Rules and magic affecting the world

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dudemonkey
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Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by dudemonkey » Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:47 am

This is split from the Specularum thread, which was starting to get off of the main topic and onto a very interesting side topic brought up by Zendrolion. So interesting that I thought it deserved its own thread:
Zendrolion wrote:
2. We are not talking about RW, but about Mystara, where magic exists, not just technology. So, while the society and technology might be (late) medieval, the clergy, and to a lesser extent the wizards, would be able to help the peasants.
Beware using this argument, becouse if we bring it to the extreme consequences we would end up with a campaign setting that will not resembe the GAZs' KW anymore. If magic could be using unchecked, if divine powers were available to anyone asking for them, I think no one would work the land anymore. For example, if a cleric was always ready to cast create food and water to supply urban population, there would be scores of state-financed clerics assigned to that duty.

Obviously that depends on the type of ruleset you're using in your campaign, and in the way you administer it. While using OD&D, I prefer to think that magic doesn't always work, that Immortals give to their clerics divine spells only under some circumstances (not obly becouse they've prayed for them at the morning), and so on.

Moreover, even if one decided to go with the ruleset-dominated setting, for each good priest or druid of Zirchev blessing the land there would be another evil priest of Orcus or Thanatos doing the reverse.

Anyway, I agree with Andaire on one point: one must first clarify how magic affects the setting before going along with demographics. ;)

Sorry for the off-topic, AllanP. :oops:
You know, I think this is a really interesting point that cuts to the heart of a lot of the debates that people have. If you go with the idea of the ruleset is almost like the "laws of physics" of your world (for example, lots of people have class levels even if they aren't meant to be showcased in combat), you wind up with a very different place than if you say that most of the world doesn't conform to the rules, but a few people do (ie, most people in the world don't have or need class levels). This second style gives you almost a superhero/wuxia/cinematic kind of feel to the world where the characters are very vibrant and the world fades into the background, even if the world is interesting in and of itself.

If you start with the idea of the ruleset and the magic that typically comes along with it as the foundation on which the rest of the world is built, you wind up with a much different style of world. I think a lot of 3rd edition books were written this way and it's also clear that pieces of Mystara were definitely written with this idea in mind. This starts to give you a more Lord of the Rings kind of feel where the world is showcased because it's well described by the game, so to speak.

Mystara went back-and-forth between the two ideas at times, it seems. Different editions of D&D seem to favor one approach over the other.

Sorry if this doesn't all make sense. It's late here.

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by JoeNotCharles » Thu Jul 24, 2008 4:50 am

The first thing I thought when reading the above is that there are rules for Clerics using create food and water to supply the population in the Siege Machine. But I guess that falls into the "Immortals give their clerics spells for specific purposes" - food and water during a siege is a pretty clear answer to prayers!

That in turn gives me an idea for a non-Mystara related "low-divine" campaign, where the gods are remote and only answer prayers in times of true need. A "miracle worker" would be a base of some other class with a smattering of cleric powers. In 4E you could just say there are no full clerics but you can take some powers using multiclass feats - in combat they'd work since it's a life threatening situation, and everyone would be in awe.

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Zendrolion » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:39 am

dudemonkey wrote:If you start with the idea of the ruleset and the magic that typically comes along with it as the foundation on which the rest of the world is built, you wind up with a much different style of world.
I definitely agree.
I'm a fan of OD&D, becouse it's (a) the ruleset for which Mystara was written at the beginning; and (b) becouse it's a simple set of rules, which by itself leaves much room to roleplaying, doesn't force you to mess with a huge number of dice rolls and tables, and suites itself also to some tweaks by the DM.

Nevertheless, in my campaign I have such rules work only for PCs (and for encounters with important NPCs). I think it's not good to build a campaign world over a ruleset, less so on OD&D (or any D&D, including 3.5) ones. Just some examples, taken from a similar thread opened by Ekrenor, one of the guys on the Italian MMB:

1) Why there would be armies, if a 36th-level character could kill by himself thousands of 1st-level soldiers without suffering a lethal wounds? Wars would be more likely resolved by duels between squads of the most powerful NPCs of the realms.

2) Why have city walls, when a group of high-level wizards could teleport while invisible inside a city (or inside the royal palace!) and start lightning bolting or fireballing everything? Cities would be more likely defended by squads of high-level, well-equipped wizards or clerics capable of dispatching such threats. Why worry about building towers, city walls, fortifications? A lonely mage-tower on the border of the Altan Tepes mountains with two or three high-level characters within would do better than the whole Castellan Keep's garrison to keep at bay the humanoids...

3) Wizards would probably dominate everything if they could use magic unchecked, just by casting charm spells at everyone. You wouldn't have a single noblemen or powerful person which wasn't under the control of a wizard (even a medium-level one) or be a wizard himself. At the end, a powerful class of clerics and wizards would rule the economy and the politics (like in Alphatia and, partly so, in Glantri).

4) What about thievery, crime, and deceptions? Thieves would have a difficult life if clerics and wizards went around casting detect lies, locate objects, ESP, and so on.

5) Back to demographics, what will happen if a cleric curing wounds, removing diseases, and creating food and water was behind every corner? No plagues, no diseases, no bad harvests, no bad weather, no deaths of infant childrens, no short life-expectancy.
As Robert Malthus teaches us, if growth was unchecked by negative factors, population will double at every generation. Then the question is: why canon population numbers on Mystara are so low?

One could answer: there are negative factors, and they're evil wizards and cultists, undead, dragons and monsters coming out of the wildernesses. Right, but there's a thing to consider. If such were the common threats (and they should be common, if they were the factors that kept the population level so low), dwelling in places where help by high-level NPCs could arrive would be extremely dangerous. Whole border village could be laid waste by dragons, monsters, undead hordes, or be controlled by evil wizards and their minions.

So, the logical consequence would be that no one normal man would live outside the place where powerful NPCs operate. This means that there would be only few, overcrowded communities where local population lived under the protection of powerful good NPCs. These NPCs provided the locals for food and most of the goods needed for sustenance. Living too far from such settlements would mean almost certain death for a common person.

Well, I'm sorry but the one described above isn't Mystara at all. Not the Mystara of the GAZs, nor the one of DotE, CoM, or any of the known canon books that I've ever read. IMHO this means that in a campaign world that has been described as Mystara has been in the GAZs, the magic level should be kept in check and limited, the number of wizards and clerics should be kept rather low, as the presence of magical items.
This is not to say that there'd be not a single judge using a ring of truth at his trials, but instead that he'd be the only one in a very large region, that the ring he owns would probably be a rare magical item, and that creating other copies of it would require time, money, unusual materials, and be risky.
Nor this is to say that local clerics or druids didn't cure the wounded or bless the fields, but only that their patron Immortals didn't waste their energies to send them spells to be used at their whims; a cleric would cure a wounded with his divine power only if his patron deemed that act would bring some advantage to the deity's cause; a druid would bless a field with a spell only on one exceptional occasion and for a special purpose, not to feed the forest-disrupting nearby city. Nevertheless, they could both give mondane (i.e. not-spell) cures and blessing aplenty.

This is why I prefer to have a "low-impact" magic setting, becouse I fear the consequences that an overflow of magic use in the setting could bring. In my campaign, magic doesn't work automatically, spells can backfire, magical research can bring dire results, as can magical item creation; and using the miracles granted by the Immortals only under some very special circumstances can but a cleric's body at risk, and it means for him to be watched closely by his patron (which isn't always a funny thing :twisted: ). And so in my campaign I have field worked by peasants, plagues hitting countries and cities, noble rulers which are not wizards, mundane armies, city walls and fortifications - while I downplay the high-magic things (like hundreds of sky-marines armed with wands of death or thousands of soldiers armed with sword +1... ).

And that's why you're seeing me at every step bothering you with comments making reference to the historical real-world. :mrgreen:
"The prince should study historical accounts of the actions of great men, to see how they conducted themselves in war; he should study the
causes of their victories and defeats, so as to avoid the defeats and imitate the victories" N. Machiavelli, The Prince, XIV, 5

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Thorf » Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:05 pm

This is a very interesting topic. I'm enjoying reading everyone's opinions. :)
dudemonkey wrote:If you start with the idea of the ruleset and the magic that typically comes along with it as the foundation on which the rest of the world is built, you wind up with a much different style of world.
Different from what? From what is written in the books? But as you said, Mystara goes back and forth on this. Specifically, any two given books about Mystara often have slightly different takes on the role of magic in the world - and sometimes it's radically different.

