Focused Specialist is better than you think

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(moved from character classes forum)

I've kept pretty silent on this for months now - but I think I'll open the can of worms now.

There are basically 3 levels of specialization you can take with a wizard:

Generalist
Forbidden Schools: None
Spells per day: As per PHB + bonus spells for high INT score
Bonus spells: None

Specialist
Forbidden Schools: Pick 2 (one if you are a divination specialist)
Spells per day: As per PHB + bonus spells for high INT score
Bonus spells: 1 per spell level - must be from your chosen school

Focused Specialist (Alternate class feature from Complete Mage)
Forbidden Schools: Pick 3 (2 if you are a divination focused specialist)
Spells per day: As per PHB MINUS ONE + bonus spells for high INT score
Bonus spells: 3 per spell level - must be from your chosen school

What you've probably heard: Generalist or Diviner is your best choice. The Generalist maintains maximum versitility, while the diviner has near maximum versitility while getting the bonus spell per spell level.

What you've also probably heard: Specializing in other schools is OK, but probably not your best choice since losing two schools of magic seriously cramps your style. Focused specialist is a terrible choice you should never take since you are giving way too much up for what you get.

This all sounds like great advice. One thing we know is that versitility is good, and can often be linked directly with the effectiveness of a character.

However, I've found in actual play - the advice falls flat. I've now had opportunity to play all 3 levels of specialization (most more than once) and have found something interesting - Focused Specialists are very good. Specialist Wizards are pretty good. Generalist wizards are OK but not as good as either other option.

Now that I've said pure heresy - allow me the opportunity to explain before you respond...I will move through the various Pro's and Con's of specialization and Focused Specialization. Cons first.

Versitility

We've discussed conventional wisdom - but lets really look at this for a second. There is no arguing that the less schools you have available to you - the potential of your versitility will drop. I will explain "potential" later on.

Generally, the "best" school to drop is considered to be Evocation. Reason for this is because the best effects of Evocation can be copied by other schools or feats. Blasting and battlefield control spells are available through conjuration, and the greater shadow evocation spell or the craft contingency feat will allow for contingent spells. How much versitility have we lost by not having Evocation on the list? Not much.

The 2nd best school to drop? Usually Enchantment is named. Now enchantment is a lot of peoples personal favorite. After all - how many schools have so many spells that make the opponent work for you? However, in the end the draw is lots of Save or Lose spells that target Will. Lots of other schools have Save or Lose spells that target Will - and many to not have the restriction enchantment spells do of needing an opponent that is not immune to compulsion effects.

The 3rd best school to drop? This is usually a toss up between Abjuration and Necromancy. Lets look at both.

Necromancy is absolutely filled with debuffs. Ray of Enfeeblement (no save), Enervation (no save), Bestow curse. I can find spells with similar effects to RoE and BC - but Enervation is hard to duplicate. Giving up Necromancy will significantly reduce your access to no save debuffs.

Abjuration is your protective school. There are ways through Conjuration or Transmutation to protect yourself - but the key missing spells are Protection from X and Dispel Magic. There's just no substitute. Giving up Abjuration will make me a non-counterspeller and make me vulnerable to outsider controls and summons.

So what do you do? Well, I would suggest if you go focused Specialist to dump Evocation, Enchantment and either Necromancy or Abjuration.

Fact is that the loss of Necromancy or Abjuration will hurt a bit - but not as much as you think.

Lamenting the loss of Protection from X? Guess what - it shows up on the Cleric list too - at the same level. Get him a wand. (or your party rogue, warlock or anyone else with UMD) - problem solved. This fix costs you 750gp.

How about Dispel Magic? Guess what - it shows up on the Cleric spell list too - also the Bard's, and also the Druid. The Warlock gets his own version of this too. Someone else in your party can fill this need.

How about those necromancy "no save" debuffs? Guess what - "no save" debuffs are combat spells. You have other combat spells that don't provide a save. Memorize them instead, you keep your versitility. The spells can't be effectively duplicated from other schools - but they can be replaced.

So necromancy/abjuration - you can live without either one - just take your pick of your least favorite of the two. Yes it is a disadvantage - but there is a ton of versitility in just one school of magic - you get the 5 most versitle.

Besides - the "versitility" of the generalist is not all it cracked up to be - I'll get into this later...

Memorizations

The Specialist wizard MUST memorize one spell of his chosen school. A focused Specialist MUST memorize 3 spells of his chosen school.

The key to a decent specialist/focused specialist: In order for the specialization to be optimal - you want to find at least 1 spell in the chosen school of each level you would like to have memorized on a normal day. In order for Focused Specialization to be optimal - you would need to find 3 spells.

There was a time this wasn't very easy for any school. However - every splatbook that had more spells made this easier and easier. Now there are a few schools that are sweet for Focused Specialist.

Lets look at the schools:

Abjuration: Not easy - how many different ways to cast Protection from X, Energy resistance, and Dispelling did you need at one time? For a regular specialist this is difficult - but not terrible. For a Focused Specialist this is just terrible.

Divination: Also not easy. Remember this is the school where you keep one extra school known - and it's easy to see why. Divination spells have use - but how many different ways to look into the other room are going to be of benifit to you. For a regular specialist this is difficult - but not terrible. For a Focused Specialist it is.

