This week, I am off work and at a training facility to go learn the C# programming language. And by that, I mean I am in a small bathroom-sized office where a man teaches us the secrets of computers via conference call and remote desktop connection where things happened eerily on the screen without anyone pushing buttons. There was somebody there to let me in, and then I didn’t see a soul all day. It is a strange experience, not unlike living in the Post-Apocalyptic Midwest and being taught the secrets of the Ancients by ghosts. Well, sort of. Based on today’s experiences, the last bastion of humanity lives in a Hardee’s. I hope that burger I ate was, in fact, cow.
The Learning Experience
All this got me thinking about how PCs level. In most of the games I play in, we just sort of level up as the campaign progresses. I can buy that. My years of martial arts training tell me that a boot to the head is a very powerful lesson. Combat is a great teacher, assuming one survives. However, the theory always sort of fell apart for me when it came to wizards. Certainly, the wizard would gain a lot of knowledge about what worked and what didn’t after a few battles, but that doesn’t explain why a few weeks into his travels he suddenly knows how to cast a Fireball. Wizards always got screwed anyway. After a hard day’s work maiming unspeakable creatures, the fighter chugs some ale and crashes on his bedroll. The cleric has a little more to do in that he has to say something to the effect of “Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Thanks For The Spells” to his deity before it’s lights out for him as well. The rogue might pick the cleric’s pocket if he’s having trouble sleeping, but by and large he can disappear into the shadows and escape off to dreamland once the party makes camp. Up until recently, though, the poor Wizard was stuck not only re-learning the spells that he forgot (due to the extremely poor memory management of the Vancian magic system, mercifully fixed in the last service pack) but was also expected to spend his nights researching new spells. It’s no wonder the Wizard is the most physically frail of the character classes. They’re never allowed to sleep!
Of course, there are those who think the best learning comes from being taught by one more experienced. I can buy this too. Repeated combats without directed instruction and practice tend to yield slower and more painful results. While having the PCs find a trainer to practice and break those training plateaus that only repeated kobold skull-crushings can give sounds like a fine idea, those who have played the old SSI Gold Box games like Pool of Radiance understand what a pleasure it is to finally get enough experience to level up — and then have to travel halfway across a continent to find a city big enough to have a trainer for their class before they can do anything about it. I’m sure the wizard in the party is going to be thrilled. More reading! At least now he’ll have good lighting and it probably won’t be raining on his spellbook.
Learning To The Hell With It
Actually, you know what? This isn’t an article about leveling up anymore. This is about wizards and how they should just incinerate everybody they meet. They’re just crapped on by some cosmic force their entire lives. High-level fighter? Strong, big muscles, gets all the chicks! High-level wizard? Creepy, lives in a tower, probably thinking about becoming undead. You know why wizards become liches? It’s because liches can’t feel anything. All a wizard wants out of life is some steak and the love of a good woman. But no, if he ever successfully manages to have a significant other, it’s always late in his career and nobody ever bothers to research any spells to combat ED and he always winds up with one of those psycho hose-beasts that gets off on the power and will eventually sneak into his lab and summon a demon to help her dispose of the poor guy, and it always goes wrong and a barbarian has to show up to clean up the mess and then all his gold his gone and also he’s probably been sucked into an alternate dimension where he’s being used as a Ring Pop by an aboleth. Is it any wonder most wizards want to gouge out their eye (and replace it with Vecna’s)?
Screw it. I’m done writing this article. I’m going to go play some Dragon Age 2 so I can calm down.