The Victorian horror setting of a Ravenloft campaign can be especially hard for a wizard. In the few places where magic is an accepted part of reality, it is often feared and shunned; adventurers of an arcane bent will frequently find the citizenry unwilling to assist them, and may soon find themselves at the business end of a mob of torches and pitchforks. The majority of the demiplane is even worse, however: in the more developed domains magic is scarcely given credence at all. The few superstitious peasants who believe in such nonsense 'know' magic is limited to a few low-key derivations such as petty illusions or divinations. (If an adventurer is so foolish as to brazenly show his power with great walls of flame or the like, he will swiftly find that the civilized folk have not forgotten where they put their torches and pitchforks!)
Fortunately there are more than a few ways for spell-wielding heroes to ply their trade. They just need to adopt a persona other than the robes and pointy hats that most players are accustomed to. Gathered here are a number of archetypes common across many of the domains with a higher cultural level.
Scrivener: Education is the hallmark of the enlightened, and you are more enlightened than most. While just as interested in medicine and natural philosophy as most of your contemporaries, you have also developed a dread fascination with the occult. Death rites of barbaric cultures, ghost stories from the moors, all these are your stock in trade and more. Throughout your research through volumes of quaint and curious lore, you've come across more than one legend which suggests incantations or charms that could protect one against the depredations of the various monsters described in such stories.
Role-playing notes: Humility is your watchword. You probably don't consider yourself an adventurer, and may not even consider yourself a true spellcaster. If your companions can get some benefit from the primitive rituals you've copied down over the years then so much the better, but you have no aspirations to great magical power or prestige. A life of ink stained fingers and musty old parchments will do just fine.
Alienist: Natural science has made great progress, but those unfortunate enough to have caught a glimpse of the shadow world know that concepts like logic and order are artificial constructs: the universe is vast and insane, governed by mad alien forces that humanity cannot hope to comprehend. The only force which can combat these elder beings is another of their ilk. To that end you have made a career of studying the deranged writings of the fools that serve such monsters, looking for any incantations or enchantments which could be used to protect those who are blind to the dangers that lurk beyond their perception.
Role-playing notes: You are walking a razor's edge. You have nothing but disdain for cultists and those who sell their humanity for eldritch power. Conversely, you are more than willing to steal their magics and use them for your own protection, and are acutely aware that many would brand you a cultist for your knowledge. Your studies are slowly eroding your sanity, but every new truth you discover only strengthens your need to protect yourself and the people around you.
Rat Man: Where the people go, so too go the rats. You are an expert at exterminating vermin of all stripes. You scarcely have to harm them; it's almost as if you could summon and dispel them at your whim. You hide in the lowest dregs of society to escape notice, using your ability to summon animals to furnish your own livelihood, as exterminator, butcher, bounty hunter, or assassin as the mood takes you. Knowledgeable adventurers might even mistake you for a druid or ranger (and you feel no need to correct them).
Role-playing notes: You understand the notion of strength in numbers, but your animals are always your closest allies. Your knowledge of which animals can be summoned in your domain is virtually unparalleled. (Should you live in a domain like Barovia or Richemulot, you also have a working knowledge of which animals have a propensity to turn upon unwary summoners...) The wealthy and cultured have always shunned you, so now you shun them in turn.
Stage Magician: Unlike many spellcasters, you make no attempt to hide what you do. In fact, you advertise it openly! By carefully disguising yourself as a mundane performer, you can get away with casting any sort of spell you can justify with the trappings of your trade. Glitterdust, fog cloud (and all the higher level derivatives), a summoned monster or two, even teleportation effects, all can be written off as standard fare for a magic show. You keep a handy supply of smoking powders and harmless chemicals to explain the more flashy effects, but anything you can come up with a prop or 'trick' to explain can be easily digested by those who would refuse to accept the truth.
Role-playing notes: You are a terrible stage magician--you just can't keep the secret of your performances to yourself! You're often happy to share in confidence how your produce your tricks: the alchemical powders and flash papers you use are your camouflage, so letting people see them puts everyone's mind at ease. Your best offense against scrutiny is further flamboyance. The more of a show you put on, the less people will believe you could have any real arcane power.
Astrologer: Although your chosen profession is often mocked by the more educated members of society, many of the middle class consider divining the present and future through the movement of the stars to be a legitimate pursuit. Your own studies show you hidden paths to truths that others might dismiss, legitimizing in your own mind the veracity of your studies.
