This question is in a sense related to "What RPGs treat magic as being common?"

Aside from the WotC published setting of Dark Sun where magic is treated as something to be shunned, are there any home-brew settings published or posted on the 'net that provide either a home-brew setting or tools for a low-magic adventure?

What I am looking for here is:

  • A pre-existing campaign setting
  • A series of rules with a low-magic campaign in mind
  • Weapons specifically adapted for a low-magic setting (example: giving bonuses based on material made with as opposed to being magically imbued.)

Any or all of the above listed would be great for what I have in mind.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ For the weapons, that just sounds like a flavor reskin. All weapons are bronze, all +1 weapons are iron, all +6 weapons are adamantinium etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Jun 30, 2011 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've seen something along the lines for 3.x that was similar to that, just wondering if there was something similar for 4e. Now that I think about it, I might just try to hunt down that thread. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30, 2011 at 13:43

3 Answers 3


Here are some house-rules that might be useful as a guideline in your search.

Use only Martial and Psionic classes. At 3rd, 8th, 13th, 18th, 23rd, 28th levels characters get a +1 to attack, damage, AC, Defenses and +1d6 to critical hits. This should keep them in line with monsters. Using Divine classes would be a judgement call, are they 'magic' or more a type of deity granted power? I personally would leave them out, so as to not cloud the issue.

Remove most magic items entirely. Change the ones with just plusses into "power-bonus" type items, maybe they are a very high craftsmanship or design. If you do use them, keep them well below the group level, 5 levels or so lower should be good.

Keep most of the potions. These would seem to fit into a low magic campaign. You can 'invent' herbs and components to justify the ones you want to keep.

Artifacts would be the main "magic items" of the campaign world, very very rare and too scary to use. Good plot hooks.

Keep rituals, since they are less combat oriented and more difficult to cast in general. May add some additional requirement to use them.

You are going to need to adjust or not use monsters on a case by case basis. Low-magic is going to eliminate some out-right, but most should be usuable.

That should do the job I think.

I had one addtional thought to add -- If you don't want to completely remove magic but just restrict it then allow the magic classes but limit their level advancement. Say maybe no higher than 7-10th level and they can only gain 10-25% of the normal XP other classes get.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ psionic seems pretty magical to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Jul 7, 2011 at 6:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thought about that, and it could go either way I think. If it is too much like 'magic' drop those classes or weaken them. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 7, 2011 at 13:06

Looking here, there are some interesting meta-themes running throughout Erets and City-States In Chaos, LAI, and Patronage which can certainly work for your requirements.

Both Erets and LAI have restrictions on magic and magic items. The basic structure of those restrictions depends on eliminating, restricting, or reducing the effectiveness of keywords.

Functionally, in order to have a successful low-magic game there are a number of hurdles that you need to jump (DC 15). First, there are magic items and their bonuses. Using the intrinsic bonus rules from dark sun is the best way to dramatically reduce the need for magic items. You may also want to use the alternate magic item rules found here from square fireballs. With inherent bonuses, the need for a new sword/armor/neck every 5 levels basically goes away. Square fireballs' items can be rationalized as common items are unmagical, uncommon items and rare items are rare and one of each exists in the world, named.

Allow for martial practices (MP2, I believe) instead of rituals.

Instead of forbidding classes outright, work with a player to reflavour a class so that it fits. A wizard would be throwing alchemical items around instead of spells (and potentially be forbidden the teleportation keyword). A cleric would be a charlatan getting quite a lot of help from some herbs and spices and the placebo effect. This way, the classes "feel" right for your world, but you're not throwing out a significant majority of the books.

For further emphasis, strongly urge your players to take skill powers instead of non-martial utility powers.

You may want to consider removing the half-level bonus or other level-scaling effects from things. Most of the math will need fixing, but it'd make a feeling of "we're all equalish" here... and since the big bad will have artifacts for armor, make him way scarier. However, the means of removing the half-level bonus is not something I've found adequate documentation on in the web and would probably make for an excellent followup question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ha! Approve of the jump check DC joke. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Jul 6, 2011 at 23:02

EDIT: this setting is official, but it may be what you are looking for, i dont know if you are familiar with it and so you ask for homebrew alone. I think that you may be interested in the Dark Sun campaign, it has magic but life force needs to be drained to be used (its mostly flavor, but there are rules for it that you can enhance if you find it too poor). There are psionics in Dark Sun, but it is always up to the DM to decide how rare or common psionics/defilers(the mages that drain life force to cast spells) are. Also, there is a system called inherent bonuses, to get rid of magic items, and it has different matterials for armor and wepons, as steel and iron are pretty hard to find, even though i cant remember if they give different bonuses, thats what inherent bonuses are about.


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