I've been thinking on and off for a while about a D&D game where the full implication of D&D-style magic in a medievalesque setting was realized. I'm not talking about Eberron's fantasypunk - though it's a bit of that. I'm talking about something closer to the Tippyverse
Now, the setting I'm imaging isn't constrained solely by RAW, like the Tippyverse would be. It's also a setting where most of the standard Fantasy tropes don't exist. It probably more closely appears to be Science Fiction.
I'm going to list just some thoughts I've had, in no particular order. I invite suggestions and comments.
Craft Rune Circle
In the Tippyverse, all the "repeatedly-create-things-by-magic" was done through the trap creation rules. However, Craft Rune Circle, a creation feat from Races of Stone, is superior in most ways and doesn't have the same feel of rule abuse. Using a Rune Circle, you can do the normal Tippyverse Create Food and Water
stuff, along with Teleportation
. However, that's not all. First, you can have Rune Circles that increase Caster Level for the purposes of creating magic items:
Originally Posted by RoS, pg.170
Rune Circles and Crafting Items: Making other magic items inside rune circles is interesting from a flavor standpoint, but DMs should be careful of allowing players to manufacture items for less than the normal cost for game balance reasons. For example, a character creating a wand of fireballs inside a rune circle that increases his caster level would get the increased level. This use of the circle is fine, as long as the wand's price is calculated using the adjusted caster level. If the wizard in the above example is 5th level and creates the wand in a rune circle that adds three to his caster level, he must pay the XP and raw materials cost for making an 8th-level wand.
This can be combined with a modified, non-racial Forge of Thautum (RoS, pg. 167) to allow any peasant to craft a low-level magic item. Second, Rune Circles can enhance spells cast inside them (Examples: Dwarfheim Circle - free Quicken, Healing Circle - free Maximize on Healing, Deep Hollow Circle - free Augment Summon and additional Earth-subtype creature). Finally, Rune Circles allow people inside them to cast spells (Example: Gnome Charming Circle and Goliath Speaking Circle, though both of them have limitations).
Rune Circles are also relatively cheap for the effect they grant. At base, the price is divided by 4. Decreasing the size from a 10ft-radius to a 5ft-radius reduces the price even further by 25% or by 50% if reduced to a 5ft-square. A Rune Circle that allowed an unlimited, command-word 10 CL Lightning
to anyone standing in a 5ft-square costs a rather low 6,750gp. If you were a king, which would you rather have: four (and a half) suits of full plate armor or the ability to fire 120ft lines of 10d6 electrical death?
Think of what something like the discovery of penicillin
has done for the world. Okay, now imagine that you could take medicine that not only cure any known disease but could also heal all injuries almost instantly. Remove Disease is a 750gp potion while healing potions range from 50gp (Cure Light) to 750gp (Cure Serious). The only way important people in a society with access to such power would die is if they were killed in a single fatal blows or by old age. The dirt-farming peasants probably aren't all that much better off, but when are they ever? (Of course, given that almost all farming has been replaced by Create Food and Water
Rune Circles, who knows)
D&D doesn't allow anybody to "sip" a potion - you have to drink it all to get any effect - but it's obvious that this is a game balance/minutiae issue. Imagine fighting somebody who's hooked up to an IV drip of healing potion (with the IV probably protected, of course). That would be a real pain, and the scariest part is that anybody with enough money could do it.
Resurrection and Reincarnation
Hey, remember when I said that important people only die by a single fatal blow or by old age? I lied; they don't stay dead at all. An unlimited, use-activated, 5ft-square Raise Dead
Rune Circle costs 73,750gp. Expensive, but not outside the realm of possibility. If you're willing to have a once-a-day one, the price drops considerably - down to a mere 8,500gp. Given that Raise Dead
drops you a level, a once-a-day version should be fine unless your army gets killed. True Resurrection
Rune Circles get around the level drop problem, as well as obviating the need for a body.
Old age is still a problem, except that Reincarnation
creates an entirely new, young body. It drops you a level, but that's not a problem since you now have at least 40 years to get that level back.
A nation with enough money can start doing absolute wicked things with a True Resurrection
Rune Circle when combined with various teleportation magic. It's easy to imagine an amulet with a use-activated teleport that teleports the user back to the True Resurrection
Rune Circle when they die. Now imagine facing an army equipped with such magic.
