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General Nerfing Wizards the Old Fashioned Way: Magic User in 1e

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
Heck the average damage of red dragon's claw/claw/bite attack is 25 hit points of damage.
Sure, but without the right spells protecting you, that 11 HD large ancient red dragon has a 88 point breath weapon--even half of which at 44 kills your magic-user unless he has a CON of 15 or higher. And without that CON HP bonus, a 20th level magic-user would only average 37 HP.

Oh, and dragons weren't considered nearly as powerful (and were more common) than in later editions. Even in 2E, dragon damage jumped a lot due to their combat modifier IIRC.
 

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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
There was also a maximum number of spells known per level; a MU with a 16 intelligence could only learn 11 spells of any given level. Period.

One tidbit that's worth noting was that, in the first volume of the Wizard's Spell Compendium for AD&D 2E (affiliate link), there was an optional rule that an Intelligence of 19 or higher would only allow a magic-user to know 24 spells per spell level (30 for an Intelligence of 20+, stating that only creatures of "quasi-divine" status or higher could learn more than that) rather than an unlimited number. Presumably it was put there so that the flood of new spells wouldn't be unbalancing for campaigns where a PC magic-user had managed to get a 19 or higher Int score.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Reversible spells were also an artifact of those older editions. While they've since fallen by the wayside, being able to cast a particular spell "backwards" in order to bring about its opposite effect allowed magic-users to learn a few extra spells, since (if I recall correctly) they didn't need to make a separate check to learn a spell's reverse, nor did the reverse of the spell take a listing as part of their maximum spells known per level. So if you'd learned haste you also got slow for free, although you could still only memorize one of those in a given spell slot.

Of course, for a lot of clerics, their deity would typically never give out the reversed form of spells (or, alternatively, only give those out), since they would often fly in the face of their religious portfolio. If you worshiped a sun deity, you could pretty well count on never being granted a darkness spell, which was the reverse of light.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
And magic resistance was geared at 11 the level. So the formula today would be (Spell resistance DC - ( 11- caster level) .So DC 13 for first level - (11 -1 ) 13-10. Resistance is DC3 on flat D20 roll. The if the monster failed. He had to save as normal.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
And magic resistance was geared at 11 the level. So the formula today would be (Spell resistance DC - ( 11- caster level) .So DC 13 for first level - (11 -1 ) 13-10. Resistance is DC3 on flat D20 roll. The if the monster failed. He had to save as normal.
I don't think this is accurate, though, is it? I mean, Yes, MR in AD&D was based on an 11th-level caster, but monsters all had variable amounts of MR (generally ranging from 30-75%). So, each monster would have its own base DC really.

So, I am not quite following your logic in the math. shrug Maybe another example?
 

jasper

Rotten DM
I don't think this is accurate, though, is it? I mean, Yes, MR in AD&D was based on an 11th-level caster, but monsters all had variable amounts of MR (generally ranging from 30-75%). So, each monster would have its own base DC really.

So, I am not quite following your logic in the math. shrug Maybe another example?
I was trying to adjust it to 5E. Magic Resistance varied back then. Adjusted up or down 5% per level. So Orcus with 85% was untouchable by Magic if you under 8th level caster. I generally just did the % with out the math.
 

With Gary Gygax, one has to try to square the two facts that 1 - he said that he didn't like wizards and never understood why anyone would play anything but a human fighter and 2 - that his most famous character is Mordenkainen, a human magic-user. How that ended up informing 1e design is certainly a complicated legacy.

Playing a magic-user in 1e was an arduous task. I did so once. In all the characters we made back then, numbering in about 15-20 or so in total, there were but three magic-users, none of which were considered our "mains." It just wasn't fun to crawl through those brutal early levels (though I would argue that in fact the thief had it the worst of all).

As for spell memorization time, one thing to keep in mind is that 1e was absolutely predicated on longer periods of downtime. One of the reasons people had multiple characters is that after an adventure, it could conceivable take weeks to month in-game to recover from your wounds, lacking magical healing.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Generally, "balancing" things by making them frustrating and not fun, yet optimal is very poor game design in the 21st century.

