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Pippa the Pixie
2019-04-07, 09:09 PM
What is D&D Magic Theory? It seems to be a question for many, and many people don't ''get it". And more so it's even a reason not to like D&D at all. For example:



Magic
I don't like D&D's magic. It is not a generic magic, spell preparation is not a very common feature of many representations of magic. Yet, it manages to be almost flavourless. Yes there are spell components and spells require gestures and words. But that's it, there is no real explanation, not even the briefest view of how this is supposed to work. No true names, no contact with spirits, just stand over there move your hands and things happen.


The question of D&D magic theory is editionless, because to get stuck on one edition: that way lies dragons. Worse, starting in 3E D&D has made a huge push to be a near pure mecahnical combat game. You don't ask about magic theory after 3E, you just rol a d20 in combat allready.

The above quote strikes me as odd because it says not even the briefest view of how magic works. And sure, D&D after 3E has very little fluff on anything. There is a tiny bit of magic theory, but most of it comes from 1E, 2E and BECMI D&D.

As you almost certainly already know, Vancian magic is named after the magic system found in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth novels. There’s no evidence, however, that Gygax and Arenson based their magic system directly off the books.

D&D came from wargames; and one of the big takes from this is: Spells were perceived as ammunition. You have to reload.

From 1E we get: each spell has a point at which it can be "paused". So that means that each spell is actually a ritual by default, and that the wizard actually casts 99% percent of each spell, repeating it for each copy of it they cast. They leave out the last few motions so that the spell can be finished, its effect taking place. The spell slots represent the wizard's inner power, their ability to take the mental stress of the arcane equivalent of an inert bomb, to keep their spell paused until they wish to cast it.



Originally Posted by PHB 169
Before setting out on a dangerous journey with her companions, Mialee sits in her study and opens her spellbook. First she pages through it, selecting the spells that she thinks will be most useful on her adventure. When she has chosen the spells she wants (which could mean choosing the same spell more than once), she meditates on the pages that describe each one. The arcane symbols, which she has penned by hand, would be nonsense to anyone else, but they unlock power from her mind. As she concentrates, she all but finishes casting each spell that she prepares. Each spell now lacks only its final trigger. When she closes the book, her mind is full of spells, each of which she can complete at will in a brief time.
Quote Originally Posted by PHB 177, 179
Wizards, sorcerers, and bards cast arcane spells, which involve the direct manipulation of mystic energies. These manipulations require natural talent (in the case of sorcerers), long study (in the case of wizards), or both (in the case of bards). Compared to divine spells, arcane spells are more likely to produce dramatic results, such as flight, explosions, or transformations.

Clerics, druids, experienced paladins, and experienced rangers can cast divine spells. Unlike arcane spells, divine spells draw power from a divine source. Clerics gain spell power from deities or from divine forces. The divine force of nature powers druid and ranger spells. The divine forces of law and good power paladin spells. Divine spells tend to focus on healing and protection and are less flashy, destructive, and disruptive than arcane spells.

Quote Originally Posted by PHB 177
During the study period, she chooses which spells to prepare. The act of preparing a spell is actually the first step in casting it. A spell is designed in such a way that it has an interruption point near its end. This allows a wizard to cast most of the spell ahead of time and finish when it’s needed, even if she is under considerable pressure. Her spellbook serves as a guide to the mental exercises she must perform to create the spell’s effect. If a wizard already has spells prepared (from the previous day) that she has not cast, she can abandon some or all of them to make room for new spells.

To record an arcane spell in written form, a character uses complex notation that describes the magical forces involved in the spell. The notation constitutes a universal arcane language that wizards have discovered, not invented. The writer uses the same system no matter what her native language or culture. However, each character uses the system in her own way. Another person’s magical writing remains incomprehensible to even the most powerful wizard until she takes time to study and decipher it.


2E fluff gives us the most by far: magic is made by the 'friction' of each phylisopical plane (aka, the outer planes). You can tap it directly, arcane magic, by shaping the spell with components and will power. Or you can go the indrect faith route, and get the power from a being you worship, divine magic.


So just to be clear, I'm not talking about mechanics. I'm talking more about Magic Theory. Fluff. It does have all sorts of role playing applications in game play, but no mechancal ones.

Psyren
2019-04-07, 11:28 PM
Uhh...Is there a question/discussion topic here? Yes, arcane and divine are different, but in practice the difference is basically academic. (And those academics may be what you're after here, but again, I'm not sure what if any question is being asked.)

Millstone85
2019-04-08, 01:53 AM
Here is more recent magobabble.

The worlds within the D&D multiverse are magical places. All existence is suffused with magical power, and potential energy lies untapped in every rock, stream, and living creature, and even in the air itself. Raw magic is the stuff of creation, the mute and mindless will of existence, permeating every bit of matter and present in every manifestation of energy throughout the multiverse.

Mortals can't directly shape this raw magic. Instead, they make use of a fabric of magic, a kind of interface between the will of a spellcaster and the stuff of raw magic. The spellcasters of the Forgotten Realms call it the Weave and recognize its essence as the goddess Mystra, but casters have varied ways of naming and visualizing this interface. By any name, without the Weave, raw magic is locked away and inaccessible; the most powerful archmage can't light a candle with magic in an area where the Weave has been torn. But surrounded by the Weave, a spellcaster can shape lightning to blast foes, transport hundreds of miles in the blink of an eye, or even reverse death itself.

All magic depends on the Weave, though different kinds of magic access it in a variety of ways. The spells of wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and bards are commonly called arcane magic. These spells rely on an understanding---learned or intuitive---of the workings of the Weave. The caster plucks directly at the strands of the Weave to create the desired effect. Eldritch knights and arcane tricksters also use arcane magic. The spells of clerics, druids, paladins, and rangers are called divine magic. These spellcasters' access to the Weave is mediated by divine power---gods, the divine forces of nature, or the sacred weight of a paladin's oath.

Whenever a magic effect is created, the threads of the Weave intertwine, twist, and fold to make the effect possible. When characters use divination spells such as detect magic or identify, they glimpse the Weave. A spell such as dispel magic smooths the Weave. Spells such as antimagic field rearrange the Weave so that magic fiows around, rather than through, the area affected by the spell. And in places where the Weave is damaged or torn, magic works in unpredictable ways---or not at all.
Edit: Very good magobabble. I love it.

King of Nowhere
2019-04-08, 02:27 AM
Fluff tends to be different according to the table.
I treat magic as a sort of physics-altering radiation

RedMage125
2019-04-11, 11:30 AM
I, for one, do not find that the old "casting all but the last bits" of a spell to be in conflict with 3e and up at all, and I've always used such. Well, perhaps 4e was an exception, but ALL magic worked differently there.

As far as Magical Theory, one of the things I use is that Bard magic is different from Sorcerer or Warlock magic drastically. Bards tap into the Echoes Of Creation, the lingering effects of the sounds of the world, and magic itself, being formed. Some Bards claim it was "sung" into existence, others perceive these echoes as the tones that the creation created, like the high-pitched ping of a drop of water striking a pond in a cave. At any rate, it is these echoes that Bards learn to tap in to, attune to, and replicate to a degree. The Seeker of the Song Prestige class in 3.5e was a great example of this, as they learn to more precisely replicate the actual forces and energies of that creation, instead of using those echoes to create distinct spell effects. These echoes are still dependent on "the Weave" (as Forgotten Realms terms it, in any other setting this would just be the flow of magic throughout the multiverse) in order to bring the effect into existence.

Other arcane casters also tap into the Weave. The best explanation for HOW they do it is to compare it to kids in school taking a test. Let's use a math test for the analogy. Wizards are the kids that studied the material and know to get the right answer by following the correct steps. Sorcerers just "know" the answers. They go by some instinct, natural knack for the material, and they can get the exact same answers as wizards, but cannot show their work, even for incredibly complex equations. Warlocks...they cheat. They made a shady deal in a back alley, and someone gave them the answers to the test. Some of the answers anyway.

Divine Magic uses the Weave to work, but the source for the knowledge of it, to include the proper incantations/hand movements, comes from an external source. For Clerics, this is easy. They either get it from an actual divine being of intelligence (a deity), or from the collective unconscious of all those who share similar beliefs (for deity-less Clerics, and the Clerics of quasi-agnostic settings like Eberron). Druids sometimes worship Nature Deities, and for them, their magic works like Clerics' does. Most druids, however, revere Nature as a force in and of itself. The same principle of the Collective Unconscious grants them the knowledge of their magic, too. This comes from other Druids, Fey, Primal Spirits, and even knowledge stored in the very bones of the earth, latent and waiting to be tapped. Rangers tap into this in the exact same manner.

Paladins also tap into the Collective Unconscious of Belief, for the actual knowledge of their spells, but the various editions of D&D have changed what a Paladin even is so much that it requires an edition-by-edition breakdown. Pre-3e paladins: Get their powers, to include their spells, from a devotion to righteousness. As we know that Good/Evil/Law/Chaos are observable, quantifiable, dispassionate cosmic forces in D&D, it is through alignment with the forces of Law and Good that the paladin receives her powers. The immunities, auras, and lay-on-hands powers are no different than the spells in that regard. If they ever strayed from alignment with the forces of Law and Good, to include even one act of intentionally committed evil, they lost the communion with those forces that granted them the powers. 3.x Paladins actually worked the same way, but COULD also get their powers and spells from a deity, much like a cleric. It is a common misconception that 3e Paladins got their powers from gods, I blame the 3.0 supplement Defenders of the Faith. 4e Paladins got their powers from the rituals that invested them as Paladins, same way Clerics worked in 4e. 5e Paladins, now that's a clincher, as they SEEM to be more in common with their pre-4e ancestors, but with no alignment restriction. From all appearances, it would seem that their Devotion to their Oath is what grants them their power. And the knowledge of spells likewise comes from a connection to that ephemeral Collective Unconscious shared by those with the same beliefs.

The Collective Unconscious Of Shared Belief is, by the way, why divine spellcasters of the same class all have the same spell lists. It's kind of based in Jungian principles and theories, but it perfectly explains how a Cleric can choose from ANY Cleric spell EVER when choosing his daily spell allotment.

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-11, 12:11 PM
As you almost certainly already know, Vancian magic is named after the magic system found in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth novels. There’s no evidence, however, that Gygax and Arenson based their magic system directly off the books.

Depending on whether one believes Gygax on the matter...

http://www.dyingearth.com/files/GARY%20GYGAX%20JACK%20VANCE.pdf

Millstone85
2019-04-11, 03:18 PM
snipThis collective unconscious can be found on two levels.

First, all the inhabitants of a given world are connected by the portion of the Weave that surrounds that world. You may call it the World Wide Weave. :smallwink:

Then, on a cosmic scale, the Outer Planes are ideas so powerful they became places (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots1138.html). Gods carve realms for themselves within those planes, but so can philosophies manifest as specific locations. For example, a 5e paladin could visit a monument adorned with statues and reliefs of all who swore their oath. Note that oaths have clear alignments (LG Devotion, NG Ancients...) even if paladins do not have to be an exact match.

JeenLeen
2019-04-11, 03:49 PM
Here is more recent magobabble.

The worlds within the D&D multiverse are magical places. All existence is suffused with magical power, and potential energy lies untapped in every rock, stream, and living creature, and even in the air itself. Raw magic is the stuff of creation, the mute and mindless will of existence, permeating every bit of matter and present in every manifestation of energy throughout the multiverse.

Mortals can't directly shape this raw magic. Instead, they make use of a fabric of magic, a kind of interface between the will of a spellcaster and the stuff of raw magic. The spellcasters of the Forgotten Realms call it the Weave and recognize its essence as the goddess Mystra, but casters have varied ways of naming and visualizing this interface. By any name, without the Weave, raw magic is locked away and inaccessible; the most powerful archmage can't light a candle with magic in an area where the Weave has been torn. But surrounded by the Weave, a spellcaster can shape lightning to blast foes, transport hundreds of miles in the blink of an eye, or even reverse death itself.

All magic depends on the Weave, though different kinds of magic access it in a variety of ways. The spells of wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and bards are commonly called arcane magic. These spells rely on an understanding---learned or intuitive---of the workings of the Weave. The caster plucks directly at the strands of the Weave to create the desired effect. Eldritch knights and arcane tricksters also use arcane magic. The spells of clerics, druids, paladins, and rangers are called divine magic. These spellcasters' access to the Weave is mediated by divine power---gods, the divine forces of nature, or the sacred weight of a paladin's oath.

Whenever a magic effect is created, the threads of the Weave intertwine, twist, and fold to make the effect possible. When characters use divination spells such as detect magic or identify, they glimpse the Weave. A spell such as dispel magic smooths the Weave. Spells such as antimagic field rearrange the Weave so that magic fiows around, rather than through, the area affected by the spell. And in places where the Weave is damaged or torn, magic works in unpredictable ways---or not at all.

I really like the flavor and metaphysics that 5th edition sets out. It's enough to have some relatively hard metaphysical basis to understand magic through, but it openly states that the understanding in a given setting (which translates well to table) could vary drastically. It's not even necessarily known to the PCs or NPCs about how divine and arcane magic are really the same, but really they are: just how you access it changes.

I know you say to avoid editions, but this metaphysics for 5th edition seems to set a standard for 5th edition that over editions (I'm guessing) do not have. Some settings in them might, but it is not a universal metaphysical statement for the game.

I'll also note that I like, and find reasonable, the Vancian idea of "prepping a spell" up to its final triggering event. But I'm fine with other justifications for the mechanics.

---

All that said, I'd agree that since those metaphysics are not necessarily known, their impact on the setting(s) is pretty minor. You could refluff without impacting anything, and it doesn't necessarily flavor the way magic happens for the PCs. So I get your argument. I think it's part of D&D being thematically and mechanically geared mostly towards combat and being crunchy mechanics-wise. The fluff usually is secondary to the mechanics, and you need your spells to do what they should.

Also, since D&D is a somewhat setting-agnostic game -- that is, you can plug it into most any setting -- the metaphysics for magic need to be vague enough to fit multiple settings. 5e does that well, at least in my opinion, but, yeah, it can give a bland taste.

Millstone85
2019-04-11, 04:19 PM
My bad. I like the word "magobabble" so much that I tend to forget it is derogatory.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-11, 04:20 PM
I really like the flavor and metaphysics that 5th edition sets out. It's enough to have some relatively hard metaphysical basis to understand magic through, but it openly states that the understanding in a given setting (which translates well to table) could vary drastically. It's not even necessarily known to the PCs or NPCs about how divine and arcane magic are really the same, but really they are: just how you access it changes.

Personally, I very much dislike the 5e retcon that spells use magical energy from the Prime and all settings have a Weave-like "interface" between spellcasters and raw magic.

1) Forgotten Realms is the highest-magic published setting for D&D and has a lot of unique forms of magic: Netherese 10th- to 12th-level spells, Elven High Magic, circle magic, rune magic, silver fire, spellfire, and many more. The explanation that FR has a high level of ambient magic that needs to be filtered through a Weave so a wizard doesn't nuke himself and the surrounding countryside when he tries to cast a cantrip is a good in-game justification for why magic differs between that setting and the rest.

2) If Mystra = Weave in FR, who embodies the Weave in other settings? If no one does, why don't they? Seems like it would be handy to be able to personally stop upstart mortals from wrecking things like Mystra does when she alters the rules of the Weave. If being part of the Weave is worse than not, for whatever reason, why is Mystra part of it and why wouldn't she try to extract it from herself since it seems to be a massive vulnerability and anything that happens to her screws over mortal casters.

Basically, having a Weave comes with a bunch of cosmological and philosophical ramifications that don't fit other settings at all, and the 5e designers obviously didn't consider any of those before making the blanket change.

3) Previous editions were very clear that magic draws upon other planes for their effects and the majority of their power, not ambient energy:


The triggering action draws power from some plane of the multiverse. Whether the spell is an abjuration conjuration, alteration, enchantment, or whatever, there is a flow of energy - first from the spell caster, then from some plane to the area magicked or enspelled by the caster. The energy flow is not from the caster per se, it is from the utterance of the sounds, each of which is charged with energy which is loosed when the proper formula and/or ritual is completed with their utterance. This power then taps the desired plane (whether or not the spell user has any idea of what or where it is) to cause the spell to function. It is much like plugging in a heater; the electrical outlet does not hold all of the electrical energy to cause the heater to function, but the wires leading from it, ultimately to the power station, bring the electricity to the desired location.
[...]
Release of word/sound-stored energy is not particularly debilitating to the spell caster, as he or she has gathered this energy over a course of time prior to the loosing of the power. It comes from outside the spell caster, not from his or her own vital essence. The power to activate even a first level spell would leave a spell caster weak and shaking if it were drawn from his or her personal energy, and a third level spell would most certainly totally drain the caster’s body of life!

The only example of a setting that explicitly uses magical energy from the Prime is Dark Sun, where instead of slowly accumulating tiny amounts of ambient energy and using that to trigger a larger flow from the planes, a caster uses massive amounts of ambient energy for everything all at once, and that obviously didn't go too well for Athas. Positing a universal Weave either means Dark Sun wouldn't exist or you have to explain why Athas in particular lacks a Weave beyond "The inventors of spellcasting were dumb and no one has ever noticed or looked for the Weave's existence in the past several millennia"--and for the latter, it's much harder to justify "Every caster in the multiverse relies on a Weave but is able to cast spells just fine when they end up on Athas" than "No caster in the multiverse relies on a Weave, unless they go to Toril in which case the Weave there is set up to be compatible with 'normal' magic.

Heck, FR itself has plenty of examples of non-Weave-using magic! The ancient Imaskari (and probably the Batrachi, though there's less information on them available) bypassed the Weave entirely to draw directly on other planes for power, the Weave isn't present in Maztica, Shou Lung, and other continents outside of Faerűn, and it doesn't extend to other planes either (except possibly divine realms and the Fugue Plain; the Avatar trilogy is a bit fuzzy on that). So the "universal" Weave isn't even universal in its home universe!


I know you say to avoid editions, but this metaphysics for 5th edition seems to set a standard for 5th edition that over editions (I'm guessing) do not have. Some settings in them might, but it is not a universal metaphysical statement for the game.

Previous editions do have overarching magical metaphysics (which generally aligned from 1e through 3e aside from some terminology changes), they just weren't laid out in a single "How does magic work?" blurb in the PHB in any prior edition. The explanations were implicit in most player-facing books and explicit ones (like the one I partially quoted above) were scattered through the DMG and magic-specific books like the Tome of Magic.

Millstone85
2019-04-12, 06:38 AM
The only example of a setting that explicitly uses magical energy from the Prime is Dark Sun, where instead of slowly accumulating tiny amounts of ambient energy and using that to trigger a larger flow from the planes, a caster uses massive amounts of ambient energy for everything all at once, and that obviously didn't go too well for Athas.Nothing in the 5e sidebar says that you have to tap only on the raw magic of your immediate surroundings, or that you can't reach to other planes. This could be unique to Athas, either because of the local properties of the Weave or because of the Athasian approach to spellcasting.

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-12, 08:59 AM
Here is more recent magobabble.

The worlds within the D&D multiverse are magical places. All existence is suffused with magical power, and potential energy lies untapped in every rock, stream, and living creature, and even in the air itself. Raw magic is the stuff of creation, the mute and mindless will of existence, permeating every bit of matter and present in every manifestation of energy throughout the multiverse.

