Anyone has (or has links to) well thought-out, logical explanations for why magocracies and theocracies are not the dominant forms of government of D&D worlds? I'd also be really interested in similarly deep explorations/explanations of how these two forms would work in a D&D setting.

In my opinion these forms should logically be dominant due to their magical, predictive, and society- and economy-controlling capabilities. The official stance (about wizards not having time for such trivial matters as governing a state because of their continuous magical research and whatnot, while clerics are too busy doing gods only know what), which, I do admit I recall only hazily, seems a bit... shallow?

I do know there are magocracies and theocracies in official settings, let alone homebrew campaigns. What I don't understand is why neither of these forms is the dominant or default for D&D, and I'm looking for thorough explanations about this (not pure examples), either pro or contra.


17 Answers 17


I think the most likely explanation of the phenomenon is that fantasy is normally in a medieval setting, and when we think "medieval", we think of kings, not of theocrats or magocrats. In other words, what limits clerics and wizards is our imagination.

If you're looking for in-game explanations, I can think of three

Tradition: If the people are used to having non-mage hereditary rulers, they will stick to it - loyal mages would defend their lord against the upstarts who want to upset the "divine and eternal order", and if that's not sufficient, the neighbouring kings will come and help. This is what happened in 18th/19th century Europe, where enemy royals united to fight the French Revolution, and stomped out Poland when it gave itself a constitution. Also note how e.g. the US has only had a very limited number of people with PhDs in political sciences and economics in the highest government positions, even though it may be argued that they would be highly qualified to rule a country.

Strife and Power Balance: Hextor is not the only god, and Heironeous will do everything to ensure Hextor's clerics will fail to take over the country. Also, neighbours might be much more comfortable knowing a not-too-powerful ruler lives next doors, and their sense of self-preservation would make them ally against, and overthrow a magocracy. In other words, while clerics and mages may have positions of high influence at courts, their enemies will make sure that this never becomes too extreme, and thus, a non-magical ruler with arcane and divine magic available to all factions might suit everyone's interest.

Stability: It is not that easy to maintain a dictatorship if it's not backed by tradition and supported by the local powers, and instability is very bad for business. A mageocrat would most likely have to restrict mages in the kingdom, and a theocracy would not tolerate other religions, thus weakening the country and possibly limiting trade. Furthermore, in a mageocracy, where the right to govern comes from powerful magic, succession might be rather messy, while hereditary rule makes life much more predictable, and thus the country will be more likely to thrive.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm afraid the first paragraph of your answer does hit the nail on its head. DnD seems to have been designed to meet certain (bad) stereotypes, and not to challenge them, because challenging such stereotypes might hurt selling power (which is a sad yet acceptable point from the business end of the industry.) As for your in-game explanations, I like them a lot, though they could also be challenged along the "magic is real, gods are real, afterlives are real" lines... yet they're reasonable within the established framework. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – OpaCitiZen Jan 22 '11 at 20:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OpaCitiZen: Of course, the explanations are not the be-all end-all, but assuming that humans in the fantasy world are still humans, and gods behave like humans as well, the same mechanisms work as in real life. Just ask yourself: Why are not all countries military dictatorships? Why did the US and the Sovjets fight/fund so many proxy wars (as an example for Hextor vs. Heironeous)? Etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonas Jan 22 '11 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Accepted this as an answer, primarily but not exclusively because of its first paragraph. Thank you, and thank you everyone else participating for the interesting points and arguments raised. \$\endgroup\$ – OpaCitiZen Jan 23 '11 at 8:06

I see several factors at work in the D&D worlds, especially in 3.X: Rarity, Motivation, lack of solidarity, Social Contract, and the frankenstein effect.

Wizards and Clerics are surprisingly rare... typically under 1% each of the population using the 3.0 DMG methods. The smaller the segment of the population, the harder it is to take over.

