For the /tg/ homebrew, see WIZARD (system).
Wizards are magic-wielding people who use their knowledge of the arcane to cast spells and lay down charms and such. The wizard often requires much planning and preparation before using magic, and usually cannot perform magic trivially. Wizards are powerful and intelligent individuals, usually taking on the role of scientist in fantasy settings. They also are known for being squishy. The preferred class of people who hate to lose in D&D 3.5.
Wizards show up in pretty much every single fantasy rpg that you can think of, and are pretty much the can-all, do-all guys of pretty much all systems. You want something done? There's a spell for it. Of course, there are some games that undercut the typical wizardly power, but for the most part, wizards tend to be the power-houses of the game.
Wizards are known to put on a robe and wizard's hat every morning, and especially before being intimate.
In Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons is perhaps the most famous user of wizards in all of /tg/ media, and the D&D wizard is the defining for many casual RPGists. D&D wizards have been around since the very first edition, where they were simply called "Magic Users", and show no sign of disappearing any time soon. However, the formula of the D&D wizard has changed slightly over the editions.
Traditionally, the D&D wizard is what TVTropes would call a "Squishy Wizard" and a "Glass Cannon"; they can drastically change the face of battles through deft applications of the right spells, but fold like a cheap napkin soaked in grease if a goblin with a dagger gets the drop on them, due to not being able to wear armor and abysmal hitpoint values. This... hasn't really changed; wizards have gotten some more hitpoints on average and more options for protective gear, but they still remain amongst the squishiest and worst-armored members of the various classes.
Another thing that distinguishes the traditional D&D wizard is their style of magic. Known as Vancian Casting, as it was inspired by the post-apocalyptic fantasy stories of one Jack Vance (which Gary Gygax was rather fond of), the basic formula works like this: a wizard has a number of spells they can cast each day, determined by their level. However, to cast those spells, they need to read and memorize them first by studying their spellbook. When they do cast one of these memorized spells, it wipes itself from their memory, so they constantly need to study their spellbooks in order to be able to keep contributing. This factor applied for the first three (and a half) editions of the game, after which things got... different. People are quite divided about the results.
These two factors make low-level wizards pretty... well, pathetic. The iconic image of the 1st level wizard is some loser who can cast maybe one magic missile a day, and then has to hide behind the fighter with some darts or a crossbow until the party deigns to take an eight hour rest. However, their power level increases dramatically as they increase in levels, giving them more spell slots to use as well as access to more powerful magics. TVTropes calls this trope "Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards".
Many advocate that the best way to play a wizard is not the more anime/videogame interpretation of "walking artillery piece", but instead the "Magic Batman" approach. This basically amounts to the wizard dumping attack spells, save for a handful of "save or suck" spells like Disintegrate and Flesh to Stone, and instead focusing on utility spells that allow it to basically outgame the DM. Of course, this is a rather controversial playing style, as it tends to piss off DMs and non-wizard players alike: the former is due to ruining any attempt to run a challenging encounter, and the latter is due to the feeling of redundancy. After all, when you've got a wizard who can go invisible and open any lock with just two spells, what do you need a rogue for? When you can summon demons, elementals and giant monsters, what do you need a fighter for?
This was, in many ways, the reason why 4th and 5th edition made such broad changes to how magic worked in general. Heck, the ability for "Magic Batman" to complete nullify anything the DM throws at them is a meme at this point; Order of the Stick explicitly made its Wizard protagonist Vaarsuvius into an Evoker with Conjuration as a prohibited school so he couldn't simply effortlessly nullify any challenge thrown at him, and then still has to throw in a quirky personality and frequent disabling plot inconveniences to make it stick.
The Schools of Magic
Since at least the 2nd edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, magic in the D&Dverse has been divided into eight different schools, focusing on grouping different kinds of powers and effects into relatively recognizable and coherent themes.
Traditionally, your typical wizard is thought to be a "generalist", making use of all schools of magic equally. However, in 2nd and 3rd edition, a wizard could choose to specialize; this gave them certain bonuses (greater likelihood of learning spells of their specialty school, a bonus spell memorized each day, etc), but also caused them to forsake one or more schools of magic in order to properly pursue true mastery. This was based on an earlier mechanic from 1e, where the Illusionist was presented as an entirely separate class to the wizard. In 2e and 3.0, the school you forsook was determined by school you specialized in, whilst in 3.5, this was changed to instead requiring you to give up a school of your choice. In Pathfinder you gain special abilities based on your specialization and your opposition schools aren't entirely barred, but they require double the effort to cast. Pathfinder latter offered outright barring schools as a variant option that gave even more bonuses in exchange, largely because opposition schools were important to the lore established in their early, 3.5 based, Adventure Paths. 4e abandoned the schools altogether. 5e brought them back and removed the "lose a school" aspect entirely, in part because specialization was now mandatory.
