d20 New Character Classes – The Magus

It’s pretty well established that I like to tinker with role-playing game mechanics, and that I have several dissatisfactions with the d20 (D&D) spellcasting systems in particular which I’ve tried to remedy over the years.

But in spite of my disillusionment with the spell-slots/fire and forget style of casting in it’s several iterations, sometimes I still get the urge to design characters more closely fitting the standard spellcaster mould, though generally I’d prefer them a bit more flexible.

Now the usual spellcasters all have some sort of limitation on how many spells they can learn and/or which ones. Also, excluding the Sorcerer, most classes must prepare spells ahead of time and have an additional restriction on how coppies of each spell they can prepare in a given day, a set of rules which rankles my sense of verisimilitude.

Long have I coveted a class which overcame these restrictions. A class with the spontaneous casting. A class without limitations on how many or which spells can be learned.

The generic “Spellcaster” class presented in Unearthed Arcana perhaps comes closest to this goal, although even that class still has a couple issues. For one thing the Spellcaster, like the Sorcerer, is limited in the number of different spells they can know at any given level. Additionally, the Spellcaster is only intended for use in games where the other generic classes (the Expert and Warrior) are being used.

As an alternative I propose the Magus, a sort of omni-mystical sage or man of power, to provide a suitable player character class.

The magus provides greater flexability regarding the type of spells which can be learned, but with limits: Magi are relatively limited in the number of spells they can have prepared at any given time, also the number of spells they can cast in a day is relativley low, and they gain no bonus feats or other special abilities. Further, to learn and cast spells most effectively the magus must diversify her abilities greatly and learn at least two different skills; while, by contrast, wizards need only concentrate on one ability and a corresponding skill.

The Magus (or Mage)

The profession of magus (plural magi) finds it’s origins at the dawn of history, a time when priest-kings and shamans were common and the line between divine and arcane magic was blurred. In those days the arts of arcane magic were still not identical with those of the more spiritual divine disciplines. Yet in that bygone time sages and lovers of wisdom were as likely to take interest in one set of rituals as the other and those in authority were apt to use any means available to maintain the stability of their small domains.

But throughout the ages some magi specialized in one particular style of spells, eschewing those they had difficulty with. Others simply focused on magics supplimental to their calling in life, or granted them by a particular deity. This gradual process led to the more diverse set of mystical professions (Bards, Clerics, Sorcerers, etc.) which the realms know today.

Consequently few if any magi remain in most lands. In other areas though their remnants yet abide, often having metamorphosized into secretive and esoteric orders. Rarer still are worlds where magus has become the more common mystic profession, potentially at the expense of all others.

Alignment: Any (Though, at the GM’s discression, alignment may influence the magus’ ability to acquire certain divine spells).

Hit Die: d4.

Class Skills: The magus’ class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are: Bluff (Cha), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Decipher Script (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Perform (Cha), Knowledge (all skills, taken individually) (Int), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Spellcraft (Int) and Use Magical Device (Cha).

