Short Thoughts on “Easy Magic”

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.

 

5 responses to “Short Thoughts on “Easy Magic”

  1. I think this ‘gimme gimme now’ is the result of too much instant gratification online and in modern games and in media etc., so the games that were made decades ago that actually take slower development and saving up of energy seem slow or tl;dr and younger people especially can want to ‘skip to the good part’ or just have someone blow everything up like a movie ASAP. I think sticking with the rules makes it a certain game, and if they want something else, they can go somewhere else and play something else. Just my two cents.

    • It’s definitely not a bad take. The major shift in D&D started with 3e, which was tooled to better jibe with CRPGs and therefore gave the game a more video-gamey feel at the tabletop.

  2. I suck at playing spellcasters because I hate to hold back and triage an encounter to see if casting a spell is truly warranted.

    Instead, I usually come out with guns blazing, run out of magic, and die.

    Hence my preference for meat shield characters.

    • There was an old comic I saw once; a horde of orcs is charging the party, and a fighter says “Quick! Cast your sleep spell at them!”; “Magic missile!” the slack-jawed wizard incants, poofing one orc while the rest of them overwhelm the party.

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