Ugh. 5e bards have access to 9th-level spells.

Not that I’m not happy for the bard, after all my very first PC was a half-elf bard — it’s just that bards don’t need (and shouldn’t have) 9th-level spells.

Ninth-level spells are for shaping the world, and that isn’t something that bards do with magic — not spells, anyhow. Bards change the world through the magic of music, which isn’t spell-based. Not by a long shot.

Warlocks also gained access to 9th-level spells in 5e, through the Mystic Arcanum class feature. 3e gave 9th-level spell access to clerics and druids (assuming they didn’t already have it by then).

Sorcerers, which were new for 3e if I remember correctly, also gained access to 9th-level spells.

All this causes problems for the wizard, the original magic-user.

Clerics (and druids, which were originally a type of neutral, or nature-aligned cleric) only used to gain spells as high as 7th-level. It makes sense if you really think about it too, why would a deity ever grant world-shaping powers to a follower?

No, it doesn’t make sense. You probably never though of it before.

You know what makes even less sense? A warlock or bard gaining access to that kind of power.

Warlocks are like the arcane version of clerics/druids. They gain their power by brokering with a non-divine entity. There is no reason why an outer planes entity would grant ultimate power to a warlock. It’s bad business.

What I’m getting at, is only wizards should have access to 9th-level spells.

Wizards don’t need more spells than anyone else, and they don’t even need more spells of higher levels than any other class. They just need something to make them special: because later editions of D&D have eroded the wizard’s uniqueness.

Honestly, clerics and druids don’t need 9th-level spells. It’s like getting a coupon for a free sundae as a reward for eating a monster sundae. It’s above and beyond anything that was… ever necessary.

Sorcerers and warlocks probably don’t need those spells either. Given that sorcerous power comes from “within,” however nebulous that may be, “unlimited cosmic power” shouldn’t follow that. More lower-level spell slots, perhaps…

Also, I think I might have finally figured out a few things about making 5e’s “cantrips” work, while also figuring out what to make of apprentices, and … let’s just say I might have solved a few problems at the same time.

So, I re-balanced spell progression for every class.

Now, nobody receives spell slots until at least 2nd level. Not even the wizard. The wizard gets cantrips at 1st level. Then he receives one spell for every level thereafter (he begins with two 1st-level spells at 2nd level).

I created two separate “full caster” classes that receive a total of 20 spell slots throughout their careers: one that goes to 7th-level spells, and one that goes only to 5th-level. They’re weighted a little different from each other.

Then I created two “hedge” caster spell progressions: similar to “full casters,” they reach either 7th-level spells, or 5th-level spells, but receive a total of 15 spell slots throughout the levels.

Any fewer than that would be a waste of time. Likewise, receiving spells of any level lower than 5th (maximum) feels like a waste of time.

In some ways, the new spell progression feels like the old “base attack bonus” progression of 3e — there’s +1 spell slot either every level, or through two-thirds of all levels. Except, I don’t think it’s worthwhile to have spell slots for only one-half of levels… that seems like it would benefit exactly no one.

As for the archetypes associated with a wizard? At 1st level, you decide whether your wizard was apprenticed to a mentor, part of a small (elite) academy or cabal, or part of a larger college of mages. Each confers its own benefits, basically representing more to less focus.

When a wizard studies under a single mentor, they tend to learn one school of magic very well. In an academy, they’ll tend to study several related schools. In a college, they’ll become a generalist wizard with a broader exposure to magic.

And just like that, we have built-in reasons for apprentices, and 1st-level wizards become super-easy to build. They don’t even get a spellbook or spell slots until 2nd level, making them really, really ridiculously easy to build.

And choosing their education gives you a clear idea of their background and personality.

And and, wizards will be the only casters to break the “level cap” on spells — they once again become the magic-users who plumb the cosmos for secrets, trying to unravel reality and bend it to their will. Tease out every last secret.