D&D General The Importance of Verisimilitude (or "Why you don't need realism to keep it real")

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
It honestly isn't. D&D however point blank refuses to do any of the measures that would work for both balance and versimilitude.
  • You can make magic dangerous and having drawbacks as in Call of Cthulhu or Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Spellcasters have a chance of melting their own minds or summoning uncontrolled monsters. So even casters don't want to cast spells.
  • You can give magic limitations such as not being able to affect cold iron - so a fighter with an iron sword could just cut through a wizard's spells and defences and one shot them while someone in plate armour is more or less magic immune.
  • You can make magic slow and ritualistic so when the rubber meets the road people draw swords because they don't have time to start to draw the ritual circles
  • You can make magic limited in power - with a level cap. Or even a level cap beyond which being a muggle doesn't make sense
  • You can make magic permeate the world - and the more magic permeates the body (and thus increases hit points and physical capabilities) the less you can use magic to cast spells.
The thing to take notice of here is that, of the five bullet points you listed, only two of them speak (directly) to what magic can accomplish (i.e. the second and fourth entries). The others are control mechanisms which are introduced as balancing agents via how safe/quick/easy it is to use. In those cases, the potential for what magic-users can do still outstrips what non-magic users are capable of, in terms of having a wider variety of options at their disposal; it's just that exercising those options becomes harder, or riskier, or slower. Even for the two points that do actually place limits on magic's functionality ("power" being an aspect of functionality), they're not introducing reasons not to have them in favor of being non-powered (i.e. they're not outlining what options are lost to make up for the options that are gained).

Which brings us back to the broader point (one which isn't about D&D specifically, I'll note), which is that in a TTRPG that doesn't place (a great deal of emphasis) on narrativist mechanics, it becomes harder to design scenarios where non-powered characters aren't overshadowed by their powered counterparts. Limits on what powered characters are capable of can make their available options unhelpful at various junctures, but even if we leave aside instances of continually "nerfing" their abilities (which often runs into issues of plausability, i.e. "another dungeon built in an anti-magic field?"), it has greater problems of justifying why anyone would choose not to be a Jedi a powered character, unless there's something else that they gain which powered characters don't have (and that it's worthwhile). Having only a few extra options, which only work in particular circumstances, still means that you have extra options which work in particular circumstances.

D&D's answer to that is largely to make fighters better at fighting, and for a lot of people that's sufficient, hence the recent headlines about how the fighter is the most popular character class. But we see a lot of other people saying that's not enough, and being equally insistent that nerfing the wizard isn't the way to go (which mirrors the arc of D&D's history; nobody liked the limitations in AD&D 1E and 2E, so then they were gone in 3E, and it became "caster edition"). Leaving aside simply telling them "you're wrong to want that," the problems as of buffing fighters to match wizards without making fighters magical in-and-of themselves remains as-yet unsolved.
The problem isn't one of versimilitude; no one has problems with the versimilitude of e.g. Call of Cthulu's way of balancing casters with non-casters. The problem is that there is a faction of people for which magic must be utterly reliable, wizards must be capable of casting Wish and having almost no drawbacks - and fighters must be muggles, utterly magically crippled in a world run by spellcasters.
I agree that the issue isn't one of verisimilitude...which was kind of my point. The part of my post that you quoted was meant to refute the idea that non-powered characters making a contribution in narrative media was relevant to the discussion at hand, because narrative media is scripted by nature, allowing for such justifications to be made in ways that don't work in any TTRPG which doesn't have strongly narrativist rules...something which was brought up in the first place in a charge that verisimilitude limiting such characters; but as you (correctly) noted, that's not due to verisimilitude in-and-of itself, but rather that there's an inherent disconnect where certain character types simply have more to work with than others (hence the axiom I alluded to before regarding Star Wars RPGs, i.e. "all Jedi or no Jedi").
This has nothing to do with versimilitude. It has everything to do with people wanting incoherent and unbalanced worldbuilding that makes casters able to lord it over non-casters and simply point blank refusing any method of balance - all while ignoring the elephant in the room that is hit points.
I'll refer you back to Part B of the OP; the only people who want all-verisimilitude-all-the-time are strawmen in arguments made by people who don't find verisimilitude to be important. Yes, hit points are an area where verisimilitude is lacking, and that's fine. No one is trying to make a perfect model of every detail of a fantastical reality, and there are always certain things that are glossed over for the purposes of play. Hit points are a notable example of that, and they don't invalidate verisimilitude as a concern, any more than dice rolls or randomly-drawn cards invalidate narrativism as a style of play.
This simply isn't true. A warlord could get someone to dig deep into their own reserves and spend a healing surge just as well as a Cleric could pray with someone and get them onto their feet with an amplified placebo effect. But healing, actual healing that wasn't just digging deep, required either the magic to provide the healing surges or for the caster to spend them. And guess what? Clerics and paladins could both do this with the right abilities but warlords had no in-class abilities that did this.
I think you're missing the forest for the trees here. What I was trying to say was that 4E had a lot of dissociated mechanics, which is a shorthand for mechanics where there's no verisimilitude in what the game rules are modeling. As noted before, that's not necessarily a deal-breaker for a lot of people (re: hit points), and of course a lot of people have different thresholds for what's acceptable in that regard and what's not, but a lot of the pushback that 4E faced was from people for whom its diminished regard for verisimilitude went too far.
And the salient principles to keep in mind are
  • Hit points shatter versimilitude. I believe that what you call versimilitude was what Gygax called realism and explicitly said "I have personally come to suspect that this banner is the refuge of scoundrels; whether the last or first refuge is immaterial. ...As a game must first and foremost be fun, it needs no claim to “realism” to justify its existence." Yet for some reason people want a game of hit points, hard coded classes, and hard coded levels to be "realistic".
  • People want the wizard able to do almost anything except heal and the fighter to be a muggle - yet both of them to be officially the same level
  • Even after fifteen years people will spread false information about 4e.
The problem is that these principles aren't salient. Let's leave aside the self-evident truth that for the vast majority of the gaming population, hit points don't shatter verisimilitude (again, the idea of "verisimilitude uber alles" is a falsehood that only opponents of verisimilitude put forward). When Gygax says-

