Bradford Walker recently posted an excellent article titled “Easy Magic Turns Everyone into Magneto, Not Gandalf“.
One of the points he addresses is that there was a tendency for power-gamers to see the Magic Users in their party as dead weight, because so often (especially at low levels), they’d simply hide in the back and skip their turns, likely (or theoretically) denying the party an economy of action advantage.
I’ve seen lots of folks get mad at MU players because they don’t understand the MU is a situational character. It’s happened to me, especially when I’m in an “oldschool” game with new players.
I’ll be in the back passing every round in a fight, and they’ll ask “Why aren’t you helping?”
“I am helping,” I tell them. “I’m staying alive for when you really need my spell!”
Sure enough, 15-20-30 minutes later, I’ll one shot-an encounter or set-piece or be able to drag ALL the treasure out of a room on my floating disc cuz I didn’t stick my neck out for my possible 1d4 damage economy of action.
In the last oldschool game I played at an RPG day, new players begged for my help against giant spiders. I declined. And lived. And completely emptied another room of loot. When robbers attacked us back at the inn, I foiled them with a quick Web spell.
I did my job and filled my role of highly-situational-deus-ex-machina.
Unfortunately, MU players often need to be MORE cautious than they technically should, because so many DMs ignore the melee rules that prevent opponents from changing combatants in a fight without spending a full round breaking combat and not being engaged by another opponent.
Finally, I’ll note that ignoring the engagement rules, you severely cripple the role of the Fighter, particularly at lower levels. An enemy being attacked by a fighter CANNOT choose to attack some other enemy nearby (thief going for backstab) unless they’ve already entered combat with that individual. This is one reason why I advocate, if not use of minis, some token representation of where characters are in a fight.