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Author Topic: How to role play a reluctant magic user?  (Read 2537 times)


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How to role play a reluctant magic user?
« on: March 11, 2021, 09:41:16 AM »
I've been playing a character raised in a barbarian clan who was captured and experimented on, weakening them so they can't be a (good) barbarian anymore but it gave them access to arcane magic.

The clan shuns magic and wars against magic using clans so the character has a lot of shame around having the arcane power at all, as well shame around not being as physically strong as they used to be.

I spent my characters first level not using magic at all, keeping it from the party until forced to use magic for a plot point. Which worked well then but to be useful I do have to fully utilise the characters abilities.

I would like the character to eventually become completely comfortable using magic but I'm unsure how to roleplay the build up to that and roleplay the learning of new powers.

How would people suggest acting out that reluctance and conflicted feelings about having to use magic?

I'm fairly new to RPGs so I don't have a wealth of personal experience to draw from so I thought I'd see if you all had any ideas or inspiration for me.


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Re: How to role play a reluctant magic user?
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2021, 10:43:38 AM »
Hmm. Interesting concept.

You might have them insist on performing some sort of cleansing ritual, or even performing mortification of the flesh, after spellcasting. Or dressing in some way that would signify, among barbarian tribes, that you are 'cursed' or 'unclean' in some way.


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Re: How to role play a reluctant magic user?
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2021, 10:59:48 AM »
The problem is not mechanical.  It sounds like you and the GM are on the same wavelength.  How are the rest of the other players doing?  If everyone is in agreement, have a great time discovering your character's story.  If you're in with a bunch of power gamers (compared to role players), it will be more difficult.  One tactic may be to play smarter, have your character use 'dirty tricks' and become really tactically aware of the situation.  Less shout and leap and more "I throw sand in their face."
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Re: How to role play a reluctant magic user?
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2021, 04:49:55 AM »
Essentially you want to develop a (classic) story arc of your character being shunned from their clan for using certain powers. In time you to grow to use and master these powers.

I would suggest a good starting point would be fleshing out for yourself why the clans shun and in fact war against magic users.
Is it based on their religion, mythology or tradition?
Is there something in that region that makes magic users dangerous or evil?
Is it more the magic using clans would be their enemy regardless and magic is just an excuse?
Has it always been the case and no one really remembers the reason?

Once you have the reason you rp how your character justifies using magic.
Worth noting the Clan doesn't need to be wrong about the reasons. Think about Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader or Magneto in the Xmen etc

In Role Playing terms you might want to check out Psykers in Warhammer 40,000 and the game Dark Heresy. There are barbarian clans in this setting who have a similar view.  And for very good reason because magic users and psykers inevitably bring demons into the world and spread mutation.


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Re: How to role play a reluctant magic user?
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2021, 12:31:49 AM »
It's an interesting concept...but do you want to play a barbarian / mage or a mage?

If you want to play a barbarian / mage, you would focus on reclaiming as much of your former self as possible and seeking a way to undue this "curse" upon you, and until then, always using magic reluctantly and with great shame. 

If you want to play a mage, then you focus on how your mage leaves his barbarian heritage behind, sees his "curse" as a boon instead, and embraces the path of arcana. While you will always have a savage background, the question becomes how far you develop away from it.

Imagine your PC in 20 years. What do they look like? How do they live? Where do they live? What is their thoughts on their tribe? Thoughts on magic? 

Answer those and you'll know how to roleplay the path from here to there.

Have fun!


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Re: How to role play a reluctant magic user?
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2021, 12:37:41 PM »
Personally, I think D&D is the wrong vehicle for something like this. If you want a game which is all about exploring drama and inner conflict (which sounds like what you're going for), you can find stuff made specifically for that sort of thing, most likely in the new-school/narrative/Forge gaming world.

But D&D is just not that sort of game. It's a game of adventure, action, resource management, and "smart players succeed, dumb players fail"-mentality. It's also a team game: Fighters depend on Cleric and Magic Users to cover their weaks spots; Magic Users depend on Fighters and Clerics to keep their fragile asses safe; etc.. Everyone depends on everyone else. Now, what you seem to be doing here is picking a class (some sort of wizard or what have you) and deliberately not using its magical abilities (or at least using them suboptimally). Which is letting down all the other PCs who are depending on your magic. It's like playing soccer, volunteering to be the goalie, and then deciding that you just can't be bothered to use your hands to catch flying balls. You'll be eating goals left and right, causing your entire team to lose, just because you didn't do what you volunteered to do.

Now, sure, if everyone onboard is fine with this, that's a thing. Go ahead, have fun. But in a team-oriented game like D&D every players has a responsibility to not spoil other players' fun, so you should make extra sure everyone is okay with it. And if the others aren't comfortable with the idea of having a team member who is essentially dead weight in the name of roleplaying his inner drama, then it's incumbent upon you to not be the party pooper.
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Re: How to role play a reluctant magic user?
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2021, 11:21:41 PM »
Base it on Schmendrick from the Last Unicorn.