Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Towards an Adventurer Sage Class

In order to operationalise a Sage class that can be remotely interesting, it needs to be a class of adventurer sages - explorers, "faunists" (I got this great 18th century word from The Natural History of Selborne, which I'm currently reading), botanists, xenobiologists, and the like, who study in the field. But that in itself, I think, needs a mechanism for giving Sages something to do: finding new things and, crucially, getting that task into the XP/gold economy.

In other words, Sages need to get money for finding stuff out and telling other sages about it.

How to do that? Well, a basic price system, assuming that there is some kind of market among other sages (guilds of sages, for example) for the new knowledge a Sage produces. Let's think about how that could work.

Well, there could be a basic base rate for different discoveries based on the detail of the knowledge generated. So, for example:

Sketch on the fly of a monster: 5gp (x1 if the monster is common, x2 if uncommon, x5 if rare, x10 if very rare)
Sketch of a monster from careful study: 15gp per week of close observation (same modifiers)
Sketch of a monster from memory: 2gp (same modifiers)
Detailed notes on a monster: 5gp (same modifiers)
Monster sample (hair, bone, tooth, etc.): 10gp (same modifiers)
Monster corpse: 50gp (same modifiers)
Live monster: 100gp
Sketched map of new hex (takes 1 week of exploration for a 6 mile hex, multiplied by travel rate (e.g., x1 for open terrain, x3 for hilly, etc.)): 250gp, 
Detailed map of new hex (takes 3 weeks of exploration for a 6 mile hex): 1000gp
Map to a special site from nearest settlement: 250gp per hex traversed 

Prices are based on there being an applicable Guild of Sages to which to sell the information (e.g., a Guild of Geographers for maps). If there is no applicable Guild of Sages but there are sages present, the price obtained is 0.1 of the normal amount. If there are no sages present at all, no sale can take place.


  1. I think the issue with spinning this idea into it's own class is that these sage discoverieas are presumably things that the other party members are interested in doing to some extent already. Or at least they will be once they see the tangible reward for doing so. What happens if a fighter or magic user tries to turn in a sketch to a guild?

    Is sketching a hex map so dissimilar from sketching a dungeon interior (something anyone can do in old school games by default)?

    I do like what you've come up with, though. I wonder if it could stand alone as a core system, maybe even replacing gold=xp in an "age of discovery" kind of game.

    1. Yeah, that's a good point, actually. One of many reasons why expanding the classes beyond fighter/wizard/cleric is probably a bad idea.

    2. Rebuttal: Don't most players want to have some form of magic, and want to be able to kill things at some point? The problem I find with this argument that all players want to do X thing is that all players want to do everything, but they generally want a focus. From anecdotal experience, players are fine having roles dealt out among them, so I think having a sage class with this special XP paradigm isn't as big an issue as white room analysis would have you believe.

  2. You make a good point, Slick, but if I really wanted to make it a class, I'd go with training and credentials as part of the Sage's niche protection. Sage's have spent hours dissecting animals (and possibly corpses), studying their anatomy, and honing their sketching skills. Anyone can doodle the monster the party just saw, but a sage will render it in detail that even the picture can allow others to make valid observations about it. In studying a hex, they will make valid observations about the ecology and interactions between lifeforms in the hex.

    On top of that, their credentials as sages allow their work to be taken seriously and have full value. Perhaps anyone can bring in a sketch or map, but one from a non-sage is going to fetch a smaller price than one from a sage.

    Still, you could simply roll the sage concept into another class, perhaps magic-user. For players that balk at one spell a day, being able to engage in naturalist activities would give them something else at lower levels.

    1. Yeah, the magic-user as sage is totally in keeping with the D&D idea of a mage.

      I still just quite like the idea of a fusty academic who is also an adventurer, though. Could be Indiana Jones, could be the frail, mad professor. Either is cool.

    2. In my notes towards an adventuring sage class (which I call a savant, based on Gary Gygax's announced-but-never-published class) I settled on the "special gimmick" of the class being a sort of quasi-storygamish author-mode thing: if the PC makes their roll then they know/remember a "fact" about a monster/item/location/etc. that becomes true in the game. The probably have to declare what that fact is before making the roll - if they succeed it's true, if they fail it's not true, and if they fumble it's the opposite of what's true. I've never actually implemented that in a game (and therefore never worked out all the kinks and unintended consequences) but I think it could work, and would definitely make these characters seem unique and not just a redundant or slightly-differently-flavored magic-user.

    3. It could work, and it's a cool idea, but it would possibly be too Fate-like for my taste.

  3. Hmm, this is the second take on a player class that gets xp from drawing monsters in less than a week. Emmy Allen (Gardens of Ynn)wrote up an artist class for lotfp a couple days ago. Looks like all these years of doodling on my character sheet are finally going to pay off!

    Link to the class in question:

    1. I like that class, but you do have the logistical problem of how he or she carries around all the paintings in the dungeon.

  4. I have waffled back and forth about including such a class. I love sages and use them extensively as plot hooks, but to have one in the party seems odd. How do they keep all their reference materials on hand? Even a small library is quite heavy and knowledgeable sages (i.e. high level) are going to have large collections of books, scrolls and other sources of information.

    It might be a good idea to give the class a familiar, be it an animal, monster or spirit, to fill that function.

    1. Good points. I kind of like the image of a sage being accompanied everywhere by a homonculus carrying a huge ungainly pile of books.

  5. This definitely requires Trial By Academic Combat - before you can level up, you need to convince progressively more colleagues that your pet theories are right. Eventually you need to found a college.

  6. Sell your stolen goods to the Thieves Guild
    Sell your monster samples and drawings and observations to the Sages Guild
    Sell your charts and maps to the Geographers, or perhaps to the Army

    Knowledge is power, power is work over time, and time is money!