Sunday Survey: Wizard Spell Failure

Related to last week's survey on permitted armor, I asked another poll on the Facebook 1E AD&D group as follows:

This is even more surprising than last week, because the concept of a chance of "spell failure" for magic-users in armor is absolutely not a concept anywhere in either the 1E or 2E AD&D rulebooks. Nor does it appear in OD&D, Holmes, B/X, etc. (In those rules, multiclass magic-users are either permitted to use certain types of armor or they're not, end of story.)

But it is a core rule that appeared in the later 3E D&D ruleset (PHB, Ch. 7: Equipment). As a result, it also appears in the popular Pathfinder rules. However, it doesn't seem to be part of the 4E or 5E rules from the introductory materials that I have for those editions.

Spell failure for multiclass wizards in armor is not a thing that I assess in my games. That said, I do prohibit even multiclass fighter/wizards from casting in plate in my OED/OD&D game (as noted last week, a very common rule among AD&D players).


  1. Seems too complicated.

    Like I have said previously, if a wizard wants to burden himself with armor, he can. It costs him a little (1 less armor class) but the main cost is burden.

  2. lacking religious or ethnic belief related to metal armor (druids, elves &c) i don't see why a wizard wouldn't wear the best armor he could afford/stand upright in.
    if it's some sort of supernatural effect from the cold iron, wouldn't we think that a fighter in metal armor has a chance to simply ignore the effects of the spell? if it's to do with limiting dexterity, i don't know that armored gauntlets are terribly common outside of platemail. . .

  3. These days, I'm inclined to view magic-user restrictions as a sort of "taboo" required for the mental discipline of casting spells; thus, breaking their own (self-imposed) strictures results in absolute spell failure.

  4. I'm okay with a chance of spell failure (say, 1/6, 2/6, 3/6 for leather, chain, and plate, don't quote me on those numbers). It's a strategic choice if a spellcaster wants to carry armour round, and wear it to gain protection at the expense of spellcasting, carrying capacity, and speed.

    Maybe they might wait until they're out of spells to put the armour on to protect them if the party don't want to leave right away, or not if they're concerned with making a quick getaway.

    Also I let a caster gain +1 AC for carrying a staff, since they can use it for defence, which doesn't risk spell failure.

    1. Oof, as soon as you phrased in terms of a d6 suddenly it became more attractive me for some reason. :-)