D&D General I can't help it - every pure wizard I ever make has turned or will turn "evil" (even if only in my own mind).

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
Perhaps you need to re-read some of the old source material. LotR. the books of earthsea.
My wizards aren’t Maiar slumming it with the mortals. If they were, they’d probably start with a Blue-Orange morality from the jump. Melkor went Melkor because he was sick of Ilúvatar telling him what to do, and a lot of the Maiar went with him - perhaps most.

Ged would be a better example, but he was unique for his setting (plenty of other wizards of earthsea were straight jerks). Essentially everyone in Dying Earth is a jerk to various degrees - largely because there are few to call them on it.



First of all, if that's your frequent character concept preference, nothing wrong with that.

I am somewhat not surprised that it doesn't happen when you play Warlocks, because each of their archetype already comes with a moral connotation. It is not mandatory to follow it strictly and even possible to roleplay against it, but I suppose in most cases it directs the player towards a certain alignment or ethics, which is not evil for all Warlock archetypes.

I am a bit more surprised instead that it doesn't happen to Sorcerers... I would think that between them and Wizards there is the same unspecified/open morality from the class description. I hadn't thought that being high-Cha could actually steer a character towards good. If anything, my typical mental image of a "Sorcerer" is actually darker and shadier than Wizard. First image that comes to my mind saying Wizard is a joyful grey-haired old person in starry robes and pointy hat swinging a sparkling wand to make children laugh, and saying Sorcerer is a crooked-faced gnarly-handed person looking over their shoulder while attending a boiling cauldron in a shadowy lair
As for sorcerers, I think it’s game rules once again; they’ve got access to simpler methods of getting what they want (namely a great Cha score as a base for social skills), and 15 spells just doesn’t leave a lot of room for the big one-once-a-year sorts of things; warlocks are in the same boat. Same goes for Warlocks, and once the archfey and celestial patrons are in the mix anything seemed possible.

It strikes me as more difficult to envision either a warlock or sorcerer (based on the rules) being as effective at breaking bad as the wizard.

I’ve also never really been much of a fan of the in game fluff around sorcerers, so I don’t play them as much. Born special? Boring. But that’s just my take.
 

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TheSword

Legend
So I think there are some points to consider…

The response to the state of Bellum omnium contra omnes is the social contract and peace. Competition/War is a starting point not an end point. We are social creatures genetically and loneliness is not a great end point. I suggest you read AD&D Van Richten’s Guide to Liches and his Guide to Vampires to get an understanding of the deep sadness, regret and ennui that can result from that viewpoint taken to its logical conclusion.

Secondly if fear of retribution is necessary for you as some kind of limiter then I would suggest there is always someone bigger and badder… to keep you in line. You can also be brought low by a group whose whole is greater than the sum of their parts… this is the very premise of an adventuring party. It sounds like you want to play the BBEG. Which is cool… I recommend Way of the Wicked for pathfinder 1 but convertible to 5e with ease.

Thirdly it sounds like your characters lack motivation. They have goals but no explanation for what drives them there. Power is a goal not a motivation to reach a goal. A desire to prevent someone ever having power over you again may be a motivation, or the desire to understand the secrets of life to return your tragically dead mother/wife to you. Wanting to cast 9th level spells because they’re there isn’t a very good motivation. Wanting to cast spells because something has happened to you which means you want to cast them is the missing gap in your descriptions.

There are lots of powerful people who aren’t sociopaths. Sure some are but not everyone sees life as a game with money/influence a way of keeping count. Plenty of top surgeons/consultants (the most egotistical people I have come across in my life) are genuinely lovely people able to connect with people on a human level and have lovely families and strong friendships. Yet they carry life and death in their hands and make decisions about resources have profound effects on individuals. Dr Frankenstein was obsessed, a deeply disturbed and traumatized man… hardly someone to emulate.

If you create a character that doesn’t appreciate sunlight, the taste of a nice glass of wine/beer and a great meal, the genuine love of another person, or the feeling of security that comes from stability and a family around you… don’t be surprised if you struggle to see why you shouldn’t be evil.

