Ressurrection Spells and Society (Split from Gemstone Dragon

Rules-focused discussion of pen & paper RPGs. Threads in this board must be tagged by rules set.

Moderator: Blacky the Blackball

Post Reply
ripvanwormer
Black Dragon
Posts: 3475
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:14 pm
Gender: male

Ressurrection Spells and Society (Split from Gemstone Dragon

Post by ripvanwormer » Mon Jan 04, 2016 4:30 pm

willpell wrote:Dredging this back up from the depths of history, and forgive my ignorance...do Mystaran spells of high spell level frequently use expensive gemstones as a material component
It depends on what game system you're using. Material components don't exist in BECMI, at least not for spells (magic item creation involves material components, and gems might be part of this). If you're playing Mystara with other game systems, that might well be an issue.

Split from: viewtopic.php?f=24&t=4739

User avatar
willpell
Black Dragon
Posts: 3388
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm
Gender: male
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by willpell » Mon Jan 04, 2016 6:53 pm

If that's so, does that mean a Cleric of sufficient level can just perform dozens of resurrections a day, using all his spell slots of sufficient level just for this purpose? Or is there some other limiting factor, such as cost? If not, and if this is actually possible, does this result in a HUGE upswing of the importance of religion, or just in clerics themselves being nigh-worshipped by people seeking to cheat death while living a thrill-seeking lifestyle?

ripvanwormer
Black Dragon
Posts: 3475
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:14 pm
Gender: male

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by ripvanwormer » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:29 am

I don't know about 'upswing,' since it's always been like that in the BECMI D&D world, and they have nothing else to compare it to. If you're playing both Mystara and Oerth with the same game system, spells work the same on both worlds. If characters are traveling between not just worlds but game systems, they might notice social changes if raise dead and raise dead fully are more difficult on some worlds, but really the frequency of resurrection spells isn't going to be nearly as socially significant as the fact that resurrection magic exists at all. Clerics might be more revered on a world where resurrection is easier, but how do you measure something like that? The fact that clerics can raise the dead at all is what's really game-changing. If resurrection is more expensive, that just means the poor have to find someone willing to pay for it, stealing or begging or earning as appropriate; it doesn't change the fact that clerics have the power to fulfill their desires.

Raise dead is a fifth level spell and raise dead fully is a seventh level spell (the maximum for cleric spells). A 36th level cleric (the maximum) can cast nine spells of each level, from one to seven. A cleric has to be at least 10th level to cast raise dead and 17th level to cast raise dead fully.

When I say there are no material components, there actually is one: the body of the deceased. And you really need the whole body; if all you have is a head, the character will only be alive for the time it takes for the brain to die of oxygen deprivation, since raise dead won't grow it a pair of lungs or a heart. But 'material component' isn't part of the BECMI stat block for spells, and there are no gems or other monetary costs (at least, no inherent ones; a cleric might still ask for a donation to their church).

The main limitations are the number of high-level clerics in the world and that the corpses have to be relatively fresh (I think the maximum for a 36th level cleric casting raise dead fully is that the 'patient' can't have been dead for more than six years or so; a 10th level cleric casting raise dead had better get to the corpse within twelve days).

Are high-level clerics nigh-worshiped? Well, becoming one of the Immortals (essentially gods) is arguably the ultimate goal of the game, and gathering devoted followers is often part of that. You don't need to be worshiped to be an Immortal, but it often comes with the job.

Reincarnation and clone are magic-user (arcane) spells. Reincarnation doesn't have any sort of time limit (theoretically you could reincarnate someone dead for millennia, if you had part of their corpse available) but obviously the limitation is that you come back as a random species. Clone does require some additional material components; not necessarily gems, but you need to store a pound of your flesh in advance and the cost is 5,000 gp per hit die.
Last edited by ripvanwormer on Tue Jan 05, 2016 3:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
willpell
Black Dragon
Posts: 3388
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm
Gender: male
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by willpell » Tue Jan 05, 2016 1:26 am

ripvanwormer wrote:Clerics might be more revered on a world where resurrection is easier, but how do you measure something like that?
I can think of quite a few metrics. The difference between doing a task that everyone recognizes as necessary, and doing the same task in exactly the same way but becoming a superstar, just because the demand and respect for the work has "gone nuclear", can be neatly illustrated by any number of social patterns that have evolved over the course of my lifetime. Was there ever a superstar lawyer before Johnny Cochrane? I think you have to go back as far as Daniel Webster to find one (and certainly his fame took a very different shape, in the very different society of the day).

Even more examples can be found if you drop the "necessary" part and look at the entertainment industry; actors in the 1920s through the 1950s were barely respected, even in the 1980s they enjoyed far less celebrity than seems commonplace today (at least unless they were in Star Wars or the like), but at some point the industry turned a corner, likely due to a critical mass in the level of communications technology necessary for society en masse to pay attention to such idols. Today, even relatively minor actors are all but worshipped as gods; we crave the wish-fulfillment lifestyles we see them leading, the glamour and popularity and constant public exposure (with all our flaws airbrushed out), much the way D&D-world inhabitants might crave an escape from the early and violent deaths they are constantly threatened with. They fear being eaten alive; we fear fading away into insignificance.

Yet another example, this time in the reverse direction. The attitude toward soldiers in America was pretty much hero-worship right up through World War 2; even though Russia inflicted something like 90% of the casualties which Nazi Germany sustained, we still remember ourselves as the heroes, and Our Boys were greeted as heroes when they came home. Then came the Korean War, which nobody today would even know had happened if not for the sitcom "M*A*S*H*"; modern history books frequently fail to so much as mention this conflict, or so I'm told (I don't recall whether it came up in my high school, and that was a generation ago; I certainly have no idea what Millenials are being taught, but I've heard this rumor from a fairly credible source). And then came Vietnam, the great American embarassment. Part of the reason that we spat on our soldiers when they came home this time was certainly the fact that they'd been beaten by a bunch of jungle-dwelling guerillas; Americans have always loved a winner and hated a loser with a near-psychotic passion. But it also might have had something to do with the fact that, instead of getting carefully edited propaganda broadcasts and films about the war, we were watching an immense amount of more candid footage over the televisions in every living room. We got to see the ugly reality of war in far more detail than we'd ever wanted, simply because technology and its social acceptance had advanced to the point that we could be shown this much information about what was really happening over there. And ever since then, while we certainly still value our military (enough to pour billions of dollars into it every year, trying to keep our country safe), the social climate is now such that people have to be told to Support Our Troops, because it is no longer the nearly-unanimous assumption that of course we do.

