussing.

Since the entire point was the ratio of the D&D income to the D&D magic item price, that information was not directly useful and could be misleading.

Sure, some DMs may tweak their economy to match historic, but I was responding to a question about the D&D numbers as provided by the original poster. If you want to debate the book is wrong on labor rates and costs, that's a valid discussion but a separate one.
 
A simple disguise self spell would bring down our entire criminal judicial system. CCTV would be useless, eye witness testimony, even security passes, photo ID. All would become useless just because of the risk of someone using this spell.
That's where Zone of Truth is useful.
 

Hussar

Legend
Frankly, depending on edition, Detect Evil is likely the most societally changing spell.

In any edition, you only radiate evil if you have actually committed evil acts - just thinking bad thoughts isn't enough to make a character actually evil. So, anyone that pings as evil has actually committed some sort of very bad act.

Which leads pretty quickly to the horror scenario of lining anyone who pings as evil up against the wall for a quick bout of metal poisoning. Medieval punishments weren't exactly subtle after all. And long term incarceration is a fairly modern concept for anyone that wasn't a noble.

Or, for the more "humane" societies, Detect Evil combined with a Helmet of Opposite Alignment. Yikes, how's that for reforming criminals?
 

Darth Solo

Villager
Another silly thread.

Magic could transform the entire world.

The limit of magic is only imagination.

Next thread ---
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
Thinking more on the legalese that would come to accommodate spells (Command: “[word that means ‘to tell the entire truth about the situation we are here to discuss without abridgment or any other form of obfuscation]”)

I wonder what other linguistic changes we would see?

Gnomes would be incredible spies, as well. Forest gnomes especially, but Rock Gnomes wouldn’t have the limitations of 5e tinkering being basically not a thing. But mostly, it’s harder to use magic to make them talk, dupe them, charm/dominate them, etc. In fact, in modern style warfare, Gnomes quickly become one of the most frightening races in the game.

I really think that the spells that create fire, water, and cold/ice, and the elemental cantrips+prestidigitation would be what changes the world most. Cleanliness reduces disease, irrigation improves farming, and most of those can be used as ways to generate power.
 

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