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. It may not be quite as effective as the 'hands-on' method, but it's close enough (and sometimes better). 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 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?
The Schools of Magic
Since at least 2nd edition, 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. In 2e and 3.5, 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. 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. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Abjurers.
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.
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. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Diviners.
Enchantment: This school of magic revolves around controlling 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.
Evocation: 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.
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 seperate class entirely.
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. 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.
Transmutation: This school of magic revolves around the ability to transform things, 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. In AD&D 2nd edition, this school was known as Alteration, but it was renamed as part of the shift to 3rd edition. Wizards specialized in this school are known as Transmuters.
In 1st Edition
Ask a really old-school neckbeard for the run-down on 1e's Magic-User.
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. 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 3rd Edition
Wizard took a hit in power in this edition. Although their ever-expanding array of spells certainly made them more powerful than the fighter was, and stronger than they'd been in 2nd edition, they found their place as the ultimate class usurped by the Priests - Clerics and Druid. Now elevated to 9th level spellcasters, whereas before they'd maxed out at 7th level, with much greater arrays of both buffing spells (their traditional strength) and new offensive spells (previously the wizard's domain), they were the mightiest class of the edition, coining the phrase "CoDzilla." And while wizards had limited access to their pool of spells known via spellbooks, the divine casters knew every spell on their class lists and could switch them out each morning.
Still, even with this, wizards were still a power to be reckoned with, and arguably changed the least from their format in 2nd edition. 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 recieved 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.
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.
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 8 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.
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 forsaking the idea of both the generalist wizard (until we got the Lore Master) 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.
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.
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 two further official Traditions exist:
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.
Additionally, with the lack of an Eberron sourcebook for 5e, WoTC's first thought for tackling the Artificer was to shoehorn in as a wizard tradition. Its speciality 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.
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 Asrai and the Slaan, 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 Skyre, 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 of Khemri 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 there 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 an permanent onslaught on their psyche, mind and very soul. Hence the more powerful a psyker is the more dangerous he lives. Trough 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 processed or thorn asunder by unseen powers. The only exception to this are the Orks which technically tear themselves apart and do not regular become processed 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 - Elementalist - Hexblade - Sha'ir - Vampire - Witch|
|Settings Book:||Artificer - Swordmage|
|Others:||Paragon Path - Epic Destiny|
|Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Classes|
| Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Warlock - Wizard
|Artificer - Mystic|
|The Classes of Pathfinder|
|Core Classes:|| Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
| Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator |
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
| Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier |
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
| Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist |
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
|Ultimate X:||Gunslinger - Magus- Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante|
| Aegis - Cryptic - Dread - Marksman |
Psion - Psychic Warrior - Soulknife
Tactician - Vitalist - Wilder
|Path of War:||Harbinger - Mystic - Stalker - Warder - Warlord - Zealot|