D&D General Bizuids and Clercerocks

RainOnTheSun

Explorer
I was reading the "One thing I hate about the Sorcerer" thread (https://www.enworld.org/threads/one-thing-i-hate-about-the-sorcerer.703338/), and it gave me a moment of realization. I don't know how useful, boring, or obvious it will be to anyone else, but I wanted to write it down anyway. So, here's my scorching hot D&D take: Bards, wizards, and druids indicate one thing about the way magic works; clerics, sorcerers, and warlocks indicate another thing. And they aren't fully compatible.

To bards, wizards, and druids, magic can be accessed through human (or demihuman) endeavor, just like any other field of study, from archery to farming to medicine. You can study spellcasting in a detatched, analytical way, you can express yourself through it in an individual, creative way, or you can pursue a holistic understanding of you, magic, and your place in the greater natural universe. Each approach will teach you different lessons, but one way or another, you're doing things that, theoretically, any human being could do if their mind was expanded enough and they knew what you knew. The same way that, theoretically, anyone could do the fighter's twelve step Steel Vortex Deathblow if they knew the technique and their body was sufficiently conditioned to hold itself together while doing it.

To a cleric, a sorcerer, or a warlock, magic is not something an ordinary person can just "learn to do." You either need to have a special relationship with a supernatural being (cleric, warlock) or be some kind of supernatural being yourself (sorcerer). Either of these approaches are logically consistent on their own, but when you mix the two of them, you get weird dissonances. Why would a warlock sell his soul for power that he could just as easily learn to harness on his own? Wouldn't people with an innate gift for magic (sorcerers) be the people most likely to study it?

If I have any real point to this, it's that a setting with only bizuids or only clercerocks would be interesting, and say something more concrete about the metaphysics of the world. That, and it's another reason warlocks should be intelligence-based casters - you can harness magic through any of the mental ability scores if it's natural, and you can harness magic through any of the mental ability scores if it isn't.
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
So... I think the Druid kinds of messes up this analysis. I see most druids as cleric-like - they get their powers through a deep mystical connection with nature, this is why wisdom, not intelligence, is their casting stat.

That being said, the star druid is definitely a "nerdy" druid, and I've had NPC members of a wizard guild be star druids - so this muddles my view on druids, but it does fit your view a bit better.

So to me, I see different "clusters"

The wizard and artificers are those who learn through long study and intellectual capacity. They actually understand magic at a deep level and use this knowledge to manipulate it. Anyone, in theory, could be a wizard/artificer, but there is such a thing as innate talent (intelligence, other less tangible characteristics) and opportunity (most people can't afford the money/time necessary to devote to the study of magic to master it, a bit like in real life most people know a bit about science, but most aren't scientists).

Wouldn't people with an innate gift for magic (sorcerers) be the people most likely to study it?

The sorcerer's power are innate - this means they can do both more and less than a wizard - they can instinctively accomplish powerful magical feat, but they don't have the same breath and potential a wizard has. I would assume opportunity is a factor for sorcerers too but... I imagine that for many, their talent burns - it just has to come out! So in a way, sorcerers are "rarer" than wizard, but in actuality the numbers may be very comparable.

Perhaps the people who have an innate gift don't study it because 1: they don't have to and 2: their methods are actually very different than wizardry. It is more about self mastery than external facts.

Why would a warlock sell his soul for power that he could just as easily learn to harness on his own?

The warlock is an interesting case, and I think I managed to develop it more by thinking about a certain NPC who was a warlock, but also an important member of a mage academy (via relatives). This guy has a problem, is a problem. He doesn't have the smarts/aptitude to be anything more than a very mediocre wizard, and his inborn magic is weak, if any. What to do? Well... maybe he finds a forbidden tome and gain magical secrets... suddenly, they have magic! Maaaaaybe that book was left there on purpose by the higher ups in the Mage Academy just for such cases.

This implies that the patron would be "safe-ish" (genie is a great fit for this scenario). But others may not have such choices.

so "why"? Because he can't easily learn to harness on his own. Of course, this person could have turned towards the gods but... maybe they aren't temperamentally inclined to do so?

