Everyone plays Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. But these rules are so much easier to play and friendlier to the players when compared to the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st Edition rules. I am sharing some of the differences to make you aware of how easy you have it, starting with the magic-user class.
Single Class and Hit Points
First, you need to know that there were none of these sorcerers and warlocks classes. When it came to the mages, you could be a magic-user or an illusionist. That was it! Both classes have the same abilities and spells. The illusionist was a sub-class of the magic-user class, so characters needed a high intelligence. But the illusionist spells also required nimble fingers to cast, so the illusionist needed a high dexterity. The high dexterity would help the class with its armour class – more about this later.
In the first Edition, all the classes had a different die to roll for their hit points. Magic users had the lowest hit die of all the classes. When rolling for hit points, you rolled 1d4. That’s right, the starting magic user had only one to four hit points. The average was 2 or 3, so they needed help staying alive. An arrow would do 1d6 points of damage, and a dagger 1d4. With even a low-damage roll, the magic-users could find themselves dead on the floor!
Armour Class and Weapons
In the first edition, magic users were prohibited from wearing any armour. Even if you chose a race that could wear armour, it was banned by the class. This meant the mages usually wore just their robes, giving them an armour class of ten. You have to remember that the armour class was not their ‘to hit roll’. You needed to roll a certain number to hit an armour class. The number changed for classes and levels. For a first-level character to hit armour class ten, they would need 10 or 11 on a twenty-sided die. By the time the fighters got to the 8th level, they would only need a two or higher, and an 11+ level fighter would need a zero or higher!
A high dexterity score would lower the armour class, so illusionists were slightly less vulnerable in combat.
Weapons were also limited. Magic Users could only use the following weapons. Staffs, daggers, and darts were the only weapons they could use, and at first level, they could only be proficient with one of them. If they used a weapon, they were not proficient in, they would incur a minus five to hit!
But the worst is yet to come!
Magic users were very weak at first level when it came to combat. But possibly where their skill lay was with the manipulation of the arcane!
They could cast spells, but that was only partially correct at first level. They had one spell at first level. Yes, you heard that correctly. ONE SPELL!
They had no cantrips or special abilities. They would venture down the dungeon clutching their dagger in paper-thin robes and one spell.
Playing a lot of mages, I would go for sleep or magic missiles. With the latter, I might have the option to put a group of monsters to sleep. If I took the magic missile spell, I would save it to try and get a free automatic hit on a monster, preferably in the last battle of the dungeon.
Saving up that one spell was key to the whole class survival. You might survive if you had it when your life was threatened. If not, it was back to the drawing board, and a new mage would be born!
As you can see, magic users had it tough in the first edition of the rules. If they managed to survive, they would become more powerful. But when you are complaining about your warlock, wizard or sorcerer with their armour, weapons, cantrips and spell abilities, remember that compared to previous game rules, you have never had it so good!