Thursday, March 19, 2009

more class musings

Here’s a variant class inspired by the NPC classes in 3e and some scribbled notes about NPCs in the World of Cinder.

Requirements: NPC
Prime Requisites: Intelligence (see below)
Hit Dice: d4 (flat amount, not per level)
Attacks: Normal Man
Saves: Normal Man

As a non-adventuring NPC class, the level of a hedge mage is based upon the number of years they have spent puttering around in labs, reading musty old tomes, tending herb-gardens, etc. A high Intelligence score reduces the years needed to advance a level (13-15 equals -1 year; 16-17, -2 years; and 18, -3 years) while a low Int adds to the time needed to advance (3, +3 years; 4-5, +2 years; 6-8, +1 year).


For most purposes hedge mages and magic-users are mechanically interchangeable: The magic-user rules for spellbooks and memorization also apply to hedge mages. Hedge mages can use magic items otherwise only useable by M-U’s. Spells developed by hedge mages can be learned and cast by magic-users, etc. In fact, the members of each class do not see the other class as a separate profession. Rather most magic-users consider hedge mages to be MU’s who have failed to live up to their potential for awesome power and many hedge mages tend to see magic-users as corner-cutting slackers. Magic-users may have apprentices who go on to become hedge mages and vice versa.

Lore: Starting at 2nd level a hedge mage gains a non-spell ability called a Lore. No hedge mage may have more than one Lore per level over first, but some have fewer than that. Some sample Lores are listed below:

Brew Potions
Herbal Healing
Identify Magic Item
Cast Horoscope
Enchant Magic Items
Create Golem
Concoct Gunpowder
Summon, Bind, & Banish Ethereal Spirits (or demons, elementals, etc.)
Decipher Ancient Languages
Hear Whispers on the Wind
Knowledge of the Hierarchy and Protocols of Hell (or the Fairy Kingdom, Atlantis, etc.)

Assigning and adjudicating these abilities is left to the individual referee. Most Lores cannot be taught to magic-users, who rarely have the patience required, but at the referee’s option some Lores may be ‘translated’ into spells. Consider this as a research project that takes half as much time and money as developing a new spell, but the hedge mage must assist during the entire project. Some Lores will require more than one spell (Summon Spirit, Bind Spirit, Banish Spirit, for instance).

Given a hedge mage’s abysmal combat abilities and potential if they stick to the books long enough, you can see why most hedge mages would be extremely loathe to go adventuring.


  1. Thanks Jeff! I am totally stealing this for my 1E Gary's Greyhawk Campaign. I've been needing something for Hedge Mages, and just too lazy or busy to botehr with it myself. This fits the bill perfectly!

    This also works for Cloistered Monks (cleric lists), Forest Hermits (druid list), and Stage Magicians (illusionist list) methinks, though for Monks and Hermits I'd probably cut the spell list down to max 4th level, doubling up on 1st and then 2nd level spells at 40-49 and 50+ respectively.

  2. Wow - this closely matches how I play my NPC mages who are "hedge wizards" almost to a T. Thanks for putting stats on it, gives me some additional stuff to try out.

  3. Plus it's really fun to say: "hedge mage".

  4. Neat idea! Reminds me of the normal folks in the AD&D Rogues Gallery that had exectional ability scores (single page towards the back, don't have my copy handy.) Love the look on a players face when a "normal man" w/18 str does a little extra damage than the expected...

  5. Not to be a wet blanket, because what you've got there is good stuff, but I must wonder at the use of the term "hedge mage" for this sort of magic-user.

    In folklore, there's a whole realm of meaning invested in the term which has not a lot to do with the puttering, rural, almost dabbling wizard-type. "Riding the hedge" was a job for witches who would walk between the worlds, with the "hedge" being a symbolic boundary between the civilized world and the wilds. It's even mentioned in the Havamal, where Odin boasts of having a spell that can cause the hedge-riders cavorting in the sky to become lost.

    Just curious where the newer usage might have come from. I believe that Lieber used it in the first of the Grey Mouser stories, but I wonder if it was used before then as well.

  6. This is fantastic! :) Something else to borrow for my ancient academy game. :)

  7. I like this a lot, I really have to say. Especially the lore acquisition -- that's definitely the highlight for me.

    Lovely work!

  8. Joseph, I'm not sure about origin the specific term hedge mage or hedge wizard but it's been around for a while in the sense that Jeff is using it and it's the most common usage of hedge in fantasy.

    From at least the 16th century, hedge could mean third rate. A hedge priest at the time was a rural uneducated priest who tended Areas to poor and sparsely populated to merit someone who could read Latin. Once you have a fantasy world where wizards exist, it's not hard to make the jump from hedge priest to hedge wizard.

  9. Anonymous7:42 PM

    Jeff: this is awesome! I particularly like the "lores." One question, to make sure that I'm following the mechanic you describe for the years required to advance a level. Is the intelligence modifier applied once, or for each level?

    What I mean is, if a hedge mage has a INT 16, that's a -2 year modifier. That would mean that he's level 1 for 7 years, advancing to level 2 at year 8. Will it still take him 10 years to reach level 3, at year 18? Or does his intelligence shorten this span by 2 years again, so it takes only another 8 years, at level 16?

    Joseph: I know the term "hedge mage" was being used in this sense in Ars Magica, and wouldn't be surprised if some GURPS books had been using it thus even earlier. And, as Stan notes, Leiber and others had used the term in this sense well before that.

  10. OdRock: I imagined it as a one time bonus. A Hedge Mage with an 18 Int achieves 6th level in his 47th year of hedgery.

  11. Anonymous2:38 PM

    Pardon my coming in late, but have you considered using something like S John Ross's hedge magic for hedge mages (see here: It seems to me that most D&D standard spells aren't very practical for day to day life, so I'm not sure how hedge mages would make a living. For Ross's hedge magic, you could have hedge mages able to work hedge magic in one area (healing, plants, animals, etc) and add another area every level.

    - DW

  12. Not to discount S. John's system in any way, but my solution would simply be to add some more spells of the kind you imagine Hedge Mages using. As I envision them, the Lore ability might cover much of what you seek. In my mind Lore is the primary ability of the class, with the spells a secondary attribute.

  13. Tacoma11:58 AM

    I just assume that NPCs have ways of gaining XP that don't involve adventuring. Adventurers go out and adventure mainly for the money and the possibility of finding magic items. They also tend to gain XP much faster than sitting around in town like the NPCs.

    So I can have an NPC magic-user of 5th level who has never gone on an adventure, and that's okay. And if they come back five years later and he's 6th level that's okay too.

    The main thing is not adding a new way to gain XP. If you do, PCs will then be able to go out and adventure but also gain XP while loafing around between adventures.