Tell me about your useful magic-user

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First Post
I once played a gnome illusionist in the first game of D&D I ever played. It was a first edition game that my uncle played through an adventure with me and my cousins when we were like 10 or 11 and had just beaten Final fantasy 4.

So we were 1st level and we were the village heroes' kids. I was the son of a great gnomish magic-user and I was myself an illusionist. The other three were a Dwarven fighter, a halfling rogue, and a human cleric.

We were going after this group of kobolds who were stealing the food from the halfling's farm and I had run out of magic, tricking some other kobolds out of their food and into a bear trap we had set.

So we were fighting another group of kobolds and we were losing and running away. While we were, I remembered that I had set another trap and ran behind it and used my gnomish prestidigitation to make the trap smell like fresh meat and we killed the one chasing us with it.


First Post
I had a first edition Magic User that I ran from 1st to 12th level (and then moved far out West). At first level, he carried a heavy arsenal of darts, since he could throw 3 per round, it meant that he would hit with at least one the majority of the time, or two if he was lucky, and once in every few combats he'd connect with all 3.

He worked very hard at acquiring magic items that would augment his spellcasting (rings of spell-storing, wands, rods, by the end he had a Staff of Power, a Cloak of the Archmagi (white) and a Ring of Wizardry that doubled his first and second level spells).

All in all I'd say that by the time he passed 5th level, the darts went from a staple of his combat to a last ditch effort.

I think his finest hour was in a war-deciding battle against a Death-Knight, an Evil High Priest, a Magic-Using Vampire and a Lich (among others). For that fight we pulled together nearly everyone who had ever played in the campaign. We were 12 PCs between 10th and 12th level. And it was a whole night of chaotic fun. My MU exhausted every magical resource he had by the end, and helped dispatch the EHP with his Magic Dagger (but to give Credit where Credit is due, our Paladin and the Fighter-Thief did the heavy lifting when the spells started to run out).

His lowest point was trying to take on a Black Dragon with only four party members present. Killed *DEAD* in one round from full hp to -10. The other party members TPKed, and those adventurers not present had to call in all sorts of markers and favors to get us all Resurrected, Wished and Raised back to life (depending on how much of each deceased PC they could recover from the swamp).


The thing is that a character, any character in any situation, is only as useful as the DM alows. Given their high intellect, their study of arcane secrets and their unique perspective on things mystical, the magic user should never wont for things to contribute, with or without spells. Combat is hardly the only, or even primary, aspect of D&D, IMO and IME, so a wizard being down on spells means that the player has to use his bain to find ways to contribute and feel "useful".

Really, it comes down to running the game to your players. If the party consists of a magic-user, two thieves and a bard, you're going to run enirely different kinds of adventures than if the pary consists of three fighters and a cleric. Their choices of characters -- race, class and proficiencies or skills -- tells you something about what kind of adventures they want to go on, what sorts of things they find fun and entertaining, and what they expect when they sit down at the table. Ignoring that and making a player feel useless is bad DMing, plain and simple.

One thing that a DM can do is to make sure that encounter sna dscenes within a adventure or session focus on different PCs, particularly encounters and scenes outside of combat. Character class says a lot about a character -- even stuff that isn't necessarily written on a character sheet with a bonus or penalty next to it -- and character race, background and other elements do so, as well. You use that information to build a game that caters to your players and no one ever feels useless or bored.

In a perfect world, even those players whose characters don't get the spotlight in a particular scene or encounter still enjoy themselves: D&D is half spectator sport, being entertained while the DM and a couple players ham it up and/or engage in a dramatic/interesting/funny scene.


Tell me about your magic-user from a pre-2000 edition of D&D or AD&D who was not useless after he’d cast his spell(s). (Bonus points for stories of first-level magic-users.)

Well, after an initial spurt of wizards when we were really young (15 or so) and didn't play dungeon-heavy D&D, towards the end of 2e all I ever saw were multi-classed fighter/mages and mage/thieves at first level. (In games were we started much higher, we had single classed wizards, but almost none in low-level games) So most of them used bows when they were out of spells...

Last night I played a 2nd level magic user in a playtest of the Swords & Wizardry OD&D retro-clone. Our party was:

3rd Level Fighter
2nd Level MU
2nd Level MU

My stats: Str 12 Int 14 Wis 10 Con 11 Dex 7 Cha 8
My spell book: Charm Person, Sleep, Read Magic, Read Languages
(I can prepare 2 spells)

Stats were rolled 3d6. The Fighter's player arranged to taste, while the two MU players took the rolls in order, which is why we ended up with two MUs in such a small party.

Here's Mythmere's (the DM) recap of the session:
awakened in a dark alleyway next to a still-smoldering brothel, without clothes or equipment, and with their memories of the last week pretty much blasted away by drink and black lotus – other than vaguely remembering that they’ve been having a lovely time. For instance, Philotomy’s character sported a new tattoo of a one-armed Sembian dancing girl. The first order of business was to get hold of some clothes and equipment, which led to an encounter with the mind-reading slug-creature who runs the beggars’ guild, a body count somewhere in the neighborhood of six citizens, a charmed hireling pirate, the pirate ship, a hidden prisoner, and a possible run-in with the with the thieves’ guild or the overlord’s secret police (they aren’t sure which). They’ve been blamed for one arson they didn’t commit and almost accidentally committed another, and that's all in addition to burning the brothel. With a bit of quick thinking by DungeonDork, they realized that they were walking into a setup where a pirate captain was hiring them to become fall-guys for his own purposes, and they decided to skip town for a while. That was all before noon.

They escaped the city at the head of a procession of thirteen lepers, chanting blessings to the god Nugent (invented on the spot by Northrundicandus), found a cleric of the real Nugent (there are, after all, 300 gods in the City-State), and got to a safe inn outside the city where questionable people aren’t questioned. That was by nightfall.

In the morning, they began their adventure into the Tomb of the Iron God, looking for seven rubies stashed there by the pirate ship’s first mate Ragnar, the cleric of Nugent (god of fevers, holy blessing: “Rock On,” accompanied with “horns” hand gesture). Unfortunately the rubies had been removed by unknown miscreants, but during the adventure DungeonDork’s character apparently had a vision of the Iron God and received a magic iron sword. They slew 15 goblins by means of sleep spells from Northrundicandus and Philotomy’s magic users (party composition is 2 level 2 magic users, DungeonDork’s level 3 fighter, and the level 2 NPC cleric of Nugent).

Collecting what goblin-treasure they could carry, and marking the location of the heavier stuff, they retreated back to the inn (The Sign of the Iron God). That’s where the session ended.

I had used both my spells very quickly: the first one to charm one of the pirates that employed us, and another to sleep some miscreant who was watching us escape out of back of building (he fell off the roof and broke his neck -- we took him with us and found 50 shiny gp in his pouch, so someone must have paid him to watch the hidden prisoner we were absconding with...).

After that, all of my contribution for the rest of that day came from interaction and play. Obviously, I continued to exercise influence over the charmed pirate, which was very useful. I assisted in keeping watch and controlling the situation during melees (barring doors, putting out fires, dragging bodies out of sight and into alleys while going through their pockets, etc.), and contributing ideas and such to the game. I felt useful, for what it's worth.



A magic user proficient in the use of darts is never, ever "useless". A steady rain of three of these things into low-level monsters is always handy. Or lobbing flaming oil. Or standing by with a potion of healing, bandages for characters dropped to 0 or worse, and on and on.


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