I could go on, and on, and on. There are legions of illustrations like this, where a profession becomes more or less respected when things change just a little, simply because of the way society reacts to even minor shifts in the status quo.

ripvanwormer
Black Dragon
Posts: 3475
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:14 pm
Gender: male

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by ripvanwormer » Tue Jan 05, 2016 2:07 am

willpell wrote:The difference between doing a task that everyone recognizes as necessary, and doing the same task in exactly the same way but becoming a superstar, just because the demand and respect for the work has "gone nuclear", can be neatly illustrated by any number of social patterns that have evolved over the course of my lifetime. Was there ever a superstar lawyer before Johnny Cochrane?
If only one cleric in all the world discovered a way to perform resurrections for free, I can see how that cleric might be a 'superstar.' If free resurrections are the status quo, however, the status quo inevitably becomes mundane. No one expects raise dead to consume diamonds, so everyone takes it, and the clerical functionaries who perform the spells, for granted. Why would anyone be a superstar? Even extremely high level clerics are only incrementally better at doing something all clerics above tenth level can do. They might be respected for it in the same way a very good surgeon is respected, but what makes them 'go nuclear?'

Although it's pricier, 3rd edition's true resurrection is far more useful than BECMI's raise dead fully. It works on the much longer deceased, and doesn't require a corpse. In which universe, then, are clerics likely to be more revered? Perhaps on the world where resurrection is rarer and more expensive, it's more appreciated. If any peasant can get their father raised after he's been kicked in the head by a mule, it becomes a fairly common occurrence and not worthy of much notice, gratitude, or praise. If it costs 25,000 gold pieces, though, it becomes a rare event and a matter of status and some wonder. For those who can't afford to raise the money on their own, the gift of renewed life is an unimaginable boon. Basic supply and demand.

If it costs clerics nothing, though, they may find themselves subject to a constant stream of corpses, some of them beyond their powers to revive. If they can't keep up with the flow, or fail in their attempts, instead of wonder and awe they may find themselves the subject of scorn, bitterness, and rage. Imagine schlepping your father's corpse hundreds of miles to find a major city with a 10th level cleric in it only to be told you missed the (literal) deadline by hours. Imagine trying to patiently explain to every supplicant that no, they can't resurrect someone who died a month ago, or someone without a head. No, we can't give your father his legs back, so he'll be a burden on you for the rest of his life. If the corpse hadn't been ravaged by wolves on the way there, perhaps we could have done something, but... Do you thank the cleric for trying or do you accuse them of not trying hard enough? A better cleric with more faith could have done it. They resurrected three other people that day, but now suddenly they're out of spells, and tomorrow is too late? That's not fair! Why did they waste their last raise dead on the merchant's pampered son when without Father, our family will starve? Vengeance starts to seem like an attractive option against the uncaring cleric who left your father to rot while the rich fool got to live again. Temples mysteriously burn down. Clerics turn up with their heads missing to ensure that they can't get the resurrections they've denied someone's loved one.

The best way to keep the flow of dead down to a manageable level? Charge for the service, charge quite a lot if need be. But then your society is basically the same as the one where raise dead uses up a 5,000 gp diamond and true resurrection eats 25,000 gp worth of diamonds, as far as non-clerical supplicants are concerned. You might be able to afford to be more careless if you're in an adventuring party with a cleric who caters specifically to your team, but ordinary people will be no better or worse off than on a world with spell components. The economics of the diamond trade may be different, however. There's only one Diamond Dragon, though, and he lives in the Outer Planes.
Last edited by ripvanwormer on Tue Jan 05, 2016 2:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
willpell
Black Dragon
Posts: 3388
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm
Gender: male
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by willpell » Tue Jan 05, 2016 2:22 am

The limits of BECMI rules do put the matter into perspective for me, so my earlier incredulity was not entirely justified. But I'm enjoying the debate, so I will continue to discuss the earlier premise for the moment.
ripvanwormer wrote:If only one cleric in all the world discovered a way to perform resurrections for free, I can see how that cleric might be a 'superstar.' If free resurrections are the status quo, however, the status quo inevitably becomes mundane.
Is Kim Kardashian "mundane"? She's the ur-example of the kind of thing I'm talking about. She's famous for pretty much nothing other than being famous, but notoreity alone has carried her to incredible heights of power. The ability to become a celebrity is hardly "status quo" even now, despite all the YouTube personalities and Reality TV stars who have achieved it with relatively little effort; it's still incredibly rare, and an incredibly big deal, with the wealth and prestige of it envied by nearly everyone in the Western world, despite the obviously apparent risks and trade-offs which make it a far from perfect existence.
Although it's pricier, 3rd edition's true resurrection is far more useful than BECMI's raise dead fully. It works on the much longer deceased, and doesn't require a corpse. In which universe, then, are clerics likely to be more revered?
You may have a point on this one. I suppose it depends on which is more common relative to the population, 36th-level clerics in BECMI or 20th-level clerics in a no-epic-rules version of Greyhawk.
Perhaps on the world where resurrection is rarer and more expensive, it's more appreciated. If any peasant can get their father raised after he's been kicked in the head by a mule, it becomes a fairly common occurrence and not worthy of much notice, gratitude, or praise. If it costs 25,000 gold pieces, though, it becomes a rare event and a matter of status and some wonder. For those who can't afford to raise the money on their own, the gift of renewed life is an unimaginable boon.
I argue the opposite perspective - when all it takes to earn resurrection is to have a giant pile of gold, then the gift of renewed life is pretty much meaningless, just another commodity for the wealthy to hoard and lord it over their "inferiors". But if resurrection is fairly commonplace, then people who control it might view the sale of their services with the kind of stigma we attach to prostitution - they're profaning something magnificent by treating it as a mere saleable good. Nobody who fails to pursue the life-path of a cleric can ever hope to command a resurrectionist, save perhaps through vile acts of coercion; they reserve their blessings not for those who can afford to pay, but for those who they deem worthy of saving. And thus, by simple selectiveness, they shape society toward their beliefs; those who persistently refuse to agree with any cleric (atheists, say, who consider the gods to be monsters unworthy of worship) simply die out, because nobody is saving them.
Basic supply and demand.
A vastly overestimated principle. Not everything is reducible to college economics, particularly in a world that doesn't have a string of for-profit colleges where economics is taught, according to what is more or less a single curriculum.
If they can't keep up with the flow, or fail in their attempts, instead of wonder and awe they may find themselves the subject of scorn, bitterness, and rage. Imagine schlepping your father's corpse hundreds of miles to find a major city with a 10th level cleric in it only to be told you missed the (literal) deadline by hours.
I work in a Federal Government office where something similar happens on a regular basis. Get your paperwork in a day too late, and you might have to go a whole month without money to eat on. Not quite as epic-level, but same overall principle.
Imagine trying to patiently explain to every supplicant that no, they can't resurrect someone who died a month ago, or someone without a head. No, we can't give your father his legs back, so he'll be a burden on you for the rest of his life. If the corpse hadn't been ravaged by wolves on the way there, perhaps we could have done something, but... Do you thank the cleric for trying or do you accuse them of not trying hard enough? A better cleric with more faith could have done it. They resurrected three other people that day, but now suddenly they're out of spells, and tomorrow is too late? That's not fair! Why did they waste their last raise dead on the merchant's pampered son when without Father, our family will starve? Vengeance starts to seem like an attractive option against the uncaring cleric who left your father to rot while the rich fool got to live again. Temples mysteriously burn down. Clerics turn up with their heads missing to ensure that they can't get the resurrections they've denied someone's loved one.
All of this sounds rich with roleplaying potential. Even if my original premise was wrong, I'm glad I proposed it, if it provoked such a creative response.

