Dungeons and Dragons: High vs Low Magic as a Player

Dungeons and Dragons: High vs Low Magic as a Player

I’ve previously posted about this (You can find it here), but that was from more of a world building aspect, if you’re playing in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, and your character is magical how does that affect how you might role play your character in the game?

Quick refresher, high magic means that magic is common and is used for common tasks or that towns will often have a healer or someone who can cast some spells. When people see you cast a spell they won’t want to either worship you or burn you as a witch. Low magic means that magic is rare. If you can do magic, you might be revered or you might be seen as an abomination that should be killed.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how it can affect how you role play in a game.

I think if you’re a magic user in a high magic world, you aren’t going to be set apart at a lower level. A spell like mend or cure wounds, your small towns are probably going to have someone who can do those things. People are just going to see that as normal and it won’t be until you start casting higher level spells that you’ll be considered special. In game, I would use that a motivation for a character, you want to be the best smartest wizard, most powerful sorcerer, or devout cleric. It gives a reason for a character to go off adventuring from their small town where they might be able to live a good life, but they want more because they’ve heard of that powerful and revered wizard who now consults for nations and can travel to other planes of existence, you want to be like that. Or maybe you have a rival who is just slightly better than you.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

You can also, since magic is common, take some role playing queues from maybe you are just common and not needed in your town. You can almost be kicked out to go find a small town where your skills are needed or maybe you’re just not as good yet, as the person in town, so they want you to take over as being the towns healer, but they send you away to get more experience first. So instead of leaving to make a name, you might be leaving to adventure so that you can come back home. I like this one because it can give you a nice hook for adventuring and gives the DM something to play with.

Let’s look at the flip side of this, what if there is very little magic in the world, how do you role play that?

Firstly, there’s always getting kicked out of your town because you’re a witch or needing to flee, especially if it isn’t a holy magic. So any class that isn’t Cleric or Paladin could be seen as being some sort of abomination. And if you’re a Warlock, maybe your pact actually is with a demon. But, how can you use that to role play. You might be out to prove that you are in fact great. Or prove that your town should have kept you around because some day they might need you. This is a very chaotic and potentially neutral or even possible for an evil character. And, again I like it for a hook as a DM, at some point in time, when you have the power to stop something to happening, I’d force you to make a decision, do you go back to your home town to save them or do you let them burn because they kicked you out? If you still have family there, did they kick you out or was it the town, do you need to still save them?

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Or, on the other hand, you might be almost revered. Does that make your character pompous because they can do something else that others can’t and everyone loves them for it? Will they hold that over everyone? I can see a couple of backstory hooks, one where the town sends out the person to save them from some impending doom because you are the best person for it in the town and you must be able to save them because you have magic. But what happens if you can’t? The other would be if you’re playing more a pompous character, are you going to go out and make a name for yourself because the town you’re from is too small? If someone did that, I would then definitely have something happen to the town that you could have stopped, and how does that affect the character? Is it an acceptable loss for their fame or do they feel guilt over something having happened?

There are a ton of hooks you can choose to play around with for both low and high magic worlds and playing a spell caster in them. I didn’t even get into how it might affect party dynamics, but that’s something you’d probably need to role play out with your own adventuring group. Do any of the hooks I’ve presented interest you? Have you played a character like any of those before?

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