Here’s our look at some of the best D&D books with mages, wizards, sorcerers, and more.
Wizards are perhaps the most iconic of the character classes of Dungeons and Dragons. For good or ill, they’re what most non-players think of when they describe role-playing games. While wizards are certainly quite powerful, they don’t always get as much actual attention as they deserve. It might be because the concept of a wizard is so deeply ingrained into fantasy works or because they’re difficult to do right, but many D&D books keep wizards in the background.
The books below, though, all bring wizards to the forefront. Through a variety of means, they help to flesh out the role of the wizard and how these characters can work within this fictional universe.
D&D Books Featuring Mages, Sorcerers, and Wizards
- Realms of Magic Anthology
- Elminster: Making of a Mage
- Red Magic
- The Summoning
- Elminster Must Die
Realms of Magic Anthology (1995)
As you might expect from the name, this particular anthology goes pretty hard on the magical end of things. The concept of this book is that it comes from the personal file of Volo, a minor wizard from the Forgotten Realms setting. What it manages to do fairly well is to take a wide look at the wizards, magical items, and other spell-related issues that tend to make the world of Dungeons and Dragons so special.
There’s not really another book in the D&D library that covers this much breadth, at least not when it comes to wizards. The stories within the anthology are also written by some of the biggest names in D&D, ranging from Ed Greenwood to R.A. Salvatore. It’s a must-read if you are a fan of Forgotten Realms, wizardry, or just Dungeons & Dragons character classes in general. While none of the stories are quite as deep as you might like, the sheer scope of what you’ll read makes this book more than worth the time of anyone interested in the magic of Dungeons and Dragons.
Elminster: Making of a Mage (2011)
Ed Greenwood’s signature character Elminster is going to show up on this list quite a bit, and for good reason. He’s the go-to name in good wizards in the D&D world, sticking around for far longer than the books that featured him managed to stay on the shelves. Making of Mage is the first major book to really explain the character of Elminster, giving a great look at his background and the work that goes into making a mage.
Though it’s a little lighter on the magic than one might hope, it’s the best insight into the most memorable mage in the setting. There’s a lot to unpack here and it’s a part of an ongoing series, but it’s worth a read even if you don’t know much about Elminster. It sets up a few ongoing threads that aren’t just fun to read about, but that can make fairly good fodder for a game set in the pre-Spellplague Dungeons and Dragons world.
Red Magic (1991)
Red Magic is an interesting book (written by Jean Rabe) because it gives a close look at one of the more common concepts in Dungeons and Dragons – a nation ruled by magic-wielders. The book largely takes place in a nation that’s ruled by wizards, one from each school of magic. It gives a good deal of insight into what makes each school different from the others and what would make a person choose to follow one path rather than taking another option.
This is also a Harpers book, so it’s got a fair bit of intrigue. While the wizards are mostly in an antagonistic role here, it’s still one of the better overall books to feature magic as a main motivating force. This is a must-read for anyone who plays a spell-user in an ongoing campaign, if only because of how well it manages to bring the differing schools of magic to life. The plot itself may not be the best within the series, but there are certainly moments that are worth the price of the book.
The Summoning (2011)
If you’ve ever wondered how disruptive magic can be to the world of Dungeons and Dragons, this book by Troy Denning is for you. The central plot surrounds not only the emergence of new magic (and new sorcerors) into Toril, but the reaction of the existing wizards to the change in their world. It’s very easy for writers to forget that even wizard characters can be taken aback by new information, so it’s nice to see a book that portrays wizards as a little more mortal than normal.
While this book doesn’t have a wizard as the main character, it does feature quite a few wizards in the supporting cast – including an appearance by Elminster himself. It’s the perfect sort of book for examining magic and the way wizards interact with it, if not necessarily wizards as characters themselves. It’s definitely well-written, though, and a must-read for the insights it brings.
Elminster Must Die (2010)
Ed Greenwood’s Elminster books are always going to be the gold standard for wizard books in Dungeons and Dragons. It’s not that other authors haven’t made great wizard characters, because they have. Rather, it’s because Elminster managed to gain so much popularity that’s he’s really the shorthand explanation for virtually every other wizard that has come after him. Elminster Must Die takes the character and manages to craft a fantastic story around him.
Interestingly, this book works because it strips Elminster of much of his power. It’s a portrait of the wizard as an old man, one who might be a little more confident about his choices than he should be. It’s good to see Elminster in real jeopardy from something that isn’t necessarily world-shaking in this book, though he’s back to his old form soon enough. From a pure character standpoint, this might be the best Elminster has ever been.
It’s a bit of a shock to see Elminster in the manner he was originally conceived. If Elminster Must Die is a portrait of the wizard at the end of his life, this is a story of a wizard in his prime. He’s absurdly powerful, witty, charming, and handsome. He’s got the ability to cast amazing spells and keep his wits about him at the same time. In short, he’s the type of wizard that every player wants to roll up and that every reader wants to follow. Best of all, he’s not even technically the main character of this story.
