Friday, July 25, 2014

RPGs - Pity About the Art

No, I am not exiting my (self-imposed) hiatus. My family still requires more attention than blogging allows at the moment, but...well, sometimes something just strikes a nerve and I've got to vent my personals all over the internet.

Somewhere back in the past, I got subscribed to an email newsletter called Story Games Weekly. I probably signed up for it 'cause they do free promotion of one's gaming products and I thought "hey, easy marketing!" Of course, I've never bothered to email them a news item or publication announcement (have I not explained before how terrible I am at self-promotion?). Anyway, I still continue to read through it every week, because there's (usually) at least three or four items that strike my interest.

This week, one blurb led me to this post by Patrick Stuart, author of Deep Carbon Observatory, in which he discusses an ideal ("utopian") framework for designing adventures (or any other gaming product). His Step One is to have a powerful idea that fires the imagination (I'm paraphrasing his thing about generating "psychic energy"). His second step? Artwork.

[*head in hands*]

I understand that Mr. Stuart is a big believer in the inspiring power of art within games. I read his essay on Art In Games, and I can grok his hypothesis. BUT...

Oh, God. How to start without seeming like a completely hopeless, obsolete luddite grognard.

[sigh...I really can't, can I?]

Back in the days of MY youth (when we had to walk ten miles to school, barefoot, in the snow...and uphill both ways, don't forget)...back then we used to have these here "adventure module" thingies that may or may not have had much in the way of great or inspiring art, but what art they had certainly had FUCKALL little to do with the adventures in which they appeared.

How many illustrations are there in The Keep on the Borderlands? Five? Not counting the cover? Again I wish I had the module with me in Paraguay so I could check. I love the Dee illo of the minotaur in the chain shirt with the spear because its badass, sure. You know what else is badass? The whole Chaotic temple complex which doesn't have (or require) a single illustration to influence your imagination. Same with the ogre encounter. Or the hobgoblin torturers. Or the kobolds with their traps and rats and spears. There's plenty of "psychic energy" to be found within the adventure...energy that has made B2 an adventure staple with plenty of "replay" value over the years. I can't even count the number of expeditions I've sent out to the Caves.

The artwork in these early adventures...the ones us old timers consider "classics"...was scant, and often damn misleading. I'm not just talking about the cover leaf to Keep on the Borderlands (in which a halfling wields a pole arm and the owlbear appears in a worked stone dungeon rather than its cave lair). The cover itself shows some sort of showdown with orcs in the hills...there's no such encounter. Tomb of Horrors has some sort of crowned lich on the cover...WTF? Shrine of Tamoachan's cover leaf has the party engaged with a giant bat thing...no such encounter exists. The cover for Queen of the Demonwebs depicts the party battling Lolth in a forest with a bunch of arachnid helpers...no, no, this never occurs in the adventure.

Is there a single image of a fire giant in Hall of the Fire Giants? I can't recall any...but I can certainly recall several memorable NPCs from that module: the king, his decapitating queen, the torturer, a certain dwarf by the name of Obmi, and Eclavdra (of course). Oh, yeah...maybe there's one throwaway picture of a mustachioed giant with his hellhounds...but that image isn't what's firing my imagination. I'm getting enthused by my mental picture of characters trying to coax mules into harnesses to winch their beasts and spelunking gear across a subterranean river of glowing lava. The Drow with male-pattern baldness isn't nearly as inspiring as Gygax's description of the dark elves' tentacled temple.

Those illustration inserts they included with a couple of those old modules? Sure we used them, but they were gimmicky props and more often detracted from play, rather than enhancing it. Not because the art was bad or uninspiring, but because they SLOWED play (especially for adventures where the ills were keyed differently from the map key) for little real gain. Again, it wasn't a drawing of a four armed gargoyle that made Tomb of Horrors memorable to the players.

Here's how I see it, folks: artwork in gaming products is overrated.

Not unimportant, mind you: please put down your pitchforks, all my illustrator friends! Art does have importance, especially in the basic gaming manual for any setting-specific game where the author/designer is attempting to convey the mood and ambience (and express his or her own visual imaginings) to the reader. Artwork is important for understanding what a game is all about.

But I do not lend it the same importance that Stuart and others...like the general game consuming public...lends to it. That's right, I'm not just trying to pick on one man (well, not this time anyway). I'm talking about a commercial trend that Stuart is simply providing with a high-minded justification.

