While certainly a staple of more mainstream fantasy TTRPG games like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, Wizards also pop up in games like Dungeon World, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and many others as a character class option, are the bread and butter of all things fantasy including books, movies, and video games. However, in most cases, Wizards are all stuck with having to spend hours and hours learning their spells and transcribing them in their spell books and onto scrolls, so how can you really set your Wizard character apart from all the other Wizards out there when they all essentially do the same things? Here are some tips for you to make your Wizard the most memorable magic user on every game night.
When it comes to Wizard characters, think of all the wizards you've ever seen depicted in various media. Most of them have no doubt been old guys with beards, and have no doubt been human or at least looked human - Merlin, Dumbledore, Gandalf, etc. To start building your own unique Wizard, try going with one of the races (if your TTRPG has them) that are less often associated with being a magic using Wizard other than, say, a human or an elf (although you can still make your wizard unique later on if you go with one of those Wizard basic races). Instead, try being a goblin, dwarf, or even an orc. The key to this initial decision about your character is not basing your entire concept around stat maximization. Instead, focus on the amount of fun you think you'd have with any given character and don't worry about not getting to use an 18 for your best attribute and having to use a 16 instead because of racial bonuses and penalties. If your particular TTRPG doesn't have race/ancestry/heritage/lineage as a game mechanic, then simply go against type for the character you'd have the most fun playing. Make sure they're really short or have some other unique quirk about them. It will go a long way to make your own Wizard stand out from the rest of the pack without even getting into other areas of the character aside from basic appearance. Another thing you could do is give them odd hairstyles or hair color, missing limbs, make them a non-standard age (like a teenager or someone in their 20's) for a Wizard, give them strange birthmarks, or even give them one eye. Your DM/GM will tell you what they will allow or not allow, so don't worry.
Say what you will about the Harry Potter universe, but love it or hate it, one thing that led to its success in part was the faction system it used for its wizarding school, Hogwarts. People find joy in having an identity in real life within factions that exist in various organizations such as religion or organized sports, for example people who love the New England Patriots and don Patriots merchandise while they watch the game to feel a part of the larger fan base. So when Harry Potter used this tactic with Houses Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, and Ravenclaw, everyone interested in the franchise was wondering what "house" they belonged to in their own real lives. Game of Thrones also did this in a way, with House Stark, House Targaryen, etc and people loved to speculate on which house they would belong to if they lived in the world of Game of Thrones. What you should really do to connect with people on that level in your party is latch on to a school specialization that your TTRPG Wizard has for a particular type of magic. Does your wizard specialize in fire spells? Maybe they're an ice mage? To make your character unique, really lean into one of these specializations (and some TTRPGs actually require this and include it in their game mechanics) and try to make it a core aspect of your character's identity. This can also eventually help inform your character's style and outward appearance. Maybe if you decide to become a fire mage, your character dresses in red or dyes their hair red or your eyes glow a bright red at all times due to some magical ancestry in your bloodline. Or maybe if you specialize in illusion magic you wear lots of glass trinkets that reflect light in strange ways, or your eyes randomly change color while people are talking to you. Again, your DM/GM will decide what to allow, and in most cases if it's solely aesthetic and won't affect game play, it shouldn't be an issue so feel free to use your imagination. The key takeaway for this step is to come out of it with a clear concept of your character.
Now that you've ironed out the basic concept and beginning details about your Wizard character, you'll want to just continue fleshing out the concept fully, really setting in stone your particular aesthetical flavor. One way to continue doing this is to think of some unique way you cast your spells, or unique ways in which your spells manifest. Most players will say to the DM/GM that they "cast" a particular spell, and then that DM/GM will describe what happens. If you want to make your Wizard memorable, consider ways in which your character might cast your spells and really describe and embellish the process and effect, so it sticks in the minds of your friends around the table. For example, instead of simply declaring "I cast Fireball" - you could instead say "Amaranth extends her arms, smirks, and her fingers spark to life a massive ball of fire which extends outwards at terrific speeds and leaves a blue/purple trail of heat in its wake." You could also give your Wizard character a unique take on an Arcane Focus if you're playing D&D or, if not, something equivalent in the TTRPG you're playing. Instead of a wand, maybe they use a conch horn passed down through generations of their family. Or, maybe a set of stones gifted by a traveling druid that are said to have magical properties. As such, a different Wizard concept could be "Julius lifts his Druidstones (just giving a unique name to an Arcane Focus) and speaks in tongues until a massive fireball crackles in his palm and then fires off into the Orc horde." This step is basically giving flavor to game mechanics to slightly set them apart from everyone else who might be casting Fireball that turn.
Now that you've fleshed out your Wizard character and you've given them a magical expertise which fills a unique niche in the party, it's time to add finishing touches. Let's just say that you made a Dwarf Wizard named Kurdu specializing in ice magic. Being an ice mage, he wears a dark blue robe, and his beard and eyebrows are constantly covered in icicles and his skin is cold to the touch. Whenever he casts his spells, anyone witnessing Kurdu can see that as he speaks the vocal components of the spells, you can see his breath steaming. As Kurdu casts spells, the air around him turns to a light snow. All of this should be allowed because it's all aesthetic and doesn't affect game mechanics. Finally, whenever Kurdu casts an ice spell, the ice has a sea green color to it and is extremely pristine looking. Without changing a thing in terms of mechanics, we've set Kurdu apart from your average ice mage and have made him much more memorable. If you have fun describing your character casting spells, it will come through so much more with your creativity.
How do you flavor your own spells or Wizard classes in your TTRPGs? Do you like these ideas? Do you have any more? Let us know in the comments below! - Joe