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The Neoclassic
2009-03-29, 02:08 PM
Wizards can cast fireballs, turn invisible, and strike opponents blind... All within their first five or seven levels. Clerics can call on their deity several times a day for combat power, healing, and work with extraplanar beings.

So, why would such a world be restricted to medieval standards of living?
Now, I realize there are all sorts of plausible reasons for that, and it's really not my main question. Rather, I'm more interested in exploring how magic could be used for some improvements to the world in terms of sanitation, access to clean water, bountiful crops, etc. I have a few ideas for spells, but I don't know what level they'd be since they are so different than the usual combat spells.

I'm envisioning a world where most governments employ a few mid-level spellcasters to do the following and more:

Keep wells that provide water in cities free from contamination
Protect crops from most common diseases and blights
Increase the disease resistance of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people at a time during the early stages of a potential plague


Some things that magic could probably also do, such as clean filth from the streets, is possible, but it's simply more cost-efficient to have a team of laborers perform the task.

Thoughts on spell levels? Potential problems? Ideas of what other unpleasant realities people experienced in medieval times that magic might reasonably solve? Limits to this? I don't want this to reach a level where magic has given anything close to 20th century technology (especially in what we think of as "technology"- computers, phones, etc.). However, I dislike the idea of filthy cities where citizens have no clean water to drink and never bathe (which was pretty much what real medieval cities were like) and it seems that magic could fairly easily eliminate this problem.

Jack_Simth
2009-03-29, 02:52 PM
Well, if you use the DMG rules on magic traps, you can do a LOT. Pick a spell level.

0:
Cure Minor Wounds traps - if you're injured, you go into a hallway and walk it off (literally). No need to worry about most infections, as you don't stay injured for more than a few minutes. People either die outright, or recover.
Create Water traps - you have a permanent well of clean water, that will give water no matter how much of a dry spell you're in.
Purify Food and Drink traps - food doesn't spoil nearly so easily. You can store food a lot longer this way, which means drought and famine has less of a foothold.
Mending traps - clothing and equipment last a lot longer.

1:
Endure Elements is really the only Core spell of note here that goes well as a society-altering trap at this level. Everyone goes to church for morning services; anyone walking through the door is hit with Endure Elements, and has 24 hours where they can walk barefoot over ice, or in the burning heat of the desert, or what-have-you. Suddenly there isn't any need for firewood, insulation, or the like. Little need for buildings, even, as the rain and snow are primarily only a problem in that they facilitate a temperature change in the body - which doesn't happen under Endure Elements.

2:
Make Whole is the only Core spell of note here that goes well as a society-altering trap at this level. Even that's pretty minor, though - equipment no longer needs maintenance at all. Something breaks, you lay it no the "trap", and it's instantly fixed. Farm implements become inherited, because nobody knows how to make them anymore (everyone who did died of old age, penniless and alone, because his trade evaporates when no tool is every damaged to the point where it needs replacing).
Lesser Restoration does deserve a mention, though - most diseases run on ability damage - which Lesser Restoration fixes. You've still got the disease, though, and you're still contagious, so the plauge will still spread like... well ... the plauge... but it won't kill anyone.
Likewise, Zone of Truth deserves a mention - it changes the look of the courtroom somewhat - it's a bit harder to lie in court - but not all that much (Will save DC 13 negates. Yeah, people will still lie in court - a commoner-1 with 10 wisdom can resist 40% of the time).

3:
Here's where things really get interesting.
Create Food and Water Traps: What's a famine? Oh, that's when we have to eat tasteless mush, right? Oh, you mean the Prestidigitation trap integrated inside takes care of the flavor? Cool. Really, if this is available as an at-will trap, farmers are out of business... or would be, if it weren't for that pesky noble class that wants superior food.
Remove Disease: What plague?
Remove Blindness/Deafness: Ah, my eyes got gouged out (or eardrums punctured) again? Can you lead me over to the temple? Thanks...

