Friday, May 11, 2018

The Failed Wizard's Apprentice

Vizjerai's arm shot out in from of Carriel, stopping him from entering the chamber. The spearman glowered down at the slender halfbreed.

"What is it?" the warrior asked.

"Something's wrong," Vizjerai said.

"I don't see anything," Carriel said.

"Of course you don't," Vizjerai replied, crouching near the door and turning her head to listen. "That's why you brought me along. Now hush, and let me do my job."

Vizjerai carefully ran her hands over the door frame, frowning as she felt for something no one else could see. She nodded, and reached into a small pouch on her belt. She tossed a handful of white sand across the threshold, and frowned at the way it fell. She took out a long, silver piton, and jammed it into the upper left-hand corner of the frame. Then she did the same with the upper-right hand corner. There was an audible impact on the air, and the pitons vibrated like they'd been struck with a hammer. They stilled after a moment, and Vizjerai nodded.

"There," she said. "It should be safe now."

"I thought you said you were a failed apprentice?" Carriel said.

"I am," Vizjerai answered, giving him one of her enigmatic smiles. "But you don't study under Agorn Redwing for as long as I did and not pick up a trick or two."

Always keep a trick up your sleeve. Just in case.

A Failed Apprentice Can Be A Successful Adventurer

Lots of people try to be wizards, but not everyone has the raw brain power to hack it. Or, in some cases, they just don't learn well from books and scrolls, but find that magic comes to them more through intuition and instinct. In some cases the apprentice may leave with no spells at all... but they know more about magic than most people could learn in several lifetimes, and that knowledge has all kinds of applications in the wider world.

Take Vizjerai, for example. While clever, she never applied herself fully to the study of magic. However, what she learned at her teacher's knee made her an expert at sneaking past the magical defenses of others... even great sages who had been dead in their tombs for hundreds of years. As a Pathfinder character, she'd be an ideal rogue, able to bypass warding circles, sigil traps, and other hazards meant to catch thieves and intruders unawares.

Of course, there are other avenues a failed apprentice could take. If you're still talking Pathfinder, a mongrel mage might have sought out a wizard for help controlling their shifting bloodline. While the discipline and education about magic likely helped, the character is still a sorcerer, and thus may have needed to find another way to refine their personal technique (this one has overlap with The Academic Sorcerer). That same apprentice could have simply been considered a "failure" by their teacher, moving on to become a magus, or an arcanist, by embracing non-classical techniques and schools of thought. You could even become an alchemist, if potions, mutagens, and mind-altering substances were more your bag than summoning circles and fireballs.

Time is an illusion, and rounds a mere inconvenience to my mind.
This concept isn't edition-specific, though. If you prefer 5th edition over Pathfinder, you could easily fit the failed apprentice background to a warlock. Someone who wasn't good enough to master the intricate formulas of their master might have been just clever enough to contact a patron through use of a banned ritual (a concept I first mentioned in No One Wins When You Build A Stupid Wizard, and which inspired the rest of this entry). The eldritch knight and arcane trickster are tailor made for this concept, showing people who just couldn't get the concepts their master tried to teach them in the classroom... but then after some real-world experience found ways to blend that arcane tutelage into their repertoires.

There are dozens of paths you could take with this concept. Just start with the character's days an an apprentice, ask why they didn't become the traditional wizard their teacher was trying to make them into, and then ask how that solid base of education gave them the know-how and skills to become what they eventually turned into.

For more advice on breaking out of the stereotypes wizards tend to be pushed into, you may enjoy my 5 Tips For Playing Better Wizards.

That's this month's entry for Unusual Character Concepts. If you've tried this one out, or have a permutation I didn't mention, feel free to share it in the comments! If you'd like to see more work from me, and you've already dug through my blog, then check out my Vocal archive, or head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. To stay up on all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help me keep doing what I'm doing, then please drop some change into The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or Buy Me A Ko-Fi. Every little bit helps, and I'll be sure to send you both a thank you, and some free gaming swag as a sign of gratitude.

1 comment:

  1. Hexblade Warlock whose Pact Weapons were the Scimitars of the Magnificient Seven, the Greatest of Wandering Warrior Philosophers who followed the Path of the Blade Witch.

    the young feytouched instead of making a pact with the seven blades themselves, made a pact with the seven and was bestowed their blades as a means for her to recieve their wisdom.

    she was naturally quick and endearing, also a quick and hardy learner, but a bit small statured and not gifted with the best of common sense, the 7 blades she keeps inside her pact scabbard are effectively her source of insight. though completely trusting and foolish, she knows from experience that meditating among the seven celestial blades will allow her to contact the magificent seven for advice.

    seven katana (scimitars) seven swordsmen, seven perspectives. well, she is kind of the thirteenth warrior, being a wandering samurai in a mostly eurocentric setting, sent on a pilgrammage by the astral spirits of her seven patrons.