Dungeons and dragons is in its fourth edition now and has been for several years. Through those years the basic classes that started the game Fighter, Magic User (now called Wizards) Cleric, Thief (rogue) have remained. Looking back how have these core ideas changed over nearly 40 years of product evolution? Lets take a look at the mighty Wizard
More after the bump
Wizards1st edition - One of the most complicated classes, wielded a large array of spells, one of two arcane spell-casters (the other was illusionists) Wizards had the worst AC, worst HP and the worst physical combat tables.
2nd edition - Second edition added the idea of specialization of wizards. An optional choice it gave the wizard an extra spell at each tier which was very needed at very low level but became restricting at high level because of the full school limitation. Still the worst AC, HP, and Thac0. Basically even at high level you hit like a super low level fighter, that's ok though cause you wielded power unknown to lesser mortals.
3rd edition - Basically unchanged from second edition. Wizards got a cousin the Sorcerer. Wizards were able to change the way their spells worked with meta magic feats and paragon classes but the basic spells remained pretty much unchanged. Also you still had very little HP, AC, and hit bonuses.
4th edition - Wizards massively changed in fourth edition. Of all the classes in the first PHB wizards concept shifted the most in my opinion. Wizards went from being a damage and support class in first - third edition to a controller. Controllers are wizards new idea for a type of class in fourth. Controllers shift impede and otherwise make things hard for monsters. Controllers set up good situations for their allys stop the enemies from reaching the wrong people and generally make havoc on the battle field.
Wizards were always something of a challenge to play especially at first level. Anyone who has played one can testify that you really cant do much until you start hitting your stride at about 6th or 7th levels. The first level wizard in 1-3rd edition has a base hit points of 1-4 and max con bonus of 2 so even if you dumped that 18 stat in con you still only had 6 hitpoints. long-swords can do 1-8 damage. this means that at first level you can die basically from any attack and your really easy to hit as well. Compound that by the fact that you only get a max of two spells at first level an you see why a lot of wizards die early on.
With the advent of fourth edition wizards have changed a lot. They get at-will spells now so no more shooting your one spell then hiding behind a tree for the rest of the fight. Their focus has shifted from primary damage dealer to controller. Wizards still get the least hit points of the main classes in the PHB but its not so massively unbalanced like it was in 1-3. wizards start with 10+con and gain 4 per level, the other classes get 12-15+con and 5-6 per level so even with less wizards can take a few hits before they are laying on the ground.
The five at wills for wizard are Cloud of daggers, Magic Missile, Ray of Frost, Scorching Burst, Thunderwave
Cloud of Daggers - This attack creates a square that when anyone steps into it they take damage till your next turn, usefull in situations where there is a natural choke point also for protecting allys from a flanking attack good choice ***/5
Magic Missile - The classic wizard spell, hits relativity hard early on and can be used as a basic ranged attack. Its long range makes it useful in many situations. its not very often that enemies are more than 20 squares away so it gives the wizard the option to hit basically anyone he can see. ****/5
Ray of frost - Low damage and a slowing effect, somewhat useful **/5
Scorching Burst - Low damage but it hits up to 9 creatures so very good power to have. Great for clearing out minions. ****/5
Thunderwave - Same damage as scorching Burst. Area of effect that hits fortitude (Often lower than AC) also you get to push the targets which can set up you allies attacks. ****/5
Wizards were always the goto class for players that liked having a lot of options late in the game in exchange for venerability early on. Now wizards are tougher but lack some of the versatility they had before.