Evocation:The hard part with this is not coming up with spells of each level to cast (well - it is a bit), but picking which schools to drop - since this is normally choice #1. You can do quite a bit with force effects - but dropping schools just got a lot more painful. For a regular specialist this is So-So. For a Focused specialist - you will find life tough.

Enchantment: Same problem as with Evocation. With the Beguiler being such a strong option for Enchantment Specialists - maybe you should consider that option. Lots of things are immune to Enchantment - which is going to be a consistant problem for an enchantment specialist. For a regular specialist this is So-So. For a Focused Specialist - just play a Beguiler.

Necromancy: The biggest problem here is that the necromancy list is small. For a regular specialist though - a single spell per level shouldn't be too hard. A Necromancy specialist isn't a bad option. For a Focused specialist - the lack of versitility in the necromancy school will be a hard pill to swallow.

Transmutation:
We just turned a corner. Take a look at the versitility of Transmuation in the PHB alone. We have the polymorph spells (polymorph is HUGELY versitle), we have self-buffing (Fly, Alter Self, Attribute Enhancement), we have Party buffs (Haste, Enlarge spells), we have Save or Lose (Baleful Polymorph, Disintigrate) and more. I can easily find a spell per level in the PHB I would want at any time. If you add the splatbooks - I can easily find 3. This is a Focused Specialist option that maintains versitility.

Illusion:
Illusion is a special case. What can't you do with illusion? - the answer is whatever you can't think of. If you like playing illusionists - you are probably used to casting LOTS of these. In this case - picking 3 illusion spells per level isn't too much - it's just a start.

Conjuration: Here it is. This school is the epitome of versitility. Want save or lose targeting Ref? Want Save or lose targeting Will? Want save or lose targeting Fort? Want Debuffs? Want battlefield control? Want protective spells? Want transportation spells? Want to blast? It's all here - and more. Conjuration has gotten nothing but love in the splatbooks too - so the list grows and grows.

Spells per Day:

Here's what you've probably heard: Don't worry about spell castings per day. All wizards start with scribe scroll, plus with Wands, Staves, and Pearls of Power there are endless ways to get extra castings per day.

So lets look at spells per day Before all that extra stuff comes into play, then we'll get into that - as well as the supposed versitility of generalists:

Note: I'll pretty much ignore level 0 spells for here on. Level 0 spells are OK for minor utility - but the power spread between level 0 and level 1 is pretty significant.

Int is hard to speculate. I figure 18 is pretty standard for level 1 - and items and standard 4 level raises will target INT as priority #1 as leveling occurs.

Lets look at a middle of the road level, Level 9. By this point if your Wizard isn't tough - then you've made a bad choice. You should be either the most powerful character in your party or very close to it by now.

22 is a decent estimate of INT at this point (2 increases and +2 enhancement item - value 4,000 gp)

Lets break this down.

Generalist Wizard castings/day:
Level 1: 6
Level 2: 6
Level 3: 4
Level 4: 3
Level 5: 2

Specialist Wizard castings/day:
Level 1: 7
Level 2: 7
Level 3: 5
Level 4: 4
Level 5: 3

Focused Specialist Wizard castings/day:
Level 1: 8
Level 2: 8
Level 3: 6
Level 4: 5
Level 5: 4

So lets consider the average day. Wake up and do some hr/level casting (Mage armors, and the like) - lets say 3 spells total. Could be more, could be less - just using 3 as an example.

We want to save some for non-combat utility need (rope tricks/teleports etc). Probably 5 is a decent guess. Once again - you may want more, you may want less (probably not much less), but 5 is good enough for the example.

So - now for encounters. How many spells does each wizard have?

Well first - how many encounters do you have per day. DMG says 4 is the standard - but lets face it, usually you don't really know. Sometimes you have some say in the matter - other times you don't. However, DMG says 4 is the standard - so we'll use that for our exercise.

The Generalist has just over 3 spells per encounter. If he's using Celerity or Spell Matrix - even less. He will undoubtedly run out. Even if every spell he memorized is the right one. Also - over 57% of those spells are level 1 or 2 spells!

The Specialist is in better shape. He's got just over 4 per encounter. He will probably run out too - but not as quickly. Furthermore - a higher percentage of the spells he's casting are upper level spells. Still, close to 54% are still of the first two levels.

The Focused Specialist is in the best shape - but by how much? He's got nearly 6 per encounter. He can probably cast every round in every combat without running out (unless there is a greater than average number of encounters). Furthermore - He's got DOUBLE (yes - thats a 100% increase) of his highest level spell (level 5) over the generalist. Still over half the spells he cast are levels 1 or 2, but just over half.

Finally - the Focused specialist is the ONLY choice that would actually get to cast his best level spell in every encounter.

Difference in total castings between the Generalist and Focused Specialist: The Focused Specialist offers a 52% increase in daily spells at this level.

Difference in total castings of the upper level spells (3 through 5) between the Generalist and the Focused Specialist: The focused specialist is offering a 67% increase in the casting of the most potent spells.

Difference in total castings of level 5 spells between the Generalist and Focused Specialist: The focused specialist gets a 100% increase

So - now the question is - do wands/pearls of power/staves make up the difference?

Magic Items:

To stay consistant lets continue looking at level 9.