"The “camel” of working magic, countless pantheons of gods and devils, monsters that turn people to stone or breath fire, and characters that are daily faced with Herculean challenges which they overcome by dint of swordplay and spell casting is gulped down without a qualm. It is the “gnat” of "unrealistic” combat, or “unrealistic” magic systems, or the particular abilities of a class of characters in the game which makes them gag."

-he's speaking to the very issues that I raised in the OP, even if he's not using the same phrasing (which is understandable, since in the decades since we've still had a hard time coming up with a consensus definition for many of the most important areas of the hobby). Notice the first sentence in the above: people don't have a problem with fantastic elements in a fantasy game. They have a problem with how combat works, or magic systems, or certain character abilities. In other words, how things function rather than what is or is not present.

As for your second point, yes, and for a lot of people want a non-magical fighter that can nevertheless make a substantive contribution alongside the wizard. And for a lot of people, this bar is already met. For those whom it isn't, they want the wizard nerfed. And among those who don't want the wizard nerfed, they want the fighter buffed, without magic. And that's fine, 4E gave them exactly that: but it did so in a way that broke from verisimilitude, and a significant segment of the gamer population found that unacceptable; so much so that it contributed to it being rejected by enough of the market that WotC quickly moved on to 5E.

So let's go back to the definition of versimilitude from the OP

The idea that a 17th level muggle is equivalent to a wizard who can true polymorph permanently into an adult red dragon and cast Wish to me utterly shatters any semblance of truth, genuineness, or authenticity that the game system provides. Barely restricted magic that is as reliable as technology alongside muggles isn't a problem - as long as you go the Ars Magica route and don't pretend they are equal. When you are pretending that they are equivalent you have lost any appearance of truth, genuineness, or authenticity in your game system.
The major problem here is that "truth," "genuineness," and "authenticity" are terms that you're introducing into the conversation, and which are entirely undefined in this context. The salient feature of this discussion remains verisimilitude: that things have an internal coherence which is understandable from an in-character standpoint (albeit one which has areas where it is necessarily overlooked in order to facilitate play). Restricting magic can help with the balance issues that come up with powered versus non-powered individuals, but as you yourself noted, that's not an issue of verisimilitude in the first place (which is why the poster I was responding to was wrong to level that as a consequence of placing a premium on verisimilitude).
D&D is and has always been an ultra-gamist game with classes, hit points, levels, and pseudo-Vancian casting. And it feels ridiculous to me to guzzle all this inherent artifice down other than in an Order of the Stick style world and claim that in a world of artificial levels and classes what would break your versimilitude is for a couple of the classes to be as magical as everyone else but in a different way when they are supposedly of the same level.
Leaving aside the "ultra" part of it, different editions of D&D have had different degrees of emphasis on different modes of engagement. Verisimilitude, in my opinion, used to be a much stronger concern, but has been increasingly watered down over the years, with only 5E backing up somewhat in that regard. Certainly, there have been (and still are) more verisimilitudinous games over the years, but by that same token D&D moving away from verisimilitude to the degree that it did in its 4th edition strikes me as a major reason why it was so unpalatable to so many.