As someone who's been playing for 30 years... I agree. I like retro gaming, but I find that we have, well, learned things in the last several decades of RPG experiences, and we've found that some things don't work very well. Balancing races by max level limitations is a bad idea. Balancing classes by role-playing limitations is a bad idea. Balancing classes by "it will be weaker at low levels and better at high levels" is a bad idea. Making a class "the heal bot" is not fun and a bad idea. Making the "healer class" all powerful (COD-zilla) is a bad idea.

I don't know if 5e has "gotten it right" yet.... but I think it's better than previous editions (excluding 4e, which I am not qualified to comment).
 

Iry

Hero
It was an interesting time back then. I remember it fondly. But looking at how the game has evolved over time, I cannot believe I tolerated so many time wasting mechanics. It's like those WoW Classic servers they released recently. It's there for the people who still love it, but I could never go back.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Wait what? I stopped reading here, because it seems like you haven't paged through your 1e MM in a while.

That's great! I always give rebates pro rata based on how far you read, so it's a good thing you bailed early!

But as an aside- this is something that I really dislike about a lot of internet conversations. Even if you had only read this post, you'd know that I had a some familiarity with OD&D and AD&D. And you happen to know, in addition to that, that I also have had 5,803 posts (number is approximate) about OD&D and pre-1983 AD&D recently, some of which have cited the Monster Manual. So ... it would seem unlikely that I haven't looked at the Monster Manual in a while.

Which leads to the question ... why even frame a comment like this? Do you think someone is likely to respond in a productive manner? Is it more, or less, likely that I would read this and say, "Hey, this guy is making his comment in a totally reasonable way. I think he seems exactly like the type of person I should engage in conversation with!"

At best, insulting people is likely to lead to them ignoring you; at worst, they are likely to insult you back.

Now, in general, there are three types of errors.
1. A factual error that requires correction.
2. An error in explaining things correctly.
3. An error in understanding things correctly.

The first type of error is usually quickly rectified- "You said that thieves were one of the initial classes in Men & Magic. Didn't you mean that they were one of the first classes added in the Greyhawk supplement with the Paladin after the initial three of Fighting Man, Cleric, and Magic User?"

The other two are more simple- usually, because we are writing, there is imprecision in what we write. Or, because people like to argue, they immediately leap to dispute what is being said without understanding what, exactly, was asserted. Often times, a mixture of the two.

Anyway, please feel free to continue not reading what I post. :)
 

It is never as easy to make comparisons between AD&D and other editions as people often think.
But before I throw it out, one last note-

People played AD&D (1e) in a variety of fashions. Not everyone played the same.
Actually, you kind of need to lead with this. It wasn't just common practice because there were no gaming police, it was being promoted directly in the rules and was widely understood - it was the DM's game to modify as they see fit. There are probably a higher percentage of 1E players today that are playing by-the-book (or trying to) than were when it was the edition of choice.
The whole "linear fighter, quadratic wizard" didn't apply in the same way in 1e, for a very simple reason. In addition to the other things I am about to point out, there is the issue of survivability.
Mostly that simply has implications for the tactics used. They avoid melee - and that's actually easier to do because 1E defines melee distance as 10'. If an opponent is beyond 10' from a caster they CANNOT melee them that round without charging. They have to spend the round closing.