First Reality: Every time your wizard uses a Scroll, Wand or Staff - he's made himself less powerful forever.

No kidding. Now in perspective - casting a spell off a 1st level wand or scroll is almost non-existant in terms of cost - the higher the spell level - the greater the cost to you.

Look at it this way. Lets say you get pretty much average loot. According to the DMG you can expect your 9th level wizard to have somewhere near 36,000 gp.

So lets say your Generalist wizard decides to pick up a few scrolls to make up the difference in castings/day against a focused specialist:

He goes on a 4 day adventure - the cost of the scrolls: 19,000 gp. So you just blew over half your loot.

Where would the Focused Specialist be? If you said 19,000 gp richer - you would be correct.

Guess what happens with the next 4 day adventure? How about the next? Pretty soon the scrolls are unaffordable. Even if you are scribing your own (lets not even get into XP loss with that)

The problem with this fix is that it works in short term - but it's just not sustainable.

What about Pearls of Power? Just 2 of each level you can cast would make up the difference, and they recharge daily. The cost? 110,000 gp.

No kidding - 110,000 gp! This fix would be sustainable if it was affordable in the first place - it's not. Not even close.

So what are the fixes that really happen?

The fixes that really happen are this:

Reserve Feats: These are wonderful. They give the caster something to do in the round they feel they cannot afford to cast a spell. The effects of Reserve feats are pretty much always worse than actually casting a spell - but they are significantly better than pulling out the crossbow. The effects of a reserve feat have little versitility as well.

First Level Spells: The cost of scrolls, wands, and pearls of power increase exponentially by level. Therefore - if you are content slinging endless first level spells - you can do so at relatively little cost. A 1st level pearl of power is 1,000 gp. A first level scroll is 25 gp, a first level wand is a mere 750 gp.

So the question ends up being: Which is better - a first level spell from any school you want, or a 5th level spell from your specialist school? I think in almost all cases - the latter is true.

Putting it all together:

As promised I will now share why I referred to the versitility of the Generalist as "potential".

A Generalist wizard of 9th level as shown above will have 2 5th level spells. How many schools can he have represented maximum in those two spells? The answer is two.

The Focused Specialist wizard of 9th level as shown above will have 4 5th level spells. How many schools can he have represented maximum in those 4 spells? The answer is two.

Seems to me the Generalist wizard hasn't shown any greater versitility at all. Yes those two spells can be from any school you have represented in your spellbook (another limited resource that skews things even further) - but will those 2 spells represent better versitility than 4 spells chosen from 2 of the best schools? I doubt it - in actuality - probably less.

Allow me to provide an example here.
Lets look at a 9th level Conjuration Focused Specialist. His forbidden Schools are Enchantment, Evocation and Necromancy. His 5th level spells memorized: Teleport, Cloudkill, Wall of Stone and Shadow Evocation. That's a core only list.

Challenge: Show me a Generalist list of 2 5th level spells that has more versitility.

How about 4th level spells? The Generalist wizard will have 3. How many schools can he have represented in those 3 memorizations? Well - 3.

The Focused Specialist will have 5 4th level spells. The maximum number of schools that he can have represented in those 5 memorizations? Well - 3.

So what would the Focused Specialists 4th level spells be? Well - how about Dimension Door, Solid Fog, Summon Monster IV, Greater Invisibility and Polymorph.

Challenge: Show me a list of 3 4th level spells that show more versitility than that.

Now, since we've determined that the supply of 4th and 5th level scrolls and pearls of power is actually pretty slim - the Generalist ends up showing no more versitility on his memorization list than the Focused Specialist.

That's what I mean by "Potential versitility". The generalist has the potential to cast his best spells from any school - but his memorizations limit how many he can have at a time. The potential doesn't end up spilling over into actual gameplay. In the end - the Generalist will have 2-3 spells of his highest level available at any time - meaning at least 5 schools will NOT be represented in his highest level spell slots.

Likelyhood that all 8 schools are represented in his top 2 spell slots - very unlikely. At most levels, impossible. Once you get down in spell slots - it becomes possible over the entire list - but many schools only represented in the lower levels.

Yes, he may have a greater variety of 1st level spells to cast - but the Focused Specialist is casting a lot less of those anyways - he has higher level spells to cast. Every round - every encounter.

The benifits of Focused Specialist are significant. Not only is the increase in castings/day significant - the biggest gains are in the upper level spells.

So the final question is this: These are all hypotheticals and involve speculation of encounters/day, Int scores etc. How does this play out in reality?

The answer -

I've played Wizard Generalists, Wizard Specialists, and multiple Wizard Focused Specialists.

This really plays out...no kidding. I'm no noob - I've been playing this game 25+ years and had a love affair with wizards the whole time - and Focused Specialists are a good option - despite what you may have heard to the contrary.
Other than the Generalist Elf Wizard Sub level, and characters wanting to go into Incanatrix, I've never heard anything bad about the Focused Specialist (I've started planning all my Wizards as Focused Specialists w/ Abrupt Jaunt these days). Its a nice discussion, but why all the hype?