More than this is just a refinement on what came before, until you start getting into Raise Dead, Resurrection, True Resurrection, Teleportation Circle, and similar ... but even then, all that does is make sure everyone dies of old age only, and makes it an empire, rather than a city-state.

As a side-effect, though, those who control the traps control what the city looks like. If I charge five coppers to take your bowl through the Create Food and Water trap, five coppers to walk through the Endure Elements trap, and let you use the Create Water trap and the Cure X Wounds trap for free, I'm making 1 sp/day per peasant ... and I have negligible expenses. If I don't hire anyone, I'm a money sink - pretty soon, I'll be the only one with any money at all. So what I do is I hire everyone to do whatever I want. I like art objects? Everyone's an artist. I'm feeling militaristic? Everyone is employed either piling rock up on the outer wall, or patrolling it with slings and stones (doesn't matter that they have no idea what they're doing - only something with DR, incorporeality, or regeneration will live through 10,000 peasants lobbing rocks at them for a round or ten). I'm overly lustful? Everyone dances in little-to-no garments. There's a catch, though: I have to keep them busy, and it has to not seem like busywork (even though it is) - otherwise, they'll eventually wise up and revolt. They might anyway.

Knaight
2009-03-29, 08:56 PM
The traps are brilliant, but there is a lot more than just that. Further levels do still have interesting. Specifically, a lot was missed.
Level 0-1: Summoned monster trap. With a decent caster level, you can basically summon something constantly to grow food, as long as the trap is triggered. Light traps light up the street as one walks along it, Comprehend Languages in a central building works for more or less everything, Mount removes the need for walking, etc. Unseen Servant also can help farm, Jump lets you build bigger cities, Feather Fall lets you build big cities safely, Spider Climb more or less removes the need for stairs.

Level 2-3: Locate Object Trap lets one find lost stuff, and reduces thievery. A continual flame trap lets you make torches that last forever. Whispering Wind traps pretty much replace messengers, having stations every so often(say 5 miles). Phantom Steed traps at the gate facilitate travel. Fly traps change city building again.

From here, stuff only appears in the bigger cities.
Level 4-5: Minor Creation traps are used to make furniture, wagons, etc. Wall of iron and wall of stone let one just start to build cities, and remove the need for mines and quarries. But the really big thing here: Fabricate. Combined with minor creation, artisans and the like can work really fast. Constructing entire houses almost instantly becomes a possibility. Possibly even mobile houses.

Level 6-7: Control Weather traps are huge. Remove bad weather forever. ON a smaller note, Move Earth, which allows for terraforming. Tiny reverse gravity traps allow for floating supports, tied to the ground, which lift up, and can hold things.

Level 8-9: Clone trap. Clone yourself at an age you want to stay at, put the clone somewhere, and once you die of old age, your back at an age you want to be at.

thegurullamen
2009-03-29, 09:25 PM
I do away with the idea that spells can be used to make life better. The way I see it, spells are inefficient. They are the hard and fast way to alter things to your liking. Take more time on a spell and you get a better, longer or larger effect. From here, just choose a few avenues to explore and the advances make themselves. Look at Eberron: transportation and simple lighting got real boosts from magic and without directly mimicking spells. Making items and systems to govern things like plumbing and basic healthcare (read: not just Curing everything all of the time) should be just fine. Just write them up and you're ready.

Jack_Simth
2009-03-29, 09:35 PM
The traps are brilliant, but there is a lot more than just that. Further levels do still have interesting. Specifically, a lot was missed.
Level 0-1: Summoned monster trap. With a decent caster level, you can basically summon something constantly to grow food, as long as the trap is triggered. Light traps light up the street as one walks along it, Comprehend Languages in a central building works for more or less everything, Mount removes the need for walking, etc. Unseen Servant also can help farm, Jump lets you build bigger cities, Feather Fall lets you build big cities safely, Spider Climb more or less removes the need for stairs.

