Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

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DiceClown
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Re: Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

Post Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:16 am

Hywaywolf - said, "If you give MUs offensive weapons like unlimited magic darts (and using the INT score makes them pretty much unlimited) then new MUs don't learn to think like MUs, they learn to think like weak vulnerable fighters who happen to have a hand grenade or two in their pocket."

This is the issue. How many times can a fighter swing a sword? how many times can a ranger shoot an arrow? Spell use is the only way a MU can attack an opponent that is seeking to kill them. However, I think you are on to something when you say that MU need to think like magic users ... expand on that thought, because I think you are on to something here that can change my own thinking on this issue.
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Hywaywolf
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Re: Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

Post Sat Feb 15, 2014 1:05 am

In my opinion, you are putting too much emphasis on the battle encounter. The game, especially old school, is much more than the fight. Why does the fighter have to swing his sword. Why doesn't he try to bully bluff his way through the bandit standing in front of him. Or he could try to wrap him up in a bear hug and pummel him senseless with his fist. In my game last night we did have an encounter, but it went pretty quickly because we planned and ambush by the rangers while the meat shields went ahead to talk face to face with a wilderness bunch of horse traders. When the deal went bad the rangers let loose and the fighters went at it. But before hand the meat shields talked to the group, now known to be bandits, and tried to reason with them. The MU was nowhere near being in melee range of any of them. He stayed back with the horses, but still within range of his sleep spell, which came in handy. One of the meat shields was trying to subdue the leader so we could question her.

Later, we interrogated two of the minion bandits in good cop, bad cop style. Which I thought was fun. I hope the rest of the group did as well. They all seemed to join in and it worked as if we had planned our strategy. I walked in like the leader had spilled all the beans on the minions and i told them we were letting her go. One person started tying a hangmans noose in a rope, another sharpening his sword innocently. We talked among ourselves about the sturdy tree with a stout branch we found just outside. told them how she said they would never roll over on her, and how they would rather die than let her down. After a bit of back and forth they spilled enough beans for us to know some of what the woman was up to, and now, (next week) we can use that info against her when we interrogate her.

So, in 3 hours of gaming, we had only one battle encounter. On other nights we had a battle start at the beginning of the night and continue through the next two nights. (we were fighting about 100 goblins from inside a big house). The MU has cast Web, Sleep, Magic Missile, and I am not sure what else. As well as use a sling when we were way outnumbered.

Long story short. What I am saying is that the game is not the battles and everything else is just to get you to them. The game is more what happens between the battles. The battles are so we can roll dice :).
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wisdomsbane
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Re: Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

Post Sat Feb 15, 2014 2:47 am

I'm trying to get a game going with my own kids, who are right around that age level. And I had some of the same thoughts about the weaknesses of different classes. I figured on putting them through the 0-level character grinder, and giving them ideas on some things their characters might want to do. Once their characters are actually 'real' characters (1st level), I'm adding in a 'guide', basically a mysterious stranger they meet at the end of their quest, who is played by me (as an NPC), is slightly higher level (at first), and acts as a guide, more to help them figure out how to play their characters, than to actually do any real work (Gandalf was my inspiration for this, comes and goes, has magic, but prefers to use his brain and mouth, advises and supports rather than being a truly active character, etc). Once I think they are ready to deal with things on their own, their 'guide' will have to mysteriously disappear just like he/she appeared in the first place.
You have to understand one key thing. Kids are creative. It's the most natural thing for kids to play make-believe and come up with their own stories. They like staying out of trouble and will learn over time to keep their characters out of trouble, too. Give your players some credit, they're young, not stupid.
Leave them a journal page here and there from adventurers who thought of a creative way to do something. Let them get some advice from more experienced NPCs. Leave hints that might show how others got out of a situation (burn marks and the smell of oil in a corridor or tunnel might suggest that others have gotten out by lighting oil to keep critters at bay).
Another thing I was thinking is to actually explain and give examples of what each of the ability scores mean. For example, the key ability for the magic-user is Intelligence. High intelligence means you know a lot about a lot. You can find information easier, and you can use that information to help you when you really need it. Let characters use their Int mod on rolls to determine whether or not they have heard of or read about some similar situation, and how to resolve it. If they succeed, you give them a hint, not the full solution.
I never cry over spilled milk. But... spill my coffee... I dare you.
DiceClown
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Re: Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

Post Sat Feb 15, 2014 10:03 am

Hywaywolf,

My games are much the same. Not all battles nor are they long periods of puzzles and riddles. There is a balance to all of it. Great feedback, much appreciated.
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Hywaywolf
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Re: Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

Post Sat Feb 15, 2014 10:36 am

wisdomsbane, agreed on playing with kids. I got my daughters interest in playing when they were around that age and they scheduled a weekend sleepover with 7 of their friends. We played 2 or 3 times a day for two days. the kids loved it. My opinion on gaming with kids is that you teach them to play just like you teach them chutes and ladders. You don't just tell them the rules and then hand them the dice. You tell them when they land on a ladder what will happen if they slide down or climb up. As they learn you move to more difficult games. And even when you get to chess, you don't just annihilate them the first game. When they start to move that bishop that will open your queen to move into checkmate, you ask them if they really want to do that. Once they get experience and the jist of how the game is played, you stop helping them as much and let them play.

