D&D General Things I Do To Make Wizards More Fun!

Shadowdweller00

Adventurer
I'm not really in a position to judge whether it's less boring, but as a DM I try to introduce game elements that interact with or enhance every player class. For wizards specifically this might include:

* While not wizard exclusive, I use knowledge skills quite a lot in my games to provide clues to various challenges. Wizards do tend to have a higher INT and thus are better at this on average than others...

* I try to include spells that can be learned in various places - books, old inscriptions in tombs, obseving the tribesmen of the sky-ox perform their hunting ritual, sometimes options to learn them from studying magical phenomena like floating glowy lights, ancient spells that have already been cast, rare plants that produce electricity. I like to hide spell options in various places to encourage my players to interact with the game world.

* I provide occasional options to enhance or customize existing spells. For example maybe a portion of the rare herb bloodmoss can empower certain necromantic spells. Or an old book on planar theory might provide ways to make fire-based spells deal some force damage instead at the cost of spell range and some reduction in total damage (resulting in spell variations that can be prepared, NOT on-use metamagic abilities that would step on the Sorcerer's niche)

* While again not wizard-specific, I try to include various magical effects that can be interacted with. Maybe someone trained in Arcana can figure out how to disable a warding rune. Or change the temperature around in a magically chilled part of a dungeon. Or operate the teleportation portal.
 
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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
So, something I noticed in your OP @Sparky McDibben is that you spoke of "wizard flavor," but...the things you mentioned didn't really seem to actually achieve flavor as I understand the term in relation to Wizards.

The core class fantasy of Wizards is that they are researchers. Academics. They are the fantastical embodiment of what TV tropes calls "Awesomeness by Analysis." They literally analyze the underlying structures of reality, and this analysis allows them to (seemingly) "subvert" those structures to their benefit.

Except that the Wizard we have doesn't do any of that. Instead, they are serial plagiarists. They do not "research" anything--they simply spend money to copy someone else's work, or else spontaneously writing someone else's novel spells themselves. There is no research: no hypotheses, no testing, no theory-making, no gathering of evidence, nothing. They aren't even being truly creative with their spell work!
 


So, something I noticed in your OP @Sparky McDibben is that you spoke of "wizard flavor," but...the things you mentioned didn't really seem to actually achieve flavor as I understand the term in relation to Wizards.

The core class fantasy of Wizards is that they are researchers. Academics. They are the fantastical embodiment of what TV tropes calls "Awesomeness by Analysis." They literally analyze the underlying structures of reality, and this analysis allows them to (seemingly) "subvert" those structures to their benefit.

Except that the Wizard we have doesn't do any of that. Instead, they are serial plagiarists. They do not "research" anything--they simply spend money to copy someone else's work, or else spontaneously writing someone else's novel spells themselves. There is no research: no hypotheses, no testing, no theory-making, no gathering of evidence, nothing. They aren't even being truly creative with their spell work!
I wouldn't have said serial plagiarists. I'd have said collectors, trust fund babies (because spell books are expensive equipment), or script kiddies. In different ways sorcerers and warlocks do far more to master their magic than wizards do.

And awesomness-by-analysis I think was best done by various 4e Warlord builds.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I wouldn't have said serial plagiarists. I'd have said collectors, trust fund babies (because spell books are expensive equipment), or script kiddies. In different ways sorcerers and warlocks do far more to master their magic than wizards do.

And awesomness-by-analysis I think was best done by various 4e Warlord builds.
Copying spells from random scrolls you find seems to me to be quite like stealing someone else's academic papers for your own use.
 


EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
It's more like (academic/software) piracy than plagiarism to me. You cast Bigby's Gesticulating Fist, you don't try to pass it off as your own.
Alright. That difference seems rather semantic to me, since plagiarism can also include using something as part of something else, but whatever. The point stands: no actual research occurs at any point.
 

Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
Frankly you do a better problem demonstrating the problems with the wizard class in this post than the entire thread this is a spinoff of did.

Thanks for your feedback. You seem to having kind of a tough time right now, based on the tenor of your statements. I really hope that turns around for you!

After playing Baldurs Gate 3 and Pathfinder 2, where wizards can just change Spells out of combat (its a Wizard Class Option in PF2) I would love that feature in 5E. Even moreso just have every spell know prepared. So Wizards don't have more spell slot, but have much more options at hand.