A good part of this depends on
1) How many of the traps you can fund. For instance, if you're making a Summon Monster trap for growing crops, you'll need the trap to be within easy range of the crops to be grown, so that the monster can get to them, and still have enough time to do useful work. That'll generally be 30 feet or so. It takes quite a lot of land to grow crops. Likewise, Light traps make for 500 gp individual light sources (a bit on the pricey side - you could get 5,000 hours of lamp oil for that price). Feather Fall, being a very short-duration spell, could only be effective if it's located in places where someone is expected to fall, and so on. When I'm mentioning the world-changing ones, I'm talking about ones where one of them could change a very big chunk of a city. Cure Minor Wounds, Endure Elements, Create Water, and such do that. These? Not so much.
2) Does the "target" of the trap get to decide how the spell operates? Generally with traps, the answer is "no" - the Summon Monster trap decides what monster to summon, not the person who bumbled into it. Much of the stuff you're describing requires that the person who triggers the trap decides what happens. When I'm talking about world-changing traps, I'm focusing on ones where it doesn't matter if the target gets to decide things or not.
3) Do personal spells work "right" when put into traps? If you can get everyone in the city running Overland Flight, then yes, that changes things drastically. If the spell has to be touch range or greater, then such things become a lot less useful. My list only includes traps that are nonpersonal (effect spells, or spells that can affect people other than the caster).

Basically, my list removes the requirements for DM decision-making - yours doesn't.


Level 2-3: Locate Object Trap lets one find lost stuff, and reduces thievery. A continual flame trap lets you make torches that last forever. Whispering Wind traps pretty much replace messengers, having stations every so often(say 5 miles). Phantom Steed traps at the gate facilitate travel. Fly traps change city building again.

The Continual Flame trap is good; I just don't normally think about this one because Lesser Planar Ally or Lesser Planar Binding can get you a lantern Archon for cheap, and the Lantern Archon gets Continual Flame as an at-will Spell-like ability.


From here, stuff only appears in the bigger cities.
Level 4-5: Minor Creation traps are used to make furniture, wagons, etc. Wall of iron and wall of stone let one just start to build cities, and remove the need for mines and quarries. But the really big thing here: Fabricate. Combined with minor creation, artisans and the like can work really fast. Constructing entire houses almost instantly becomes a possibility. Possibly even mobile houses.

You don't want to use Minor Creation. It wears off, the stuff vanishes. Fabricate is useful (factories), as well as Wall of Iron and Wall of Stone, but that basically just speeds construction, which will quickly be remarkably less useful than you'd think (people don't really need houses from Endure Elements, and you've got reason to keep most people employed making stuff anyway).


Level 6-7: Control Weather traps are huge. Remove bad weather forever. ON a smaller note, Move Earth, which allows for terraforming. Tiny reverse gravity traps allow for floating supports, tied to the ground, which lift up, and can hold things.

Control Weather... is mostly made obsolete by Create Food and Water. It doesn't much matter what the weather's like, if you're inside a building and aren't dependent on the fields for your food. Likewise, Move Earth stops mattering for the same reasons. Reverse Gravity as a way to support an object is a really bad idea - way too tempting for someone to come along and commit mayhem by Dispelling it.


Level 8-9: Clone trap. Clone yourself at an age you want to stay at, put the clone somewhere, and once you die of old age, your back at an age you want to be at.
Reincarnate does this quite handily. Toss the body on the trap, and it's suddenly a living young adult again.

Also, quite a few DM's say the clone only has the memories up to when it was created...

NakedCelt
2009-03-29, 11:02 PM
Hey, why stop at "mediaeval" technology?

