As Wizards of the Coast have already, very kindly, bridged the gap between both M:tG and D&D, this should be nice and easy, right?
But that’s not the point of these articles, a shamelessly self-indulgent stretching of the creative muscles made public for anyone to use, and a bit of mental exercise at the same time. So as we have Planeshift articles for Amonkhet, Dominaria, Innistrad, Ixalan, and Zendikar, and a large guide attached to Ravnica, I’ll have to look to another plane of Magic’s collection to make things a little harder. Theros is too easy, Phyrexia is my favourite plane so probably one of the easiest options for me… (more…)
Let us suppose a variation of magic that does not manipulate a natural force ever-present in the world. Instead let us consider a school of magi who pull their power from the realms beyond the material, reaching into the turning gears of Mechanus, the glorious light of Celestia, the feral twilight of Ysgard, or – as presented here – the twisting tunnels, the ever blowing gales mingled with the howls of souls as they shred and dissolve into the headwaters of the Styx, Pandemonium.
The spells here are selected with a view to their aesthetic relation to Pandemonium, which borders the roiling chaos of Limbo and the demonic halls of the Abyss. Pandemonium itself is predominantly home to demons, a handful of damned souls that endure the winds, and a few evil or mad gods who have come to build their realms within. The spells are heavy on necrotic forces, death, madness, and eternally howling winds. (more…)
So, rather than starting with my spell like I did in my Re-Skinning Spells part 1 last week, I’ll be starting with the spellcaster. To give your unique character a unique feel rather than just a colour-by-numbers hack-n-slash dungeon crawler, plant a little of their personality onto their spell list. For each character I’ll be throwing in more details like magical implements or Individual Magical Effect to give you some ideas on how to really change up your wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and spellslingers.
Let me start with a character I’ve wanted to build for some time.
A wizard heavily invested in the nature of time, it’s mechanisms, how it shapes and is shaped by space and matter. There’s a few spells that are no-brainers for a master of time, Slow, Haste, Scrying, at later levels Time Stop and it’s not a huge stretch to throw in spells like Mending as a way to reverse time on a broken object, or Disintegration to accelerate time to the point of crumbling. But not every level comes with a complete collection of spells perfect for the Chronomancer.
It would not take an overly permissive DM to alter Conjure Minor Elementals to summon Modrons instead, those mechanical life-forms from the plane of rigid order and law. The collection from the Monster Manual sits within the Combat Rating requirements. Scrying and locating spells might help pinpoint the eddies and currents a creature leaves in the currents of time, Move Earth and Control Water might toy with history so ancient that the world was different.
Each time the Chronomancer casts a spell it is accompanied by the sound of a ticking clock, a whirling of spectral gears about his/her arms, and at later levels the very stars wheel in the heavens as he/she exerts power on the universe. A stopwatch might be the focus for the Chronomancer, or a sundial with a shadow that always points to the correct time, no matter the light in the room.
The magic of an Alchemist is all chemical, no otherworldly powers required. The correct admixtures can turn acid into a projectile capable of flying great distances, contain fire in a case of metal to be called upon later, or spawn lightning in a jar. The Artificer class for Eberron has dabbled a little in this, although I have to say I preferred the sub-type of wizard from an earlier issue of Unearthed Arcana. That works up to a point, but there are plenty of spells that you might not be able to pull out of a bottle.
Consider a spell like Wall of Stone, rather than a movement of earth the spell could be a growing mountain of foam that solidifies into a barrier. Illusions could be the result of a potent hallucinogen; it’s hard to summon an Insect Plague with chemicals unless you keep a box of larvae or a vial of potent pheromones in your pack.
Alchemists can fit into a low-magic setting, but have to plan accordingly. Your alchemist may have to carry a hefty medicine bag filled with bases, reagents, admixtures and solvents, along with enough glassware to refit a cathedral. You might be walking around in lab gear, goggles and gloves, collapsible work bench, the works.
Ok, let me draw some examples from elsewhere. I’ll grab some characters with signature spells or spell-like powers and give you something that’ll do the same job:
Maya’s Phaselock – Shamelessly going back to Borderlands, the Siren Maya has the power to imprison an enemy in a hovering bubble of raw energy from whatever plane of existence the Sirens draw power from. Hold Person would work fine as the basic version, but lacks the upgrades, they’re much harder to replicate without your DM allowing you to add powers and expending higher spell slots, or even several slots. Dominate Person, Bless, or Resistance can give you ideas for effects to pile onto a single spell.
