log in or register to remove this ad

 

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

What's the point of your comment? Why do you seem to be both condescending and rude in response to a perfectly reasonable post I made? Seriously, don't you have basic good manners?
I wasn't responding to you directly. I'm just puzzled about the purpose of this thread. I asked earlier about how this is relevant to 5e and go no answer.

The title of the thread is misleading - obviously 1st edition did not "nerf" wizards.

If the purpose is simply to inform people who never played 1st edition what wizards (MUs) where like, then that would make sense, but it's not what the title says.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

6ENow!

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
I'm just puzzled about the purpose of this thread.
My take was exploring how 1E balanced the power of MUs (aka nerfing) over the course of the game. 5E (and other editions) balanced casters (especially MUs/Wizards) differently.

Many of us (myself included) have sought out ways to use the 5E framework, but make the experience more like AD&D. Getting rid of things like concentration, but adding instead spell disruption via actual casting times (instead of 1 action, etc.), change to learn spells (instead of automatically getting 2 freebies per level), etc.

So, the title, (and the first bit of the OP) is about what rules were in place to keep MUs balanced in power (very low HP, spell disruption, more complex components, lengthy memorization times, requiring multiple memorization uses for multiple castings, etc.).

That's what I got out of it anyway. :)
 

My take was exploring how 1E balanced the power of MUs (aka nerfing) over the course of the game. 5E (and other editions) balanced casters (especially MUs/Wizards) differently.

Many of us (myself included) have sought out ways to use the 5E framework, but make the experience more like AD&D. Getting rid of things like concentration, but adding instead spell disruption via actual casting times (instead of 1 action, etc.), change to learn spells (instead of automatically getting 2 freebies per level), etc.

So, the title, (and the first bit of the OP) is about what rules were in place to keep MUs balanced in power (very low HP, spell disruption, more complex components, lengthy memorization times, requiring multiple memorization uses for multiple castings, etc.).

That's what I got out of it anyway. :)
The trick to balancing 1st edition was that nothing was remotely balanced at all!

But it's not useful to say "spell interruption would be better than concentration in 5e" unless you address how it could be made to work in 5e. Interruption made it through three editions, but it was eventually dropped to simplify timing. If you wanted to bring it back you would probably need to also bring back segments, casting time, weapon speed factors, overlapping turns, etc.

Speaking as someone who actually played a lot of 1st edition, casting times and speed factors where something we quickly dropped as making combat too slow and complicated, and as a result interruption rarely happened.

It works quite well in Baldur's Gate, but that is because the computer is keeping track of all the timings. You might come up with some "hybrid" D&D system, using a computer to keep track of the timings, but otherwise I think there is a need to go back to the drawing board to come up with an interrupt system that actually works and is fun.

It's easy to say "this is how it worked in 1e", but the reality was, it didn't work, and it wasn't fun.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
My take was exploring how 1E balanced the power of MUs (aka nerfing) over the course of the game. 5E (and other editions) balanced casters (especially MUs/Wizards) differently.

Many of us (myself included) have sought out ways to use the 5E framework, but make the experience more like AD&D. Getting rid of things like concentration, but adding instead spell disruption via actual casting times (instead of 1 action, etc.), change to learn spells (instead of automatically getting 2 freebies per level), etc.

So, the title, (and the first bit of the OP) is about what rules were in place to keep MUs balanced in power (very low HP, spell disruption, more complex components, lengthy memorization times, requiring multiple memorization uses for multiple castings, etc.).

That's what I got out of it anyway. :)

This is exactly correct. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is in the last sentence of the OP:

People played AD&D (1e) in a variety of fashions. Not everyone played the same. Some people played Monty Haul campaigns or campaigns that easily allowed MUs to bypass restrictions. Others ignored all combat rules related to spellcasting. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to play, and there was a lot less reliance on the RAW then there is now. This is simply an observation that while MUs could be pretty awesome, they had a lot of drawbacks that we need to remember and consider that were baked into the ruleset.

Mirroring the beginning:
I had been thinking, for the last week, of doing a deep dive into the restrictions that ye olde spellcasters in 1e faced ... But given the number of times that you see people, IMO, incorrectly assert that Magic Users (in today's parlance, Wizards) were always predominant in D&D, even in 1e, I thought I'd do an overview into the many ways that the magic users were underpowered in many ways back in 1e, especially compared to today (and even moreso compared to 3e).

Sometimes, you just want to discuss 1e.

Fortunately, I cannot see the post(s) that drove your response; life is too short. :)
 

Wasteland Knight

Adventurer
My takeaway from playing 1E is nothing was remotely balanced yet we still had tons of fun.