Although, you do have to teach hard lessons from time to time :). They had just came back to town after successfully looting a cave complex and were just inside the gates right after dark. I asked them what to do now and they all started to OOC argue about what to do. I tried to direct the conversation with small hints about what was available in the town, but they couldn't agree and were getting louder. I said there is a time limit for these kind of discussions and that they need to decide. Finally they all split up and went in separate directions. I rolled an encounter dice several times during this long debate because I told them that they were being very loud and the gate guard had looked at them several times, but they kept debating. Turns out they attracted a young ruffian who was hoping to be initiated into the local thieves guild. He ran back to the guild and brought back some experienced ruffians (this is how long this debate took). They heard all the plans then sent out their members to waylay the party as they went about their business. They were relieved of all their recently gained wealth.

Another time they were in a town square on market day and having fun. They were acting the fools and got into a tomato throwing fight with each other without paying the farmer for the tomatoes. The farmer called the town guard and they were all arrested and locked up, except for the thief who was busy in the weapons shop where he had been knocked out trying to steal a sword from the wall. His rolled failed bad enough to be right on the line of being discovered in the act, but I chose to let the sword fall from the wall and land on his noggin, knocking him out cold. He had to bail everyone else out and promise to do an unpaid task for the Duke.

The very first night of the campaign when they had just got together as a group and were in the crowded town, the thief wanted to pick pocket the mayor. Poor thief rolled a 99. Well, I didn't want her put to death or have her hands chopped off the first 1/2 hour of the game so I said that as she went in for the pick, she tripped over her own sword, fell forward with her arms windmilling as she actually ripped the pocket from the mayors coat, landing on the ground entwined in her own weapons, pack and rope such that she seemingly tied herself up. The mayor looked down in surprise, then just started laughing at the ineptitude of the thief and called out "would whoever owns this sad package please come retrieve it and take it off the street."
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bobtheoldcrank
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Re: Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

Post Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:20 am

DiceClown wrote:This is the issue. How many times can a fighter swing a sword? how many times can a ranger shoot an arrow? Spell use is the only way a MU can attack an opponent that is seeking to kill them. However, I think you are on to something when you say that MU need to think like magic users ... expand on that thought, because I think you are on to something here that can change my own thinking on this issue.
I agree with Hywaywolf that you're being a bit too narrow in your thinking, focusing solely on combat.

While the MU has a place in combat - sometimes - thinking of the MU as only useful when he's spraying damage-causing magic like some kind of arcane Uzi is doing the class a disservice. MUs can cause direct damage, yes. But they're more useful thinking around a problem. The example of charming an opponent is excellent. The most potent spells in a low-level MU's book is sleep (or grease) and the AD&D spell enlarge. If you think about it in MMO-speak, enlarge buffs the melee DPS and sleep controls the mob, both of which make the combat encounter over more quickly. That combo is infinitely more useful than magic missile or "pew pew"ing arcane bolts.

An adventuring MU needn't even take those spells to be useful. He can use his sling if absolutely necessary. But he's there to think, not fight. He identifies loot found. He develops creative ambush ideas which give the PCs a chance to win an impossible fight - like the Ewoks vs. the Stormtroopers. But when the arrows start to fly he cowers like C3PO.

What's required here is change of thinking on the part of the players (and, apparently, some DMs! :P ). It requires breaking the paradigm that "the only way a PC is useful is if it deals direct damage equally with other PCs." Later editions of the game have made the mistake of listening to players who make the mistake of thinking a character class is useless unless it can have a role in the combat encounter on a subjective "equal" footing with other classes. There's no sound foundation for that attitude. Best to discard it. The good news is once the DM has accepted that truth, she can guide her players toward it by rewarding the MU who thinks outside the "I cast magic missile at the darkness" box with XP bonuses and stuff.
DiceClown
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Re: Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

Post Mon Feb 17, 2014 12:12 pm

Bob the crank,

I am not advocating one-sided gaming or narrow-minded thinking. It is an exaggeration to hype what I said to mean that I believe MUs need to be all-powerful. If you take an honest look at what I was suggesting and actually played it out - you might understand that the bonus to # of spells per day would not in any way over power the MU nor would it in some way hinder a Magic User from thinking like a magic user. Afterall, most magic users want to cast spells. And who said that the spell increase per day was limited to offensive spell use? The increase would in my opinion place the MU on par with any other class. As it stands, the spell per day limit is what keeps the magic user from being the magic user in a group. We are not talking a huge increase here either and since you question me as a DM ...."What's required here is change of thinking on the part of the players (and, apparently, some DMs! :P )... I have played D&D for many years like most of the people in this forum. Why was it assumed that the spell increase meant "pew pewing arcane bolts"?
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bobtheoldcrank
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Re: Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

Post Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:21 pm

I'm sorry if I implied anything negative, as that was not my intent.

