Magic, first games and expectations

Undrave

Hero
So, if you've seen some of the D&D 5e arguments we've gotten into over the last few months you've probably seen my dislike for challenges that amount to, in my word, "You Must be This Magical to Contribute". I'm opposed to the idea that playing D&D should absolutely require some amount of spell casting. That your party ABSOLUTELY should include a spell caster or two... or more really.

Plenty of players on these boards, however, have no problem with this idea. "I'm fine with problems needing magic to solve" basically. A lot of them mentioned, incidentally, having played the pre-3.X editions.

And it occurred to me today that why I feel this way might have to do with my own first role-playing game.

My first RPG experience was not with D&D, it was with the British RPG Dragon Warriors! And in that game, the first book only has two classes: Knight and Barbarian. The magic system and its two magical classes (Mystic and Sorcerer, or Druid/Cleric and Mage essentially) came in a separate book.

I'm wondering if this 'Martial Core' might have made my expectations different than players who had Magic Users as one of the core classes of their very first games.

And then, when I first really played D&D, beyond one session, it was in 4e, the ONLY edition where you could build a full Martial Party and have a wide array of strategy available and would be fine adventuring until Epic... Provided you had inherent bonuses.

So, what do you guys think? That your first game influences how important you expect Magic to be?
 
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lowkey13

Guest
So, if you've seen some of the D&D 5e arguments we've gotten into over the last few months you've probably seen my dislike for challenges that amount to, in my word, "You Must be This Magical to Contribute". I'm opposed to the idea that playing D&D should absolutely require some amount of spell casting. That your party ABSOLUTELY should include a spell caster or two... or more really.

Plenty of players on these boards, however, have no problem with this idea. "I'm fine with problems needing magic to solve" basically. A lot of them mentioned, incidentally, having played the pre-3.X editions.

And it occurred to me today that why I feel this way might have to do with my own first role-playing game.

My first RPG experience was not with D&D, it was with the British RPG Dragon Warriors! And in that game, the first book only has two classes: Knight and Barbarian. The magic system and its two magical classes (Mystic and Sorcerer, or Druid/Cleric and Mage essentially) came in a separate book.

I'm wondering if this 'Martial Core' might have made my expectations different than players who had Magic Users as one of the core classes of their very first games.

And then, when I first really played D&D, beyond one session, it was in 4e, the ONLY edition where you could build a full Martial Party and have a wide array of strategy available and would be fine adventuring until Epic... Provided you had inherent bonuses.

So, what do you guys think? That your first game influences how important you expect Magic to be?
Um, maybe?

Except that I started all old school (OD&D, 1e, B/X) and I don't like that much magic. I also don't agree with your assessment re: a full martial party and 4e (once again, Robilar, tomb of horrors).

I really think it comes down to preferences. You are playing out what you like; some people love Gandalf and Merlin, while others imagine Conan and Wong Fei-Hung.
 

Undrave

Hero
Um, maybe?

Except that I started all old school (OD&D, 1e, B/X) and I don't like that much magic. I also don't agree with your assessment re: a full martial party and 4e (once again, Robilar, tomb of horrors).

I really think it comes down to preferences. You are playing out what you like; some people love Gandalf and Merlin, while others imagine Conan and Wong Fei-Hung.
Of course people play what they like, but would you be uncomfortable in a party where the most magical character is like... I dunno, an Arcane Trickster or a guy who took Magic Initiate - Cleric? Would you be surprise to get to a random table and find not a single caster? That's sorta what I meant by expectations.

Despite that I've been around for ten years I still feel like an outsider, or a noob, when it comes to D&D and to me it almost looks like there's a sort of 'Wizard subculture' within our little subculture. Not saying it as a negative or a judgement, just an observation. Also, I'm a terrible spell caster player so maybe that gives me a different perspective on the better caster players? :p

And I guess the full martial party and 4e thing isn't quite right, but I think you would agree that 4e was the first time where the game had this many pure Martial options no?
 

Arilyn

Hero
I want the magic to match the game world. If there's going to be a lot of magic available to the characters, the world needs to reflect that, and be magical. I don't like the default assumption in 5e that magic is rare. If most of the player character options can cast spells, it's not that rare. I know, player characters are unusual, but still...

As for personal preference, I enjoy a variety of flavours, so can go either way. Sometimes, I'll go martial, sometimes magical. I don't think my first game has influenced my expectations. I don't think a D&D party should have to include spellcasting. I cater my adventures to the party, so am not concerned about the makeup. Everyone can be warlocks or paladins, or fighters, and we'd make a good story out of it.
 