If you want a book by Ed Greenwood about how a wizard can interact with the rest of a party, this is where you should start. It’s a little dated by this point and it’s colored by what Elminster will become later, but it’s still the kind of read that’s worthwhile. This is one of the best books for looking at how a wizard works with others and how to play a wizard character in an effective manner during a real campaign.
Another fairly common wizard trope in Dungeons and Dragons is the idea of an ageless wizard. These wizards tend to be very powerful and very mysterious, which is unfortunately often code for them being very underdeveloped. This is, however, not the case in Blackstaff by Steven E. Schend. This is a book that really dives deep into the idea of being an ageless, limitless master of magic by not only looking at what that kind of person does in his or her daily life but the types of burdens that he or she bears because of that kind of power.
As a novel, Blackstaff is actually quite good. Schend manages to build some strong characters and makes the idea of this type of power believable within the setting. It works best, though, as a kind of plotting guide for Dungeons Masters and writers who want to tackle that same type of characters in their own work. This is as much a guide for creating a nigh-omnipotent mage as it is a good novel, so definitely give it a look if you’re attempting to create a mage at the higher end of the power scale.
Wizards aren’t always old men with cloak and staves. They’re often incredibly frightening creatures, especially to those who don’t wield the same types of power. If you’re writing in a setting that has a lower level of magic or you want to make an intriguing antagonist for your setting, this book is a fantastic guide. This is a book about the raw power of a wizard and the terrifying effects that it can have on a life.
Magic is at the heart of this series, of course, but it’s not treated as an afterthought. Figuring out what happens when someone comes into magic and how they’d use it to survive is an interesting lens through which to examine the D&D world. While there are plenty of tales of evil wizards in Toril, this book by James P. Davis is perhaps the best tale of someone who takes magic use to its logical conclusion.
One of the major shortcomings of wizard fiction is that it tends to show wizards as fairly established. They are usually defined by some kind of outside force, generally a hierarchy of other wizards. Unfortunately, this does not describe the average wizard in a Dungeons and Dragons game. While there is plenty written about wizards as part of a party, this might be the best book for describing what a wizard would be like when adventuring out on her own. It’s a great read that really brings the nature of a magic-user into sharp focus.
Darkvision by Bruce R. Cordell is a great look at a wizard as an adventurer. It showcases the kind of person who would be both capable of learning spells and capable of breaking away from the authority that usually goes along with that type of ability. If you’re looking to create a story involving a wizard on his or her own, this should be the template. Ususi tracks down the relics that brought both prosperity and doom to her people. But when an old adversary finds her trail, she discovers the danger she thought past might only be beginning.
This is another one of those great stories that show how a wizard can work with a party of other adventurers. In Frostfell, readers get to see the wizard as a party leader. Oddly, this isn’t something that happens too often – wizards are usually kept in the background because they’re too powerful to really deal with on a narrative level. Frostfell manages to make this work by upping the stakes and putting in the hard work of making the wizard very relatable.
Frostfell by Mark Sehestedt manages to also be a great book linking up some other great works about wizards. It’s one of those novels that doesn’t necessarily feel like it is going to have a huge impact on its own, but that tends to work better when you know everything that surrounds it. If you want to read about the wizard as a leader, this is where you should start. Only fools find themselves at Winterkeep after the first snowfall. The cold alone can kill, if you live long enough, and dangers far worse haunt the ruined keep in winter.
The Soulforge (2011)
The Soulforge by Margaret Weis is the novel that gives the backstory of D&D’s other truly famous wizard, Raistlin. He’s a memorable Dragonlance character. This is the story not only of the hard work and sacrifices that it takes to become a wizard but of what happens when someone who is ill-suited for power attains quite a bit of it through the traditional channels. Raistlin is at times an outright villain in the Dragonlance world, but this book does a lot to show why he manages to be such a sympathetic character.
This is the story of what happens when a wizard falls. Raistlin’s story works not because he’s an irredeemable character, but rather because of a series of choices made over a long period of time. He’s the type of character that most would love to have in their campaigns, so it’s worthwhile to take notes when reading this book. As Raistlin draws near his goal of becoming a wizard, he must first take the Dread Test in the Tower of High Sorcery. It will change his life forever.
D&D Books With Wizards
These D&D books do a fantastic job of bringing wizards to life. They are all actually fantastic stories on their own, but taken together they give players and DMs a much better idea of what a wizard was intended to be in the games. Whether you’re looking for fallen wizards, trickster mages, or just magic users who have learned to make the most out of their powers, you’ll find them all here. While many D&D novels may contain wizards, these Dungeons & Dragons books actually do them justice.