Pondering Magical Styles For Tembladera

by mshrm

I picked up GURPS Magical Styles: Dungeon Magic a while back.  It lays out a group of seven magical styles suitable for Dungeon Fantasy. The idea is that a wizard might join one of these seven orders and specialize in the spells they’re interested in — war magic, mind control, whatever — and thus gain access to enhanced abilities within their sphere of knowledge. Each style has its own system of prerequisites for their particular way of teaching the spells. The groups are handily color-coded by robe, which is nice.

I find myself wanting to make these styles available in the Tembladera game. I only hesitate from fear of being labeled a cleric hater.

You see, some time ago, after a bit of inconvenient agonizing on my part, I came down against the idea of specialist clerics. In my world, religion comes in two flavors: holy and unholy.  There’s holy clerics, members of the approved church that keeps its temples inside the walls of civilized towns, and there’s unholy clerics, who are devil worshipers driven by greed and a desire for personal power and who congregate in foul places far from the right-thinking citizens. Places like the dungeon, of course.

There are many gods in the holy pantheon, just as there are many demons being worshiped (literally!) underground. One might be particularly dedicated to one god or another, as a “color” decision, but it doesn’t affect the available spell list for clerics. In the end, it was a question of predictability. I didn’t want to end up with conversations starting with “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mention, I’m not one of those healing clerics. I’m the other kind.”

And yet… here I am, considering the addition of seven entirely new spell trees for the wizards. Do I just hate the cleric, or what?

I don’t think that’s it. I think the underlying reason is actually the same: predictability.

As it stands, the wizard is the wide-open master of magic. Oh, yeah, they don’t get the spells for critters or crops, they can’t heal, they can’t teleport… so what? Their spell list is still the most wide and varied. Their skills and abilities are aimed at handling supernatural threats and opportunities in a way that no other spellcaster can truly replicate. When it comes time for a wizard to spend experience, there’s no telling what direction they’ll head in, subject to the restrictions of prereqs.

But if that wizard is a yellow-robe, you can bet that point will most likely end up causing things to explode. If the wizard is a black-robe, you can expect some kind of curse. And so on, and so forth. Choosing a style is a declaration of how that character will approach the entire world of magic.

Unless I misunderstand, the styles don’t actually limit the spells available to the wizard.  Instead, they offer advantages to heading in a certain direction. They’re carrot, not stick. A stylist doesn’t sacrifice all flexibility in choosing spells.

From a big picture point of view, the styles wouldn’t limit choice. If one wanted to build an illusionist or a fire-wizard using the base template, one could. The styles just offer a framework and an in-game aspect to the choice.

Predictability is also served from having NPCs who are followers of the styles. The PCs might be able to see the accouterments of enemy spellcasters and identify them with Heraldry. (Or, after a while, through bitter and hard-won players experience: “The last three times we ran in to a guy wearing a silver robe and a ram’s head helmet with bronze horns, he threw blue lightning and we all lost our hair. ‘Ware lightning, folks.”)

Finally, I think it would serve my ever-looming Laziness disad.  I get to choose from a stock list of spells without feeling like having cookie-cutter wizards is a problem. Score! 😉