What level of magic do you like in your D&D campaigns?

Out of curiosity...

As a DM or even as a player...
What level of magic do you like in your D&D campaigns? How "much" magic? What place does it have in the world due to its lack or abundance? To elaborate on that, I've made a few categories which I believe help point out the most common types of approaches to magic (and the ammount of it) in D&D games, and medieval fantasy in general. They're as follow:

1- Mysterious.   Magic is a mystery to people in that world. Some know for a fact it exists, some doubt it, some believe in it just as they believe other rumors without real proof. Or else maybe magic isn't all that unheard of by the population, but access to it is so restricted that only a handful in the world can actually use it. These settings usually spawn very few magical items too. Magic-wielders are usually mysterious characters and the nature of magic isn't there so much to be explained, but more to cause wonder and remain at least partially a mystery. A good example of one such setting would be Game of Thrones; and some versions of Arthurian legends, where you have maybe only Merlin and Morgana as mages, and only Excalibur as a magical item.

2- Uncommon.   Magic is out there. There are wizards and magical stuff. People know that for a fact, but not many have had contact with magic or have necessarily ever seen anything magical. Magic in these settings tend to have a place of their own in the story of the world, usually not very much involved in the main social/political development of the world--which is in the hands of the warrior and/or noble class, much like in our real medieval times. Wizards and witches usually have their own orders, or are lone students of the arcane arts, or else maybe are counselors to kings but not kings themselves, etc. Whenever they do take part in government and politics it's usually some unique case or exception, or a limiting factor exists like in Dark Sun where only a handful of the world's rulers are allowed to even practice magic. Dragonlance can probably fit in here (by the age of the original books at least); so could Lord of the Rings, where you do see a lot magic but most of it is either in the grasp of a few, or is something natural, expontaneous and unexplained like the magic of the elves (arguably LOTR could fit into the next category too, I guess, but I think it's the main story in the books that focus more on the magical aspects, not a widespread use of magic in all Middle-Earth as a setting-thing); Dark Sun is another example, where magic is a fact and people live under the constant fear of their tyranical Sorcerer-Kings, but it is, however, mostly banned, forbidden, tightly controlled by the Athas's powerful rulers, and therefore not so much an everyday-thing for everyone.

3- Common.   There is magic, everyone knows, and probably everyone has seen or wielded something magical at some point in their lives. Depending on where you live and who you are, seeing and experiencing magic (even if not wielding it) isn't really something fantastical but something expected or common. Wizards are a rather common sight, at least in populated centers, and there are probably magic schools where students can enroll, and magic shops where any man with enough coins can get some magical gear. Magic-users have a high chance of being part of the social hierarchy as an established thing, and maybe Kings and Governor themselves are wizards. Still, magic isn't for everyone, and the whole of society does not revolve around magic. It is there but it is still a thing of its own. Forgotten Realms is probably the best example of this kind of setting.

4- Everyday Thing.   Magic is everywhere. Not only that, it is an everyday thing much like electricity is for us today in the real world. In a given city, at least a good part of the infastructure is powered by magic, and people rely and depend on magic even for their everyday lives. Usually in such settings magic is very much like science, at the grasp of almost anyone willing to understand it and wield it. Eberron is an example of one such setting, where cities have magical floating houses, magic-powered devices, and magical living golems are a common everyday thing to see. Spelljammer is another example, not a "world" per se, but the whole setting revolves around the idea of magical gears built and controlled more or less as a science, which allow people to travel in space where even more calculated-magic is needed for survival and exploration.

I'm probably more of a 1-Mysterious kind of guy. I just love that kind of fiction, but although I've run a few D&D games in those lines, probably most of my games fall into the 2-Uncommon category. Maybe because my players tend to like a bit more magic, or maybe because D&D has a lot of magic-related material in its books and I just feel like using a bit more of it. Nothing against categories 3 and 4, just not my favorite kind of D&D to DM, but I'd gladly play a good type 3 or 4 game too as a player.

So what about you?
I want difrent leveld for difrent campaign settings.
Obviously, all levels should be supported, but for home campaigns it depends. My current campaign world varies by region with most being of the level, "common", and 2 others being "everyday".

Edit: As a player I would really enjoy playing a Mysterious or Uncommon level of magic campaign, as I'm used to playing in the upper levels.

Disclaimer: Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of splitting up the party, sticking appendages in the mouth of a leering green devil face, accepting a dinner invitation from bugbears, storming the feast hall of a hill giant steading, angering a dragon of any variety, or saying yes when the DM asks, "Are you really sure?"

Depending on setting, I like them all.

That being said, my preference is usually for 3 or 4, but with one caveat: I also really like the "magic is a secret" thing.  So magic might be prevalent, but a large portion of the population could still be unaware of it.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.