I mean, who the hell is supposed to be reading the "adventure product" anyway? Who is supposed to be getting the benefit generated from the artwork therein? Last time I checked, adventures were supposed to be studied by game masters and off-limit to the players (who wanted to "explore" the adventure's mysteries). So you're going to commission a bunch of artwork for the benefit of one guy, huh?

Well sorry to waste your time, man, but I'm kind of on the same page with Jeff Rients when it comes to illustrations. Give me LESS to work with...don't fill in all the blanks for me! If you do that, how am I supposed to fire the pistons in this old and feeble mind of mine? What's more, don't give me a picture that I just show to the players and say, "here, it looks like this, you dolts!" Let me just give them a brief verbal description and allow the players' imaginations to fill in the blank spots...that way the magic and monsters and traps and perils and whatnot become more personal and more affecting to the people at the table.

What is this constant handholding? What is this coddling? Why do we not trust that players can do this imaginary heavy lifting all by themselves? Why must every single monster have an illustration...I can guess what a "giant slug" looks like! No, you do not need to paint me a picture of it!

I know, I know: I am hopelessly old and decrepit in my thought. People have "grown to expect" a certain degree of "professional polish" in their gaming product, including high quality artwork and a glossy finish. And, yes, these types of products sell better, and these types of products are more likely to find more shelf space in nicer stores, while the "amateur hour" productions are relegated to print-on-demand or ebook status.

[and, yes, Mr. Stuart, it would be nice if all the art was soulful enough to transcend the reader]

I'm not completely stupid and ignorant. I'm just a curmudgeon who can't draw.

Also, I am a curmudgeon who was very sad to learn that Greg Irons died way back in 1984, after I was considering trying to track him down for a project of mine (no not an adventure). What a talent lost!

This is great, but the D&D Coloring Book was psycoholic!

Okay, okay...I am now resuming my hiatus. You may feel free to comment, but I can't guarantee swift response. No, I'm not going to change my mind on this: any artwork in a published "adventure" should be far down on Ye Old List of Design Priorities.

[hope everyone is doing well!]

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hiatus

I am going to be on a temporary "blog hiatus" in order to attend more closely to my family. Book sales continue (thanks for the business, folks), but I will be "off-line," for at least a few weeks. Occasional announcements of releases, PDFs, etc. will still be posted here.

I'll let you know when I'm back. Promise.
: )

Cutting it off...for a while at least.

Monday, July 14, 2014

WTF?

It appears blogger is fucked at the moment.

Well, I'm not going to spend four hours rewriting all THAT. Rest assured it was a beautiful bit of new architecture for B/X. Sorry.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Let's Try Reality!

[AKA Going with the Madness Part 2]

I'm done talking about Basic D&D for the foreseeable future...and thank God for that. As a means to "clear my head" a bit, I've decided to dive into the deeper end of the pool by involving my brain in Alexis's recent hit point shenanigans (those who haven't been following might consider reading his posts from July 7th till today). The gist? Monsters found in the wild, especially organized humanoid warriors (i.e. your classic orc or dwarf or whatever "soldier") should, generally, have a higher hit point per hit die than the straight 1 to 8 range...like 7 to 8 instead with the occasional 5 or 6 thrown in. Why? To reflect the fact that most of the "runts" of their species would have been weeded out in earlier battles, even assuming they'd been deemed fit for combat...and soldiers don't voluntarily send their sickly and wounded out on raids or into battles.

It's sound reasoning, and echoes Gygax's own thoughts...at least according to this post I read regarding EGG's (never realized) plans for the 2nd Edition AD&D:

"...As a matter of fact, adult critters were assigned 7-12 HPs per HD in my AD&D campaign -- have been given the same in what I have designed for the [Castles & Crusades] game system. Also, with increase in damage due to Strength, all large and powerful monsters, including ogres and giants, gain a damage bonus equal to their number of HD...

"...As too often "weak" monsters were randomly generated, I also planned to have robust adults possess HP totals something over 50% of the possible maximum by using a HP generation system such as 3-4, 4-6, 6-10, 7-12 using the appropriate die to determine the actual number generated -- d2, d3, d4, d5, d6. Non-robust -- immature, old, sick, injured, or even non-physically active sorts such as spell caster -- monsters would have the obverse HP range using the same type of die without addition."

