Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Class Struggles: The Mystic

No. Not the fight between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, but something far more important.

"Class Struggle" is a new feature where I take a class from a D&D, OSR or related product and do a deep dive into it. I am going to focus on unique classes to each product, sometimes going back to the same product even to look at other classes.  In some cases I am going to look into a class and different representations in different products.  I am also going to mostly focus on classes that interest me. So heavy on the magic using classes.

I also want to start this feature with the Mystic, found in +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep.

Back in October of 2013 I spent some time doing a deep dive into Bloch's magnum opus and dedication to a game that never was.  If you have not had a chance to read over Adventures Dark & Deep I suggest that check it out.  It really is something interesting, even beyond the purely academic question of what would a 2nd Edition AD&D look like if Gygax had never left TSR.  It is also a very playable game and a fun one in it's own right.  It captures the feel of AD&D better than say OSRIC does.

If you want to just check out the new classes then BRW's first product, A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore has the new classes and few other rules.

The Mystic is one of those new classes featured in the book that was also talked about by Gygax in the pages of Dragon magazine.

Here is what Gygax said about the Mystic in Dragon #65 (from Bloch's own Greyhawk Grognard blog):
Mystic: This subclass of clerics is concerned more with prediction and detection than are other sorts of clerics. All mystics are of Good alignment, although they can be chaotic, neutral, or lawful within the Good alignment. As with other sorts of clerics, mystics would have seven levels of spells, but most would be of the sort to divine or detect. However, some new spells, and some very powerful upper-level spells, are planned.
I read this commentary from Grognardia on the same issue which got me thinking about the Mentzer BECMI sets and how they might have influenced the Gygax 2nd Edition.  To this end I will briefly mention the D&D Master Set / Rules Cyclopedia mystics.

The Bloch Mystic (for simplicity) is described as:
The mystic is a sub-class of cleric, and an initiate of an inner mystery tradition that seeks direct communion with the multiverse in order to achieve enlightenment. Insight, awareness, and a deep connection with ultimate reality are the hallmarks and ultimate goals of the mystic. Most good-aligned faiths have such mystery traditions within them, even if they are not enthusiastically promoted by the hierarchy or followed by masses of people.
The spells available to the mystic are centered on knowledge and defense, and his connection with the multiverse gives him special insights into the workings of the planes. He cannot craft magical items, but objects particularly associated with him in life, and even parts of his body, often become relics after his death.
This seems more inline with what is described as Mysticism.  I am currently reading "The Terror of History: On the Uncertainties of Life in Western Civilization" by Teofilo "Teo" F. Ruiz and this description is very much inline with Prof. Ruiz's description of Christian Mystics.

I think it is fair to say from the start that the Bloch Mystic is at least close to spirit, if not the letter of intent, of the Gygax Mystic.

Looking into the Mystic there are some "clerical" like powers and spells here, much in the same matter the druid has some too.   Interestingly, as noted above, they can't make magic items.  They can scribe scrolls which makes sense.  They also have pain management and meditations as skills/powers.
The mystic learns spells due to their "inner awareness". They have some spells they share with clerics and some new ones that really feature their differences. "Awaken First Chakra" is one such spell, Besides being able to glow under a blacklight, radiate ultra violet light, you can also reduce falling damage and improve your dex score, at least temporarily with this spell.  There are seven chakras in total.  Also it is nice to see that for the mystic at least Astral Spell is 6th level.

Level progression is slightly greater than the cleric in most cases, but not up to the level of a wizard/magic-user.

As the mystic levels up their minds become stronger so that powers like ESP no longer work on them.  They also focus their attention on more planar issues.  This gives a party with a mystic a good hook to the outer planes.

The mystic has a certain "monk" feel about it to be certain, but only the asceticism and divine aspects; not the fighting.
Speaking of asceticism the mystic can also take a Vow of Silence.  He can cast his spells where speech is impossible and gain a 10% bonus to xp earned, but the PLAYER also needs to keep their speech to a minimum.

There are plenty of uses for a mystic in a party especially a party that plans to hit the outer planes at any point.  Also if the idea of playing a cleric is not appealing the mystic makes for a good change up.  Though to be honest the things people normally dislike about clerics and paladins is amplified in the mystic.

Other Mystics

The Mystic of the D&D Master's Set or the Rules Cyclopedia is nothing more than the AD&D Monk for the BECMI system.  Though the connection between the mystic and the cleric is made more overt.

There is also a Mystic in Fantastic Heroes and Witchery.  This mystic is somewhere between the monk/mystic of BECMI and the Bloch Mystic.  They do not gain spells, but rather a Prayer ability introduced in this game.

Finally there is a mystic in the 3.x Dragonlance Campaign Setting book.  This mystic is more like a cleric without gods.  The mystic gains their divine power from within.  In many ways it shares the same relationship with the cleric as does the sorcerer to the wizard.   This mystic is also very tied up in the myths and history of Krynn.

Final Thoughts

The mystic as presented by BRW is a solid class and one with enough flavor to make playing one an interesting challenge.  I would like to try one out to be honest, maybe using 1st Edition rules or one of the many clones.  Of course it shines the best under Adventures Dark & Deep.

The class is interesting enough that I also think it would work well for Castles & Crusades or even D&D 5.  I think some more spells might be in order to give it a little more flavor.   If I were building one for just a home game I would also borrow some idea from Mage's Akashic Brotherhood.

Also if I were going to add mystics to a game I would remove monks, or more to the point, return monks to the pseudo-Eastern parts of the world.  There are traditions of both Eastern and Western mysticism, but for ease I might use the Monk and Mystic as each respective traditions mystics.


JB said...

Don't forget the Mystic class in The Complete B/X Adventurer. Page 26.
; )

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Yes there is! But I have OTHER plans for The Complete B/X Adventurer! ;)

JB said...