The Schools of Magic in D&D 5e is a system mostly designed to organize spells. It groups all magic into one of eight categories:
For a complete guide for each type of magic, just click on the link above for the school you are looking for!
Magic is an essential element in any fantasy story or game, and Dungeons and Dragons is no exception. But if you’re anything like me, magic has been nothing more than another mechanic to manage. and Schools of magic?
That sounds like something your wizard PC has to worry about. All you as the DM need to know is how to thwart–I mean, create challenges suitable for your magically inclined players.
But magic should be, well, magical, and as DMs, it is our job to help create that sense of wonder for the players who come to our tables. We should aspire to bring the fantastical to life, and one way of doing that is by understanding the different ways that magic affects your world.
As with anything in D&D, magic is subjective to your vision. You are the DM, you get to decide how you want magic to function. There is no hard science behind the made-up laws of a fictional game.
But having an understanding of how magic was designed to work in the world of Dungeons and Dragons will help us to create an engaging environment for our players to escape to when we gather around the table (or virtual table).
Fortunately for us, there are plenty of resources out there to call on. Wizards of the Coast has kindly put together a system of magic that is conveniently organized into eight simple, helpful, easy-to-remember, not-at-all-confusing schools of magic.
Maybe not so easy to remember.
For those of you like me, who have to frantically google “schools of magic” every time your doe-eyed warlock innocently spams detect magic in every room of your carefully planned magic-trapped filled dungeon, this guide is for you.
Hopefully, it will give your games advantage as you bring magic to life at your table!
The Difference Between “Raw Magic” and “The Weave”
Before we take the full dive into each of the different schools of magic, I’d like to take a moment to talk about Raw Magic and the Weave. It is, pun absolutely intended, the blanket approach to understanding magic in D&D.
The Weave is the barrier between Raw Magic and the realms. Raw Magic, as defined by the Players Handbook on page 205, is “the stuff of creation.” It is the energy of existence, dwelling in every molecule in all of creation. It permeates all matter, and all things that exist do so because of Raw Magic.
We mere mortals don’t get to play with Raw Magic. Suffice to say, we’re not worthy and bad things happen to those who try. Instead, our magically inclined characters cast their spells by manipulating the Weave, the invisible force of magic that separates mortals from the well of Raw Magic.
The Weave has been described in many ways. The most common descriptions I came across referred to it as a blanket, a barrier, a fabric, or a web. Like a layer of snow, the Weave covers everything in the multiverse.
It is a force of energy that can be grasped and manipulated by those who have the inclination to try. All casters access the Weave differently, but all casters cast by the Weave.
If you really want to mess with your players, consider wrinkling the Weave a little. It is entirely possible to disrupt the Weave and, therefore, disrupt magic.
The Weave can be broken, torn, even destroyed. Magical catastrophes, warzones, and the like can cause significant damage to the fabric of magic.
Such places can either be magical ‘dead zones’ or fonts of unpredictable surges of Wild Magic. The possibilities for randomness and chaos are endless, and for me personally, too tempting not to play with.
Arcane Magic in D&D 5e
To further break down the system of magic in D&D 5e, casters are categorized into two types, The first of which are known as Arcane mages.
Arcane Magic is cast by those who study the Weave and learn how to pull on the threads of magic. Classically, these are your wizards, bards, artificers, and so on. Anyone who learns magic through study practices the Arcane arts.
Depending on how into the details your players like to get, this can create a multitude of role-play opportunities.
Sure, we can just make our wizards deduct the proper amount of gold and say they learned their spell during their downtime. But what if they meet a wizened old hermit, instead?
What if there is a whole sidequest devoted to the tracking down of a dying sage to learn the final secrets of their most infamous spell?
And yeah, that spell might just be fireball on paper, but how much more rewarding would it be to learn fireball from a quirky NPC who made you answer riddles and hunt down weird spell components first?
It takes a D&D cliche and turns it into an epic story-telling moment, one that might just stick with your players throughout the campaign.
Divine Magic in D&D 5e
Casters who practice Divine Magic are those who are given the ability to touch the Weave by higher powers. Clerics, paladins, even druids and rangers, are all considered Divine magic users.
Unlike the Arcane magician, the Divine mage taps into the weave through the power of their faith and devotion. To some, this devotion is to their deity. Through prayer and supplication, they work in tandem with their god to influence the world with magic.
Others might grasp the Weave through their devotion to a sacred oath or calling. Their belief in their purpose or mission grants them magic. Whatever it may be, the Divine Mage is granted the power to see the world changed.
Just like with the Arcane classes, there is plenty of opportunity to work this mechanic into your story. In a recent game I ran, my players were leveling up to level 3. The paladin in my party had already ‘taken her oath’ in her backstory, so I didn’t want to make her repeat it when she took her subclass. Instead, I gave her a dream sequence, where an avatar of her deity came and spoke to her. He bestowed greater powers on her to face the challenges that were coming her way.
I could have just said, ‘as you get more experience you discover you have new powers,’ but where is the fun in that? By using my player’s unique story and the mechanics of magic, I was able to create an engaging story moment that made her feel specially called to the mission at hand.
There is a lot that can be done by flavoring the player’s particular style of magic to their experience in the game. As we look further at the way magic manifests, we’ll find even more details we can pull on to shape our worlds.
The Schools of Magic in D&D 5e
The Schools of Magic in D&D 5e is a system mostly designed to organize spells. It groups all magic into one of eight categories. It’s kind of like the taxonomy classification in the real world, and honestly at times, just as arbitrary. Like the platypus, there are a lot of spells that seem to fit into more than one category. It is best to consider it “more of a guideline.”
If we’re being completely honest, the schools of magic aren’t usually relevant except in certain niche scenarios, such as wizard subclasses or trying to discern the use of a mysterious magic item. At least, those are the only scenarios I’ve encountered the need to google ‘schools of magic’ for.
But we’re not just DMs, we’re great DMs, and the more we know, the more flavor we can add to the worlds we create. We can use the Schools of Magic to add all sorts of layers and textures to our game that will wow our players and send them away starry-eyed.
Or, more likely, be completely ignored by our players who just want to roll the damage on their Fireball…like seriously are these zombies charred to smithereens yet? Why are we still talking about the smell of sulfur and singed hair? Let’s get on with the monster-slaying already!
Oookay…maybe that’s just my experience…But for those of you out there interested in painting with fine details, who are blessed with players who appreciate fine details, let’s break down the schools of magic!
To get a full, deep dive into each school of magic, simply click the link below for the school you are interested in! It will open the article in a new window so you can keep this article up and explore schools of magic to your heart’s content!
Until next time, my friends,
May your game, have advantage!