Gotta say, I don't really like that. If you can just swap out your loadout every time, it has a few knock-on effects. 1) It devalues mid- and long-range reconnaissance, since you only need to know what's in the next room, not on the next level. So a variety of spells get much less effective. 2) If you have every spell known prepared, you're gonna get hit with massive analysis paralysis at medium and higher levels. 3) If you have every spell known prepared, it takes away a lot of the fun choices and tradeoffs I have to make as a wizard.

I'm not really in a position to judge whether it's less boring, but as a DM I try to introduce game elements that interact with or enhance every player class. For wizards specifically this might include:

* While not wizard exclusive, I use knowledge skills quite a lot in my games to provide clues to various challenges. Wizards do tend to have a higher INT and thus are better at this on average than others...

* I try to include spells that can be learned in various places - books, old inscriptions in tombs, obseving the tribesmen of the sky-ox perform their hunting ritual, sometimes options to learn them from studying magical phenomena like floating glowy lights, ancient spells that have already been cast, rare plants that produce electricity. I like to hide spell options in various places to encourage my players to interact with the game world.

* I provide occasional options to enhance or customize existing spells. For example maybe a portion of the rare herb bloodmoss can empower certain necromantic spells. Or an old book on planar theory might provide ways to make fire-based spells deal some force damage instead at the cost of spell range and some reduction in total damage (resulting in spell variations that can be prepared, NOT on-use metamagic abilities that would step on the Sorcerer's niche)

* While again not wizard-specific, I try to include various magical effects that can be interacted with. Maybe someone trained in Arcana can figure out how to disable a warding rune. Or change the temperature around in a magically chilled part of a dungeon. Or operate the teleportation portal.

I love all of these! Thanks!

So, something I noticed in your OP @Sparky McDibben is that you spoke of "wizard flavor," but...the things you mentioned didn't really seem to actually achieve flavor as I understand the term in relation to Wizards.

The core class fantasy of Wizards is that they are researchers. Academics. They are the fantastical embodiment of what TV tropes calls "Awesomeness by Analysis." They literally analyze the underlying structures of reality, and this analysis allows them to (seemingly) "subvert" those structures to their benefit.

Except that the Wizard we have doesn't do any of that. Instead, they are serial plagiarists. They do not "research" anything--they simply spend money to copy someone else's work, or else spontaneously writing someone else's novel spells themselves. There is no research: no hypotheses, no testing, no theory-making, no gathering of evidence, nothing. They aren't even being truly creative with their spell work!

So I get around that by working with the player, leveraging the section in the DM that gives spell creation guidelines. But I would also argue that any act of research is inherently an act of synthesis - taking elements that were already there and remixing them to garner new insights. I disagree that wizards are inherently academics, or that they need to be research-based, though. I think wizards need to have higher learning because that higher learning helps in their work. Take Vance's work, for instance, where mathematics aren't magical, but can be used to describe and model magical effects - ergo, learning math is quite useful for a wizard. But the act of learning does not limit them to only learning (see the section about subverting tropes and expectations in my initial post). This may be why you don't think any of the flavor I mentioned reinforces what you see as the class fantasy - we fundamentally differ on what that fantasy is.
 

nevin

Hero
Hey folks,

So a little while ago, I put up another thread and invited folks to tell me why they think wizards are boring (if, in fact, they do so). There were some great responses, and I really enjoyed the back and forth of the various takes folks put up. There were a lot of sincere points made that I don't have an answer to, but there were a few that I think we can alleviate (though probably not solve) with some creative soft measures. Please note these ideas are not meant to be authoritative nor exhaustive. I don't think I'm the first one to come up with any of these, but I wanted to present a few options for discussion and debate, and see what y'all thought. Maybe most of them don't work for you, but if only one does, I hope it helps!

First, let me address some the points that I won't be arguing against. If you have a gripe with D&D magic in general, then that's outside the scope of this project. I have my own gripes with D&D magic, but right now I'm trying to make wizards more interesting, not fix 3,000 different versions of the 5E magic system. If your gripe is that casters take up too much table time, I can't help with that here.