Abjuration: This school of magic revolves around defense, as "abjure" comes from old words meaning, essentially, "to repel". Abjuration spells cover a mix of anti-magic spells, spiritual defense spells, and physical defense spells; if it shields from harm, literally or metaphorically, then it's an abjuration spell. This school covers classics like Magic Circle, Dispel Magic, Shield and Mage Armor. It also contains banishment magic, antimagic (when that isn't Universal), and some forms of nondetection. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Abjurers. Back in the old days, an Abjurer's banned school was Transmutation.
Conjuration: This school of magic revolves around summoning creatures and effects from other worlds. Teleporting is sometimes considered part of this school, and certain attack spells are likewise held up as part of the conjurer's art. Mostly, though, this is for calling critters to do you will. DMs aren't very fond of this school, and neither are martial class players, because it allows wizards to greatly amp up their power level by tricks such as summoning extraplanar beings who can then use their own magic to add even more might to the wizard's part of the table. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Conjurers. In 2nd edition, Conjurers are barred from learning spells of the Divination school.
Divination: This school of magic revolves around learning stuff. Seeing into the past, reading the future, learning when somebody's lying, reading thoughts, scrying, all that fun stuff is part of the Divination school. Although hardly the flashiest of styles, this is one of the most hated schools amongst DMs. Not only is it integral to the time-honored adventure-breaking "scry, teleport and fight" methodology, but it also makes a swift mockery of any attempt to run a mystery-themed campaign. These spells also ramp slowly, making those that specialize in them even more quadratic. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Diviners, and in 2nd edition, they were prohibited from learning Conjuration spells.
Enchantment: Despite what the word enchantment means in pretty much any other RPG in the world, This school of magic revolves around monkeying with peoples' minds, partially or entirely. As with Conjuration, DMs and non-caster players can get rather ticked off at this school. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Enchanters. An Enchanter in AD&D is unable to learn Evocation spells.
Evocation: TORGUE GOT MORE BOOM!! This school of magic revolves around offense, plain and simple. This is the oft-maligned School of Blowing Shit Up, using elemental damage in various shapes and types to blast, burn, freeze, crush, dissolve, implode, explode, slice, dice, puree and otherwise bestow a really shitty day upon anyone who has ticked you off. Although some purists turn their nose up at this school, it is perhaps the most visually impressive and "iconic" of magical styles, and so retains quite a fanbase, especially with players who don't want to render the non-wizards completely obsolete. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Evokers. Back in the day, specialist Evokers were unable to use Enchantment spells.
Illusion: This school of magic revolves around playing tricks on peoples' minds by making them see and hear things that aren't there, or not see/hear things that are. Invisibility is perhaps the most iconic spell of this school. Ironically, unlike Conjuration, Divination or Enchantment, DMs rarely have many overt complaints about this school. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Illusionists, and were in fact the creators of the Generalist/Specialist split; back in Basic, the Wizard was called the Magic-User and the Illusionist was a separate class entirely - this carried over into AD&D 1st edition as the Wizard/Illusionist split, before finally developing into the specialist system of 2e. Traditionally, Illusion is opposed to the school of Necromancy, so Illusionists can't learn necromancy spells.
Necromancy: This school of magic revolves around playing with the forces of life and death. D&D has sometimes tried to divide necromancy into three styles: White (healing magic, exorcisim), Gray (animating or speaking to the dead) and Black (instant death, inflicting pain and disease). This rarely sticks; animating the dead went from Gray Necromancy in AD&D to Black Necromancy in 3e, gaining the "(Evil)" descriptor to enforce that it can't be used by good guys, despite not really being functionally different form repurposing an old worn out shirt that someone else has discarded. Traditionally, wizardly necromancers have been rather inferior to clerical ones, mostly due to lacking the innate ability to control undead that even a low-level evil cleric has and so being forced to waste precious 6th level spell slots on Control Undead spells. This is a matter of some contention. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Necromancers. For whatever reason, it was decided in 2e tht a Necromancer couldn't learn Illusion magic.
Transmutation: Known as Alteration prior to 3e, this school of magic revolves around the ability to transform things, typically by changing one thing into something else. This covers both "traditional" alchemy-type effects like Steel to Clay or Rock to Mud and shapeshifting spells like Polymorph, Flesh to Stone and Disintegrate. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Transmuters. Their traditional banned school is Abjuration.
These eight schools have remained remarkably consistent over the years of D&D's existence. The closest they have ever come to being challenged is the sporadic and usually underdeveloped appearances of more esoteric schools: Elementalism, Wild Magic, Shadow Magic and Chronomancy.
The very first version of the Wizard, called the Magic-User, is established here. The frailest of all classes with no ability to use armor and a measly D4 hit dice - even the elf and halfling get D6s - the magic-user depends on the party's protection, but can use powerful spells that get more powerful as they advance in levels. At 9th level, they become "Named" characters, and can choose to either create their own tower (and potentially a dungeon) to establish their own territory, attracting apprentice wizards, or they can become an employed mage for a noble, or they can keep traveling and attract fighter & cleric henchmen willing to work for them. They depend on spellbooks to memorize their spells (or to learn new spells from), and must seek out tutors as an alternative way to learn spells.
