The Magician

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The magician is, as the name suggests, a character skilled in the use of magic. The type of magic the character is able to use and the specific tradition that he or she follows depends on the genre and setting. The flash-bang style of magic found in most role-playing games, for example, has no precedent in real world mythology, and is therefore ill-suited for some games, but works well for super-hero or high fantasy settings. While every magical tradition has its own rules, taboos, and philosophies, members of the magician archetype are not priests. They gain their magical abilities through knowledge, and even those who access the power of otherworldly entities do so by learning how to placate, command, or negotiate with those entities, not through worship of or faith in them.

Likely Stories

Magicians are of course most common to fantasy worlds, but can be found in any game setting where magic and the supernatural is real, or even remotely likely. The genre of the game will greatly affect the abilities and powers available to the character. Magicians in highly fantastical settings, such as 80s fantasy cartoon worlds, will have ready access to easy to use, potent, and often very flashy magic. Magic in a more “realistic,” setting, on the other hand, may be so subtle that there is no way for characters in the world to objectively prove that alleged magical effects aren’t pure coincidence or parlor tricks (which some may, in fact, be). It is even possible to play a magician in a world with no magic, though doing so requires working closely with the GM to determine what is acceptable, as well as determining whether the character is a clever charlatan or merely a delusional fool (or perhaps both).

The Name Game

In many magical traditions, knowing a person’s true name gives you power over that person. Additionally, some traditions require practitioners to take on a “craft name,” often as the final step of a symbolic rebirth during an initiation ritual. As a result, magicians generally have odd names, often self-inflicted. In fantasy worlds, these games can range from reasonably cool to unpronounceable and dumb. In pseudo-real-world settings, magicians often take on the names of ancient deities or powerful magicians from the past. Latin, Greek, Egyptian, and Celtic names are also popular.

The Numbers

Brain is the magician’s most important Word, as a high Brain score allows him to grasp the subtle and sometimes abstract concepts required for magical thinking. A high Brain Number also allows the magician to understand ancient languages and retain the many precise details required for some rituals. If the magician regularly deals with fairies, demons, or other supernatural entities, a high Nerve Number is also useful for negotiating with and in some cases resisting the powers of these creatures. Body is generally the least important Word for a magician, though a good Body Number is useful for rituals that require precise movement or exhausting physical activity.

Suggested Jobs: Alchemist, Animagus, Apprentice, Battle Mage, Bibliomancer, Chaos Magician, Conjurer, Demonologist, Diabolist, Diviner, Druid, Elementalist, Enchanter, Enochian Mage, Geomancer, Hedge Wizard, Hermeticist, Hobomancer, Hoodoo Doctor, Illusionist, Magi, Mathemagician, Miracle Man, Necromancer, Obeah Woman, Occultist, Pornomancer, Runeworker, Son of Ether, Sorcerer, Technomancer, Thaumaturgist, Urban Wizard, Warlock, Wise Woman, Witch, Wizard, Wu Jen

Gimmicks: Clue Magnet, Cool Toy (Magical Artifact), Demonic Heritage, Destiny, Half Fairy, Hard to Kill, Otherworldly Minions, Magical Prosthesis, Magical Workshop, Master of Research, Natural Linguist, Occult Library, Parseltongue, Philosopher’s Stone, Psychometry, Second Sight, Sees Dead People

Weaknesses: Alcoholic, Bad Karma, Bad Reputation, Cursed, Fate’s Chew Toy, Delusional, Haunted, Insanity, Lycanthropy, Magic Addiction, Magical Taboo, Outsider, Paranoia, Punching Bag of the Gods, Sees Only Death and Decay, Supernatural Enemies, Unearthly Mentor, Victim of  the Past, Weirdness Magnet

Skills: Alchemy, Astrology, Charms, Chess, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Demonic Etiquette, Demonology, Dewey Decimal System, Dream Interpretation, Fairy Lore, Folk Medicine, Forteana, Fortune Telling, Greek, Herbalism, Heiroglyphics, Kabbalah, Latin, Magical History, Meditation, Misdirection, Mythology, Negotiation, Potion Making, Research, Riddles, Séances, Tantra, Tarot

