Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Why I hate Wizards and How to Fix Them.

I hate Wizards. I hate that nerds love Wizards. I hate that they're a nerd power fantasy.  I hate that they're always caster de rigueur, and all casters are compared to them. I hate the tedious smarter-than-thou, arrogant stereotypical Wizard. I hate the 'be a God, use the big dumb fighter' tone implicit in Wizarding and Wizarding-related discourse. Most of all, I hate the fact that Wizards do magic better than people who sold their souls or whose granddad was a fucking dragon. People empowered by Gods are standing alongside someone who studied really, really hard (off-screen, before the campaign...) at some never again mentioned budget Hogwarts.

It's a prejudice, but I'm not ashamed. 
You see, almost every other Caster has a built-in DM hook, or connection to the world. A Druid has his forest, or nature. A Warlock has his patron. A Cleric has his god. A Sorcerer has his ancestry. You owe your magic to someone or something, and the significance and nature of that relationship can power your roleplay. You could easily be a reluctant Cleric who doesn't want or value his followers or faith. You could be a Sorcerer obsessed with your Fey ancestry and claiming status in the court of the Fairy King of Woe and Winter. You could be a Warlock who lost his soul to Old Scratch in a game of chance, and be obsessed with luck in such games because if you master that you might reclaim your soul. 

These bonds to the world give your DM a bone to throw your character, and something for your backstory to explain. A Wizard just is. Boring. You level up and you get a new pile of spells and everything is hunky-dory.

I have two fixes.

First, let's give Wizards a Bond. No, not the 5e bond that you wrote down on your character sheet and forgot about. A relationship. Something your Poundland Gandalf gives a shit about.

Roll a D10.

1. You were trained in magic by a mysterious, Odinic wanderer who also imparted to you their cut-throat Machiavellian, magic-makes-right philosophy and expects you to follow it.
2. You trained at a for-profit College of Magic and the fees are exorbitant. You're adventuring to pay off your student loan.
3. You learned at a Monastery where discipline was strict and frugal. You fled halfway through your training. You are scarred by the experience and dread other alumni.
4. You were trained by a Master Mage, who considers you a minion of theirs and will ask for favours. Their morality is flexible.
5. You trained at a state-sponsored Magic Academy, with the expectation your magic would be at the disposal of the government when asked.
6. A local criminal family put you through Magic School in return for a later favour.
7. You were trained by an illiterate hedge-witch. As you could read, you surpassed her mastery and earned her resentment.
8. You learned from a Coven or Magic Circle who are being oppressed by the authorities for illegal magic.
9. You 'borrowed' a spellbook from your Master when you were a servant.
10. You learnt magic from an important campaign villain. 

The second fix is simple: spell-books and spell-scrolls are hard to get. A Wizard has the potential to master almost all magic, if they can get their hands on spellbooks. The easiest way to do this is to appropriate them for other Wizards. As a result, life as a Wizard is incredibly cut-throat, and many people will murder a Wizard just to try and sell his spellbooks on to interested parties. Meetings of wizards are rare and have palpable tension: the arcane equivalent of two bar-fighters sizing each other up. This inculcates enormous paranoia and social darwinist attitudes among most Wizards.

To achieve this, just rule that a Wizard can only acquire new spells by finding them in treasure (for 5e, I'd give them the spells from their School for free). Correspondingly, they can eventually master every spell on the Wizard list (spells prepared remains constant.). This gives them a constant pressure to, through cooperation, coercion or incineration, acquire their magic, and gives them in-game incentives ad roelplay ideas just as the Warlock, Wizard or Cleric have.

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