Witcher Signs – Igni screams Burning Hands, nice and easy. Aard, maybe use Thunderwave. At early levels you might use Crown of Madness for the hypnotic sign Axii, rather than the more appropriate Dominate Monster. The shielding sign Quen has loads of possible options, from Shield to Magic Circle. And Yrden… is difficult, planting rune-circles that trigger when you pass over them is something you’ll have to wait for when you get level 3 spells and Glyph of Warding, but that’s such a versatile spell you should pick it up anyway, no matter who you are.
Waterbending – It’s easy to replicate earth, air, and firebending from the Avatar Series, plenty of fire-based spells, mobility and defensive spells for air, and things you can change into stone, especially if you build a druid. Water might be trickier, but there are things that could be made more… watery. Magic Missile and Cloud of Daggers, streaks of water hurled at opponents, Slow and Evard’s Black Tentacles could be used as patches of water that grip and bind.
Knowledge is power!
Learned wielders of great magical powers, weavers of great and terrible spells, and generally overpowered. Wizards are one of the fantasy classics that’ ingrained into our culture, so long as magic captures our imagination and we can still keep coming up with incredible characters to use it, then wizards just won’t die (we’re looking at you Gandalf).
We have gathered for you the finest magic casters (you might call it a Magical Gathering) but there’s a rule! The best wizards in this list have learned and obtained their powers through study and practice, and less dependence on biology or innate power. This one stipulation may cause some shocking revelations, as you will discover as we make our way through the Top 10 Wizards.
10) Time Wizard – YuGiOh!
He’s got Wizard in the name, but we don’t know his mortality – other than the fact that he can take some damage and be killed. We also don’t know how learned he is. But he’s certainly got a lot of magical power. The Time Wizard is one of the most iconic cards from the Childrens Card Game, YuGiOh. If you’ve ever seen Joey Wheeler from the anime, then you’ll no doubt be familiar with this tricky time trickster.
The Time Wizard is literally a clock, which comes out and does some weird things with time. He can reverse time, or sent time forward but hundreds or thousands of years. So in terms of magical power, this little ticking time tinkerer is actually pretty strong. Unfortunately, due to a lack of lore about him, we can’t tell if this is a character that learned the ticks of his trade, or if he simply was born with them.
9) Doctor Strange – Marvel
Ok, we’re raising Strange because he has a film on the way, but his official title is the Sorcerer Supreme. Some concession of course because he did study for the role under the previous Sorcerer Supreme after a car accident damaged his hands, hindering his ability to perform brain surgery. Spoilers by the way…
Through his manipulation of magical forces he helps protect our realm from forces far darker than any other hero in the Marvel universe, demonic forces and magical entities that dwell in border dimensions. Interestingly the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme also draw on beings of ancient entities such as Cyttorak, which also makes him a Warlock, so credit where credit’s due, Stephen Strange really hits all the spell-casting classes at once.
8) Gandalf – Lord of the Rings
The first in our incredibly long line of shocks is Gandalf the Grey, or Gandalf the White. This grizzled old human is seemingly one of the most wise and powerful wizards on this entire list – So how on Earth, (or Middle-Earth,) did he end up so far down the list? With his massive beard and his staff… And all of that magic, how can he be so low? I mean he even refers to himself as a wizard.
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, a Wizard is primarily mortal. This is someone who is learned, someone who has had to study, without there being magical power within them. So with this in mind, it’s impossible for us to put Gandalf here… For he’s not mortal. He is in fact a Maiar Spirit, along with, yes you guessed it, Saruman. But instead of disregarding it fully, we respect sorcerers equally – But they’re not what we would call a wizard. Not when the true age of Gandalf is known. He was born before the shaping of Arda.
7) Dumbledore – Harry Potter
“Wait, hold on one minute here,” I hear you screaming at your monitors with an intense rage, “this ruling is a little bit ridiculous – Dumbledore is a human!” To this, I fully agree with all of you out there, Dumbledore is a very clear human, who was born a human and who died a human. Regardless of the non-confirmed fan-theories opinions of Dumbledore being a physical manifestation of Death, we’ll stick to the concept that Dumbledore is a wisened, learned wizard of human blood.
However… We’re going to have to point out, that much like Gandalf and our next entrant to this list, Dumbledore (indeed, Hogwarts as we know it,) might be a lie. For you see, a Wizard is a mortal who is learned. A man or woman who has learned their craft, through being taught. This means that if magical energies are latent within them, albeit needing training, they are actually a sorcerer. This is the definition of a Wizard to a Sorcerer – and Gandalf might be the greatest Sorcerer of all time. Don’t forget what the American’s named the first book: The Sorcerer’s Stone. I’m gutted, as I wanted Dumbledore to be our number one slot.
