So let's look at some build tips for the Chronurgist. I'll put together an example build as we do, and let you know the reasons why I'm making the choices I make. We'll work through the creation process in the order that it recommends in the Player's Handbook, which means we'll be starting with...
If you've seen my basic Wizard guide, you'll already know that the races that lend themselves particularly well to Wizardry are the ones that have a bonus to Intelligence, and they get extra credit if they also have a boost to Dexterity or Constitution. This doesn't change if you're planning to become a Chronurgist at level 2. For this build, I'm going to pick Rock Gnome as they definitely meet the criteria that I just laid out.
It's worth bearing in mind that because they're small, they are also slower than medium-sized characters. This can be a disadvantage for a Wizard, as you don't want to end up getting chased down and forced into melee combat, but I'll be working to mitigate this potential weakness as I go through the levels.
On the upside, my character is going to be a powerhouse when it comes to Intelligence, they will be good at avoiding the effects of spells that make them take a saving throw related to one of their mental stats, and they have some absolutely sick lore that synergises nicely with the flavour of a Chronurgist. The idea of a time mage tinkering away and making clockwork toys just tickles me – I can't resist that kind of thing!
Next, we look at class, which we already know is going to be Wizard. I receives all my free level 1 Wizardy things, i.e. the spellbook and the Arcane Recovery feature, but there are some choices for me to make. First I have to choose my cantrips, and then I have six level 1 spells to write into my spellbook.
The first thing I'm going to do is pick a ranged cantrip that can deal damage. Whenever I choose spells throughout this build, I'm going to pick up things that I think can be re-skinned to look as if they are messing with time. In this case, rather than going for out and out damage with Fire Bolt, I'm going to choose Ray of Frost thanks to the effect that reduces an enemy's movement speed. I'm also going to take Sapping Sting, one of the new cantrips from the Dunamancy spell list in Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, because it feels like a rapid ageing spell, even though there's something a lot nastier waiting for us at higher levels that ticks that box a lot more. Finally, I'm going to take Message. How will your party know whether you're speaking to them from the future, or the past? Probably they'll figure it out just by watching you moving your mouth a hundred feet away, but hey, if you can't at least pretend to be a hundred years in the future then where's the fun?
For level 1 spells, I have a huge amount of choice. I'll want to pick some that can help protect me as I'm a squishy caster with no armour proficiency, but beyond that I can tailor things how I'd like.
For level one spells, I'm going with the following six picks:
- Mage Armour to make sure I have a shot at surviving if I get attacked with projectiles or spells, or if I get caught in melee combat
- Shield for the same reasons as Mage Armour
- Sleep, so I can wind the clock forward to bed time for a chunk of monsters if my party is being attacked by an angry mob
- Gift of Alacrity, one of the new Explorer's Guide spells that can put my allies on fast forward, or my character on super fast forward thanks to the initiative boost they will already be picking up at 2nd level.
- Feather Fall, which I will describe as my Wizard slowing down time in a localised bubble around the party if needed
- Detect Magic, which will be useful as a spell I can cast as a ritual if the party is feeling suspicious about a room or an area of a dungeon.
This mix of spells gives me access to some battlefield control, a chance to buff a party member if I think they need it, some defensive options and a ritual spell, because I won't be able to prepare everything.
As with the basic Wizard, the skills that rely on INT are the ones that will see a Chronurgist get the highest bonus if they choose to be proficient in them, as they will naturally be maxing out that ability. As such, I'm going to choose two of the INT based skills on offer here – Arcana and History. This leans into the Rock Gnome race's flavour of being tinkerers, and also plays nicely into the Artificer's Lore racial feature, making my character an unrivalled technical genius.
Chronurgists have the same priorities when it comes to abilities as a regular Wizard – they need DEX and CON to keep themselves alive, but Intelligence is the go-to for everything else. I'm using the point buy method to generate the actual ability scores for my example character, because it's easier to compare builds across the subclasses by doing it this way. Please make sure you consult your DM about how you'll be generating your ability scores, though – there's nothing wrong with the other methods!
