Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Because Bad Wizards Are Annoying

These things are true in D&D:

-Evil wizards come up a lot.

-Writing out which spells of which level they have is a pain in the ass, especially because they might die in a round.

-Always giving all of them infinite spells of the appropriate level removes an important tactical limit that makes wizard fights interesting.

So GMs might be interested to giving NPC wizards a limit on what they can cast, but one that's easier to work with than the one PC wizards have.

Here's one False Patrick and me are using in the upcoming (really upcoming: it's in layout) Maze of the Blue Medusa book. It's based on the following additional observations:

-You're going to be keeping track of the wizard's hit points.

-Even if the spell selection is written out for you like in a published module, you still are always going to have the player's handbook and/or its spell list and descriptions immediately to hand just in order to run the game normally.



A most excellent Librarian, 12' tall. Guards the SEEPING CHIMES from interference and knows what they are for.

AC: 17
HD: 8
Atk d12 bite or by spell
Can be harmed only by magical weapons--except fire, which does doubles damage.

Spells: Gruel can cast any magic-user spell of levels 1-4 at a hit point cost to herself equal to thrice the spell's level--so Magic Missile would cost her 3 hit points. The cost of healing spells is deducted after the spell takes effect.

Treasure:
800 gp in ancient bracelets.

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Notes on this:

-Obviously you can adjust the hit point cost for different kinds of wizards to like 2/level or 10/level or whatever and for different editions. This particular version of this monster was designed for Basic-style monsters, who have way less hp than 3, 4, and 5 edition monsters.

-Again, this presumes you've got the PHB and its spell list by level right there anyway, so it's no biggie to look down the list and decide what spell you'll use.

-If you're tempted to use this for PCs, there are hitches that take hold: outside combat, it gives them them infinite healing (if they have any healing spells) which in turn gives them infinite spells, which in turn means infinite growth, shrinking etc etc. It's good for combat only.

-Players playing hardcore system-mastery-as-tactic will be frustrated by this, but, really, let them be. It violates the system's rules but not the genre's.
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13 comments:

  1. Thankyou, this may well have made the daunting job running my first game a hell of a lot easier.

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  2. I really liked 3rd Edition's Sorcerer. Most of the enemy spellcasters I run are Sorcerers, because it prevents me from having to write up a fallen wizard's spellbook as treasure.That is my absolutely LEAST favorite RPG related activity.

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    1. Dealing with enemy wizards' spellbooks is something that could take an article all its own.

      My NPC wizards tend to be paranoid, so they cipher, lock, and ward the crap out of them. Getting useful information out of one is a side-quest unto itself.

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    2. For a player Wizard, capturing an enemy Wizard's spellbook is an amazing experience, especially after suffering that Wizard's withering and strange magics in combat or while infiltrating his lair. It can also be really interesting for the DM! I suggest blocking out sections of the spellbook with codes (the player gets an INT check per game session to work out one coded spell), traps (with the player understanding that a really bad fail on the trap could damage a spell from the book), and hidden stuff (like a spell written in invisible ink that you need Detect Invisibility to read). You could also include information in there instead of just spells. And the ability to do this stuff to his own spellbook is a great benefit for a PC Wizard to acquire (but that doesn't actually improve his ability to solve problems in the game world like killing monsters). In summary, finding a Wizard's spellbook should result in gaining a bunch of new spells but with some interaction and excitement over the course of a few game sessions. This way the player always feels like he's gaining something and he's not immediately impatient to nab another Wizard's book right away.
      On a side note, it's an activity that can involve other players, but definitely makes them aware of some mysterious things about the Wizard class. It's like how everyone sees old-school Druids, Monks, and Assassins in the party as different because they have to fight for new levels at some point.

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  3. Great stuff! I loathe spell-lists for NPCs too.

    If I may point out, there seem to be some details missing, such as caster level (I assume is equal to monster HD).

    Also, spell-casters have their powers greatly reduced, it seems - which is usually a good thing in B/X.

    A quick formula to generate spellcasters might be:
    - Maximum spell level = MU level / 2
    - Total number spells = MU level.
    - Total number of "spell levels" or (the dreaded) "spell points" = MU level x 2.

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  4. One way to side step the infinite healing would be to take the hp off the maximum total along with the current one. The wizard would only recover entirely once the sorcerous corruption has been purged from their body, either through rest or ritual cleansing. Probably more appropriate for a "Magic: use at your soul's own peril" kind of world.

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  5. This link seems randomly appropriate:

    http://www.invisible-city.com/play/581/wizard-s-duel

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  6. Have either you or Patrick read the Whitehack RPG by Christian Mehstram out of Sweden? It's old schoolish dnd with some significant changes that set it apart from the usual retro-clones. One of the three classes, the Wise, can cast "miracles" (magic or stuff people interpret as magic) sdwhich cost hit points. The intensity/effect/range/etc. of the miracle depends on the amount of hit points spent. The higher level the Wise character, the more hit points, and the more/bigger/etc. spells that can be cast. https://whitehackrpg.wordpress.com/ and search for the Whitehack Appreciation Society on G+.

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  7. One thing I forgot is that Wise characters in Whitehack can't be healed by magic which avoids the infinite magic battery thing. They heal at twice the normal natural rate, which helps, but they still aren't infinite healing machines.

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    1. haven't.
      convergent evolution i guess

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  8. I would subtract the "thrice the spell level" from a magic points total rather than from a hit points total.

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