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

Hussar

Legend
As an aside (and not a comment directed at anyone in particular) I just had a chuckle. For decades I’ve seen arguments how fighters got screwed in AD&D because they are so dependent on magic items while MUs can cast reality bending magic, and now when I see folks point out how MUs often got screwed, the reply is “no they aren’t if they get all these magic items!”

Maybe 1e was more balanced than people give it credit....

Umm, I think you're getting your 3e discussions mixed in there. No one ever claimed, AFAIK, that fighters in AD&D were dependent on magic. FIghters had the best survivability, and frequently (particularly if you used Unearthed Arcana) dealt the most damage. It was 3e that screwed over fighters so badly and made the casters king.

And, that's also putting words in other people's mouths. The point that was being made is EVERY character in AD&D would have 10+ magic items in fairly short order - certainly by about level 7 or 8 anyway. You cannot really discuss the fragility of MU's and ignore that fact. The modules certainly rewarded groups with those kinds of numbers of magic items. So, claims that "Oh, well, in my games, no one ever saw anything above +2" is just arguing from anecdote. Cool for you, I guess? Our groups, which tended to abide by die rolls, and heavily used modules, saw far, far more magic than that and far more powerful magic than that, fairly often.
 

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Sacrosanct

Legend
Umm, I think you're getting your 3e discussions mixed in there. No one ever claimed, AFAIK, that fighters in AD&D were dependent on magic. FIghters had the best survivability, and frequently (particularly if you used Unearthed Arcana) dealt the most damage. It was 3e that screwed over fighters so badly and made the casters king.

And, that's also putting words in other people's mouths. The point that was being made is EVERY character in AD&D would have 10+ magic items in fairly short order - certainly by about level 7 or 8 anyway. You cannot really discuss the fragility of MU's and ignore that fact. The modules certainly rewarded groups with those kinds of numbers of magic items. So, claims that "Oh, well, in my games, no one ever saw anything above +2" is just arguing from anecdote. Cool for you, I guess? Our groups, which tended to abide by die rolls, and heavily used modules, saw far, far more magic than that and far more powerful magic than that, fairly often.
How is it putting words in other people's mouths when I specifically said I wasn't referring to anyone specific? Have you been involved in every conversation ever about class balance over every edition to know no one has ever argued that fighters in 1e weren't dependant on magic items to keep up with magic users?

Wow, that REALLY IS special magic you got going on there 🤷🏼‍♂️
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
For reference, I hightly, HIGHLY recommend reading: Treasure and leveling comparisons: AD&D1, B/ED&D, and D&D3 - updated 11-17-08 (Q1). @Quasqueton nicely lists out all the magic items that were possible to retrieve in the modules.
Those analyses Quasqueton did were (and still are!) really interesting

The MU often had the best or second best AC in the group by higher levels. Certainly the best saving throws. Best protection and whatnot. Survivabilty? MU's almost always the last to die in our groups.
Part of this comes from what sources are generally killing the PCs most often in a particular campaign.

If it's front-line melee then yes, the warriors are going to die more often. If it's AoE blasts, breath weapons, or area-affecting traps - things that do equal damage to everyone - the arcane casters are in trouble due to simple lack of starch. If it's save-or-dies then everyone gets hit about equally.

I've run the numbers for our crew here and found that in general the class that has the best survival rate* is Nature Cleric (our version of Druid) and the worst is Cavalier (an outlier due to small sample size I think; not many have been played). But in general the overall by-class and by-class-group survival rate doesn't vary that much - certainly not as much as I expected.