6) Merlin – Arthurian Legend
So if Gandalf and Dumbledore have now been, at least for our definition, proven to be sorcerers instead of wizards, how can Merlin be that much greater? The answer lies in the term “learned”. Merlin is possibly more learned than both of these men, which is why we have had so many shocking revelations throughout this list. Merlin was many things, to which they called him a wizard. He was an incredibly intelligent man.
But notice once again he’s only placed at number 6? What could possibly stop him this time? Unfortunately, lore strikes once again – as Merlin was born to a human lady and an incubus. Yes, his daddy whom passed incredible powers onto the most important wizard on this list bar-none, was an Incubus. Now that’s pretty gross – but to make it worse, it stops Merlin going one greater. Sword and the Stone? Sadly, it was another Sorcerer’s Stone!
5) Hoodies – Magicka
Now we’re beginning to move into the realm of real wizards – so we’re sorry it’s taken us this long to get here. The above are all considered to be wizardly. In fact, some of them literally bare the name wizard and one of them even conceals a whole school of sorcerers as wizards. However, the Hoodies of Magicka is an affectionate nickname we’re giving the main characters of the game, who are powerful wizards.
They’re completely mortal and due to how they’re presented to us, we’re able to surmise that these wizards learned it entirely through dedication and hard work. Sadly though, we don’t have that much evidence that they learned their craft, no matter how learned we believe they are… So we’re setting these powerful mortals to the middle of our list. Because finally, the magic is real guys. Also this game is pretty hard, go play it with some friends and watch your friendships disappear… Like magic!
4) Mustrum Ridcully – Discworld
We’d have loved to have included Rincewind here, but Rincewind only ever knew one spell, (albeit one of the great spells of creation,) and he was never all that senior. The closest he ever came to authority was as the Head of Cruel and Unusual Geography.
Now Mustrum Ridcully on the other hand, he’s the genuine article, Archchancellor of Unseen University, the one who brought the highest orders of wizardry to heal with a healthy diet and plenty of hygiene; a master of all things magical, except for the strange things those youngsters get up to in the High Energy Magic Buidling; he achieved the 7th level of Wizardry by the age of 27, and has no fewer than eleven qualifications of varying degrees. He is, in fact, Mustrum Ridcully D.Thau., D.M., D.S., D.Mn., D.G., D.D., D.C.L., D.M. Phil., D.M.S., D.C.M., D.W., B.El.L. and Archchancellor.
Ridcully has ended the long string of assassinations to snatch the top spot in the faculty, after the first attempt ended in the ambitious assassin being unceremoniously brutalised by very non-magical methods. He’s also so incredibly powerful, he’s done away with all that messy magic stuff; it’s unhygienic.
3) Mirdon – Doraleous and Associates
One of Doraleous’ oldest friends and closest allies, Mirdon the wizard is a multi-talented mage with a battery of spells at his disposal, powers that transform his comrades into wild beasts, spells that enhance his senses beyond mortal comprehension, spells that summon inconvenient avalanches of large rocks that kind of just get in the way, and make it difficult for enemies to carry on with what they were doing.
He’s also selfish, disrespectful, foul-mouthed, and actually surprisingly dim for a wizard. He’s a straight-up wizard, studied hard to obtain his power, and joined up with an adventuring party to try and help people. That’d be very honourable and respectable but… he’s just so unlikable! Now, we’re a respectable site, so I can’t really share exactly how horrible he is… suffice to say his most evil spell is one that gives you a permanent nose whistle that never goes away.
Check out the Machinima cartoon to fully understand what I’m getting at here… just don’t do so at work. Unless you’ve got a cool workplace that’s fine with that kind of thing.
2) Veigar, the Tiny Master of Evil – League of Legends
If you’ve been reading through this list so far, you may be surprised seeing all of the powerful people we assumed were wizards to be so low down. To then turn around and see a hero from League of Legends reaching all the way up to number 2, with no mention of Warcraft or otherwise in sight, it might feel like we’ve gone mad. But Veigar is a well thought out wizard, of non-human origin – Although still mortal.
Veigar was an ordinary boy, who wanted to learn more about the world beyond Bandle City. Being a Yordle, he doesn’t conjure many images of a grand and powerful wizard, but yet neither did the Gnomes of Warcraft. Veigar wanted to learn more and to really be a bit of a trader, so he studied hard. But a deal went wrong and off to jail did Veigar go. Now, jailing a Yordle is pretty dangerous, as is evident from Veigar, the Tiny Master of Evil. Instead of heading back to Bandle City, he ended up seeking out dark wizards to be trained in the ways of evil. Now a twisted little Yordle, this barely 1 meter tall hero, (or shall we say villain,) looks to bring conflict of all of Valoran to a stop… Mostly because he wants city states to bow before him. Ah well, can’t blame him for trying.