Undrave

Hero
I don't think my first game has influenced my expectations.
Maybe it's just me then :p I thought it was an interesting observation of the origin of my own taste.

don't think a D&D party should have to include spellcasting. I cater my adventures to the party, so am not concerned about the makeup. Everyone can be warlocks or paladins, or fighters, and we'd make a good story out of it.
For some DMs that's apparently blasphemy :p be careful the Simulationists don't get to you :p
 

Arilyn

Hero
For some DMs that's apparently blasphemy :p be careful the Simulationists don't get to you :p
You know, this got me thinking. In our old myths and legends, the gods loved challenging the heroes by placing obstacles in their paths. So maybe the simulationists have got it wrong all this time? Player characters are special!

Course that means the GM really is a god.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So, what do you guys think? That your first game influences how important you expect Magic to be?
I find this question... strange.

I expect magic's importance to be based on what characters I have in the party. I do not design adventures or prep sessions independent of considering what characters will be in play. If I have an all-martial party, then I'm designing for that group. If I have all spellcasters, without a reasonable melee combatant, I'll be designing for that.

So, there's never an instance where the party cannot solve an issue, unless I intend that issue to be a blocker they need to find another way around.
 
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lowkey13

Guest
Of course people play what they like, but would you be uncomfortable in a party where the most magical character is like... I dunno, an Arcane Trickster or a guy who took Magic Initiate - Cleric? Would you be surprise to get to a random table and find not a single caster? That's sorta what I meant by expectations.
Strangely, no. Not in 5e.

While I am sure there is someone who will disagree with me (this is the internet, someone always disagrees!), I would say that because of the way that the classes and healing work in 5e, there is no requirement for any kind of magic or healing.

Which is weird, but also true IME. Put more simply, you don't need any particular spellcasting class or healing. So no, I wouldn't be surprised to find a table of no spellcasters ....

other than the fact that so many classes, including "martial" classes like the Ranger and Paladin, now have spells as a default to power their abilities. shrug

Despite that I've been around for ten years I still feel like an outsider, or a noob, when it comes to D&D and to me it almost looks like there's a sort of 'Wizard subculture' within our little subculture. Not saying it as a negative or a judgement, just an observation. Also, I'm a terrible spell caster player so maybe that gives me a different perspective on the better caster players? :p
I think there are definitely people who love playing spellcasters. And play them nearly exclusively.

And I guess the full martial party and 4e thing isn't quite right, but I think you would agree that 4e was the first time where the game had this many pure Martial options no?
Can't really say. I mean, IME 1e (for example) was chock full of non-spellcasting classes. Look at the base-
You had four spellcasters (Cleric, Druid, MU, Illusionist). Each had their own differentiated spell list. Some cross over, but mostly different.

You then had:
Fighter (Paladin, Ranger).
Thief (Assassin)
Monk

Six non-spellcasters (yes, the Paladin and Ranger both got to cast limited spells at name level, but they were not spellcasters).

In addition, there were constant variant classes being pumped out; because of the differentiated spell lists, there were many more variant martial classes than there were spellcasters.

But to fully address your question re: options really gets into that whole debate about the ways in which martial and magic characters were equal in 4e, which isn't my bag. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Can't really say. I mean, IME 1e (for example) was chock full of non-spellcasting classes. Look at the base-
You had four spellcasters (Cleric, Druid, MU, Illusionist). Each had their own differentiated spell list. Some cross over, but mostly different.

You then had:
Fighter (Paladin, Ranger).
Thief (Assassin)
Monk

Six non-spellcasters (yes, the Paladin and Ranger both got to cast limited spells at name level, but they were not spellcasters).
UA then added more non-casters: Barbarian, Cavalier, Thief-Acrobat. And there were some NPC-only caster classes (or similar) e.g. Shaman, that would show up in adventure modules.

Then there's Bard, which is its own special case; and anyone who ended up with psionics might as well count as a caster as well.

That said, I think @Undrave might be on to something. Many of us started in 0e or 1e D&D, where even though there's not too many caster classes there's otherwise generally lots of magic floating around - magic items, magic traps, oddball magic effects, etc. - which tend to make the game seem magic-oriented; and so that's what we became used to.

Someone starting from a lower- or no-magic system would, I'm sure, have a completely different perspective; as would I in reverse were I to start playing in a no-magic system or game.
 
I find this question... strange.