In the BECMI Dungeon Master's Guide, rules are presented for making "humanoid" (monster) magic-users, representing the comparatively rare arcane spellcasters who arise amongst orcs, goblinoids, fey, etcetera. These humanoid spell-casters were originally called Wicca, but for whatever reason, be it current events making it a bad idea to use a name that meant "witch" or protests from the religion that called itself by that same name, this didn't stick; Hollow World saw the Wicca be rebranded as the Wokani in its player's guide, and that name change carried over to the Rules Cyclopedia.
Despite basically using the same mechanics, the Wicca/Wokani was culturally reflavored as a Witch Doctor type; the DMG even goes so far as to describe the spellcasting process for wokani (and shamans, their clerical counterparts) as consisting of "dancing, waving strange items, shouting and howling". This led to their spell-list being altered to a much simpler array of spells, comprised predominantly of utilitarian spells like Detect Magic or Sleep; they don't learn any offensive spells until they become capable of casting 3rd level spells, and even then their list is small (Fireball, Lightning Bolt, Ice Storm, Wall of Fire, Wall of Ice, Cloudkill, Dissolve, Death, Flesh to Stone), but they can learn the spell Reincarnation. Their spells also cap out at 6th level, not that this matters, since most humanoids average about 2nd to 4th level maximum in the wokani class. To emphasize this thematic limitation on spells, wokani cannot learn any other kind of spell from wizard scrolls. This would eventually be split off into the Adept class in 3rd edition.
In 1st Edition
If there are any differences between the BECMI Wizard and the AD&D 1e Wizard, they are so subtle as to defy quick recognition. They're pretty much identical... except in two key ways. Firstly, AD&D Magic-Users can, from 11th level onwards, create their own enchanted items and spell scrolls. Secondly, founding their own territory can't be done until 12th level.
The Illusionist of this edition loses the ability to cast "standard" Magic-User spells, and is instead restricted to casting its own specific pool of spells, which Magic-Users can't learn themselves; powers like Phantasmal Killer or Prismatic Spray first appeared in this edition. Additionally, illusionists have a restriction on what kind of magic items they use, and can only create magic items and scrolls that draw upon illusion-type magic.
Unearthed Arcana introduced the idea of "Cantrips", small and weak spells that covered glorified magical tricks. In a nutshell, a wizard could "give up" a number of 1st level spells to instead gain access to these smaller spells, which had far more specific uses and were so gimmicky they frankly weren't worth it.
In 2nd Edition
In this edition, wizards are king, plain and simple. Although they suffer immense difficulties at getting to higher levels, if they pull it off, they can curb-stomp just about anything. This was the edition that created the now-iconic schools of magic, detailed above, and it drastically expanded the spells available and what spells a wizard could cast; whilst prohibited schools were a thing, they were a far cry from AD&D 1e's "An Illusionist cannot learn standard Magic-User spells, period" approach.
Popular "cheats" for aspiring wizards in this edition include the use of kits and multiclassing to get around certain weaknesses; for example, the right kit could make your wizard drastically more powerful (such as the Undead Master kit, which gave your Necromancer access to Enchantment spells, the ability to Command Undead like an evil Cleric of equal level, and the ability to Command Outsiders as if they were undead of equivalent hitdice), whilst the gish technique could compensate for the wizard's squishiness. A fighter/mage multiclassed character advanced more slowly, but would retain equally potent magical and martial abilities, whilst a fighter who then dual-classed to wizard would start with a much beefier pool of hit points to work with.
In addition to introducing the iconic Specialist Wizard "subclass" in the PHB, TSR realized that they had a gold mine here which could be milked further. So, various splatbooks offered up a number of different specializations, most of which haven't been remembered so well.
- Wild Mage: A wizard specialised in tapping into magic's wildest, rawest form and exploiting that potentially dangerous power. First debuted in Tome of Magic, then was reprinted in Player's Option: Spells & Magic.
- Elementalist: A wizard specialized in controlling one of the four elements. Appearing alongside the Wild Mage on two occasions, this one also appeared in Al-Qadim, where Arabian Adventures featured two different styles; the Elemental Mage (basically a reskin/tweak of the original Elementalist), and the Sorcerer, an elementalist who drew on two elements simultaneously.
- Shadow Mage: A wizard specialized in manipulating umbral matter and drawing power from the Plane of Shadow. This guy first appeared in Player's Option: Skills and Powers, and then reappeared in Player's Option: Spells & Magic.
- Dimensionalist: A kind of specialized Conjurer focusing on magic that manipulates the boundaries between different planes. This guy appeared in Player's Option: Spells & Magic.
- Force Mage: A specialist elementalist hyper-focused on manipulating raw force energy, such as that seen in the iconic Magic Missile spell. This guy appeared in Player's Option: Spells & Magic.
- Mentalist: Sitting somewhere between an arcane emulation of psionics and a specialist enchanter, Mentalists focus exclusively on spells that affect and control the minds of others. This guy appeared in Player's Option: Spells & Magic.
