The Wizard Problem
This isn’t so much about casters being overpowered as it is about Wizards being utterly strange. The Wizard class and how it works is not at all based upon Tolkein lore, despite most other things in Original Edition being this way. Instead, it is based upon a fantasy setting by Jack Vance. Gygax and Arneson took this man’s idea of spellcasting and implemented it into their game system. I don’t particularly have an issue with Vancian Magic, of course. My motivation for writing this page is to create a more traditional spellcaster, one that knows spells, learns spells, and becomes tired when casting spells. But would this spellcaster, which we shall call the Arcanist, fit in with the D&D/Pathfinder casters snugly?
To answer that question, we need to look at our expectations of a traditional fantasy caster. My personal expectations are as follows:
1. The ability to perform simple magical tasks without effort.
2. The ability to perform complex or astounding magical tasks with appropriate effort.
3. No reliance on a spell book.
4. A reason to limit your casting.
Expectation 1 (EX1) seems as though it can be easily filled with our current “cantrips”. Cantrips are exceptionally basic yet interesting spells which can be cast as often as one desires.
EX2 could be met with the material costs of some fancier spells, such as Wish or Reincarnate. These are not common, however, and material components do not capture the feel of fantasy magic as well as I’d like.
EX3 can be found in the Sorcerer. In truth, I love the Sorcerer and believe it to be closer to traditional fantasy magic than the Wizard. However, the Sorcerer still has many features undesirable in our Arcanist.
EX4, it could be argued, is in the limited amount of spell slots a Wizard has. That still leaves any wizard capable of doing incredible things twice or more times a day with no consequence.
Now let us look at how we could meet these Expectations in our own way.
EX1: Cantrips. Spells without cost. Perhaps allow the player to add 1st- and 2nd-level spells as Cantrips at later levels.
EX2: Negative Levels. Performing incredible feats would make the caster weary and fatigued. These levels would go away after an appropriate amount of time (perhaps 1 day to 1 week), but their casting would be weakened for having done such an amazing task. It would encourage a more frugal caster.
EX3: No need to prepare. The Arcanist’s spells would not rejuvinate each day unless he had healed while sleeping.
EX4: While his small spells will be costless and his big spells will be costly, the spells in between will deal nonlethal damage, equivalent to a d4 per spell level. This ability can knock the Arcanist unconscious.
With this in mind, we can build our Arcanist.
Hit Die: d6. Would consider bumping this to d8.
Skills: The basics. All knowledges, spellcraft, some crafts. UMD. 4+Int
Saves: Good Will.
Proficiencies: Simple Weapons, no armor or shields.
The Arcanist’s class features are as follows will include: Casting damage, Cantrips, an ability that helps to reduce damage, bonus feats.