Oh, and a 9th level Wizard w/ more diversity on a 5th level spell: Alacratious Congitation. Or, that feat from Exemplars from Evil that does something similar (that essentially makes Wizards into spontaneous casters).
Wow, a lengthy analysis indeed, Treatnmonklvl20! Nicely done with the calculations and you certainly elaborated well on your point. I think you are on to something, but as I have never played a focused specialist (or even a specialist) I think I'll sit back and watch if someone is going to have any arguments.
lately i was considering a weird kind of ultimate magus, with changeling as a race and the alternative specialization along with focused specialist. That's a whooping 4 schools to drop, but i guess i could give up evocation, enchantment, illusion and necromancy (since i get some key spells from beguiler).

I must say that i would never drop abjuration. I find dropping enchantment, necromancy or illusion a pain, but it doesn't hurt as much as losing dispel magic, one of the most potent series of spells in the whole game. Making wands/staffs out of this is expensive (since they are CL dependant).
Dictum Mortuum's Handbooks - My personal Character Optimization blog. 
Nerdy Meeples - A blog about reviewing and providing strategies on boardgames. 
I always liked it. Most of my Wizards take it, often dropping Enchantment, Necromancy and Abjuration, as I don't use those usually.
Great post. I really have to agree with everything you said.

I'm currently playing a 9th level Gnome Focused Illusionist ---> Shadowcraft Mage with conjuration, enchantment and evocation prohibited as my prohibited schools. To tell the truth the first few levels were somewhat brutal but as of 7th level when Shadow Conjuration was picked up life has become much easier. So many spells per day with tons of diversity. I'm loving it.
lately i was considering a weird kind of ultimate magus, with changeling as a race and the alternative specialization along with focused specialist. That's a whooping 4 schools to drop, but i guess i could give up evocation, enchantment, illusion and necromancy (since i get some key spells from beguiler).

Actually you couldn't give up Illusion as it's one of the Changeling Wizard's specialized schools. You were talking about the racial sub level from RoE, right? So, that would force you to pretty much give up enchantment, evocation, necromancy, and either conjuration or abjuration. The school loss would be tough but probably a really interesting character to play.
Actually you couldn't give up Illusion as it's one of the Changeling Wizard's specialized schools. You were talking about the racial sub level from RoE, right? So, that would force you to pretty much give up enchantment, evocation, necromancy, and either conjuration or abjuration. The school loss would be tough but probably a really interesting character to play.

whoops!

you can't possibly drop conjuration. Or abjuration, that means no dispel, prismatic, protection and dismissal/banishment. Damn it's difficult :P
Dictum Mortuum's Handbooks - My personal Character Optimization blog. 
Nerdy Meeples - A blog about reviewing and providing strategies on boardgames. 
A very good analysis. However, you're missing one very glaring point: if you're going to give up versatility permanently - and you have to admit, you are, as you can't even use wands, scrolls, or staves, let alone decide that tomorrow you -will- in fact prepare that mage armor after all (having dropped Abjuration, as an example) - for more spells/day, why lock your spells/day into one casting each, or reduce your number of unique spells/day by preparing multiple copies of the same spell?

Basically, no matter how many spells/day your focussed specialist gets, a Sorcerer will have more given the same casting stat. The obvious exception (and you've chosen your example well to illustrate it) being at odd levels. A ninth level sorcerer with a 22 cha will have 5 4th level spells/day, and know 2. The maximum number of schools represented? 2. One fewer than the focussed specialist. The focussed specialist -can- have 5 -different- spells prepared (3 from his specialist school), but if he does, he'd best need each of them, and not more than once each. By your analysis, we've established that pearls of power for this level of spell aren't practical at this level.

Where your wizard wins is in 5th level spells. The sorcerer doesn't have any yet. That puts the focussed specialist 4 5th level spells up on the sorcerer. And it -is- very hard for the sorcerer to make up this discrepancy. Just having 4 more spells/day is impressive. The fact that they're a level higher than the sorc can even cast makes it ungodly. But let's look at it again: Unless you have fewer than 5 spells that were redundant at lower level, or your 5th level spells can suffice in place of spells you didn't have enough of in your lower-level slots, then you don't -really- have more spells useful per day.

"But wait! The sorcerer has to KNOW the spells, so he won't have useful ones, either!" is the common reply. And it's true, the sorcerer -does- have to know the proper spell, because unlike the wizard, he doesn't have the luxury of even changing his spelllist tomorrow, let alone today. However, the sorcerer also only needs -one- spell known at each level that is useful in presented situations; he can cast the useful spell as many times as he has slots, and if others weren't as useful today, so be it. The wizard's effective slots/day are greatly reduced by their (and their players') prescience. Generically useful spells can only carry you so far; if the generically useful spell for a given situation is needed more than once, you'd best have those pearls of power ready, because you needed the -other- generically useful spells in case of other situations.

*cough*

Anyway. That's generic to the old sorc/wiz debate. Nobody really claims sorcerers are more powerful than wizards (largely due to the combination of abilities that give back -some- of the spontaneous versatility to the wizard and the fact prepped casters get a spell level one level sooner than do spontcasters), but I have to take exception when specialists are brought up. You're giving up, as a specialist, one of the biggest things to recommend a wizard over a sorcerer, to get almost as many spells/day as a sorcerer has.

