D&D 5E World Building: Did magic evolve?

With a thanks to @squibbles
So I asked for general DM advise, because hello I am new to Dming. However I would like to start a series of specific posts asking about different parts of world building. This isn't a plus thread per say, but if you think I should not world build that is not very helpful.
Also Warning, I ramble when I am excited even in text.

(if you want to see part 1 https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-commerce-and-gold.698360/ if your want to see part 2 https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-army-building.698375/ and there is a part 2b someone else spun off https://www.enworld.org/threads/wor...-in-military-application.698390/#post-9051859 )
Part 3 https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-tech-magic-and-society.698394/ (and 3b spin off again where I get told that a cantrip can't do what a cantrip says https://www.enworld.org/threads/worldbuilding-destruction-and-siege-via-mold-earth.698457/
And another spin off about the mechanics of spells https://www.enworld.org/threads/wor...ics-of-spellcasting-tell-us-of-flavor.698470/

Okay, so wind up to question 3: Did (in your world) magic evolve or has it always been like it is now?

Okay so @squibbles had a great post inone of the above links about how magic effects the world if you get a 5th level druid or bard to feed people you don't need farms ect ect ect…

But when I was responding I started to think, we don't assume tech today was the tech of 2,000 years ago. Sometimes it seems to me like some DMs just assume every spell today was there in the "time before time" and that doesn't have to be the answer (although it can be).

So I am not a forgotten realms lore master, I have read about half of 1 novel and didn't like it, and I have only played in the realms in Adventure League, and I have 0 interest in running it… BUT I know that magic changed a bunch of times, not only to keep up with editions but just as back story cause there used to be 13th level spells that let you steal god hood.

So I started to imagine that wizards make spells. Like fireball didn't exsist at some point and then someone made it. Someone most likely made a cold 3rd level spell and an acid and a force 3rd level AoE too, but they didn't 'catch on' like fireball did. Imagine the first caster that got hit with a counter spell saying "What just happened?"

But sorcerers are born with the same spells wizards make, and warlocks make deals with devils and demons to learn fireball… so at some point the 'science' of fireball became generic enough that people could just do it.

What about clerics/druids? Did someone 'invent' cure wounds then ask the gods for it? Did someone just get given cure wounds and others asked to duplicate it? Or did the gods all sit down at a table and decide what powers they could or should give followers?
Again like warlock, there are wizard spells that clerics can cast too. So did a god grant it to clerics and a wizard back engineer it, or did a wizard invent it and a god took it and said "Good idea now every one of my followers can take this too"
 

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Stormonu

Legend
I think I first saw this in Dragonlance, but in my homebrew, Chaos was the original state of things - and that is the core of magic.

In this regard, all possibilities existed and reality was not locked down. The appearance of the first god began to apply order and law to Chaos, forging what we would call reality. The gods and such powers control raw access to magic, as unfettered access would break down the laws of reality and if left unchecked, possibly destroy it.

Magic, therefore, is breaking down the laws of reality back to its chaotic state and allowing strange, unusual and impossible things to occur. Areas of antimagic and worlds without magic are under the thumb of "Law", where everything must obey what we would term "the laws of physics" (and in extreme cases, may be so locked down that things like chemical reactions may be suppressed or don't even work).

Sorcerers (and some Bards) then, are conduits to raw Chaos. Wizards (and some Bards) are lawbreakers, who unravel the laws of reality to accomplish their magical desires. Warlocks (and some Bards) are rules lawyers, who twist the established "laws" to tap into the power of Chaos and utilize magic. Clerics (and Druids) are the most restricted - by obeying the laws of the gods (or "Nature"), they are allowed to tap into "approved" magics that are overseen by the various powers and doled out to those worthy of using it properly.

Demons then become rather interesting and horrific beings - they seek unfettered access to Chaos and the disruption of reality; possibly even its utter destruction. Anyone who allies with them is essentially risking the destruction of reality as they know it.

The beings of the Realm of Madness, therefore, live by different laws of what they constitute reality. Though they promote a reality that is more prone to change and mutation, they still seek a form of defined reality - though twisted by our standards, and more prone to direct manipulation of Chaos itself. They still oppose demons though; the Old Ones want a closer association with Chaos than most D&D realities, but they don't want their more open interpretation of reality to go back to the Chaotic soup sans reality.

As for who invented what spell, I've done it as it's been an over time thing. By the time players enter the world, the PHB spells have long been in use and defined. Spells from other books and supplements may yet be undiscovered or only in the hands of a lucky few who have solved the riddle of figuring out how such a spell works. I've even had players (and bad guys) design their own spells that only they have access to - unless they choose to share it with others for one reason or another.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Okay, so wind up to question 3: Did (in your world) magic evolve or has it always been like it is now?
Great question, but it seems to transform into "did magic spells evolve?" To the original: in my world, magic is a natural part of existence, like gravity, light, inertia, and taxes.

