Making Your Own Wizard Subclass

You may decide that you want to create your own wizard subclass that best fits your campaign. Before embarking on this task, you want to be sure that no existing wizard subclass meets your design goals. One of the greatest flexibilities offered in 5e class design is how easy it is to reflavor the features. If there is a subclass that can meet your mechanical needs and stylistic vision, it is best to simply use that and save a lot of time in designing, writing, and playtesting.

If, however, you find that no existing subclass achieves the fantasy or has the mechanics to match your vision, this section will guide you toward making a wizard subclass that fits the 5e D&D model. The guidelines will help you create the features for your subclass and detail how you should balance the class to fit within the official options and those offered by Therin Creative and similar content creators.

Please note that despite the guidance offered herein, your subclass may need further tuning. Be certain to spend the time to playtest your subclass.

Class Chassis

The wizard class is the classic spellcaster, storing the repository of its knowledge of spells within a spellbook. It is a full spellcaster, gaining up to 9th-level spells, and the wizard has the largest spell list in the game, giving it a wide range of spell options. Intelligence is the primary ability used by the class. The wizard’s specialty is spellcasting, often able to cast more spells more often than its peers, through features such as Arcane Recover, Spell Master, and Signature spell, as well as its enhanced ritual casting.

Hit Dice

The wizard has only a d6 Hit Dice. Natively, it is the frailest class in the game, as a wizard will often be conflicted on raising Constitution, when it desires Dexterity for initiative to end a combat before it begins or Wisdom to pursue the learned and wise fantasy favored by many archetypal mages. Often, a wizard will have one or more spells to compensate for this shortcoming.


The wizard has limited weapon options and no training with armor. This isn’t much of a hindrance as the class has good cantrip options for damage or obstruction. While the wizard has high Intelligence, it only has two proficiencies, of which most are knowledge skills.

Ability Score Improvement

The wizard uses standard progression for the Ability Score Improvement (ASI) feature (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level). Sorcerers shouldn’t gain additional ASI features as that is the domain of the fighter and rogue classes and not something a subclass generally grants.


The wizard is a powerful spellcaster, and its spellcasting feature is regarded as the strongest when one factors its ease at adding new spells to its spellbook, the depth of the wizard list, and its superior ritual casting ability. Over time, the wizard could add every wizard spell to its list of spells it can prepare, dwarfing its peers. This allows the wizard to have great diversity in its spell options and to switch those options out every day. A wizard can have a spell it can prepare for just about every situation.

Overall, the wizard class provides a character with plenty of power just from its Spellcasting and related features such that its Arcane Traditions are free to focus on other aspects.

Ribbon Features

A wizard’s subclass is where it has its ribbon features. These should define the overall theme for the tradition. Keep in mind that the Spellcasting feature, especially for the wizard, doubles as a ribbon feature with numerous utility spells.

Arcane Tradition Features

Arcane Traditions grant features at 2nd, 6th, 10th, and 14th level. This provides a smooth, almost standardized, progression of features.

Power of a Full Spellcaster

The wizard class has access to the most powerful spells. Arcane Traditions should generally not add power, or add power through slightly empowering the Spellcasting feature, such as the Empowered Evocation feature. You should aim subclass power between the wizard baseline and the School of Evocation, since that Arcane Tradition is the offensive-oriented wizard subclass. The wizard spell list is strong enough that the wizard subclass doesn’t need to increase the class’s damage potential.

Building an Arcane Tradition

Once you understand the class chassis, you’re one step closer to building a subclass. You’ll also want to review existing subclasses to get a feel for their design and balance. This section will aid you in understanding what your subclass features should accomplish.

Before starting on the formal work to build your subclass, devise its theme and role. What is your subclass’s purpose? What roles does it fill in an adventuring party? How are its mechanics interesting and unique? Why would a player choose your subclass?

Let’s start by looking at some existing wizard subclasses.

School of Abjuration. The defensive wizard, this tradition allows the wizard to create a ward as a function of casting its favored spells. Players choose this arcane tradition because they want to enhance the defenses of their character and its allies and be the best at countering enemy magic.

School of Evocation. For many players, this has become the iconic wizard, focused as a blaster with the strongest damage potential. In spite of leaning toward magic artillery, it is still a wizard with all the supplemental spells at its disposal. Players choose this arcane tradition because they desire to decimate their foes with powerful damaging spells while leveraging the versatility of the wizard spell list.

War Magic. A more tactical wizard, these mages have some added defensive and offensive ability. They exhibit a more mid rank experience, wanting to be closer to the action, but not fully at risk of harm. Players choose this arcane tradition to have a well-rounded battle mage that is encouraged to dispel and counter enemy spells. This subclass often requires more deliberate consideration on its combat choices.

Bladesinging. Pairing pageantry with potency, bladesingers add some martial skill on top of its spellcasting. The make effective skirmishers and can more readily survive attacks than other wizards. Players choose this arcane tradition to be able at melee combat and to pursue a more spell-leaning gish concept or to enhance the wizard’s defenses while being stylish.

