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    GnomePirate

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    Default Low Magic Setting Advice

    I am running a Lord of the Rings style campaign, and looking for some advice for a low-magic setting. I am trying to introduce a minimum of house rules. The baseline that makes the most sense to me right now is to elimate the full spellcasting classes entirely, leaving Bard, Ranger, and Paladin (and possibly other classes with similar progressions from splat books) as the only spellcasting classes.

    I would still like to run antagonists like Balrog, Werewolf Lord, and Dragons, at high level.

    So what are some good counterbalances to keep the game low-magic but still able to handle appropriate CR creatures.

    My thoughts are to introduce the Reserve and Action Point mechanics from UA. I am not sure that will be enough. Thoughts?
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    I don't think you need to eliminate full spellcasters - the PC's can be the ultra rare exceptions, after all.

    In my low magic campaigns (i.e. all of them), it's about restricting access to spells and magic items. No going down to WalMage and picking items off the DMG lists - all magic items are ones you have deliberately placed, and they should be rare and impressive enough that players will want to keep them, not cash them in. No assuming one can copy any spell from any splatbook you can find into their book - they get their 2 per level, and anything else is what you decide they find. And disallowing the game-breakers, of course.

    That's the short answer, there's lots of finessing, of course. That said, you're probably going to have to ditch CR and figure out your own balancing, as the DMG assumes the characters are loaded down with magic items.
    Last edited by JonestheSpy; 2010-10-07 at 08:45 PM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Darn... Don't know exactly what I'd allow. I mean, even Gandalf used his sword more than his spells...

    Edit: Perhaps, allow spellcasters, but make them multiclass with the mundane? And give the XP penalties if they don't balance the classes, even if it is a favored class?

    Also, instead of using regular MM monsters (unless you can gauge how strong it is vs. the PC's very well, which I would have issues with myself xD) then send monsters with class levels against them. A band of orc rangers, a goblin rogue/fighter, etc.
    Last edited by Lhurgyof; 2010-10-07 at 08:50 PM.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Use BoED's vow of poverty as a line for what bonuses players should have at any level. Unearthed Arcana (which is SRD) includes rules for defense bonuses designed for games with low armor. You might also want to include armor as damage resistance.

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    1. Bard as the big caster class fits really, really, unbelievably well for a Tolkien setting, though.

    Wizard, Cleric, and Druid on the other hand clash really, really horrifically badly. Unless you are playing E6 or something. High level spells are just completely out of setting.

    2. Defense bonus + armor + armor gives DR? That may be the right way to look. Especially if I allow them to stack together, to make up for the lack of magical bonuses to that.

    3. I have plans for them to fight a dragon, a werewolf lord, and a balrog during the campaign, as specific 'bbeg' type enemies.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Low-magic games look good on paper but tend to be horrible in practice. Not that it's impossible to do, but it's difficult to get right. Here are a few suggestions:

    Make the world low-magic, not the players. Not allowing access to spellcasting classes or martial adepts (from Tome of Battle) leads to boring and repetitive gameplay. For example, there really isn't anything you can do as a fighter other than full attack and fail on skill checks. Even the rogue can't do much with his 8 + int skills per level because he has to spend most of them just to fulfill his role (Spot, Search, and Listen to be an effective scout, and Hide and Move Silently to be a ninja).

    As said above, make the party the exception to the rule. They are supposed to be the heroes, and they won't look heroic if they can't actually defeat CR-appropriate enemies.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Non-casters need magic items to get by. The game assumes this.

    Casters need -far- less gear than non-casters, but can still benefit from stat boosters, save boosters, Pearls of Power, and so on.

    In a typica low magic game, casters are barely affected while non-casters are greatly gimped at the lack of magic. Scale encounters appropriately.
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    And I do agree that the right answer to the magic/mundane problem is to make everyone badass.

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Allow full class spellcasters and eliminate the ability to research their own spells. That way they only get the specific spells that you give them, which prevents spell optimization. Remove the ability of PCs to create magical items, that allows every magic item to put in the game to be rare and powerful.

    Using this format makes the Fighter extremely powerful and very important. Magic items become something truly worthwhile, rather than something to pick up at wizmart on the way to the adventure, and blocks the possibility of the batman wizard.

