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Why is the Gish so popular with players?

Aldarc

Legend
In fact, in early World of Warcraft, hybrid tax meant the specialists were always stronger.
In fact, FWIW, my mains in WoW were the traditional hybrids: i.e., Paladin, Druid, and Shaman. These are still probably my favorite classes though I only play WoW seldomly now.

I enjoy playing gishes. I usually play gishes with healing spells as their "oh $#!+" buttons since I often play more defensively, so things like paladins and even clerics. (Also why I usually played the above WoW classes.)

It's nice to have martial skills to fall back on when I don't want to use magic. It's nice to have magic skills to fall back on when I don't or can't use magic. It's nice not being quite as "squishy" as mages often are.

Also, there is something aesthetically fun about about a gish.

But being the most overpowered character who can do everything? Yeah, I think that Colville is flat-out wrong with his assessment.
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
In fact, FWIW, my mains in WoW were the traditional hybrids: i.e., Paladin, Druid, and Shaman. These are still probably my favorite classes though I only play WoW seldomly now.

I enjoy playing gishes. I usually play gishes with healing spells as their "oh $#!+" buttons since I often play more defensively, so things like paladins and even clerics. (Also why I usually played the above WoW classes.)

It's nice to have martial skills to fall back on when I don't want to use magic. It's nice to have magic skills to fall back on when I don't or can't use magic. It's nice not being quite as "squishy" as mages often are.

Also, there is something aesthetically fun about about a gish.

But being the most overpowered character who can do everything? Yeah, I think that Colville is flat-out wrong with his assessment.
Yeah. Same. When I (rarely) play WoW it’s mostly with shaman, druid, paladin, dk, and warrior. I like the hybrids because they can fill more than one role, but in no way are they remotely the best at everything. But being able to do most stuff in solo PVE is really beneficial. Druids can fill all four roles and are the only non-rogue who can stealth move regularly. Instant cast flight is amazing, too. It’s the versatility of the toolkit that’s the draw and you’re certainly not the best or most powerful.

Same with the D&D paladin…I mean fighter/magic-user. More tools in the toolbox, not better tools.
 

Autumnal

Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
Elric was a powerful summoner and binder who happened to have an artifact that was a demon in sword form. I think those who have pointed to Fritz Lieber’s characters are closer to the truth.
Of Moorcock characters, Corum and Hawkmoon definitely fit. And it’s worth noting that Elric cover art and comics art by folks like Michael Gilbert and P. Craig Russell is likely to show him in dramatic combo action.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
Of Moorcock characters, Corum and Hawkmoon definitely fit. And it’s worth noting that Elric cover art and comics art by folks like Michael Gilbert and P. Craig Russell is likely to show him in dramatic combo action.
I was thinking about those two in particular, but I seem to recall that some of the magic in EC stories- theirs possibly included- may have been Clarkian super-science. So I hedged my bets.

But while Elric definitely was a skilled swordsman, he relied on potions and Stormbringer to give him the stamina to actually be able to fight.

…which, on a certain level, makes him a poster child for the “magic item Christmas tree” that some people dislike in high-level D&D.😂
 


dbm

Savage!
Supporter
Speaking personally, I like flexible characters and play these in every system. As others have said, it’s about being able to contribute whatever the situation the group finds themselves in and I expect to play second fiddle to any specialist in the party. But I will be there backing them up when other off-topic specialists are politely golf-clapping on the sidelines. This starts to break down in contexts where ‘second best is meaningless’ but I find those situations have grown less over time.

D&D seems to have a problem with hybrid characters in the way classes are structured, using a mechanism where you get the core for free and then put cherries on top. All the sub-classes fit into this mould - an Eldritch Knight has the same to-hit and HP as a Battlemaster, a Bladesinger can cast as many spells as an Evoker. Yes, those other sub-classes have their own, different cherries that you are giving up but this is a less significant (or immediately apparent) trade-off in my opinion. So that can make a hybrid seem powerful on paper; I’m not convinced it is a reality in play.

I think the bad-rep also comes from the need for min-max optimisation to achieve the more capable hybrid class combos, at least in some editions of the game. 5e is better than most at this in my opinion. In the last game we played of 5e we house-ruled ‘no multiclassing’ and it played just fine.

