The New Deal Wizard

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

The wizard is not a class that I want to do a lot of work with. In fact, I’d prefer to do none at all. However, there is one house rule connected to the way that Specialist Wizards work that I wanted to put on the table. It’s probably worth considering if we want to keep the house rules we’ve been using since 2000.

Specialist wizards are wizards that specialise in one of the eight schools of magic (Illusion, Evocation, Conjuration, Necromancy, Transmutation, Abjuration, Divination or Enchantment). They are better at casting spells in those schools than some other schools of magic. Pathfinder also introduced nifty powers that these specialist wizards could use, as well as giving other powers to the general mage so they didn’t feel left out. I don’t propose to change any of those powers. It’s simply the way the spells work that concerns me here.

You can read the official rules on p78 of the Core Rules (2009), they are also on the Pathfinder PRD. However, I’ve included them again here for sake of clarity and comparisson.

The Official Rules: A wizard that chooses to specialise in one school of magic must select two other schools as his opposition schools, representing knowledge sacrificed in one area of arcane lore to gain mastery in another. A wizard who prepares spells from his opposition schools must use two spell slots of that level to prepare the spell. For example, a wizard with evocation as an opposition school must expend two of his available 3rd-level spell slots to prepare a fireball. In addition, a specialist takes a -4 penalty on any skill checks made when crafting a magic item that has a spell from one of his opposition schools as a prerequisite. A universalist wizard can prepare spells from any school without restriction.

Specialist wizards receive an additional spell slot of each spell level he can cast, from 1st on up. Each day, a wizard can prepare a spell from his specialty school in that slot. This spell must be in the wizard’s spellbook. A wizard can select a spell modified by a metamagic feat to prepare in his school slot, but it uses up a higher-level spell slot. Wizards with the universalist school do not receive a school slot.

The Existing House Rules: Universalists have access to all arcane spells at the level noted in the spell description. Specialists cast all spells of their school as one level lower than they actually are, and gain access to these spells at a lower experience level. Conversely, they cast spells of all other schools as one level higher than they actually are and gain access to these spells at a higher experience level. For example, a necromancer would gain access to 9th level necromancy spells at level fifteen, but would have to be level nineteen before he could cast 9th level spells of any other school. Cantrips are not effected. 1st level spells of the specialist school are still cast as 1st level spells. In addition to this, specialists add +2 to the DC of all the spells from their specialist school, and -2 to the DC of all the saving throws of the spells from their other schools.

The Three Tests

I’m not particularly wedded to the house rules here. I do like them, I probably prefer them to the official rules, but I’m happy to follow the Pact of Minimal Tinkering and give them up. However, some of you may feel differently and be more attached to these rules than I am.

Narrative Integrity

Although there have been plenty of examples over the years of specialist wizards casting spells more powerful than their level might otherwise allow, these haven’t really been story issues. These are elements of the game that hide behind mechancis. I don’t think that anything breaks down irrevocably by saying that De Chesiré Mk. 4 couldn’t actually have teleported in session X. I don’t get the same sense of narrative imperative overriding mechanical concerns as I get for the druid’s wildshape, or the cleric’s granted powers. These are the issues that always manifest when you change editions.

Games without Miniatures

Again, not a concern here. There’s no grid-based element to these rules.

Our Preferences

It all boils down to what we think is better. The trouble with the official rules (in my opinion) is that they don’t actually make the specialist better at casting his chosen spells… they just make him worse at casting other spells. Sure he can cast more specialist spells, but there’s not the same incentive as the house rules provide. I think the house rules do a better job of encouraging players to select spells of their chosen school for their character. Necromancers under the house rules probably have a spellbook that is almost entirely made up of necromancy spells. They feel more like necromancers to me.

The house rules have problems, though. They make specialist wizards extremely attractive. By giving characters access to high level spells sooner in their careers, there is the risk of destabilising the system balance. Do you want 7th level wizards to be able to teleport, or 15 level wizards to be able to use Wish? Also by the time you hit 19th level the benefits of being a specialist disappear entirely. Plus it’s a change to the published rules that we don’t strictly need to make. Should a desire not to change things for the sake of changing them stay our hand here. The published rules work well enough, so we should probably not change them.

Have a think and cast your opinion below.

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

5 thoughts on “The New Deal Wizard

  1. Your rules do lead to specialists using more of the correct school, but for me this is a tinker too far so I would vote for the standard rules.

    In the pathfinder rules though I would imagine that almost every wizard is a specialist. The Universalists just aren’t as good. Losing one spell of every level so that you don’t pay two slots for two schools of your choice looks a bad move.

  2. The house rules certainly make specialists more specialist. They are too good though.

    I’ve played two wizards in Iourn and both have been specialists. They felt very focussed, but they also felt very good. Getting spells a level earlier is very powerful.

    I agree that the official rules don’t make you any better in your specialism, and that is unsatisfactory. However, I think you can trust your players to play the role. If I’m playing a conjurer, I’ll take lots of summoning spells, spell focus (conjuration/summoning) and augment summoning. I don’t have to, but I will because that’s what I’m playing.

    In Pathfinder, I’ve had people playing Universalists very happily. It is annoying not having access to certain spells as a specialist. Universalists have the broadest range of powers of any class.

  3. I am very fond of my house rules, but given everything else that we’re excising from the game I don’t think I can justify keeping them. Is there a champion of these rules anywhere to ride to their rescue?

  4. When you first came up with the rule, I was a fan. It does what you wanted it to do and I enjoyed playing Ellyboodle and Sova/Carith.

    However, in the light of the new drive towards balance and orthodoxy, it’s got to go!

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