Over on the Nerdarchy YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted explore the idea of an all wizard party for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. We get a kick out of making this video series people seem to dig it, and I’m having a blast with the concept here on the website. Playing an all wizard party in 5E D&D more than anything raises concerns about squishiness, something many of the video comments touch upon. Dave and Ted can share their insights into 5E D&D party composition and over here we’re continuing to build the scenario we started way back when with the all bard party — a campaign setting of academia for each particular character class. So let’s get into it and put on our pointy hats for an all wizard party composition in a 5E D&D academic setting.
How I would run an all wizard party for 5E D&D
The all wizard party campaign lends itself very easily to academia and higher education, similar to Bard College. This one presents a bit of a challenge though because it’s really easy to imagine a wizard school and students forming a party of varying Arcane Traditions. So we’ll have to come up with a twist to make this all wizard party stand out from the crowd. Fortunately there’s inspiration right in the description of Arcane Traditions inside the 5E D&D Player’s Handbook.
“The study of wizardry is ancient, stretching back to the earliest mortal discoveries of magic.The most common arcane traditions in the multiverse revolve around the schools of magic. Wizards through the ages have cataloged thousands of spells, grouping them into eight categories called schools. In some places, these traditions are literally schools; a wizard might study at the School of Illusion while another studies across town at the School of Enchantment. In other institutions, the schools are more like academic departments, with rival faculties competing for students and funding. Even wizards who train apprentices in the solitude of their own towers use the division of magic into schools as a learning device, since the spells of each school require mastery of different techniques.”
In our D&D academia setting Arcane Traditions is a private research university essentially functioning as the MIT of the setting. Acceptance rate is low and tuition is high — very high. Incoming freshman wizards without a background like noble or a backstory involving financial support means they’ll have to rely on work study or other forms of income to keep up. This could add a wealth of roleplaying opportunities for players whose group dynamics would be influenced by this external factor. A further layer to this idea is incoming students with high Intelligence scores, let’s say 16 or higher, enter their first term with a scholarship. For another wrinkle we’ll say Arcane Traditions accepts all sorcerers with a full ride scholarship, but more on that when we get to the all sorcerer party.
So much about being a wizard involves research, making this version of party composition fairly easy to introduce adventure hooks as assignments. In the video and these posts we assume each character chooses a different subclass. Since there are so many Arcane Traditions, after characters choose their subclass at 2nd level I would create NPCs for all the remaining subclass options and say students are grouped into cohorts with one of each type. Now our all wizard party is part of a subgroup of students they can rise (or fall) with as they grow in arcane power. Each student is assigned a mentor too, so now our characters have all sorts of connections to each other, their fellow students and faculty of Arcane Traditions.
Adventures for an all wizard party would absolutely involve dangerous experiments and research. Like Dave and Ted mention in the video for all their Intelligence wizards don’t typically acquire a lot of different skills. Part of these experiments and research adventures might be locating individuals with the proper skill sets to aid them. Since one of the tropes of the wizard/apprentice relationship includes sending the fledgling mage out into the world to make discoveries and test their magic, it’s easy to imagine the all wizard party operating on their own fairly often, with more time in the lab or in the field than in the classroom.
Creating scenarios to give characters chances to use their Arcane Traditions features to the fullest would be a lot of fun. Since wizards get access to all schools of magic, it would be important to integrate challenges for their specific abilities. For example all wizards can potentially cast fireball so challenging the School of Evocation student means scenarios where their Sculpt Spells feature is key to success.
I’m really taking a liking to how much group and individual dynamics factors into this party composition. Wizards stereotypically have an aloofness about them, and a powerful motivation to delve into ancient secrets and uncover power. I imagine Arcane Traditions would be a very competitive university where the professors tend to be harsh and results driven. Their favorite students would be the ones who consistently push the limits of magic and yield positive results. So despite their squishiness, a party of adventuring wizard students will need to be bold and daring to keep their grades up and win the admiration of faculty and fellow students alike.
As a side note in D&D academia setting like Arcane Traditions you can have a lot of fun introducing new magic to the players as well. We’ve got our own School of Beardomancy for the all wizard party to discover and explore, perhaps even taking a trip to the mystical Beard Dimension. There’s also the Dunamancy magic in the upcoming Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount I’m certain many wizards covet for their spellbooks too.
D&D academia course catalog
We would be halfway through our D&D academia campaign setting for party composition, but with Eberron: Rising from the Last War we got a brand new 5E D&D class — artificer — so we’ll add that one to the list. Perhaps when we’re all done we’ll devise a location for all these institutes of learning. I’m already leaning towards this D&D academia hub being extraplanar in nature. But you could just as easily place all the educational organizations we’re imagining in a major metropolitan city like Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms or Eberron’s Sharn or even smoosh them all together into a single university. Perhaps Morgrave University offers these new programs to characters in Eberron or the bards of New Olamn open their doors to the rest of the character classes with a large expansion to the Waterdeep campus.
The thing about an all wizard party I find interesting is, like the all barbarian party, their strong focus. Wizards access a lot of spells to accomplish goals in a huge variety of ways, but they do have a but narrower focus in the sense they’re bringing spellcasting to bear for all of them. I could see running into some problems here because wizards are so efficient they might step on each others’ toes. Think of an enchanter locking down several creatures with hold monster followed up by the abjurer follows up with banishment.
When we finish up this series we’ll have ourselves a solid foundation for an entire 5E D&D campaign setting in a world of academia. For a running recap, here’s the list of 5E D&D class-related institutions. I’m looking forward to exploring the next one along with the video from the YouTube channel.
- Bard College carries on a fine tradition of arts and arcane education
- Primal Paths sounds like a private school
- Domains is a seminary
- Circles is a new age school
- Martial Archetypes is a either a military school or a certified training program
- Monastic Traditions maybe a charter school
- Sacred Oaths is definitely a private school
- Ranger Conclaves is a series of correspondence courses (I know they’re called Ranger Archetypes but I think Conclaves sounds cool)
- Roguish Archetypes a trade school for sure. I learned how to pick pockets and now I’m doing great. Thanks, Roguish Archetypes!
- Sorcerous Origins get to attend Arcane Traditions U on a full-ride scholarship
- Otherworldly Patrons is 100% charter school
- Arcane Traditions clearly is the premiere institute for arcane study
- Artificer Specialists is a for profit university that confers certificates and degrees.
Any of these individual campaign ideas really makes me want to play or run a campaign with these elements. 5E D&D party composition with all the characters of the same class is more about your group discussing their character choices together than about filling traditional roles. An all wizard party has magical manipulation covered whether in terms of area damage or control, information gathering, protections and so forth, so planning the party together and making choices to benefit the group is extra important here like choosing backgrounds or other means to get different skill and tool proficiency.
I like the idea of working with the players to develop how and why their characters attend Arcane Traditions, and coming up with the NPCs in their cohort. I feel like this area would really bring something different to this party composition and create intriguing scenarios between all the spellcasting and magical discovery.
What do you think? Does an all wizard party campaign get your brain bubbling with potential? Do you like the idea of a 5E D&D campaign set within academia? Let me know in the comments!