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robertsconley

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Once the treasure is won where can it be spent? One popular choice is to build or buy a stronghold, whether it is a lonely wilderness outpost, a crossroad inn, or a building in a bustling city state.

Buying versus Building
If the campaign is set in a city or town, often there isn’t room for new construction. Instead the characters will have to purchase an existing structure or at the very least a vacant lot.
Unlike the modern era, people in medieval and ancient time didn’t generally view the buying and selling of property as a means of profit. While specifics varied between cultures, examples include property viewed as a having a just price (see Thomas Aquinas), or the property was part of a bundle of rights individuals were due in their culture because of tradition, law, or social standing.

For my campaigns, I simplified this. Purchase of property in most cultures of my setting is viewed as an investment made for the income it produced. Not unlike buying a share of stock in a company. The value may go up and down based on larger events, but like a stock it has a specific value that is bought or sold at. Therefore, for these rules the price to buy a stronghold is the same as its construction cost. It reflects its fair price.
This sounds odd to a modern reader. In the modern era, a real estate developer will buy property, hire a contractor for construction and then in turn sell the property at a price higher than what the developer paid.

In the setting I created, there are no real estate developers. Those with the wealth to buy real estate and building would be outraged if somebody tried to sell them land or buildings for more than its fair value.

Instead buildings are built as investments by those who plan to use them. A lord builds a castle as the lynchpin of a domain, a craftsman constructs or renovates a shop on a lot.
When sold, the buyer pays only the actual value of the investment. What society considers at the time its “fair” value. Buying and selling at a profit is reserved for grubby merchants dealing in various commodities or luxuries like grain, spices, silk, or (gasp) magic items. Even then they are only tolerated not praised by the nobles, clergy, and peasants.
Keep in mind that the fair value can rise and fall depending on local conditions. It also varies from its construction price if its use to produce income radically changes.

If there is little difference in cost in buying versus building, why build at all?

First because land and building are viewed as an income producing investment, the market is limited, people of the times are conservative about losing a source of income, and the property was often tied to a bundle of rights reflecting a social station in the culture like a knight’s manor. Loss of the property could mean the loss of one’s social standing. This meant the property you what may not be available at any reasonable price. Hence the need to build. In addition, if you build you also get to tailor the land or building to your specification rather than having to deal with already there.

It is possible to build at a cost lower than its fair value if you control the basic resources that are needed. Namely the right to harvest wood from a forest, and control of a stone quarry. Without needing to pay the market rate for lumber and stone, you can easily build at 75% of the cost or lower.
Not much in the way of mechanics in this post. But thinking about this and doing the research has allowed me to solve a long standing issue in how I run campaign. When PCs want to buy instead of build, what the price? And what the motivation of the NPCs selling the property?
 

robertsconley

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Farewell to Magic, A brief essay on the economics of a fantasy setting​

In a previous post, I talked about how I resolved the issue of how to price real estate for when my players want to buy not build.

One poster posted on face an interesting comment about the lack of profit motive my post implied. One part stood out as a reminder of how I view the Majestic Fantasy Realms.

Without any profit there is no growth and they would stay in the Middle Ages forever.

Over the decades, even before the internet, sometime I got into debates over how a fantasy setting would work, especially with my friends who knew how I ran the Majestic Wilderlands. One thread of the conversation was the impact of magic. Some who I talked to believe that magic would guarantee prosperity, create what we would now call a post scarcity society.

My counterpoint, that the Industrial Revolution wasn't just about about technology but also ideas of how people can organize themselves or conduct business with each other. Without those idea, all what would happen with magic is the lives of an elite few would get better while the rest of the populace would have marginally better lives like the introduction of the horse collar allow formally difficult to cultivate lands to be brought under the plow to grow food. I usually pegged the average effect of magic at 20% better.
But it was just a guess based on instinct on what I read about history.

Then a few years back, I read a book that I felt gave my opinion a little more weight. It called a Farewell to Alms: A brief economic history of the world.



The thesis as far as my post goes, is that prior to the industrial revolution. Improvements in technology or society only resulted in a temporary increase in prosperity. With more food and better living condition, the birth rate rose. Within in a handful of generations, the population grew to the point where living conditions were no better than before, except now there are more people.

One main reason is that the pace of technological and society productivity prior to the industrial age could not keep pace with the birth rate except in brief burst. Like the introduction of the horse collar allowed areas with thick heavy soils to be cultivated easily greatly expanding where crops could be grown.

In this regard magic is no different than technology. The spread of using magic throughout a culture would bring about a temporary prosperity, which will bring about an increase in birth rate, which over time would bring everything back to the way it was except now there are more people.

That is until conditions are such that ideas, technology, (and magic since we are talking fantasy) come together to form an industrial magical revolution. Where productivity increases outstrip birth rate for decades and centuries.

As I been saying for years to friends, the Majestic Fantasy Realms is set in the time period before all that happens. But it nice that my guess has better foundation in fact.

It is a good book and I recommend it highly. It also goes into why the first industrial revolution happen which may provide inspiration for a different kind of fantasy campaign set during that time. If that interest you I recommend getting Susanna Clark's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell. A story of English magic set during the Napoleonic Wars.
 

Lofgeornost

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The thesis as far as my post goes, is that prior to the industrial revolution. Improvements in technology or society only resulted in a temporary increase in prosperity. With more food and better living condition, the birth rate rose. Within in a handful of generations, the population grew to the point where living conditions were no better than before, except now there are more people.

One main reason is that the pace of technological and society productivity prior to the industrial age could not keep pace with the birth rate except in brief burst. Like the introduction of the horse collar allowed areas with thick heavy soils to be cultivated easily greatly expanding where crops could be grown...

Yeah, this is Mathus' point from his famous Essay on the Principle of Population:
I say that the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second. By that law of our nature which makes food necessary to the life of man, the effects of these two unequal powers must be kept equal. This implies a strong and constantly operating check on population from the difficulty of subsistence. This difficulty must fall somewhere and must necessarily be severely felt by a large portion of mankind...

Economic and social historians argue endlessly about whether pre-industrial societies could escape the Malthusian trap or not. My vague understanding is that some of the more optimistic Roman historians currently believe that Rome did so in the 1st and 2nd centuries C.E.--that productivity rose faster than population, allowing continued growth without reaching Malthusian limits.

On the more limited question of purchase price for land, etc., another way to approach it is in terms of its annual yield. So, if a field, or a manor, generally produces a net revenue of X yearly, its purchase price will be a multiple of X. IIRC, in 16th-century England a standard figure was '20 years purchase'--that is, a piece of land cost roughly 20 times its annual net yield. That of course means a return rate of 5% on investment, which isn't too shabby.
 

robertsconley

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Yeah, this is Mathus' point from his famous Essay on the Principle of Population:


Economic and social historians argue endlessly about whether pre-industrial societies could escape the Malthusian trap or not. My vague understanding is that some of the more optimistic Roman historians currently believe that Rome did so in the 1st and 2nd centuries C.E.--that productivity rose faster than population, allowing continued growth without reaching Malthusian limits.
You have a reference about Rome temporarily escaping the Malthusian trap? That sounds like something I should read up on.

I realize that situations in the past can be nuanced. My main interest is leaning about the possibilities so I can understand the consequences of setting the dials of my setting a certain way. But one needs a start point hence my posts.

On the more limited question of purchase price for land, etc., another way to approach it is in terms of its annual yield. So, if a field, or a manor, generally produces a net revenue of X yearly, its purchase price will be a multiple of X. IIRC, in 16th-century England a standard figure was '20 years purchase'--that is, a piece of land cost roughly 20 times its annual net yield. That of course means a return rate of 5% on investment, which isn't too shabby.
Could you explain that term '20 years purchase'
 

Lofgeornost

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You have a reference about Rome temporarily escaping the Malthusian trap? That sounds like something I should read up on.

Could you explain that term '20 years purchase'

I will have to check a book at home for references on the Roman economy and the Malthusian trap; I'll try to remember and post something tomorrow.

'20 years' purchase' simply means that a buyer would pay for a plot of land, a manor, etc. roughly what it would yield (in net terms) for twenty years added together. So if a field gave its owner an income of 5 shillings a year, then it would sell for 100 shillings, or 5 pounds.
 

xanther

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The Roman economy was also a colonial economy and slave economy. A large portion of Rome's food came from Egypt/Africa; slave labor was a huge component; believe read somewhere that 30% of Rome's population at one time was slave. Such economies rely in large part on conquest, once that halts they tend to contract then collapse.

As to the impact of magic on an economy, and day-to-day life, it is a topic find very interesting. I don't believe you can answer it in the abstract, but rather need to know some details on how magic works in the setting.

A first simple question is how easy is it to make permanent magical items? If very easy, then those items over time will be very common and replace the mundane version. For example, the AD&D 2nd Level Continual Light spell is fairly low level and has a 6" radius (so 60 yards outside IIRC). All it takes is one MU casting 1 spell per day for a year and you have over 300 permanent light lantern's. Talk about a way to easily irk a DM in the day, when I played MUs I always did this, my MU's morning Continual Light spell until I had a good 50 or so glowing objects of all kinds...I always started by asking at lowly level 1 how much a "continual light lantern" cost on the open market...then once could make my own every day... :smile: ...this spell never survived as written.

The logical consequence is after even a few years entire villages and cities would be lit by such magical lanterns. My impression is since these things never break, and the cost seems to be simply the MUs time to memorize they would be cheap, and everywhere. Why use flame to generate a far weaker light that is a fire hazard? Candles would be a luxury item for their ambiance, torches...who in the world would use a torch, they may well be outlawed for indoor use, you made need a special permit to have one. :smile:

The magic that is going to matter is that which provides food, predicts or controls weather, aid in construction, allows for improved transportation, etc.
Let alone the more nefarious uses of magic like using enchantment spells to control people or large beast of burden, or necromancy to raise an undead work force...sure they can only work at night...but if the skeleton can swing a sword it can be controlled to shovel the "night soil" :smile:.

A second simple question is how long has magic been around? If such effective permanent magic has been around since recorded history, it will in it's aggregate effect dramatically change how history evolves...as so many limitations that guided our magic free worlds history simply wouldn't be replicated, and infrastructure, architecture, etc. would have evolved very differently.

Now besides magic, there are magical creatures. The AD&D troll is a great one. What are the limits on it's regeneration? How many pieces can I cut it into before not all of them grow back? Does the troll need energy input (e.g. food) to regrow? Can any creatures eat troll (flame broiled of course so it doesn't re-grow inside them)? If so, can I eat those creatures or troll itself? Beef, pork, chicken...are for the wealthy, the commoners can just get their daily ration of troll steaks from the local "butcher." :smile: Heck, forget the historical problem of feeding an army on the move, just bring your troll supply train, and lop off limbs as needed to feed the troops.

Hence my thesis is if a game has readily available de facto (i.e., if one can re-cast a spell readily before it expires it is de facto permanent) permanent magic, your setting civilizations, and economy, will bear little resemblance to anything in Earth's history. In fact the economy and infrastructure will revolve around magic because basically magic can easily break the laws of physics that act as constraints on what we can do, those very constraints are what shape our history and economy.

Whole sectors of an economy will be very different, whole historical professions irrelevant, resources will be allocated to integrate and exploit magic and magical creatures in preference to mundane resources. Elves and dwarves may show restraint, humans...will exploit things to the maximum.

Now if magic is costly to use, or making it permanent near impossible, then it could have little effect on infrastructure and the economy, as magic cannot simply replace mundane approaches in a cost effective manner.

My conclusion, unless the magic in the game is limited in its strategic applicability it will inevitably dominate the economy and create one that bears only passing resemblance to that of any historical era on Earth, especially any pre-industrial era.
 

robertsconley

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'20 years' purchase' simply means that a buyer would pay for a plot of land, a manor, etc. roughly what it would yield (in net terms) for twenty years added together. So if a field gave its owner an income of 5 shillings a year, then it would sell for 100 shillings, or 5 pounds.
Thanks, any idea when that kind of prices first appear or was first documented? I seen some papers on the 16th century using this pricing method.
 

robertsconley

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Magic and Society (Feb 2010)​

Magic are a major part of fantasy RPGs especially in the various editions of D&D. However it's impact on the setting is highly subjective and dependent on the rules that govern magic for a particular system.