Magic-users naturally cast longer range spells from positions of greater relative safety than they would otherwise, and other party members tend to be careful enough with their own tactics that their party wizard has as little to fear as possible, preventing opponents from getting close to the wizard. Also, even a simple Mirror Image spell can provide enough reasonable protection from melee and missile attacks in the following round to enable casting a higher level, devastating spell with a long casting time.
Healing was a desperate thing in 1e. For the most part, the scarcity of healing (not to mention issues regarding poison and the like) would usually require Clerics and Druids to use most or all the available spells of certain levels for healing.
Extremely circumstantial. Yes, maximizing the amount of healing spells was certainly one strategy, but again it could depend on other factors such as frequency of encounters and availability of healing potions. Heal-bots were/are by no means universal.
Well, this was noted in the PHB, which warned you that most spells take some time to cast and as such would go off at the end of the round (or sometimes, the follwoing round) and if they spellcaster was struck, "grabbed," or failed any type of save ... the spell was spoiled.
And here again it can depend a great deal upon the interpretation of how initiative works. The initiative rules for 1E were NOT in the PH. They were only provided in the DMG - one year AFTER the PH was published, meaning a large number of games would have had to create and implement their own initiative rules in the meantime. They might have used something extremely simpler as in original D&D, or they may have never played original D&D and thus made up something entirely different. Even so, those rules in the DMG when it WAS released had been written so ineffectively and confusingly that even if you hadn't already had a system of your own you might VERY EASILY misunderstand and misinterpret the DMG rules. It is most certainly common today for players who are STUDYING the 1E DMG to repeatedly misread it or fail to comprehend it. That really can't be over-emphasized and obviously it has huge implications for how all casters function in the game, when the casting of a spell is begun, when it concludes, and the chances of it being disrupted. It certainly was more likely for there to be a huge variety of initiative systems and interpretations in use when there was no internet for anyone to instantly have it explained to them in a way that was easier to come to grips with.
As to how long a spell would cast ... a typical "fast" combat spell would take (segments were 1/10 of a round, or 6 seconds) three segments - 18 seconds - to cast, as in fireball. So you see the problem. That's an effective -4 (because a tie is as bad as a loss) on initiative rolls.
But it's more complicated than that yet. Magic-user spell casting times were predominantly one segment per spell level. Clerical spell casting time was more varied, routinely it was spell level plus 3, but with a great many exceptions to that. For example, at 1st level they have plenty of 4 segment spells but a lot of full-round spells. Longer casting times makes clerical spells less likely to be successfully cast, or then just more likely to be cast outside of combat. And 1E enables attacks on spell casters even when the caster WINS initiative.
That placed a huge premium on either the very few "emergency" combat spells (Magic Missile, the Power Words were all one segment), or required careful planning and stealth to use your spells.
And the more you're able to carefully plan your use of spells in an encounter, the more effective everyone in the party is. In fact, this is a key point to be made - there was a greater emphasis in 1E on being able to plan before getting into fights. 1E was developed out of original D&D which was much closer to a dedicated dungeon-exploring game where AVOIDING as much combat as possible was the smartest game play, not just being able to win fights by designing your character better in the first place. Cautious exploration was the norm because the DM was often playing a game of "gotcha", prompting players to be hyper-vigilant and obsessive in how they describe everything their characters do to avoid being caught. That isn't often how the game is played anymore, including by those still playing with 1E rules. That is, it's heavily WRITTEN to be played differently than the game is now played no matter what rules version you use.
As a general rule, though, spellcasting during combat was very difficult, and if you had intelligent enemies ("Tucker's Kobolds") nearly impossible.
In the rules as-written it was certain made tougher - but you just can't know anymore these days how many groups were REALLY sticklers for the book rules. Remember that Tucker's Kobolds was a DM acting well within the bounds of the rules in both word and spirit. Just by having average intelligent monsters do things that only require average intelligence to do makes pathetic, pipsqueak monsters into something far more dangerous and problematic. But that wasn't the norm. The norm was to treat them (and ALL monsters) in a more limited fashion making it EASIER to attack them, including with spells. Just by not having the kobolds equipped with any missile weapons a caster's difficulty is often greatly reduced. It isn't the game rules therefore that make a magic-users life so difficult as a DM who wants to inhibit them as much as possible rather than give them a break.
I don't want to oversell this- combats could be very swingy; spells could, and would, turn the tide of the battle on a failed saving throw. But more often than not, the big boom would just fizzle.
Yep. Sheer dumb luck of the die rolls can basically END a combat (for better or worse) - but PC's don't go into combat depending on sheer dumb luck to succeed. If they do they never live long. Players don't play any version of D&D in such a way as to maximize their faults and limitations - they minimize or eliminate them. They don't RELY on ONE spell that MUST succeed or else they lose. They will cast several spells expecting that opponent saves will succeed, reducing or eliminating the spell's effects, until they just accumulate enough spells of half damage to do the job anyway, or that one save is finally failed. Where spells are concerned it's a game of attrition and knowing that lucky saves generally can't hold out forever.
Magic was legititmately awesome, but also kinda sorta dangerous too.
And the spells that were dangerous to the caster either didn't get used at all, were only used in extreme cases, or again required PLANNING to use safely. If the way that you're playing the game is such that you manage more opportunities to plan your attack against opponents rather than just suddenly and unexpectedly find yourself in a fight, your gameplay reduces or eliminates the difficulties that are attached to those spells. And Vancian casting means that if you have that spell studied to be able to cast you HAVE already worked out how to handle the downsides of it or else you wouldn't have it memorized in the first place.
....and everyone has a story about the first time you cast fireball in a restricted space.
Q.E.D. When you know fireballs expand in confined spaces you don't use it in confined spaces. Not without proper planning, or at least with the willingness to bear the consequences.
This causes pretty severe restrictions on going "nova" in many adventuring environments.
This is, IMO, not a bad thing. Is the 5/10 minute workday not a common complaint of more recent editions?
In effect, instead of being able to cast, and then re-cast on a daily basis, deciding when to cast spells (especially the high level ones) became a much more difficult game of resource management.
A LOT of 1E is a matter of resource management. You WERE (at the time) expected to be tracking rations, ammunition, spell components, encumbrance, and more. Managing the resource of how many spells you could cast was no different and NOT more difficult - except in comparison to an edition that reduces or eliminates ALL resource management rules.

