Gish is a /tg/ term relating to character classes, and specifically refers to a character who is capable of both melee combat and magic with roughly equal adeptness.
Gish originated from Dungeons & Dragons, where the githyanki had an elite caste known as the gish; githyanki using the multiclassing option to become fighter/wizards of considerable lethality. The archetype stuck fast in the D&D munchkin consciousness and it has remained a fixture of /tg/ ever since. The concept is referred to in homage to the githyanki, who started it all... at least, if you were playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons; the actual idea of the gish has been around since Elf was a class in Dungeons & Dragons.
Traditionally, most gishes are the result of multiclassing, or dual-classing, or hybrid classing, depending on edition. However, certain classes have increasingly been designed to support this from the ground up, due to certain inefficiencies in the multiclassing approach - most notably, the XP Tax. However, most "made" gish-classes have traditionally been "warriors, with a little magic"; examine the Paladin (fighter with some low-level Cleric spells and tricks) or the Ranger (a fighter/low-level druid blending). More melee capable mage types have been a rarity; the Swordmage of 4th edition D&D, Pathfinder's Magus, or the Bladesinger Wizard and Stone Sorcerer of 5e, for example.
The earliest "level 1 gish class" appeared in Basic D&D, in the form of the Elf racial class. required a minimum Intelligence of 9 to qualify for the character, and needed high Strength and Intelligence to gain bonuses to XP gathering. They had a D6 hit dice, started play with the Set Spear vs Attack and Lance Attack fighter manuevers, were immune to the paralysis attack of ghouls, and had a 1 in 3 chance to detect secret or hidden doors. Technically maxing out at 10th level, they gained a fairly small selection of mostly low-level spells, maxing out at 3 spells for each level from 1st to 4th and 2 level 5 spells upon hitting 10th level, but could keep gaining experience after 10th level to increase their attack rank, maxing out at Attack Rank M. At Attack Rank D, they gained the Fighter Combat Options and could make 2 attacks per round. At Attack Rank G, they halved all damage taken from breath weapons (quartering it if they passed their saving throw). At Attack Rank K, they could make 3 attacks per round.
Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia introduced the Forester class, a human trained by elves who thusly has learned to blend martial skills and magic the same way that they do. To represent a forester, you took the Elf class and stripped out the Infravision and Immunity to Ghoul Paralysis traits. That's it; do that, and you're good to go.
Gishes frequently show up in fantasy-based video-games, usually as a more "elite" version of normal classes. One of the /v/ gishes most well known on /tg/ is the Red Mage of Final Fantasy, a character class that combines Black Magic, White Magic and melee fighting skills into one singular class; it can't become as good in any one of these fields as a specialist, but its broad, well-rounded skill-set makes it one of the most versatile (and powerful) classes. A party composed entirely of Red Mages is considered basically the beginner's group in a game of FF1.
The Gish Problem
One problem with fighter/mages: They have a tendency to not be balanced. Most systems compensate for the power of spells by making spellcasters fragile, and the gish, in order to work as a "magic fighter", usually needs to be on at least the second line of combat. (Maybe somebody could write something about D&D's issues here)
Various solutions have been tried. A few include:
- Making the Gish very much a "jack of all trades, but master of none"; they'll never be as good at melee or magic as a specialist in either, but can fill in for both as needed.
- Making the Gish more specialized than "magic fighter" sounds like. Say, they can act as an off-healer, or their magic is mainly focused on non-fatal status effects, or both their spells and melee are single target only.
- Making the Gish hyper-specialized in one of or both melee and magic. For example, they teleport around, but that's usually the limit of their magic use.
- The Gish gets the worst of both worlds as well as the best. While they can cast spells and fight with a sword, they can't wear armor while casting, nor they do anything else when casting a spell.
- Make them all offense, no defense, or vise versa.
- The Gish occupies a role distinct from both; e.g., while Mages are burst damage dealers, and Warriors are Tanks, the Magic Knight specializes mainly in sustained damage every round. (Mainly an MMO thing, but if you're doing a class system with a focus on roles, this solution is at least functional.)
List of Gish Classes
Without directly multiclassing, these classes directly amalgamate martial and magical prowess into one class.
- BECMI Elf
- BECMI Forester
- BECMI Gruugrakh Gnoll
- Bladesinger (a fighter/mage multitclassing kit for elves in AD&D and a prestige class in 3e, but its own thing in 4e and 5e)
- Hunter (Pathfinder)
- Mage blade (Arcana Unearthed)
- Paladin (divine gish)
- Psychic Warrior
- Ranger (quasi-druidic gish)
- Warpriest (Pathfinder version specifically)
- 5e Eldritch Knight, one of subclasses of a Fighter
- 5e Warlock (via Pact of the Blade sub-feature or Hexblade subclass)
- If you'll accept something from vidya, Tales of Maj'Eyal has a lot of variations on the Gish stereotype, particularly in the paid Steam DLC.
|The Gith of Dungeons & Dragons|
|Races:||Duthka'gith - Gith - Githyanki - Githzerai - Half-Githzerai|
|Undead:||Kr'y'izoth - Tl'a'ikith|
|Individuals:||Vlaakith CLVII - Zaerith Menyar-Ag-Gith - Zerthimon|
|Places:||Shra'kt'lor - Tu'narath|
|Prestige Classes:||Blackweave Warlock - Ghustil - Gish Mindslayer - Holocaust Warrior - Sword Stalker|
|Adventures:||Incursion - Scales of War|
|Miscellaneous:||Crown of Corruption - Gish - Scepter of Ephelomon|