For GURPS, the system I have the most experience with, my opinion that raw GURPS would result in settings that would be a lot like ours but 20% better. People would be healthier, and wealthier, but it would not result in a societal revolution at the medieval level of technology. This is many because to do the really earth shattering stuff in GURPS you need to have a good number of points. To get that number of points on a normal basis would require a lot of hours of study. During which time you need to be supported with food, water, and quarters. At lower levels you may be highly effective in combat or in crafting but it cost an order of magnitude less resources to get the equivalent capability by having a larger quantity of people doing it a mundane way.

However in many situations magic will make a different hence the +20%. Plaques will be less deadly, harvests more reliable, life expectancy a little longer. Make magic easier to learn or more power quickly then technology level where a magical revolution occurs will drops. Like our own industrial revolution all the rules of society and economics will changes after a magical revolution.

So that is GURPS what about D&D more specifically the form represented by Swords & Wizardry.

The bottleneck is that vancian spell system. You got a slot you can cast a memorized spells from it 1/day. This can be modified by how easy it is to create magic items especially potions and scrolls. Last outside of adventurers (i.e. the PCs) how do people advance in magical ability (or levels). How long it takes?

One thing is clear that like GURPS S&W/OD&D you need to memorize spells. That is do nothing else for a set time in order to have a spell memorize and ready to do. That time not spent farming, herding, or otherwise working. Luckily in our own history we have analogous situations and the medieval monasteries, universities, and cathedrals. Earlier still we have institutions like the Library at Alexandria or the Academy at Athens.

From this we know that if magic doesn't help food production that it's practitioners are going be very limited in numbers. At lower levels of technology the surplus food to support people doing nothing but studying is limited. Plus it will be competing against things like the needs of the nobles, the craftsmen, and especially those of religion.

The more magic effect food production the more surplus there is to support extra stuff. Note it may not just need to effect yield, achieving a more consistent harvest would also have a similar effect.

Let's see what the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules has.

Create Water is a 4th level spell castable by 6th level Priest. A fair amount of training is going to be needed to cast this spells. And it is limited to water for 24 men for a day. Although starts doubling at 9th level and after. Create Food is the same way except it is a 5th level and needs a 7th cleric to cast.

My assessment of this is that cleric dominated groups can easily support themselves. Even a small temple in the middle of nowhere with a 9th level priest in charge can support 48 people with food and water. Lower level staffer can supplant the head's guy's casting allowing a surplus to be built up. These spells are limited to clerics as well. Suggesting that in society clerics have a serious edge over every other profession either adventuring class or mundane.

Control Weather can both increase crop production and harvest consistency. It is a 7th level spell and it's limits are at the referee's discretion. Unfortunately because it is a 7th level that means a 17th level Cleric going to need to cast it. However on the Magic User side it is a 6th level spell which means you only need to be 12th level to cast it.

This suggests to me that the heart of a religion where the pontiff, patriarch, etc resides are regions would have blessing of that religion and experience very regular harvests and the highest yields the technology allows. More common; areas dominated by Wizard Towers would experience the same benefit.

What all of this leads to me to conclude that a world with S&W's vancian magic would one where clerical organization have a qualitative advantage in being able to support themselves. This allowed clerics to gain an edge in any activity not involved in food production.

In western Europe's history the monasteries first developed as self contained communities to allow the monks to get away form the world in their pursuit of understanding God. From Fall of Rome to the 8th century everybody in Europe was fighting to survive in the Dark Age in the ruins of a once empire spanning economy. Alone the monks had the resources to be literate and pursue an education. So soon after they shut themselves in the world came to them to come back up and help them patch things back up. For many centuries the minutiae of trading, and administration was handled by monks.

With the clerics the use of magic make this impact even more out sized.

Likely at the dawn of civilization, society is dominated by theocracies and the rules are priest-kings. But due to barbarian invasions, chance, and time, the overwhelming dominance of the theocracies are challenged by republics and kingdoms. The efforts of the two are bolstered by the magic-users. Since all-important Control Weather can done with less experience by the magic-user, the kings and councils of the different realms can reasonably find themselves with one or more wizards capable of doing this. Also Magic User are somewhat more controllable with the vulnerability of their spell book. Take away and then the spells are gone forever after being casted.

There are a lot of dials here you can play with and the results is that many types of settings can result even they all share the same assumptions I am making. But by doing this type of exercise you find yourself considering the different possibilities. This is can ultimately to a more interesting and fun game for you and your players.
 

robertsconley

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Small Islands of Wonder, Magic and Society Part 1​

On one of the posts I made on social media, Ian Borchardt created a great phrase for how I view magic's effect on the cultures of the Majestic Fantasy Realms.

One of the big problems is that magic in a lot of campaigns tends to be non-scalable, being focused in individuals. Thus I suspect that as a result the effects of magic would tend to cluster tightly, rather than spread through the society. Small islands of wonder in what is otherwise a less developed world (since there would be less incentive for overall development).
The previous post in this thread is about some of issue surrounding magic and society that I wrote in 2010.

I wrapped the post up with this.
There are a lot of dials here you can play with and the results is that many types of settings can result even when they share the same assumptions I am making. By doing this type of exercise you find yourself considering the different possibilities. This is can ultimately to a more interesting and fun game for you and your players.
Since then I done more work detailing my setting both as the Majestic Wilderlands and as the Majestic Fantasy Realms. Hopefully a brief overview will serve as an example of some of the thing I touch on that post.

One the things I developed is the technology of magic. How was it discovered and how did it developed into its present form as outlined by the system. Currently the Vancian system found in ODnD's 3 LBBs.

Originally in the Majestic Fantasy Realms level of magic was low, spells could only be cast through laborious 10 minute rituals. The range of spells was similar those found in the 3 LBBs of ODnD. Magic could be found in physical form as viz and that would allow a spell to be cast within seconds. Related spells could be cast quickly if made into a scroll or a magic item.

After the Dawn War, the Demons were imprisoned in the Abyss. Each of the surviving gods created a crystal. Nine of them were used to seal the entrance of the Abyss, and the tenth was the master Chromatic Cystal.

In order to power them, the gods had the crystals channel the ambient magic into their crystalline structure and then release it back out into the world. Creating a self sustaining loop the keep the demon imprisoned. A side effect this that were now flows of magic throughout the world. Concentrated enough to allow magical energy to be gathered quickly and released as a spell within seconds.

The nine crystals "tainted" the flow emerging from them creating nine distinct forms of magic. Each form reflected the personality and powers of the god that created the crystal. These nine forms plus the original ambient magic became known as the Ten Arts of Magic.

Like our world's zodiac, they became associated with specific images and colors. The Claw (Black), The Eagle (Red), The Flame (Orange), The Forge (colorless, original ambient magic), The Hearth (Green), The Lantern (Purple), The Skull (White), The Storm (Indigo), The Tree (Blue), The Web (Yellow).

The Mechanics

So what does it means in terms of Swords and Wizardry? I created the following additions*
  • The maximum spell level the spellcaster could cast as ritual is determined by their level.
  • Rituals take ten minutes to cast and require the presence of the spellbook.
  • Ritual spell caster can't memorize spells.
  • The ritual spell caster had to have scribed the spell into their spell book. For pre-literate societies arcane spellcasters used natural media like cave walls, bark, stone, and sometimes dried tablets of clay to scribe mystical pattern that enabled to learn the spells.
  • Magic items can be used in seconds within the time of a single combat round. Thus any spell used in combat had to be scribed as a scroll (or similar object), a wand, or a magic item.
  • One additional wrinkle I will touch on later is that if the ritual spell caster has viz, magic in physical form, then a spell can be casted within seconds. The number of viz needed is equal to the level of the spell. Viz is ephemeral and the spell caster can only maintain a number of viz equal to half of their level (rounded up) plus their intelligence bonus. Excess viz dissipates at the next sunrise, unless they have a special magic item called a Arcane Coffer.
  • Spells are kept the as they are written in the book**.
  • Each spells is associated with an art of magic.
  • If cast with viz associated with a specific art or a spellcaster with a focus in that art. The spell has an increased effect***.
*Rob's Notes: Ritual only spellcaster are deliberately designed to be weaker than normal vancian style magic-users. The only thing they are better at is that they are able to caster higher level spells at high level as ritual. A normal Magic-User can only learn to cast up to 4th level spells as rituals when they learn to memorize 8th level spells.

**Rob's Notes: In the Majestic Fantasy RPG, I have rewritten some spells for clarity. Functionally they work the same as how they are presented in Swords and Wizardry.

***Rob's Notes: I was reluctant to this. Originally my idea was to have viz or a focus in an art equate to a +1 level caster bonus. A 8th spell caster with a focus in the Art of the Flame would cast fireball with 9d6 instead of 8d6. But it turns out there not many spells like Fireball in Swords and Wizardry, so I went through each spell and gave a small bonus effect if casted with a focus in an art or viz of that type. Usually increase in duration, range, etc.
 

robertsconley

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My conclusion, unless the magic in the game is limited in its strategic applicability it will inevitably dominate the economy and create one that bears only passing resemblance to that of any historical era on Earth, especially any pre-industrial era.
Yup the details are important in how all this plays. But note your use of inevitably. Given the rest of what you said it has to be said that except in extreme cases, it takes time. So even if you have spells like GURPS Create Metal easy to learn it will take time for it to reach the point where the world spins off in a completely different direction than our own.

A campaign can be set in the centuries and millennia before that happens. And the tensions of how the world is in the present versus how it will be can be an interesting undercurrent.
 

Matthias

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I mostly remember "Farewell to Alms" for Gregory Clark's absolutely withering review, but insofar as the relevant point for us here is "stagnation is normal," that certainly holds up.

If magic is dangerous, that's another thing that keeps things slowed down - both because of direct damage that it produces and because people are going to proceed more cautiously in using it an making it available.

I guess my instinct would be to zoom out and think of three broad categories of "ways to spend your money not on a sword with more plusses:"
  1. Stable investments. These return a certain amount of income per period. In a modern setting, these might be earning interest, in a medieval setting, these might be land, in ancient Athens these would be silver mines.
  2. Risky investments, the sort of thing lower-level PCs might be brought into. In a modern setting, these might be startups, in a medieval setting shipping voyages and lending at interest, in ancient Athens also shipping voyages and lending at interest.
  3. Social status displays, which include hosting parties, euergetism, church benefices, and anything that involves household retainers. This isn't just for fun, you need to throw this kind of money around in order for people to see you as a real member of the elite.
and then let specific stories result from the specific ways the PCs choose to invest in these.

Sadly my Curse of Strahd campaign fell apart shortly after the PCs had taken over the Blue Water Inn; I wonder what they might have done with it.
 

robertsconley

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I mostly remember "Farewell to Alms" for Gregory Clark's absolutely withering review, but insofar as the relevant point for us here is "stagnation is normal," that certainly holds up.
I don't quite buy his points on why industrialization happened in Great Britain either. But the material about pre-industrial times seems solid and backed by other sources.

If magic is dangerous, that's another thing that keeps things slowed down - both because of direct damage that it produces and because people are going to proceed more cautiously in using it an making it available.

I guess my instinct would be to zoom out and think of three broad categories of "ways to spend your money not on a sword with more plusses:"
  1. Stable investments. These return a certain amount of income per period. In a modern setting, these might be earning interest, in a medieval setting, these might be land, in ancient Athens these would be silver mines.
The ACKS folks came up with a good rule of thumb that friendly to running RPG campaign and somewhat historical. Basically the expected rate of return, 3% month or more accurately a 1/33th ratio.
Sadly my Curse of Strahd campaign fell apart shortly after the PCs had taken over the Blue Water Inn; I wonder what they might have done with it.
:sad:
 

Lofgeornost

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The Roman economy was also a colonial economy and slave economy. A large portion of Rome's food came from Egypt/Africa; slave labor was a huge component; believe read somewhere that 30% of Rome's population at one time was slave. Such economies rely in large part on conquest, once that halts they tend to contract then collapse.

As to the impact of magic on an economy, and day-to-day life, it is a topic find very interesting. I don't believe you can answer it in the abstract, but rather need to know some details on how magic works in the setting.