EDIT: for me, the sticking point is bards. in older editions, they were magical "dablers", and this made sense to me. Now they are full casters, and this implies that music is a fundamental force of creation bla bla bla - I mean sure that works, but it bothers me that this element of cosmology is imposed on me.
 

aco175

Legend
For a long time, I tried to not have PCs be able to multiclass (MC) with adding wizard and bard classes. The idea of a fighter picking up a spellbook and walking around with it for a dungeon or two and suddenly be able to cast magic went against the idea of wizards and bards needing to spend years in apprentice to others to learn something. Nevermind that the first level wizard can return to his old master 6 months later and be the most powerful wizard in the land just because he killed a bunch of monsters.

I did not mind taking sorcerer or warlock to MC with since it is a reward or awakening from within. Same with cleric and having a deep revelation or interaction with an avatar or angel. It seems more a game reason to establish verisimilitude. Anyways, it never really took hold and I dropped it around 4e. I think my game turned more beer and pretzels over making a living, breathing world.
 

For many settings, being a PC class isn't something that can just be learned: you either have the potential or you don't.
For example some level of inborn talent may be required to become a Wizard even if it isn't on the scale of full-out Sorceror.
In Eberron, where more people can use magic than most other settings, almost anyone can learn magic, but they usually only know a few spells, often only castable as rituals. Having PC-level flexible spellcasting and spell slots that refresh every day is rare.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I see this as a microcosm of the old question of "is D&D a toolbox, or a generic setting?" That is, does the game present itself as being a complete (albeit generic) setting right out of the Core Rulebooks, where everything is carefully calibrated to work together in conjunction; or does the game present you with a big box of legos and some instructions for things you can make with them, encouraging you to use only what works rather than stating/implying that you need to allow everything there?

That tension has always been there, but it seems to have become more prevalent in the last few editions (e.g. the recent thread we had about a PC wanting to run "the last mage" in a campaign the GM has developed where magic is no more). Questions of the "how" of magic seem like they're cut from the same cloth, at least to me.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Funny, I'd put Cleric in the same category as you have Bard, Wizard, and Druid. Clerics are those who learn magic via theology, which is very much a deliberative, technical, exacting field of study.

And, in fact, in my Jewel of the Desert game...that's exactly how those things work! The four "learned" traditions of magic are the Waziri Order (Wizards and Artificers), the Safiqi Priesthood/foreign priests (Clerics, and also Paladins via the Temple Knights), the Kahina (Druids, and also Shaman), and Rawuna (Bards). A fifth tradition of "shadow magic" seems to be vaguely like an overlapping of Safiqi magic and what one might call "warlock" magic (I have not had any Warlocks yet). Kahina study the spirits (different kinds of spirits for Druids vs Shaman), while Rawuna learn to grasp the ways people relate to history and experience in order to draw out the magic thereof.

Unlike those magics, the magic of Sha'iri truly comes from within. Due to the capricious and often-cruel reign of the Genie-Rajahs long ago, there are a lot of people in the region who descend, some ~80-100 generations back, from at least one "noble" genie. They are far too far removed to become actual "noble" genies themselves, but they can manifest a sliver of that elemental power. Dragons are rare in this land, but the descendants of dragon/mortal-kind partnerships would also be classified as "Sha'iri" in this sense. Such people do not really cast "spells" per se; instead, they manipulate the element to which they are connected. Fire is a common one, but some exhibit unusual combinations, like "sand," which might arise from having mixed earth/air heritage.

All people who learn how to make use of magic develop what I refer to as "magic(al) senses." They're hard to explain, for exactly the same reason that explaining color theory to someone born totally blind, or harmony and chord progressions to someone born totally deaf, would be hard to explain. "Magical senses" fall somewhere in between an actual sixth main sensory input, and something like "artist's eyes" where it's a skill that a person might not develop naturally but which can definitely be trained in specific ways. This sense imparts feelings, sensations, textures, etc. When characters in Star Wars say things like "I've got a bad feeling about this," that's (generally) their Force sensitivity triggering; that would be akin to, but not quite the same as, using one's magical senses. Generally they require active, intentional use, unless there's a particularly overwhelming or intense effect going on.