- Alchemist: A wizard that specializes in creating potions and using magic to analyze and alter material - a more focused version of the transmuter. This guy first appeared in Player's Option: Skills and Powers, and then reappeared in Player's Option: Spells & Magic.
- Artificer: A wizard specialized in creating physical tools to create, contain, channel and control magical energy. This guy appeared in Player's Option: Spells & Magic.
- Geometer: A wizard specialized in the use of runes, symbols, diagrams and other such mediums to channel and contain magical energy. Basically a rune wizard. This guy first appeared in Player's Option: Skills and Powers, and then reappeared in Player's Option: Spells & Magic.
- Song Mage: A wizard specialized in the way that music and song can be used to channel and manipulate magical energy; basically a bard that focuses on magic instead of trying to be a jack of all trades. This guy first appeared in Player's Option: Skills and Powers, and then reappeared in Player's Option: Spells & Magic.
- Sha'ir: A wizard who forms a unique pact with a genie familiar, trading favors in exchange for magical energy drawn from this familiar. The iconic Al-Qadim wizard, this specialization debuted in Arabian Adventures.
- Arcanist: A wizard who studies the darkest arts for knowledge and power - essentially a diviner/necromancer cross. This specialization appeared in the Domains of Dread boxed set for Ravenloft.
- Runecaster: An arcane spellcaster who uses runes to invoke and channel magical energy for a specific purpose; most popular with giants and dwarves. Appeared in the Giantcraft splatbook for the Forgotten Realms.
- Metamage: A wizard specialized in directly manipulating the casting of spells itself - essentially an abjurer with a further focus in metamagic. Also called an Incantatrix (for females) or Incantatar (for males), this Forgotten Realms specialization appeared in the Cult of the Dragon.
- Dualist: An elf-created specialist wizard who focuses exclusively on two schools of magic that are normally considered to be opposed to each other. Appeared in Cormanthyr: Empire of Elves for the Forgotten Realms.
In 3rd Edition
Wizards are more powerful than ever. Some says the priests usurped the wizard’s throne, but they are just heretics. While it’s true that the CoDzilla is a powerful force to be reckoned with, it is also true that wizards allow more versatility, power and the cheesiest builds. They also got a new toy to play with in the form of "metamagic" effects, that allowed them to prepare spells with special benefits, like a bigger area of effect or increased numbers, in higher level spell slots from normal.
3e wizards also gained a sibling in the form of the Sorcerer, a "spontaneous caster" that shook up the Vancian Casting mechanic; although it could learn fewer spells than a wizard, it received more spells per day and had access to all of the spells it knew at any given time. The wizard's immense power and versatility generally gave it the leg up on the sorcerer, though, who also had problems stemming from in-house developer conflicts, such as few skills on their skill list that used their casting stat, or difficulty using "metamagic" effects to modify spells.
Cantrips returned in this edition, but now they were less gimmicky and were memorized from a pool of separate "Level 0" spell-slots, instead of costing you precious 1st level spell slots to memorize and to learn.
Wizards are largely the same in Pathfinder. The big changes are, as mentioned above, opposition schools now require two spell slots to cast instead of being totally prohibited and each specialty now grants a number of class features as you level up, due to the Archetypes system. Also Cantrips are now at will, the main consequence of this being you don't need a magic item to cast detect magic on everything and can do it from first level and you can skip touching anything unknown that's lighter than 5 pounds if it doesn't require fine manipulation.
Spell wise, Pathfinder nerfed some of the Wizard's best spells. Emphasis on "some". Only a few early game staples like Grease, Glitterdust, Ray of Enfeeblement, polymorph effects have been nerfed. Most of the truly gamebreaking shit, Planar Binding, Simulacrum, Wish, or Charm/Dominate Person, is untouched. This doesn't even nerf low level Wizards too badly since only the best spells that were nerfed, many really good spells (color spray, sleep) are untouched and many spells that were only barely in second place (pyrotechnics is almost as good as Glitterdust) got untouched.
Due to the way Spheres handles casting, the Wizard is much less absurd than it usually is. Additionally, it maintains the Arcane Bond feature and replaces their arcane schools with the Incanter's Sphere Specialization, whilst gaining said class's 3 per 2 level Magic Talent progression. Usefully, however, the Bonded Object option of Arcane Bond lets them gain access to Magic Talents they don't have for a minute at a time. It actually competes well with the Sorcerer rather than overtaking it like it usually does.
One of their Sphere specific archetypes, the Eclectic Researcher, allows the player to make a narcissistic genius; able to craft spells that require the Researcher to use them.
The other archetype, Cosmic Sage, lets them improve their ability to Scribe Scrolls, and gains a free implement, for the cost of using longer casting time, similar to using Spheres metamagic.
