Archive for August, 2014

Eclipse and D&D Fifth Edition – The Wizard

August 3, 2014

The last of the four classes in the Basic version of D&D Fifth Edition is also the one with the oldest direct pedigree. The wizard predates even the D&D game itself, having debuted back in D&D’s progenitor game: Chainmail. Alongside the hero and the super-hero (which were basically fighters, where the hero was equal to four normal men and the super-hero was equal to two heroes), the wizard helped to set the foundation for what players could expect in their medieval fantasy games.

The Wizard

No one had the heart to tell Jim that he’d misunderstood the instructions to “make a Basic wizard.”

While many of its specifics changed across the editions (including its name, as its been the wizard, the magic-user, the mage, etc.), the basics have remained the same. The wizard eschews everything outside of their ability to cast spells, allowing them access to the most powerful magic in the game. While certain areas of magic may be outside of their purview (healing spells are notable, here) no other class has the versatility that wizardly magic allows.

This tradition remains true in Basic 5E. While the wizard has an expanded array of class features, all of them complement their spellcasting, rather than dilute it in favor of diversification. Using the point-buy mechanics in Eclipse: the Codex Persona, we can break the class down to get a better understanding of how it compares not only to its fellow Basic 5E classes, but against its 3.5 counterpart as well.

The Basic 5Eclipse Wizard

Available Character Points: 504 CP (level 20 base).

Basic Abilities (48 CP)

  • Hit Dice: Fast Learner, specialized for double effect/only for Hit Dice (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: small group of simple weapons (daggers, darts, light crossbows, quarterstaffs, slings) (2 CP).
  • BAB: +6 Warcraft, specialized for one-half cost/only applies to weapons that you have proficiency with, corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks (12 CP).
  • Saves: +6 to two saving throws (36 CP).
  • Skills: +6 to two skills (12 CP).
  • Restriction: May not wear armor (-20 CP).

We’re using some cost-saving measures right out of the gate, for reasons we’ll discuss at the end of the article. At this point, the big savings are using Fast Learner to bump the wizard’s Hit Dice up to a d6 at each level, and the restriction on wearing armor.

That restriction would normally be dubious, given that the wizard isn’t taking armor proficiency anyway, and that it’s also using the components limitation on its spellcasting (see below). What justifies its inclusion here is that, in Basic 5E, wearing armor causes arcane spellcasting to fail utterly; no check allowed. Since Eclipse normally defaults to the 3.5 rules, which allow a % chance to succeed when casting arcane spells in armor, we’re using this restriction to model Basic 5E’s tougher stance.

Wizard Spellcasting (242 CP)

  • 20 levels wizard progression (Intelligence-based; spontaneous casting; arcane magic; studies, components, and restrained limitations), corrupted for two-thirds cost/reduce the spells per day at each level by two-thirds (round up), specialized for increased effect/may rearrange spells known each day with spells from spellbook, cannot use any metamagic theorems (100 CP).
  • 20 caster levels, specialized for one-half cost/only for wizard progression (60 CP).
  • Occult Ritual, specialized for increased effect/does not require a skill check; may only be used with certain spells in your spellbook to mimic their effects (6 CP).
  • Gain two spells at each level after 1st (76 CP).

The wizard’s spellcasting progression is subject to the same issues that were brought up for the cleric. As such, we’re using the same modifications to make it do what we need it to do. The biggest change is that, since the wizard has a slightly better spell list, it’s specialization requires a slightly larger weakness, in that it requires pulling the wizard’s Spells Known each day from their spellbook, rather than from their class spell list directly.

Another point that needs to be noted is that we’ve added a third limitation here: restrained. This reduces the cost of the magic progression by 3 CP at each level – from 11 down to 8 – as discussed on p. 11 of Eclipse. We then apply the corruption, reducing that down to 5 CP per level.

