Build an Essentials Mage, today!
Last time we looked at how to create something like the Essential Knight using only content from the Player’s Handbook. This time it’s the turn of the Mage, a specialist Wizard formally educated in the ways of spell casting. Can we do the same thing, and create a leaner, simpler magic-user using only the PHB? Of course we can!
But first, I’m going to go off on a small tangent and explain why I’m purposefully restricting this to options from the PHB. It would, after all, be easier to reproduce the Essentials builds with more options and features to work with. The point though is to recreate something which is easier both to build and use at the table, and that means creating a character where a new players doesn’t need to hunt through a plethora of books to find what they need. It also doesn’t assume the player has a D&D Insider account or even access to one. A new gamer with a copy of the PHB or an old schooler who (like me) favours the Dead Tree format should be able to put together these builds right at home.
Back to the Mage.
This is a straightforward build for the Wizard Class which loses its reliance on implements but gains specialization in one (or more with Feats, presumably) schools of magic. It looks like Arcane Implement Mastery (Orb of Imposition, Staff of Defense and Wand of Accuracy) has been swapped out for the Apprentice Mage feature instead which gives some kind of bonus when casting spells specific to your school. The article doesn’t go into detail about the three school specialities provided (Enchantment, Evocation and Illusion) but I’d expect them to confer bonuses similar to those given by the Implement Mastery features.
Aside from that, the only other change is that the Mage gains Magic Missile automatically as a free bonus spell. I’m still on the fence regarding the updated changes (the player in me loves it, but my inner GM suspects it is open to abuse) but I do like the idea that trained Mages (Magi?) all learn this classic spell as part of their basic training.
As with the Fighter, this is a change which requires that our “Essentials” Wizard is built as a Human in order to gain the free At-will. For the sake of simplicity, let’s make him a master of Evocation, a blasty mage whose spells are all designed to do as much damage and make a much noise all possible. That’s a character which should suit any player new to the game!
We’ll start with a War Wizard build with Wand of Accuracy as his Arcane Implement Mastery. This gives a bonus equal to your DEX modifier to a single attack roll once per encounter when wielding a wand. I expect that the Evocation Apprentice bonus will be pretty much the same, but only be usable when casting Evocation spells instead.
For our studious and eager to please student Mage, I’ll give him Arcana, Diplomacy, History, Nature and Religion as his Trained skills and Human Perseverance and Armour Proficiency (Leather) as his feats. This apprentice is determined not to let anything get him down, and is smart enough to know the value of improved protection when out in the wild.
It’s annoying that all of the spells didn’t have the D&D schools as keywords right from the start. I expect that will be the subject of another Errata Update at a later date. For our Evocation Mage though, we take the compulsory Magic Missile along with Scorching Burst and Ray of Frost. Our Evocation specialist isn’t exactly short-changed when it comes to At-will blasty spells. An Illusionist or Enchanter who wanted to use only the PHB will have to reskin the powers to suit. Perhaps the Cloud of Daggers is all in the mind or Thunderwave is an intense wave of pain.
For our Encounter and Daily spells we’ll take Force Orb and Acid Arrow with Flaming Sphere in the Spellbook. It’s not entirely clear from the article whether the Mage gains a bonus Daily Spell at first level. This may be part of the Apprentice Mage benefit or be dropped as the balancing factor for gaining Magic Missile for free. If that’s the case it’s in keeping with these Essentials builds providing more flexibility but slightly less power overall.
For his first quest outside the cloistered halls of his Wizarding Academy our Apprentice Mage is equipped with an Adventurer’s Kit, Spellbook, Leather Armour, Dagger and Wand. For his starting Rituals we choose Brew Potion, Magic Mouth and Tenser’s Floating Disk to reflect his classroom learning.
Resisting the urge to call him Larry Trotter, here’s Marcus Wireforged. eager Apprentice Mage and student of Things That Go Boom. Download the pdf or dnd4e of his character sheet, and he’s ready to play!
See? Not like Harry Potter at all.
Next: The “Essential” Cleric