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But then... the final few boss fights of the original campaign are downright unfair to pure spellcasters.
I forgot that elves cannot be put to sleep! I will use that next time. Invisiblity is nice if you don't mind running away. I have a hard time getting myelf to do that.
wizards (and sorc ) have some major weakness. You have to do a bit of research to overcome them. Low health, low armor, and low BAB and few feats on top of being considerably weaker every time you take a non caster level. What you have to do is find ways to overcome these weaknesses with your magic or by multi-classing. Doing it with magic means a tough go of the first 5 or 6 levels. Multiclassing means being a mediocre fighter for the first 5-6 levels.
some amazing combos out there... 1 level of shadowdancer, hide and nuke. Monk level or 2, armor and deflect arrows.. paladin/sorc sorc/RDD fight well, just to name a couple of them.
After that its all about picking correct spells and knowing when and how using them.
All original compaigns are actually extremely caster friendly. You can rest almost anywhere anytime without any problems. Try playing something like Swordflight with a low level caster. It's just pure nightmare where you can't rest in 90% of locations at all and the rest 10% will keep spawning huge packs of random mobs when you try to rest..
I couldn't disagree more. Rogue, assassin, monk3, SD1 etc can be good multiclass choices, but unless you are purposefully designing a spellsword (in which case you want more than 1 or 2 ftr type levels), all you are doing is making your spells weaker for the entire game. Wizards have so many feats as it is you certainly don't need fighter for that.
If you have issues playing cleverly, then that will be your toughest challenge. Running in unprepared and expecting to melee out of it is a great way to die as a caster (or any class once you progress to the more difficult modules on the vault or PWs).
The melee mage advice above from wendigo211 is very good (tho sling for halflings, longbow for elves etc, any ranged but a xbow once past lvl10 and don't discount meleeing. ghostly visage is amazing at low levels and with flame weapon on your staff/greatsword you are hitting as hard as a fighter). I'd also not worry about using familiars and summons. The battles generally scale to party size (You might lose one level by the end of the first module.)
Have fun :)
Use familiars, and summon monster spells they are a huge help and become super helpful in later levels to the point where you don't even have to fight they'll kill everything fo you. remember you can have both your familiar and summoned monster out at the same time.
I'm not an expert on this or anything but I found this multi class works well for me.
If you want to multiclass then take something that synergises with INT. Aka rogue, assassin etc. OR something that synergises with mage spells like Monk3. Or something that really helps you survive like shadowdancer. Fighter is doing nothing more than making your mage's spells weak, giving you feats you cant usefully use and messing with your head trying to play a caster like a fighter. You have ghostly visage, ethereal visage, shadow, stoneskin, greater stoneskin etc that make you surviveable. You have familiars and summons to tank. Take martial weapons and get a greatsword/scimitar with flame and keen weapon and do more damage than a fighter with better damage resistance than a fighter.
Do the maths! fighter = up to 10 hp. Mage up to 4 HP with 5 damage resisted by ghostly visage. Take toughness feat and you are equal but doing more damage because of your spells buffing your weapon! AND you soon get damage spells which walk all over anything fighter can offer, so long as you don't dilute your mage levels.
Have fun :)
Consumables really are nice for mages too. A few extra fireballs from a wand could be the difference, and you find wands and scrolls all the time.
I love caster classes but in this game a lot of enemy are heavily immune to magic, move fast, and do a ton of melee damage to you. D&D is designed for a group of 4-6 people to work together, and magic is super effective. But trying to use THOSE rules in a single player game where the bosses are significantly tougher than is reasonable is pretty challenging. Its doable, but its nothing like beint a weaponmaster (example) that crits every other hit for 100 points of damage 5 times per round compared to the wizard that fires off a disintegrate or somethign and does 2d8 when the target resists, if that. You need very high stats that overcome resists and make saving throws unpossible for the enemy to succeed, and that means a bit of R&D on the subject (there are guides online about maxing out these things so your spells stick and are effective).