I expect magic's importance to be based on what characters I have in the party. I do not design adventures or prep sessions independent of considering what characters will be in play. If I have an all-martial party, then I'm designing for that group. If I have all spellcasters, without a reasonable melee combatant, I'll be designing for that.

So, there's never an instance where the party cannot solve an issue, unless I intend that issue to be a blocker they need to find another way around.
So you have never written/prepped an adventure before the players decided what characters they wanted to play? Or you have never run in a convention environment where you have no clue what characters will be used at your table?
 
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lowkey13

Guest
That said, I think @Undrave might be on to something. Many of us started in 0e or 1e D&D, where even though there's not too many caster classes there's otherwise generally lots of magic floating around - magic items, magic traps, oddball magic effects, etc. - which tend to make the game seem magic-oriented; and so that's what we became used to.
I am always careful to differentiate between those games in which magic is found, acquired, or overcome (as is typical in OD&D and 1e) as opposed to those games where magic is innate to the characters (as in 5e).

It's a major difference in philosophy; for example, it is the difference between a character that can largely be designed as opposed to a character that largely emerges through a combination of choice (play) and luck (what you happen across).

Again, Conan might get a magic sword. Conan might bypass a magic trap. Conan might use a magic amulet. Conan might defeat an evil sorcerer. But Conan is not, himself, magical. At least that's my usual dividing line. YMMV.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So you have never written/prepped an adventure before the players decided what characters they wanted to play?
I always wait until after character generation. For my campaigns, character generation is typically its own session anyway, so I don't need to have an adventure prepped.

Or you have never run in a convention environment where you have no clue what characters will be used at your table?
I have never run in a convention environment in which players are bringing their own characters. When I run in convention environment, I bring pre-generated characters.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
So you have never written/prepped an adventure before the players decided what characters they wanted to play? Or you have never run in a convention environment where you have no clue what characters will be used at your table?
I'm not @Umbran but speaking for myself, I had the instigating events in my head for how the campaigns I'm running were going to start, before I knew exactly what characters I was going to have. Other than that, I've tried to make things fit the characters, both in terms of abilities and interests.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
For some DMs that's apparently blasphemy :p be careful the Simulationists don't get to you :p
Well, some DMs are idiots. I mean if your players want to play non-spellcaster/non-heavily magic characters - then why would a DM be running a campaign style that requires them? That's just setting them up to fail.

Now, if you pitched a D&D campaign that you figured was going to incorporate a need for spellcasters and they all showed up with Mundane Joes, then they're setting themselves up to fail. And hopefully they'll hire some spell-casting henchmen.

But if the players came to the DM to ask about playing a relatively less-magic campaign and the DM agreed but didn't deliver, then that's a bad DM.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Of course people play what they like, but would you be uncomfortable in a party where the most magical character is like... I dunno, an Arcane Trickster or a guy who took Magic Initiate - Cleric? Would you be surprise to get to a random table and find not a single caster? That's sorta what I meant by expectations.
Having played PFS and AL, no - I wouldn't be that surprised. Random tables are random tables. They're rare but not impossible. And I have been at ones that have been heavily martial.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Of course people play what they like, but would you be uncomfortable in a party where the most magical character is like... I dunno, an Arcane Trickster or a guy who took Magic Initiate - Cleric? Would you be surprise to get to a random table and find not a single caster? That's sorta what I meant by expectations.
To the extent I'd be surprised, it'd be because there are so many magical options in 5E. To the extent I wouldn't be surprised, it'd be because playing a spellchucker can be awfully thinky, and some players don't want that, at least some of the time.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well, some DMs are idiots. I mean if your players want to play non-spellcaster/non-heavily magic characters - then why would a DM be running a campaign style that requires them? That's just setting them up to fail.

Now, if you pitched a D&D campaign that you figured was going to incorporate a need for spellcasters and they all showed up with Mundane Joes, then they're setting themselves up to fail. And hopefully they'll hire some spell-casting henchmen.
My take here is not to "pitch" anything beyond it'll be a D&D game in a setting based on culture-x, and here's the setting-specific rules.

After that, the hooks they get, and the subsequent adventures I run, are character-neutral without regard for who or what is in the party until-unless the players via their characters' actions force me to run something else. Given the amount of character turnover at low levels, planning ahead based on party compostion is a fool's errand anyway.

But if the players came to the DM to ask about playing a relatively less-magic campaign and the DM agreed but didn't deliver, then that's a bad DM.
This last is true.
 

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