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

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
A cool idea from the ACKS game is that some spells are the result of a breakthrough, this works better in the earlier editions, but the spell fireball for instance, was originally a 5th level spell but due to enterprising wizards, a major breakthrough was made with shortcuts which allowed it to retain the same power but as a 3rd level spell. For a time, both versions might have been floating around, perhaps with a 4th level version also put there somewhere. Presumably less people were interested in improving cone of cold.
 

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greg kaye

Explorer
A cool idea from the ACKS game is that some spells are the result of a breakthrough, this works better in the earlier editions, but the spell fireball for instance, was originally a 5th level spell but due to enterprising wizards, a major breakthrough was made with shortcuts which allowed it to retain the same power but as a 3rd level spell. For a time, both versions might have been floating around, perhaps with a 4th level version also put there somewhere. Presumably less people were interested in improving cone of cold.
While there have been changes to various of the parameters of various spells, fireball has always given good bang for it's buck.
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I think spells have just been edited between editions for the sake of playability but that, as say the worlds of 5e are concerned, earlier editions never existed.
 
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Hmm. I always thought of magic as having a stable nature but with evolving (and occasionally regressing) understanding by mortals. So the theoretical ability to cast wall of fire existed before the first beings capable of saying spells existed. Kind of like the idea that if you mixed the right stuff you'd get gunpowder - and this was true millions of years before anything capable of "mixing on purpose" first appeared on Earth.

But I have played in games where magic power waxes and wanes over historic timescales. Like, 1,000 years ago dragons roamed the earth and magic was plentiful, but then the dragons left and magic faded. But now it's coming back. Those can be fun.
 

TwoSix

Uncomfortably diegetic
But I have played in games where magic power waxes and wanes over historic timescales. Like, 1,000 years ago dragons roamed the earth and magic was plentiful, but then the dragons left and magic faded. But now it's coming back. Those can be fun.
Waxing and waning magical strength over time is also a great way to explain why there are a bunch of old ruins with a bunch of magical treasure for adventurers to find just laying around. Magic wanes, civilizations collapse, leaving behind their now-useless magical treasures.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Hmm. I always thought of magic as having a stable nature but with evolving (and occasionally regressing) understanding by mortals. So the theoretical ability to cast wall of fire existed before the first beings capable of saying spells existed. Kind of like the idea that if you mixed the right stuff you'd get gunpowder - and this was true millions of years before anything capable of "mixing on purpose" first appeared on Earth.

But I have played in games where magic power waxes and wanes over historic timescales. Like, 1,000 years ago dragons roamed the earth and magic was plentiful, but then the dragons left and magic faded. But now it's coming back. Those can be fun.
Going into spoiler territory for my game (not that any of my players are members here):

When the world was younger, legends walked and myths grew in fertile soil. The Eladrin ("El-Adrin," as the Arabic-inspired trade language of the Tarrakhuna puts it), Genie-Rajahs, and Dragons were among those who made fundamental pacts with the great spirits, ur-beings of the nature of existence, like the World-Serpent, Grandfather Oak and Grandmother Orange, the Spirit of All Winds, etc. In making these pacts, they received great power, and were able to guard and protect the land and the mortals that lived there. (It is likely that the modern genies are the descendants of ancient humans who took these pacts, and passed part of that power to their children, just as elves appear to be the descendants of the long-vanished El-Adrin.) Different groups carried these burdens differently. The Genie-Rajahs were harsh--some cruel, some benevolent, but always they ruled from on high and mortals were far beneath them. The Dragons, far away in Yuxia, were far more benevolent--they took roles as advisors and protectors, not as rulers. Little is known of the El-Adrin, but they seem to have been a mix of the two, perhaps charging all of their people with some part of the pact.

