Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dragon Warriors RPG: Magic Users

On Monday, I posted regarding Magic User fantasy tropes. I like the fantasy tropes in Magic Realm, as they seem grounded in common understandings of what each magic user type represents in fantasy fiction and common word usage.

I should preface this post by saying that I like Dragon Warriors RPG. I remember seeing it back in the mid-to-late 80's, as a friend's aunt would send him this kind of stuff all the time from the UK. Back then, I thought Dragon Warriors was fresh and innovative. While I don't have quite the same feeling about it today, I still like the atmosphere, and the different take on combat and magic items.

The approach to defining magic user classes leaves me cold, however.

For one thing, the name-classes of magic user seemed neither accurate nor terribly familiar. Perhaps they were going for unfamiliar. I don't see that as a particularly effective way to draw new players: at least at the beginning, I presume you want the game to be immediately appealing, familiar and intuitive, to encourage buy-in by the players and referee. After achieving that, it makes sense to mix things up a little. Of course, i'm no game designer so what do I know?

Dragon Warriors RPG has four classes of magic users. Elementalist, Sorcerer, Mystic and Warlock.

In DWRPG, Warlocks are defined as magic users who use their magic to enhance their combat prowess. I presume this is akin to the more aptly-named Swordmages of D&D 3.5. But common usage and fantasy tropes surrounding the term Warlock define it as a male witch, imagined to have special powers derived from the devil.

In DWRPG, Mystics are defined as magic users who are attuned to nature, or to the power of the mind. Again, in D&D, these characters might by Druids or Psionicists. Common usage of the term Mystic however, has overtly religious connotations, often meaning someone who practices occult rights or has knowledge of religious mysteries, which seems more suited to a Priestly or Clerical class.

DWRPG defines Sorcerers as those who draw energy from other dimensions to fuel their spells. This might seem like a run-of-the-mill magic user, but the term Sorcerer again has a definite "black magic" connotation that do not mesh with the definition for the class used in DWRPG.

Finally, the Elementalist class is a very specialized magic user class, that harnesses the raw elements (fire, water, air, earth, darkness) to cast spells. I suppose this could be the pyromancers and other elemental based magic users of the more modern fantasy gaming. This is a fantasy trope that I have little familiarity with, and it therefore failes to evoke any imagery for me, which is important for me as a fantasy tropes enthusiast.

I like Dragon Warriors RPG. It has an interesting, if perhaps too derivative, gameworld, and great atmosphere, to name just a few of the features that I find appealing.

I'm no fan of its magic user classes, however.

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