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

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So, dirty secret. In no edition of D&D, 1e AD&D through to 3e D&D, in 40 years of gaming have I ever seen a single classed M/U or Wizard survive past 6th level. I
Not only have I seen it, it was my character that did it. :)

In 3e, of all things, I ran a single-class Wizard (Illusionist) up to 8th level before she died. They brought her back, and she eventually got her 11th before her own party killed her.

What's incredible about this is that the character was of, well let's just say the unwise persuasion, and by rights probably should have died shortly out of the gate. And it's not like nobody else died; we had a fairly consistent turnover rate in that party to start with, then started reviving people once we could afford it.

I should also point out that in our games (1e or 3e) it's bloody rare for a character of ANY class to get to 6th without dying at least once. MUs don't have the monopoly on dying quickly. :)
You start getting meaningful power at around 7th level, but like I said, if you go straight at it you'll never make it IME. I can only assume that tales of players that have level up straight from 1st level as single classed Wizards or M-U's are either apocryphal or else they had much gentler GMs than I am or I'm used to.
I've seen numerous MUs go from raw 1st to high level in our 1e-adjacent games, though there's usually a few death-revival episodes along the way.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
This is ... interesting, as it's another one of those examples of how people tended to just "wing it."

The rules are clear in 1e.

A character can only use the armors and weapons permitted by their class. PERIOD.

Among those weapons, they can wield weapons in which they are proficient with no penalty, and weapons that they are allowed (but not proficient) with a penalty.

Character Classes Table II provides the quick list of those weapons that you can use per class.
The Weapon Proficiency Table tells you the initial number of allowable weapons you are proficient in, and the rate that you gain proficiencies.
I, and all of us, always read it that the list showed the weapons you could become proficient with. Non-proficient was non-proficient, whether the weapon was on your proficient-allowable list or not.

Put another way, the ban was on becoming proficient with non-listed weapons, not on using them at all.
So, for example, the Magic User-
Allowable Weapons: Dagger, Dart, Staff
At level 1, you get to choose one (1) weapon to be proficient at.
You gain a proficiency every six (6) levels.
So Futzwizz, the Ungainly, starts at level 1 and chooses the staff.
At level 7, he adds a proficiency in darts.
At level 13, he adds a proficiency in his final weapon, the dagger.
And that's it.
Indeed, but the way I always read it that MU at 3rd level would have the same non-proficiency penalty (-5) whether attacking with a dagger or a club or a longsword or a piece of furniture.
This was always well-known, but did cause some ... edge issues. See, e.g., Dragon #56 Sage Advice:

Q. A bard is limited to the use of certain weapons. However, is it possible for a bard to use a weapon he was previously trained in (for instance, a bow), perhaps with a penalty involved?

A. Again, this is a matter simply resolved by realizing the Players Handbook means what it says. No, bards cannot use bows, because that weapon does not appear in the list of weapons permitted to the class. A character who intends to become a bard should make a point of gaining proficiency with at least some of the weapons usable by a bard, in addition to skills with weapons (such as the bow) which the character might prefer to employ during his tenure as a fighter. A bard-to-be might wisely decide to become proficient with bow and arrow, to improve his chances of surviving during his fighter phase. But the use of that weapon is prohibited when the character switches to the thief class, and it can never again be legally employed before or after the character actually becomes a bard.
To me that's a rules-don't-match-fiction answer, and in those cases the rules are what gives way. The Bard doesn't suddenly forget how to use a weapon she's been using (and trained in!) for years, that's ludicrous.

But then, the 1e Bard is a hot mess as written anyway so perhaps not the best example to use for anything. :)
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
To me that's a rules-don't-match-fiction answer, and in those cases the rules are what gives way. The Bard doesn't suddenly forget how to use a weapon she's been using (and trained in!) for years, that's ludicrous.

But then, the 1e Bard is a hot mess as written anyway so perhaps not the best example to use for anything. :)
I do remember the older D&D rules took a very hard line to this sort of thing. You weren't rewarded for finding cute little work-arounds ("skill mastery," in the modern parlance) under some of those older rules; you were more likely to be punished. There weren't very many combinations of things that would let you nullify or sidestep class restrictions...if your fighter multiclassed to wizard, you inherited the wizard's inability to use armor, for example...and not just while casting spells. It was considered a fair trade for gaining magical ability.

It was very different from the WotC-era philosophy, where bypassing game restrictions isn't just possible...it's encouraged. Expected, even.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I do remember the older D&D rules took a very hard line to this sort of thing. You weren't rewarded for finding cute little work-arounds ("skill mastery," in the modern parlance) under some of those older rules; you were more likely to be punished. There weren't very many combinations of things that would let you nullify or sidestep class restrictions...if your fighter multiclassed to wizard, you inherited the wizard's inability to use armor, for example. It was considered a fair trade for gaining magical ability.
But you do get the Fighter's ability to become proficient in any weapon, which is a direct inconsistency.

I have it that a F-MU can wear all the armour she wants but she's not going to cast a thing while in it* even if the spell is verbal-only.