But then, a time came when those who could peer through the skein of time saw that the legends would depart, the myths would wither on the vine. Some magic would remain--arguably, still great magic indeed--but the magic they had always known would not. Again, each took this news differently. The Dragons simply shouldered it as another burden, having already filled many of the same roles that the more-benevolent celestials did before the great change. The Genie-Rajahs, already facing the problems of a society built on the back of vast numbers of slaves, decided to abandon their oaths and their land entirely, and undertook a great exodus to Al-Akirah, the elemental otherworld, forming the many city-states of the land called "Jinnistan" today (analogous to the Tarrakhuna region.) The El-Adrin took perhaps an even more extreme approach than the Genie-Rajahs. Instead of simply packing up for another plane with higher ambient magic...they apparently pulled their entire society out, into some sort of pocket plane, awaiting the day when the magic comes back, and enchanting their lands to reject anyone else who might settle there.*

All of this, as the party has learned, because something was imprisoned on this world. It's not clear who or what, just yet--but they know it is old, seemingly immortal, and powerful...and hungry for a way to escape. It has mindflayers lead its forces and blood-cultists for servants. It is the "Burning Eye," also known as Azimech al-Saqqit, the "Uplifted and Fallen One." We are (finally!) starting to explore exactly what that means. But the coming of the Burning Eye meant the world itself changed. Magic is less than it was. Spirits are quieter, subtler things. The dead do not rest easy in their tombs. Dark things crawl in the deep wastes far from civilization, and sometimes they wander out into more inhabited places. The world is not cursed, but it is surrounded by a barrier that allows things to get in, but does not allow them to get out.

So, in that sense, magic has "evolved"--or, rather, reduced. Some of what magic was once capable of--the greatest heights, the most powerful of ensorcelling--simply isn't anymore. But at least the El-Adrin believed it could be again, some day. Perhaps if the Burning Eye is destroyed, or confined in some new way, or reformed.

Tune in to find out, on Jewel of the Desert...

*That was my perhaps-kludgy explanation for why nobody has settled the places they abandoned. Essentially, any attempt to build any physical structure more complex than a lean-to inevitably results in that structure collapsing at a vastly accelerated rate, animals behave erratically and attack attempted settlers, crops will refuse to grow, iron will rust to powder in mere weeks, etc., etc., etc. The land itself rejects anyone else attempting to settle the "Elf-Forests," as they are known today--not even the elves, the remnant of the El-Adrin who were changed by all this, can live there.

TL;DR: There's an elder orb beholder, The Burning Eye, very powerful, that has been imprisoned on the PCs' world because it used to belong to a society of LN beholderkin, but went full evil, and thus they stripped it of much of its former power and imprisoned it on this world. Most of the celestials left the planet prior to that event, entrusting protection of the mortal world to the "Guardians"--Dragons, Genies, Eladrin, etc.--that were the world's protectors, but most of them shirked that duty (other than the Dragons, but they don't interfere in other lands' affairs, so their protection is not global.) The Burning Eye longs to return to the heavens and wreak vengeance on its comrades. More or less, I'm heavily inspired by the Crayak on this one, if you're familiar with Animorphs. The party's moves have both disrupted the Burning Eye's plans...and yet also uncovered secrets long buried that can be exploited. So they're a thorn in its side, but also useful. We'll see how that plays out now that this jerk's about to become the fiend of the hour, as it were.
 
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nevin

Hero
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"
always been like it is now. Just like Gravity, Oxygen, earth, water, fire and air.
 

nevin

Hero
Waxing and waning magical strength over time is also a great way to explain why there are a bunch of old ruins with a bunch of magical treasure for adventurers to find just laying around. Magic wanes, civilizations collapse, leaving behind their now-useless magical treasures.
nah. The stupidity of smart people in large group's believing what they want to believe instead of the evidence cover's every up and down in a story. You don't need reality to let people down. They do it to themselves.
 

TwoSix

Uncomfortably diegetic
nah. The stupidity of smart people in large group's believing what they want to believe instead of the evidence cover's every up and down in a story. You don't need reality to let people down. They do it to themselves.
That's another possible explanation, of course. Lots of ways to build a setting.
 

nevin

Hero
I don't mind disasters explaining civilizations collapsing but the laws of reality changing just seems lazy like a time travel episode to reboot the franchise.
Now a civilization that used magic to hold back the ice from the ice age that wasn't ready for the melt that required thier magic to hold back the ocean seems much more like intelligent beings thinking they can control change. In my campaign world that's the big advantage Elves have. They live long enough they know if the sea starts rising you move. And since they plan LOOOONG term they worry about these things.
 


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