OSR Old school wizards, how do you play level 1?

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Still being dead?

I think I had one magic-user (illusionist, actually) ever survive their first encounter in AD&D. The DM always went right for my 1d4 HP.

But seriously, darts. You threw darts and hoped for the best. If you survived long enough to get some scrolls or (oh happy day) a wand or something, your options increased.

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
You'll likely get a few answers that basically come down to "throw darts". And when you can afford it, "throw oil". Other than that, hide behind the melee, keep your head down, and try not to die.

Oh and since you might have a hand free, hold a torch for the party!


My answer is a little different. Don't play a level 1 Wizard. If you're in a 2e game, talk to your DM about playing a specialist Wizard. I say this because you're going to be limiting the potential spells you can cast, and you might want to find out if your DM will do you a solid by not throwing out a bunch of Evocation scrolls and the like if you decide you want to be an Enchanter.

If you're in a 1e game (or your DM is very much in the "the world does not change to suit the PC's" mindset, I suggest a good multiclass. Sure, you'll level slower as a Wizard, and even at higher levels, be about a level and a half behind a full class Wizard, depending on your exact choice, but I find that this gives you more to do to support the party for when you run out of spells.

A Fighter/Mage might not be tough enough to melee, but you can use a bow effectively. A Thief/Mage will eventually get some out of combat support. A Cleric/Mage, like the Fighter/Mage might not be a good choice for melee, but it's more spells, and everyone loves having more heals available!

EDIT: or if you're pre-AD&D, the Elf class is worth looking into.
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Limit Break Dancing
You’ve cast your single spell for the day and combat breaks out again. How do you spend your turns?
Don't listen to the haters; a 1st level Magic-User in BECM D&D is perfectly fine. You just have to adjust your expectations.

Remember that combat isn't for Magic-Users...it's for the Dwarves, Elves and Fighters. You can try to fight alongside them, but you should expect to have a very short lifespan. Instead, I recommend you hang out with the Thief or the Hafling in the back line of the marching order, handing out potions of healing to those in need. The Cleric will appreciate the backup! Hold the torch or lantern. Throw oil and holy water, and the occasional dagger.

If you absolutely MUST cosplay as a Fighter, don't do it at 1st level. Until you've gained a few levels, you really don't want to get into melee combat if you have the choice to do literally anything else, and you should run away screaming if something gets too close.


Victoria Rules
Stand back, keep watch in all directions, direct traffic, be ready to catch anyone who flees in fear, be ready to drag anyone downed on our side out of the combat, support the line where I can, and otherwise just do my best to stay out of harm's way. If I have to fight, my dagger or staff is at hand.

Or, if staff is my weapon I do have reach, meaning I can poke it through the front line or swing it over a short party member's head to reach a foe. I've done this numerous times.

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