Most wizards and clerics have no motivation to take over the country. It's a matter of time and duties. Remember, rulers are typically doing a full time job; half paperwork, half public appearances. A typical medieval ruler had 20-30 hours a week spent on ruling, 10-20 on courtly duties, and a large chunk of the year making the rounds to keep everyone reminded who is in charge.

Clerics have detailed obligations to their deity. Non-adventuring clerics probably work the same 20-40 hours per week as did historical clerics. And unlike historical clergy, they have very clear and powerful indicators of their deity's displeasure... like the loss of spells.

Wizards have a tendency to devolve to studiousness and experimentation. This study and experimentation takes time and effort... 40-60 hours a week when making big magic items. Plus, it's the type of activity that prevents going on progress (the travels a lord made to keep tabs on his see), and that can't be interrupted safely nor cheaply.

Fighting men, however, have no such limitation on their time. Practice with weapons can be done while travelling, and besting your vassals in personal combat with rebates is a good way to remind them who is the boss.

Social Contract:
All governments boil down to two factors in the social contract: protection of the people and payment for same. The Government is paid taxes to ensure the safety of the common man. A small oligarchy is seldom capable of ensuring everyone's safety. A larger one, like nobility, is far more capable of so doing, because it is a significant fraction of the overal population. (Likewise, most non-noble-based governments won't be having universal suffrage, nor even majority suffrage, either, so are essentially oligarchies anyway.)

Lack of Solidarity
Clerics are almost always going to be divided amongst several deities in the typical D&D settings. This takes a small group, usually about 1-1.5% of the population, and divides them into several smaller groups.

Wizards are a contentious, proud, and studious lot. Like most academics, ego is a dangerous part of the equation. Academics seldom overthrow extant governments, and usually can't retain power once they get it. Wizards have big threat power, but unless they divert from their studies, they won't keep up, and can be taken down by another wizard. And like most other forms of academic, there is the desire to not share one's research without recompense... Which tends to mean a drive for secrecy in research, and not a whole lot of cooperation. The wizards guilds mostly exist to protect the wizards from each other first, and the rest of society second, and so seldom make moves to take over, since that would make them target #1.

Further, Wizards and Clerics scare people. Real power, demonstrable, is a potent cause of fear... so unless they have the confidence of the locals, taking over means overcoming the populace. And if they have the support of the populace, odds are, they don't have reasons to take over.

The Frankenstein Effect:
"Enough screaming mad peasants with pitchforks can overcome any force"
The common man is nothing to be sneezed at, when in sufficient number. While A person is usually fairly smart, People en mass are dumb, panicky, prone to overreaction and violence. Any group of wizards trying to take over by force without popular support wind up decreasing the population and either fleeing or dying.

Remember: A person can't take 20 on a to hit, but a mob of 20+ is bound to interrupt your somatics, and likely trample you to death. Or throw rocks at you.

Sure, a missile reflection spell can stop the hurled stones and veggies... but it only lasts so long. And as soon as one hits, more will follow.

So why do they occasionally exist?
Because, sometimes, the local leadership is bad enough that the populace implore clerics or wizards to take over. Sometimes, civil policy is going against the wizards or clerics, and is sufficiently unliked that the guild or church can take over without a general panic.

People as a whole tend to support the status quo if they have enough to eat, safe food and drink, and are not being routinely beaten. When civil governments get to the point where people no longer feel safe, whomever promises to make them feel safe can get into power. And once in power, as long as they don't scare the peasantry too bad, will tend to stay in power.


The answer to this question is obvious: the ability to control elemental forces is not what puts a person in power; it's the ability to control people, or at least convince them to trust you. Why do you think the world today is not run by engineers and scientists? That would be a technocracy. Instead engineers and scientists work for someone who makes sure they have nice comfortable houses with good schools, and directs their talents toward the greatest social and economic benefit. The reason we don't live in a technocracy is exactly the same reason fantasy people don't live in a magocracy.

