D&D (2024) How should the Wizard subclasses be revised?


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Parmandur

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For reference, this is how the popularity of Subclasses fared in 2019 amongst actively used PCs for players who had bought everything, might hold some hints at what we can expect in the new PHB, notice that Bladesinger was the most popular Wizard followed by the War Mage:

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The problem is that right now, there aren't enough spells to make dedicated specialists. I mean, have you tried to make a caster who focuses on something like summons, necromancy, or fire magic? At best you get one spell per level and a lot of redundant effects. You'd have to add I'd say a good 50 to 100 more spells to the game to make that work. It is still a struggle to get simple concepts like elementalists or shadow mages to work without having to dip into the Top 20 Best Wizard spells to round them out.
The core problem is the way spell schools work with a second problem being that Nethermancy (shadow magic/debuffs) covers far far more of the "Necromancy" school than anything to do with the actual dead does.

Genuinely specialist mages work better as sorcerers than they do wizards most of the time; your spell list is much more limited. But the problem is that spells can't slip schools. As a Dread Necromancer (i.e. Sorcerer subclass) I don't want to cast "Mage Armour" - I want to cast "Bone Armour" which is a renamed Mage Armour that has been moved into the Necromancy school and thus gets whatever bonus you get for casting Necromantic spells. I don't want to cast "Unseen Servant", I want to cast "Spectral Servant". Again either unchanged or barely changed other than being in the "wrong" school.

So for example for an Ice Elementalist I'd start with something like:

Ice Magic. Ice Elementalists get to add ice variants of the following spells to their spell list. All damage done is ice damage and anything created is created out of ice and may be as transparent or opaque as the caster wishes; Ice constructs are vulnerable to fire damage. The name in brackets is a suggested name for the ice variant; notes after the brackets and this is just up to second level
  • Chill Touch (Freezing Touch)
  • Resistance
  • Shilleleagh (Ice Club) - may create an icicle with club or quarterstaff stats
  • Shocking Grasp (Freezing Grasp)
  • Burning Hands (Frost Breath)
  • Create or Destroy Water (Create or Destroy Ice) - if destroying it flash freezes, if creating it comes as snow before melting
  • Expeditious Retreat (Ice Skates)
  • Fog Cloud
  • Grease (Ice Slick)
  • Mage Armour (Ice Armour)
  • Shield (Ice Barrier)
  • Sleep (Icy Slumber)
  • Unseen Servant (Icy Servant) - most specialist schools have a variant of this
  • Animal Messenger (Ice Messenger) - you create an animal out of ice or a snowman
  • Arcane Lock (Ice Lock - or possibly just ICE)
  • Augury (Ice Divination)
  • Blindness/Deafness (Snow Blindness) - Blind Only
  • Hold Person (Ice Prison)
  • Levitate (Ice Platform)
  • Magic Mouth (Ice Mouth) - again most specialist schools have their own variant
  • Shatter (Flash Freeze)
  • Spike Growth (Icicle Growth)
  • Web (Ice Web)
I don;t need an extra spell to let Elsa create her palaces of ice. I just need permission to make Ice variants of Wall of Stone (Wall of Permafrost?) and Sculpt Stone.

As much as I like the schools of magic, I think they were better in 2e/3e where you specialised gaining bonus spells and losing access to others.
I couldn't disagree more. The 5e mages being better at their specialist school and the spells in it is far more evocative and meaningful for a specialist than being a cookie cutter mage with just extra spells from a field (especially when the 3.5 wizards could choose divination and drop evocation that had about three good spells that couldn't be roughly matched by conjuration).
 


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