    Oh, and it also makes the wizard an exceptionally hard class to play, taking it back to something much like 1st ed and earlier. You have to be extremely creative and quite clever in order to survive.

    To compensate you might want to allow a little more flexibility in spellcasting, however. In my campaigns (which resemble what I mentioned above) I have eliminated sorcerers, as that is how wizards wizards work. They don't have a number of spells per level that they can memorize, they just have a number of spells per level that they can cast. And in fact in a few campaigns I have totally removed spells per level and substituted a spell point system. Each spell costs one point per level to cast, and you just add up the points. Makes the wizard a little more playable when it is restricted so much. HOWEVER, you must be extremely careful with the spells you give out.

    Still, I don't have Batman wizards in my campaigns. Ever.

    Edit - Oh yeah, forgot to mention. Don't allow copying of spells from Scrolls. Just rule that they don't work that way (Or just don't give out scrolls. Low magic world after all). I personally like to give out scrolls, but simply rule that a scroll does not contain all the necessary information to actually cast the spell. It is simply a spell that has been almost completely cast, and frozen at the moment of taking effect, with a simple command to finish the casting.
    Last edited by Thrud; 2010-10-08 at 01:56 AM.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    I would strongly suggest that the players NOT be spellcasters...

    Here's what I would suggest for this...

    Make it E6. Give each class a capstone. Allow skill tricks, and allow that feat, "Open Minded" to be used to buy extra skill tricks as well as skill points. Allow the skill tricks from Dragon Magazine to be available, and remove the maximum skill trick limit. Make higher level skill tricks be available within the E6 levels.
    Adjust the skills. Try pathfinder skills, bump all 2+int classes to 4+int classes. Get rid of pay double for cross class skills.

    Allow these classes:

    Low power options:

    Fighter and variants
    Monk and variants, give access to all the dragon magazine combat styles
    Non Spellcasting Paladin (CWar) combinable with other variants of this class (ie for different alignments)
    An Expert//Aristocrat gestalt. Your nobleman type. Always give them a ton of cash that they can spend on whatever the hell they want around town, as long as it never actually solves a real problem.
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    CW Samurai
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    Higher power classes:
    Non Spellcasting Ranger (CWar), with access to all the variant combat styles from Dragon Magazine
    Barbarian
    Factotum (only give them access to the abilities from these other classes)
    OA Samurai
    Scout
    Warblade
    Crusader
    Swordsage, restricted from taking overtly magical maneuvers and stances.
    Last edited by Gavinfoxx; 2010-10-08 at 01:18 AM.

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    one comment--- if you are doing a LotR style game, the dragon should not have access to powerful magic. Tolkien's Dragons are wonders of might and breathe fire, but they certainly don't cast spells

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    i hear people say that that no full caster will wreck a game and that everyone will get really bored. but i have never found that to be the case in my last couple games no one has been a full caster and while we had some trouble with some fights (a different topic entirely) but no one was bored.

    an easy way to keep things from getting stagnate is to make the fights interesting give objectives like grab the mcguffin, more than two forces in the fight, interesting terraine that can be used to your advantage or be used against you.

    sorry for the rant just this sentiment that you cant have a fun game with out wizards and clerics really bugs me.

    I would not use a balor or an old dragon in a low magic game those are very powerful enemies who have a lot of resistances. for the most part you can just send weaker enemies at the party to make up for the fact that they are weaker but with these monsters they will always be dangerous enemies preepic.

    what i would do would be hombrew monsters that have the feel for what you want but more manageable stats

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Silver View Post
    Make the world low-magic, not the players. Not allowing access to spellcasting classes or martial adepts (from Tome of Battle) leads to boring and repetitive gameplay. For example, there really isn't anything you can do as a fighter other than full attack and fail on skill checks. Even the rogue can't do much with his 8 + int skills per level because he has to spend most of them just to fulfill his role (Spot, Search, and Listen to be an effective scout, and Hide and Move Silently to be a ninja).
    I think you mean boring for everyone who isn't used to having a laundry list of options available at any one time. Add a spellcaster to the game and at levels above 10 your fighting types are still making the same old attack rolls while the casters dominate with an option for every challenge.

