The recent talk about the cleric and the paladin (here, here, and here) has often touched upon a separate issue: multiclassing, specifically, multiclassing between spellcasting and weapon-using classes (a concept colloquially called the "gish"). I have previously discussed this issue in my article A New Division of Gish.
However, now, I see that there are in fact two types of "gish": the "armed caster" and the "weaponcaster".
THE ARMED CASTER
The armed caster is simply a traditional spellcaster who is also trained with armor and weapons. The armor and weapons are nothing remarkable. They can be enchanted like any non-spellcasting warrior's weapons can be enchanted. The caster's magic does not directly assist in the martial prowess. Rather, this concept involves a warrior who dabbles in magic, or a spellcaster who dabbles in fighting.
This concept is usually thought of as "multi-classing". A fighter takes a few levels of sorcerer, or a wizard who takes the armor proficiency feats. The first iteration of the Armed Caster is the cleric, a divine spellcaster who was also given an array of martial weapon choices and the ability to wear heavy armor. Most of the "gish" classes are variations on this theme, including the ranger, assassin, and some versions of the paladin.
Generally, the armed caster is intended to be less effective a warrior than the fighter, but makes up for it in other ways through the use of spells. In AD&D, the cleric was a decent back-up fighter, but had healing and bless capacities that improved the entire party.
Elves were also encoraged to become fighter/magic-users, with the idea that splitting the XP meant that they would be less effective fighters or wizards, but that being able to do alittle of both would make them as effective. (In practice, non-linear XP meant fighter/magic-users would only ever be a level behind, and that level was not nearly enough of a penalty compared to the benefits of being able to cast in armor.)
The weaponcaster is a different type of spellcaster. This is a spellcaster whose spells are either cast through their weapons, or whose magic powers are specifically geared to improve their weapon-usage. The weaponcaster's weapon is not merely arms, it's also an implement.
Until Fourth Edition, few classes firmly accepted this icon. The paladin always flirted with the concept, with smiting being a form of magic cast through the paladin's sword. Assassins, monks, and rangers also flirted with the concept, as did several third edition concepts like the psychic warrior, duskblade, and other gishes. But it wasn't until the swordmage that the concept was fully realized in a class.
I think the paladin should fully embrace the cocept of a divine warrior who works magic as an extension of his own body. Most of the iconic paladin power work well under this concept. Smiting evil is already a magic effect channeled through a weapon, and lay on hands is a magical effect channeled through one's hands. If the paladin's magic was geared specifically to enahnce his status as a naturally divine warrior, as opposed to someone who can carry a mace and also cast spells, it will go a long way to differentiate the two classes.
CATEGORIZING THE GISH
It has been indicated that any class that ever appeared in a Player's Handbook will appear in the Player's Handbook for Next. I am going to categorize these classes as Martial, Magical, Weaponcaster, and Armed Caster...
* While we could make the ranger a weaponcaster like 4e's Seeker, I think I prefer him as a wilderness hunter who dabbles in magic.
** I envision the priest -- 2e's version of the cleric -- filling the pure divine caster role occupied by the invoker in 4e.
Some of these categroizations are shake. The barbarian and monk for example, could be weaponcasters -- which is how they are portrayed in 4e. The barbarian's rages can be flavored like a paladin's smites, as magic powers channeled through the character. The monk's disciplines could also be supernatural effects channeled through a monk's fists and weapons. For now, I'll leave them as is.
I note that this leave of design space open. First, the swordmage (or as I would prefer -- the warmage) could make a comeback as an arcane weaponcaster. As could classes like the warden (a weaponcaster), spellthief (armed caster), psychic warrior (weaponcaster), and lurk (armed caster).
It also leaves space for two types of multiclassing. I envision multiclassing as a gateway to make your own armed caster, while hybrids could be used to forge a new weaponcaster from a magical and martial class. All of this, of course, depends on how Next is actually organized. I guess we'll find out in a month!