The restrained limitation is meant to model another aspect of Basic 5E, albeit an implicit one. Specifically, that the wizard’s spell list is limited to what’s presented in the Basic 5E rules, and nothing else. Unlike earlier editions of the wizard, a Basic 5E wizard doesn’t have hordes of splatbooks, magazine articles, and third-party products to massively expand what spells are out there. They’re limited to the rather small list in the Basic 5E rules, and that’s it. For the sake of convenience, the spell list is reproduced below (modified where necessary to the most-similar 3.5 or Pathfinder spells):

0-level: acid splash, dancing lights, ghost sound, light, mage hand, prestidigitation, ray of frost, shocking grasp.

1st-level: burning hands, charm person, comprehend languages, detect magic, hydraulic push, identify, mage armor, magic missile, shield, silent image, sleep.

2nd-level: arcane lock, blur, darkness, flaming sphere, hold person, invisibility, knock, levitate, spider climb, suggestion, web, wink (as blink, but for 1 round only).

3rd-level: dispel magic, fireball, fly, haste, lightning bolt, major image, protection from energy.

4th-level: arcane eye, dimension door, greater invisibility, ice storm, stoneskin.

5th-level: cone of cold, dominate person, dream, passwall, wall of stone.

6th-level: chain lightning, disintegrate, irresistible dance, globe of invulnerability, mass suggestion, true seeing.

7th-level: delayed blast fireball, finger of death, mage’s sword, teleport.

8th-level: dominate monster, maze, power word stun, sunburst.

9th-level: foresight, imprisonment, meteor swarm, power word kill, time stop.

Alternately, if you don’t want to be quite so strict, you could allow each spell level to have one more spell – two at most – that could represent original research, forgotten magics, or some other minor expansions. Anything more than that, however, would likely compromise having the restrained limitation.

Class Features (174 CP)

  • Arcane Recovery: Rite of Chi, specialized for one-half cost/may not restore more spell levels than one-half the character’s total levels, corrupted for increased effect/3d6 spell levels recovered; requires a one-hour rest to activate (3 CP).
  • Ability Score Improvements: +10 ability score improvements (120 CP).
  • Spell Mastery: Shaping, specialized and corrupted (only as a prerequisite) (2 CP). Pulse of the Dragon II (18 CP). Heart of the Dragon II, specialized for double effect and corrupted for two-thirds cost/only for a specific 1st– and 2nd-level spell, which can be changed each day (12 CP).
  • Signature Spells: Invocation with the Split modifier, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/may only be used for two 3rd-level spells (3 CP). Two instances of Inherent Spell with +4 Bonus Uses, corrupted for two-thirds cost/must rest at least one hour between each use (16 CP).

The Spell Mastery power is surprisingly expensive. That’s because Eclipse has very few ways to allow for unlimited usage of magical abilities – which is what that ability calls for – and those that it does have are sharply checked by price. All the more so if they’re as variable as Spell Mastery is.

Evocation Tradition (42 CP)

  • Evocation Savant: Spell Shorthand, specialized for one-half cost/only for Evocation spells (3 CP).
  • Sculpt Spells: Sculpting metamagic theorem, specialized and corrupted for one-third cost/only for the Targeting metamagic ability, may only be used with Evocation spells (2 CP). Streamline, specialized and corrupted for triple effect/only for the Sculpting metamagic theorem, only with the Targeting metamagic ability (6 CP). Fast metamagic modifier (6 CP).
  • Potent Cantrip: Amplify metamagic theorem, double-specialized for one-fourth cost/only for the Augment ability (modified; deals one-half damage on an opponent’s successful save) which can be used only for Evocation cantrips (1 CP). Streamline, specialized for double effect/only for the Amplify metamagic theorem, corrupted for two-thirds cost/only with the Augment metamagic ability (4 CP).
  • Empowered Evocation: Ability Focus (Evocation – variant; adds bonus to damage instead of DC), corrupted for increased effect/grants damage equal to Intelligence modifier (12 CP).
  • Overchannel: Buy off one of the specializations on the Amplify metamagic theorem, so that it can also use Maximize (2 CP). Glory metamagic modifier, specialized and corrupted for increased effect/only for Maximizing spells of 5th-level or below; may be used at will, but the second time each day deals the user 2d12 damage per spell level, with each subsequent use per day increasing the damage by 1d12 per spell level (6 CP).