    Take a look at Mongoose's Conan book. Combat has far more meaningful options for melee types. Magic exists but is socially stigmatic and abusing magic slowly turns you into a horrible monster.

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Eliminate magic shops entirely. If the players want magic items, they will have to find them via quests, or have the ancient dwarves/trolls living under the mountain craft it for them.
    All magic items should have specific names relating to their abilities. Remember that a Bane weapon feels more special than a +1.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Well, the campaign I'm journalling right now is no-magic. It works really well. Here's the primary set of house rules we're using:
    - VP/WP System: Modified a bit, this allows you to adventure without a healer or magic items that provide healing. Also makes damage a bit more interesting and, let's face it, more sensible.
    - ½ Character Level as Dodge-bonus to AC: This is somewhat necessary since much of character AC tends to constitute of magic items and without those, you'll need some other source.
    - Ability Score increase on every level (except 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, etc.), but only two per the same ability score in every cycle of 4 levels: Again, much of character stats come from magic items. This enables you to gain stats without magic items.
    - Every character gains 6-8 (depending on class) extra skills each level: Bootleg fix to the skill system; normally characters just gain way too few skill points. Especially without magic, you do a crapton of things with skills (do note that many classes, notably stuff like Fighter-proxies, also enjoy an expanded skill list in our games) and the normal skill allotment just isn't nearly sufficient to max out even half the relevant skills for each class. Especially if the characters are expected to have a degree of self-sufficiency.

    Then we're using a rework of the Poisons because the default sucks. And lots and lots of ToB plus homebrew; basically every character is ToB-base. This is just so we don't get bored to death in combat, and because we find the ToB-system excellent.

    Quote Originally Posted by erictheredd View Post
    one comment--- if you are doing a LotR style game, the dragon should not have access to powerful magic. Tolkien's Dragons are wonders of might and breathe fire, but they certainly don't cast spells
    Well, Tolkien's whole world is a bit different from how you perceive a generic fantasy setting. It doesn't seem like the different powers (steel, magic, etc.) are all that different in the end, when it comes to fighting. Combat is more about throwing generic "mights" (whatever they may constitute of) at each other and seeing which comes out on the top. Whether the might be physical strength, magic, some potent weapon or whatever makes little difference.

    This is quite apparent in things like Ëarendil the Mariner vs. Ancalagon, the Númenorean Invasion of Valinor (a simple army of men was enough to make Gods "throw down their guardianship and pray for the One"), and even Gandalf vs. the Balrog. As such, giving anything in the world some "magic" isn't really out there if the creature is powerful.
    Last edited by Eldariel; 2010-10-08 at 04:05 AM.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    classes i might consider playing in that sort of game that i would also allow as a DM: bard, TOB classes, ranger, rogue, psychic warrior, hexblade, warlock (maybe, if you layer on the "evil" fluff) and various prestige classes (and dips)

    they all have a bunch of fun options and some out of combat use.
    Last edited by 742; 2010-10-08 at 04:08 AM.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    I play a campaign in a low-fantasy world. It is not as low-fantasy as Lord of the Rings, so its not 100% comparable, but its in the right direction.

    We play at level 4 and in order to balance out the delay the fighters get their magic items, we have made the requirement that all full spellcasers, wizard, sorcerer, cleric and druid, has to start out with two levels in a martial class. All are able swordfighters and magic is something you tinker with during downtime - for the time being.

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Best bet:

    Use a different RPG other than DND

    Perhaps Iron Heros or Iron Kingdoms

    the Monster Manuals ect all assume that players have magic items and weapons for the WBL to face off against specific critters.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by FelixG View Post
    the Monster Manuals ect all assume that players have magic items and weapons for the WBL to face off against specific critters.
    But since CR is worthless anyways, taking those away isn't really a problem. It's not like you could actually USE CR anyways so you can eyeball things just fine, with or without magic items.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldariel View Post
    But since CR is worthless anyways, taking those away isn't really a problem. It's not like you could actually USE CR anyways so you can eyeball things just fine, with or without magic items.
    Oh god a swarm of centipedes! TPK...dang

    no magic? dead

    what about alchemical splash weapons? they need to be made by casters...still dead

