What is a Specialist?

I’ve played a couple of specialized Magic-Users while playing AD&D and 3rd edition D&D. I liked the concept in a way, but at the same time it always felt a bit like min-maxing; the benefits of a specialist in the regular D&D rules were always far greater than the drawbacks.

What I find strange is that this should be some sort of sub-class. Specialized magic-users are defined by one thing; the kind of magic they use. This option, however, is completely open to a “normal” magic-user. Want to be an illusionist? Learn a lot of illusion spells and use them as your preferred weapon of choice. To my mind, that makes you an illusionist.

I do like the general idea that a magic-user would choose to specialize in a type of spells, though. A mixture of circumstances, personality and availability should probably influence the spell repertoire of all magic-users, and some would naturally choose a more narrow path. They research new spells within their chosen field and attract apprentices with the same focus, and gradually an entire school, cult or college might be founded.

I use specialized mages in my game, but I do it in this way; they have access to unique spells (as in distinct from those in the regular rulebook) but that access is not restricted by rules but by circumstance. Sometimes a special pact or action is required to harness their type of magic. Sometimes, casting the spells themselves leaves a mark on the caster which will over time set them apart from others. Most times, it is simply a matter of finding someone to teach you the specific magic, which might require membership in a specific order or living by some kind of code.

  • The dreaded Necromancer is nothing more (or less) than a mage who seeks knowledge of the undead and learns spells which let him create and control them, but among these twisted souls knowledge of some powerful and forbidden rituals are passed.
  • The Viper Mages of Al’Kulia fuel their unique spells with the venom they must constantly saturate their blood with, and the marks this leaves on their body strikes fear into all inhabitants of the Khalifate of Imrah.
  • The Fire Walkers live ascetic lives and strive for bodily perfection in order to master the difficult somatic components of their unique brand of spells which harness fire and heat.
  • The Order of the Seven Secrets is a society of mages who share a few unique spells used for scrying, but which most importantly teaches a special ritual which opens a portal to a sealed fortress in the Astral to which only order members have access.

I’ve prepared one special example where the drawbacks are very much tangible – the heretics who learn the spells from the Liber Heresiac, either to protect themselves from the prosecutions of the Trinity Church or because they resent the church for some other reason. Casting these spells will mark you as a target for the church, but the spells themselves are potent weapons to use against those of the faith.

You can take a look at the Liber Heresiac here or find it in the Library.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “What is a Specialist?

  1. I got rid of the specialization of mages and priests and now restrict spells by the character’s STATED alignment. . . A character may NOT use a spell of opposite alignment (good – evil, law – chaos) and gains a bonus to learning or memorizing spells of similar alignment . . .

    … .
    Divine spheres or magical schools that are considered Good (G) or white magic are conjuration, creation, healing, honor, nobility, sun and water.
    …..
    Divine spheres or magical schools that are considered evil or black magic are curses, darkness, death, destruction, disease and necromancy
    ….
    Any caster may use general ( – ), universal or unassigned magic; such as those arts which involve animals, divination, evocation, fire, knowledge, nature, transmutation, travel, weather and wish.
    .. .
    Divine spheres or magical schools that are considered Lawful (L) are abjuration, alchemy, earth, justice, protection, runes, strength and war.
    ..
    Divine spheres or magical schools that are considered Chaotic (C) are air, charm, enchantment, illusion, liberation, luck, plants, trickery and zephyr.

  2. Cool concept! I’ve thought a bit about that myself, but my players seem to appreciate my slightly more “ad-hoc” approach so I’m sticking with it for now.

  3. Pingback: What’s in your mind? | Deep Delving

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s