Mortals can't directly shape this raw magic. Instead, they make use of a fabric of magic, a kind of interface between the will of a spellcaster and the stuff of raw magic. The spellcasters of the Forgotten Realms call it the Weave and recognize its essence as the goddess Mystra, but casters have varied ways of naming and visualizing this interface. By any name, without the Weave, raw magic is locked away and inaccessible; the most powerful archmage can't light a candle with magic in an area where the Weave has been torn. But surrounded by the Weave, a spellcaster can shape lightning to blast foes, transport hundreds of miles in the blink of an eye, or even reverse death itself.

All magic depends on the Weave, though different kinds of magic access it in a variety of ways. The spells of wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and bards are commonly called arcane magic. These spells rely on an understanding---learned or intuitive---of the workings of the Weave. The caster plucks directly at the strands of the Weave to create the desired effect. Eldritch knights and arcane tricksters also use arcane magic. The spells of clerics, druids, paladins, and rangers are called divine magic. These spellcasters' access to the Weave is mediated by divine power---gods, the divine forces of nature, or the sacred weight of a paladin's oath.

Whenever a magic effect is created, the threads of the Weave intertwine, twist, and fold to make the effect possible. When characters use divination spells such as detect magic or identify, they glimpse the Weave. A spell such as dispel magic smooths the Weave. Spells such as antimagic field rearrange the Weave so that magic fiows around, rather than through, the area affected by the spell. And in places where the Weave is damaged or torn, magic works in unpredictable ways---or not at all.
Edit: Very good magobabble. I love it.

A glimpse at the underlying assumptions, I guess.

But on the other hand, it doesn't really seem to sync up with the spellcasting system very well. It appears to be just literal fluff that isn't really reflected in the mechanics of the game.

Lord Raziere
2019-04-12, 09:06 AM
A glimpse at the underlying assumptions, I guess.

But on the other hand, it doesn't really seem to sync up with the spellcasting system very well. It appears to be just literal fluff that isn't really reflected in the mechanics of the game.

also it makes too much sense to be magibabble, it has a logic to it rather than stringing a bunch of magical sounding words together to ward off people asking questions.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-12, 09:17 AM
I have a theory specifically built to reconcile the 5e PHB sidebar with the mechanics. I do not claim it is true, merely that it is useful (a more important judgement of a theory IMO).


In my opinion, this model and the resulting theory reconcile RAW and RAI (and answer a whole bunch more questions to boot). Whether or not it is a true model is irrelevant--it's a useful model that allows predictions.

Postulates
The resonance theory of magic and magical effects attempts to explain the differences between spells, spell-like effects, and those abilities that, while supernatural, are not affected by antimagic fields or similar effects. It relies on 5 postulates (assumptions and definitions). They are:

Postulate 1:
Surrounding and permeating all of reality is an ambient field of energy. This goes by different names (the Weave is the default in 5e)--for the purpose of this discussion I will call it the aether.

Discussion: While different areas have different concentrations, very few areas (dead magic zones) are completely lacking this energy.

Postulate 2:
Some individual creatures can concentrate this aether within themselves and use it in various ways. I will call this innate magic--any action that is impossible for a "normal" person in the setting is an example of innate magic.

Discussion: This includes such "non-magical" effects as a barbarian's Rage, a fighter's Action Surge, or a rogue's Evasion. Using these abilities sometimes temporarily exhausts the store of concentrated aether, requiring a period of rest (albeit small) before they can be re-used or limiting the number of successive uses. In other cases, the changes wrought by this innate magic are permanent and inexhaustible.

Postulate 3:
Some individuals (not necessarily the same as those in postulate 2) can manipulate aether by imposing a resonant pattern on it, using stored, quantized personal energy Call these resonant patterns spells and the personal energy spell slots.

Discussion: For minor effects or for very practiced casters, the energy needed to induce these resonances is small enough that it's not worth tracking in game mechanics. These are at-will spells (e.g. cantrips). Spell slots are quantized in non-integer ratios--a second-level slot is not exactly twice as big as a first-level slot and they cannot be spent in pieces--either an entire slot is spent or nothing at all. Up-casting a spell (casting it out of a higher level slot than the minimum required) pumps more energy into the resonance which, for some spells, heightens the effect. Certain spells require a measured release of energy into the resonant pattern--maintaining these requires concentration and the biological necessities that imposes, namely that only one spell or spell-like effect can be concentrated on at a time. Restoring spell slots generally is a slow process requiring sleep, as concentrating aether to refill these slots takes time and the soul's full attention. Practiced casters can sometimes hasten that charging process consciously. While different classes differ on how they learn the resonant patterns (and which ones they can learn), all spell slots are identical.

Postulate 4:
Enchanted items resonate with the aether in a similar manner to spells.

Discussion: The source of the energy used to induce this resonance varies--some from stored, concentrated aether (potions, items with charges), some from the wielder (items that are constant effect). Note that charged items seem to regain their charge only when attuned to an individual--otherwise they'd always be found at full charge. This is because they draw on the wielder's soul to concentrate aether. Some items (non-attunement items) only need to be wielded to operate (as their aether draw is de minimis).

Postulate 5:
Some abilities of innate magic manipulates the aether in a spell-like resonant fashion. This is often specified by using the name of the emulated spell in the description.

Discussion: Other innate magic does not operate against external aether but instead is used inwardly to enhance the body or exhaled in a burst of concentrated elemental force, like a dragon's breath.

Results
Given these postulates and definitions, spells and magical effects are those resonant manipulations of ambient magical energy. They're patterned, and may or may not be of extended duration or cover an extended area. The important thing is the resonant pattern. If that pattern is disrupted, the spell effect ceases (at least for that area).

Result 0: Spells do only what they say.
Fireball doesn't conjure a piece of elemental flame, doesn't heat the air to burning. It creates a resonant effect within the area of effect that creates the same end result. Ray of frost can't freeze a pool of water, because the cold isn't there. It's a resonant effect that fades once the energy disperses. Etc. These may or may not follow the usual laws of physics, but certainly one cannot import physical reasoning unless the spell specifies so. One also should not reference another spell to understand a given spell unless the first mentions the second specifically or by mentioning a larger group of spells (a school of magic, for example). Each spell's text stands alone and should be examined with only the general rules as certain reference.

Result 1a: Counterspell
Counterspell is a counter-resonant pattern. It's a momentary, localized noise burst that takes effect quickly, preventing the resonance from forming if successful. Higher power spells are harder to jam, thus requiring either skill (spell-casting ability check) or more raw power (a higher level spell slot) to counter.

Result 1b: Counterspell and non-spell effects
Counterspell only works on actively-produced resonant effects (i.e. spells) as they're taking shape. You can't counterspell a dragon's breath weapon. That's not a resonant effect. You also can't counterspell an existing effect. That's what Dispel Magic is for.

Result 2a: Antimagic Field
Antimagic Field creates a persistent cancelation field. Any effect that requires a sustained resonance (like fireball, or a magic item) to function is suppressed since the resonance cannot take place within that area. One way of thinking about it is an adaptive damping field (like active noise cancellation) that imposes a pattern that is the inverse of the attempted resonant pattern (effect). This is both complex and requires high power, so it's an 8th level spell that has a limited reach.

Result 2b: Antimagic Fields and innate magic
Innate magic (like non-spell ki, or a dragon's flight, or a dragon's breath) does not require a resonance pattern. Thus it is unaffected by an antimagic field (since damping resonance does nothing against a purely physical, natural effect such as ki-fueled punches. The punches are not resonant, nor is there resonance involved in throwing the extra punch (flurry of blows). The monk is drawing against personal energy to temporarily exceed the normal limits of his body. Dragons keep flying (and breathing) and their breath still works (since the conversion is wild and non-resonant). Barbarians can rage just fine--while this draws on innate magic (because it's not possible for a "normal" person), it is not a patterned effect.

Result 3: Dispel Magic
This is counterspell, except for existing spells and their effects. This pattern disrupts the resonance of stable spells, causing them to end early. It has no effect on innate magic, since it only affects resonance effects.

Result 4: Detect Magic
This spell does not specify what qualifies as "magic" to be detected. Certainly active spell effects and enchanted items should count (by common usage, if nothing else). If it detects all magic, then everything should light up--the aether is all around and through everything after all. That's absurd on the face, so it must be less than that. So what is it? In this DM's opinion, it should only detect organized, resonant magical effects--items and spells. Since I'm generous, I'll even allow the detection of residues--the after-effects of a major spell or ritual. But that's not clear from the text and so remains an open question.

Edit: The sidebar (The Weave of Magic, PHB page 205) clarifies that detect magic looks at the ambient field looking for active effects. So this confirms the theory--spells and "magical effects" are all active resonances in the ambient magical field (the weave, the aether, whatever you might call it).

JeenLeen
2019-04-12, 09:33 AM
I have a theory specifically built to reconcile the 5e PHB sidebar with the mechanics. I do not claim it is true, merely that it is useful (a more important judgement of a theory IMO).
<snip>

I love how, if you port this back into 3.5 where you have Ex, Sp, and Su abilities, it allows those to be justified in-setting in a way how Ex abilities are 'supernatural', but not in a way they get cancelled out by stuff like Sp and Su abilities are.

It also reinforces that mundanes can do really cool and reality-breaking stuff despite not being 'magic-users', since they are using magic (in a sense). Just not spells.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-12, 09:44 AM
I love how, if you port this back into 3.5 where you have Ex, Sp, and Su abilities, it allows those to be justified in-setting in a way how Ex abilities are 'supernatural', but not in a way they get cancelled out by stuff like Sp and Su abilities are.

It also reinforces that mundanes can do really cool and reality-breaking stuff despite not being 'magic-users', since they are using magic (in a sense). Just not spells.

That last part was a major impetus for this theory. I wanted to explain that in a fantastic world, things are fantastic, not bound by RL demands. But do so coherently with explaining spells.

Glad you liked it.

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-12, 11:10 AM
I have a theory specifically built to reconcile the 5e PHB sidebar with the mechanics. I do not claim it is true, merely that it is useful (a more important judgement of a theory IMO).


In my opinion, this model and the resulting theory reconcile RAW and RAI (and answer a whole bunch more questions to boot). Whether or not it is a true model is irrelevant--it's a useful model that allows predictions.

Postulates
The resonance theory of magic and magical effects attempts to explain the differences between spells, spell-like effects, and those abilities that, while supernatural, are not affected by antimagic fields or similar effects. It relies on 5 postulates (assumptions and definitions). They are:

Postulate 1:
Surrounding and permeating all of reality is an ambient field of energy. This goes by different names (the Weave is the default in 5e)--for the purpose of this discussion I will call it the aether.

Discussion: While different areas have different concentrations, very few areas (dead magic zones) are completely lacking this energy.

Postulate 2:
Some individual creatures can concentrate this aether within themselves and use it in various ways. I will call this innate magic--any action that is impossible for a "normal" person in the setting is an example of innate magic.

Discussion: This includes such "non-magical" effects as a barbarian's Rage, a fighter's Action Surge, or a rogue's Evasion. Using these abilities sometimes temporarily exhausts the store of concentrated aether, requiring a period of rest (albeit small) before they can be re-used or limiting the number of successive uses. In other cases, the changes wrought by this innate magic are permanent and inexhaustible.

Postulate 3:
Some individuals (not necessarily the same as those in postulate 2) can manipulate aether by imposing a resonant pattern on it, using stored, quantized personal energy Call these resonant patterns spells and the personal energy spell slots.

Discussion: For minor effects or for very practiced casters, the energy needed to induce these resonances is small enough that it's not worth tracking in game mechanics. These are at-will spells (e.g. cantrips). Spell slots are quantized in non-integer ratios--a second-level slot is not exactly twice as big as a first-level slot and they cannot be spent in pieces--either an entire slot is spent or nothing at all. Up-casting a spell (casting it out of a higher level slot than the minimum required) pumps more energy into the resonance which, for some spells, heightens the effect. Certain spells require a measured release of energy into the resonant pattern--maintaining these requires concentration and the biological necessities that imposes, namely that only one spell or spell-like effect can be concentrated on at a time. Restoring spell slots generally is a slow process requiring sleep, as concentrating aether to refill these slots takes time and the soul's full attention. Practiced casters can sometimes hasten that charging process consciously. While different classes differ on how they learn the resonant patterns (and which ones they can learn), all spell slots are identical.

Postulate 4:
Enchanted items resonate with the aether in a similar manner to spells.

Discussion: The source of the energy used to induce this resonance varies--some from stored, concentrated aether (potions, items with charges), some from the wielder (items that are constant effect). Note that charged items seem to regain their charge only when attuned to an individual--otherwise they'd always be found at full charge. This is because they draw on the wielder's soul to concentrate aether. Some items (non-attunement items) only need to be wielded to operate (as their aether draw is de minimis).

Postulate 5:
Some abilities of innate magic manipulates the aether in a spell-like resonant fashion. This is often specified by using the name of the emulated spell in the description.

Discussion: Other innate magic does not operate against external aether but instead is used inwardly to enhance the body or exhaled in a burst of concentrated elemental force, like a dragon's breath.

Results
Given these postulates and definitions, spells and magical effects are those resonant manipulations of ambient magical energy. They're patterned, and may or may not be of extended duration or cover an extended area. The important thing is the resonant pattern. If that pattern is disrupted, the spell effect ceases (at least for that area).

Result 0: Spells do only what they say.
Fireball doesn't conjure a piece of elemental flame, doesn't heat the air to burning. It creates a resonant effect within the area of effect that creates the same end result. Ray of frost can't freeze a pool of water, because the cold isn't there. It's a resonant effect that fades once the energy disperses. Etc. These may or may not follow the usual laws of physics, but certainly one cannot import physical reasoning unless the spell specifies so. One also should not reference another spell to understand a given spell unless the first mentions the second specifically or by mentioning a larger group of spells (a school of magic, for example). Each spell's text stands alone and should be examined with only the general rules as certain reference.

Result 1a: Counterspell
Counterspell is a counter-resonant pattern. It's a momentary, localized noise burst that takes effect quickly, preventing the resonance from forming if successful. Higher power spells are harder to jam, thus requiring either skill (spell-casting ability check) or more raw power (a higher level spell slot) to counter.

Result 1b: Counterspell and non-spell effects
Counterspell only works on actively-produced resonant effects (i.e. spells) as they're taking shape. You can't counterspell a dragon's breath weapon. That's not a resonant effect. You also can't counterspell an existing effect. That's what Dispel Magic is for.

Result 2a: Antimagic Field
Antimagic Field creates a persistent cancelation field. Any effect that requires a sustained resonance (like fireball, or a magic item) to function is suppressed since the resonance cannot take place within that area. One way of thinking about it is an adaptive damping field (like active noise cancellation) that imposes a pattern that is the inverse of the attempted resonant pattern (effect). This is both complex and requires high power, so it's an 8th level spell that has a limited reach.

Result 2b: Antimagic Fields and innate magic
Innate magic (like non-spell ki, or a dragon's flight, or a dragon's breath) does not require a resonance pattern. Thus it is unaffected by an antimagic field (since damping resonance does nothing against a purely physical, natural effect such as ki-fueled punches. The punches are not resonant, nor is there resonance involved in throwing the extra punch (flurry of blows). The monk is drawing against personal energy to temporarily exceed the normal limits of his body. Dragons keep flying (and breathing) and their breath still works (since the conversion is wild and non-resonant). Barbarians can rage just fine--while this draws on innate magic (because it's not possible for a "normal" person), it is not a patterned effect.

Result 3: Dispel Magic
This is counterspell, except for existing spells and their effects. This pattern disrupts the resonance of stable spells, causing them to end early. It has no effect on innate magic, since it only affects resonance effects.

Result 4: Detect Magic
This spell does not specify what qualifies as "magic" to be detected. Certainly active spell effects and enchanted items should count (by common usage, if nothing else). If it detects all magic, then everything should light up--the aether is all around and through everything after all. That's absurd on the face, so it must be less than that. So what is it? In this DM's opinion, it should only detect organized, resonant magical effects--items and spells. Since I'm generous, I'll even allow the detection of residues--the after-effects of a major spell or ritual. But that's not clear from the text and so remains an open question.

Edit: The sidebar (The Weave of Magic, PHB page 205) clarifies that detect magic looks at the ambient field looking for active effects. So this confirms the theory--spells and "magical effects" are all active resonances in the ambient magical field (the weave, the aether, whatever you might call it).


I do think this is great, and for making the overall mechanics for spells and other "magical" and more broadly fantastic effects of 3x or 5e synchronous with the setting and "fiction layer" it's probably the best I've seen.

Psyren
2019-04-12, 11:24 AM
I have a theory specifically built to reconcile the 5e PHB sidebar with the mechanics. I do not claim it is true, merely that it is useful (a more important judgement of a theory IMO).


In my opinion, this model and the resulting theory reconcile RAW and RAI (and answer a whole bunch more questions to boot). Whether or not it is a true model is irrelevant--it's a useful model that allows predictions.

Postulates
The resonance theory of magic and magical effects attempts to explain the differences between spells, spell-like effects, and those abilities that, while supernatural, are not affected by antimagic fields or similar effects. It relies on 5 postulates (assumptions and definitions). They are:

Postulate 1:
Surrounding and permeating all of reality is an ambient field of energy. This goes by different names (the Weave is the default in 5e)--for the purpose of this discussion I will call it the aether.

Discussion: While different areas have different concentrations, very few areas (dead magic zones) are completely lacking this energy.

Postulate 2:
Some individual creatures can concentrate this aether within themselves and use it in various ways. I will call this innate magic--any action that is impossible for a "normal" person in the setting is an example of innate magic.

Discussion: This includes such "non-magical" effects as a barbarian's Rage, a fighter's Action Surge, or a rogue's Evasion. Using these abilities sometimes temporarily exhausts the store of concentrated aether, requiring a period of rest (albeit small) before they can be re-used or limiting the number of successive uses. In other cases, the changes wrought by this innate magic are permanent and inexhaustible.

Postulate 3:
Some individuals (not necessarily the same as those in postulate 2) can manipulate aether by imposing a resonant pattern on it, using stored, quantized personal energy Call these resonant patterns spells and the personal energy spell slots.

Discussion: For minor effects or for very practiced casters, the energy needed to induce these resonances is small enough that it's not worth tracking in game mechanics. These are at-will spells (e.g. cantrips). Spell slots are quantized in non-integer ratios--a second-level slot is not exactly twice as big as a first-level slot and they cannot be spent in pieces--either an entire slot is spent or nothing at all. Up-casting a spell (casting it out of a higher level slot than the minimum required) pumps more energy into the resonance which, for some spells, heightens the effect. Certain spells require a measured release of energy into the resonant pattern--maintaining these requires concentration and the biological necessities that imposes, namely that only one spell or spell-like effect can be concentrated on at a time. Restoring spell slots generally is a slow process requiring sleep, as concentrating aether to refill these slots takes time and the soul's full attention. Practiced casters can sometimes hasten that charging process consciously. While different classes differ on how they learn the resonant patterns (and which ones they can learn), all spell slots are identical.

Postulate 4:
Enchanted items resonate with the aether in a similar manner to spells.

Discussion: The source of the energy used to induce this resonance varies--some from stored, concentrated aether (potions, items with charges), some from the wielder (items that are constant effect). Note that charged items seem to regain their charge only when attuned to an individual--otherwise they'd always be found at full charge. This is because they draw on the wielder's soul to concentrate aether. Some items (non-attunement items) only need to be wielded to operate (as their aether draw is de minimis).

