I have to say that I was surprised at the lack of love for the Mystic in Hurin’s and Peter’s recent posts. Why? Because Mystics ROCK!!! I’m not sure I ever played one, I started GMing almost exclusively early on, but I’ve always been intrigued by the profession. Like the Astrologer, Seer and Alchemist, I thought the Mystic was a new profession concept in the early 80’s that upended the “boring” D&D classes I was accustomed to.
So what is the Mystic? Unless Terry or another original ICE developer weights in, we’ll never know exactly what they had in mind 40 years ago–but to me it’s clear that the Mystic is a pure spell caster Assassin/Spy. I’m not sure Peter or Hurin are picking up on that–and if you only look at the spells it might be tougher to see the “Mystic DNA”. First, take a look at the skill costs:
- Ok armor DP costs. That’s typical for Mentalists in general, but it implies a more combat oriented profession.
- Stalk & Hide: 2. That’s the lowest skill cost for any pure caster, and implies the stealthy nature of the class.
- Perception: 2. Again, this is only beaten by the Seer and matches the Illusionist.
- Ambush: 4. That’s not low, but it’s by far the lowest for a pure caster. The Mystic ambushes!!
Just based on those skill costs alone, we already have the basis for a stealthy, perceptive character whose primary attack is ambushing.
Base Spells. So there is not much appreciation for the Mystic spell lists, but let’s take a closer look:
Confusing Ways. This is a fantastic spell list with some great utility. The first 5 spells: Distraction, Confusion, Blur Vision, Fear and Stumble are all combat effective and still fall into the character concept. Most of the other level spells are as useful, although the lack of spells lvl 16-19 could be easily corrected.
Hiding. Again, this is another solid list with some cool spells: 3rd lvl Shadow, 7th lvl Screen, 10th lvl Shadow Mystic and 13th lvl Flattening. The combination of Hiding and Confusing Ways spells with some combat effectiveness makes the Mystic and formidable character class!
Mystical Change. The “piece de resistanance” of the Mystics spell lists, this allows the caster to change their appearance or impersonate other creatures or persons.
For me, those three lists and the skill costs are a great character template. I would also argue that the Mystic’s low level spells are almost all useful–which isn’t necessarily the case for other pure spells users (I’m thinking of you “Mr. Boil Water”!).
I think the confusion with the Mystic is with the other 3 spells: Liquid, Solid and Gas Alteration. Those spells seem off-brand, or perhaps another mentalist type given how core the skill costs and the other lists feel.
Personally, I would jettison the 3 alteration spells and maybe drop a weapon skill down to 4 and make a few small tweaks to some other skills. I’ve never been a proponent of a mandatory 6 base lists: a profession needs just the right amount of base lists, and often it feels like some base lists are just there to meet that arbitrary requirement.
A slight bump to combat abilities and those three lists makes for a great Assassin archetype. The Mystic is a great profession and one that deserves more respect!!!
11 thoughts on “ROLEMASTER PROFESSION REVIEW: THOUGHTS ON THE MYSTIC.”
I think you have a strong argument to make that the Mystic was intended as a magical assassin, and that is indeed cool. The costs certainly bear that out. And indeed RMU has made this sort of role even easier, since it has generally reduced the costs of weapon training for caster (and semi) classes.
My question though: how does the Mystic attack? I generally think of an Assassin as using mundane weapons, and the costs for a Mystic, while pretty good for a Pure Caster, are still quite high. On the other hand, the costs for Directed Spell are very good in RM2 — just slightly more than a Magician. So, does the magical assassin assassinate with bolts? If so, that is definitely a unique playstyle.
The concept does seem to be viable. But perhaps it should be named ‘Mystic Assassin’ rather than just ‘Mystic’?
For me the issue with the Mystic is the way it has been presented is a bit hodge-podge; it lacks a clear theme (compared to the Sorcerer, who has variety but centred around a strong theme). If the base lists had been named slightly differently- say Thought Alteration instead of Confusing Ways, Image Alteration instead of Hiding, and a similar alternative name for Mystical Change – the Mystic would be viewed as a caster focused on alteration.
As for the elemental lists… I like the idea (as it represents the Essence side of the class) but the content of the lists seem a bit too much of a rehash of other lists… compounded by some thematic overlap with the Closed Mentalism Manipulation lists. Perhaps some unique spells on those lists would have helped differentiate the class more.