Needless to say, if it makes sense to Gary, shouldn't it make sense to every Old Schooler?
; )

Now clearly, I'm not one for naturalism (Gygaxian or otherwise) or trying to seriously model "reality" in my games. "Abstract" gaming that still models a particular style (and allows for engagement in "tactics") is what I strive for. For example, in Five Ancient Kingdoms a properly equipped fighter achieves a bonus from fighting on horseback...on the other hand, I've done away with hit points for monsters, instead simply counting "wounds" inflicted against a monster's Hit Dice.

[which means, for example, that a 4HD ogre would only be felled after sustaining four wounds...one "wound" being the measurement of the amount of damage needed to down a normal human. This is a throwback to the Chainmail system and what "hit dice" in monsters originally represented, BTW]

I don't try to model the nuts-and-bolts of reality...probably because (in my experience) worrying too much about the little things detract from game play. Even when one is incredibly proficient at using the AD&D books (which I once was), it can change the focus of the game, in a way that I don't find terribly fun...or rather, not as fun as my current laissez-faire attitude towards such things.

[note how I liked the whole abstract Advantage-Disadvantage thing in Basic D&D?]

That being said, there's a part of me that still enjoys the complex and occult nature of AD&D (1st edition only, thanks), and many of his modifications, such as the aforementioned HP modification as well as giving players and monsters base hit points according to mass, are sensible for this style of play. I mean, you really can't kill a whale with a sword...why not just roll with the madness?

Alexis's current system of determining HPs is: random HPs based on mass PLUS full HPs (at 1st level) for class PLUS Constitution bonus (if any) EQUALS starting hit points. Based on his table, this gives humans and dwarves an extra D8, elves an extra D6, and halflings an extra D4 HPs for mass.

[I'm using the average weights from the Basic D&D Rules, since I don't have my AD&D books with me in Paraguay. I should note humans top out at 270# which can put them in the D10 range...but that still doesn't account for folks like Andre the Giant (520#) and "Thor" Bjornsson (440#), darn it!]

440 pounds of rape and pillage.
I asked Alexis why he didn't assign a flat HP bonus based on specific mass and make the class roll random to represent the "vagaries" of how well a character might have "trained" in their adventuring profession. Welp, he feels that "mass" only provides a range of possible hit points, but the real vagaries are in how that mass is put together: body construction, overall health, and fitness.

But, hey: can't we model that with a character's ability scores?

Let's add together Strength, Dex, and Constitution to provide a human range of "fitness," and to be fair we'll give extra weight to Strength (add it twice) as it really models how developed the muscles of the body are (as opposed to Dex - which measures limberness, flexibility, and coordination - and Con, which measures fortitude and "system health"). This gives a human fitness range of 12-72, which is easy enough to divide over those eight "mass" points:
12-18 = 1 hps
19-26 = 2 hps
27-33 = 3 hps
34-41 = 4 hps
42-49 = 5 hps
50-57 = 6 hps
58-64 = 7 hps
65-72 = 8 hps

[please note: this does not account for "exceptional strength," that special province of the fighter; this would already be considered in the fighter's training, i.e. his/her extra HPs per level. Here we are only looking at "base mass" available to all humans]

[note also that there would still be a bell curve to the "mass index" as people would tend towards "average" fitness levels based on average (10.5) ability scores; it's still the extra (class) training that makes the difference for PCs]

Similar tables for the other humanoids can be easily whipped up in an Excel spread sheet. You'll have to take into account the actual range of ability scores for elves and dwarves, etc. to devise similar spreads for their "mass type die" (again, I don't have my old PHB with me, so I can't do it for you...sorry).

Now, while I can see the logic in doing HPs by "mass plus class" (can I just call this "MPC?"), and the sound reasoning of having humanoid warriors at the upper end of the HP spectrum (7-8 per die with the occasional 5 and 6), one part of Alexis's campaign that did NOT jibe with me was the randomness of weapon damage. If we are trying to make the random vagaries of fate (which exist) more consistent with reality as we know it, shouldn't something be done about this 1D8 strike from my trusty battle axe? I am truly tired of my 4th level fighter rolling an 18 to hit and then only doing "1" point of damage. And as a DM, this kind of crap already makes my combats too long to work out (and that was back before I decided to give all the orcs a boost to their HPs!).

I brought this up to Alexis as well, but he feels the potential gain from trying to model something here is outweighed by the reality of implementation (i.e. it will slow play down too much to have extra tables for weapons, which are used often, as opposed to HP determination, which is only done at character creation or upon infrequent "leveling up"). Well, perhaps here I can call upon my abstract design principles to help out!

