On Magic-Users

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In this forum post I will discuss my second favorite character class, the Magic-User.

And I like playing them from 1st level with one spell available for casting  each day. OUCH!

Granted, I go from playing one of the most "busy" classes, the thief, with all the trap searching & disarming, lockpicking and other dungeon essentials to a 1st level magic-user who has one shot & then it's time to stop everything & read up on that spell so one can feel useful again. A character who should be VERY non-busy & can be useless tot he point of being frustrating at low level.

As far as weakness goes, the magic-user is right up there at 1st level. Illusionists are worse but with the 1E prerequisite of a minumim DEX of 16, they at least get an AC of 8. A magic-user has no such lofty DEX requirement which could see you fumbling about the dungeon with a dreadful AC 10 which should make you pretty nervous.

Combine this with 1D4 for hit dice leaving you with a max hp potential of 6 if you have the CON bonuses and you are an eggshell with legs!

Talk about WEAK!

But what others call weak, I call challenging!

And if you are smart & lucky enough to make level 10 say, you won't even remember the days of staying huddled behind the fighters and fleeing from flumphs.

(For those of you who don;t know what a flumph is, PLEASE look it up! It's got to be one of the most hilarious "monsters" in the game! Never used them myself because I just can't bring myself to do it! Too funny!)

Yes, as a higher level magic-user, you have TREMENDOUS power! Hurling destructive spells at your foes with an arrogant contempt as you blast hordes of orcs to dust with a gesture, a harshly spoken phrase and a pinch of bat guano.

High level magic-users are game changers! They bend arcane forces to their will, can kill with a word, alter reality, "wish" things into existence and even stop time!

But how does one get there?

It ain't easy, I must say. Here's my Ten Commandments of Magic-User Survival

Rule #1. AVOID MELEE COMBAT! Like in a real-life fire fight, know the diference between "cover" and "concealment" and use both to your advantage! ALWAYS! Don't be John Wayne because you WILL die! Stay out of the fighting! Leave that to the guys with the AC & HP to take it.

Rule #2. USE MISSILE WEAPONS ONLY! Darts are perfect. Despite their low-end damage, you can hurl up to three per round so it evens out. Hurled daggers are the next best thing & with a fire rate of 2 per round, it still evens out. (It's pretty cool when a fighter with no damage bonuses hits something with a longsword and only does 1 hp of damage and then your MU hurls two daggers & scores hits for both then maxes his damage for 8 hp. slaying the bad guy! I've seen it happen!)

So staying behind cover (This will give you an AC bonus depending on size & strength of the material you cower behind.) you thow your missiles at the enemy, saving that one precious spell for when you REALLY need it!

Like the thief, I suggest flasks of oil, vials of holy water and other things that can be flung at the enemy to give you and your comrades an edge.

(Pouches of chalk dust or flour work great to reveal invisible creatures & things so you can hold off taking that "Detect Invisibilty" spell for awhile when it becomes available.)

#3. RUN AWAY! This may give your friends a reason to be angry with you. But if you have an AC 10 and only 4 hp, they should have some sympathy for you. Especially if you explain before you go into the dungeon that your character is not opposed to this tactic & that it's nothing personal. Most of the time it's actually funny!

What do they expect you to do? Cast your one and ONLY spell in the first encounter?

Magic-users are not there to open doors, look for traps or open any containers. What they ARE there to do is examine the CONTENTS of containers, especially the ones that look like they could possibly be enchanted.

They can read any tomes, scolls or runes carved into walls because after all, that's their forte and they gain their power from the written word.

#4. HAVE A SPARE SPELLBOOK OR TEN! Carry a small spellbook which contains only those spells which you will use during exploration of a dungeon. Your main book is kept hidden, locked away or stashed at your mentor's tower. Along with this book, have another one stashed in your backpack with plenty of blank pages for copying scrolls your find. Having spares allows you, (ONLY in the most dire of circumstances!) to cast spells directly from your book like scrolls. But also like scrolls, once they are cast, that page from your precious book becomes blank! This is why spares are so necessary! Plus if you're dropped into water, set on fire or any other horrible thing that can (and often does) happen, you have spare books to use. 