Skill Points at 1st Level: (2 + Int modifier) ×4.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Table: The Magus
Level Base
Attack Bonus
Spells per Day
0th 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
1st +0 +0 +0 +2 3 1 — — — — — — — —
2nd +1 +0 +0 +3 4 2 — — — — — — — —
3rd +1 +1 +1 +3 4 2 1 — — — — — — —
4th +2 +1 +1 +4 4 3 2 — — — — — — —
5th +2 +1 +1 +4 4 3 2 1 — — — — — —
6th +3 +2 +2 +5 4 3 3 2 — — — — — —
7th +3 +2 +2 +5 4 4 3 2 1 — — — — —
8th +4 +2 +2 +6 4 4 3 3 2 — — — — —
9th +4 +3 +3 +6 4 4 4 3 2 1 — — — —
10th +5 +3 +3 +7 4 4 4 3 3 2 — — — —
11th +5 +3 +3 +7 4 4 4 4 3 2 1 — — —
12th +6/+1 +4 +4 +8 4 4 4 4 3 3 2 — — —
13th +6/+1 +4 +4 +8 4 4 4 4 4 3 2 1 — —
14th +7/+2 +4 +4 +9 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 2 — —
15th +7/+2 +5 +5 +9 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 2 1 —
16th +8/+3 +5 +5 +10 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 2 —
17th +8/+3 +5 +5 +10 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 2 1
18th +9/+4 +6 +6 +11 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 2
19th +9/+4 +6 +6 +11 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3
20th +10/+5 +6 +6 +12 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Table: Magus Spells Prepared
Level Spells Prepared
0 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
1st 4 2 — — — — — — — —
2nd 5 2 — — — — — — — —
3rd 5 3 — — — — — — — —
4th 6 3 1 — — — — — — —
5th 6 4 2 — — — — — — —
6th 7 4 2 1 — — — — — —
7th 7 5 3 2 — — — — — —
8th 8 5 3 2 1 — — — — —
9th 8 5 4 3 2 — — — — —
10th 9 5 4 3 2 1 — — — —
11th 9 5 5 4 3 2 — — — —
12th 9 5 5 4 3 2 1 — — —
13th 9 5 5 4 4 3 2 — — —
14th 9 5 5 4 4 3 2 1 — —
15th 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 2 — —
16th 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 2 1 —
17th 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 2 —
18th 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 2 1
19th 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 3 2
20th 9 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 3 3

Spells: A magus casts both arcane spells (which are drawn from the bard and sorcerer/wizard spell list) and divine spells (drawn from the cleric, domain, druid, paladin, and ranger lists).

Like a wizard, the magus may learn any number of spells. Unfortunately, also like a wizard, the limitations a magus’ body and mind, a magus only allow her to have a limited number of spells prepared at any given time. However, unlike a wizard, once the magus has prepared a spell that spell remains prepared even if cast and may be cast again and again at a later time.

Also, given 1 hour to prepare, a magus can “switch out” one spell (making it unprepared) and prepare another in it’s place. This task is the metaphysically equivelant to stretching a different set of muscles before specific types of exercise …or perhaps as a better analogy: like putting away certain tools cluttering up a workbench to make space for a different set of tools.

Divine vs. Arcane Spells: Learning, preparing, or casting arcane and divine spells is fundamentally a different process even for the omni-talented magus.

To learn, prepare, or cast an arcane spell, the magus must have an Intelligence score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. However, the Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a magus’ arcane spells is 10 + the spell level + the magus’ Dexterity modifier.

On the other hand to learn, prepare, or cast a divine spell, the magus must have a Wisdom score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. However, the Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a magus’ arcane spells is 10 + the spell level + the magus’ Charisma modifier.

These differences may seem odd, however they are indicative of the differing natures of the forces the magi must grasp (through reason or intuition) and master (using exacting ritual or shear emotional force).

Like other spellcasters, a magus can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. Her base daily spell allotment is given on Table: The Magus. In addition, she receives bonus arcane spells per day if she has a high Intelligence score and bonus divine spells par day if she has a high Wisdom score.

Metamagic feats must be applied at the time of spell preparation, and there-after the spell is always cast with the metamagic feat in action until the preparation slot is replaced with a different spell. Alternately the magus may make different preparations of a given spell, some with metamagic feats applied or without; however, each preparation still takes up a separate spell slot of appropriate level.

Bonus Languages: A magus may substitute Draconic, Sylvan, or a planar language for one of the bonus languages available to the character because of her race.

Spellbooks & Learned spells: A magus must study her spellbook any time she wants prepare one of her arcane spells. She cannot prepare any arcane spell not recorded in her spellbook, except for read magic, which all magi can prepare from memory.