I'll also note that my saying so isn't meant to be a critique of 4E, and if you feel that I was in any way bashing your preferred edition as being a worse/weaker/inferior game, then let me apologize; that wasn't my intent.

You can have entirely functional non-magical healing, since hit points are not meat points.
No one said they were, but in my experience it's a fairly prevalent viewpoint that an instance of hit points being lost is the game rules representing a physical injury.
 
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MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
@Neonchameleon @Alzrius

Torchbearer is a RPG that is D&D-adjacent in its tropes and PC concepts. And it's non-magical PCs are just that: non-magical. At least in my experience, they are not overshadowed by spell-casters because casters do not have reliable access to lots of magic. The Elven Dreamwalker in our game has cast two spells in over a dozen sessions. Most of the contributions that she makes are in relation to her Lore Mastery, Scholarship and Healing.

I'm not suggesting that D&D should be designed in a similar fashion. But the fact that it's not is a design decision that reflects player preferences around PC build rules and how these interface with action resolution (eg keeping combat separate from the skill system, and treating skills like jumping or climbing differently from skills like reading and knowing things), and also around PC flavour (wanting their MUs to be casting most of the time). D&D's distinctive approach to the MU/wizard vs fighter/warrior design is not any sort of concession to, or demand imposed by, verisimilitude.
Torchbearer sounds pretty amazing. I've been trying to figure out the rules for a while but they're so different from other systems I've played.

Other systems that handle this issue with magic differently: Drakar och Demoner, a very dnd-inspired old Swedish rpg makes extensive use of skills. Each magic school is a skill, but each spell is also a skill. You need to spend build points to improve your spells, but it's very difficult to improve multiple spells quickly, and there's always a risk of failure when casting too. Magic is powerful but difficult and risky.
 


Stormonu

Legend
Torchbearer sounds pretty amazing. I've been trying to figure out the rules for a while but they're so different from other systems I've played.

Other systems that handle this issue with magic differently: Drakar och Demoner, a very dnd-inspired old Swedish rpg makes extensive use of skills. Each magic school is a skill, but each spell is also a skill. You need to spend build points to improve your spells, but it's very difficult to improve multiple spells quickly, and there's always a risk of failure when casting too. Magic is powerful but difficult and risky.
BTW, I think Drakar och Demoner has recently been republished as Dragonsbane. I haven't had the chance to actually play it, but it strikes me as the 5E I really wanted.
 

MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
BTW, I think Drakar och Demoner has recently been republished as Dragonsbane. I haven't had the chance to actually play it, but it strikes me as the 5E I really wanted.
I haven't played it since the 90s so I don't know if anything major has changed, but it's definitely not a system without issues.

The combat rules are pretty cool, though. Armour is subtractive armour (like Damage Reduction from D&D) and there's no AC. Instead you roll a weapon skill check to see if you hit, and the opponent can roll a parry check to see if they manage to block.

Definitely feels more low-magic than D&D, which I kinda like.
 



The thing to take notice of here is that, of the five bullet points you listed, only two of them speak (directly) to what magic can accomplish (i.e. the second and fourth entries).
This isn't true. Speed changes what may be accomplished in practical ways; if all magic is ritual than there is no such thing as close quarters battle magic that isn't buffs. If the Shield spell took five minutes to cast then it would not meaningfully be the shield spell as it can be used.
D&D's answer to that is largely to make fighters better at fighting, and for a lot of people that's sufficient,
And 90% of games don't go above level 10. To me the casters only really pull definitively ahead at level 9. Larian cut off Baldur's gate at level 12. Either way the way it becomes sufficient in D&D is by literally cutting off about half the game. A linear formula can approximate a quadratic one over a limited range - but the quadratic one is going to outscale the linear one eventually. And the big question is whether fighters are even better at fighting at high levels. Given that they probably can't catch the wizards by then.