ripvanwormer
Black Dragon
Posts: 3475
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:14 pm
Gender: male

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by ripvanwormer » Tue Jan 05, 2016 3:10 am

willpell wrote:Is Kim Kardashian "mundane"? She's the ur-example of the kind of thing I'm talking about. She's famous for pretty much nothing other than being famous, but notoriety alone has carried her to incredible heights of power.
I'm not sure who the equivalent of Kim Kardashian would be among D&D clerics, but if she's Kim Kardashian her status probably wouldn't have much to do with how good she was at raising the dead.
I suppose it depends on which is more common relative to the population, 36th-level clerics in BECMI or 20th-level clerics in a no-epic-rules version of Greyhawk.
3rd edition made it easier to level up quickly than in previous editions—deliberately, because the designers decided they wanted players to have the opportunity to reach 20th level in a typical year-long campaign instead of over the course of years of play—but on the other hand treasure is worth experience points in BECMI, so characters who find a lot of treasure can level up very quickly. In the end, it really depends on DM fiat. Mystara is a very high-powered setting, with a council of 1,000 36th-level wizards in Alphatia, but I'm not aware of many canonical 36th-level clerics (I think the Master of the Desert Nomads is one). The Alphatian wizards could cast a lot of reincarnation spells if they were so inclined, but they don't seem particularly inclined to charity.
I argue the opposite perspective - when all it takes to earn resurrection is to have a giant pile of gold, then the gift of renewed life is pretty much meaningless,
To those who have the gold, yes.
And thus, by simple selectiveness, they shape society toward their beliefs; those who persistently refuse to agree with any cleric (atheists, say, who consider the gods to be monsters unworthy of worship) simply die out, because nobody is saving them.
I think the effect of natural selection tends to be overstated. As long as the faithless are reproducing and finding other unfaithful to raise their young, they don't need to have access to raise dead spells to avoid dying out; unless the clerics are actively murdering the unfaithful, I think the effect of raise dead spells on evolution is going to be minimal.
A vastly overestimated principle. Not everything is reducible to college economics, particularly in a world that doesn't have a string of for-profit colleges where economics is taught, according to what is more or less a single curriculum.
Not everything operates according to the principles of capitalism, but nonetheless pricier things tend to be more valued, in the same way that people tend to think more expensive wine (or wine they're told is more expensive) tastes better simply because they expect it to. There are other factors that can influence a profession's esteem. If clerical healers are mostly women, their profession will probably not be esteemed no matter how much they charge, in the same way that nurses and teachers lost esteem and their salaries went down when they became thought of as womens' professions, and how doctors are held in low regard in cultures where they're mostly women.

There are, as you pointed out, other ways to limit the flow of corpses other than charging high prices. A lottery is one way.

User avatar
BlackBat242
Dire Haggis
Posts: 1606
Joined: Fri Nov 21, 2008 6:09 am
Gender: other
Location: by the saline water - formerly in the Grand Valley of the Rivers

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by BlackBat242 » Tue Jan 05, 2016 7:38 am

willpell wrote:
ripvanwormer wrote:Clerics might be more revered on a world where resurrection is easier, but how do you measure something like that?
I can think of quite a few metrics. The difference between doing a task that everyone recognizes as necessary, and doing the same task in exactly the same way but becoming a superstar, just because the demand and respect for the work has "gone nuclear", can be neatly illustrated by any number of social patterns that have evolved over the course of my lifetime. Was there ever a superstar lawyer before Johnny Cochrane? I think you have to go back as far as Daniel Webster to find one (and certainly his fame took a very different shape, in the very different society of the day).
Clarence Seward Darrow, active 1878-1932 (died 1938 at 80)... his most famous cases were in the 1920s - and he most certainly did achieve "nationwide celebrity" status.
Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
"I have a catapult. Give me your money or I will hurl a large rock at your head".

"Buffy, Blade... its up to you now." George Takei

The only time a Vampire should sparkle is right before they explode

User avatar
willpell
Black Dragon
Posts: 3388
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm
Gender: male
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by willpell » Tue Jan 05, 2016 1:47 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:I'm not sure who the equivalent of Kim Kardashian would be among D&D clerics, but if she's Kim Kardashian her status probably wouldn't have much to do with how good she was at raising the dead.
Nope, that's not what she raises...ba-DUM-tish
I think the effect of natural selection tends to be overstated. As long as the faithless are reproducing and finding other unfaithful to raise their young, they don't need to have access to raise dead spells to avoid dying out; unless the clerics are actively murdering the unfaithful, I think the effect of raise dead spells on evolution is going to be minimal.
The faithful will keep having kids too, and will never die except for old age. They'll easily outcompete their rivals.
Not everything operates according to the principles of capitalism, but nonetheless pricier things tend to be more valued, in the same way that people tend to think more expensive wine (or wine they're told is more expensive) tastes better simply because they expect it to.
I am not at all convinced that this is an inherent human trait, as opposed to something modern society has trained into us. ("Modern" might mean "the last 5000 years" in this context; that's still a tiny percentage of the time since the human brain in its modern form first evolved.) Another race of humans on another world, possibly created by the hand of the Gods themselves, might well not suffer from such fallacious tendencies. (You want to be careful when changing human nature, lest the result no longer be relatable to the audience, but I think this is one characteristic that fantasy humans can stand to lose without ceasing to seem human.)
If clerical healers are mostly women, their profession will probably not be esteemed no matter how much they charge, in the same way that nurses and teachers lost esteem and their salaries went down when they became thought of as womens' professions, and how doctors are held in low regard in cultures where they're mostly women.
A world whose civilization was not almost entirely shaped by a patriarchal religion might well be a lot less naturally misogynistic. Again, from our perspective, it's impossible for us to really be objective.
BlackBat242 wrote:Clarence Darrow
Okay, so it hasn't been quite as long as I thought. But pretty long nonetheless.

ripvanwormer
Black Dragon
Posts: 3475
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:14 pm
Gender: male

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by ripvanwormer » Tue Jan 05, 2016 2:59 pm

willpell wrote: The faithful will keep having kids too, and will never die except for old age. They'll easily outcompete their rivals.
Only if they're in competition, which is to say actively murdering each other. Violent pogroms against apostates and heretics are one possible scenario, but not an inevitable result of D&D resurrection magic. Consider that the D&D world has multiple faiths competing along ideological and alignment lines engaged in their own 'survival of the fittest' against one another. If one faith refuses to resurrect an agnostic at any price, another may ally with powerful but unreligious factions for the sake of an advantage against their theological rivals. 'The Church of Karameikos may refuse you because of your unconventional beliefs, milord, but the Church of Traladara would be happy to resurrect your fertile young wife if you help us build our new cathedral.' 'Odin's temple may let theological disagreements get in the way of good works, but Loki delights in iconoclasts.' Without an ecumenical program of extermination against the unfaithful, you get a population pretty much like the real world, which we know has no problem avoiding dying out, alongside another population with the equivalent of much better health care able to sometimes recover from certain fatal accidents in conditions where high-level clerics are sufficiently plentiful (which isn't the same thing as none of them dying except from old age). Both groups may benefit from cure disease spells, even if only one group is directly receiving them (and it would be in the clerics' interests to cure all diseases rather than keep apostates around as dangerous disease vectors). The group with access to resurrection spells might be more populous but if they're not actually at war, the notion of 'outcompeting their rivals' doesn't apply.

