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Wizards and Wizard Implements
Design & Development
by Bruce R. Cordell

The Design & Development article series premiered on the D&D website back in September 2005, and has been a staple ever since. With the approach of 4th Edition, and our designers and developers focused on the new edition, this column will be the primary vehicle for 4th Edition coverage. We’ll not only give you peeks at what’s forthcoming, but also the “how” and “why.”

Keep in mind that the game is still in a state of flux, as refinements are made by our design and development staff. You’re getting a look behind the curtain at game design in progress, so enjoy, and feel free to send your comments to

Magic saturates the world and all the extraordinary realms beyond the world, an intrinsic force present in literally all things. Magic transforms and alters the natural world, sometimes actively and with sudden effect, other times subtly and over long centuries.

This arcane energy source is difficult to understand and even tougher to master. Wizards do so through years of study, practice, and apprenticeship to accomplished masters.

Wizards wield arcane magic, and they recognize reality for what it is: a thin veneer of structure supported and energized by a force that is ultimately malleable, to those who know its secrets. Though research and study, wizards learn esoteric rituals that allow them to alter time and space, hurl balls of fire that incinerate massed foes, and wield spells like warriors brandish swords. They call upon lesser and greater spells to unleash raging torrents of cold, fire, or lightning, confuse and enthrall the weak-minded, or even turn invisible or walk through walls.

What sets wizards apart from others who wield arcane magic are wizards’ unique implements. Most people recognize the three most common tools associated with wizardcraft: the orb, staff, and wand.

Any wizard can use an implement to increase the effectiveness of his spells. Just as a warrior gains a benefit when attacking an enemy with a magic sword, so does a wizard benefit from using a magic orb, staff, or wand with his spellcasting. In addition, each implement focuses magic of a particular discipline or tradition more effectively than the wizard would be able to accomplish otherwise. As a result, wizards are rarely without at least one of these tools.

The orb is favored by the Iron Sigil and Serpent Eye traditions. Serpent Eye cabalists use orbs to focus powers of enchantment, beguiling, and ensnaring. The mages of the Iron Sigil, on the other hand, employ orbs to guard themselves with potent defenses when invoking spells of thunder or force.

The staff is best suited to the disciplines of the Hidden Flame and the Golden Wyvern. Servants of the Hidden Flame wield fierce powers of fire and radiance through their staves. Golden Wyvern initiates are battle-mages who use their staves to shape and sculpt the spells they cast.

The wand is a perennial favorite for wizards who favor accurate, damaging attacks. Emerald Frost adepts use wands to help channel powers of cold and deadly acidic magic, while Stormwalker theurges channel spells of lightning and force through their wands.

A wizard without an implement is like a slightly near-sighted man with glasses: The man can still see, but without his glasses, he can’t read the road sign across the way. Likewise, while wizard traditions are associated with a particular implement, a wizard need not possess or hold a given implement to use a power belonging to that tradition. For instance, a wizard belonging to the Hidden Flame order can cast the fire spell cinder storm even if he doesn’t own, has lost, or is not holding a magic staff. But if he does have a magic staff, it aids the accuracy of his attack, and his mastery of the Hidden Flame technique allows him to deal more damage with the spell.

About the Author

Bruce Cordell is a D&D designer, but during his twelve years in the game industry, he has dabbled in miniatures, board games, collectible card games, d20 games, and more. Bruce has over a sixty listed credits to his name, including the Expanded Psionics Handbook, Libris Mortis, and Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. His body of work also includes three published Forgotten Realms novels (Lady of Poison, Darkvision, and Stardeep), with more on the way.

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