What I want is some sort of vision of what tier 3 and tier 4 martial characters should be. I want some sort of justification of why a level 17 muggle (who isn't notably more skilled than a level 9 muggle) should count as level 17.
hence the recent headlines about how the fighter is the most popular character class. But we see a lot of other people saying that's not enough, and being equally insistent that nerfing the wizard isn't the way to go (which mirrors the arc of D&D's history; nobody liked the limitations in AD&D 1E and 2E, so then they were gone in 3E, and it became "caster edition"). Leaving aside simply telling them "you're wrong to want that," the problems as of buffing fighters to match wizards without making fighters magical in-and-of themselves remains as-yet unsolved.
1e did it - you put in a level soft-cap at around level 10 at the point where wizards were pulling away, and you restricted magic. 2e did it - fighters kicked serious amounts of arse in that game between Weapon Specialisation and the best saves in the game and you had the level soft-cap. 4e did it - and the only magical ability fighters got was Come And Get It. It has been done even under your restrictions. The problem is how you can do it while opening up 9th level spells.
I'll refer you back to Part B of the OP; the only people who want all-verisimilitude-all-the-time are strawmen in arguments made by people who don't find verisimilitude to be important. Yes, hit points are an area where verisimilitude is lacking, and that's fine. No one is trying to make a perfect model of every detail of a fantastical reality, and there are always certain things that are glossed over for the purposes of play. Hit points are a notable example of that, and they don't invalidate verisimilitude as a concern, any more than dice rolls or randomly-drawn cards invalidate narrativism as a style of play.

I think you're missing the forest for the trees here. What I was trying to say was that 4E had a lot of dissociated mechanics, which is a shorthand for mechanics where there's no verisimilitude in what the game rules are modeling. As noted before, that's not necessarily a deal-breaker for a lot of people (re: hit points), and of course a lot of people have different thresholds for what's acceptable in that regard and what's not, but a lot of the pushback that 4E faced was from people for whom its diminished regard for verisimilitude went too far.
I disagree. I have never seen any evidence that "disassociated mechanics" are anything other than a pseudointellectual justification someone can use that sounds better than "I don't like and don't understand this way of doing things" - and the very fact that your example was straight up misrepresenting things is to me 100% in line with the way I expect "disassociated mechanics" to be used as a term.
As for your second point, yes, and for a lot of people want a non-magical fighter that can nevertheless make a substantive contribution alongside the wizard. And for a lot of people, this bar is already met.
And this is the fallacy of the excluded middle. For a lot of people this bar is met at level 1 and is ridiculously far from being met at level 17. Which is part of why 90% of games end by level 10. I'm not asking for the level 1 fighter to be changed. I am asking for either the level 17 fighter or level 17 wizard to be changed - or literally half the game is going to remain vestigial.

With 90% of games ending by level 10 it is clear that the high levels do not work. People like the class fantasy of the fighter - but that doesn't mean they like the fantasy of the muggle.
The major problem here is that "truth," "genuineness," and "authenticity" are terms that you're introducing into the conversation,
The major problem here is that "truth", "genuineness" and "authenticity" are terms that you introduced into the conversation in your OP. And that I copied and pasted from your OP. They were your quote of the definition of versimilitude. But when I point out what that means and that by your own definitions the high level game is broken and the game part of the game lacks what you are now calling internal coherence you claim I'm introducing the terms.
I'll also note that my saying so isn't meant to be a critique of 4E, and if you feel that I was in any way bashing your preferred edition as being a worse/weaker/inferior game, then let me apologize; that wasn't my intent.
I was mostly exasperated at the zombie meme that just won't die about healing.
No one said they were, but in my experience it's a fairly prevalent viewpoint that an instance of hit points being lost is the game rules representing a physical injury.
And as a model of injury I find Fate has far far more versimilitude because being injured affects what you can do - and takes a more substantial recovery than even 1e. And this is why I have problems with both (a) the criticism of narrative games and (b) the idea of disassociated mechanics; Hit points are very explicitly not meat and 100% of the work to make them seem like injuries is being put in by the player.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The thing to take notice of here is that, of the five bullet points you listed, only two of them speak (directly) to what magic can accomplish (i.e. the second and fourth entries). The others are control mechanisms which are introduced as balancing agents via how safe/quick/easy it is to use. In those cases, the potential for what magic-users can do still outstrips what non-magic users are capable of, in terms of having a wider variety of options at their disposal; it's just that exercising those options becomes harder, or riskier, or slower.
Yes, and all three of those control mechanisms - harder, riskier, slower - can serve as effective brakes on casters. Especially the 'riskier' piece.

