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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    TheCorsairMalac's Avatar

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    Default What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    I'm making a setting for D&D 5e. This setting is supposed to be small and focus on the depth of the culture rather than geographical scope.

    What I want to know is: what would be the cultural effects if level 1 clerics and sorcerers were as common as lawyers and doctors are in the real world? What if almost anybody in the population could become a level 1 spellcaster after years of training?

    What industries would become dominated by such spellcasters? What magic items, if any, would become commonplace? Where would spellcasters locate their businesses? Who would their clients be? How would people feel about it? Who would like the magic and who would hate it? What legal and political circumstances would result?

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    You'll probably notice the big changes from cantrips and rituals, since those are the ones that can be cast the most frequently. Some notables include:
    • Druidcraft allows for accurate weather forecasts over the next 24 hours. Expect this to be announced to the public via bell tower or the like several times per day in all big cities.
    • Guidance increases the chance of making the correct call on a tricky decision by roughly 13 percentage points. All non-trivial decisions will only be made after consulting with a cleric. Offices (be they business or governmental) will have a room set aside as a shrine for the benefit of the office cleric, who comes in at the start of every meeting and provides spiritual support. Decisions of even greater significance will merit applying for a Bless effect as well.
    • Mage Hand allows for the handling of objects which the caster does not wish to touch with their actual hands. This includes hot objects (ie. food fresh from the oven), caustic chemicals (in industry) and sterile objects (which would be contaminated by being touched). Expect most surgery to be performed via telekinesis.
    • Mending allows people to undo breaks and tears less than one foot in length. In addition to the obvious repair benefits, this has applications in craftsmanship. As a trivial example, imagine cutting a large slab of meat into thin slices, cooking the slices and then mending the (now cooked) meat back together - creating a fulled cooked dish without having to worry about the differences in heating rates for the interior vs the exterior of the meat. It also makes working with chains and chain mail much easier.
    • Move Earth moves earth much, much faster than a shovel can move earth. 125 cubic feet of soil in six seconds is crazy fast, even compared to using a bulldozer. The fact that it can also be used to temporarily (but harmlessly) mark or flatten land is just icing on the cake. This is true to a lesser extend of Shape Water.
    • Prestidigitation is an essential skill for chefs, both due to the ability to instantaneously clean objects (including dishes) and the ability to flavour objects (including food) for an hour at a time.
    • Resistance, Spare the Dying, Prestidigitation, Mage Hand, Bless, and Detect Poison/Disease all become common sights in the hospital due to their utility in direct treatment of patients or in providing a sterile work environment. Ceremony will be less common (it requires expensive material components and can only be used on a person once ever) but can be used (via the Dedication option) to allow people to dedicate themselves to a god's service in exchange for help in surviving or overcoming a personal affliction. Imagine if the "embracing a higher power" step in Alcoholic's Anonymous actually resulted in the miraculous intervention of that higher power.
    • Comprehend Languages makes language education simultaneously easier and less useful.
    • Vegetarianism would probably be a great deal more popular while pet ownership would be tremendously altered in character. The existence of Speak with Animals implies that all animals are intelligent enough to carry on a conversation and that the only obstacles limiting them are the language barrier and their lack of education. Imagine how differently you'd treat your dog/cat if you knew (due to an annual checkup with the vet, who casts Speak with Animal for you) that it was as smart as a toddler.
    • Illusory Script provides a vital tool for self-expression. Not because it allows you to hide your words from those who would censor them (although it does do that as well), but because it conveys the meaning that you intended when you wrote the text, irrespective of whether you personally possess the writing chops to get that meaning across. Since the actual text doesn't particularly matter, expect fancy (but neigh-illegible) calligraphy to dominate this new artistic medium.
    • This one will be controversial, but I very much expect that people will consent to have Charm Person cast on them, simply in order to experience the feeling of friendship. After all, people do MDMA for basically the same reason.
    • In addition to periodic drug tests, all sensitive positions require periodic influence tests performed by administering Protection from Evil and Good. This won't block humanoid casters, but it's better than nothing.
    Last edited by Grek; 2020-01-22 at 11:41 PM.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    In some ways the setting would feel almost like Star Trek (especially TNG-era stuff), but with a more fantasy flavor to the tech/gizmos and less about starships and technobabble. Although I suppose the technobabble could be interpreted as arcane incantations.