Of course, part of why I treat Clerics this way is that they don't actually know for sure that their magic comes from their deity. Their doctrine claims that the emissaries of that deity (who have never been seen in recorded history) taught the first Safiqi these techniques, and thus it arises from their deity. But in a sense, it's just a skill like any other, that can be learned through practice. (As a result, the Safiqi have an internal police force, one focused pretty much purely on capturing, or more often killing, those priests who betray the faith and use their powers for wicked ends.) I have been very, very careful to emphasize that, in this setting, "proving" whether this deity really is THE one all-powerful creator of all things is in fact impossible. No magic exists that couldn't potentially be fooled by a sufficiently powerful false creator. No living being that could bear witness on the matter is free of bias--and, indeed, all of the beings that claim they could bear such witness are VERY much biased in ways that compromise the integrity of their testimony. The one and only actual celestial the players have met has explicitly said this; neither she nor the One can prove any of the things they claim in a way that would be truly invincible to critique, so ultimately it is always up to the individual to decide what they believe and what they don't.
 
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RainOnTheSun

Explorer
So... I think the Druid kinds of messes up this analysis. I see most druids as cleric-like - they get their powers through a deep mystical connection with nature, this is why wisdom, not intelligence, is their casting stat.

They're cleric-like in the way they use magic, but the key difference, for this, is that they don't need the favor or approval of a god. Nature is like the Weave of Magic(tm), or the... song-force? However 5E bards cast spells. The point is that it's there for anyone, if they approach it the right way and they have the dedication.

so "why"? Because he can't easily learn to harness on his own. Of course, this person could have turned towards the gods but... maybe they aren't temperamentally inclined to do so?

I think it's telling that this warlock you describe is an NPC instead of a PC. "Guy who can't hack it at wizard school without a special cheat" isn't the fantasy I picture most players wanting to create with the warlock class. The characters in fiction who make pacts with otherworldly beings are frequently the closest thing their world has to a wizard before resorting to the pact - Faust's problem isn't that he isn't a good enough scholar, his problem is that scholarship itself isn't good enough. That doesn't fit together well with a class that says you can do just about anything if you read the right book.
 

In my imagination, PCs are not everyday people, and everyday NPCs are not PCs. NPCs don't have the same opportunities, skills, nor gumption to be able to just take class levels as a choice.

Players are the reasons the "PC-heroes" get to plan out character levels, as if they actually know the rules of the universe and how it all fits together. But they don't know. We (the players) in our world haven't "figured out" the universal truths and ways to "hack" and plan our character progression, and get abilities, and the people in our fantasy worlds don't have access to those rules either.

PCs and NPCs don't get to "plan their progression" with expertise. The illusion of that is because it is a game and the player gets to plan those things, at a meta level.

PCs are cut from a different cloth compared to NPCs, and only specific NPCs (villainous or otherwise) can rival the PCs based on the DM's own plans.

Johnny Pitchfork with a 12 in Str, Int, and Cha, cannot just become a Fighter, Wizard, or Sorcerer. They aren't interesting enough to higher powers to earn a pact with a Warlock Patron, or a connection with a God. Not unless the DM decided that character has a destiny to do so.

PCs have a cosmic potential beyond mere mortals, and that is justification enough for me to say that if they put their mind to it, they can figure out how to multiclass into other PC classes. Why are they so special? The DM decides why in their cosmology. These are people who may save the realm, let alone the universe some day.
 

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
I see this as a microcosm of the old question of "is D&D a toolbox, or a generic setting?" That is, does the game present itself as being a complete (albeit generic) setting right out of the Core Rulebooks, where everything is carefully calibrated to work together in conjunction; or does the game present you with a big box of legos and some instructions for things you can make with them, encouraging you to use only what works rather than stating/implying that you need to allow everything there?

That tension has always been there, but it seems to have become more prevalent in the last few editions (e.g. the recent thread we had about a PC wanting to run "the last mage" in a campaign the GM has developed where magic is no more). Questions of the "how" of magic seem like they're cut from the same cloth, at least to me.
For sure. And I think as DMs, we feel a siren's call to build out these cosmologies for our own game, because building magical systems is at the core of most fantasy worlds. We want the different kinds of caster classes to fit together into a cohesive whole and have their relationships make sense.

The challenge, of course, is that we have to take this information and transmit it to the players in a way that they can use. And by necessity, the more specificity we build into our cosmologies the more we limit the player's ability to create their own interpretations of what a "wizard" or a "druid" actually means in-setting.
 

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