Postulate 5:
Some abilities of innate magic manipulates the aether in a spell-like resonant fashion. This is often specified by using the name of the emulated spell in the description.

Discussion: Other innate magic does not operate against external aether but instead is used inwardly to enhance the body or exhaled in a burst of concentrated elemental force, like a dragon's breath.

Results
Given these postulates and definitions, spells and magical effects are those resonant manipulations of ambient magical energy. They're patterned, and may or may not be of extended duration or cover an extended area. The important thing is the resonant pattern. If that pattern is disrupted, the spell effect ceases (at least for that area).

Result 0: Spells do only what they say.
Fireball doesn't conjure a piece of elemental flame, doesn't heat the air to burning. It creates a resonant effect within the area of effect that creates the same end result. Ray of frost can't freeze a pool of water, because the cold isn't there. It's a resonant effect that fades once the energy disperses. Etc. These may or may not follow the usual laws of physics, but certainly one cannot import physical reasoning unless the spell specifies so. One also should not reference another spell to understand a given spell unless the first mentions the second specifically or by mentioning a larger group of spells (a school of magic, for example). Each spell's text stands alone and should be examined with only the general rules as certain reference.

Result 1a: Counterspell
Counterspell is a counter-resonant pattern. It's a momentary, localized noise burst that takes effect quickly, preventing the resonance from forming if successful. Higher power spells are harder to jam, thus requiring either skill (spell-casting ability check) or more raw power (a higher level spell slot) to counter.

Result 1b: Counterspell and non-spell effects
Counterspell only works on actively-produced resonant effects (i.e. spells) as they're taking shape. You can't counterspell a dragon's breath weapon. That's not a resonant effect. You also can't counterspell an existing effect. That's what Dispel Magic is for.

Result 2a: Antimagic Field
Antimagic Field creates a persistent cancelation field. Any effect that requires a sustained resonance (like fireball, or a magic item) to function is suppressed since the resonance cannot take place within that area. One way of thinking about it is an adaptive damping field (like active noise cancellation) that imposes a pattern that is the inverse of the attempted resonant pattern (effect). This is both complex and requires high power, so it's an 8th level spell that has a limited reach.

Result 2b: Antimagic Fields and innate magic
Innate magic (like non-spell ki, or a dragon's flight, or a dragon's breath) does not require a resonance pattern. Thus it is unaffected by an antimagic field (since damping resonance does nothing against a purely physical, natural effect such as ki-fueled punches. The punches are not resonant, nor is there resonance involved in throwing the extra punch (flurry of blows). The monk is drawing against personal energy to temporarily exceed the normal limits of his body. Dragons keep flying (and breathing) and their breath still works (since the conversion is wild and non-resonant). Barbarians can rage just fine--while this draws on innate magic (because it's not possible for a "normal" person), it is not a patterned effect.

Result 3: Dispel Magic
This is counterspell, except for existing spells and their effects. This pattern disrupts the resonance of stable spells, causing them to end early. It has no effect on innate magic, since it only affects resonance effects.

Result 4: Detect Magic
This spell does not specify what qualifies as "magic" to be detected. Certainly active spell effects and enchanted items should count (by common usage, if nothing else). If it detects all magic, then everything should light up--the aether is all around and through everything after all. That's absurd on the face, so it must be less than that. So what is it? In this DM's opinion, it should only detect organized, resonant magical effects--items and spells. Since I'm generous, I'll even allow the detection of residues--the after-effects of a major spell or ritual. But that's not clear from the text and so remains an open question.

Edit: The sidebar (The Weave of Magic, PHB page 205) clarifies that detect magic looks at the ambient field looking for active effects. So this confirms the theory--spells and "magical effects" are all active resonances in the ambient magical field (the weave, the aether, whatever you might call it).


For postulate 2, I don't see why having limited uses per day means something has to be magic. I'm not as close to 5e, but I'm pretty sure a barbarian's rage or a rogue's evasion can be used in a dead magic zone even in that edition, so they are most certainly not magic of any kind.

Rather, I would say that they require a mental or emotional state that has limited uses before resting, and the same sort of rest that lets one recover rage is the one that can allow a magic-user to recover their spellcasting allotment.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-12, 11:40 AM
I do think this is great, and for making the overall mechanics for spells and other "magical" and more broadly fantastic effects of 3x or 5e synchronous with the setting and "fiction layer" it's probably the best I've seen.

Coming from you, that's high praise indeed.

One additional thing the theory does (IMO) is separate the casting of spells from the learning of spells. It allows wizards to figure out the patterns for some spells through study, while druids have them whispered in their ears by nature spirits and clerics download them from celestial file-sharing sites. Sorcerers have them "genetically" encoded, while warlocks get them from a Patron. Etc.


For postulate 2, I don't see why having limited uses per day means something has to be magic. I'm not as close to 5e, but I'm pretty sure a barbarian's rage or a rogue's evasion can be used in a dead magic zone even in that edition, so they are most certainly not magic of any kind.

Rather, I would say that they require a mental or emotional state that has limited uses before resting, and the same sort of rest that lets one recover rage is the one that can allow a magic-user to recover their spellcasting allotment.

I don't personally believe that dead magic zones are really what they say they are. And the theory itself does not require that internal magic be unusable there, merely that you cannot draw in or affect external aether in those regions (because there isn't enough to affect in a meaningful way). So a barbarian with rage "charges" left already has the energy inside of him and can rage as normal. Rogues and evasion is an example of a permanent change due to internal magic.

For the purposes of this theory, "magic" is identical to "things not possible on Earth." As a result, it includes all what 3e would call EX, SU, and SL effects. Is someone hulking out (ie rage) possible on Earth? Not really. Is dodging an explosion centered on you while in the middle of an open, featureless plain possible on Earth? Not a chance. But it's something rogues can do multiple times in 6 seconds for an entire day.

Willie the Duck
2019-04-12, 12:04 PM
A glimpse at the underlying assumptions, I guess.

But on the other hand, it doesn't really seem to sync up with the spellcasting system very well. It appears to be just literal fluff that isn't really reflected in the mechanics of the game.


also it makes too much sense to be magibabble, it has a logic to it rather than stringing a bunch of magical sounding words together to ward off people asking questions.

I suspect the underlying (Doylist) explanation is that the designers want a justification, but want DMs who want to modify it to feel they have free reign to do so (not allowance, since that's well established as DM/group preview, but the sense that they can without anything falling apart).

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-12, 02:20 PM
I suspect the underlying (Doylist) explanation is that the designers want a justification, but want DMs who want to modify it to feel they have free reign to do so (not allowance, since that's well established as DM/group preview, but the sense that they can without anything falling apart).


I just find that so unsatisfying. The combination of knowing what the underlying "theory" is, and having a mechanical system that suits and syncs with the "theory", makes it so much easier for the players and GM to be on the same page and avoid at least some dispute, and for the GM to expand on what exists, adjudicate on the fly, etc.

Psyren
2019-04-12, 02:26 PM
I don't personally believe that dead magic zones are really what they say they are. And the theory itself does not require that internal magic be unusable there, merely that you cannot draw in or affect external aether in those regions (because there isn't enough to affect in a meaningful way). So a barbarian with rage "charges" left already has the energy inside of him and can rage as normal. Rogues and evasion is an example of a permanent change due to internal magic.

For the purposes of this theory, "magic" is identical to "things not possible on Earth." As a result, it includes all what 3e would call EX, SU, and SL effects. Is someone hulking out (ie rage) possible on Earth? Not really. Is dodging an explosion centered on you while in the middle of an open, featureless plain possible on Earth? Not a chance. But it's something rogues can do multiple times in 6 seconds for an entire day.

I get what you're saying, but then I question calling such abilities "magic" at all. After all, you can't detect them with detect magic, can't cancel them with dispel magic, can't suppress them with antimagic field, etc. You're correct that they're not "normal" either, but I still like the idea of them having their own category, to explain why stuff that interacts with Su and SLAs (like the list I mentioned here) don't apply to them.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-12, 03:11 PM
I get what you're saying, but then I question calling such abilities "magic" at all. After all, you can't detect them with detect magic, can't cancel them with dispel magic, can't suppress them with antimagic field, etc. You're correct that they're not "normal" either, but I still like the idea of them having their own category, to explain why stuff that interacts with Su and SLAs (like the list I mentioned here) don't apply to them.

My current default name for such abilities is "fantastic" abilities. To be more precise, "magic" is a subset of "fantastic". And i discussed why you can't use antimagic field or dispel/detect magic on such abilities--since they're not coherent resonances, there's nothing to disrupt unless you can literally remove the aether from the person entirely. And that would kill them.

Thus, the set of "can be disrupted by antimagic effects" == "set of coherent resonance effects".

The point is to emphasize that even the "non-magical" people are fantastic--they go well beyond what we are capable of on Earth and that's normal for them. It's an attempt to dispel the (to me) false dichotomy between mundane and magic, saying that only spell-casting counts as magic and thus everyone else must be exactly only capable of what's capable on Earth. Which denies the whole point of being in a fantastic realm. I strongly dislike the idea of a world "just like Earth, but with spells stapled on top." It does violence to both real life and to magic, while falling quite short of properly integrating the fantastic. As well, it doesn't describe D&D worlds at all. They're not the real world with a veneer of magic--they're "magic" (fantasticness) to the core.

Thrudd
2019-04-12, 03:12 PM
The question of D&D magic theory is editionless, because to get stuck on one edition: that way lies dragons. Worse, starting in 3E D&D has made a huge push to be a near pure mecahnical combat game. You don't ask about magic theory after 3E, you just rol a d20 in combat allready.

From 1E we get: each spell has a point at which it can be "paused". So that means that each spell is actually a ritual by default, and that the wizard actually casts 99% percent of each spell, repeating it for each copy of it they cast. They leave out the last few motions so that the spell can be finished, its effect taking place. The spell slots represent the wizard's inner power, their ability to take the mental stress of the arcane equivalent of an inert bomb, to keep their spell paused until they wish to cast it.
...

So just to be clear, I'm not talking about mechanics. I'm talking more about Magic Theory. Fluff. It does have all sorts of role playing applications in game play, but no mechancal ones.

You have to consider edition in trying to explain the magic, because there are major differences in the editions, it's not just 4e vs everything else.

Also, you quoted the 3e PHB and seemed to be implying that this was the 1e explanation for things. Sorcerers in 3e and later throw off the entire magic system such that it requires significant additional explanation, which they really fail to do. Any theory needs to specify what edition it is for.


Mechanics should match the fluff. If they don't, you need to fix it. Like PhoenixPhyre did for his 5e setting.

There isn't a single explanation for D&D magic, it varies from setting to setting, and each setting varies in the degree to which its fluff is reflected in the mechanics. The best plan is to look at the edition you want to use, and build a fluff/theory that explains why it works that way for your own setting. Or, design a theory and then homebrew a magic system or adapt one of the variants that have been presented over the years in the various D&D editions to match how you think magic ought to work (some people replace all magic with 3e style psionics, or incarnum, or spell points, or whatever).

Willie the Duck
2019-04-12, 03:34 PM
I just find that so unsatisfying. The combination of knowing what the underlying "theory" is, and having a mechanical system that suits and syncs with the "theory", makes it so much easier for the players and GM to be on the same page and avoid at least some dispute, and for the GM to expand on what exists, adjudicate on the fly, etc.

Maybe, but I understand how D&D, which is (regardless of what you, I, or the designers would like) the go-to for people who will take it and proceed to use it for whatever gameworld with whatever underlying theory they want, might kind of have to go that route.

Beyond that, regardless of how well a "theory" we make that explains D&D magic, the theory would be an after-the-fact justification. D&D magic works to facilitate the kind of adventuring people typically do in D&D games (with increasing interest in how it effects inter-class balance with each edition). Justifications are just that.

Honestly, D&D is not a great game for any pure theories. Ars Magicka, Mage: the Ascenscion/Awakening, Invisible Suns, all of those have some very strong theories which exist before the actual game implementation. D&D started out with 'we did some stuff that we thought would be fun' and has been back-justifying itself ever since.

I am aware that that's probably not the most satisfying of an answer.

Psyren
2019-04-12, 03:53 PM
My current default name for such abilities is "fantastic" abilities. To be more precise, "magic" is a subset of "fantastic". And i discussed why you can't use antimagic field or dispel/detect magic on such abilities--since they're not coherent resonances, there's nothing to disrupt unless you can literally remove the aether from the person entirely. And that would kill them.

Thus, the set of "can be disrupted by antimagic effects" == "set of coherent resonance effects".

I get that, but it's not called "detect coherent resonance effect." It's a branding thing; but branding is important, because that's what leads to intuitive design. When D&D says "Ex abilities may defy physics, but they aren't magic" then the GM automatically knows that none of those effects apply, and they even intuitively grasp related rules like attacks of opportunity. "Ex abilities aren't coherent resonant effects" doesn't carry nearly the same snap utility, it's just complexity for it's own sake.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-12, 04:08 PM
I get that, but it's not called "detect coherent resonance effect." It's a branding thing; but branding is important, because that's what leads to intuitive design. When D&D says "Ex abilities may defy physics, but they aren't magic" then the GM automatically knows that none of those effects apply, and they even intuitively grasp related rules like attacks of opportunity. "Ex abilities aren't coherent resonant effects" doesn't carry nearly the same snap utility, it's just complexity for it's own sake.

Note that I'm specifically describing 5e's magic system, which does not classify things as EX/SU/SL/etc. There is only "magic" and "not magic", but the sidebar is clear that even most of the "not magic" things depend on the background magic field, just differently than coherent effects such as spells.

There's lots of things that should be magical (by the common understanding) that detect magic/etc. don't do anything with, at least in 5e. For example, a dragon can breathe fire, a demon can use its tactical teleport, a paladin can smite, etc. in an antimagic field, and you can't dispel a succubus's charm effect.

There's this clarification (now part of the Sage Advice Compendium, so official clarification):

Determining whether a game feature is magical is straightforward. Ask yourself these questions about the feature:
• Is it a magic item?
• Is it a spell? Or does it let you create the effects of a spell that’s mentioned in its description?
• Is it a spell attack?
• Does its description say it’s magical?

And dispel magic doesn't even hit all of those, as it only effects explicitly spells. So just using the names causes its own set of problems. My point was to figure out a reason why certain "magic" (by the common understanding) is affected by such anti-magic effects but most isn't.

The idea that they're coherent resonant effects and thus can be disrupted, just like any other resonance can be disrupted/jammed/damped out, is the key realization. Sure, if you want to call all things that aren't affected by antimagic field "fantastic abilities", nothing about the theory would change. Rename "innate magic" to "fantastic abilities" and you're good to go. The model (that you're working on internalized energy, used directly rather than through some form of pattern) stays the same.

Psyren
2019-04-12, 04:49 PM
Gotcha - if it's explicitly for 5e, the theory may apply perfectly. I genuinely don't know enough to debate that.

It probably works for 4e too given that all of its power sources can do similar things.

AMFV
2019-04-13, 01:01 AM
I suspect that the reason that D&D's "magic theory" is so sparse is that it's intended to be a generic system that can work in many different settings. Even in early D&D this was the case. Admittedly there are certain assumptions like Casting Cannot Be Done All Day and You have to prepare each spell for the amount of times you need it, sometimes, that would influence setting factors. But magic is pretty open-ended so that you can make it fit whatever you want in your setting. Once you start getting into the specific settings (Especially FR) you start getting a lot more specifics.

Cluedrew
2019-04-15, 07:53 PM
Its me, that guy quoted in the first post. I still don't like D&D magic. I don't hate it either it can't seem to get such an extreme reaction from me. But to the topic itself.

To PhoenixPhyre: Of all the attempts to rescue D&D magic I have seen, yours is probably the best. But there are two pieces missing before I would call it a success. First, a detailed description of what each caster is actually doing during casting (and preparation as appropriate) and how this relates to the underlying theory. Not in a lot of detail, but more than "the wizard uses a spell book to implant spells in their mind", which is kind of like saying the construction worker uses tools to build a house. It is true yet I have no idea what is happening. But that is just a matter of work.

The second is the kicker: Spells do only what they say. I know how much spells say they do and it is unacceptably little*. Half the fire spells don't set things on fire, ice spells don't cool things down. And you talked about this, gave long roundabout explanations that come out to (to my ears, even if you didn't mean it this way) "shut up and don't do anything creative". Even worse you can't do anything creative to keep them in check. I mean I don't expect people to understand conductivity, but could I stand in a waterfall/dive into water to survive a fireball? No, because it will not interact with that as effectively as the air. So why bother?

And that is why, I still don't like D&D magic. And some other things, like the wizard always feels too general (but there are specialized classes that feel better in that regard) and the fact it overwhelms so many other things in the system. But those are different topics for a different thread.

* Not always, I would actually accept it in some of the in the shadow of a once great empire settings, where magic is more recovered than learned and too precious to waste on experimentation. But how many D&D settings is that now?

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-15, 08:33 PM
To PhoenixPhyre: Of all the attempts to rescue D&D magic I have seen, yours is probably the best. But there are two pieces missing before I would call it a success. First, a detailed description of what each caster is actually doing during casting (and preparation as appropriate) and how this relates to the underlying theory. Not in a lot of detail, but more than "the wizard uses a spell book to implant spells in their mind", which is kind of like saying the construction worker uses tools to build a house. It is true yet I have no idea what is happening. But that is just a matter of work.

The second is the kicker: Spells do only what they say. I know how much spells say they do and it is unacceptably little*. Half the fire spells don't set things on fire, ice spells don't cool things down. And you talked about this, gave long roundabout explanations that come out to (to my ears, even if you didn't mean it this way) "shut up and don't do anything creative". Even worse you can't do anything creative to keep them in check. I mean I don't expect people to understand conductivity, but could I stand in a waterfall/dive into water to survive a fireball? No, because it will not interact with that as effectively as the air. So why bother?



1. This will vary from setting to setting and person to person. There isn't one true way of "learning" spells. Each wizard will do it differently, each druid, etc. The patterns for any given spell have the same key points, but how you get those into you will vary.

2. That's the whole point. When you shoot a lightning bolt, you're not creating a set of alternate charges. It doesn't and can't work that way. You're imposing an area of a particular "lightning aspect" on the reality there, with appropriate results. And in a world like this, that has fixed effects. Why? That's not known (or possibly even knowable). My home setting has those effects as being chosen by the current God of Magic, who was "promoted" to that position after he broke the world and inadvertently caused the deaths-by-self-sacrifice of all the previous gods. Literally, those effects are fiat. Now in-universe, it's not that spells have these nice crisp edges. But for game purposes, the effects must be clear-cut. Going any further results in madness (because it's an endless rabbit-hole) or fights over who remembers their physics the best (or can convince everyone else that they do). It's also drastically unbalancing for the game, at least in a D&D context. It lets magic-users (and only magic-users) be creative with their effects, letting them do even more of everything than they could before. And that's not fun for anyone except the power-mongers.

A fireball doesn't heat the air by exothermic reactions. It imposes a fire aspect over the entire area. So hiding underwater doesn't work because the water gets the same fire aspect as the air did. Not all ice aspects are freezing aspects--only things that are "tagged" as such have those aspects. And there isn't (by choice) a binding theory that connects and lets you alter these effects. All the casters know is that if you do this pattern, you get a fireball, with such and such parameters. Alter even one little bit, and you get a fizzle except as trained by esoteric studies, such as by arcane schools of thought. Sorcerers (by virtue of their bloodlines) can tweak things more than most, but still only a limited amount.

