Protect the Mage!

So, is there a good, common or accepted way to protect your squishy mages? Obviously, keeping them at the rear of the party helps, but what’s to keep 6 goblins with crossbows from going “Oi! Guy with a staff and robes! Get 'im!”, and then filling him full of bolty death?

mmm some quick thoughts: take cover as mage. be quicker than goblins and throw a fireball. cast protection from normal missiles. become invisible. flee. let the fighters engage archers as quickly as possible.

If missile-wielding humanoids routinely attack mages in preference to all other character types in your game (your GM is a d!@k), then don’t dress like a mage.

Also…how are they targeting the mage with two or three ranks of meatshie… er companions in between them and the archers? Surely they’re at a significant negative even seeing the mage unless they attack from the rear?

Which Goblin do your players kill first:
a) The little guy with leather armor and the sharp sword
b) The little guy with the voodoo mask and the rattling skull staff

Whats good for the goose…

Depends on how often goblins encounter spell casters in your game world and also how smart the goblins are. Take a pot-shot at the wizard in the back or draw a sword and attack the guy closing in to cut your head off…

the rules as written don’t seem to consider intervening bodies for the purpose of cover. granted, they’re very loose to begin with, but they seem to focus on physical blocking. even if you allowed people to count as cover, the provided descriptions are -1 for hiding behind a half wall and -4 for shooting out of an arrow slit. Even if you counted the allies as -4, it’s still easier to shoot a mage than a guy in plate with the same dex bonus.

“Even if you counted the allies as -4…”

In my games, creatures do not provide cover. Fights are not static affairs. The combatants move around, shuffling, one step here, one step there, etc.

“it’s still easier to shoot a mage than a guy in plate with the same dex bonus”

Isn’t that one of the disadvantages of being a mage?

Absolutely, I was just explaining that A) RAW doesn’t assume people provide cover and B) even if it did, it’s not going to save the squishy mage.

  1. Line of sight. In twisting dungeon corridors, the mage being in the back also means the mage is the last to turn the corner. If he’s not planning to cast, just don’t step around the corner.

  2. Dress as a pack-bearer and carry enough party gear to be believable and a lantern.

  3. Practice your cower.

  4. Initiative bonuses are worth it, at least in my simulations :-).

  5. If goblins seem to prefer attacking mages, put everyone in robes. Or put the person with the highest natural AC in robes. Use and abuse the goblin’s tactics against them.

  6. Accept that at low levels, everyone tends to die in ACKS, and mages are playing with the hardcore setting.

Hmmm I guess that’s where we differ then. Old School games often don’t explicitly spell out things but end up working with the idea that common sense and extrapolation are in force. Or to quote a blogger…fluff is crunch.
One person in melee provides cover denying any form of missile fire unless you have precise shot. It’s in no way out of line to expect that to prevent shooting through as well. So unless you are firing into a party from the side I see no reason to let you shoot through your and the enemy front ranks once they are in melee.

I think the prohibition against firing into melee is an enforced fear of hitting your own guys. I don’t know that the rule extrapolates into meatshields, at least IMO.

I was actually describing the poor mage casting his Sleep spell (his go-to) and getting justly targeted by goblins. A player of “newer” games asked if there was a way to defend the mage (what with “defenders” and all). I couldn’t find anything “official”, though.

Maybe a 0-level henchman can carry around something like a tower shield that the mage can hide behind.

That fear of hitting your own guys should very much work both was. And if the idea is that in the swirl of melee you might hit your own guy if firing at his opponent…why would the guys behind the swirling melee be clearer than the people in front?

Then a funny thing: why does the same person not provide cover when not in melee? If i’m a halfling being shot by orcs, i would engage my comrades in arms in mock battle so that the orcs cannot shoot at me unless they have precise shot?

I guess the orcs could still shoot but have a 50% chance to hit the comrade of the halfling

I assume that it does work both ways. As for the guy in the back, he’s “clearer”, because he’s not right there dancing around with your ally. Besides, otherwise you’d have to ask how your archers can attack from the back row without constant penalties, or how your spearmen can attack from the second row unimpeded.

I don’t know. Maybe this is just the way it is. Still, it does seem like Mages would have it pretty hard against a significant number of intelligent archers.

Some days the only way to protect a Mage from missile fire is to throw a barbarian at the archers before they can make a pincushion out of your pointy-hatted friend. They can’t fire out of melee, even with Precise Shot.

I pretty much give my archers a -1 penalty for each row in front of them (unless they are in second row). My players always use Tight formation, which I’m good with, but they have to accept that it’s not universally good for all fighting styles. And archery in a 10’ corridor is iffy at best. Usually they get one round or so before it stops being a good option.


He’s right though, and he’d know - being aforementioned barbarian :wink:

Of course in this case there’s no actual mage to protect (yet), but I suspect the way they’re going it’s only a matter of time. Bwahahahahaha