A friend suggested he was working on a Harry Potter-style D&D game, with the premise that each level 1-7 was a year of school (not unlike my own previous suggestion to start PCs at higher level). That got me thinking about how to set up a system for taking classes (the most thrilling challenge for any adventurer, I’m sure).

This is primarily meant for a game as described, where the first few levels are reframed as apprenticeship at a Wizard-only school, you level at the end of every school year, and academics feature heavily. But you could also use it in more standard games as a new downtime action for PC Wizards in a location with Wizards interested in training others (customizing for this is discussed more later).

The Coursework

Each course features four Wizard spells. Successful demonstration of each spell from the course is required at finals to get a top mark for the course (with progressively worse marks for being able to demonstrate fewer of the spells). Roughly at the 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and finals sections of the course, you can make an ability check to learn a spell in the course’s sequence (it’s up to the GM whether they have to be learned in course order, with the more valuable spells later in the list, or whether the player can pick the order).

If you start already knowing one or more spells from the sequence, you obviously have more chances to learn the spells you don’t know yet (Hermione Granger carefully arranges her starting spells and free +2 spells per year to always go into new courses with at least one spell already known). At the GM’s option, each course might feature a related extra credit spell that you can get if you learn all four spells and still have a skill check left. Extra credit spells are likely to be spells from non-core books that you want to keep pretty rare but do want your PCs to have an opportunity to learn. For example, Hermione is taking Introductory Abjuration and already learned Mage Armor and Shield as part of her starting loadout (from reading all the books the summer before). She has four chances to learn the remaining two spells, and if she learns them with checks left over, she might have a shot at learning Snare as extra credit.

The difficulty of these checks should probably be 10+Spell Level, unless you want low grades to be more common.

The abilities and skills involved should be somewhat idiosyncratic and based on the teaching style of whatever instructor is teaching the course. Arcana should be the default, the other Int-based skills available to all Wizards (History, Investigation, and Religion) should also be very common. Other proficient or Int-based skills (Insight, Medicine, and Nature) should come up occasionally. The rest of the skills should only come up if you genuinely believe the player will be more amused than annoyed (likely as a joke that everyone winds up with one really hard course in their loads each semester, such as Basics of Motion being a PE course that uses Athletics).

So, for example, a first-year course catalog might look like:

  • Knowing Your Role:
    • Diviner Aleric provides a practical symposium on the basic spells that may be expected of the party’s Wizard.
    • (Arcana; Detect Magic (1), Alarm (1), Feather Fall (1), Sleep (1))
  • Making Friends and Influencing People:
    • Enchantress Bethany gives new students a crash course on social skills and their magical application.
    • (Insight; Unseen Servant (1), Comprehend Languages (1), Charm Person (1), Tasha’s Hideous Laughter (1))
  • Introductory Divination:
    • Diviner Aleric provides instruction on the most basic of divination arts for the beginner.
    • (Arcana: Detect Magic (1), Identify (1), Comprehend Languages (1), Find Familiar (1))
  • Introductory Abjuration:
    • Abjurer Clio leads a symposium on how abjuration interacts with priestly magics, and which is stronger.
    • (Religion: Mage Armor (1), Protection from Evil and Good (1), Shield (1), False Life (1))
  • Basic Skullduggery:
    • Daveth the Trickster introduces students to the most common tricks of the underhanded, how to spot them, and how to use them.
    • (Investigation: Expeditious Retreat (1), Illusory Script (1), Charm Person (1), Disguise Self (1))
  • Introduction to Combat Magic:
    • Evoker Elisha will expect you to come prepared to manifest your will in the form of eldritch might!
    • (Arcana: Witch Bolt (1), Magic Missile (1), Chromatic Orb (1), Burning Hands (1))
  • Introduction to Area Effects:
    • Conjurer Franklin will introduce you to the great and storied history of magics that affect an area.
    • (History: Fog Cloud (1), Color Spray (1), Burning Hands (1), Thunderwave (1))
  • Basics of Motion:
    • Dame Gretal expects all students for this course to be in trousers instead of robes and warmed up before class begins.
    • (Athletics: Expeditious Retreat (1), Jump (1), Feather Fall (1), Longstrider (1))
  • Introductory Conjuration:
    • Conjurer Franklin explains the grand history of conjuration, with a particular focus on the life of Tenser.
    • (History: Unseen Servant (1), Tenser’s Floating Disk (1), Grease (1), Fog Cloud (1))
  • Applied Attack and Defense:
    • Evoker Elisha suggests that you take at least one of her classes! You will need them or they will laugh at you!
    • (Arcana: Detect Magic (1), Magic Missile (1), Shield (1), False Life (1))
  • Avoiding Combat:
    • Transmuter Harlowe demonstrates the bodily trauma involved in adventuring, why you should avoid it, and several mechanisms for doing so.
    • (Medicine: Silent Image (1), Fog Cloud (1), Disguise Self (1), Sleep (1))
  • You are Not a Bard:
    • Troubadour Isabel is willing to cross-train those interested in the shared arts, and learn how Bardic magic differs.
    • (Performance: Silent Image (1), Charm Person (1), Longstrider (1), Tasha’s Hideous Laughter (1))
  • You are Not a Druid:
    • Jarek Moonblood will cross-train those interested in the intersection of Druidic and Wizardly magics.
    • (Nature: Detect Magic (1), Jump (1), Longstrider (1), Thunderwave (1))
  • You are Not a Warlock:
    • Kelline Winterbound believes that, if you can find her, she might tell you secrets that are useful to you. But there will be a price.
    • (Investigation: Illusory Script (1), Protection from Evil and Good (1), Comprehend Languages (1), Witch Bolt (1))
  • Introduction to Battlefield Control:
    • Abjurer Clio would like you to reflect on your dominance of the battlefield is like unto godliness.
    • (Religion: Ray of Sickness (1), Chromatic Orb (1), Color Spray (1), Thunderwave (1))

