View Full Version : What is a Wizard?

2013-01-07, 06:52 PM
Wizard means wise man, but it's come to describe magic user of some kind in recent decades. In Harry Potter, wizards are a bloodline of people able to cast magic primarily through wands, & prefabricated spells, memorized ritual motions to cast them. In the Dresdenverse, wizards are a bloodline (almost a separate species) & cast magic through willpower, having only so much magic they can cast at a given time. Dresdenverse Wizards also have The Sight, an ability to see magical energies. These are just too, popular versions of Wizards in books, there are far more than that in fantasy books, & more than that in myth & lore.

So for discussion, what is a wizard, to you?

2013-01-07, 06:59 PM
You just answered that question - a "wizard" can be all those things you mentioned and much more. It's just a word that has a very wide range of meaning.

2013-01-07, 07:01 PM
The word "wizard" has been attached to many descriptions. So I was asking the playground, what is there definition of "wizard".

2013-01-07, 07:04 PM
Someone who has actively studied magic, no matter what form.

This could include the crotchety old hermit that lives in the abandoned tower, the flamboyant entertainer down the local pub or the sneaky, master thief who uses a few "tricks" to get past security.

2013-01-07, 07:04 PM
A walking cannon.

I've taken to using the terms adept and occultist to refer to any magic-user of more sensible magnitudes of power. They're only slightly awkward to use and give me some relief from the associations I've developed for the term wizard, courtesy of D&D.

Edge of Dreams
2013-01-07, 07:14 PM
I flip-flop between two modes.

In mode A, Wizard, Mage, Sorcerer, Caster, and Witch all mean the same thing - a person who casts magic spells. That's it. Any more specific definition or differentiation between them will be setting-specific.

In mode B, a wizard, to me, is someone who has gained the ability to cast spells by studying and understanding how magic works (as opposed to innate ability, getting magic from a god, etc.), in an at least somewhat rational, logical, or academic manner.

2013-01-07, 07:15 PM
One thing is common for most wizards I've seen or read about: Magical powers via studying.

That's apart from things such as completely natural talent or divine favor.

That, or people with magical powers who call themselves wizards.

2013-01-07, 07:31 PM
A Wizard is someone who has unusual magical powers, especially if they acquired those powers by study and training.

The word "unusual" is there for a reason; a dragon with magical powers in a world where all dragons had magical powers would not be a wizard unless that dragon possessed magical powers above and beyond that of a normal dragon. Similarly, elves in many worlds have magical abilities that few humans do, but would not normally be called wizards, but a human capable of replicating those feats very well might be a wizard.

Also, if magic can be inborn but could also be gained via study and training, someone with inborn magical powers but who had never really intentionally developed them would usually not be called a wizard, but someone who studied magic often would, regardless of whether or not they had inborn magic as well.

Again, though the most important things about wizards are that A) they are people, and B) they have magical powers that most people do not.

2013-01-07, 07:31 PM
The same thing they were in LotR: lesser gods.

2013-01-07, 07:33 PM
To me, a wizard is a person who casts spells. Simple as that. Sure, you might break it down further, calling people wizards and others sorcerors, and in that case, I'd make the wizard the guy who is more scientific or academical about magic, but in the end, a wizard is a spellcaster, often different from clerics, because he doesn't get his powers from the gods.

If you talk about how I PREFER my wizards, I'm certailny a high-magic guy, with cool robes, staff and a generally fancy attire, as oposed to the old robe with stars on it and a pointy hat.
Mystical symbols on the robe? Yes! Intricately woven garments? Yeah! Fancy hat? Oh please!

2013-01-07, 07:56 PM
Someone who solves problems by exploiting loopholes in the mystical laws of the universe.

2013-01-07, 07:58 PM
A wizard is a dude who uses magic.

2013-01-07, 08:28 PM
Job title for a male who does magic. Interchangeable with Magician, Sorcerer, Warlock, Conjurer, Enchanter, Shaman.

