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The Ascetic Wizard

by Neal Litherland 2 months ago in rpg
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An RPG Character Concept

The man was not what any of them had expected. He sat atop a stone plinth, his legs folded beneath him, his eyes closed. The breeze tugged his long hair and beard, and his skin was tanned dark by his time in the sun. He wore simple garments that were beginning to fray around the edges, and a necklace of large, carved beads.

"You are certain that's him?" Tayvalin asked quietly. "That's the great wizard?"

"That's him," Cintris snarled, touching the scar along her muzzle. She lifted her heavy crossbow, loaded with a barbed bolt. "On my mark."

The other gnolls raised their weapons, and took aim from the cover of the brush. If the man noticed they were there, he gave no sign of it, simply sitting there with his hands resting palms up on his knees. When everyone had him in their sights, Cintris barked twice. As one, a dozen deadly projectiles shrieked, screaming toward the man's bare chest.

Without opening his eyes, the man gestured with one hand, and whispered a single word. The winds, which had been a steady whisper, whipped into a frenzy around him. His hair billowing and his clothes snapping like battle flags, the force of the sudden gale sent the bolts careening off course. Several flew past his head, while others flew to the left or right. Cintris's bolt slammed into the rock just below where he sat, quivering in a crack.

Astras the Seer opened his eyes, and stared right at Cintis. The gnoll snarled, already snatched for another bolt. The wind quieted, but did not die as the wizard raised his voice.

"I have nothing for you to take but my life," he said, turning his hands over to rest them palms down on his knees. "And that, I am afraid, is the one thing I cannot give you."

The Ascetic Wizard

Wizards come in all shapes and sizes, species and styles. There are numerous arcane colleges in most settings, each with their own unique teaching style and reputation. There are wizards who learn as apprentices, and then journeymen, taking an almost blue-collar approach to the arcane. But there are some who take an almost monastic approach to the arts magica. Wizards who eschew the unnecessary trappings and ceremony practiced by others, and who seek a cleaner, more raw understanding of the powers they wield.

These are wizards who have embraced asceticism, and who through denial of the physical reach a higher plane, and a deeper understanding of the metaphysical.

Deprivation opens the third eye.

The form and philosophy asceticism takes may be different depending on a wizard's school and discipline. For example, an ascetic illusionist may practice self-denial (and even sensory deprivation) to better understand and experience the truth of the world so they can more clearly understand the lies of illusion spells. An ascetic enchanter might practice control over themselves to extreme degrees, including denying themselves food, water, and other pleasures merely to exercise their willpower in extreme conditions. An ascetic transmuter might force themselves to do without, transforming their physical form to best suit the needs of their own challenges, whereas an ascetic diviner might live only half-tethered to the present, their philosophy and devotions allowing them to maintain the focus required to see into the future and the past while nominally existing in the present.

While most of this concept is the aesthetic and the philosophy, there are ways to can express it mechanically as well. If you're playing Pathfinder (or have a GM that allows Unearthed Arcana at your table for DND 5th Edition), the Eschew Materials feat is a requirement. A standby for several editions, this feat allows you to ignore the material requirement of a spell that costs 1 gold piece or less (and in certain iterations the 5E feat can allow you to swap out focus items for spells). However, you could also focus on metamagic feats (or taking Metamagic Adept if you're playing 5E) to use Silent Spell and Still Spell. Finally, you could use some of the available options to eschew a traditional spellbook altogether, such as using a tattooed spellbook, or ensuring that you use unusual materials for crafting your pages (rolls of skins, carved beads of bone or wood you need to contemplate and run your fingers over in a ritual manner, etc.).

Finally, it's important to answer the question of why. Why is your wizard an ascetic? Was this the method they were taught from the outset, so it is what has shaped their view of magic? Did they begin with a different tradition, and they abandoned it for the truth they found in this form of expression? Have they merely embraced magic to the point that the material world is often an afterthought to them, up to and including using material components for most spells? The answer is up to you!

Also, if you're looking for more interesting advice, don't forget to check out my article 5 Tips For Playing Better Wizards, part of my ongoing 5 Tips series!

Looking For Even More Content?

That's all for this installment of my Unusual Character Concepts series! Hopefully this one gave you something to chew over, whether you're a player, or a game master.

For even more of my work, check out my full Vocal archive. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my alley cat noir novel Marked Territory, its sequel Painted Cats, my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, or my most recent collection of short stories The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

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About the author

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.

Twitter: @nlitherl



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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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