If magic was real, people would have been using it since ancient times, right? All the tribal races have shamans and sorcerers. Well, in a world like that, why bother inventing metals, pottery, or writing? Improve all your stone axes with magic weapon! Create skin bags of holding instead of water pots! Preserve messages with magic mouth and permanency! Keep the weather out with force effects!

thegurullamen
2009-03-30, 12:56 AM
Hey, why stop at "mediaeval" technology?

If magic was real, people would have been using it since ancient times, right? All the tribal races have shamans and sorcerers. Well, in a world like that, why bother inventing metals, pottery, or writing? Improve all your stone axes with magic weapon! Create skin bags of holding instead of water pots! Preserve messages with magic mouth and permanency! Keep the weather out with force effects!

That assumes that magic has no cost. People don't just wake up and force the laws of nature to invert themselves at their whim. It takes training and a deep understanding of a lot of principles (in theory anyway (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0126.html).) Hence the prerequisite ability scores. Though it's not spelled out explicitly in the rules, it's heavily implied that it takes a lot of work to be able to do even some of the more simplistic spells. If you want to be able to do any of the things you've suggested, you need to work harder than most (or possibly even all) of the other people in your profession. 10th level casters do not just fall out of trees.

Worse, if you do manage to find one of these rare gods among men, there's only a 1-in-3 chance that he'll be benevolent enough to help you fix the minor problems in the world rather than going on quests to increase his power or fortune. (There's also a 1-in-3 chance that he'll kill you and eat your family, too. So, yeah.)

NakedCelt
2009-03-30, 01:51 AM
That assumes that magic has no cost. People don't just wake up and force the laws of nature to invert themselves at their whim. It takes training and a deep understanding of a lot of principles (in theory anyway (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0126.html).) Hence the prerequisite ability scores. Though it's not spelled out explicitly in the rules, it's heavily implied that it takes a lot of work to be able to do even some of the more simplistic spells. If you want to be able to do any of the things you've suggested, you need to work harder than most (or possibly even all) of the other people in your profession. 10th level casters do not just fall out of trees.

Worse, if you do manage to find one of these rare gods among men, there's only a 1-in-3 chance that he'll be benevolent enough to help you fix the minor problems in the world rather than going on quests to increase his power or fortune. (There's also a 1-in-3 chance that he'll kill you and eat your family, too. So, yeah.)

True — unless you happen to be one of those rare gods among men. Why would an individual with such immense personal power not seize control first of their own tribe, then of neighbouring tribes? The advantage of arming all your followers with magical weaponry should be instantly obvious, and the advantage of providing magical solutions to other problems would become apparent over time as you found yourself competing with neighbouring sorcerers for the loyalty of the local warriors. Society would, in fact, become a giant magic-industrialized magocracy even before the discovery of agriculture. Actually, especially before the discovery of agriculture, because agriculture, metallurgy, etc., provide a vaguely plausible alternative to magic as a source of military power and social organization. Which, when you think about it, guarantees its suppression by the magocrats... I'm starting to imagine a very weird campaign world here...

thegurullamen
2009-03-30, 02:10 AM
True unless you happen to be one of those rare gods among men. Why would an individual with such immense personal power not seize control first of their own tribe, then of neighbouring tribes? The advantage of arming all your followers with magical weaponry should be instantly obvious, and the advantage of providing magical solutions to other problems would become apparent over time as you found yourself competing with neighbouring sorcerers for the loyalty of the local warriors. Society would, in fact, become a giant magic-industrialized magocracy even before the discovery of agriculture. Actually, especially before the discovery of agriculture, because agriculture, metallurgy, etc., provide a vaguely plausible alternative to magic as a source of military power and social organization. Which, when you think about it, guarantees its suppression by the magocrats... I'm starting to imagine a very weird campaign world here...

Yes, that is one way to look at it, but there are a lot of alternatives casters can and usually prefer to take.

Dealing with the "lesser beings" can be a far greater hassle than it's worth: you have to deal with petty politics, quash rebellious factions and balance favor with respect. For what? You could certainly construct a better working body (via undead) or just create whatever you would have your followers make/do for you with a little metal, some fur, a pinch of crystal and a simple gesture.

