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Is this Generalist Wizard balanced compared to the official wizard subclasses?

The intent is to make a wizard that, instead of focusing on any particular school or application, just gains more knowledge of and control over magic, the wizard equivalent of the Champion or Open Hand subclasses.

Arcane Expert:
At 2nd level, you gain proficiency in Arcana if you are not already proficient. You add double your proficiency bonus when you make an Arcana check.

Rogues and Bards can get expertise in Arcana, so it's probably balanced for Wizards to do the same.

Expanded Memory: You have studied magic so much your mental capacity to remember spells has increased. Also at 2nd level, when you prepare spells, you can prepare an additional number of spells from your spellbook equal to your proficiency bonus.

A wizard gets at least 44 spells by level 20, and usually much more from copying. They can normally prepare 25/44+, and this raises it to 31/44+, so this is at most a 24% improvement.

Ritual Master:
At 6th level, you gain the ability to record any spell with the Ritual tag into your spellbook, regardless of if it appears on the wizard spell list or not. You can cast any spell with the ritual tag as a ritual if that spell is recorded in your spellbook and you have your spellbook on you. Whenever you gain a level in this class, your 2 free learned spells can still NOT be ritual spells not on the wizard list.

Note that this does not give any ritual spells immediately, and they must be found during the wizard's adventures and gameplay, giving them a gradual increase in mostly very situational utility spells.

Cantrip Mastery:
At 10th level, the easiest spells become even easier for you. As an bonus action, you can choose one cantrip from any spell list. You learn that cantrip and can cast it using your Intelligence modifier until you use this bonus action again. You can use this ability twice, and you regain all uses when you finish a long rest.

This is very similar to the 10th level cantrip for the job UA Artificer feature, at this level the wizard has 5 cantrips anyway, so this just adds utility, but is very flexible.

Archmage:
Through tireless study, you have trained to control the Weave to the point you can sometimes control, through great effort, two spells at once. At 14th level, if you are concentrating on a spell, you can now cast a second spell that also requires concentration. If you do so, you immediately suffer a number of levels of exhaustion equal to the sum of the spells' levels. Levels of exhaustion gained in this way can only be removed via long rests. If you fail a check to maintain concentration, both spells end. You cannot use this feature if you are somehow immune to exhaustion. You cannot concentrate on a third spell.

Being able to concentrate on multiple spells is extremely powerful, and is supposed to make up for this subclasses lack of combat helpful features the other subclass' have. However, I believe it is balanced because rest-only-curable exhaustion is a very high price to pay, and since 6 levels of exhaustion is death, only 5 total spell levels can be concentrated on at once. This does allow free concentration on 2 cantrips at once, however there are only 6 cantrips that require concentration, only one of which (create bonfire) does damage, and one of which is the worst cantrip in the game, True Strike.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is your intent for the wizard to be able to instakill themselves with the Archmage feature? As written, nothing stops the wizard from dying if they want to. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 6 '21 at 18:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov As written, nothing stops the wizard from dying if they want to you say that like it's a bad thing. 🤣 For OP: rogues and bards; I added bards to your point. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 6 '21 at 18:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I'm not saying it's good or bad, just highly irregular. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 6 '21 at 18:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Irregular indeed. As a DM, I would make sure that my player knows he's killing himself. But I would have to remind him it's prohibited if it was, so it's the same unwanted burden either way. @ quazwsx if is it meant for a wizard to heroically give his life in the time of great need, you should apply exhaustion on the moment concentration ends. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Aug 6 '21 at 19:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd replace "you can't use this feature if you are immune to exhaustion" with "exhaustion from this feature bypasses immunity" or similar. I'd hate for a typically positive effect to take out my 14th level class feature. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 6 '21 at 19:41
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Overall / TLDR

The lv2 features are quite good, top tier abilities, but a bit of attention and fiddling with the numbers can keep it from being overpowered. After that, however, nothing really stands out as powerful. Both the lv6 and lv10 features have only marginal utility and the lv14 one is just not worth it for the drawback as it is now. I would recommend limiting Expanded Memory to +2 and adding new features or expanding the existing ones on lv6/10. Rethink the capstone. Hard.

Arcane Expert

This is basically half a feat (Skill Expert or Prodigy). Not really game-breaking, but it seems to replace the half-cost scribing feature of the basic subclasses, and will be more powerful than those in most cases.

Expanded Memory

All subclasses start with a fairly useful feature, and I think this is about on par with the better ones (Sculpt Spells and Portent). It will still be more useful on lower levels, where the limit is more restricting. My wizard buddy in a campaign that went over lv20 usually couldn't decide what to prepare in his last 4-5 places towards the end and we rarely encountered a problem with him not having prepared something. You should playtest the actual number of spells granted anyway.

Ritual Master

The similar feature for the warlock is strong because they get access to wizard rituals. Wizards already get access to most ritual spells, so this is pretty lackluster for them.

Cantrip Mastery

As others have also pointed it out, the main candidates for this will be guidance and eldritch blast. The former is usually available to any party with a cleric or druid already and won't break anything anyway. And without the buffs warlocks can stack on it, the latter is mostly useful since it deals force damage. Spare the dying or shillelagh might be used in desperate situations. Overall more utility than power, but not a lot of that either.