The scores turned out as follows:
- STR 8 (-1) – I don't need this for anything other than the odd rare STR saving throw
- DEX 14 (+2) – this was realistically as high a modifier as I could generate for DEX, and that modifier will stack nicely on top of Mage Armour to give my Gnome an Armour Class of 15, which is not too bad for a first level Wizard, and I can boost that to 20 with Shield.
- CON 16 (+3) – I now have 9 hit points to begin the game with, and a good shot at maintaining concentration on my spells.
- INT 17 (+3) – I went all out here – I could have stuck at 16 and used the points elsewhere, but I have nefarious plans for when we level up...
- WIS 10 (0) – It felt important not to completely dump this from a flavour perspective – I feel like a Wizard that can alter reality is likely to at least have their wits about them.
- CHA 8 (-1) – Charisma is not important for this subclass of Wizard, and I think this will give me some opportunity to be generally confused about how to express my character's point of view on occasion, as they struggle to make sense of whether this or that thing has already happened or is yet to happen.
We've already had a disclaimer but you'll notice that a lot of what I just said referred to my own personal opinion. This is because non-munchkin players have quite a lot of leeway in the 5e system to build characters out however they like. There's no reason this build couldn't work if I had a Consitution of 14 and an Intelligence of 16, and spent the extra points on Wisdom to make sure my character had really sharp eyes, for example – you should feel free to gear your stats to the style of play you think you will enjoy.
This is another example of something that will be completely personal to you. Unless you're really looking for a specific specialism or skill here, go with whatever you think will tie in to your back story. I'm going to go with Sage because I've chosen a very high Intelligence score and picked skills that could potentially make my character book smart.
BUT WAIT – I've now duplicated both the History and Arcana skill! OH NOES! WHAT A WASTE!
Except page 126 of the Player's Handbook says:
If a character would gain the same proficiency from two different sources, he or she can choose a different proficiency of the same kind (skill or tool) instead.
So now I can pick two skills of my choice. I'm going to take Investigation, as I feel like my character would be good at applying their scientific mind to searching rooms or looking for hidden details. I'm also going to pick Sleight of Hand because I think they're going to be pretty good with their hands from all those clockwork beasties they've been building.
I get to choose more languages here, so I'm going to pick Elvish and Dwarvish, so I have access to all of the most common languages.
I quite enjoy rolling on the background tables to decide personality traits – obviously if I have my own ideas when making a character I can just choose something from the table or go on ahead and make my own thing up. The first thing to roll for is a specialism, and I ended up with Discredited Academic. This is perfect, and I can spin this as having my Gnome ostracised by their academic friends because they don't approve of Dunamancy. They were determined to study it anyway, which gives the DM a group or faction that can either be reluctant allies or outright antagonists depending on how things fit with the campaign.
Further rolls on the background tables tell me that my Gnome likes to use long and complicated words to make themself sound even more intelligent than they already are, they prefer not to let emotions cloud their judgement, they are attempting to author a book on their own theories about Dunamancy, and they would do pretty much anything for new information – a potential point of conflict with the rest of the party that could make for some epic drama down the line.
There are no really important choices here. I'm going to take a dagger over a quarterstaff purely because I know I need Dexterity for survival and I can use that ability for attacking with a dagger if I'm silenced for some reason.
I'm going to take an Arcane Focus for no particular reason, I could just as easily take a Component Pouch, and I'm going to take an Explorer's Pack just because it's better for adventuring than the Scholar's Pack. I would advise basing this particular choice off any advice your DM may have given you about the setting of your adventure – the Scholar's Pack is much more flavourful, but I don't like the idea of this poor tiny Gnome having to sleep on top of their spellbook to protect it from the rain.
Now I know what my INT modifier is, I can prepare my spells. I get 4 total, so I'll prepare Sleep, Mage Armour, Shield and Feather Fall. This means my spell slots at level 1 will be used for control and support, and if I want to deal damage I will be relying on my cantrips.
With that, I'm ready to step out for my first adventure! Next, let's take a look at levelling up.