How do we fix the Sorcerer?

I'm not the biggest fan of Sorcerers, mostly because, when they appeared in 3e, they were just a watered down version of Wizards. 4th edition changed that for me... but, 5th edition seemed to just go right back to all the things that made them problematic in 3e. Everybody knows the Sorcerer in 5e is... not doing so hot. There's a reason the biggest complaint about the Loremaster Wizard remains not "it's overpowered" but "It makes the sorcerer superfluous".

So, how do you folks think we could fix this?

Speaking personally...

Sorcery Points:The key difference between sorcerer and wizard is the use of this unique mana system... and, just like the Monk (esp. Wo4E) and its Ki system, WoTC dropped the ball on it. The Sorcerer just doesn't get enough sorcery points to play with, and they don't regenerate anywhere near quickly enough - the freaking wizard has better stamina then that, courtesy of its Arcane Recovery feature. Add in the inefficiencies of converting spell slots into sorcery points (especially given as the only advantage sorcerers have on wizards vis a vis spells is a bonus cantrip), and this is just a hot mess.
Solution: Make Sorcery Points either recover on a Short Rest instead of a long rest, or have each Origin outfitted with a way to regain sorcerery points more readily - for example, Wild Mages gain some whenever they roll a 1 or a 20 with a spell, whilst Dragon Sorcerers regain some when they take resisted damage. Also, increase the sorcery points at lower levels.

Spell List: Let's be honest; does anyone like the hard limit on spells known that sorcerers labor under? Or the lack of Origin-based bonus spells, something the Cleric and Warlock have?
Solution: Expand the Spells Known limits, or just remove that mechanic entirely. Add Origin-based Bonus Spells to the class.

Thematic Spells: I made this a seperate problem, because it's mostly a Dragon Sorcerer issue at the moment. Everybody knows that unless you play a Fire Dragon Sorcerer, you're basically gimped, because Fire is by far the most over-represented elemental damage type in the sorcerer's spell list.
Solution: Add more spells for the other elements. Heck, bring back the "rainbow damage" spells that sorcerers specialized in during 4th edition.

These are the three major problems that stick out to me. What are your opinions on them? Are there any problems with the sorcerer that you think I missed?
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
I dunno, the Wild Magic sorcerer with Fireball and Chromatic Orb at our table has been quite effective in combat - more so than either wizard in the party I’d argue. All are the same level. Then again, DPR is not really how we measure success at our table - all three spell casters contribute to the fun factor during our sessions and the differences between wizard and sorcerer are part of that.
 
How do we fix the Sorcerer?
I understand it's a simple operation any veterinarian can perform, that the risks are minimal, and the recovery time brief.

Seriously, though...

I'm not the biggest fan of Sorcerers, mostly because, when they appeared in 3e, they were just a watered down version of Wizards.
OH... you missed out, my friend. Not that they were more so much more than that, but, because of the things the sorcerer /lost/ compared to the wizard - specifically, having very limited known spells and no prep - there was so much more you could /do/ with it. Each of the Sorcerer types in 4e & 5e that you might like? You could pull them together with the 3e Sorcerer, mainly just by spell choice. Similarly, most magic-wielding characters in fiction (and in 'magic' we can include comic book mutant powers!) can fairly easily be emulated with a 3.x Sorcerer build.

One of the more elegant and build-to-concept-useful class designs in the game's history.

4th edition changed that for me... but, 5th edition seemed to just go right back to all the things that made them problematic in 3e. Everybody knows the Sorcerer in 5e is... not doing so hot. There's a reason the biggest complaint about the Loremaster Wizard remains not "it's overpowered" but "It makes the sorcerer superfluous".

So, how do you folks think we could fix this?
A big part of the problem is not that the sorcerer is bad, it's that the neo-Vancian casters - the Druid (which I love, so I make this suggestion knowing that no one'll likely take me up on it, and I can still enjoy a Tier 1 Druid some time), Cleric and Wizard - that are too good. Too flexible, too versatile, because they have their old toys (many spells known, prepped each day) /and/ the sorcerer's old toys (spontaneous casting). To fix that, take spontaneous away from the prepped casters, make them prep into slots.