Contrast this with a well balanced points-based system, however, and the situation becomes very different in my experience. Because point systems tend to minimise the ‘free rides’ (at least the ones we play do) if you are a hybrid you will feel those costs of the extra flexibility. We converted our 5e campaign to Savage Pathfinder and my Bladesinger became a lot more expensive when it was a choice of buying up my fighting skill versus buying up my different magical skills. GURPS is very similar in this vein and in these systems choosing to be a specialist versus a multi-skilled character is a decision that needs significant consideration.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
2. Matt stated his belief is there is always some percentage of the population that react to the choice "pick A or B" with a reflexive "I refuse! I MUST have both A AND B!"
"...and so I picked a 3e Wizard, which could do it all."

Something else worth adding is that gishes in D&D were often "trap options." Even things that were designed to enable gishes were considered trap options (e.g., 3e Spellsword PrC) because God Wizards. So declaring your intent to play a Gish was often declaring yourself to be less effective than either a Fighter or a Wizard. Though in 3e, a Fighter was a Tier 5 class. The Adept, an NPC class, was a Tier 4 class. That is pretty telling on the state of martials in that edition. So if you went to level 5 or 6 in spells in 3e, you probably were already doing much better than the 3e Fighter, but then why dilute your Wizard levels with Fighter levels or Spellsword PrC levels?

Even if you pick A and B, it does not mean that you get as much A or B as someone who picks only A or only B. That aspect gets lost in Colville's framing of this situation. It's not as if a Level 20 Gish equals a Level 20 Wizard/Level 20 Fighter. A good Gish is not even a Level 10 Wizard/Level 10 Fighter. Ideally, a good Gish offers a way to synthesize magic and martial combat.

In 5e, it's almost a shame that the Paladin has Smite, beause the mechanic of burning a spell slot for bonus damage on a weapon attack is Grade A Gish material.
 

Distracted DM

Distracted DM
Supporter
Elric was a powerful summoner and binder who happened to have an artifact that was a demon in sword form. I think those who have pointed to Fritz Lieber’s characters are closer to the truth. That said, one could assert the nature of Eternal Champion itself makes it a kind of Gish, just not in the usual sense.
Ok so it sounds like you're saying he was primarily a spellcaster in the books? Because he wasn't. The only times he used sorcery was when it was something that he couldn't deal with with his sword.
And again, all of it would be considered ritual magic in our modern takes on it- no battle magic like any incarnation of a DnD gish.

I think we're coming at it from different directions:
I'm looking at what Elric does, and what a gish does, and saying those don't match up in any sense. Elric uses, very rarely, complex and long rituals to enact magic, unlike a couple of his foes who do use what could be considered battle magic.

I think you're looking at what Elric does in a very broad sense, which is use sorcery of any kind at some point in his stories, and also have a sword.
I don't particularly like the way you present it, trivializing his sword in favor of his sorcery when the sword is what he uses in conflicts almost exclusively, BUT I think you're saying "he has magic and sword so: gish." I don't agree that that leads to a DnD or most other attempts at gish, but by what I assume is your definition of it, your description meets that definition.

So I guess it comes down to definitions. I'm looking at what gish through the TTRPGs have been in a practical sense, you're looking at any magic user that happens to have a sword.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Ok so it sounds like you're saying he was primarily a spellcaster in the books? Because he wasn't. The only times he used sorcery was when it was something that he couldn't deal with with his sword.
And again, all of it would be considered ritual magic in our modern takes on it- no battle magic like any incarnation of a DnD gish.

I think we're coming at it from different directions:
I'm looking at what Elric does, and what a gish does, and saying those don't match up in any sense. Elric uses, very rarely, complex and long rituals to enact magic, unlike a couple of his foes who do use what could be considered battle magic.

I think you're looking at what Elric does in a very broad sense, which is use sorcery of any kind at some point in his stories, and also have a sword.
I don't particularly like the way you present it, trivializing his sword in favor of his sorcery when the sword is what he uses in conflicts almost exclusively, BUT I think you're saying "he has magic and sword so: gish." I don't agree that that leads to a DnD or most other attempts at gish, but by what I assume is your definition of it, your description meets that definition.

So I guess it comes down to definitions. I'm looking at what gish through the TTRPGs have been in a practical sense, you're looking at any magic user that happens to have a sword.
You're not going to get D&D style magic in the Elric books. Most of the powerful magic in those books were rituals and not D&D spells. Elric is referred to as a powerful sorcerer. He is probably first and foremost a sorcerer and a swordsman second, as he mastered the former during this wanderings in the Dream.

Through Sunken Lands by Flatland Games uses B/X and class playbooks for Moorcock and Lieber style Sword & Sorcery. Interestingly enough, one of the playbooks is the Eldritch Sorcerer-King (cough cough), which is a Warrior-Mage hybrid playbook. It gets mage cantrips and rituals, but not spells.
 


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