Has your Wizard expressed a lack of options or potency?

Has your Wizard expressed a lack of options or potency?

Has your Wizard expressed a lack of options or potency? Has he offered you suggestions for rules modifications? One of mine has. Please read, contemplate, and offer feedback if the mood strikes.

Problem: Can’t prepare many spells, and non-cantrips never get easier.

Solution [a]: Prep limit of level +1 replaced by mana points equal to 2xLevel+INT. Spend points per level of spell you wish to cast, and get them back from rests or similar. (gives more options on the menu, but fewer castings of the expensive ones)

Solution [b]: Prep limit as normal, but rising cantrip threshold (gives more freebies as you level, so a level 2 spell is a cantrip to a level 7 wizard, etc)

Appendix: Either of these options could include being allowed to cast beyond your level at a higher risk.

24 thoughts on “Has your Wizard expressed a lack of options or potency?”

  1. Suggested responses/counterpoints:

    You can’t prepare that many spells–but you never have to lose them either. On a 7-9, you can always choose some other option.

    Higher level spells never get easier–but other classes’ moves don’t get any easier as they level up either, and that’s really what your spells are: a second set of moves you have access to, on top of your regular level up moves.

    If the problem is a lack of flexibility, that’s what Ritual is for. And even without that, they still have at least as many narrative options as other characters without doubling their available spells. What’s the problem they’re running into?

  2. James Etheridge They were concerned that they couldn’t prepare as many spells as they would like, so their menu each day became quite narrow. We’re talking about a very clever wizard who likes to chain spells and combine effects.

    Ironically, he just noticed that he had max’d out his prep and used the high level spell first thing today, so the rest of the day is going to rely on some very good rolls during the high-stakes confrontations at the peak of this campaign arc…

  3. Personally, I see that small menu as a feature rather than a bug; they still get to swap out a chunk of their moves every day, which is something other classes don’t get to do. The complaint is that they don’t get to swap out enough of those moves? Pfffft. 😛

    I mean, it’s cool that the Wizard is power hungry, but I’m not inclined to feed them–especially if that hunger is creating interesting dilemmas, which it sounds like it is! Again, the Wizard could’ve put himself into a spot or gotten a temporary headache instead of losing that high level spell; raising the ceiling on the number of times they can make that choice seems like it would just the sting out of it rather than adding anything to the game.

    If you decide to give them more spells anyway, though, I’d go with something like your second option rather than the first. It requires less rewriting of Cast a Spell, and the flexibility (read: raw narrative engagement potential, which is the only thing worth balancing between characters) less insane. I wouldn’t give them entire spell levels of cantrips, though. Maybe one spell per level as they level up. They still need to make choices when they prepare spells; that’s one of their class’s downsides, and you have a move for those.

    Of course, any version of this is basically giving them more powerful versions of Prodigy and Master for free, so keep that in mind. And again, my real advice is to leave it as is and advise the player on how to work within their class, rather than give them tools to ignore the class’s drawbacks.

  4. The mana option looks doable, it would greatly alter how the wizard plays (free form, less forethought). Check out how the Templar in Grimm world uses Wrath. May give you some ideas.

  5. Echoing James Etheridge​’s comments, especially ritual. Always encourage ritual, and highlight it doesn’t necessarily take a long time. (Conversely, always provide places of power for him to draw upon, and consider throwing around higher than usual amounts of magical stuff for him to disenchant into spells.)

  6. Also: In my experience free-form wizard classes end up much more boring (albeit less confusing) to play, as once the player has worked out his go-to combo of moves/spells and gotten that all-important +3 INT, that’s pretty much the only move they’ll make again. (See also the common problem with the Druid, shapeshifting to solve everything.)

  7. Something something rituals. 😛

    Also, Joe Banner​​, I don’t necessarily agree about freeform magic users! The Mage had issues (it’s one of few classes I don’t allow, actually) but I think the idea can be done well. I actually took a crack at it myself quite a long time ago; I should really go back and polish it up (I hadn’t looked at it in ages, and I already see a few things that need work), but here’s a compendium class / class warfare specialty if you’re curious: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1DVLbtm7OilTbadKA_Xfs-08bvlTyPlt-rmjrr7ya8Yk/edit?usp=docslist_api

  8. Another thing to remember – the wizard, as written, only needs an hour to prepare new spells. Under the right circumstances it can be totally reasonable to switch up spells (and clear those pesky -1 penalties) in the middle of an adventuring day.

  9. Aniket Schneider This is absolutely true!

    Unfortunately, this party doesn’t have much in the way of downtime just at the moment. They are in the middle of an elven revolution, there is a blob in the basement that absorbed a dozen mages (and their spells), a sentient fog outside, and the wizard is in an astral coma, observing four points in history simultaneously as a living mask burrows into his face.

  10. I’ll admit to being he who brought the topic up, it is after all, only fair.

    And so let me explain the dilemma…

    My character in this current game is at L7, (And lucky to be alive at that rate.) The issue i’ve constantly had is the capacity to work with my entire vocabulary of spells in a fairly constrained yet flexible enough manner to not be overly specialised to a specific circumstance which i cannot foresee, and subsequently drop into the background until i could pull something witty out of my backside to keep being useful.

    EG: I found a need in our last session to use shadow-walk, this is fine, i had it prepped and used it, thankfully successfully. However, short of using exactly the same spell again i have nothing else to use (save a single L1 spell) for the remainder of the session, and since im obviously not effective as a melee character my utility is significantly limited.

    Now i had proposed the above 2 options as very broad starting points to potentially make mages and potentially other casters as well a bit more fluid, without making them into a magical swiss army knife, versatility without omnipotence. 

