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DMGR8: Sages & Specialists (2e)
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DMGR8: Sages & Specialists (2e)

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In the dangerous, fast-paced world of adventuring, knowledge means survival. In a age of legends, even the greatest heroes need technical advisors.

Inside Sages & Specialists you'll find ten new NPC specialist classes--from apothecary to seer, from engineer to scribe--each with his own special talents and insights.

In addition, this book contains a host of new rules that directly affect the lives of PCs everywhere. Add depth to your campaign with these unique and three-dimensional NPCs.

Product History

DMGR8: Sages & Specialists (1996) is the eighth book in the Dungeon Master Guide Rules Supplement series for AD&D 2e. It was published in July 1996.

Continuing the DMGRs. Like the previous books in the "DMGR" series, Sages & Specialists is a blue leatherette book for the dungeon master. It doesn't actually have the "DMGR" module code on the cover, but it's widely accepted as "DMGR8".

The previous dungeon master book, DMGR7: The Complete Book of Necromancers (1995), broke new ground for the series by focusing on NPC classes. This concept of NPC-only character classes was quite old, dating back to the ninja in The Dragon #16 (July 1978). Sometimes, they were classes that were less appropriate for players, but more often, they were just "unofficial".

However, where The Complete Book of Necromancers featured just two new classes, for deathly wizards and priests, Sages & Specialists instead detailed ten(!).

Origins (I): The Unloved Classes. Much later, Matt Forbeck said that his brief for the book was essentially to "[d]esign ten character classes no one would ever play." It followed in a long tradition of sages and specialists that had been with D&D from the beginning, but expanding the topic to book-length still was challenging. Forbeck says that developer Keith Strohm, when he much later became a manager for D&D 3e (2000-2007), promised Forbeck that he'd never ask another writer to author something like Sages & Specialists.

Origins (II): A History of Sages. The idea of specialists in D&D dated back to the publication of the originalOD&D (1974), which listed ten sorts of people that could be hired by PCs: alchemists, armorers, assassins, animal trainers, engineers, sages, seamen, ship captains, smiths, and spies. These specialists received just a paragraph each and were strictly utilitarian.

The sage returned in Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975). The rumor mill says that Arneson meant him to be a character class. Instead the sage reappeared under the specialist header as a hireling, but with more extensive rules than were found in OD&D.

By the time that TSR published the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979) they'd largely removed the "specialist" term — though a few remnant references remain. Instead sages appear as a "special case" of hirelings, with dozens of possible sorts of knowledge and extensive rules for using it.

However none of these three sorts of sages is actually the one that's best known to D&D players. Instead D&D's celebrity sage appears in Sage Advice, where he (or she) has dispensed answers for the D&D game since the '70s. He was named Theronius when he debuted in The Strategic Review Vol. II #1 (February 1976), which might have been a pseudonym for Terry Kuntz. However, the first regular sage was Jean Wells, who began writing answers to D&D questions in The Dragon #31 (November 1979). The most long-lived sage was Skip Williams, who began his reign in Dragon #119 (March 1987) and continued through Dragon #322 (August 2004). Andy Collins then committed sagery until the magazine's demise in Dragon #359 (September 2007).

Origins (III): A History of Other Specialists. Though some of the specialists in Sages & Specialists might be considered sages, they actually encompass ten other classes: apothecary, appraiser, blacksmith, cartographer, engineer, guide, healer, historian, scribe, and seer.

Several of these specialists also had been seen previously:

  • Apothecary. A new class, though a variety of alchemists had previously appeared, including a specialist in OD&D, a character class in The Dragon #2 (August 1976), an NPC in Dragon #45 (January 1981), and NPC-only classes in The Dragon #49 (May 1981) and in The Dragon #130 (February 1988).
  • Appraiser. Another new class, though a few instances of a merchant class might be considered predecessors. Len Lakofka gave merchants magic in Dragon #62 (June 1982), then they got their own NPC-only class in Dragon #136 (August 1988).
  • Blacksmith. An NPC-only smith class appeared in Dragon #70 (February 1983), by none other than Ed Greenwood. Meanwhile, the somewhat similar armorer appeared in the original OD&D as a specialist.
  • Cartographer. The first of a few classes in this book who had previously appeared as an AD&D 2e character kit — in this case a halfling fighter/thief kit that was published in The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings (1993).
  • Engineer. This class had only appeared previously as an OD&D specialist.
  • Guide. There was a 2e character kit named a guide that appeared in Chronomancer (1995) but they were pretty different as they were time traveling guides! The scout kit that appeared in PHBR2: The Complete Thief's Handbook (1989) or the scout/explorer kit that appeared in Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales (1994) might be somewhat closer predecessors. Meanwhile a more complete scout character class for AD&D 2e appeared in Dragon #161 (September 1990).
  • Healer. Much like the alchemist in The Dragon #2, the healer in The Dragon #3 (October 1976) appeared so early on that it wasn't confined to NPC use only — though editor Tim Kask clearly stated that it wasn't "official". Many years later, a healer apperaed as a halfling cleric kit in The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings.
  • Historian. The only previous historian was in Chronomancer (1995), though he was less of a time traveling adventurer than the other character kits in that book.
  • Scribe. A scribe specialist appeared in The Dragon #3, then Ed Greenwood authored a scribe NPC-only class for Dragon #62 (June 1982).
  • Seer. The best predecessor to this volume's new seer was probably the astronomer NPC class in Dragon #45. (January 1981) However there was also a time traveling seer in Chronomancer (1995) and a barbaric seer in PHBR14: The Complete Book of Barbarians (1995) — both kits, of course.

Expanding D&D. How do you fill 128 pages with NPC character classes? Forbeck accomplished this in part by including a bit of fiction about each class, but he also included plenty of rules systems, including rules for: making mundane and magical concotions; buying, selling, and identifying items; making, repairing, and maintaining equipment; and creating and verifying maps. Each class tends to include some complementary rules systems, but these were the most notable.

However, the biggest rules expansion in Sages & Specialists allows "attached" specialists to rise in level alongside the player characters, so that the players can keep interacting with them over the course of an adventuring career. Creative Director Steve Winter apparently came up with this idea.

About the Creators. Forbeck got his start in game design with the paired Outlaw (1991) and Western Hero (1991) books for ICE — who at the time was running both the Rolemaster and Hero Games lines. By 1996, he hqd also done some work for Target Games and their Mutant Chronicles lin3. Sages & Specialists was his second job for TSR, following Mind Lords of the Last Sea (1996).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on May 03, 2016.