Little Wizards: You can call him "Mini Mage"

by Jesse Decker; (Dragon #285)

Although they make great rogues, the halfling racial bonuses to Dexterity and saving throws, long with their size modifier to Armor class, help compensate for a wizard's typical lack of hit points. This high AC is doubly important because, although they're as hardy as humans, halflings move slow, putting them at risk during running battles or when facing many foes. Your opponents, thinking you're a rogue, will be worrying about you moving into flanking position and be reluctant to engage if you're standing next to other party members. Often, they'll stay out of reach just long enough for you to attack with a powerful spell.

If you decide to play a halfling wizard, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Stayin' Alive

The toughest job you'll have as a Small character is staying alive, especially when burdened with a wizard's Hit Dice. To survive combats that challenge characters with twice as many hit points, you'll need to do more than just stay out of reach. As a halfling, you'll start with two extra points of AC when compared to a human wizard with the same base characteristics. Playing to this strength is the easiest way for a halfling to keep out of harm's way. Don't rely only on a high Dexterity and a size bonus to Armor Class. Start with the first-level spell mage armor, and pile on the protective magic from there. An amulet of natural armor should be high on your list of magic items to acquire, as should a ring of protection. Use defensive spells liberally, and choose tactics that keep you out of combat. Beyond the long list of spells that increase your AC, think of long-lasting protective spells like protection from arrows, resist elements, and stoneskin.

Dishin' It Out

Levels 1-4: Combat at these low levels is pretty straightforward. No spell-casters at this level have enough spells to cast a spell every round of combat, but as a halfling, you've got an effective attack option for rounds when you don't cast spells. The halfling high Dexterity and the Alchemy skill can be a fearsome combination. Make alchemist's fire and acid ahead of time and throw them on the rounds you don't cast spells. With the Dexterity bonus halflings enjoy, your chance of making the ranged touch attack will probably be as good or better than a fighter's chance of hitting the same monster with a sword. Since you've got spells to rely on too, you won't need to pack as much ammo as an archer. On top of that, neither alchemist's fire nor acid are affected by Strength modifiers to damage - you'll get the benefits of your high Dexterity and work around the penalties of a low Strength score.

Levels 5-9: Wizards and sorcerers take a big jump in power once they can cast 3rd-level spells. In addition to the obvious Evocation spells, haste can almost double the effectiveness of any character, and fly can turn a relatively stationary halfling into a powerhouse capable of traversing the entire battlefield with a singe move-equivalent action. Through these levels, your attack bonuses start to really suffer compared with those of other characters, even a high Dexterity isn't enough to keep up. While spells like greater magic weapon and true strike offer decent alternatives to flashy offensive spells, you're probably best served by crafting or acquiring a few offensive wands for those tough fights when you're low on spells.

Level 10+: The secret to high-level spellcasters is simple: Don't hold back. Combats last a little longer at these levels because hit point totals tend to increase faster than the ability to deal damage; however the number of spells available to most spellcasters increases faster yet. Once you've reached higher levels, it's a simple enough matter to burn through your spells then teleport home to rest once the battle is over. There's nothing wrong with staying invisible and letting summoned creatures do your fighting for you. In tough battles, the temptation to cast a spell every turn might overshadow this conservative strategy, but it's a great way to remain active through less challenging encounters.

Feat Selection

Choosing feats is one of the coolest parts of the new D& game. Considering the ease and power of pushing a halfling wizard's Armor Class ever higher, Dodge is a good choice at first level. Improved Initiative is also a strong choice - if you're small and get caught flat-footed, you could be grappled and out of the fight before you get to roll a single die. Run is interesting because it can mitigate one of the halfling's biggest weakness: a 20-foot movement rate. However, it's probably more effective in the long run to hold out for Craft Wondrous Item, and just make one of the many items that will let you fly.

Ranged attacks are also a viable option to pursue with your Small spellcaster. With greater magic weapon and cat's grace, you can make up for a wizard's low attack bonus, and the halfling's high Dexterity and +1 bonus to hit with thrown weapons help quite a bit. In conjunction with feats like Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot, these spells and abilities make you just as effective with a ranged weapon as a fighter of your level. But without bonus feats from your class or race, you'll have to make this choice early for it to be effective.

A Bit of Flavor

Power gainers might rejoice at the combat advantages halfling wizards enjoy over their larger counterparts, but its just as important to pack the little guys full of personality too. Did your character's Tolkienesque desire for a comfortable life lead him to arcane spells, making choices like Leomund's secure shelter a natural? Or was your character, although nimble compared to members of other races, not quite quick enough to compete with halflings of a more roguish bent? Answering these questions about your wizard's background is only the first step to creating his personality. How does your character feel about adventuring with larger companions? Are they good insurance against a menacing ogre, or are they merely waiting for a permanent reduce spell?

Power Gaming Tricks

Choose Minimum Height And Weight For Your Character. You'll be able to reduce yourself to Tiny size at lower levels, and you'll be easier for someone else to carry if the party needs to run away at a speed higher than 20.

Maximize Your Armor Class. Start with a high Dexterity, cast mage armor, get a ring of protection and an amulet of natural armor as soon as possible, use shield (preferably from a wand), and use a buckler (you can always drop it as a free action to cast those crucial spells).

Far Shot Is A Thrown Weapon's Best Friend. Make maximum use of the halfling's +1 to hit with thrown weapons by getting rid of those pesky range increment modifiers. As a wizard, you don't want to be that close to the bad guys.

Top 10 Spells For Little Wizards

Expeditious Retreat(1st level): Before you can cast fly, you'll want a way to counteract your speed disadvantage.

Mage Armor/shield (1st level): You're little, so don't get hit. One of the keys to surviving as a little person in a dangerous world is never to let them hit you. Pile up armor bonuses, cover, size, Dexterity, and - if you can get them - natural armor bonuses to your armor class.

Reduce (1st level): Its duration is limited, but being Tiny isn't all bad. You get an extra point of Armor Class. Plus, you're really small, so you can probably go places that many larger creatures simply can't.

Cat's Grace (2nd level): Take more advantage of your existing Dexterity.

Invisibility (2nd level): If there's a halfling wizard credo, it's "Don't ever make a grapple check." Being invisible doesn't necessarily make you immune to being grappled, but it lessens the chance that foes can attack you. The duration is good, so if you stay back and summon creatures while invisible, the invisibility spell might last for more than one battle.

Fly (3rd level): There's no better spell for mid-level halfling mages. One 3rd-level spell transforms your speed from a pitiful 20 to a blazing 90.

Haste (3rd Level): Haste can provide a tremendous combat advantage. The bonus to Armor Class can boost your halfling's already good Armor Class high enough to keep most from hitting. Plus, the extra partial action can let you keep up with the rest of the party during a protracted fight - don't forget about the partial run action.

Repulsion (6th level): You don't want monsters with multiple attacks anywhere near you - nor any big creature that might grapple you. Use repulsion to keep them at bay. Since it requires a Will saving throw, you'll usually succeed against the big brutes.

Ray Spells (various): With their naturally high Dexterity scores, halflings are better than most at making ranged touch attacks.

Summon Monster (various): You might be 3 foot 6 inches tall, but your summoned allies are as big as anyone's. Summon earth elementals and think "cover bonus to AC."

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