WWPHITM? Fairuza Balk, Cate Blanchet, Helena Bonham-Carter, David Bowie, Tommy Chong, Billy Crystal, Johnny Depp, Brad Dourif, Michael Gambon, Crispin Glover, John Glover, Rupert Grint, Allyson Hannigan, Richard Harris, Salma Hayek, Anthony Stewart Head, Anthony Hopkins, Dennis Hopper, Jeremy Irons, Cyndi Lauper, Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, Rose McGowan, Ian McKellen, Elizabeth Montgomery, Famke Janssen, Alyssa Milano, Joe Morton, Gary Oldman, Jack Palance, Vincent Price, Daniel Radcliffe, Christina Ricci, Alan Rickman, Winona Ryder, Julian Sands, Max Von Sidowe, Tom Waits, Emma Watson

Who Should Not Play Him/Her in the Movie? Keanu Reeves

Who Should Have Played John Constantine in the Movie? Tim Roth

Tag Line: “I’m the one who steps from the shadows, all trench coat and cigarette and arrogance, ready to deal with the madness. Oh, I’ve got it all sewn up. I can save you. If it takes the last drop of your blood, I’ll drive your demons away. I’ll kick them in the bollocks and spit on them when they’re down and then I’ll be gone back into darkness, leaving only a nod and a wink and a wisecrack. I walk my path alone… who would walk with me?”—John Constantine, Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits by Garth Ennis

Tools of the Trade: The specific tools required to use magic vary greatly depending on the sorcerer’s tradition. Some may be able to cast spells simply by muttering some pseudo-Latin and pointing a wand, while others will be required to conduct elaborate rituals requiring ingredients ranging from bat guano to pixie dust. Many ritual magic traditions require the practitioner to have access to a cup, a sword, and wand, and a coin or pentacle. These tools often represent the four elements or the four cardinal points of the compass. Grimoires, ancient scrolls, books of shadows, and other written records of magical lore and rituals are also very common. Contrary to popular belief, not all magicians shun technology or attempt to use magic to solve all problems. For example, many magicians find that guns, swords, and other mundane weapons are much less time consuming and stressful then magic when it comes to dispatching human enemies. Long, flowing robes are a popular but not required mode of dress.

Where You’ll Find Him: For most magicians, magic is not simply a hobby that you can use to while away a boring Saturday afternoon. Rather, it is a way of life and in many cases a dangerous obsession. Therefore, nearly everything they do in some way helps them advance (or at least finance) their magical goals. Since most wizards don’t have time for mundane distractions, they tend to choose homes that are isolated or at least relatively secure against unwanted visitors. The wizard’s tower of fantasy stories is the classic example, but secluded manor houses, high-rise apartments, and house trailers in the middle of nowhere can also fit the bill.

Social Circle: Since magicians tend to be very focused on their magical pursuits, most of their acquaintances are fellow magicians or others somehow associated with the practice of magic: rare book collectors, magic shop owners, fortune tellers, and the like. Some magicians organize themselves into covens, fraternal orders, secret societies, and other mutual interest groups. Finally, many magicians will have relationships with creatures who are not of this world: demons, fairies, dragons, or even angels.

Sample Character

(c)1981 Orion Pictures
(c)1981 Orion Pictures


Body: 11

Brian: 13

Nerve: 14

Job: Wizard (16)

Gimmick: Second Sight (14)

Weakness: Lust (14)

Skills: Disguise +3; Herbalism +2; Animal Handling +1

WWPHTIM? Nicol Williamson

Dumb Fact: Possibly half-demon.

Tag Line: “The days of our kind are numbered. The one God comes to drive out the many gods. The spirits of wood and stream grow silent. It’s the way of things. Yes… it’s a time for men, and their ways.” (from Excalibur)

HP: 11

YY: 5

Inspirational Material

Books and Comics

Last Call, Tim Powers

Books of Magic

Dr. Fate

Dr. Strange


The Harry Potter series

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Mage, Matt Wagner

Promethea, Alan Moore

The Tempest, William Shakespeare

Movies & TV


Buffy the Vampire Slayer


The Harry Potter series

The Lord of the Rings series

Witch Hunt



Black Sabbath

Blue Oyster Cult

The Doors

Dr. John



Iron Maiden

Jimi Hendrix


Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Led Zeppelin

Pink Floyd


Tom Waits



Roger Bacon

William Blake

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

Aleister Crowley

John Dee

Nicolas Flamel

Robert Fludd

Edward Kelley

Marie Laveau

Eliphas Levi

Samuel L. MacGregor Mathers

Alan Moore

Grant Morrison


Jack Parsons

Robert Anton Wilson

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