And you've got the rules for resting a bit incorrect. A 1st level caster recovering a single 1st level spell only needs to rest 4 hours and then study 15 minutes per level of spells being recovered. A 1st level caster in a long day can then (theoretically) cast five 1st level spells that day, not just one. They are very capable of casting and recasting as long as time can be and IS taken to rest for a few hours at regular intervals. At the other extreme a caster needing to recover a 9th level spell needs to rest 12 hours to start with before spending 15 minutes per spell level re-studying their spells. An 18th level caster needing to recover ALL their spells will spend a total of 20 1/2 hours doing so.
As I recall, your initial spell assortment was random as well.
The method for acquiring your initial spell book contents is again ultimately up to the dungeon master. The DMG presents a method to roll randomly for it (which includes chances for players to have their choice), but also notes that the DM may let players have more that that. And there is no reason that the DM MUST limit it to that. If the DM so desires they may let the player choose ALL the spells in their spell book because in 1E D&D the DM is not held to the written rules. The DM holds themselves to the written rules, each according to their own judgement. And those are the spells IN the characters spell book. It is quite certain that they KNOW more spells than that - they just don't have them in their spell book yet.
Also, don't forget that classes levelled at different rates. The Magic-User needed 2500 XP for level 2, the second slowest levelling class (behind the Paladin at 2750 XP, looked it up but didn't check the Unearthed Arcana for the "expansion" classes for comparison).
Sadly, that's also inaccurate to phrase it that way. To reach 2nd level and 20th level for example, yes the magic-user is second only to the paladin in xp needed to advance. But, for example, to reach 10th level the magic-user needs LESS xp than clerics, fighters, paladins, rangers, assassins and monks. In fact, they need HALF the xp that a fighter needs at that level. Clerics need less than fighters at that level. Even a ranger needs only 65% of the xp to make 10th as a fighter does. Comparison of xp requirements across classes is never a straight-forward matter in AD&D because the tables are that inconsistent.
 

I was trying to adjust it to 5E. Magic Resistance varied back then. Adjusted up or down 5% per level. So Orcus with 85% was untouchable by Magic if you under 8th level caster. I generally just did the % with out the math.

Really? Was it that way in ADnD second edition too? I bet our DM never knew of that and just always used the base MR... edit: did a quick search and it seems in 2nd edition it was indeed static. So apologies to our DM...
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
And here again it can depend a great deal upon the interpretation of how initiative works. The initiative rules for 1E were NOT in the PH. They were only provided in the DMG - one year AFTER the PH was published, meaning a large number of games would have had to create and implement their own initiative rules in the meantime. They might have used something extremely simpler as in original D&D, or they may have never played original D&D and thus made up something entirely different. Even so, those rules in the DMG when it WAS released had been written so ineffectively and confusingly that even if you hadn't already had a system of your own you might VERY EASILY misunderstand and misinterpret the DMG rules.

