In our last M20 Hard Core session – the second session of River Into Darkness by Greg A. Vaughan – I got the feedback from the level 4 wizard player Marco that he wasn’t enjoying the rule that spellcasting costs hitpoints.
Emotionally, there is not much we can do. He’s unhappy, and the rules are there to allow us all to have some fun. I guess one possible reaction would be to tell Marco that maybe the M20 wizards are not for him.
In terms of balance, I felt that the wizard was just right. He didn’t overshadow anybody using spells and yet the wizard didn’t suck because there was always things to do. Consider that Moni’s fighter spent four rounds below the ship destroying the trap – doing nothing at all, if you want.
In terms of comparison with a D&D 3.5 wizard I also felt that we weren’t doing too badly. Let’s assume a level 4 wizard in D&D 3.5 has 12 hitpoints and knows three 2nd level spells and five 1st level spells (add one each due to an ability bonus).
An M20 HC wizard would have around 24 hitpoints, and if he were to cast his favorite spells, he’d spend 12+10 hitpoints to cast three 2nd level spells and five 1st level spells.
Yes, in this situation the M20 HC wizard is living very dangerously with only two hitpoints left and no way to heal.
Then again, after 30 minutes the M20 HC wizard will be back with his full array of spells. There’s no rationale to demand a 15 minute adventuring day! This, I feel, is a great benefit.
At the same time, a wizard can decide to cast three 2nd level spells and leave it at that. He’ll have 12 hitpoints left just like his D&D 3.5 friend, and he’ll still be able join the next fight.
Plus a M20 HC wizard has the same attack progression as everybody else. Using a crossbow or a sling will continue to make sense later in the game.
When I compare it to my current level 3 dwarven wizard Gar I find that I need to play my D&D 3.5 wizard even more economically. I won’t be using my spells for most encounters, and I’ll use maybe ten charges from a wand per day – most of it being mage armor and burning hands. Personally I didn’t feel like the M20 HC wizard was significantly weaker than the D&D 3.5 wizard.
All of these arguments won’t really solve the problem for Marco. So here are some options.
I need to think about this some more. Right now I don’t feel like changing the rules because the result feels about right. But unfortunately the result just feels right to me.