If you’re paying for the courses (either as part of fees for a school game, or for the downtime action in a regular game), the cost of the course should be around 25-50% less than scribing the spells individually (to compensate for chance of failure, increased time, and getting spells you might not want). School specialization should result in gaining Advantage on the roll to learn a spell, rather than half cost.

In a downtime action, the time spent should obviously be highly compressed, though still longer than just scribing the spells individually.

For a school game, each one obviously takes all semester, and maybe a whole year (depending on how many spells you want PCs to know). You should probably also have the skill checks spaced out between multiple courses, rather than rolling for every course in the load at the 25% sections; that way, you get a steady progression throughout the year when you’re not otherwise gaining levels.

Additional Suggested Courses Through 4th Level

Note that the distribution of spells is based on rarity across class lists. Spells that are Wizard-only only appear once in the courses, if they’re on 1-2 other class lists they appear twice, if they’re on 3-5 other lists they appear three times, and if they’re on 6+ other lists they appear four times.

  • Living Your Role: Mage Armor (1), Magic Weapon (2), Scorching Ray (2), Invisibility (2)
  • Surviving the Fight: Protection from Evil and Good (1), Blur (2), Spider Climb (2), Rope Trick (2)
  • Practical Divination: Identify (1), Darkvision (2), Locate Object (2), Detect Thoughts (2)
  • Introduction to Sanctums: Alarm (1), Continual Flame (2), Magic Mouth (2), Arcane Lock (2)
  • Practical Motion: Jump (1), Gust of Wind (2), Levitate (2), Shatter (2)
  • Practical Battlefield Control: Ray of Sickness (1), Blindness/Deafness (2), Crown of Madness (2), Hold Person (2)
  • The Cutting Edge of Arcana: Phantasmal Force (2), Cloud of Daggers (2), Crown of Madness (2), Misty Step (2)
  • Practical Skullduggery: Darkness (2), Alter Self (2), Invisibility (2), Knock (2)
  • Four Types of Pain: Scorching Ray (2), Cloud of Daggers (2), Melf’s Acid Arrow (2), Shatter (2)
  • Practical Illusion: Blur (2), Mirror Image (2), Invisibility (2), Blindness/Deafness (2)
  • Becoming the Primary Target: Ray of Enfeeblement (2), Flaming Sphere (2), Phantasmal Force (2), Suggestion (2)
  • You are Not a Cleric: Gentle Repose (2), Blindness/Deafness (2), Hold Person (2), Locate Object (2)
  • Of Light and Darkness: Darkvision (2), See Invisibility (2), Continual Flame (2), Darkness (2)
  • Practical Transmutation: Alter Self (2), Enlarge/Reduce (2), Magic Weapon (2), Knock (2)
  • Whispers of the Spider Queen: Darkvision (2), Spider Climb (2), Web (2), Suggestion (2)
  • Noun Preposition Noun: Cloud of Daggers (2), Crown of Madness (2), Glyph of Warding (3), Protection from Energy (3)
  • Disciple’s Enchantment: Detect Thoughts (2), Suggestion (2), Fear (3), Hypnotic Pattern (3)