A first simple question is how easy is it to make permanent magical items? If very easy, then those items over time will be very common and replace the mundane version. For example, the AD&D 2nd Level Continual Light spell is fairly low level and has a 6" radius (so 60 yards outside IIRC). All it takes is one MU casting 1 spell per day for a year and you have over 300 permanent light lantern's....


My conclusion, unless the magic in the game is limited in its strategic applicability it will inevitably dominate the economy and create one that bears only passing resemblance to that of any historical era on Earth, especially any pre-industrial era.

So, the argument that the Roman economy in the 1st and 2nd centuries C.E. was, temporarily, avoiding the Malthusian trap and experiencing real per-capita growth is from Kyle Harper's The Fate of Rome. I should make it clear that he is not talking about Roman Italy profiteering at the expense of the provinces or other areas, but real economic growth in which rising productivity outstrips gains in population. His book has been criticized for its approach to disease in the Later Roman Empire, but I've not encountered attacks on its picture of the economy during the Principate. He seems to be leaning heavily on Peter Temin's The Roman Market Economy, which I've not read. Personally, I'm dubious of attempts to deal with ancient economies in any but a qualitative way--the quantitative data seems just too sparse for any really convincing conclusions.

I think you make a really good argument for the disruptive effect of rpg magic on pre-industrial societies. Cheap, inexhaustible sources of light that did not threaten fires would have had a lot of knock-on effects in the pre-industrial world. They might have altered sleep patterns, extended the working day--perhaps leading to the 'Industrious Revolution' which some argue preceded the industrial revolution--perhaps reduced crime in the now better-lit urban areas, etc.

The underlying problem, of course, is that these systems were not constructed as part of thought-experiments on social and economic organization. They were designed to give players neat abilities or weapons to use in fantasy adventures. Ultimately, I think that leaves three alternatives:
  • Accept that the magical abilities and activities described in that game would 'break' the game-world and its societies and economies--but then ignore that fact. Fiction does this all the time. Magic, SF technology, etc. are often used as plot-devices or reasons to use special effects, without any concern for the wider implications. So a given gaming group can accept that, yes, in fact people would exploit some magical abilities, etc. in a given way, but in this particular game or setting no one but the p.c.s will do so. Otherwise the world is basically pseudo-medieval (or pseudo-ancient, or whatever it is). This sort of suspension of disbelief to keep the setting intact is hardly rare in rpgs; a lot of supers campaigns in particular rely on it, since their base premise is often 'our world just as it is but with super-beings,' ignoring the difference that super-beings would make.
  • Rework magic to make sure it does not have much capability to affect the world. We could posit that magic-users are extremely rare, for example; this need not affect p.c.s., who can be mages if they want, but otherwise magicians are very thin on the ground. We could make it so that all magic items require a source of power to operate--they drain magic points, POW, or whatever the system is from the person using them. That might explain why warriors have magic swords but magicians do not--the mages have better uses for their magic points. We can limit or eliminate long-lasting or permanent spells, and so on. The downside is that these changes will perhaps make the game less 'magical.'
  • Accept that the magic system in the game will have lots of knock-on effects on the world and try to figure out what these are. I will admit that I find this less attractive than the other possibilities, because most magic systems are kind of a hodge-podge of effects that the designer thought was interesting, so contemplating their broader effects can lead to something incoherent.
 
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Lofgeornost

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Thanks, any idea when that kind of prices first appear or was first documented? I seen some papers on the 16th century using this pricing method.

I'm familiar with it from the Tudor period. My guess is that it was always little more than a rule-of-thumb. I stumbled on an article recently about a poem on how to purchase lands from the 1400s; the poem suggested that a purchaser would make back the purchase price in ten years.

The University of Reading (in the U.K.) did a major research project a few years ago looking at land purchases in England, c. 1200-1500. They compiled an enormous data-set of such purchases and published a number of different articles about it. A lot of the material is freely available (including the data-set). I haven't dug into it myself, but I'd guess there is more information than one would ever want about land purchases in their publications.

The website is: https://www.icmacentre.ac.uk/research/projects/land-prices-rents-medieval-england
 

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Yup the details are important in how all this plays. But note your use of inevitably. Given the rest of what you said it has to be said that except in extreme cases, it takes time. So even if you have spells like GURPS Create Metal easy to learn it will take time for it to reach the point where the world spins off in a completely different direction than our own.

A campaign can be set in the centuries and millennia before that happens. And the tensions of how the world is in the present versus how it will be can be an interesting undercurrent.
Good point, by inevitably I mean in a fairly short time on a historical time scale, or at least the time scale of most settings I have seen where magic has "always" been around, that is at least a 1000 years. It does depend on the details but for a AD&D type magic I'd say within 100 years easily.

On "Create Water" at least in AD&D it was a 1st level Cleric spell, creating 4 gallons per level. That's about 8 human-days of water per day.
"Purify Food & Water" another 1st level Cleric spell, purifies 1 cu ft per level, which is about 28kg of food stuffs (or 28 l water) per level or about 14 human-days of food (or water) at 1000 calories per kg. So carrion, otherwise poisonous food (such as troll :smile: can be made edible. If such substandard food is readily available, instead of a 9:1 (food producer to non-producer) ratio you have 1:13.

Let's compare to mundane production, both medieval and modern.
28kg is very roughly about a bushel, to grow 4-6 bushels at medieval tech takes an acre for a growing season, lets say 4 months (120 days) to underestimate. Now in the same time a 1st level cleric can produce 120 bushels (instead of 6) with no overhead besides food and shelter and no worries about the weather. Of course a farmer with oxen can work about 30 acres in a season with medieval tech (so 180 bushels in a good year), but it requires oxen, a plow and help on the harvest, often a mill, etc.; and is at the mercy of the weather.

In comparison a modern farm can generate roughly 200 bushels an acre (I am rounding up). So I suspect that the proportion of agrarian to non-agrarian workers in a magical society to be much closer to modern standards as cleric pumping out food will replace farmers in the food for the masses arena.

Farmers will really just become gather's of whatever marginal food stuff they can find. Add in a druid using 1st level spells to make a permanent animal companion and speak with animals, and you can have an hawk that knows exactly what to look for and can effectively communicate it to humans, that is, synergies are going to make magic an even more powerful economic force.

Now would humans actually go for this kind of food? Likely if history is any guide. Grain is not a more nutritious diet than hunting gathering, and peoples who developed farming spent many more hours per day securing food than hunter-gatherers...back in the day based on the bones...hunter-gathers (especially fish eaters) were bigger, healthier, and had far better teeth than farmers. Farming though is reliable, and more importantly requires much less land to feed a single person. Now magical food and water...is even more reliable, and requires likely even less land (one could turn any plant or animal material into dinner), and takes no sweat or hard labor.

One question is do you have enough clerics to do this? Now let's just say a min WIS for a cleric is 12 on 3d6 (actually it is 9 in AD&D, the 12 is for a druid), that means 37.5% of your population would qualify, even if only 1/10 th of those make it to 1st level, that is still almost 4% of your population (I suspect though that at least half would make it)...yet it takes only less than 1% of your population casting 1 such spell every day at 1st level to feed them all. Forget farmers and hunters feeding the tribe....it will be the clerics, the rest of the tribe just gathers up some food stuff, no matter how nasty, into a box and presto change-o, dinner time. :smile:

Given those numbers even if the spells to do this are higher level, say needing a 16 WIS on 3d6, that is still over 4% of the population. How society would change to make sure it had enough clerics to feed everyone is anyone's guess. Will the clerics be lauded, highly placed members of society (a carrot approach)? Will they be forced by those with swords, or hostages, or more powerful clerics to do this task (a stick approach)?

Given the importance and power can imagine that if you qualify you have to train, but also imagine every effort would be made to help you succeed (carrot and stick approach). Also, can easily see Clerics ruling and having their own military arm (paladins :smile: ) to keep some warlord from telling them what to do on pain of death. After all they can say follow me and I will feed you every day, heal your every wound, cure your every disease and maybe one day if powerful enough even raise you from the dead if you serve well...and these will not be idle promises the warrior wonders how their liege will fulfill...but very easy promises to keep as the warrior can see with their own eyes any day of the week.

...it will even spill over into other magic using professions...MUs may be illegal because they draw off candidates for clerical training and thus are a threat to the communities food supply...perhaps you can be an MU if you fail the WIS test to be a cleric...but then most MUS will have a reputation for being a bit foolish and impulsive...even more reason to have laws to contain these dangerous types. :smile: MUs clearly are bad selfish, self-centered, unstable menaces to society...and clerics providers, healers and over all wise and controlled. Now druids may or may not be banned, no one wants someone who can "speak with animals" telling you how the cows and pigs don't want to be slaughtered...or worse yet stirring up trouble on the animal farm. :smile:

Now that is just food, other things will drastically alter what humans do with their time, land and labor. For example, a longevity potion may be hard to make and require rare ingredients, yet extrapolating from human nature those in power will bend the resources at their disposal to make it happen, send small armies to capture the creatures required, make huge guarded gardens to grow what is needed. I'd just say consider what humans are willing to do when they believe in magic with zero real evidence, then think what they would do if they had hard evidence they can see every day that it worked.

I'll just say, rare is the game that logically addresses the consequences of it's magic system if it includes creation magic (especially food).
Hand waving this and that about how hard it is to be a spell casters doesn't hold up if you run some numbers.
Doesn't matter if it takes 20 years to be one, if your working life is 20 years.
Doesn't matter how "exhausting it is" as humans never let the need for back-breaking labor stop them...and in reality spell casting is a lot less exhausting than farm labor...let alone the results are guaranteed (no storm or drought is going to ruin things for you), and instant, and require no more overhead than you already spend on keeping a farmer alive.
Sure day 1 you start with zero spell casters, and may only have 4% of your population after 20 years, but each year you add more than you lose and after a few generations you will have a steady state that is easily 4% of your population. And that is a low estimate, if things are maxed out you could readily have 30% of you population or more as spell casters; which leaves plenty of room for 1-5% "forced" to use their magic to feed people, make magic lanterns etc. and the rest various higher levels of spell caster who can focus on maintaining power.

Very last, but not least, as humans tend to do everything they can to stay in power once they have it, perhaps in a society where magic can readily create food growing your own food will be outlawed or highly regulated. After all you don't want the masses getting the idea they can step outside the system and feed themselves. :smile:
 

xanther

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...

The underlying problem, of course, is that these systems were not constructed as part of thought-experiments on social and economic organization. They were designed to give players neat abilities or weapons to use in fantasy adventures. Ultimately, I think that leaves three alternatives:
  • (1) Accept that the magical abilities and activities described in that game would 'break' the game-world and its societies and economies--but then ignore that fact. Fiction does this all the time. Magic, SF technology, etc. are often used as plot-devices or reasons to use special effects, without any concern for the wider implications. So a given gaming group can accept that, yes, in fact people would exploit some magical abilities, etc. in a given way, but in this particular game or setting no one but the p.c.s will do so. Otherwise the world is basically pseudo-medieval (or pseudo-ancient, or whatever it is). This sort of suspension of disbelief to keep the setting intact is hardly rare in rpgs; a lot of supers campaigns in particular rely on it, since their base premise is often 'our world just as it is but with super-beings,' ignoring the difference that super-beings would make.
  • (2) Rework magic to make sure it does not have much capability to affect the world. We could posit that magic-users are extremely rare, for example; this need not affect p.c.s., who can be mages if they want, but otherwise magicians are very thin on the ground. We could make it so that all magic items require a source of power to operate--they drain magic points, POW, or whatever the system is from the person using them. That might explain why warriors have magic swords but magicians do not--the mages have better uses for their magic points. We can limit or eliminate long-lasting or permanent spells, and so on. The downside is that these changes will perhaps make the game less 'magical.'
  • (3) Accept that the magic system in the game will have lots of knock-on effects on the world and try to figure out what these are. I will admit that I find this less attractive than the other possibilities, because most magic systems are kind of a hodge-podge of effects that the designer thought was interesting, so contemplating their broader effects can lead to something incoherent.
Agreed. I numbered your points above for ease of reference. As perhaps can tell, I have thought about this a lot in the last 35 years or so, and my own spell system was designed to avoid (1) and (3) with a far less draconian approach than (2) above.