Role-playing notes: Your stargazing is the most frequent subject of your conversations, and the insight it gives you into the future is reward enough for you. If you only use astrology as a cover for traditional divination magic, you are quick to explain everything away as having been foretold by the stars. If you actually believe what you say, then you may wrestle with an existential crisis, struggling to make a difference in the world even while you receive confirmation after confirmation that your fate is decided by forces beyond your control.
Medium: Even the most steely minded skeptic is taken aback by a 'charlatan' who speaks with the voice of their dead mother, reminding them of things they'd themselves forgotten about long ago. You communicate with the unquiet dead (or claim that you do) in order to receive special insight. With tarokka cards and crystal balls, seances and summoning boards, you divine the future for yourself and your compatriots. 'Spirit guides' accompany you on your adventurers, to penetrate illusions or reveal hidden magical treasures.
Role-playing notes: Whether or not you are sincere, you are very perceptive. A keen insight into the minds of the people you meet is required to gain their trust, and to glean enough details of their personal lives to convince them that you really are speaking on behalf of loved ones from beyond the grave. When attacked by detractors, do not defend yourself: those you have helped will rush to your defense, the comfort you give them being more than enough coin to have earned their loyalty.
Mesmerist: With swinging pendulum and droning voice, you ply the clay of the mind into whatever shape you desire. The more men learn about the mind and its mysteries, the easier it is to convince people that your spells are just tricks of mentalism. Some of those grievously afflicted by emotions or urges beyond their control may even surrender willingly to your care. Whether you honestly help them or turn them into unwilling automatons is entirely up to you.
Role-playing notes: No matter your default manner, you have developed a cultured, calm voice that you can slip into when the need arises to 'hypnotize' someone. You have a laundry list of 'theories' from those who study the brain's workings to explain away the effects you cause on your victims. The nature of your work gives you keen insight into the fragility of the psyche--this may cause you to view those with delicate or damaged minds with either compassion or contempt, depending on your nature.
Druggist: From medicine to poison, you know it all. You know which herbs will induce compliance to subdue a target, the chemicals that will drive off a wild beast, and the tinctures needed to drive a man to violent rage. If you use your powers for personal gain, those who know your reputation may be wary of their food and drink around you, but the truth is that you have a myriad of deployment methods at your disposal from smoking braziers to envenomed darts (or a handful of flung powder, if the situation is desperate enough!) and rarely need to resort to such overt techniques as poisoned meals.
Role-playing notes: You possess (or feign possession of) an enormous breadth of knowledge about herbs, toxins, and chemicals. You are always scrounging a bit of this plant or that fungus (which you may do merely as an affectation, only to discard the item when no one is looking). Even if you do not abuse your powers, the way you employ them necessitates sneakiness, which may bleed over into your behavior in other areas of your life.
Arsonist: You've always been entranced by the flames. Although you've supplemented your impressive abilities with a bit of arcana, you still have a wealth of understanding when it comes to accelerants, flammables, and ignition techniques. Your repertoire of damage dealing spells is second to none, and so long as you can couch your casting as the mere application of mundane chemicals and ingredients, you can throw around as many fireballs as you like.
Role-playing notes: You probably smell faintly of smoke all the time. If you have a familiar, a bat is the most useful, as it gives you an unending supply of material components for fireball spells. You might use the tools you've devoted your life to in order to purify the world of evil and corruption, or you might just pursue destruction for its own sake. Either way, you consider fire to be more of an art form than just a tool of function.
Mad Scientist: Clockwork. Galvanism. Acoustics. Gunpowder. The future is here, and you have weaponized it. You are a true woman of vision. You frame your spells as the function of technological devices you have built, from your exploding crossbow bolts to the voltaic transmitter tucked in your sleeve. Your spellbook is a collection of sketches and blueprints, the arcana hidden within the mad mathematical formulae lining the pages. You push science to the bleeding edge, so much so that the lay person might even mistake it for magic...
Role-playing notes: Whether or not you are a charlatan, you keep abreast of the latest avenues of scientific research. You most likely have pockets filled with bits of wire and clockwork scrap. You have an insatiable desire for magic items, which you justify as a burning need to examine them to discover the method by which they function.
Ghost: While most mages in the Demiplane of Dread seek to hide their arcane essence or explain it away with the mundane you have gone the opposite route, choosing instead to disguise yourself as something far more frightening than a wizard. With disguises both magical and mundane, you perform the role of a vengeful specter, leaving your opponents always guessing as to which of the phantasms you confound them with are ephemera and which are dangerously real. When not occupied in your ghostly visage, you are a mundane member of society, probably a loner in a simple and unassuming profession.
