I have always liked the idea of specialist wizards, but have never really been fond of the implementation. A couple barred schools of magic (only one if specializing in Divination, because it sucks), in exchange for an extra spell slot per spell level and a +2 bonus to Spellcraft checks relating to spells of the specialized school. As I recall the AD&D Second Edition specialist wizard was ever so slightly more school-specific, but not enough to really matter.
It might be possible to get more formulaic and boring, but if that happens I’d prefer to not see it.
I’ve long wanted to run a campaign where all wizards were expected to be specialists, and really want to for my West Marches-style sandbox campaign. I don’t have the heart to make my players take on the lame implementation from the core rules. I’ve taken a couple of runs at improving the situation but never got around to wrapping it up. At some point I’ll dig through the archives to post here what I had written. I remember there being a prestige class solution (that was never really completed) and a feat-based solution (that had a lot of feats that could encourage or help specialization) that never got tried for real. Neither of these mandated specialization, they merely rewarded it.
I want to see specialist wizards that are notably different from each other. They are based on the same framework, but do somewhat different things.
There are a few sources of inspiration (or at least ideas) that could help here.
- Unearthed Arcana provides some tools to help with this, alternate class abilities suitable for specialists that take the place of standard or specialist abilities. The bonus feats, familiar, and bonus spell slots are all subject to replacement with these new abilities. I don’t necessarily like all of the suggested abilities, but they do provide a starting point.
- The Dragonlance core book has the White, Red, and Black Robe wizards. Each group specializes in different schools of magic and must choose from specific opposed schools, and at higher levels they may specialize in two schools of magic (at a total cost of three or four barred schools). I will likely want to review this material later.
For now I’m leaning toward the meta-class approach, using the wizard class as a framework for building actual specialist classes. A character may be a member of only one of these classes and may not be a generalist wizard.