Backgrounds are pretty neat, but they tend to be pretty mundane. 5th Edition, by and large, is encompassed by a world of fantasy rife with magic and the supernatural.
But what of when magic fails? Other than those to whom magic comes naturally as with sorcerers, or those granted power as with Warlocks and Clerics, Wizards must learn. Wizardry in particular is a rigorous field that one must seek out and master. Your specific setting might have wizardry academies or cloistered wizards that carefully choose single inheritors. but there will always be those that take up the call of magic, and fail.
New Background- Failed Magician
You came to be an apprentice, but it never took. Whether you just never had the knack, or you squandered your opportunity for arcane might through a series of bad choices or mistakes, you were rejected and turned away from magic while in the middle of your training. You know enough to get you in trouble, and this rudimentary but incomplete knowledge has proven to be more of a liability at times.
Your new path fills you with enthusiasm, but you can still harken back to the times scrubbing out old potion bottles or attempting to read from an animate book, and can recite rudimentary magical principals with ease, though this does not mean anything without a more thorough background in magic.
There is perhaps a wizard academy or cabal that resents you for spurning the gift of magic, or you may be marked by some strange magical aura that highlights the shame inherent in failing at the pursuit of magic. This tends to manifest itself as an immediate recognition by other mages that you were once meant for a life of magic. You either find kinship with other magic users, or rue their eccentric ways.
To your other companions, you might either hide that part of your life, or underscore your past by regaling them with the story of your excommunication. Whatever the case, it is likely that your past will come back to haunt you in any number of interesting ways, whether by zealous witch hunters, unpaid magic guild fees, or a situation that calls for your limited understanding of magic.
Skills: Arcana, Perception
Language: Two of your choice.
Equipment: A magical encyclopedia, chalk, apprentice robes, a ritual dagger,
Feature: Hedge Magic
You know the basest bits of magic, and it’s been enough to get you into trouble, especially when those around you assume you know more. You may either elect to be able to cast ritual magic, with knowledge of one ritual selected from level 1, selected from any spell list. Alternately, they may know one cantrip that can be used twice per day. In either case, you must make an Intelligence (arcana) check with a DC of 12. The spell is cast as normal on a success. Otherwise, the spell fails without counting towards your uses per day.
Alternate Feature: Cursed Caster
You have learned magic, but your understanding of it is flawed. You may cast one spell from level 1 or 2 from the wizard spell list. Each time you cast it, you must make an Intelligence (arcana) check with a DC of 15. If you succeed, you cast the spell with no negative consequences. If you fail, you cast the spell as normal, but receive a curse. The nature of the curse can be anything from being polymorphed into a mouse to being poisoned. In either case, the effect lasts for 1 minute. Any effect that would end the curse is expensive, either doubling listed costs or costing 1000 gold in addition to any other requirements. Work with your game master to come up with an appropriate spell choice and curse feature. A player must remove this curse before being able to pursue class levels in wizard or sorcerer.
Failed spellcasters come from all walks of life, from apprentices turned charlatans to desperate students researching forbidden tomes. They may come from all walks of life, but their interest in the arcane arts are as steadfast as they are misplaced. Some abandon the further study of magic, while others seek to pursue a deeper magical career.
d8 Personality Traits
1- I clutch an empty spellbook when nervous, and refuse to let people touch it.
2- I was maimed once by a spell, and react viscerally when I hear or see it.
3- If it has to do with magic, I can’t resist knowing more!
4- I whisper unless I absolutely need to speak louder. My old teacher might be listening…
5- I make a mystic hand sign to ward off bad luck and evil spirits.
6- I doodle magical symbols on EVERYTHING!
7- I am a real magician. I’m even dressed as one!
8- I carry a wand, and I think that it’s real.
1- Freedom. No one should be forced into servitude.
2- Fairness. The privileged should not hoard all mystic might.
3- Pilgrimage. There is a new path that leads away from magic, towards destiny!
4- People. Magic should be used for the good of all!
5- Responsibility. Magic can be dangerous, and should not be taken lightly.
6- Aspiration. Magic is the key to a better life.
1- Arcane secrets should be kept secret.
2- I’m dedicated to learning magic the right way!
3- I won’t let anyone else suffer as I did as an apprentice.
4- I wish to prove my innocence at the academy and be reinstated as a student.
5- I always wanted to meet that one nymph… it’s why I learned magic!
6- I’ll have a student of my own someday!
1- I will use any magical item or device without thinking.
2- I think I can brew potions.
3- I refuse to use any magic that is not my own!
4- An old mentor is angry with me, and seeks me out for revenge.
5- When it comes to magic, I stubbornly refuse to admit when I’m wrong, even in the face of danger.
6- I’m aggressively competitive with real magicians.