Wednesday, August 31, 2011

D&D Cures World Hunger; Global Disease is Next

I enjoy articles where folks take the implied D&D setting out to its logical conclusions.  What do the cool kids here in the blogosphere say?  "D&D is Always Right".  Well, when you think that through for a half second, opportunities to rationalize D&D start to creep up… why are copper pieces 1/10th of a pound - the size of tea saucers, or why sell torches when continual light spells exist?  It can be fun trying to explain D&Disms in your setting.

This article, Post Scarcity Fantasy*, is an entertaining stroll through such problems.  The author presents a sample D&D medieval town (Faustville) and applies D&D magic to mundane problems.  In short order, we see that the level of magic in a good-sized town provides universal healthcare, eliminates infant mortality, ends crime, ends hunger, and provides a life of leisure for all.  Forget about 21st century America, I want to live in a D&D setting.

I would submit that the affect of magic on the world is a campaign setting ACID TEST; it's something a setting creator needs to address for the setting to make sense.  If the writer is going to use Medieval or Renaissance assumptions about the world, he or she needs to explain why there are mundane problems in a setting plentiful with clerics.  In the AD&D 1E system, for instance, the bar to be a cleric is fairly low (9 wisdom?)  Clerics should be everywhere.  The Faustville article uses the 3.5 era demographics, which explicitly support a magic rich world.

There are some straightforward solutions; the easiest is to make NPC magic rare, and ban all the troublesome spells, like the LOTFP approach (James Raggi's Weird Fantasy Roleplaying).

I like the ACKS (Adventurer Conqueror King) approach; sure, there are classed characters everywhere, but the demographics severely limit the levels of those classed characters according to the required XP factors (which mirror the economic system).You can read the full bit here - The Demographics of Heroism.  If you apply the chart below to all classes, you can see there shouldn't be enough higher level clerics to stop an aggressive epidemic.  In addition, the size of a settlement dictates the base chance that NPC spell casters are even available; a village might have a caster up to 4th level per the demographics chart, but the chance is further broken down to 50% for a level 1 caster, 33% for a level 2 caster, 15% for level 3, and only 5% for a 4th level caster in a large village.

Demographics Chart, from ACKS:
0th: Most able-bodied humans
1st: 1 in 12 – The best in an extended family
2nd: 1 in 40 – The best in an estate or hamlet
3rd: 1 in 100 – The best in a tiny barony or village
4th: 1 in 200 – The best in a small barony or large village
5th: 1 in 500 – The best in a barony or large village
6th: 1 in 2,000 – The best in a march or town
7th: 1 in 6,000 – The best in a county
8th: 1 in 10,000 – The best in county
9th: 1 in 30,000- The best in a small duchy or big city
10th: 1 in 100,000 – The best in a duchy
11th: 1 in 500,000 – The best in a principality
12th: 1 in 1 million  – The best in a small kingdom or large principality
13th: 1 in 2,500,000 – The best in a kingdom
14th: 1 in 7,750,000 – The best in an empire

I eat the dog food; spell casting clerics are rare in Gothic Greyhawk, and that has made the party's cleric a traveling celebrity like some kind of Biblical prophet; distrusted by institutional religions and beloved by the common folk for his healing prowess.  We'll be using the ACKS domain rules and adopting the Demographics of Heroism assumptions, as they support quick calculations and pass the sniff test on describing a model for NPCs and power levels across realms.

Spending energy to explain why magic hasn't changed the D&D world from the Medieval assumptions begs the question:  Why don't the collective we (D&D players and Dungeon Masters alike) develop settings like Faustville that substitute magic for high technology?

*I just started reading a blog called Monsters and Manuals and actually found the link cross-posted there; it's remarkable how many giant D&D blogs are still out there that I'm just discovering.  Ever feel the same way?