Day 27 of the 30-day D&D Challenge is about a character I’d like to play in the future. I’ve sort of answered this in a previous post, so I’ll do something else here. Earlier I’d talked about the character class I’d always wanted to play, the merchant-adventurer. This time I’ll talk about another character class I want to experiment with: the wizard, or as I’m more used to saying, the Magic User.
Why did I use the word ‘experiment?’ Two reasons. First, because a magic user’ style of play is very different from what I usually prefer, since I tend to play fighters. Second, because I’ve never liked the Vancian magic system of D&D that much, nor do I like the way the game tends to favor direct-damage spells over all other types. So playing a magic user would be an experiment in finding a way to enjoy this character class given my biases.
While non-artillery spells like Sleep and Web and IIRC Darkness become available at pretty low levels, economically you seem to be best off with Magic Missile or Burning Hands. Magic Missile is guaranteed damage – no roll to hit (at least in the editions I’m familiar with) and no Saving Throw for the target. Thing is, magic-as-artillery doesn’t feel that magical to me. But not taking an artillery spell at low levels will cost my wizard character a good deal of survivability. What to do?
Well, at one extreme there’s the character that my friend JJ once rolled: a mage with 18 Strength, aptly dubbed Macho the Mage. He was a pretty mean customer with a staff. At the other extreme, I could choose from the non-artillery spells in the list but only if I’m with a strong party, or if I can get some boost to survivability such as the group being started at higher than level 1.
However, on a higher level this is still playing with a trope I don’t enjoy – that the only magic I’m considering is for combat. Well heck, the way D&D plays magic really matters most in combat. But there are other ways. Spells like Spider Climb – also available at pretty low level – can change the way my mage moves around. Illusion spells like Phantasmal Force can do a lot, specially if I play my wizard according to my ‘sorcerers are terrorists’ idea. And if the DM allows the Cantrip rules (from Dragon Magazine – forgot which issue), the wizard becomes much more flexible.