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5 Tips For Playing a Better Magus

A Pathfinder RPG Guide

By Neal LitherlandPublished about a year ago 7 min read

Spellswords. Eldritch warriors. Battle wizards. Combining arcane might with martial prowess is not an easy road to travel, but it is the path walked by the magus. With their flashing blades and devastating spells, these unique individuals are usually far more than the sum of their parts.

With that said, it can sometimes feel difficult to really make a magus stand out beyond their unique class features and abilities. So if you've been struggling to find an identity and story for your character beyond their spellstrike ability, consider implementing some of the following tips!

For more articles covering different classes, fantasy species, Game Master tips, and more, check out the 5 Tips Master List! And for more general gaming content, stop by my full Vocal archive.

Tip #1: How Did You Learn Your Skills?

Trifle not in the affairs of wizards.

Magi have a unique skill set. While there are other classes and archetypes who combine spellcasting with battle readiness, no one does it quite the same way they do. So the first question you should ask yourself is how did you end up practicing this particular form of steel and spell?

For example, is this what you were specifically trained for? Perhaps you were the student of an arcane school that used an almost monastic method of instilling knowledge in students, making sure they walked a fine and balanced line. Alternatively, you might have been produced by a war college, trained specifically for a skirmishing/front line role as a battle caster, using the magus's unique abilities and skill set to achieve victories.

But what if that wasn't the case? You might have been a wizard's apprentice, or a student at an arcane college, who found that while you couldn't master more academic concepts that you could use a fighting style as a focus for your arts, leading to a unique blend that was definitely not what the curriculum called for. Or were you sent to an academy that trained you in martial discipline, but you could never win fights through sheer force of arms alone? Perhaps you drew upon magic you'd learned to give you a battlefield advantage against those who relied entirely on steel, using what skills you had to ensure that you could walk away the victor every time.

Tip #2: What Does Your Weapon Say About You?

Functional. No-nonsense. Deadly.

Similar to an entry on 5 Tips For Playing Better Fighters, the weapon can say a lot about a warrior. Because while we might choose our favored weapon for a magus for a mechanical reason (*cough* highest possible crit range *cough*), we should ask what the weapon, and how a character wields it, says about them as an individual.

For example, one of the most common magus weapons is the rapier, as it has that beautiful 18-20 critical range. However, ask yourself what the in-game reason the character wields this weapon is. Were they schooled in this kind of swordplay when they were younger, so it's a weapon they're more familiar with? Are they from a city, so it was far more common to find a rapier as a sidearm than something like a longsword or a warhammer? Is this weapon a mark of status or prestige, particularly if it's granted as a symbol of graduation from a particular academy, or service with a certain organization?

Additionally, it's worth asking how the magus fights with this particular weapon. Keeping with the rapier as an example, are they a graceful fencer, trading blows and looking for an opening? Or are they more of a traditional swashbuckler, which as we find in What It Really Means To Be a Swashbuckler referred not to someone of great skill, but a loud, bullying brute who smashed their way into victory rather than relying on skill, speed, and prowess.

Whether your magus uses a kukri or a dagger, a spiked gauntlet, a bastard sword, or a cudgel, this is definitely worth thinking about.

Tip #3: What is Your Profession?

The crowd always goes wild when he steps onto the sands.

While I didn't mention this in my 5 Tips For Playing Better Wizards installment, it is just as applicable to those arcane casters as it is to the magus. Because while you gain a lot of interesting and unique abilities as part of this class, being a magus is not a job in and of itself.

So what does your character actually do with their powers and abilities?

Are they a sellsword, using their unique skills as a mercenary? Are they a soldier, elite or otherwise? Have they been raised to knighthood, operating in the interest of a kingdom or aristocracy? Are they a bounty hunter, private investigator, treasure hunter, gang enforcer, or any of a hundred other professions one could use a magus's skill set in?

This can be a major, defining part of who a character is, and how they use their abilities. And if you're looking for inspiration, consider checking out some of the following:

- 100 Random Mercenary Companies: Freelances and sellswords of all sorts can be found in this collection. For those who want a deeper dive with battle doctrine, full history, and more, though, check out Sellswords of Sundara which covers 10 unique free companies in greater depth.

- 100 Knightly Orders: Knightly orders are often formed around specific causes, and filled with those who are a great asset to those causes. A magus may not be the knight in shining armor one often pictures, but they can be a unique asset to any order who claims them.

- 100 Fantasy Guilds: Whether you are a member in good standing of the guild itself, or merely on their payroll as a protector (or enforcer, whichever term one prefers), guilds will often seek out those who can help them further their own goals and ambitions. A magus would be a great resource, whether the guild is dedicated to monster hunting, mercenary work, or just wants a bodyguard for more important members.

Tip #4: What is Your Relationship To Other Casters?

Necromancers and I... we don't get along.

Magi possess a unique character chassis, and while they may share similarities with wizards that doesn't mean they necessarily pal around with them. On the other hand, it might mean exactly that.

Take a moment to ask yourself how your magus relates to other practitioners, and their methods. Do they respect wizards as equals, especially since the two of them can share spellbooks? Or do they have more of an affinity for sorcerers, especially if one takes the magus variant that gains a bloodline? Do they find bloodragers fascinating or horrifying? Do they feel a kind of strategic kinship with paladins or warpriests, even if their methodology is very different? Do they respect bards as jacks-of-all-trades, or do they see them as undisciplined, and unable to commit themselves?

Opinions may run the gamut, but it's worth thinking about how your magus thinks about the many and varied ways other people have mastered their own spells.

Tip #5: What Do You Do Beyond Battle?

The occasional relaxing walk through the countryside, perhaps?

Magi are often thought of as war wizards, even if they possess a lot of abilities and powers which can, technically, be useful outside of a combat situation. However, just as with fighters, a lot of us tend to focus on a magus's battle prowess without considering what else they do with their lives.

So take a minute to consider that.

What hobbies do they have? What life goals are they working toward? Do they have a favorite band, favorite food, do they like sports, do they gamble, do they play board games... all of these questions are worth considering when it comes to rounding out what your magus does for the 98% of their life that they aren't in a blade-to-blade, spell-to-spell, life-and-death situation.

And for those looking for additional inspiration, consider checking out 100 Fantasy Bands, as well as 100 Fantasy Foods and 100 Fantasy Tattoos (And The Meanings Behind Them). The more story you can put into your magus, after all, the better!

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That's all for this week's Fluff post!

For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my alley cat thriller Marked Territory, its sequel Painted Cats, my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my recent short story collection The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

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About the Creator

Neal Litherland

Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.



Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

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