PC Gamer US Edition|January 2022
I’m banning swords and embracing a mage-only lifestyle.
Jeremy Peel
Fighter. Rogue. Healer. Mage. This is the archetypical role-playing party, the quadrumvirate that guarantees a good time no matter the setting. It is balanced, broad, and allows you to see as much of the spectrum of adventuring as possible—brute-forcing your way into tombs, deactivating their traps, and parsing the strange scrolls found within.

OK, so you deviate from the norm occasionally; maybe you’ve got a couple of slots leftover and pick a bard for comic relief, or a monk, because you’re keen to learn the combat function of a smoothly shaved head. But when was the last time you delved into a dungeon with a properly wonky line-up? What was the last RPG you completed with, for instance, six wizards?

Icewind Dale II is the snow-tipped hill on which I’ve chosen to die. It has no developer-made companions, so you’re free to build an entire party from scratch right at the beginning of the game. From I download not only the game, but also the full manual and Book of Spells. I’m going to need them.

Next, though, comes the backstory. Icewind Dale II is set in the Forgotten Realms, and the most famous mages in Faerûn are the Red Wizards of Thay. Hailing from the Unapproachable East, they are the notoriously badnatured ruling class of a populous and cruel country built on slavery.

When the Red Wizards have appeared in other games, they’ve generally had red rings encircling their feet to mark them out as enemies. They don’t exactly help themselves when it comes to public relations: These are the types you find holding dark rituals in the middle of the woods, or belligerently pursuing vulnerable women with innate magical abilities in order to dissect and study them. Their most notable videogame emissary—the haughty Baldur’s Gate companion Edwin—would have been voted ‘most likely to fatally turn on his own party’ when leaving wizard school.

But we’re going to turn them into protagonists. Our group is to be a mixture of researchers and imperialists— the former sifting the Spine of the World for arcane treasures that could bolster Thay’s power, and the latter scouting the Dale’s defenses as the prelude to an invasion. If anybody asks, though, they’re simple merchants and archeologists.


Traditionally, the Thayan council had a representative from every D&D school of magic, so we’ll try to do the same with our party. Up front are Whambam Mam and Thrul Ovvshytt, a conjurer and transmuter. In close combat terms, wizards are essentially PhD students in pyjamas—but they compensate for their physiques with summoned weapons and physical transformation.

They’re backed up by two ranged specialists. One, an old and bearded evoker named Zzimerfram, will bring the magic missiles and lightning bolts. The other, who goes by Ichadad Bod, is an enchanter trained in mind manipulation—perfect for goblin crowd control.

The party is rounded out by Kul Anthurrgangg, an illusionist I hope can stand in for a rogue, and Szass Quatch, a necromancer. The Red Wizards don’t ever leave the house without a necromancer. That’s just part and parcel of being evil.

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