Summary

  • Think about your motivation
  • Think about what it would be like to be constantly at war and whether that is a desirable state
  • Think about what you have to give up to see power as an justification in its own right

- and if all else fails the DM needs to bring in an adventuring party to bring you down or a galactic power to put you in your place 🤷🏻‍♂️
 
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ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
So I think there are some points to consider…

The response to the state of Bellum omnium contra omnes is the social contract and peace. Competition/War is a starting point not an end point. We are social creatures genetically and loneliness is not a great end point. I suggest you read AD&D Van Richten’s Guide to Liches and his Guide to Vampires to get an understanding of the deep sadness, regret and ennui that can result from that viewpoint taken to its logical conclusion.

I am familiar with the concept, but I also don’t expect many mortals to fully grasp that when they are on the cusp of that particular sort of immortality. “Sure, but that won’t happen to me” is an extremely common way to reason past such things.

As for the social contract - that only applies when you need other people, and a Wizard with a well curated spell list doesn’t, hence the trajectory.

Secondly if fear of retribution is necessary for you as some kind of limiter then I would suggest there is always someone bigger and badder… to keep you in line. You can also be brought low by a group whose whole is greater than the sum of their parts… this is the very premise of an adventuring party. It sounds like you want to play the BBEG. Which is cool… I recommend Way of the Wicked for pathfinder 1 but convertible to 5e with ease.

Not really, (though making BBEGs is fun). It’s more an increasing apathy towards the small affairs that comes with power. That isn’t something that necessarily makes someone go full Thanos (also, just 50%? No changes to fertility? I thought Thanos was supposed to be smart ).

The more power my wizards gain the less concerned they are with the affairs of ants. I mean people.

Thirdly it sounds like your characters lack motivation. They have goals but no explanation for what drives them there. Power is a goal not a motivation to reach a goal. A desire to prevent someone ever having power over you again may be a motivation, or the desire to understand the secrets of life to return your tragically dead mother/wife to you. Wanting to cast 9th level spells because they’re there isn’t a very good motivation. Wanting to cast spells because something has happened to you which means you want to cast them is the missing gap in your descriptions.

I left some of the motivations out deliberately, but I don’t particularly care for family based motivations. To me they come off as about as trite and boring as a coming of age story.

As for “no one having power over you again”, that’s exactly the sort of motivation that leads to the sorts of character arc I am talking about, because the surest way to get there is to be the one with all the power.

There are lots of powerful people who aren’t sociopaths. Sure some are but not everyone sees life as a game with money/influence a way of keeping count. Plenty of top surgeons/consultants (the most egotistical people I have come across in my life) are genuinely lovely people able to connect with people on a human level and have lovely families and strong friendships. Yet they carry life and death in their hands and make decisions about resources have profound effects on individuals. Dr Frankenstein was obsessed, a deeply disturbed and traumatized man… hardly someone to emulate.

But, again, none of these characters is or has been a sociopath (well, ok one Psion was, but that was decades ago), nor a capital-M murder hobo. At least, of the actively causing chaos and mayhem variety. That’s a murder-bard’s job.

Instead, they are so focused on the big picture that statements of the sort “we have to save the village” yield a response like “why?”.


If you create a character that doesn’t appreciate sunlight, the taste of a nice glass of wine/beer and a great meal, the genuine love of another person, or the feeling of security that comes from stability and a family around you… don’t be surprised if you struggle to see why you shouldn’t be evil.

Prestidigitation, a Driftglobe, and teleportation spells can cover most of that. The last as a rationale to follow a particular moral code is strange, or would be taken as such by these characters.

Summary

  • Think about your motivation
  • Think about what it would be like to be constantly at war and whether that is a desirable state
  • Think about what you have to give up to see power as an justification in its own right

- and if all else fails the DM needs to bring in an adventuring party to bring you down or a galactic power to put you in your place 🤷🏻‍♂️

Well, and again, these characters aren’t starting trouble, at least not until I hand the sheet over to the DM to be the next BBEG. That hasn’t ever been a problem. They keep the zombies in a portable hole and avoid summoning fiends in population centers - but they’ll make a zombie out of any old corpse, and they will summon those demons.