Think about it: how would the ability to summon a giant fireball help you control a country? You would have to be like Dr. Evil and hold the entire country hostage, hoping some 1st level thief doesn't put a dagger in your back. Unless you plan to put your whole population under a permanent Mass Charm spell, your best bet is to find a good people manipulator and let him or her run things for you. Of course he or she is going to co-opt you as soon as he or she figures out what you want, assuming you aren't completely insane.

In order to get power you either need "people skills" as Oddysey says, or you need the quality of character and judgement sufficient for people trust you to make decisions for them. In the rare cases when this coincides with a person who has magic power, you can have a magocracy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for pointing out that personal power is not necessarily translatable to political power. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Dec 16 '13 at 4:28

If they're anything like their real-world equivalents, wizards tend to have terrible social and management skills. Maybe they could take over a small country, but when that country goes to war with its neighbor run by an actual general, it's going to get stomped flat. Unless maybe that magic user is powerful enough that they're very unusual in most settings, or there's a whole group of them -- but then, again, poor social skills. The average confederation of wizards is going to be very vulnerable to divide-and-conquer tactics.

On the other hand, while the wizard isn't likely to be in charge, any secular ruler who doesn't have a few on his payroll -- safely occupied with whatever materials they need to continue their magical research when they aren't needed -- is an idiot.

Clerics, I can't help you with, largely because D&D "religion" is so strange. Presumably, the gods in most D&D settings don't see political leadership as an appropriate use of their servants time and energy, and smack down any clerics who get too interested in worldly power. A "realistic" setting probably should have a lot more theocracies than you tend to see. In particular, there's a real lack of medieval-church style over-theocracies claiming dominion over vast territories and all the kings in them.


This question is based on several logical fallacies.

One, that mages and clerics are more powerful than anyone else (even other characters of the same level), which you might (maybe) be able to argue one on one but certainly not as part of larger society, where it's not like "50% of the people in this country are wizards." So there being a couple handfuls of high level casters doesn't mean they can rule any region they set out to uncontested.

Two, that mages and clerics are mostly motivated by class fidelity, and they will certainly decide to set up a government of "all mages" or "all clerics." Sure, perhaps the kingdom has a strike force of killer mages, but that doesn't mean they're in charge. Perhaps they report to the bard, whose high Charisma makes him a more effective ruler. The most personally powerful people in the real world aren't "in charge" except in crappy little Chaotic third world countries.

Three, that high level casters would make good rulers. One might, but ruling on the narrow domain of most fantasy gods or on "magic is cool and powerful yay" is likely to cause your country to have an economy based on mud farming and soul collection, which doesn't exactly make it tenable for too many decades.

In general, my answer to this question is "Why do you think they would be a dominant government type, and do your answers to that have anything to do with what makes governments work?"


The logical extension of rulership by magical power would unbalance the character classes. Although the warriors rule in RW history, clerics hold the most power (speaking for the gods Themselves and representing Their ultimate power to heal or destroy) in these fantasy worlds. Remember, there's no RW faith/doubt going on: Gods demonstrably exist and their reps are the medical establishment. That's a combo that's hard to argue with.

This design problem can be lessened in a low-magic type campaign, where clerics and mages simply aren't numerous enough to take over everything.

Also note that casters can be overpowered by sheer numbers. Almost all spell effects are physically localized, and the number of castable spells per day is limited. When all is said and done, it's the front-line soldier who carries the day.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "and the number of castable spells per day is limited" \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Apr 19 '14 at 10:16

Personal abilities do not necessarily correlate to political power. Leadership is a profession unto itself with its own set of prerequisites that mages or clerics don't automatically have.

Look at the real world: probably the most impressive and influential force ever harnessed by humanity to date is nuclear fission, yet in three quarters of a century not a single world leader has ever been a nuclear physicist.


There are already excellent answers to this question; However, they've not mentioned one point that may be relevant:

Magocracies tend to be unstable when transitioning from one ruler to the next. Sure, magic is powerful, and with the right collection of spells, a D&D mage or priest could rule in any number of ways. However, magical ability in D&D is dependant not merely on educational opportunities, but on ability scores and level.