Regarding the "building a world on the rules" thing, I agree with you when talking about 3rd edition. But for OD&D, there never really were hard and fast rules about "class levels" - my feeling is that it was very much decided by the author of each book. For Mystara, most (though not all) NPCs did get levels in PC classes, but it's not that easy to draw conclusions from it.
Zendrolion wrote:I'm a fan of OD&D, becouse it's (a) the ruleset for which Mystara was written at the beginning; and (b) becouse it's a simple set of rules, which by itself leaves much room to roleplaying, doesn't force you to mess with a huge number of dice rolls and tables, and suites itself also to some tweaks by the DM.
Me too. :)
Nevertheless, in my campaign I have such rules work only for PCs (and for encounters with important NPCs). I think it's not good to build a campaign world over a ruleset, less so on OD&D (or any D&D, including 3.5) ones. Just some examples, taken from a similar thread opened by Ekrenor, one of the guys on the Italian MMB:
Note the emphasis I added. Simone, I completely respect your position on this, but you said it yourself: this is how things are in your campaign. We all draw our own conclusions from what is written in the official books, and change what we don't think works. In your case, the magic level is clearly one thing you changed. Actually I think it's quite a common thing for people to adjust.

In any case, I will deal with your following points from as purely an official products-only stance as I can. In many cases this may mean that my reading of those products is different from yours.
1) Why there would be armies, if a 36th-level character could kill by himself thousands of 1st-level soldiers without suffering a lethal wounds? Wars would be more likely resolved by duels between squads of the most powerful NPCs of the realms.
First, we already know that there are armies - and lots of them - because large portions of the Almanacs and whole modules were written about them. So my feeling is that there must be a reason why this is so.

But your point is a very reasonable one, which most people have probably thought at one point or another. I'm sure some of the game designers did too, because at various points they tried to defuse this potential problem. For example, there's zzonga fruit in Alphatia; wizards are said again and again to be an introspective bunch, interested more in magical research than mundane power; Companion and Master level characters are given other tasks to keep them busy; and so on.

And there are other ideas which we could come up with ourselves. For example: why would powerful NPCs want to risk themselves against each other? They may be powerful, but they're not invincible. Also, having power and using it are two different things; especially between "civilised" countries, it seems unlikely they'd want to use devastating weapons on their opponents, and risk having the same thing happen back to them. Then there's the fact that people in power still need resources (which magic cannot provide, and is often itself dependent on). They can't collect all these resources by themselves. They also need money, and one of the best ways to get that is through working economies. And so on and so forth - there are lots of persuasive arguments to counter this point, if you are willing to look for them in official sources, or think of them yourself.
2) Why have city walls, when a group of high-level wizards could teleport while invisible inside a city (or inside the royal palace!) and start lightning bolting or fireballing everything? Cities would be more likely defended by squads of high-level, well-equipped wizards or clerics capable of dispatching such threats. Why worry about building towers, city walls, fortifications? A lonely mage-tower on the border of the Altan Tepes mountains with two or three high-level characters within would do better than the whole Castellan Keep's garrison to keep at bay the humanoids...
Hey, all major cities in Mystara have anti-teleportation shields! Didn't you know? 8-)

Seriously, I came across this little gem thanks to you yesterday while looking through CM9 about Fenhold. It's at the start, talking about how the PCs get to Darokin - and explaining why they can't just teleport there.

The fact that this sort of thing exists in official sources shows that the designers were well aware of there being potential problems with magic. Moreover, I read this as an example case, showing DMs the sort of ways they can deal with these problems.

So yes, city walls have a use.

Regarding using "weapons of mass destruction" inside towns and cities, I'm sure it's possible, but it doesn't take that long for even a group of magic-users to run out of spells, and if not everyone in the settlement is dead by then, they're going to be taken down very quickly. Besides, there's the whole motivation thing again. Why would they do this? What would they gain from it? What other consequences would it have if they did go about doing such things? Even if there weren't any high level characters around to stop them, you can bet it would get the attention of some in the area pretty quickly.

Not to mention the fact that people don't wear badges to show their level, so it's never going to be an entirely safe bet.
3) Wizards would probably dominate everything if they could use magic unchecked, just by casting charm spells at everyone. You wouldn't have a single noblemen or powerful person which wasn't under the control of a wizard (even a medium-level one) or be a wizard himself. At the end, a powerful class of clerics and wizards would rule the economy and the politics (like in Alphatia and, partly so, in Glantri).
See point 1 - the designers went to great pains to put in multiple reasons to make this not be the case in Mystara. Besides, we already know it isn't the case in Mystara, because magic-users aren't in control everywhere.

Your suggestion is to change the role of magic-users and clerics in the setting from the officially defined role, right? But that is changing the setting, which is of course fine for your own campaign. I'd rather we kept things as they are (at least for the sake of discussion), and try to work out (and find in official sources) reasons why it is this way.
4) What about thievery, crime, and deceptions? Thieves would have a difficult life if clerics and wizards went around casting detect lies, locate objects, ESP, and so on.
Who's to say that thieves don't have very difficult lives anyway? ;) But there are probably a lot of thieves, and they will likely always outnumber the local clergy in the same way that criminals outnumber real police forces. And in the case of the clergy, finding and chasing down thieves is not by any means their only responsibility.

As for magic-users, given what is said about them in various Mystara sources, I doubt they'd be too happy chasing petty thieves. Even if they were willing to help, like the best detectives in real life they'd probably be limited to serious crimes.

And there are many defences against scrying already built into the rules, so crystal balls and ESP are not as powerful as they might otherwise sound. Bruce Heard makes this reasonably clear in the Princess Ark series - itself a fascinating look at how the rules and setting interact, and how certain problem situations are resolved.
5) Back to demographics, what will happen if a cleric curing wounds, removing diseases, and creating food and water was behind every corner? No plagues, no diseases, no bad harvests, no bad weather, no deaths of infant childrens, no short life-expectancy.
As Robert Malthus teaches us, if growth was unchecked by negative factors, population will double at every generation. Then the question is: why canon population numbers on Mystara are so low?
But why are you assuming that clerics are everywhere? No official sources claim so. In fact, it seems likely to be rather the opposite, and they will really have their hands full. Compare them to real-world doctors, and you start to see that they are just as limited by time and resources. They can't afford to waste any spells, especially if it means they will end up not being ready to deal with a serious case later in the day. Create Food and Water may help in the short term, but it's not going to appease the starving, rioting masses - we even have clear evidence of this in Wrath of the Immortals and the Poor Wizard's Almanacs.

For diseases too, clerics are not almighty. And there are probably also magical diseases that take extra measures to cure - see the Trail Maps for some examples.

So what I'm saying is that we already can see that it's not like you say it is; the problem is with us, not with the official sources.
One could answer: there are negative factors, and they're evil wizards and cultists, undead, dragons and monsters coming out of the wildernesses. Right, but there's a thing to consider. If such were the common threats (and they should be common, if they were the factors that kept the population level so low), dwelling in places where help by high-level NPCs could arrive would be extremely dangerous. Whole border village could be laid waste by dragons, monsters, undead hordes, or be controlled by evil wizards and their minions.
But... but... but... there are all of these threats, and more!! This is D&D, after all. ;) :D

And yet we also have evidence that they are not necessarily everyday threats to isolated communities, as they do survive from year to year. So they are generally held in check, but not always.
So, the logical consequence would be that no one normal man would live outside the place where powerful NPCs operate. This means that there would be only few, overcrowded communities where local population lived under the protection of powerful good NPCs. These NPCs provided the locals for food and most of the goods needed for sustenance. Living too far from such settlements would mean almost certain death for a common person.
That's assuming that powerful NPCs are benevolent, willing to protect the common people, AND more powerful than their own enemies. I would have thought that the opposite could also be true, in that case: stay as far away from powerful NPCs as you can, so as to avoid getting caught in the crossfire between them and their enemies! :lol:

The fact is, we know that the clerics don't provide all the food, and magic cannot solve all society's problems. So people definitely need to work the fields, and moreover their rulers definitely need to protect them while they do that.

