RPG Corner: Let's get magical

Welcome to RPG Corner, a place where you can share your knowledge and thoughts of the Role Playing Game world. Each week we will have a new topic to discuss, so feel free to talk it up, make suggestions, post images, and have a good time.

This week's topic is magic and magic-users.

What are your favorite RPG magic-using classes, and why? Is there a specific magic-using character you've played in an RPG that you remember fondly?

What spells did you find the most surprisingly effective, or useful, or powerful, or just awesome?

What makes a good magic-user, and how do they fit into the parties you'd usually run?

I'm particularly keen to hear your stories of RPG magic as I hardly ever end up playing them. I'm not sure why, except it seems inherently more complicated to me. I mean, with your typical RPG warrior, the whole idea of "See enemy, hit enemy" is pretty easy to grasp and easily relatable to the real world. I guess I just find magic users intimidating.

10 Responses to RPG Corner: Let's get magical

  1. Iago_Valentine says:

    I’ve always been fond of the D&D 3.5 Psion. They’re pretty great at sheer damage-dealing, and decent at crowd control as well. Also, the prestige classes they can pick up aren’t half bad either. I went with Soulknife, from 3.0, simply because I found the idea of a psylocke-style energy blade to be completely awesome.
    That was a personal favorite character of mine. Half-Nymph template gives you some pretty serious bonuses to Charisma and Intelligence. Been experimenting with an Eladrin Wizard in 4th edition as well, and that’s a solid choice.

  2. cavalier says:

    I didn’t usually play magic users since, back in the ‘old days’ they started with one or two spells. If you weren’t at least 4th level you spent most of the adventure being the cargo bearer.

  3. Berserker says:

    never really was a magic user
    but id have to say the best ones would have to be a cleric from a game i play called perfect world-their job is to heal and to revive but also to add some serious increases to power and defense- also some of their attack skills are pretty cool

  4. Tim K. says:

    I prefer non-class based games, albeit many of those suggest magic as a profession. My favorite magic systems are Ars Magica–you combine your skills via latin verbs and nouns, so Creo Ignem is roughly create fire. I have a skill in Creo and a Skill in Ignem combined to determine what I can do with it.

    My other favorite is Talislanta–where you have Orders (Schools of magic) and Modes (what they do.) So you might have Naturalism Order, and Mode (Attack) and your spell shoots thorns at your foe. Or you might have Wizardry (Order) and Move (Mode) and you use that to teleport.

    The neat thing is that while there are example spells, you can use the system to create your own, and do things suitable for your character’s choices, and interests, and design. Instead of yet another magic missile…

    In both the games named magic wielders can be important. In Ars Magic they’re the “powerful PC” and protaganist supported by the other players playing companions and grogs (soldiers) the way the game works since oh the 90’s is that an adventure stars one or two mages and their followers. Next game session the people who played the companions play their mages, and the two in this one take up companions and grogs. Mages are that big a mover and shaker to be the center of how the game plays.

    In Talislanta, they’re important and powerful, but still limited, and many warrior types are as effective at their thing as the mages are at theirs. It’s just a different thing.

    I usually prefer to play a mage with powers tied to nature in some form, and especially good at shapeshifting into animals for scouting and the like. There role is typically information and support–but not solely that, as I like them capable enough to fight a bit on their own. One of the advantages of non-class systems. (Talislanta has archetypes, which are class like, but its a bit different.)

    These days an older version of Ars Magica, and all Talislanta books the owner retained rights for are available for free as PDF’s. They’re worth taking a look. (I strangely prefer the 4th ed of both games. While Tal has a 5th ed, the 4th edition was very complete.)

  5. @cavalier: I agree. The old D&D rules made it impossible to advance even to 3rd-level. Truly powerful Magic-Users were often NPCs. Especially with EP based on combat. It didn’t help that our DMs were Dexters and not DeeDees. We’d lose half our party in the first “random creature encounter”.

    Magic missile was the old stand-by. Useful against kobolds, but even after you shot the nubs, you had to be pretty lucky with the D20 and a dagger. Just as soon play a fighter with a +2 bow.

    I ran a GURPS campaign based on the Elements. The players designed theme characters (Elementals). Though not magic “users”, they cast spells. I used GURPS Magic because another GM and I would overlap campaigns. Since his was GURPS Japan, using Magic rules made it easier to transition than Supers (or at least made more sense).

    Long after the campaign ended, I found HeroMachine! Here are some of my first designs in 2.5. Based on PC and non-PC characters. Slowly, but surely, I will upgrade them to 3.0.


  6. Kalkin says:

    I always prefer magical types. As I see it RPGs are all about escapism from the real world to worlds, where impossible is possible and common even. Sure one could make a character that is a regular barbarian or knight, but the trouble is, we had those in our world too. A character that might have been walking in the pages of hour pages doesn’t make very good escapism, because it doesn’t utilize the possibilities of impossibility to its fullest. That’s why I always prefer to play wizardly types – or nearest substitute – to get access to those possibilities. That’s also why I prefer RQ3 (not MRQ, the earlier version) over D&D (any version). That rigid class system is awful and totally unrealistic. It’s an arbitrary limitation, which are aplenty in D&D.

  7. Kalkin says:

    Sorry, a typo: “walking in the pages of hour pages” should be “walking in the pages of history books”.

  8. Bael says:

    Haven’t played many D&D style wizards. I loved the magic system in White Wolf’s Mage. The first edition, at least. They scaled things back in later editions and made Paradox worse. I wasn’t a big Forces guy (lightning bolts, etc). That was too risky. I liked Matter and Correspondence, with a little Life in order to heal up. If I needed to fry somebody, I could always transmute their gun into white phosphorus.

  9. SynnerSaint says:

    I’m not allowed to play Magic Users anymore…

    The one occaision I did I killed my own character, another party member and severly wounded two others by mis-reading the spell description!

    Since then I’m unofficially banned from playing Magic Users… which is ok by me… I much prefer fast, agile, melee types anyway!

  10. PCFDPGrey says:

    I found a magic user type that I truely adore in the Deadlands Huckster. These guys gain their spell-like abilities be engaging spirits or “manitous” in mental contest of skill. If the huckster wins, the spell is cast, if the huckster loses the mental contest, the spell may still go off, but hs’she also suffers a “backlash” for angering the manitou. Backlash is always fun because it represents the possible price you may pay for screwing around with the unknown. Also, I much prefer the “spells” or Hexes the Huckster has access to as well as the fact that in Deadlands Hucksters aren’t relegated to D4 hit dice. IN the new D&D, I am developing a fondness for the Warlock class. Yeah, you’re very limited in what “spells” you can cast. However, you can stack spell enhancements, cast them an unlimited number of times, they’re mostly offensive spells AND you get a higher hit die tyope (d6) AND you can still wear light armor with no chance of spell failure. I like these guys.