Hogwarts Wizards and How to Build Them

Welcome to the Gibbering Mouth article for February 26th, 2014. Today’s article is a World Building exercise; the topic is Harry Potter.

 So about three weeks ago I got sucked into a debate on a friend’s Facebook page. (Sorry Owen!) The topic? Harry Potter. Or specifically, whether or not Harry Potter’s world was compatible with Dungeons and Dragons. The person whom I was arguing with was adamant that Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons are completely different entities and are absolutely incompatible with one another.

 Folks, when you state grand generalities like this anywhere (least of all the internet), you’re just BEGGING for a fanboy like me to completely and utterly prove you wrong. So, let’s play a game of Wizards & Witches in this installment of World Building!

Background

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

I’m not sure how much I need to talk about Harry Potter’s world before we dive into this, but I’ll give some background information anyway. In the series, witches and wizards are real, as are most of the magical creatures that haunt our legends and stories. This magical world is kept secret from muggles, or non-magical folk, by a complex series of laws enforced by a governmental body called the Ministry of Magic. Roughly 11 years prior to the start of the first book the wizarding world is being dominated by a group of dark wizards that call themselves “Death Eaters” by virtue of their leader, Lord Voldemort. Upon learning of a prophecy that foretells his destruction at the hands of a newborn babe, our titular hero, Voldemort resolves to slaughter the entire family. Harry’s parents die trying to save him, and their sacrifice causes Voldemort’s dark magic to rebound upon him, destroying him instantly. Many parties are had and young Harry is shipped off to his dastardly muggle relatives’ home to be raised “normally.” That is, if “normal” is being forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs. Although they desperately try to “bore” the magic out of him, Harry learns of his heritage and goes off to a wizarding school to be trained in the arts of magic.

 I think that’s enough to catch you guys up to speed! Let’s begin!

Qualities of the World

So, what does the Wizarding World of Harry Potter need to be authentic? Let’s take a look.

  • High Magic. Obviously, magic is a huge part of this world. That said, we never see divine magic in this world; only arcane. That adds to the danger of the setting, as healing magic is harder to come across. From what we see of the world, students who graduate from Hogwarts have an extremely high proficiency with magic by D&D standards.
  • Young Characters. The world should heavily focus on young people as “leveling characters.” Be prepared to play children in this world.
  • Mythic. Mythic rules are a necessity in this campaign because of the high-leveled nature of the world.
  • Limited Races. Human and several half-blood races are the only racial options in the world.
  • Everyone is Magic. This is likely to be the most controversial aspect of the setting; the fact that every playable character has to be a wizard of some kind. After all, playing a muggle in Harry Potter’s world is rather pointless.

 All right, so with all of this in mind, let’s get the basic ground rules completed.

Races of Harry Potter

I’m going to be referring to the following products in this section: Advanced Race Guide, Ultimate Psionics.

  • Human: As standard Pathfinder humans. This race covers muggles, half-muggles, and magical folk.
  • Half-Giant: Use the half-giant race from Ultimate Psionics but trade the naturally psionic, half-giant psionics, and psionic aptitude racial traits for Toughness as a bonus feat.
  • Half-Vetala: Use the changeling race from the Advanced Race Guide but they must always take the object of desire alternate racial trait. 

Classes of Harry Potter

All PCs in the campaign (and all non-muggle NPCs) are gestalt characters. This functions as follows:

  • Youth: All 1st level characters begin play as 1st level adepts. These adepts do not earn XP; instead, track the number of successful RP or combat encounters the player completes. After completing four encounters (fast XP track), five encounters (medium XP track), or six encounters (slow XP track), the character trades its adept level for its first level in its magical class and one level in a gestalt class of its choice (see below) and can begin earning XP normally.
  • Magical Class: After completing its adept requirement (see above) a character selects one of the following arcane spellcasting classes to function as its magical class: arcanist, sorcerer, or wizard. Once this choice has been made, it cannot be changed.
  • Gestalt: Each time a character gains a level, she gains class features and spells per day as though she gained a level in her chosen magical class plus the class features of a second class chosen from the following list: alchemist, bard, brawler, fighter, magus, rogue, or swashbuckler. For each level attained, she gains the better between both classes’ base attack bonus, Hit Die, skill points per level, and saving throw bonuses as well as the class skills and class features of both classes. A character is not required to continue advancing in her secondary class; she chooses which secondary class she advances on a level-by-level basis. This gestalt class can be a prestige class if the character meets the prestige class’s requirements. At the GM’s decision, this list can be expanded to include any of the following classes: barbarian, bloodrager, or ranger.
  • Character Level: A character’s level is always equal to her magical class level. Class features that require levels in a specific class (such as a cavalier’s challenge) use the number of times she selected that class as her secondary class as her class level.
  • Favored Class: A character’s magical class is never her favored class; she receives favored class benefits for selecting the same gestalt class multiple times. 