#5. DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING! Let someone with more hp than you do that first. (Ha!) A dwarf, halfling, gnome or Paladin that gets bonuses to save vs certain things is the ideal person for this. If it's a scroll & he or she can't read it (and it doesn't blow up in their face) you know you can now take a peek. Don't be too quick to cast that nifty "Stinking Cloud, Fireball or even Levitate" at the first opportunity! Copy it first! Then spend time making more copies when you get back to your room at the Inn or wherever you're staying. If you HAVE to use it to save yourself & everyone else or achieve your goal, then OK. It happens, don't cry over crumbled scrolls, just TRY to get a copy made so you can fill your own books!

#6. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, FAKE IT! If you're fighting creatures of lower INT or even zero level bandits who, while maybe possessing a certain cunning, are not exactly the sharpest swords in the armory, ACT like you're more powerful than you are. Carry a "wand" and shout warnings of the horrible & impending doom that you are about to call forth with your mighty Art! You are Mazokian Gult of the Green Fires after all and not Mazokian Gult of the Cheese Sandwich! (Which should be kept in your pack along with a flagon of good wine to give you the onions to try this stunt.)

#7. IF YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO MELEE, MELEE WITH A STAFF. A staff will get you 1-6 hp of damage vs 1-4 from a dagger. I have a friend whose low-level yet old & senile MU was lucky enough to find a Katana in a Shrine to Tempus in the Haunted Halls and he uses it despite the -5 "to hit" penalty! Get this, he might miss fairly often but when he hits, he hits hard! (1-10/1-12 damage for a Katana by 1E rules) It's actually hilarious watching him play this guy as he hacks away desperately with a blade he has no skill with and ends up coming out on top! So while I suggest a staff, ANYTHING can be picked up & used! Take the penalty and leave it to luck! You never know!

#8. STAY IN THE MIDDLE OR NEAR THE BACK OF THE PARTY. I think most people know this tactic already but in case you don't....
You should NEVER be in the lead and NEVER at the end. (If you have to retreat, the end becomes the front & monsters CAN sneak up behind you.)

#9. CALL DIBS. When it comes to rings of protection, magic bracers, healing potions and of course wands and other magic-items, your magic-user NEEDS them more than he WANTS them.

#10. WISE SPELL SELECTION. If your DM allows you to pick your repertoire of spells (I do IMC) then the list should ALWAYS include "Armor" 
By 1E UA rules, "Armor" is possibly the neatest spell on the 1st level list.
It gives you an AC of 8 (Plus DEX bonus if any) and 9 "phantom" hit points (8 +1 hp/level) which absorb damage if you are hit. All damage is removed from these "phantom" points before needling into your precious 1-4 plus CON (if any) hit points of your character. Since this increases with levels, by the time you're level 10, you have an extra 18 hp you can lose before you have to start worrying about healing potions and the charity of your party's Cleric. 

The neat thing about this spell is you can keep it forever. Until the spell is dispelled by you or expires through damage taken, you ALWAYS have it! 

So, BEFORE setting out, you & your friends spend a couple of nights at the Inn while you cast Armor on yourself. After this is done, you can then select another spell for your foray into the dungeon.

Magic missile is NOT one I would pick at low level. Sure it ALWAYS hits BUT you only get the one and it doesn't become uber-cool until you're zinging at least 3 of those puppies at your enemy.

My preference is the "Sleep" spell. There is no saving throw, you're 1st level so hopefully your DM isn't having you fight too many creatures with more than 3 HD and if you have 10 goblins giving you a problem, you cast that "Sleep" spell & they are a problem no more. So it works on multiple lower HD "small things" or one big thing. It's a win/win sceanario and if it's a 1st Level dungeon with a dozen goblins or kobolds at the end or one big, mean, hungry ogre, the battle is already won! (Unless your DM throws undead at you then "Sleep" is worthless unless you cast it on yourself to avoid seeing the horror of your demise. 

"Burning Hands" is also excellent since by 1E rules there is no saving throw and while the range is limited, there is no "to hit' roll required for igniting those 6 flasks of oil hurled upon your enemy by the party. Better than a fireball.

However, I also suggest you get creative with the standard list of spells and not dismiss the usefulness of the mundane ones like "Read Magic" "Detect Magic" and "Write" (An essential spell for copying those scrolls when the party makes camp in a dark, creepy dungeon.)