I wouldn’t mind a more Faustlike (or Frankenstein like) arc as a result of it all, but it doesn’t come up much. See also the creation of their own named spells, but that’s all asking for a lot from the DM.

I also imagine the formal training of most wizards as designed to highlight these particular qualities. This is based on a little bit of Dying Earth, a little bit of Stephenson’s Anathem and a little bit about how modern apprentice training tends to work. The sort of wizard college you spend a decade or two at will, in part, do it’s damnedest to tear down who you are and make you into what they want you to be (because that is what they think will make you the best sort of wizard, which brings the school prestige) and that has lasting effects. I also, if I were to think on it, I assume that solitary wizards that try to train apprentices simply end up with warlocks or sorcerers; it is a huge amount of work to train up a person completely and train them in aspects of a profession you are not yourself a master, and I just don’t see it working out that well (the Jedi sure seemed to botch it pretty badly whenever they went to a master and apprentice model).

Or: If my wizards were more attached to the world around them they wouldn’t have become wizards in the first place.

Oh, and in the case that a longtime master/apprentice relationship does work out, huge chunks of the inner workings of the apprentices moral compass come from their teacher, and I suspect that person isn't much of a team player - or they'd be a part of a team rather than a solitary wizard.
 
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TheSword

Legend
As for the social contract - that only applies when you need other people, and a Wizard with a well curated spell list doesn’t, hence the trajectory.
I think this fundamentally is where the plausibility of your inexorable path to evil breaks down.

If you have created a character so divorced from life, love and laughter, then of course you’re struggling to see how they could be anything other than a sociopath. Most people care about something tangible.

If you don’t want an inexorably evil wizard, give them bonds. 🤷🏻‍♂️ That’s your choice.

You mentioned considering people ants… also a choice.

It’s also fair to say most people adopt their moral code, because it’s how they were brought up, or influenced in life. Integrity, compassion, empathy are reasonable traits to have as a wizard.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
I think this fundamentally is where the plausibility of your inexorable path to evil breaks down.

If you have created a character so divorced from life, love and laughter, then of course you’re struggling to see how they could be anything other than a sociopath. Most people care about something tangible.

If you don’t want an inexorably evil wizard, give them bonds. 🤷🏻‍♂️ That’s your choice.

You mentioned considering people ants… also a choice.

It’s also fair to say most people adopt their moral code, because it’s how they were brought up, or influenced in life. Integrity, compassion, empathy are reasonable traits to have as a wizard.
Counterpoint, Wizard is the only class focused on the pursuit of power. All classes gain power as they gain levels, but wizards are all about gaining and actively maintaining power. Only Monks come close to that, but they never have such a huge effect on the world around them. All the rest of the classes have inbuilt ressons to care about the world -particularly the divine classes- or are about power as a tools -like fighter, rogue or sorcerer.

All characters benefit from having connections to the world, but wizards are specially predispossed to evil due to their very nature as a class.(Willing and constant quest for power)
 


TheSword

Legend
Counterpoint, Wizard is the only class focused on the pursuit of power. All classes gain power as they gain levels, but wizards are all about gaining and actively maintaining power. Only Monks come close to that, but they never have such a huge effect on the world around them. All the rest of the classes have inbuilt ressons to care about the world -particularly the divine classes- or are about power as a tools -like fighter, rogue or sorcerer.

All characters benefit from having connections to the world, but wizards are specially predispossed to evil due to their very nature as a class.(Willing and constant quest for power)
Is there a reason the pursuit of magic as a tool is different for a wizard? There is nothing I see in the way magic is used that would indicate evil predisposition, any more than using a washing machine to clean your clothes is more evil than scrubbing them in the river.

A wizard is just as likely to see magic as a tool usable for good ends as any other class. Sorcerers, warlocks, bards etc still need to practice to acquire power. There is a good argument to say with the 5e development of automatically acquired spells at each level, a wizard acquired their magic similarly though practice and experimentation. In the same way that a phd student reasons out new thinking.