* - with a few very rare and extremely expensive exceptions such as Elven Chain or armour specifically enchanted to allow arcane casting; Elven Chain starts around 50K g.p. in my game even for basic +0, and armour with 'arcane aid' (my name for that enchantment) starts well into six-digit pricing. Even uber-rich PCs tend to balk hard at prices like that. :)
It was very different from the WotC-era philosophy where bypassing game restrictions wasn't just possible, it was encouraged. Expected, even.
I think the 1e approach may have been a somewhat hamfisted way of trying to prevent player-side shenanigans; and IME it didn't work worth a damn. :)
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
But you do get the Fighter's ability to become proficient in any weapon, which is a direct inconsistency.
Hey I'm not trying to advocate for them; those rules are ham-fisted as hell. I'm just sayin' that back in my day, that's what the rules looked like.

Complaints of "but that doesn't make sense!" would usually be met with "then don't multiclass, Kevin."

dana-carvey-grumpy-old-man.gif
 
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Voadam

Legend
The rules are clear in 1e.
I disagree.

A few places are clear in stating that MUs cannot wear armor or use a lot of weapons. It does not say cannot gain proficiency in but cannot use. But then the almost non existent explanations are fairly poor (not being trained means cannot use or wear at all?) and there is the non proficiency penalty which seems like it could synch up well. And there are weird things like 1e multiclass MUs being able to cast in armor and multiclass cleric and weapon restriction justifications. So thinking that "cannot use" was actually intended to be "can not gain proficiency in" seems plausible.
 

Zyx and Rixx are pretty solid names for kids to come up with.
Yeah. Nearly 40 years later (!) and those two characters still loom large in my D&D consciousness.
The name Zyx came from a recipe book - the player was looking at the index upside down and those three letters popped out. Rixx was actually Asterix initially, but I made the player change it (I was finicky about names back then and took my game seriously, lol). The party also had an Elric, a Corum, and a Dai-San. I wanted originality, and I didn't appreciate properly that this guy wanted to "play out" his favorite book characters - that was how he got his fun.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I disagree.

A few places are clear in stating that MUs cannot wear armor or use a lot of weapons. It does not say cannot gain proficiency in but cannot use. But then the almost non existent explanations are fairly poor (not being trained means cannot use or wear at all?) and there is the non proficiency penalty which seems like it could synch up well. And there are weird things like 1e multiclass MUs being able to cast in armor and multiclass cleric and weapon restriction justifications. So thinking that "cannot use" was actually intended to be "can not gain proficiency in" seems plausible.

Um, no.

I quoted one source (the rules advice column we were all familiar with) but there are numerous contemporaneous sources that express it the same way- it’s a flat prohibition. The non-proficiency penalty is a penalty for using a weapon you were allowed to use, but were not proficient in.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
I, and all of us, always read it that the list showed the weapons you could become proficient with. Non-proficient was non-proficient, whether the weapon was on your proficient-allowable list or not.

Put another way, the ban was on becoming proficient with non-listed weapons, not on using them at all.

Indeed, but the way I always read it that MU at 3rd level would have the same non-proficiency penalty (-5) whether attacking with a dagger or a club or a longsword or a piece of furniture.

To me that's a rules-don't-match-fiction answer, and in those cases the rules are what gives way. The Bard doesn't suddenly forget how to use a weapon she's been using (and trained in!) for years, that's ludicrous.

But then, the 1e Bard is a hot mess as written anyway so perhaps not the best example to use for anything. :)
I don't think that they forget how, I think it's like what happens when your sword-proficient Fighter dual-classes into Cleric. It doesn't matter that you're proficient, your class says "no edged weapons".
 

Voadam

Legend
I do remember the older D&D rules took a very hard line to this sort of thing. You weren't rewarded for finding cute little work-arounds ("skill mastery," in the modern parlance) under some of those older rules; you were more likely to be punished. There weren't very many combinations of things that would let you nullify or sidestep class restrictions...if your fighter multiclassed to wizard, you inherited the wizard's inability to use armor, for example...and not just while casting spells. It was considered a fair trade for gaining magical ability.

It was very different from the WotC-era philosophy, where bypassing game restrictions isn't just possible...it's encouraged. Expected, even.
My characterization is the opposite. :)

There were a bunch of work arounds for a lot of limitations, but they were each fairly arcane and specific and limited, but the game rewarded you for figuring out and using such angles.

Having a minimum 15 strength and 17 int and being human is fairly specific and limited, but it allows you to use the 1e character with two classes rules to be a fighter who switches to magic-user who can use non-magic-user weapons and be a magic user with more hp and better weapon options (with a prohibition on gaining xp if he uses the fighter weapons before passing his old fighter level).

Demihumans can multiclass and benefit from the other class(es)'s increased weapon options. Being a magic user in plate mail can be a rewarding advantage for adventuring magic users.

Unearthed Arcana added slings, knives, and caltrops to the magic-user allowed weapons list. Which I misread as staff sling back in the day for lacrosse magic users. :)

2e added kits with options including for weapons.

Wanted a thief with better weapons? Multiclass or have the stats to be an assassin.

Want to be a fighter who casts spells? Demihuman multiclass, human with the stats and levels to switch class, human with the stats and levels in paladin or ranger. In 2e there was even a specialty priest of a sea god who had all the mechanics of a fighter plus a little bit of priest spell casting.
 

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