Remember the last episode of Buffy where they play a roleplaying game that’s similar to (but legally distinct from) Dungeons & Dragons, and encounter none other than Strong Bad’s Trogdor the Burninator? The maps from that episode just went on eBay for $400. That’s not what I’m impressed about, though.
Take a look at the maps (I don’t know how long that image will be up) and see if you recognise them. The “Red Wizard Enclave” doesn’t ring any bells for me, but I certainly recognise the second map without having to read the label. It’s the Bastion of Souls. The battle with a certain dragon in this chamber is not something you forget if you played in that adventure, “Bastion of Broken Souls!
In the Buffy episode where they played D&D, they were battling Ashardalon, who’s just about the most powerful fire breathing dragon D&D has to offer. Giles (Dwarf ftr20) gets owned by Ashardalon’s full attack before he gets his chance to use Dragonhammer, whereupon Dawn (Human Sor16/Archmage4) gets lucky with a casting of temporal stasis and ends the fight all too quickly. Am I reading too much into this? Maybe. Maybe not, though. Getting lucky with a single, too-powerful spell is how we beat Ashardalon when we fought him in the Bastion, too.
Today I came across a page entitled A Glossary of Terms Used in Critiquing Science Fiction, which I’d assume also apply to fantasy writing. It’s particularly interesting if you’re aspiring to be the next Tolkien or Salvatore, since if critics mention something often enough that they have a “term” for it, it’s something you want to be aware of (either to avoid, or to make use of). If you’re a DM who likes to tell a story with his ongoing game, you might also like to read this list and see what you can glean from it.
Linking again to the website of Forgotten Realms author Sean K Reynolds, and today’s is his page on the Breakdown of RPG Players based on a survey done by Wizards of the Coast in 1999. The research must have Wizards cost a lot, and it’s not often that you get to see such valuable market research for free. DMs and writers should be especially interested in this link.
All things considered, permanency is a pretty fragile choice for a player character. It’s not as bad as it could be, but the main drawback is that you can spend large amounts of XP only to have it wasted by a stray dispel magic.
In most cases, the caster would have been better off creating a magic item to fulfil the same purpose. Why spend 1,500 XP giving yourself permanent arcane sight that will be dispelled by the next mage you meet, when you could have spent 22,500 gp and 1,800 XP making Goggles of Arcane Sight that will always work? Sure, it’s cheaper with permanency, but with something so solemn as XP loss you really don’t want to spend it on anything that’s only temporary.
I’m aware of the current rule that permanency on oneself “can be dispelled only by a caster of higher level than you were when you cast the spell.” While this might seem a fair balance by the rules, it isn’t much help to player characters in the long run, and I suspect it was a result of the rushed 3.5 revision. Suppose I reach 10th level and give myself permanent see invisibility. When I reach 16th level, every spellcasting twerp I face will have a chance of wiping out something I paid 1,000 XP for, unless I want to spend another 1,000 XP topping up my ability to 16th “just in case”.
Hence, my house rule is that anything permanencied on oneself can only be supressed by 1d4 minutes by a caster of equal or higher level to the caster’s current level. That’s enough to make it worthwhile dispelling it in combat, but not long enough to permanently ruin something you spent valualble XP on.