Edit: You're fundamentally asking for a grand unified theory of magic. And that's just not feasible or playable. None of the worlds can be rich enough to accommodate that, and it requires basically warping the entire ruleset around a single setting. Which is something I fundamentally oppose. Single-setting rules are, to me, a total waste of space, because I want to world-build and world-break. And I can't do any of that when I'm stuck in someone else's world. I want rules that get out of my way and let me tweak a lot of the underlying "physical laws" while still maintaining consistency and ability to use them. This necessitates a lack of expressed theory. Because otherwise you're nailing down all the interesting things for me to mess with, and making breakage that much more likely.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-16, 12:09 AM
And that is why, I still don't like D&D magic. And some other things, like the wizard always feels too general (but there are specialized classes that feel better in that regard) and the fact it overwhelms so many other things in the system. But those are different topics for a different thread.

The point of a wizard is to be a generalist; its entire raison d'ętre is going around plundering ancient ruins for forgotten magic and ending up with a spellbook holding a handful of fire spells from that one Kossuthite temple in Thay, a bunch of fiend-summoning spells from that demoncyst in Nar, a dozen lightning- and wind-based spells from the tomb of Kaeran Stormblood in southern Halruaa, some disgusting insect-themed spells from that one time Kyuss almost got summoned....

It's entirely possible to make a Wizard class that doesn't overwhelm everything else without compromising its eclectic nature, but that's a subject for a different thread.


* Not always, I would actually accept it in some of the in the shadow of a once great empire settings, where magic is more recovered than learned and too precious to waste on experimentation. But how many D&D settings is that now?

Literally all of them except Eberron.

Dark Sun? Arcane magic screwed up the world and practicing it is forbidden on pain of death. Forgotten Realms? There are more fallen empires than existing ones, and Realms-Shaking Events change the magical landscape every few human generations. Greyhawk? The main magical empires had a magical nuke exchange, kingdoms and empires are fragmented, and magic is fading. Dragonlance? The way arcane magic works swings between High Sorcery and Wild Sorcery based on the age, and more is forgotten about magic than learned because the Orders of High Sorcery keep secrets like a Medieval guild. Birthright? The powerful magic-users all use bloodline magic and arcane research languishes. Ravenloft? The Dark Powers actively screw with those trying to use magic to escape or better their situation. And so on and so forth.

The one exception, Eberron, has active magical research and a Magitech Revolution going on...but modern magic still pales in comparison to the magic of ages gone by, with Dhakaani and ancient Gatekeeper and Giantish and Quori artifacts littering the hidden corners of the world, and the world as of 998 YK is one big powder keg delayed blast fireball about to go off and kick off another round of empires falling.

The fact that D&D magic is as well-understood and systematized in-setting as it is given the post-apocalyptic (or inter-apocalyptic, really) nature of every setting is a testament to the skill, intellect, and tenacity of arcane researchers. They just need a nice solid century without the world ending (again) or the laws of magic changing out from under them to get a handle on things, and the likelihood of that happening is lower than the chances of--er, welp, looks like the demons are invading the Prime again, good luck with that. :smallwink:


Edit: You're fundamentally asking for a grand unified theory of magic. And that's just not feasible or playable. None of the worlds can be rich enough to accommodate that, and it requires basically warping the entire ruleset around a single setting.

There's no reason you couldn't have a Grand Unified Theory that encompassed all settings; Planescape and Spelljammer are meta-settings that accommodate plenty of variations in local physical and magical laws, after all. And those settings provide a good comparison, because they're based around a set of inter-planar/-sphere/-world mechanics that are not only versatile enough to encompass many different settings, but they're versatile enough to encompass settings specifically designed as isolated settings with their own cosmologies (Dark Sun and Eberron being the main examples) within that same overarching Planescape and/or Spelljammer cosmology, without having to special-case those settings.

Now, that doesn't mean that White Robe Joe on Krynn is going to know the Grand Unified Theory, because he only knows the magical theory of the White Order of High Sorcery, which is one fraction of one subsection of one form of magic on one single Prime world out of hundreds of magical traditions in thousands of worlds on one plane of hundreds. But you can certainly come up with a Grand Unified Theory that can explain White Robe Joe's magic and Zulkir Bob's magic on Toril and Defiler Steve's magic on Athas and so forth with the same underlying system, and in such a way that if Joe, Bob, and Steve got together and compared notes they'd have a good chance of figuring out at least a part of that theory.

Satinavian
2019-04-16, 02:20 AM
Edit: You're fundamentally asking for a grand unified theory of magic. And that's just not feasible or playable. None of the worlds can be rich enough to accommodate that, and it requires basically warping the entire ruleset around a single setting. Which is something I fundamentally oppose. Single-setting rules are, to me, a total waste of space, because I want to world-build and world-break. And I can't do any of that when I'm stuck in someone else's world. I want rules that get out of my way and let me tweak a lot of the underlying "physical laws" while still maintaining consistency and ability to use them. This necessitates a lack of expressed theory. Because otherwise you're nailing down all the interesting things for me to mess with, and making breakage that much more likely.So you would really really hate systems like Ars Magica ?

Cluedrew
2019-04-16, 07:39 AM
To PhoenixPhyre: Read my post closely and you will notice something: I said all of that. Except for the bit where it can't work and other way I really don't think that is true. But I understand why you went with it. Given the set of trade-offs, I think you have done a really good job. When I said that adding the caster mechanics was just a matter of work, I meant that this would be a good base to start off of. The explanations for magic are consistent and complete enough (and true completeness is unreasonable). So good job. If I find myself running a D&D campaign again I might even use it.

But in the end that doesn't fix deeper issues with the system. Which I believe I have gone on enough about.

To PairO'Dice Lost: So Dark Sun, Greyhawk & Ravenloft. Birthright I don't know enough about, but I have read lots of lore for Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance (and Dark Sun) and let me tell you magic is not that rare in them. Actually I might give a partial pass to Dragonlance depending on when you set the game in its timeline. On the other hand I read a Forgotten Realms book where an orphan girl had a belt that let her cast blink at will.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-16, 09:56 AM
So you would really really hate systems like Ars Magica ?

Not hate, just not find useful or all that fun beyond a one-shot. Even with D&D I prefer to be the DM.


To PhoenixPhyre: Read my post closely and you will notice something: I said all of that. Except for the bit where it can't work and other way I really don't think that is true. But I understand why you went with it. Given the set of trade-offs, I think you have done a really good job. When I said that adding the caster mechanics was just a matter of work, I meant that this would be a good base to start off of. The explanations for magic are consistent and complete enough (and true completeness is unreasonable). So good job. If I find myself running a D&D campaign again I might even use it.

But in the end that doesn't fix deeper issues with the system. Which I believe I have gone on enough about.


I don't see the deeper problems, but that's a YMMV situation, so we can agree to disagree.


Going back to fleshing out the individual casters, here are my basic thoughts, specific to my setting. The general ideas, I think, works more broadly but the specifics are setting-specific. I'll put things like that in green text.

Spells, as energy-manipulating, harmonic-causing mental patterns, have certain key elements. Exactly which elements are key differs from spell to spell, but without these key elements the spell cannot take form. These are codified for game purposes as the components of the spell (VSM) I believe that individuals use different specific components in many cases, with verbal being the most variable and material being the least. Lots of different casters use obfuscation (or don't really know the actual key components), so a spell that requires a single key word might actually use a short chant in practice.

There are, IMO, 4 basic types of spell-casting out there, which I will give descriptive names.

The Harmonies are what are most commonly associated with Bards. They use rhythm, music, and movement to create their patterns. They're the most variable of the casters, gathering their information from what they see, hear, and feel. They're intuitive, rather than studied. They do it because it feels right, not because that's what some theory says. As a result of this, the easiest things for them to affect are minds (because they do a lot of the work "for free").

The Harmonies are the oldest type of magic, dating back before anything else. Most tribal shamans and oral historians use primitive forms of the Harmonies. There are Temple Dancers who use very similar arts. Different practitioners are very varied in how they present their magic.

The Arcane Arts (usually called wizardry) are used by sorcerers, wizards, and warlocks. They rely on careful, precise manipulation of patterns of words, motions, and the energy of material components to evoke their effects. They're also the most codified of the arts. Every wizard, however, has to figure out what the actual keys are for themselves and "rephrase" the spell into their own internal system. Sorcerers come with the patterns/knowledge built in, but must unlock them through practice and growth. Warlocks learn them from a patron, having them "burned in" to their brains, so to speak. Since they're limited by mortal understanding, they're not so good at gracefully repairing living things. They can puppet them by seizing control of the inputs, but they can't build them or repair them very well at all (no healing unless granted by a Patron).

There are different schools, and they differ greatly in how they teach and build spells. A Council-trained wizard might describe things in precise, almost geometric notation. A Dynastic hobgoblin wizard might be quick and dirty, focusing on the bare minimum. A Stone Throne wizard may use lots of writhing, wriggly motions and sibilant words, as they revere snakes in that area. Same effects, different colorations.

Spirit-talking is the nature magic of druids and rangers. This is accomplished by making deals with the omnipresent nature spirits--the spirits of rocks, trees, bushes, etc. These deals are basically quid pro quo--the caster feeds them energy, in exchange for the spirit channeling the spell through the caster. This requires being in tune with the spirits, and spirits are most at home with manipulating nature itself.

A bunch of shamans and others use these arts in addition to druids and rangers. Byssia specializes in spirit-talking, replacing almost all clerics. To someone watching, a druid casting a spell may speak with a different voice, possibly as an overlay on his regular voice. Circles may systematize things a bit, but beyond that each druid is an individual.

Divine Empowerment is used by clerics. This, like Spirit-talking, involves an outside entity granting the spell-pattern temporarily to the caster. It's less direct, in that they receive the patterns as revelation during meditation rather than in-the-moment. The divine entity can act through the caster directly, but that's less common and more ad hoc. Because the spells are not bounded by mortal understanding, they're good at healing and aiding allies or affecting life itself. Because of the indirection, most are worse (than the Arcane Arts) at directly manipulating the elements.

Different clerics end up casting very differently (outside the key elements). A Temple-trained cleric and a lares priest won't use the same prayers. They'll contain similar elements, but it would require someone trained in both to see the exact similarities. Clerics are the most likely to cloak things in mysticism or obfuscation and among the least analytical in their approach.

Paladins are a special case. They don't fit neatly into any of the four major categories. One theory is that they're somehow granted similar access to a cleric, except without divine intermediary. Belief has power, and they believe in their Oath more than anything. That does sharply limit the effects they can produce to those that their unconscious mind considers "apt" for their Oath.

Pleh
2019-04-16, 12:48 PM
And i discussed why you can't use antimagic field or dispel/detect magic on such abilities--since they're not coherent resonances, there's nothing to disrupt unless you can literally remove the aether from the person entirely. And that would kill them.

My mind goes straight to Ennervation. The spell could be stripping the victim of their aether.

Which raises to my mind the question of how Aether is related to positive and negative energy. They're traditionally treated as "just another form of cosmic energy," but in this theoretical framework, their relationship to aether may be deeper than other cosmic energies are.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-16, 01:08 PM
My mind goes straight to Ennervation. The spell could be stripping the victim of their aether.

Which raises to my mind the question of how Aether is related to positive and negative energy. They're traditionally treated as "just another form of cosmic energy," but in this theoretical framework, their relationship to aether may be deeper than other cosmic energies are.

I'm working from a 5e standpoint, where positive and negative energies are the fundamental building blocks out of which everything else gets built. They're not even planes or energies as much as just polarities, like the polarities of charges. I like that better than the whole "there's this thing called negative/positive energy" 3e model. Can't articulate why, but I like it better.

I see "positive energy damage" (5e's Radiant damage) as shoving just pure aether into the target until they start to crack at the seams. Effective against constructs too--it breaks down the condensed "matter" aether that they're made of and disrupts the delicate control spells. "Negative energy damage" (Necrotic damage) sucks the aether out of them or corrupts it by imposing anti-life aspects on it.


In my setting, Aether (there called anima) gets its start on the Mortal plane from the hopes, dreams, successes, failures, growth, and death of mortal beings.

It then gets sucked up through Shadow (which replaces the Ethereal as the liminal transitive plane) into the Astral, where the Great Mechanism pumps it around and distributes it where it needs to go. So the Astral is full of tides of energy, to the point that material beings have a hard time there and the life there needs anchors (provided by faith, by mortals, or by the Great Mechanism depending on who you are) to not get destroyed.

From there it gets dumped into the Elemental planes, to be used as the building blocks of the physical world. Condensed into matter and "energy", it gets taken back through Shadow into the Mortal plane. This way, the mortal world never runs out of matter. There is no "water cycle" or "photosynthetic oxygen/CO2 cycle"--there is only the balance of the elements from those planes. Elemental beings are tasked (under the watchful eye of the angels) with replenishing the Mortal world's supply of the appropriate forms of matter.

The Abyss is a sucking wound in reality, a pit into which anima drains on contact. At the core is a living black hole, the Oblivion Gate. Demons live in the Abyss, because the rest of the universe rejects them for feeding directly on souls.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-16, 01:37 PM
To PairO'Dice Lost: So Dark Sun, Greyhawk & Ravenloft. Birthright I don't know enough about, but I have read lots of lore for Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance (and Dark Sun) and let me tell you magic is not that rare in them. Actually I might give a partial pass to Dragonlance depending on when you set the game in its timeline. On the other hand I read a Forgotten Realms book where an orphan girl had a belt that let her cast blink at will.

Magic isn't rare there at all, but it is "more recovered than learned," as you put it. In the Realms, the ancient empires (Imaskar, Netheril, Raumathar, etc.) were at the forefront of magical research and casually doing all sorts of incredible things, but that's not the case in the modern era. The "current" set of common spells as of the 1380s were all invented by Netherese spellcasters, all of the highly-magical nations with special magical traditions are merely successor states (Halruaa deriving from Netheril and Thay deriving from Raumathar being the major ones) relying on inherited power rather than doing anything particularly novel, any new spells and items are hoarded by the caster or at most by the caster's organization rather than distributed widely (the entire premise of the Magic Books of Faerűn series on the WotC site is that if you want to find new and useful spells you have to look at a specific wizard's research instead of the War Wizards of Cormyr or whatever), and every single time the laws of magic change (which Mystra has done at least once as a specific "screw you, you can't be trusted with real power" to mortals in the wake of the Fall of Netheril) everyone scrambles to rediscover all of the old spells rather than start from scratch--which, granted, is an easier and more practical approach, but it does mean that the progress of magical research is regularly set back on a global scale.

Similar with Dragonlance. The laws of magic constantly change, the Orders of High Sorcery jealously hoard their magical secrets and self-limit to only learning about a third of possible magical theory, "arcane" magic is in fact dependent on the moon gods so while Solinari/Lunitari/Nuitari aren't portrayed as being as meddlesome as Mystra it's entirely possible that they're holding things back or limiting mortals, experienced wizards put apprentices through grueling tests (and potentially curse them) to limit magic to only a select few who have proven their power and loyalty, High Sorcery fluctuates wildly in power (and whether it works at all) based on the Age, and the great Raistlin Majere didn't achieve his incredible power by developing anything new but rather by absorbing the existing power and knowledge of Fistandantilus.

Same refrain on Athas: Forbidden magic that isn't widely disseminated, few practitioners survive to pass on their knowledge, new research is nonexistent in favor of digging up secrets of the past.

So magic in general may be common in those settings, and powerful casters and items very powerful, but that doesn't mean they actually understand the workings of magic, merely that they are adept at using the "black box" magic dug up from fallen empires, handed down from gods of magic, and so forth.


Which raises to my mind the question of how Aether is related to positive and negative energy. They're traditionally treated as "just another form of cosmic energy," but in this theoretical framework, their relationship to aether may be deeper than other cosmic energies are.

I'm working from a 5e standpoint, where positive and negative energies are the fundamental building blocks out of which everything else gets built. They're not even planes or energies as much as just polarities, like the polarities of charges. I like that better than the whole "there's this thing called negative/positive energy" 3e model. Can't articulate why, but I like it better.

Positive and negative energy have always been fundamental building blocks of the cosmos, on the same level as the four elements; the Material Plane and (un)life in general couldn't exist without them any more than they could exist without air or water.

Positive energy is the ultimate creative and motive force, negative energy the ultimate destructive and entropic force, and you can look at the two of them like a big battery with energy flowing from Positive to Negative that powers the multiverse. The Plane of Shadow arose from the interactions between the two Energy Planes in the same way that Paraelemental Planes arise from interactions between Elemental Planes, its nature as a constantly changing warped reflection of the Prime deriving from the constant interplay between the creation and destruction of its parent planes.

Not only that, positive and negative energy have been integral to spellcasting since 1e:


All magic and cleric spells are similar in that the word sounds, when combined into whatever patterns are applicable, are charged with energy from the Positive or Negative Material Plane. When uttered, these sounds cause the release of this energy, which in turn triggers a set reaction.
[...]
The triggering action draws power from some plane of the multiverse. Whether the spell is an abjuration conjuration, alteration, enchantment, or whatever, there is a flow of energy - first from the spell caster, then from some plane to the area magicked or enspelled by the caster. [...] This power then taps the desired plane (whether or not the spell user has any idea of what or where it is) to cause the spell to function. It is much like plugging in a heater; the electrical outlet does not hold all of the electrical energy to cause the heater to function, but the wires leading from it, ultimately to the power station, bring the electricity to the desired location.

So associating positive and negative energy with the ambient power of magic isn't new at all, to 5e or to this theory, it's merely a rephrasing of canon.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-16, 01:47 PM
Positive and negative energy have always been fundamental building blocks of the cosmos, on the same level as the four elements; the Material Plane and (un)life in general couldn't exist without them any more than they could exist without air or water.


In 5e, I see positive and negative energy as being more fundamental than the elements. They're the bits out of which the elements themselves (and that energy) is made of. I see them as the source and sink of the energy cycle, just like positive charges are the source of the electric field and negative charges act as sinks.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-16, 03:45 PM
In 5e, I see positive and negative energy as being more fundamental than the elements. They're the bits out of which the elements themselves (and that energy) is made of. I see them as the source and sink of the energy cycle, just like positive charges are the source of the electric field and negative charges act as sinks.

Personally, I think pulling the Positive and Negative Energy planes out of the Inner Planes, making them a sort of shell around the Wheel, and positioning them as more important than the rest--or as the DMG puts it, they "enfold the rest of the cosmology, providing the raw forces of life and death that underlie the rest of existence in the multiverse"--was a big mistake, because (A) it associates them with the Outer Planes and radiant/necrotic damage with divine casting, which perpetuates the irritating "Positive Energy = Good, Negative Energy = Evil" misconception, (B) it totally undercuts the other Inner Planes conceptually--the Ethereal Plane, not the Energy Planes, is where protomatter gives rise to demiplanes that can eventually become full planes, and the Elemental Planes are elemental, not merely instantiations of something else--and (C) having all of the Inner Planes work together as a sort of Great Mechanism, as you term it in your homebrew, is more dynamic and interesting than having a single source and a single sink and everything else is just an intermediate step.

