Posted by: markfender | September 2, 2014


There’s a thing in fantasy games that has a weird nickname.

gishThe “gish” is a fighter-mage. This pretty much emerged from D&D and has remained one of the bugaboos of the multi-classing system. It’s pretty easy to break the system when you allow someone to basically do the two things that the game does well (“Well” is a relative term, of course). From some combination of levels, the gish is the dude with a sword who’s also casting spells in combat.

This archetype has never appealed to me. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done it. I’ve played characters who used magic to enhance whatever their schtick is (The spellcasting shadowy thief, the manipulative advisor with ritual support, etc), but I don’t think I’ve combined spellcasting and fighting. And that’s weird. After all, it seems like the most logical combination to make. Fantasy RPGs are almost always about fighting and, yet, they dedicate most of their page count to spells.

And yet, the idea has never appealed. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because the idea of a mage in a fantasy game is tied to certain archetypes that just don’t seem to involve fighting with swords. Or maybe it’s because I hate spellcasting systems in general and, if I’m going to bother doing them, want to dedicate all my brain space to them. Or maybe because I’m not deluded about which aspect is more powerful in the game’s system and don’t think splitting your focus does any good.

And yet, Gandalf spends most of The Hobbit running around with Glamdring, so it’s not like the archetype doesn’t exist outside of D&D. But I’d also hazard that Gandalf doesn’t ever cast anything about cantrip level, so he’s obviously doing it wrong.

Also, weirdly, I’m totally fine with regular fighters being enhanced by magical equipment. But, for some reason, taking a moment in combat to put the sword aside for a second and cast a Flamestrike at someone just seems like a really weird split in attention.


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