2013-01-07, 08:58 PM
Wizards, to me, are what D&D would call Sorcerers. Their power is innate, intrinsic to their very being. Merlin was the son of a mortal woman and an Incubus. Gandalf was an Angelic Being. Did Gandalf need to pick up a few extra credits at Unseen University? Did Merlin attend Eton College? Nope.

Harry Potter and all those who have to study magic with books and the like are magicians to me. Mere pretenders. I always assumed Sorcerer was code for "Evil Wizard". Haven't a clue what a Warlock is, but since I grew up with Lords of Magic, my definition of Mage would be "scholarly magic-user, limited to a few spells".

But that's just me.

2013-01-07, 09:00 PM
To me a wizard is someone who gains magical power through knowledge, and possesses a good bit of intelligence.

2013-01-07, 10:00 PM
A walking Flying, invisible cannon smart Thermobaric explosive.

Wizards are people who can tell the laws of physics to shut up and sit down... and Physics LISTENS.

...because it knows what's GOOD for it.

2013-01-07, 10:05 PM
A plot device.

2013-01-07, 10:17 PM
Alrighty, looks like most people agree that a wizard is someone who uses knowledge to cast magic.

Now, if they are a plain vanilla human(oid), who uses learned knowledge to cast & structure a spell...
how do they access "magic"? Does magic come from the cosmos? Or is there a realm of energy that they draw from? Is it mortal will given form? (if so, how does this separate them from those with innate magic?)
Do they use a focus item or implement to channel energies?(wands, staves, athame ect.)

2013-01-07, 10:22 PM
Some games go into it. Others don't.

In my experience, it's usually some kind of nebulous ambient energy, or the result of demonic intervention.

Or nebulous demonic energy!

2013-01-07, 10:25 PM
The. Plot.

2013-01-07, 10:30 PM
Now, if they are a plain vanilla human(oid), who uses learned knowledge to cast & structure a spell...
how do they access "magic"? Does magic come from the cosmos? Or is there a realm of energy that they draw from? Is it mortal will given form?

Yes, or possibly no.

Any of these things, or none of them, may be true; that's a major part of what separates many fantasy settings from one another. Some settings don't answer the question, and others even leave the question an explicit unknown.

(if so, how does this separate them from those with innate magic?)

Is learning how to use magic as difficult as learning to walk, or learning astrophysics? If it's as difficult as walking for some people and more difficult for others, those people for whom it is easy probably aren't wizards, but those for whom it is more difficult are. It's not just "can you use magic easily," though, but also how much effort you put into learning it. Some people walk more efficiently than others, after all.

Do they use a focus item or implement to channel energies?(wands, staves, athame ect.)

Possibly, possibly not. Another question is, "must they use a focus item or implement to channel energies?" The Wheel of Time series' channelers (mages) have various items available that they can use to enhance their abilities, but can do without just as easily, while the Harry Potter series' wizards cannot do magic without them, at least early in their training.

A wizard's traditional raiment typically does include a wand or staff along with the robe and pointy hat, but while somebody with a wand or staff, star-decorated robe, and pointy-topped wide-brimmed hat who can use magic is almost certainly a wizard, a wizard needn't be garbed like that.

2013-01-07, 10:33 PM
This would be within the suedo-generic fantasy world of D&D, & upon your opinion/definition of a wizard

2013-01-07, 10:34 PM
A miserable little pile of secrets.

2013-01-07, 10:37 PM
A miserable little pile of secrets.

I was waiting on that one ;). +1 internetz

Joe the Rat
2013-01-07, 10:38 PM
My take:

A Wizard is a sage who knows magic. Wizards are wise - or at least they know a lot of stuff. Their magic is a matter of arcane secrets gleaned from eldritch tomes, or taught to them by great and terrible powers. They may mull libraries, conduct fuming experiments, treaty with all manner of entities, or walk the world to learn its secrets, but the core of it is knowledge.

Wizards cast spells. They don't just toss magic, but draw it through incantations and words of power. They may be great receptacles of power, able to hold energies enough to reduce a normal man to cinders, or maybe even carry great power from strange lineages or astrological conjunctions, but they need the spell - the knowledge - to be able to shape it into something.