There is no guarantee that the heir of a given magocrat will have the same inborn talent for magic (i.e.: intelligence/wisdom score) as their antecedent. Even if they do have the requisite stats, most spells powerful enough to build a kingdom can only be cast by a relatively high-level magic user. Adventuring is highly dangerous, and most settings portray levelling by means other than adventuring as being extremely slow.

By contrast, a traditional ruler need only have the requisite education in statecraft and sufficient loyal retainers to compensate for their weaknesses; Neither of which depend on level (except in those editions where social skills were tied to or limited by level, and even then those skills represent only a small part of the picture).

Thus, so long as ability to rule is tied to magical ability, it is extremely difficult to ensure that the next ruler will be able to fill the shoes of the previous one. Magic items can compensate for differences in ability between one ruler and the next, of course, but the same could be said of any ruler - and really, if the defining feature of a nation's rulers is not their ability use magic, that nation isn't really a magocracy in the first place.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The heir need not be the mage's child. \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Apr 20 '14 at 0:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lohoris It's true that the heir need not be the mage's child. However, that just solves the ability score requirement. The heir still needs to be A) someone the mage (and state) are willing to trust, and B) A caster of equivalent ability and power to the mage. Individuals with both of those qualifications are hard to come by. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Apr 22 '14 at 7:53

You seem to be asking two questions here, one is why Magocracies and Theocracies do not exist, and another question is how can they exist? Most of the information about different types of rule can be found in DMG, p. 140.

Let me try to answer the second question first. I am currently building a world where a Magocracies and Theocracies societies exists. Mainly because I wanted something where Wizards, Clerics and Druids run a large portion of the world. A Magocracies can exists because wizards are powerful characters, and are probably one of the most versatile character there is in D&D. You could create a wizard build whose spell list help with ruling a society. A wizard who can enchant people (or communicate, or read minds, and the list goes on) will be a powerful ruler.

The Theocracies is another example where it is relatively simple to build a cleric or druid who can rule. I have a nation that is ruled by a lawful good clergy and another nation who are ruled by druids. All of these character classes are very versatile and therefore builds are relatively easy to create.

So can you have a rule which is not a Magocracies or Theocracies. I did not want all cities in this world to be ruled by clerics, druids or wizards. So I created a city which has defences so that an army (or non-stealthy character) attacking it will not succeed. Instead, stealth is necessary to overtake the city. I have decided to make the ruler of this city to be a bard (but it could have been any class), who gets help from rogues and assassins. In a city or land you can have a ruler who rules by their charisma. The ruler may not need to be the most powerful character, but instead by the most likeable character. One of the important things to remember is that the majority of the population are not clerics, druids or wizards. And unless a character has a way to convince the people that they should be the ruler, then it isn't going to happen, no matter how much they jump up and down and say, "I am your leader!".

The same logic applies to other forms of rule, such as, Monarchy, Tribal or Clan Structure, Republic.


Magocracies and theocracies do exist in the DnD world, though they are admittedly limited in number. An excellent example of a magocracy is Thay in the Forgotten Realms. Other excellent examples are the city of Greyhawk while Zagyg ruled and Iggwylv's kingdom. So they do and have existed.

