Hello dear readers,
Last week we talked about the character archetype of the wizard. Now, perhaps you were like me and you read the article, thinking all the while, "this sounds like a great roleplay character", but then you reached the end and were disappointed to learn that wizards are not the main protagonist. Well do not fret dear reader, for the wizard is still a perfectly valid concept for roleplaying! You see, roleplayers suffer from a bit of influence left over from the gaming industry, namely the idea that we are the main protagonist. Faceless, silent protagonists with endless lines of enemies to mow down do an excellent job of allowing us to insert ourselves into the role of the main character, however this is independent from more collaborative roleplaying. It is true that each person is the hero of their own story, but in a collaborative situation characters will almost inevitably fall into a specific role for the story being created. I am willing to say that players willing to share the limelight for a moment are what makes collaborative roleplaying possible. That being said, wizards are a very dramatic character and will definitely garner attention all on their own, so let's talk about playing one.
A wizard character is first and foremost a guide, be it in navigation, teaching his art, or as a moral compass. You can not teach someone if you do not know anything and have no one to teach. To make a wizard you must have both a subject and audience in mind, but if you plan to play them regularly covering your bases is better. For the sake of examples, we will examine my character Sees in Shadow, who was designed specifically with this role in mind. Sees in Shadow is a morally rigid member of the Mage's Guild with a mastery of the healing arts. He enjoys teaching, has taken several apprentices over the years, and has even written a few books. This character obviously has teaching in mind, which can be a very rewarding experience to roleplay, but it extends deeper than simply teaching people how to heal. Sees in Shadow has an unyielding set of principles, magic is a gift and life is sacred. He is a morality check in a violent setting, and is more than willing to point out that killing the bandit makes you no better than they are. What is so important about this? Morality is something that can be taught to characters that already know magic, allowing Sees in Shadow to serve as a guide to people who are already familiar with his mysterious power. Because of this, the character is able to serve as a guide in a wide variety of places, some of which would not have been available if he was morally loose.
The next trait of the Wizard is his higher power, his magic. This can take a variety of forms, but it needs to ultimately have an observable effect, require discipline, and be at least somewhat uncommon. Thankfully for Sees in Shadow, healing is not a common pursuit in the war torn Tamriel. He does not hesitate to point out the powerful impact that even a single healer can have on a community, but at the cost of a very strict meditation regime that consumes a good portion of his day. Evenamong magic users, his reverence for his gifts and understanding of their importance sets him aside from many who also study magic. It is this burden, this magnitude, that elevates his magic from simply being an alternative to a crossbow on the battlefield. That is the essence you are trying to capture. The force binds the universe together and the wand chooses the wizard, Harry.
The final trait of the Wizard is what I like to call an "elevated mentality". They have a goal on a cosmic scale, a sense for the order of things, and don't care about the petty things that might seem insurmountable to other characters. Sees in Shadow wants to see the evil influences of the Daedra and the wicked worm cult purged from the lands. He believes the empire is corrupted beyond salvation and needs to be removed. He also sees a land ravaged by war and disease that he has the power to resist. Standing between him and his goals is a war of three alliances and a strict neutrality policy by the Mage's Guild. This matters little to Sees in Shadow, wars come and go, and alliance is a term for paperwork. That village in enemy territory that battles with a plague could spread if it is not contained. This type of mindset can be difficult to capture, as it requires a good deal of forward thinking and understanding of the full setting, but it is essential to the Wizard archetype. It should be noted that this does not make the wizard infallible, everyone makes mistakes, and the wizard's mistakes are costly indeed.
When designing your wizard, be mindful of your flaws. It is tempting to make a character who is perfect, and on a surface level a well designed wizard might seem to be, but everyone has shortcomings. Gandalf admitted that he would be corrupted by the one ring's call to power, Dumbledore was overconfident when pursuing the horcruxes, Obi-Wan didn't see his student's fall until it was too late. The wizard's goals are cosmic in nature, so too are his shortcomings. Elements like pride, hibris, and even naivete are good candidates for the flaws of one who knows more than most around him. To complete our example, besides a streak of pride a mile wide, Sees in Shadow is a racist. He simply refuses to tolerate imperials, whom he blames for his mentor's death and the more recent Plane Meld. His opinion is not an unpopular one, the empire was the cause, but his pride and refusal to allow the same tolerance he gives others keeps him from truly representing the ideals he claims to uphold.
I hope you have enjoyed our discussion, this is Ma1function signing off, until next time...