I have complained about this before (even in this very zine), and I have resolved that it is time to do something about it.
There are many idiosyncrasies in the fantastical conventions endorsed by Dungeons & Dragons. One of the most enduring lunacies, I have found, is that wizards can spend years learning spells only to forget them at the start of each day.
For the game’s first edition this was rather understandable; in the ’70s, when Dungeons & Dragons was first published, the fantasy world was dominated by such names as Jack Vance, whose fantasy series Dying Earth (1950) included wizards who were a lot like guns, loading themselves with spells like marksmen load their weapons with bullets. Even after decades of clever writers attempting to subvert this mechanic, however, Wizards of the Coast persists in maintaining this obtuse tradition.
There are any number of sensible reasons why the institution of Vancian magic ought to be torn down. Most obviously, and applicable across all conceptualizations of the nature of magic spells, people who constantly re-read the same material are going to remember it. The human capacity for memory is tremendous. Gavin Kostick, an Irish playwright, has committed the entirety of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899)—all 36,000 words!—to memory, continuing a long tradition that dates back at least to Ancient Greece when poets would recite all 15,700 lines of the Iliad without even possessing a valuable, written copy of the text. Before the advent of the printing press, it was not at all uncommon for people to commit vast quantities of information, especially religious text, to memory. Yet, we know from careful perusal of the Player’s Handbook that, in 5th Edition, spell books are mundane tomes only about 100 pages long that can easily contain the entirety of a wizard’s repertoire, but still an accomplished wizard is, according to the rules for preparing daily spells, simply going to forget spells that he has prepared every day for decades. And, if he loses his spell book, he may as well give up on his craft!
Resolving this issue involves re-imagining the entire nature of the wizard class. What are spell books but memory aides, and what are the laws of magic but conventions that mortal minds have applied to a supremely powerful force? Moreover, how does a wizard who has no need of preparing spells differ from a sorcerer? My preferred resolution to the imbroglio of arcane traditions is to do away with the conventions that bind our preconceptions and make a bold revision: wizards are sorcerers, and sorcerers are wizards.
Below is my conceptualization of how 5th Edition should have put an end to this contentious, decades-old variance and unfettered the wizard from the yoke of Vancian tyranny. I have called this combined class “the sorcerer” for the sake of convention, because I feel that the resulting gestalt is closer in theme to the 3rd Edition sorcerer than to either of the 5th Edition wizard or sorcerer classes. You may choose to have it that, in your campaign, the conventional term for an arcane spellcaster is “wizard”, or even “mage”, based on your conception of social perceptions of individuals of this class. The sorcerer learns a certain number of spells every time they gain a level, and they can supplement this by learning from their peers, from scrolls they find in ancient ruins, or from a rival’s stolen grimoire. They can retain familiarity with a number of spells based on their level and Intelligence, but only need to consult their spell book if they intend to change their list of memorized spells.
As I indicated above, my reconciliation of the more bothersome conventions of magic into practical mechanics involves subverting many of the pre-existing tropes that apply unnecessary restrictions on the class. Therefore, as sorcerers are masters of magic, I felt it appropriate to bestow on them a more flexible spellcasting system in the form of the official spell point variant found in chapter 9, “Dungeon Master’s Workshop”, of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. I have approved of this system since it first appeared in 3rd Edition’s Unearthed Arcana, and I have been very vocal in the past that 3rd Edition’s psions were what wizards should have been.
Without any further ado, I present the Sorcerer (Redux).
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