Arcane Hierophant. This tradition expands their spell list to become the master of versatility. It also serves as a niche for nature-themed wizards or mage-themed druids. Players choose this arcane tradition because they want choose from the broadest spell list, tapping a great range of control spells and to fill less traditional wizard roles for their party.

Each wizard subclass leans a certain direction and incorporates some new tricks, but at its core, each is a wizard, mastering the strongest spells with the greatest versatility.

Building the Subclass

This guide covers building an arcane tradition consistent with official published material. An Arcane Tradition focuses the wizard class a certain way. Each is always a wizard with the full might of the wizard spell selection behind it.

Subclass features are granted at 2nd, 6th, 10th, and 14th level. Each Arcane Tradition feature level should generally only grant one subclass feature, except 2nd level, which should grant two features. Consult the Wizard Subclass Features table for when you should grant features.

There are exceptions for the rule of only granting a single subclass feature:

  • Ribbon features are frequently weak on their own, so in certain cases you may grant a second, minor feature, which could be another ribbon feature.
  • The feature has some complex interactions that are much clearer when separated. Often this is indication that something should be cut, but in rare cases, it makes sense to split a feature for comprehension.
  • You are expanding an existing feature in a minor way. Sometimes it’s better to include the enhancement in the core feature, and at other times it could be a note in another feature.
Wizard Subclass Features
Wizard LevelFeature
2ndSignature Feature, Ribbon Feature
6thWizard Pool Feature
10thWizard Pool Feature
14thWizard Pool Feature

Signature Feature

2nd-level [Your Wizard Subclass] feature

With the Signature feature, you want grant the subclass something that defines what is unique about it. Often, you will include a new mechanic to the wizard that can be as complicated as Bladesong or simple as portent. Increasing the wizard’s versatility, as the School of Cerebromancy (psionic power) and Arcane Hierophant (druid spells) traditions do, is also a Signature feature.

In general, the wizard Signature feature doesn’t increase the wizard’s damage budget directly, but it could create situations when a wizard is stronger in the immediate term, such as with a well-placed Portent die swap.

Ribbon Feature

2nd-level [Your Wizard Subclass] feature

A ribbon feature is very minor, often impacting a specific area of the game outside the three pillars: combat, exploration, or social. The Arcane Traditions in the Player’s Handbook all include a ribbon feature that impacts learning new wizard spell, for example. With the feature, you just want to tweak the wizard’s experience in a way that aligns with the specialty of the subclass, but that doesn’t encompass what a stronger feature does.

If the Signature feature is narrow in its application or really only increases the options the wizard can do with its actions and class resources, it is appropriate to replace this feature with a Core Enhancement or Utility feature, such as granting a new proficiency.

It will be tempting to replace ribbon features with a stronger feature because that other feature feels more impactful on how the subclass plays. However, with the wizard class, the Signature feature should provide that impact. In the case the Signature alone can’t be that impactful in play, then look at a Utility feature, and if that still doesn’t lead to compelling and balanced play, use an Expansion feature. This Expansion feature should interact with the Signature feature so that they are complementary or augment the concept of the subclass to fulfill its fantasy in the way Tactical Wit does for the War Magic tradition.

Wizard Pool Feature

6th/10th/14th-level [Your Wizard Subclass] feature

The wizard class design is more flexible than many other classes, given that its focus tends to be on enhancing the core wizard or offering horizontal options as opposed to increasing the class’s power. This can make it trickier to create a balanced and enjoyable Arcane Tradition, because you need to pick appropriate feature types to make the subclass meaningful and unique while avoiding overloading it with features that make it too powerful or versatile.

For a streamlined wizard, you should look to adding one Expansion or Core Enhancement feature (of which can be a Combat Enhancement), one Defensive or Utility feature, and one feature the enhances the Signature feature. You aren’t required to follow this guideline, but it will give your subclass a good balance of features without inadvertently doubling up on certain aspects and inflating the subclass’s power.

If you look at the wizard subclasses from the Player’s Handbook, you’ll see that each one has a diverse selection of effects through its features that all mesh with the theme of the subclass. It may feel that enhancing the Signature feature constrains the breadth of the features, but provided the Signature feature has broader application, such as with the School of Divination, enhancing it adds scale that provides that applicable breadth.

Wizard Pool Feature options include the following feature types:

Defensive. With this feature, you expand or enhance the defensive ability for the class. Examples include Instinctive Charm and Illusory Self.

Enhancement. This feature improves upon part of the class or subclass kit or its resources. It can be as simple as a boost in uses or damage or even add a new layer or decision to another feature. For the wizard, this is typically a Core (often affecting spellcasting) or Signature Enhancement feature. Examples include Greater Portent (Signature) and Shapechanger (Core).

Expansion. The point of an expansion feature is to add something new to the class. Examples include adapting a class feature from a different class, such as the Extra Attack feature. Examples include Command Undead and Empowered Evocation.

Utility. The feature grants new options that augment movement or skills. In some cases it can grant the casting of a spell to bolster noncombat pillars of play. Examples include Benign Transposition (Traversal) and The Third Eye (General).