From the academic scholar to the conscripted war mage, there are many ways to be a Wizard in Dungeons and Dragons.
Though not as physically weak as they once were, they are still at the bottom of the ladder in terms of hit dice with only the meager d6 at their disposal. Armor is also not in their wheelhouse, but there are spells to get around that.
Starting off with half-a-dozen spells, and half as many cantrips, their repertoire of spells is nothing to be sneezed at. Their personal knowledge of spells can easily, if not cheaply, be increased as they find either scrolls or someone willing to share their spell book. Preparing a select few of their spells on a daily basis they attempt to face the day with their arcane arsenal. This number of prepared spells scales with both their level and intelligence modifier. Unfortunately they can’t cast all of them. Once per day, following a short rest they can recover some of their expended spell slots. While their number of spell slots may at first seem pitiful, it will increase, and for utility sake they can always cast a spell ritually if it so allows. Any spell with the ritual tag that they have in their spell book can be cast with merely an extra 10 minutes of casting time. Logically this is great for utility spells, as there are no ritual combat spells. What Big Bad is going to wait an extra 60 rounds for a wizard to cast his fireball?
Having risen above the lowly stature of a level 1 wizard, they get to choose an arcane tradition at level 2. In the Player’s Handbook these subclasses of Wizard are the eight basic schools of magic. In The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide you can find the Bladesinger, and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything speaks of the War Mage. So far with 10 subclasses to choose from, truly every wizard is a different.
Abjuration magic is the magic of protection. These casters can create an arcane ward once per long rest that can absorb incoming damage. The ward has it’s own hit points and can be refilled in conjunction with the casting of any abjuration spell. A clever multiclass into warlock would allow the Armor of Shadows invocation to slowly refill the ward without wasting your wizard spell slots. At higher levels this ward can be used to protect your allies, and curiously this ward at no time is referred to as temporary hit points. The progression into the higher levels of the class will grant you proficiency with ability checks that are called for by abjuration spells, and grant you resistance to spell damage and advantage on saves against spells.
Conjuration magic may seem to start off slow, with the minor conjuration ability. Summoning an inanimate 10lb object might not seem like much, but the creativity of the caster will determine the efficacy of that. Teleportation spells are their thing as well and they gain an ability to teleport 30ft without wasting a spell, and even switching places with another creature in the process. At higher levels their expertise begins to show when their concentration of a conjuration spell can’t be broken, and summoned creatures gain temporary hit points.
Divination magic can be an extremely meta subclass. With the daily ability of Portent a Diviner can roll a pair of d20s and pocket those numbers in order to use them later on as they see fit. This can be done to alter the rolls of anyone they can see or themselves. Master Diviners are able to roll a total of three d20s and retain those numbers for use later. As they progress they are able to regain spell slots when they cast divination spells. Later on they can alter their perceptions gaining Darkvision, Ethereal sight, See the invisible, or the ability to read any language.
Enchantment spells are all about charm. Early on, Enchanters can hypnotize their opponents when in close quarters. This incapacitates them for as long as the cast stays close and the target can both see and hear the caster. Later on, in combat, the caster can force an attacker to attack someone else when they are targeted. As they become more adept at enchantments they can begin to target multiple targets with single target spell, and eventually alter the memories of their victims so that they become unaware of the being charmed, or even what happend during the time they were.
Evocation magic is a blast (Sorry, not sorry). These wizards specialize in dealing damage. One of the most important aspects of this subclass is the ability to shape their area of effect to ignore a certain number of creatures. This is great when your allies get right in the middle of the mob were about to blow up. Unfortuntely this does not protect you as the wording says “other creatures that you can see”. Being able to use yourself as bait for a ground zero fireball does seem a bit cheesey, so I can’t really complain. Your rise to mastery sees your cantrips doing some damage even if the target makes their saving throw, leading to your spells doing extra damage based on your intelligence, and finally the ability to maximize the damage caused by your lesser spells even to the point of hurting yourself in the process if you do it too often.
Illusion magic is something you have to see to believe, haha. These tricksters are quite adept at manipulating their magic. Minor illusion for them has both sight and sound unlike normally when a caster would have to choose one or the other. High level spells with a longer duration can be changed and altered so long as the caster can still see it. Expert illusionists can use a reaction to create a duplicate when they are attacked, causing the attack to miss, once per rest. Master in the this school can turn illusions into reality, making the image solid enough to use, but not harm anyone.
Necromancy, dead and loving it. These purveyors of the dark arts are able to survive on the deaths of their foes. It may not be much, a few hit points when they kill a target can help. When they summon zombies and skeletons later on they’re able to summon more, make them heartier, and stronger. At higher levels, whereas your allies would be wary of necrotic damage and its debilitating effects, you gain resistance to it and it can’t lower your maximum hit points. With expertise comes control, and it is then that you can try to control undead, even ones created by other wizards, or even intelligent undead.
Transmutation magic concerns itself with change. The storied Alchemist comes to mind with their basic ability. The wizard is able to change one substance from a set list into another. The change is temporary, but the uses are left up to the creativity of the caster. With practice the transmuter can create a magical stone whose properties can be altered with the casting of Transmutation magic. The person carrying the stone can gain one of several boons, including resistance to one of the 5 common arcane damage types. As they progress into the upper tiers they learn to cast Polymorph freely on themselves into a low challenge creature. Mastery in Transmutation grants the caster the ability to sacrifice their Transmutation Stone in order to restore vitality to a creature by healing them, raising them from death, or restoring their youth. A fourth function of this sacrifice can change an object from one substance into another substance permanently.
Bladesingers are typically elves (or half-elves) only, as the narrative goes for Faerun. Upon following this tradition at 2nd level the caster gains training in light armor, a single handed melee weapon of their choice, and the Performance skill. Using a bonus action they can begin their Bladesong increasing their armor class, their walking speed, concentration checks, and gaining advantage on acrobatic checks. There are restrictions on it’s use, such as not wearing a shield, medium or heavy armor, or using 2 hands to make an attack with a weapon. This technique can be done twice per rest. That’s quite a lot for only 2nd level. As they level up they gain a second attack when the take the attack action. At level 10 they can use a reaction to sacrifice a spell slot in order to reduce the damage of an attack. This reduction scales with the spell slot sacrificed. Mastery in this subclass is a little lacking. When they use their bladesong they can add their intelligence modifier to their weapon damage.
War mages start off by gaining a reaction known as Arcane Deflection. If they fail a saving throw, or are struck by an attack they can gain a bonus to their save or armor class, but can’t cast spells higher than a cantrip until their next turn. Their keen mind also helps them by boosting their initiative by their intelligence modifier. They can later counter other magics and store the stolen magic in the form of a power surge. This surge can be used to boost their own damaging spells. Later on while they are concentrating on a spell their armor class and saving throws are also boosted. Finally they can use their Arcane Deflection to damage up to 3 nearby foes. It’s not much damage, but it does strike multiple foes, and does appear to be automatic.
So while the eight basic traditions are varied, the two alternate ones both seem to make the wizard less squishy. Grab your robes and arcane focus and bring the strength of your mind to battle.