One reason they are not larger in number is that a mage's/cleric's powers are, by nature in the rules, limited. They only have so many spells per day. A large enough group of people can overcome that limited number of spells. Another reason they are not more frequent and longer lasting is that good clerics and mages do not typically seek to rule and evil clerics and mages are constantly in the line of fire for other evil clerics and mages seeking to take over their powerbase and thousands of groups of roving adventurers seeking to overthrow their evil rule and pillage their treasuries.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I know they do exist. :) What I don't really get (see my question) is why they are not the dominant governmental forms. (Good clerics and mages not seeking to rule seems a shabby official stance to me. Given their powers and/or actual divine guidance, these two groups could prevent tons of evil by taking the lead. And being good, they probably would act to help their societies.) \$\endgroup\$ – OpaCitiZen Jan 22 '11 at 17:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good points. However, acting to help their society does not necessarily mean being in positions of political power. How many real life political leaders are acting to help their societies? Virtually none in any nation I am familiar with. Far more good is done by churches outside of the political landscape. I see no reason why the worlds of DnD should work differently. \$\endgroup\$ – BBlake Jan 22 '11 at 19:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Again, comparing real life figures to leaders in a DnD world doesn't seem the best idea because of DnD's way less ambiguous alignments, with similarly aligned and unquestionable deities and afterworlds (let alone the existence of visibly working magic.) The head of a (worldwide) lawful good church of a lawful good deity will not & can not be anything else but lawful good. Try to usurp that position and it's actual angels knocking on your door to ask a question or two, with all the fluff (like flaming swords and divine wrath. :)) Otherwise you get Armageddon, end of your game world. \$\endgroup\$ – OpaCitiZen Jan 22 '11 at 19:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OpaCitiZen Trying to usurp the position within a lawful good church would likely have actual angels and divine wrath and all that. But you will have evil churches directly trying to subvert your church, and even other lawful good organization may be competing on slightly more friendly but disruptive terms to acquire your followers, arguing about methods and priorities and who is in charge. And that assumes a true devotion for good. At least arguably you could have someone that truly is good...but focuses his help on those who can afford to give large donations to his church... \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Dec 16 '13 at 19:37

A non game-mechanic explanation:

Think about the nature of a DM. They get to make hundreds of characters to populate the world you play in. This gives them a great amount of creative expression lets call it. How many in that position (that choose make governments a significant part of the gaming experience) would willingly choose to have the same cookie cutter government in each nation in their world? DMs (and by extension, their campaigns) thrive on variety. They'd get bored too fast by every country being a Magocracy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm afraid the same holds true of "traditional" -cracies. And they not only get boring after a while, their existence seems (to me, at least) less justified and/or less sustainable in the framework presented by the rules of DnD than that of a magocracy or theocracy. \$\endgroup\$ – OpaCitiZen Jan 22 '11 at 20:32


It's a question of economics, as explored here 2 and here.

Combining the ideas found there, we get four criterion: imagination, impact, ability, rarity.

Imagination is the really nasty one. Looking at the philosophies extant in the time period, the feudal system has been entrenched for ages. Quite literally, ages. People cannot imagine an "enlightened" (see the englithenment) government. Mages would not seek to rule because ruling by force as a group of mages is unthinkable. Instead, we get the idea of aristocrats in a D&D economy: people who exist to marry the people who would otherwise take over by force. Thus, the primary stumbling block is imagination: mages see to influence from the background, dominate from the background, or marry into the regal line because that's how it's done. It also helps that all of the other nations would immediately go to war to protect the "feudal system" (ala the various peasant uprisings that happen with depressing frequency.) Since those other rulers have (de facto) married or are high-level adventurers, a non-standard government cannot last, due to a lack of imagination.

Impact is the other side of the coin. Raise dead skews the nature of society. The government may not be called a theocracy, but you can be certain that the lord listens to the gent who can make sure that the fatal misadventure the heir apparent gets into... isn't. Of course, it's hard to get raise dead, but the same impact may be found at the village priest who, through action, insures that the village doesn't starve over the winter, due to purify food and drink. Feudal states aren't theocracies because the priests don't need to take over. They have the power, they have the finluence, and they have very little of the responsibility. If a priest wants to be called a lord, he marries into the local line with absolutely no fuss or bother.

Ability Not everyone can cast sufficiently high level spells to have an impact in 3.5 and earlier editions. Depending on the stats rolling of the game, every spell level increase is a rough order of magnitude increase in the day-to-day impact the individual can have. This, of course, is tailored by world, but when we combine it with the knowledge that most of the world cannot get enough nutrition to even have average stats, most clerics will be quite rare.