There’s a lesson there.

I think efforts to smooth out and, to an extent, balance out, the D&D in 3E and beyond we’re great. But I honestly believe far too much attention has been focused in recent times on achieving an elusive state of perfect class/rule/ability/rule set “balance”.

My personal approach is to spend far less time worrying about which class is overpowered or which class is nerfed and more time playing.
 


My takeaway from playing 1E is nothing was remotely balanced yet we still had tons of fun.

There’s a lesson there.
I agree. People get far to hung up on the idea that the game needs to be "balanced"*. It can be as asymmetric as anything and still a whole lot of fun.



*Also too hung up on the idea that you have to stick to the rules!
 

nevin

Explorer
@Man in a Funny Hat made a number of excellent points, but, I'd also like to address the XP thing as well. Yes, at 1st to, IIRC, 4th or maybe 5th, MU's needed a lot of XP. Then ZOOM, they just rocket up levels. To the point where they are generally one level ahead of fighters until 14th level. It was a wonky progression.

But, I'm frankly baffled why all these MU's get into melee combat. Didn't you guys plug up the front line with a couple of fighters and a cleric? Poof, no one can reach the MU and you cannot fire through melee easily. It was ridiculously easy, most of the time, for the MU to stay out of combat.

And, of course, I notice that this discussion has completely ignored magic items. Let's not forget our 100 charge wands of fireballs or magic missile. Those can't be interupted. If we're talking a double digit level MU, he's likely picked up half a dozen wands, a staff and possibly a rod or two. It's not like anyone else in the group can use them. And with the gobs of charges that AD&D wands had, it's not like you'd ever run out either.

Who else in the group did you give the Bracers of Defense to? And the ring of protection? We drilled our MU's AC into the stratosphere as fast as we could. Which also tended to mean that the MU had insane bonuses to saving throws as well - effectively saving on 2's and 3's by the time we hit double digit play.

And, this also ignores the fact that a lot of AD&D spells had insane durations. Charm person could last for WEEKS. Protection from Evil BLOCKED all physical attacks from extra-planar creatures. Stoneskin (Unearthed Arcana) lasted until you had taken X number of attacks and blocked all physical damage until then.

It's not like MU's were helpless here. Let's not oversell things.
In first edition AC didn't help enough. If the MU stayed in combat and the DM was doing his job he was screwed. one point of damage spell over. at 10th level you probably had 35 hitpoints. Rangers and thieves could surprise and on a perfect roll get 3 full rounds of combat in before you got to react. Stoneskin in first edition was one combat round of attacks. It lasted until you were attacked. A woman in a bar slapping you used up the spell. Magic users in 1st edition were only powerful if they had a party to protect them. Take out the party Magic user was toast. seperate the magic user from the party, toast. Ambush him in the Inn by himself Toast. yes in 1st edition at high level you could have more magic items. Every failed save on a fireball, lightning bolt, dragon breath weapon etc required a save on every item not protected. and if you thought you were slick and put them all in a portable hole one failed save no more portable hole.

Stoneskin (Alteration)
Level: 4 Components: V; S, M
Range: Touch Casting Time: 1 segment
Duration: Special Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: One creature
ExplanationlDescription: When this spell is cast, the affected creature
gains a virtual immunity to any attack by cut, blow, projectile or
the like. Thus, even a sword of sharpness would not affect a creature
protected by stoneskin, nor would a rock hurled by a giant, a snake’s
strike, etc. However, magic attacks from such spells as fireball, magic
missile, lightning bolt, and so forth would have normal effect. Any attack
or attack sequence from a single opponent dispels the dweomer,
although it makes the creature immune to that single attack or attack
sequence. Attacks with relatively soft weapons, such as a monk’s
hands, an ogrillon’s fist, etc, will inflict 1-2 points of damage on the attacker
for each such attack while the attacked creature is protected
by the stoneskin spell, but will not dispel the dweomer. The material
components of the spell are granite and diamond dust sprinkled on
the recipient’s skin.
 

nevin

Explorer
I agree. People get far to hung up on the idea that the game needs to be "balanced"*. It can be as asymmetric as anything and still a whole lot of fun.



*Also too hung up on the idea that you have to stick to the rules!
Everyone forgets that the purpose of playing a roleplaying game with a human GM is so you don't have to play some computer simulation where everything is known and you can minmax and never lose. I've also noticed a lot of younger players seem to feel that suffering consequences for actions or bad guys learning from what they do is "cheesy" they seem to expect it to be just like thier computer games. I think this whole idea of balance comes from that kind of thinking.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
My takeaway from playing 1E is nothing was remotely balanced yet we still had tons of fun.