Having one plane encompassing everything else worked (and works) for the Astral Plane because it's explicitly a plane in the gaps between the others, not some sort of higher plane. It's a place for traveling souls, for portal conduits, for lost thoughts, for dead gods, and other things that are just passing through or don't have anywhere else to be; it's a background player in the grand cycle of the cosmos, not a fundamental component where important stuff happens. And of course in the original Planescape incarnation the Astral Plane didn't encompass everything, just the Material and Outer Planes, further emphasizing its lack of centrality.

On the subject of positive and negative energy being like charges, you should read through this (https://www.mimir.net/essays/planarphysics.html) article if you haven't already. While it's only fanon extrapolation from canon, it gives a nice explanation of how elemental physics "really" work and I think it makes a good case for how viewing positive and negative energy as being fundamentals on the same level as the elements works better than having them being remote cosmic forces.

RedMage125
2019-04-16, 04:13 PM
Going back to fleshing out the individual casters, here are my basic thoughts, specific to my setting. The general ideas, I think, works more broadly but the specifics are setting-specific. I'll put things like that in green text.

Spells, as energy-manipulating, harmonic-causing mental patterns, have certain key elements. Exactly which elements are key differs from spell to spell, but without these key elements the spell cannot take form. These are codified for game purposes as the components of the spell (VSM) I believe that individuals use different specific components in many cases, with verbal being the most variable and material being the least. Lots of different casters use obfuscation (or don't really know the actual key components), so a spell that requires a single key word might actually use a short chant in practice.

There are, IMO, 4 basic types of spell-casting out there, which I will give descriptive names.

The Harmonies are what are most commonly associated with Bards. They use rhythm, music, and movement to create their patterns. They're the most variable of the casters, gathering their information from what they see, hear, and feel. They're intuitive, rather than studied. They do it because it feels right, not because that's what some theory says. As a result of this, the easiest things for them to affect are minds (because they do a lot of the work "for free").

The Harmonies are the oldest type of magic, dating back before anything else. Most tribal shamans and oral historians use primitive forms of the Harmonies. There are Temple Dancers who use very similar arts. Different practitioners are very varied in how they present their magic.

The Arcane Arts (usually called wizardry) are used by sorcerers, wizards, and warlocks. They rely on careful, precise manipulation of patterns of words, motions, and the energy of material components to evoke their effects. They're also the most codified of the arts. Every wizard, however, has to figure out what the actual keys are for themselves and "rephrase" the spell into their own internal system. Sorcerers come with the patterns/knowledge built in, but must unlock them through practice and growth. Warlocks learn them from a patron, having them "burned in" to their brains, so to speak. Since they're limited by mortal understanding, they're not so good at gracefully repairing living things. They can puppet them by seizing control of the inputs, but they can't build them or repair them very well at all (no healing unless granted by a Patron).

There are different schools, and they differ greatly in how they teach and build spells. A Council-trained wizard might describe things in precise, almost geometric notation. A Dynastic hobgoblin wizard might be quick and dirty, focusing on the bare minimum. A Stone Throne wizard may use lots of writhing, wriggly motions and sibilant words, as they revere snakes in that area. Same effects, different colorations.

Spirit-talking is the nature magic of druids and rangers. This is accomplished by making deals with the omnipresent nature spirits--the spirits of rocks, trees, bushes, etc. These deals are basically quid pro quo--the caster feeds them energy, in exchange for the spirit channeling the spell through the caster. This requires being in tune with the spirits, and spirits are most at home with manipulating nature itself.

A bunch of shamans and others use these arts in addition to druids and rangers. Byssia specializes in spirit-talking, replacing almost all clerics. To someone watching, a druid casting a spell may speak with a different voice, possibly as an overlay on his regular voice. Circles may systematize things a bit, but beyond that each druid is an individual.

Divine Empowerment is used by clerics. This, like Spirit-talking, involves an outside entity granting the spell-pattern temporarily to the caster. It's less direct, in that they receive the patterns as revelation during meditation rather than in-the-moment. The divine entity can act through the caster directly, but that's less common and more ad hoc. Because the spells are not bounded by mortal understanding, they're good at healing and aiding allies or affecting life itself. Because of the indirection, most are worse (than the Arcane Arts) at directly manipulating the elements.

Different clerics end up casting very differently (outside the key elements). A Temple-trained cleric and a lares priest won't use the same prayers. They'll contain similar elements, but it would require someone trained in both to see the exact similarities. Clerics are the most likely to cloak things in mysticism or obfuscation and among the least analytical in their approach.

Paladins are a special case. They don't fit neatly into any of the four major categories. One theory is that they're somehow granted similar access to a cleric, except without divine intermediary. Belief has power, and they believe in their Oath more than anything. That does sharply limit the effects they can produce to those that their unconscious mind considers "apt" for their Oath.


Not too dissimilar from what I said, earlier. I like it.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-16, 04:50 PM
Personally, I think pulling the Positive and Negative Energy planes out of the Inner Planes, making them a sort of shell around the Wheel, and positioning them as more important than the rest--or as the DMG puts it, they "enfold the rest of the cosmology, providing the raw forces of life and death that underlie the rest of existence in the multiverse"--was a big mistake, because (A) it associates them with the Outer Planes and radiant/necrotic damage with divine casting, which perpetuates the irritating "Positive Energy = Good, Negative Energy = Evil" misconception, (B) it totally undercuts the other Inner Planes conceptually--the Ethereal Plane, not the Energy Planes, is where protomatter gives rise to demiplanes that can eventually become full planes, and the Elemental Planes are elemental, not merely instantiations of something else--and (C) having all of the Inner Planes work together as a sort of Great Mechanism, as you term it in your homebrew, is more dynamic and interesting than having a single source and a single sink and everything else is just an intermediate step.


See, I don't see the connection. They're beyond the outer planes. They're not associated with them at all--positive/negative is orthogonal to upper/lower. Positive isn't good, Negative isn't bad. They're just...there.

And having 6 types of "things" plus souls is just really busy. I'd rather simplify it down to just 1 fundamental type of thing with a bunch of aspects.

But then again I'm really not fond of the whole Great Wheel as a thing--it seems full of pointless box-checking symmetry-for-the-sake-of-symmetry and forces alignment into everything (which I hate). It's also super rigid.



Having one plane encompassing everything else worked (and works) for the Astral Plane because it's explicitly a plane in the gaps between the others, not some sort of higher plane. It's a place for traveling souls, for portal conduits, for lost thoughts, for dead gods, and other things that are just passing through or don't have anywhere else to be; it's a background player in the grand cycle of the cosmos, not a fundamental component where important stuff happens. And of course in the original Planescape incarnation the Astral Plane didn't encompass everything, just the Material and Outer Planes, further emphasizing its lack of centrality.


I ended up discarding the original purpose of the Astral plane, smashing it and the Ethereal plane into the Shadows, along with 5e's Feywild and Shadowfell. Because you don't need 2 liminal planes (Astral and Ethereal) as well as a bunch of semi-orthogonal planes.

My home cosmology is more like a very limited (the size of the inner solar system) version of the World Axis from 4e with heavy modifications. I've gone back to having quasi-separate elemental planes, but they're fixed in space (and give rise to the seasons as the planet orbits through their areas of maximum influence). The Shadows is the liminal plane, with layers similar to the Feywild and Shadowfell, except flavored more like Oblivion's Shivering Isles. There are no longer any permanent afterlives.



On the subject of positive and negative energy being like charges, you should read through this (https://www.mimir.net/essays/planarphysics.html) article if you haven't already. While it's only fanon extrapolation from canon, it gives a nice explanation of how elemental physics "really" work and I think it makes a good case for how viewing positive and negative energy as being fundamentals on the same level as the elements works better than having them being remote cosmic forces.

In my personal cosmology, I've discarded positive and negative energy entirely. You either have too much raw aether (radiant damage) or are being drained of aether (necrotic damage). Undead feed on ambient aether; demons feed on souls. Devils contractually take tithes of aether or consume the aether of living beings they're licensed to kill. The gods and angels are supplied with aether from the Great Mechanism (which is the body of the Dreamer who created this universe) as payment for maintaining the universe.

As a side note: aether is not conserved. Usually, the world goes through cycles. Aether builds up, leading to a golden age of magitech and glorious empires. At some critical point, an artifact called the Cosmic Forge activates, taking the existence of a willing person of power as the catalyst to consume much of that built-up aether to write a new law of existence. As the world is often very magic-dependent at that point, this usually presages some form of catastrophe, physical or cultural. As the world recovers, now along a different path due to the new Law, aether begins to build up again and the cycle repeats. Conveniently for game purposes, this lets me have many fallen empires with powerful magic. My current games are set at the start of a new upswing--hence the name "Dreams of Hope".

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-16, 06:04 PM
As a side note: aether is not conserved. Usually, the world goes through cycles. Aether builds up, leading to a golden age of magitech and glorious empires. At some critical point, an artifact called the Cosmic Forge activates, taking the existence of a willing person of power as the catalyst to consume much of that built-up aether to write a new law of existence. As the world is often very magic-dependent at that point, this usually presages some form of catastrophe, physical or cultural. As the world recovers, now along a different path due to the new Law, aether begins to build up again and the cycle repeats. Conveniently for game purposes, this lets me have many fallen empires with powerful magic. My current games are set at the start of a new upswing--hence the name "Dreams of Hope".


Could a new Law establish a steady-date medium-aether universe?

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-16, 06:33 PM
Could a new Law establish a steady-date medium-aether universe?

Maybe. Probably not, as that would violate other Laws. You can add, but it gets interpreted not to conflict with prior Laws. Although there are several entities who desire just that, including a Demon Prince. The previous Laws have added new styles of magic to the world: wizardry, spirit talking, Divine empowerment, and lastly (recently), aether crafting (personal magical technology, except not quite).

Ideas include creating an aether sink that burns aether at just the right rate (some theorize that that was the original purpose of the Oblivion Gate at the heart of the abyss) or fixing the amount of aether created (which might cause stasis).

One fact of the cycles is that it's not a full reset to baseline. The "lows" are, in fact, growing over time.

Jama7301
2019-04-16, 06:43 PM
One fact of the cycles is that it's not a full reset to baseline. The "lows" are, in fact, growing over time.

Your world codified power creep?

Cluedrew
2019-04-16, 07:43 PM
I don't see the deeper problems, but that's a YMMV situation, so we can agree to disagree.

At the end of the day it comes down to taste and my taste does not like D&D. I could try to explain exactly why but it eventually becomes me saying what I like and don't like. Like the generic wizard is in fact kind of the point of the D&D wizard, Dice made a good argument in its defence, doesn't change the fact it is a type of caster I don't really enjoy.


Magic isn't rare there at all, but it is "more recovered than learned," as you put it.But it fails the other requirement; "and too precious to waste on experimentation." Otherwise the lost knowledge can be recovered, and will probably either be happening right now or has already happened, in which case the fact that it was at one point recovered is irrelevant.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-16, 08:39 PM
Your world codified power creep?


It's less power creep than broadening of the power base, making power available to more people. That, plus increasing populations, results in an aggregate increase in aether despite each individual having less personal power.

The First Age was ruled by creatures of almost unfathomable power--Titan and Wyrm. The weakest of these were on the demigod scale, with only restraint from each other. They shaped the world and the people. Only a few "mortals" had any power at all, and civilization was at the tribal level. Those that did have power wielded only the Harmonies, and those in limited fashion. Titan wielded written Runes; wyrm wielded sound and words--True Sorcery.

The Second Age, heralded by the First Law: "Sound and shape combine to upset the tyrant's power," broke the twin powers of Runes and True Sorcery, recombining them into wizardry. This was accessible to mortals more easily, but even the greatest aelvar wizard-king wasn't nearly as powerful as the weakest Titan or Wyrm. But they had degenerated (into giant-kin and dragons respectively) and used the last of their fading power to crack the mega-continent in half. The aelvar built an empire based on wizardry for a few millennia.

The Interregnum, heralded by the Second Law: "The spirits of all things heed our call and will strike bargains," saw the wood elves (aelvar that refused or were unable to wield wizardry) use the new art of spirit-talking to call down the spirit of the third moon, cracking the half-continent and destroying the center of the aelvar empire. During this period of strife and chaos, humans and orcs were created from goblin stock.

The Third Age started with the Third Law: "Faith brings power." With this, the gods (who had existed but really played no part in mortal affairs) were able to grant power to faithful individuals, the start of Divine Empowerment. The new human empires exploded into shape with their willingness to wield all the magics. This lasted until they delved too deep into blood magic, playing god with souls. The civil war that erupted plunged half a continent back into a dark age. Later, a misused artifact triggered a Cataclysm and started the 2nd Interregnum, killing 70% of the world's population and "turning off" magic for 50 years (including killing off all the gods).

The current date is 210 years post Cataclysm. The Fourth Age dawned about 5 years ago, and so far is the only one without a major destructive event; this one was irregular because of the Cataclysm doing a lot of the aether-diminishing effects a bit early. The effects and details of this Law are still unknown, but it's believed that it's responsible for the spontaneous awakening of Soulforged--metal and wood constructs come to life and carrying souls of their own. Some people have noted the presence of people who wield strange "construct-magic" or alchemical magic that only seems to work for them. But those are just rumors :smallbiggrin:

So overall, the individuals have gotten weaker. But there are many many more of them with even some power, so the total goes up.



At the end of the day it comes down to taste and my taste does not like D&D. I could try to explain exactly why but it eventually becomes me saying what I like and don't like. Like the generic wizard is in fact kind of the point of the D&D wizard, Dice made a good argument in its defence, doesn't change the fact it is a type of caster I don't really enjoy.


This is a point I can heartily agree with. Taste is taste. The bold part is something we totally agree on--I wish D&D magic enforced much more specialization among spell-casters.

Bohandas
2019-04-16, 11:06 PM
I, for one, do not find that the old "casting all but the last bits" of a spell to be in conflict with 3e and up at all

Not necessarily in conflict with the rules, but it does raise the question of why nobody ever seems to cast a spell all at once, even if they're a homebody NPC wizard

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-17, 12:26 AM
See, I don't see the connection. They're beyond the outer planes. They're not associated with them at all--positive/negative is orthogonal to upper/lower. Positive isn't good, Negative isn't bad. They're just...there.

They shouldn't be associated, but people have been mistakenly conflating Positive Energy with Good because it's bright and shiny and Negative Energy with Evil because it's dark and draining for decades, which is why we got "mindless undead default to evil" and "healing is Conjuration because Necromancy is evil" in 3e. So when the 5e devs expand the Positive and Negative Energy Planes to "encompass everything" and draw the new Wheel with the PEP arcing over the Upper Planes and the NEP arcing below the Lower Planes, it's going to further encourage that misconception and it's a pretty good sign at least some of the designers probably labor under it themselves.


And having 6 types of "things" plus souls is just really busy. I'd rather simplify it down to just 1 fundamental type of thing with a bunch of aspects.

But then again I'm really not fond of the whole Great Wheel as a thing--it seems full of pointless box-checking symmetry-for-the-sake-of-symmetry and forces alignment into everything (which I hate). It's also super rigid.

The entire structure of the Great Wheel is, in-game, due to the fact that the multiverse coalesced during (or at least around the time of) the War of Law and Chaos in which the forces of "reality should exist and have rules" fought against the forces of "reality should do whatever I want at the moment" and won, so the Wheel was shaped by people (for a given value of "people") who felt that symmetry, order, cycles, and so forth were important, hence why the "Chaotic" planes still feel orderly and the classification system of cosmic principles known as alignment is a big deal.

I feel quite the opposite about the Wheel: every attempt I've seen to "improve" the Wheel by replacing it with a different cosmology basically boils down to taking all the elemental planes and either (A) throwing them into a big mishmash because "single-element planes are boring and hard to adventure in" despite the fact that turning the Plane of Earth or Plane of Water into Limbo makes it harder to adventure in or (B) folding them into other planes and ignoring the implications if your Fire plane is also your Hell plane or if one of the four isn't represented, then having either (A) one or two "good afterlife with harps and halos" planes and one or two "bad afterlife with fire and/or darkness" planes in a setup derivative of every real-world mythology ever or (B) an arbitrary number of Outer Planes so the DM can pull out the Plane of the Week at a whim and players don't know what to expect, and calling it a day.

The 3e MotP did that for its one-page example of a dead-simple cosmology, 4e did it because its cosmology designers didn't have an ounce of creativity between them, homebrewers do it all the time. Say what you will about the Great Wheel, it's one of the more stand-out setting cosmologies out there and it gives a DM a ton of hooks to work with.


But it fails the other requirement; "and too precious to waste on experimentation." Otherwise the lost knowledge can be recovered, and will probably either be happening right now or has already happened, in which case the fact that it was at one point recovered is irrelevant.

Not too precious, no (except on Athas), but the point is that that experimentation isn't happening at the kind of scale that you need to make settings go from post-apocalyptic ones scavenging lost magic from the ruins of the latest world-changing/-ending event to ones where magic is understood, research into it is expanded and built upon, and magic as a field of study is notable advanced.

Even Eberron, the only setting that has markedly improved in the last century instead of improving a millennium ago and recapitulating things since then, has many magic items being reliant on the user having a dragonmark partly because the Houses like their monopolies but also largely because they haven't figured out to duplicate certain effects without using that as a shortcut, wizards being quite rare compared to magewrights so few people are doing much independent arcane research, and entire armies of warforged were created in ways that no one can replicate using magical forges that no one understands.

I completely agree with your original objection, by the way, that spells are too special-case-y and don't interact with their environment and other magical effects in a uniform way. But that's an out-of-game problem, and I think you're dramatically underestimating the impediments to a typical wizard understanding his spells enough to fix that in-game in any published setting.


This is a point I can heartily agree with. Taste is taste. The bold part is something we totally agree on--I wish D&D magic enforced much more specialization among spell-casters.

There should be more class options that trade breadth of potential options for a more focused thematic scope, sure. But "guy who knows a smattering of lots of different kinds of magic" is a character concept in lots of fiction, especially more modern series like Harry Potter or the Dresden Files that a lot of players like to emulate, and I see no reason to go out of your way to set up your theory of magic to forbid that kind of character. Even Shadowrun, a game known for having a very consistent and easily-extrapolated magical metaphysics because the flavor was designed first and the mechanics built around that, put some limits on conjurable spirits by tradition and vary the way you access magic, but leave the kinds of effects you can access completely open to every kind of magic user.

What I think needs to happen to satisfy the "wizards are too broad" complaints (which are completely legitimate) is to emphasize that the wizard is indeed a magical dabbler--a scavenger of lost magic who makes do with whatever scraps he can find and reverse-engineer, in many cases, and has a collection of potentially useful tricks rather than a carefully-crafted magical arsenal of all the good spells. If it ends up to specialist casters like the bard is to the main core classes, second-best at anything but not able to compete with a specialist, you can leave the concept intact without having it overshadow anyone else.


Not necessarily in conflict with the rules, but it does raise the question of why nobody ever seems to cast a spell all at once, even if they're a homebody NPC wizard

Presumably they do, but if the mental magical constructs of spells need to be crafted in the same way whether you're going to cast them immediately or save them for later, it's reasonable to assume that casting a full spell in one go would still take up and then expend a spell slot because the mental channels (i.e. spell slots) used in that case are the same.

