“My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. I'm a wizard. I work out of an office in midtown Chicago. As far as I know, I'm the only openly practicing professional wizard in the country. You can find me in the yellow pages, under "Wizards." Believe it or not, I'm the only one there. My ad looks like this:
HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD
Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment
You'd be surprised how many people call just to ask me if I'm serious.”
Etymologically "one who is wise", in general use a wizard is a person who employs and understands Magic.
In some fiction, the ability to manipulate magic is usually an innate gift, a talent that you are born with, and it's typically presented as being quite rare. Sometimes wizards are presented as a separate race (similar to, but distinct from mankind) or a human bloodline that has magical potential that mere mundane mortals lack. Alternatively, the wizarding gift may be the result of the circumstances of your birth (e.g. a particular astrological profile), of power investiture by a supernatural entity (which can stray into theurgy or witchcraft) or a particular heredity (e.g. seventh son of a seventh son).
In other settings it means the opposite - a Wizard denotes a person who studies and learns magic, instead of casting intuitively, with the implication being that anyone with sufficient time and training should be able to become a wizard.
In some cases both are required - only the few have the capability, but even then they must be properly trained to use it.
Having obtained their power through study and training (we might say earned their power), as opposed to inheriting it by accident or getting it as part of a deal, wizards are more likely to occupy the less malevolent end of the spectrum.
A wizard will generally also be a secular magic user - specifically not a theurge. If he practises a religion at all, his magical and religious practices will normally be completely separate and possibly opposed to one another1.
Synonyms for Wizard:
Some settings or games may use one or more of the following terms instead of Wizard. Within a setting, there may or may not be a functional difference between a Wizard and the following terms:
- Enchanter / Enchantress
- Sorcerer / Sorceress
In some cases, these terms may be ranks or levels within a profession, through which a wizard progresses as he develops his career.
A very powerful wizard is sometimes known as an Archmage. Where schools of magic and/or Colour Coded Wizardry are in play, the Archmage is likely to be one who has mastered several different schools or colours. Alternatively he may be (amongst) the leading practitioner(s) of a single school or colour.
The term Hedge Mage is sometimes used for a low-powered or self-taught wizard, who may well be better known to his clients and neighbours as a Cunning Man.
A wizard in training is often referred to as a Wizard's Apprentice.
Frequently responsible for otherwise implausible details in a setting … in which case A Wizard Did It.
Wizard Type Tropes
These are tropes that describe different types of magic using characters, or different takes on how magic works, which may give you some ideas on the Characterization of a Wizard.
- Color Coded Wizardry
- Kung Fu Magic
- Magic Knight
- Magicians Are Wizards
- Robe And Wizard Hat
- Squishy Wizard
- Techno Wizard
- Vancian Magic
Other Wizardly Tropes
These tropes may define how a wizard is viewed by the world, how the wizard interacts with the world, or what challenges they're likely to face because of being a wizard.
- A Wizard Did It
- Doing In The Wizard
- Fighter Mage Thief
- Linear Warriors Quadratic Wizards
- Magic A is Magic A
- Magic and Powers
- No Such Thing As Wizard Jesus
- Power At A Price
- Wizard Duel
- Wizarding School
These are the items and weapons frequently depicted as being used by Wizards
A fighting wizard might well expect to go into action armed with wand and staff, although some traditions would consider that to be two of the same thing and prefer wand and athame. Of course, given that the wand can be considered to be to the staff as the athame is to the sword, staff and sword is an entirely possible combination. If it helps, many traditions suggest that the left side of the body draws power in (or is better for drawing in power) and the right side projects - or is better a projecting power. Where the staff serves as a reservoir, conduit or stabiliser of power, it may well be found in the left hand, whilst the sword/athame, especially in its aspect of the "aggressive wand" is in the right. A "staff only" wizard may go so far as to switch hands when he changes his stance. Or it may not matter. A rarer combination might see a chalice in the left hand, from which the wizard draws and casts workings using a wand in the right hand. Also, expect a pentacle to be worn defensively (likely as an amulet) where it helps.
- Fantasy Tropes
- Scientist - often the high-tech versions of wizards.
- Stone Flying Wizard … doing exactly what is says on the tin for purposes of civil engineering.
Game and Story Use
- A very common (and powerful) character archetype in gaming.
- How one becomes a wizard will (or should) have a profound effect on the setting - innate gift wizardry will produce a very different sort of wizard to one where rigorous training is required. The same will apply to what determines how powerful a wizard is: natural capacity or training and practice.