18 September 2010

Wizards with Swords

For my next stab in the dark at game design, there has to be wizards with swords.

Thou shalt kick ass.
That's really all I have to say. It's badass.

I read a post on Enworld the other day about some guy in 4e who wanted to have a wizard with a sword and dude totally had to pick up three feats to do it "right." That might be the craziest thing I've heard in a long time. It makes you wonder, why are people so afraid of houserules and making stuff up? If it was me, I'd be like "Fuck it, man, go ahead and have a sword."

When my buddy wanted to play a minotaur, we essentially just had him roll up a Fighter, and then decided that he was big and had horns and stuff. If it turned out to be important that he was a Minotaur (which it didn't, as he didn't survive the first level), I suppose we could have made something else up. If the guy decided that he wanted to have the stats of an Elf, that would've been cool, too. I wonder how malleable, as a thought experiment, the classes really are? It's kind of the tack I went with the Aremorican Addendum, where the classes are just classes and there aren't any non-human races, but by renaming and rejiggering the classes, it doesn't quite have the same impact. Plus, there isn't really an Elf class, but that Marksman never quite had a good niche with me, and it could use a bit of reworking...

Maybe not quite dual swords, but still.
We could give the Marksman the Elf's perception, and then give it nature magic and combat abilities on a one-to-one ratio, but then again, I've entirely done away with Vancian magic for the time being. It's due to be re-included, but then progress on an appropriate name has stalled it somewhat. The new Marksman could have perception and tracking and then archery bonus stuff and that could be enough to give it a good niche. Let him be the scout type character, looking around and stuff. People do seem to enjoy the scout/tracker aspect of the Ranger and the Elf, so it might even be the right way to go. Hell, it's my favorite part, too!

So on my to-do list for the Addendum:
1) Add some Vancian Magic (maybe a wizard class? who can use swords, even.)
2) Change the Marksman into a Scout and give him perception abilities instead of just straight archery bonus.

Well, shit, I'll sleep on it.


  1. I kinda gotta wonder -- where did the whole idea that wizards don't have swords come from? Which edition of D&D introduced that?

    I can't find my copy of Holmes, but I looked it up in the RC; the limitation is in there. Somethin'-somethin' about limited weapons balanced out by spells or whatever. But wizards suck at fighting so what's the harm?

  2. Wizards with swords are awesome! I was thinking it would be cool to have a whole game where all the PCs are sword wielding wizards. Why bother with fighting men when you can have blade flashing beard growing book learnin' wizzards?

  3. Magic-users were unable to use swords as far back as OD&D, although people who enjoy exploring textual ambiguities have argued that it's textually ambiguous. I think it's clear that OD&D Magic-users got daggers only. They actually got *more* weapon choices in AD&D 1e.

    It initially seems like a pointless restriction since 3LB OD&D doesn't have variable weapon damage - a dagger does as much damage as a sword. But there are many class restrictions on who could use what magic items, and one of the Fighting Man's only real benefits is that he can use all magic weapons and armor, including magic swords, which are all aligned and intelligent. (Although many have no special powers or communicative abilities, so they're smart and can't talk or do anything about it, a la "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream". Nice, Gary.)

    So in early editions of D&D, where most of the really good magical weapons are swords, fiddling with the weapon restrictions can cut into the Fighting Man's already very limited bailiwick. If a Cleric can use magic swords in OD&D, AD&D, or B/X, there's honestly not much reason to play a Fighting Man, because Clerics fight almost as well, do everything else better, and advance faster.

    This drove me nuts for years.

  4. I agree that a lot of OD&D was textually ambiguous, but where exactly is the ambiguity in this statement:

    "Magic-Users may arm themselves with daggers only."

    Seems pretty doggone clear to me.

  5. @Doc: That's kind of what I wondered. I know that wizards aren't supposed to use swords because originally swords were the only magical weapons but cmon. Dudes can't hardly hit the broad side of a barn.

    @Cyclopeatron: I hear you! Up with wizards! Down with everybody else!

    @Scott: I always like what you have to say. And I'm not really sure why clerics are better in almost every single way. But to the topic at hand, I don't think it would be too much to allow wizards to use magical weapons like swords but not clerics and thieves. I've never really liked either of them, but I've softened about thieves in recent years. I mean, so the wizard has the Holy Avenger, he still can't hit anybody with it.

    @Will: I'm sure somebody can conjure up some ambiguity from even that statement. Just the other day I was reading a thread stating that a man thought that since there were no rules for being dead, that it was ambiguous as to what he could and could not do.

    I can only hope it was satire. :p

  6. Well, in The Fantasy Trip: In The Labyrinth, it did specifically state that "A dead character may take no actions of any kind."

    So somebody must have had that problem!

    But that points up an important thing about rules writing: You either make allowances for common sense, or you get dense, exception-laden verbiage that looks more like a computer program than something connected with something that's supposed to be fun.

    And common sense ain't that common.

  7. I agree that it's clear, Will. The source of the alleged ambiguity is that the clause about daggers is divided by a semi-colon from a clause about what magic items (including weapons and armor) they can use.

    Again, it's clear as tits to me that they're only supposed to use daggers, but as I learn anew on an almost daily basis in my professional life, one can find ambiguity anywhere if one squints hard enough.

    And yeah, I don't think it'll unbalance anything to let Wizards use swords. If they're wading into melee in an old edition, even with a pretty good magic sword, they're probably not optimizing either their own abilities or their chances for survival.

  8. @Will: That actually is an excellent point, about rules writing. Being concise is good, but you've got to look out for people that are either intentionally trying to "break" the system and justifying their actions by the rules, or by people who can't quite fathom what you're trying to get at. Like writing on the internet, it's easy for people to misunderstand what you're trying to say and leave with exactly the opposite of what you meant.

    @Scott: When you consider that the wizard has extremely low health, no armor, and an exceptionally poor combat ability, I don't think that sword will see much use except in cases of emergency. The Cleric I can see wanting to keep the magic swords from, but the Wizard, not so much.


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Sometimes it pretends to be a game about stories, or adventures, but it isn’t. It’s a game about what you have- hit points, weapons, armor,...