This problem becomes worse with the Focussed Specialist, who has as many spells/day as the sorc has slots (at least at even levels). On paper, the Focussed Specialist wins at odd levels. Equivalent spells/day of the sorc's highest level spells, and 4-5 spells of a spell level the sorc just doesn't get. But what has he given up? Let's assume he's not a diviner. He's given up *3* schools of magic. Sure, Conjuration can mimic some of them very well, but it's still no replacement. And it's not just the same old argument about prepared casters not having the right spell -today-; when you've given up 3 schools, you won't have it tomorrow, next week, or TODAY in staff/wand/scroll form.

High-level spells in spell trigger/completion form are expensive. But never being able to use them is moreso. The sorcerer gives up versatility of knowledge for immediate versatility of spontcasting. The Focussed Specialist gives up versatility of -ability- for increased numbers of less-than-versatile prepared slots, but does at least retain higher level spells. So he half-wins at odd levels. But honestly, if I'm going to limit my spells known, I'd rather not cut 3 whole schools out of my ability to use wands/staves/scrolls in case my party needs them. I'd rather those extra slots/day be fully useful, as long as even -one- of the spells I know at that level is useful, rather than hoping I didn't guess wrong and prepare too many of the one Conjuration spell and not enough of the Transmutation one I need. I'd rather be a sorcerer than a Focused Specialist, even if I might see why a Specialist or Generalist is better than a sorcerer in many circumstances.

Of course, there's still the last point: Your party cleric can make up for all the spells that the focussed specialist just can't cast; most of the best ones will be on his list, and he can have a wand/scroll/staff for the rarer ones.

But really, if that's your argument... "Play a Druid."

---------------------

P.S. One -good- use for a Focussed Specialist might be Ultimate Magus. Sorc/FSpecialist going into that class can be built to have all the spells he gives up on his FSpec. side on his sorc side. Or at least, all the really useful ones. And just -having- sorc puts all those spell trigger/completion items back into his hands. So there is, perhaps, our best solution, and a valid use for the Focussed Specialist that doesn't beg the question of "Why not a sorc?"
Nice Analysis. I can see a few minor faults where things are worded in your favor, but nothing that detracts from the final point very much.

One thing though; it all assumes a fast-paced 'get there once, finish the area, move on' play style. A generalist might have potential that goes untapped if they don't have the right spells prepared at the right time, but when a problem is really worth solving and you aren't in a rush, they can always come back with exactly the right spell for a situation. Depends on your game, I guess; more time to plan and advance information at your disposal means leaning more towards a generalist, more fast-paced action leans towards the specialist.


whoops!

you can't possibly drop conjuration. Or abjuration, that means no dispel, prismatic, protection and dismissal/banishment. Damn it's difficult :P

Beguiler gets Dispels too, though. The rest is useful, but relatively circumstantial.
Why in God's name would you drop Abjuration when you can drop Illusion instead?

Also, without abjuration you can't cast Magic Circle against X, and that means you can't make good use of Planar Binding.
Very interesting. I almost never play specialist wizards, and wouldn't have even considered playing a focused specialist before this. I would consider it now.

With the groups I used to play with, we never had 4 encounters per day. It was always less than that. So having a few more spell slots just didn't make up for the loss of multiple schools of magic.

With the group I've been playing with recently, we actually do have several encounters per in-game rest day, often 4 or more. I always use almost all of my power points with my psion, which in terms of spell slots per day is about the same as a generalist wizard I think. If the psion bites the bullet, I might make a focused specialist just to try it out, perhaps a Sorc/FSpec/Ultimate Magus, or Focused Illusionist/Shadowcraft Mage. :D
A very good analysis. However, you're missing one very glaring point: if you're going to give up versatility permanently - and you have to admit, you are, as you can't even use wands, scrolls, or staves, let alone decide that tomorrow you -will- in fact prepare that mage armor after all (having dropped Abjuration, as an example) - for more spells/day, why lock your spells/day into one casting each, or reduce your number of unique spells/day by preparing multiple copies of the same spell?

Mage armor is conjuration....
Food for thought.

Not sure I agree on some of your points but in general interesting.

The biggest thing I disagree with is your treatment of Magic items:

1.) Temporary magic items: Making money as a wizard is trivial, therefore reducing your current wealth by using temporary items is not problematic, as long as the DM is amenable to you refilling your coffers via hired casting or spell tricks.
2.) Low level spells: While your high level spells are going to be the one-shot combat enders -outside of combat, most of your utility spells will remain low level (with the obvious exceptions of things like S.Monster & teleport).
I will never play a wizard in my DM's game, he has this habbit of harming my spell book at lower levels. And waking up in a prison after a long hard battle where you used most of your spells and whats that.. Your book if 4 levels up after fighting your way through th dungeon? PFfft let me have my sorc! And sometimes I like to play a war mage just for the ability to do more dmg than anyone else :P sucky maybe, fun? Yes.
Excellent analysis, and I agree with all your points. The F Specialist is excellent for many games. The big drawback as I see it has to do with item creation. Even if you can fill your spellbook with excellent Conjuration, Illusion and Transmutation spells (and you are totally right, you can), each school you lose cuts a big list of potentially craftable items from your party's inventory.

I admit, that isn't important in every game, but it is another factor to consider aside from how many encounters per day your DM throws at you.

