Many thanks to Wesley Hall for the idea for this article, as well as the article art! By the way, here is what happened last time Wes and I teamed up. Also, you should follow him on Twitter. Hilarity will ensue.
In the classic Disney movie “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Mickey plays an aspiring wizard who, after being left unattended with the master’s spellbook, wreaks havoc when he tries to cast a spell he is not practiced at. Without looking too far for deeper meaning, this is a great example of what might happen in a D&D setting if a wizard were to cast a spell higher than their level. After all, we might assume that, especially if a character went to “Wizarding School,” they know about higher level spells, even if they’re not sure exactly how to cast them.
To wit, wizards are framed as scholars of arcane arts. They learn their magic through years of study and practice. Why is it, then, that in D&D Wizards suddenly “know” new spells at each level? When did the learning and practice happen? Today, I present a fun optional mechanic that you can add to your game to give Wizards access to higher level spells that they’re currently “in the process of learning.” Of course, in a highly pressurized combat situation, the chances of miscasting such a spell are high. When the situation is dire, you may be tempted to dig deep and try that powerful new spell you’ve been perfecting… but are the risks worth it?
By the way, I might mention that this mechanic was modeled in part after Gamma World’s Alpha Mutation overcharge feature, with a nod towards my love for random tables. I hope your players like it as much as I do.
Optional: if you don’t want your Wizards to have default access to this power, you can either give the option at character creation (swap out Ritual Caster, for example) or simply make a feat for it.
Encounter – No Action
Effect: Spend one or three healing surges.
-If you spend one healing surge, choose a Wizard encounter attack power up to 4 levels higher than you are.
-If you spend three healing surges, choose a Wizard daily attack power up to 4 levels higher than you are.
You may use the encounter or daily power before the end of your next turn. When you roll the attack for the power, roll 1d12 with it, and consult the following chart for possible adverse effects.
Special: If you do not have enough healing surges, you may instead spend a number of hit points equal to your surge value times the number of surges you need to spend. You cannot regain these hit points by any means until you have taken an extended rest.
You can get the power as a PDF player handout here.