A magus begins play with access to twenty 0-level spells plus three 1st-level spells of your choice drawn from either arcane or divine spell lists. For each point of Intelligence bonus the magus has, their spellbook holds one additional 1st-level arcane spell of your choice and for each point of Wisdom bonus they have access to an additional 1st-level divine spell. At each new magus level, she gains two new spells of any spell level or levels that she can cast. These may be taken from either the arcane or divine spell lists.

At any time, a magus can also add spells found in wizards or other magi’s spellbooks to her own making appropriate use of the Spellcraft skill. Similarly the magus can learn divine spells by petitioning an appropriate cleric, druid, ranger, god, fey being, or other divinely empowered being for enlightenment. When attempting to learn divine spells the magus makes a similar set of rolls as when learning arcane spells, however in place of the Spellcraft skill either the Profession (Priestcraft) skill or Profession (Shaman) skill is used instead.

Some divine spells are treated as being of different level depending on their source (ie. Paladin spells vs. Clerical spells). In these cases the magus treats such spells as being of the higher level for all purposes, regardless of the source of instruction.

Magi can make use of the Spell Mastery feat to avoid the need for recourse to a spellbook when preparing spells in the same way wizards can.

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6 thoughts on “d20 New Character Classes – The Magus

  1. You have an interesting concept here. I see that you progress as a wizard in spell power and knowledge of spell slots. A Magus can cast Divine and Arcane spells just as the prestige class Mystic theurge. Some of the questions I’d have would be about multiclassing this class into others, like Mystic Theurge, Secondly, you said that they gain bonus spells based off there Int and Wis, Int for arcane and Wis for divine.. I think their might be a problem with your tables, You are able to cast a 2nd level spell at 3rd level, but you cannot prepare a 2nd level spell untill 4th level, Unless these numbers are backward ( allowing you to know a spell but only able to cast it if you had a High enough int or wis as per rangers, bards, and paladins). secondly the spell type that they gain is it considered Arcane (like the Bard) or divine, or both Similtanioulsy. I ask because most mage type prestige classes give a level of spellcasting bonus to and Existing arcane or divine level ( or in the case of the Theurge bith).

    I think this character is an interesting Idea, but I wonder about game balance when you have a character that contorls all aspects of magic, has a closer versitility to wizards and very close to sorcerer’s at the same time.. I’ve been DMing for about 15 years, and I love when my players ask to do something completely new, but the one the you have to ask when making a change like that is: What is this class going to have the the others dont ( Which you’ve done), What are the weakness’ of this class (Which you have also done, but I think its a little overpowed) , and finaly If this class existed why would players pick any other class but this one..

    In my mind, this class is Extreamly overpowered for its limited side effects.

  2. Thor, thanks for the feedback.

    In regard to your comments:

    1) Bah! You are totally right about the spell levels issue. This is what I get for trying to be clever and take short cuts.

    I set the “Spells Per Day” equal to the Wizard “Spells Per day”. Then I set the “Spells Prepared” equal to the Sorcerer “Spells Known”.

    In my mind this produced an interesting combination of spell availability at any given time. But it does have the flaw you pointed out that you can cast a spell per but somehow you don’t actually have it prepared. I think it seemed the best at the time because it was the slowest spell progression you could get and still eventually have 9th level spells. I’ll have to re-work it a bit I guess.

    2) As for the overpowerfulness of this class: I know it seems a bit powerful, and probably is. But IIRC my rationale in doing things this way was:

    • There is no base class (that I’m aware of) that does both divine and arcane. I wanted one, but one that didn’t gimp either set of abilities.

    • It seemed to me that the Mystic Theurge is even more overpowered (you get two entirely different classes of spellcasting abilities at each level). I know it’s a “prestige” class, but to me “prestige” only means that you get jerked around a few levels accumulating other abilities before you’re allowed to take it. That doesn’t mean the class is any less powerful when you do get to take it.

    • People say the wizard is so incredibly powerful because they can learn every arcane spell (in theory). In play I’ve not found this to be the case since research isn’t always practical and you’re only gaurnteed a couple spells per level unless you stumble across spell books and papers (and even then it could be a random assortment of semi-useful stuff).