I see the Mystic attacking using surprise and ambush. Even with a weapon DP cost of 9, they can still take 1rank/lvl. Combined with a surprise attack and the ambush modification they could do ok. Mystics get Face Shifting True by 2nd lvl and Change to Kind by 3rd. Those are potent spells–especially in urban environments. Mystics could be the “Faceless Men”. While they get Water Bolt by 5th lvl I don’t see those elemental lists as fitting for the profession. Maybe one more spell list around “movement”: leaping, landing, climbing, limb running etc. That would really polish the character off–plus since the Mystic is a pure, base list acquisition is relatively cheap.
Though the Waterbolt isn’t the greatest attack chart, the benefit of Waterbolt for an assassin in RM2 is the +35 bonus it gets when within 10′ of its target. Waterbolts don’t get this point blank bonus in RMU, but their table has been improved and is deadlier than some weapons. So it could be an option, especially since you can use Ambush with it too.
I have always read the Mystic as being the fantasy equivalent of an SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent. They would make ideal infiltrators and saboteurs. From an adventure point of view they would make an ideal adversary in an urban campaign.
Ylissa: First, thanks for participating in the RMBlog! I agree completely with the SOE comparison. Do you like the 3 elemental spell lists are would you prefer other lists instead?
Whoops looks like I fat fingered my reply earlier up the comment chain, apologies for that – and thanks for the welcome!
Yes, I think renaming and reflavouring can go a long way to adding thematic unity to a class. The Sorcerer is all about destruction. I’d even like to see the Sorcerer’s version of Water Bolt get renamed to something like Acid Bolt (Water Bolt with Acid crits — which are now in the core RMU Arms Law), just to differentiate him a bit from the Magician.
How to apply that to the Mystic? As Ylissa noted, renaming the lists is a good start. What else can we do to reflavour the Mystic to make his/her spells all about Alteration? Is there any way we could change a Water Bolt to have some Mystical/Alteration flavour? Maybe instead of firing a bolt from the palm, as the Magician does, the Mystic converts air into water or something? That’s a tough one.
I was excited when I saw the posts about Mystics, and then bummed that they were negative. I definitely get the sense that the original design was by committee, and they cut and pasted without blending at the edges.
My favorite character for the brief time I played instead of GMing was a Mystic, and I’ve used them a number of times as NPCs. In my campaign world, there’s a school of mysticism, built largely on the real-world concept of a mystic as someone who seeks to better understand the nature of the universe and (sometimes) the divine, and their relationship to that. For these mystics, experience of the world is filtered through the individual, and therefore limited. They seek to build on their own experiences by observing and interrogating others around them, but just how they do that is very much a matter of the individual mystic. So I’ve used them as detectives, as inquisitive gadfly holy men or women, reality-alterers for their own or someone else’s goals, and “reality buffing” members of a party. I had one who was just sitting in the woods at a river crossing, asking people to share their greatest insight about life, in return for getting them across the river via water corridor.
No, they’re not very powerful spell casters. They’re almost as “weak” as a seer or astrologer in RM2 in terms of straightforward spell application. They take a strong character concept to guide how they’ll use their spells and interact. I did rework their lists somewhat, regrouping a lot of the Confusing Ways, Hiding, and Mystical Change spells into lists I named Energy Alteration, Space Alteration, Time Manipulation, and Mind’s Path. Some spells on those lists I pulled from other lists that seemed to fit with the concept of “how do I relate to the cosmos.”
I’d be willing to write up a bit more about the philosophy, if others are interested.
I like your titles for the Mystic lists, Jengada, better than the current titles for those lists. I certainly find it easier to get behind a Mystic who is into Energy Alteration, Space Alteration, and Time Manipulation than the more generic lists they currently have.
The current Mystic seems more like a ‘Mystic Assassin’ than the sort of Mystic I think of. And the one I think of is also more similar to the one you are thinking of, Jengada. So I’d definitely be interested in hearing more of your philosophy. I’d personally like to see a Mystic become more like the Astral Traveller class from the Rolemaster Companion.
I’m not opposed to the current Mystic per se, since it is kind of cool to have a pure caster assassin; you don’t often have that in many other systems, at least in the core classes. I just kind of think the current version might be better named ‘Mystic Assassin’ than ‘Mystic’.