Of course, it was a very common houserule in AD&D to let magic-users cast spells directly from their spellbooks without using slots if they had sufficient downtime and either an obscure rule whose origin I forget or another common rule to let them cast spells from their spellbook like scrolls if they were short on time (complete with using up the page just like a scroll and potentially damaging other spells in the book), and 5e has the ability to cast spells as rituals without using up slots (though for the flavor to make any sense, all spells should really be castable as rituals, not just ones with the right descriptor), so it's not unheard-of for non-spell-slot-based casting to be a common thing.

Pleh
2019-04-17, 09:17 AM
They shouldn't be associated, but people have been mistakenly conflating Positive Energy with Good because it's bright and shiny and Negative Energy with Evil because it's dark and draining for decades, which is why we got "mindless undead default to evil" and "healing is Conjuration because Necromancy is evil" in 3e. So when the 5e devs expand the Positive and Negative Energy Planes to "encompass everything" and draw the new Wheel with the PEP arcing over the Upper Planes and the NEP arcing below the Lower Planes, it's going to further encourage that misconception and it's a pretty good sign at least some of the designers probably labor under it themselves.



The entire structure of the Great Wheel is, in-game, due to the fact that the multiverse coalesced during (or at least around the time of) the War of Law and Chaos in which the forces of "reality should exist and have rules" fought against the forces of "reality should do whatever I want at the moment" and won, so the Wheel was shaped by people (for a given value of "people") who felt that symmetry, order, cycles, and so forth were important, hence why the "Chaotic" planes still feel orderly and the classification system of cosmic principles known as alignment is a big deal.

I feel quite the opposite about the Wheel: every attempt I've seen to "improve" the Wheel by replacing it with a different cosmology basically boils down to taking all the elemental planes and either (A) throwing them into a big mishmash because "single-element planes are boring and hard to adventure in" despite the fact that turning the Plane of Earth or Plane of Water into Limbo makes it harder to adventure in or (B) folding them into other planes and ignoring the implications if your Fire plane is also your Hell plane or if one of the four isn't represented, then having either (A) one or two "good afterlife with harps and halos" planes and one or two "bad afterlife with fire and/or darkness" planes in a setup derivative of every real-world mythology ever or (B) an arbitrary number of Outer Planes so the DM can pull out the Plane of the Week at a whim and players don't know what to expect, and calling it a day.

The 3e MotP did that for its one-page example of a dead-simple cosmology, 4e did it because its cosmology designers didn't have an ounce of creativity between them, homebrewers do it all the time. Say what you will about the Great Wheel, it's one of the more stand-out setting cosmologies out there and it gives a DM a ton of hooks to work with.

I've never been a big fan of extraplanar content in general. There's plenty enough to get excited about on the material plane without needing a plane comprised entirely of fire (which was mostly nonsense anyway).

In my mind, the only planes you really need are 1 good aligned heaven (for the angels), 1 evil aligned hell (for the demons), and the planes adjacent to the material (astral, ethereal, and shadow). Mechanus and limbo are optional, as their significance depends largely on the campaign's theme. Nothing else is needed.

I mean, you call it derivative, but nothing in the game is truly original anyway. I don't see any problem with copying the solution here as well. Just a boring cosmology? Better a boring one than a needlessly complex one.

Bohandas
2019-04-17, 08:06 PM
I've never been a big fan of extraplanar content in general. There's plenty enough to get excited about on the material plane without needing a plane comprised entirely of fire (which was mostly nonsense anyway).

In my mind, the only planes you really need are 1 good aligned heaven (for the angels), 1 evil aligned hell (for the demons), and the planes adjacent to the material (astral, ethereal, and shadow). Mechanus and limbo are optional, as their significance depends largely on the campaign's theme. Nothing else is needed.

I don't see why the transitive planes are needed; they're basically an answer to a question nobody asked

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-17, 08:19 PM
I don't see why the transitive planes are needed; they're basically an answer to a question nobody asked

I repurposed them as liminal planes. They're the way you get between the Mortal plane and the others. They're a shadow cast by the Astral (as aether heads upward, being a manic reflection of mortality), by the elemental planes (as condensed aether returns in the form of elemental matter and energy, being a melancholic reflection of mortality), and by the Abyss (whose unnatural corruption produces a wasteland of war and famine, being a reflection of the worst of mortality).

The spirits of the dead find the place best suited for them and abide for a time, until they fade out or are eaten. After that? No one knows, not even the gods.

Pleh
2019-04-18, 04:47 AM
I don't see why the transitive planes are needed; they're basically an answer to a question nobody asked

I find character/monster abilities like Shadow Walking or Etherealness to be a bit too common in my games to easily explain without transitive planes. That said, I don't see them as much as entirely separate planes from the material, but more as dimensional layers of the material plane. Sort of like the Upside Down dimension in Stranger Things.

Florian
2019-04-18, 06:02 AM
I've never been a big fan of extraplanar content in general. There's plenty enough to get excited about on the material plane without needing a plane comprised entirely of fire (which was mostly nonsense anyway).

Depends on much you value verisimilitude/are part of the Sim crowd. It´s not a bad thing to be able to keep the power level/fantastical stuff on the prime on an easily digestible level, by having the whole really high fantasy stuff take place elsewhere, preferable other planes that are intentionally different than the Prime.

I think 4E actually broke the game more or less down into three phases, corresponding with character levels: 1/3 Wilderness Exploration, next 1/3 Dungeon Exploration, last 1/3 Outer Planes and stuff.


I don't see why the transitive planes are needed; they're basically an answer to a question nobody asked

For D&D, they were apparently used to model physics. In PF, Transitive Planes have been tied more closely to the mythological functions of the multiverse, along with the Inner Planes.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-18, 12:53 PM
A random thought, not fully developed:

If D&D wizardry truly is available to anyone who can study it, there should be a lot more people who can cast at least basic wizard spells. Every adventurer should be able to pick up a cantrip or so during downtime. But that doesn't seem to be the case. So something in the model doesn't fit.

What if the rate-limiting factor in spell-casting ability isn't learning the spells themselves, but opening the spell slots?

In my model, the spells and spell slots are separate. You could be a scholar who knows all of everything about the spells, down to having dozens memorized but be unable to actually put any of them into practice because you lack the internal energy structures to spark them.

My thought was that this process for most people requires hours per day of meditation, practice, and other non-studying, non-working time over the course of years per slot. A cleric might be meditating and praying, trying to gain a full connection to their god and working to build the flow of energy within themselves. A wizard might be doing mental exercises to build the patterns, much like an athlete practices the basics for hours at a time.

So a commoner, who has to provide for themselves, won't have the time to spare. They can't take years off of farming/hunting/crafts/etc to do this. Most nobles (and people) don't have the patience to dedicate themselves this much for that long.

Some people (PCs included), however, have the innate talent for quickly opening these slots and learning to control the connection to the patterns. So they might open one in a few weeks of concerted effort. Those that don't get their slots at 1st level (1/2 casters and 1/3 casters) would be presumed to be working toward opening them as they adventure.

Warlocks, however, are the exception. They get theirs torn open as part of the pact and just have to learn to control them. That's why Pact Magic slots are so different (more limited in number, auto-scaling, and returning on a short rest) from "regular" ones--they're the result of cheating the normal order. I see Pact Magic as being the "tempting shortcut" for many people. Fiends are the easiest to contact, but the most likely to demand something outrageous (like a soul or straight up evil deeds). The others are less baleful, but harder to contact (requiring more research and work).

It's not fully developed, but I think it's a promising avenue for further thought.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-18, 02:18 PM
I've never been a big fan of extraplanar content in general. There's plenty enough to get excited about on the material plane without needing a plane comprised entirely of fire (which was mostly nonsense anyway).

The Elemental Planes have as much of a mythological pedigree as heaven and hell planes do. Many mythoi have the universe existing as endless primordial water before the god(s) do something to push it back into its own realm, "underworld"-style afterlives are basically cognate to the Plane of Earth, Norse mythology has Muspelheim and Niflheim (basically the Elemental Plane of Fire and Paraelemental Plane of Ice) as first two of the Nine Worlds, and so forth.


In my mind, the only planes you really need are 1 good aligned heaven (for the angels), 1 evil aligned hell (for the demons), and the planes adjacent to the material (astral, ethereal, and shadow). Mechanus and limbo are optional, as their significance depends largely on the campaign's theme. Nothing else is needed.

I mean, you call it derivative, but nothing in the game is truly original anyway. I don't see any problem with copying the solution here as well. Just a boring cosmology? Better a boring one than a needlessly complex one.

There's a difference between being influenced by (and a remix of) classical sources and being a straight-up copy. Plenty of fantasy is influenced by LotR, but Eragon and the early Shannara books are very derivative of it, for instance, and they suffer for it. I personally think watering D&D down with a standard mythological cosmology, generic mana/spell points in place of Vancian and so forth, reflavoring psionics into just another magic and getting rid of the science-fantasy flavor, excluding the non-Tolkien races, and so forth does a big disservice to the game and cuts out a lot more options and playstyles than it does "reduce needless complexity."


I don't see why the transitive planes are needed; they're basically an answer to a question nobody asked

The specific questions of where do demiplanes come from, how do souls get to the afterlife, what a "para-energy plane" would look like, and so forth may not be questions you need the answers to (although considering we're in a thread about coming up with a Grand Unified Theory for magic, talking about coming up with pointless answers to pointless questions is a bit counterproductive :smallamused:), but they do fulfill important niches in that the Ethereal Plane fills the role of your archetypal "alternate dimension that can see but not touch the real world" plane while the Plane of Shadow is your archetypal "weird and spooky mirror of the real world" plane, both of which are used in all sorts of stories and which DMs might want to use in their campaign.


In my model, the spells and spell slots are separate. You could be a scholar who knows all of everything about the spells, down to having dozens memorized but be unable to actually put any of them into practice because you lack the internal energy structures to spark them.

That's essentially how things work in canon, since it's entirely possible to have max ranks in Spellcraft and Knowledge (Arcana), or in 5e expertise in Arcana, without the ability to cast spells, and conversely for high-level sorcerers to have major magical mojo with 10 Int and no arcane training whatsoever.

It's basically the science/engineering split. A theoretical physicist does research using machines mechanical and electrical engineers build, programmers use techniques developed by computer scientists, and so on, and while the disciplines overlap a lot at advanced levels and it's very beneficial to be trained in both, it's not necessary to cross-train to get the job done.


Some people (PCs included), however, have the innate talent for quickly opening these slots and learning to control the connection to the patterns. So they might open one in a few weeks of concerted effort. Those that don't get their slots at 1st level (1/2 casters and 1/3 casters) would be presumed to be working toward opening them as they adventure.

I don't think ascribing things to nebulous "innate talent" is a satisfying solution, really, since that posits that all PCs (or just those that want to multiclass into a casting class, perhaps) happen to be drawn from a pool of exceptional individuals, and while many PCs have that kind of backstory there's plenty who have the "just an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances" backstory and don't want to discover midway that they've been special all along.

What might make more sense is to say that exposure to magic (both physically being exposed to it and merely encountering and studying it) improves your ability to create and open spell slots. They're magical channels in your mind and body, after all, so having magic flow through you would help with that, and being able to recognize the sensations of magic, see what other magic-users are doing, and so forth can help guide meditations and point out blind spots in practice regimens.

This helps explain why fighter PCs can pick up wizardry faster than an apprentice wizard if they want to--if you're repeatedly getting fireball'd and cure wounds'd on a daily basis and running into all sorts of strange magical fields, you can skip a lot of the basic regimens because you don't need several weeks to sense your chakras (they're still smarting from that behir's breath last weekend, thankyouverymuch), a month to figure out how to totally clear your mind (that mystical fountain on the third level of that tomb had a fairly similar effect), and so forth. It also explains why non-wizard arcanists might congregate in guilds (just being around experienced spellcasters is helpful for apprentices even if you don't directly learn anything from them), why wizards build towers (it concentrates lots of magic to make it easier for you to open your spell slots), and other setting conceits.

Bohandas
2019-04-18, 03:13 PM
Literally all of them except Eberron.

Dark Sun? Arcane magic screwed up the world and practicing it is forbidden on pain of death. Forgotten Realms? There are more fallen empires than existing ones, and Realms-Shaking Events change the magical landscape every few human generations. Greyhawk? The main magical empires had a magical nuke exchange, kingdoms and empires are fragmented, and magic is fading.

Greyhawk actually strikes me as a setting where the idea of magical knowledge being lost makes literally no sense, given that Boccob has both the means and the motivation to reestablish any arcane knowledge that might become lost to mortals

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-18, 04:25 PM
I don't think ascribing things to nebulous "innate talent" is a satisfying solution, really, since that posits that all PCs (or just those that want to multiclass into a casting class, perhaps) happen to be drawn from a pool of exceptional individuals, and while many PCs have that kind of backstory there's plenty who have the "just an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances" backstory and don't want to discover midway that they've been special all along.

What might make more sense is to say that exposure to magic (both physically being exposed to it and merely encountering and studying it) improves your ability to create and open spell slots. They're magical channels in your mind and body, after all, so having magic flow through you would help with that, and being able to recognize the sensations of magic, see what other magic-users are doing, and so forth can help guide meditations and point out blind spots in practice regimens.

This helps explain why fighter PCs can pick up wizardry faster than an apprentice wizard if they want to--if you're repeatedly getting fireball'd and cure wounds'd on a daily basis and running into all sorts of strange magical fields, you can skip a lot of the basic regimens because you don't need several weeks to sense your chakras (they're still smarting from that behir's breath last weekend, thankyouverymuch), a month to figure out how to totally clear your mind (that mystical fountain on the third level of that tomb had a fairly similar effect), and so forth. It also explains why non-wizard arcanists might congregate in guilds (just being around experienced spellcasters is helpful for apprentices even if you don't directly learn anything from them), why wizards build towers (it concentrates lots of magic to make it easier for you to open your spell slots), and other setting conceits.

First, I'm very firmly of the opinion that all PCs have extraordinary potential, even the non-spell casters. It's part of the "innate magic" side of the theory. In 5e (where this theory originates), a 1st level Fighter (who is described as an apprentice) is already significantly better than a Guard. A 1st level wizard is much better than an Apprentice Wizard (the NPC stat block). And if anyone could achieve the pinnacle of human potential in a few months, there would have to be a lot more high power people around. Which makes for horrible worldbuilding. So I've made it canon in my setting that each individual has a cap on their potential for growth. Basically a maximum amount of aether they can handle. Most people cap at the equivalent of levels 1-3, if even they get that far, with exponential fall-off from there. So having PCs (and select others) with extraordinary potential works for me.

Also, I wanted to allow for non-traditional backstories. The 1st level Outlander Wizard who found a moldering spellbook on a desiccated corpse and learned magic in a few months or even a year (when most would take years of guided study). The bard who awoke to his potential while performing in a tavern. The soldier called by Torm on the battlefield, casting his first healing spell on the spot. I want to make it possible for the apprentice to a guild craftsman in a village to awaken to his potential and harness his inner rage, learning the art of the axe in (relatively) no time at all. I want to explain why that folk hero halfling can learn to cast spells in weeks without a significant magical training facility around, while the common high elf takes many years to learn that racial cantrip and may never progress beyond that.

I feel PCs should be special. Not because we're paying attention to them but rather the reverse. We're paying attention to them because they're special and doing interesting things. If they weren't special or interesting, we'd follow someone who is. D&D is not a game about ordinary people. It's about heroes, doing heroic deeds. So having them be special is, to me, the presumption.

But your tack would work for those who feel otherwise. It's a good model, just not one I happen to like personally.

Jama7301
2019-04-18, 04:43 PM
I feel PCs should be special. Not because we're paying attention to them but rather the reverse. We're paying attention to them because they're special and doing interesting things. If they weren't special or interesting, we'd follow someone who is. D&D is not a game about ordinary people. It's about heroes, doing heroic deeds. So having them be special is, to me, the presumption.


This is close to my take on D&D Magic. In a world that's full of magic, to me, that seeps into everyone and everything. Every human has some amount of magical energy in them, whether latent or already awakened. The people that become heroes tend to have a larger reservoir within them that allows them to do extraordinary things whether it be spells or something like an undying, Indomitable spirit. Undead can be caused by twisted magic, or by purposeful manipulation.

Frozen_Feet
2019-04-18, 10:51 PM
If D&D wizardry truly is available to anyone who can study it, there should be a lot more people who can cast at least basic wizard spells. Every adventurer should be able to pick up a cantrip or so during downtime. But that doesn't seem to be the case. So something in the model doesn't fit.

The implicit answer is already given by the rules: becoming a Wizard takes years longer than becoming most other classes, and if you look at costs of spellbooks, spells etc., it is more expensive as well.

For example: under d20 rules, a young adult human takes 1d4 years to become a Barbarian or Rogue, average 2.5. Or 1d6 years to become a Fighter or Bard, average 3.5 years. It takes 2d6 years to become a Cleric, Druid or Wizard, average 7 years.

If you look at rules for starting characters, it's not meant to be something you can easily do during downtime. The impression that it is, is caused by very free multi-classing rules for player characters in post-d20 systems. Plus massive inflation in number of base classes that get magic from word go.

For contrast, a sorcerer takes 1d4 years to realize their powers, but that's because they're explicitly born with them.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-18, 11:06 PM
Greyhawk actually strikes me as a setting where the idea of magical knowledge being lost makes literally no sense, given that Boccob has both the means and the motivation to reestablish any arcane knowledge that might become lost to mortals

Firstly, he's not particularly unique in that, any setting's god of magic is going to try to spread and preserve magical knowledge, but Boccob in particular has the title of "the Uncaring" for a reason. Boccob's clergy specifically fortify the Hells out of his temples and then withdraw from the outside world and don't interfere with anything, so they'd be very helpful to ensure rare spellbooks don't get lost in some sort of major catastrophe, but they're highly unlikely to do anything to prevent it--particularly if it's a magical catastrophe, since they're loath to destroy any source or repository of powerful magic so they're not going to help kill a lich or shut down a portal or the like.

Secondly, even if he wanted to take a more active hand, he's only one god and not all-powerful. Mystryl died and screwed up magic as a byproduct despite being much more active in the promotion of magic than Boccob ever was, and she was taken down by a mortal; Boccob is pretty sure Tharizdun is the one screwing with Oerth's magic, and he's powerful enough to take on a whole pantheon. Same with Takhisis vs. the moon gods of Krynn: they were powerless stop her from stealing the world away, and powerless to keep High Sorcery around when Wild Sorcery rose to take its place.

In all of those cases, the gods of magic can't just wave their hand and hand out all the magical knowledge to mortals, any more than Pelor can wave his hand and wipe out every undead on Oerth. There are restrictions (like the Divine Compact), there are limits to their power, there are other greater threats.

Thirdly, the "keeping the upstart mortals down" attitude isn't uncommon among the gods. Gond on Toril is the god of invention, but specifically suppresses smokepowder because it would change things too much and make mortals too much of a threat; same with Mystra 1.0 rewriting the laws of magic to restrict mortals after Mystryl died. So Boccob might well feel that cycles of losing and rediscovering powerful magic are a good thing because advancing too far would weaken magic at a faster rate, or that he's not going to step in and help anyone unless they prove they can handle magic responsibly and no one has done so yet, or the like.


