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On Wizards and Staffs
[07/11/2013] [Roger]

One of the big complaints I've heard with regards to V8 has to do with wizards not being able to use the quarterstaff, a weapon they had long had available. There are many aspects to this, why it came to be associated with them, its place in Amtgard history, and game balance.

First off, why exactly would you associate a quarterstaff with a wizard? Well, Gandalf had a staff. So did the other Istari. As did many wizards in fantasy literature: Elminster, Merlin, etc, etc. It is a well established part of the iconic look of the archetype—the elderly wizard leaning on an eldritch staff, perhaps gnarled, perhaps carved with arcane runes of mystic power.

Gandalf, with staff.

But that right there should give some pause. Yes, they have staffs (or staves if you prefer). But how many of them use them in the manner one would an Amtgard quarterstaff? That is, as a melee weapon you hit people with. Even those wizards adept in physical combat typically used their staffs as part of their magic arts, and then used other weapons in combat... Gandalf, for example, typically used a sword (Glamdring) when he needed to fight in melee combat. The staff was critical to his arcane power, not his martial prowess. Also, it was an ambulatory aid, but I'm assuming that is not a concern here.

Gandalf with staff, but preferring the sword for combat.
Glamdring is a relic whose abilities include not costing him points.

There are exceptions out there, such as the Lords of Revelstone, who typically used their staffs as melee weapons, albeit enhanced with magic. But even in these cases, there is typically an explanation. In this example, the Lords were effectively dual-classed warrior/mages, being required to master both sword lore and staff lore to become a Lord... and we're not really doing dual classes in Amtgard these days.

In terms of role-play, we would have no issue with a device that served the role of basically a mystic component, basically a glorified prop, for the sake of spellcasting and looking the part. That would be great. There was a time in Amtgard when we required wizards to carry wands to be able to cast the vast majority of their spells. This is no longer the case. This doesn't mean they can't carry one if they want to go the extra mile, but I don't see it often nowadays. But a staff isn't a simple prop like a wand. It is a large object, typicaly 5' or longer. A combat-legal staff can double as a very effective melee weapon.

Now, as part of its Amtgard history, spellcasters have long had the option of a staff as a free weapon alongside daggers. However, the staff being tied to wizards hasn't been ingrained as you might think. As recently as the 5.0 rulebook, there used to be something called a "defensive quarterstaff." The defensive quarterstaff was not described in the text. By the image, it appears to be a staff with only what we now call courtesy padding on the ends. By the name, I take it to mean it was allowed to block, but not attack. This is partly due to it being listed next to the "offensive quarterstaff."

The intent was to give them weak or inefficient weapons for free, while allowing them to sacrifice spell points to get access to more effective melee weapons if they wished. That basic mechanism remains in V8, though shifted from sacrificing spellpoints to more simply purchasing the weapons as one would a spell with spellpoints.

But the staff. The staff has been at times a mocked weapon, one associated with disdain from the combat elite, in part from its association with spellcasters, in part from the near universal stick jock belief of it being inefficient when compared to a spear of the same length—the reasoning being that the strike legal padding on the other end made it less efficient than a spear, which simply had more gripping area in this area. Lastly, in certain online forums, the belief persists that masters of staff combat could be as effective as anyone with other more popular weapons (swords, spears). This mockery eventually came to be known by identifying the mythological master of staff combat as a staff masta.

That being said, it isn't exactly a useless weapon. And it certainly is far more efficient than a dagger. Defensively, it can still be used to try and keep less aggressive fighters at bay, and in the proper hands can be very effective. Maybe those same hands could be even more effective with a spear of the same length—and part of the disdain directed towards those who use them would be the disdain shown towards someone who failed to acknowledge this truth, as it were. But this does not mean it is not efficient. Wizards, of course, have also been able to purchase a spear, albeit at greater cost.

V8 removes spears and staffs from the wizard's repertoire. Part of this is based on the recognition that wizards are already one of the most powerful classes. Even without them, and with all the other adjustments made in V8, wizards are still a powerhouse. But the, shall we say, "Amtgard icon" of the wizard with quarterstaff has been lost. And with that, would there be a reason for anyone to make a quarterstaff?

I'm assuming this is a big deal to people because it has been brought up a number of times.

How to resolve this? If it were brought back at a greater cost, would that be satisfactory? What about some form of defensive quarterstaff—I can't see condoning something without legal striking surfaces, but if it were something that were not allowed to do damage in melee, would that be of any value? At one point in the 6.x days, we toyed with the prospect of a wizard spear being green (stab only). Perhaps a converse of a non-stabbing staff (only so in the hands of a wizard)?

I'm not saying any of these are proposed solutions, just trying to get discussion on the topic. Is it a serious issue for you? We need to know...

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