I saw four general points of contention made:
  • Too much bookkeeping​
  • Too little flavor​
  • Too few restrictions​
  • Too little variety between wizards​
TOO MUCH BOOKKEEPING:
As to bookkeeping, which I'm seeing defined as changing up spell loadouts, I recommend having the player develop a few lists for general situations for use at the table, and assigning an amount of time for switching between them. That way, you can easily swap spells prepared without taking half an hour to pick out each particular spell. Plus, it's easier if you need to make specific changes (e.g., if you know you're going up against a troll, you can just say, "I'm going with my Combat loadout, but I'm swapping shatter for scorching ray.") This can also help if you're running into a similar problem with clerics and druids, given that all three know a ton of spells, but have limited prepared spells and spell slots. As the DM, just let the player know they can swap between spell loadouts on a long rest, and you're good to go.

TOO LITTLE FLAVOR:
I see this as a feature, not a bug, since it lets the DM customize their world's magic system. However, if the DM hasn't given much thought to their world's magic system, it can be hard on players to develop that without knowing more about the world. Of course, the reverse is also true. If the DM doesn't have a firm idea of how magic works in their world, the door is wide open for you to build it how you want!

I think, much like the fighter and rogue, you can either a) plug wizards more into your world, b) twist any of the various cliches about wizards, or c) both! When I say, "plug wizards into your world," I mean they should have a spot on the map, NPCs, a defined code of behavior, and consequences for their actions. So if your wizard accidentally burnt down a library, the next time they meet their mentor, that library thing should come up. Even if you (the player) have to put it into conversation. "So, promise you won't be mad, but..." is a great way to lead this in. I know that sounds basic as hell, but basic stuff matters for injecting flavor into the world. Even things like somatic components- does your tradition have a specific way to do them? What if each tradition does it differently? How cool would it be if you could ID someone based on their gesture style?

What if different groups of wizards used different languages for their spells? What if those languages were good at different things, which is why Illusionists use High Gnomic, but evokers tend toward Ancient Draconic (and encode their spells in cuneiform!)?

You also don't have to stop there. Since spells are the core of the wizard class, you can further inject flavor by making your spells unique or different. This can be simple reskinning, or you can work with your DM to literally change things about the spell.

As far as twisting clichés, there are a lot you can do. Three common wizard clichés off the top of my head:
  • Wizard schools​
  • Cryptic mumbo-jumbo​
  • Beards​

So what if your wizard school was actually a work-release program? You pissed off the wrong temple, and rather than throw you in the dungeon, they decided to farm you out as a dogsbody to the local wizard. Turns out, you've got a knack for the arcane, and after awhile the old man decided to adopt you as an apprentice.

What if wizards mostly don't need all that cryptic mumbo-jumbo they spout, but they do it anyway to keep people scared of the arcane? What if your character is spearheading a revolution in education, trying to make magic mass-accessible? Their goal is that everyone on the planet knows at least one cantrip within two generations after their death. What does democratizing magic look like? How does that affect the world?

What if wizards don't really need beards, but it's a traditional thing, and every wizard grows a beard? Now you're a female wizard (one of a few), and your options are to flout tradition (perfectly legit), or wear a fake beard that looks as ridiculous as possible, but only on formal occasions.

That's just three possibilities off the top of my head, but imagine all the ways you could make wizarding even cooler!

I know some folks are going to say that they don't want to have to do more work to define their character; that the game should tell them how to play it. I am personally flabbergasted by that position. Getting to add fun, cool things to your character is the whole reason you choose less-flavored class (wizard, fighter, and rogue). They're like oatmeal; you can make them taste like whatever you want!

TOO FEW RESTRICTIONS / TOO LITTLE VARIETY:
I think this is mostly a playstyle difference – I think the point of the wizard is that there is always a tool you have to deal with a situation. The trick is knowing when you are the only / best tool the party has to deal with that situation. However, some of y'all are clearly having an issue with the large number of wizard spells known.

Now, I would point out that wizards get the exact same maximum number of spells they can prepare as clerics and druids (both of whom wind up knowing more spells that wizards do by level 5, as both of them have access to their entire spell list). So, I'm not sure where the “too few restrictions” issues are coming from; wizards have plenty of restrictions on what they know and what they can prepare.

If you want your wizards to have their spells feel earned, I sympathize entirely. However, we run into another problem: playstyle. Let's consider this spectrum as a dichotomy – sandbox vs adventure path. In a sandbox, you've got plenty of time for research, scribing, and various crafting activities, whereas on an adventure path, you're usually racing some kind of Doom Clock. So solutions for the former generally don't work for the latter, and vice versa.

I'm going to split my suggestions along this (completely false but analytically useful) dichotomy, just to save myself some time and headache.