Power - as in what a caster can accomplish with her spells - isn't the problem. That a caster can freely use this power without risk or drawback is the problem, and has been since WotC took over the game. In the TSR years* those control mechanisms were firmly in place, and casters weren't nearly so OP except at levels high enough that very few people played there.

* - possible exception being the last bit of 2e; I'm not entirely sure what went on then.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
This isn't true. Speed changes what may be accomplished in practical ways; if all magic is ritual than there is no such thing as close quarters battle magic that isn't buffs. If the Shield spell took five minutes to cast then it would not meaningfully be the shield spell as it can be used.
"Meaningfully" is a loaded term, here. If you can cast it in the five minutes before raiding the dungeon, or if you have that much time between encounters, then it is "meaningfully" the same. Which is to say, if the effect of a successfully-cast spell is the same, then changing the circumstances under which it can be cast doesn't change what the spell is actually accomplishing.
And 90% of games don't go above level 10. To me the casters only really pull definitively ahead at level 9. Larian cut off Baldur's gate at level 12. Either way the way it becomes sufficient in D&D is by literally cutting off about half the game. A linear formula can approximate a quadratic one over a limited range - but the quadratic one is going to outscale the linear one eventually. And the big question is whether fighters are even better at fighting at high levels. Given that they probably can't catch the wizards by then.

What I want is some sort of vision of what tier 3 and tier 4 martial characters should be. I want some sort of justification of why a level 17 muggle (who isn't notably more skilled than a level 9 muggle) should count as level 17.
When you say "justification" here, the term is one that doesn't have a great deal of clarity. "Count as level 17" is in-and-of itself a metagame construction that doesn't have (very much) verisimilitude. (Which, I'll point out, we both agree on at this point.)

The more salient point is that you're drawing what seems to be an artificial connection between the popularity of fighters and most games not getting into the higher levels of play. That doesn't strike me as something that's the syllogism you're making it into, i.e. "fighters are the most popular class; most games don't go above level 10; therefore, the reason fighters are popular is because most games don't go above level 10." I don't think you can take this as a given.
1e did it - you put in a level soft-cap at around level 10 at the point where wizards were pulling away, and you restricted magic. 2e did it - fighters kicked serious amounts of arse in that game between Weapon Specialisation and the best saves in the game and you had the level soft-cap. 4e did it - and the only magical ability fighters got was Come And Get It. It has been done even under your restrictions. The problem is how you can do it while opening up 9th level spells.
I'll point out again that you're stating what seems like a personal preference as an objective fact. AD&D 1E/2E fighters had some better advantages in terms of saves and weapon specialization, sure, but the majority of players didn't like the restrictions on wizards, which is why those controls were ignored so often that they were formally rolled back in 3E and haven't been reinstated since. (I'm also not sure what you meant by a "level soft-cap," since humans didn't have those.)
I disagree. I have never seen any evidence that "disassociated mechanics" are anything other than a pseudointellectual justification someone can use that sounds better than "I don't like and don't understand this way of doing things" - and the very fact that your example was straight up misrepresenting things is to me 100% in line with the way I expect "disassociated mechanics" to be used as a term.
Well I don't know what you mean by "evidence" here, especially since personal preference is the raison d'etre of this entire thread. Or were you under the impression that there was some sort of objective truth being put forward here? Because the entire tenor of your posts at this point is both aggressive and defensive (e.g. when you start referring to people who have different takes on things as "pseudointellectual," you're at the point of name-calling rather than discussing). Which makes it ironic that your take on the linked article is "100% straight up misrepresenting things."

I understand that a lot of people feel defensive that their preferred edition is the go-to for a good example of a bad example, or rather, an example of what a lot of people feel was the wrong way to make an edition of D&D. But the fact remains that it has performed the worst of all the 21st-century versions of the game. 5E's popularity isn't arguable, and 3.X not only lasted nearly twice as long as its successor, but it then got a new life for over a decade with a company that was able to rise to the #2 position in the market by catering to its fans. 4E simply didn't do as well, and while there are a lot of reasons why that was, the move away from verisimilitude was, in my opinion, a not-inconsiderable contributing factor.
And this is the fallacy of the excluded middle. For a lot of people this bar is met at level 1 and is ridiculously far from being met at level 17. Which is part of why 90% of games end by level 10. I'm not asking for the level 1 fighter to be changed. I am asking for either the level 17 fighter or level 17 wizard to be changed - or literally half the game is going to remain vestigial.