Assuming we are using variable weapon damage (this is AD&D, right?), there's a reason why the weapons have varying die types for damage: namely, the "naturalism" of the game assumes a range of damage can be inflicted that is limited by the form of the weapon. A dagger does 1D4 and not 1D6 because its maximum damage potential is 4...that is the extent of the wound a successful attack with a dagger can inflict. A properly wielded broadsword (2D4) does at least 2 points of damage due to his weight and heft with a maximum of 8 points for a "perfect stroke." The minimum amount of damage a longsword can do is 1 (a small cut/laceration) with a maximum of 12 if plunged deep into the vitals of a large-sized creature (presumably, the longsword's maximum of 8 against man-sized creatures means the "extra" goes out the back...note that 8 is also the maximum hit points for an average massed human with no adventurer training; this is thus a "mortal blow" to even the hardiest untrained individual).

So assuming that the designers knew what they were doing when statting up these weapons (and as they were hardcore grognards and ancient weapon researchers, why shouldn't we?), we'll figure these are accurate ranges. Now we just need to minimize the variables for more consistent (*ahem* "realistic") outcomes.

We'll discard the idea of basing damage off the result of the D20 attack roll. The attack roll is already a necessary evil of abstraction in order to speed game play. Alexis has already incorporated random "crits" and "fumbles" (drops/broken weapons) into the attack roll...let's not burden the poor mechanic anymore.

Instead, we look to class and level.  In AD&D, you must choose the weapons in which you are proficient (choices being limited by class). It can be assumed that choosing a weapon proficiency means choosing to make its use part of your "adventuring repertoire" and a subject of your ongoing training; over time, with experience and practice, you familiarize yourself with the best way to use the weapon, its best techniques and maneuvers, and work to perfect your attacks and counterattacks. You LIMIT the randomness of the damage, based on your ongoing dedication to your weapon. How do we translate that? As a bonus to the weapon damage roll.

No, this is not specialization; that's something different. This bonus simply maximizes the potential of the weapon...it does not increase the range of damage, but instead allows you to make the perfect attack. When you make a successful attack roll, you add your bonus to the damage roll, but the maximum damage possible (adjusted for strength and enchantment) cannot be exceeded!

For example, if my fighter receives a +3 to his longsword and rolls a 5, he turns that middling stroke into a killing blow (8). If he rolls an 8, he has already achieved the "master blow," and so no additional damage is done (unless modified for Strength or the weapon's +2 nature).

Class and level provides the means for determining the damage bonus (with the understanding that this bonus only applies to weapons in which the character is proficient). Personally, I would base it on the same rate of advancement as the AD&D combat tables:

Clerics: +1 for every three levels
Fighters: +1 for every two levels
Magic-Users: +1 for every five levels
Thieves: +1 for every four levels

I would also consider awarding the bonus for weapons from 1st level, at least for the fighter class; in other words, a fighter would receive a +1 damage bonus with all proficient weapons at 1st level, +2 at 3rd level, +3 at 5th level, +4 at 7th level, etc. (the other classes have too much else "on their plate" at 1st level, but their weapon training would proceed thereafter). Note: this has the built-in effect of making the more complex weapons more challenging to learn. A person can become a deadly knife-fighter long before they master the sword.

Ahhh. Sweet reality.
: )

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Wizard Worth Playing (Part 3)

[continued from here]

In addition to the spells detailed above, all beginning wizards know three additional spells of incredible power: Planar Gate, Sky Strike, and Transmutation. These spells are collectively known as Mighty Magics, and special rules apply to their use.

First, no more than ONE mighty magic may be cast in a single day (i.e. prior to a "long rest"); a wizard that decides to call down a meteor shower isn't going to be opening any portals later on. The casting is extremely taxing; the wizard cannot cast additional spells after the performance of a mighty magic until he/she has has at least a "short rest."

Second,  a mighty magic has a casting time of ONE MINUTE (unlike the earlier spells, which all have casting times of one action). That means it requires 10 melee rounds to finish the casting of a mighty magic; they are not "spur of the moment" spells.