Personally, I would have thought all the wandering monsters, humanoids, etc. would be a bigger reason not to live in an isolated spot, but apparently they don't bother you! ;)
Well, I'm sorry but the one described above isn't Mystara at all. Not the Mystara of the GAZs, nor the one of DotE, CoM, or any of the known canon books that I've ever read.
No, not Mystara, I am in perfect agreement here. But it's your points that were off. Essentially you took bits of the official rules and setting that you have problems with, and instead of searching for a solution, you took them to their logical conclusions instead.
IMHO this means that in a campaign world that has been described as Mystara has been in the GAZs, the magic level should be kept in check and limited, the number of wizards and clerics should be kept rather low, as the presence of magical items.
This is fine - many people enjoy playing in settings with low magic levels - but don't think for a moment that it's in line with the official depiction of Mystara. Whether we like it or not, Mystara does have a fair number of wizards and clerics (hard to tell the percentage since there aren't really any rules), and it does have magical items. But I don't see why we have to use the setting as it has been defined to break its own rules.
This is not to say that there'd be not a single judge using a ring of truth at his trials, but instead that he'd be the only one in a very large region, that the ring he owns would probably be a rare magical item, and that creating other copies of it would require time, money, unusual materials, and be risky.
Now we're getting somewhere - but all of this is supported entirely by the official books. Magical research and magic item creation are expensive, time consuming and risky, and therefore magic items themselves - and indeed magic itself - is also a valuable commodity, not to be wasted. This is how the official books say things are.
Nor this is to say that local clerics or druids didn't cure the wounded or bless the fields, but only that their patron Immortals didn't waste their energies to send them spells to be used at their whims; a cleric would cure a wounded with his divine power only if his patron deemed that act would bring some advantage to the deity's cause; a druid would bless a field with a spell only on one exceptional occasion and for a special purpose, not to feed the forest-disrupting nearby city. Nevertheless, they could both give mondane (i.e. not-spell) cures and blessing aplenty.
Again, I don't see why you need to alter the official status quo in order to do this. I don't think that Mystara's official magic level precludes this sort of situation - it doesn't make clerics all powerful, in my opinion.
This is why I prefer to have a "low-impact" magic setting, becouse I fear the consequences that an overflow of magic use in the setting could bring. In my campaign, magic doesn't work automatically, spells can backfire, magical research can bring dire results, as can magical item creation; and using the miracles granted by the Immortals only under some very special circumstances can but a cleric's body at risk, and it means for him to be watched closely by his patron (which isn't always a funny thing :twisted: ).
In your campaign, fine. But the version of Mystara that we all share (i.e. Mystara without our own campaign's adjustments) is not like this according to the official books.

And yet...
And so in my campaign I have field worked by peasants, plagues hitting countries and cities, noble rulers which are not wizards, mundane armies, city walls and fortifications - while I downplay the high-magic things (like hundreds of sky-marines armed with wands of death or thousands of soldiers armed with sword +1... ).
... in the official Mystara, there are peasants, they do work the fields, there are plagues and diseases (Wrath of the Immortals, Trail Maps), noble rulers are not all wizards, and there are mundane armies and fortifications all over the place. In my opinion, we should be thinking of why this is, rather than deciding to change the official setting in order to create that explanation.

Yes, we also have fleets of flying ships and high-magic areas, too. Let's try and find ways to reconcile these things together within the official setting! :)

Personally, I like both high and low magic settings, and everything in between too. Because of this, I prefer to try to work within the official setting rather than adapt it to my preferred magic level (which I don't really have anyway).

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by dudemonkey » Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:18 pm

Given your post, I think you might want to look into 4th edition. It lets you play either way (high-impact magic or low-impact magic) and gets around the problem of wizards dominating everything by balancing them against other classes. It's also a lot more streamlined (in my opinion) than BECMI, which grew to be arguably the most complex D&D ruleset in existence. One of the core conceits of 4th edition is that magic is rare, as are classed characters, which fits the low-impact model nicely. However, there's nothing that stops you from going in the other direction (and they explicitly say that in the 4e DMG) and having lots of classed characters and magic everywhere.

One area where it falls short, in some estimation, is that it was designed to be strictly a tabletop roleplaying game where you get together with your friends, make characters, and have adventures. It's really good at that and handwaves over some of the other details, which actually makes it extremely powerful because you can layer 4th edition rules over just about any setting with a minimal effort. So, you're not going to read through the 4th edition rules and have the setting spring forth from it, the way you can with BECMI rules, but I think that's an advantage.

That's my thought on the subject, since I've been looking at a 4e version of Mystara for a few months now and have struggled with some of these points.

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Zendrolion » Thu Jul 24, 2008 5:59 pm

What a lenghty post Thorf! I feel guilty for having distracted you from the Atlas project! :oops: :D
I'll answer with an equally-long post... :twisted:
Thorf wrote:Simone, I completely respect your position on this, but you said it yourself: this is how things are in your campaign. We all draw our own conclusions from what is written in the official books, and change what we don't think works. In your case, the magic level is clearly one thing you changed. Actually I think it's quite a common thing for people to adjust.
Yes, of course you're right: I'm talking about my own campaign and my own adjustment on the setting. But the fact is that there isn't a clear view of how magic interacts with the whole setting in any of the canon manuals; most books, as you've said, only consider how magic interacts with the setting in one region, but often the indications found in one manual cannot be applied to another region of the setting...

I absolutely don't want to impose my view of the setting, just show what can happen if one brings magic to the extreme consequences. For my tastes, the result is undesiderable, mostly becouse it conflicts with the view we have of Mystara from the published books.

What I did in my campaign - where, be sure, I still have mage guilds, spell research, magic items, the Grand Council of Alphatia, and the usual lot of fantasy monsters around - was to downplay the rule-determined elements of the setting which risked to change the setting itself too much. Understand me, I wish to keep the setting intact as much as possible, but we have to decide just which setting - becouse, as said, one GAZ differs from another.

I found it simpler to impose some reasonable limitations on magic.
Hey, all major cities in Mystara have anti-teleportation shields! Didn't you know? 8-)
Yes, I knew about them. They're quite reasonable, even if it seems a little strange that Glantri sold this spell to nearby countries. Anyway, I suppose these "shields" belong only to largest city governments (I'd have some doubts also about Specularum).
Your suggestion is to change the role of magic-users and clerics in the setting from the officially defined role, right? But that is changing the setting, which is of course fine for your own campaign. I'd rather we kept things as they are (at least for the sake of discussion), and try to work out (and find in official sources) reasons why it is this way.

[...]

So what I'm saying is that we already can see that it's not like you say it is; the problem is with us, not with the official sources.
Well, as we said before, magic-users and clerics fail to have an "officially defined role", unfortunately - but this isn't a fault of Mystara only, becouse the same happens in other settings too (Greyhawk, Forgotten, etc.).

Anyway, perhaps I've not explained my thoughts too well. I'm not saying that canon sources imply the situations I indicated, but that if someone assumes that magic is commonplace becouse in the ruleset clerics and wizards can cast a spell without even clapping their hands, we end up having such situations.

I opened the "magic and ruleset vs campaign setting" issue becouse Andaire, on the Specularum thread, said:
In every village / hamlet, there is probably a local priest of Zirchev [adapt according to country] who can bless crops, despoil soils, divine when to seed and harvest, remove insect plagues and diseases, and more. Higher-level priests may alter climate, or at least try to keep at bay the worst natural disasters (floods, hurricanes...). In a society where the clergy can perform miracles every day, even if most of them are low-level, and assuming they don't use it their Immortal-given power to help the people and not only their clerical studies or for personal gains, both food production and life expectancy would be higher than in their RW equivalents.
Thus I felt the need to say that, IMVHO, while Mystara is indeed a magical setting, if the "there's magic" explanation is used to justify every common aspect of the setting which diverges from the RW one, the consequences are the ones of my first post. And that is NOT the setting of Mystara that we know and that we like (not I, at least ;) ).

Anyway, I'm sure there's plenty of other ways to adjust things instead of limiting magic. I just found that way simpler and responding well to my tastes.
The fact is, we know that the clerics don't provide all the food, and magic cannot solve all society's problems. So people definitely need to work the fields, and moreover their rulers definitely need to protect them while they do that.
And that's exactly what I was trying to say. :)
No, not Mystara, I am in perfect agreement here. But it's your points that were off. Essentially you took bits of the official rules and setting that you have problems with, and instead of searching for a solution, you took them to their logical conclusions instead.
I repeat: I used such arguments becouse I'd rather avoid to explain things with magic everytimes.
Anyway, IMO, you have to bring the magic level you like to use in your campaign to the extreme consequences, to see if the setting is credible. You should think along the line: "if magic has always existed on Mystara, how would this event/situation behave at present?" If you happen to find out a result that isn't appealing for the feeling of your setting, you've to adjust something.
But I don't see why we have to use the setting as it has been defined to break its own rules.
True, but note that in many cases the setting doesn't have its own set of rules and, regarding the game rules, it doesn't agree on the one for which it was created - and that is obvious, becouse if it was so, game designers should have taken into account the situations I indicated. They didn't becouse they didn't care so much about that subject, as they didn't want to create a setting modeled after some game rule which they felt simplicistic and unrealistic (i.e. done to exalt the player's heroic PC).