There’s a lesson there.

I think efforts to smooth out and, to an extent, balance out, the D&D in 3E and beyond we’re great. But I honestly believe far too much attention has been focused in recent times on achieving an elusive state of perfect class/rule/ability/rule set “balance”.

My personal approach is to spend far less time worrying about which class is overpowered or which class is nerfed and more time playing.

I think that there are a number of reasons for this (in terms of fun):

There was an emphasis on creating the character through the shared fiction (the play), and not through the process of character creation. This was mirrored in character abilities; early D&D primarily provided increased "power" and "customization" through the game (such as magic items), where modern D&D does it through class abilities.

Classes were not balanced in terms of each other; there was a great deal of niche protection. There had to be some level of balance within the party.

There was an emphasis on "skilled play" (dungeon exploration, clever roleplaying, and the proverbial 10' pole) and none on skills.

...now, that said, I think that the trend away from this reflect popular trends. There is a reason that OSR is a niche, and not the default. And that's because, for most of us, the "tons of fun" also represents a time when we had a lot more time to play, and were at the beginning of it all ... not closer to the end. Nostalgia is a heckuva drug.
 

nevin

Explorer
I think devs lost the fact that not knowing what is coming or exactly how something will work is what gives the fear, excitement feeling of magic. If everything is balanced and everything is a known that can be planned for you might as well play an MMO
 

6ENow!

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
The trick to balancing 1st edition was that nothing was remotely balanced at all!
That isn't quite true IMO: it was just balanced in a different way. MUs were balanced more by being hard to keep alive and with very limiting spells at lower levels, but then stronger magic at higher levels made survival easier and allowed them to contribute much more over the course of a day.

But it's not useful to say "spell interruption would be better than concentration in 5e" unless you address how it could be made to work in 5e. Interruption made it through three editions, but it was eventually dropped to simplify timing. If you wanted to bring it back you would probably need to also bring back segments, casting time, weapon speed factors, overlapping turns, etc.

Well, it is useful as it isn't hard to imagine how you would implement the concept. As you say, bringing back timing is the big part. A very simple option would be having an initiative modifier equal to the spell level (or maybe twice the spell level). So, if you were casting Fireball and your initiative was a 16, you would be "casting" from 16 to 14 and the spell happens on 13 (double level would be 16-11, spell finishes on 10). If anyone hits you while casting (not on the finishing number though) you make a concentration check or your spell is gone. You really don't even have to bring weapon speeds back in, but all these types of things are already variants in the 5E DMG.

Speaking as someone who actually played a lot of 1st edition, casting times and speed factors where something we quickly dropped as making combat too slow and complicated, and as a result interruption rarely happened.
Yeah, a lot of us played AD&D (1E and/or 2E) for decades, myself included, and we always used casting times and speed factors (especially in 2E when the concept was simplified) because they made sense. We never found it slowing or complex (1E sometimes, but once you "get it" it isn't that bad...), but obviously YMDV. :)

It's easy to say "this is how it worked in 1e", but the reality was, it didn't work, and it wasn't fun.
I respectfully disagree. It did work, and it was fun. Otherwise, we wouldn't have kept playing it for nearly 30 years. Even when 3E came out, we tried it, thought it was "ok" but a bit cumbersome with feats, etc. then, so kept playing our 1E/2E hybrid instead. Different strokes for different folks, though. shrug I know a group who really liked the change when it went to the d20 system, and personally I preferred the d20 Star Wars the most--I felt it fit better than in D&D, for myself anyway...
 

nevin

Explorer
Generally when I hear anyone complain that MU are too powerful it's because they play with house rules that remove limitations, or they play only in modules and the players can read it before hand and know exactly what they are going to do. MU strength has always been known encounters that they get to plan for. Take that away from them in any edition and they are far, far less effective.
 

Generally when I hear anyone complain that MU are too powerful it's because they play with house rules that remove limitations, or they play only in modules and the players can read it before hand and know exactly what they are going to do. MU strength has always been known encounters that they get to plan for. Take that away from them in any edition and they are far, far less effective.
This was especially true in 1ed. As soon as you removed limitation, complains about M-U and casters in general were common. There were a few games where the DM asked me to come and check what was going wrong. Most of the times, it was exactly that. The removal of spell casting and memorization time and spell components. The rest of the time it was a bit too much powerful magic items at too low level.

Very often, I would Co-DM with their regular to bring a bit more understanding of the rules. It often set things straight and most players prefered it that way as casters kept their power but now these powers were more in line with what they should've been.