With 90% of games ending by level 10 it is clear that the high levels do not work. People like the class fantasy of the fighter - but that doesn't mean they like the fantasy of the muggle.
Let's leave aside that this does not meet the definition (in that just because you disagree with it doesn't mean it's deceptive, misleading, or false). Your position here is that the mismatch between powered and non-powered individuals is the reason why most games peter out around level 10; this doesn't strike me as nearly as true as you're presenting; a lot of groups have trouble keeping things going that long simply because groups will split up or stop playing for real-world reasons, or because they found another pastime (or game) more engaging (and if they do, that's not necessarily an indictment of how engaging the existing game was; something else being more fun doesn't mean that something else wasn't still fun).

But in all honesty, this is turning into another tangent that has very little to do with verisimilitude, as we both already granted. For the sake of keeping the thread on track, I think we should turn back toward that topic, if you please.
The major problem here is that "truth", "genuineness" and "authenticity" are terms that you introduced into the conversation in your OP. And that I copied and pasted from your OP. They were your quote of the definition of versimilitude. But when I point out what that means and that by your own definitions the high level game is broken and the game part of the game lacks what you are now calling internal coherence you claim I'm introducing the terms.
No, the major problem here is that you're (deliberately?) overlooking that I quoted those words from where they appeared in the dictionary.com definition of "verisimilitude" and then said that we as gamers redefined the word. I then went on at length about how we redefined it, and for what purpose, which was really the entire point of the OP.

And so yes, it is correct for me to say that you're (re)introducing those terms here, and that doing so isn't helpful. Likewise, you're again coming off as extremely aggressive at this point, and it's dragging down the tenor of the thread. Please stop.
I was mostly exasperated at the zombie meme that just won't die about healing.
Your exasperation is still showing through; leaving aside that non-magical "spike" recovery of hit points in 4E was a thing, and was a problem for a lot of people, arguing the examples doesn't mean that you're arguing the point.
And as a model of injury I find Fate has far far more versimilitude because being injured affects what you can do - and takes a more substantial recovery than even 1e. And this is why I have problems with both (a) the criticism of narrative games and (b) the idea of disassociated mechanics; Hit points are very explicitly not meat and 100% of the work to make them seem like injuries is being put in by the player.

Nevertheless, there are criticisms to be made of narrative games, and the idea of dissociated mechanics (and why people find them unsatisfying) is very sound. If you want to argue personal preference, that's fine, but you're obscuring the discussion that we're trying to have about why so many people don't care for them, which is the entire point of this thread. You can't really say "your opinions are wrong," even if you dress it up as "your critique is invalid."

Yes, and all three of those control mechanisms - harder, riskier, slower - can serve as effective brakes on casters. Especially the 'riskier' piece.
The problem is that "can" doesn't always mean "does." Players will, inevitably, seek to minimize their weaknesses and overcome their restrictions. How much they can do that will vary, of course, but the effectiveness of those brakes is highly contextual in nature...though that's usually done via verisimilitude also.
Power - as in what a caster can accomplish with her spells - isn't the problem. That a caster can freely use this power without risk or drawback is the problem, and has been since WotC took over the game. In the TSR years* those control mechanisms were firmly in place, and casters weren't nearly so OP except at levels high enough that very few people played there.

* - possible exception being the last bit of 2e; I'm not entirely sure what went on then.
The TSR years' wizard didn't have risk or drawback, in terms of casting their spells, either. The control methods were the percentage chance to learn a new spell (and if you failed, you couldn't try again until you'd gained a level), the cap on how many spells of each level you could learn (which was often ignored), the need for higher Intelligence scores to cast higher-level spells (ability scores being harder, but by no means impossible, to raise in those editions), and spells being easier to disrupt during casting (due to more stringent concentration requirements and "segmented" casting times).

Now, there were some variant wizards in 2E that had alternative restrictions (the wild mage, the sha'ir, etc.), but the basic wizard wasn't at risk simply by using the magic they already had.
 

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