The flip side, which I don't really prefer, is that magic is like technology. It's man (or spirit) made, and becomes more powerful as brain- or willpower is dedicated to it.

Okay so @squibbles had a great post inone of the above links about how magic effects the world if you get a 5th level druid or bard to feed people you don't need farms ect ect ect…
That's a bold leap, assuming in-world magic follows only in-book rules, and of course, that you can catch one of these ephemeral "bards."

So I started to imagine that wizards make spells. Like fireball didn't exsist at some point and then someone made it. Someone most likely made a cold 3rd level spell and an acid and a force 3rd level AoE too, but they didn't 'catch on' like fireball did. Imagine the first caster that got hit with a counter spell saying "What just happened?"
Next you're going to tell me that my library didn't just write itself...

But an ancient campaign in which wizards have only three spells sounds pretty awesome.

But sorcerers are born with the same spells wizards make, and warlocks make deals with devils and demons to learn fireball… so at some point the 'science' of fireball became generic enough that people could just do it.
This is solid proof that sorcerers, and especially warlocks, are just a lie propagated by Wizards of the Coast.

What about clerics/druids? Did someone 'invent' cure wounds then ask the gods for it? Did someone just get given cure wounds and others asked to duplicate it? Or did the gods all sit down at a table and decide what powers they could or should give followers?
I think of D&D priest powers as prayers more than spells. The caster prays for a specific effect and the god says, "yeah, I'll grant it." Which explains their broad access to different spells. But for world-building, the deeper question is, "do gods really exist as people understand them, and if not, where's this magic coming from?"
 

Oofta

Legend
With a thanks to @squibbles
So I asked for general DM advise, because hello I am new to Dming. However I would like to start a series of specific posts asking about different parts of world building. This isn't a plus thread per say, but if you think I should not world build that is not very helpful.
Also Warning, I ramble when I am excited even in text.


(if you want to see part 1 https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-commerce-and-gold.698360/ if your want to see part 2 https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-army-building.698375/ and there is a part 2b someone else spun off https://www.enworld.org/threads/wor...-in-military-application.698390/#post-9051859 )
Part 3 https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-tech-magic-and-society.698394/ (and 3b spin off again where I get told that a cantrip can't do what a cantrip says https://www.enworld.org/threads/worldbuilding-destruction-and-siege-via-mold-earth.698457/
And another spin off about the mechanics of spells https://www.enworld.org/threads/wor...ics-of-spellcasting-tell-us-of-flavor.698470/


Okay, so wind up to question 3: Did (in your world) magic evolve or has it always been like it is now?

One of the default assumptions of D&D has long been that there was once an advance version of civilization that fell. It helps explain where all those dungeons come from. It also means that there are legendary items and artifacts, magic that people once understood and mastered but that is now out of reach.

So to answer your question, people once understood magic better than the current world. That fundamental understanding has been lost so spells originated from lost magical theories, wizards know how to cast a fireball but that's just because we have fragmentary knowledge of magic from the ancients. Kind of like someone with no understanding of the technology finding a flashlight and knowing how to use it without knowing how it works.

Another possibility is just that people are shaping magic to their will and the incantations and gestures are just there to help the wizard's intellect shape the magic into a fireball. The magic is always there, but mere mortals are limited into what they can produce. There are rules in the DMG for making new spells, along with guidelines of how powerful they should be. Ninth level spells are simply the most powerful effect of manipulating magic people can obtain. Spells like fireball are used not because they are the only way a 5th level wizard could use magic, it's because it's a common useful standard. That, and because it's a game that simplifies everything.

Okay so @squibbles had a great post inone of the above links about how magic effects the world if you get a 5th level druid or bard to feed people you don't need farms ect ect ect…
I disagreed with that theory on the other thread. I don't think everyone that would like to become a caster can become a caster.
But when I was responding I started to think, we don't assume tech today was the tech of 2,000 years ago. Sometimes it seems to me like some DMs just assume every spell today was there in the "time before time" and that doesn't have to be the answer (although it can be).

So I am not a forgotten realms lore master, I have read about half of 1 novel and didn't like it, and I have only played in the realms in Adventure League, and I have 0 interest in running it… BUT I know that magic changed a bunch of times, not only to keep up with editions but just as back story cause there used to be 13th level spells that let you steal god hood.

So I started to imagine that wizards make spells. Like fireball didn't exsist at some point and then someone made it. Someone most likely made a cold 3rd level spell and an acid and a force 3rd level AoE too, but they didn't 'catch on' like fireball did. Imagine the first caster that got hit with a counter spell saying "What just happened?"

