The Heretic: How I Broke the Magicuser Class


Dungeons & Dragons is a game that lends itself to highly adaptable rules, rules that can vary from table to table.

These ‘homebrew’ rules are frequently created by a Dungeon Master who finds some aspect of the ‘Rules as Written’, lacking.
Admittedly, I am a heretic who has wantonly reimagined many D&D rules and concepts, no more so than my reimagining of the magicuser.

As a long-time player, and mostly ‘forever DM’, I have experienced all versions of D&D with the exception of the Original, and Holmes Basic so I remember magicusers from a time before there were wizards, sorcerers, warlocks, etc.

For me the editions of D&D weren’t as much of a switch to a rule-set, but rather an evolution in play-style, so much so that I would frequently confuse editions, and forget my own judication on rulings.
Hence BeaR-PiGS (BRPGS) or Basic Role-Playing System. 

BRPGS is essentially a collection of my house-rules. It is is inspired by the 1981 Tom Moldvay edit of Basic Dungeons and Dragons and the ascending d20 mechanic widely promoted in the 2000 Third Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, i.e. 3E and other games like Pathfinder.
BRPGS, affectionately know as BeaR-PiGS is an apocrypha hodge-podge of rulings that have developed from a 40 year run of the game.


One of the changes I made to my game was limiting the six canonical abilities to three abilities: Spirit, Mind, and Body.


Next, for my 21st century style of play for large groups of new players, (some children, some seniors and some with English as a second language), I reduced the core classes to three classes: Magic, Skill, and Combat.
This Rule of Three is a theme throughout my homebrew with only three saving throws and three types of skills, and only three bonuses to abilities. 


While clearly I had intentions of simplifying the game, I also wanted to create a more dynamic, action-packed, tactics based strategy campaign for my players to become fully immersed in. 
I have always been a little underwhelmed by the magicuser since first playing the class so many decades ago, with the class failing to reach the expectations of a young fan of Disney’s The Sword in the Stone (1963). 

The Sword in the Stone has one scene where the famous wizard, Merlin, is in a pitched spell-battle against the witch Madam Mim and I wanted to recreate just that.
I now allow magicusers to interrupt other casters with “counterspell” on a successful opposing “Spirit skill check”. 


Having disregarded the concept of alignment in favor of the philosophy that characters are complicated beings capable of good or evil;  I created three Magic Paths for the magicuser class: the Path of Light offering healing spells (the Cleric class was replaced with a Fighter-Magicuser multi class), the Path of Twilight, and the Path of Shadows, with a focus on attack and damage spell.


The Twilight Path was allowed to use the game’s “Rule of Imagination” a “Rule of Cool” ruling allowing the class to possess any spell they wanted or could imagine.

To encourage imagination and more dynamic play, I allow the players to tell me what spell they want to cast and I adjudicate accordingly. 
A first level magicuser may cast a first level fireball spell.


The Paths of Light and Shadows were afforded an “at-will-power” inspired by abilities in the Fourth Edition game.
The at-will-powers allowed for a chance every round to either heal a fellow party member by way of touch, or shoot a magic-missile of sorts.
This may sound like a deal-breaker to some DM’s, or perhaps even perceived as some sort of “easy button”.
These at-will-powers still require a successful roll on the part of the caster, and do very little as far as damage or healing goes, so they are not automatic nor overpowered.
Part of my justification was what some may deem as a “lack of balance” between the classes of the Fighter vs. the Magicuser, with the Fighter being able to do 3-13 hit-points of damage every round. I thought a 2hp adjustment in healing or damage was nominal and hardly a gamebreaker.
Rather than this mechanic becoming an easy button, it jus encourages the DM to turn up the heat and keep the pressure on the party. The at-will-powers have proven to keep the action going.


My BeaR-PiGS rules are made available to my players. Within the 80 pages was a change to the traditional action economy which typically requires a character to move and then act, or in the case of the magicuser, not move at all.
To encourage more dynamic tactics involving more movement, I allow characters to either move and perform an action, or perform an action and move, or even move, perform an action, and continue to move if they have not exceeded the limit of their movement rate.


No longer are there spell slots, or spell books, I opted for an inner-power origin of magic, replete with a spell-point system. This allowed for a flexibility and freedom in casting. A character’s Intelligence bonus is now added to the total number of spells known, a nod to 1E’s Cleric and Wisdom score bonus.
This design philosophy helps create a dynamic class that could of stepped-out of a blockbuster, Hollywood superhero movie.
Who doesn’t want to be a superhero, right?


One of my final desecrations to the class is rather than having magicuser spells go-off last in a combat round, they instead get a class bonus to initiative. 

My concept of the power of magic, imagined a world where a spellcaster would easily act long before any mortal with man-made weapons could. This was translated into my game into a permanent +2 Initiative Bonus for magicusers with thieves receiving a +1.


I admit it. I broke the magicuser class, hard, but I rebuilt them into a dynamic action-packed archetype ripped out of an 80’s Sword & Sorcery flick or Saturday Morning Cartoon.

Oh, and by the way…
magicusers can use swords too.
But that is another story.

2 thoughts on “The Heretic: How I Broke the Magicuser Class

    1. Really!?
      I am unfamiliar with it.
      I used to wait for the Tunnel & Trolls game on colecovision as a kid but never played it.
      Thank-you for commenting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *