Friday, September 28, 2018

The Sudden Wizard

A lot of dungeon masters, in my experience, tend to get weirded out by players who want to multiclass with wizard, but who don't want to start with that class. Because if you take your first level as a wizard, and then become a fighter, or a rogue, or whatever, that's fine... but try to do it the other way around, and you suddenly find that there's a whole lot of red tape in your way.

Why? Well, because magic is hard to learn, or so the logic goes. Harder to learn than picking locks and being a convincing liar? Harder to learn than mastering the basics of half a dozen weapons, different fighting forms, and reading an opponent's body language? Probably not, but for some reason if you want to suddenly take levels of wizard you often get the third degree about who's been teaching you, where you found time to study, and where you acquired your spellbook (and you often find that answers like, "We've found a dozen scrolls so far, and I've been raiding abandoned mage sanctuaries for years. You don't think I couldn't learn a ritual or two with an Int of 17?" don't go over as well as you'd like).

I'll hit that book just as hard as I hit everything else.
I had several spirited discussions on this very topic after DMs, Stop Putting Up Barriers To Multiclassing went live. However, in the course of those discussions I came up with a character concept I wanted to share that I figured some folks out there might get a kick out of.

As the title suggests, I call it The Sudden Wizard.

What The Hell Is A Sudden Wizard?

When it comes to magic, a lot of DMs and players alike consider it to be the fantasy equivalent of higher math or astrophysics. Your Intelligence score is what determines how much of it you can understand, and it ties directly into how many spells you can hold in your head, and how powerful they are once you unleash your intellect.

However, while a lot of people have to spend years in college, or educating themselves with library books, there are some people who just suddenly get these topics. People whose minds were opened up, often by something traumatic, and now they can understand things that would have been anathema to them before.

And that is how a sudden wizard is made.

One, solid cranial re-calibration, and boom, there it is!
This could take a huge number of forms, but you could draw some initial inspiration from some of the stories in 6 People Who Gained Amazing Skills From Brain Injuries. One guy who described himself as pretty average got the beat down of his life, and when he recovered found that he both saw and understood fractals. Other than recognizing the word, most of us don't even know what they are, so imagine being hit so hard that sort of knowledge spontaneously unlocks in your brain. Another person got struck by lightning, and suddenly became a phenomenal piano player (since we all know how closely math and music are tied together, to keep with the metaphor). Everything from diseases to strokes seems like it might have the potential to trigger heretofore unknown abilities lying dormant in the mind.

And that's just in the real world.

What sorts of things could spark spontaneous magical understanding in a character? There's getting whammied with a critical hit from shocking grasp, of course, or just getting clobbered in the head by an ogre's club, but there are so many additional possibilities. Did a vampire's domination touch a part of your mind that understands enchantment? Or necromancy? Did exposure to a hag's curse give you the ability to understand the weaving of fate's strands? Did your very presence at the death of a dragon, or the slaying of a potent mage, cause some kind of magical radiation to inundate your brain, giving you that key inspiration to look at a spellbook, or a scroll, and see more than just symbols on a piece of parchment?

These are just a handful of the possibilities.

On the one hand, it might be tough to find an appropriate moment to start your multiclassing if you're waiting for a critical hit from a certain type of spell to lay you out. On the other hand, if you slog through wave after wave of the undead for a whole arc, or you fail several saves against mind-affecting effects, or you always seem to be the one getting buffeted by wild magic, well, that could have all kinds of unexpected effects on your brain. Some bad... but maybe some good, too.

If you enjoyed this take, be sure to check out 5 Tips For Playing Better Wizards!

That's all for this installment of Unusual Character Concepts. For more of my work feel free to head over to my Vocal page, or just go to my Gamers archive if you only want to see my tabletop gaming posts. Alternatively, feel free to head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio, where I get together with other gamers to make content for DMs and players alike! To stay on top of all my releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help support me then you can Buy Me A Ko-Fi, or become a patron on The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. Either way, my thanks and a lot of free stuff will be yours!

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