Tuesday, 20 July 2010

An open question for player character magic-users

While you have been dodging poisoned darts ... haggling with henchmen ... recovering from grievous wounds ... hauling back copper pieces in 50 pound sacks or on your own personal floating disk ... blasting monsters with the same old reliable spells, day in day out ... hoping to dig up some old scrap or spellbook by slaying in cold blood another dungeon-grubbing junior wizard ...

THEY - your classmates who stuck around - have been writing letters, making friends in high places, getting library doors opened for them - sitting down at table every day with a dozen or so high intelligence grinds, the best in their class - eating, drinking and sleeping magic 18 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What do you think they have been learning?

Do you think it possible that the sum total of Magic is not contained, even as a tangible fraction, within the Players' Handbook? Do you really think that's all there is, what they allow you dabblers to learn when you come back to the academy to "level up" - as you so amusingly call it?

Do you think you may have to consult someone else, through long, bitter, trial and error experience, for the real Rules?

And - even when you become a Wizard - are you still going to be a roving, rootless, Schmendrick to them?


  1. Adventuring wizards as the work study+part time job students at the school? Those that have to take their skills and use them for less than theoretical arcane studies? Practical magics? I like it... Do his fellow adventurers know that he's the lowest of the low? Or does he hide that from them?

  2. Yeah, maybe those scholastic wizards might know Percival's Pedicure Enhancement or Zorrian's Astrological Toiletry but fireball solves a heck of lot of arguments.

  3. I like those two attitudes, actually.

    How do adventuring wizards stand in relation to their scholastic brethren? Are they the lowest of the low? Or the secret agents - despised by some, but called on to get whatever jobs need doing?

    Or (a third option) are the adventurer wizards destined to be better than the scholars? Standard bearers of a new Renaissance ... chafing against the scholastic limits of the standard spellbook ... delving into far ruins and strange places for what remains of the wisdom and power of the ancients.

  4. This brings to my mind the differences between a composer/musician like Frank Zappa and a less remarkable tenured university music professor. Note that Zappa had a single semester of music at a community college, toured around the world with great henchmen who all used some of the best equipment while making money ascending to the highest levels of proficiency and respect among his peers. When you are a star who has survived the journey you are experienced in a way that the virtual world of academia won't provide.

  5. And how awesome a wizard would Frank Zappa make, I ask you?

  6. I'm guessing this little spiel is a justification/introduction for the "higher mysteries" (or something along those lines) you mentioned in an earlier post. 8^)

    But going by the university analogy, I think you're glossing over the part where those ivory-tower academic wizards, surrounded by the best and brightest as they are, still have a lot of drains on their time.

    The tower wizards are the ones who are spending hours each day for years in slow, painstaking (or slipshod and very painful?) experimentation. They observe the cycles of the heavenly bodies, gather and refine resources, and then combine them in different ratios and manners, they consult with spirits, they construct summoning circles and mandalas and diagrams.

    Being in a group has lots of advantages... but then the politicking starts. Who's in power? Who wants to take that power from them? What policies, potentially detrimental to everyone's research, do those in power enact to make sure they don't have it taken away?

    And meanwhile, their facilities require supply and upkeep. What do they eat? How do they get their powdered silver, bat wings, and crystal shards? Who teaches the novices, manages the apprentices, pays the servants? How long does it take to replace the Eastern Tower after it's leveled by a firestorm or tidal wave of rats, or simply detaches from this reality and floats away?

    Does the sedentary lifestyle of a research wizard give them time, leisure and income to start a family, make friends, take up hobbies, get involved in civilian life? How much of their time and other resources do those lay pursuits consume?

    And what do these tired, overworked wizards think when the adventurer, relatively fit from hiking across the land and back again, flush with cash and public accolades, comes traipsing in and asks if there's any new research that they can take into the field and gain lots of experience in using?