Yes, AD&D was not the best balanced game ever made. Remember that it was (with OD&D) the first RPG ever made. But strangely, it worked out most of the time in a strange balanced way even if on the surface the game did not seemed balanced at all. If you consider that most games never got past level 11-12, The fast pace that high level wizard were leveling was rarely reached. M-U were more often than not relegated to glass canons that needed protections. Clerics were second line backers with their healing spells and average melee power but straight up good AC. The unbalance came solely from the removal of limitations.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Yeah, a lot of us played AD&D (1E and/or 2E) for decades, myself included, and we always used casting times and speed factors (especially in 2E when the concept was simplified) because they made sense. We never found it slowing or complex (1E sometimes, but once you "get it" it isn't that bad...), but obviously YMDV. :)

I've never understood this! Look, there's a lot of rules that some people followed, and some people didn't-

Weapon v. AC.
Elves cannot be raised or resurrected (except one exception, because reasons).
Constitution score is the max times for raise/resurrection, and a failed role is perma death.
Even friendly castings of polymorph require system shock.
Casting certain spells (such as haste, or wish) that ages you requires a system shock check (that's an oldie but a goodie).
Items have saving throws (that's the "Dragon melts your magic items" rule).

...and so on. But what has always been weird to me is when people insist that other people didn't play with the rules. I know that some people ignored the casting limitations, but it's just bizarre that people insist that everyone did, because I didn't! ;)
 

6ENow!

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
Here's my experience with these examples:

Weapon v. AC. = We used about half the time. The reason we dropped it was because we kept having to equate monster weapons to "weapon-types". It made a lot of sense, but wasn't worth the hassle and didn't really impact very much. It's greatest impact was it made sense to have weapons very heavy armor vs. no armor, etc., which was very much the case historically IME.

Elves cannot be raised or resurrected (except one exception, because reasons). = Yep. We always enforced this. Reincarnate (take your chances), wish, or nothing.

Constitution score is the max times for raise/resurrection, and a failed role is perma death. = Yep. Always used this role as well, including losing a point of CON when you were brought back.

Even friendly castings of polymorph require system shock. = Yep. Even if you know it is coming, it is quite a shock. :)

Casting certain spells (such as haste, or wish) that ages you requires a system shock check (that's an oldie but a goodie). = Hmm.. I remember the aging, but I don't recall it requiring a SS check?

Items have saving throws (that's the "Dragon melts your magic items" rule). = Oh, YEAH! As a DM I LOVED this one... you failed your save, then all your items must make a save as well. LOL, so many times Disintegrate and Dragon breath meltings... ah, fond DM memories here. :devilish:
 

Wasteland Knight

Adventurer
I think that there are a number of reasons for this (in terms of fun):

There was an emphasis on creating the character through the shared fiction (the play), and not through the process of character creation. This was mirrored in character abilities; early D&D primarily provided increased "power" and "customization" through the game (such as magic items), where modern D&D does it through class abilities.

Classes were not balanced in terms of each other; there was a great deal of niche protection. There had to be some level of balance within the party.

There was an emphasis on "skilled play" (dungeon exploration, clever roleplaying, and the proverbial 10' pole) and none on skills.

...now, that said, I think that the trend away from this reflect popular trends. There is a reason that OSR is a niche, and not the default. And that's because, for most of us, the "tons of fun" also represents a time when we had a lot more time to play, and were at the beginning of it all ... not closer to the end. Nostalgia is a heckuva drug.

Good points, although the fun I had back then was real, but I do agree nostalgia can certainly tint the view back.

I think the biggest element of fun, at least for the gaming groups where I was a participant, was the element of personal freedom.

I still remember the first encounter of my first character (a ranger with the extremely original name of Aragorn) against goblins, where the GM asked me my action, and when I asked “What can I do?” the response was along the lines of “anything you can think up”.

I think most any ruleset would have had the same effect.
 
Last edited:

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Here's my experience with these examples:

Weapon v. AC. = We used about half the time. The reason we dropped it was because we kept having to equate monster weapons to "weapon-types". It made a lot of sense, but wasn't worth the hassle and didn't really impact very much. It's greatest impact was it made sense to have weapons very heavy armor vs. no armor, etc., which was very much the case historically IME.


Elves cannot be raised or resurrected (except one exception, because reasons). = Yep. We always enforced this. Reincarnate (take your chances), wish, or nothing.

Constitution score is the max times for raise/resurrection, and a failed role is perma death. = Yep. Always used this role as well, including losing a point of CON when you were brought back.