Third, a mighty magic is extremely complicated and there's no guarantee it can be cast successfully; wizards must succeed at an Arcana skill check for the mighty magic to succeed. The difficulty of the check is equal to 10 + magnitude at which the spell is being cast. Failure burns the spell slot and the use of the mighty magic for the day; however, it does NOT mean "nothing happens." A failed check for mighty magic indicates that something was "off" in the casting: the spell occurs, but not as intended. A sky strike might hit the wizard's tower, instead of the invading army; a portal opens to the wrong location or entices the wrong being to enter the mortal realm. It is up to the DM to decide just how horrendous the failure is, based on the magnitude attempted and the degree by which the wizard failed. Mighty magic is difficult stuff to control, and its use should always carry risk.

Finally, casting a mighty magic drains the very life force of the wizard. Human (and part-human) wizards age a number of years equal to the magnitude of the mighty magic spell cast; non-humans (elves, dwarves, halflings) age a number of decades equal to the magnitude of the mighty magic spell. It is unusual for wizards to cast many mighty magics during their lifetime; those that do have good reason for doing so.

PLANAR GATE: creates an opening onto another plane of existence. The portal on the caster's plane opens within 20 yards of the wizard's location and sight. If the true name (not a nickname, title, or pseudonym) of a being on the other plane is spoken, the portal opens in that creature's vicinity and it is drawn to come through to the wizard's side, arriving within D10 melee rounds (others may choose to use the portal as well). If the duration ends before the creature arrives, the portal closes and the calling fails. Deities and planar rulers may always cause the spell to fail, if they so choose. Portal is only one-way (other plane to wizard's plane) except at 5th through 9th magnitudes. Magnitude determines size and duration of portal. Killing the wizard ends the spell prematurely.
1st Magnitude: up to 1' diameter, duration is 2 rounds
2nd Magnitude: up to 3' diameter, duration is 3 rounds
3rd Magnitude: up to 5' diameter, duration is 4 rounds
4th Magnitude: up to 7' diameter, duration is 5 rounds
5th Magnitude: two-way portal (wizards and or others can cross to the other plane; up to 9' diameter, duration is 6 melee rounds
6th Magnitude: up to 12' diameter, duration is 7 rounds
7th Magnitude: up to 15' diameter, duration is 8 rounds
8th Magnitude: up to 18' diameter, duration is 9 rounds
9th Magnitude: up to 21' diameter; duration is 10 melee rounds (calling is always successful)

SKY STRIKE: the wizard calls down a fiery meteor strike from the heavens (range is sight limited to about one mile; spell can only be performed outdoors). Magnitude determines size and number of meteors that strike within range. Damage is two-fold (bludgeoning impact and fire) to those within the blast radius, but a successful save is allowed to halve the damage. Targets take damage from the spell only once, even if caught within overlapping blasts (collateral damage caused by the massive destruction is another matter).
1st Magnitude: one small meteor (blast radius 10'); 5D6 impact damage + 5D6 fire damage
2nd Magnitude: one large meteor (radius 20'); 10D6 impact damage + 10D6 fire damage
3rd Magnitude: two large meteors (radius 20'); 10D6 impact damage + 10D6 fire damage
4th Magnitude: three large meteors (radius 20'); 10D6 impact damage + 10D6 fire damage
5th Magnitude: four large meteors (radius 20'); 10D6 impact damage + 10D6 fire damage
6th Magnitude: one huge meteor (radius 40'); 20D6 impact damage + 20D6 fire damage
7th Magnitude: two huge meteors (radius 40'); 20D6 impact damage + 20D6 fire damage
8th Magnitude: three huge meteors (radius 40'); 20D6 impact damage + 20D6 fire damage
9th Magnitude: four huge meteors (radius 40'); 20D6 impact damage + 20D6 fire damage

