Friday, December 11, 2015

The Intimidating Wizard

Before we get started on this week's unusual character concept, I'd like to get some news out of the way. First is an announcement that I'll be doing two character conversions a month, instead of just one, for the foreseeable future. Apparently you guys like them, and I try to keep doing things you like. This month's first conversion was Syrio Forel, the dancing master from Game of Thrones. Who will the second conversion be? Stay tuned to find out, but I'll warn you now, the character isn't from the Song of Ice and Fire series.

The other thing I'd like to bring up is that it's the holidays. If you're really into the giving spirit, I'd greatly appreciate your patronage. Just stop by my Patreon page, and give any amount you're comfortable with. You'd be amazed at how far as little as $1 a month will go, and how much it would be appreciated. And, because it's the season of giving, all of my patrons have the opportunity to get two ebooks from yours truly, no strings attached. Just pledge, and I'll contact you with the titles so you can choose your free gift!

Okay, I think that about covers the big news. So, let's move on to this month's Unusual Character Concept. What do I have for you?

The Intimidating Wizard

So, does everyone remember that scene in The Fellowship of The Ring? The one where Bilbo, in the grip of the ring's madness, started accusing Gandalf of trying to steal it for himself? Gandalf's response, that deep-voiced, booming rebuke, was enough to break the hold of a magic addiction that had been going for decades, and to bring Bilbo back to his senses just in time to stop his bladder from letting go.

Do not trifle with me, boy, or I'll have you vomiting spiders for a month.
Because really, when you think about it, why shouldn't wizards be terrifying? They are people who have mastered the arcane secrets of magic, and even a relatively weak wizard is capable of sapping your strength, enchanting your mind, conjuring fire and lightning from thin air, and putting themselves behind invisible barriers of force. That kind of power should terrify anyone who would cross a wizard, to say nothing of the common folk who might see them as something near to gods when they come into their full power.

But as most of us know, Intimidate is a charisma-based skill, and wizards tend to be short on charisma, as well as on skill points. So what is one to do? Well, if you're playing Pathfinder, this should get you started.

The Mechanics

To make this idea work, mechanically, you need to start with your traits. The trait Bruising Intellect is a must-have, since it both makes Intimidate a class skill, and it allows you to use your Intelligence modifier when you make intimidate checks. If you pair that with a regional trait like Viking Blood, or the combat trait Bully, both of which give you a +1 to Intimidate, then you're definitely on the right track. If you want to add a feat like Persuasive to the list, to say nothing of Skill Focus, then you'll start stacking some big numbers in a big hurry.

But what's the purpose of a high Intimidate? Well, when you're not throwing magic around, it can help you open doors and gain information. If you follow the advice of guides like The Bullyboy, you can use it to render enemies flat-footed. Given that your spells are already touch attacks, that's a big benefit for you. Assuming, of course, you're willing to eat the feats that lead you to abilities like Dazzling Display, and higher iterations like Disheartening Display. If you're intending on pursuing that strategy, it's a good idea to take the trait Magical Knack, and dip two levels into a class with a higher BAB and bonus feats, like the Fighter. It may also be a good trick for Magi, or for those who are considering pursuing the Eldritch Knight prestige class.

The Flavor

So who is this wizard who uses his tongue as a weapon? Is he a hulking Ulfen mage, whose mastery of storm and sleet is nothing compared to the cold contempt he brings down on those who earn his ire? Is she a battle caster from Nex, who can dress down soldiers so thoroughly and completely that they wish she'd simply hit them with her magic instead? Or is your wizard an illusionist, who uses tough talk to back up the seemingly impossible things that happen when he's confronted?

All of these are solid options, but they're far from the only ones. For example, a spellslinger who's won a dozen duels might let her reputation do the talking, instead of relying on raw spell power. A learned abjurer might look down his nose at his enemies, his raw confidence that they cannot hurt him enough to make them think twice about trying. The sly necromancer, knowing full well the legends and rumors that swirl around practitioners of her kind, may remind those who stand in her way that death is not the end of things, but merely the beginning of service.

"You there! Open that trapped door!" Urghgazzagl...
Of course, the method of intimidation your wizard prefers is just one part of the equation. The other question is why do you rely on browbeating others? Did you develop this habit when you were at university, and you realized that you were so much smarter than your classmates that it was quicker to just bark at them to do what you wanted instead of taking hours to explain your train of thought? Were you born in the gutter, and your brains allowed you to climb to the head of a gang, and you realized that it was only their perception of how smart you were that kept you on top? Did you cow your siblings with the capacity of your mind long before you'd ever cast your first spell?

For whatever reason you chose to use your brain to make people more compliant, and to strike terror into your foes, you should ask when the character started, and how it shaped the way they cast their spells. Perhaps an evoker with a flare for the dramatic (pun intended) builds up his spells before casting them, relying on the ignorance of those on the receiving end to have no idea what it was he cast, and how he cast it. A transmuter may use big, sweeping gestures to add a touch of theater to her spells, as if the reactions of those she touched weren't impressive enough.

Is intimidate just another tool in this wizard's toolbox, or has it become so much a part of them that magic is similar to a sword; scary, even if it isn't going to be used to hurt someone?

And, if you're looking for more inspiration, you should check out 5 Tips For Playing Better Wizards!

As always, thanks very much for dropping in to see what I have to say this week. If you don't want to miss any of my posts, then be sure to follow me at Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter. Have a happy holiday, if I don't see you again before then.


  1. "Do not take me for some purveyor of cheap tricks"

  2. One thing I really enjoy about pathfinder is the fact that traits let you easily get different ability scores to skills. Bruising Intellect or Student of Philosophy can let a wizard be interesting to play in social situations without having to resort to busting out a spell before or during.

  3. This is absolutely brilliant, and also something I did with my half orc hexcrafter magus (enforcer and something that lets him do nonlethal with scimitar without penalty added, of course).
    Spells are, to an extent, something you use when nothing else works. This concept would best suit a witch, as it would be very much augmented by evil eye and misfortune hexes (cackle!), since the class has 30' ingrained to it.