The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.


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I like Eberron.
I also like Dark Sun.

Your guess is as good as mine.

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

There was another thread like this a while back, and I would like to help by mentioning a couple ideas that came up there.  First, if you want less magic in your setting, you can make NPC's however you wish, but when you let your players pick and advance spell-casters normally they become more common.  The idea is to say that the first few levels must be in non-spell-casting classes, so 1st level is delayed until 4th or 6th, for instance.  That, or each level in a spell-casting class takes x2, x3, or x4 experience.  This stops you from forcing multiclassing, and lets you let everyone reach 20th level in their class so it's better.
Like Edwin says, my taste actually changes (or, rather, I have no -direct- preference).  I play to live as my characters, so oftentimes the setting matters little once I've chosen what I'm playing and any single option won't alter that much.  For games I run, I tend to run between 2 and 3; everyone knows it exists, but its not so common that people feel comfortable running up and pestering a mage every time they see someone in robes.  They're more likely to assume they're a scholar or scribe first.  Of course, my current campaign is about a 4.5.  It rests just past everyday but typically expensive, yet just shy of ubiquitous (like, say, Eberron).  About the campaign level of early Renaissance scientific discoveries; there are ways to utilize them for everyone, but most people are busy living their lives and aren't entirely convinced these 'extravagant' things will ever reach such a level as to influece their lives as they know them.

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

1. Dark Sun, Taladas

2. Greyhawk, Krynn

3. Forgotten Realms

4. Eberron       
I've typically run high-fantasy settings: magic lamps light the city streets, teleportation is used by politicians traveling to summits, every town has a healer or enchanter or both...

...but right now I'm having hella fun with a relatively low magic (level 2?) Game of thrones ish campaign.
I like all of them when I play, the level of magic in a campaign doesn't change my enjoyment of the game that much.

When I run I like the extremes either very low magic and the PC's are the exception to this, or very high magic where inns have "cleaning stones" that you touch and pzzt it casts prestigitation on you and your clothing cleaning you head to toe.


Remember this is a public forum where people express their opinions assume there is a “In my humble opinion” in front of every post especially mine.  


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I like all of them, too. It depends on the world and how its richness is created. I also like when its not homogeneous for the world, so some regions can be high magic while others are  low magic.

But generally, I prefer uncommon for high fantasy settings and mysterious for sci-fi settings. In settings where magic is more common or everyday, I prefer some level of psionics or tech to take the mysterious role.

Where there is life there is hope... But for the truly faithful there is always hope, and it is not determined by either death or life." -- Tleilaxu Master Scytale.


As a general rule, my favorites all fall into roughly the Uncommon range, with caveats.

In Birthright, for example, the blood of the dead gods flows through the veins of the rulers, granting them magical powers.  On the other hand, wizards who aren't blooded can only cast up to 2nd level spells (unless they're elves), which makes magic basically either clerical (which by the way is explicitly not available to elves) or something you were born with.  The many restrictions on magic makes me classify Birthright as an Uncommon magic setting despite the presence of semidivine rulers of nations.

That said I'm perfectly happy to play in any setting that's good, regardless of its level of magic, I'd just get sick of them eventually and want to do something else.  (For example, I just recently finished playing in an Eberron campaign, which was great.  But our next D&D campaign is probably going to be in a setting that's lower-magic.)
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
It's common in the cities and uncommon in the countryside.

I dislike everyday.  I do have a lot of magic be mysterious.  I tell my players the PHB spell list is just the opinion of the leading magical authorities of the world.  There are other spells and items that work in mysterious ways.  So I like a lot of mystery in my magic but the very existance of magic is pretty well known.

"Magic? Not sure I believe in it. Met a wizard once, or he called himself a wizard, anyway. Can't say I was impressed.  Parlor tricks. But real magic? That's just stuff of stories."

"But....you brew potions for a living..."

"Potions aren't magic, boy! They're alchemy!" 
"Therefore, you are the crapper, I'm merely the vessel through which you crap." -- akaddk
i like anything that's not at an extremet end of the spectrum.

my usual preference is for something where PCs can use magic without risking a Salem Barbecue everytime they walk into a village. 
My opinion on this can be summed up thusly:

Any sufficiently understood and analyzed magic is indistiguishable from technology.

Now, this does not mean I don't like settings where 'magic' is really just fancy technology that uses odd rules.  That can be great.  It's just a thing you need to always be aware of.  Of course, I play with a bunch of tech heads and engineering types, and they tend to analyze their problems to death.  That may have impacted my experiences somewhat.
I line them all for getting the right feel of the campaign. From Dark She's limited magic (a 1 on the list) to my homebrew campaign Ravnica (a 4 on the list).