New: D&D Wizard Initiate
We come at last to the final entry (for now) in the D&D Edits series, adding more subclasses for use in Dungeons & Dragons. It is fitting that we should end with the wizard, one of the most powerful magic casters and iconic classes in the game.
It also starts with "W," so that's why it's last.
Next week we will be looking at how hard it is to build wizards reminiscent of the great sages from fiction in the D&D setting, and this subclass does not solve that problem. But it does help to make sense of the concept of a school of magic in D&D (abjuration, conjuration, evocation, etc.), and what a person trained in that school of thinking and devoted to that school of thinking would look like.
The result is our final subclass: the wizard initiate.
Wizard Initiate: Theme and Inspiration
Inspired by the Zurn concept of wizards who devote themselves to a specific lore of magic, the wizard initiate is an abjurer, conjurer, evoker, etc. who devotes themselves exclusively to their school of magic. While other wizards may practice a variety of disciplines while specializing in one (which is the case for the vast majority of wizard player characters in D&D), the initiate is devoted exclusively to one school of magic: their school of magic.
This gives a unique style of gameplay and an interesting challenge to wizards, as you lose access to some of the quintessential wizard spells based on which school of magic you select. An Abjuration Initiate, for example, retains access to Shield and Counterspell, but loses access to Fireball and Magic Missile.
It also means that you now have healing wizards, as the necromancy and evocation initiates gain access to clerical and bardic healing magic. You gain control wizards with access to nature-themed spells, and competent melee and ranged wizards due to access to ranger and paladin spells. The result is a fun and unique type of wizard who is stronger in their specific school of magic, but with less options to round out a party due to their limitation on spell selection.
And before someone says, "Hey, you can't put nature spells on a wizard, that's not how magic works in D&D because wizards practice arcane magic," I'm sorry to break it to you, but canon subclasses already break the "rules" of "types of magic" all over the place. Paladins can get access to nature, arcane, and even eldritch spells, not because they are "communing with the right god" (though even if that was the reason that already breaks the whole idea of them being separate types of magic) but because "the subclass says so" (looking at you, Oath of the Ancients).
So off the bat the lines between Arcane Magic, Eldritch Magic, Divine Magic, and Nature Magic are very blurred to start with. Add onto this that magic is catalogued and passed down through the generations by druidic circles, clerical orders, etc., and it's reasonable to assume that a wizard initiated into a specific school of magic could find how these spells are cast and learn to cast them.
Wizard Initiate: Mechanics
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired. To start off the discussion, as noted above, you take this subclass at 1st level, and it dramatically changes the way you play with a wizard. This is because your spell list dramatically changes: you only gain access to spells that are from your school of magic, but you get access to all spells from that school of magic, even those that are not on the wizard spell list. They are still considered wizard spells, so they still use Intelligence as your spellcasting modifier, count against your number of wizard spells prepared each day, etc.
You also get changes to your cantrip selection. Naturally, for some schools of magic, they still have quite the wide variety, but if you've ever looked at the spells in D&D, the list of abjuration cantrips, illusion cantrips, and divination cantrips, for example, are very small.
So since you are limited in the spells you can choose based on your school of magic, we have made changes to some of the cantrips that place them in your school of magic as well, albeit with different effects. So for example, Abjuration Initiates may take Dancing Lights, and while the light radius is reduced (penalty from the original spell), anyone targeting a person in the dancing lights also suffers disadvantage on attacks (as the spell now gains an abjuration-style ability).
At 2nd level, you gain a skill proficiency and the ability to cast a 1st level spell a number of times each day equal to your Intelligence modifier without spending a spell slot, with the skill and spell being predetermined based on your school of magic. These are thematic to the school, helping to either round out the wizard or to double down on things you already do to extend your resources.
At 6th level you gain proficiency (or expertise, if you already have proficiency) in Arcana (Intelligence) checks for rolls involving your specific school of magic, so you are more like to detect Divination magic if you are a Divination Initiate, for example. You also get a boon to one of your cantrips, either increasing their damage die or a fix to a longstanding "problem cantrip" in the game that should be more useful than it is due to the wording of the spell. So you'll see "updates" to the Resistance cantrip, the True Strike cantrip, and the Blade Ward cantrip as a few examples.
And then at 10th and 14th level you gain added effects to some of your cantrips based on your tradition, as well as the ability to cast a specific 2nd level and 3rd level spell without spending a spell slot a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier each day.
These spells are thematic to the school, but not the strongest spells they have either (Evocation's 3rd level spell is Blinding Smite, not Fireball, for example). This allows your initiate to be more potent with their magic and cast spells more often than a standard wizard, but they lack the cool powers present with the wizard subclasses (like the Divination wizard's portend dice).
The Initiate Wizard is much like the Totem Warrior Barbarian in that there are a host of options that you can choose that result in very different playstyles when you run them a second or third time. Unlike the Totem Warrior Barbarian, however, there is no "clear winner" among the Initiate choices: Fireball and Healing Word are a strong combo for the Evocation Initiate, but losing Counterspell (Abjuration) and Identify (Divination) is a big loss, not to mention not being able to turn invisible.
Ultimately the Initiate Wizard allows you to really step back and say, "Okay, what magic school do I actually like, and why do I like it?" And that is a fantastic thing. It may be a useful exercise for a one-off campaign to gain an appreciation for other spells that you wouldn't normally take because your choices are restricted, and might even open your eyes to new go-to spells for future wizards that you take.
In our next post we will be covering a brand new class that we created: the Alpha. I did not set out to create a whole new class when I started thinking through character concepts that were lacking with the current subclasses, but as time passed and I looked at the "pet classes" in the game, I eventually came to the conclusion that there was a gap that needed filling, and that led to the Alpha. More on that character concept next week.
Until next time,