The arcane bolt reference is not directed at you. I should have made that more clear. If you look up-thread, you'll see the OP and understand that to which I refer.

As for focusing on offensive spells, I find it curious that you'd gripe about my doing that, because you specifically said it's the problem:
This is the issue. How many times can a fighter swing a sword? how many times can a ranger shoot an arrow? Spell use is the only way a MU can attack an opponent that is seeking to kill them.
Please forgive me for speaking to exactly what you brought up. I'll do my best to better read between the lines next time I try to directly address something you clearly and unequivocally state. :P

Please note I was and am not calling into question your gaming resume. I am calling into question the wisdom of your opinion in this matter.

When you boil all the verbiage off arguments like this, it all boils down to this: Tweaks like giving low-level MUs more spells have an alarming tendency to break the game.

If you amp the abilities of MUs at lower levels it very much does overpower the class at later levels. Gygax, Arneson, Moldvay, et al. knew that, experienced it in playtesting, and made the game which BFRPG emulates the way it is for a very good reason. In like manner, BFRPG also was exhaustively play-tested. If you fiddle with the game engine in such a fundamental way, for whatever reason, you will [/i]take the later game out of balance. In this context, what generally happens is the non-MU players sit there bored - "Gee, another monster/problem. Frank, cast something and fix it. I'm going to the fridge. Who wants a Fresca?" You haven't fixed the "problem" - you've just moved it around.

The MU is not on a par with other classes at lower levels, because if she is, at higher levels a low-level perceived imbalance against MUs goes out of whack on the other side. I've watched it happen. I've been responsible for it, trying to do exactly what you advocate. Like I did, you'll have to grant other classes special stuff to let them keep up, or nerf the MU, or something else. Then you'll look around you, realize that with your house rules you've tripled the size of the rulebook and ruined the rules-light, simple system that attracted you to B/X/BF in the first place.

House rules are dangerous things sometimes. ;) That's why I suggest that if you perceive an imbalance in the game as written, it's probably wiser to seek a different game than attempt to fix the perceived imbalance.

TL;DR: If you try to fix a part of a game that isn't really broken, all that happens is you break the entire game in a different way. Knock-on effects are a bitch. :mrgreen:

Regards,

Bob
DiceClown
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Re: Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

Post Mon Feb 17, 2014 8:11 pm

Bob,
Okay, I was referring to the class's function. A fighter swinging a sword, a ranger shooting a bow, likewise a MU should be able to cast a few more spells. I was not specifically saying the MU must be able to deal out damage to be useful. My intent was to give an example of other classes fulfilling a function. While I am at it, how about how many times can a thief attempt to move silently in a day?

Oh, and by the way. Their is a new optional rule regarding the MU:

Bonus Spells
With this rule, Magic-Users gain bonus spells for high
Intelligence. This allows the character to prepare more
spells of certain levels than usual. Characters may not
prepare spells above the level they can cast, so even
though a character with an 18 intelligence gets a second
level spell as a bonus spell, he or she can't prepare second
level spells until reaching third level. If the GM uses the
optional 0-Level Spells supplement, then the cantrip
column can also be used. Use the following table.
Intelligence Bonus Spells Bonus
Cantrips
9 – 11 No bonus spells 0
12 No bonus spells +1
13 – 15 1 x 1st level spell +1
16 – 17 2 x 1st level spells +2
18 2 x 1st, 1 x 2nd level spells +3

Bob, you are exaggerating what I am suggestion and you keep mocking me as though I don't know what I am talking about. It is easy, I agree, to offset the game with too much jargon. House rules can and often do screw up the intended purpose of the game. I just think you have exaggerated my point into something I did not say or intend.
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Dimirag
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Re: Are Magic-Users Too Weak?

Post Mon Feb 17, 2014 8:35 pm

A fighter swings a sword... yes
A ranger shoots and arrow... not
Altought rangers does not exist on the core bfrpg they prime function is that of wilderness survival, tracking and perhaps infiltration (depending on which ranger you base your comparison)

I know that bfrpg inheritted the combat oriented style of the older game but not all classes must be compared on a combat basis.
A 1st level fighter swings a sword at +1 plus att bonus.
Same for the 1st level mu.

The fighter gets more damage potential and better damage avoidance chance if money (or the gm) is on his side.

I also toyed with the idea of giving the mu more spells at 1st level, and probably will, but no more than one or two, and let them to recover some spells via short-resting. But in my case is not to make them more combat active, but for other reason that does not come into the post.
Sorry for any misspelling or writing error, I am not a native English speaker
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