Be the one commoners and kings turn to for advice. Hold the keys to a thousand quests, waiting for opportunity. Know when and where a single snake can stop a war. Turn the sun back in the sky. Raise the dead, and lay them to rest again. Until you can do half of that, you're not a wizard yet. You're a Magic-User.

2013-01-07, 11:36 PM
Honestly, regardless of how the Wizard gets his/her/it's power (innate or learned), I always see them requiring at least some sort of Focus like a staff, and some Words of Power, like a Truenamer.

Yeah. The best Wizard fluff includes Truenaming and Staff-wielding. Gandalf's "Your Staff is Broken" line is utterly amazing when you realize that he used Words alone to destroy the source of another Wizard's power. Wizards like that don't really cast Magic. They cast Reality.

Also, Magic is the Force. Usually.

2013-01-07, 11:37 PM
Someone who is never late. He always arrives exactly when he means to.

Jay R
2013-01-08, 12:59 AM
Wizard means wise man, but it's come to describe magic user of some kind in recent decades.

Those "recent decades" were in the late 1500s.

So for discussion, what is a wizard, to you?

A practitioner of magic, just as it is to everybody else since the Renaissance.

2013-01-08, 02:31 AM
Person with amazing magic skills and accomplishments.You can say a conjurer or juggler.

Craft (Cheese)
2013-01-08, 02:51 AM
I dunno, I think wizards have one more element that everyone else here seems to have missed: They're wanderers. The archetypal wizard, to me, is someone who goes around from place to place, spreading wonder and excitement (and more often than not a little bit of trouble) wherever they go.

The other type of wizard, the Physical God who locks themselves in a tower and researches new spells all day, is good for a DM Ex Machina or to stroke the quintessential nerd-ego, but they're not nearly as fun to play (or to write about, for that matter).

Yuki Akuma
2013-01-08, 03:06 AM
Someone who's trying to be Odin by way of Gandalf.

2013-01-08, 03:13 AM
I dunno, I think wizards have one more element that everyone else here seems to have missed: They're wanderers. The archetypal wizard, to me, is someone who goes around from place to place, spreading wonder and excitement (and more often than not a little bit of trouble) wherever they go.

That's true of Gandalf, who is certainly important for the modern conception of a fantasy wizard, but not nearly so much so of wizards in general. Most of the wizards in stories older than LotR seem to be court-wizards attached to a kingdom, similar to the real-life court astrologers or alchemists of the European Renaissance. Merlin of Camelot is probably the oldest widely-known wizard, and he is of the court-wizard type.

2013-01-08, 09:33 AM
Probably thanks to and some legendary wizards, like Merlin, and Tolkien's wizards, the word really brings to my mind an old, wise, mysterious and extremely powerful magician, but spellbooks are rather irrelevant to me and the one thing I don't like about D&D wizards. This is most likely why the idea of a young wizard NOT wearing robes seems sort of hard for my mind to grasp properly (as in, I always think of the more classic sort first), even though it also sounds really cool to me.

Conversely, when speaking of other media, it's hard for me to describe a classic wizard as a "sorcerer" etc., even if that's how they're called in the media.

Lord Il Palazzo
2013-01-08, 10:19 AM
As others have said, the core of it is understanding of magic, gained through effort. Others may performs magic intuitively (the D&D sorcerer) or bargain for it from a higher power (like a D&D warlock or cleric) but a wizard's magic is do-it-yourself and he has to work for that power. Whether it's in the form of an apprenticeship, a dedicated school of wizardry or self-teaching while digging through musty old tomes in forgotten libraries, a wizard learns his magic and thus has to know how it works.