    Lantern or torch could work but...that would be painfully slow
    Last edited by FelixG; 2010-10-08 at 05:20 AM.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    book of nine swords would be a great option if you pull out the swordsage (who is basically a caster thematically) lots of options there.

    the big things you need to get are healing and some way to punch through damage reduction. I've never seen a good way to handle healing without a proper caster.

    but damage reduction can be handled with some kind of scaling "attacks count as X"
    everyone would need attacks as if magic, but you can break it up from there.
    i would be inclined give the pure physical types all the materials (silver, adamantine, cold iron).
    paladins would obviously get good and law
    bards and the other half-casters would only have /magic as they can cast spells.

    ethereal creatures and other weird cases you'd have to move around. silver would be natural fit for ghosts and shades but cold iron makes more sense against elemental things.

    it's worth mentioning that, in a low magic setting, humanoid enemies stop being walking fortunes. and the PCs stop curb-stomping them. so feel free to go nuts with the orcs, goblins, and kobolds.
    Last edited by thubby; 2010-10-08 at 07:04 AM.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by FelixG View Post
    Oh god a swarm of centipedes! TPK...dang

    no magic? dead

    what about alchemical splash weapons? they need to be made by casters...still dead

    Lantern or torch could work but...that would be painfully slow
    Not much slower than alchemical splash weapons. And really, who cares? You can still hide from them just the same and they still burn. Besides, DM doesn't have to toss swarms at people. You just have to eyeball it like you always would. It just means different assessments. Oh noes, DR is relevant!

    Well, that's cool, then just assess creatures appropriately. Werewolves are tougher that way but not unbeatable. Regeneration is much more of a pest but can still be overcome like always, just slower. Overall, things are different but the game is in no ways unplayable. CR is a silly joke so you'd have to eyeball stuff anyways; all you gotta do now is look at different factors. Not a major change one way or another.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrud View Post
    Allow full class spellcasters and eliminate the ability to research their own spells. That way they only get the specific spells that you give them, which prevents spell optimization. Remove the ability of PCs to create magical items, that allows every magic item to put in the game to be rare and powerful.
    This does nothing to prevent the Sorceror from dominating the game. The Sorceror is only inferior to the Wizard so long as the Wizard has superior spell selection (and class features).

    I see no problem with pulling out the full-casters. Instead, I would suggest allowing the Binder (including the fluff that suggests they're a mistrusted, misunderstood, and possibly hunted group), the Magic of Incarnum classes, and possibly the Warmage as the primary examples of 'magic users' in your world. Each one would have a great deal of flexibility and power in comparison to the common warrior, but not gamebreaking power.

    Also, I suggest a few minor additions to bring up the capabilities of the other core classes. Indeed, I would suggest swapping out the Fighter, Barbarian, Rogue, Paladin and Monk for their Pathfinder equivalents - check them out in the Pathfinder SRD. This bumps them up enough in power level that they can probably survive without a wizard, cleric or standard WBL for at least the first 10 levels.

    One other recommendation - since they're NOT going to have a Cleric to act as healbot, I recommend giving one of them a 'powerful family heirloom' at 1st level - which allows them to take a standard action to heal 1 HP of damage at touch range at will. By the item building guidelines this item is worth like 900 gold, but to a party without a primary healer, it's a priceless treasure.

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by FelixG View Post
    Best bet:

    Use a different RPG other than DND

    Perhaps Iron Heros or Iron Kingdoms

    the Monster Manuals ect all assume that players have magic items and weapons for the WBL to face off against specific critters.
    Exactly my thought. Using D&D for a very low magic game faces you with a lot of issues that have to be resolved. Using the Iron Heroes system, which is also a d20 system, would probably be even less work, and it's made for exactly the magic level you have in mind.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Silver View Post
    Low-magic games look good on paper but tend to be horrible in practice. Not that it's impossible to do, but it's difficult to get right.
    Yes. Every single low magic D&D campaign I have ever been in, without exception, has been terrible balance-wise, etc. They tend to die an early death. The reason is pretty simple, D&D 3.5 is designed as high fantasy. Availability of magic is part and parcel of game designer assumptions.

