5E Cost of Attending Wizard School

BlivetWidget

Explorer
I was casually wondering to myself what it would cost to attend a wizard boarding school/academy using 5e rules, and came up with some numbers. A good number of assumptions had to be made, of course. Thoughts welcome, but mostly I just wanted to put this out there in case anyone else was interested.

Assumptions:
-Attending a wizard boarding school is a formative experience and gives you a background flavored by the education (which does not limit it to Sage; say you want to be a merchant, the school pays for you to work under a merchant for a year as your capstone, etc.). That is to say, I'm accounting for background skills, training, and equipment as part of the education. I used the Sage background as the base assumption for purposes of starting equipment value.
-Any time a background or class feature presented an equipment option, I went with the most expensive option (dagger vs quarterstaff, etc.)
-Students live a "modest" lifestyle (students are in fact an example of the modest lifestyle in the PHB Lifestyle Expenses), so their room and board is 1 gp per day.
-Each student pays the instructor body a salary of 2 gp per day (PHB Skilled Labor), split between the headmaster and 8 masters (one for each tradition). Note the school has other sources of income and instructor perks, so this is not the total of their salary, just the portion the student body pays for their time.
-The school has 42 students. This silly number is simply a happy accident of the layout I drew having 21 rooms and deciding on 2 students per room. A student/teacher ratio of around 5/1 seems appropriate for learning such esoteric topics (this is not a state institution fueled by a mandatory education requirement).
-Learning any skill will be covered under the Training downtime activity. I used the updated rules in XGE, so 10 weeks per skill. With no other reference, I applied this very broadly to learning anything: weapons (grouped together because they're all "simple" weapons), class features (scribing spells, preparing spells, etc.), each cantrip, each saving throw, etc.


On to the results:
Time: 6 years (with 20 skills/features/saves to learn, the calculation yields 200 weeks or 3.85 years straight through. Multiplying by 3/2 will account for holidays, breaks, field trips, etc).
Room and board for 6 years: 2190 gp
Equipment cost: 438.5 gp
Instructor salary cost for 6 years: 4380 gp
Total cost over 6 years: 7008.5 gp

Yearly cost: 1200 gp (rounded up from 1168 gp)
Yearly cost minimum: 440 gp (if the instructors waive their salary cost for a gifted student of lesser means).

Which seems reasonable to me. I know some settings treat even 1 gp as something the average laborer will never see in one place, but the average farmer isn't going to send their kids off to a wizard academy. 1200 gp per year is between the lifestyle costs of Comfortable and Wealthy. 440 gp per year is just a bit more than a Modest lifestyle. And at the boarding school, it includes not just room and board, but also equipment and training.


Thoughts?
 

Al2O3

Explorer
Fun thing to consider, and definitely something I would make use of if I ever made my own setting.

One thing to consider: would the apprentices be expected to perform tasks such as cleaning and similar as part of the education? Maybe some would reduce the money they have to pay. Otherwise that would be more directed at those who can't pay for the school, and thus become the apprentice of an individual wizard.

Also, did you include the cost of spells in your calculation?

Overall, 6 years sounds about right if we assume the students are close to "high school" age when starting. Or maybe they start younger, but spend more time working to reduce costs.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I was casually wondering to myself what it would cost to attend a wizard boarding school/academy using 5e rules, and came up with some numbers. A good number of assumptions had to be made, of course. Thoughts welcome, but mostly I just wanted to put this out there in case anyone else was interested.

Assumptions:
-Attending a wizard boarding school is a formative experience and gives you a background flavored by the education (which does not limit it to Sage; say you want to be a merchant, the school pays for you to work under a merchant for a year as your capstone, etc.). That is to say, I'm accounting for background skills, training, and equipment as part of the education. I used the Sage background as the base assumption for purposes of starting equipment value.
-Any time a background or class feature presented an equipment option, I went with the most expensive option (dagger vs quarterstaff, etc.)
-Students live a "modest" lifestyle (students are in fact an example of the modest lifestyle in the PHB Lifestyle Expenses), so their room and board is 1 gp per day.
-Each student pays the instructor body a salary of 2 gp per day (PHB Skilled Labor), split between the headmaster and 8 masters (one for each tradition). Note the school has other sources of income and instructor perks, so this is not the total of their salary, just the portion the student body pays for their time.
-The school has 42 students. This silly number is simply a happy accident of the layout I drew having 21 rooms and deciding on 2 students per room. A student/teacher ratio of around 5/1 seems appropriate for learning such esoteric topics (this is not a state institution fueled by a mandatory education requirement).
-Learning any skill will be covered under the Training downtime activity. I used the updated rules in XGE, so 10 weeks per skill. With no other reference, I applied this very broadly to learning anything: weapons (grouped together because they're all "simple" weapons), class features (scribing spells, preparing spells, etc.), each cantrip, each saving throw, etc.


