FrankenFourth: The Magic Number

In 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, wizards could only cast a single 1st-level spell in a given day. They had access to "up to a few 1st-level spells" as determined by the DM, had to have a "restful night's sleep" to memorize spells (which took 10 minutes per spell level), and whether or not you received new spells when you leveled up was also determined by the DM.

3rd Edition increased this so that you could cast three 0-level spells (called cantrips) and one 1st-level spell per day, the latter of which was modified by a high Intelligence (which pretty much every wizard qualified for, at least up to about 2nd- or 3rd-level spells).

Like 2nd Edition you still had to prep which ones you wanted ahead of time, but unlike 2nd Edition you had access to every 0-level spell, three 1st-level spells of your choice, and you received two spells of your choice at each level up. Prepping all of your spells always took 1 hour, no matter how many, and you could spend less time to prep fewer (ie, 30 minutes to prep half), but it would always take a least 15 minutes.

Finally, 3rd Edition also introduced the sorcerer class, which was an arcane spellcaster that had access to fewer spells overall (and could not learn more via snagging other spellbooks like a wizard), but could cast more spells in a given day. There were some other differences, such as how sorcerer spells interacted with Metamagic feats, but it's not particularly important.

4th Edition shook things up quite a bit. You started the game with access to a whopping six spells that you could cast whenever you wanted (four cantrips plus two "at-wills"), one spell that you could cast per encounter (it would recharge with a 5 minute rest), and one "daily" slot (regained after a long rest, and unlike other classes you could choose between two dailies at the start of each day). As you leveled up you got to add more encounter and daily spells to your roster.

There was also a woefully underutilized ritual system, which were mostly utility spells like comprehend languages, various wards, the ability to enchant magic items, teleports, gates, and so on that could be used whenever, they just took time and components. Down the road they added feats and the like that let you use rituals x times per day for free, and some classes maybe had to spend less time/money using certain rituals.

5th Edition cribs 4th Edition's at-wills and rituals, but further muddies the pseudo-Vancian waters by having you prep specific spells and then use spell slots to cast spells you've prepared, making them similar to a more flexible 3rd Edition sorcerer, and some spells could also be cast whenever if you had enough time. The wizard class can also eventually turn some dailies into encounter spells.

FrankenFourth currently uses a spell point and talent system. Wizards start with 4 points of Mana (name subject to change), Detect Magic (you can see magic, no cost), Magic Focus (+1 to hit when you are using a magic focus), and your choice of two baseline magic talents (Abjurer, Enchanter, Evoker, etc).

Using most talents carries a Fatigue cost. Sometimes it's a static amount, other times it's random. For example, Abjurer (+1 armor when not wearing armor, basically a poor wizard's mage armor) has a Sustain cost of 1, which means that you can activate it, and it stays active until you get knocked unconscious or go to sleep, but your maximum Mana is reduced by 1.

The Evoker talent on the other hand has a Fatigue cost of 1d4: you roll 1d4, lose that much Mana, and then make an Intelligence attack that deals 1d10+Intelligence damage, or half on a miss. The Firebolt talent has a Fatigue cost of +1. It builds upon Evoker, so if you use Firebolt you take 1d4+1 Fatigue, but you deal 2d6+Intelligence fire damage.

Something to note is that when you suffer Fatigue, you reduce your Mana first, then your Vitality, and finally Wounds. Like Vitality, Mana is regained during a short rest. In this way a wizard can exhaust and potentially kill herself by overusing magic. Also, some talents have a random cost so as to actually make it unpredictable and dangerous.

So, a 1st-level wizard with Evoker and Firebolt has two options: you can play it safe, using Evoker by itself, knowing that at most you'll only take 4 Fatigue. On average you can use Evoker twice and only suffer a single point of Vitality, which like Mana is easily recovered. Of course, if you've gotten hit and are out of Vitality, then you're risking suffering Wound damage, of which you have precious few.

You can also gamble on Firebolt for the added damage, and/or if the target is vulnerable to fire/you want to light something on fire. But, even at your best there's still a chance you'll dip into Vitality (or, again Wounds).

As you level up you gain Mana and Vitality, at a rate of 2/level and 1/level respectively. You also get to choose more talents, like Burning Hands (1d4+2 Fatigue to hit a 15-foot cone with 1d6+Intelligence fire damage), Mage Armor (Sustain 2 for 2 armor instead of 1), and (not featured in the public alpha) the ability to conjure solid, mobile, harmful illusions (which requires four talents and runs you something like 2d4+1d6+1 Fatigue).

Comparing Across the Editions
Compared to other editions, the FrankenFourth wizard is better off than a 2nd Edition wizard (and by extension wizards from previous editions), better off than a 3rd Edition wizard over the course of the adventuring day, and I guess maybe worse off than the 4th and 5th Edition wizards due to a lack of numerous at-wills.

It's difficult to tell, because the only "daily" resource is Wounds and their "encounter" attacks are pretty potent.

What I can say is that in our Monday game, the wizard player is loving being able to build illusion effects on the fly and have undead minions at his beck and call, while in our Wednesday game a player felt that the sorcerer had too few Mana points and spell options (or rather, wanted access to abilities that didn't fit the dragon sorcerer scheme).

Now, the type of spells/abilities can't be helped: sorcerers are by design restricted to spells and abilities thematic to their bloodline, but have more Mana, Wounds, and Vitality, and similar to Howl from Howl's Moving Castle transform the more they use their magic. So, a dragon sorcerer grows scales (+1 armor), claws (nifty melee attack), and their blood burns those that wound them (use Reaction to automatically damage someone that hits them in melee).

On the other hand, the number of times spells/abilities can be used in a given time frame is something that could be adjusted, if people think that they can do too much/not enough. As it stands, I'd basically say that a 1st-level wizard starts with three spells/effects (Detect Magic plus two others of your choice), and can use about 1-2 spells in a given encounter depending on what you roll.

What do you think: would that be enough for you to work with (check the doc if you want to see what's currently available)? Is that too much? Would you just want access to more talents, more Mana, or both?

We've added most of our stuff to Tabletop Library!

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Beastmaster is out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

Lichfield is available for public consumption. If you want a concise adventure with a Silent Hill feel, be sure to check it out! Primordial Machine is also out, so if you want to catch a glimpse of A Sundered World<

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