The problem with 'survival of the fittest' reasoning is that it assumes a situation where solitary organisms are violently competing for mates, so that only the strongest (or cleverest, or those with the most attractive plumage) manage to reproduce. This happens among some species, but there are also communal species, like humans, who care for the weaker members of their community so that the paradigm becomes 'survival of the most effectively cooperative.' Especially on a world where multiple intelligent species are competing against one another, who is really fittest, the species that considers unreligious members to be rivals fit for extermination or the competing humanoid species that works together to effectively harness the talents of all its citizens?

It seems cognitively dissonant that you're arguing that the normal rules of capitalism might not apply and sexism might have been eliminated but that the cruel assumptions of Darwinism are inevitable.
I am not at all convinced that this is an inherent human trait, as opposed to something modern society has trained into us. ("Modern" might mean "the last 5000 years" in this context; that's still a tiny percentage of the time since the human brain in its modern form first evolved.) Another race of humans on another world, possibly created by the hand of the Gods themselves, might well not suffer from such fallacious tendencies. (You want to be careful when changing human nature, lest the result no longer be relatable to the audience, but I think this is one characteristic that fantasy humans can stand to lose without ceasing to seem human.)
I think a society where the trappings of wealth are not esteemed is very different from the standard D&D mileau of scheming nobles and merchant-princes, opportunistic mercenaries, treasure-hunters, and tomb raiders. Mystara, at least, seems firmly enraptured by the siren song of riches, except perhaps among marginal, isolated societies like the Atruaghin Clans.
A world whose civilization was not almost entirely shaped by a patriarchal religion might well be a lot less naturally misogynistic. Again, from our perspective, it's impossible for us to really be objective.
A nonpatriarchial D&D is easier to imagine than a post-capitalist D&D, but that was just one example of societal prejudices that can override 'we should respect this person because she can literally bring us back from the dead.'
Last edited by ripvanwormer on Tue Jan 05, 2016 8:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
willpell
Black Dragon
Posts: 3388
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm
Gender: male
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by willpell » Tue Jan 05, 2016 4:14 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:Only if they're in competition, which is to say actively murdering each other.
You don't have to attack someone violently in order to out-compete them; you just have to have more children, and be healthier, by virtue of having a better job and eating richer food, so that they become scrawny and frail while you wax ever more successful in the rat race. You can just stand there and let the world kill the other guy, and keep your own hands clean, claiming that all you were doing was putting your health and that of your family first, like any reasonable person would do. It doesn't make the other guy any less dead; it simply takes longer, and makes it harder for them to identify you as the architect of their woes, harder for them to justify retaliating against you.
This happens among some species, but there are also communal species, like humans, who care for the weaker members of their community so that the paradigm becomes 'survival of the most effectively cooperative.'
Just another definition of "fitness". In that case, the victims are loners, rebels, and iconoclasts, who are pushed out as dangerous radicals. And that means that when something horrific happens to the community, their unified response tends to become a unified surrender. Duped into believing their leader is still benevolent, they gleefully march to their own extinction, or else justify atrocities in the name of a greater good, or else all believe some lie about "miracle drugs" or "faith healing", and end up all being wiped out by some disease. This leaves only the outsiders alive, when if the outsiders hadn't been driven out, they could have saved the collective.
Especially on a world where multiple intelligent species are competing against one another, who is really fittest, the species that considers unreligious members to be rivals fit for extermination or the competing humanoid species that works together to effectively harness the talents of all its citizens?
That depends on which one is factually the strongest, and whether the sentimentality of the communal species is justified. Are they truly harnessing talents, or are they just preserving dead weight and allowing freeloaders to parasitize them? Benevolence has its limits, just like any other principle; uncontrolled life without a willingness to permit the unworthy die is called "cancer", and it inevitably results in the entire body dying because it refused to jettison its unhealthy cells.
It seems cognitively dissonant that you're arguing that the normal rules of capitalism might not apply and sexism might have been eliminated but that the cruel assumptions of Darwinism are inevitable.
That's because capitalism and sexism are constructs of the human mind, whereas Darwinism is an observable principle in nature, observable operating very rapidly in bacteria, and more gradually in even the highest lifeforms. The only human bias involved is that which is inevitably necessary to observe anything.
I think a society where the trappings of wealth are not esteemed is very different from the standard D&D mileau of scheming nobles and merchant-princes, opportunistic mercenaries, treasure-hunters, and tomb raiders.
True.
A nonpatriarchial D&D is easier to imagine than a post-capitalist D&D, but that was just one example of societal prejudices that can override 'we should respect this person because she can literally bring us back from the dead.'
I strongly doubt that it actually would, though. Humans prioritize their survival above pretty much anything. The only thing that might counteract that is if they remembered their experience in the afterlife while they're dead, and nearly all fictional tropes involving rezzing suggest that this is not possible, precisely because the meaning of mortality would change if an afterlife was concretely known.

ripvanwormer
Black Dragon
Posts: 3475
Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:14 pm
Gender: male

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by ripvanwormer » Tue Jan 05, 2016 8:13 pm

willpell wrote:You don't have to attack someone violently in order to out-compete them; you just have to have more children, and be healthier, by virtue of having a better job and eating richer food, so that they become scrawny and frail while you wax ever more successful in the rat race.
I think the question of general resource allocation is separate from the scenario we were talking about, which is whether a group deprived of resurrection magic would inevitably die out entirely.

If apostates are actually prevented from getting proper nutrition, that's as much an act of violence as attacking them with swords. If you're suggesting that religious people benefit not just from resurrection magic and clerical healing but also belong to a higher social class, again, that seems like a tangent, but it also sounds like you're arguing that poor people will inevitably die out as they're outcompeted by wealthier people. This doesn't sound like a very good prediction.

