I believe in order to make magic in Dungeons & Dragons work, there are three fundamental questions that need to be answered. What is magic, how is it used, and what makes the sorcerer different from the wizard?
Magic is a mysterious and powerful force in the D&D game. The gods wield it, the mortals seek to master it, and it is a natural part of the D&D multi-verse. If wielded carelessly, magic can destroy the world.
Some mortals have the ability to tap into this arcane energy. The men and women who show this ability often attend a wizard college, shaman, or wise-man. They learn from their master how to manipulate this energy as safely as possible. These people become wizards.
In the game, the mechanics boil down to a fairly simple rule: wizards can cast X spells per level per day. Currently, wizards have to study their spellbooks each morning and prepare spells. These spells are memorized until cast. Once cast, the formula is wiped from their memory until that spell is prepared again.
I propose re-imagining the wizard to reflect what is more current in fantasy culture. The mechanics do not change much. The wizard still studies his or her spellbook every morning, not to prepare spells, but because the wizard is a student of magic. He or she can still only cast X spells per level per day, because that is all he or she can wield safely at any given level. Spell slots still work and meta-magic effects can still be applied by expending higher level slots. Because the wizard is a student of magic, he or she still gains new spells every level, can perform rituals, make scrolls, and enchant items.
The sorcerer has the same ability to tap into arcane magic, but they do it naturally without tutelage; a direct result of draconic blood. This creates a powerful and dangerous magic-user. Sorcerers use flashy big bang spells more often than the wizard. In essence, the sorcerer is the evoker. They may not be restricted by armor, they use weapons, they provoke fewer opportunity attacks when casting, and they are tougher than wizards. Wielding this power without training has two effects: sorcerers are susceptible to backlash (an attack roll of less than 10 on the d20 results in every adjacent creature taking spell damage equal to the spell’s level) and on critical hits, sorcerer’s do not expend that spell slot.
I would love feedback. Any questions? Did I miss anything?