Why would a caster choose to establish himself as the leader of a group of such beings? I think it all comes down to personal preference. There's little you can do as the head of a tribe or city that you couldn't have done before with just your innate awesomeness. You can choose to use that power to enrich the lives of those under you (and their descendants) just as you could choose to keep all of your glory and treasures to yourself until you die, creating a lost dungeon somewhere in the world for future adventurers to pilfer.

I like the world-sketch you've got there, but it relies on community-minded individuals and that can be hard to come by in a group of gods-what-roam-the-earth.

Pyrusticia
2009-03-30, 06:40 AM
What you need is the Stronghold Builders Guidebook, published by WotC back in 2002.

Chapter Two lists all sorts of community uses for existing magic items (Decanter of Endless Water to substitute for a well, Bag of Devouring for waste disposal, etc). It also compares the use of magic items vs. permanent spells, and discusses magic traps in depth.

Finally, it has a whole section called Wondrous Architecture which includes such things as the Bed of Regeneration (which regenerates missing limbs of whoever lies on it), the Pantry of Preservation (contents are affected by Gentle Repose), and the Orb of Pleasant Breezes (mild and pleasant weather in a two mile radius around the stronghold).

Sounds like just what you're looking for, neh? :smallwink:

arguskos
2009-03-30, 06:46 AM
So, yeah, someone needs to page Emperor Tippy. He's pretty much the king of what happens when you abuse the trap rules. Ask about the TippyVerse someday. :smallwink:

BlueWizard
2009-03-30, 07:22 AM
Wizards can cast fireballs, turn invisible, and strike opponents blind... All within their first five or seven levels. Clerics can call on their deity several times a day for combat power, healing, and work with extraplanar beings.

So, why would such a world be restricted to medieval standards of living?
Now, I realize there are all sorts of plausible reasons for that, and it's really not my main question. Rather, I'm more interested in exploring how magic could be used for some improvements to the world in terms of sanitation, access to clean water, bountiful crops, etc. I have a few ideas for spells, but I don't know what level they'd be since they are so different than the usual combat spells.

I'm envisioning a world where most governments employ a few mid-level spellcasters to do the following and more:

Keep wells that provide water in cities free from contamination
Protect crops from most common diseases and blights
Increase the disease resistance of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people at a time during the early stages of a potential plague


Some things that magic could probably also do, such as clean filth from the streets, is possible, but it's simply more cost-efficient to have a team of laborers perform the task.

Thoughts on spell levels? Potential problems? Ideas of what other unpleasant realities people experienced in medieval times that magic might reasonably solve? Limits to this? I don't want this to reach a level where magic has given anything close to 20th century technology (especially in what we think of as "technology"- computers, phones, etc.). However, I dislike the idea of filthy cities where citizens have no clean water to drink and never bathe (which was pretty much what real medieval cities were like) and it seems that magic could fairly easily eliminate this problem.


I have a bit of everything in my campaign.

Ascension
2009-03-30, 08:08 AM
Nitpick... you're escaping a medieval standard of living with these exploits, but since you're using magic to do so, technically your "technology" remains the same.

PairO'Dice Lost
2009-03-31, 04:30 PM
Nitpick... you're escaping a medieval standard of living with these exploits, but since you're using magic to do so, technically your "technology" remains the same.

Well, if sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then wouldn't sufficiently prevalent magic be indistinguishable from technology? :smallbiggrin:

ArchaeologyHat
2009-03-31, 06:33 PM
Well, if sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then wouldn't sufficiently prevalent magic be indistinguishable from technology? :smallbiggrin:

Only if it can be taught to anyone, in theory, regardless of innate and possibly (in the case of sorcerers) hereditary ability.

