Tags

, , ,

Ah, the freshly-minted, first-level character sheet, clean and free of eraser marks. It represents hope for every player that this character will be great, fearlessly battling underground evil and surviving to fame, riches and second level!

Unfortunately, first-level magic users (MUs) do not fare so well in melee combat. New players tend to want to jump in and attack everything in sight, with no thought given to the odds. Perhaps this comes from playing newer editions or video games, but when playing with an old-school referee, this is quickly fatal.

DM: You open the door and get assaulted by the stench of rotted meat and body odor. Twelve orcs look up at you from their meal of freshly-killed mystery meat and grin, drawing their weapons.
Festivus (MU): I rush into the  room and attack the closest orc with my dagger!

You get the idea. As players, you need to think tactically in old-school dungeons.

DM: You open the door and get assaulted by the stench of rotted meat and body odor. Twelve orcs look up at you from their meal of freshly-killed mystery meat and grin, drawing their weapons.

Festivus (MU): I quickly shut the door and run back east, around the corner. I’ll prepare my sleep spell and cast it when the orcs pile into the hallway.

Low-level magic users can still be very beneficial in old-school adventures. The sleep spell is, of course the canonical example, but often overlooked is charm person. Perhaps it would be used more frequently if it were named ‘charm monster’. It is long-lasting and once charmed, the former foe can be used as a source of valuable information.

For DMs, if you allow MUs in your campaign to use the staff as a weapon, you can allow them to parry with it instead of attack, at -2 to the opponent’s to-hit roll. This is an easy way to increase the survival odds for the MU that won’t upset the game balance. It’s not an offensive capability, after all, and could be combined with a backpedal for a sort of ‘parrying retreat’ that would get the MU out of the front line of attack.

MUs with high INT scores (say 15+) can be given an extra first-level spell, meaning they could memorize two sleep spells. Some DMs don’t like sleep, with no saving throw it seems over-powered for a first-level spell. But keep in mind that it affects the rolled number of hit dice in a given area, perhaps including PCs if the caster is not careful. It also does not affect undead (your party clerics need to feel useful anyway).