Jim Moreno's "RoleCraft" MMO Column
RoleCraft: The Magic of Roleplaying, Part 2: Spell-caster Classes

Jim H. Moreno | 5 Oct 2009 20:11
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In the last edition of RoleCraft, we began looking at the art of magic in MMORPGs, in order to help give roleplayers a greater overall understanding of it, how it is exhibited in our favorite games, and how we may achieve better RP from this knowledge. Starting with a discussion about the spell-caster, we looked at four of the most common sources of magic used in MMORPGs: mental, physical, spiritual, and elemental. In this edition, we'll look at how a spell-caster makes use of magic once it's obtained, which, for the most part, is done in game by assigning the spell-caster a specific class. We'll go over some very common classes, and I'll list some uncommon classes that may be new to RoleCraft readers.

Over the life of the fantasy MMORPG genre, spell-casters have been present in many forms, and have been called by many names. No surprise, really, being that there are hundreds of years of prior research material to pull from. Books, folklore, music, movies, art, and other mediums have long been feeding our lives and imaginations with fantastical tales of the mystical and mysterious.

Here in the WarCry Game Codex, thirty-one of the fifty-five games listed have at least one magic-based character class or skill available for play. Think also of all the magical classes and skills encountered in the offline games you've played. It's very obvious that magic is a well-known commodity in the fantasy MMORPG genre. As far as MMORPG spell-caster classes go, the mage is perhaps the most well-known, with wizard, priest, and cleric filling out the rest of the list.

However, just because your character is known in game as a mage, wizard, or priest, doesn't mean you have to roleplay the stereotypical skill and personality traits so often attributed to them. By expanding your view of the spell-caster class beyond how it is prescribed in your favorite MMORPG, you may possibly pick up one or more new sparks of inspiration that may increase the quality of RP for that character.

For brevity's sake, and to place this in a standard frame of reference, mages are widely known to deal with the arcane, priests and clerics wield magic granted to them by their god(s), and wizards tend more towards scientific pursuits of the art. From here, let's take a look at a few uncommon spell-caster classes and disciplines that will I hope help expand your knowledge of the art of magic.

One of the best places to start is with the non-MMORPG, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Here, the ability to use magic is its' own skill, alongside stealth and combat. For a single-player game, it is probably one of the best systems of magic to be found, rivaling and even outdoing many MMORPGs. I highly suggest roleplayers get and play Oblivion, especially if you're looking to seriously broaden your view of in game magic for roleplaying effect. If, however, you just want another piece of reference material to add to your library, then just buy the official game guide and read thoroughly the chapter on Magic.

Oblivion breaks magic down into six classes (schools): Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Illusion, Mysticism, and Restoration. The Strategy Wiki website page titled The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion/Magic Skills explains what types of magic each school employs. The names of the schools of magic also translate into what your spell-caster could be known as - an Alterist, Conjurer, Destructor, Illusionist, Mystic, Restorer, or any number of synonyms for those titles listed in any thesaurus.

To compare, let's take some World of Warcraft spells listed for its spell-casters and translate them into the Oblivion magic system.

WoW / Oblivion

Moonfire, Arcane Missiles, Judgement, Smite, Lightning Bolt,Shadow Bolt / Destruction
Hurricane, Conjure Food, Shackle Undead, Lightning Shield, Eye of Kilrogg / Conjuration
Faerie Fire, Polymorph, Divine Protection, Power Word: Shield, Ghost Wolf / Alteration
Tranquility, Holy Light, Rebirth, Drain Life / Restoration
Detect Magic, Levitate, Sense Undead, Sentry Totem, Detect Invisibility / Mysticism
Soothe Animal, Mind Soothe, Fear / Illusion

How a spell-caster chooses to display their magic power can often designate the magic class for roleplaying. In MMORPGs such as WoW, where a roleplayer may be wanting to change the class of his spell-caster beyond the usual limits of the game, simply learning and casting spells, using weapons and armor, drinking potions, and strictly adhering to magic solely representing the school of his choosing should do the trick. For example, a WoW mage could easily become known as an elemental mage by only casting spells with an element of nature to them. This leaves out almost all the Arcane spells, possibly except for Conjure Water (water) and Slow Fall (air), but would give the mage a much more unique personality, and may help give the roleplayer a challenging character to roleplay.

Dungeons & Dragons

Another long-standing take on gaming schools of magic comes from Dungeons and Dragons, and has been evolving from the very first edition to the current Eberron 4.0 rule set. Over the years, there have been many books written in support of D&D magic, and any one of them would make for great reference material. Here are a few I have in my own library:

Player's Option: Spells & Magic
Magic of Incarnum
Tome of Magic
The Complete Wizard's Handbook
The Complete Priest's Handbook
Complete Mage

In addition, a few websites for your referencing pleasure:
Magic of Dungeons & Dragons
System Reference Document 3.5
- Magic Overview
- Schools of Magic
- Arcane Magic
- Divine Magic
- Magic Items
- Psionics
- Unearthed Arcana-Incantations

Of course, much of what's written in the above books and links only applies to D&D. However, each has a lot to say about the art of magic, and the philosophy behind spell-casting and the spell-caster, and that's what you may be inspired by.

So, from four sources of magic power (physical, mental, spiritual, elemental) come a host of magic classes, competing and complimentary schools of thought on how to best utilize that power. We'll continue our examination in the next edition by focusing on the act of spell-casting, and how to bring more of your own roleplay skills into it. As always, please leave your comments below in the Comments section, or send them directly to my email at RoleCraft at gmail dot com, and via Twitter. Also click over to The RP Archives, a blog where I gather all the roleplaying knowledge from across the interwebs into one handy reference place. Until next time, role on!

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