Friday, April 1, 2016

Wizard Saga III: I Cast Therefore I Am

Being a dick is pretty much the wizard's calling card.  Think about it from a wizard's perspective.

In your basic fight, there are two general forms of battle. When a fighter or other weapon-using character fights, the combatant makes an attack roll, rolling one twenty-sided die and adding an attack bonus, with a high enough number allowing the character to do damage, and a really high number allowing the character to do extra damage. When a wizard or other caster casts an offensive spell, the majority of them involve the wizard casting a spell, and then the target making a saving throw, rolling one twenty-sided die and adding a save bonus, with a high enough number allowing the target to shake off some or all of the spell's effect. Thus in a fight, no matter the situation, the fighter would be pleased to personally roll high, while the wizard would love for the enemy to roll low.

Against a powerful foe, the fighter thinks "how can I fight better? How can I gain an advantage from flanking or spells or using my favored weapons in order to rise up to the challenge?"

Fundamentally, a fighter runs on hope.

Against a powerful foe, the wizard thinks "how can I make this enemy fight worse? How can I so wrack this foe with plagues, fear, and curses that this enemy is reduced to a mewling wreck of a creature lying helplessly at my feet?"

Fundamentally, a wizard runs on spite.

While a fighter seeks personal strength, a wizard seeks to deny and negate the strengths of others.

Swarm them, mire them, rip out their fangs, dull their blades, bind their limbs and seal their wings, let their flames splash harmlessly against your wards as their words fall into an empty void, let their eyes grow dim and their arms grow weak, turn their numbers against them and chain them to your will. Take everything, and when they have been reduced to a wretched shell trembling in fear and incapable of doing harm... execute them.

Some will say that there are things others can do that a wizard cannot, and that a wizard's weaknesses necessitate the aid of others. And there are those who look at their own shortcomings and then disparage and belittle the things that they cannot do. Some call this "sour grapes", but when wizards look at their own absences and dismiss them as unnecessary, well... the wizards may not be entirely wrong. A wizard can use planar binding to gain the service of a celestial cleric, but a cleric cannot use planar ally to easily gain the service of a celestial wizard. And even if the cleric could, a wizard can coerce an angel into working for free, while a cleric must make a fair deal with any ally called to serve. For any given problem, a wizard may be able to come up with a solution, reaching the same destination as another class even if the route is different. And that's assuming that the wizard doesn't just cast a spell that gives the wizard another class's signature feature. While there are wizard spells that give the features of other classes, there are very few other classes with features that give wizard spells at anything other than a rudimentary level. (Of course, if you really need a rogue, just grow your own).

There is the issue of spells known, of course. Each day, clerics prepare spells from the wide variety of spells offered by their patron deities, while wizards must prepare from the spells they've scribed into their books. And while the wizard gets two free spells to scribe into books each level, there are far more spells out there to learn.

But if you look at it another way, wizards have the ability to learn a host of useful and unique spells that clerics can only hope to borrow via their domains, as well as a pile of spells that clerics will never be able to touch at all. So while a wizard's starting spells may be few, the wizard is ultimately limited only by ambition. And while a god will refuse to grant access to cleric spells that are against the god's ethos, and ultimately turn away from a cleric who steps out of line... A wizard answers to no one.

A wizard can buy and trade spells from scrolls and the books of other wizards, or a wizard can borrow those books, or acquire them as plunder after battle. But why limit yourself to the written word? An arcane caster is a valuable source of magical knowledge if you know how to get it, so why let it go to waste?

(Note: Blood Transcription requires you to down a pint of the target's blood to learn a spell. A wand of blood transcription can let you cast the spell fifty times in a row on the same target. Most human bodies hold around ten pints of blood, and the average stomach doesn't really have that much capacity. So if you need a ton of spells, either you can consume more blood than either of you can hold, or your wizard learns how to... recycle.)

Some may object to the methodology, but are they not trifles in the grand scheme of things? A tool is a tool, and its morality is determined in its use- such talk of banal things such as "good" and "evil" is for chained minds. After all, it's ridiculous to assume that a wizard would become "good" just by repeatedly casting a spell infused by the powers of good, so why would a wizard be mastered by an "evil" spell? (especially given that the wizard spell list has a bunch of spells with the [evil] descriptor, and very few with the [good] descriptor)

Magic is wonderful, isn't it? A great enabler, it can do almost anything and allow you to pursue your passions no matter where they lie. Give a mage enough power, and even the most deeply buried vice is now within reach. Really, who's going to stop you?

The thing about magical power is that the more you have, the more you can do, and the fewer challenges you will face. You soon have no need for food, water, or shelter, and you don't suffer from disease or injury. You have no need to struggle and sweat just to survive and meet your basic needs, leaving your every waking moment to devote to your desires. And since you only need two hours of sleep per day, you have a lot of waking moments.

Magic frees you from so many troubles. Why walk when you can fly, or cross the world in the blink of an eye? Why work hard and slave away, when you can finish with but a wave?