    I think it would come across as very advanced, even to us in a modern technological society.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    Cultural effects will largely follow economic effects.
    A lot of the economic effects will depend on limitations that are poorly defined.

    Can a person has cantrips eight hours a day (4800 times)?

    Are good berries nutritious? tasty? do they all taste the same?

    Can detect disease and poison identify diseases and poisons the user doesn't know about? A huge part of medical science has been documenting diseases, their natural progressions, and systemically grouping them by cause, dangers, treatment options, et cetra.

    Notable absent from list of available spells is the ability to do anything about mundane poisons and diseases. However I think one of the first things you'd want in a high fantasy setting is for not historically accurate health care: for example, you'd want death in childbirth to be rare. Maybe add a spell that decreases symptoms of a disease for a weak (You can't adventure, but you'll survive)

    Also maybe add in a spell that causes a certain volume of dead things (plants and animals are unaffected) to completely decompose quickly and cleanly. This is for waste management as well as "waste" management.
    Quote Originally Posted by Grek View Post
    [*]Mending allows people to undo breaks and tears less than one foot in length. In addition to the obvious repair benefits, this has applications in craftsmanship. As a trivial example, imagine cutting a large slab of meat into thin slices, cooking the slices and then mending the (now cooked) meat back together - creating a fulled cooked dish without having to worry about the differences in heating rates for the interior vs the exterior of the meat. It also makes working with chains and chain mail much easier.
    I am under the impression that the spell consumes two lodestones (1 GP each). Which would make the spell mainly for situations where a regular crafts-person or replacement item isn't available.
    Last edited by Quizatzhaderac; 2020-03-12 at 02:50 PM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    WhiteWizardGirl

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    Default Re: What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    I am under the impression that the spell consumes two lodestones (1 GP each). Which would make the spell mainly for situations where a regular crafts-person or replacement item isn't available.
    Lodestones don't have a listed cost, so they come free in your component pouch or can be replaced using an arcane focus.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    Does purify food and drink work on salt water? That would be a huge boon to coastal cities. Basically limitless fresh water can be made. More water means bigger cities.

    Even if not, a troupe of low level casters could run a circuit around a city purifying food in storage cutting losses due to spoilage pretty significantly. More food means bigger cities.

    It's gross to think about, but purify food and drink could cleanse sewage and make it drinkable! That would a huge boon to urban areas if waste can be turned into resources.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
    Max_Killjoy's Avatar

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    Default Re: What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grek View Post
    • Illusory Script provides a vital tool for self-expression. Not because it allows you to hide your words from those who would censor them (although it does do that as well), but because it conveys the meaning that you intended when you wrote the text, irrespective of whether you personally possess the writing chops to get that meaning across. Since the actual text doesn't particularly matter, expect fancy (but neigh-illegible) calligraphy to dominate this new artistic medium.
    For an example most of us can probably relate to, imagine if posters here had a spell that made the words in their post convey their actual meaning and intent and idea flawlessly.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    I like to add in things based on scientific or arcane creations. Sure, some wizards use golems to guard their tower - but a cabal of wizards that act as the governing force of a city might have golems equipped with wands of purify water as part of a delicate sewage/water treatment system under the city.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Devil

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    Default Re: What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    I assume that casting a spell on a person without that person's consent is, as a rule, a crime on par with assault (if not outright considered a form of assault); and that casting a spell on someone else's property without the owner's permission is a crime comparable to theft or property damage. Especially if powerful spellcasters in charge, since they know how much trouble magic can cause.

    Minor illusion would be very useful for illustration purposes, and presumably primarily used to inform rather than to deceive, just as the main purpose of photographs and audio recordings in the real world is to show what things look like and sound like without those things needing to be present.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCorsairMalac View Post
    What I want to know is: what would be the cultural effects if level 1 clerics and sorcerers were as common as lawyers and doctors are in the real world? What if almost anybody in the population could become a level 1 spellcaster after years of training?
    Why sorcerers instead of wizards? The default fluff is that sorcerers require innate magical power, and wizards know how to cast spells due to fancy book learnin'.

