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Old 05-05-2019, 09:40 PM   #1
WaterAndWindSpirit
 
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Default What could a D&D like setting realistically look like?

Hello all!

So, with the only hard limit being no technological anachronisms (that is, no technology that couldn't exist by what GURPS calls TL 4 with magic, that is even if it's technically modern tech if it could be reproduced by using TL 4 tools and either the D&D (whatever edition you feel like using) or GURPS magic system (but not both in the same universe) it's fair game), "cultural" anachronisms (such as an early abolition of slavery, public education, cheap adventure novels, scientific theories that could be conceived (even if they can't be proven at the current tech level, the atom has been theorized as far back as Ancient Greece even if it hadn't been proven yet, hell it's even a Greek word meaning roughly "uncutable" so germ theory could at least be one theory floating around about diseases) and crops that existed somewhere in the world but weren't discovered by Europe at the time having been discovered in the D&D like setting being acceptable "cultural" anachronisms) being fair game...

What could a "realistic" D&D-like setting look like? What with the gods actually speaking to their priests and granting them repeatable miracles (that can thus be studied using the Scientific Method), hedge wizards actually having repeatable powers (ditto), but removing technological impossibilities yet adding technological and magical possibilities that make sense in D&D, using existing spells as a power level guideline? (Some wizards had to have experimented to develop some kind of harvest enhancing spells, it just doesn't show up in the source books because the PC party is assumed to be a paramilitary unit, not a group of farmers.)

Send your ideas away if you have any!
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Old 05-05-2019, 11:39 PM   #2
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Default Re: What could a D&D like setting realistically look like?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WaterAndWindSpirit View Post
(Some wizards had to have experimented to develop some kind of harvest enhancing spells, it just doesn't show up in the source books because the PC party is assumed to be a paramilitary unit, not a group of farmers.)
PLANT GROWTH
3rd-level transmutation
-snip combat effect-
If you cast this spell over 8 hours, you enrich the
land. All plants in a half-mile radius centered on a point
within range become enriched for 1 year. The plants
yield twice the normal amount of food when harvested.

It's a druid/ranger/bard (+ nature aspected clerics and paladins) spell. Since it's third level you'll need a fifth (ninth for ranger/paladin) level caster. They could cast it twice over 16h then sleep 8h to regain the spell slots.
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Old 05-06-2019, 05:13 AM   #3
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Default Re: What could a D&D like setting realistically look like?

In the D&D campaign I am currently playing in, my Knowledge Cleric is out to establish a theocracy using mind control spells... Geas is useful for this, along with Suggestion. Thaumaturgy, Enhance Charisma, and Command supplement it nicely. Further, Zone of Truth can be used to check for loyalty, and Sending helps long-range communication. He will also use Continual Light to provide lights in the cities (he's already started in the one city where he already has power). I expect to follow this campaign with a GURPS campaign where he is a villain running the theocracy with mind control and patronage of the arts and sciences (and thus getting the bards to like him, providing free propaganda). He gains access to the last of these spells at level 9. The use of Geas on underlings seems like it would be a common practice among clerics in many realistic settings (and seen almost akin to signing non-disclosure and non-compete clauses today).

The setting has magical ability be relatively rare and divine intervention almost solely through clerics and paladins, of which there are not many, which helps one to gain immense power--there aren't many around who can counteract his actions.

50 years later, however, the cleric will have trained others, and one of the other characters will have inducted the local goblins into his cult to an old one... Assuming none of these gets killed off before the campaign ends.
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Old 05-06-2019, 06:04 AM   #4
Edman
 
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Default Re: What could a D&D like setting realistically look like?

Since RAW in the setting is that the only way to gain power is to survive traps and kill monsters, you get some very unrealistic problems. A high-level Wizard with a high INT will be more skilled at pottery than the greatest master in the town (assuming an INT of 14, Favoured Class Bonus and 1-3 ranks), despite never having touched unmagical mud one day in his life. The same goes for being able to survive falls and the like. The setting is flawed at its heart, is what I'm trying to get at.