First, I'm very firmly of the opinion that all PCs have extraordinary potential, even the non-spell casters. It's part of the "innate magic" side of the theory. In 5e (where this theory originates), a 1st level Fighter (who is described as an apprentice) is already significantly better than a Guard. A 1st level wizard is much better than an Apprentice Wizard (the NPC stat block). And if anyone could achieve the pinnacle of human potential in a few months, there would have to be a lot more high power people around. Which makes for horrible worldbuilding. So I've made it canon in my setting that each individual has a cap on their potential for growth. Basically a maximum amount of aether they can handle. Most people cap at the equivalent of levels 1-3, if even they get that far, with exponential fall-off from there. So having PCs (and select others) with extraordinary potential works for me.

Also, I wanted to allow for non-traditional backstories. The 1st level Outlander Wizard who found a moldering spellbook on a desiccated corpse and learned magic in a few months or even a year (when most would take years of guided study). The bard who awoke to his potential while performing in a tavern. The soldier called by Torm on the battlefield, casting his first healing spell on the spot. I want to make it possible for the apprentice to a guild craftsman in a village to awaken to his potential and harness his inner rage, learning the art of the axe in (relatively) no time at all. I want to explain why that folk hero halfling can learn to cast spells in weeks without a significant magical training facility around, while the common high elf takes many years to learn that racial cantrip and may never progress beyond that.

I feel PCs should be special. Not because we're paying attention to them but rather the reverse. We're paying attention to them because they're special and doing interesting things. If they weren't special or interesting, we'd follow someone who is. D&D is not a game about ordinary people. It's about heroes, doing heroic deeds. So having them be special is, to me, the presumption.

But your tack would work for those who feel otherwise. It's a good model, just not one I happen to like personally.

That take on things is a lot more palatable. A lot of players like roleplaying wizards as opposed to sorcerers or warlocks because they like the idea that their character's magic is gained through study, research, and effort, not merely a quirk of birth or cheating their way to it, so positing that to be a good wizard you still actually have to be born with some kind of "spark" that makes things easy for you really goes against that idea. If "some people are particularly good at creating spell slots" is considered to be at the same level as "some people are particularly good at playing the piano" and PC wizards are on the top end of the bell curve rather than actually being inherently different from the rest of the population, then that's something I can get behind.

Millstone85
2019-04-19, 07:16 AM
In my mind, the only planes you really need are 1 good aligned heaven (for the angels), 1 evil aligned hell (for the demons), and the planes adjacent to the material (astral, ethereal, and shadow). Mechanus and limbo are optional, as their significance depends largely on the campaign's theme. Nothing else is needed.I have been musing over various "collapsed" cosmologies, and the one on my mind right now would have five planes around the Prime.

Arborea, Plane of Reincarnation

Natives: Spirits of the elements, the fauna, and the flora.
Petitioners: Souls seeking to be reborn in the Prime.

Arcadia, Plane of Perseverance

Natives: Spirits of the cosmos, appearing as clockworks.
Petitioners: Souls seeking to remain the same as in life.

Carceri, Plane of Damnation

Natives: Spirits of temptation (demons) and punishment (devils).
Petitioners: Souls cursed by the gods, infamy, or their own guilt.

Celestia, Plane of Transcendence

Natives: Gods of mortal origin, and their angels.
Petitioners: Souls seeking ascension to a higher state of existence.

Hades, Plane of Oblivion

Natives: Psychopomps.
Petitioners: Souls seeking true death, the final dreamless sleep.

Bohandas
2019-04-20, 12:51 AM
Firstly, he's not particularly unique in that, any setting's god of magic is going to try to spread and preserve magical knowledge, but Boccob in particular has the title of "the Uncaring" for a reason. Boccob's clergy specifically fortify the Hells out of his temples and then withdraw from the outside world and don't interfere with anything, so they'd be very helpful to ensure rare spellbooks don't get lost in some sort of major catastrophe, but they're highly unlikely to do anything to prevent it--particularly if it's a magical catastrophe, since they're loath to destroy any source or repository of powerful magic so they're not going to help kill a lich or shut down a portal or the like.

That's sort of the point. After everything goes down and the smoke clears his temples are still there with all the magical knowledge. And the knowledge goes back out into the world even if it's what caused the last catastrophe because he does not care.



In all of those cases, the gods of magic can't just wave their hand and hand out all the magical knowledge to mortals, any more than Pelor can wave his hand and wipe out every undead on Oerth. There are restrictions (like the Divine Compact), there are limits to their power, there are other greater threats.

This is different than that. If necessary, this could be done solely through prophetic visions


Thirdly, the "keeping the upstart mortals down" attitude isn't uncommon among the gods.

Not really Boccob though. There's a whole chunk of lore about his still-in-good-standing apprentice Zagyg ascending to divnity by capturing nine gods and siphoning off some of their power


...or that he's not going to step in and help anyone unless they prove they can handle magic responsibly and no one has done so yet, or the like.

This contradicts both the lore about him being apathetic towards everything except the study of magic as well as the lore about his number one apprentice being highly reckless and possibly insane

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-22, 05:14 PM
Arborea, Plane of Reincarnation

Natives: Spirits of the elements, the fauna, and the flora.
Petitioners: Souls seeking to be reborn in the Prime.

Arcadia, Plane of Perseverance

Natives: Spirits of the cosmos, appearing as clockworks.
Petitioners: Souls seeking to remain the same as in life.


These seems to have a lot of thematic overlap; the clockwork motif implies cycles and judgment/logical processing implies some association with reincarnation as much as or more than it implies sterile mechanical perfection, plenty of plant and elemental spirits would presumably like to reincarnate in forms similar to their previous ones, and elemental spirits would seem to belong to the "spirits of the cosmos" category as well.

I also notice that you have Carceri as a plane for cursed souls, but not one for rewarded souls, unless you intended Arcadia's "same as in life" to be like the common perception of "nice" afterlives to involve you showing up as you are (or as your younger/best self) and staying like that forever.

It might make sense to move the cosmic and cylical themes from Arcadia to Arborea and make Arcadia more of a mirror of Carceri, so you have two "end up here for good" planes (Arcadia and Carceri) to mirror the two "exit the cycle" planes (Celestia and Hades).


That's sort of the point. After everything goes down and the smoke clears his temples are still there with all the magical knowledge. And the knowledge goes back out into the world even if it's what caused the last catastrophe because he does not care.

This is different than that. If necessary, this could be done solely through prophetic visions


Yes, his temples preserve knowledge, but that doesn't prevent any specific information from being lost. If you're looking for a particular spell invented by the great Archwizard Foobar, it's entirely possible that no temple of Boccob happened to preserve a scroll of that spell--and Boccob doesn't go around hinting to his clerics, sending visions unprompted, handing out knowledge of spells to followers rather than having them do the research themselves, or the like as e.g. Mystra does.

So it's entirely possible for the same cycle of advance magical knowledge -> major catastrophe -> start building up again to occur on Oerth like it does in other settings. Maybe individual temples are destroyed in the catastrophe and any knowledge held only there is lost, or maybe a particular set of temples is more conservative and focused on preserving redundant copies of texts against catastrophe and so neglected to preserve some of the more recent spell/item developments...or, more relevant to the general "D&D spellcasters don't know the underlying principles behind magic" discussion, maybe the Boccobites preserved a lot of one-off spells and items in case of catastrophe, but a lot of the basics (of those developments and of magical research in general) were lost because they weren't thought to be worth preserving when "every wizard" knows them, and so you end up with lots of magical doodads that no one really fully understands.


Not really Boccob though. There's a whole chunk of lore about his still-in-good-standing apprentice Zagyg ascending to divnity by capturing nine gods and siphoning off some of their power

This contradicts both the lore about him being apathetic towards everything except the study of magic as well as the lore about his number one apprentice being highly reckless and possibly insane

He's not apathetic to everything but the study of magic, he's apathetic to mortal worship because he doesn't need it and therefore doesn't feel inclined to meddle and help mortals like other gods, but he's quite passionate about staving off (and hopefully ending) the slow decline and eventual fading of magic on Oerth; his church teaches that the act of magical creativity "adds one more drop of fuel to the lamp that is Oerth's magic, giving it a moment's more time before it is snuffed out," and in fact there's a sect of his church that teaches that magic is finite and should be preserved that points to passages in the The Uncaring's Will (the main holy book of the faith and the only collection of direct statements from Boccob to his church) to back up their position.

So it's entirely consistent with Boccob's teachings and beliefs for him to support a god's ascension as long as that god siphons power from other gods (preserving the overall level of magic) instead of coming up with some other means of ascension (draining magic faster), to allow certain magical knowledge to be destroyed because the creative act of re-inventing over and over replenishes Oerth's magic, to encourage creating weaker and more utilitarian spells and items over grand and powerful ones becauae the latter use up magic faster, and so forth. None of that contradicts his general hands-off approach to mortals, and in fact that very stance, compared to other gods who go out of their way to help their worshipers and favored creatures, could be viewed as "keeping the mortals down" in and of itself.

Millstone85
2019-04-23, 04:27 AM
These seems to have a lot of thematic overlap; the clockwork motif implies cycles and judgment/logical processing implies some association with reincarnation as much as or more than it implies sterile mechanical perfection, plenty of plant and elemental spirits would presumably like to reincarnate in forms similar to their previous ones, and elemental spirits would seem to belong to the "spirits of the cosmos" category as well.Arborea's themes are:

wilderness.
growth and sudden change.
balance between "spirits of the chaos".

Arcadia's themes are:

cities and countryside.
stability and predictability.
unity between "spirits of the cosmos".

Though I did consider merging them into Bytopia. I really like the aesthetic of two flat worlds serving as each other's sky, and I think Dothion and Shurrock already have similarities with Arcadia and Arborea, respectively. Still, I would keep the latter's names.


I also notice that you have Carceri as a plane for cursed souls, but not one for rewarded souls, unless you intended Arcadia's "same as in life" to be like the common perception of "nice" afterlives to involve you showing up as you are (or as your younger/best self) and staying like that forever.I count Arcadia, Arborea, Celestia, and even Hades, as rewarding afterlives. Souls get what each of them thinks is best, be it a continuation of life as one's ideal self, a new beginning, a path toward something greater, or a chance to finally rest in peace.

Now, I suppose an alternative would be to go with "one man's paradise is another man's hell". Damned souls would get the afterlife they dread instead of the one they desire. Arcadia would have prisons with everlasting-life sentences, or just the pain of living forever with one's regrets. Arborea would direct you toward reincarnation as something you consider vile. Celestia would throw you unprepared into the great beyond, effectively the Far Realm. And if you think annihilation is worse than eons of torture, then Hades would destroy you.

Segev
2019-04-23, 11:17 AM
I've mentioned this in detail elsewhere, but my personal preferred theory on how magic works is that it's the result of a mostly-animist setting, wherein "spirits" (or whatever you want to call them) are everywhere. Most are very weak, and do very little, but they're there and have supernatural capabilities.

Spellcasting is the art of convincing them to do what you want them to. Sorcerers and bards and similar are charismatic individuals whose bloodlines or raw personalities can inspire and attract them, and they develop coteries of semi-sentient spirit-entities that have been trained in particular arts to respond to particular words, gestures, and to use particular materials as catalysts for impressive feats. This "training" is often more a combination of the spellcaster playing around with animal-like elemental forces and coming to agreements and/or observing how they respond to his actions as it is any formal master/trained-animal relationship. Particularly powerful or well-trained or well-connected bards (and particularly sorcerers) may even begin to seek out or otherwise encounter more powerful, higher-up-the-food-chain supernatural entities underlying reality, and make more formal bargains and pacts, earning rights to stronger servants and more impressive services.

The limits in spells per day are more about exhausting the attention span, stamina, and patience of the entities that follow them around. Much like telling your dog to perform too many tricks might get it to begin to balk. But with more fickle and free creatures. More charismatic and higher-level bards and sorcerers can coax more out of their servants or friends or pets, or just have more of them.

Wizards aren't the charismatic ones with an innate or natural talent for connecting with the supernatural. They're learned men and women who have studied what sorcerers and bards do, who have studied the supernatural forces of the world and how they respond, and have learned of the pacts and bargains stricken by others. They know the agreements, and how to invoke them. In a lot of ways, wizards are lawyers more than they are scientists: they know the contractual agreements out there, and their spells are instructions to themselves in how to perform the ritual acts that entitle them to later services.

In practice, preparing a spell, for a wizard, probably IS doing a service of some import to some supernatural entities, though it may have no obvious impact from the wizard's point of view. (Some very learned ones likely do know why, however; it's part of Spellcraft, since understanding why what they're doing is worth the service they get back will help in developing new spells.) When he's prepared a spell, the wizard has performed his half of a contract, and all that remains is to carefully and precisely instruct the spiritual forces at his beck and call in how to repay him. These are usually very specified repayments, and the precise somatic components are both a safety measure and a loophole: the entities are liable to "repay" it in the easiest and most amusing way they can while adhering to the letter of the contract, so it has to be precise in describing how and when to do so (requiring delicate and exacting motions and words, lest they find an excuse to act on a casual gesture), and messing it up will get them to refuse or even do something undesirable that the entities feel fulfils the requirements.

Spell slots, for a wizard, represent the most they can do in terms of fulfilling multiple contracts at once, without starting to overlap and overwrite and come into paradoxical cancellations. More intelligent and higher-level wizards can abuse more loopholes and even find ways to use the fulfilment of one contract to get an immediate minor service to fulfil one or two others while still leaving him what he's "owed" for his spell. Spellcraft and spell research - particularly the 2 spells per level - are a result of finding new interactions and "build tricks" that enable new results. Spell research in a more formal sense is often about studying ancient contracts and what goes into other spells to find new ways to combine agreements and their effects into the end result desired. And, occasionally, actually seeking out powerful entities and making NEW contracts that are custom-designed for the spells the wizard wants. The most skilled wizards don't negotiate particular spells from such entities, but rules and trade-offs that can be used and recombined into multiple new spell effects.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-23, 01:28 PM
Though I did consider merging them into Bytopia. I really like the aesthetic of two flat worlds serving as each other's sky, and I think Dothion and Shurrock already have similarities with Arcadia and Arborea, respectively. Still, I would keep the latter's names.

That would work really well, I think. Reincarnation between "lower" plant and animal forms and "higher" humanoid forms can be represented by a soul physically traveling to the higher or lower world, the "stars" in Arborea's "sky" could be light glinting off thousands of tiny gears....


Now, I suppose an alternative would be to go with "one man's paradise is another man's hell". Damned souls would get the afterlife they dread instead of the one they desire. Arcadia would have prisons with everlasting-life sentences, or just the pain of living forever with one's regrets. Arborea would direct you toward reincarnation as something you consider vile. Celestia would throw you unprepared into the great beyond, effectively the Far Realm. And if you think annihilation is worse than eons of torture, then Hades would destroy you.

That would be a more interesting take on things, yeah. The question, then, is whether you still need Carceri as a plane for fiends to come from, or if they'd be a natural byproduct of souls elsewhere and you can replace it with something else.

Millstone85
2019-04-23, 04:25 PM
I've mentioned this in detail elsewhere, but my personal preferred theory on how magic works is that it's the result of a mostly-animist setting, wherein "spirits" (or whatever you want to call them) are everywhere. Most are very weak, and do very little, but they're there and have supernatural capabilities.
This "training" is often more a combination of the spellcaster playing around with animal-like elemental forces and coming to agreements and/or observing how they respond to his actions as it is any formal master/trained-animal relationship.Still, spells and spellcasting methods working better in certain places than in others could be explained as the local spirits being more or less familiar with those.

Or you could also have spirits be spells, growing in strength and number every time they are summoned. In this case, the weave-ecosystem of a place would evolve along magical traditions.


That would work really well, I think. Reincarnation between "lower" plant and animal forms and "higher" humanoid forms can be represented by a soul physically traveling to the higher or lower world, the "stars" in Arborea's "sky" could be light glinting off thousands of tiny gears....Ah, but up becomes down midway through. Leave it to the inhabitants of Celestia to try to reach higher plateaux and forms.

Also, I would have Arborea's stars be Arcadia's streetlights.


That would be a more interesting take on things, yeah. The question, then, is whether you still need Carceri as a plane for fiends to come from, or if they'd be a natural byproduct of souls elsewhere and you can replace it with something else.If the heavens are also hells, then Carceri becomes redundant, and each of the remaining planes should produce its own fiends.

In fact, if we go with Bytopia, Celestia and Hades (The Great Triangle?) then it becomes tempting to use devils, yugoloths and demons. But which group goes where? Hmm... Devils could fall from the heights of Celestia, cast down by whatever is way up there. Demons could coalesce in Hades, with a drive to bring true death to everything. Yugoloths could just live and reproduce in Bytopia, representing its materialism.

Segev
2019-04-23, 05:43 PM
If the heavens are also hells, then Carceri becomes redundant, and each of the remaining planes should produce its own fiends.

In fact, if we go with Bytopia, Celestia and Hades (The Great Triangle?) then it becomes tempting to use devils, yugoloths and demons. But which group goes where? Hmm... Devils could fall from the heights of Celestia, cast down by whatever is way up there. Demons could coalesce in Hades, with a drive to bring true death to everything. Yugoloths could just live and reproduce in Bytopia, representing its materialism.

In general, in the Great Wheel afterlife, I assume that afterlives are never intended as punishments. You go to the afterlife where your ethos in life is most and best reflected. You should fit right in, there. Be least miserable, at the least. Indeed, a man doomed to the Abyss would find eternity on Mount Celestia horrific, as his very nature chafed against the kindness and structure of the place, the way he can't do what he wants, can't even indulge his dark urges without being soundly rebuffed, and - most stinging of all to a spiritual essence - has absolutely no common ground nor support. Sure, in the Abyss, he might be the lowest of the low, the beaten down and tormented, but whenever he managed to pull one over on another and take some of his own, others would cheer and congratulate him. He'd be amongst fellows who shared his love of mayhem.

Even Carcerei is the prison run by the inmates. They, too, can climb up the ladder and be the nastiest guard rather than the lowliest victim, and they understand the surface order and how to test its weak boundaries. Send them to Hell, and they'd be expected to actually tow the line, rather than toeing it. Send them to the Abyss, and the lack of an illusion of civilization would offend them, make them feel naked. No, the prison plane is where they're most comfortable, at least until they're strong enough to bring neutral evil with them wherever they go.

Millstone85
2019-04-24, 07:02 AM
In general, in the Great Wheel afterlife, I assume that afterlives are never intended as punishments. You go to the afterlife where your ethos in life is most and best reflected. You should fit right in, there. Be least miserable, at the least.I don't think they are intended as rewards either. The Wheel just groups like with like. However, and even if the golden rule has its limits, I expect most good souls would be delighted to be surrounded by likewise decent people, while most evil ones would in fact dread a world of nothing but bastards.

But then, there is plenty of lore about petitioners no longer being themselves anyway. It is mostly just souls being converted to planar batteries.

So yeah, the more I think about my cosmology, the less it has anything to do with the D&D one. Sorry for the disgression.

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-24, 09:12 AM
I don't think they are intended as rewards either. The Wheel just groups like with like. However, and even if the golden rule has its limits, I expect most good souls would be delighted to be surrounded by likewise decent people, while most evil ones would in fact dread a world of nothing but bastards.

But then, there is plenty of lore about petitioners no longer being themselves anyway. It is mostly just souls being converted to planar batteries.

So yeah, the more I think about my cosmology, the less it has anything to do with the D&D one. Sorry for the disgression.

I've long lost track of where this comes up, but I do recall passages about the "afterlife planes" in D&D materials that use "the language of" punishment and reward, if not stating it outright.