"Unseen Servant" can be used to create all sorts of mischief and "Tenser's Floating Disc" allows you to haul out that bulky 1500 gp tapestry you found without encumbering the party as well as return dead comrades for proper burial or resurrection by the local church. 

I may have offered nothing new here for everyone but hopefully, I gave you something you find useful.

On my next post I will be discussing my third favorite 1E character class, the straight-up Fighter. Yep. FIGHTER. While I do love the Paladin & Ranger in 1E, they would be nothing without the Fighter.

Until then, may you always win initiative!


My memory may be of 2ed instead of 1st but I don't believe you can use your spellbook as scrolls.  It may have been a common houserule but I'm not sure it is actually in the PHB anywhere.

With the early editions the important thing for the Wizard to do was simply figure out how to survive to 5th-level so you could then unleash massive death on the enemy hordes.  Unlike 3e, Fireball and Lighting Bolt were considered PREMIUM spells to have as they could completely wipe out a large number of opponents with a single spells.  A bouncing Lightning Bolt could also be used to hit the same target(s) twice.  Sure they only did the same 1d6/level they do in 3e but in AD&D monsters only had d8 HD and no bonus hitpoint from CON scores; fireball a group of 5HD orcs at 5th-level and most of them would be hurting baddly where in 3e they'll have as much chance at dying from laughter.

At high levels wizard held much of the same insanity they carried into 3e although there were some specific anti-wizard monsters.  In 2e Spell Resistance was also an absolute stop where something with SR 10% has as much chance as making a 20th-level wizard's spell flop as a 1st-level wizard's.
This reminds me of our 2E level Necromancer with 1 HP who would try and come in for the final blow with his quarter staff.

Rule number 1 for Wizards: Bring friends. Other Wizards is great, anything that can stand between you and the angry monsters until you get Fly and Invisibility is even better. Meatshields is what a low level Wizard needs more than anything else.

Armor in AD&D was indeed a great spell because it lasted until used. With several wizards in the group, even the Thief sometimes could get it.

Magic Missile was only useful if you knew it would kill something or disrupt an enemy spellcaster.

2E Fireball was glorious, Delayed Blast Fireball even better. You had to be careful in tunnels though, as it covered a huge amount of volume and could backfire in small spaces.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."


I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

i didn't read 'extra hit points' with the Armor spell. I thought it was 'this spell is dispelled once you take 8 hp +1/level'

Someone verify that for me? I don't remember playing it that way.

I know there was an OA spell that gave you +1 hp/level in the form of a magical statue, and I always thought that was pretty cool...

Fighter vs Warblade analysis http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19573526/Analyzing_the_Fighter_vs_The_Warblade The Lockdown F/20 iconic build http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19856162/A_little_Lock_build_for_you
i didn't read 'extra hit points' with the Armor spell. I thought it was 'this spell is dispelled once you take 8 hp +1/level'

I'm pretty sure it worked like that, at least in 2E. It was still a sweet spell.

Armor (Conjuration)
Range: Touch
Duration: Special
Area of Effect: 1 creature
Components: V, S, M Casting Time: 1 rd. Saving Throw: None
By means of this spell, the wizard creates a magical field of force that serves as if it were scale mail armor (AC 6). The spell has no effect on a person already armored or a creature with Armor Class 6 or better. It is not cumulative with the shield spell, but it is cumulative with Dexterity and, in case of fighter/mages, with the shield bonus. The armor spell does not hinder movement or prevent spellcasting, and adds no weight or encumbrance. It lasts until successfully dispelled or until the wearer sustains cumulative damage totaling greater than 8 points + 1 per level of the caster. (It is important to note that the armor does not absorb this damage. The armor merely grants an AC of 6; the wearer still suffers full damage from any successful attacks.) Thus, the wearer might suffer 8 points from an attack, then several minutes later sustain an additional 1 point of damage. Unless the spell were cast by a wizard of 2nd level or higher, it would be dispelled at this time. Until it is dispelled, the armor spell grants the wearer full benefits of the Armor Class gained.
The material component is a piece of finely cured leather that has been blessed by a priest.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."


I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)