Thursday, February 13, 2014

Understanding the Working Wizard

Thinking old school gaming...

So you have character classes like Fighting Man and Magic User and then you have NPCs who do real jobs, like blacksmith or apothecary or even castle guard.  Now it might be that the castle guard is actually a 2nd level Fighting Man, but the blacksmith and apothecary?  No, they are just regular working people.  They are what the adventurers would be if they had to give up their adventuring and get real jobs.  Of course these workaday NPCs do get better at their jobs through practice and training, but PCs have to earn experience by going out in the world and completing quests.  Imagine then that the blacksmith does earn experience, but it is very specific experience.  He learns his craft and that is what he "levels" as he lives his life.  The PCs, however, aren't working or training or practicing.  No, they are going out in the world and having experiences and from this they learn.  This experience might be practical, such as the first time they meet a rust monster and learn what a rust monster does and how to deal with that, or it might be hard to define.  For that there are experience points.  Either way the PCs must go out and find more and more experiences to get better because that is, more or less, their calling in life.

So what has this to do with wizards?

Well traditionally we see wizards in towers (or dank dungeons) full of magical paraphernalia such as candles, tomes, stuffed creatures, magic circles on the floor, symbols all over the place, perhaps cauldrons as well.  Does this bear any resemblance to the average adventuring wizard?

Well, no.  But we know that wizards can research spells and scribe scrolls and brew potions and enchant items, all of which requires an outlay of time and gold, and requires labs and such.  So how is the adventuring wizard different from this other type?
A working wizard...this is what he does ALL DAY.

Consider the non-adventuring wizard a "working" wizard.  His job is being a wizard.  He studies magic, focusing on the deeper mysteries of magic for his own reasons such as a thirst for forbidden knowledge or profit.  These sorts of wizards don't gain experience from killing monsters or delving dungeons, but they do learn and study and practice.  They don't bother with weapons or fighting, spending their time amassing libraries full of material, including spell books, but also histories, philosophies and other tomes.  They build labs and research spells.  They are to wizards what blacksmiths are to warriors, creators of the tools used for adventure and action.
Adventuring Wizard! (note the sword and combat beard)

Now the adventuring wizard is a different story.  For the adventuring wizard the adventuring is his actual job, not the wizarding.  Think about it; it is the truth.  The adventuring wizard spends the bulk of his time exploring dungeons, trekking through the wilderness and battling monsters.  He does employ magic (at times) to do this, but he does not have the time to simply stop the action and look through his library of magical tomes for the right spell, or to pause in the middle of a ritual (not that he has time to set up and perform a ritual with a horde of bloodthirsty orcs bearing down upon the party) to find the perfect reagent for the spell.  He has to cast a timely spell to blast the orcs or save the party from an earthquake.  He can gain magical knowledge through research but he gets the vast bulk of it from exploration of the world (and plundering of dungeons where a old spell books or some scrolls are found in the treasure horde).  He also has to fight in melee at times and while he'll never be the combatant that his fighter and cleric friends are, he learns about weapons and tactics in a sort of on-the-job training.  For this reason (dependent upon the system) he only has a few key spells ready (or spell points) and often relies on magical trinkets to round out his arsenal.

Certainly, as it was in the old school days, the adventuring wizard can settle down and retire (or semi-retire) and build a tower and spend more and more of his time doing the "working wizard" things, perhaps inventing several new spells that adventuring wizards will no doubt use in their own careers (possibly paying a pretty silver for as well) making legends of the creators.  The adventuring wizard is a more eclectic magic-user than a working wizard who spends his whole time focusing on single goal or a battle mage that studies at some academy to be a mobile siege engine on the field.  Adventuring wizards tend to learn their spells by finding them in old treasure hordes or researching them when they have some downtime and the cash.  Yet they are also more versatile and level faster.  If you are going to play old school you have to embrace this notion of the Swiss Army Wizard, or as a friend of mine puts it "the iWiz...I've got a spell for that".  Sure he won't be turning lead into gold anytime soon, but when you have to jump off the edge of a gorge to escape a rampaging orc horde Feather Fall is a far more useful thing to have than a pocket full of loose change.

Greatest Wizard of all!

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