On to the results:
Time: 6 years (with 20 skills/features/saves to learn, the calculation yields 200 weeks or 3.85 years straight through. Multiplying by 3/2 will account for holidays, breaks, field trips, etc).
Room and board for 6 years: 2190 gp
Equipment cost: 438.5 gp
Instructor salary cost for 6 years: 4380 gp
Total cost over 6 years: 7008.5 gp

Yearly cost: 1200 gp (rounded up from 1168 gp)
Yearly cost minimum: 440 gp (if the instructors waive their salary cost for a gifted student of lesser means).

Which seems reasonable to me. I know some settings treat even 1 gp as something the average laborer will never see in one place, but the average farmer isn't going to send their kids off to a wizard academy. 1200 gp per year is between the lifestyle costs of Comfortable and Wealthy. 440 gp per year is just a bit more than a Modest lifestyle. And at the boarding school, it includes not just room and board, but also equipment and training.


Thoughts?
This is so awesome, I love it!

What I am left wondering about is, what if instead of the schools of magic being different disciplines taught at one institution, if they were literally eight schools at which one could study magic, each with an emphasis on a different magical discipline. So for instance, the “school of illusion” refers not to illusion spells as a whole, but to one of the eight academic institutions that teach magic, which happens to specialize in illusion spells. Then instead of an instructor for each school of magic, you have an instructor for each of the 20 skills/features/saves covered under the training rules?

EDIT: Actually, I guess you could probably narrow it down from 20 by consolidating some roles. You probably don’t need a dagger instructor, a quartestaff instructor, a sling instructor, etc, but could get away with one weapons instructor.
 
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MarkB

Hero
The cost as you've worked it out is actually very similar to the Training cost in the expanded downtime activities in Xanathar's, which costs 25 gp per week - thus 1,300 gp for a full year.
 

BlivetWidget

Explorer
Excellent points/questions.

@Al2O3
Student work requirements would depend on the power of the masters, I suppose. For my setting, the masters have to be at least level 14 wizards (so they have all of their tradition features). So they're pretty high level and most mundane tasks can be handled by simulacra and unseen servants. In a lower magic setting, yeah, you'd need students or staff to handle all of that.

I think the best way (in my setting) for a student to offset their costs is to earn some coin in the nearby community. A novice who knows nothing more than the mending cantrip could probably fill their coin purse from a weekend in town fixing things for farmers and merchants. Or, if someone comes to the academy looking for the services of a mage, the masters might allow capable students to take the job. There are a lot of problems that can be solved with cantrips, level 1 spells, and some skill proficiency.

Yes, here's how I accounted for spell costs: Cantrips take time to learn, but there's no money cost because wizards keep them in their heads. The six Level 1 spells cost 50 gp each to put in a spellbook, so 300 gp, which is most of the 'Equipment' cost above (though I see now that 'Material' costs would have been be the more accurate term).

Yeah, I think being a Level 1 wizard requires the modern equivalent of a MS degree, which typically takes 6 years, so I'm quite happy with the result. It also happens to work out that my lesson plan is 12 'units', which divides into 6 years quite nicely.

lesson plan.jpg



@Charlaquin
I think that would be a great idea for a super-high magic setting. My setting is more in the middle, so there are mage academies but probably no more than one in a kingdom. Plus I'm playing out my fantasy of being a wizard headmaster NPC quest giver, so I wanted everything under a single umbrella ;).

Something like Eberron, where magic is everywhere, could definitely support that level of specialization. If that's more like your setting, I'd say go for it!

@MarkB
Ah, so it is! You're right, that's very interesting, because I used the Training time from XGE but my costs all came a priori from room, board, salaries, and equipment. That it boiled down to almost the exact same rate (cost/time) is hilarious and I didn't even notice it XD. I guess that means I'm not totally off in the weeds, but you may have just captured my essence as the guy who needlessly complicates even the simplest task just because he likes doing the math.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I think that would be a great idea for a super-high magic setting. My setting is more in the middle, so there are mage academies but probably no more than one in a kingdom. Plus I'm playing out my fantasy of being a wizard headmaster NPC quest giver, so I wanted everything under a single umbrella ;).
Oh, I was thinking that the 8 schools would be the only magic schools in the world (or at least the country, depending on the scope of the setting), so not necessarily high magic, though certainly not low magic. I love your lesson plan too, you’re really making me want to run a magic school campaign!
 

Krachek

Adventurer
I do understand why Wizard are so rare.
Skilled worker can’t pay those fee.
Only high aristocratic can afford it.
 

aco175

Adventurer
It does make the cost similar to a modern boarding school and not a public school. Would the cost be reduced if the building was paid for, or is that part of the 1gp/day cost in upkeep and such.

Another thought similar to american colleges is that the cost is more than is should and each school discounts the amount on a student by student basis. Some wealthy kids pay full price so poor kids can pay little if they have talent. The staff needs the rich, but sometimes they may not be worth it. Bat that is where the good stories come from.
 
We had this in a campaign. Our wizard went to the Black Swamp School where they taught Necromancy, possession(enchantment), conjuration and other foul magics. He didn't need to pay anything because he was too poor so he was indentured. The school owned him until he 'paid them back'.