The rules for initiative were in the PHB. They weren't organized into a single neat section like the DMG, but it was there.

In addition, this was already assumed background knowledge if you were playing in 1978. For example, see The Strategic Review, no. 2 (1975) explaining the OD&D initiative system (both sides roll d6, add dex bonuses if any).

I am unclear why it is so important to you to point out that there might be people that are confused by the rules. But sure, there were.

Given your use of all-caps and your general demeanor, I will let you converse with others so that you can make your very important points.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
With Gary Gygax, one has to try to square the two facts that 1 - he said that he didn't like wizards and never understood why anyone would play anything but a human fighter

Is there a quote from him about this? Because I can't seem to find any verification with regard to it.
 

David Howery

Adventurer
technically, yeah, all those rules existed. But from what I remember, we house ruled away a lot of that. One of the basics was 'max HP at 1st level'. Another was letting the PC choose at least one spell (and sometimes all of them) instead of rolling randomly. And the PC can add some stuff to his spellbook by finding magic scrolls (for which we never rolled '% chance to fail". Unless the spell specifically said something along the lines of a spell taking an entire round to cast, we generally had the spell go off when the rest of the party won initiative. Not sure about all the other campaigns out there, but we made life a bit easier for a new mage in ours...
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
technically, yeah, all those rules existed. But from what I remember, we house ruled away a lot of that. One of the basics was 'max HP at 1st level'. Another was letting the PC choose at least one spell (and sometimes all of them) instead of rolling randomly. And the PC can add some stuff to his spellbook by finding magic scrolls (for which we never rolled '% chance to fail". Unless the spell specifically said something along the lines of a spell taking an entire round to cast, we generally had the spell go off when the rest of the party won initiative. Not sure about all the other campaigns out there, but we made life a bit easier for a new mage in ours...

I think it goes without saying that OD&D & AD&D (1e) were easily the most "DIY" editions that we've had. Since then, there has been an increasing reliance on the RAW that did not exist back then as noted in the last, bolded and italicized paragraph of the OP.

That said, it's helpful to look at what the rules provided in terms of spellcasting. There were a number of structural features in the rules to keep magic users in 1e at a relatively lower power level, especially in combat (out of combat was a different story).

That said, it was quite common to discard a lot of rules; weapon speed factors, weapon v. ac adjustments, and so on were not used at many tables. And it was not uncommon to see tables that didn't take into effect the length of time it took to cast a spell (or the whole V,S,M).

Then there was the whole "moving from B/X rules to AD&D and back and forth" which meant that there was a lot of cross-pollination and/or simplification of certain rules.
 

Iry

Hero
But as an aside- this is something that I really dislike about a lot of internet conversations. Even if you had only read this post, you'd know that I had a some familiarity with OD&D and AD&D. And you happen to know, in addition to that, that I also have had 5,803 posts (number is approximate) about OD&D and pre-1983 AD&D recently, some of which have cited the Monster Manual. So ... it would seem unlikely that I haven't looked at the Monster Manual in a while.
While I think replying to a post without reading it is... a dubious practice at best, I will say it is human nature to assume anyone who doesn't agree with you either A) knows less than you, B) Has less experience than you, or C) Is less intelligent than you. I wish it wasn't that way, but the knee-jerk reaction of... a staggering majority of people... is one of those three.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
While I think replying to a post without reading it is... a dubious practice at best, I will say it is human nature to assume anyone who doesn't agree with you either A) knows less than you, B) Has less experience than you, or C) Is less intelligent than you. I wish it wasn't that way, but the knee-jerk reaction of... a staggering majority of people... is one of those three.

It is so weird to me.

Sometimes there are real bona fide mistakes that need correction- in one of my prior 328 Greyhawk threads, I totally forgot something and Mortellan pointed it out, which made me edit the main post to correct it. Mistakes happen, well mistakes and the forgetfulness that occurs in your dotage!

But it is profoundly odd, to me, for someone to write a comment essentially saying, "You're stupid and I didn't read your post." Great! So ... why respond to me? :)
 
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