D&D 5E World Building: Tech, Magic, and Society

greg kaye

Explorer
Why do you think people in Fantasyland live in underground dungeons and stone towers, not motte and bailey castles?
If mold earth could move non-loose earth, you could rapidly undermine many structures, without risking mining. ⚒️
A lot of worldbuilding could be rapidly unbuilt.
 

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If mold earth could move non-loose earth, you could rapidly undermine many structures, without risking mining. ⚒️
Corse you can, but that's trivial compared to the effect of rapid ploughing on agriculture. And a great many other spells have a similarly huge effect on society. If you assume player characters are a representative sample of the general population, and work through the implications, you end up with a world that looks more like Star Trek than anything remotely medieval.

Your old school pseudo-medieval D&D setting (e.g. Greyhawk) relied on a combination of player character exceptionalism, smoke and mirrors.
 
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greg kaye

Explorer
Corse you can, but that's trivial compared to the effect of rapid ploughing on agriculture. And a great many other spells have a similarly huge effect on society. If you assume player characters are a representative sample of the general population, and work through the implications, you end up with a world that looks more like Star Trek than anything remotely medieval.

Your old school pseudo-medieval D&D setting (e.g. Greyhawk) relied on a combination of player character exceptionalism, smoke and mirrors.
Mold earth could certainly have a great effect on quarrying and mining. Lines of quarriers and miners could loosen materials and the caster could do some major level clearing up. But, RAW, the spell works with loose earth. It doesn't loosen earth.
 

Mold earth could certainly have a great effect on quarrying and mining. Lines of quarriers and miners could loosen materials and the caster could do some major level clearing up. But, RAW, the spell works with loose earth. It doesn't loosen earth.
"Loose earth" = not stone. If you can shovel it, it's loose earth. The spell is basically "a shovel, only faster".

But as I say, there are hundreds of spells that massively change the shape of society if they are assumed to be common. I wouldn't get hung up on just one.
 

It is curious, but now I am thinking about the isekai subgenre, where we can see the potential impact in the society of people with memories of an higher technologic level.

And it is not only about if the technology is known, discovered or invented but if this also can be shared and used by the rest of population.

Noble houses could live more time thanks they can spend money to buy rejuvenetion potions.

Criminals could be punished into forced reincarnations of warforged, autognome or goblings for forced works.

Concrete was known in the Roman empire.

* Now I suspect the possible influence of sci-fi survival videogames where players have to create a farm, but they enjoy the help by advanced technology, for example 3D-printer machines to craft tools. I mean the speculative fiction in 2023 can be a serious influence into the D&D mythology created by the new generation of players. And those steampunk vechiles from World of Warcraft.

* A peasant in some D&D world could enjoy a live life like a citizen from XIX.

* Firearms could be banned in almost all zones.
 

Oofta

Legend
"Loose earth" = not stone. If you can shovel it, it's loose earth. The spell is basically "a shovel, only faster".

But as I say, there are hundreds of spells that massively change the shape of society if they are assumed to be common. I wouldn't get hung up on just one.

One of the things you see constantly on TV is people doing things like digging up graves with a shovel. First, it would take hours upon hours of work. Second, even here in the not-clay-soil-that-may-as-well-be-rock northern Midwest in most places you aren't digging down more than a foot or two without a pickaxe. You aren't digging up a grave easily with just a shovel, you aren't moving all that much with mold earth.

People dramatically underestimate how easily modern machinery can move dirt so if that's all you have experience with, you don't understand the different between loose dirt surface soil and digging any reasonable depth in most places.
 

One of the things you see constantly on TV is people doing things like digging up graves with a shovel. First, it would take hours upon hours of work. Second, even here in the not-clay-soil-that-may-as-well-be-rock northern Midwest in most places you aren't digging down more than a foot or two without a pickaxe. You aren't digging up a grave easily with just a shovel, you aren't moving all that much with mold earth.

People dramatically underestimate how easily modern machinery can move dirt so if that's all you have experience with, you don't understand the different between loose dirt surface soil and digging any reasonable depth in most places.
Exotic environments are exotic. Most of Europe, if it isn't paved over or bare rock the ground can be dug with a shovel. That's why they invented motte and bailey castles in the first place - a few blokes with shovels could throw up a motte pretty quickly, before the locals cottoned on to what you were up to and knocked it down. Same with Roman forts an First World War trenches. Equip your soldiers with shovels and they could build some defences pretty much anywhere before nightfall.
 
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greg kaye

Explorer
One of the things you see constantly on TV is people doing things like digging up graves with a shovel. First, it would take hours upon hours of work. Second, even here in the not-clay-soil-that-may-as-well-be-rock northern Midwest in most places you aren't digging down more than a foot or two without a pickaxe. You aren't digging up a grave easily with just a shovel, you aren't moving all that much with mold earth.

People dramatically underestimate how easily modern machinery can move dirt so if that's all you have experience with, you don't understand the different between loose dirt surface soil and digging any reasonable depth in most places.
Yep, digging was hard work and took time. I'd be interested in daily quotas for ditch, canal and other digging say in Victorian times. I'd seen something on this previously but haven't found them again.
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Here is a site with time estimates for moving dirt by hand tool vs power equipment. Light would be loam/silt, heavy would be clays, gravel-laden soils or caliche (using a pickaxe)


I had a rough idea of how slow it was from my professional work, but it was a matter of backing in unit cost per volume to the hourly labor rate.

I once dug a very shallow ditch by hand to redirect surface flooding away from a relative's basement. It suuuucked. I was using a mattock to cut through the sod (which made the first 2-3 inches go pretty quick) but where I needed depth to get through a very small high spot was just.....ugh.

Never again. I own a 30hp tractor with a front end loader now along with a plow, grader and blade. Having said that, I used it to dig a grave for a large dog and that still took an hour to get the right depth.
 
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Yep, digging was hard work and took time. I'd be interested in daily quotas for ditch, canal and other digging say in Victorian times. I'd seen something on this previously but haven't found them again.
A while ago I did some research in how much / fast a person could dig a hole. I figured that gravedigging would set a reasonable standard. I found a reference from the 1800s that discussed gravedigging in Nova Scotia. It reported that it took two men six hours to dig a grave 7 ft deep, 6 ft long, 2 ft wide using wooden shovels in "rocky soil". Long time.

Random fact of the day.

(And this was in the context of a storm disaster, so there were 40-60 bodies that needed to be buried. Harsh.)
 

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