GURPS, on the other hand...
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Old 05-06-2019, 06:45 AM   #5
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Default Re: What could a D&D like setting realistically look like?

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Since RAW in the setting is that the only way to gain power is to survive traps and kill monsters, you get some very unrealistic problems. A high-level Wizard with a high INT will be more skilled at pottery than the greatest master in the town (assuming an INT of 14, Favoured Class Bonus and 1-3 ranks), despite never having touched unmagical mud one day in his life. The same goes for being able to survive falls and the like. The setting is flawed at its heart, is what I'm trying to get at.

GURPS, on the other hand...
I understood a great deal of this to be part of what was dismissed by asking about a realistic D&D-like setting. 5E seems to present milestone-based progression as a pretty clear optional rule anyway.

It could nevertheless be interesting to explore the kinds of economies and social rules which would arise from the level-by-killing rules. Any heirs would likely be required to spend time adventuring, ideally reaching level 20 before ascending to the throne. Kings would commission tiered dungeons for their armies to "train" in. The dungeons low-level adventurers enter might be designed by non-profits seeking to provide educational opportunities for non-royals, even having in-game Dungeon Master wizards. Prices would be heavily geared towards the demand for arms and armor, much as college is super-expensive today, given that they are essential to anyone's proper education.

Oh, and if we're going by D&D rules this thoroughly, given which classes emphasize charisma, Warlocks, Bards, and Sorcerers would likely rule the world.
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Old 05-06-2019, 11:13 AM   #6
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Default Re: What could a D&D like setting realistically look like?

An episode of "Ken and Robin Talk about Stuff" from this past October had a segment about what evil deities get out of building all those dungeons full of monsters. They spin some wonderful theories to help justify the ubiquitousness of dungeon crawls in D&D-style games. The short answer is: They're crucibles for evolving better monsters, and wandering parties of adventurers makes the supreme environmental stressor to drive that evolution.
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Old 05-06-2019, 12:11 PM   #7
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Default Re: What could a D&D like setting realistically look like?

A realistic setting wouldn't resemble D&D. If the outside reaches of your principality had boundless treasures unrealized that were guarded by some so-so monsters then a major occupation of your army would be plunging those dungeons. For civilian contractors there would be an entire industry that catered to dungeon delving because that was the prime economic driver in the economy. The value of coins would shift in torrents depending on how big the biggest haul was this month. If you signed a lease in a month when adventuring teams weren't returning with much loot you could be paying less than 1% of what the market shop next to you pays and when you renew your lease it could skyrocket that high for you. Thieves' guilds would not be focused on jewers with a few dozen gold in their vault, they'd be totally fixated on adventurers and their pendulous pouches of gold.
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Old 05-06-2019, 01:46 PM   #8
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Default Re: What could a D&D like setting realistically look like?

A post apocalyptic setting helps a bit - at least to explain the plethora of ruins filled with monsters and treasure, but to be honest the whole performance relies on all sorts of mutually incompatible bits taped together in a spirit of cheerful ignorance.
There are a couple of honest attempts to establish verisimilitude using D&D rules - Expeditious Retreat Press have made brave efforts with their Magical Medieval Society - but they have to rely on some canon that was simply pulled out of someone's butt because it simply didn't occur to them that it needed to work consistently in an economic system.
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Old 05-06-2019, 02:14 PM   #9
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Default Re: What could a D&D like setting realistically look like?

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Originally Posted by WaterAndWindSpirit View Post
What with the gods actually speaking to their priests and granting them repeatable miracles (that can thus be studied using the Scientific Method)
You've made quite a leap there. Actually two leaps.

Two different regimes of D&D have different answers...
Old D&D is 0E, AD&D 1E, AD&D 2E, BX, and BECMI
New D&D is 3.x and 5E

In Old D&D, the gods are capricious, and clerical magic is subject to deific approval. The Cleric player asks for a list of spells. The GM then gives them a list of spells supplied. They are not required to match. If the cleric is not following the rules, they can even be absent.