For a sandbox game (defined as one in which the PCs control what jobs and adventures they go on), I recommend that all full casters do not learn spells as they level. Rather, they learn spells by adventuring. Yes, that includes the warlock – your pact has given you the ability to cast magic, but learning the actual spells to do so requires seeking out those spells. Unless, of course, you want to runup a tab with your patron (which actually brings the patron into the game more).

With this option, spells become treasure. Not just for wizards, anymore – you can find holy tomes with sacred prayers, druid rites scrawled into tree trunks, or full wizard spell scrolls inscribed in 50' tall letters on the side of a cliff (“Wait, is that disintegrate?”). You as the DM have to be pretty liberal, and you have to be pretty generous with putting spells in the world naturally, but it incentivizes spellcasters to go out and hunt for spells. Hell, even if you don't have druids in the party, finding a tome of druid spells can still be useful for a party – you never know when you might need to go to the local druid circle and ask for a favor.

On an adventure path, though, you're moving through scripted beats, and there's no time to slow down progression – the wizard's going to need that fireball spell to beat the mind flayer thralls! So instead, what I do is to make magic have consequences. The trick is to make the consequences interesting, and not punitive. So rather than rolling on a random table where the result might be “You blowup the whole party! Lolsorandom!” I usually have magic-users able to sense the use of magic. Spell-work lingers, like an old chalk outline. Those studied in various arts can discern a lot from studying an old spell, like a) who cast it? What kind of magic do they practice? b) What was the spell? What were they trying to accomplish? c) When was this working done?

Some casters might be curious enough to start sniffing around, or to send their familiar out to have a look at the new kids on the block. If the party committed any crimes facilitated by a spell, then the magic-user has now left their metaphorical fingerprints all over that crime.

What this does is force the casters in the party to think about their abilities. How long is that spell going to linger (rule of thumb: one week per spell level)? Can we “wash off” magical residue (yes, with running water, but doing so leaves a lacuna that other casters will see as the destruction of evidence)? Can this spell be linked back to me? And of course, all this goes for the bad guys, too.

This tends to come into play more often in intrigue-heavy campaigns rather than combat-heavy ones. Even in combat-focused campaigns, though, having the Evil Wizard able to ID your party casters helps justify why they've got a real challenging spell selection loadout, and gear that exactly counters the party's abilities. Of course they do –they've been watching you for some time....

Now, as to the “Too Little Variety” group, I'm understanding this complaint as being that every wizard has the same spells known, and you never find a wizard with illusory script prepared (and you should!).

My suggestion here is that you have any player playing a wizard choose one 1st level spell, and then roll randomly for the rest of them. This lets the player choose a spell that they'll need, like magic missile, without having to worry that they'll only wind up with jump and longstrider. Combine this with the “You don't get spells from leveling” suggestion above, and you can have some very interesting emergent combos. In one game, I had a player combine illusory script with mage hand to give a librarian the impression they were hallucinating as books were flying off the shelves and the writing on the wall changed before their eyes!

Fun times.

So alright, I just wanted to float some of my responses to the irritations I've seen voiced here over the last couple of weeks. Let me know if these are useless, helpful, or just kinda meh. If you have other variants that made wizards even more fun in your games, please post them! Have fun!
couple of things. On the too little bookkeeping when wizards know what they will be facing they are at thier most powerful. I honestly believe 90 percent of the wizards are too powerful and don't have rules come from games where the DM runs modules or telegraphs what is coming. so telling them how to rememorize spells is a little dicy.

Two. if you are going to limit spells and make them treasure then wizards should get to pick thier initial spellbook. Some like to play utility, some like to play blaster's let them limit themselves instead of random dice suckage.

I am in total agree ment with spells being treasure but then you run into the issue of all the martials get thier stuff out of the box when the level hits and the mage can end up at 10 level without fireball, scry, shield or mage armor. As long as the mages can trade with other mages buy spells and even research spells then that pain is minimized but I've played in one too many "low magic, High pain world " or DM hates wizards game, to be comfortable with that rule. Random can really suck there needs to be some way to mitigate it if your mage is just not getting the stuff they need . Yes clever players can do some clever things especially when they get screwed over by random dice and or DM, Screwing them over to get Those fun moments is not anything I'd recomend. It's 10 mnutes of fun after days, weeks or more of unfun.
 

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