I don't think there's any reason to believe that people with the benefit of resurrection magic will necessarily have more children than people that don't, or that whatever marginal number of additional children they have represents an extinction-level threat to other groups (again, unless they're actually murdering each other). Those who know they have no chance of being brought back from the dead may have more children to compensate. You suggested that those with access to resurrection spells might be generally more successful and better off, in which case they'll have less need to have 'spare' children in case of childhood disease and crib death, less need to have children to act as labor on subsistence farms, and so on. It seems likely that they'll reproduce less in general, just as people in the developed world on our Earth have less children than people in the undeveloped world.
Just another definition of "fitness". In that case, the victims are loners, rebels, and iconoclasts, who are pushed out as dangerous radicals. And that means that when something horrific happens to the community, their unified response tends to become a unified surrender. Duped into believing their leader is still benevolent, they gleefully march to their own extinction, or else justify atrocities in the name of a greater good, or else all believe some lie about "miracle drugs" or "faith healing", and end up all being wiped out by some disease. This leaves only the outsiders alive, when if the outsiders hadn't been driven out, they could have saved the collective.
I'm going to ignore this mainly because it doesn't have much to do with the discussion at hand (not that any of this has anything to do with gemstone dragons anymore), and going off on wild tangents can drag discussions on endlessly.
That depends on which one is factually the strongest, and whether the sentimentality of the communal species is justified. Are they truly harnessing talents, or are they just preserving dead weight and allowing freeloaders to parasitize them?
This kind of Objectivist-style philosophy is an excellent way for the privileged to justify their exploitation, but there's not much substance to the vacuous buzzwords and dog whistles you're using. People are dismissed as 'freeloaders' and 'dead weight' in order to justify their marginalization. By this reasoning, perhaps only feudal lords and knights should have the benefit of clerical healing and resurrection; they protect the land and own all the resources, while everyone else is a replaceable parasite.

If we can back up a little bit and keep on track, the scenario in question was clerics offering their services only to the faithful. Who are the 'parasites' in this context, the converts who depend on clerical healing or the iconoclasts who have rejected it?
uncontrolled life without a willingness to permit the unworthy die is called "cancer"
Good to know, Agent Smith.
That's because capitalism and sexism are constructs of the human mind, whereas Darwinism is an observable principle in nature
You're constructing a false dichotomy between humanity and nature; humans are as much a part of nature as anything else, and all of these principles are only known to us because they've been apprehended by the human mind. Capitalism and sexism are principles human minds have observed in human organisms, just as natural selection is a principle human minds have observed in both human and nonhuman organisms. All of these observations can be taken too far, and natural selection of 'survival of the fittest' has been especially misused; it tends to lead to eugenics and Objectivist-style rants against human 'parasites' as privileged people declare themselves the fittest, and therefore the ones most worthy of survival. The biggest problem is when a biological phenomenon is twisted into an ethical prescription for society.
I strongly doubt that it actually would, though. Humans prioritize their survival above pretty much anything.
If that were true, female nurses and other female medical professionals would be higher esteemed in patriarchal cultures.

User avatar
willpell
Black Dragon
Posts: 3388
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm
Gender: male
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: Origin of the Gemstone Dragons

Post by willpell » Tue Jan 05, 2016 8:45 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:I think the question of general resource allocation is separate from the scenario we were talking about, which is whether a group deprived of resurrection magic would inevitably die out entirely.
Nothing is separate from anything. The world is a closed system. (If there are multiple planes, then the multiverse is a closed system.) Everything influences everything else, usually in too complex and nuanced ways for anyone non-omniscient to identify as they're happening. But in the fullness of time, pattenrs become clear. This is precisely why that saw about learning history, or else repeating it, is such a big deal. (There are of course countervailing forces, so you can't JUST learn history; the world will have factually changed over time in ways that invalidate past lessons, and the history you reconstructed might be based on false or misleading evidence. But within reason, such study is still the best way to understand the cyclical inevitabilities of the world we live in - and the same principle, with some appropriate number of tweaks, would apply to people living in any other world.)
If apostates are actually prevented from getting proper nutrition, that's as much an act of violence as attacking them with swords.
If it's a subtle economic thing rather than an organized campaign of denial - if the price of high-quality food just keeps inching up a copper piece at a time, while wages never improve, and thus only larger families that can pool their resources are capable of adapting effectively - then it's a lot harder for the victims to identify it as an attack, or even notice it happening at all. They might well be socialized to simply shrug "times are tough", without noticing how the other half lives because they keep quiet about how much better they're doing (after all, the status quo seems normal to both groups; only if they compare notes do they notice a trend, and one has little incentive to inform the other of their own unfair advantage).
it also sounds like you're arguing that poor people will inevitably die out as they're outcompeted by wealthier people. This doesn't sound like a very good prediction.
I don't see why not. Pretty much the only countervailing force involves the poor people conducting violent insurrections against their oppressors, and as a society grows larger and more entrenched, it usually takes action to eliminate threats to its hegemony by forcibly pacifying its neighbors, outlawing domestic protests, taking stringent security measures, and so forth.
I don't think there's any reason to believe that people with the benefit of resurrection magic will necessarily have more children than people that don't
They live longer on balance because of the clerics raising them when they're killed, so inevitably, given the same rates of reproduction, they have more opportunities to produce children, and thus produce more children, who in turn live longer and produce still more children. Across a couple of centuries, the steady drip becomes a river and washes everything else away.
or that whatever marginal number of additional children they have represents an extinction-level threat to other groups
Within a sufficiently large-perspective timescale, it certainly does. Nature is all about tipping points. Currently, the world's crab population is threatened with extinction due to overfishing; this doesn't mean that there will eventually be only two crab left in the world, and if one of them dies before they can mate and repopulate the species, that's it. No, extinction is much more subtle than that. There could be thousands upon thousands of crab left alive, but if too many of their genetic lineages have been overfished in particular nurseries that they coincidentally favored, then other groups predominate and the entire species becomes less diverse, more homogenous, and thus more vulnerable to the sudden mutation or introduction of a new pathogen, a toxic spill, a volcanic eruption, a 1-degree drop in worldwide ocean temperatures which throws off reproduction rates and measurably decreases food supplies across the whole ecosystem, or any number of other disasters. Over the course of thousands if not millions of years, hundreds of events like this threaten to annihilate a species, and its only hope to survive them is to stay flexible, healthy, with a vital and dynamic genetic range. All of this is JUST as true of humans as of any other animal, plant, fungus or microbe.
Those who know they have no chance of being brought back from the dead may have more children to compensate.
This much is certainly true. But if it's entirely optional, then the first group can notice the trend and duplicate it, thus retaining their advantage. The only way the system can be balanced is if there's some factor at work which actively fixes it; a god's intervention might work, but that's just the deities fixing a mistake they made by allowing too much resurrection in the first place.
It seems likely that they'll reproduce less in general, just as people in the developed world on our Earth have less children than people in the undeveloped world.
I'm skeptical of this data. I know of a large number of families with immense number of children here in America.
going off on wild tangents can drag discussions on endlessly.
I know! ^_^ :mrgreen: :halo:
This kind of Objectivist-style philosophy is an excellent way for the privileged to justify their exploitation
1. I am definitely not one of the privileged, and am exploited by them almost as much as anyone can be. I advocate overthrow of the system, because this particular system is corrupt, and because systems in general tend to become corrupt. I'm certainly not trying to make our society any more Lawful Evil than it is.