On (2): I believe one can give players neat abilities and weapons without impacting the game world to a massive extent. Players are looking for neat abilities in the moment, to help in their tactical situation. Thus, no spell needs to be permanent or de facto permanent. In fact, from a tension and (for me) fun point of view, I don't want a PC walking around with magically summoned armor 24/7 just because they can re-cast the spell before it runs out. There doesn't really need to be any spell that creates mundane things let alone with less resources than the mundane means.

So yes, would allow a spell to create food out of thin air (but not for many) and the cost of the meal will be like a 100 to a 1000 times the mundane cost (like if a mundane meal cost a silver the spell costs 100 gold)...as you are paying for the instantaneous nature and players using it not to starve in the moment where food cannot be found.

This is all without limiting spell casting to such an extent only chosen ones qualify or imposing chances for horrible failure on spell casting (two other ways to limit magic at a strategic scale). It really can be largely as simple as that. Spells are still valuable in a tactical sense and although they may cost way more than mundane means, they give players what they want in the moment. Yet they cost so much there is no way a ruler (or an economy) would substitute magic for the mundane. Rather keep magic for what the mundane can't do.

Certainly remove the ability for a spell to create a permanent magic item. As to magic item creation, there is a wonderful real world history of that shows just not any magic can be put into any item. As magic item creation is usually outside of player day-to-day making it hard will not remove any neat abilities they would desire. If one makes it hard (slow and costly), with a chance of failure or maybe even harm to the creator, and limit exactly what magic can be made into/imbued into a permanent magic item and what items can hold what magic you can solve the problem readily while still having all the genre magic items.

For example, magic swords are not going to re-make the economy (as long as you don't allow them to slice through trees or iron; that is don't allow them to become construction tools). How many there are can be adjusted by setting postulates, perhaps they are very rare, perhaps more common. Say if peoples had been making them for 5000 years, they will build up...especially in those old forgotten dungeons...or their were times when great wars (perhaps of shining magical gems) when people spent their societal energies making magical weapons.

Certainly avoid magical items that can aid construction, provide food, provide water, etc. constantly....now perhaps of limited use and overall costing more than mundane means...yes. No player I have ever had complained have no magical item that provides free food or water or allows one to dig or build at an astonishing rate. Yah these things are great for fairy tales but not a game setting. Magical swords, shields, staves, aids to spell casting, protections from magic, etc. are enough.

The most problematic magic item is the healing potion and problematic spell is healing. I personally have to rely on a more dues ex machina type argument, one "too much" of it and it has negative physical consequences and it can anger the deities who give such magic and the effects can be undone...all to keep a lid on it for industrial scale application.

But also the way my spells work it may not be needed as likely in a village of 1000 (a large village) there is likely only 3 healing spells that could be cast per day...so liken it to having more modern medicine...and it doesn't stop infection, it doesn't prevent scarring. So people still need to clean their wounds, likely stitch them and save magical healing for life threatening wounds...it would be horrible if the spells were used to heal up wounds that could just be stitched and then there is a carriage accident and three people die for want of a spell. Heavens forbid one of these people was the rulers progeny :smile:

Which leads me into setting specific aspect that should limit this, in healing is a spell held only servants or believers in a religion, there are likely rules on who they should or should not bless with such magic. Even mercenary faiths may require you to buy a healing policy, with a deductible to be eligible. Or the rich wealthy may put a healer on retainer, to always have a spell ready and near by for them. Heck there may even be laws on who you can heal without getting arrested.

As to healing potions, in my approach one can't cast spells when one is crafting potions...so it is one or another...and a potion that provides one spell of healing say, takes more than a day to make...so you are trading total healing for portability. I use it to set a kind of supply and demand dynamic for the level I want. Players are welcome to go into the potion making business if they want, they just won't be adventuring, and by the time they can make potions (and have the gold for the capital investment) such a venture is less profitable than adventuring though a safe cozy retirement. :smile:

Also one limits spells that provide information, or provides effect mundane means to limit it. As well as with transportation, spells that allow one to fly or teleport should be limited in effect (yes you can fly but not long enough to make it better than a good horse, teleport should be costly and/or dangerous...something for only the very wealthy, well prepared or desperate.

In general, even with this a lot of magic can still impact the world but more at a nation-state level...for example few people could afford a state of the art jet fighter but governments can afford hundreds, or few can afford cruise missiles but nation states can afford 1000s. Which one is a better analogy to magic swords and magic items in ones setting is up to them. But they can exist in a common enough quantity to be found by adventure, cheaper to find than buy, and likely a lot of laws around just buying or selling them.

On (1): Certainly genre specific, and even in the superhero genre we get things like "The Boys" and "The Watchmen" that explore that...moving the more to (3). :smile: Plenty of comics address the issue though with forces outside the earth that control things...the same could be done to limit magic applied at a society scale.

My issue with just ignoring it is not so much as a player I want a world with magically fed people and a continual light lantern on every corner, I just want it consistent for my PCs needs. The continual light lantern is my go to example. Every game played in these were expensive (or down right unavailable) because a magic item. Yet when my PC makes one, couldn't sell it for beans. Likewise with healing magic, so many DMs saying it was expensive, yet the day a PC gets the spell, all of a sudden the cost they can sell it for drops. Guess after a time my suspension of disbelief just cannot be maintained, or more importantly how can I play effectively if I cannot make predictions and plans from how you say your setting works when if by fiat the rules are changed for me the player just because...and I'm not even trying to break genre or be a munchkin. To me it is a form of railroad, of an insidious nature.

On (2) again... One can certainly impose Referee level type limits by defining limits on what magic can do and/or have outside enforcers (I tend to shy away from enforcers as the players just view them as xp opportunities). Say you can certainly eat magic food but eat it too much and you start to waste away (maybe simulated by a loss of xp).

Sure magical construction is possible but if the density of magic in a certain area is too high things fail (include magic items here). Not just buildings but tunnels dug, water supplies, etc. Also perhaps a simple dispel magic spell could make the magical construction disappear (careful on that last one as it is just giving the players ways to make traps and cause mayhem).

There is also the idea that magic is a limited resource (ala The Magic Goes Away) but when did a resource being limited ever stop humans from exploiting it until it is gone...of course this behavior could be a source of conflict between humans and non-humans.

On (3) I actually enjoy this exercise, but it often leads to a world that is no where near anything like used for a specific game. Personally I posit that magic was not in use for most of evolutionary history...so can just use our own world examples of that. Then it is introduced slowly, the first spells being low level and hard to cast...etc. All in with keeping the creation, permanent, info gathering, transport spells contained as described above. Makes it easier to postulate the changes. Then add in limitations that may arise form permanent magic item density in an area, strange things that can happen if have had too much magic worked upon you, and the fear the magic can go way...these latter three providing just that little extra bit of limitation but with the primary limitation being what spells and magic items can do.
 

Lofgeornost

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Agreed. I numbered your points above for ease of reference. As perhaps can tell, I have thought about this a lot in the last 35 years or so, and my own spell system was designed to avoid (1) and (3) with a far less draconian approach than (2) above.

On (2): I believe one can give players neat abilities and weapons without impacting the game world to a massive extent. Players are looking for neat abilities in the moment, to help in their tactical situation. Thus, no spell needs to be permanent or de facto permanent. In fact, from a tension and (for me) fun point of view, I don't want a PC walking around with magically summoned armor 24/7 just because they can re-cast the spell before it runs out. There doesn't really need to be any spell that creates mundane things let alone with less resources than the mundane means...

I agree, for the most part. I say 'for the most part' because in some settings I prefer magic that doesn't have immediate effects and can't be used in combat to any significant extent. But that doesn't mean it needs to be permanent, or even long-lasting. In fact, if magic is difficult, expensive, and takes a long time to cast, that removes a lot of the problems with it having much effect on the society.

The most problematic magic item is the healing potion and problematic spell is healing. I personally have to rely on a more dues ex machina type argument, one "too much" of it and it has negative physical consequences and it can anger the deities who give such magic and the effects can be undone...all to keep a lid on it for industrial scale application.:smile:
That is interesting. I've not thought of healing magic as particularly disruptive to a society or economy. As you point out, it probably is not going to be of much help when it comes to epidemics, since the number of people suffering is going to overwhelm any magic available, and epidemics are the main way disease affects population levels, etc.
My issue with just ignoring it is not so much as a player I want a world with magically fed people and a continual light lantern on every corner, I just want it consistent for my PCs needs. The continual light lantern is my go to example. Every game played in these were expensive (or down right unavailable) because a magic item. Yet when my PC makes one, couldn't sell it for beans. Likewise with healing magic, so many DMs saying it was expensive, yet the day a PC gets the spell, all of a sudden the cost they can sell it for drops. Guess after a time my suspension of disbelief just cannot be maintained, or more importantly how can I play effectively if I cannot make predictions and plans from how you say your setting works when if by fiat the rules are changed for me the player just because...and I'm not even trying to break genre or be a munchkin. To me it is a form of railroad, of an insidious nature.
I see your point. Certainly a g.m. should be consistent in this regard; if it costs you X amount to purchase a healing spell or a continual-light lantern, then you should be able to sell one that you have manufactured for about the same amount.

Generally, I tend to gravitate towards games or settings where you cannot buy this sort of thing at all, at least not on a regular market or with a set price level. But I think I am happier than you are (perhaps) with games where magicians are very rare. Again, that seems like the situation in a lot of fiction that I like; the Arthurian tales and LotR do not have many magicians in them, for instance.

On the other hand, one can take the approach that magic is very widespread, it is just focused on everyday tasks and used to make them run well. So the village ox-herd has a magic goad that he uses to round up the beasts at the end of a day's grazing (this actually appears in a Michael Scott Rohan novel), housewives have a charm they use to make sure their butter churns property, brewers have special rituals and symbols they carve on casks to insure good beer, etc. This actually fits with the way people used--or thought they were using--magic in Early Modern Europe, for instance. This doesn't have to have much effect on society or the economy, since people are just using magic to do things they would anyway--it just works a bit better if the spell is effective.

In game terms, for combat at least, this probably means no flashy combat spells, but ones that give a bonus to hit, more armor points, allow an extra action, or something similarly low-key.
 

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In game terms, for combat at least, this probably means no flashy combat spells, but ones that give a bonus to hit, more armor points, allow an extra action, or something similarly low-key.
That's the approach taken in Artesia: AKW, and casters are supreme there:thumbsup:!
 

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  • Rework magic to make sure it does not have much capability to affect the world. We could posit that magic-users are extremely rare, for example; this need not affect p.c.s., who can be mages if they want, but otherwise magicians are very thin on the ground. We could make it so that all magic items require a source of power to operate--they drain magic points, POW, or whatever the system is from the person using them. That might explain why warriors have magic swords but magicians do not--the mages have better uses for their magic points. We can limit or eliminate long-lasting or permanent spells, and so on. The downside is that these changes will perhaps make the game less 'magical.'
I fail to see a drawback here...:shade:
Good point, by inevitably I mean in a fairly short time on a historical time scale, or at least the time scale of most settings I have seen where magic has "always" been around, that is at least a 1000 years. It does depend on the details but for a AD&D type magic I'd say within 100 years easily.

On "Create Water" at least in AD&D it was a 1st level Cleric spell, creating 4 gallons per level. That's about 8 human-days of water per day.
"Purify Food & Water" another 1st level Cleric spell, purifies 1 cu ft per level, which is about 28kg of food stuffs (or 28 l water) per level or about 14 human-days of food (or water) at 1000 calories per kg. So carrion, otherwise poisonous food (such as troll :smile: can be made edible. If such substandard food is readily available, instead of a 9:1 (food producer to non-producer) ratio you have 1:13.

Let's compare to mundane production, both medieval and modern.
28kg is very roughly about a bushel, to grow 4-6 bushels at medieval tech takes an acre for a growing season, lets say 4 months (120 days) to underestimate. Now in the same time a 1st level cleric can produce 120 bushels (instead of 6) with no overhead besides food and shelter and no worries about the weather. Of course a farmer with oxen can work about 30 acres in a season with medieval tech (so 180 bushels in a good year), but it requires oxen, a plow and help on the harvest, often a mill, etc.; and is at the mercy of the weather.