The gods also do not normally communicate with their clerics other than to grant or deny spells. important ones, usually heads of high temples, may get a daily talk... but for the most part, high level clerics may occasionally be granted the spell for

The last thing the gods want is people not worshipping them, and sciencing clerical magic is going to do that. Besides, if they could, they would have already, as Arcane magic is already scienced. Specific components cause speciifc effects already.

So, Cleric tries experimenting. He no longer gets spells asked for. Then, he loses all 3rd and higher. Finally, if he continues, all spell casting and turning goes away.

Oh, and on Mystara, you get too obnoxious, and your patron immortal zip-yanks you off world, if agents of others don't kill you first. The immortals of Mystara are busy as a behive. And they do show upo and talk to their senior (typically 9th+ level) clerics. Not always to the temple heads, either. Further, on mystara, that wandering guy who quotes annoyingly constraining passages from the holy texts might actually be the guy who wrote it.

Further, clerical magic at casting is subject to divine oversight... you be a heretic, the proof is that healing magic stops working on you. All the gods have been warned you're tyring to replace them... No one's healing spells work, because every immortal now knows you.

Heresy is easily proven. Cut you, then ask for a spell specifically to heal you. Granted, you're orthodox; simply denied, or replaced with a non-damage spell, you're no longer considered one of the flock. Replaced with a combat spell? the spell is probably intended to order your demise. Continual Light or Continual Dark being granted instead? your god has ordered you blinded!

Further, if you change deities, you can lose up to 3 levels. And you have to be even stricter to the teachings on the new deity's faith. Which almost invariantly will include, "No sciencing your spells"...

Oh, and in AD&D 1, a cleric can mark you a heretic... I forget the name of the spell... and it is visible to all clerics.

New D&D, it's all or nothing. Abandon the strictures, no spells for you. And no recharges of manifestations, either. You drop to a second rate fighter..

And, if word gets out you're on the outs with a god of the same non-chaotic-evil alignment, other clerics want ABSOLUTLELY NOTHING to do with you, because it could cost them their own power, prestige, and missions.

Again, the gods do not routinely talk to clerics.
Again, they want worshippers. Anything looking to change the paradigm of worship? No more clerical magic.

Again, arcane is already a science. Or, at least, a well known experimental process has shown time and again that the components work when the magic in the area is undisturbed.

both

The nature of a cleric's prayers is different for each deity... the time taken is fixed, but exactly what, when, and how can vary.

Plus, deities are, unlike the major world-spanning religions of Earth, not presented as contractual deals. (Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have a contractual relationship with their deity, for reward in the afterlife. This is at stark odds with the polytheists who asked for minor boons in this one.) Given that the boons are real, but only to a fraction of the population are prayers directly answered with magic... it utterly changes the dynamic in both contexts. Further, one can contact the dead. One can, in fact, find out if one's rapist went to hades, gehenna, or the abyss... and, if one is powerful enough or wealthy enough, go there and eternally end them. Poof! Gone.

So, religiousity will be VERY high. Even the folks not choosing sides will not be openly challenging the faiths, because the proof is obvious, and a glowing "Hit Here" mark is going to be ugly.

Even in variant worlds, where clerical magic isn't any different from arcane magic save for what spells are available, that clerics can do things in the name of their gods, who might just be shared delusions, religions will be insanely potent by comparison to real world history, where, with few exceptions, what appears to be divine intervention is easily dismissed.

We had executions based upon trials that suggest unrepentant sinning. They're going to have public executions with certainty... the high priest asks the deity, "Is this one a heretic? And this one? and this one?" THey will know with absolute certainty whether their deity considers you a problem. And if they do, whether to kill you or not.

Likewise, truth spells ensure fair trials...
Morality can be VERY black and white.... because, unlike magic itself, the deities have very good ways to show when someone is wrong.
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Old 05-06-2019, 03:18 PM   #10
Proteus
 
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Default Re: What could a D&D like setting realistically look like?

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A post apocalyptic setting helps a bit - at least to explain the plethora of ruins filled with monsters and treasure....
That was the gimmick in FASA's Earthdawn, an interesting attempt to justify some of the fantasy-roleplaying tropes (and play with the pre-history of the Shadowrun universe).
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