Wednesday, June 7, 2023

My Magic (Part 3)

Not much time to blog today (plus, I'd like to get to some other the new Dungeons & Dragons film). But, for the sake of completeness, I wanted to add one more installment to this series. I'll keep it short.

Druids. Illusionists. Bards.

The last time a player ran an illusionist in one of my campaigns, I was (maybe) 14 years old. Maybe. I can't even recall any gnome multi-class types. Just a single illusionist...a pre-gen created specifically to try running D1: Descent into the Depths of the Earth.

I have never had a player character druid in any campaign I've run. Ever.

I have an (adult) friend, who really wants to join my game, and wants to play a druid. Unfortunately, he resides on Camano Island and isn't exactly mobile, which means the only way we'd be able to play is via the Zoom or something...which I am loathe to do for a number of reasons. Still, there remains the possibility that I'll see a 1st level druid in my campaign at some point in the near future.

But I have had time to think about it, and my gut reaction is to simply leave druids exactly as written in the PHB. Yes, they must memorize (or "pray for") spells at the beginning of the day, unlike my clerics; however, this "memorization" represents the druid preparing their mistletoe and whatnot (via shamanic/ritual magic) in anticipation of the coming day's events. 

Besides which: I've never seen a druid in my game (didn't I just say that?). So why should I go about "fixing" something that may work perfectly fine?

Illusionists are a...slightly...different matter. I've written extensively about my love for the illusionist class as both a concept AND as originally imagined/designed for the OD&D game by Peter Aronson. As reworked by Gygax for the AD&D system, the spell list for the class is...poor (see prior blog posts here and here, and specific discussions on color spray and phantasmal force). The class, unfortunately, needs a lot of "clean-up."

But how can I say that, when I haven't actually seen a player run and develop an illusionist character over a long-term campaign? How do I know that the printed in the PHB...wasn't reworked specifically due to extensive play-testing and is, in fact, the perfect representation of the class?

How indeed.

I would love to play an illusionist character...if I were playing in the campaign of a DM that I respect and trust. Say, someone like me. I have played illusionists before...on two occasions with different DMs. Both times they were using the Advanced Labyrinth Lord rules (which just means B/X with some AD&D adaptations). Neither game lasted more than a single session, and the character had little opportunity to "stretch its legs." But, then, neither of those games was what I'd call "open worlds;" just dungeons that we were stuck in. You know...typical Basic level play.

[I'm so tired of basic play]

SO...illusionists. Don't really know HOW I'd run them now, because no one wants to play them in my campaign. I do have extensive spell list revisions stored somewhere on my laptop...I'd be tempted to break those out. But probably, I'd just start with the standard rules (if someone wanted to play an illusionist). Probably tack on the same house rules I use for magic-users. Probably. There's a part of me that likes the idea of an illusionist creating more than one phantasmal image in a long as it's not the same image. 

The testing is all in the playing.

And as for bards: welp, since I started my new campaign I haven't seen any of those yet, either...although Diego keeps saying he'd like to play one; he just keeps missing on the ability scores needed. 

Oh, right, forgot to mention: I scrapped the whole single-class bard idea, I posted a while back. The fact is, I've played and run MANY 1st edition bards over the years (eight that I can think of off the top of my head, and not counting pre-gens like Olaf Peacock in Dwellers of the Forbidden City) and, in my experience, the class works fine as written. Would I prefer their magic is a little more "bardic" in nature, rather than druidic? Sure. And perhaps I'll do something about that one day. Like, the next time a PC actually acquires a 1st level bard in my campaign (after first progressing through fighter and thief classes). Until then, I'm not terribly worried about it.

Which, by the by, is also my attitude towards high level rangers and paladins (both of whom receive some spell-casting ability). I've seen a lot of high level fighters over the years; I can't recall ever seeing a ranger over 7th level or a paladin over 3rd. SO...unless and until I do, I'll just run these characters By The Book. 

That's all folks.
: )


  1. In the present set of player characters I'm running just now, the party includes TWO druids and what you'd call a "single-class" bard. The druids have proven extremely effective in the dungeon-based adventure they're pursuing; the bard is 1st level and hasn't got it's legs yet. The other PCs range from 1st to 5th.

    The principle hang-up of the druid is that, except for some choice spells, they're hamstrung if they're working underground. Faerie fire, obscurement, healing, barkskin, those do all right; but many of their higher, more powerful spells are nature-relevant. The campaign also includes an 11th level druid (not running at the moment), who is unquestionably the most powerful person in the party, OUTDOORS. This also has much to do with the fellow running the druid is hell on wheels as a planner, fast thinker and lucky die roller.

    The principle drawback of the illusionist (and I have made modifications to the class, but kept most of the spells), is that so many of the spells require, as my daughter says (running an 8th level druid in the campaign, not presently), EYEBALLS. Monsters without eyeballs are highly immune to illusionist spells. It is, to say the least, frustrating when fighting creatures that aren't thinkers or seers. I find it rather funny overall, and of course my daughter has ways to get around the drawback.

    1. Ha! Interesting information…much appreciated.

      You know, I always felt there was probably a lot (well, a fair amount) of “life” underground, that a Druid might tap into. But I suppose the AD&D Druid is more trees and sky than moss and lichen. Probably a decent trade off, all things considered.

  2. "I would love to play an illusionist character...if I were playing in the campaign of a DM that I respect and trust. Say, someone like me"

    This would be me for both druids and illusionists since the mid-1980s. Both classes are quirky and offer lots of opportunities for inventive play. Alexis' daughter's point about needing eyes is an astute one, one that I hadn't realised but seems now very obvious. On the druid, I always think of them as earthy rather than 'foresty' but agree that they have some substantial constraints far underground.

  3. Considering the RW origins of bards, it makes perfect sense to use the druid spell list. On the other hand I really dislike the dnd version(any edition) of the druid and bard and just haven't figured out how I want to represent them. So my opinion may not bear much weight.

    1. No, I get what you’re saying. Druids in recent editions are…mm…a whole different story. But even the 1E druids share little in common with their historical antecedents.

      Probably need to be played up as far more sinister beings…something more like the Red Wizards in the new D&D flick.
      ; )

    2. I agree that there's many elements of the druid class as described in D&D doesn't really chime with what we know about them in the real world. However, what we do know is via the Romans only and they weren't necessarily 100% objective in what they wrote.

      The 2e book HR3 The Celts provides some good information on making them more historically accurate but still magical and trying to keep them enjoyable to play. I've felt that many of the Shukenja spells from 1e OA, particularly those that relate to divination or the nature spirits suit the Druid class.

  4. High level rangers aren't really spellcasting powerhouses, but the presence of both Druid and Magic-User spells gives them a lot of options. It's like having a few more magic items.