Uh-oh...shouldn't have pissed off the wizard!
TRANSMUTATION: wizard transforms one object into another; the change is indefinite (until dispelled). Objects are classified as either animal, plant, or mineral, whether animate or not. Magnitude determines the size of an object that can be transformed and the degree of change. Creatures unwilling to be transformed receive saving throws. Class abilities can never be gained from this spell (no transforming the party thief into a cleric, for example, or a low-level fighter into a high-level fighter) as those are a product of learning and experience. NOTE: wizards can never be the object of their own transmutation spell.
1st Magnitude: a small object (animal: small dog/large cat; plant: house plant; mineral: ring/coin sized) can be changed into an equal classification (i.e. animal to animal, like a cat to a dog) of equal size. The creature's basic nature doesn't change; the creature's gender, mind, and instincts remain the same (for example, a neutered cat would become a neutered dog of the same size, hps, and combat ability; it would try to climb trees, play with yard, and stalk birds/mice), nor can a creature that was dead be given life (or vice versa). Likewise, abilities would be retained unless the form precludes them (a bird changed to a frog has no wings to fly, and would not know how to swim or catch flies...though it could learn). "Basic nature" includes the properties of plants (as ingredients or herbs...a dandelion transformed to garlic would not affect a vampire) or the value of minerals (lead cannot be transformed into a precious metal, for example). Magical objects may not be transformed.
2nd Magnitude: as 1st magnitude, but larger objects can be transformed; animals up to the size of a small humanoid, plants the size of a small shrub (or enough to fit a large sack), minerals up to six pounds in weight (the size of a sword or shield, or what would fit in a large pouch). Again, the nature of the thing would not change: a shield could be changed into a helmet, but not a sword (because its purpose is to protect, not to harm); value (lead into gold, etc.) and life/death cannot be changed.
3rd Magnitude: as 2nd magnitude, but some one or two aspects of a creature's nature can be changed (male to female, wine to syrup, helmet to sword). Mental abilities, skills, hit points, and fighting ability cannot be changed.
4th Magnitude: as 3rd magnitude, but larger objects can be changed; animals up to ogre sized, plants up to a small tree; minerals up to the size of a suit of armor. All abilities of the form's new nature are now gained.
5th Magnitude: as 4th magnitude but now solids can be changed to liquids and liquids to solids.
6th Magnitude: as 5th magnitude but larger (animals up to dragon-sized, plants up to size of small wooden shack or large tree, minerals up to large (ogre-sized) boulder, and change can affect objects basic mobility/animation (for example, a person can be transformed into the semblance of a statue, unable to move or act, while an inanimate object can be caused to move about on its own at the direction of the wizard). Valuable minerals (metals and gemstones) can be lowered in worth (or made worthless altogether) at this magnitude. Animals can be made younger or older.
7th Magnitude: as 6th magnitude, but now inanimate objects can be given a degree of independent action (a tree can be given the mobility to strike with its branches and given the task of guarding a path; a broom can be given the task of "sweeping up," a boulder can be commanded to only roll aside for the wizard and his friends, etc.). Objects transformed now take on the personality and instincts of their new form. Base minerals can be made valuable (rocks to gems and iron to gold, for example), with a gold piece limit of 1000 per use of the spell.
8th Magnitude: as 7th magnitude, but now objects can be transformed between classifications: an animal can be turned into a plant or mineral type, for example. Gold piece limit on valuables created is now 10,000.
9th Magnitude: transforms any object (including magical objects) into any other type of object, and the living can be made dead (and vice versa). While magical items can be transformed into mundane objects (or items with similar powers...for example a cloak of invisibility into a hat of invisibility or an invisible monster), mundane objects cannot be given magical powers using this spell with the exception of weapons and armor which can be given the equivalent of +1 ability. Gold piece limit on valuables created is 100,000 at this magnitude.

[how's that for awesome?]

This then concludes the changes I'd make to bring the character class in line with the description presented for "wizards." Additional abilities (like crafting magic items, brewing potions, spell research, etc.) could still be made available at higher levels...but they're not "advertised" as basic to the class.

Feel free to play test.
; )

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Interlude: Nitpicking

On my other post, Monkapotomus commented:
"Outside that one overly prosaic description if they have read the rest of the manual up to that point then they should know that they are going to start out as beginner adventurers and work their way up. It shouldn't be much of a surprise.  
"I honestly don't think most people coming in to this would expect to be able to do those crazy things right off the bat."
He goes on to say that folks should have assumed references from video games and whatnot, though that's quite an assumption. I'd let my children play Dungeons & Dragons long before I'd give them access to any computer role-playing game, with their propensities for screen violence and over-sexualized characters.

[they can spend their own money on that when they're adults...if they want]

Look, it's not a "big deal," folks, but it is a "deal." I already posted the description for the fighter class. Here are the Basic D&D descriptions for the cleric and the rogue:

CLERIC

"Clerics are intermediaries between the mortal world and the distant planes of the gods. As varies as the gods they serve, clerics strive to embody the handiwork of their deities. No ordinary priest, a cleric is imbued with divine magic."

Pretty straight and too the point, no? Nothing extra thrown in to "spice it up." No false promises made. Here's the other:

ROGUE

"Rogues rely on skill, stealth, and their foes' vulnerabilities to get the upper hand in any situation. They have a knack for finding the solution to just about any problem, demonstrating a resourcefulness and versatility that is the cornerstone of any successful adventuring party."

