NPC Wizards

NPC Wizards

NPC Wizards

Ho do you guys play them in practice? Do you stay with specific spells, or do you make them up on the fly?  Do you allow your players do do Defy Danger (Something) every time a spell is cast or do you just tell them, “OK you’re a frog”?  The third option is to just hit them with hard magic moves when they fail a roll. 

The way I’ve been doing it is something like this:

GM: The wizards waves his staff. What do you do? 

Fighter: I hit him with my mace. (Rolls 7-9)

GM: You break his jaw but too late to stop his spell. You start felling funny, the world around you starts growing. And growing. You feel cold and slimy. You croak. (etc)

I’d like to be more versatile the way I play this…

16 thoughts on “NPC Wizards”

  1. I’ve been playing the ones in our inverse world game as pretty much being like the mage playbook but with the opposed of “all non-aligned” (which isn’t necessary but I like a well focused wizard and tend to encourage PC mages to take important and restrictive opposed’s). As for DD vs getting fireballed, my style hasn’t brought it up but I’d go with what ever I felt worked at the time.

  2. Make the wizard a monster and give it moves. It could be a specific move, “Turn someone into a frog,” or it could be general, like “Inflict a curse,” “Unleash eldritch energies,” or the like. A partial success on hack and slash ought to stay in the realm of damage, because that’s how the move is written. Reserve your wizard’s big moves for their 6- results.

  3. Hack & Slash is most definitely not written for the NPC to only deal damage on a 7-9. It’s written as follows which allows any of the NPC moves listed, including magical curses (which may or may not also deal damage) .

    “On a 7–9, you deal your damage

    to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against you.”

  4. I’ve been doing it the way Travis Scott suggests. I always try to limit NPC magic users to 3 moves and usually use them to describe their magic. For instance, a witch in my adapted Pathfinder campaign has these moves:

    *  Turn into a raven

    *  Convulse them with hideous laughter

    *  Blast them with fire

  5. I gave the last wizard my team faced three spells: Charm, Posion Gas, and Fireball. 

    He turned out to be a wimp because of the lack of bad rolls on the PC’s side.  In retrospect I should have made more hard moves, but it felt like cheating if I didn’t give the PC’s a roll to mitigate things. 

    Playing awesome bad guy wizards is the next skill I need to master. So I need a touchstone article like the “16 HP Dragon”, but for wizards!

  6. I second what Jason Lutes posted. I prefer to let the PC wizard(s) be versatile, while NPC “wizards” are more restricted in their abilities. This lends a feeling to the wizard player that their character is ultimately more gifted than other wielders of magic.

  7. Wynand Louw if you feel like you have to give the PCs warning, but don’t want to make every move the monster makes a slow motion telegraph, move their second chance to the time before the encounter. Is it a bad ass wizard NPC who can paralyze an enemy in the blink of an eye? Let the reputation be known before the combat. That way PCs are warned/educated, but make those moves hard in the actual combat if you want the PCs to have skin in the game. If you wait for their bad rolls and then give them Defy Danger outs every time as well then your monsters will always seem toothless.

  8. Travis Scott I once made a post after a very long day and then immediately fell asleep. The rest of the night was filled with anxiety dreams in which my post offended everyone, was completely wrong, and missed the point. I need to cut myself off near bedtime 🙂

  9. You’re doing it right but there’s nothing wrong with casting the spell then ask them to defy danger. It’s all part of “Show an incoming threat”. In my case my players were all looking at me waiting on me to describe what the dark figure with do. I just described how it waved his hands and threw a fireball in the middle of their group and asked for what they were doing.

    There’s no difference between a magic spell, a sword and a chunk of mountain when it comes to rules. They are all moves.

  10. Scott McGougan

    I agree that if the wizard is going to totally kick PC butt, that wizard should have enough reputation so the characters know what they’re getting into. Perhaps something vague like the local population has been disappearing at the same time as the population of giant frogs has been increasing. And if the PCs give The Wiz enough time and concentration to act, a PC is a frog. Perhaps a giant frog with a magic wand, or platemail. Or The Wiz got disturbed and the PC is a partial frog. And after defeating Evil NPC, perhaps let his research documents be sitting around so the PC wizard can learn to undo the spell. Or does the party prefer having a massive battle frog on their side?

  11. Scott McGougan That makes a lot of sense. But it needs more careful planning and less improv. on my part. 

    I love making up things as we play, like “He makes a funny arcane move with his hands, grabs black fire from the empty air and flings it at you. What do you do?”

    “I dodge and deflect it with my shield!” So the PC rolls 5 on DD. “What happens?”

    “Er… ” I really have no clue because I invented the theatrics on the spur of the moment. So quickly invent the rest of the spell. ” The black flames burn through your shield and hit you in the face. You scream in agony as it burns fiery fingers through your eyeballs into your brain.” More quick thinking. “You suddenly become calm and serene as you discover the ultimate peace of being absorbed into the mind of the hive mother…”

    Is there a spell for that in Pathfinder?

  12. Wynand Louw Another way to tweak the dials on this is to adjust where the effect on the player falls.  In your impromptu spell example the flow goes like this:

    1. You announce the spell with a description

    2. The player reacts (which may or may not involved something like Defy Danger)

    3. The spell does or doesn’t affect the character to whatever degree

    To increase the toughness of monsters you can move the effect of the spell/attack forward, and have part of the announcement include a portion of the effect (which also serves as fair notice for how tough the monster is ). 

    So, perhaps:

    1. You announce the spell with a description, and the beginning of its effect on the character (“Black flames leap toward your head and being to sear your eyes. The initial flash is enough to impair your vision, and you fear the full impact of the attack might fully blind you. What do you do?”)

    2. Player reacts. “I hunker down behind my shield.”

    3. The spell does or doesn’t affect the character to any further degree.

    In this case you’ve made the tough monster get in a lick immediately (partial/temporary vision impairment), and then given the character a chance to react, with the full weight of the attack coming after their reaction. This can make their reaction more difficult (maybe whatever they were going to do to react might require an additional Defy Danger if it relied on clear sight).

    So pulling some of the attack’s effect forward can “harden” up the move without going straight to “You see a monster, you’re blind. Thanks for playing.”

Comments are closed.