At a higher level, the school gave us a hireling who was indentured to them until death because his family was in debt to the school. He was assigned to us because they wanted him to spy on our wizard friend. A bodak killed the poor hireling. We liked him so much that we raised him, which ended the contract to the Black Swamp School and made him a loyal ally.

There was an illusion school taught by gnomes and the 'poor man's school' which only taught spells up to 3rd level and it was mostly magic that would help on a farms or common tasks (dig, prestidigation, etc..)

All the best wizard and richest wizards went to the White school(the King's Vizier was a White School Mage) which taught evocation, abjuration and divination. They were all snobs though...

Note: the names of the schools were cooler but I forget them since it's been 20 years since I played that campaign
 
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Nice analysis. A actually had this come up in my campaign, and arbitrarily set the figure at around 3000gp per year (for a high status institution).
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
Consider that there would be offsets to costs, at least there are options for it. The apprentice will do chores which might offset costs. Once they learn a few cantrips they will be put to work casting the spell for fees. Reaching the ability to cast first level spells may not be the end of their 'tutelage', which may mean they are required to perform rituals and spells for fees as well.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
@BlivetWidget

Regarding leveling tiers ...

• Levels 1-4: student (community renown, apprentice, page, jack) − highschool
• Levels 5-8: professional (community leader, regional renown, journeyer, squire) − associates, bachelors
• Levels 9-12: expert (regional leader, national renown, headdmaster, master, knight) − masters, doctorate
• Levels 13-16: leader (national leader, international renown, noble)
• Levels 17-20: legend (international leader, global renown)

So, most of the students of a Wizard school would be levels 1-4. When reaching level 5 (and mastering spells like Fireball), the students should have a graduation ceremony with pomp and circumstance. Wizard university at levels 5-8.

In medieval times, apprentices normally work for the master, in lieu of payment. Parents can send their teen to a ‘foster parent’ to learn a skill. Prestigious positions, such as a royal academy, often take on students to cement political ties between prominent families.
 
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BlivetWidget

Explorer
Academia, as ever, is a luxury of the wealthy. Though honestly, I tried to keep the costs as reasonable as possible. Anyway, glad it's inspired a few to think about wizard academies in their worlds!

@TaranTheWanderer I went with Academy of the Arcane. Perhaps less flavorful than something based on the geography or visuals, but I'm a sucker for alliteration. Plus it houses the Archive of the Arcane, which contracts out Arcanists, Appraisers, Atlasers, Anatomists, Ambassadors, and Acolytes... you may have noticed a theme here.

@aco175 For my scenario, the building is done (between Move Earth, Mighty Fortress, Wall of Stone, Stone Shape, Unseen Servant, etc... a wizard with the right spells can whip up a castle with fairly low upkeep costs). Most of the money is needed for magic research, which is pretty expensive. Even writing down a single 9th level spell costs 450 gp! With nine masters doing research, needing rare material components to experiment with, buying rare tomes, and all the equipment needed to craft things... for them and for the students, the costs add up fast. The tuition does't come close to covering it all, but it does help. A lot of income comes from adventurers who want magical items (though perhaps we spend just as much buying their surplus magic items...), selling potions, and storing valuables for the rich (hard to get more secure than extraplanar vaults).

@Yaarel Interesting idea, I will have to think about how high I want the education to go. DnD sort of has this bizarre contrast between the idea of wizards studying for decades and decades to learn the secrets of the multiverse... and being able to go from Level 1 to 10 in 100 adventuring days.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
@Yaarel Interesting idea, I will have to think about how high I want the education to go. DnD sort of has this bizarre contrast between the idea of wizards studying for decades and decades to learn the secrets of the multiverse... and being able to go from Level 1 to 10 in 100 adventuring days.
Heh, you know how it goes, ... those who cant, teach.

More seriously.



D&D levels can correlate well the amount of power of a character compared to the size of the community where that character is prominent. (Magnitude 10 ^ Level/2. Examples. A level 12 character will be wellknown and influential to about a million people, namely the size of a medieval nation or a mighty city. A level 13 character will be influential to about three million people, and level 14 10 million people. At level 1, a character is influential to about 3 people, usually family including friends. At level 4, the student influences about 100 people, thus is prominent in the Wizard college.)

It is ok if ‘precocious’ students learn quickly and test their skills in the battlefields. While others take a longer time to advance.

Also, because the instructors might have special responsibilities (to the ruling council of the town, for example), the instructor might hand pick certain competent students to do dangerous missions.

The Harry Potter-verse conveys the idea of the students being in genuine danger while learning their magical skills.

Especially for a medievalesque setting, this feels likely.

Likewise, a Wizard academy is likely to be a military academy, training students in magical fightingstyles, while others are training in sword, axe, spear, and bow fightingstyles. So, even important missions can be possible for these young wizardlings.



Plus, the real secrets of the universe, such as the Wish spell, require the highest leveling tier to even begin to explore.
 
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