Even friendly castings of polymorph require system shock. = Yep. Even if you know it is coming, it is quite a shock. :)

Casting certain spells (such as haste, or wish) that ages you requires a system shock check (that's an oldie but a goodie). = Hmm.. I remember the aging, but I don't recall it requiring a SS check?

Items have saving throws (that's the "Dragon melts your magic items" rule). = Oh, YEAH! As a DM I LOVED this one... you failed your save, then all your items must make a save as well. LOL, so many times Disintegrate and Dragon breath meltings... ah, fond DM memories here. :devilish:

My experience is almost exactly like yours!

1. I loved ... LOVED Weapon v. AC. It really made the different weapons "sing" in terms of differentiation. But it was too finicky and limited, given the sheer number of monster encounters. So that was dropped. Begrudgingly.

2. You're missing the one weird exception- the Rod of Resurrection! Never understood that. But yeah, reincarnate .... heh. :)

3. Yep.

4. Yep.

5. Okay, I learned this due to the application on me during an unfortunate imbibing of a speed potion. System shock is any time you are magically aged (involuntarily or voluntarily)! So when I drank that speed potion, DMG= age 1 year, PHB = system shock .... 1 bad roll and the potion killed me. Worst. Death. Ever. ;)

6. If you weren't playing with item saving throws, you just weren't playing!
 

I've never understood this! Look, there's a lot of rules that some people followed, and some people didn't-

Weapon v. AC.
Elves cannot be raised or resurrected (except one exception, because reasons).
Constitution score is the max times for raise/resurrection, and a failed role is perma death.
Even friendly castings of polymorph require system shock.
Casting certain spells (such as haste, or wish) that ages you requires a system shock check (that's an oldie but a goodie).
Items have saving throws (that's the "Dragon melts your magic items" rule).

...and so on. But what has always been weird to me is when people insist that other people didn't play with the rules. I know that some people ignored the casting limitations, but it's just bizarre that people insist that everyone did, because I didn't! ;)
Me neither. But you'd be surprised as how many DMs tables were ignoring or simply did not apply them. And, again, it was leading to all kind of abuses.

But I don't want limitations. I want to play my class/character/race without limitations!
It is by the ignoring of the rules and limitations that a lot of misconceptions came about. Stat requirements were also a great offender.
I want to play a paly but I need 17 charisma... Give me the paly... Removing or allowing a stat adjustement to make paladin more common led to the Lawful Stupid in an attempt to "restrain" people from making too many paladins... With the stat adjustement, no need to restrain them through the lawful stupid as they were rare enough as they were. Today's paladin are no longer fixed in alignment and no longer represent the epitome of knighthood as they did back in 1ed.

Same goes with MU. Their spell allotement was so strong and their potential to boost other was so great that the only limiting factor was the limitations on casting and their low hp. When 3rd edition removed these, it led to the CODZILA of 3.xed and directly to the nerf of casters in 5ed through the concentration mecanic (no more zounds of boosting spells stacking on the characters) and the removal/modification of summon spells (that were so abused with casters in 3.xed). The great idea of touch attack was removed as the abuses of ranged touch attacks were so vehemently shown with the CODZILA that even I, is quite happy to see that idea going down the drain.

Each time a limitation is removed/ignored, it allows for abuses. It was true in 1ed. It is still in 5ed.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
My experience with AD&D 1rst ed is very limited, but I grew up playing 2nd ed, so a few comments

1: We absolutely used the weapon speed, spell speed etc. By the time we were level 6 or so we had figured out "the way" to beat evil spellcasters. Our wizards would attack with magic missile or other fast spells, and the fighters would attack with daggers (preferably magical) which were very fast weapons. Whatever we had to do to make sure that the high level evil wizard didn't get a spell off and kill us all. And it worked pretty well.

2: It was less fun when enemies used the same to shut down our magic users but we did our best to prevent it.

3: Balance definitely was wonky. "weak at low level, powerful at high levels" is not a good way to balance the game. Our thief's player (who had chosen the perhaps prescient name "pylov manure") gave up on it by mid levels. My first character was a cleric and I also gave up on it, it wasn't a fun character to play either. Fighters and wizards reign at our table - the fighters all had % strength (ha!), and the magic resistance of certain monsters made them very necessary.

To me it feels like 5e is much closer to balanced than either 2nd or 3rd edition. The paladin is a little too strong if you have few encounters per day, and a few subclasses don't quite work , but apart from that it's great.

In a way, each edition is a massive play-tests. We learn from the past, and improve upon it - which fixes some problems and introduces new ones. There are problems unique to 5e due to these improvements, but it feels to me like we gained more than we lost.
 

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top