Article Header Image
Wizard Preview
Ampersand Special: The Essential Classes
by Bill Slavicsek

Welcome to another special, free-to-all edition of my regular column. I’ll be here each week throughout July and August to bring you up to speed on the new Essentials products and to tell you about other exciting things relating to the Dungeons & Dragons brand. Before we dive into it, I wanted to address some misconceptions we’ve been noticing on the boards since I started releasing information.

Not a New Edition

No matter how I write the words or how many times I say it, confusion abounds. Must just be the nature of the internet, I guess. Well, here I go again …

The Dungeons & Dragons Essentials products are fully compatible with the rest of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. The rules of the game are the same as those featured in the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide. The presentation is new, rewritten for clarity and friendliness. The format of the product is new, using boxed sets and digest-sized paperbacks instead of hardcover books. We’re incorporating any rules updates that have come along since the release of the new edition in 2008.

The classes provided in the Essentials products consist of new builds of old favorites, designed to provide great starting points, more variety, and to give us more creative space for future design. The warpriest, the new cleric build that I showed off last week, for example, can use powers and feats and magic items from any product published earlier in the edition, and clerics created with the Player's Handbook or with Divine Power (also just for example) can utilize material right out of the Essentials products. This isn’t all that different from us releasing Player's Handbook 2 or Player's Handbook 3. We just have a more specific set of goals in mind here than simply adding more material to the game.

The spin we’re putting on them is what makes these new products “Essentials.” We’re delegating these 10 products as “must-have” products for every retail outlet that carries the Dungeons & Dragons game. They form the foundation of the game moving forward and are designed to be the perfect way for new people to get into the game—thanks to the format, the price, and the approach to the class builds.

To further demonstrate the interchangeability of the classes, we’re going to include Player's Handbook classes alongside Heroes of the Fallen Lands classes in the special celebrity game event we’re running at Gen Con this year. Chris Perkins, Dungeon Master to the Stars, will host a game for such D&D superstars as R.A. Salvatore, Ed Greenwood, and Larry Elmore that we will record and make available for anyone who wasn’t able to attend the event.

What About Products After the Essentials?

Products coming out after the Essentials, including such exciting titles as Player’s Option: Heroes of Shadow, work with all Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game products. Just started with the Essentials? No problem! Add shadow-based powers to your storm warpriest with no fuss or bother. Got a battle cleric built with Player's Handbook and enhanced with Divine Power and a couple of feats from Essentials? No problem! It’s all D&D, so it’s all compatible! Everything we’re producing in 2011 and beyond works with both Essentials and non-Essentials products—because they all work together! They’re all Dungeons & Dragons!

Now let me show you a little bit of the new wizard build, the mage …


Arcane Controller: You are a master of the mystic arts, capable of bending your enemies to your will, reshaping perception, or summoning devastating elemental power.

Why This Is the Class for You: You like the idea of commanding magical forces far beyond the capabilities of most mortals.

Wizards remind people of the mysteries of the world. Wizards are synonymous with arcane power, and as inexplicable as the magic they wield. They frighten some folk, anger others, and most just avoid them altogether. And the majority of wizards are perfectly fine with this reaction.

A wizard uses magic for offense and defense, as well as for a myriad of other tasks and applications. Wizards approach spellcasting as a science, training and studying long hours to control even the most rudimentary cantrips and spells. Few wizards can master the art of arcane magic without a mentor, and many seek entry into an arcane academy to learn the lore and traditions of spellcasting.

Wizards become adventurers to add to their knowledge of arcane lore, to discover lost techniques, and to find artifacts of great power. Some treat their adventures as a personal quest to improve the state of their art. For others, they are a higher calling, in which those wizards use the arcane power they have mastered to take on the evils that plague the world.

The type of wizard you can create with this book is the mage.


Key Abilities: Intelligence; Constitution, Wisdom, or Charisma

A mage is a specialized wizard, a spellcaster who focuses on the tenets of a particular school of magic. This specialization makes each mage distinctive. After all, a mage who casts evocation spells presents a very different picture to the world from a mage who has mastered the art of illusion or enchantment.

Mages tend to approach arcane magic with a more scholarly bent than other wizards, and that’s saying a lot. Don’t expect to find adventuring mages hidden away in dusty towers, however. They hit the ground running, ready to explore every dungeon and ancient ruin in search of lore and knowledge that will increase their understanding of everything arcane—and thereby increase their personal power.

The ancient traditions of the schools have been handed down since the first mortals began to dabble in arcane magic. What started as techniques and methods of training between masters and apprentices eventually became more institutionalized, and eventually actual academies of arcane study sprang up in the world and even among the eladrin of the Feywild. In time, single towers devoted to a single arcane discipline gave way to grand academies where illusion magic was taught alongside evocation magic.

