Thursday, November 5, 2009

The 4 Stages of Magic-Users

Here are my 4 stages of Magic-User Characters for most generic level-based fantasy pre-4e RPGs:

One-Trick Pony. 1st level or thereabouts. Let’s face it: it’s one Magic Missle or Sound Burst spell and then it’s poke, poke, poke with your staff or dagger. At this stage, you are most akin to one of those “fire n’ forget” rocket launchers certain militaries employ. That Stupid Fighter has to keep you alive most of the time, and boy if he doesn't remind you about it.

Utility Infielder. Generally lower levels. While you don’t disintegrate your enemies by the bucketful at this stage, you are an amazingly useful little creature. You Grease to cover a getaway, Purify Water when you’re adrift in the middle of the ocean, and you’ve probably learned at least one little illusion spell right now. You also can summon things like Dire Weasels and Celestial Badgers, which is a lot more useful than it sounds. That Stupid Fighter occasionally even thanks you for helping out—imagine that!

Self-Sufficient: Intermediate levels. At this point, you can easily take on a small mercenary squad, a couple of monsters, or a little dungeon crawling without expressly needing That Stupid Fighter to cover your rump. You can probably conjure any supplies you need, and you’re a good enough fighter to make average men-at-arms think twice. Those d4 Hit Points do add up, eventually.

The God of War & Death: Every game seems to have a level where this becomes a reality. That Stupid Fighter kills, what, 3, 4 warriors at a chop at best? You can kill 3-4 armies, easy. You rain meteor swarms, heightened elemental atrocities, and other spells upon your enemies, many of which have only the bleakest save vs. Instant Gooification. You have probably cleaned out at least one of the Nine Hells. The only enemy you still fear? Metal armor.

10 comments:

Bonemaster said...

It's all part of the price for power. Sort of a natural selection sort of thing. If your stupid at lower levels, your never going to make it to the higher levels. In many ways, I'm not sure DnD was meant to be played at high levels. Seems like those types of folks would have better things to do. But that's just my opinion.

DNAphil said...

This is great, because this so true. The biggest problem my groups have had is that somewhere between Stage 3 and 4, the non-mages in the party get bored, because the have so much less firepower than the Wizard, that they want to go and play something else.

This leaves the poor wizard, who put in all those nail-biting low level dungeon crawls during Stage 1, to be robbed of his due rewards .

Joseph said...

Okay, now I've got to include a "Summon Heightened Elemental Atrocity" scroll someplace in CotMA...

Zachary The First said...

Stumbling upon that would brighten any day of mine immeasurably.

PatrickWR said...

That is definitely one of the most infuriating aspects of old-school play for me—the fact that virtually all 1st level wizards are the same. Sleep, magic missile...yawn. I am going to make a 1st level mage who uses some dumb spell, like detect magic, and survives to rule the world at 9th level.

Zachary The First said...

We have a Friar in our C&C campaign that has only "utility" spells right now--mending, food creation, etc.

Of course, he's also more martial (in line with a cleric), but it's still fun to watch.

(Word Verification: Litch! Right sound, wrong spelling).

Schuyler said...

To be honest the only enemy I still fear at the Fourth Stage is the enemy who has taken the time to learn and under stand the rules for counter spelling. That and taken sufficient skill ranks in spellcraft. Chances are he also used some stupid feats to pick up something retard from a random source book like "Improved Counterspell" or "Arcane Whiplash to kill opponent with spell I just counterspelled because I wasted my 6 skill points a level to pick up spellcraft and wasted every single feat to get extra spell slots to prepare every offensive spell multiple times a day" or something to that effect. Damn powergaming cheese hounds.

Jeff Carlsen said...

That about sums it up. I love playing a high level wizard. In our groups, though, the fighters and other characters still had fun, and held there own. Granted, we gave them lots of stuff that made even the lowly barbarian ooze with magic, but it remained satisfying.

Tyson J. Hayes said...

Having never played a wizard (something that I need to change soon) I can atest to the getting bored part in combat.

Do we need to do anything to change it though or is this the price you pay for being a mortal god by the end of the game?

Marshall Smith said...

Personally, I'd like to change it. I hate being a useless mage at low levels, and I hate being a useless fighter at high levels.

A couple simple solutions? Make 0-level spells "at will." Make the super-potent spells have casting times measured in rounds. (Sure, you can destroy an army, but you still need the meat shield to protect you in the interim.) Give summon spells a longer duration, so that it is possible to blow your one spell of the day but still contribute over multiple rounds. Go back to enforcing memorization times, so that if an archmage casts out completely, it takes him a week or so to refill all his slots.