2. That said, whether or not my philosophy has anything to do with that of Ayn Rand, it is very much grounded in observable fact. Some people are simply better than others, and I regard "Harrison Bergeron" as being no less nightmarish a dystopia than "1984."

("Brave New World", on the other hand, I think gets pretty close to being a workable social system; just drop the baby-torturing in favor of a less invasive conditioning method, and make the social controls on adults a trifle more sophisticated than "orgy porgy", and you have a very effective method of keeping a mostly-pretty-decent society from being torn apart by social unrest. Hopeless romantics like The Savage were only incapable of adapting to life in such a world because they had been raised away from it, exposed to the ideas that it carefully suppressed, in order to avoid inspiring people to want what they couldn't have, and shoot themselves in the foot by trying to get it. My reaction to the "tragic" ending was a facepalm at John's pigheadedness; he should have just gotten over himself.)
By this reasoning, perhaps only feudal lords and knights should have the benefit of clerical healing and resurrection; they protect the land and own all the resources, while everyone else is a replaceable parasite.
Their ownership of the land is an unjustifiable social construct; they "protect" the land from others exactly like themselves.

If we can back up a little bit and keep on track, the scenario in question was clerics offering their services only to the faithful. Who are the 'parasites' in this context, the converts who depend on clerical healing or the iconoclasts who have rejected it? If you're correct, and that sentimentality and 'preserving dead weight' is a competitive disadvantage, won't your hypothetical theocracy inevitably go extinct?
Good to know, Agent Smith.
Indeed.
You're constructing a false dichotomy between humanity and nature; humans are as much a part of nature as anything else
Humans, as anthropoid animals with an endurance hunting strategy and the ability to plan ambushes, adapt to change, and so forth, certainly are part of nature. But constructs of the human mind, any level of social organization beyond the hunter-gatherer tribe, and any degree of technology beyond picking up a stick to hit things that are out of arm's reach (including "mental technologies" such as language, arithmetic, and the concept of law) are all unnatural inventions of humanity's capacity for abstract reasoning. No other species in the world appears to possess this capability, and given that we've soiled our environment irreversably and built weapons easily capable of killing ourselves off several times over, it may well prove to have been a mistake on Evolution's part that we ever developed that power.
Capitalism and sexism are principles human minds have observed in human organisms, just as natural selection is a principle human minds have observed in both human and nonhuman organisms. All of these observations can be taken too far, and natural selection of 'survival of the fittest' has been especially misused.
I think capitalism has been misused far worse....
If that were true, female nurses and other female medical professionals would be higher esteemed in patriarchal cultures.
True, but they can't literally raise the dead. (At least not after an hour or so.)

User avatar
BotWizo
Wizard
Posts: 1215
Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2008 4:36 am
Gender: male
Location: Barbarian Lands - Brun (Iowa - USA)

Re: Ressurrection Spells and Society (Split from Gemstone Dr

Post by BotWizo » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:32 pm

Willpell,

Why would there be any non-believers in a world where gods are proven by spells and direct interaction with them?

In a D&D world you would not have to have faith to believe in gods, you have tangible proof and interactions with them.

I would surmise there would be a very low level of atheists if any.
To not believe in the gods in a D&D world would go against all evidence, there may be people who do not like the gods but there would have to be a very low level of people who think they do not exist. (since they do exist in a D&D world)
The reasons for apostates in our world are very different than the reasons in a D&D world. Faith by definition cannot be proven, apostates reject their favorite beliefs or faith that cannot be proven.
In a D&D world apostates would have to be insane to ignore the everyday mundane facts that prove gods exist in a D&D world.
Game over man... Game over! -- Pvt. Hudson

User avatar
willpell
Black Dragon
Posts: 3388
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm
Gender: male
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: Ressurrection Spells and Society (Split from Gemstone Dr

Post by willpell » Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:47 pm

BotWizo wrote:Willpell,

Why would there be any non-believers in a world where gods are proven by spells and direct interaction with them?
That's a good question and I have possible answers to it, but I'm not certain whether it was proper to direct it to me, as I don't think I was the one who was proposing non-believers in the first place, not in this context. Then again, I don't recall exactly where the conversation was, so maybe I did bring it up. Either way, I'll go ahead and toss off a quick answer; feel free to find something in particular to quote from upthread, if you'd like me to re-address that particular point.

The Athars in Planescape are an interesting case - they deny the divinity of the gods, even though several of them have met a god in person. They do not claim that gods do not exist, but rather that they do not deserve the title they've claimed - to the Athar faction, gods are nothing but superpowered charlatans who enjoy gaining the servitude of humanity through various forms of coercion. The gods of light, love, protection and vengeance are a carrot to lure people into gilded-cage slavery, while gods of war and death and horror are the corresponding stick for the less comfortable servants' quarters. But either way, it's a bum deal, these Athars might claim, because each human being has the potential to become something GREATER than the gods in time (at least if the campaign is assumed to use epic rules, and to have something that a party of 60th-level characters can fight in order to gain relevant amounts of XP, and that the gods didn't already fight those creatures, in order to level up to still higher power levels than those described in Deities and Demigods).

Unlike the Believers of the Source, the Athars don't necessarily advocate that humans pursue these heights of power (they might suspect it of tending to corrupt); they only say that because it can happen, because the power level of self-proclaimed "gods" can be exceeded, that these gods are in fact nothing special. Many Athars are clerics of a cause, and retain the ability to cast Resurrection and similar spells, based solely on their devotion to the Great Unknown; other clerics may not even have that much devotion to a godlike "divine force", but simply worship themselves, and still derive all the same powers. So if that's true, the Athars ask, what exactly are the gods good for? Why should anyone bow down to them.

Other factions may have similar takes on the subject. Both Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance had major plot points where the gods were forced to walk the earth in mortal form (it might have been just one god in DL's case, I'm not sure); if godhood can be lost, does it really mean anything? It's hard to argue in favor of atheism in the Realms, given that it's a known fact you'll get sewn into a wall of flesh for eternity if you do it, but even given that, the proven fickleness and transient nature of the gods gives a fairly strong argument that they maybe are not deserving of loyalty. Particularly if "ideoclerics" (my term for those who worship anything which doesn't have a personality, as contrasted with "theoclerics"; one who worships Nature Itself or Justice Itself probably cannot have a conversation with those concepts or cosmic forces, but can indeed get spells from them, which work just as well as spells granted by Sylvanus or St. Cuthbert).
I would surmise there would be a very low level of atheists if any.
Atheists maybe not, but antitheists (or dystheists or mistheists or whatever you want to call them), very probably. And you could probably still have actual atheists who simply don't accept that Nerull and Mystra and Paladine and so forth are indeed gods, but simply extremely powerful outsiders who have misappropriated the term. They could go every bit as far as real-world skeptics and debunkers do, no matter how compelling the evidence they're presented with, to say that there certainly must be a logical explanation.
The reasons for apostates in our world are very different than the reasons in a D&D world. Faith by definition cannot be proven, apostates reject their favorite beliefs or faith that cannot be proven.
I don't quite follow this comment, especially the last bit. Could you clarify how you're defining faith and apostasy? In any event, anything that makes it difficult to disbelieve in the reality of gods, equally makes it impossible to have faith in their existence, since acknowledgement of the obvious is generally not regarded as an act of faith. So, does faith actually have any meaning or worth in OUR world? (Maybe don't actually answer that, since religious argument is verboten on this board; I'm simply posing the question for the sake of rhetoric.) If so, then it could just as easily have that value in a D&D setting, and perhaps the Athars would take the position that the self-proclaimed "deities" are robbing mortal existence of a certain degree of meaning, simply by taking away the ability to keep that question unanswered and to search for the truth of it in your heart.

