I see no reason why this guy wouldn't be perfectly acceptable as a magic-user.

I see no reason why this guy wouldn't be perfectly acceptable as a magic-user.

A rule I’m trying out in my S&W White Box campaign is allowing any class to use any weapon. Given that all weapon damage is d6 (with a +1 for two-handed weapons and a -1 for small weapons) there is mechanically no difference between a cleric with a mace and a cleric with a sword.

My son’s magic-user Felix Fireball (currently in the clutches of vile goblins Below Wolf Rock) immediately sort of ticked me off by selecting a spear and choosing to stand in the second rank and attack from there.

Why ticked off? See, I was thinking more “Gandalf with Glamdring,” not “some infantryman in a robe with a pointy hat.” But that’s what I get.

For the record, I don’t necessarily see magic-users as skinny guys wearing robes and pointy hats. In fact, for the purposes of White Box, I’m leaning more toward “you don’t have any freaking idea whether that guy over there can cast spells or not.” Everyone is capable of fighting, but magic-users have traded time they might have spent learning the craft of fighting well for time studying the arcane arts (and earning their Standard Book of Spells). This is reflected in the slow progression of their Base Hit Bonus.

I’m waffling on magic weapons. On one hand, I’m thinking that maybe characters can only use magic weapons on the original list for their class. On the other hand, this doesn’t really make any sense, and it still keeps Gandalf from wielding Glamdring.

Finally, I don’t want to stray too far from the origins of the game. Though letting magic-users wield magic swords doesn’t break the game at all, it does certainly put a gap between my campaign and the way they did it in the olden days. I still haven’t really decided if that gap is too big or not.

I brought it up on the S&W forums and I also just came across this thread on the OD&D forums. There are some heavy hitters weighing on on that one.

(I whipped up that character image using Heromachine. Click for bigger version.)

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7 Comments to “Swords & Wizardy = Wizards with Swords?”

  1. Ripper X says:

    See, I couldn’t stomach something like that. In the game that I’m currently playing, (not DMing) we’re play testing the War-Wizard. A wizard who specializes in fighting, all of his spells must be offensive, and he is only allowed 1 spell to be learned per level. He can use a sword and, if you ask me, the guy is totally worthless. He’s not a real mage, and he’s not a real fighter, the guy is just somebody who hangs out and casts grease once a day.

    I suppose that I am much more into keeping things as core as possible, but I see weapons as class restrictions which are needed to keep the game balanced . . . there is that dreaded word again, Balance. Wizards usually do 1d4, rogues 1d6, clerics 1d8, and warriors have no cap, 1d10 and up. Why I think that this is there is because of the warriors. At higher levels these characters aren’t nearly as effective as they once were. Sure they hit everything, but when you look at a wizard who can easily take out entire armies in one round, or a rogue who can sneak in and instantly slay you with a successful backstab, the warriors effectiveness in battle has severely changed, he’ll look back at his early days and smile because he was once important, the only guy at the table that could hit something most of the time. I’m not sure how to go about rewarding these guys, and keeping them up to par with everybody else, especially if they don’t want to play the endgame of managing their own armies.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Kilgore says:

      I see weapons as class restrictions which are needed to keep the game balanced . . . there is that dreaded word again, Balance. Wizards usually do 1d4, rogues 1d6, clerics 1d8, and warriors have no cap, 1d10 and up.

      But that isn’t a factor in White Box. All weapons do 1d6. +1 if two-handed and -1 if small and light.

  2. Chris says:

    I can’t see allowing a wizard to use swords as a game breaker. Sword or not, he’s still a squishy unarmoured meatbag on a field of hulking butchers.

    Heck, it might even give the ‘sleep spell on legs’ level 1 wizard a little more versatility…

    • Kilgore says:

      Heck, it might even give the ’sleep spell on legs’ level 1 wizard a little more versatility…

      That’s what I’m thinking. But, as you point out, the player had better not think that he’s versatile enough to stand side-by-side with the fighter.

      In that sense, my son’s decision to use a spear from the second rank makes sense. It’s not the “feel” I was going for, but I was pleased to see that he recognized a sword didn’t make him a warrior.

  3. Jeff Rients says:

    Dave Arneson’s original Arduin Grimoire contained a rule that magic-users could use swords once they reached fifth level. That seems like an interesting compromise to me.

    • Kilgore says:

      Hmm. That’s interesting. I certainly had not heard of that before, so I appreciate you pointing it out.

      My initial response would be that it’s at the first few levels that magic-users are less interesting to play. By 5th level, they’re starting to get higher-quality spells and the overall quantity of spells per day is up, so they’d be less likely to care about swords.

      Which was maybe the point of Arneson’s rule. Maybe a level limit for magic swords, as I’m not inclined to open up all magic weapons for all classes, but I’m also not sure that I like restricting magic weapons to the base class list.

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