Role-playing notes: When you are yourself you are meek and timid. Above all, you try not to draw attention to yourself. When occupied in your ghostly persona you are a terror to behold, using the fear and irrationality that your appearance creates as both a weapon and a shield. Your ghostly persona may be entirely fictitious, or you may have crafted it after a real person, be it a hero who inspired you, a villain everyone will fear, or a loved one in whose name you seek vengeance for a wrongful death.
Prestidigitator: Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. Carefully observe that there is nothing up your sleeve. A flourish of the hand, a muttered snippet of mumbo-jumbo, and where has the lady's ring gone? You'll reveal it in a moment from your breast pocket to shocked applause, but the audience will never suspect that you've palmed the real thing and are only giving the woman a cheap imitation. Rigged games of chance, nimble fingers, and hands that are quicker than the eye were your stock in trade long before you developed magical talents, but now that you can cast illusory figments to distract, conceal, or distort, your sleight of hand has become something wondrous to behold.
Role-playing hints: To all outward appearances, you are still nothing more than a dextrous con artist (or perhaps more respectably, a capable theatrical performer). You are never without a silk handkerchief, a sponge ball, or a convenient disguise kit to justify your spellcasting effects. Since you must practice mundane deception in order to practice arcane deception, you may have trouble telling the truth to your companions, or even to yourself.
Resurrection Man: To impart life to the unliving is the greatest and most noble of pursuits, and you won't hear otherwise. With each advance of medical science, man comes closer to understanding the nature of life, death, and the boundary between. You are a passionate doctor (professionally trained or just an inquisitive amateur) who pushes the limits of modern medicine. You spend your nights elbow deep in necropsies and dissections, trying to find the commonalities of life between men and beasts. There will eventually come a night when chemical and galvanic stimulation will allow you to impart the spark of life to the corpse upon the slab, and after that, who knows? The limits are nonexistent.
Role-playing notes: To have pursued your path as far as you have, you have probably developed an unhealthy obsession. Gallows humor and a propensity for tunnel vision may make it hard for you to interact with the living. Your passion may stem from a desire to restore life to a loved one, or you may seek to create the companion or offspring you've been unable to achieve through conventional means. On a more sinister note, you may be trying to create the perfect subordinate: an underling of preternatural might and undying loyalty to assist in whatever dark purpose your mind might conceive.
Granny Lady: Many spellcasters hide what they do beneath personas that can stand up to intense scrutiny, but you have chosen a disguise which works by encouraging suspicious minds not to examine it at all. By adopting the guise (or actually being born to the role of) a medicine woman from a more primitive and superstitious culture, you disgust and repulse the 'civilized' people of the Core, who would rather pretend you didn't exist at all than investigate your 'abilities.' The inherent cultural prejudice provides you with another layer of insulation, as tales of your magical prowess can be written off as silly 'native superstition.'
Role-playing notes: You might hail from the unforgiving sands of Har'Akir with their scarab pendants and mummified death gods, you might be a mysterious half-Vistani, or perhaps you practice the bloody folk magic from the humid bayous of Souragne. Whatever your origin, you play up the exoticism of your role, even if it's merely an affectation. Casting chicken bones, sacrificing small animals, whatever you need to do to make 'civilized people' dismiss you as an ignorant savage, you'll do. Their disgust is what protects you from the retribution that would fall if they ever found out how much truth there is behind your hocus pocus.
Alchemist: The power to make one thing from another is yours to wield, and is one of the few remaining overtly magical disciplines still practiced in many culturally developed parts of the Core. While considered a fringe science at best, it is at least respectable enough to keep its practitioners from being burned at the stake.
Role-playing notes: Keep your head down and don't rise to the bait when more learned people mock you. Unlike most mages, you can operate openly without fear of reprisal. Just keep your spellbook filled with alchemical symbols and formulae (that may or may not be decoys), and doggedly insist that your spells are merely applications of scientific principle that the ignorant cannot comprehend and the educated refuse to examine.
Fortune's Fool: Why hide at all? Most transmutation effects have no visible effect whatsoever, at least none that can be recorded, measured, or testified to with any kind of reliability. You specialize in spells that are subtle, such as haste, knock, or enhance ability, or spells which can be easily explained as superior athleticism or mere coincidence, like spider climb or gust of wind.
Role-playing notes: Just nod and play dumb. Act just as astonished by your good luck as everyone else. You've found that as long as you continue to insist it was all just happenstance and there's no evidence against you, most people will just accept that they couldn't have seen what they remember.
Jim Stearns is a deranged hermit from the swamps of Southern Illinois. His mad scribblings can frequently be found in Quoth the Raven, as well as anthologies like Selfies from the End of the World, by Mad Scientist Journal.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.