User avatar
dulsi
Storm Giant
Posts: 1851
Joined: Mon Aug 11, 2008 12:20 am
Gender: prefer not to say
Contact:

Re: Ressurrection Spells and Society (Split from Gemstone Dr

Post by dulsi » Sun Feb 21, 2016 3:10 am

I wouldn't look at it from a game mechanic point of view. For campaigns I run, it's doubtful that you would know if a cleric could cast resurrection. Assuming you did, I would have the NPC decline most requests. They understand that they are there to serve their god. Resurrecting a random villager whether rich or poor is not something they should be using their divine power doing. If a player insisted on resurrecting everyone, I would cause them to lose their power and force them to atone for their actions.

Even if you assume a god has the power to resurrect everyone and does so to gain more followers, I don't think it would work. If his priests raise everyone why worship that god. You can worship another god who is important in your life and just give some respect to the resurrection god. If his priests only raise the faithful, I think you either get non-believers infiltrating the church or the spell sometimes fails because the god refuses to grant the resurrection to a non-believer. If the spell sometimes fails, the church starts to look questionable so they would refuse to resurrect anyone unless they felt it would work.

I view game mechanics as an abstraction for playing the game. I view spell casting as unpredictable. A wizard should always be concerned that the spell will misfire and do something somewhat unpredictable but I generally don't want that in my game system. It's an embellishment you would include in a novel but gloss over in game for simplicity. It why I also consider technological advancement a likely event in the future. In D&D why develop electric lighting since you can get continual light very easily. You develop electric lighting because continual light sometimes blinks or strobes or maybe the color shifts over the time of day.

DragonMech has this kind of built into the setting. The gods are in a battle with invading lunar gods. Everyone who dies in mortal life is recruited in the spiritual war. The gods can't spare spirits. The rules add a failure chance to resurrection spells.
Dennis Payne -- Identical Games
ImageImage

Elentarnew
Goblin
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Jan 28, 2016 8:06 pm
Gender: male

Re: Ressurrection Spells and Society (Split from Gemstone Dr

Post by Elentarnew » Wed Mar 02, 2016 8:24 am

I'll say too not to look to much to the mechanics of the game than to the setting!
Gods do not usually let people to live forever or live again, no matter what: it is not because a cleric has the ability to ask for a lot of favours to his God that he SHOULD ask them all, every day, nor the God is compelled to always answer to his cleric!
In fact, the other Gods could see it as an unfair competition and complain, in the right place, before their peers.
Unless there are very dire circumstances - a comrade in arms or fellow worshipper dying during a war or a mission (adventure) - I don't think a cleric should be granted or should ask for more than a Resurrection per day, mostly for "special" individuals! Off course there are importance circumstances where the Gods answer more often, like a plague, a disaster (magical or natural), a famine or war.

User avatar
willpell
Black Dragon
Posts: 3388
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm
Gender: male
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: Ressurrection Spells and Society (Split from Gemstone Dr

Post by willpell » Wed Mar 02, 2016 1:32 pm

Elentarnew wrote:I'll say too not to look to much to the mechanics of the game than to the setting!
If the mechanics do not reflect the setting, then they are bad mechanics. If the use of rez spells is meant to be limited, the text of the spell should indicate exactly what limits it.
nor the God is compelled to always answer to his cleric!
Then why would anyone ever be a cleric? Magic users don't have to worry that their spellbook is going to refuse to grant them spells; if the gods can't be trusted to supply power when they're expected to, then market forces dictate that people will stop using their services.
In fact, the other Gods could see it as an unfair competition and complain, in the right place, before their peers.
Unless they notice that the god who resurrects all his followers is getting more done, and decide to start resurrecting all THEIR followers. Which strikes me as the more logical outcome. I mean, why would you allow death to limit your powerbase, if you have the option of doing otherwise?

User avatar
dulsi
Storm Giant
Posts: 1851
Joined: Mon Aug 11, 2008 12:20 am
Gender: prefer not to say
Contact:

Re: Ressurrection Spells and Society (Split from Gemstone Dr

Post by dulsi » Fri Mar 04, 2016 10:40 pm

willpell wrote:If the mechanics do not reflect the setting, then they are bad mechanics. If the use of rez spells is meant to be limited, the text of the spell should indicate exactly what limits it.
I disagree that the mechanics are bad if they don't 100% reflect the setting. You want people to enjoy playing the game. If given the choice of a complex system to perfectly capture the setting or some more streamline that captures the feel and allows the DM to run a good game in the setting, I think most would choose the latter.

Most editions did limit the clerics to following the tenants of his god or the powers could be revoked so I think it was always in the mechanics.
willpell wrote:
nor the God is compelled to always answer to his cleric!
Then why would anyone ever be a cleric? Magic users don't have to worry that their spellbook is going to refuse to grant them spells; if the gods can't be trusted to supply power when they're expected to, then market forces dictate that people will stop using their services.
Clerics are not the same as wizards. Typically clerics do not take as long to learn their craft (which may be represented mechanically by higher starting age or more experience needed). If you want healing, wizard spells aren't of much use. Markets are not perfect. Even if the god sometimes refused a spell, many people would be willing to make the deal for a power that worked most of the time.
willpell wrote:Unless they notice that the god who resurrects all his followers is getting more done, and decide to start resurrecting all THEIR followers. Which strikes me as the more logical outcome. I mean, why would you allow death to limit your powerbase, if you have the option of doing otherwise?
A lawful or nature god might see that as going against the natural order. The over population could lead to more famine and war potentially causing more people to lose faith. Evil priests might not want to resurrect people they didn't trust. You also have the problem of getting a priest to the level to cast the spell. If your followers don't have a priest with high enough spells, the priest could decide to mount an attack against the other god's priests before they can grow their numbers with everyone living forever.