Also, aside from Ultimate Magus, Focused specialist benefits greatly from all the dual casting prestige classes (Arcane Hierophant, Mystic Theurge). Dropping Abjuration is a no-brainer if you can still cast all those spells on the divine side. That is also one of the big +s of Focused Specialist over Sorcerer, you spend less levels qualifying for your target prestige classes.
Don't forget those 3 LEoF feats that can get you a school of magic back
Something to point out is that generalists get the Elven racial sub level from RotW, bringing their spells/day up to the level of a non-focused specialist.
Something to point out is that generalists get the Elven racial sub level from RotW, bringing their spells/day up to the level of a non-focused specialist.

But you have to play an elf. I hate elves. :P
But you have to play an elf. I hate elves. :P

They may be tree-hugging pansies, but they sure make decent wizards (assuming you're a Grey/Sun Elf, of course).
They may be tree-hugging pansies, but they sure make decent wizards (assuming you're a Grey/Sun Elf, of course).

It's not the tree-hugging part that I dislike. It's mostly the 2 points of con. I also don't like the 99 subraces. They're like the Baskin Robbins of D&D. I agree that the ones with an Int bonus do make good wizards, though.
Long story short--with your calculations, the specialist wizard at that level gets 4 spells per fight. Even accounting for long-duration buffs, do you really cast four spells every fight? If my wizard just went through four spells, that means this fight is seriously tough stuff and we're in trouble if we keep getting more such encounters. I might cast Glitterdust, Grease, and Silent Image one fight and Ray of Enfeeblement and Ray of Exhaustion the next, but I'm definitely not casting every turn. If I feel the desperate need to do something every turn I'll take a reserve feat.

And that's neglecting scrolls. Scrolls are great. Mirror Image? I made some scrolls. Silent Image? Same. It's also with the "save five spell slots for utility spells". That's a LOT. I'd rather just leave a couple of spell slots open, if I'm worried about that, and fill them in 15 minutes when it's time.


"Drop Necromancy," you say. "There's other no-save spells." Well, sure, but they're not over-the-top debuffs like Empowered Ray of Exhaustion followed by Split Ray of Enfeeblement, or Empowered Split Ray Enervation. Oh, hey, what's this in the Spell Compendium? Avasculate... ouch, that's nasty.

The issue, also, isn't "can you think of three conjuration spells per level you want to have?" The issue is, wouldn't you like to have more than one or two non-conjuration spells memorized? Well, you can't.

If you're playing a Focused Specialist, you could go ahead and be a sorcerer. Your versatility will be about the same (fixed list vs. so many banned schools).
It's not the tree-hugging part that I dislike. It's mostly the 2 points of con. I also don't like the 99 subraces. They're like the Baskin Robbins of D&D.

Given back by Dragonborn of Bahamut, along with some other goodies.
Can't argue about their being too many Elf subraces though.
There are actually more Dwarven subraces, if you count all the books. Someone counted.
To illustrate my point: what would you normally memorize, ideally, as soon as you got... oh... fifth level spells? Overland Flight, Greater Blink, and Baleful Polymorph are good choices. Hey, those happen to be Transmutation! You're a Focused Conjurer. Tough luck. And at fourth level, let's say it's Black Tentacles, Confusion/Fear, and Greater Invisibility. Conjuration, Enchantment/Necromancy, Illusion. Your second level slots, you want, oh, two Glitterdusts, an Alter Self, a Mirror Image, a Rope Trick... doesn't fit with focused specialization either.
[QUOTE=LogicNinja;14341432
If you're playing a Focused Specialist, you could go ahead and be a sorcerer. Your versatility will be about the same (fixed list vs. so many banned schools).
After reading over everything, I have to agree with that ... unless there is some reason you want INT instead of CHA as your main stat (and can't be a generalist from UA).
I'm with LogicNinja on this one.
Obviously, you need a different play style if going that way. You can't think like a generalist and hope to be prepared for any situation; What you can do, with your mastery of your school, is set the terms of the engagement to your specifications.

Transmutation/Conjuration? Change the scene.
Illusion? They wouldn't know what hit 'em.
Evoker? Strike first and strike hard!
Divintaion? What don't you know?!

Also, it's not like being a sorcerer; You get to pick different spells, and I do.
Focused Specialist Conjuration or Transmutation might not be a bad idea...
The thing I can't get over is having to drop Abjuration, Illusion, or Necromancy. There's just too many good spells in those three schools.
Before I say anything else: "Thank you."

That said. I agree with some of your comments, and been informed with some new ideas from your post, and out right disagree on some points, but over all; a well thought out and excellent post.

You should really have a comparison for Elf Generalist wizards (RoW), but your comparison doesn't not include Feats, Items, Race, and mostly sticks to core. Granted an Elf Generalist does have one up over normal wizards your comparison is applicable to "every" race and build, which allows your character to be versatile in areas other then spell selection.

I personally would never drop abjuration. Granted many of the spells you mentioned "CAN" be cast by other classes, doesn't mean you shouldn't prepare them yourself. Dispel magic alone is worth all of abjuration and worth it to be prepared for when "you" need to cast it. Not when the cleric is ready. Assuming the other 3 in your party are casters at all.

Also Focused Specialists do lack versitility and spell selection if you pick the "Wrong" schools. So it's more of a case of "Focused Specialists are really good, so long as you remeber that XXX XXX and XXX." Where as generalist wizards can correct any mistakes in 24 hours. You can't take back prohibited schools.