In comparison a modern farm can generate roughly 200 bushels an acre (I am rounding up). So I suspect that the proportion of agrarian to non-agrarian workers in a magical society to be much closer to modern standards as cleric pumping out food will replace farmers in the food for the masses arena.

Farmers will really just become gather's of whatever marginal food stuff they can find. Add in a druid using 1st level spells to make a permanent animal companion and speak with animals, and you can have an hawk that knows exactly what to look for and can effectively communicate it to humans, that is, synergies are going to make magic an even more powerful economic force.

Now would humans actually go for this kind of food? Likely if history is any guide. Grain is not a more nutritious diet than hunting gathering, and peoples who developed farming spent many more hours per day securing food than hunter-gatherers...back in the day based on the bones...hunter-gathers (especially fish eaters) were bigger, healthier, and had far better teeth than farmers. Farming though is reliable, and more importantly requires much less land to feed a single person. Now magical food and water...is even more reliable, and requires likely even less land (one could turn any plant or animal material into dinner), and takes no sweat or hard labor.

One question is do you have enough clerics to do this? Now let's just say a min WIS for a cleric is 12 on 3d6 (actually it is 9 in AD&D, the 12 is for a druid), that means 37.5% of your population would qualify, even if only 1/10 th of those make it to 1st level, that is still almost 4% of your population (I suspect though that at least half would make it)...yet it takes only less than 1% of your population casting 1 such spell every day at 1st level to feed them all. Forget farmers and hunters feeding the tribe....it will be the clerics, the rest of the tribe just gathers up some food stuff, no matter how nasty, into a box and presto change-o, dinner time. :smile:

Given those numbers even if the spells to do this are higher level, say needing a 16 WIS on 3d6, that is still over 4% of the population. How society would change to make sure it had enough clerics to feed everyone is anyone's guess. Will the clerics be lauded, highly placed members of society (a carrot approach)? Will they be forced by those with swords, or hostages, or more powerful clerics to do this task (a stick approach)?

Given the importance and power can imagine that if you qualify you have to train, but also imagine every effort would be made to help you succeed (carrot and stick approach). Also, can easily see Clerics ruling and having their own military arm (paladins :smile: ) to keep some warlord from telling them what to do on pain of death. After all they can say follow me and I will feed you every day, heal your every wound, cure your every disease and maybe one day if powerful enough even raise you from the dead if you serve well...and these will not be idle promises the warrior wonders how their liege will fulfill...but very easy promises to keep as the warrior can see with their own eyes any day of the week.

...it will even spill over into other magic using professions...MUs may be illegal because they draw off candidates for clerical training and thus are a threat to the communities food supply...perhaps you can be an MU if you fail the WIS test to be a cleric...but then most MUS will have a reputation for being a bit foolish and impulsive...even more reason to have laws to contain these dangerous types. :smile: MUs clearly are bad selfish, self-centered, unstable menaces to society...and clerics providers, healers and over all wise and controlled. Now druids may or may not be banned, no one wants someone who can "speak with animals" telling you how the cows and pigs don't want to be slaughtered...or worse yet stirring up trouble on the animal farm. :smile:

Now that is just food, other things will drastically alter what humans do with their time, land and labor. For example, a longevity potion may be hard to make and require rare ingredients, yet extrapolating from human nature those in power will bend the resources at their disposal to make it happen, send small armies to capture the creatures required, make huge guarded gardens to grow what is needed. I'd just say consider what humans are willing to do when they believe in magic with zero real evidence, then think what they would do if they had hard evidence they can see every day that it worked.

I'll just say, rare is the game that logically addresses the consequences of it's magic system if it includes creation magic (especially food).
Hand waving this and that about how hard it is to be a spell casters doesn't hold up if you run some numbers.
Doesn't matter if it takes 20 years to be one, if your working life is 20 years.
Doesn't matter how "exhausting it is" as humans never let the need for back-breaking labor stop them...and in reality spell casting is a lot less exhausting than farm labor...let alone the results are guaranteed (no storm or drought is going to ruin things for you), and instant, and require no more overhead than you already spend on keeping a farmer alive.
Sure day 1 you start with zero spell casters, and may only have 4% of your population after 20 years, but each year you add more than you lose and after a few generations you will have a steady state that is easily 4% of your population. And that is a low estimate, if things are maxed out you could readily have 30% of you population or more as spell casters; which leaves plenty of room for 1-5% "forced" to use their magic to feed people, make magic lanterns etc. and the rest various higher levels of spell caster who can focus on maintaining power.

Very last, but not least, as humans tend to do everything they can to stay in power once they have it, perhaps in a society where magic can readily create food growing your own food will be outlawed or highly regulated. After all you don't want the masses getting the idea they can step outside the system and feed themselves. :smile:

But see, I'd actually like to play in such a setting:thumbsup:!
Not my standard approach, but...I have the right to have different interests, chummer, neP?
 

robertsconley

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Good point, by inevitably I mean in a fairly short time on a historical time scale, or at least the time scale of most settings I have seen where magic has "always" been around, that is at least a 1000 years. It does depend on the details but for a AD&D type magic I'd say within 100 years easily.
I disagree, the Industrial revolution was just as much as about philosophy, and social technology as it was about material and physical technology. It the philosophy social tech is why the Romans, Greeks, and Chinese never industrialized. And specific to D&D take on metaphysics, divine power is real and has an agenda of its own. Not in the sense that it is anti-tech. But it just doesn't care enough to elevate it above whatever the divine is concerned about.

Finally despite the presence of human-like species, some particularly the elves have a radical enough biology (mostly longevity) that I feel it acts as a break on any cultures allied with them. Elves can be humankind's best friend, but the whole been there done that attitude that accompanies near-immortals will act as a society brake especially on the philosophical and social end of things. Successful elven cultures will have unparalleled experience compared to their allies Will have social solution that for the most part simply work.

I will be exploring these in my next Small Islands of Wonder post.

On "Create Water" at least in AD&D it was a 1st level Cleric spell, creating 4 gallons per level. That's about 8 human-days of water per day.
"Purify Food & Water" another 1st level Cleric spell, purifies 1 cu ft per level, which is about 28kg of food stuffs (or 28 l water) per level or about 14 human-days of food (or water) at 1000 calories per kg. So carrion, otherwise poisonous food (such as troll :smile: can be made edible. If such substandard food is readily available, instead of a 9:1 (food producer to non-producer) ratio you have 1:13.
Nice except clerics are not free agents. Their abilities are derived from beings or forces with an agenda. Sure one can say a deity or religion is hostile to technological progress or pro technological progress. The challenge in charting out what happens in a setting when they are indifferent in favor of their own agendas.

I am going to refrain from commenting form detail on the rest of your post until I posted the next part. I appreciate you writing such a lengthy response.
 

AsenRG

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Nice except clerics are not free agents. Their abilities are derived from beings or forces with an agenda. Sure one can say a deity or religion is hostile to technological progress or pro technological progress. The challenge in charting out what happens in a setting when they are indifferent in favor of their own agendas.
Come on, Rob...blessing the crops was one of the duties of priests, and how many gods or goddesses would refuse the worship of the locals if they're ready to build a set of temples to teach every 25th member of the nation the precepts of said god or goddess' religion:devil:?
 

David Johansen

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My functional assumption is that magic struggles to keep up with the damage it causes in the form of curses, monsters, cataclysms, divine fiat, and property damage from wizard's duels. In Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame, there's a big desert wasteland that was caused by a wizard's duel that hasn't actually ended yet.

Of course, I also come from the perspective that magic creates pollution in the aether if you don't do it right and petty wizards an their petty spells can add up to huge consequences over time.
 

robertsconley

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Come on, Rob...blessing the crops was one of the duties of priests, and how many gods or goddesses would refuse the worship of the locals if they're ready to build a set of temples to teach every 25th member of the nation the precepts of said god or goddess' religion:devil:?
Sure blessing of the crops, but we are talking about the outright creation of food. I have no problem with saying that crop yields are 20% or so better along with beneficial effects of cure light wounds, cure disease, and healing potions.

I just think immediately focusing industrial age mobilizations is anachronism and not representative of what would happen unless magic is just that good. And because magic is all made up and arbitrary we could go round and round about that.

What I can say that in GURPS being able to Create Metal, Water, and Food require X hours of learning in according their study rules for skills. In OD&D most of the spells that have large societal impact are also at higher levels. Create Food is a 5th level spell which is gained at 8th one step from being a Patriarch at 9th level. In both systems to get to the point, society has to have enough excess output to support unproductive members to get their training to that point.

As for divine self-interest of trading food for worship. I have to say, that not quite how I think it would go down. Why bother with human intermediaries just go for the miracle and be done with it.

We are talking adjusting dials. My focus is on how we can create a plausible fantasy medieval setting given what been stated about GURPS Magic, Fantasy Hero, Swords and Wizardry, or similar system. The nuances of my solution to all three are different but are also variations of a theme.
  • Clerics are not free agents instead follow a faith and religion where the divine has it own agenda.
  • Spellcasters are expensive for society to upkeep until they are useful. (Which is true of all scholarly profession not just spellcasters).
  • The best spells for societal change are hard to get or to learn.
  • What does happen are small islands of wonder where small groups live in unimagined luxury compared to the surrounding culture.
  • Compared to our history, cultures tend to have a better quality of life around 20 to 30 percent. Folks live 20% long, children survive 20% more, there is 20% more surplus to support a wider variety of occupations, and so on.
Finally to be clear, I am not saying all of the above is the inevitable conclusion one must draw. But one possibility among other likely possibilities and all of it built by twisting various dials one way or the other. Or thinking about the premise and reasoning from there.
 
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robertsconley

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Small Islands of Wonder, Magic and Society Part 2​

In my previous post I discussed the status of magic at the beginning of history within my setting, the Majestic Fantasy Realms. Here I will discuss the aftermath of the Dawn War and how it gave rise to the first great era of magic.

Prior to the Dawn War all magic was arcane and ritual based. The gods were known as the Lords of Creation and functioned as guides, teachers and coaches rather than as a source of divine mystery. Their roles were to prepare the two races, humans and elves, for the roles they were to play in the newly created world.

As recounted in the last post, the demons were imprisoned in the Abyss with the chromatic crystals and as a result magic in a concentrated form was cycled throughout the world. Providing a source of energy to cast spells within seconds instead of minutes.

Faith, Signs and Portents.


The Lords of Creations decided that their close presence to the mortal races was one of the primary causes for the rise of the Demons. After the Abyss was sealed, they withdrew from the world and only interacted with those who followed their philosophies. Communicating through signs and portents, they sought to teach through faith instead of direct instruction. In doing this they changed from being the Lords of Creation into gods with religion and faiths.

Their clerics became the first true spellcasters in the world. Those who developed or had the strong faith found they had power as well. They were given divine insight to use the new sources of magical power coursing throughout the world. Through meditation and prayer they could memorize specific spells. Developing the forms in their mind. Then while casting filling the forms with magical energy and finally releasing the form and energy as a spell. As the cleric became more experience their divine insight developed to allow them to cast more potent spells.

However, power had a price, and that price was belief and faith. Belief in what they were taught and faith that it was right and real and not madness or the whisper of demons rising from the Abyss. Without faith and belief, there was no divine insight, without divine insight the ability to cast spell within seconds disappeared.

As religions developed and took hold, the Cleric became the dominate spellcaster overshadowing the old arcane ritual casters. A major contributing factor was the Shield of Faith, which made Clerics invulnerable against spells and rituals cast without a god's divine insight unless the spell manifested something in the physical world like fire, ice, stone, or lightning. In many cultures the ways of the old ritual based arcane spellcasting was lost. Except for one group, the Elves and their allies.

The Elves and Wizardry

Within a few generations only the elves preserved any memory of the time before the Dawn War. Like other cultures, the god also only spoke to the elves in signs and portents. But among the elves and their allies it did not developed into a full blown religion but into various philosophies one committed their lives too. Those who committed to one of the divine philosophies also received the divine insight to learn and cast spells within seconds.

