The Witcher’s Geralt fights with a single one-handed blade in order to keep his other hand free to invoke mystical signs – simple spells that integrate seamlessly with his fighting style to grant an advantage or augment his own damage. Warcraft 3’s Demon Hunter surrounds himself with an aura of flame when in combat. In the Ocarina of Time, Link can charge his blade with magical fire before unleashing it in a spinning attack that strikes down nearby foes. Go back further into gaming history, and you’ll find a variety of characters, named and nameless, who fight with sword and shield (or even just a sword) but can augment their efforts with fire, lightning, or even simple bolts of energy, smiting their enemy with a mix of magic and steel.
It’s possibly one of the most common character archetypes in single-player games, especially those that lack a class-based system. The reason is easy to see – the fantasy genre is often referred to as sword-and-sorcery, and characters that wield both allow players to experience both sides in a single package. Even when the package isn’t directly offered, the opportunity to surreptitiously add a little magic to a fighter character is often just too hard to resist. For those veteran gamers out there… how many of you DIDN’T spend those points to add magic to a non-magic-user character in the Quest for Glory games?
For all this, however, while it’s one of my favourite RPG character archetypes it’s possibly the least common archetype in multiplayer fantasy RPGs that encourage cooperation. It was probably Dungeons and Dragons that set the precedent here – clerics, fighter-mages and paladins tend to primarily use their magic for buffing and support or, in the case of the first two, behave more like spellcasters that are a little less vulnerable in close rather than truly blending magic and weaponplay. The Book of Nine Swords and some of the 4th edition classes have stepped towards truly mixing the two, but that’s a fairly recent development.
This trend continues with the 400 pound gorilla, where we have three classes that are essentially hybrids – the druid, the shaman, and the paladin. Now, I’m going from secondhand sources here, but the impression I’ve received is that none of these hybrid classes really mix magic and melee combat. Shamans appear to behave much like D&D clerics – they’re generally healing, casting offensive spells, or fighting, but those offensive spells are ideally cast at range. Druids are similar, except their segregation of roles is enforced by having to change shape to do it. While paladins… are your classic “magic is for healing and buffing, unless fighting undead