The Sorcerer still won't be as good as the Wizard - it doesn't, for instance, have the slots/day advantage it had in 3.x - but it'll be a lot closer.

Or the lack of Origin-based bonus spells, something the Cleric and Warlock have?
The Land Druid also gains known spells. While Origins are kinda a blind alley that limit the sorcerer's usefulness in a build-to-concept, they do add flavor, and a set of automatic known spell over and above the current limit would only enhance that flavor, and make the class more capable.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I never had a sorcerer at my tables, but were it the case AND the player told me that he had issue with the powerlevel of his character, I might do something like this:

1) Sorcery Points: can spend HD (max = to level) to regain same amount on short rest.
2) Spell list: Give access to what I can ''natural arcane list'' aka all arcane and druidic lists.
3) Thematic list: This is where I go into 3PP material. Kobold Press has some highly thematic type of magics that can be added for specific origin at lvl 1 (Dragon magic, Chaos Magic, Angelic Magic, Elemental Magics etc)
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
While I disagree with your premise that sorcerers are broken in some way (I've gamed with several, and there's one in my group now, and they're just fine), I like your proposals.

In particular, origin-based bonus spells and an increase in available thematic spells both sound like good ideas to me. So does an increase in spells known. I don't think these things will affect game balance much because the number of spell slots isn't changed; it would just give the sorc a few more options. As long as the wizard has a few more spells prepared and can swap out spells each day, they'll retain the edge on versatility.

I don't find the sorcery points thing all that important. Like I said, I don't think sorcerers are underpowered, and giving them more points sounds risky. Metamagic is cool but the sorcerer doesn't need to be spamming it constantly for it to be relevant. That's what happens with ki points at high levels; the monk has so many that they can just stun-lock everyone all the time. In fact if they don't, the ki points go to waste.

Origins: The sorcerer needs more origins. There are only two in the PHB which is sad. (I'm of the opinion that if a class can't support at least 3 good subclass ideas right in the PHB, it's got a weak story.) Power-wise, the origins which exist in the PHB and in Xanathar's are not too shabby, though. Aside from the Wild Magic origin, which is kind of weak unless you take a lot of attack-roll spells, the others are all pretty good. In fact they frequently make up for the weakness in the base class. Contrast the wizard's Arcane Traditions, which generally offer less oomph, with a few noteworthy exceptions like Abjuration and Divination.
Solution: Add a few more origins, and make sure they're all balanced (improve Wild Magic, maybe nerf Abjuration and Divination wizards). The sorcerer class story should be strong enough to support 6-8 subclasses right there in the PHB, similar to the cleric and wizard. At least a solid 4-5.
 

Azzy

Cyclone Ranger
I'm currently playing a sorcerer (shadow magic) in a campaign, with another player playing a sorcerer (divine soul). The other player also played a sorcerer (draconic bloodline) in the previous campaign I was in. We're only up to 6th level in the current campaign, but I'm not seeing what the issue with sorcerers are.
 

CubicsRube

Explorer
Ive played a wizard alongside a sorceror (both half-orcs, go figure), and the sorceror held up very well. Maximised spell is a great feature.

If i wanted to bump up the sorceror i would do one thing: allow them all metamagic options.

They are still limited by sorcery points, but they suddenly become uber flexible, being able to cast a powerful fireball in combat, but a subtle charm in front of the king, etc
 

CapnZapp

Hero
I'm not the biggest fan of Sorcerers, mostly because, when they appeared in 3e, they were just a watered down version of Wizards.
I LOVED 3e Sorcerers - finally I could play a Wizard without fire'n'forget spellcasting!

History has shown I wasn't alone in this - and "spontaneous" casting is now the norm, thank the gods!
 

