Pathfinder Class Analysis 11: Wizard

Paizo's Iconic Wizard
Paizo’s Iconic Wizard

Core Concept: It’s the wizard; true descendant of the magic user. I said earlier that if there were only one class, it should be the fighter. Well, if there were only two classes, then the second should be the wizard. While other styles of caster can add depth to the game, none has ever inspired my imagination the way the wizard does. I think there’s something to be said for a class which uses books being powerful in a game contained within books.

Spells / Spellbooks: Vancian magic has been a subject of heated discussion since the release of 4th edition several years ago. And while I don’t want to delve too deeply into the pros and cons, I will say that I like Vancian magic. No big surprise, I know. I find it simple enough that people don’t have trouble understanding it, functional enough that it doesn’t harm gameplay, and flavorful enough that it doesn’t feel like a purely mechanical system put in place to serve function and simplicity.

I will add, though, that I think I’d prefer it if wizards never gained spells automatically upon leveling up, and were instead forced to research new spells right from level 1. Further, I think the class could make do with fewer spell slots. I may have suggested something like that in the past.

Arcane Bond: Like the druid, paladin, and ranger before it, arcane bond is the wizard’s pet choosing ability. On the one hand they can gain a familiar, as wizards traditionally do, on the other hand they can gain a bonded item. My thoughts on these choices haven’t really changed, so lets ignore the choice and focus on the bonded item ability. Essentially, the wizard selects an item through which they’ll focus their spellcasting, like a wand. The wand confers certain bonuses to them, and they find it very difficult to cast without it. Once per day, the wizard may use the bonded item to cast a spell from their spellbook which they have not prepared in advance.

This is super duper awesome. Because while I like for players to be forced to think ahead and plan their spell use, I also like the idea of a single-use backup in case something unexpected comes up. It’s not for every game, but it’s certainly an interesting mechanic for pathfinder. With the added bonus that it requires players to store their magical energy in an item which can be stolen by villains to reduce the wizard’s effectiveness.

Arcane Schools: I’m not fond of how Pathfinder handles arcane schools for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, in D&D 3.5, a character’s barred school absolutely could not be cast from. In Pathfinder this restriction has been lessened so that barred schools are simply more difficult to cast from. Often during these posts I’ve expressed a preference for allowing the character to do cool things rather than simply try to do cool things. This is the inverse of that. If the players need to make a choice which will limit them in the future, then those limits should be concrete. I don’t see any reason to buff the class this way.

My second issue with arcane schools is that they’re made into watered-down bloodlines. Part of what makes bloodlines so great is that they make the sorcerer class distinct from the wizard. Why diminish that effect by giving the wizard such a similar ability?

Cantrips: Unlike yesterday, I quite literally have nothing to say about Cantrips which wasn’t already said when I wrote about orsions back in the cleric analysis.

Scribe Scroll: When I first reread this entry for the analysis, I didn’t think much of it. Level one bonus feat for scribing scrolls, it works, whatever, move on. But upon reflection, I think credit needs to be given for this idea. The wizard, the caster who performs magic with the power of their intellect, is able to work their magic into scrolls. Other casters can do this as well, but only the wizard does not require special training.

It’s not a huge deal, but I kinda like that touch.

Bonus Feat: What a lame ability to end on! I’ve written so much about bonus feats across the numerous classes which have them, that I don’t really know what else to say. I always felt like, compared to other classes, the sorcerer and the wizard had the least interesting feat selection. Bonus feats just seem to stretch an already thin selection.

With the exception of the Fighter, bonus feats always seem like the kind of thing which is added to a class when nobody can think of anything better to give it. So it seems odd to me that they weren’t thrown out when everybody realized the wizard was insanely overpowered and needed to be scaled back in Pathfinder.

In Conclusion: With the Wizard, I’ve completed my look at the 11 core classes in Pathfinder. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it even half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, because these were really fun, even if it wasn’t the most serious-minded analysis. Writing about what I want from each class has helped me better understand what I want from a tabletop RPG. I think I’ll be better at developing my own ideas now, having identified what I liked and disliked about these.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’d like to write similar posts about the non-core base classes. Paizo has done a good job on them, and hasn’t gone overboard the way Wizards did with 3rd edition. But after two solid weeks, I think everybody could use a break!

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3 thoughts on “Pathfinder Class Analysis 11: Wizard”

  1. At least on the GitP and Paizo boards Scribe Scroll is actually seen as the apex ability of wizards. It’s that ability to scribe any of their spells for future use (and to do so between sessions) that gives the wizard the sickening amount of versatility they have even at low levels. I’ve seen people even advise against sorcerors because often don’t get that feat for free.

    NOTE: I much prefer sorcerors. Fewer options + no prep for spells = Happy Jimmy!

    1. The solution to that is pretty simple, actually.

      1. Magical inks and papers cost money. Enforce scroll crafting as a minor drain on treasure.
      2. Transferring a spell to a written form is a grueling task, make scrolls take a significant amount of time to craft, thus limiting the amount which can be made. (1 week flat, or perhaps 2 days per level of the spell.)
      3. Scrolls are long and written on heavy paper. Each scroll weighs about as much as a torch, and should be tracked as part of encumbrance.
      4. Possibly, using scrolls counts against spells per day.

    2. I’m currently playing a negative-channelling cleric and this is part of why I took Scribe Scroll. Making scrolls is cheaper than buying potions (four healing scrolls for each healing potion!) but also more versatile.

      Finding a reputable purveyor of reagents is a problem, though. :)

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