In 4th Edition
The idea of wizards being "same engine, new coat of paint" can't be said for wizards of 4th edition. With an edition design goal of trying to keep classes from being dramatically stronger or weaker than each other, the "Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards" trope was dropped, which meant wizards were no longer the "do everything" class. However, despite the agony that many wizards-lovers felt at a first glance at the class, the truth is that a lot of former wizardly glory did remain behind the scenes - many "utilitarian" spells were remade into Rituals in 4th edition. Whilst this technically meant anyone with the right Feat could now cast spells like Magic Mouth or Arcane Lock, wizards got that feat for free and were able to learn more Rituals than anyone else. Plus, there were whole new Rituals that allowed people to do things like raise permanent flying islands or construct castles with a wave of their hand, stuff that was never really covered in past editions.
Most startlingly, wizards in this edition forsook not only the traditional Schools of Magic, but also the very idea of Vancian Casting. Wizards of the Coast, in a short booklet they published about their class design process, explained that the idea of wizards who could cast 1 spell a day and then hid in the back of the group always sounded kind of boring to them. So, they rewrote the entire format for spell-usage, and then found this could be used to give every class some neat things to do in combat. 4e divided spells into At-Will (can be cast whenever the caster wants), Encounter (spells that can be cast once, and then you need to take a five minute breather before you can cast them again), Daily (cast once, and then you need 6 hours of rest to use again) and Utility (non-offensive spells that can be cast Encounter, Daily or even At-Will). Furthermore, "spells per day" and "spells known" were no longer interlinked; like a 3e sorcerer, so long as a wizard had the "spells per day" slot to burn, it could cast any of its spells as often as it liked.
One other thing that wizards did retain, just altered for the new powers format, was their spellbook. Unlike other classes, who only learned 1 new power whenever they scored a new Utility or Daily power, a wizard got to learn 2 powers. By studying their spellbook during a long rest, a wizard could switch around its memorized spells as it saw fit, allowing it to retain the spirit of its traditional versatility. As stated above, 4e wizards forsook the traditional 8 schools - you could still build a thematic spellcaster, you just needed to pick the spells you wanted without worrying about mechanical drawbacks for doing so, and sourcebooks & Dragon Magazine articles provided plenty of fleshing out past the initially Evoker-heavy presentation of the PHB. But wizards in 4e still had their "subclasses" - but what defined them now was their choice of Implements, a feature called "Arcane Implement Mastery". Hearkening back to those long-marginalized trappings of wizardry, 4e wizards picked a specific kind of Implement to master, and from this they gained specialized abilities. The PHB presented Wizards with the Implements of: Orb of Imposition, Staff of Defense, and Wand of Accuracy. Arcane Power added the Orb of Deception, the Tome of Binding and the Tome of Readiness. Obviously, you need to be wielding a mastered Implement to gain its associated powers!
- Orb of Imposition: Once per encounter, you can either impose a penalty on a "save ends" ongoing spell equal to your Wisdom modifier, or you can extend the duration of a wizard at-will spell that lasts "until the end of your current turn" so that it ends at the end of your next turn. Invoking either power is a free action.
- Staff of Defense: You gain +1 AC when wielding a staff. Additionally, once per encounter, you can boost your AC against one attack (after its damage has been rolled) by an amount equal to your Constitution modifier as an immediate interrupt.
- Wand of Accuracy: Once per encounter, add your Dexterity modifier to an attack roll as a free action.
- Orb of Deception: Once per encounter, if you miss an attack with a Wizard power that has the Illusion keyword, you can instead attack another target with the same spell, this time gaining an attack roll bonus equal to your Charisma modifier. A viable target is one within 3 squares of the original target and which was not targeted by the original attack.
- Tome of Binding: Once per encounter, you can use a free action as part of using an Arcane power with the Summoning keyword to grant all creatures summoned by that power a bonus to their damage rolls equal to your Constitution modifier.
- Tome of Readiness: Choose a Wizard Encounter Attack power of your level or lower that you don't already know. This power is now "stored" and can be used in place of a memorized Wizard Encounter Attack power of the same level or higher whenever you are in battle, though it can only be used once per encounter. You can change which power you have "stored" whenever you reach a level that lets you learn a new encounter power. Basically, you have +1 extra encounter attack spell which you can only use 1/encounter, but which increases your normal encounter powers per day limit.
Essentials added multiple subclasses to the Wizard, in the form of the Mage, the Bladesinger, the Sha'ir and the Witch. The original wizard would be formally renamed as the "Arcanist subclass in the article "Class Compendium: The Arcanist" in Dragon Magazine #401.
Truthfully, the "4e wizards are just Evokers!" meme is not truly accurate. Yes, they do have a lot of blasting spells; most of the wizard's traditional "non-violent problem-solving spells" wound up as Rituals for balance reasons. But, even in the first player's handbook, the wizard's spell-list is full of spells from other schools. Attack spells in the PHB include Conjuration (of the "conjure an effect" variety, not the "summon monster" variety), Enchantment and Necromancy spells, whilst the Utility spells are full of migrants from the Transmutation and Abjuration schools - which you should honestly expect because there were very few offensive Transmutation/Abjuration spells in past editions. Heck, the PHB even features Otiluke's Resilient Sphere, one of the most iconic "offensive Abjuration" spells! Further spells would then be released in other sourcebooks to further fuel your non-Evoker options; Dragon Magazine provided its share, including illusions, enchantments, non-minion necromancy, and pyromancy, but Arcane Power in particular brought back the idea of Summons, as well as plenty of new spells for illusionists and, to a lesser extent, enchanters. In fact, whilst the sample wizard builds in the PHB were the school-neutral "Control Wizard" and "War Wizard", Arcane Power provided sample builds in the form of the "Illusion Wizard" and "Summons Wizard", which should give you an idea of just how thoroughly those schools got an update in that sourcebook.