Bitbrain

Adventurer
Having played a sorcerer, here is my proposal:

1. Change Sorcery Points to half your sorcerer level + your Constitution modifier, recharge on short rest.
2. Bonus spells chosen from any spell list, equal to your constitution modifier.
3. You can exchange 2 spells that you know when you gain a level in the sorcerer class, instead of 1.
 
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akr71

Explorer
You know, for such a popular game, there sure are a lot of "broken" parts to fix.
Perhaps that is part of the game's charm and popularity. People like to tinker and make it their own - much like LEGO, you can build according to the instructions given, build something completely different or modify the base with a few other pieces you have lying around.

Getting back to the OP, I like the Short Rest refresh for Sorcery Points and thematic and/or bonus spells based on origin. I'd even suggest being allowed to burn HD to get Sorcery Points back. I've had a house-rule for Warlocks that allows something like this for a while now - you get resources back, but at a price.

For me, the uniqueness of the sorcerer is Metamagic - spending sorcery points to do something special with your spell - but they've only given 8 Metamagic options to choose from. A warlock has way more Invocations to choose from and there are a ton of Feats for all characters to choose from.
 

Jacob Lewis

The One with the Force
Perhaps that is part of the game's charm and popularity. People like to tinker and make it their own - much like LEGO, you can build according to the instructions given, build something completely different or modify the base with a few other pieces you have lying around.
Yeah, but I highly doubt anyone has ever said LEGO was "broken" and needed to be "fixed". Big difference between tinkering with a system and claiming it faulty as we see so many times on boards like this.
 

Jester David

Adventurer
The class seems "close enough" in terms of balance. The thing is, perfect balance is impossible. There's always something that is better, even if just situationally. Of the wizard and sorcerer, one always has to be better than the others.

It's hard to know exactly what to fix and most changes will just tip it over the line to "better than the wizard" and then the conversation becomes "how do we homebrew a fix for the wizard?"
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
There's been a lot of history here on fixing the sorcerer. Just to repeat what I've said before:

I don't think the sorcerer belongs in the generic spellcasting class format. The warlock, with a limited amount of invocations but able to do them at will is a bit closer. I'd really like to see sorcerers with a tight magical theme where they have a lot of flexibility but little or nothing outside of it.

Simple example would be a sorcerer of an element - water can hit with blasts or pseudopods, provide difficult terrain, wrap like an armor, drown someone, make people float or not, help/hinder swimmers and boats. Fire could burn those close or who attack you, but isn't really an armor. It could burn, doing more damage then water. Neither could make you fly or teleport, while Air might be able to. Air could probably wrap you in a protective wind against ranged attacks, push people around (and do some damage), pull the air from creatures and fires, send spoken messages, drop flyers, provide silence, etc. A sorcerer with control over cloth (hey, when was that an element?!) could make it into an armor, gliding wings, have a scarf that attacks with reach, make someone's clothes contract or fight them. A sorcerer specializing in transmutation could modify themselves, allies, and foes.

So I'd like to see them being many tricks around a single theme.

How to mechanically represent this in 5e? The most traditional 5e route would be to scrap the sorcerer spell list, and instead give out a list depending on the theme. I could see having access to all of the spells on the list, having spells known off the list, or a hybrid where there are key spells every sorcerer knows but each also gets a few specialties. For example maybe every air sorcerer can fly, but few can provide bubbles of silence.

Another way that still stays with the concept of the pre-built spells would be to trade out "spells known" for a lesser number of "spell chains known". A spell chain would be a collection of related spells that you pretend are upcasts/"side-casts" of the same spell.

For example disguise self, alter self, enhance ability, polymorph, true polymorph, and the like would be one spell chain. Sure Alter Self can duplicate Disguise Self - but it requires concentration as well as the higher level slot.

As for what resource to use to cast ... I'm torn. I want sorcerers to be able to be really flexible within their limits. But playtests we did at various levels with the DMG spell point solution had that casters were using a lot more high level slots then the normal spell slot solution allowed because they were more effective, and then running dry quickly leading to 5 minute adventuring days.