In my mind, other spell casters are more often concerned with "how" of magic; they know how to do magic things in an "Input X produces output Y" kind of way. A wizard knows this, of course, but he also has to understand the "why" of it. For them, understanding that "Input X produces output Y" isn't enough, because they have to work with processes U, V and W that cause Y to result from X. This means that he's better suited to handling magical theory or to varying the way he uses his magic. He understands the process and can use that understanding to achieve the results he wants. Other spell casters might also have this understanding, but it isn't required of them as it is for the wizard.

To me, D&D 3.5 does a good job of representing this. A sorcerer's power is inherent to him; he doesn't have to study or prepare spells, he just has them and uses them. A cleric or other divine caster relies on an outside source for his spells and thus has to keep that source happy or risk losing his magic since he can't do it on his own. A wizard has to study and prepare but is rewarded with a deeper understanding of how his magic works and thus how to manipulate it, as represented by the free metamagic bonus feats he gets. Clerics and sorcerers can achieve this sort of understanding, but it takes additional effort beyond what it takes to merely cast spells, requiring them to choose those feats and thus give up the chance to learn others.

Morph Bark
2013-01-08, 10:22 AM
Wizards are a slightly less miserable pile of bigger secrets.

Lord Il Palazzo
2013-01-08, 10:46 AM
Wizards are a slightly less miserable pile of bigger secrets.Enough talk. Have at you.

2013-01-08, 11:22 AM
A Wizard is something can can easily be confused with a large velvet covered hill that's behavior consists of moving around slowly and eating things.

Oh, and garishly dressed with a pointy hat.

Arranis Thelmos
2013-01-08, 01:21 PM
Jim Darkmagic. (http://thesocialpath.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/07/06/jim_darkmagic_3.jpg)

2013-01-08, 11:26 PM
To me, a Wizard is someone who is never late.

No? Oh well.

Morph Bark
2013-01-09, 04:15 AM
To me, a Wizard is someone who is never late.

But do they come early?

2013-01-09, 07:55 AM
A wizard is a dude who uses magic.
That works for me.

2013-01-09, 01:24 PM
But do they come early?

No. He arrives precisely when he means to. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdna43L1fZ8#t=0m40s)

2013-01-09, 06:25 PM

Seriously. I've never heard of a dragon wizard, or an elf wizard or a dwarf or giant or whathaveyou-wizard.

You get Goblin Shamans, dwarven clerics, Elves being magical elves etc, but by and large Wizard = human in robes with pointy hat. Probably grasping a tome and a staff.

A lot of the time, you see Spellcaster or caster used where wizard would also work: I've fought goblin and dwarven spellcasters but never wizards (at least not that I can think of)

2013-01-09, 07:54 PM
A wizard is someone who casts spells. Details vary by setting.

2013-01-09, 10:20 PM
I think being a wizard is about control. Whether that's control over reality by magic, or by preparation, or by knowledge, the idea is still control far beyond what is normally possible for humans.

2013-01-10, 10:15 AM
A wizard is someone who is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to :smallwink:

2013-01-10, 11:28 AM
The wizard knows. He has poured over musty, crumbling tomes. He has wandered to far off lands, through royal gardens and the foulest slums, through mountains, forests and ruins, been a guest at the richest castles and the most tumbledown huts, spoken at length with great thinkers and madmen and pitiful fools.
The wizard know, because he never stops looking, never stops asking, and with time, his knowledge moves the world. He advises despots and rebels, kind leaders and criminals. He wrests fire from gods, calls kind winds and storms in their own tongues, trades insults with Death, jokes with devils and riddles with angels. He laughs with the mountains, and sings with the rivers.

And when the day comes, when he has ran out of questions, he settles down. aybe to write down his findings, maybe to pass them on to an apprentice, maybe to take a land and rule it.
Maybe, in his fading years, he goes back to the small things in life, cups of tea and summer mornings, poetry and laughing children.
Or maybe, he'll press forward, beyond the veil , to see what questions lie beyond.

2013-01-10, 08:48 PM
A wizard is fun. And stylish. And wonderful. And magical and full of sparkles. At least until they break the game :smallannoyed:. I play completely unoptimized ones so the game is still fun. And they all have pointy hats. I don't overuse the word "and" in character.