Creative Illusionists vs. Destructive M-Us

In 1E AD&D there are two Wizard classes: Magic-User (original recipe) and Illusionist (extra crispy). This paved the way for multitudes of M-U subclasses modelled after the Illuionist. But what if there were some reasoning behind having just the pair?

Illusionists do illusion spells, but they don’t really do big destructive spells. This was held over in 2E when Illusionists were just one type of school-specialized Wizard: Illusionists couldn’t do Evocation spells (Fireball, Lightning Bolt, etc.). That’s pretty much the split, similar to Cleric v. M-U (Cleric does healing but not big damage, M-U vice versa). But for now we’re going to ignore Cleric and focus on the Wizard classes.

Illusionists have to be creative. I say this because an illusionist has the job of an artist in our world: create images and sounds that sound believable, even if you’ve never actually heard those things before in your life. A video game 3D modeller needs to make a dragon that moves around, so he takes inspiration from things he HAS seen: birds, snakes, lizards, his imagination, and other artists’ fantasy work. M-Us don’t need imagination, just knowledge of the rules of magic and experience applying them in various ways, in different environments. They’re like the programmers of magic in D&D. Illusionists are like the artists of our world.

So why wouldn’t their spells be more creative in function? How about spells that do sculpting, coloration, scent, texture? Not just illusions, but physical-effect spells that an artist would be interested in. Because we need to make the split, M-Us would not have access to most of these and would instead focus on their destructive spells. Both would share general utility spells.

Illusionists should be able to make plenty of different magic items, too, except those which are just destructive (Horn of Blasting, Wand of Fire) because it’s opposite their chosen type of magic. Similarly M-Us should be unable to make magic items that fall outside their spell abilities (Wand of Illusion, Deck of Illusion).

This scheme doesn’t leave room for other Wizard types. Maybe one culture or world or plane has this system in place, while another uses another division (such that the basic M-U doesn’t exist) like Shadow vs Material, or Elemental, or Law vs. Chaos.

One Response to “Creative Illusionists vs. Destructive M-Us”

  1. Brendan Says:

    A nice dichotomy. I’m not sure the current illusionist spell list can carry the weight (it has always felt a bit lacking to me), but the general idea certainly has potential.

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