Nevertheless, to have things working, you have to tweak something, be it the rules or the setting. And, for what I feel, saying that all Alphatian 36th-level wizards are zzonga addicted (which BTW isn't true neither anymore, according to DotE), and that's why they haven't laid waste to Thyatis and conquered the world, isn't enough as an explaination.
... in the official Mystara, there are peasants, they do work the fields, there are plagues and diseases (Wrath of the Immortals, Trail Maps), noble rulers are not all wizards, and there are mundane armies and fortifications all over the place. In my opinion, we should be thinking of why this is, rather than deciding to change the official setting in order to create that explanation.
Yes, these things are exactly as you say - and not thanks to the application of the ruleset to the setting. So, OR you downplay the impact of the ruleset (including how magic functions) on the setting, OR you model the setting after the ruleset, OR you find some in-setting stratagem to explain why things go one this way (which, I think, is your approach :) ).
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by dudemonkey » Thu Jul 24, 2008 6:54 pm

Thorf,

Your points about the official setting are well said. I guess my counterpoint is "the official setting doesn't really make all that much sense when viewed as a game setting sometimes." Mystara definitely went through an identity crisis of sorts from its earliest days that I think other settings seem to have avoided.

I thought this thread was interesting because it cut straight to the heart of the matter. Are you running a game (and therefore fun at the table is the top priority and the setting need only support that and must not get in the way) or are you building a world (and therefore usefulness in a fantasy RPG is secondary to the purely creative process of world building). I've been part of the MML since about 1998 (off and on) and there's a clear shift towards worldbuilding over gaming. Create something, canonize it, and build on it.

What I think we're seeing at times is people starting to ask the question "what, of the official and fan material, makes sense to use in a game?" On one hand you could argue, as you have in this thread, that everyone's game is different so changes that might be required for gaming can be dismissed. On the other you could argue that the purpose of this material is ostensibly to run the best D&D game you can and a lot of official and fan material could use some vetting from a gameplay standpoint.

That's what i saw as the heart of the matter. I hope this forum is big enough for both kinds of players. I love Mystara and think it's a great setting, and I have a weekly game to run with people who want to play D&D and I want a Mystara that supports that. A lot of people love Mystara and want to expand on it, and I'm extremely excited to see what these dedicated and experienced worldbuilders come up with because the work so far has been excellent.

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Thorf » Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:34 am

Zendrolion wrote:What a lenghty post Thorf! I feel guilty for having distracted you from the Atlas project! :oops: :D
Actually as I finished typing it I regretted spending so much time on it that I could have been working on maps. :lol: What a shame that there are only so many hours in each day we can use to talk about Mystara! But today I am at work, so no need to feel guilty about this reply. :twisted:
wrote:Yes, of course you're right: I'm talking about my own campaign and my own adjustment on the setting. But the fact is that there isn't a clear view of how magic interacts with the whole setting in any of the canon manuals; most books, as you've said, only consider how magic interacts with the setting in one region, but often the indications found in one manual cannot be applied to another region of the setting...
You do have a good point here. Mystara was not so much designed as pieced together by a variety of authors all working with their own ideas. Bruce kept things together to an extent, but he didn't enforce his ideas either, and the result is that there are probably a lot of things that are hard to fit together - like someone made a jigsaw on the computer and sent pieces to a whole lot of artists to illustrate, but they didn't tell them what size to print out the pieces at, so although in theory they fit together, in practice some are bigger than others.

Or something like that. ;)
I absolutely don't want to impose my view of the setting, just show what can happen if one brings magic to the extreme consequences. For my tastes, the result is undesiderable, mostly becouse it conflicts with the view we have of Mystara from the published books.
What I was really trying to say with my last post is that the extreme consequences you list are clearly going to be undesirable to everyone - I don't think any of us wants a Mystara like that. As such, it seems like you are saying that allowing any influence of magic in the setting at all will end up with those consequences, which I don't think needs to be true.
What I did in my campaign - where, be sure, I still have mage guilds, spell research, magic items, the Grand Council of Alphatia, and the usual lot of fantasy monsters around - was to downplay the rule-determined elements of the setting which risked to change the setting itself too much. Understand me, I wish to keep the setting intact as much as possible, but we have to decide just which setting - becouse, as said, one GAZ differs from another.
I agree completely. But my own impulse is to try to keep the setting as much like the one depicted in the official sources as possible, including the parts which cause problems. Your approach is to redefine the magic level to prevent extreme problems such as the ones you outlined from occurring. Or as you put it, "to impose some reasonable limitations on magic".

I'd prefer not to have to have to do that, as in my opinion it changes the setting too much.
Yes, I knew about them. They're quite reasonable, even if it seems a little strange that Glantri sold this spell to nearby countries. Anyway, I suppose these "shields" belong only to largest city governments (I'd have some doubts also about Specularum).
I agree about the Glantri thing; it seems much more likely that this kind of protection is common knowledge among magic-users of many countries, and has been used for a long time. And I agree that places like Specularum may not be covered.
Well, as we said before, magic-users and clerics fail to have an "officially defined role", unfortunately - but this isn't a fault of Mystara only, becouse the same happens in other settings too (Greyhawk, Forgotten, etc.).
Well, to a certain extent. Their roles are not entirely undefined - we can pick up a lot of clues from the official books. But I don't think that we are forced to give them the most powerful role that we can think of just because we decide to use them as they are defined in the rules and descriptions of the setting.
Anyway, perhaps I've not explained my thoughts too well. I'm not saying that canon sources imply the situations I indicated, but that if someone assumes that magic is commonplace becouse in the ruleset clerics and wizards can cast a spell without even clapping their hands, we end up having such situations.
As I have argued, this isn't the case anyway. Spellcasters can't afford to waste their spells, and they are not necessarily all that common; although the rules don't really say much about the rarity of spellcasters, we can reasonably deduce from official sources that they are quite special.

What I'm saying is that the situations you outlined are not productive, because they are way over the top, and deliberately ignore the possible solutions presented in the setting itself.
I opened the "magic and ruleset vs campaign setting" issue becouse Andaire, on the Specularum thread, said:

[...]

Thus I felt the need to say that, IMVHO, while Mystara is indeed a magical setting, if the "there's magic" explanation is used to justify every common aspect of the setting which diverges from the RW one, the consequences are the ones of my first post. And that is NOT the setting of Mystara that we know and that we like (not I, at least ;) ).
I don't agree. What you are effectively saying is that any magical influence is too much influence, and that magic should have no influence on the setting. What Herve described may be too much for your tastes, and that's fine, but I took his point to be that magic does have an effect on the setting - whether you agree with his depiction of clerical magic is really beside the point, because if there is any clerical magic at all, you're going to have to deal with the consequences.

Even if you think that there should be less clerics around, and they should be less active than Herve said, do you not agree that they will still have some sort of effect on the setting, and therefore on the demographics?

I believe that this is what Herve wanted to say (please correct me if I'm wrong, Herve!): we can't treat the demographics of Mystara as purely real world demographics, because there are other factors at work.
The fact is, we know that the clerics don't provide all the food, and magic cannot solve all society's problems. So people definitely need to work the fields, and moreover their rulers definitely need to protect them while they do that.
And that's exactly what I was trying to say. :)
My point is that our visions of Mystara all overlap here. I feel that if we want to make changes to the setting we should make them in order to preserve the setting as we all know it, rather than changing it, and therefore excluding people with different tastes. (Obviously this does not apply to your own campaign.)
I repeat: I used such arguments becouse I'd rather avoid to explain things with magic everytimes.
Anyway, IMO, you have to bring the magic level you like to use in your campaign to the extreme consequences, to see if the setting is credible. You should think along the line: "if magic has always existed on Mystara, how would this event/situation behave at present?" If you happen to find out a result that isn't appealing for the feeling of your setting, you've to adjust something.
I understand the desire not to always be explaining things with magic - it's a common theme that people like to avoid in fantasy settings. And I agree that we need to think carefully about how magic affects the world. But personally I think it's a sort of cheat to treat a fantasy world just like the real world and ignore the effect of magic. Especially when we already have rules laid down to govern it, as well as restrictions given within the setting itself. If we want to restrict it more to prevent extreme situations, why not work in the spirit of the setting's already-defined restrictions?
But I don't see why we have to use the setting as it has been defined to break its own rules.
True, but note that in many cases the setting doesn't have its own set of rules and, regarding the game rules, it doesn't agree on the one for which it was created - and that is obvious, becouse if it was so, game designers should have taken into account the situations I indicated. They didn't becouse they didn't care so much about that subject, as they didn't want to create a setting modeled after some game rule which they felt simplicistic and unrealistic (i.e. done to exalt the player's heroic PC).
I'm not so sure about your logic here. Game designers don't necessarily think about all the extreme situations you brought up, and in any case their space is severely limited. Moreover, a lot of the problems in Mystara are ones of inconsistency between two products made by different designers.

