From The Strategic Review: Vol 2, Issue 2 April 1976:
The logic behind it all was drawn from game balance as much as from anything else.
Fighters have their strength, weapons, and armor to aid them in their competition.
Magic-users must rely upon their spells, as they have virtually no weaponry or armor to protect them.
Clerics combine some of the advantages of the other two classes.
new class, thieves, have the basic advantage of stealthful actions with
some additions in order for them to successfully operate on a plane
with other character types.
If magic is unrestrained in the
campaign, D&D quickly degenerates into a weird wizard show where
players get bored quickly, or the referee is forced to change the game
into a new framework which will accommodate what he has created by way
of player characters. It is the opinion of this writer that the most
desirable game is one in which the various character types are able to
compete with each other as relative equals, for that will maintain
freshness in the campaign (providing that advancement is slow and there
is always some new goal to strive for).
Magic is great. Magic is
powerful. But it should be kept great and powerful in relation to its
game environment. That means all the magic-users who have been coasting
along with special dispensations from the dungeonmaster may soon have to
get out there and root with the rest of the players or lie down and
Love him or hate him, Gary Gygax had a way with words.
Of particular note to me, is the fact that he defends the game system so
vehemently(in fact, the larger article was a defense on the "Vancian"
magic system) and lays the blame on the wizard stealing the show at the
feet of the campaign and the dungeon master.
I'd honestly have to
say I agree with him, for the most part. Any game I've ran where the
Magic-User/Wizard stole the show is usually one where I'm not placing
enough challenges for the fighter/thief/cleric/etc to overcome. It's
interesting to keep in mind, not just for D&D reasons, but for
running any tabletop game! If your "roles" are The Scientist, The Track
and Field Athlete, and the Ace Shooter, then you'll want to balance your
game to include a variety of scientific, athletic and shooting
challenges so the players will have the opportunity to shine. Maybe it's
completely symptomatic of me starting with D&D(or fuck, everyone
starting with D&D if you want to get technical, it's ancient), but I
think every tabletop game can be distilled into character "interests"
or "roles" that should totally come up regularly to keep the players
Otherwise you end up with the steady stream of hack and
slash challenges with the diplomat just waiting for his or her
opportunity to shine for 5 sessions... 6 sessions... 9 sessions!
Definitely, no fun for the player that does not see their character
"that way." I think it's interesting that 4th edition decided to "fix"
this problem by giving everyone something to do every round in a combat
scenario, but the downside is that I feel like it leads to GMs who will
only run combat, because it's the obvious choice for something where
everyone can shine!
Which is fine, if everyone knows that they're
supposed to be mercenary warriors or members of a combat squadron, but
can be an issue if the game is presented as being more open ended than
that, and players show up with second story burglars who avoid
confrontation, and deductive investigators who are great at solving
mysteries and who don't have the bartitsu mastery of Sherlock Holmes!