Rarity Besides ability, the critical control of high-level mages and clerics is rarity. In order to level, most people have to overcome lethal challenges. There are two factors at work here: a number of people won't overcome any given lethal challenge and monsters don't respawn. When you consider the economic impact of adventuring parties and the sheer amount of resources it takes to make a generic party, clerics and mages will be quite happy to utilize aristocrats who's only job in life is to make high-level adventurers happy.

All of these assume that magic items don't functionally exist as written in the 3.5 DMG. If they do then all bets are off. The ability to make arbitrary amounts of food for not much gold (on a village's scale) changes the entire game of latifundia and the point of 100 farmers to 1 other person. Over a couple generations a ring of sustenance has the same effect. This comes under the large heading of "try not to think about this" that 3.5 has.


A game doesn't have all theocracies or mageocracies because the given setting doesn't have that attribute. In a refreshingly straightforward and non-simulationist point of view, the setting, rather than the mechanics, controls the setting. Feudal systems didn't have mageocracies, therefore the setting designed around authentic feudal systems doesn't have one. At the same time, if the setting designer (sometimes the same person as the DM) wants to explore conflict and stories in a world of (power)ocracies, they are perfectly welcome to construct one. The mechanics quite explicitly don't care.

Looking at it from a mechanical point of view, the reason why the mechanics don't care is that the system is completely egalitarian if one is a PC. Any PC can learn Ritual Casting, therefore any PC can have the power of earlier editions magic-users and clerics. NPCs have whatever powers the DM grants them. The casual chains are reversed. In 3.5 the mechanics create the causes which shape setting. In 4e, the setting which shapes causes which shape instantiations of mechanics.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Monsters don't respawn? Well, they certainly breed, and some of them do respawn, sort-of (new undead raised, new monsters coming through portals, etc.) \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Apr 20 '14 at 0:22

I think you need to separate the classes from the politics. Love of politics/power is a different form of obsession than what these classes focus on.

Wizards become more powerful as they become more knowledgeable, and that knowledge goes hand in hand with obsessive interest in the subject. So many of their pursuits are intensely time consuming - just memorizing spells can take a lot of time. Why would someone who got into this profession want to spend any time doing anything else?

Clerics have an intense, all consuming relationship with their gods. Unless bureaucracy, accounting or politics are somehow in the god's portfolio, it seems more likely clerics would be motivated to support through some action rather than direct rule.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wizards, and especially Sorcerers, might just want to blow things up, or conquer stuff. Don't assume they want knowledge for knowledge's sake: that's way too stereotypic. \$\endgroup\$ – o0'. Jan 24 '11 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Lo'oris - I mostly agree, they could love magic for what they can get with it, rather than for itself. They are motivated to learn because more knowledge could end up with more satisfying kaboom. But Id think as well that would be more common for sorcerors since they don't have the same kind of time investments. \$\endgroup\$ – Lynn Jun 7 '11 at 7:28

Riffing off what Oddysey says, the clerics don't rule because their gods don't want them to rule. The gods want secular kings to rule (by divine right, of course) as they divide up society into those who work, those who fight, and those who pray. Exactly why this is important will depend on your gods, but generally the gods and their priests are happy to let the workers decide what crops get planted, and the warriors to decide how battles are fought, so long as they can keep building bigger and more glorious temples and continue to serve their gods as required.

Assuming, of course, that your model is medieval Europe. If you're going for a more ancient Mesopotamia or Egypt sort of thing, then the clerics will be ruling as semi-divine priest-kings.

