All-wizard parties [D&D/d20]

Alon

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#1
What's the obstacle to an all-spellcaster party in a d20-based system, whether actual D&D/PF/w/e or a modification that still uses core d20 mechanics? I get why there wouldn't be all-fighter parties, but spellcasters are different: there's incredible diversity in the range of spells even without lumping in the cleric list, so parties can still have a lot of specialization and differentiation of PCs even within a single class. And yet, this is really rare. Why is that?

[I'm asking related questions about homebrews here.]
 

Samiel

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#2
IF they survive low levels, they will be unstoppable in every possible way, in and out of combat.

A wizard can end one encounter with a single spell: four or five middle to high level full caster can end one apocalypse per day. If they don't cause it.
 

Alon

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#3
Yeah, fair, the lack of tanks is a problem at low level (though if you count clerics, they totally qualify)...
 

DavetheLost

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#4
I have seen successful all Fighter parties, even more if you broaden it to all non-spell caster parties.

For the right sort of adventure an all spell caster party could be quite powerful. I wouldn't want to try an old school traditional dungeon crawl with one at low levels, but an urban adventure? Or court intrigue?
 

Alon

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#5
What kind of courtly intrigue are you thinking of?

[Actually I suspect mixed parties work excellently for that as well - the fighter is likely to be an experienced knight who commands a small army and may be ennobled, the cleric may have a serious role in the temple hierarchy, the thief may be part of the deep state.]
 

DavetheLost

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#6
I am thinking of a game taking place entirely within a large Imperial palace. Think Moorcock's Gloriana for example. Or one could posit Gormenghast. No doubt mixed parties could also work well in such a campaign.
 

vitruvian

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#7
At low levels, it would just be a matter of a lack of tankiness (i.e., AC or HP) and consistent damage per round (DPR) once the leveled spell slots are expended, since even reliable attack cantrips don't get fantastic damage till 5th level (at which point they're matched or exceeded by martial types getting Extra Attack or other such benefits). Once you get up to 3rd or 4th level, and especially once you get into Tier 2 at 5th level, this will probably be less of a detriment, although depending on the exact concept you could still have problems with lower AC and enough fewer HP that more characters are susceptible to one shot kills than with other parties at the same level. But it depends:

If you mean all spellcasters, of whatever kind, and that includes clerics, problem solved - the clerics and/or Hexblade warlocks can be your party's tanks, in addition to contributing to the spellcasting in their own unique ways. Even a druid in hide armor, with wooden shield, wielding a club with Shillelagh cast on it could be a front line fighter, with Wild Shape terror on occasion once getting to 2nd level.

If you mean just all arcane spellcasters, again, warlocks have some slightly more martial options and aspects, including getting invocations to improve their favorite cantrip and the Pact of the Blade option at 3rd level. Hexblades can look a lot like fighters even from 1st level. Bards can be decent as front-line fighters too, although it's not where they excel.

If you mean just wizards, full stop, then they will be martially pretty weak, no matter their specializations, and will have to be quite cautious at lower levels, even if one is an elf and takes Bladesinger at 2nd level. You could still make it viable, though, by making sure there was a variety of cantrips and spells picked at 1st, then different specializations at 2nd.... and if the party is a close knit group of apprentices, you even have justification for a veritable orgy of copying each other's spells as soon as you acquire the requisite gold to pay for the transcription and experimentation process to do so, leaving each party member with a more populated spellbook than usual.

For a court intrigue campaign, all of the spellcaster primary abilities will be helpful in terms of navigating the social landscape as well... Charisma obviously for deceiving and convincing people of things, but also Intelligence for knowing customs and protocol and using Investigation to understand what alliances and plots are actually at play, and definitely Wisdom for Insight rolls into people's honesty or deceit and motivations, not to mention spotting a physical attack or poisoning attempt if those ever occur. I could see an all spellcaster party with the right mix of Backgrounds doing really well, since they would all have a high stat in at least one of those, but then there's nothing preventing more martial types from building to have strengths in those areas as well.
 