Whilst we could argue he’s a Warlock, there’s no evidence that he actually makes any kind of pact. Therefore, he’s a wizard until proven warlock… Because ultimately, all he did was study hard to be the Tiniest Master of Evil.
When we set out to write this list, we both agreed that Jace belonged on the list of wizards. Ultimately, he started as a humble human who aspired to be more, so he self-taught himself until he knew enough to assist where he was needed most. His magics got greater and greater, until one day, he became more than just a mortal. He became a Planeswalker, a powerful entity that can literally walk across different planes of time… But what does this mean exactly?
Taken directly from MTGSalvation, a Wikia dedicated to all that is Magic: the Gathering – “The defining trait of [planeswalkers] is the ability to travel between separate universes with ease, while the vast majority of people throughout the multiverse are not even aware that other worlds beside their own exist. Planeswalking is a form of magic. With enough time and mana, or with specialized spell knowledge, or with access to enormous power, it’s possible for a planeswalker to transfer clothing, artifacts and/or creatures with him as he planeswalks.”
Due to his studies and the fact that Jace started not as a Planeswalker, but became more due to all of his studies. To make matters more complicated though, it’s actually entirely unknown as to how long he studied. Still, time aside, all we know is, this might be the most learned man in any literature, game, film, anime or otherwise.
Given the harsh judgement we have imparted on a few favourites, our honourable mentions have really had to fight hard to get this place. Years of study, diligence to the craft and service to the realm have earned these entries, a Venerable Mention.
Wizards of the Coast
This one very nearly slipped by us. Wizards are the game studio who make some of the best traditional games on the market, most notably Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: the Gathering, a couple of our personal favourites, but there are a few others you may not be entirely aware of in their catalogue. Ever played Betrayal on the House on the Hill?
Founded in 1990, now a subsidiary of Hasbro, (damn you Hasbro and your Monopoly of traditional games,) Wizards of the Coast manage a wide variety of nerd classics and firm favourites. Sadly though, despite many a magical hour spent gathered around a table playing wizards and casting spells, WotC are drummed into the honourables list because they’re not actually magical and it’s all make-believe.
Tim the Enchanter – Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Tim the Enchanter is sadly bumped down to the honourables list for his brief appearance, most of which he spends slinging fire around for the sake of it, and for the applause. He seems possessed of prophetic abilities, knowing all about King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail before he even approaches.
Only one beast in all of christendom does the mighty Enchanter fear, and that fiend is no ordinary bunny rabbit. Played by Billy Connolly, the Big Yin may only show up for a few minutes in the classic tale of messing around in the British countryside, but it’s one of the best cameos in film history. Oddly the goat horns and robes suit him. [EDIT] Apparently I need to do my research more thoroughly, John Cleese plays the Enchanter.
This one might cause a bit of controversy, but we’re not afraid of that. Instead, we hope that you found our interpretation of a wizard to be a compelling, or even correct one to you. In the meantime, we’re going to ask you to vote on next week’s’ list, which can be one of the below. We’re going for a slightly less ambiguous term for our next list, so please do vote wisely, oh venerable one.
With a puff and a cloud of smoke, it looks like it’s time to wrap up another one of our Top 10 lists. But don’t despair, for we’ll be back again this time next week with yet another Top 10 list as chosen by you. Until then, why not get involved with this week’s list and tell us what you thought of it. Do you feel we were too harsh on some of the characters? Is Jace Beleren worthy of such praise? Do you feel the tiny master of evil was in the right position for this list? Will anyone believe Merlin’s lies after this trick?! As always, leave a comment below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.
There are frequently benefits to multiclassing your characters, giving your fighter a level of rogue or barbarian can really up his damage output, or perhaps a little paladin or cleric can make him a greater utility to the group. Giving your monk a few sorcerer spells can really change the way she plays in combat without compromising her usefulness, or perhaps some ranger to turn her into a serious close-range menace.
But why? Surely you’re not just chasing numbers and making a more effective combat-unit, or chasing some build that you found on a forum to break the game. Your character shouldn’t just be a collection of stats on a piece of paper because that ceases to be role-playing, but there’s no need to avoid multiclassing because it doesn’t fit, and if it works in your story then you should absolutely add a level of a class that makes no sense. Like bard…
I’m kidding, bards are fine. (more…)