Segev
2019-04-24, 10:17 AM
While I won't claim canonicity here, I confess that I loathe the notion that petitioners aren't the people they once were in life, and are just slowly dissolved into the plane. That makes the whole concept of "afterlife" a fraud, to me. It also doesn't quite work with the time limit on resurrection being based on caster level rather than strength of the soul involved.

Personally, I prefer to think of the loss-of-self as being more "eventual" (and, the more CG you are, more likely to be willing) and akin to Starcraft's Templars becoming Archons. To start with, "petitioners" are those who've not quite accepted their deaths yet, and may live amost a full lifetime of their normal species in that state unless they're particularly eager for their eternal reward (or are unlucky in planes closer to LE than CG). The transformation of a petitioner into an Outsider is one of acceptance and adaptation, and they typically become Outsiders with HD/CR roughly on par with their own HD/class level at the end of life.

There's some advancement, perhaps, in gaining further experience and power the "living" way, but it'd be slow and difficult to transform oneself into higher orders of Outsider that way. More commonly, groups of petitioners gather together and become so like-minded that they eventually merge into Archons, Demons, or whatever. Or an extant Outsider gathers them under his wing, and they eventually become so like-minded with him that they merge with him, elevating his HD (and possibly changing what he is). More evil beings will be more willing to simply EAT the lesser petitioners (particularly lemures). More Lawful ones might browbeat their followers into submission and willing merging. But combining isn't linear. It takes increasingly more low-strength souls to increase in power and prestige and might. It also isn't without risk; just because they're like-minded doesn't mean there's no change to the greater Outsider. Sure, Demon Lord Baalzabob the Vrock might still be Baalzabob after eating a handful of lemures, but over time, if he eats too many that have differing views on things than he did, his views start to change as he incorporates their souls into his own.

The lemures aren't dead, just subsumed into a greater whole. Like a bit of colored play-doh rolled and mixed into a larger mass of a different color.

The CL-limit on Resurrections and similar spells then is a bit of an abstraction of probabiltiy vs. the sheer power of the caster. The longer it's been since the creature died, the more likely it has been subsumed into a larger, more powerful Outsider. Mingled with other souls. And the longer they've been mingled, the harder it is to magically separate them. More powerful casters can separate far more mingled souls. Thus, the time limit is really an abstraction of probability that the creature is not too mingled to be drawn back.

Now, the really short-limit resurrections are actually about whether the soul has even managed to get to its afterlife yet. Revivification only works within a round or so because it's not really pulling a soul out of Hell, Heaven, Limbo, or wherever; it's grabbing it before it's fully severed from the body and shoving it back in.

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-24, 10:44 AM
Speaking of the debate over whether spells have "add on" effects based on what they are in-fiction, as opposed to being strictly based on the text:

https://www.yesthievescan.com/thievescant-comic/did-you-know-light-clerics-can-cast-fireball-i-sure-didnt/

Segev
2019-04-24, 10:53 AM
Speaking of the debate over whether spells have "add on" effects based on what they are in-fiction, as opposed to being strictly based on the text:

https://www.yesthievescan.com/thievescant-comic/did-you-know-light-clerics-can-cast-fireball-i-sure-didnt/

Ooh, that's a clever DM, and a tricky question as to whether it would be fair play or not. Personally, I'd suggest the DM have the cleric make an Int, Wis, or Spellcraft check (any would be fair to call; I'd probably go with Spellcraft) against a DC of 10 or 15 or so (or whatever the DC to identify a 3rd level spell is); if he succeeded, I'd warn him that his character knows that the light from the fireball will make the room light up briefly. If he doesn't figure out from that that I'm warning him the medusa, if present, would be visible, I consider that now on him. If he fails the check, I'll tell him no such thing.

And, if he's being a jerk like this player is in the comic, I'd probably let him deal with it without the warning; clearly, he's RPing his character refusing to think about anything but his smug satisfaction at having figured out the problem and solving it.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-25, 12:47 AM
In fact, if we go with Bytopia, Celestia and Hades (The Great Triangle?) then it becomes tempting to use devils, yugoloths and demons. But which group goes where? Hmm... Devils could fall from the heights of Celestia, cast down by whatever is way up there. Demons could coalesce in Hades, with a drive to bring true death to everything. Yugoloths could just live and reproduce in Bytopia, representing its materialism.

The whole "falling" metaphor doesn't make much sense for devils in this case, because (A) devils all being fallen angels, the Pact Primeval, etc. are all part of a Judeo-Christian-flavored retcon in FC2--as per Planescape, baatezu are not native to Baator, those would be the ancient baatorians, but they weren't celestials of any stripe either--and (B) if these planes aren't supposed to be explicit punishments, the idea of being cast down by someone or something goes against that.

It would be more interesting, I think, for devils to be souls that sought a higher existence like everyone else on Celestia, but at the point when it was within their reach, they turned away. Devils are highly regimented and obsessed with rank as a rejection of Celestia's everyone-has-to-find-their-own-path philosophy and as a mockery of the distinct stages of enlightenment. Different varieties of devil would arise based on their reasons for rejecting ascension: Kytons couldn't bear to leave their friends and loved ones behind, so they are burdened by the chains of their relationships and can make a mockery of others' similar loves; Imps were terrified of what they might find in the next stage of their existence, so they are consumed with fear and gain abilities to hide themselves; and so forth.


I've long lost track of where this comes up, but I do recall passages about the "afterlife planes" in D&D materials that use "the language of" punishment and reward, if not stating it outright.

Again, that's a case of Judeo-Christian verbiage sneaking into splatbooks via various authors. Segev's description of the afterlives being just what they are, and people who belong there viewing them as rewards and those who don't viewing them as punishment, is the canon Planescape approach.

Segev
2019-04-25, 10:08 AM
The whole "falling" metaphor doesn't make much sense for devils in this case, because (A) devils all being fallen angels, the Pact Primeval, etc. are all part of a Judeo-Christian-flavored retcon in FC2--as per Planescape, baatezu are not native to Baator, those would be the ancient baatorians, but they weren't celestials of any stripe either--and (B) if these planes aren't supposed to be explicit punishments, the idea of being cast down by someone or something goes against that.

It would be more interesting, I think, for devils to be souls that sought a higher existence like everyone else on Celestia, but at the point when it was within their reach, they turned away. Devils are highly regimented and obsessed with rank as a rejection of Celestia's everyone-has-to-find-their-own-path philosophy and as a mockery of the distinct stages of enlightenment. Different varieties of devil would arise based on their reasons for rejecting ascension: Kytons couldn't bear to leave their friends and loved ones behind, so they are burdened by the chains of their relationships and can make a mockery of others' similar loves; Imps were terrified of what they might find in the next stage of their existence, so they are consumed with fear and gain abilities to hide themselves; and so forth.I don't like the notion that "abandoning" Celestia for actually good/loving reasons curses you to hell. It opens up too much "but evil isn't really evil, you see" arguments and storylines.

Honestly, I get really tired of stories where the force for good is secretly the bad guy, and evil's forces are the heroes because they're fighting back. It's annoying when it's good-in-name-only-who's-really-evil, while the evil are just not quite as evil as the "good" side is. It's infuriating on a philosophical level when we're supposed to also believe that the "good" side really is pure good, is TOO good, and that's why they're bad. The notion that you need evil to not do horrible things is just plain stupid. It's like saying, if you have too much water, you need to dry off before you can actually be wet.

Good is, by definition, GOOD. You can't have too much of a good thing, in this case, because you're violating the definition.

Now, showing that various philosophies on good miss the mark in some way when carried too far? That's fine. But when "good" is "so good, it is atrocious," that's just the writer thinking he's way more clever than he is and revealing a gross misunderstanding of the concept.


Again, that's a case of Judeo-Christian verbiage sneaking into splatbooks via various authors. Segev's description of the afterlives being just what they are, and people who belong there viewing them as rewards and those who don't viewing them as punishment, is the canon Planescape approach.
To be fair, if you interpret the Judeo-Christian verbiage as being the Mount Celestia perspective, it still works out. "Fallen" angels don't consider themselves "cast out;" they left and good riddance, because where they are now is so much better. They went to make their own "heaven" with blackjack and hookers. Meanwhile, the Celestines look at the Fallen with pity; they obviously are miserable and hiding it. Just look at the way they hurt each other and cause distress!

There is also Planescape canon, I believe, on "Fallen" everything: if your alignment doesn't match your alignment subtype, you're mad. You might seem functional, but you're as mad as any self-harming schizophrenic. Alignment subtypes mean you actually do thrive on the alignment your subtype represents, and you're hurting yourself by denying that, much as a lion who goes vegan is starving itself to death, or a madman who insists he's a mermaid kills himself by drowning while insisting he can breathe water.

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-25, 10:38 AM
Again, that's a case of Judeo-Christian verbiage sneaking into splatbooks via various authors. Segev's description of the afterlives being just what they are, and people who belong there viewing them as rewards and those who don't viewing them as punishment, is the canon Planescape approach.


No offense, but Planescape is a bog-standard postmodernist hash of sophomoric "belief shapes reality" and "morality is an entirely subjective social construct" memes... personally I don't take it all that seriously.

Further, the idea that someone would view what goes on in most of the lower planes as a "reward" afterlife is just bizarro, and if it's true of the people who live in the various D&D settings, then that's a sign that they're simply not people, just some other creature who superficially resembles people as we know them. No one wants to be tortured until they forget everything and become a demon worm, or be trapped in an eternal prison constantly struggling to get up from the bottom rung. Even actually actively evil people want to live in a world full of victims, not competitors.

Bohandas
2019-04-25, 10:48 AM
I've long lost track of where this comes up, but I do recall passages about the "afterlife planes" in D&D materials that use "the language of" punishment and reward, if not stating it outright.

The lower planes in and of themselves are not a punishment. Hell is other people.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-25, 10:53 AM
No offense, but Planescape is a bog-standard postmodernist hash of sophomoric "belief shapes reality" and "morality is an entirely subjective social construct" memes... personally I don't take it all that seriously.

Further, the idea that someone would view what goes on in most of the lower planes as a "reward" afterlife is just bizarro, and if it's true of the people who live in the various D&D settings, then that's a sign that they're simply not people, just some other creature who superficially resembles people as we know them. No one wants to be tortured until they forget everything and become a demon worm, or be trapped in an eternal prison constantly struggling to get up from the bottom rung. Even actually actively evil people want to live in a world full of victims, not competitors.

You don't necessarily get what you want, merely what's an inevitable outcome of the things you do want. If there's going to be victims, there has to be victimizers. Etc.

Not that I like the D&D afterlives at all. None of them sound appealing or even interesting, and they're too cut-and-dried, too pigeonholed.

My setting does not have a permanent afterlife for anyone, unless you're strong enough to transcend mortality entirely by being raised as a demigod, by having enough people worship you, by making a certain type of deal with an archdevil[1], by ritualistically transforming yourself into an elemental creature[1], or by consuming souls to become a demon[3].

Normal people, when they die, enter Shadow and live a temporary life as their spirit decays. Those that were devoted to gods are led (if they choose) into an area blessed and protected by that god. Those who were in tune with nature live with the fey. Those touched by the Abyss have to fight not to be pulled into the Waste, the abyssally-corrupted region of Shadow where life is nasty, brutal, and short. After a time (that depends on the soul), the Spark leaves the spirit behind and goes...somewhere. No one (literally) is sure what happens to it. Some say it's reborn, others say it rejoins the universal soul, others that it just gutters out.

[1] The contractors don't become devils, because they keep their body. They're kinda a hybrid thing, able to act on the Mortal without being summoned but not being as powerful (or as safe) as real devils. They still live in the Astral with the other devils though.
[2] This usually requires starting as a child for best results, but in any case leaves you as some kind of hybrid.
[3] This is the option that gives you the most power, but also means you have to live in the Abyss because the world hates what you've become.

Segev
2019-04-25, 10:56 AM
No offense, but Planescape is a bog-standard postmodernist hash of sophomoric "belief shapes reality" and "morality is an entirely subjective social construct" memes... personally I don't take it all that seriously. Yes and no. Planescape has some of that, but it is stuck with the pre-Planescape objective morality of the planes. Belief shapes personal reality to a degree, and yet cannot really shift the planes and their meanings. Reality still has objective truth and truths, but one of those truths is that will and associated belief are real forces that can accomplish things.

I mean, yeah, you can interpret it to be more Mage: the Ascension-like with purely subjective reality only enforced by a consensus, but you don't have to, and I think it's a far more interesting setting if you don't.


Further, the idea that someone would view what goes on in most of the lower planes as a "reward" afterlife is just bizarro, and if it's true of the people who live in the various D&D settings, then that's a sign that they're simply not people, just some other creature who superficially resembles people as we know them. No one wants to be tortured until they forget everything and become a demon worm, or be trapped in an eternal prison constantly struggling to get up from the bottom rung. Even actually actively evil people want to live in a world full of victims, not competitors.Tyrannical nations are "rewarding" for wicked men and women who can find a way to get themselves into power. It's the same concept.


The lower planes in and of themselves are not a punishment. Hell is other people.
This, too. The wicked would not be happy on Arborea; they'd chafe at it and they'd want to do things they couldn't, and it would drive them mad with frustration and their own hate. The misery of Hell or Acheron or the Abyss is more to their taste because they're free to act as their spirits feel most comfortable.

Yes, good-aligned planes are kinder to the weak and gentle, and have no harsh punishments (because practically nobody there is doing anything particularly bad, almost by definition), but the need to help others and to generally be kind and generous is just torment to the wicked. Far worse than the totally understandable brutality the wicked-but-weak suffer in the lower planes, because at least there they understand and can find ways to try to overcome the hardships, and if they get to the top, they aren't subject to the miserable requirements.

The good ARE; even the most powerful good-aligned beings do help the weak, giving of their time and power and substance, rather than taking from them and being served as is (in the wicked view) their due.

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-25, 11:10 AM
Tyrannical nations are "rewarding" for wicked men and women who can find a way to get themselves into power. It's the same concept.


It's ONLY rewarding for the relative handful who get to be "at the top".

They don't all get to be in power, and the majority just end up under a boot heel... some "reward".




This, too. The wicked would not be happy on Arborea; they'd chafe at it and they'd want to do things they couldn't, and it would drive them mad with frustration and their own hate. The misery of Hell or Acheron or the Abyss is more to their taste because they're free to act as their spirits feel most comfortable.

Yes, good-aligned planes are kinder to the weak and gentle, and have no harsh punishments (because practically nobody there is doing anything particularly bad, almost by definition), but the need to help others and to generally be kind and generous is just torment to the wicked. Far worse than the totally understandable brutality the wicked-but-weak suffer in the lower planes, because at least there they understand and can find ways to try to overcome the hardships, and if they get to the top, they aren't subject to the miserable requirements.

The good ARE; even the most powerful good-aligned beings do help the weak, giving of their time and power and substance, rather than taking from them and being served as is (in the wicked view) their due.


Which just makes me think of the phenomenon of the horrid bitter little dork who wishes the world were like his favorite dark fantasy or quasi-historical setting, where he imagines himself as part of the elite... when in reality he'd just be a part of the mass of people at the bottom, with a boot on his throat while he stared up at his "heroes" from the mud.

For a lot of these characters in D&D settings with "the great wheel", getting the natural result of a world where everyone acts and thinks like they do, well... it doesn't look anything like the world they would have wanted to spend their afterlife in. Because in life, they only got what they wanted and lived it up because most other people DIDN'T think and act like they did.

Segev
2019-04-25, 11:58 AM
It's ONLY rewarding for the relative handful who get to be "at the top".

They don't all get to be in power, and the majority just end up under a boot heel... some "reward".




Which just makes me think of the phenomenon of the horrid bitter little dork who wishes the world were like his favorite dark fantasy or quasi-historical setting, where he imagines himself as part of the elite... when in reality he'd just be a part of the mass of people at the bottom, with a boot on his throat while he stared up at his "heroes" from the mud.

For a lot of these characters in D&D settings with "the great wheel", getting the natural result of a world where everyone acts and thinks like they do, well... it doesn't look anything like the world they would have wanted to spend their afterlife in. Because in life, they only got what they wanted and lived it up because most other people DIDN'T think and act like they did.
Both true. The miserable little bitter dork, however, still dreams of ruling in hell; serving in heaven sounds far worse when he has no chance to lord even petty power over others there.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-25, 12:09 PM
Both true. The miserable little bitter dork, however, still dreams of ruling in hell; serving in heaven sounds far worse when he has no chance to lord even petty power over others there.

And having to be around all those happy pretty shining do-gooders that he hated in life would be grating as well.

Willie the Duck
2019-04-25, 12:53 PM
Which just makes me think of the phenomenon of the horrid bitter little dork who wishes the world were like his favorite dark fantasy or quasi-historical setting, where he imagines himself as part of the elite... when in reality he'd just be a part of the mass of people at the bottom, with a boot on his throat while he stared up at his "heroes" from the mud.

Why do I get the feeling we're not talking about fictional characters here? :smallwink:

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-25, 01:00 PM
Why do I get the feeling we're not talking about fictional characters here? :smallwink:


Because I'm not. I've known several of them. And for a while a certain sort were "big on the internet"... I'll PM you their term for themselves if you want, but I refuse to give the entitled dorks any free pub.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-04-25, 06:38 PM
I don't like the notion that "abandoning" Celestia for actually good/loving reasons curses you to hell. It opens up too much "but evil isn't really evil, you see" arguments and storylines.

When I said devils would "turn away" from ascension, I don't mean that they would fail to attain it because they couldn't free themselves of all of their attachments or the like, I mean that they turn away from the concept of ascension entirely. Someone who wants to ascend but can't bear to leave their wife and children behind doesn't become a Kyton, they just become a petitioner on Celestia like everyone else who believes in seeking enlightenment but hasn't yet, and maybe in a few millennia that person may be ready, or might ascend with their whole family.

A Kyton would come from someone who thinks they're more enlightened and deserves to ascend to a higher plane of existence, but they're doing it for entirely selfish reasons, and they can't bear the thought of their wife and kids going on without them and taking their own path, hence the chains metaphor. Not "evil is actually loving," but "evil is selfishness and abuse," in this case. Same with Imps: they're not souls who pause along the path to wonder what the next life will be like and worry about whether they're ready for it, but the ones who want to take on a higher form but become existentially terrified of becoming not-themselves and are willing to do anything to retain their selves.

And so on. It wasn't a fully-fleshed-out suggestion, admittedly, but it's not meant to be an "Evil is actually Good" setup at all.


No offense, but Planescape is a bog-standard postmodernist hash of sophomoric "belief shapes reality" and "morality is an entirely subjective social construct" memes... personally I don't take it all that seriously.

As Segev noted it's more a dash of postmodernism added to an objective reality (or, really, divine magic writ large) than any M:tA- or Ars Magica-like setting, but the point is that whether or not you actually like Planescape, adding a Judeo-Christian worldview onto what is manifestly not a Judeo-Christian setting (or any other clashing worldview retcon onto any other setting) is a terrible idea that leads to lots of contradictions.

The same objection applied to when White Wolf added a lot of Christian overtones to nWoD when oWoD took a more pagan/agnostic approach to setting themes and character morality, and would apply if e.g. Shadowrun declared that Zoroastrianism was the "correct" religion in-setting and jumped through a bunch of hoops to explain why Shamanic magic was wrong, retconned all of the prominent Native American magical workings in the setting history, and so forth.