Before I ramble further, excellent post, in fact: It’s book marked.
For the record, I wouldn't be a generalist that isn't an elf. That sub level is awesome.
For the record, I wouldn't be a generalist that isn't an elf. That sub level is awesome.

Yes it is awesome. However, 1 extra spell of your highest level doesn't completely change the scene. It makes an elven generalist somewhat more appealing, but not much more appealing. And personally, any race I picture wearing tights most of the time, I have a hard time playing.

A focused specialist is NOT able to be played like a generalist. It pretty much, as for playstyle, is a cross between a sorc and a wizard.

Another advantage of a focused specialist over a generalist is the extra room to put in metamagic spells and still put in many of the basics. For example, necromancy is greatly helped out by this, as the spell list is small you will need to make the most of it.

In short, a focused specialist isn't like a generalist that is expected to always have the right spell for the right job. Instead, a focused specialist is effective in the times where they don't have the perfect spell through the sheer number of spells they can pump out. In this, they are much like sorcs with a lot more variety in their spells known.

The point of this thread is that a focused specialist doesn't suck, like I've heard so many claim, if you pick the right school, think ahead, and want to play that sort of extremely focused wizard.
Yes it is awesome. However, 1 extra spell of your highest level doesn't completely change the scene. It makes an elven generalist somewhat more appealing, but not much more appealing. And personally, any race I picture wearing tights most of the time, I have a hard time playing.

A focused specialist is NOT able to be played like a generalist. It pretty much, as for playstyle, is a cross between a sorc and a wizard.

Another advantage of a focused specialist over a generalist is the extra room to put in metamagic spells and still put in many of the basics. For example, necromancy is greatly helped out by this, as the spell list is small you will need to make the most of it.

In short, a focused specialist isn't like a generalist that is expected to always have the right spell for the right job. Instead, a focused specialist is effective in the times where they don't have the perfect spell through the sheer number of spells they can pump out. In this, they are much like sorcs with a lot more variety in their spells known.

The point of this thread is that a focused specialist doesn't suck, like I've heard so many claim, if you pick the right school, think ahead, and want to play that sort of extremely focused wizard.

I was just noting that I'd play a diviner over a generalist non elf. I will probably never be able to give up necromancy or abjuration.
I will probably never be able to give up necromancy or abjuration.

Yeah, me neither as necromancy forms a great synthesis with other schools and trying to get past SR with wands is extremely hard (assuming the focused specialist has the umd or another class that allows them to even use wands). I probably would give up illusion as those are the spells I tend to cast the least. Being without at least one dispell seems like asking for trouble.
Yeah, me neither as necromancy forms a great synthesis with other schools and trying to get past SR with wands is extremely hard (assuming the focused specialist has the umd or another class that allows them to even use wands). I probably would give up illusion as those are the spells I tend to cast the least. Being without at least one dispell seems like asking for trouble.

Illusion is handy too...
Color spray, blur, invisibility, displacement, greater invisibility, seeming, shadow walk, greater shadow evocation, similacrum, shades.
I'd say it depends quite a bit on your build and the situations you find yourself in.

Still, I think the way strong characters are designed tends to favor Focused Specialists. If we assume that each school of magic is equally good to begin with, but 50% better in certain situations, and every 2 levels a class feature or feat is acquired that enhances all spells to a moderate degree, or one school to a high degree, and all these things stack, then how long will it take for the school of magic you're focusing on to overpower all other schools in all situations ?

The best example I can think of is the Shadowcraft Mage; Your illusion spells will be so strong and so versatile I can't imagine anyone wanting to prepare more than one or two non-illusion spells.

Another good example is any type of gish - You're going to lean heavily towards a certain style of spell anyways (usually buffs and utility) and often times you don't really care what spell is in a slot as you'll be burning many of them for Arcane Strike and possibly Arcane Wrath, and Mystic Phoenix Stance (Arcane Wrath and Strike will generally do several times the damage of the Evocation spell you could have cast with those two slots).
If we assume that each school of magic is equally good to begin with, but 50% better in certain situations, and every 2 levels a class feature or feat is acquired that enhances all spells to a moderate degree, or one school to a high degree, and all these things stack, then how long will it take for the school of magic you're focusing on to overpower all other schools in all situations ?

Assumptions are great for optimizing...
Wow - lots of reponses in the last 8 hours. Thanks everyone for your input! I'll address some of the comments:

(poster's comments have been abbreviated - if you feel I misrepresented you - let me know and I'll do an edit - and my apologies!)

Segev_Stormlord points out that the FS will not be able to use spell trigger items from the prohibited schools.

He's right - that is a "con" to taking that route. However - I would challenge you to look at your most recent wizards' character sheet and see how many different schools are represented in those spell trigger items. If he's not high level - probably not that many. Can you find 3 missing schools? That's all you need.

He also points out that Sorcerers get more spells/level at all levels except odd ones.

Not true actually. They get more spells then Specialist wizards - but focused specialist wizards get the same number in the even levels and more in the odd levels (so have more spells overall). This is because they have access to higher level spells then Sorcerers at those odd levels.

He also points out that a generalist can wake up tomorrow and prepare the mage armor he didn't prepare today - but a FS without abjuration can't.

