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Pathfinder - The Wizard Handbook

Last Updated: May 18, 2017

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.

Introduction

The Wizard sits at the top of the class tier list. With many of the best spells in the game and a practically limitless list of spells known, you can be and do most anything in the game. On top of your spells, you get several potent class features and a few bonus feats which can expand you're already stunning capabilities.

Wizard Class Features

Hit Points: d6 hit points leaves you pretty squishy, but you have a laundry list of defensive options to put in front of your hit points.

Base Attack Bonus: Fortunately, you'll almost never need to make an actual attack. Touch AC scales very little from level 1 to level 20, going from an average of 11.6 on CR 1 monsters to 12.7 on CR 20 monsters.

Saves: Your only good save is Will, but because Wizards only "need" one ability, you can afford to invest some of your ability score points in Dexterity and Constitution.

Proficiencies: Wizards get very little in the way of proficiencies, but beyond very early levels you won't need them. A light crossbow is an excellent backup weapon for a Wizard, but you'll be more reliable relying on touch attack cantrips. No armor, either, but a mithral buckler and a haramaki will be plenty alongside your magical defenses.

Skills: Wizards only get 2+ skills, but you get every knowledge skill as a class skill, and your absurd intelligence will give you plenty of skill points to throw around. Remember that permanently increasing your intelligence will give you additional skill points retroactively, which will be nice when you hit levels 8 and 16.

Arcane Bond (Ex or Sp): You have the option of a familiar or a bonded item, and both options have their merits.

Arcane School: Arcane School really defines how your wizard will be played, and every option has something great to offer. For information on specific schools, see the Wizard School Breakdown.

Cantrips: Fantastic and versatile.

Scribe Scroll: Scrolls are great for wizards, and giving you the feat for free is nice. Use it to prepare scrolls of spells that you need infrequently so that you can cover all of your bases.

Bonus Feats: 4 extra feats over the course of 20 levels isn't game-breaking, but the Wizard would still be king if he didn't get any of these. The addition of Arcane Discoveries gives wizards a handful of unique and incredibly powerful options in place of metamagic and item crafting feats.

Spells: Wizards have the best spell list in the game, and every new book makes it better. Spells are why you play a Wizard.

Abilities

Intelligence is everything. Saves are a secondary concern.

Str: Dump to 7. Make the Fighter do the lifting.

Dex: Important for saves, and for the occasional touch attack.

Con: Your hit points are garbage, and Fortitude saves will be a problem for you.

Int: You get magic, skills, and a bonus to knowledge skills (which you will have a ton of). Max at start, boost early, boost often.

Wis: You get high Will saves, but with no other real ability dependencies, bumping Wisdom to at least 12 for additional saves is wise.

Cha: dump to 7 and keep your mouth shut until its time to throw some spells around or spout some knowledge..

In addition to normal ability considerations, Wizards can also make excellent use of the aging rules. Being middle-aged gives you a -1 penalty to your physical abilities, but gets you a pleasant +1 to your mental ability scores. However, this can be a problem for your already low reflex and fortitude saves.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 18
  • Wis: 14
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 18
  • Wis: 11
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 18
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 7
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 15
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 10

Races

Bonuses to Intelligence are key, and other bonuses to spellcasting are nice.

Dwarf: Dwarves are an interesting choice for wizards. Bonus Constitution and Wisdom make them very durable, a +2 on saves against spells is fantastic, and Darkvision is always helpful until you cast the spell. However, they don't bring anything specifically useful to Wizards offensively.

Elf: Bonus intelligence is great, and the bonus to dexterity and penalty to constitution are roughly equal for our purposes. The +2 bonus to penetrate spell resistance is equivalent to (and stacks with) Spell Penetration. The other benefits are highly situational, but certainly welcome. Since you're dumping strength, don't make the mistake of trying to use a bow.

Gnome: Despite their lack of intelligence bonus, Gnomes make good Illusionists due to their racial abilities. Being small is also nice.

Half-Elf: The flexible ability bonus goes right into Intelligence, but that's really all you get. You won't be multiclassing, and skill focus won't really matter to you. Some of the Half-Elf's alternate racial traits help a bit, but they don't offer anything particularly helpful for a Wizard. Humans are strictly better.

Half-Orc: Ability bonus to intelligence. If you want to be a face, that +2 to intimidate might be nice, and Darkvision is still fantastic, but Half-Orcs don't bring anything else of interest.

Halfling: Bonus to dexterity helps with a bad save, and the +1 racial bonus to all saves is nice, but that's really all we get from Halflings.

Human: What's that you say? A bonus to intelligence? Madness. The bonus feat is great on literally any character, and the bonus skill points don't hurt our already impressive pool of skill points.

Traits

Skills

Feats

Wizards certainly aren't feat starved, which leaves a lot of room for dipping into metamagic, item crafting, and other fun things. This section does not cover metamagic feats or item creation feats. For help with metamagic feats, see my Practical Guide to Metamagic.

Arcane Discoveries

Wizards can take an Arcane Discovery in place of a regular feat or Wizard bonus feat.

Arcane Builder: Crafting high level items takes an insanely long amount of time. If this is a problem, grab this discovery.

Fast Study: If time to prepare your spells is frequently a problem, something is very seriously wrong in your campaign.

Feral Speech (Su): Why would a wizard ever want to talk to an animal when he can summon demons?

Golem Constructor: Why have golems when you can just Dominate people?

Immortality (Ex): Live forever. Not really a game effect, but very cool flavor-wise.

Multimorph (Su): Great if you depend on polymorph spells.

Opposition Research: By level 9, spending two slots to cast an opposition school spell isn't going to cripple you. If you really need a spell from an opposition school, two spell slots is likely worth less than a feat slot.

Split Slot: Since so many of enchantment spells are going to be save-or suck, your high level spell slots are likely more productive. However, don't underestimate the value of low levels buffs.

True Name (Sp): Planar Binding is a good spell, and this effectively lets you use it at will as a move action.

Staff-Like Wand: If you like wands, this is a worthwhile discovery. However, you can't get it until level 11 when you are casting 6th level spells, and wands only go up to 4th level spells. If you lack combat options, this can really improve the usefulness of caster level-dependant spells like Magic Missile or Scorching Ray.

Weapons

Stop. Put that down. You're going to hurt yourself.

Armor

If you need AC, you're doing something wrong. Still, it doesn't hurt to get some cheap protection. Keep in mind that Mage Armor is generally your best bet when you need AC, but Mage Armor isn't always on.

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.

Permanent Spells

Multiclassing and Prestige Classes

Don't, unless you have a specific concept in mind. If you must multiclass, try very hard to not give up spellcaster levels. Also keep in mind that classes which give you spellcasting do not allow you to learn spells for free when you gain levels.