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PHBR4 The Complete Wizard's Handbook (2e)

If you thought all wizards were alike, think again! The masters of magic now have a new guide to creating more interesting and imaginative mages, just when you thought you had them figured out. The Complete Wizard's Handbook will put a whole new twist on wizards, from personality and dress codes to schools of magic to building that dream laboratory.
Look out, world - you'll never look at a mage the same way again!
Product History

The Complete Wizard's Handbook (1990), by a nearly uncredited Rick Swan, is a solid and tremendously useful supplement for 2nd edition AD&D wizards. It's interesting to see how these original Complete books continue to set the pattern for wizardly D&D supplements today: new options, new class expansions and customizations, and new spells. If you're playing a 2nd edition spellcaster, this is a book you'll want to have.

Schooling the Opposition. The book begins with a comprehensive discussion of the schools of magic, a subject touched on only briefly in earlier editions of D&D (mostly through the illusionist). Here, the concept of specialist casters of all types comes sharply into focus. With benefits and significant trade-offs, specialized wizards turned out to be remarkably balanced in play. The major downside seemed to be in the paucity of divination spells for the school of Lesser Divination, which made it difficult to have a particularly cool and effective diviner.
The Complete Wizard's Handbook starts by exploring each specialty, identifying the most useful spells and schools and discussing the typical personalities of each specialty's typical membership. There's also a chapter for creating brand new schools, although I doubt these guidelines got much use in actual play.

Ten Kits to a New Wizard. The wizard kits offered are surprisingly straighforward, hewing toward classic archetypes without much of the idiosyncratic and unique style that will permeate later wizard customization. Choices include the academician, amazon sorceress, anagakok (an arctic or desert shaman), militant wizard, mystic, patrician, peasant wizard, savage wizard, witch, and wu jen. Several of these do an excellent job of breaking traditional stereotypes; the peasant wizard, for instance, is a hero of the people who stays magic-item poor as he battles the upper classes. I'm not sure I'd bet on him in a fight against a patrician, but it's a nice riff on traditional magic-users. Interestingly, t
he witch becomes the model for 3e's sorcerers, using a powerful extraplanar patron to gain power.

Following the kits is a chapter on role-playing, suggesting ten wizard personalities (such as the "intimidator" or the "mystery man"), eleven wizardly careers (such as advisor, trader, or alchemist), and various methods for integrating wizards and arcane magic more thoroughly in your campaign world.

Spelling Bee. A huge amount of space, of course, is dedicated to spellcasting. Tactics for combat, casting spells underwater or in other planes, and casting spells while blind or tied up are all discussed. Tactics and explanations or existing spells are given, adjudicating illusions are discussed in detail, and spell research is explored. The new spells are particularly interesting, giving us instant-classic spells such as chromatic orb, ghoul touch, delay death, Otiluke's dispelling screen, Mordenkainen's private sanctum, and Rary's telepathic bond.

Random, Fascinating Lists. Possibly my favorite portion of the book is the last chapter, filled with short lists of random magical ideas: 25 Helpful Familiars, 5 Incredible Locations, 12 New Magic Items, 5 Debilitating Afflictions... Much of the whimsy and creative wonder that is somewhat missing from elsewhere in the book can be found here.

If you're playing a 2e wizard, The Complete Wizard's Handbook is tremendously useful. It's a model for later supplements, a source of wizardly inspiration, and a solid base for expanding the wizard class.

About the Creators. Rick Swan is the author of The Complete Guide to Role-Playing Games and wrote material for Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and core AD&D. He once wrote an adventure (Nightmare Keep) that takes place entirely inside the body of a massive undead lich. Not everyone can say that.

About the Product Historian

History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
jon L August 20, 2022 12:50 pm UTC
I wish these were available in print format, I cannot always access PDF during games.
Customer avatar
Nicholas P July 13, 2021 9:55 pm UTC
POD please
Customer avatar
Sean C May 09, 2021 2:43 pm UTC
I would 100% certainly buy if there were a Print on Demand option.
Customer avatar
Daniel H February 09, 2021 1:13 am UTC
Please make all the "Complete" books available as Print on Demand.
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Platinum seller
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TSR 2115
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File Last Updated:
September 21, 2013
This title was added to our catalog on April 02, 2013.