This will probably be my last post about Roger Zelazny’s “Dilvish the Damned” short stories, which turned out to be one of my favorite D&D-ideas-inspiring sourcebooks ever, joining the motley collection of African Civilizations and Theophile Gautier’s Captain Fracasse. A lot of Zelazny’s fiction seems to be directly translatable to RPG content. And I haven’t even started Amber yet!
3e+ D&D takes a bunch of words for spellcaster that all used to mean the same thing – wizard, sorcerer, warlock – and makes them all different classes. In OD&D, Gygax took all the synonyms for wizard he could find and made them level titles – to lock up IP from potential competition, he said. But you can’t really copyright these words, and other authors are going to redefine them in their own ways.
Here’s Roger Zelazny’s definitions of wizards and sorcerers from Dilvish the Damned:
“But if that isn’t sorcery, what is?”
“Sorcery,” she replied, “is an art. It requires considerable study and discipline. One must generally apply oneself for a fairly long period even to obtain the relatively modest status I have achieved. But there are some other routes to magical power. One might be born with a natural aptitude and be able to produce many of the effects without the training. This is mere wizardry, however, and sooner or later–unless one is very lucky or careful–such a one gets into trouble from lack of knowledge concerning the laws involved in the phenomena. I do not believe that this is the case with your lady, though. A wizard usually bears some identifying mark visible to others in the trade.”
This definition – with sorcerers as academic porers over tomes and wizards as natural talents – is hilariously opposite the descriptions of wizards and sorcerers from third edition. Even many of the same words are used in the (swapped) descriptions. In the 3.5 PHB, sorcerers have “inborn talent” and “cast spells through innate power rather than careful training and study“. They are even “marked as different by their power“, like Zelazny’s wizard. The PHB wizard, on the other hand, must spend “years in apprenticeship“. Magic is “not a talent but a difficult art.”
This kind of thing will happen a lot when you start ascribing different meanings to synonyms. For example, a different fantasy author could easily decide that hobgoblins were smaller than goblins. You’d also be perfectly justified in making goblins, hobgoblins, elves, dwarves, gnomes, and trolls all the same species.