Whatever happened to wizard’s guilds? In the Good Old Days, every town or city seemed to have one, but these days—like wandering monsters, comprehensive rumour tables and “pointless” empty areas in dungeons—they seem to have disappeared from many adventures and supplements.
I suppose—to a certain extent—wizard’s guilds in Pathfinder and 3.0/5 got replaced by prestige classes, but I still—now I’ve noticed—keenly feel their loss. Wizard’s guilds were one of those things that added depth and verisimilitude to the game world. PCs could belong to them, and gain the privileges and responsibilities thereof, or at least engage members to carry out research or craft items on their behalf. Hell—almost every apprentice wizard or magic-user used to belong to a guild. After all, how else did they learn their burgeoning skills?
Now, it seems virtually no one belongs to a wizard guild (or for that matter a thieves’ guild).
I guess part of this change is down to the way later editions of the game handle levelling. In the Good Old Days, a PC ready to level had to find a teacher and pay hefty fees to learn the requisite skills. Guilds were a great place to find such teachers. Now, when a PC gains enough XP to level, he simply rests overnight and the new knowledge solidifies/appears/manifests in his mind.
Similarly, today magic item creation is little more than a bookkeeping exercise (don’t get me started on why this sucks) and so wizards and the like have no need to consult learned folk about the correct way to craft a wand of fireballs (for example). Similarly, such arcane objects of power can now be crafted from the mundane objects and component parts found in virtually any settlement meaning there is no need for a “crafter’s marketplace” of rare or esoteric objects required to make items of power. In older editions, the crafter might need a laboratory, quiet work space or library as well as specialised materials. Hell, before he started he needed to learn the unique procedure for making the item in question. No more.
And—of course—with the rise of Knowledge skills (a good thing) PC wizards have fewer reasons to visit a guild house and its no doubt impressive library to do research.
So with these mechanical developments, players have fewer reasons to actually visit a wizard’s guild, let alone join it.
It follows—then—that if wizard’s guilds actually do less in the campaign for the PCs, they’ll get less love from GMs and designers. And, of course, as they get less design time, they drop from sight in many campaigns. It’s a vicious circle. The only way out of it—assuming you want to find a way out—is to change some of the rules that have led to the wizard’s guild’s demise. For me, chief amongst these rules are those governing magic item creation. The more I think of it, the more I want to tinker with Pathfinder’s magic item creation rules. I want to make magic items wondrous again and not generic placeholders that do little more than bestow a bonus or ability.
More—perhaps—in a future post.