Archmage

The exhaustion limitation is too punishing. Even getting two lv2 spells going would get you lv4 exhaustion. At lv14 those are throwaway spell slots usually, mostly used for shield, absorb elements or misty step in my experience. They are just not on par with the problems you are supposed to solve. I do not expect that combining two of those would be so much of a game-changer that you would cripple yourself for 2+ days to do it. As written, this is practically unusable.

What I would recommend is to limit the level of spells that are eligible to lv5 (like Overchannel), but add only 1 level of exhaustion per use. (I would also consider giving one "free" use per long rest.) Also, do not forbid magical means of healing it. If someone has a spare lv5 spell slot and 100gp in components for a greater restoration, let them use it. This is in line with the utility over power "feel" of the subclass: instead of shapechange, you can use greater invisibility and telekinesis at the same time (for example).

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Overpowered

Expanded Memory: You have studied magic so much your mental capacity to remember spells has increased. Also at 2nd level, when you prepare spells, you can prepare an additional number of spells from your spellbook equal to your proficiency bonus.

This is huge. More spells on a wizard is more power. The key reason people like the capstone is it gives two more spells known. This gives you that portion of the capstone at L2, and benefits you get early are worth more than benefits you get late.

Ritual Master: At 6th level, you gain the ability to record any spell with the Ritual tag into your spellbook, regardless of if it appears on the wizard spell list or not. You can cast any spell with the ritual tag as a ritual if that spell is recorded in your spellbook and you have your spellbook on you. Whenever you gain a level in this class, your 2 free learned spells can still NOT be ritual spells not on the wizard list.

Wow, again, huge if I understand it right. Do I need a scroll to be able to do this or do I just get them all automatically? If I need a scroll, the only spells this really opens up are augury and commune/commune with nature, and tomelocks can get this through their pact boon. It's overpowered if they're free, fine if you still have to find them.

Cantrip Mastery: At 10th level, the easiest spells become even easier for you. As an bonus action, you can choose one cantrip from any spell list. You learn that cantrip and can cast it using your Intelligence modifier until you use this bonus action again. You can use this ability twice, and you regain all uses when you finish a long rest.

Most L10 subclass features are fairly throwaway, but you've just given yourself Guidance for free, or Eldritch Blast. Being able to use spells outside of the wizard spell list is very strong. And being able to choose what the cantrip is when you need it really takes this over the top, meaning you only need Eldritch Blast when you find out the mob is resistant to both your Firebolt and Ray of Frost.

Archmage: Through tireless study, you have trained to control the Weave to the point you can sometimes control, through great effort, two spells at once. At 14th level, if you are concentrating on a spell, you can now cast a second spell that also requires concentration. If you do so, you immediately suffer a number of levels of exhaustion equal to the sum of the spells' levels. Levels of exhaustion gained in this way can only be removed via long rests. If you fail a check to maintain concentration, both spells end. You cannot use this feature if you are somehow immune to exhaustion. You cannot concentrate on a third spell.

This one is probably okay since you can't combine spells of >5 without death and practically >2 is a lot of trouble for you.

Overall, I'd say this would become the new power build if available.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It says you gain the ability to record any ritual spell into your spellbook, the level 6 feature doesn't give you any spells for free \$\endgroup\$
    – qazwsx
    Aug 6 '21 at 22:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ More spells on a wizard to prepare isn't really more power but more versatile... means that they won't have to as carefully choose their spells. This makes them more generalized which is imho the point of the class. More versatility is powerful but it will depend on the campaign and the DM doling out spells to determine how powerful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Aug 7 '21 at 22:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth: Also, +2 spells at level 2 is great as 4 to 6 prepared spells (normally) is fairly restrictive, but it really loses out going forward. At level 17, when the player is already picking 22 spells, covering all their "key" spells and a number of more situational ones, another 6 spells... is nice-ish, but far from overwhelming. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9 '21 at 8:52
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Too all over the place to really tell

The different powers you have chosen vary from amazing, to useless, to actively detrimental, which makes it quite hard to fully understand the balance. The usual design in 5e isn't to balance an amazing ability with a poor one, but to have a bunch of reasonable powers.

More generally you are trying to mess with a bunch of the fundamental balancing aspects of casters, and wizards specifically (spells prepared, spells known and concentration). You are always going to struggle if you are trying that, and I would recommend you focus elsewhere.

And lastly I struggle to understand the flavour or this class, some of the abilities give you powers that don't make much sense to me, and your capstone is strange. I don't understand why a general wizard would learn how to get around concentration, but a specialist wouldn't at least be able to do so for their area of expertise. If I was playing a standard wizard in a campaign and this class came in it would break my immersion, which is far more important than balance.

Arcane Expert:

I actually multi-classed my Wizard into Knowledge Cleric just to get this, powerful in certain campaigns, useless in others, but I would say thematic and reasonable.

