Storytelling, Tabletop and Pop Culture
Over the next few weeks I’m going to be kicking off a new series called “Classy” showcasing some subclasses that I’ve made for various friends or PC’s over the last few years. First up is this special Wizard subclass. This one has a special place in my homebrew heart. It's the first homebrew subclass I made for 5E at the request of one of my youth group players. He was looking for something with vibes similar to Arifureta or Reincarnated as a Slime for our isekai homebrew campaign.
So the School of Consumption was born. The subclass's biggest shift from the classic Wizard schools is the level 2 feature Visceral Learning. This totally tosses the classic spellbook and scribing system (a major DM commitment I'll discuss more below). Instead, in addition to the spells normally added through leveling and character creation, a wizard of this school has to defeat and consume parts of monsters and magical creatures to try to learn new spells (with a scaling difficulty of 10 + Spell Level). Instead of memorizing spells from a book they “prepare” spells by warping their bodies to emulate the magical monsters they have fought.
The later features lean into the flexibility of the mutating theme, with short term flexible bonuses off of 1st level or higher spells and long term variable bonuses that can be adjusted during rests. The level 10 Manifest Hunger provides a damaging aura that is exceptionally lethal but can be just as dangerous to friends as foes.
Themes and Reskinning
The default lore implied in the subclass description comes from the grim body horror vibes of the original PC. But the mechanics themselves are relatively neutral beyond defeat monsters, learn spells and mutation based spell casting. The Phagemancers make for an excellent dark horror themed addition to any lore, including setting up a grotesque villainous wizard cult you can easily stick in a sewer, cave, ruin or even the shadows of a Wizard society or school. Truly unhinged Phagemancers might even be killing and consuming sentient spellcasters for power (hopefully just the evil NPCs though).
That being said, you can totally adjust this for your world. If you want to be super cute and wholesome, drop the consuming element entirely. Instead they just have to defeat the enemy. Make them a blue mage/mimic type character who researches magic creature abilities and very awkwardly emulates them. Imagine a kid wizard roaring and stomping like a little white dragon and then breathing out icy fingers (like Final Fantasy VI’s Gau). Or a very prim older David Attenborough type who makes detached observations during combat then does an awkward Siren come hither dance to cast charm person. If you want to land somewhere in the middle you could have magic creatures/users drop an item that is consumed or have the Wizard absorb some kind of essence or memory from defeated foes.
Monsters and Spells
The biggest boon and greatest difficulty for this class is pairing magical creatures and spells available. Before bringing this subclass to the table, definitely talk this over with your DM and make sure they’re willing to work with that subsystem.
For the DM’s, you don’t have to overthink this element too much. Creatures with specific magic abilities are easy choices, if a creature casts a spell or replicates it with an ability they can likely provide that spell. If the CR doesn't match well with the spell level feel free to choose something similar but level appropriate. A displacer beast is CR 3, a perfect match for learning the level 2 Blur and a perfect incentive to send your party out hunting. A CR ¼ Zombie is way too weak to teach Animate Dead but a great choice for False Life. It's also always fair to just say "you can't learn anything from this particular creature."
You can make these learning opportunities as frequent or rare as you’d like, you can also tie them to specific creatures or make choices ad hoc on the fly. To avoid dealing with it continuously you could also remove the Intelligence check to learn a new spell but limit the spells to specific special creatures the Wizard has to hunt down.
Learning via Consumption is more difficult than using scrolls but also doesn't have a built in gp cost to the PC. If you’re running with random magic item charts or published adventures consider replacing some of the Wizard spell scrolls/spellbooks with opportunities for learning new spells.
Here’s a partial list of spells and monsters to help you get started.
Longstrider - Dire Wolf
Blur - Displacer Beast
Misty Step - Blink Dog
Cause Fear - Scarecrow, Flying Death
Burning Hands - Magma Mephit, Hell Hound
Scorching Ray - Flameskull
Fireball - Fire Elemental
Mage Armor - Animated Armor, Iron Defender,
Color Spray - Faerie Dragon
Charm Person - Harpy
Disguise Self - Doppelganger
Alter Self - Any lycanthrope
Frost Fingers, Ice Knife - Winter Wolf, Ice Mephit, Ice Toad, Ice Spider
Earth Tremor - Mud Mephit, Dust Mephit
Fog Cloud - Steam Mephit, Smoke Mephit
Grease - Boggle
Expeditious Retreat - Quickling
Magic Missile - Gazer
Web - Giant Spider
Blindness/Deafness - Blindhelm
So what are your thoughts? Are there any balance tweaks you'd make? Are there any abilities you wish it had? And how would you flavor this for your own character? Do you want to go full grim body horror or something a little more cartoony? Let us know in the comments and come back next time for the Blood Domain Cleric!
Hi! I'm Colby. DM, Nerd, IRL Cleric and Writer.