The majority of these powers were unexpectedly difficult to build. Leaving aside that we had to build in some exceptions to the “no metamagic” specialization on the wizard’s magic progression levels, the most suspicious purchase here is likely the double-specialization on the Amplify metamagic theorem for the Potent Cantrip ability. Normally double-specializing is something that should be disallowed as a matter of course, but we’re talking about an ability that allows for one-half damage to be dealt on a successful saves versus Evocation cantrips only…that’s a seriously weak ability. Presumably this is meant to apply to casting the cantrip in a higher-level spell slot for a scaled-up effect.

Totaling up the wizard’s expenditures comes to a final tally of 506 CP out of an allotment of 504. That’s technically over budget, but close enough that it’s essentially balanced; take a disadvantage at character creation and it all works out.

For a closer look at what’s bought when, use the following table:

Every Level: restriction/may not wear armor (-1 CP), +1 caster level, specialized in wizard progression (+3 CP), 1 level wizard progression (three limitations), specialized and corrupted (+5 CP) = 7 CP.

Level Cost Purchases
1st 44 Fast Learner, specialized (6 CP). Proficiency with small group of simple weapons (2 CP). +2 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (4 CP). +2 to two saves (12 CP). +2 to two skills (4 CP). Occult Ritual, specialized (6 CP). Rite of Chi, specialized and corrupted (3 CP).
2nd 28 Spell Shorthand, specialized (3 CP). Sculpting metamagic theorem, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). Streamline, specialized and corrupted (6 CP). Fast metamagic modifier (6 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
3rd 11 Gain two spells (4 CP).
4th 35 Ability score improvement (24 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
5th 21 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
6th 16 Aplify metamagic theorem, double-specialized (1 CP). Streamline, specialized and corrupted (4 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
7th 11 Gain two spells (4 CP).
8th 35 Ability score improvement (24 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
9th 21 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
10th 23 Ability Focus (variant), corrupted (12 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
11th 11 Gain two spells (4 CP).
12th 35 Ability score improvement (24 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
13th 21 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
14th 19 Buy off one specialization on Amplify (2 CP). Glory metamagic modifier, specialized (6 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
15th 11 Gain two spells (4 CP).
16th 35 Ability score improvement (24 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
17th 21 +1 Warcraft, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). +1 to two saves (6 CP). +1 to two skills (2 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
18th 43 Shaping, specialized and corrupted (2 CP). Pulse of the Dragon II (18 CP). Heart of the Dragon II, specialized and corrupted (12 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
19th 35 Ability score improvement (24 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).
20th 30 Invocation with the Split modifier, specialized and corrupted (3 CP). Two instances of Inherent Spell with +4 Bonus Uses, specialized for two-thirds cost (16 CP). Gain two spells (4 CP).

A close reading of the above will make it clear that, compared to the other Basic 5E classes, the wizard is vastly more powerful than its earlier-edition counterparts. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that, compared to other classes, the wizard loses relatively little in the transition to Basic 5E. They didn’t have that much in the way of Base Attack Bonus, skill points, or even save bonuses to give up. Ergo, they didn’t free up many Character Points by imposing new limits on how high those bonuses could rise. Even lowering their spell slots at the higher levels didn’t save all that many CPs.

The other reason is in contrast to that; the new suites of class abilities presented a substantial power-up, just like for the other Basic 5E classes. The big offender here is the +10 ability score improvements being built into the class’s expenditures, with the rest being the icing on the cake. Luckily, Basic 5E brings back some of the stricter limitations on wizards from earlier editions, such as a highly-restricted spell list and a blanket prohibition on spellcasting in armor. These, together with buying up their Hit Dice via Fast Learner, were just barely enough to rein the Basic 5E wizard back in.

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