It seems to me that the evidence clearly shows that they did model the setting on the rules, or rather they used the rules to define the setting. This is presumably why so many of us connect old D&D and Mystara so closely.
Nevertheless, to have things working, you have to tweak something, be it the rules or the setting. And, for what I feel, saying that all Alphatian 36th-level wizards are zzonga addicted (which BTW isn't true neither anymore, according to DotE), and that's why they haven't laid waste to Thyatis and conquered the world, isn't enough as an explaination.
Perhaps, but I think it's possible to tweak things a lot less than you are proposing by going to a universal low level of magic.

It's fine to think that the official explanations lack the necessary strength to make things work, but I prefer to enhance the existing explanations and come up with more that fit with the setting rather than revising the setting so radically.
... in the official Mystara, there are peasants, they do work the fields, there are plagues and diseases (Wrath of the Immortals, Trail Maps), noble rulers are not all wizards, and there are mundane armies and fortifications all over the place. In my opinion, we should be thinking of why this is, rather than deciding to change the official setting in order to create that explanation.
Yes, these things are exactly as you say - and not thanks to the application of the ruleset to the setting. So, OR you downplay the impact of the ruleset (including how magic functions) on the setting, OR you model the setting after the ruleset, OR you find some in-setting stratagem to explain why things go one this way (which, I think, is your approach :) ).
Yes, that basically sums up our positions. The reason I am posting about this at all is that I feel that changing the impact of the rules on the setting has a negative impact: it makes your view of the setting valid only for you and people who agree with your own campaign's view of Mystara. On the other hand, working within the setting to try to resolve consistency problems is much more likely to bring us to a mutually agreeable conclusion (like we generally do with maps :) ).

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Khuzd » Fri Jul 25, 2008 10:54 am

Oh, this is THE MOST INTERESTING TOPIC...

How can we introduce magic in a fantasy world and make it "believeable"?

Thorf, I'm just now reading again CM9 (Fenhold) for my campaign. In 1999 (real world), my 16th level magic-user "inherited" Fenhold. We didn't play the module, he simply moved to Fenhold and stopped the campaign. Then I married: I'm very happy with my dear wife and my 3 children, but I didn't play for 7 years.

Then, last summer, I started a new campaign. The 3rd-4th level heroes (and a 6th level Sprite) have just been hired in Darokin City by Niall the captain of the guard of Fenhold to help "new" Lord Ronerhod of Fenhold against monsters coming from Bad Magic Points in Alfheim to Fenhold.

I pretend to play the 16th level magic user, lord of Fenhold, as a NPC... until the final battle (when I will allow my brother to play our old, dear magic-user character against Barzan the Waterlord). But he has plenty of magic items (dozens of scrolls, ripped of enemies' magic spellbooks), lots of wands: he is going to lend this items to a 4th level party to play a (low)Companion-level module.

In 16th level you can teleport 3 times a day, but you still have not "Permanence" (the really world-changing spell, jointly with teleportation and invisibility) but he can fill Fenhold Manor with Stalkers and other magical protections. Can 2nd level invisibility make a 10' wall section permantly invisible? How much can a 16th level wizard change a rural manor?

Does he really need guards for Fenhold Manor? The truth is that he does not keep most of his treasure (money and magic) in Fenhold Manor, but in a house he bought in Alpha (Norwold) two years ago. He teleports there twice a week to water the plants and renew the Stalkers. All his neighbours in Alpha believe he is a low level magician wich simply makes most of his life inside the house: they don't know he is a rural landlord in Darokin most of the week.

You see? Why does he really need guards for in Fenhold?

When you have access to teleportation you are only vulnerable while sleeping... but you can sleep in a sure place, very far, where your enemies do not know you. Most super-heroes have enemies looking for them... so they use secret identities.

Well, this is simply an example of how magic can change the whole meaning of fortifications, guards...

(By the way, the maidens, servants and guards are very frightened with their new lord: he appears and disappears, invisible creatures "stalk" the Manor, the laboratory always smells funny... this all goes against the confidence level of the dominion).

When you play low-level adventures, you don't think a lot about effects of high level magic in the world. When your players have 16th level magic-users and customize and optimize magic for their benefit, and you need to create an interesting, defying world, where enemies do the same, you understand that Mystara can not be, by default, so similar to a non-magical world.
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Khuzd » Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:13 am

By the way: about city walls and teleportation...

Yes, CM9 canon says big cities have "anti-teleport" magical protection.

But... what about the not unusual combination of invisibility + flying (2nd level and 3rd level spells, easy to obtain)?

In WotC forum I asked about anti-invisibility mundane ideas: giant nets in courtyards roofs, chalk, shouting mushrooms, tamed detecting bats, water falling walls... When you have a Sprite PC you think about these things...

But most Mystaran captains of the guard should be expecting most wall-climbers and spies to use a (not too expensive, easy to obtain) potion of invisibility. How much costs casting "Detect invisible + permanence" to half of your wall guards? May be it is cheaper to buy a dozen of "Detect Invisible helmets", one for each patrol?

And, if invisible fayries are pesting your life, you should hire other fayries... or, at least, wood imps: 1 in 20 have Second Sight; will work for food.

Another problem with canon and frecuent magic: acording to GAZ3, there are hundreds of Belcadiz elves in Fuerte Monteleon, and they patrol the frontier. Even if they are 1st level, this means a single 12-elves patrol can "sleep" 24d8 HD of humanoids or Ethengarians. This effectively blocks any marauding horde. What can humanoids or Ethengarian do to be, really, a menace in the frontiers?
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Zendrolion » Fri Jul 25, 2008 3:21 pm

Thorf wrote:What a shame that there are only so many hours in each day we can use to talk about Mystara!
If only we had time stop spell! One could cast time stop and type his post while the other is freezed, then abort the spell and let his fellow poster do the same... :lol:
What I was really trying to say with my last post is that the extreme consequences you list are clearly going to be undesirable to everyone - I don't think any of us wants a Mystara like that. As such, it seems like you are saying that allowing any influence of magic in the setting at all will end up with those consequences, which I don't think needs to be true.
I see, but I was not talking about a magic world which isn't influenced by magic, but rather of a world where magic influence is dominant. Becouse, if it was so, and magic was ruled according to (any of the) D&D game rules, I think consequences like the ones I underlined in my first post (or something like that, I only put down some extreme thoughts on that subject) would become nearly inavoidable.

I think Khuzd gives us a good example of the type of problems that can arise in a campaign setting which only begins to think about such problems after the PCs' behaviour starts to make some kind of events/adversaries/obstacles useless.
I agree completely. But my own impulse is to try to keep the setting as much like the one depicted in the official sources as possible, including the parts which cause problems. Your approach is to redefine the magic level to prevent extreme problems such as the ones you outlined from occurring. Or as you put it, "to impose some reasonable limitations on magic".

I'd prefer not to have to have to do that, as in my opinion it changes the setting too much.
I don't think so. After all, I do have magic in my setting, and the feeling of the setting hasn't changed so much - the greater change is perhaps that PC wizards don't waste their spell for the slightest nuisance (becouse they've to roll to see if the spell succeeds, and it takes time... :twisted: ).
But I agree with you when you say that, whatever the slightest adjustment, still an adjustment it is to the way magic has been portrayed in some canon books (first and foremost, GAZ3, CoM and DotE).
What you are effectively saying is that any magical influence is too much influence, and that magic should have no influence on the setting.
I'm not banning any magical influence from the setting at all; instead, I'd like to point out that, when building and adjusting the setting for my campaigns, I prefer to start with realistic situations taken from the real world, and then eventually put magic on/in them to see if canon can be respected without hurting realism.

I prefer that instead of the reverse - that is, accept some things given in canon books (like population figures) when they seem rather senseless, and then using whatever magic is needed to explain them. Becouse for my campaigns, no matter of which and how many magic is used, an island as large as half Italy, which is defined civilized when it has only 20,000 inhabitants or so (Aeria), is difficult to justify.

But here I'm definitely in agreement with you: I make this choice out of pure personal taste. ;)
Even if you think that there should be less clerics around, and they should be less active than Herve said, do you not agree that they will still have some sort of effect on the setting, and therefore on the demographics?
Yes, I agree, but: if the presence of clerics helps population to grow, why canon population figures are so low when confronted to real world ones? It's here that we've to find a solution.
My point is that our visions of Mystara all overlap here. I feel that if we want to make changes to the setting we should make them in order to preserve the setting as we all know it, rather than changing it, and therefore excluding people with different tastes. (Obviously this does not apply to your own campaign.)
Yes, you're right. The main difference between our views of this subject is that I don't feel the setting to be changed if wizards have to make a dice roll to cast their spells or if Karameikos' population is doubled. :)
If we want to restrict it more to prevent extreme situations, why not work in the spirit of the setting's already-defined restrictions?
Good, I agree we should try to do that. I'm rather pessimist about the outcome, becouse I feel the "already-defined restrictions" of the setting aren't so "defined". :P
On the other hand, working within the setting to try to resolve consistency problems is much more likely to bring us to a mutually agreeable conclusion (like we generally do with maps :) ).
You're right. Nevertheless, I don't feel I'm playing another Mystara if I double Karameikos' population - it's still so low... :lol:
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Havard » Sat Jul 26, 2008 11:27 pm

This is an extremely interesting topic. As several of you already have mentioned, this is mainly a matter of personal taste, but in any case it can be useful to think things through.

