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Pointy Hats
Dragon's-Eye View
Jon Schindehette

Illustrations by Richard Whitter

H ave you noticed that there are two camps regarding wizards: those who think wizards should have pointy hats, and those who don't? I started a bit of a dialogue lately by asking folks about their opinion on pointy-hat wizards. A great conversation ensued . . .

But, before I dive into this discussion, let's go over what a wizard is in D&D.

Wizards are agents of arcane magic. They tap into the true power that permeates the cosmos, research esoteric rituals, and hurl fireballs and magic missiles. The wizard wields magic in much the same manner as a warrior wields a sword. Wizards use spells, spell components, staffs, and wands. They are also known to carry around tomes of magic lore. This is a very simplistic definition—please don't take me to task if I missed something. Hopefully that is close enough for this discussion.

When I chat with folks at the cons and on the forums, I've found that having a discussion about wizards and their hats isn't as volatile as asking whether vampires sparkle or not, but everyone has their opinions. And as an aside—Strahd does not sparkle, okay?

In the early days of Dungeons & Dragons, our wizards followed the traditional fantasy and mythical depictions of wizards: old men wearing full robes and pointy hats festooned with stars and moons. Later on, the decision was made to move to a more contemporary depiction of the wizard. D&D now has a rift! We have a demarcation between PH and NPH times. In case you didn't follow my subtle acronym: Pointy Hats and No Pointy Hats.

So what was the big reason for the shift? I'd like to say that it was some brilliant insight into the psyche of the D&D player, but I'm guessing that it was more about someone hating pointy hats. I don't really know who it was, and I don't really care. All I know is that nowadays I have to deal with folks from the PH days, who are screaming about me throwing their PH wizard under the bus. Trust me, I would never throw the wizard under the bus. They are too useful in a fight—but tossing their hat under one is another matter.

And with that, the cat is out of the bag: I'm not a huge fan of the pointy hat. Does that mean that I think pointy hats should be out of the game? No, it just means that you'd never catch me wearing one. For that matter, you'd never catch me wearing one of those long heavy robes that PH wizards are fond of wearing either. At least not into battle. I know that wizards are supposed to hang back and fire potent spells over the heads of their allies and lay waste to the advancing horde, but I've been in too many battles where the back lines suddenly became the front lines. I've also had too many vengeful DMs who consider running in robes to be slower than the speed of advancing hordes. So sad . . .

So, besides the practical matter of battle attire, there is also the simple fact that I wanna look cool! I haven't found many images of a wizard in a PH that look cool. Maybe it's my personal bias. Maybe it's my childhood fear of wearing a dunce cap. Maybe it was from that incident where I was beaten senseless with a cheerleader's megaphone (it kinda looked like a PH). But I'm open-minded and willing to be inclusive of PH folk.

So I asked Richard Whitters to help me overcome my hatred of the PH. I asked him to remove my fear and loathing by creating a really cool PH wizard. Then I would be able to cast aside this dreadful fear of the PH and mend the rift between the camps of the PH and NPH faithful. Instead, Richard gleefully pulled together some of his favorite depictions of wizards through the ages. Well, at least it gives me some points of reference . . .


Okay, now let's really talk about the wizard.

I've kicked around the discussion of PH or NPH for a bit now, and I keep coming back to the same place. This is D&D! Players and DMs hold all the power when it comes to their home games, right? So they can do whatever they want. That is, if someone wants to play a PH wizard, he or she can. In fact, if players and DMs want to trick their wizards out with leopard fur robes, scrunched orange pointed hats with wide brims, and giant staffs that have a disco ball twirling on the end, they can! That is the right of every player and DM, and the power of D&D. They can play the game any way they wish—no matter what the core books say. That's a lot of power to wield, isn't it?

Now when it comes to depictions in the products, it gets more complicated. There are those who want to see PH wizards, and there are those who want NPH wizards. How do we resolve the issue? Do we strike a balance and say that half of the wizards will have hats, and the other half won't? Maybe we take the stand that wizards in cities, in royal audiences, and in schools of magic wear their PH and fine robes, but wizards in the field wear more practical adventuring gear?

I can't say that I know the answer to these questions yet, and I'm looking to you for your thoughts and opinions.

Speaking of opinions, I recently had a discussion with Ed Greenwood about his most famous wizard, Elminster. I figured, when it comes to wizards and D&D, you can't get more iconic than Elminster, right? And if you are going to mess with the most iconic of characters, maybe Ed would have some opinions about wizards. Interestingly enough, the conversation didn't go anything like I expected. Ed was more focused on the fact that Elminster was an "every man" character. He didn't run around in noble or expensive clothing. He dressed for travel and adventure—so homespun cloth that was made for walking through the woods was much more desirable than heavy "wizards robes." The closest thing to a robe in Ed's mind would be a short cape. He was very noncommittal about the hat and the staff, but he was firm on having two daggers, silver rings, the pipe, and various other important items. I've got to say, this blew my mind! That got me to thinking, and I asked my friends at Conceptopolis to put together a couple of concepts (just for fun), and play with this somewhat different take on Elminster than I'm used to.


Now I have no intention of going anywhere with this depiction, but it was an interesting experiment, and it helped hammer home this question: what makes a wizard a wizard? And does an adventuring wizard look different than an academic wizard? I'm looking forward to your thoughts on this subject.

Last Week's Poll

In your opinion, what color should the D&D logo be?
Red 1574 59.6%
Green 250 9.5%
Blue 204 7.7%
Other (comment below) 171 6.5%
Orange 138 5.2%
Purple 137 5.2%
Black 89 3.4%
Yellow 79 3.0%
Total 2642 100.0%

Poll Results from Consume, Engage, Cherish

Core books are ____ products.
Consume 493 18.9%
Engage 722 27.6%
Cherish 213 8.2%
A combination of the above 1184 45.3%
Total 2612 100.0%

This Week's Polls

 Where do you stand on pointy hats?  
If it's good enough for Gandalf, it's good enough for me.
I wear mine only to official functions.
Mine is collecting dust in my closet.
I have a more practical hat because I'm always on the go.
I don't wear hats.
I prefer a hat like ____ (please describe in the comments below).

 What is the iconic element that tells you that a wizard is a wizard?  
The silhouette
Wears a hat
Use of a staff
Use of a wand
Carrying a spellbook or scroll
Carrying bags of spell components
Casting a fireball spell
Wears flowing robes
Other (please explain in the comments below)

Jon Schindehette
Jon Schindehette joined Wizards of the Coast in 1997 as the website art director. In the intervening years he has worked as the marketing art director, novels art director, and creative manager. In January of 2009 he moved into the role of senior creative director for D&D. Jon is a long time D&D player (started in 1978), and currently plays in a Tuesday night game and DMs a random pick-up game for younger players. He can be found on Twitter (@ArtOrder) and at theartorder.com.
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