    That's kind of significant, because sorcerers don't get ritual casting, whereas wizards can cast ritual spells from their spellbooks without having them prepared. Even a moderately experienced professional wizard should at least have all of the 1st-level rituals.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grek View Post
    Vegetarianism would probably be a great deal more popular while pet ownership would be tremendously altered in character. The existence of Speak with Animals implies that all animals are intelligent enough to carry on a conversation and that the only obstacles limiting them are the language barrier and their lack of education. Imagine how differently you'd treat your dog/cat if you knew (due to an annual checkup with the vet, who casts Speak with Animal for you) that it was as smart as a toddler.
    Why would people regard verbal communication as requiring any particular level of intelligence? If anything, wouldn't that fall under charisma? Talking about something does require some sort of concept of it, but that's exactly why the spell description notes that beasts' knowledge and awareness is limited by their intelligence.

    It would be easier to determine animals' opinions, but the mistreatment of animals isn't primarily due to human ignorance of what animals find to be unpleasant. Humans are frequently content to cruelly exploit other humans. Lack of communication isn't the main issue.

    Being able to ask pets questions and get verbal responses would obviously allow for much better understanding of what they do and don't understand. That said, I think that many pet owners have a pretty good sense of how smart their pets are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    Cultural effects will largely follow economic effects.
    In many cases, yes. As Grek noted, cantrips and rituals can be cast most frequently, requiring only time (~6 seconds or ~10 minutes). The expenditure of a spell slot should be significantly more expensive. Low-level casters only get a few of those per long rest, and might well prefer to reserve some for their own purposes, whether that be protecting themselves with mage armor, healing the faithful, or whatever.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    Can a person has cantrips eight hours a day (4800 times)?
    Probably, although that could be hard on someone's hand, voice, or both. But while that might change the number of employees needed to achieve a particular number of cantrip castings per day, the number of caster-hours would still be the same, I reckon.

    How many cantrips have "assembly line" applications? Which ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    Are good berries nutritious? tasty?
    If they weren't, they would only be okay berries.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    do they all taste the same?
    The spell being a transmutation rather than a conjuration or evocation implies that it modifies existing berries, although of course that's not what the spell description says.

    But really, the answer to the above question is "No, because prestidigitation can be used to change their flavor".

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    Can detect disease and poison identify diseases and poisons the user doesn't know about?
    Yes. The question is how much information "identifying" one provides.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    Notable absent from list of available spells is the ability to do anything about mundane poisons and diseases.
    Nuh uh! Purify food and drink. I don't see why that should be limited to preventative use, either. How many patients are inedible without being immune to poison and disease, anyway?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    However I think one of the first things you'd want in a high fantasy setting is for not historically accurate health care: for example, you'd want death in childbirth to be rare.
    I assume that hospitals being able to use spare the dying to stabilize patients would make many procedures much safer than they are currently, never mind historically.
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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    There would probably be severe restrictions and rules regarding magic use. Established and enforced by powerful wizards. With more wizards, and magic users, there would likely be more research and progress within that field as well, so lots of new spells, and alternative ways of using magic.

    Cities might have huge spell formations that limit spell use above a certain level.

    Citizen need to apply for and pass tests before acquiring permission to cast spells of a certain type or level. See: drivers license / gun regulations.

    As mentioned by others: cantrip assembly lines, this would probably give rise to a new industrialization of society.

    Food production capacity would skyrocket. Magic could be used to till the soil and watering, the plant growth spell could boost growth and yield, weather control could be used occasionally by the city to avert natural disaster that would ruin a year’s crops. Golems could work the fields. All this is before even considering the impact of the gooseberry issue. The danger of Starvation would be all but eliminated if everyone could make their own goodberries. Thus removing one of the larges barriers to continued city growth.

    Probably regulations about underage magic use like in the HP universe.

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    GreataxeFighterGuy

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    Default Re: What are the cultural effects of the availability of magic?

    I found a fantastic article from Mythcreants that explores the ramifications of such a setting; to me, the most interesting consequence they outlined was a magical arms race: in a place with such widespread magic, there would be labs and entire sections of the economy dedicated to discovering or creating new spells, and I think that sorcerers with Metamagic could become some of the most influential researchers, changing spells effects and looking for new applications.
    Last edited by Sam113097; 2020-04-11 at 07:23 PM.
    Currently worldbuilding Last Haven: a setting formed on a titan's corpse! If you have a moment, I would love your feedback!

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