Jack_Simth
2009-03-31, 07:45 PM
Only if it can be taught to anyone, in theory, regardless of innate and possibly (in the case of sorcerers) hereditary ability.
Well, one perspective in the DMG on character classes is that they represent training. As an average person has an Int score of ten, the proper equipment (specifically, a Headband of Intellect) can let them cast as a Wizard (if they're trained for it - levels in Wizard), and manage up to sixth level spells (at level 11, with a +6 Headband of Intellect... of course, by that time, they should have a few level-up points to put into Intelligence to represent all the mental work).

So theoretically, yes.

Alternately, you can look at magic items. Almost anyone nowadays can use a computer for basic tasks (e-mail, word processing, getting directions off of the internet, and so on). Many (not all) can do simple hardware upgrades (new hard drive, new ram chips, an accessory card). Some can do minor maintenance tasks (script a computer to do something either on-command or on-schedule). There aren't actually all that many people that can actually design a proper motherboard, or replace a processor on the motherboard, or configure a network for VPN access, or code a system utility. But almost anyone can use a computer reasonably effectively. It might be interesting to locate the percentange of people that do deep computer work (computer programing, designing motherboards, et cetera), and compare those to the percentage of random townspeople in D&D that are members of the Full Casting Classes.

PairO'Dice Lost
2009-04-01, 03:57 PM
Alternately, you can look at magic items. Almost anyone nowadays can use a computer for basic tasks (e-mail, word processing, getting directions off of the internet, and so on). Many (not all) can do simple hardware upgrades (new hard drive, new ram chips, an accessory card). Some can do minor maintenance tasks (script a computer to do something either on-command or on-schedule). There aren't actually all that many people that can actually design a proper motherboard, or replace a processor on the motherboard, or configure a network for VPN access, or code a system utility. But almost anyone can use a computer reasonably effectively.

This is basically what I was referring to--magic items, not necessarily spellcasting, for everyone. Not everyone can build a computer from scratch, but most people nowadays can use one once it's built.

------------------------------

If people really want to cast spells themselves, instead of just having items that activate on a trigger, here's a quick mental exercise, spoilered for space:
If few people can actually cast spells, how easily can the average person use magic items? The average Commoner 1 can pick up 2 ranks in Use Magic Device and Spellcraft. Magical Aptitude (which many will take in a high-magic world) gives another +2 in each. Skill Focus will give him a +3 in one of those (if he's human) if he wants to specialize.

Using a wand only has DC 20 with UMD, and using a scroll is 20+CL, so a commoner with 11s across the board for abilities will be able to activate a wand 25% of the time, with human specialists being able to activate one 40% of the time. In many games the average NPC is an expert rather than a commoner for variety, so because they can pick their class skills they'd have a 35% or 50% chance for nonhumans and humans, respectively. The chance goes down with a scroll, but wands are more cost-effective and most likely more common anyway. Not at all shabby, considering that most items proposed in this thread don't require skill to activate and you'd only need wands or staves if the NPCs wanted to cast something themselves.

When you get past the unwashed masses and take a look at, say, level 3 experts who run day-to-day life, the numbers are even better. Nonhumans can pick up a Skill Focus feat and humans can have both SF: Spellcraft and SF: UMD at this point. They get 6 ranks, which brings their total success rate up to 70%. There have to be some level 5 people running around, since wands are being made and that requires CL 5, so let's take a look at level 5 people--no more feats, but they get 2 more ranks and can boost their Cha to 12, so throw in a masterwork tool and that'll give them a success rate of 95%.

Think about it. In a world where magic fulfills technology's functions, that's the D&D equivalent of every person being able to build their own computers, cars, etc. from scratch! Clerics can be replaced with a bunch of experts with cure X wands, the average farmer can head out and water his fields with one or two tries (or summon help, since he can summon them where they're needed rather than having them summoned and returned to a particular point), and so on.

I don't know how helpful/relevant that was, but it was interesting for me to sit down and take a look at the numbers.