A little more hyperbole than the cleric, but still not saying they can turn invisible or read magic scroll or auto-kill the toughest monsters with a single stab of their short sword, right?

Look, it's not a big deal, but the wizard's description IS a damn inconsistency compared to the other class descriptions AND false advertising to boot. To paraphrase Shlominus (who, granted, was speaking mainly to the lack of innovation): we should expect more from the biggest brand name in the RPG industry. Give me some damn consistency.

Okay, we'll now get back to rewriting Mearls's wizard class to match his description. Sorry for the tangent (again).

A Wizard Worth Playing (Part 2)

[continued from here]

All wizards have knowledge of the following seven spells: arc lightning, conjure monster, explosive fire, mind control, necromancy, prophetic vision, and sensory deception. These spells are known by the wizard and are always considered "prepared." When wizards decide to cast a spell they choose the magnitude at which the spell is cast from one of their remaining allowance of spell slots (for example, a 1st level wizard has two spell slots of the first magnitude...modified by INT...which can be used). Once the spell slots are expended, the wizard may cast no other spells without first resting.

ARC LIGHTNING: a bolt of electricity streams from the wizard to a target; magnitude determines range and damage. Targets may save to reduce damage by one-half, but save is made with disadvantage if wearing metal armor. Targets that fail to save are also stunned for one round.
1st Magnitude: 2D8 damage; 10 yards
2nd Magnitude: 4D8 damage; 20 yards
3rd Magnitude: 6D8 damage; 30 yards
4th Magnitude: 8D8 damage; 40 yards
5th Magnitude: 10D8 damage; 50 yards (maximum range)
6th Magnitude: 10D8 damage; fork bolt (strike up to 3 additional targets within 10 yards of initial target; no target may receive more than one strike)
7th Magnitude: 11D8 damage; fork bolt (strike up to 4 additional targets)
8th Magnitude: 12D8 damage; fork bolt (strike up to 5 additional targets)
9th Magnitude: 13D8 damage; fork bolt (strike up to 6 additional targets)

Probably 4th or 5th magnitude.
CONJURE MONSTER: calls forth beings from other dimensions to do the wizard’s bidding. All such creatures (regardless of type/appearance) are otherworldly and may be dispelled; they otherwise last until killed or until the next day (or “long rest”). Magnitude determines number and hit dice of creature conjured.
1st Magnitude: one creature of 2HD or D4 of 1HD
2nd Magnitude: one creature of 4HD or D4 of 2HD
3rd Magnitude: one creature of 6HD or D6 of 3HD
4th Magnitude: one creature of 8HD or D6 of 4HD
5th Magnitude: one creature of 10HD or D8 of 5HD
6th Magnitude: one creature of 12HD or D8 of 6HD
7th Magnitude: one creature of 14HD or D10 of 7HD
8th Magnitude: one creature of 16HD or D10 of 8HD
9th Magnitude: one creature of 18HD or D12 of 9HD

EXPLOSIVE FIRE: the wizard hurls a ball of fire up to 30 yards that explodes; magnitude determines fire damage to those caught within its 20’ radius (save for half damage).
1st Magnitude: 2D6 damage
2nd Magnitude: 4D6 damage
3rd Magnitude: 6D6 damage
4th Magnitude: 8D6 damage
5th Magnitude: 10D6 damage
6th Magnitude: 12D6 damage
7th Magnitude: 14D6 damage
8th Magnitude: 16D6 damage
9th Magnitude: 18D6 damage

MIND CONTROL: wizard invades and subverts the mind of another. Must look into target’s eyes (maximum range 30’) unless possessing a piece of the creature (hair, nails, skin) or treasured personal effect (like a PC’s “trinket”). Magnitude determines extent of control on a failed saving throw; ability to obey commands will largely depend on the wizard’s ability to communicate with the subject.
1st Magnitude: subjects considers wizard to be a good friend and is helpful
2nd Magnitude: subject may be commanded to do things it would normally do
3rd Magnitude: subject may be commanded to do things it wouldn’t normally do (guards will release prisoners in their charge, non-combatants will fight, etc.)
4th Magnitude: subject will harm loved ones or put their own lives in grave peril
5th Magnitude: as 4th magnitude, but with telepathic control
6th Magnitude: subject will commit suicide upon command
7th Magnitude: subject will commit unspeakable acts of violence against self and loved ones, including flaying, mutilation, etc.
8th Magnitude: wizard can control victim like puppet (shared language unneeded)
9th Magnitude: absolute control; memory and personality can be permanently altered or “wiped” (reducing character’s level down to 1st if so desired)

