I give up. Barring any further comments that depart pretty significantly from what’s already been said on the Magic Blast and Playing Low Level Magic-Users posts from the past several days or the thread over on the Labyrinth Lord forum, I totally admit to not having the slightest idea what a lot of people are talking about.
Objection to giving magic-users a power that allows them to zap opponents for 1 or 1d3 or 1d4 damage is surprisingly strong. Far stronger than I would have ever imagined. It’s not like I’d base my game on what other people think, but I certainly tried to find out what the cause for the objections were.
Unfortunately, resistance comes from a wide range of directions, many of which are completely contradictory. It’s too powerful and unbalances the game…while others say it’s too weak to be of any use to anyone. It’s a completely mechanical effect which does not seem at all magical…while others claim it’s nothing but fluff and, therefore, pointless. It’s such an alteration to the magic system that I might as well play a different game…but it’s also so meaninglessly the same as existing options that I shouldn’t bother adding it. It’s not needed because magic-users shouldn’t be fighting during combat, they should be doing other stuff…then they suggest throwing daggers and hurling oil.
One thing I’m relieved about after all the comments on the posts and the forum thread is the fact that my suspicion that I don’t really “get” the magic-user class has been unfounded. For years I’ve tried to work out how they should be played, thinking I must be missing something totally obvious. The only thing obvious from the comments is that I’ve been doing pretty much the same things everyone else has and have not been missing out on the magic-user’s true calling.
So, in the face of surprisingly determined objection, the magic blast is in our game just like it was before I posted. I have been convinced, to my son’s relief, that my original scheme of 1 point of damage plus 1 extra on a to-hit roll of 20 was insufficient to convince anyone to ditch daggers and darts, so we’re going to go with 1d4 damage instead. Regardless of claims that it’s A) not flavorful at all or B) flavorful only but that flavor doesn’t matter, I would rather have magic-users using magic than throwing daggers like any old non-magical character.
I do honestly thank everyone who took the time to comment, particularly those who responded to my follow-up points and/or questions. Even though in some cases I pursued arguments in an attempt to understand them, I certainly harbor no bad feelings toward anyone who commented. I’m perfectly happy to debate things online without getting all worked up, and I hope that everyone else felt the same.
So your mages will hurl daggers and mine will hurl magical zaps. I don’t think the orcs will be able to tell the difference.