But sorcerers are born with the same spells wizards make, and warlocks make deals with devils and demons to learn fireball… so at some point the 'science' of fireball became generic enough that people could just do it.

I just chalk this up to game streamlining. But in-universe? It just happens that fireball for whatever reason is relatively easy to create for the power level the caster has obtained.

What about clerics/druids? Did someone 'invent' cure wounds then ask the gods for it? Did someone just get given cure wounds and others asked to duplicate it? Or did the gods all sit down at a table and decide what powers they could or should give followers?
Again like warlock, there are wizard spells that clerics can cast too. So did a god grant it to clerics and a wizard back engineer it, or did a wizard invent it and a god took it and said "Good idea now every one of my followers can take this too"

Why do all cell phones look and function basically the same way? Because there's a pattern that works fairly well given the technology that we have. People have tried alternatives and they fell out of favor for various technologies for different reasons. Remember when augmented reality was going to be the next big thing and Google released augmented reality glasses (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Glass) If you don't that's because it simply didn't appeal. Clerics have cure wounds because it works so there's no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Last, but not least, people used stone, wood and bone for millennia for many reasons. It wasn't because they were less intelligent (they may have been more intelligent, they certainly had skills we've lost) it was because the tools worked for them and the pressures of survival didn't give them the options to develop metal tools.
 

It's not something I think about in every time, but I did try it for one campaign to help explain the nature of the BBEG.

Magic always existed in the form of divine boons and natural energies. 1st and 2nd level Cleric and Druid spells were the first to be used by mortals. As time went on the connection of magic to the material world grew. Clerics and Druids were then able to use 3rd level spells. Just like at the table these new spells were quite powerful and started shaping the world in new ways. Not long after this a powerful entity not from the material plane was able to come to the world in person. This was only made possible by the growing connection to magic. The entity's stay on the material world was brief, but in that time it showed a number of mortals that magic could be commanded without the aid of an intermediary (a god or the primal source). It didn't actually teach people spells. Just the basic knowledge of how to go about doing so. This gave rise to the first Wizards. It was a slow process, but over millennia the most powerful Wizards began to rival the most powerful Clerics and Druids.

Time continues onward and 4th level spells start appearing across the world. They didn't show up all at once. New Arcane, Divine, and Primal spells are still discovered even in the modern time of the campaign. However, the majority were discovered/gifted to mortals long before the campaign's start. Eventually the magic of the world hits a wall. The idea of higher level spells were known, but no mortal was able to cast a spell of 5th level or higher. Another entity came to the world from elsewhere claiming the world's connection to magic was too weak and that there was a way to make it greater intentionally. The entity combined it's essence with mortals to create new beings with a natural connection to magic. These Sorcerers, just by existing, were able to grow the connection to magic and we get 5th and 6th level spells in a short amount of time.

This explosion of magical potential (high level spells as well as more people being able to use magic) led to a lot of creative destruction and times of upheaval. Warlocks, Bards, Paladins, and other types of magic users arrived on the scene leading up to the start of the campaign a few decades later.

It's a pretty simple evolution of magic. Gods were always able to grant much more powerful magic, but the world couldn't magically handle it. The same goes for Druids. Wizards were able to theorize greater workings of magic, but lacked the ability to reach them. Not unlike future technologies for us today.
 

greg kaye

Explorer
...
So I started to imagine that wizards make spells. Like fireball didn't exsist at some point and then someone made it. Someone most likely made a cold 3rd level spell and an acid and a force 3rd level AoE too, but they didn't 'catch on' like fireball did. ...
I think that this view was far more consistent with earlier versions of D&D.
Now, we find that as well as being a spell for wizards, fireball can also be cast by: sorcerers; fiend and genie warlocks; light domain clerics; and artillerists. I like the analogy presented by:
...
Why do all cell phones look and function basically the same way? Because there's a pattern that works fairly well given the technology that we have. People have tried alternatives and they fell out of favor for various technologies for different reasons. ...
Perhaps progress with magic was a journey of discovery and, much like our discoveries in science, perhaps the question might be which discoveries were made first.
I like the idea that people may have always had a hunch that the wish spell might somehow be a possibility even though it was way beyond the potential of most. Other things like counterspell might have been relatively recent discoveries and, who knows, perhaps this one might have been developed instinctively by a sorcerer and subsequently emulated by wizards.
 

Let's remember oficially lots of D&D spells were created by the first players: Moderkainen, Melf, Bigby, Tenser..These were totally unknown until they were inveted by that generation of spellcasters.
 

Let's remember oficially lots of D&D spells were created by the first players: Moderkainen, Melf, Bigby, Tenser..These were totally unknown until they were inveted by that generation of spellcasters.
I don't think those characters exists anymore do they? I know the names are there but I am no realms or ebberon lore master but I think those wizards never lived in those.
 



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