Where's all the XP required for crafting coming from? Sure, an evil ruler might just use liquid pain (BoVD), but any nation founded on torturing probably won't last long (popular revolts, other nations attacking them, adventurer intervention, etc). The more discerning ruler could use one of the various methods XP transference
. All those unemployed peasants now have a job - powering the economy. It's a lot more painless, at least. Even if you're only siphoning the equivalent of a few XP per day from each peasant, there are still a lot of peasants out there. Talisman of Transference
is probably the safest bet, as it can link any number of people and the peasants can stay at home doing ... peasanty things or whatever.
Castles eventually went out of vogue with the development of cannons. The forts that replaced castles did not soar with huge, stone walls. Instead, they had squat stone walls banked with ground and dirt. The idea was to deflect the cannon shots and make it harder to be hit, rather than stopping the shot. Any society where a single man can throw around fireballs
needs to make a similar change in defense.
The fortresses of Magitech D&D are probably squat fortresses, but they're also protected by walls of force
and similar protection. Don't forget magically treated
which doubles hardness and HP. No fortress is fully protected without protection from teleportation as well. Maybe some sort of ward against teleportation, with the requirement of dimensional anchor
or similar magic.
Of course, it could go even further than that. While fortresses might still exist, the unprecedented level of mobility allowed by fly
probably means that combat more closely resembles modern combat than pre-Napoleonic. It would be extremely hard holding territory and battle lines would be extremely fluid.
Of course, why try to hold land when you can just create it? This isn't as fleshed out, but a once-a-year Genesis
item wouldn't be all that expensive at all. One could also figure out a way of blocking extraplanar travel in a way similar to blocking teleportation - perhaps it would only be opened to extraplanar travel at certain times (known only to people loyal to the ruler of the demiplane) or in certain places of the demiplane.
Building a Better Warrior
The bad part of having soldiers is that they take so long to train if you want them to be any good. Plus, the common man starts to get upset when his friends and brothers start dying in wars in far-off lands. So why bother with having a normal army at all? You could always use animated undead. However, while using the decaying corpses of your former subjects is rather metal, it does tend to raise certain hackles. You could entirely avoid ethical issues by using animate object
and some sort of once-a-day permanency
. You would still need commanders in the field, of course, unless you just tell the horde to "Kill everything in the 100 by 100 mile area over there".
If you don't want to entirely replace your soldiers, you can supplement them with items that summon monsters
. A squad of 10 soldiers isn't that intimidating. A squad of 10 soldiers supplemented by 20 to 50 dog-sized scorpions is, however, especially when they can immediately replace any scorpion that dies.
Of course, that's not all. Judicious use of alter self
, the form of ...
line and bite of ...
line can turn even a peasant into a killing machine pretty quickly. Once again, the only limit is cost - which is definitely not an insurmountable one.
Next, a ruler can use acquired templates like half-golem to enhance their warriors. Obviously, such things should be dealt with judiciously. Half-golem is going to turn a certain percentage of your soldiers into uncontrolled killers, but it's going to turn the rest of them into highly magic-resist, supernaturally strong killers so thems the breaks. Plus, there's no telling what sort of magical advances could be made if a nation starts doing research into improving half-golems.
Speaking of improvement, the clockwork armor
is an amazing item with flaws that are very much overcomeable. You definitely wouldn't outfit an armor with them, but they would work very well improving "commandos" or other special forces.
The knight did not last long after the invention of the gun. While most weapons couldn't penetrate full plate, any old peasant could pick up a gun and be reasonably deadly with it. And there were a lot of peasants. Now, replace the gun with a flamethrower. Alchemist fire is pretty inexpensive to make and it has the bonus of being non-magical, which means not crafting XP required. Hand-pump flamethrowers aren't all that hard to make, either. While such primitive flamethrowers wouldn't have the tremendous range of modern flamethrowers, they probably have comparable range with primitive firearms. Plus, it's harder to miss with a flamethrower.
Of course, peasant armies auto-fail to cloudkill
, so get ready to see something that approximates World War I gas warfare as well.
Waterwheel meet decanter of endless water
. If you're worried about flooding, get a well of many worlds
or just teleport it into the ocean or outer space or something.
Well, I'm starting to run out of steam. One last thing to note is that I haven't set the tone of the game on the GRIMDARK scale. Such a campaign could run from Star Trek-level utopianism to Heavy Metal GRIMDARK.