NECROMANCY: wizard exhibits power over the dead, raising them to obey his commands. The creature must be in relatively good condition (i.e. recently dead), and is considered a zombie with one hit die more than it had in life. Humans and other man-sized humanoids (elves, dwarves) are considered to have one HD for this purpose and so become 2HD zombies, regardless of their original level; smaller creatures (halflings, house cats) become 1HD zombies. The magnitude determines the number of zombie HD that can be raised with one casting of the spell; higher magnitude spells allow more creatures (or larger creatures) to be raised. If the roll is less than needed to raise a particularly large creature, the spell fails.
1st Magnitude: 2 HD (one human zombie)
2nd Magnitude: D6+1 HD of zombies
3rd Magnitude: 2D4 HD of zombies
4th Magnitude: 2D6 HD of zombies
5th Magnitude: 2D8 HD of zombies
6th Magnitude: 2D10 HD of zombies
7th Magnitude: 2D12 HD of zombies
8th Magnitude: 2D20 HD of zombies
9th Magnitude: D100 HD of zombies

PROPHETIC VISION: the wizard gains knowledge of what the future holds. Actions may be taken to change the course of the future, and being forewarned is forearmed (for example, the wizard can receive advantage on a saving throw based on the vision). Magnitude determines the extent of the knowledge gained.
1st Magnitude: vague feelings (good/reward, bad/danger, or neutral) regarding a single, specific course of action (taking the left-hand tunnel, picking up the crown, etc.)
2nd Magnitude: single, specific mental image (sleeping dragon, corpse killed by arrow) based on course of action examined
3rd Magnitude: specific mental scene of possible outcome of action, including movement and sound (party fighting a particular monster; how a trap is triggered and its effects).
4th Magnitude: specific information regarding any particular goal or action intended in the next day; up to two scenes (as per 3rd magnitude) will be revealed
5th Magnitude: as 4th magnitude but can examine the course of actions for a week in advance; three scenes will be revealed to the wizard
6th Magnitude: as 4th magnitude but can examine the course of actions for a month in advance; four scenes will be revealed to the wizard
7th Magnitude: as 4th magnitude but can examine the course of actions for a year in advance; five scenes will be revealed to the wizard
8th Magnitude: as 4th magnitude but can examine the course of actions for a decade in advance; six scenes will be revealed to the wizard
9th Magnitude: as 4th magnitude but can examine the course of action as it relates to future generations, up to a century from the time of casting; seven scenes will be revealed

SENSORY DECEPTION: the wizard can alter the perception and senses of all those within his presence; unless stated otherwise affect lasts as long as caster takes no action besides normal movement, and as long as the wizard remains within sight of the effect. Wizards can dispel their own permanent illusions at will.
1st Magnitude: wizard may alter one sensory component; changing a sound (like dripping water to sound like a roaring fire) or a smell (rotten food to smell delicious) or vision (changing his own appearance). The sensory deception will have roughly the same size as the original: a trickle of water cannot be made to sound like a thundering waterfall, and an elf wizard cannot appear to be an ogre.
2nd Magnitude: wizard may “hide in plain view,” being ignored by all unless attacking or otherwise disturbing those in his/her vicinity (“disturbance” need not be physical; carrying a light source into the den of creatures used to the dark would count).
3rd Magnitude: wizard may create illusions from nothing, with both sound and sight components; it lasts as long as the wizard concentrates. The illusion has no tactile sensation and cannot harm others.
4th Magnitude: as 1st or 2nd magnitude, but may be extended to D4 senses/individuals
5th Magnitude: wizard may make himself, or another, or a single object of large size or smaller completely imperceptible to others (as the invisible condition, but without tracks or noise)
6th Magnitude: as 3rd magnitude, but lasts even without concentration (until dispelled)
7th Magnitude: as 5th magnitude, but lasts even without concentration (until dispelled)
8th Magnitude: as 7th magnitude, but the deception extends even to massive objects (castles, purple worms)
9th Magnitude: as 8th magnitude, but deception removes tactile sensation as well, effectively turning the object or creature into a permanent ghost (saving throws apply for an unwilling creature)

[we'll deal with the "mighty magics" in our next installment...to be continued]