Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted get swole with the Muscle Mage, a quirky character concept for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. The concept of a wizard more into physical fitness than academic research sounds like a blast to explore during play and makes me think of two different ways to represent this idea as a 5E D&D character. Things might get weird here but we’re talking about a wizard more inclined to punch monsters in the face than stand in the back casting fireball so we’re starting from an unusual place anyway. Time to flex my imagination and get into it with two versions of a 5E D&D muscle wizard.
Muscle Wizard for 5E D&D
This concept remains resolute in devotion to the namesake character class and sticks with wizard all the way. The primary goal here is reaching 9th level so you can bring out the ultimate Muscle Wizard spell — Bigby’s hand. Clenched, Forceful, Grasping or Interposing your large hand of shimmering, translucent force is the perfect magical slobberknocker for a Muscle Wizard to represent their melding of arcane energy and literally casting fist.
“You create a Large hand of shimmering, translucent force in an unoccupied space that you can see within range. The hand lasts for the spell’s duration, and it moves at your command, mimicking the movements of your own hand.”
There’s a lot of Arcane Traditions to choose from and so many intriguing features that could contribute to a quirky array of abilities. Graviturgy Magic is shiny and new from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount. Applying Adjust Density to make yourself swole, Gravity Well to maneuver into position to cast fist after you shield yourself and Violent Attraction to make your unarmed strike hit Muscle Wizard hard sounds pretty evocative. But for all day practicality School of Evocation wins hands down — it’s right in the name. Fancy tricks with gravity would be fun but I like the idea of juicing up the spells on our Muscle Wizard list. Bigby’s clenched fist hitting for straight up 37 points of damage seems like a worthy goal to punch our way up to.
Muscle Wizard Spell List
- Shocking grasp — Your punches are electrifying!
- Thunderclap — Hulk style mighty clapping power from the get go
- Burning hands — The intense burn of your workout cannot be contained
- Earth tremor — Channel your inner Chuck Norris and make the ground quake when you punch it
- Magic missile — 3+ little fist shaped darts of magical force deliver muscle magic to the face
- Thunderwave — Upgrade your Hulk clap and fling nearby puny creatures away
- Shatter — That loud, painfully intense noise your enemies hear is a magic punch to their brains
- Bigby’s Hand (arcane hand) — The creme-de-la-creme and pinnacle of muscle wizardry. Spam it!
- Contingency — At first I thought perfect, throw one last Bigby’s clenched fist if you get KO’d but it’s got to be a spell that can target you. A haste spell contingent on falling below half your hit points isn’t a terrible idea. You could probably suss out some unusual ways to cast feign death on yourself also. You tell me — what’s a fun and thematic contingency for a muscle wizard to have up their sleeve? (Trick question — muscle wizards know sleeves are bullshit.)
- Crown of stars — This one I like only because it makes me think of a punch so hard it makes the recipient see stars. Except you’ve got the stars! And you can fling them around the make enemies see stars. Because radiant damage.
I cast fist! Or sword!
The other concept for a 5E D&D muscle wizard isn’t a wizard or any kind of traditional spellcaster. Instead, this muscle wizard considers all their actions as spells, and they can cast ’em all day long. There’s a few varieties of this take on muscle wizards.
- Barbarian. Rage is your spell component, your weapons are your spells and you cast greataxe, greatsword, maul and the like.
- Fighter. Discipline is your magic and you use it to cast sword and shield, Action Surge, Indomitable and other martial techniques.
- Monk. Ki is like magic, right? Sometimes you cast punch, punch, kick and others elbow, knee, headbutt.
- Rogue. Bonus action Hide and Sneak Attack — do you even need any other spells to cast?
You might even get some solid mileage out of the 5E D&D factotum character idea, with a grab bag of tricks to “cast” all sorts of oddball magic. However you choose to represent the cast fist concept and play a muscle wizard in your 5E D&D games it’s a fun and silly concept to consider. I’ve played more than one game as a barbarian character with the highest Intelligence in the party so it wouldn’t be a bridge too far playing a wizard with the highest Strength. I’d go with githyanki and round out spell selections with buff spells and utility spells. Here’s a few to help knuckle down on the muscle wizard theme.
- Prestidigitation — Put some production value into your flexing routines
- Absorb elements — Muscle wizards can take it and dish it right back out
- Cause fear — “Did you see that wizard just punch that purple worm to death?!”
- Expeditious retreat — Let’s face it: even muscle wizards gotta run away to fight another day sometimes
- False life — Wizards wading into melee wearing robes are probably living on borrowed time anyway
- Fog cloud — More production value for your fisticuffs
- Grease — You know you want to cast it on yourself to make those muscles really pop
- Mage armor — ‘Nuff said. (Githyanki get light and medium armor proficiency!)
- Protection from evil and good — If you’re gonna be a wizard who punches things you’ll need every advantage you can get
- Shield — See…every mention of extra protection in this post
- Unseen servant — For post-fight muscle rubs (can also throw in the towel for you during a fight)
- Blur — Studying the sweet science (arcane magic) makes you very hard to pin down in combat
- Enlarge/reduce — Do I even need to explain this one?
- Gift of gab — A muscle wizard needs to bring it promo department
- Mirror image — You hit so hard they see four of you!
- Rope trick — Your version of rope-a-dope
- Bestow curse — Now your trash talk carries dark overtones
If you enjoy out of the box ideas like muscle wizards and versatile content ready to drop right into your games take a look at Out of the Box: Encounters for 5th Edition and see if your muscle wizard can survive all 55 encounters. Check it out here.