Today, where and how arcane magic is taught depends on where you happen to be. On the borderlands, in places such as Fallcrest, solitary mages pass on their knowledge to one or two apprentices at a time. In larger settlements, such as the city of Nera, academies are dedicated to the training of mages in all of the schools of magic.

Creating a Mage

This section walks you through the steps of creating a mage. As you make choices at each step, consider how those choices relate to your character’s personality, backstory, and goals. Consult the three class tables, one for each tier of play, for a summary of what you gain as you advance in level.

School of Magic

Mages dabble in a wide variety of arcane magic, gaining flexibility at the expense of the deeper understanding of a single type of magic that some wizards cultivate. However, every mage has a natural aptitude for certain magical forms that influence his or her mastery of arcane spellcraft.

Wizard spells are organized into schools—techniques and methods that have been developed over time to produce certain types of magical effects. The schools of magic are categories into which some wizard spells are divided.

This chapter presents three schools of magic: enchantment, evocation, and illusion. (Other schools of magic exist, but this book focuses only on these three.) As a mage, you can choose any spell from the list of wizard powers. However, you have learned a few secrets and techniques from specific schools that grant you an edge with spells of those schools.

The three schools of magic available in this book are described below. Some of your wizard class features, such as Apprentice Mage gained at 1st level, allow you to specialize in one of these schools. Read the descriptions, decide which school appeals to you, and use that to guide your choice as you create your character.

Enchantment School

First developed among the eladrin of the Feywild, spells from the enchantment school can bend a creature’s mind to your will. Your enchantment spells befuddle the senses and leave a creature disoriented or open to your suggestions. Spells from this school rarely deal damage, but by allowing you to control your foes for a few precious moments, they can easily turn the tide of battle.

Evocation School

The spells of the school of evocation are a mage’s most brutally effective weapons. An evocation spell channels magic to produce bolts of lightning, howling gales that can freeze enemies in their tracks, and explosive orbs of fiery energy. Evocation spells are never subtle, and they encompass some of the most potent combat powers in the game.

Illusion School

Using spells of the illusion school, you trick and control your enemies by creating apparitions and false images that confuse and control the senses. Illusion spells can leave your foes frozen in fear or lashing out at imaginary threats. Meanwhile, your allies close in for the kill.

Hit Points: You start with hit points equal to 10 + your Constitution score. You gain 4 hit points each time you gain a level.
Bonus to Defenses: +2 to Will
Healing Surges per Day: 6 + your Constitution modifier
Armor Proficiencies: Cloth
Weapon Proficiencies: Dagger, quarterstaff
Implement Proficiencies: Orbs, staffs, wands
Class Skills: Arcana (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Dungeoneering (Wis), History (Int), Insight (Wis), Nature (Wis), Religion (Int)

Heroic Mage

After years of toil and practice, you have finally learned enough of the matters of the arcane to head out on your own. In the heroic tier you gain power quickly, but you must still carefully shepherd your magic. One mistake can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

Total XP Level Feats
Class Features and Powers
0 1 1 Apprentice Mage
Magic Missile
At-will powers
Encounter powers
Daily powers
1,000 2 +1 Utility powers
2,250 3 Encounter powers
3,750 4 +1 Ability score increase
Apprentice Mage
5,500 5 Expert Mage
Daily powers
7,500 6 +1 Utility powers
10,000 7 Encounter powers
13,000 8 +1 Ability score increase
Expert Mage
16,500 9 Daily powers
20,500 10 +1 Master Mage
Utility powers

Level 1: Apprentice Mage

Mages are widely known as generalists among wizards, learning spells from various schools to suit their needs and whims. However, even mages understand the benefit derived from specialized study.

Benefit: Choose a school of magic. You gain the Apprentice Mage benefit associated with that school. The benefits in this book are Enchantment Apprentice, Evocation Apprentice, and Illusion Apprentice.

Level 1: Spellbook

A spellbook is the heart of a mage’s power. Your spellbook holds the spells you know and gives you unrivaled versatility. Whenever you learn a wizard power or wizard paragon path power, it goes into your spellbook.

Benefit: At the end of each of your extended rests, you can prepare encounter attack powers, daily attack powers, and utility powers from your spellbook. These are the powers that you can use during that day, in addition to your at-will attack powers, cantrips, and nonwizard powers, such as a racial power. If you do not prepare powers from your spellbook after an extended rest (for example, if you do not have access to your spellbook), you can use the same powers you had prepared on the previous day.

Find your level on the Spells Prepared per Day table. The row corresponding to your level indicates how many encounter attack powers, daily attack powers, and utility powers you are allowed to prepare each day. You cannot prepare more than one power of any given level on the same day. For example, a 14th-level mage who has taken the enigmatic mage paragon path can prepare four encounter attack powers per day. Her spellbook contains multiple encounter attack powers at various levels. She can prepare four powers from any of the levels, as long as none of the prepared powers are of the same level.