You could create a setting where such an immortal cult or cults grew but I don't think it is guaranteed by the mechanics of resurrection.
Dennis Payne -- Identical Games
ImageImage

User avatar
willpell
Black Dragon
Posts: 3388
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10 pm
Gender: male
Location: Minnesota, USA

Re: Ressurrection Spells and Society (Split from Gemstone Dr

Post by willpell » Fri Mar 04, 2016 11:17 pm

dulsi wrote:If the mechanics do not reflect the setting, then they are bad mechanics. If the use of rez spells is meant to be limited, the text of the spell should indicate exactly what limits it.
I disagree that the mechanics are bad if they don't 100% reflect the setting. You want people to enjoy playing the game. If given the choice of a complex system to perfectly capture the setting or some more streamline that captures the feel and allows the DM to run a good game in the setting, I think most would choose the latter.[/quote]

A good illustration of this approach can be seen with dragons. If you run a high-level dragon in D&D, even against slightly higher-level players, and you actually use all the abilities that the Monster Manual gives them (nevermind adding feats from Draconomicon) to their fullest extent, and create traps and countermeasures and plans-within-plans to suit a creature with an Intelligence in the high 20s or even the 30s (I don't recall dragon stats exactly offhand, but they're scary smart, especially the ones that are ALSO the most physically powerful), then the players WILL lose, it's pretty much guaranteed. In order to have the players have a fighting chance, you pretty much have to limit yourself to playing the dragon "dumb", using narrative conventions like him being too enraged to think of casting spells to take out the fighter with the +5 Dragonbane Polearm of Enemy Element from 400 feet away, then putting up an Anti-Magic Field before charging the wizard who just cast all his buff spells.

But, if that's how you want to run dragons in D&D, then they shouldn't HAVE those abilities; you should house-rule them away, not leave them extant but simply have the dragon "forget" them. if the villain is a 20th-level evil wizard who's been turned into a vampire, then he absolutely should be casting Planar Binding spells and using Create Spawn to generate a huge army of CR 23 minions and just steamrolling the entire countryside, just because he can. That's the entire POINT of being a power-mad villain! If all he does is stand there casting Lightning Bolt out of his 9th-level spell slots, then he's not exemplifying his archetype very damn well, and you should have picked a different archetype.
Then why would anyone ever be a cleric?
Why do people worship one or more deities in a world where they never answer prayers at all? People can dedicate themselves to religious worship for any number of reasons, and the cleric class mostly represents people who take up arms in the service of their god (with variants like the Cloistered Cleric representing other versions of the archetype).
Magic users don't have to worry that their spellbook is going to refuse to grant them spells; if the gods can't be trusted to supply power when they're expected to, then market forces dictate that people will stop using their services.
There's no reason to think "market forces" even exist in a D&D world, when trends in human behavior can be explicitly countermanded by direct divine action. All our social sciences - economics, sociology, psychology - their application to a fantasy world is distinctly questionable. I enjoy playing with them for troping purposes, but they can be rendered false as easily as they can be enforced as true; when you're in a world of angels and demons and walking, talking spirit-trees and eldritch abominations from beyond the known multiverse, there's no reason to assume that things have to turn out the way they did in our particular magic-poor cosmos with its single-species civilization.
Clerics are not the same as wizards. Typically clerics do not take as long to learn their craft (which may be represented mechanically by higher starting age or more experience needed).
Possibly an edition difference, but this is not reflected in the suggested starting ages for classes in the 3E PHB, which offers only three categories: "barbarian/sorcerer/rogue", "fighter/bard/paladin/ranger", & "cleric/wizard/druid/monk". Every class added to the line later in 3E was fit into that same trio of boxes.
If you want healing, wizard spells aren't of much use.
Plane Shift to the positive energy plane, where everyone gains fast healing, springs to mind. Or the likes of Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion. Not to mention summoning and planar-binding celestials. About all the wizards lack is the ability to do it at early levels, or when they failed to prepare the proper spells (or have already cast them for some other purpose).
A lawful or nature god might see that as going against the natural order.
True, but again, a properly designed set of mechanics would account for that. We have druids prohibited by sacred oaths from wielding metal weapons, yet clerics are not even limited to fighting with blunt weapons anymore (and I'm not complaining because that rule was rather silly). The rules could impose sharp limitations upon the spells and other widgets available to certain gods, but instead they don't even narrow down the entire list of every cleric spell ever published, except for a handful of alignment-specified spells that are prohibited only to the opposite alignment, ensuring that neutral clerics can still get pretty much all of them. (The one exception I know of offhand is the Incarnum spells, which require a specific feat, although there may be similar examples in Dragon Magic or the Races book or whatnot.) This is quite likely an oversight on the designers' part, but again, house rules can fix this, if you're up to the effort. Just leaving things handwaved for narrative purposes is the lazy solution, and laziness is eminently understandable, given our finite time on this planet...but I insist that from a strict rhetorical perspective, it is never "right". The theoretically correct solution is ALWAYS to make the rules more precisely reflect the world you want to create, not to simply ignore the rules if they trip you up - otherwise, you might as well not have any rules at all, and just make everything up as you go along. (Which is a perfectly fine method of storytelling, but not very good as a foundation for selling game supplements....glares at the 5E corebooks which contain little other than attractive art and vague story hooks.)
The over population could lead to more famine and war potentially causing more people to lose faith.
Now that I buy. And I think a game about this exact process unfolding would be a lot of fun to explore.
Evil priests might not want to resurrect people they didn't trust.
Then they would be swiftly out-competed by the flocks of Good gods who raised those same people and offered them a persuasive conversion speech. At least unless you handwave that the power of Eeeevul is simply too strong for that sort of thing to work, and that Good's resurrectees betray it left and right, or otherwise overcompensate for the way things would default to unfolding.
You also have the problem of getting a priest to the level to cast the spell. If your followers don't have a priest with high enough spells, the priest could decide to mount an attack against the other god's priests before they can grow their numbers with everyone living forever.
That's also a valid concern, which mirrors my reason for not wanting to ever run a "magic-users are feared and hated" campaign. It's simply too dull to have a universe in which jocks fighters always gang up and kill the nerds wizards before they can get powerful enough to apply LFQW. This is why, in my CW, basically everyone accepts LFQW as truth while also having a "thanks for all your help, little buddy" kind of attitude toward fighters (and the fighters' half of that social contract is not to let it bother them when they're condescended to); in order to produce the kind of game tone that I want, I hang a great big lampshade on the tropes rather than simply pretending they're not there - up until I decide it would be fun to explore what happens if the light is suddenly switched off.
You could create a setting where such an immortal cult or cults grew but I don't think it is guaranteed by the mechanics of resurrection.
If not guaranteed, then at least strongly implied, I think. As with the dragon's ability to spontaneously cast multiple Planar Bindings the moment he learns you're heading toward his lair, so you end up fighting sixteen djinns instead of the one dragon you set out to slay, the rules are pointing toward an obvious outcome which, if you don't intend to use, you should at least compensate for.

Post Reply

Return to “The Crunchy Bits”