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

Mark Hope

Adventurer
I give them bonus spells like clerics, which helps. I am not ashamed of my heresy.

I also design the adventure so that wizards (and all classes, really) have things to contribute beyond combat. Your wizard will be the only guy who can decipher the runes on that weird magic trap or possess the lore to solve a particular puzzle or know what a spel or magic item does. Using NWPs can really help them shine.

I also gave wizards proficiency in light crossbow - although I reskinned it as a chalytic gauntlet that shot little bolts of force that just happened to cost the same as crossbow quarrels to refuel. And yes darts and oil and whatnot.

That said, we once had a wizard who rolled really well on Strength and, through some lucky dice rolls in combat, was going toe-to-toe alongside the fighters with the Saltmarsh smugglers. It didn't last, but for those first couple of level, Jord was a force to be reckoned with in melee :ROFLMAO:
 

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Voadam

Legend
I played a one shot 1st level Magic User in High School whose only random offensive spell was light and leaned in on my dagger having the same to hit bonus as the fighter.

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It was a blast. :)
 

Voadam

Legend
A long term AD&D wizard I played started out as a viking concept human fighter with enough stats to switch classes to wizard (1e Unearthed Arcana human roll stat generation options allow hitting those hard to hit class options). He got to 3rd level as a fighter before breaking his spear to turn it into a staff when he bargained with a renegade drow to teach him magic.

So having great stats and three levels of fighter hit dice and higher than first level companions with some magic items was my strategy for getting through 1st level wizard in that campaign. :)

My first wizard duel in that campaign was against a minotaur wizard who was higher level as a magic user than I was. We each had a few spells, once mine were spent I rushed him to disrupt any he tried to keep casting. That worked for me for a few rounds then it came down to beating on each other with our great strength. I ended up breaking his neck before he gored me to death. It was really close. :)
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
(*Caveat here: Halfling is the "secret Ranger" class in B/X and generally a better frontliner than an Elf, due to having the same HD and armor, faster advancement, greater resilience to poison, and better AC against large foes).
Oh I agree! I didn't mean to suggest the Halfling would be on the back line because they are frail; they are usually on the back line because they're typically using slings and crossbows and such, and they can help defend you when the enemy gets close. If you're a level 1 Magic-User, you should be best friends with the hobbits.

Gandalf knows what's up.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
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.
This is such a weird argument. Adjust your expectations -- and play five minutes each week? Combat, even in OSR, makes up a significant part of any adventure.

I've been playing since 1979, so this isn't a case of me not knowing how the game was played at the time. Telling one of the players at the table to just sit quietly during most of the game sucked then and sucked now -- and it's a pretty crappy way for designers to treat a player and a crappier way for players to treat a friend. You wouldn't invite someone over to play a board game with you and then, after five minutes, just force them to watch everyone else play for hours.

To answer your question more seriously, @M.T. Black, I never found a satisfying answer for this, other than to have people play multiple characters at a time, so they could still have something to do, or try to get them through these levels as painlessly as possible.

Back in the day when we were continually rerunning B2, T1 and L1, most people just stopped playing magic-users in favor of other classes, which IMO was a game design failure.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Same thing the fighter does when we enter an ancient library or laboratory, slightly burnt by dragon fire.

Look for ways to be supporting cast for a bit.
The percentage of time spent exploring libraries and labs is significantly less than is spent in combat. It's not an equivalent situation.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
This is such a weird argument. Adjust your expectations -- and play five minutes each week? Combat, even in OSR, makes up a significant part of any adventure.
Yeah, if combat makes up a significant part of your adventure, my advice might not be very useful. (But then again, you're probably not playing a Magic-User, or the red-box Basic rules.) Even so, making attack rolls over and over and over (and over, and over again) isn't the only way to play, even during combat.
 
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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Yeah, if combat makes up a significant part of your adventure, my advice isn't going to work for you. (But then again, you're probably not playing with the red-box Basic rules, either.)
TSR disagreed with you. The adventures in the era we're talking about were full of combat.

The most popular adventure of the area, Keep on the Borderlands, centers on the Caves of Chaos, which are stacked with monsters, most of whom will absolutely be engaging in combat with the PCs eventually. There simply isn't an opportunity for a spell-less magic-user to do anything at the Caves other than to soak up a few kobold arrows.

The notion that D&D games used to be people sneaking through dungeons, largely avoiding combat, is revisionist history.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
TSR disagreed with you. The adventures in the era we're talking about were full of combat.

The most popular adventure of the area, Keep on the Borderlands, centers on the Caves of Chaos, which are stacked with monsters, most of whom will absolutely be engaging in combat with the PCs eventually. There simply isn't an opportunity for a spell-less magic-user to do anything at the Caves other than to soak up a few kobold arrows.

The notion that D&D games used to be people sneaking through dungeons, largely avoiding combat, is revisionist history.
I can't really speak to TSR or their intentions; I'm just giving advice from my game table. I still run BECM games on occasion, and the "useless wizard" trope is a myth at my table. But maybe that's on me: as the DM, I try to give the PCs more to do than just "roll for attack" every round.

That said: I haven't had anyone choose to play a Magic-User in years--Elf and Cleric are far more appealing to my players, probably because they can actually take a punch. So who knows? I gave the best advice I could, with the info I had. I didn't want to just dump on the topic with "play something else lol."
 
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