Other Rules

Here are some other rules that I would consider using in a Harry Potter setting.

  • Attaining one’s first level in an NPC class does not remove the Youth age category; the character is a youth until he or she ages enough to be considered an adult for her race.
  • Brew Potion has a prerequisite of caster level 1 instead of caster level 3.
  • All arcane spells have an arcane spell focus in addition to any other focuses the spell possesses; a baton that is attuned to the spell’s caster.
  • The bard, bloodrager, magus, and ranger classes do not possess their own spells per day; instead they add all spells on their class’s spell list that they are capable of casting to the sorcerer/wizard spell list. For example, a 4th level bard with a Charisma of 12 or better adds all 1st and 2nd level bard spells to the sorcerer/wizard spell list. Levels of alchemist grant the character extracts per day as usual.
  • All 1st level characters begin play as Youths; see Ultimate Campaign for rules regarding this new age category. 

World Flavor

Last, but certainly not least, here are some notes on how the World Flavor of the Harry Potter world can be accomplished.

  • All 1st year students at Hogwarts are Youths. The maximum level a Hogwarts student can possess is equal to double her year. For example, 1st year students have a maximum level of two, 2nd year students have a maximum level of four, and so on.
  • 1st year students enter Hogwarts as 1st level adepts and progress out of this NPC class as described under the Classes of Harry Potter section.
  • A typical adult wizard’s class level is 14th.
  • Powerful wizards such as Dumbledore and Voldemort should be designed with mythic tiers; the Harry Potter world is a high-magic setting.
  • Many magic items are discounted anywhere from 25% to 75%; such as flying broomsticks (flight at will); the GM should use her judgment. 

Closing Thoughts

Is this a perfect solution to building the Harry Potter world? Probably not. It is perfectly balanced? Heck no, but in my eyes the Harry Potter world should be a high-powered magical setting first and foremost. It shouldn’t look or feel like a typical Pathfinder game because at its heart, it isn’t. This is a world where magic is the norm, where people can fly across the ocean on enchanted broomsticks or teleport miles away using magic dust. This article was designed to show that this setting can be built using Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragon rules because at heart nothing is incompatible with these games. These games are nothing more than rules that GMs twist, bend, and alter to suit their needs. They are compatible with everything as long as you have the patience and creativity to make them work for you.

And that about wraps up my thoughts on Harry Potter’s world for this installment of World Building. What did you think of my suggestions? Do these rules make for a faithful adaptation of the Harry Potter world, or am I stretching the limits of the Pathfinder system too far here? Is this something you would want to try at home, or is the heavy emphasis on magic too much for you? What other worlds should I look at adapting to Pathfinder? Leave your answers and comments below and stay classy!

 Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune wizard, and his favorite pastime is wasting his life getting into fandom debates with people he doesn’t know on Facebook.  

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6 thoughts on “Hogwarts Wizards and How to Build Them

  1. I dont really care about Harry Potter, but I really like the idea of Arcane Gestalt I always wanted to run a 3.5 game were every character had that kind of Gestalt (never got around to it) I think it looks like what I have seen in the few harry potter movies I have seen
    Great as always

  2. First, I should mention, I’m sort of a Harry Potter nut and I spend much of my free time reading Harry Potter Fan-fiction. So when the topic of Harry Potter comes up, I get kind of obsessive.

    For the most part, I think this is an interesting direction, and technically works, but still has some trouble modeling things from the Harry Potter universe. For example, Avada Kedavra kills every time, without fail (with the exception of Harry) and is unblockable except for a physical barrier (like raising a stone wall). While some spells can mimic it (Finger of Death) you would have to incorporate some sort of house rule that removes the saving throw from such spells.

    Personally, were I to design a Harry Potter adaptation of Pathfinder, I would have taken a much different route and designed the game around the Avada Kedavra spell. My personal thought is that the Harry Potter world is more like an E4 (instead of E6) type of game, and the Avada Kedavra spell is a maximized Enervation. This would allow for a single, unstoppable spell to kill any character in the game. The only ‘spell’ that stops it is Death Ward, but that’s on the Cleric list and every one is playing an Arcane caster (Witch would not be an available class).