* - ignoring Necromancer, a new class to our game that's had very few PCs and of those some - largely by sheer luck - have done spectacularly well)
 

Remathilis

Legend
If I may chortle a moment, I would like to point out that a lot of the "fall safes" of magic are largely absent in Basic D&D:

  • There are no VSM notations. It is generally noted a caster must be able to speak and use his hands, but unless the spell itself calls for an object, general martial components are missing. In essence, nearly all Basic spells are VS only.
  • Memorization is one hour, regardless of caster and level. 36th level magic-user memorizing 9 spells of EACH level? 1 hour.
  • Casting times, like weapon speeds, don't exist. What does though, is an order of actions for each side: movement, missile, magic, melee in that order. Initiative is by sides normally too, so one side acts and then the other.
  • You still lose concentration automatically if hit or in less than calm conditions.
  • There is no roll to learn a spell; you find it, you learn it.
  • There is no limit on spell level usable based on ability score; 10 int magic-users can use 9th level spells. (Except wish; which has its own built in ability score requirements).
  • There is no rule for clerics being limited by thier immortal's power level or whims; memorize what you like cleric man!
  • magic resistance doesn't exist; though certain creatures are obviously immune to certain spells; and immortals have anti-magic ratings but they're near gods...

Yet I'd argue that Basic doesn't feel broken or anything like 3e on. It feels really similar to AD&D, though I will admit my own experience with 20+ level play is non-existent.

Still, makes me wonder how Basic kept spellcasting in check without all those limitations.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
If I may chortle a moment, I would like to point out that a lot of the "fall safes" of magic are largely absent in Basic D&D:

  • There are no VSM notations. It is generally noted a caster must be able to speak and use his hands, but unless the spell itself calls for an object, general martial components are missing. In essence, nearly all Basic spells are VS only.
  • Memorization is one hour, regardless of caster and level. 36th level magic-user memorizing 9 spells of EACH level? 1 hour.
  • Casting times, like weapon speeds, don't exist. What does though, is an order of actions for each side: movement, missile, magic, melee in that order. Initiative is by sides normally too, so one side acts and then the other.
  • You still lose concentration automatically if hit or in less than calm conditions.
  • There is no roll to learn a spell; you find it, you learn it.
  • There is no limit on spell level usable based on ability score; 10 int magic-users can use 9th level spells. (Except wish; which has its own built in ability score requirements).
  • There is no rule for clerics being limited by thier immortal's power level or whims; memorize what you like cleric man!
  • magic resistance doesn't exist; though certain creatures are obviously immune to certain spells; and immortals have anti-magic ratings but they're near gods...

Yet I'd argue that Basic doesn't feel broken or anything like 3e on. It feels really similar to AD&D, though I will admit my own experience with 20+ level play is non-existent.

Still, makes me wonder how Basic kept spellcasting in check without all those limitations.
It probably feels similar to AD&D because most of us (and people I gamed with) ignored things like material components unless it was something big, and how clerics lost their spells for not playing up to their deity ;)
 

Remathilis

Legend
It probably feels similar to AD&D because most of us (and people I gamed with) ignored things like material components unless it was something big, and how clerics lost their spells for not playing up to their deity ;)
And like many players of that era, I played with a mixed, half-remembered rules from Basic and Advanced, with a hefty side of house rules, that didn't quite put spellcasters under half the supposed "controls" that existed, and yet it worked fine for years.

I just wanted to point out that these weren't first broken in 3e and they caused CoDzilla. They weren't a thing for a whole edition of D&D that ran for decades.
 

Hussar

Legend
3e had multiple issues that all kind of came together as a perfect storm.

1. MASSIVE spell lists. Even straight up PHB had an exhaustive spell list. Add in other supplements and you had literally hundreds of spells to choose from at any given level. The odds of something abusable slipping through were quite high.

2. The ability to manufacture magic items - wands and scrolls being the primary offenders here. Effectively, you could dump all your really situational spells that no one every memorized but could really change a situation if those circumstances came up onto scrolls. Dump your every day attack spells onto wands and now you effectively have no memorization limit.

3. Clerics gained MASSIVE firepower. Look at AD&D and Basic/Expert spells. Clerics had pretty much no directly offensive spells before what, 4th spell level? The shift from support to front line blaster was a massive change for clerics.

4. Meta-magic feats which could drastically alter effects. Extend spell (the one that made spells last longer) is a HUGE feat. You could get away with having things like Mage Armor or other defensive spells up, 100% of the time. All those low level utility spells could be stacked up higher and higher and then made to last pretty much as long as you wanted.

To me, this was the issue with casters. And, in 5e, most of these issues have been resolved - they scaled back the spell lists, no more of this all day spell business, and you cannot manufacture spell slots (wands/scrolls).
 

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