Do you crave knowledge? Friendship? Youth? Physical Perfection? Secrets? Truth? Treasure? Whatever you desire, you can build it, find it, seize it.

And of course, the more you have, the less you have to answer to. You have no job to lose or boss to disappoint, and no survival necessities that demand an income. You have nothing to prevent you from relocating to another corner of the world save for the ties you have to your current home. If you need to hide, no magic will ever find you. Should you run afoul of the law, how would they punish you for your transgressions? What court could rule against you, what cell could possibly contain you? Even if you face the gallows, it's a minor setback and a fair price to pay for closing the book on your past. Simply start anew afterwards.

The more might you amass, the more facts become evident. There are powerful forces in the world and those who would challenge those forces, but to truly challenge them requires more than just sinew and will. It requires power- the power to boost strength, traverse barriers, pierce defenses, ward against danger and cast aside the path of fate itself. Those without power might seek it out through the use of powerful artifacts, but it is often a pale imitation of the real thing and is not cheaply purchased. But those who cast spells can access double that power or more, seizing it with their own hands and adding their own power to the mix. Ultimately, he greatest challenges in the world can only be met with the cooperation of magic users- spellcasters are the foundation of true strength in the world. Even among casters, there is a difference in strength that comes from the ability to use it. When it comes down to it, a cleric requests, a wizard demands. (Alternatively: A Wizard chooses. A Cleric obeys.) No matter how powerful, a cleric ultimately is the vessel for another's will and limited by that authority, but wizards are under no limitations save for the ones they choose to accept.

Setting aside questions of the exact hierarchy, the fact remains that magic users are in a realm of their own. Every spell you can cast has value. A caster is the product of years of effort and is not so easily replaced like common labor. While skilled specialists are useful, the raw intellect of a wizard can be turned to mastering a host of different skills, which are then boosted further by the wizard's spells and magical items. As a wizard, you are almost certainly the most profoundly intelligent being in any situation you encounter, making it only natural that others should turn to you for direction rather than yoke themselves to their own base emotions. At the very least, by assuming control over their finances, you can leverage them to even greater heights through item construction and the establishment of powerful spells.

Never forget that your power places you on a level only a few in all the worlds will ever reach (and this is regardless of your personal power at the moment- you can always improve, and there are very few wizards who think "well, I'm going to learn how to access the third circle of spells and then I'll be satisfied"). While it's not impossible or even uncommon for a wizard to have relationships with others, the more power you amass, the more likely it'll turn into a relationship with a dependent instead of an equal. Even if you are blessed with a wonderful relationship, there may come a day when time ceases to flow for you and you alone. But your companions will be still be haunted by the reaper's footsteps, and there is almost nothing you can do to halt them. But perhaps you to the moment say, "beautiful moment, do not pass away!" and build a realm where the clock hands fall, but despite your efforts cannot save them all. All the time you try to hide will return in an instant when they step outside. But to be locked away is a mental throttle, so why don't you just put the whole world in a bottle?

How easy would it be, to just take control? Wizardry is, after all, ultimately an exercise of will, asserting your vision of the world in a contest between your skill and intellect and the physical and mental resistance of your opponents. To be a wizard is to gaze upon the world and think "no, that will not do" and then take steps to correct it. After all, you don't ask for permission to teleport across the world, ensnare a mind, transform a foe or engulf a field in flames- you simply decide on a course of action, select a spell, and thy will be done. Would not the world be a better place under your magnificent intellect? There are those who would protest, but they are simple creatures who lack your clarity, and if they cannot be salvaged the world would probably be better off without them. It's not as though you haven't disposed of the refuse of the world before and then stepped over its smouldering ashes- trash that blocks the path to the new world has no right to exist. After all you've done to protect the world, the people basically owe their lives to your efforts- that means their lives are basically yours, aren't they? And things would be so much better if they would follow instructions.

Or would they prefer the alternative? As the days roll by, how many people will you lose and how many times will find others to replace them? How many battles will you face, how many threats will you end, how many family lines will wither and how many kingdoms will turn to dust before it all loses its luster? How many cycles and centuries will you go through before you realize that it's all run together, that others only turn to you to beg you to save them, to seal the cracks in their fractured realms? Before you realize that you don't really know most of these people and the few you do know are relentlessly the same as those that have gone before? How long before you realize that you're fighting for a people you have not seen and a land you have not set foot on in centuries? How long before you realize that you don't fight for a cause, but the idea of one, a memory of your time as a mortal, and in time the memory of that memory? How long before you realize that you have more in common with gods than men? Why do you fight for a world you have no stake in? How long before you simply turn away, and leave those bloated maggots to squabble over that rotting carcass?

You are curiosity and will without consent, avarice and ambition without concern, power and vision without constraint. You are a wizard... and there is no one else in the world who comes close to you.

I am not surprised when wizards become monsters... with all they are given, it is difficult to become anything else.  

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