But because elves still remembered, they and their allies also still practiced and more important continue to develop the old arcane rituals. They learned how to cast rituals with divine insight separate from the forms they created in their mind with their daily meditations and prayers. As a result they could cast rituals without ritual books.

And the elves and their allies developed a way to casting arcane spells within seconds called wizardry. Through a complex series of meditations, rituals, and study, Wizards could internalize spell forms to fill with energy to cast at a moment’s notice. However, it took practice and further study to be able to do their more than once a day and with more potent spells. Even then the Wizard were very limited in how many spells that could be internalize and the process of internalizing a form took years even decades. An issue that wasn’t present with divine insight.

Wizardry did not spread far beyond the elves and cultures allied with the elves for two reasons, the laborious study involved which was fine for immortal elves but took up much of a human’s lifetime. The second and more tragic, was that many rejected interaction with the elves and their allies when elves began to contact others cultures again a thousand years after the Dawn War. The worldview of the elves and their allies was seen as godless to cultures dominated by religion.

Hedge Mages and Arcanists

Magic in concentrated form flowed through everyday life. It would manifest in physical objects known as viz only to dissipate at dawn the next day. Creatures, some known as monsters, developed ways of harnessing magical energies to better survive. Outside of the elves, religion and the clerics were dominate but over the centuries people both within a faith and outside were continually rediscovering arcane magic and ritual spellcasting. Most times it was a curiosity and limited to a few weak rituals. In some cultures an underground tradition of Hedge Mages developed who lived on the fringes of society and passed down hard won rituals from master to apprentice over generation. Mostly making a living by brewing potions and elixirs for the few who found them. When the culture’s religion found out about them the reaction was nearly always negative and many died after being called heretics and apostates.

Some religions allowed orders of arcanists to develop and catalog arcane rituals under the strict supervision of the religious hierarchy. Arcanist were rarely a separate order but instead a specialty among scribes, librarians, and record-keeper.

The Dawn of the Magic User

As the centuries rolled on and history unfolded, chance and circumstance allowed cracks to form in the dominance of magic by clerics. In the next post I will conclude this series by talking about the events that lead to the rise of the magic-user.

The Mechanics
For Swords and Wizardry the cleric is as written. I have a few additional wrinkles like the Shield of Faith which acts as a form of limited magic resistance in the Majestic Fantasy RPG.

Viz is the same as spelled out in the Basic Rules for the Majestic Wilderlands RPG. One viz allows the cast to cast a 1st level spells without losing it from memory or using a spell slot (if a wizard, see below). It also reduces the cost of creating a magic item. But a spellcaster can only keep so much viz intact without it dissipating at dawn. Generally equal to half their level rounded down plus their intelligence or wisdom bonus.

The Wizards works similarly to the D20 Sorcerer where the spellcaster doesn't have to memorize spells but instead learn spells and cast them any way they want until their spell slots are used up for the day.

For Swords and Wizardry I went with the following table instead the one with the D20. They can cast arcane rituals with a spell level equal to 1/2 the high level spell they can case (rounded down). So Wizard can begin to cast first level arcane rituals at 3rd level when they learn how to learn and cast 2nd level spells.

Spells Per Day


Spell Known
 

AsenRG

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Sure blessing of the crops, but we are talking about the outright creation of food. I have no problem with saying that crop yields are 20% or so better along with beneficial effects of cure light wounds, cure disease, and healing potions.

I just think immediately focusing industrial age mobilizations is anachronism and not representative of what would happen unless magic is just that good. And because magic is all made up and arbitrary we could go round and round about that.

What I can say that in GURPS being able to Create Metal, Water, and Food require X hours of learning in according their study rules for skills. In OD&D most of the spells that have large societal impact are also at higher levels. Create Food is a 5th level spell which is gained at 8th one step from being a Patriarch at 9th level. In both systems to get to the point, society has to have enough excess output to support unproductive members to get their training to that point.

As for divine self-interest of trading food for worship. I have to say, that not quite how I think it would go down. Why bother with human intermediaries just go for the miracle and be done with it.

We are talking adjusting dials. My focus is on how we can create a plausible fantasy medieval setting given what been stated about GURPS Magic, Fantasy Hero, Swords and Wizardry, or similar system. The nuances of my solution to all three are different but are also variations of a theme.
  • Clerics are not free agents instead follow a faith and religion where the divine has it own agenda.
  • Spellcasters are expensive for society to upkeep until they are useful. (Which is true of all scholarly profession not just spellcasters).
  • The best spells for societal change are hard to get or to learn.
  • What does happen are small islands of wonder where small groups live in unimagined luxury compared to the surrounding culture.
  • Compared to our history, cultures tend to have a better quality of life around 20 to 30 percent. Folks live 20% long, children survive 20% more, there is 20% more surplus to support a wider variety of occupations, and so on.
Finally to be clear, I am not saying all of the above is the inevitable conclusion one must draw. But one possibility among other likely possibilities and all of it built by twisting various dials one way or the other. Or thinking about the premise and reasoning from there.
Sure, it can work the way you say. But you do realize that the PCs are almost bound to start using that approach to their benefit, right?
 

robertsconley

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Sure, it can work the way you say. But you do realize that the PCs are almost bound to start using that approach to their benefit, right?
And thus creating another small island of wonder :wink:

On a more serious note, most of the time the PCs are too busy to try to jump start an industrial revolution especially when

  • They have to explain, convince or acquire the power to get the general in place.
  • They have to contend with the fact that society just doesn't operate on the regimented schedule that factories and mass organizations need. Instead everything is in accordance with custom and local societal ebbs and flows.
  • Then there are the vested interests in keeping the status quo.
  • As said before with the classic editions the best societal changing spells are at higher levels. Only acquired after much adventuring and which invariably leaves the PCs with their on agenda.
  • Finally PC Clerics are not free agents, they are adherents of a religion and need to follow their dictates of their religion first. Magic Users are free agents but see the above point for when they get the best societal changing spells.
All of the above has been tried or attempted by the various PC groups over the years. The result are generally a mixed bag and mostly produce what I like to call another small island of wonder.
 

AsenRG

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And thus creating another small island of wonder :wink:

On a more serious note, most of the time the PCs are too busy to try to jump start an industrial revolution especially when

  • They have to explain, convince or acquire the power to get the general in place.
  • They have to contend with the fact that society just doesn't operate on the regimented schedule that factories and mass organizations need. Instead everything is in accordance with custom and local societal ebbs and flows.
  • Then there are the vested interests in keeping the status quo.
  • As said before with the classic editions the best societal changing spells are at higher levels. Only acquired after much adventuring and which invariably leaves the PCs with their on agenda.
  • Finally PC Clerics are not free agents, they are adherents of a religion and need to follow their dictates of their religion first. Magic Users are free agents but see the above point for when they get the best societal changing spells.
All of the above has been tried or attempted by the various PC groups over the years. The result are generally a mixed bag and mostly produce what I like to call another small island of wonder.
...Wait, none of those PCs decided to leverage their now-increased productivity into coquest:shock:?
 

robertsconley

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...Wait, none of those PCs decided to leverage their now-increased productivity into coquest:shock:?
Plenty of PCs conquered just not due to ignition an industrial revolution. The most recent group at great time and expense created a network of portals so can quickly corner the market on buying magic items. Great for them really not relevant to society except for the realm they are targeting. Their "big" plan is to kill the leader, then her lieutenants and work their way down until they are the only ones in charge.

The two PCs conquerors from past campaign also approached differently. One became part of the City-State heirarchy and worked their way into power as a regent then eventually Overlord.

The other won a land grant from the Overlord (the previous one) on the border of City-State and Viridistan (which was in a civil war). Used it supply a small force backed by Silver Dragons (long story), conquered a kingdom. Then allied with the faction of Viridistan civil war just over the border and then broke away from the City-State. His approach was more hearts and minds.

The remaining groups over the years had considerably more modest goals. About half would have rejected any type of ruling responsibility.

Finally most players in my campaigns quickly realize trying to implement modern ideas and techniques is anachronistic. Folks in the setting just don't get it when PCs tried to explain what they are doing, or rebel if imposed in the one case where that happened. I don't have to use fiat, just be well-read in history enough to be informed how folks reacted to the first industrial revolution and to the predecessor steps.

It not like it won't eventually happen, just not in the century when my campaign is set. It like time travellers trying to create the first industrial revolution in the 11th century. Several important steps haven't happen yet to make it worthwhile to the general populace both high and low.

It why there isn't guns all of the place even though Dragon Powder (gunpowder) is known as a result of a campaign I ran in the 90s. What it used for is better siege weapons , bronze and especially iron metallurgy isn't up to task yet to go smaller. But now it been a few decades in-game improvements have been made and now there there smaller pieces on swivel mounts to be used as defense in fortification and prepared positions in the field. The gun carriage hasn't been invented yet as wagons and cart technology has not advanced enough for it to become a possibility. But by the next century it will get to that point as well as metallurgy improving to make the first black powder weapons.
 

ffilz

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...Wait, none of those PCs decided to leverage their now-increased productivity into coquest:shock:?
And by the way, I think this that you’re angling at is Rob’s willingness to let the PCs trash his setting...

Based on all of what Rob has shared he runs an incredible Sandbox. I doubt I could ever match what he does...

Rob thanks for all of this lots of good stuff to think about.
 

gentlemanbear

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Good point, by inevitably I mean in a fairly short time on a historical time scale, or at least the time scale of most settings I have seen where magic has "always" been around, that is at least a 1000 years. It does depend on the details but for a AD&D type magic I'd say within 100 years easily.

On "Create Water" at least in AD&D it was a 1st level Cleric spell, creating 4 gallons per level. That's about 8 human-days of water per day.
"Purify Food & Water" another 1st level Cleric spell, purifies 1 cu ft per level, which is about 28kg of food stuffs (or 28 l water) per level or about 14 human-days of food (or water) at 1000 calories per kg. So carrion, otherwise poisonous food (such as troll :smile: can be made edible. If such substandard food is readily available, instead of a 9:1 (food producer to non-producer) ratio you have 1:13.

Let's compare to mundane production, both medieval and modern.
28kg is very roughly about a bushel, to grow 4-6 bushels at medieval tech takes an acre for a growing season, lets say 4 months (120 days) to underestimate. Now in the same time a 1st level cleric can produce 120 bushels (instead of 6) with no overhead besides food and shelter and no worries about the weather. Of course a farmer with oxen can work about 30 acres in a season with medieval tech (so 180 bushels in a good year), but it requires oxen, a plow and help on the harvest, often a mill, etc.; and is at the mercy of the weather.

In comparison a modern farm can generate roughly 200 bushels an acre (I am rounding up). So I suspect that the proportion of agrarian to non-agrarian workers in a magical society to be much closer to modern standards as cleric pumping out food will replace farmers in the food for the masses arena.

Farmers will really just become gather's of whatever marginal food stuff they can find. Add in a druid using 1st level spells to make a permanent animal companion and speak with animals, and you can have an hawk that knows exactly what to look for and can effectively communicate it to humans, that is, synergies are going to make magic an even more powerful economic force.

Now would humans actually go for this kind of food? Likely if history is any guide. Grain is not a more nutritious diet than hunting gathering, and peoples who developed farming spent many more hours per day securing food than hunter-gatherers...back in the day based on the bones...hunter-gathers (especially fish eaters) were bigger, healthier, and had far better teeth than farmers. Farming though is reliable, and more importantly requires much less land to feed a single person. Now magical food and water...is even more reliable, and requires likely even less land (one could turn any plant or animal material into dinner), and takes no sweat or hard labor.

One question is do you have enough clerics to do this? Now let's just say a min WIS for a cleric is 12 on 3d6 (actually it is 9 in AD&D, the 12 is for a druid), that means 37.5% of your population would qualify, even if only 1/10 th of those make it to 1st level, that is still almost 4% of your population (I suspect though that at least half would make it)...yet it takes only less than 1% of your population casting 1 such spell every day at 1st level to feed them all. Forget farmers and hunters feeding the tribe....it will be the clerics, the rest of the tribe just gathers up some food stuff, no matter how nasty, into a box and presto change-o, dinner time. :smile:

Given those numbers even if the spells to do this are higher level, say needing a 16 WIS on 3d6, that is still over 4% of the population. How society would change to make sure it had enough clerics to feed everyone is anyone's guess. Will the clerics be lauded, highly placed members of society (a carrot approach)? Will they be forced by those with swords, or hostages, or more powerful clerics to do this task (a stick approach)?