Wizards don’t steal, or consume other people’s knowledge to develop their own. Wizardly magic can actually be replicated and copied. It’s actually a very sociable form of development. Wizards improve through interaction with other wizards and their legacies. It’s why there are wizard guilds and the apprentice structure. Compared to the loners that are sorcerers and the enequal power dynamic of a warlock.
 

Synthil

Explorer
Power doesn't actually corrupt. Newer studies have begun to show this. At least not in such a straightforward way. It reveals people's morality. The reason so many leaders are unethical have more to do with the way power in a society is achieved and maintained. The corrupt are more prone to wanting power. And you have to behave like an naughty word to remain in power. That was the whole point of Machiavelli's The Prince. Autocratic leaders cannot be good because they have to bad or be quickly replaced by someone who is.

But that's political power, not magical or physical power.

And even if humans were corrupted by power, humans aren't the only playable race. Maybe halflings are harder to corrupt like in LotR. Aasimar literally have a guardian angel who accompanies them. Dwarves might become more altruistic with power because Moradin build them like that.

Or you could play a religious wizard who sees learning magic as a way to get a closer understanding of a god of creation/magic/knowledge etc. Someone like that might enthusiastically teach magic and not keep it for themselves. This works for secular enthusiasts as well. They might be annoying at parties, boring everyone with their favorite topic, but hoarders of knowledge they are not. They want others to have the same powers as them.
 


Synthil

Explorer
I know. I'm an atheist myself. I meant it more as a motivation to learn magic that isn't about getting more powerful. That's also why I added the bit about other enthusiasts.

Sorry if I didn't make that clearer.
 



James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Perhaps the road to hell is truly paved with good intentions. "If people's loved ones die, I can replace them with Simulacrums!" eventually turns into "a nation of Simulacrums with me as their ruler would know no strife, no crime, no famine, no war, only peace!"
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Perhaps the road to hell is truly paved with good intentions. "If people's loved ones die, I can replace them with Simulacrums!" eventually turns into "a nation of Simulacrums with me as their ruler would know no strife, no crime, no famine, no war, only peace!"
Those are really simplistic good intentions, and I can imagine that there are wizard/philosophers aplenty in a magical world.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
Is there a reason the pursuit of magic as a tool is different for a wizard? There is nothing I see in the way magic is used that would indicate evil predisposition, any more than using a washing machine to clean your clothes is more evil than scrubbing them in the river.

A wizard is just as likely to see magic as a tool usable for good ends as any other class. Sorcerers, warlocks, bards etc still need to practice to acquire power. There is a good argument to say with the 5e development of automatically acquired spells at each level, a wizard acquired their magic similarly though practice and experimentation. In the same way that a phd student reasons out new thinking.

Wizards don’t steal, or consume other people’s knowledge to develop their own. Wizardly magic can actually be replicated and copied. It’s actually a very sociable form of development. Wizards improve through interaction with other wizards and their legacies. It’s why there are wizard guilds and the apprentice structure. Compared to the loners that are sorcerers and the enequal power dynamic of a warlock.
Because for a wizard, the path is a constant quest for more and more power (spells). All wizards choose to be wizards, which isn't an easy path. They then adventure for more spells, which come in the form of treasure (and this is true only for wizards), and their end path is even more spells. And if they keep adventuring, they will keep getting more and more spells. So the character chooses to become a wizard in order to have spells, which they need to constantly refresh to keep at hand, so they can adventure for even more spells, rise, repeat.

Contrast with other casters which reach a hard limit at the end. And divine characters and warlocks have another hard limit in the form of the deity/patron. Bards receive power to keep a tradition alive, clerics receive power to defend their deity's interests in the world, paladins so they can protect the weak, druids to protect nature... and so on. Sorcerers, sorcerers are different in that their power is the question and the adventuring is the answer. More a reality that starts the path than the goal of the road. Fighters and rogues are more approachable and down to earth by their very nature. Only monk comes close in having the quest for power built-in into the class.
 

