World Design and “instant-only” magic

So to go into detail a little further on last night’s little thought, I keep thinking about fantasy world design with traditional D&D magic, and how utterly illogical they are.

My main point is that the presence of long-lasting magical effects would pretty much always result in something that is no longer a feudal society.

You can throw around the handwave of “but it’s FANTASY” all you want, but the fact is every society faces pretty much the same problems: food preservation, sickness, transportation, and war. Humans invented agriculture so as to allow food to be created literally while they were sleeping; medicine, because people get sick and die over the dumbest things, like a small infection; transportation, because sitting in one place eventually exhausts its local resources; and war, because fuck those other guys. The first 3 also serve to make war more efficient: moving troops and their food, and healing their injuries.

So your average fantasy world (as shipped by whatever edition of D&D is current) has spells for all those things, yet every game world is pretty much late feudal in structure. What total crap.

(SIDEBAR: Yes, I am aware of Eberron, which is I think the first mass-market not-dumb-feudal setting. Sadly I have yet to meet anyone who actually plays it.)

Anyway, I think the “fix” for this is to simply disallow any spell or effect that does anything that persists. It fixes every problem!

  1. No stupid “colleges of Magic”. Magic effects happen as a result of some unknown, unquantifiable process. There is no correspondence course to learn how to shoot lightning bolts from your butt.
  2. Great and mighty empires happen mostly as a result of conquest, not superior economics, which is what happens when you can preserve food, acquire resources, and keep your people healthy.
  3. Trap-laden holes in the earth are now essential means of guarding treasure, as you cannot simply ward them with impenetrable force fields.

And so on. The exact definition of “instant-only” is a little fuzzy at times: obviously “continual light” is out, but “cure disease”? In my mind, “cure disease” is not instant, but I suppose opinions vary.

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