Given the importance and power can imagine that if you qualify you have to train, but also imagine every effort would be made to help you succeed (carrot and stick approach). Also, can easily see Clerics ruling and having their own military arm (paladins :smile: ) to keep some warlord from telling them what to do on pain of death. After all they can say follow me and I will feed you every day, heal your every wound, cure your every disease and maybe one day if powerful enough even raise you from the dead if you serve well...and these will not be idle promises the warrior wonders how their liege will fulfill...but very easy promises to keep as the warrior can see with their own eyes any day of the week.

...it will even spill over into other magic using professions...MUs may be illegal because they draw off candidates for clerical training and thus are a threat to the communities food supply...perhaps you can be an MU if you fail the WIS test to be a cleric...but then most MUS will have a reputation for being a bit foolish and impulsive...even more reason to have laws to contain these dangerous types. :smile: MUs clearly are bad selfish, self-centered, unstable menaces to society...and clerics providers, healers and over all wise and controlled. Now druids may or may not be banned, no one wants someone who can "speak with animals" telling you how the cows and pigs don't want to be slaughtered...or worse yet stirring up trouble on the animal farm. :smile:

Now that is just food, other things will drastically alter what humans do with their time, land and labor. For example, a longevity potion may be hard to make and require rare ingredients, yet extrapolating from human nature those in power will bend the resources at their disposal to make it happen, send small armies to capture the creatures required, make huge guarded gardens to grow what is needed. I'd just say consider what humans are willing to do when they believe in magic with zero real evidence, then think what they would do if they had hard evidence they can see every day that it worked.

I'll just say, rare is the game that logically addresses the consequences of it's magic system if it includes creation magic (especially food).
Hand waving this and that about how hard it is to be a spell casters doesn't hold up if you run some numbers.
Doesn't matter if it takes 20 years to be one, if your working life is 20 years.
Doesn't matter how "exhausting it is" as humans never let the need for back-breaking labor stop them...and in reality spell casting is a lot less exhausting than farm labor...let alone the results are guaranteed (no storm or drought is going to ruin things for you), and instant, and require no more overhead than you already spend on keeping a farmer alive.
Sure day 1 you start with zero spell casters, and may only have 4% of your population after 20 years, but each year you add more than you lose and after a few generations you will have a steady state that is easily 4% of your population. And that is a low estimate, if things are maxed out you could readily have 30% of you population or more as spell casters; which leaves plenty of room for 1-5% "forced" to use their magic to feed people, make magic lanterns etc. and the rest various higher levels of spell caster who can focus on maintaining power.

Very last, but not least, as humans tend to do everything they can to stay in power once they have it, perhaps in a society where magic can readily create food growing your own food will be outlawed or highly regulated. After all you don't want the masses getting the idea they can step outside the system and feed themselves. :smile:

This is literally everything I detest about high fantasy and high magick settings, lol!
Rock on, dude!
 

Ben Adams

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I'm going to be honest; I'm at work and don't have time to read through this 'fantastic sounding' thread so I don't know if similar was written. But I will put in my two coins.
When i started playing 3ed & magic was more plentiful/problematic to my campaign worlds I started to view magic as a life blood of spells AND magic creatures (yeah, yeah, I stole it from Willow. All praise the High Aldwin). Now a spell such as fireball quickly pulled from this mystic blood of the universe but permanent spells & permanent summon creatures continuously pulled from it. Magic items only pulled from it when in use (a magic sword pulled when it attacked or did it's thing, magic armor pulled when attacked, etc.) This pull could be felt or smelled by magic creatures (anything not standard on earth) and unearthly beings. And they would come looking for it.
Dragons & trolls wanted to add to their hordes, owlbears or manticores would like to eat them (an owlbear that had a magic item from it's rolled treasure had it in it's gullet which resulted in it having its Max possible HP), etc. For something like continual light, that might as well be a blue light special sign for the closest beast. The wizard produces a bunch, puts them in a warehouse, goes out to adventure, and comes back to see the place busted up. Even magical wards and protections attracted unwanted attention. That's part of the reason monsters are found in dungeons, the ancient magic. Angel and demon wars were more likely to start at the wizard's tower if they have a bunch of big enchantments.
Even daily use of the same spell create water can exponentially increase the risk (2%, 4%, 8%, etc.) of bad attention (wandering monsters). That's part of the reason whey a) common folk don't trust magic & b) few merchants would deal in them. Also, the normies didn't know the 'rules of the world' or why this happened, just what others have said or rumors heard.
The kicker is I don't tell this to players, it's better for them to discover on their own. I will usually say that my campaign is different than others and give two examples (my goblins have spider-climb as a natural ability, my kobolds are ratmen) but tell them they need to discover the differences on their own.
 

robertsconley

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Small Islands of Wonder, Magic and Society Part 3​

After the end of the last post, the world of magic is dominated by clerics, religion, and divine magic. With the exception of the Elves and their allied culture where a tradition of arcane wizardry was developed along with divine magic.

As world rediscovered bronze and later iron technology. Arcane magic remained in the background. Cultures and religion proved to be a barrier but not an impenetrable wall. Independent discoveries and trade with the elves slowly spread arcane knowledge, spells, and rituals. Like in Earth's history the endless summer of small regional cultures doing their own things was to be shattered by the rise of the empires.

The Rise of the Viridians

Despite being divinely constructed and guarded by the Great Dragons, the entrance to Abyss that chromatic crystals guarded was a location in the world that could discovered and explored. Chance and circumstance combined with evil intent to allow a powerful wizard to steal one of the chromatic crystals, the Ebon Flame. The story of that wizard and the war against him is epic but is a tale for another time.

The theft of the crystal left a gap within the ward. and a thousand years later, the weakest of demons the Green Lords or the Viridians found the gap and they were just weak enough that they could use it to escape. Once free they sailed away and founded an empire. Soon other races including the Elves came into conflict with the Viridians and war broke out.

For magic, the Viridians had the first major independent tradition of arcane magic outside of Wizardry. Demons had no access to the divine as they considered themselves enemies of creation. So they developed arcane rituals into a high art including the development of the powerful 7th to 9th level rituals.

The Rise and Fall of Empires

The Viridians did little to endear themselves to humans and the other races. They believe themselves to be lords of creations and sought to enslave whole cultures at every opportunity. But their numbers dwindled and like neighboring cultures their realms experienced a rise, a fall, a dark age, and rebirth. In both the Majestic Wilderlands and the Majestic Fantasy Realms there were three empires over the centuries. The downside of how the Viridians acted that for many cultures, arcane magic became associated with demons and evil. It wasn't until the rise of the next great empire that arcane magic came into it's own.

That empire was the Ghinorian Empire in the Majestic Wilderlands, and the Bright Empire in the Majestic Fantasy Realms. Both considered themselves universal empire espousing ideals to appeal to all people regardless of cultures. Both had a dominant religion that preached these ideals as divinely ordained and both were highly successful in spreading to all corners of the main continent.

Like most religions in other cultures, the empire had a tradition of Arcanists subordinated to the church. One specialty found among others in various orders of scholars and monks. The success of the empire meant contact with many different cultures including the Elves and their tradition of Wizardry. And the Viridians and their tainted tradition of arcane magic. This widespread contact lead to renaissance of learning and scholarship spearheaded by the church.

But as the centuries rolled on, the empire developed cracks and faltered. Both versions weakened by civil war, and both had their death blow delivered by barbarian invasions. In the chaotic centuries after the fall, the church shattered and it adherent left to fend on their own. The old arcanist used their knowledge of elven wizardry, the rituals of over a dozen cultures, and Viridian own tradition scrubbed of any demonic taint to create a new form of arcane magic, the Magic User. Freed by the demand and constraints of religion the early magic-users were able to prefect the new way of casting spells and teach it to others.

Like a wizard a magic user performed mediations to memorize a spell form that could be filled with energy and released as spell. But instead of internalizing the forms, they made a crucial innovation of the spell book. The use of the spell book allowed many more forms to kept in a magic user's mind compared to a wizard. In addition it only took a short amount of time to rememorize new forms. Although the number and powers of the memorized forms depended on the skill of the magic orders.

The Magical Orders.
Art by Richard Luschek
The centuries after the empire's fall saw the rise of various magic orders. The Order of Thoth arose from some of the early magic-users banding together for protection. The Order of Sarrath was an alternative tradition of ritual casters that became an important part of the Ochre Empire one of the largest successor realms to emerge from the collapse of the Bright Empire. The various viking cultures developed an order of ritual casters using runes. Alongside these new order Wizards from the elves and their allies and Viridian artificers who used the old form of ritual magic to create magic items.


All of the orders are still finding their way. The present day of my campaigns in both the Majestic Wilderlands and the Majestic Fantasy Realms is set during the time where these orders are coming into their own. The turmoil's of their early history is past and each have established a place in their respective cultures.

The wider world is also coming into its own as the various realms have move past the dark age after the fall of the empire. Commerce and finance has step alongside land as a source of wealth and power. And nobody know what the next few centuries will bring either for the realms or magic.

The Mechanics

Magic Users


The same as any classic edition. Additionally magic users can cast 10 minute rituals from their spellbooks. The maximum level they can cast as a ritual is equal to 1/2 of the high spell level they can cast (rounded down). If a magic-user can cast 4th level spells they can also cast 2nd level spells as ritual. In this area magic-users regressed compared to the older ritual caster due to the focusing on memorizing spells.

Order of Thoth

The same as magic users above. In addition they learn the Shield of Magic which confers 20% magic resistance per level until it maxes out at 100% at 5th level when they become a master in the order. I recommend limiting this to non-damaging spells that require a save like charm person. Not to spells like fireball or stinking cloud that create something else that does the damage. The Shield of Magic was developed to protect mages from being controlled as a slave by another mage.

Order of Sarrath

This is a order of the ritual only spell casters known as Theurgists. As an official arm of an empire dedicated to worship of the dragon god of war and order (think lawful evil) these spellcasters learn to cast joint rituals. They can combine their caster levels for an increased spells effect. For example 5 5th level Theurgists can cast a 25D fireball.

Rob's Note: I have to admit, I thought this would work out better than it did. At the time I thought there were a fair amount of spells in the classic editions like fireball where they were more effective when cast by higher level magic users. This turned out the exception not the rule for the classic editions.

But would out work out fine if 5e is being used. In 5e most spells are more potent when cast through a higher level spell slot.

Runecasters

This is another order of ritual only spell casters originated among the dwarves and human viking cultures who used runes. Instead of scrolls runecaster can scribe runes that function the same. Used the spell is cast and the rune disappears. The difference is that runes are more compact so Runecaster can make runewands or runestaffs with many runes on them. And they are more lasting than paper being carving into a durable material like wood or stone. Runes for a spell take up around three inches of length for a staff or wand. A three inch by three inch square on a flat surface.

Charms

Charms are like scrolls except they remain after being used. They cost double (money and time) what a scroll costs and half to recharge (money and time). They also can be activated by non-spellcasters as one-use magic item. For runecasters they are an advanced form of runes.

Wrapping it up.

My hope with this short series of essays on magic and society provide some useful insight and inspirations for your own campaign. The history of magic I outlined is not the only way it could have played out. With different premises and history turning in a different all kinds of interesting possibilities emerge.

One thing to keep in mind if you believe that a magic utopia is inevitable. Once way to sidestep that issue to set the campaign prior to the time in which the utopia will happen. Everything has a beginning and Rome wasn't build in a day.

Finally this material is also preview of the upcoming Lost Grimoire of Magic. The next book in my Majestic Fantasy RPG series with will debut late this summer after the Wild North is released.
 

Ravenswing

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(Rant from Gaming Geek Fallacy #3: Magic Changes Society, September 2013)

We know in detail -- if we're at all paying attention, that is -- about the magic and enchanting capabilities our game systems allow. The game companies which publish those systems are usually eager to sell us game settings. These generally provide a good picture of how many mages of what degree of power live in those lands, by way of depicting key NPCs, from the Royal Sorceress to the fussy old enchanter puttering around his dingy shop on the corner.

