Several people have asked me lately, how is a wizard supposed to survive on his own in the typical solo adventure, especially when he/she goes up against more than one foe or a monster he can’t kill with his first spell? I’ve been thinking about this situation for a few days now. I discussed the problem with my son, Corencio, over supper tonight. Corencio hasn’t played as much T & T as he should–that’s probably my fault for not insisting on playing more often, but when he does play, he usually plays a wizard, and he has been instrumental in saving the party in several games where I’ve seen him in action. He has a good feel for how wizards should be played.
So, here’s the Wizard’s Dilemma: you are a moderately powerful wizard adventuring on your own, perhaps in a solo adventure, when you suddenly run into a group of relatively weak foes/monsters who attack you. The only real area effect spell in T & T is Smog, and it doesn’t kill anything outright, simply weakens the foe. Combat spells either make weapons more powerful or target one specific foe. The wizard in the solo is allowed to use combat spells, so he casts TTYF, slays one monster, and then goes down as the remainder of the group of monsters swarms over him and cuts/bites/mauls him to death before he can get off a second spell.
Corencio’s immediate reaction to the problem was to cast Protective Pentagram. The pentagram creates a protective energy barrier around the creature touched–in this case the caster. Neither spell nor weapons can penetrate this transparent wall of magical force for 2 combat turns. The main problem is that it’s a level 4 spell that costs 24 WIZ to cast. Not many players are going to have such a powerful wizard.
So, I asked him what he would do if he weren’t quite strong enough for Protective Pentagram. He countered by asking if these small foes had missile weapons, and when I said, probably not, he retorted that he’d cast Fly Me, and lift himself up out of their range. That’s only a 3rd level spell with a cost of 7, and it lasts for 10 minutes, which is 5 combat rounds. Once safely out of range, he would pick off his foes one by one with TTYFs.
That seems pretty effective. But I pressed him for more answers. His third response was that any smart wizard ought to have a few warriors along to protect him in such situations. I countered with, but you don’t. You’re out there alone, and 5 goblins with monster ratings of 10 each are attacking you. You kill one, and the other 4 swarm over you and slay you before you can do anything else. And you’re not 3rd level, and you don’t know Fly me, or you’re in a narrow tunnel and there really isn’t room to rise above your foes.
He then asked if this moderately powerful wizard was at least 2nd level. You really shouldn’t be out where gangs can attack you if you’re not at least 2nd level. I granted that he was at least 2nd level. Then he said, “I’ll cast Hidey Hole, go invisible, step off to the side where they are not likely to find me, and quietly sneak away from them, or else use TTYFs to blast them one by one.” This is only a 2nd level spell that costs 10 WIZ and it lasts for 5 combat turns. Now the rules state that Hidey Hole reduces enemy combat totals by half, but in a game situation I’d be willing to rule that the enemy doesn’t get a combat total against a foe they cannot see, or otherwise find. So, bloodbats could probably find a wizard inside a Hidey Hole by using echo location, but Goblins couldn’t. Nor would a troll, an ogre, or any other humanoid creature. Again, I would say the wizard’s chances are excellent for surviving once he’s inside the Hidey Hole spell.
By this time a pattern has emerged from Corencio’s thinking. Instead of taking an offensive action first, the prudent wizard covers his butt, and takes a defensive action first. Once he has arranged it so that the enemy can’t hit him, then he either gets out of Dodge, or takes his foes down one by one.
This is brilliant, imho. If you examine the first 5 or 6 levels of spellcasting, you will find a number of spells that can be used defensively. In face to face play, this kind of defense first strategy is very likely to work, and the wizard, who should be cleverer than your average bash-em first warrior, should be able to make fools of his foes and triumph. In solo adventures however, and I’ll admit I’m guilty of this, the adventure creator doesn’t give an option for a defensive spell–doesn’t think of it, or doesn’t consider how many different ways the wizard might have for evading trouble. In fact, you’re lucky if you even get a “run away” option in most solos.
This Wizard’s Dilemma might indicate at least one place where the T & T combat system is at least slightly broken or inadequate. I say “might” because I think it is more likely to show a place where the players are inadequate, but . . . perhaps the rules should spell out ways of handling such problems. A new edition of T & T will probably come out this summer, and I’ve had some thoughts about how players might cope with the Wizard’s Dilemma, even if the solo text doesn’t give them the option of using defensive spells. I’ll talk about other ways out of the situation in part 2 of this essay.
If you can think of other ways to get around the Wizards Dilemma, or if you wrote a solo adventure for wizards and dealt with the problem inside it, then please leave a comment.