How to Make Magic Prominent in Your D&D Setting

Galen, City of Magic, is known for its eccentric populace, innovative spellcasting, and sky-reaching towers. Of great renown to all outside the city are its sorcery parlors. These establishments are run by magic-users who augment customers with arcane power. Some customers seek more strength, others want to change their body permanently. The parlors comply and make changes using various forms of arcane magic. Part of the time, the change is permanent. The rest of the time, the magical enchantment fades…

I’m preparing for my next Dungeons & Dragons campaign that’s probably going to be set in Galen, City of Magic. It’s the capital of a newly-established magocratic nation and the center of innovation, learning, and study of magic in my homegrown world. Arcana oozes into everyone’s life, whether they’re a peasant of unfortunate circumstance, a magewright fixing everlit lanterns, a half-orc bodyguard, or a goblin bandit posing as a halfling circus performer. In Galen, magic is everywhere — it’s integrated into everyday life.

If that’s the case, I need to ensure that is how the city feels to my players and their characters. If your world is also high magic and you want to instill the same feeling in your players, then this article is for you.
Let’s discuss how to make magic prominent in your D&D setting.

Include “Everyday Magic”

If our setting is high magic, it should be used in everyday life. It shouldn’t be a craft only studied by wizards, utilized by sorcerers, and gifted to clerics. It should be a tool wielded by the common man, feared by the soldier, and used by the populace. There are plenty of ways to include “everyday magic” in your high magic setting.
  1. Everlit lanterns line the streets of high magic societies, ensuring the roads are safe & bright.
  2. Explorers, armies, and merchants use airships to traverse massive distances in a short amount of time.
  3. Golems serve as eternal guardians, protecting banks, museums, and mansions from assault during all times of day.
  4. The city watch utilize divination magic to solve cases of murder, robbery, and espionage.
  5. Rich guilds and notable organizations carve teleportation circles into their headquarters, allowing easy access between outposts.
  6. Taverns and inns implement cleansing stones in their latrines, leading to increased cleanliness.
  7. Magewrights, also called working class wizards, maintain everyday magical devices, they’re as prevalent as stonemasons and more prevalent than armorsmiths.
  8. Street performers clearly use magic in their acts but claim it’s just their raw talent.
  9. Armies of melee and ranged combatants are bolstered by war wizards who act as the artillery of the force.
  10. Shop owners create traps to protect their store and goods that dissuade poor thieves and encourage rogues to learn about the arcane.
By implementing even a few of these, magic will feel much more prominent in your world. However, there are ways to make it even more real.

Let People Talk About Magic

Humans, halflings, elves, dragonborn, dwarves, and other races who live in an extremely magical society most likely talk about it as if it’s normal to them. They’re not fascinated by displays of arcane practice or magic-users draped in an otherworldly cloak of stars. Instead, they brush it off as a commonality. Most folks inundated with magic aren’t scared of iron golems roaming the streets; in fact, it bolsters their sense of security! If magic is an everyday occurrence, don’t let your people deeply respect or fear merely competent spellcasters. Ensure the populace only shows reverence for the most powerful magic-users, ensure they are only mystified by the most awesome display of magic. All other times, they talk about magic like it’s a tool. As walkers of Earth, we often forget magic is quite common in many high fantasy worlds. We must treat let our people treat it properly. Understand this: people in your world care about magic. As outlined above, it betters their lives in a variety of ways. It lets them travel across continents and solve murders with ease. However, it’s not as fascinating as it would be to commoners in a rural village. Context is key.

An Example: Parlors of Sorcery

Earlier, I mentioned parlors of sorcery. They can be interesting additions to any D&D campaign and excellent opportunities for the party to interact with magic in your setting. 

Spread across Galen are establishments called parlors of sorcery. In exchange for favour or coin, the spellcasters within augment customers with arcane power. Some customers seek more strength, others want to change their body permanently. The parlors comply and make the changes using various forms of arcane magic and witchery.

5% of the time, the change is permanent. The rest of the time, it fades.

Rich folk may be inclined to purchase multiple augmentations but that comes with possible side effects. These range from disfigurement and inability to use augmentations to permanent health issues or death. The number of augmentations increases the chance to experience a terrible side effect.

After one augmentation, the chance of something going wrong during the process is 60%. Every augmentation above one adds 5%.

Thus, one augmentation leads to no side effects, but every augmentation after that can be extremely dangerous. Parlors of sorcery add flavor to your world and provide your group with a chance to mechanically interact with magic. This might incentivize those who only seek mechanical gain to immerse themselves in your setting.

In Summary

High magic settings need to feel like they’re magical. A wizard here and a magic item there won’t suffice.
  1. Include everyday magic in your campaign. Show your players that magic drives your setting’s society forward.
  2. Ensure people talk about magic but aren’t too fascinated about it. They see it everyday, they’re not in a rural village where a mere firebolt will be the talk on the streets for days on end.
  3. Try using parlors of sorcery in your campaigns to immerse your players in magic. It’s mechanical and flavorful!
That’s all for today, folks. I’ll see you next week! If you’re interested in a different type of content, I’ll be releasing a lore-centric video on Path of Exile later this weekend. I’m proud of it and it’s a super interesting topic, if you’re into mysteries...

Stay creative!

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