    With wizards I’ve also tended to run into the problem of never having the right spell memorized for the occasion unless I took all combat spells (and I will grant this is a problem with most other magic users as well). This seems out of character since in alot of books (even the frickin’ D&D novels!) wizards often seem to have somehow prepared the right spell for the occasion, even for occasions no one could have predicted… and I’ve heard wizards described in forums multiple times as being “utility mages” since they know so many different spells.

    By contrast I’ve personally found sorcerers to be more versitile, because even though they know fewer spells they have alot more flexibility in choosing which of them they want to cast at any given time. I found that by choosing my spells carefully with each level advancement I could make a sorcerer who was a “utility mage” machine, yet still not gimpy when it came to combat. And that’d almost be fine except that I like the idea of a magician needing a book for spells (old motif I just like, blame the gummi bears), AND that I like the idea of mages being able to create magic items and my sorcerers never seemed to have quite the right combinations of spells to make the items I wanted. So I wanted some way to change out spells.

    • Now I looked also at the cleric and the druid. These arguably are like “super-wizards” in their own way. They might not have a lot of blasting spells but they have a pretty extensive spell list even without having to research or track down spells and write them in a book.

    And not only that but they also have all kinds of other magical powers to boot …and their BAB is better …and their saves are better …and they have significantly better hit points. What do the Wizards get? A feat every few levels. Wizards (these “wise” men) don’t even get very good skill to broaden their mundane knowledge base with. It somehow didn’t seem like fair compensation to me.

    • This was just my choice, but I wanted this character for a potential type of game where divine magic wasn’t such a distant thing that official “priests” did. Where it was something anyone who studied enough and meditated a bit might undertake. So I wanted characters to have a similar faculty for casting either arcane or divine spells.

    • Under the “spellpoint” option in Unearthed Arcana it’s assumed that all characters will prepare their spell lists for the day and then use the spell points to cast any spell from the list as many times as their points permit. I was sort of using that as partial inspiration… although that set of rules does assume that ALL casters have the ability to cast from their prepared list on the fly.

    • I kept trying to think of ways I could weaken the character without making them either too weak (in my opinion this would include prohibiting them from gaining 9th level spells) or giving up the core abilities I wanted (flexible casting, preparation and casting from a book). And I kept drawing a blank on ways to do it.

    3) But giving it some more thought here’s a few more things I’d be willing to tone down. They’re covered in the next reply.

  3. Spells: Magi can have a number of spells prepared at any given time equal to the total number a wizard could cast in a day. I am not about to draw a new table in html at this late hour to illustrate the number of spells they could cast in a day, but let’s just say that after the second spell at any given level they gain extra spells of that level at a much slower rate than wizards would. (if that makes any sense)

    Divine vs. Arcane Spells: To prepare either divine and arcane spells the Magus must have them in a codified form of some form. Wizard spells are often codified in spell books. Divine spells are more often codified on scrolls which may be transcribed into spellbooks (as with a typical use of Spellcraft on arcane spells).

    To learn, prepare, or cast any spell, the magus must have an Intelligence score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. However, the Difficulty Class for a saving throw against all magus’ spells is 10 + the spell level + the magus’ Wisdom modifier or Charisma modifier, whichever is higher.

    Magi recieve no bonus spells for high Attributes.

    Spellbooks & Learned spells: A magus must study her spellbook any time she wants prepare one of her spells whether arcane or divine. She cannot prepare any spell not recorded in her spellbook, except for read magic, which all magi can prepare from memory.

    A magus begins play with access to twenty 0-level spells plus three 1st-level spells of your choice drawn from either arcane or divine spell lists. For each point of Intelligence bonus the magus has, their spellbook holds one additional 1st-level arcane or divine spell of your choice. At each new magus level, she gains one new spell of any spell level or levels that she can cast. These may be taken from either the arcane or divine spell lists.

    Otherwise magi are the same as presented in the above article.

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