    Let's consider the OP. He wants to have a no or low magic group face off against a Balor, LOTR style. Well, consider that in LOTR, the party was, with the exception of Gandalf, certainly lower powered than the Balrog(basically Balor equivalent). Had they instead faced a Balor there, the "you shall not pass" would have been answered by chuckling, and teleporting across, then casting blasphemy. Oh look, everyones non-evil. TPK.

    It's not just SLAs either. If you don't have access to much in the way of magic, running into a swarm, or anything etherial is going to suck horribly.

    I suggest that if you want low magic, use a game with less powerful magic. 7th Sea is an excellent choice for that, and will still potray your players as heroic despite the lack of magic.
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Lhurgyof View Post
    Darn... Don't know exactly what I'd allow. I mean, even Gandalf used his sword more than his spells...
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    My .02c:

    It's been a while since I read Silmarillion, but from what I recall the wizards are not native to middle earth and even the weakest of them is quite a bit above a superior human. Elves should be tougher and more durable than younger races, Balrogs are relics of a lost age etc. Doesn't quite mesh with DnD. So, as already suggested you could try a different system. Otherwise it is gonna be homebrew through and through. You should make wizards progress with spells like bards, more durable, say bye bye to druid (have them be specialized wizards horribly nerfed) etc. Best not to try and go with a preexisting version that works.
    Last edited by Kaww; 2010-10-08 at 08:33 AM.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Wow, I never facepalmed so often in a single thread...
    1. No fullcasters are not boring. Roleplaying is not only about choosing a spell, it's also about making decision (tactical and personal). Magic is just a fancy tool. And although I'm not familiar with D&D, there are hopefully different options a fighter can choose, e. g. disarming, feints and so on.
    2. No fullcasters don't equal TPK with a decent DM. As CR are apparently not very precise anyway, I wouldn't care about it. Heck, in my games I never had any kind of CR and it worked out. Just estimate the danger correctly and give the players an option to avoid the battle if they are to scared.
    3. No fullcasters = slow healing. Okay, this one might be correct. So what? Damage becomes *gasp* meaningful? Instant revival isn't an option? So death is meaningful as well?
    Okay, the last comment is a little too sarcastic, but really, do you want to have an adventure or don't you?

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Tyndmyr's Avatar

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    Non magical melee, in D&D, with the notable exception of ToB, is pretty boring. Other systems get detailed, with active defences, parries, ripostes, and so forth. Actual differences in weapon types other than damage die. The abstraction level of D&D is such that such things get lost in the shuffle, and most melee classes get pretty hosed on skill points, making player variation pretty hard.

    TPK wasn't said to be inevitible in all cases. The point is that the magic assumptions are baked into the system, so significant changes require adjustment of the system at every point. In many cases, equal, or even low CR mobs are now wildly inappropriate. A batch of shadows can pose a nasty threat to even high level melee, if they lack magic.
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  29. - Top - End - #29
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    As to healing, why not tweak the heal skill to allow some imediate hp recovery. Say, DC10 heal check, 1hp+1hp per 5pts over 10. Once per character per encounter.
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  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Low Magic Setting Advice

    The simplest way to do this is to shift the power level of the world overall.

    Comparing the books/films to d20, the Hobbits start without any PC class levels, and maybe gain a couple levels by the end. They're able to take on some orcs singlehandedly (CR 1/2) and Sam deals with a large monstrous spider (CR 2) on his own, but not without a couple very useful items.

    Boromir, Gimli, Aragorn, and Legolas are all fighters, rangers, or mixes of the two. They deal with orcs fairly easily, and Legolas takes out what amounts to a dire elephant (CR 10). However, I wouldn't say he does that singlehandedly, as there is plenty of distraction/aid going on at the time. I believe Aragorn takes out trolls (CR 5) on his own at one point.

    Gandalf, the most powerful of the fellowship, has been speculated about many times, but I believe he comes out minimally at 5th level. He has mild magic as the Grey, but has access to more "blasty" stuff as the White. He takes out the Balrog, but the Balor is not a good analogue.

    I would start them at level 1 or 2, and have them increase eventually to 5, certainly no higher than 10. I think following wealth by level is okay, as long as it comes in the form of predetermined magical items. Just make sure that there are very few characters in the world with power of that level.
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