As pointed out - Mage Armor is conjuration. Now I would normally ignore this, as you could have used a different example (say Shield) - but I think it's important to point out that Mage Armor is protective magic - so you would think it's abjuration - but it's conjuration (I think even designers made this mistake with the Abjurant Champion). Want natural armor? Well - that will be a Transmutation spell. The thing is that lots of spells have similar spells in other schools. Can't memorize shield? Well - memorize mage armor instead for a similar effect....

R4za points out that some of the arguments are worded in my favor.

Absolutely. This was an essay specifically made to support my theory. I purposely worded it to support my theory. It's intended to provoke discussion and challenge current "accepted truths", not replace them. Read with a grain of salt. I believe Focused Specialist to be a viable option - but not the only option.

Snizor points out that an Elf substitution level from RoTW gives the same benifits of specialization to a generalist.

Not true. That substitution level gives you 1 more spell memorization. Specialization gives you one more spell memorization for every level of spell you can cast. Now it's nice that the ability gives that memorization in your highest level spell - but also remember that substitution levels are never free.

Logicninja heavily disagrees with me. (I knew you would). We've had this debate before on another thread involving whether a 6th level conjurer should consider FS.

He also points out that it's not whether you can think of three conjuration spells you want to memorize, but can you think of more than 2 non-conjuration spells you want to memorize.

I did examine this argument in the post. Now I kept the argument to upper level spells - and did not deal with if you didn't want to memorize any conjuration spells at a particular level...I encourage everyone to look at the lists carefully before you make a decision about FS.

He points out you should consider playing a Sorcerer if you want that many castings/day.

I would suggest that FS and Sorcerer are two entirely different playing experiences.

FS gets:

Spell level increase at same levels as other wizards, Prepared Casting, Scribe Scroll, Int based casting, Bonus feats every 5 levels, and more spells/day, Wizard skill list, easier PrC qualification, spellbook based casting with a potential of - well, many hundreds of spells in it - reality - probably about as many as any other wizard.

Sorcerer gets spontaneous casting off a limited list. I would suggest FS has more in common with other wizards than sorcerers.

He points out that Scrolls can make up for those lost castings.

I dealt with this in the post - and he didn't really address what I wrote - if he disagrees with that - hopefully he will address it specifically so I can respond.

He points out that Necromancy spells are hard to replace.

I agree - I did aknowledge that. If Necromancy is a school you plan to memorize so many spells from (sounds like RoEx, ER, RoEn, Avasculate). Then you should drop a different school for sure. You've just mentioned a good percentage of a generalists total castings per day. Certainly more than a fifth. If you are going to have all those spells prepared - you can certainly find 3 other schools to drop.

He points out that for 5th level spells you may want to memorize Overland Flight, Greater Blink and Baleful Polymorph - and a FS conjurer can't.

True - I assume you are talking to my 9th level example? Guess what - the generalist can't either - since that's more spells then he could cast. He could memorize 2 and he's done.

The FS on the other hand -
Baleful Polymorph - Save or lose Fort Based - Coudkill will fill a similar niche
Greater Blink - I have Abrubt Jaunt - this is redundant for me, but I'll stack up with a Greater Dimension Door anyways for versitility of use.
Overland Flight - in a few levels I'll do Phantom Steed instead - for now I'll memorize this.

And I'll raise you a teleport spell on top of those 3. Which one of those 3 is your Generalist not going to memorize?

Archrpwr and Zarzak agree with Logicninja

Can't fly in the face of conventional wisdom without conventional wisdom biting back.

CantripN points out that Sorcerers don't get to pick different spells to memorize, and that a FS needs to be played differently than a generalist.

Thanks for the backup!

A Few Different Posters suggest illusion might be easier to drop then Abjuration.

Perhaps - as long as you take Craft Contingency that could work out decently as well. Illusion can be difficult to duplicate - but lots of wizards don't use it much irregardless.

However - although Dispel magic is "one of the most powerful spells in the game" is there any reason you don't think the Cleric/Druid/Bard/Warlock can handle the dispel magic job? Their caster level should be as good as yours...

Planar Binding can still be done as well. Get the Cleric to draw you up a Magic Circle vs X. Nowhere in Planar Binding does it imply you must cast this spell yourself.

Also - I do appreciate the feedback from everyone - including those who disagree, this is intended to provoke discussion and consideration - not be blindly accepted. Thanks to all who have responded thus far!

Also - if you made a comment you would have liked me to address and I didn't - let me know - either with another reply or a PM - I probably just missed it.
Illusion is handy too...
Color spray, blur, invisibility, displacement, greater invisibility, seeming, shadow walk, greater shadow evocation, similacrum, shades.

You forgot Mirror Image. That spell by itself is enough to make me not want to drop that school.

Silent Image is also extremely useful, even at the later levels of the game, since it is only a 1st level spell. It also works great in scrolls, as the duration is Concentration, and against alot of things you make with it, they won't even get a save at all.

As long as there is a cleric in the party, I'd probably drop Abjuration before either Necromancy or Illusion.
Assumptions are great for optimizing...

Tell me it isn't true in the two examples I've given.
Tell me it isn't true in the two examples I've given.

Shadowcraft mage is an exception among spellcasters.
Gishes are warriors first and spellcasters second. Of course they won't miss another school if it means more transmutation.
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