Victim

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#8
The peak performance of an all wizard party would often be very high in many d20 games (dpeending the on the exact rules, level, etc). OTOH, the party wouldn't be very resilient. Being a wizard normally poses several problems like "what if dudes get into melee with me" "what if we're ambushed by archers who shoot the person with the worst armor" "what if I midjudge the situation and prep the wrong spells" "what if the enemy has tons of defensive buffs, SR, etc that block the stuff we normally use," "what if I run out of good spells?" Normally when one or more of the these issues pop up, it means the wizard may be in trouble and may need to be relying on other characters to prevent or deal with the problem. Tanks to block enemies, skill characters to help detect ambushes with perception and scouting, raw amounts of weapon damage to just beat through tons of status immunities. So it kind of seems like this is a party that might do amazingly well when it can set up, but on the downside, the situations where one character will struggle may easily become situations where everyone struggles.
 

vitruvian

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#9
The peak performance of an all wizard party would often be very high in many d20 games (dpeending the on the exact rules, level, etc). OTOH, the party wouldn't be very resilient. Being a wizard normally poses several problems like "what if dudes get into melee with me" "what if we're ambushed by archers who shoot the person with the worst armor" "what if I midjudge the situation and prep the wrong spells" "what if the enemy has tons of defensive buffs, SR, etc that block the stuff we normally use," "what if I run out of good spells?" Normally when one or more of the these issues pop up, it means the wizard may be in trouble and may need to be relying on other characters to prevent or deal with the problem. Tanks to block enemies, skill characters to help detect ambushes with perception and scouting, raw amounts of weapon damage to just beat through tons of status immunities. So it kind of seems like this is a party that might do amazingly well when it can set up, but on the downside, the situations where one character will struggle may easily become situations where everyone struggles.
All of which indicates that an all-wizard party (especially if it's truly all wizards and not all spellcasters) really needs to be careful to coordinate and vary their spell selection and specializations, so they can still cover for each other even if in a more limited way. E.g., for the inevitable circumstance where some melee happens, have at least one or two with some capability in that area, whether it be a decent Dex or Str so they aren't hopeless on hitting foes or a melee cantrip or two like Shocking Grasp. You'll want at least some casters to have Mage Armor, even if that means they are down to fewer spells plus cantrips by the time they have an encounter, and some to have Shield as well. You'll want someone to have a decent Wisdom and proficiency in Perception, someone to have a decent Charisma and prepared to be the party spokesperson. If you need variety in utility cantrips so not everyone has attack cantrips, someone will end up carrying darts or a light crossbow. Everyone will have to consult every morning on whether they have the right mix of prepared spells. The infighting on who gets the first Bracers of Defense or Ring of Protection will probably be pretty vicious, too.

Besides character builds and spell preparation, they'll also need smart tactics. If and when a few of them do get stuck in melee, they might do better for some of them to take actions like Dodge or Help rather than all simply hacking away. They should all get familiars and use them for scouting and hit and run and support, vastly improving their action economy as a group even though they can't Attack per se. EDIT: In terms of maximizing use of familiars in combat (although they're also great for scouting, acquiring small objects, getting through puzzle rooms, etc. once you consider all of a familiar's features including the dismiss/summon and use of their senses), it's probably best to get something fast-moving that has the Flyby feature, so it can fly up to a target, Help to give an ally (probably you as it's your familiar) against that target, and then get some distance from that target without provoking an opportunity attack. Either that, or have it go up to the target, Help, and then deliver a touch spell with its Reaction; Shocking Grasp is probably best because that will prevent reactions on the target's part. Of course, you'll still be sad you don't have any rogues in the party for the synergy of giving them advantage to bring their Sneak Attack into play.

Another thought occurs, if everyone is a wizard, then depending on party size one or two of them can afford to focus on spells that aren't dependent on good attack bonuses or high DCs to Save, and pump some stat other than Intelligence such as Strength or Dexterity to begin with.
 
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Marc17

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#10
Having been running my Gryphon Rock School of Arcane Magic campaign (Pathfinder) for about three years now, I'd say not too much. I've run them through several old school modules including The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, The Secret of Bone Hill, The Vieled Society, and Slave Pits of the Undercity at roughly the appropriate AD&D level without issue. The deficiancies are in lack of healing magic and lack of certain skills. A sorcerer usually picks up the social skills though. Finding and disabling traps can be an issue. Survival was a big one because not only is it untrained but nobody took it yet they kept going on wilderness adventures and trying to orient through the forest and mountains. They got lost several times and spent a few cold and hungry nights in the wilderness before finding a road and their way home.

The big issue as the DM was challenging them with fighter types. All their god damn spells are ranged touch attacks so one of the fighter's big advantages is pretty worthless. They can pretty much kill fighters pretty quick just by using cantrips. (Really, if anything is going to protect you from a flung glob of acid, it should be armor and a shield.) Monsters do somewhat better but not much. And then when the combat types do get in their hits, they risk killing the players pretty quick. Fighters can min max attacks and monsters usually have high strengths. Specializing in bow and stealth and attacking from long range which is outside most of their spell ranges seems to fluster them though. The also have a huge ability for large scale initial damage output in an ambush.
 
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