Level Encounter Daily Utility
1 1 1
2 1 1 1
3–4 2 1 1
5 2 2 1
6 2 2 2
7–8 3 2 2
9 3 3 2
10 3 3 3
11 3 (4)* 3 3
12–15 3 (4)* 3 3 (4)*
16–19 3 (4)* 3 4 (5)*
20–21 3 (4)* 3 (4)* 4 (5)*
22–30 3 (4)* 3 (4)* 5 (6)*
*Certain wizard paragon paths, such as the enigmatic mage, allow you to prepare one additional spell per day in certain cases.

Level 1: Magic Missile

Every mage learns this spell as part of his or her arcane studies. What magic missile lacks in strength, it compensates for with unparalleled accuracy. Neither the heaviest armor nor the toughest hide offers any defense against this spell.

Benefit: You gain the magic missile power.

Magic Missile
Wizard Attack 1
A glowing blue bolt of magical energy hurtles from your finger and unerringly strikes your target.
At-Will Arcane, Evocation, Force, Implement
Standard Action Ranged 20
Target: One creature
Effect: 2 + Intelligence modifier force damage.
Level 11: 3 + Intelligence modifier force damage.
Level 21: 5 + Intelligence modifier force damage.
Special: If the implement used with this power has an enhancement bonus, add that bonus to the damage. In addition, you can use this power as a ranged basic attack.

Level 1: At-Will Powers

From the very first days of your training, you felt arcane power come alive within you. In combat, you protect yourself now with that power, unleashing attacks as deadly as any weapon.

Benefit: You gain two of the following powers of your choice.

Arc Lightning
Many evocation spells are too devastating to use in closequarters combat where your own allies might be struck down by your power. Arc lightning accurately channels that power’s full destructive potential.

Arc Lightning
Wizard Attack 1
Lightning leaps from your outstretched hand, weaving safely through your allies to slam into your foes.
At-Will Arcane, Evocation, Implement, Lightning
Standard Action Ranged 20
Target: One or two creatures
Attack: Intelligence vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d6 + Intelligence modifier lightning damage.
Level 21: 2d6 + Intelligence modifier lightning damage.

Beguiling Strands
Originally crafted by eladrin wizards of the Feywild, this spell creates strands of subtle magic that weave through your foes like a spider’s web. Reeling from your attack, your enemies move away from you.

Beguiling Strands
Wizard Attack 1
A strand of scintillating colors and gleaming lights clouds your enemies’ minds and forces them to move away.
At-Will Arcane, Charm, Enchantment, Implement, Psychic
Standard Action Close blast 5
Target: Each enemy in the blast
Attack: Intelligence vs. Will
Hit: Intelligence modifier psychic damage, and you push the target up to 3 squares.
Level 21: 3 + Intelligence modifier psychic damage.

Even this relatively minor enchantment underscores the power of that school, letting you direct your foe’s movement or action in the thick of combat. When a more powerful monster scoffs at your so-called mind magic, see how its attitude changes when it walks off the edge of a cliff at your command.

Wizard Attack 1
Your piercing gaze and whispered word let you seize momentary control of your enemy’s mind.
At-Will Arcane, Charm, Enchantment, Implement
Standard Action Ranged 10
Target: One creature
Attack: Intelligence vs. Will
Hit: Choose one of the following effects:
The target uses a free action to make a melee basic attack against a creature of your choice, with a +4 bonus to the attack roll.
You slide the target up to 3 squares.

Next Week: More news, more previews, and a look at one of our Essentials fighter builds! Until then,

Keep playing!

In Case You Don't Know Him

Bill Slavicsek's gaming life was forever changed when he discovered Dungeons & Dragons in 1976. He became a gaming professional in 1986 when he was hired by West End Games as an editor. He quickly added developer, designer, and creative manager to his resume, and his work helped shape the Paranoia, Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg roleplaying games. He even found some time during that period to do freelance work for D&D 1st Edition. In 1993, Bill joined the staff of TSR, Inc. as a designer/editor. He worked on a bunch of 2nd Edition material, including products for Core D&D, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, and Planescape. In 1997, he was part of the TSR crowd that moved to Seattle to join Wizards of the Coast, and in that year he was promoted to R&D Director for D&D. In that position, Bill oversaw the creation of both the 3rd Edition and 4th Edition of the D&D Roleplaying Game. He was one of the driving forces behind the D&D Insider project, and he continues to oversee and lead the creative strategy and effort for Dungeons & Dragons.

Bill's enormous list of credits includes Alternity, d20 Star Wars, The Mark of Nerath Dungeons & Dragon novel, Eberron Campaign Setting, the D&D For Dummies books, and his monthly Ampersand (&) column for Dragon Magazine.

Follow Us
Find a place to get together with friends or gear up for adventure at a store near you
Please enter a city or zip code