    Now, I personally subscribe to the theory that Lily did something to Harry to hallow him to survive. In Pathfinder context, this could be something like using a Scroll of Wish or Scroll of Spell Turning or something to that effect, both of which would probably fall under the clause of ‘old magick’ that Voldemort should have foreseen.

    I would take a guess that most people only gain between 5 and 9 levels in their life, most of which is done while attending Hogwarts. This would allow access to the vast majority of things seen in the Harry Potter world (teleport is a 5th level spell available at 9th level). It would also explain many aspects of the Harry Potter world (for example, why so many people prefer to take Portkeys, the Knight Bus, or Floo instead of apparating to the World Cup).

    So to sum it up:
    You continue to gain levels, but not hit die after level 4, instead gaining bonus HP.
    Most NPCs are between level 5 and 9.
    Divine spell casting (and the Witch class) are not available.

    With those three little rules, one should easily be able to run a ‘Harry Potter’ Pathfinder game. Here are some examples of characters in the above system.

    Hagrid is a ‘half-giant’ (giant template Dwarf with magic resistant racial trait) with 3 levels of Sorcerer (giant bloodline) and 5 levels of expert (grounds keeper).
    Hermione is a Wizard of at least 10th level (at least 9th by the end of the 6th book). Very smart, very clever, but she’s not very good at improvising.
    Ron is a Sorcerer with the Arcane bloodline. He’s got some power in him, but he’s not very bright. He makes it to 10th by the end of the 6th book as he is capable of apparating.
    Harry is a Sorcerer with the Destined bloodline. He makes it to at least 10th by the time Dumbledore takes him horcrux hunting.
    Bill Weasly, the curse breaker, is an arcanist. I’d peg him at around 11th level which gives him plenty of power, and plenty of options.

    I, personally, would peg Voldemort at 15th-ish level with Dumbledore higher level than that. I personally subscribe to the thought that Dumbledore was more powerful than Voldemort, and then he was also wielding the Elder Wand. Keep in mind that Dumbledore was able to defeat Grindlewald in a duel (a very powerful wizard in his own right) while Grindelwald was wielding the Elder Wand. Also, look back at the 5th book when Dumbledore and Voldemort duel. The whole time he was extremely calm and confident, the only time he was afraid was when Voldemort attempted to possess Harry.

    Anyway, I think I’ve done enough ‘nerding out’ here; I’m going to wrap it up and end it because I could go all day talking about Harry Potter.

    • @Joey Thanks for the nice words!

      @Darrel Whoa nelly, I’m going to try to address as much as I can.

      First, and I think this is an important note for everyone (not just Darrel), the goal here was to use existing Pathfinder Rules with as little modification as possible to build the Harry Potter world. I didn’t bother with making oodles of Wizard archetypes for that very reason; I wanted this to be more like a recipe then a set of perfectly formulated instructions.

      On Avada Kedarva, I think it words well as finger of death for several reasons. In Book Four, we hear Mad-Eye laugh at Harry, claiming, “Even if you knew yelled the words at me as loudly as you could, I doubt I’d get so much as a nosebleed.” In my interpretation, this means that spells like Avada Kedarva DO have a saving throw, but through some means Voldemort and his followers have pumped up the Fortitude save to be so high that it is nearly impossible to resist. Through means such as Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus, the Arcane bloodline (Voledmort IS a half-blood), terrifying his opponents with the shaken condition for a –2 on his opponent’s saving throws, and possibly Heighten Spell you can pretty much guarantee that a spell like this is going to go off. Especially when you’re clearly a Sorcerer 20 / Archmage 10 character (mind you, my opinion again.). 😉

      Your other points are all good ones, though. It sounds like you enjoyed the article!

      • I did indeed enjoy the article, as it kind of makes me want to run a Harry Potter style game. Although such a game would require extensive re-writes, no matter how you choose to do it.

        I just don’t like the fact that Finger of Death has a 5% chance of making the save, and even then, isn’t assured of killing a person if they have enough HP. Where as, with the Killing Curse, you have only two methods of surviving it: Don’t get hit, or raise a physical barrier. Harry Potter and Voldemort not-with-standing.

  3. Redhurst Academy of Magic is an old d20 setting book that might be of interest to anyone who wants to run a HP style campaign but with a bit more D&D in it. It’s an excellent flavorful book though it would profit immensely from rules adaptions like you outlined above…

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