In addition to articles that provided new wizard spells indirectly - such as #372's "Secrets of the City Entombed", which provided Necromancer spells for the Avenger, Bard, Cleric, Shaman, Swordmage, Warlock and Wizard, there were a number of issues of "Class Acts" articles that directly expanded the wizard's arsenal:
- #364: Illusionists: Like the name says, a straight-up conversion of some classic illusion type spells, even with the trusty illusory wall, spectral hound and phantasmal terrain spells.
- #381: Wizards of the Feywild: Enchantment and Illusion spells, with a few added variations of the "Magic Missile" theme because, y'know, elven archers?
- #383: Evokers: Despite its name, technically more of an Elementalist, with a number of heroic tier spells based on blasting foes with elemental magics.
- #385: Summoners: Adds a new assortment of Summoning powers for your Conjurer, with some updated mechanics from those in Arcane Power. This article reintroduces the old-school idea that if you don't directly control your summon, it goes badly for you; these summoned fiends and elementals (and a couatl summon, for some reason) have the ability to operate more independently than those summons in Arcane Power, but there are drawbacks (like taking damage) to just letting them do their own thing.
- #388: Pryomancers: Another Elementalist/Evoker fusion, padding out the spell-list with more fiery spells, some fire spell-buffing feats, and adding a new Paragon Path, the Master of Flames, which is open to any arcane class.
In 5th Edition
In 5th edition, wizards changed drastically yet again. They still learned spells and filled out their spellbooks, picking spells memorized to determine what they could cast. However, not only did cantrips remain "cast at will", like in 4th edition, but the 5e wizard now functioned like a 3e sorcerer, in that it no longer forgot its spells after casting them. The spellbook was essential to switch around what spells the wizard was physically capable of casting, but it was no longer rendered unable to cast just by stealing the spellbook and having it use its magic.
Another change, perhaps more dramatic, was the idea of Arcane Traditions. All classes in 5e now take a subclass early in their career, and for wizards, this swallows up the old idea of "school specialization", to the point that the first wave of subclasses were based on the traditional specialist wizards. This resulted in (until we got the Lore Master) forsaking the idea of both the generalist wizard (in theory at least, the 5e necromancer makes a pretty good generalist) and of "forbidden schools".
Finally, the very nature of 5e casting, with its ability to cast spells in higher-level slots, and with at-will cantrips that effectively replace weapons for casters, provided the wizard with a great deal of flexibility and endurance compared to the olden days. First level Wizard spells also got some good buffs, with spells such as Shield and False Life keeping a 1st-level Wizard from being goblin-knived.
Regardless of their Tradition, all 5e wizards get the Arcane Recovery class ability to start with (once per day, you can regain a small number of spell slots with just a short rest), the usual increases to their ability scores (either +2 to one score, or +1 to two scores) at levels 4/8/12/16/19, and gain the abilities Spell Mastery (can freely pick one 1st level and one 2nd level spell and can cast these mastered spells at their lowest level without using any spell slots as if they were cantrips, takes 8 hours to replace these) at level 18 and Signature Spells (pick two level 3 spells; you always have them prepared, they don't count towards your number of spells prepared, and each can be cast at its basic level without using up a spell slot once before needing a short rest to recharge) at level 20.
All of the "classic" subclasses also get the "[Tradition] Savant" feature, which halves the time and gold it takes to copy a spell of their tradition into their spellbook. For details, see Abjurer, Conjurer, Diviner, Enchanter, Evoker, Illusionist, Necromancer and Transmuter. Of note is that these subclasses are in no way even in terms of power or utility, especially at 2nd level. Some, like the Abjurer and Diviner, have strong abilities with obvious use right out the gate. Others, like the Illusionist and Enchanter, get middling sidegrade powers that are nice but not worth writing home about. And some, like the Transmuter and Conjurer, have abilities that are so fundamentally broken it's worth talking to your DM before even rolling these characters up. Their basic abilities have been aggressively pre-nerfed to the point where how they were ever intended to function is lost.
With 5e's fairly slow output of non-adventure sourcebooks, the Wizard has grown quite slowly. A handful of other traditions have been released in Unearthed Arcana, but so far, only five further official Traditions exist:
- Firstly, there is the Bladesinger, an elf-orientated warrior-wizard that was the original inspiration for 4e's Swordmage and is the wizard's answer to the Fighter's Eldritch Knight. This was provided in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide and later reprinted in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.
