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What's the reasoning behind the weapon restrictions on AD&D 2e's mage? [closed]

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Bhanu Gupta

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( 6 months ago )

 

I am working on a mage for a D&D 2e party I'm joining -- they need the arcane support! However, I was reviewing the weapon restrictions list in the 2e PHB, and while the intent (weapons that require little training or strength to use, or are otherwise useful to the mage) is clear and sensible to me, the list of weapons in the PHB does not seem completely consistent with the intent.

In particular, why are crossbows of any type nowhere to be found on the list? Their ease of use and learning compared to practically any other ranged weapon, -- even blowguns and to some extent slings (which are allowed for mages) -- is what made them such a thorn in the side of RL knights; furthermore, the PHB itself states that "Strength bonuses or penalties do not apply to crossbows, as they are purely mechanical devices", which would make them quite attractive to a (presumably physically weak) arcanist.

Is there some game balance concern at work here I'm not seeing? I will be asking my DM about this later on...

Also, why is the use of ranged weapons by wizards considered so stylistically inappropriate? It makes far more tactical sense for them to maintain range even when in a situation where they are out of magic or can't make productive use of their spells for whatever reason, as range is the armor of the mage!

Finally: how much training does a crossbow require to be basically competent with it, vs a blowgun, a throwing knife or a sling? I have a hard time imagining that you'd be any bit accurate with any of them without some training, which is what really makes me scratch my head here.

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Brian Burl

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( 6 months ago )

 

Is there some game balance concern at work here I'm not seeing?

Intention of the rules

Mages cannot wear armor, have only few hitpoints and are very restricted concerning weapons. This is for game balance reasons to offset their enormous magical potential. This balance considerations are explained by the fact that mages have no training at all with weapons or armor to focus on magic. They can only use very basic household weapons and a crossbow is not one of them.

Reality

In reality, although we consider crossbows a relatively easy weapon to use compared to the bow, that's only half the truth. The mage's weapons, like darts, staff and dagger can be handled be virtually anyone. I can handle them good enough to not hurt myself (mostly...) and I have no training at all. A crossbow does need training. Although I theoretically know how a crossbow works, if you gave one to me, I'd probably have problems to get the mechanic to work. Is it easy to learn? Probably. Does it need training? Yes, it does. And why would I train to use a crossbow when I could spend the time to learn magic.

Speculation

Crossbows are a relatively powerful weapon. However, compared to the bow using 2e rules, it's horrible. There is nothing in the books actually describing the crossbow as inferior to the bow, so I guess it was not intended for it to be that weak. It did have superior range, it's just that D&D does not actually use that range very often. If the next dungeon wall is 30 feet away, having a good long range is not enough to make up for the advantages of the bow. The crossbow did get stronger in later editions. So the reasoning for not allowing mages to use one probably was that the crossbow should have been a powerful weapon at least somewhat comparable to the bow and therefore the balance would have required it to not be usable by mages.

Houserules

I think from a pure game mechanical point, crossbows being as weak as they are, having one as a mage would probably not be too powerful. However, the crossbow does not count strength penalties either, so trying to use one with a strength of 6 would be pretty powerful compared to all other options. Gameplay wise, it doesn't make a difference with all the other combat disadvantages of the mage (even if it grants more damage, I'd say let him have it for the one occasion every session the mage actually manages to hit), but personally, I would not allow it for style reasons. Have you ever read a book or seen a movie where the mage was dragging along a crossbow? As a matter of fact, I cannot even remember one where the mage had any ranged weapon at all.

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Brian Burl

User

( 6 months ago )

 

Is there some game balance concern at work here I'm not seeing?

Intention of the rules

Mages cannot wear armor, have only few hitpoints and are very restricted concerning weapons. This is for game balance reasons to offset their enormous magical potential. This balance considerations are explained by the fact that mages have no training at all with weapons or armor to focus on magic. They can only use very basic household weapons and a crossbow is not one of them.

Reality

In reality, although we consider crossbows a relatively easy weapon to use compared to the bow, that's only half the truth. The mage's weapons, like darts, staff and dagger can be handled be virtually anyone. I can handle them good enough to not hurt myself (mostly...) and I have no training at all. A crossbow does need training. Although I theoretically know how a crossbow works, if you gave one to me, I'd probably have problems to get the mechanic to work. Is it easy to learn? Probably. Does it need training? Yes, it does. And why would I train to use a crossbow when I could spend the time to learn magic.

Speculation

Crossbows are a relatively powerful weapon. However, compared to the bow using 2e rules, it's horrible. There is nothing in the books actually describing the crossbow as inferior to the bow, so I guess it was not intended for it to be that weak. It did have superior range, it's just that D&D does not actually use that range very often. If the next dungeon wall is 30 feet away, having a good long range is not enough to make up for the advantages of the bow. The crossbow did get stronger in later editions. So the reasoning for not allowing mages to use one probably was that the crossbow should have been a powerful weapon at least somewhat comparable to the bow and therefore the balance would have required it to not be usable by mages.

Houserules

I think from a pure game mechanical point, crossbows being as weak as they are, having one as a mage would probably not be too powerful. However, the crossbow does not count strength penalties either, so trying to use one with a strength of 6 would be pretty powerful compared to all other options. Gameplay wise, it doesn't make a difference with all the other combat disadvantages of the mage (even if it grants more damage, I'd say let him have it for the one occasion every session the mage actually manages to hit), but personally, I would not allow it for style reasons. Have you ever read a book or seen a movie where the mage was dragging along a crossbow? As a matter of fact, I cannot even remember one where the mage had any ranged weapon at all.

what's your interest


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