  • \$\begingroup\$ With respect, I don't find this convincing. Clerics not ruling because their gods don't want them to sounds like... a deus ex machina solution. :D Kind of "just because." Okay, some gods may prefer their clerics that way. But all of them? For example Hextor, god of tyranny not wanting his best and most capable followers to rule? Come on. :) As for the medieval Europe model: consider how much power all the various religions held during the period, barely held in check, if at all, by worldly powers - add to this actual, DnD-like spellcasting, precognition and real divine interventions... See? \$\endgroup\$ – OpaCitiZen Jan 22 '11 at 19:08

What if there just aren't that many mages? Maybe the only mages in the setting are PCs and villians and a very few NPCs. Some of them indeed might have political aspirations, but just like in real life.. most people would rather do something other than work for the government. So the occasional mage might indeed be found in government, but there's probably more interesting work in spell research and such.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, some settings may be like this, but my question concerned itself with "generic" DnD, where mages and clerics don't seem so rare. \$\endgroup\$ – OpaCitiZen Jan 23 '11 at 0:43

Using the pre 4.0 D&D Assumptions of Magic we know the following things

1- That Clerics get their spells from powers that will withhold them if the cleric does not follow the power's ethos

2- Magic-users require study to prepare and use spellbooks. They also has to be literate (at least in whatever language spellbooks are written in).

Number 1 means that clerics are not entirely free actors in the world of the setting. While they have free will like any sentient being they face severe consequences if they go against the ethos of the power they worship. This is a powerful influence on their behavior

The reason why there are not more outright theocracies is that most powers don't wish it that way. Probably for the same reason why it not good idea for a parent to do certain things for a child after a certain age. Like a child if sentient beings are to grow and thrive they need to be able to do things on their own. Those powers that don't believe this are opposed and outnumbered by those they do, thus creating the pseudo medieval society of D&D.

In addition ruling is an occupation that would distract a priest from what is needed for proper worship. Many powers would find it easier just to separate the two and let the clerics lead the worshipping and the kings the rulings. Religion would unite the two and other individuals in that culture.

Number 2 Means that a magic-user needs time and support in order to learn their skill. Given the low productivity of pre-industrial society this naturally limits the number of magic-users that can be trained.

It can be argued that magic can produce the effect of the industrial revolution on agriculture. However understand at some point society was a bunch of wandering nomadic stone using tribemen. You have to get from that point to where magic expands agricultural productivity to the point where anybody can learn magic given the opportunity. It is reasonable by referee fiat that the campaign is a point in time where magic-users are established but not widespread and their impact on society is just starting on the productivity curve.

Other factors to consider is that religion armed with clerical magic would be a suppressing effect on the wielders of arcane magic. Wielders of arcane magic could be seen as an independent competitor of power and accordingly suppressed by various cultures.

Another is that While outright theocracies would be rare religion would dominate various cultures as it did in our own history. The various religion would be an important part of the identity of many cultures and shape individuals lives from cradle to grave. Whether they are king, warrior, peasant, blacksmith, or priest. The effect would even be more pronounced with the presence of divine magic.

In general the rule I have adopted for my own settings is historical + 20%. That the presence of divine and arcane magic produces a situation similar to our own historical (given similar circumstances) but with many thing easier to do and a healthier populace. Imagine Rome or Europe where the great historical plagues were little more than one of our bad flu seasons. Where famine seasons are few and very rare. Most of the hang-ups are do to the fact that various cultures treat wielders of magic as individual craftsmen and do not have any concept of industrial organization that would truly have an order of magnitude impact on the setting.

The key trick is remember is that the situation described by the D&D rules did not happen overnight. By playing with the timing of events you can get the type of campaign you want.


Consider the following quotes (that I am making up):

"Run a country? Nay, lad, that would distract me from my studies."

"We do not meddle in worldly affairs, my son."

"Oh, I will run this pathetic little country, once my plans come to fruition! Mwahaha-URK!" (falls over, bleeding to death)

"I am dealing with the elemental forces of nature. Why bother with petty human politics?"

"As long as the emperor leaves us alone, why bother? We have all we need."

"The gods guide the King, child. Our task is to serve."

I could go on, but the gist is that arcane power does not require worldly power. Reserve it for the truly power mad.


protected by Oblivious Sage Nov 9 '15 at 15:00

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