Personally I start with what I want the world to be like. I still want most of Mystara to look and feel like a quasi- historical medieval world. I still want to see traditional style castles rather than fortresses constructed mainly to ward off attacks from above for instance. And while I don't think Mystara should be overly gritty, a world where disease has been completely eliminated is also not what I want to see.

For the Cleric issue, keep in mind that according to BECMI, 1st level Clerics cannot cast spells. Even if each village has a Cleric, most of them won't have access to spells at all. Also, spellcasters limited to one spell per day should be pretty stingy about using them. Clerics in general also will probably limit their magical services to what they would consider worthy causes, although some orders might feel lots of cash would work too.

When it comes to access to spells and magic items in general, keep in mind that the cost of say at least 100 gp for such an item/serice effectively means the vast majority of the population will never get anywhere near such things.

As to invisibility spells, guard dogs would probably be quite efficient at spotting invisible attackers. Teleport already has its own limitations.

Also, as to how common spellcasters are, the fact that there might be several thousand high level spellcasters in the Greater Known World area (Alphatia included), that does not neccessarily mean that there are hundreds of thousands of low level spellcasters. It wouldnt be surprising if those guys prey upon their own for spells, items and the like.

For low population figures, monsters could be one explanation...

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Andaire » Sun Jul 27, 2008 5:04 pm

Havard wrote:Also, as to how common spellcasters are, the fact that there might be several thousand high level spellcasters in the Greater Known World area (Alphatia included), that does not neccessarily mean that there are hundreds of thousands of low level spellcasters. It wouldnt be surprising if those guys prey upon their own for spells, items and the like.
Population naturally follows a pyramidal repartition. So, for every rich/powerful/old there are many poor/lowly/young, with everything in-between.
Only technological progress that goes faster than societal/generational renewal can change that, as seen in our modern, western society regarding the age pyramid.
Unless technology or magic in Mystara is at a point where they have passed the knee of their exponential growth curve, which seems unlikely, they should not see such effects.
So, in order to sustain their numbers over the long run, it is necessary that there is an order more of low-level spellcasters than there are high-level ones, despite their power and access to life-extending magic. Alphatia may actually be exception, due to their passage from Old Alphatia to Mystara (to the Hollow World), as the shrinkage of spellcasting population may still be ongoing.
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Andaire » Sun Jul 27, 2008 5:08 pm

Yes, this is indeed an interesting topic.
I feel bad from having torn Thorf and Zendrolion from their great work on the atlas and all their wonderful projects :? . Not. It's too interesting a subject :twisted:
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Andaire » Sun Jul 27, 2008 5:29 pm

It should be noted that I am not necessarily a proponent of increasing the magic level of the setting. In fact, I have on occasion tried to suppress the inflation, for example in the MAs where I tried to keep the airfleets to an acceptable level (as opposed to the arms race it was beginning to be).
However, magic does exist on Mystara. Thus, it should have an effect.
Consider this: Non-human races, as do monsters. I don't see you advocating the position that, because they make the setting unbelievable / not medieval, they should be removed or altered so that they have no visible effect on the setting. I mean, there were no elven nation in RW Middle Ages, no dwarves to mine the earth, there were no dragons to protect cities from, no valleys of werewolves that could tear apart a town on their own. Yes, you can decide that in your campaign, you prefer a BECMI number of rakasta and lupins than a Heardian one, but really they are not the worst thing. What you'd really need is to get rid of all the flying, magical, and monstrous races.
That wouldn't be Mystara anymore, would it? Well, negating the effects of magic on the world also is making it non-Mystaran.
There is magic, there are wizards, clerics, Immortals, artifacts, magical and monstrous races. Mystara is not medieval Earth.
Now, we can argue how much of an impact they have, but there is no denying that they should put their mark on the world.

How, and how much, is a subject of debate - this debate we're having - and personal taste.
I will try to respond to individual points later on.
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Havard » Sun Jul 27, 2008 6:05 pm

You make a good point Andaire, magic certainly does exist and affect life on Mystara.

What I mentioned in one of my earlier posts though, is that I would like much of Mystara to look and feel much like a European Medieval/Rennaissance world -- at first glance. The main reason for this is that it makes my job as a DM easier as I don't have to describe every detail of the world for my players. If they have seen a couple of fantasy movies, they should have a general idea of what I am talking about. It is important to me that Castles look like traditional castles, that people still use horses and that most people don't use magic to solve their most basic problems. That doesn't mean that this applies to everyone.

I like to make distinctions between regions ofcourse: Glantri City or most Alphatian Cities will feel like completely alien and magical places. Also, who you are, will affect how much magic affects your life. To people in the RW middle ages, magic, miracles and monsters were real. Sure, they might never have seen any of it, but they knew it was out there. For most Mystaran commoners, Id say they will have had little experience with magic or even monsters. Most villagers in Karameikos never leave their home town and certainly do not enter dungeons. Nobles, Rulers and Adventurers live in a different world than commoners do. They are used to travel, rely on magic to avoid disease and discomfort and have likely had many encounters with monsters. Making these distinctions between class and geography helps allow me to visualize Mystara as both a magical and a fairly mundane place at the same time. :)

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Andaire » Sun Jul 27, 2008 7:02 pm

Zendrolion wrote:1) Why there would be armies, if a 36th-level character could kill by himself thousands of 1st-level soldiers without suffering a lethal wounds? Wars would be more likely resolved by duels between squads of the most powerful NPCs of the realms.
Why would there be armies, if a bomber can nuke thousands of enemy combatants without suffering lethal wounds (and to emphasize a point made by Thorf, without taking a personal risk)? Wars would be more likely resolved by duels between squads of the most powerful nuclear weapons of the realms.
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Andaire » Sun Jul 27, 2008 7:15 pm

Zendrolion wrote: 2) Why have city walls, when a group of high-level wizards could teleport while invisible inside a city (or inside the royal palace!) and start lightning bolting or fireballing everything? Cities would be more likely defended by squads of high-level, well-equipped wizards or clerics capable of dispatching such threats. Why worry about building towers, city walls, fortifications? A lonely mage-tower on the border of the Altan Tepes mountains with two or three high-level characters within would do better than the whole Castellan Keep's garrison to keep at bay the humanoids...
Why have metal detectors, when a group of well-equipped disgruntled employees/students could enter a building (or inside the parliament!) and start firing AK47 or launching rockets at everything? Cities would be more likely defended by squads well-equipped tanks or bombers capable of dispatching such threats. Why worry about building towers, city walls, fortifications? A lonely garrison on the border of the Afghan mountains with two or three nuclear bombers within would do better than the whole American army garrison to keep at bay the Taliban...
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Andaire » Sun Jul 27, 2008 7:23 pm

Zendrolion wrote: 3) Wizards would probably dominate everything if they could use magic unchecked, just by casting charm spells at everyone. You wouldn't have a single noblemen or powerful person which wasn't under the control of a wizard (even a medium-level one) or be a wizard himself. At the end, a powerful class of clerics and wizards would rule the economy and the politics (like in Alphatia and, partly so, in Glantri).
The media would probably dominate everything if they could enter our homes unchecked, just by telling everyone what to think. You wouldn't have a single politician or powerful person which wasn't under the control of the media (even a non-televised one) or be a media-controller himself. At the end, a powerful class of media moguls would rule the economy and the politics.
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Andaire » Sun Jul 27, 2008 9:55 pm

Zendrolion wrote: 4) What about thievery, crime, and deceptions? Thieves would have a difficult life if clerics and wizards went around casting detect lies, locate objects, ESP, and so on.
What about thievery, crime, and deceptions? Thieves would have a difficult life if there were cameras all around, id checks, interconnected police databases, interpol, and so on.
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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Havard » Sun Jul 27, 2008 10:12 pm

Andaire,
the problem with your comments to Zendrolion's points is IMO that the natural conclusion of the comments you make is that Mystara should be seen as a modern setting in Fantasy wrappings. That just isn't quite what I am looking for.