- Secondly, there is the War Magic tradition, a unique blending of evocation and abjuration to create a more tactically inclined, "tanky" sort of wizard, a 5e adaptation of the Warmage. This was provided in Xanathar's Guide to Everything and had first appeared in Unearthed Arcana.
- Thirdly, there's the Dunamancy traditions of Chronurgist and Graviturgist, both of which appeared in Explorer's Guide to Wildemount.
- Finally, there is the Order of Scribes, which gives you bonuses related to calligraphy, your spellbook, and spell scrolls. The ability to basically download a backup of your spellbook if it gets destroyed is a godsend.
Unearthed Arcana Arcane Traditions consist of:
- The Technomancer, an Urban Fantasy wizard who can use technology as a medium for spells.
- The Theurge, a wizard-priest who combines arcane studies and religions studies to add divine magic to their arsenal.
- The Lore Master, a generalist wizard slash arcane scholar whose studies grant them unparalleled versatility, soundly hated for their effortlessly defeating the Sorcerer in the arts of metamagic.
- The Inventor (School of Invention AT), a weird sort of Artificer-Wild Mage hybrid who manages to be more fun to play and/or less annoying than the actual 5e Wild Mage.
- The Onomancer, a 5e take on the truenamer that is yet another metamagic wizard that outclasses the sorcerer, only with a janky and weaksauce first-level power that literally every other class feature needs to go off in order to work for that authentic truenamer experience.
- The Archivist, a reworked version of the Artificer subclass, because Wizards will never stop peeling support away from newborn babe classes that desperately need it to feed the squealing spoilt brat of the class that bears its name. Comically-overpowered, it starts with a better version of every core wizard class's starting ability in the form of a pen that can half all costs for scribing spells, and yet another power that lets them turn all damage they deal into irresistable force damage for free as often as they want, so long as they're taking the admittedly-hefty risk of using their spellbook as an implement. Later abilities include free ritual castings, a familiar that spells can be arced through, for a better version of the Pact of the Chain Warlock while we're at it, and a capstone that lets them resist death in favor of permanently losing the ability to ever cast 3d6 spell levels' worth of spells ever again. An incredible exercise in having almost literally every single power be poorly designed in some way, and the weakest and worst of an already-stinky lot in that particular UA.
Additionally, with the lack of an Eberron sourcebook for 5e, WoTC's first thought for tackling the Artificer was to shoehorn it in as a wizard tradition. Its specialty was basically burning spell-slots to create one-use magical potions and scrolls or temporarily buffing arms & armor. At level 14, they could finally make 1 permanent magical item per month after spending a week of solid work to do so. This version was pretty resoundingly panned as the most awful attempt at converting it that WoTC could have come up with, especially since the level 14 feature created only some of the weaker magic items on the list, which would be long obsolete by that point. When a draft Artificer base-class came out in 2017, pretty much everyone forgot that this version existed.
Mike Mearls also stated on his stream that, rather than come up with a new subsystem and individual classes for psionics, he'd personally use a School of Psionics Arcane Tradition to turn a wizard into a psion. The resultant rules can be found on the 5etools website.
Blackstaff's Tome of Wizardry is a "quasi-official" splatbook from the DM's Guild that contains a massive array of new Wizard subclasses.
Class Feature Variants
In the November 2019 UA, a UA dedicated to providing enhancements and replacements to every single class, the Wizard hilariously got the least robust changes of any class in the UA. All they got was the ability to swap out their cantrips for free every level, and a paltry sum of bonus spells to add to their spell lists. Perhaps this a recognition that the Wizard was a bit overtuned, but it is still very funny to compare the changes the Wizard got compared to the Sorcerer, or really any other class.
In Warhammer Fantasy
Wizards are present in almost every single army you care to name in the world of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Although usually (not always; there are key exceptions, like Ogre Butchers, spellcasting Vampires, and Chaos Sorcerers) lacking in terms of tankiness or physical combat ability, their ability to both launch magical fireballs and/or buff the shit out of friendlies (different wizards do better at different things), and perhaps more importantly to fuck up the efforts of casters on the other side makes them incredibly valuable members of the force.
In Warhammer, magic is a kind of spiritual breeze that exhales from the Realm of Chaos and sweeps across the world, splitting into various currents that permeate and/or are attracted to (it's debatable which it is) various natural phenomena. For this reason, wizards in-universe speak of the Winds of Magic, which form distinctive styles and powers.
The two races most adept with the art of magic are the Asur and the Slann, who are the only races in the setting capable of using "High Magic". This consists of the eight Winds all blended together in a harmonious whole, allowing for spells of particularly devastating effect and color and making them masters of dispelling other wizards' efforts at casting.