Expanded Memory:

This is where you break the class. The limit in spell preparation is what keeps the power of a wizard in check, and in the eyes of many the wizard is already the most powerful class in game. Giving them a bigger toolbox to play with is just increasing their power.

Ritual Master:

You are making an assumption here that the wizard will find other spells during the game, and while this is common, there are no official rules that I am aware of that suggest players should get access to more spells. In some games this could go entirely unused.

This also breaks the flavour for me, why would a wizard get druid spells if they are not nature flavoured?

Cantrip Mastery:

This is just a buff, because it gives you Guidance, but there are plenty of other ways to get guidance. I don't agree with the comments in some other answers about Eldritch Blast as being a buff, because frankly if you are a level 10 wizard and still using attack cantrips something has gone wrong.

Archmage:

Concentration is such an integral part of caster balance that messing with it is very difficult to balance, and you are clearly aware of this by trying to give it a hefty downside. This is right out of the Matt Mercer school in using exhaustion, but it is a poor balance mechanic because it either means nothing (last fight of the day, then you get to rest), or it makes you an active detriment to the party for several more days (annoying the players that actually understand the mechanics of the game).

I would look at a power which doesn't try to mess with concentration, and certainly one that doesn't have such a downside. You want to be giving players a power that they can actually use!

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TL;DR: Underwhelming, but salvageable

Quick overview:

  • Level 2:
    • Arcane Expert: Ribbon Feature.
    • Expanded Memory: Good.
  • Level 6:
    • Ritual Master: Meh.
  • Level 10:
    • Cantrip Mastery: Average.
  • Level 14:
    • Archmage: Poor.

Arcane Expert: Ribbon Feature.

This is thematic, this is fun, and it has little bearing on the power of the class, really.

Expanded Memory: Good.

This is a good flexibility boost, though scaling may be an issue.

It doesn't allow casting more spells, though, so there's no strict power increase, just more flexibility in spell selections.

The problem is in scaling. Consider:

  • Level 2:
    • Normal: 5 = 2 (level) + 3 (Int).
    • Generalist: 7 = 5 (Normal) + 2 (Proficiency)
  • Level 17:
    • Normal: 22 = 17 (level) + 5 (Int)
    • Generalist: 28 = 22 (Normal) + 6 (Proficiency)

The typical preparation strategy is to take the generic spells first, and then go toward more and more situational spells -- simply because you know you can make use of the generic spells in most situations whereas the situational spells are nice... but tend to require a specific set of circumstances which may never manifest.

This result in this feature being really good at first, where there's more generic spells to pick from than prepared slots, and slowly shift towards uselessness as the player gets to pick all generic spells and a smattering of situational spells even before reaching the extra slots.

Still good. But not overpowered by far.

Ritual Master: Meh.

The Wizard already has access to most Ritual spells, so they're gaining just a bit of flexibility... at the whim of the DM.

With a cooperative DM, this may be average. With an uncooperative DM, this may be... worth exactly zero.

Note that Level 6 features tend to be fairly good, normally. A Necromancer gets +1 Corpse/Zombie per casting of Animate Dead, and they get bonus to HPs and Damage!

Cantrip Mastery: Meh.

A floating Cantrip is interesting, especially a floating unrestricted Cantrip, so this opens up some utility.

However, there are quite a few ways to gains Cantrips: dips, feats, even races, ... so if a player really wants one Cantrip, they can get it already without too much trouble.

And of course there's the issue that Cantrips are not really a Wizard thing, apart from low-level play. Cantrips are mostly good at Blasting (Warlock) or providing a tiny buff. They're not really good at Battle Field Control or Crowd Control, which are really the Wizard's best role.

Add in that in practice I wouldn't be surprised if most of the time the player locked onto a favorite Cantrip (Guidance, Misty Step, ...) and never really swapped it.

In the end, a tiny bit of flexibility, mostly outside of combat.

Archmage: Poor, but salvageable.

Firstly, the cost's source is weird.

In general, the power of a spell is measured by the spell slot being used to cast it, not the spell level itself, since the power of many spells scale with the spell slot they are cast from.

This puts the ability in a very weird area. It's cheaper to use a 1st level spell cast from a 9th level spell slot than it is to use a 2nd level spell cast from a 2nd level spell slot.

So it really should be about spell slots... and then the cost is just too large to bear.

If a 14th level Wizard is in such a pickle that they need to dual-wield Concentration spells, they need heavy-hitters. A 14th level Wizard dual-wielding 2 2nd level spell slots is more of a magician giving a representation than a high-level Wizard fighting for its life.

On the other hand, it's a relatively easy problem to fix. Drop the weird exhaustion thing and swap it from 1 or 2/Long Rest -- regardless of spell levels -- and suddenly it's an interesting ability that allows to really unleash hell... but not too often.

+Proficiency/Long Rest may make it a bit too powerful (allowing use once per encounter, or close to), but once or twice a day is the stuff capstones are made of.


Assuming you switch the cost of the Archmage capstone, making it 1 or 2/Long Rest, then the overall is Average to Good.

There's still some work to find nice 6th-level and 10th-level abilities, though, otherwise the journey from 2nd to 14th level is going to be a long slog.

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