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Character Check: Exploring the Courser Mage (Wizard Subclass)

Character Check: Exploring the Courser Mage (Wizard Subclass)

The Courser Mage, from Margreve Player’s Guide, is an arcane tradition that trains tirelessly to weave their magic into powerful arrows, delivering a barrage of the arcane from the shadows. These wizards are some of the most unique in the world of Midgard but can be used in any campaign setting. Read on to learn the mysteries of this subclass and why they might be the frontrunner as your next character choice.

Defining Spellcaster Subclasses and Abilities: Why a Wizard?

When you choose to play a wizard in 5th Edition, you’re choosing to play one of the most iconic and powerful spellcasters the game has ever seen. And whether you’re a longtime player or someone brand new to tabletop roleplaying games altogether, the immediate curiosity that the wizard class draws out of people is undeniable.

And while some players call wizards “glass cannons” (a name referring to a wizard’s ability to blast hard but shatter when hit), they are arguably one of the most underestimated classes in the game. Wizards are masters of the arcane and have the largest spell list of any of the spellcasting classes due to their intense study and use of spellbooks.

Another benefit of being a wizard is the way they handle the rules for ritual casting: other spellcasting classes, like bards, clerics, and druids, can cast spells as ritual spells but only for spells they already have prepared for the day.

Not wizards. For wizards who are ritual casting, they only need to have the ritual spell written in their spellbook and don’t have to have it prepared. This means that the wizard not only has access to the most spells overall as they progress, but they can also cast those spells as rituals at a moment’s notice, giving them loads of versatility.

Those are just some of the reasons that a wizard is one of the strongest choices as a spellcaster in 5th Edition. But if you’re looking for a subclass that takes everything amazing about a wizard to an entirely different place—a place of stalking and hunting in the darkest, most treacherous shadows—then the arcane tradition of the Courser Mage may be for you.

Mysteries of the Courser Mage: A Subclass of Trope Subversion

When you imagine a wizard, you may conjure images of a figure clad in robes and wielding a staff, their long gray beard tossing about as they spew spells from an open tome. If that’s what you’re imagining when we talk about the Courser Mage subclass, think again.

If you want to envision the Courser Mage, you’ll have to look beyond that robe-clad wizard into a shadowed corner of the same room. Picture a pair of perfectly aimed, glowing arrows bursting from the darkness—one piercing the bearded figure’s spellbook, the other making purchase deep in their turned back. That’s the Courser Mage. Firing arrows from deep shadows, felling their prey. When you play a Courser Mage, you are a character who revels in the thrill of the hunt among the shadow fey and who has mastered the art of imbuing your arrows with hard-won magical secrets before sending them sailing.

So now that we know that the Courser Mage arcane tradition sets out to subvert the classic tropes of the wizard, let’s explore some inventive ways you can envision the subclass to make it a character that excites you.

Your Arcane Focus is Your Bow

A primary pillar of the Courser Mage is their bow from which they loose magical arrows. So how handy would it be if that could also double as your Wizard’s arcane focus?

If you’re familiar with the rules of an arcane focus, you know that this is a special item that’s specifically designed to channel the power of magic. And for all of you especially experienced players out there who just said, “A bow can’t be an arcane focus,” out loud, you’re not technically wrong… but hear me out before you Google “what can be a spellcasting focus 5e”, “arcane focus 5e bow” or some other such term.

If the GM will allow it because it’s interesting narratively, you’re all set—an arcane focus that’s a weapon isn’t typically game-breaking, case closed. But if your GM still needs a little convincing, there’s some precedent of a weapon being an arcane focus.

This concept was discussed and given a pseudo-official answer from the D&D 5e developers on Twitter. When directly asked about the arcane focus of a druid being a quarterstaff weapon, one of the lead devs simply replied with “yes.” (Probably wouldn’t hold up in court, but it’s likely something that a GM on the fence would appreciate.)

But there’s another piece of information that could inform the decision of whether or not a bow could be an arcane focus, and it’s drawn from the lore and abilities of the Courser Mage. At 2nd level, this wizard subclass gains proficiency with bows as well as the skill of being able to perform spells that involve somatic hand motions when holding a bow. Maybe when this ability is gained, when your character reaches 2nd level, the option to use your bow as an arcane focus is unlocked as well. In this scenario, it feels like it was earned and arguably makes more narrative sense.

No matter what, the GM’s ruling is final, but it’s worth a discussion to make your Courser Mage feel different than a more academic wizard.

Your Spellbook is a Monster Hunter’s Guide

In the Margreve Player’s Guide, the Courser Mage is described as being “a tradition more focused on stalking prey than reading dozens of books.” And while that might be true, what if instead we changed the kinds of books they’re interested in. Let’s make our Courser Mage spellbook an old-fashioned monster-hunting journal penned by your character as they stalk their foes.

Your spellbook could be accounts of the battles you’ve fought and won… and even some that you’ve lost. With each foe you encounter or defeat, you recount the battle with diagrams and scrawlings in your spellbook, learning and writing the perfect spell to help you in similar situations in the future.

The Courser Mage is described as a wizard who typically chooses “more subtle spells that aid in finding or hiding from their enemies,” so this could work well with the existing lore. This is purely for flavorful roleplay, but it’s yet another way that the Courser Mage can feel unique and thematic as a wizard.

Will the Courser Mage Be Your Next Character?

Are you looking to stalk in the shadows and use your magic to strike with unmatched precision? Does the sound of hunting your quarry send your blood hammering through your veins with excitement? Do you want to imbue your arrows with surging magical energy? Do you want to be able to turn invisible to the creatures you’re hunting? (Seriously! And as soon as 2nd Level!) If your answer was yes to even one of these questions, then take a walk in the shadows, and consider making your next adventurer a Courser Mage from the Margreve Player’s Guide.

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