So my objection to a number of suggestions here is that they focus on the word—magus—rather than any particular concept behind it, which is due no doubt to the fact that it’s a really generic word that games turn to when they need yet-another synonym of “wizard.” Unlike “wizard,” or even “sorcerer,” whose D&D definitions have largely been exported to other systems and are fairly consistently used (at least, in my experience), “magus” hasn’t had nearly that level of penetration.
This kind of gets to a fundamental question about what tags, particularly class tags, should refer to—a word, or a concept? We’ve kind of been lazy about addressing this question because to date we have largely relied on the D&D definitions to be more-or-less global and there haven’t been any conflicts raised about it.
The case for concept-based tags
I’ll state up front that I want tags to refer to concepts, to be usable—and mean more-or-less the same thing—regardless of other tags applied to the question. The motivation for this desire is quite simple: it’s what tags are supposed to be for, and it is how they are most powerful. For example, say I am interested in designing my own system that has a kind of fighter–mage hybrid, and I want to look up all the questions that come up about them so I can try to avoid pitfalls from previous games—what is my search?
The problems with trying to do so here
In this case, we have a word, “magus,” that is most-often used (on this site anyway) for a Pathfinder class. From that class, we also have a concept, a kind of fighter–mage hybrid, and that concept is pretty common—found in many systems—but there is no consistent term for it. Pathfinder uses “magus,” D&D 5e uses “eldritch knight,” D&D 4e uses “swordmage,” D&D 3.5e’s got at least a dozen different classes that do something like that, and that’s just one lineage of games.
So unless I’m familiar with Pathfinder, my search is probably not “magus.” And unless we apply the Pathfinder term to all kinds of other systems that don’t use it (or use it to mean something entirely different), even if I know to use “magus,” my search isn’t going to turn up the right data. We could synonymize all of those classes, but that’s a mess and then we’d still have to pick just one as the “main” tag.
For this particular case, I might suggest gish as our main tag, and synonymizing all these other classes to that. It’s a somewhat common term as a catch-all for the concept of fighter–mage hybrids. In certain circles, at least, it would be the emergent-folksonomy term for this concept. But it’s jargon-y as hell, the game system it came from is pretty old (and there it was a specific thing, not generalized to all fighter–mage hybrids), and we already have a question wondering where on earth it came from. None of the game-systems discussed above use the word at all. And on top of that, the term is very likely to run afoul of Wizards of the Coast’s claims to the gith as product identity, so any non-D&D game using the term would be in very troubled legal waters. So not only do most games not use the term, but non-D&D games largely can’t use it.
The even-greater problems with trying to do so generally
Even ignoring all the problems with that approach for the sake of “gish,” it doesn’t necessarily generalize outward. For one thing, other conceptual spaces may not have any term used anywhere for the concept, making any suggestion even worse than “gish” is for fighter–mage hybrids.
We could go even farther afield—one comment suggested martial-spellcaster, for example, or we could use fighter-mage as I have repeatedly used in my prose—but then, what? do we ditch the already-more-or-less-working fighter and rogue and wizard? Surely not—this leads to a very-poor situation that doppelgreener warns of in a comment,
an abstract conceptual taxonomy which nobody understands unless they're experts in both the RPG landscape and our tag taxonomy, and which has no SEO.
But really, even this isn’t the worst of it.
As a thought experiment, suppose a system decides to make their “wizard” class the passionate, spontaneous one, and their “sorcerer” class as the studied, bookish version. Probably done literally out of a desire to challenge the expectations that D&D exports.1 How should we tag questions about these classes for that system? Should this-systemwizard refer to what that system calls “wizard,” even though that contradicts the description and example in that tag? Or should they be tagged this-systemsorcerer, matching concepts but completely inverting the usage expected in that system?
Concepts simply may not have any useful term that can be widely applied consistently to them. In fact, it’s entirely plausible for a game to re-use words in ways that directly contradict convention, quite possibly expressly for the purpose of contradicting convention.
That makes it impossible for us to really tag based on concept and keep tags for classes consistent across different systems. Ultimately, we are probably forced to just tag based on words and accepting that those tags become totally system-dependent. But it’s not a good situation, and I, for one, am not happy with it.
- I am not aware of any RPG that does this, but it’s not totally hypothetical—the world of the Diablo games certainly has sorcerers as the more erudite and respected spellcasters, as compared to the radical upstarts who call themselves “wizard.”