Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sage Advice

Every since I posted my Sage magic system article, I've been very introspective and honestly proud of the ruleset. Obviously I didn't invent the rules, but the way it's changed up the game I think is a big improvement. Here are all the reasons why ditching the MU and Cleric in your game and using the Sage instead might improve it.

[1] Generalist Classes
There's a lot of fun to be had creating unique and specific classes for your games. Swashbucklers who restore health by drinking grog and have an innate sense to find buried treasure. Wilderness Survivalist experts. Illusionists. Hound-Masters. These classes are instantly brimming with ideas and personality, and I know that many people would want to play as them or have them in their game. But as for as basic rules go for the most basic and generalist classes; they don't fit for those purposes. This is not to mention the restrictions of the setting the game is placed in; a game based on arabian tomb robbers skulking around in Egyptian pyramids doesn't really fit having pirates and the like, not to mention the tech level restrictions.

Some people dislike the Cleric for the above reasons, due to the obvious christian religious connotations of the class and the specific ability to turn undead; what if you don't have undead in your campaign or game world? Wizards aren't as much of a sore spot but some people dislike the method of casting as being the standard for the setting; Vancian magic to conjure fire and perform strange feats of alteration doesn't really fit all settings. The sage, however, fits just about every setting. They are the healing Shamans, the wise monk, the misunderstood witch of the village. And from a gameplay standpoint, they will always be useful; somebody will always be hurting or under the effect of something for them to attempt to help.

[2] Setting Implications
Many people question the inclusion of the traditional magic user for internal consistency for fantasy settings. Why have traditional armies if Wizards have great offensive magic? Why do people need to labor and work when Wizards can summon things, cast Unseen Servant, or animate undead to work? Why do people farm if the ability to conjure things is on the table?

These questions are squashed by the Sage. There's no question as to why there are armies, in fact Sages travel in support OF these armies, the healers and support units. There's no question as to why a town would tolerate a magic user living among them, as these magic users are the healers and spiritual protectors of the town. With several of the more world-breaking types of magic being off the table by removing the MU, the game's setting can exist without difficulty in its medieval stasis.

[3] Keeping Magic Magical
Some people dislike healing magic or common health potions in a setting because it ruins the feeling of 'magic' and 'strangeness' to the exploration and fantastic parts of the setting. I respect this opinion, but from a gameplay sense you're going to be using any kind of item that heals, as well as restoring your health naturally, much more often then not. It's an integral part of the game.

But you know what also ruins the sense of mystery in a setting? If magic users can reliably cast spells that do all kinds of crazy stuff, magic becomes more common and banal. Instead of having a magic user just casting a spell, now spells actually have to be found or 'made' as items or through other methods. Instead of learning fireball and having unlimited access to it, you actually have to find a ball of fire in a jar, or a wand of fireballs and conserve it. Sages in this system can still do all the cool stuff Wizards can, but you can ration it out. Whenever your Fighters are getting magic weapons and armor, and your Rogues are getting weird drugs and magic masks, your Sages are getting all the cool toys of the MU, without any of the overhead.

[4] Fixing (Perceived) Unbalance
Many of the balance problems in later editions of D&D are not present in oldschool games or oldschool style games. “Balance” is also a point of contention and many argue that balance is not important for cooperative games. However many players still complain about the balance between non-magical characters and caster characters. I also believe that magic users are 'unbalanced' in terms of a conceptual nature. Rulebooks spend way too much time cataloging all the spells, magic abilities, and restrictions of the magic user. They feel as a bloated class, as well as having the power to end puzzles or encounters in a snap.

By switching to Sages, you are actually making the Magic User and/or Cleric, in some ways, less interesting. But is this a bad thing? I'd say no- you're making them equally interesting to the other classes and not as (directly) powerful. By making them a Support unit, you're making them integral to the party and highly desired instead of feeling like they are stealing the show. Even better, they aren't actually underpowered at all. In fact, their combination of abilites and high healing/curing potential might make them even more powerful then before.

[5] The Thief
You may wonder what this has to do anything; but fear not. The Thief seems to be second or third on the chopping block for OSR bloggers and homebrewers, right after the racial classes and cleric. Many people complain about the thief being weak or messing up the game in some way due to the nature of their abilities. But this actually isn't a problem with the thief, it's a problem with an MU. With the MU being the main puzzle-solving and obstacle-ending character, including spells which just do what the thief does but better, the thief feels like a weak or unnecessary class.

Sages fix that. Removing that power from the magic user, the thief is suddenly given a place on the party as the best stealth and puzzle-solving character. Instead of the magic user just using up a spell to spider climb or levitate up to a button 30ft up on a dungeon wall, you'd actually have to give the thief a purpose to climb up it. Or your party can solve it in more interesting ways, like using the magic torture rack in the next room that stretches you to be extremely tall temporarily, but is very painful to use. Or gluing three 10ft poles together and trying to poke it. All of these solutions make for a more fun and memorable roleplaying experience then the MU casting a spell and trivializing it.

No comments:

Post a Comment