[Necro][Historical] Where did the Cleric/Mage split come from?

Kiero

Retiring User
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It's a fantasy staple (at least a D&D staple, which is often mimicked elsewhere) that magic comes in two stripes. There's book-learned magic that Magic Users (or Mages) use, which is often flashy and fairly direct. Then there's god-granted Clerical magic, which usually includes healing, inspiration and boosting of others and the ability to ward off the undead.

This divide has been maintained for the longest time, and some fiction has even taken it on. So where did it come from? I mean that in the perspective of RPGs development, did wargames make this distinction?

Second question, moving away from the historical genesis of the split, why does it persist? Is it because of the niche protection that many people like?
 
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remial

ishin na' telleth
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Re: [Historical] Where did the Cleric/Mage split come from?

one possibility is that the clerics have to look for an outside source for magic, and that the Mages learn to channel the inner reserves of power. persomally, as a GM, I don't like the split, so I don't use it.

another possibiluty (from a historical perspective) is that for a long time only the clergy could read.but as time progressed, eventually others learned to read as well.

just a couple thoughts
 

Kiero

Retiring User
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Re: [Historical] Where did the Cleric/Mage split come from?

remial said:
one possibility is that the clerics have to look for an outside source for magic, and that the Mages learn to channel the inner reserves of power. persomally, as a GM, I don't like the split, so I don't use it.

another possibiluty (from a historical perspective) is that for a long time only the clergy could read.but as time progressed, eventually others learned to read as well.

just a couple thoughts
I should have been clearer. I mean from a historical perspective of the evolution of RPGs, not any in-setting justification.
 

damion4242

Play Go!
Re: [Historical] Where did the Cleric/Mage split come from?

Kiero said:
I should have been clearer. I mean from a historical perspective of the evolution of RPGs, not any in-setting justification.
I can't think of it appearing before DnD.

Although it's a fairly standard thing in wargames that your "healer" units arn't also your heavy firepower. (Creates to much utility in one unit).
 

brianm

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Re: [Historical] Where did the Cleric/Mage split come from?

It comes from D&D’s wargaming roots. This is apocryphal. I wasn’t there, but this is how I understand it to be.

The folks creating Chainmail, D&D’s wargaming predecessor, were playing primarily with miniatures created to simulate the battles of medieval Europe. Among these sets were Christian warrior-priests. Yes, such men existed. And yes, they were forbidden the use edged weapons, since Christ said, “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” So they were forced to used blunt weapons that could not be mistaken for swords. (Supposedly, there was also a prohibition against shedding blood, but I can’t imagine anyone being hit upside the head with a gothic mace not bleeding profusely.)

So this mini was in the set, and they wanted to use it, since they’d been a central part of the medieval forces. Or they were using it and though it should represent something special, just like it did in the historical games. It couldn’t be a wizard; having a Christian warrior-priest representing a sorcerer was just wrong from all sorts of directions. Besides, sorcerers didn’t go into battle covered head to toe in mail. So they created a character that carried the traditional support and moral-boosting powers of the historical warrior-priest figure, and then beefed them up to fit in a fantasy milieu.

Again, this is scuttlebutt. I wasn’t there, and I don’t know anyone who was. But it does fit what I know of medieval warfare (studied a bit of that in college), the genesis of D&D, and wargamers. If someone knows better, I’d love to hear the true story.

- Brian
 

brianm

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Re: [Historical] Where did the Cleric/Mage split come from?

Oops! Two-part question.

It persists because it's tradition now. The MMOG-makers have enshrined the tanker-blaster-healer trilogy (now a quartet with the addition of the controller character type, which does not exist in traditional D&D) in their designs. Designers of table-top games include the split because that's the way it's always been, and their players now expect it. The traditional dungeon delve requires fast healing, and the cleric has traditionally supplied it. No fantasy heart-breaker is complete without it.

- Brian
 

Robert McGregor

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Re: [Historical] Where did the Cleric/Mage split come from?

Well, its in just about every human culture on earth has historically made a distinction between a "wizard" and a "priest" though I think one of the strongest distinctions was made in medieval Europe.

A character like Frier Tuck is much different than than one like Merlin. Its pretty much the same in any tale that comes from Christian Europe, with a sharp disitinction between a miracle from God and magic from some other (perhaps more questionable) source.

As for role playing history, D&D created the common stereotype we see today - with the Cleric with healing spells and moderate combat ability and the Wizard with powerful magic but weak physically. Outside of D&D these stereotypes don't always exist, since fiction is full of non-physical priests or physically powerful wizards. Though usually magic in fiction (particularly earlier fiction) is either too rare, mysterious, or miraculous to easily classify as in D&D.


So, short answer : it started with D&D
 

Wart

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Re: [Historical] Where did the Cleric/Mage split come from?

I think the Clerical magic distinction was introduced as a game balance thing. In the original version of D&D, you had three character classes: clerics, fighters and magic-users. Fighters had excellent melee skills but not very powerful magic. Magic-users had the most powerful magic but were bad fighters. Clerics could fight a bit and do some magic - but not as powerful as the mage's magic - so they were a compromise between the two. (Crucially, Clerics got the healing spells, which makes them tactically highly useful and so makes up somewhat for them being jacks-of-all-trades).
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
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Re: [Historical] Where did the Cleric/Mage split come from?

Robert McGregor said:
Well, its in just about every human culture on earth has historically made a distinction between a "wizard" and a "priest" though I think one of the strongest distinctions was made in medieval Europe.
I've been thinking about medieval European concpetions of magic and how they relate to rpgs and I think the spellcaster who reads spells out of a book, who has to speak them out loud and use hand gestures, resembles a (medieval) priest pretty closely. Most of the priestly functions I perform (as a priest in the Church of England) involve reading out of a book (often a big, old book), chanting or speaking out loud and making hand gestures ('manual acts'). This is a lot closer to my stereotype of how an MU does magic than my stereotype of how a Cleric does magic.

Also, remember whence 'hocus pocus' is said to come.
 
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UglyJimStudly

Unforgiven
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Re: [Historical] Where did the Cleric/Mage split come from?

Robert McGregor said:
Well, its in just about every human culture on earth has historically made a distinction between a "wizard" and a "priest" though I think one of the strongest distinctions was made in medieval Europe.
Actually, I believe medieval Europe is more on the order of an exception than a rule in this case. For most of human history, the person who did magic was also the person who talked with the gods/spirits/whatever on other people's behalf. Christianity holds as a matter of theology that anything contacted that way is a demon, so that drove the split. Many cultures without that kind of theological driving force were quite happy to link the two.

D&D-wise, I'm pretty sure the split came from a desire to make figures like Archbishop Turpin a distinct character type. Which of course derives from medieval Europe, hence the split.
 
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