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Thorf » Mon Jul 28, 2008 3:59 am

Havard wrote:Andaire,
the problem with your comments to Zendrolion's points is IMO that the natural conclusion of the comments you make is that Mystara should be seen as a modern setting in Fantasy wrappings. That just isn't quite what I am looking for.
Havard, I think you misunderstand. Herve's comments are very clever: he is pointing out that an argument taken to the extremes is not an argument at all. Zendrolion's points were all "look what would happen if this aspect was taken to its extreme" points. Herve's counterpoints do the same for the real world.

Clearly you reacted to the ridiculousness of his counterpoints, as you were no doubt supposed to. The point is that Zendrolion's original points are just as ridiculous for Mystara as Herve's points were ridiculous for the real world.

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Thorf » Mon Jul 28, 2008 4:23 am

I really strongly agree with some points Andaire made here:
Andaire wrote:However, magic does exist on Mystara. Thus, it should have an effect.
Sorry, the size emphasis is my doing. ;) The reason I make it so big is that I believe it's not something we can ignore. It's too big for that.
Consider this: Non-human races, as do monsters.
Precisely! Here we are worrying about the effect of magic on demographics, when in fact there are so many other factors that have just as much (if not more) of an effect.

Let's face it, the Medieval comparison can only take us so far. At some point we will have to accept that we can't just take authentic Medieval models and apply them to Mystara as is.

In many ways I see it as a similar thing to the curvature issue with maps: it's such a big, complicated issue, and no one really knows how to solve it, so the whole problem is completely ignored; we continue to make hex maps and expand the world without taking curvature into account.

But the fact is, if we work at it there is a solution. It's not going to be easy, and it will undoubtedly take a lot of work, but we can do it if we keep at it for long enough.
What you'd really need is to get rid of all the flying, magical, and monstrous races.
That wouldn't be Mystara anymore, would it? Well, negating the effects of magic on the world also is making it non-Mystaran.
This is also the point I was trying to make, but Herve you have found a much stronger way to express it.

Tweaking small things in the spirit of the setting is something we all do. Here in the Mystara community we have become very adept at expanding small details from an official source into fully-developed articles, maps, and so on. As long as we stay true to the spirit of the setting, the stuff that we come up with remains interesting to a lot of people. Not everyone, of course, because different people have different concepts for the spirit of the setting. But a lot of us.

But the more you move away from that spirit, and the bigger the changes you make to the setting, the less other people will be interested in what you come up with. Some people will be interested in your work on an alternate or parallel world sort of level, but not as part of the official setting.

Regarding Zendrolion's change of the magic level of the world, I find myself unable to accept it as "official" Mystara, because it's too big a change for me, and not done in the spirit of the setting. I'd far rather accept a number of tweaks to deal with problem situations. Moreover, I feel that the groundwork for these tweaks has already been set in the official lore; even if there is no official solution to a problem, we can extrapolate one from the official sources. After all, that's what we do best. :D
There is magic, there are wizards, clerics, Immortals, artifacts, magical and monstrous races. Mystara is not medieval Earth.
Again, emphasis mine. No, Mystara is not medieval earth. We can use it as a model to help us towards a Mystaran model, but on its own it's not enough.

In the Middle Ages people believed in magic and monsters. But they didn't come knocking on their doors, did they? In the end it was just belief. In Mystara, it's not just belief. Even if we segregate the "normal people" from the magic and monsters, it must still logically have an effect on them.
Now, we can argue how much of an impact they have, but there is no denying that they should put their mark on the world.
This is what I believe we should be discussing - not whether magic should have an effect, but what sort of effect it has, and how to reflect that in our work (like demographics).

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by JohnBiles » Mon Jul 28, 2008 4:53 am

The key thing, really, is that in most places, high level casters are rare, and high level characters in general are busy with other things than fighting wars on the Prime or reshaping the world. Alphatia and Glantri are extremely unusual in terms of people with magic being so common as to heavily reshape things (and both are marked by so much political infighting and rivalry as to greatly reduce their ability to force others under their thumb outside their homelands.

I think a few key decisions by the DM will heavily shape the face of their version of Mystara:

1) How common are clerics who can cast Cure disease? Does every hamlet have one? Every village one or more? Every town? Every city? Every metropolis? And how often can they do it?
--1A) If every peasant has access to a cleric with Cure Disease once a day, death in infancy will plummet, roughly doubling the number of children born. Mind you, people may take greater measures to control population growth if child mortality plummets. (In medieval society, about 1 out of every 2 children died by age 10, mostly from disease).
--1B) Outright plague, however, could be slowed or maybe nipped in the bud by alert clerics, but there's unlikely to be enough clerics to stop a full blown plague in any sizable community. It would likely be less deadly.
----1B.1) Ironically, by using cure disease, plague might actually become more common because those most vulnerable to any given plague would tend to remain vulnerable and would likely become infected again in the future since clerics have no way to actually IMMUNIZE people.

2) Purify Food and Drink, Create Water, Hero's Feast, etc: I don't think even a clerical version of Alphatia would be able to feed itself very much with these effects. In 3.5E, Create Food and Water (3rd level, requires a 5th level cleric ) can only create enough food for 3 people for 24 hours or one horse. Hero's Feast (6th level spell, Caster must be 11th at minimum) creates food for one person per level. Now the Rules Compendium has Create Food as a 5th level spell. You have to be 10th level to cast it, and it produces 1 day's food for 12 men and their mounts + 12 men+mounts for every level you have above level 8. (So the 10th level caster can feed 36 people by casting it once. A 15th level caster, if he prepared nothing but Create Food with his 5th level spells could cast it 3 times, feeding all of 288 men and mounts. The mightiest of clerics could cast it 9 times, feeding a total of 3,132 people. That won't even feed Threshold for a day. And any level 36 cleric is going to be busy with other things. And if you're playing Mystara with any other iteration of D&D, you get way less food than what you'd get with the Rules Compendium. (4E's Traveller's Feast is so expensive, you'd only ever use it if you're trapped somewhere with no food at all. With 175 GP, you could feed way more people by going to the market and buying food, even in a famine.) So these only have a big impact if you litter the world with a high level cleric under every rock and behind every blade of grass.

3) How common are high level people in general? And how tied are they to national governments? Most high level chars are too expensive for any nation to hire on a very regular basis but some rulers are high level themselves (Especially if you're using an edition of D&D encouraging people to build strongholds/rule dominions/etc around 9th level or so. )
--3A) In the gazeteers, the vast majority of rulers are not of hugely huge level. There are some Master-level rulers (Jagger, Thincol, Eriadna, etc) but most are in the companion range or even just the Expert range.
--3B) I get the distinct impression most high level chars in Mystara either:
----3B.1) Retire from active adventuring and run some sort of institution or government
----3B.2) Become consumed with the Quest for Immortality and are busy with that.
--3C) In my own 4E Mystara, the average local petty noble or cleric is probably around 5-6th level, a market town might have people up to 9-10, a city might have up to 14-16, and a metropolis might have a few up to 19-20. Anything past that is pretty rare, and those numbers are the up end where the vast majority of people are a lot lower. And some countries don't get past the 14th-15th range except for special cases (Like Karameikos).

4) My own impression is that in Mystaran Warfare, high level people tend to cancel each other out while armies clash around them. But this is a major issue--how much do high level people get involved in warfare?
--4A) My own impression is that adventurers tend to only get involved for special missions unless they've become rulers themselves. And then the rulers clash with each other while their soldiers fight around them. (They are to the soldiers as medieval knights were to the footmen. They fight each other as primary targets.) So if Stefan moves on Fort Doom, he takes on Ludwig in a fight while their armies clash around them. (While Patriarch Jowett tries to fight Bargle...)
--4B) Regular soldiers in Mystara are all pretty low level and almost all fighter/fighterish, with the exception of special forces and Alfheim/Alphatia/Glantri (and Heldaan to some extent).

5) Availability of magical items. How easy is it to get things enchanted?
--5A) Even in 3E and 4E, significant magical items are expensive and hard to get in the D&D rules. Only nobles and adventurers and really rich merchants have the cash to afford them.
--5B) Glantri and Alphatia do have a ton of enchantments and magical items, but they're explicitly set forth as unusual. Both regions should appear unusually modern due to the many magical amenities (IMO).


In my own game, you can roughly divide countries into 3 categories according to how much magic has altered them:

1) Low impact. Karameikos, the Five Shires, etc. Magic is pretty rare beyond fairly low level stuff. Your village probably has a cleric who can cure disease enough to keep you healthy in non-plague times and perhaps someone can mend your broken hinges with a spell, but that's about all. In a town of some size, you have a fair number of low level clerics and wizards, and a handful of middling level ones. High level casters are very rare and you stand a reasonable chance of knowing them all by name if you make a small effort to find out.