TheSword

Legend
Because for a wizard, the path is a constant quest for more and more power (spells). All wizards choose to be wizards, which isn't an easy path. They then adventure for more spells, which come in the form of treasure (and this is true only for wizards), and their end path is even more spells. And if they keep adventuring, they will keep getting more and more spells. So the character chooses to become a wizard in order to have spells, which they need to constantly refresh to keep at hand, so they can adventure for even more spells, rise, repeat.

Contrast with other casters which reach a hard limit at the end. And divine characters and warlocks have another hard limit in the form of the deity/patron. Bards receive power to keep a tradition alive, clerics receive power to defend their deity's interests in the world, paladins so they can protect the weak, druids to protect nature... and so on. Sorcerers, sorcerers are different in that their power is the question and the adventuring is the answer. More a reality that starts the path than the goal of the road. Fighters and rogues are more approachable and down to earth by their very nature. Only monk comes close in having the quest for power built-in into the class.
For a fighter the path is a constant quest for more and more power (weapons/strength/speed/toughness). All fighters choose to be fighters which isn’t an easy path… etc etc.

To be fair wizards don’t need to quest for more and more spells, they can actually function very effectively with a couple of dozen which they just acquire through their own study.

If they want more they can go to a shop like any normal person and buy some more. Or seek out an expert in the field and offer to trade notes. Or even join a collegial fraternity of wizards to gossip on the latest developments, trade discoveries and use their excellent library. Something like the Watchful Brotherhood of Magists and Protectors in Waterdeep. (wow that’s an evil sounding name 😜)

I don’t know where you get the idea that wizards have a greedy compulsion to seek out all spells. Most spells do similar things and the truly original ones are pretty ubiquitous anyway. Do we really need 10 ways to burn a person, or five different ways to fly? It might be a good trait for your wizard but it’s hardly universal.

Your final paragraphs apply stereotypes to classes that haven’t been in place since 1e. Very simple motivations and not specific to those characters at all. The Fighter might train to become strong enough to defend the weak, the monk may train to become able to defend a deities interests in the world.

A wizard might adventure because of any one of those motivations in your last paragraph and be very plausible.
 
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CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
This conversation seems very disingenuous to wizards and assumes that they all inherently seek out power for the sake of power (and will naturally be ‘corrupted’ by it) What about the wizards who have no interest in magic itself it’s just a handy means to their ends? The lone survivor who wants to break the curse on their hometown so they can go back to their mundane day to day? the historian who only has magic to protect themselves from and get through natural obstacles that block the way to that lost city? The bookworm who’s just curious about everything and magic is just their latest topic of study-the great arcane power is just a mildly beneficial footnote to them? the graduate who wasn’t really interested but who’s parents encouraged them to study because they were good at it and now has no other skills and a degree in their pocket that they might as well put to some use? The one who knows alot of problems in their life could be solved by throwing enough magic at it but never would be able to live with themselves afterwards if they did? The scientist who just wants to discover something completely new-to have their name put in the history books for some groundbreaking discovery? The one who totally could take over this country if they wanted to-but why would they, then they’d have to go about running things and there’d be people trying to upsurp them and it’d really cut into their time they spend whittling wooden goats, too much hassle.

The idea that any, every and all wizards will fall down this slippery slope the moment they get a little bit of power is dumb and implies they’re all weak willed chumps with no sense of morals or empathy for anyone else only interested in their own gain.
 
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MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
The idea that any, every and all wizards will fall down this slippery slope the moment they get a little bit of power is dumb and implies they’re all weak willed chumps with no sense of morals or empathy for anyone else only interested in their own gain.
Ok, I neglected to include a disclaimer. Absent character motivation, wizards are the only class that works in feedback loop that rewards power with more power and which is unchecked by either lore (warlock and divine classes) or inherent limitations (bard, sorcerer, and martials).
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Ok, I neglected to include a disclaimer. Absent character motivation, wizards are the only class that works in feedback loop that rewards power with more power and which is unchecked by either lore (warlock and divine classes) or inherent limitations (bard, sorcerer, and martials).
While you found something to note about your own post from mine I’d just like to say mine was in no way written as any direct response to yours, just this thread topic itself.
 


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