high level play for mages

…tell me about it. Because it occurs to me I’m in a weird place in my experience with D&D. I’ve been playing (off and on, but mostly on) for 20 years. I’ve done a number of editions and different games, and a few long running campaigns. And I’ve never actually taken, or even seen, a magic user go from low to high levels, organically in play, and I lack much experience with domain level play at all. (3.0 was a partial exception, but without any domain game, and with deliberately accelerated advancement.)

Specifically, I’m wondering about expenses versus income for mages. On paper it looks like they have greater expenses and greater down time requirements than other classes (spell research, formulas for magic items, crossbreeding), with no greater income. But I don’t know if that’s correct or not, or if it matters if it is.

So how’s that go? Does the mage make it up on income from spellcasting and magic item sales to npcs? Does the party subsidize the mage voluntarily? Does the mage charge the party for services? Or, does the mage just drop out and fall behind when he researches a spell or formula?

I know the Grim Fist mage was getting into spell research, and I know she had a domain, but I don’t recall if she was subsidized by party funds. And I think the Wandering Gamist’s mage was playing the domain game out-of-class so to speak. But how have yours gone?

My understanding of the dynamic for domain mages (drawn from reading Grim Fist and thinking about the domain ecology http://wanderinggamist.blogspot.com/2013/02/venturer-domains-and-domain-ecology.html ) is that they’re probably party-subsidized money-to-magic convertors most of the time. I do not recommend letting your mages run guilds :P. I also recommend the patch Alex suggested for all-spy guilds, which is to have the guild membership numbers be max total member levels rather than max number of guild members.

But yeah, my understanding of Grim Fist’s financial structure was that the mage was the party treasurer and they maintained a single party pool of cash, which could be allocated to any party member based on the group’s needs. Such a setup would make party-subsidized research easy. We had been splitting income out into individual shares all the way up the level ladder, and when we hit domain level domains ended up being individual possessions. Our structure and party culture were not at all conducive to subsidy, which was why our mages turned to alternate income sources (thieves for the one and a small domain for the other).

Yes, mages tend to want more downtime than other player characters, and to need more cash for experiments. The average-sized domain of an average-level character cannot sustain a lot of magic research.

This is “working as intended”. Magical research tends to not be an economically productive activity in a general sense. If it were economically fruitful, the implied society would quickly become “magitech” with a semi-magical revolution.

In a campaign setting, this explains why evil mages send out minions on adventurers; build dungeons to accumulate monster parts; conquer huge domains and exploit their treasuries; and so on. Parties of adventurers will either subsidize their mages’ time and research or do without some of the benefits they might otherwise accrue.

If your vision for your campaign is more magic-heavy you can achieve this by reducing the cost and time of magic research by some factor.