  • Disciple’s Area Effects: Flaming Sphere (2), Shatter (2), Lightning Bolt (3), Fireball (3)
  • Disciple’s Control: Web (2), Hold Person (2), Slow (3), Stinking Cloud (3)
  • Four Weird Tricks: Magic Mouth (2), Blink (3), Major Image (3), Hypnotic Pattern (3)
  • Disciple’s Divination: See Invisibility (2), Locate Object (2), Tongues (3), Clairvoyance (3)
  • Air Magics: Gust of Wind (2), Gaseous Form (3), Sleet Storm (3), Fly (3)
  • Strength and Weakness: Enlarge/Reduce (2), Ray of Enfeeblement (2), Remove Curse (3), Bestow Curse (3)
  • Disciple’s Necromancy: Gentle Repose (2), Feign Death (3), Vampiric Touch (3), Animate Dead (3)
  • Disciple’s Motion: Levitate (2), Slow (3), Haste (3), Fly (3)
  • Disciple’s Illusion: Mirror Image (2), Nystul’s Magic Aura (2), Nondetection (3), Major Image (3)
  • Nope!: Misty Step (2), Dispel Magic (3), Remove Curse (3), Counterspell (3)
  • In Your Face!: Water Breathing (3), Stinking Cloud (3), Tongues (3), Sending (3)
  • Disciple’s Defenses: Dispel Magic (3), Magic Circle (3), Protection from Energy (3), Leomund’s Tiny Hut (3)
  • Special Topics: Scry and Fry: Nondetection (3), Clairvoyance (3), Fireball (3), Haste (3)
  • Disciple’s Abjuration: Magic Circle (3), Glyph of Warding (3), Remove Curse (3), Protection from Energy (3)
  • Special Topics: Verb Nouns: Dispel Magic (3), Bestow Curse (3), Feign Death (3), Animate Dead (3)
  • Special Topics: Adjective Nouns: Phantom Steed (3), Gaseous Form (3), Hypnotic Pattern (3), Vampiric Touch (3)
  • Special Topics: Single-Word Names: Fear (3), Blink (3), Sending (3), Tongues (3)
  • Finding Things and Getting There: Clairvoyance (3), Locate Creature (4), Dimension Door (4), Arcane Eye (4)
  • Adept’s Abjuration: Magic Circle (3), Counterspell (3), Banishment (4), Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum (4)
  • Four Bad Things Done Well: Fear (3), Confusion (4), Blight (4), Banishment (4)
  • Adept’s Transmutation: Water Breathing (3), Polymorph (4), Stoneskin (4), Control Water (4)
  • Special Topics: Faking Your Own Death: Feign Death (3), Water Breathing (3), Dimension Door (4), Polymorph (4)
  • Direct vs. Secondhand Violence: Lightning Bolt (3), Blight (4), Locate Creature (4), Conjure Minor Elementals (4)
  • Adept’s Illusion: Major Image (3), Hallucinatory Terrain (4), Greater Invisibility (4), Phantasmal Killer (4)
  • Fire and Ice: Sleet Storm (3), Ice Storm (4), Wall of Fire (4), Fire Shield (4)
  • Stone Magics: Fabricate (4), Stone Shape (4), Stoneskin (4), Conjure Minor Elementals (4)
  • Special Topics: Terrain Control: Leomund’s Tiny Hut (3), Ice Storm (4), Hallucinatory Terrain (4), Wall of Fire (4)
  • The History of Four Great Wizards: Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound (4), Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere (4), Leomund’s Secret Chest (4), Evard’s Black Tentacles (4)
  • Putting Your Enemies Off Balance: Dispel Magic (3), Hallucinatory Terrain (4), Polymorph (4), Confusion (4)