In The Empire, originally, wizards had no training whatsoever, and "hedge wizards" were the only practitioners of their kind in the world. This was a dangerous art, based on experimentation and random chance, which made them versatile, because they could learn spells from many Winds, but also risky, because they had no idea how to avoid corrupting their spells with Dark Magic or just fumbling the spells and blowing themselves up. During the reign of Magnus the Pious, the High Elf mage Teclis created the Eight Colleges of Magic; although he reasoned that humans were "too weak-minded" and short-lived to master High Magic, they could certainly master the nuances of one Wind at a time. Although publically distrusted and hated by the Witch Hunters of Sigmar, the Battle Mages of the Empire are much-loved by the soldiers who serve alongside them, who value their ability to add much-needed firepower to imperial battles.
In Bretonnia, all youths who have magical talent are abducted early on; the males disappear, whilst the females return as the mysterious Priestesses of the Lady of the Lake. It's strongly hinted that such souls have actually been abducted by the Wood Elves, though what happens to the boys is unclear.
In the Ogre Kingdoms, Butchers are primitive shamans who cast sympathetic magic by devouring certain reagents; the heart of a bull rhinox to heal those around them, bones to cause the enemy's bones to break, trollguts to imbue themselves with a trollish ability to regenerate.
The Skaven have two distinct classes of wizard, in the form of the Grey Seers (mutant skaven with the natural ability to draw upon the corrupted magic that resonates with their race), and the Warlock Engineers of Clan Skryre, who use magitek devices to draw raw magic from the atmosphere and channel it into useful forms. Mostly blasts of energy.
Orcs & Goblins are believed to derive their magic from the raw battlelust of their own kind, which means that fighting orcs serve as natural batteries of magical power for their shamans to tap. As shamans have very little training in controlling magic, however, most ultimately end up exploding.
The Tomb Kings have a caste of liche-priests who practice ancient ritualistic magic, the oldest form of necromancy in the world, tapping into the Wind of Death in ways very different to modern wizards.
The Vampire Counts, meanwhile, are naturally adept at using necromancy, a form of corrupted and Chaos-tainted Death Magic.
In Warhammer 40000
Technically, there is no magic in Warhammer 40,000, but the mechanics of psionics fills much the same role. In the setting there exists an immaterial realm controlled by the forces of Chaos which can be tapped for "magic" use. Worshippers of Chaos practice Sorcery, which is a style of using rituals to draw extra psychic power beyond what they could ordinarily channel on their own from daemons who have been bartered or bound through those rituals. Races opposed to Chaos like the Eldar or the Imperium employ various psionic adepts which use their power without demonic help (and usually against the wishes of Chaos). These psykers range from being very weak to the power level of an "traditional" wizard or even mightier but must endure a permanent onslaught on their psyche, mind and very soul. Hence the more powerful a psyker is the more dangerous he lives. Through discipline and various rituals psykers can overcome some of the problems of the grimdark setting but in the end every "magic" user is under the constant threat of being possessed or torn asunder by unseen powers. The only exception to this are the Orks which technically tear themselves apart and do not regularly become possessed because GREEN IZ BEST! For more details see Psyker.
In The World Of Darkness
The "wizard archetype" in the World of Darkness is filled by the monsters known as Mages, although what these actually are depends on the game variant you're following.
In the Old World, Mage: The Ascension portrays Mages as humans who awoke to the realization that reality is not fixed in place, but is guided by human consensus and by devoting themselves strongly to their own reality paradigm, they could escape those bonds. Or, in layman's terms: reality is more fluid than people realize, and any person crazy-fixated on a particular way of doing magic enough can eventually become crazy enough to break the rules that limit everybody else and manipulate reality as a result.
In the New World, Mage: The Awakening portrays Mages as humans who have undergone a massive spiritual awakening, breaking free of ancient shackles on the human consciousness and learning to tap into the world of higher reality behind the lies others are still bound to.
|Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Classes|
|Player's Handbook 1:||Cleric - Fighter - Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Warlock - Warlord - Wizard|
|Player's Handbook 2:||Avenger - Barbarian - Bard - Druid - Invoker - Shaman - Sorcerer - Warden|
|Player's Handbook 3:||Ardent - Battlemind - Monk - Psion - Runepriest - Seeker|
|Heroes of X:||Blackguard - Binder - Cavalier - Elementalist - Hexblade - Hunter|
Mage - Knight - Protector - Scout - Sentinel - Skald - Slayer - Sha'ir - Thief
Vampire - Warpriest - Witch
|Settings Book:||Artificer - Bladesinger - Swordmage|
|Others:||Paragon Path - Epic Destiny|
|Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Classes|
|Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Warlock - Wizard
|Tasha's Cauldron of Everything:||Artificer - Expert - Spellcaster - Warrior|
|Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft:||Apprentice - Disciple - Sneak - Squire|
|The Classes of Pathfinder 1st Edition|
|Core Classes:||Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
|Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier |
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
|Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator |
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
|Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist |
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
|Ultimate X:||Gunslinger - Magus - Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante|
|The Classes of Pathfinder 2nd Edition|
|Core Classes:||Alchemist - Barbarian - Bard - Champion - Cleric - Druid |
Fighter - Monk - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
|Advanced Player's Guide:||Investigator - Oracle - Swashbuckler - Witch|
|Secrets of Magic:||Magus - Summoner|