    My logic went as follows:

    Option a) Somewhat generic, scales to the mage as they level. gives the mage a good platform to experiment with their capabilities early while reasonably restricting their high level casting later in the game. Bare in mind that every non cantrip spell here costs the mage to cast, so a significant amount of restraint and thought are still required but it becomes more a tactical than a strategic decision as to what to cast and when.

    Option b) I proposed this simply because it seemed more realistic, should not a mage/cleric remember those early level spells like that first burn scar on the back of their hand from when they first messed it up? It implies that a mage that has grown and developed and has come to depend on their arts in everything they do. This obviously makes the mage more able to heavily use smaller weaker spells but still significantly restrains their capacity to use stronger, newer ones.

    Your L7 mage for example, will still be only capable of preparing a single L7 spell, but will have open access to levels 1- 3. Remembering that the mage must KNOW the spells from 1-3 to cast them, can still lose them from memory during a fail or a partial success, and will essentially still need to “prepare” them but, once known all those spells will be available after a rest.

    I threw the last one in as a wildcard, give the mage something to strive to, offer them an otherwise unobtainable power at a steep risk and cost.

    Some Examples of how one might handle level+ spell casting.

    Ritual is the obvious and often mentioned one as above by others, the spell can be cast, but must be in a place of power, without interruptions or impediments.

    Material or physical cost, the mage may cast the spell but in order to do so they must obtain and use precious or rare items and/or sacrifice something of themselves to provide sufficient energies to the spell

    Furthermore depending on how it’s cast, the spell even if successful, may incur a penalty from the 7-9 list, and a failure will most certainly be somewhat catastrophic.

    Communal ritual.

    Multiple casters have the opportunity to combine their efforts to bring about greater works of magic than they can on their own… Haven’t gone into this yet but sounds like some awesome opportunities lie within.

    Having played on both sides of the table, i understand the need for balance, and time and again have tweaked and polished rules to get the best out of the characters, the classes, and the story, so the above ideas are just that, something to start from. They may end up in the bin, they may end up being terribly successful, but unlikely will they appear in their original form.

  11. Nathan, I respect where you’re coming from, but I still stand by what I’ve already said. To your specific examples:

    Shadow Walk is easily as powerful as a full-on class move that any other character would need to dedicate an advance to. In fact, I’ve seen a few teleportation moves in various classes, and they’re substantially less powerful than “travel anywhere you can describe with seven words.”

    You’re right, it’s a high level spell that takes up a lot of space–but frankly, it’s on you in that situation to make the most of a spell that you’ve dedicated most of your day’s competence to. For example, you could teleport to a Place of Power to perform a Ritual to aid your allies (assuming there’s no Place of Power on scene). Or taking advantage of the enemy’s distraction to teleport behind their lines and conduct recon, or whatever else. Universal mobility is darned powerful.

    If you’d rather stay on the scene (fair enough), you said yourself that you have a first level slot available. If you’re expecting combat (fair bet, by the sounds), you have Magic Missile at that level–which puts your base damage ahead of every other class aside from the d10 crew.

    And bear in mind, you had the option to set up your spells differently.

    Actually, let’s draw a comparison to the Thief. That class has three basic things they can do: pick locks, surprise attack enemies and poison things. In combat, the first is useless, and the second might come up once, unless you get clever with it (fair comparison to Shadow Walk. Which could actually help set up The Thief for more assassinations, too, so consider the ‘helping allies’ angle). The third is a fair parallel to spells in general, no? They have a limited supply, they can prepare some when they rest (after devoting a couple of advances to it), and the effects of some are fairly situational.

    Should the Thief be able to pull out any old poison on the spot, or should they be limited to what they prepared? Is it something to complain about that stabbing things is what they’re likely consigned to after the first few moments of combat, or is it on the Thief to look at the environment for more interesting opportunities? Do you see what I mean?

    You already have more fluidity than any other non-caster class. I know I keep drawing the comparison to advanced moves, but it really is a meaningful one: no non-caster class gets to swap out moves at all. You do.

    Your first suggestion is giving you access to the entire list of options without the baked-in constraints; only being able to do very nearly anything a few times a day is still the ability to do very nearly anything. And looking at it the other way, you’re likely to run out of spells much faster than you would with the core move anyway, because you’re always losing the resource no matter how you roll, so it seems it would aggravate your problems rather than address them.

    The second option is just adding a bunch of free moves to your character, and making the higher level spells less meaningful because you can prepare more of them. You stop needing to choose between raw power and flexibility, because you get both. “Yes, but I might lose access to them sometimes” is not really much of a downside to having access to the equivalent of an entire 2-5 move list.

    I’m not really sure what “casting beyond your level” means. If you’re saying that you get to cast spells that you didn’t even prepare, that takes a lot of the sting out of the choices you’re supposed to be making. If you’re talking about casting spells that you shouldn’t even have access to yet–the only level left is 9, which is shattering-reality territory. I think Ritual should cover any of that stuff that fits into your current campaign situation anyway–and it makes actually reaching that level less special if you can already cast those spells, even if doing so is a pain in the neck.

  12. To be honest, that mostly tells me that the rest of the party has fewer areas of competence to compare to the Wizard’s, which IMO would make these proposed expansions even more troubling. It’s a lot easier to outshine one person than four.

    For complete perspective, though, what’s the other character’s class?

  13. i usually dont make the players actually choose their spells for the day, and may use the ones they have available if the situation arises. fictionally, they “had it prepped the whole time” and so they can decide what spell i useful in the moment rather than wring their hands over using spell slots on spells they may not actually need.

    of course, once they make their choice they are stuck with it until they re-memorize

  14. So much interesting stuff going on here! So what about hirelings, could they could help do the things the 2-player party can’t do easily? (An adept comes to mind for helping with a mass ritual, for example.)

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