2) Middling Impact: Many places in Thyatis, and some places in other countries, especially big cities and major noble holdings will have some magical amenities like magical street lights, climate control, wards against teleporting, and more mid level casters with a goodly number of low level ones. High level are still rare, but stand a fair chance of being in charge.

3) High Impact: Alfheim, Glantri, Alphatia, Honor Island, that island for wizards in Thyatis, etc: Here you get a huge amounts of magical amenities, especially in homes of people who have been improving their homes for generations of nobility. Golems supplement the city watch, court cases involve truth detection and mind reading, magic mouths follow you around proclaiming the glories of Dr. Brinker's Spiritual Cure for Sexual Diseases, etc, etc. High level casters aren't something you meet every day, but they're large and probably in charge, mid-level casters swarm, and you can easily hit several low level ones by randomly throwing rocks into crowds.

Three Mystara Experiences:

Eirmont 15, 1000 AC in:

Threshold

I was glad to get out of the snow and the ice into town, though I still fell down on the frozen streets twice. Fortunately, the moon was full, so I could actually see where I was going. That and the lights peeking out though cracks in people's walls and from behind curtains and shutters in their windows enabled me to make my way to the Blue Dragon Inn. Fortunately on a night like this, the town watch mostly huddles near sources of warmth, so they couldn't hassle me about wearing a suit of armor inside town. Of course, if it was actually safe to travel the countryside around here, people wouldn't need to wear armor when coming in from the countryside. Then again, if I had a decent map, I would have stopped in a hamlet down the road instead of being stupid enough to press up the road in the cold and the dark.

But I digress.

I stumbled past the local Church of Karameikos; a fine building and its holy symbol shines at night, illuminating a region around the building. I stopped there a moment and brushed snow off myself, so I wouldn't look completely barbaric at the inn. Then I stumbled off down the road to the Inn.

I think the staff was surprised to see such a late arrival on a night like this. But they are friendly folk and I was able to get a room and a hot bowl of soup to try and unfreeze myself. I went upstairs and changed before I ate; the last thing I needed was frozen metal next to me when I was trying to get warm by the fire. It wasn't great soup, but a wooden bowl and a pewter spoon and a brass mug is good enough for me when what I need is food and heat.

Then I went upstairs and went to sleep and got ill from too much walking in the cold in armor and had to blow half my gains getting one of the local priests to fix me up.

But given my luck, that was better than I feared would happen.



Darokin City

You know you're in the high rent district of Darokin City when you realize there's a pole with a magical lamp on it at every corner which shines all night, bright as the moon or brighter. I know they're cheap individually, but you have to sink a lot of money to buy that many. Well, cheap for adventurers like me. I suppose most people can't afford it. But the Darokinian major merchant houses make me look like a street beggar. They've done something to de-ice the streets too. Though I've heard you can do that with salt somehow.

I really shouldn't have been so nervous. But I'm so used to wearing my armor and weapons that I feel kind of naked without them, even though the watch patrols this area pretty thoroughly. Indeed, I've already seen them twice. I really should have rented a carriage, but it looked like a short walk on the map.

Finally, I reached Linton House. Alexander told me this wasn't their main base, which is down at the port cities. Nevertheless, the second largest house in the country can hardly afford to look poor here in the capital, right?

Now, I knew the merchant houses were super-rich, but I didn't understand HOW rich until I entered Linton House. I could feel a blast of warm air melt the frost off me in an instant. And somehow siphon away the instant water too. Indeed, even though the butler took my coat, I quickly realized everyone else had dressed for summer, while I was slowly melting alive in my warm winter clothing. The air was sweet with the scent of daffodils and the floor was made of tiled marble with mosaic inlays. Most of them depicted the sea and sea trade.

The impressive part, I think was the garden. It was in full bloom, as if there was summer, and though the sky was clouded over it, it was fresh and warm as a spring day. It made a delightful centerpiece for the festivities. The food, however, was very impressive. Alphatian peaches, roast elephant from Sind, Ochelean wines, fresh Shire vegetables and pipeweed. How could they keep it all so fresh in the middle of winter? Not by mundane means, I was sure; it was not smoked or pickled or salted.

I had a nice smoke with Thaddeus Linton, who had invited me; we discussed some business I was going to do for his family, and he was kind enough to give me a handy little gadget-- a bracelet which lets you store a weapon in some sort of magical pocket thing and summon it when you need it. Which explained to me why so many of the guests wore similar looking bracelets. I'm not sure if it's intended as part of my pay or if he has so many, he casually gives them away to guests and hirelings. Probably the former. But I won't complain I had it.

I will, however, complain about how hard it is to get a carriage at 1 in the morning so you don't have to walk home in the cold.



Glantri City

I originally thought Redwing was stupid to suggest we stable our horses somewhere in the outskirts of Glantri City, then head into the interior to find an inn. Once I actually saw the central city, I had to agree with him; you can't actually get very far on horseback in the central city and they charge obscene rates to haul them on ferries. Much easier to walk in and take a gondola. And the gondolas! The one we got into, sent for us by Herr Sigmar von Drachenfels, was shaped like a dragon and actually propelled itself by flapping its wings! It had runners mounted on it, as the canals were largely frozen, so it skated on the ice and the snow at a good pace.

Much to my misfortune, I had let my gaze linger on a wall poster for too long near the gate, and now a magical glowing mouth was following me everywhere, singing the praises of Dr. Hans Delf's Magical Techniques For Body Enhancement; the fact that Sigrid wouldn't stop snickering didn't help either. And the gondolier too. What was so funny? We had a snack on the ride, as it was a long one; the gondolier, clad in Drachenfels livery, had some sort of chest which kept drinks warm; I have to say a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter's night is a blessing from the Immortals. Not that I would want to mention them in Glantri. Very strange prejudice.

The night was almost as bright as the day from all the light shining from buildings, the gaudy lit signs advertising various businesses, inns, brothels, watch stations, etc. At one point, a half-dozen wizards flew overhead on a carpet, looking around for something or perhaps patrolling. Our gondolier wasn't sure.

The air was full of scents as well...too many. Or not so much too many as too many different scents fighting it out for control of the streets. It was as if you were inside a perfume maker's shop after someone knocked over a bunch of open bottles. On you.

"How does anyone ever sleep?" I asked, and the gondolier told me that the sounds would die down as people went to bed, and the wise owned thick curtains or could magically block the light out.

The Noble Quarter was less gaudy and more magnificent. The shops were higher class and mostly for luxuries and the inns and restaurants were more dignified and I'm sure far more expensive. And to my relief, once we entered, the talking mouth winked out.

The von Drachenfels estate is a huge towering building of stone, heavily carved with famous warriors, soldiers, and generals. I was pleased to see it, taking it as a sign I would be taken more seriously here, than my type are elsewhere in Glantri. We pulled into a private dock and were ushered out of the cold and into the toasty warm house. We had to spend a few minutes changing out of winter clothing, armor, etc. in a changing room with private booths, and then were taken to our rooms; Herr Sigmar would be here in the morning. The hallways were lit with lamps which turned on when you came within their lighting radius and turned off once you left it. It took a little while to get used to.

Sigrid and I's bed, it turned out, was very soft and comfortable, and indeed, it somehow adjusted itself to our body countours, which was very nice. There were curtains on the glass windows which responded to voice command. We had a nice wardrobe for our clothing and someone had taken the time to deposit suitable night clothes for us in it as well. And the bathroom! It had jeweled buttons you pushed to fill the very large tub with water, both hot and warm, though you had to experiment in order to get it the way you wanted.

Sigrid and I stripped down for a bath, and were just starting to get clean when a man's voice said, "Would you like me to have your old clothing cleaned?"

We both froze up, naked in the bath. "Is someone there?" I asked.

"Right by the sink."

I saw nothing. "I don't see you."

"I'm invisible, sir. What you would call an invisible stalker. I am here to intend to your needs."

I was glad that I hadn't decided to start any hanky-panky with a invisible person watching. And about ready to die of embarrassment.

"What's your name?" Sigrid asked, as if this was perfectly normal. I'm pretty sure it's NOT normal in Vestland, where she's from.

"Human vocal cords can't manage it, but you may call me Otto. That's what the Drachenfels call me."

"Umm, yes. And can we have some privacy?" I asked.

"Of course." The door closed itself on the way out.

I suddenly wondered if the curtains had actually been 'stalker-controlled'. And what else might be lurking about invisibly.

This was definitely not going to be a normal mission I could tell.
Last edited by JohnBiles on Mon Jul 28, 2008 11:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Rules and magic affecting the world

Post by Thorf » Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:46 am

Absolutely inspired, John!! :D

And I agree with most of your points, too. :)

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