And time and time again, in setting after setting and system after system, GMs and players alike badly overestimate the amount of magic available to make life as rich and wonderful as necessary for the PCs to get anything they want on demand, without having to wait for it, and to not have the daylights taxed out of themselves to boot.

I've read a lot of D&D campaign settings. I've seen Greyhawk and Lankhmar, Al-Qadim and Blackmoor and Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms and the D&D version of Rokugan and NOwhere (with the sole exceptions of Eberron and Spelljammer), do you find these vast world changes. The cities, for the most part, look like any old pseudo-medieval fantasy city; the rural areas have farms and villages and things like any old pseudo-medieval fantasy fief. The shops depicted in these supplements don't have magical boxes where you insert a few gold and POP! WHIZ! a sword pops out; they have smithies where armorers pound them out on anvils. The farmers don't sit back and watch the priestess of the Earth Goddess de jour witch up some crops; they are depicted as sowing, growing and reaping in a fashion a 12th century Burgundian villein would recognize. The fantasy cities aren't fed by hordes of clerics casting Create Food or Goodberry; they're depicted with bakeries and butchers and grocers and stalls in open markets, all operating in a nice low-tech mundane way. People drink from fountains and wells, not from Decanters of Endless Whatever.

Many of the armchair fantasy economic theorists blithely presume a unique degree of efficiency in their gameworlds. Because there are X number of wizards in town of a high enough level to enchant Create Water items, of course the city has pure fresh water in ample quantities. Because there are enough clerics of Y level, of course there's free healing for all and enough food to cover. Because there's Z number of gold coins coming in, the city can afford to have magical streetlights and airships and levitating elevators and all of that.

Life doesn't work that way.

In what gameworld is there depicted a Mordorian totalitarian state, where every citizen works cradle to grave on the ruler's pet projects? (And, if there was one, why would the PCs be exempted?) Few enough. You're not going to have every wizard of enchanting level doing nothing but pouring out civic goodies. They'll be enchanters, yes ... and also battlemages, teachers, researchers, detectives, adventurers, mages-for-hire and the aforementioned fussy old coots who just want to putter in their gardens and not be bothered. You're not going to have each and every priest buckling down and creating food every day, all day; they'll be holding services, doing pastoral work, being bureaucrats, researching, indulging in cloistered monasticism ... and there'll be the fussy old priests who just want to putter in their gardens and not be bothered.

Beyond that, hang on here. So you do have X number of wizards enchanting, and that’s enough to make sure the city has that pure fresh water? Alright, so stipulated. So who’s enchanting the magical street lights? Who’s enchanting flying carpets? Who’s enchanting the animated war machines? (And who, out of curiosity, is creating the enchanted swords, armor, wands, elixirs and other widgets so beloved of PCs?) That would be “no one.” If I have $100 in my pocket, I get to take my wife out to a fancy dinner or I get to take her to a nice show or I get to take her to the Bruins’ game or I get to pick up four new hardcovers or I get to buy a couple new pairs of dress pants. I likely can only do one of these, and I certainly don’t get to do them all. The same principle applies with magic in a fantasy society.

Another crucial error of the armchair theorists is in assuming that everything always goes right. What, the chief enchanter never gets drunk and breaks her neck in a fall the week before the UberDingus is finished? No funds or materials ever get diverted by corruption ... or flat out stolen? The enchanters never find out a month in that what they thought were the fifty rubies needed as material components for that civic enchantment are in fact a bunch of doctored garnets? (Or, alternately, that war the PCs were involved with in Altania has cut off the only bulk supply of rose korf feathers ... can you get by with substituting king korf feathers? No?) Gee, sorry, but that fire that torched a third of the Palestra District before the mages put it out got the Mill Pond Waterworks, and half the city's Create Water items were destroyed? That stuffy king is peeved that HIS Bowls of Endless Food are only silver while he hears the Bowls over in Vallia are made of gold -- so he just commanded the wizards to make up a whole new set. And so on.

(Never mind that hello, die rolls? How often do those spells work perfectly and automatically? Seriously, folks, if the electricity in your home, your Internet connection, running your shower, or starting your car failed as often as one time in twenty, you would be rioting along with everyone else.)

Finally, there's the Who Has The Gold Makes The Rules precept. Let's say there's a wizard in the city who can send long-range, one-way messages ... call it five times a day, for the sake of argument. Cool! Now the PCs can get word to Grand Master Bolan in Warwik City that they found the dingus, and the Master can stand down the alternate plans. Not so fast. They're in Seasteadholm, and that's the only wizard in the city capable of casting the spell. That's an incredibly valuable spell: the baroness wants access to it to send messages to the capital and to her liege lord in the provincial seat, the regimental commander wants access to it to reply to his superiors, the commodore of the naval squadron wants to alert his counterpart in Shelaxin -- a hundred miles down the coast -- that he's chased the pirates in that direction, and every wealthy merchant magnate and compagnia in the city wants to order goods real-time, or alert the financial interests in the capital that the pearl fishers hit a rich new strike. The odds are that each of those Magic Messenger uses are bought and paid for, long in advance, and the wizard isn't about to cough up Baroness Vydra's slot just because some ragamuffin adventurers (who are going to blow town day after tomorrow anyway) walk in demanding instant service.

I have, whenever these economic discussions have come up over the last several years, asked the people who talk about the endless capacities of D&D player-characters why the writers, editors and creators of the D&D product lines don't seem to act as if they really do. I've yet to receive much of any answer at all, let alone a good one.

Lacking the same, I'll fall back on the only logical inference: it isn't depicted that way because it isn't that way.
 

robertsconley

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World in Motion: Breathing Life into your City State

Rob's Note: This is a cleaned up version of this post.

In my Majestic Fantasy Basic Rules, I touched briefly on the idea of that the setting has a life of it own. Most of I wrote was prep, before and during the campaign. I didn't touch on things one can do at the table to breath life into the setting. This following is one thing that hopefully you find useful that makes players feel like they are part of a living breathing world with a life outside of what they do.
The specific issue I will be dealing with is life within a fantasy urban setting. The example I will be using will be based on Judges Guild City State of the Invincible Overlord.

One effective technique I use is to develop a patter to describe what going on particularly in urban areas. I don't attempt to describe everything unless asked. I limit it to things that "caught" the attention of the PCs. The time you go downtown or to a crowded area look at what you notice as you go about your business. Then take a long look around at everything else. You will find that you have a natural filter that so that only certain things come to your attention. Because of this I feel comfortable in highlighting only a few details as the player traverse the city. If the players specifically want to observe in detail then I will paint the full picture around them.

To explain how I do this I made a graphics to illustrate what it is I do using the City State of the Invincible Overlord. The map I use is on the right and is fully keyed. The map the players see is on the right. Either laid out on the table, or up on the screen if using a VTT. There will be a marker on the player map to mark their current position.

The initial situation is that the party is current eating breakfast at the Seahawk Tavern. They decide to pay a visit to the Sorcerer's Supply House. I look at my map and figure out it would take four minutes to get there. Each square is a 120'. The party can move two squares a minute.

The urban encounter table I use has you rolling every minute. I will making six rolls: one to see if anything happens in the tavern while leaving, one to see if there anything going on outside of the tavern. Then four more to see what happens along the way. The reason for the first roll is that for the purpose of encounter the Tavern is it own thing. The reason for the second roll is that players don't know what they will find once they leave the tavern. So I roll to see if anything is going on when they exit. The rest are normal periodic encounter rolls.

I rolled the following.

  1. No Encounter
  2. Foreigner Urchins/Children To/from market/church/work Seeking/In a duel/fight/etc.
  3. No Encounter
  4. No Encounter
  5. No Encounter
  6. Thieves Guild: Pursecutting/Stalking a mark/etc.

This how it would play out.
World in Motion.jpg

The players can deal with or ignore each of these situation as they see fit. It not uncommon for one or two players to decide they want to check out or deal with something while the rest of the party moves on. In which case I handle the split using a round robin technique. I will spend 5 to 15 minutes with a group and then turn my attention to the next group. Going back and forth as needed.

The Dots on the right hand map roughly marks where I would pause the party (or character token) and describe something.

It take some practice but highly effective in giving the players the sense they are part of a larger world.

One problem I had until recently is the number of encounter rolls I needed to make. After running two campaigns using Adventures in Middle Earth, I really liked their journey rules. The most applicable part is where you roll for the number of events based on the length of the journey using a logarithmic scale. This means you will have journey 10 times a long before you get the twice the encounters.
I am working on how this will work for a city adventure. The general gist so far is.
  • One the same street: 1d3-1 encounters
  • Within the same quarter: 1d4 encounters.
  • Across the city: 1d6 encounters.

Afterwards I sprinkle the encounters along the player's route where they would make sense. Sometime it more or less evenly spaced. Other times they can be bunched up around a single block of buildings.
 

robertsconley

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The one where I talk about Gaming Ballistic's Delvers to Grow kickstarter and GURPS.

My friend Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic has launched a new kickstarter for GURPS called Delvers to Grow. It is a series of options and templates that allow players to quickly make GURPS characters at home and during organized play like conventions. It supports a variety of power levels Including "Exceptional" Character at 62 points, "Heroic" Characters at 125 points, as well as providing intermediate steps up to the 250 pt "Larger than Life" default of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy.


So GURPS?

Let cut to chase, GURPS as a system doesn't have a great reputation within the hobby. It it largely viewed as being pricey, complicated and a lot of work compared to other system and other generic systems. My opinion is that the problem is not because of the system but because of presentation. Most hobbyists i.e. potential customers of GURPS, don't have time to sit down with a toolkit to develop the system they are going to use for their campaign. They want to learn a few things, make some characters, make some adventures and get on with the campaign.

Delvers to Grow I feel is a major addition to the work that been done in the past decade to make GURPS more approachable. By making character generation for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG and fantasy campaigns, fast, quick, and easy.

Background

In 2004, GURPS 4th edition was released. In the new few years a series of excellent supplement was put out to support the major genres, like Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, and a major overhaul made superheroes campaigns in GURPS far more interesting than 3e.



However the core books and initial supplements doubled down on GURPS as a toolkit. Which made GURPS 4e far less approachable than previous editions especially 2e. In addition GURPS 4e had a lot less of what I call ready made content lists compared to other RPGs, notably items like fantasy monsters and magic items.



With 3rd edition this was largely solved by the shear scope of the line.



Starting in 2008 these issue were beginning to be addresed. The issue of ready made content was being covered by product lines like GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, GURPS Monster Hunter, and GURPS Action. While the accessibility issue was addressed in large part by the release of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.





Except for one fairly significant issue. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy and Dungeon Fantasy RPG were centered around starting out as 250 point "Larger than Life" characters. Whereas in previous edition and for more of the folks I knew who played GURPS the default was 100 to 150 point Heroic level characters.



4th edition

3rd edition
This showed up in actual play when trying to use Dungeon Fantasy material especially the monsters. One had to be careful otherwise player characters would be overwhelmed. But overall both GURPS Dungeon Fantasy and the Dungeon Fantasy RPG were a win as far reducing the amount of work needed to run a GURPS campaign.

So Delvers to Grow?

Delvers to Go, make the Dungeon Fantasy RPG far more approvable. You decide on a basic approach to your character whether you are Swift, Strong, or Smart. Then start picking various packages of options to build up your final character. Unlike the the 250 point Dungeon Fantasy templates there are not a lot to write down for each keeping it manageable especially for first timers.

For fans of starting out 250 point "Larger than Life" character, it an accessible way of customizing one character within the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.
 

robertsconley

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More OD&D Random Treasure Tables



I updated the random ODnD tables on batintheattic.com to include the following
  • Updated Unguarded Treasure to the full range of level (1 to 13+)
  • Updated To add Generate Magic Sword Only
  • Added Dungeon Room Content Generation
Additional web based tools I have are

DnD Combat Simulator (only two folks whacking at each other but handles any edition)
Majestic Wilderlands RPG Tables (only treasure generation at the moment)

Enjoy!
 
Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
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