If the sorcerer is pulling the power out of them self, maybe a short-rest-recharge spell points solution addresses the thematically while also avoiding too heavy of a focus on the highest level slots, and the repercussions of that in terms of 5 minute adventuring days.
 

Volund

Explorer
I don't necessarily feel that the sorcerer is terrible (except Wild Magic) and they get played about as often as wizards in groups I'm in, but if players in your group want more satisfaction out of the class, here are some suggestions:

Sorcery Points
A sorcerer without SP to spend on spell slots or metamagic is just a wizard with a crappy spell list, no ritual casting and no Arcane Recovery. Getting more mileage out of their SP would make any sorcerer happy, but I would be reluctant to give short rest recovery of all SP in case it was too much and I later had to take that back. Instead I would offer one of these choices to the sorcerer.
1) A once per day recovery of SP that matches the wizard's Arcane Recovery: Refill the Font - Once per day after you finish a short rest, you can recover expended Sorcery Points equal to or less than half your sorcerer level (rounded up).
2) On the Creating Spell Slots table, reduce the SP cost for creating spell slots by 1 SP for each slot level.
3) Reduce the cost of Quickened Spell from 2 SP to 1 SP.

Metamagic
After getting 2 metamagic options at 3rd level, I would let the sorcerer pick up additional metamagic on a schedule the same as the warlock picks up invocations, so that by 18th level the sorcerer could have all 8 metamagics.

Spell List
Introduce something akin to the bard's magical secrets. At 6th level you can replace one of your spells known with a 3rd level or lower spell from the wizard spell list. At 10th level you can replace a spell with a 5th level or lower spell from the wizard spell list.
 
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mellored

Explorer
IMO:
Sorcerer's don't use precise formulas. They are full of raw and dangerous power, but this power is unpredictable. It doesn't always do what the sorcerer wants, and some allies may get the occasional singe.

1: Scrap the know-exactly-what-happens spells.
2: Spell points. You get a maximum of X per day, and recover half of them per short rest.
3: Give it a new set of semi-random spells.


i.e.
Outburst: Magical energies burst from you, damageing those around you. Each creature within your sorcerer range, other than you, mades a dex save or takes 1d10 damage of your element, half on a miss. This increases to 2d10 at level 5, 3d10 at level 11, and 4d10 at level 17.
In addition, you can spend a sorcerer point to increase the damage by 1d10.


Dragon Sorcer: Your element matches your dragon... (fire/cold/ect...)
Range: Your sorcerer range is 2d4. You can expend a sorcerer point to increase the range by 2d4. You can do this after you see the results.

Wild sorcerer: Roll a d10 to determind your element. Reroll when you ???
Range: Your sorcerer range is 1d10. You can expend a sorcerer point to increase the range by 1d12.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
I think the Sorcerer's problem is trying to force it's square peg (I'm different than a wizard!) into the round hole (casting spells is my shtick).

A couple of angles/ways they could have gone to make the Sorcerer truly distinctive...though I admit the subclassing break up by "Origins" was a good idea, they were a bit too narrow and ultimately uninteresting.

So, the Sorcerer's mechanical "thing" that other people don't get, they are the "Points" caster, well "wizard/mage" guy. Like the Monk is the "points" fighter (or possibly cleric). The Bard is, arguably, the "points" rogue. In PF parlance, a "points" cleric/divine caster would be the "Oracle."

Sorcerer's are the "Points" arcane caster. Fine. Metamagic should have been made a bit more prominent as a "secondary" shtick, "magic tricks" other arcane casters don't get. Which they are...but the dial could have been set at, say 6 or 7 instead of 2 or 3.

So re-write of the Sorcerer, regardless of fluff should have Meta-magic as a more prominent piece of their identity.

One thing, that I am not sure I would have endorsed, but would have helped, would have been modeling the Sorcerer after the Paladin and Ranger to be the "Arcane Half-Caster" class. I, personally, think the Bard would have been better as this, but a Sorcerer could have worked -leaving the [default] Bards to its more Roguey flavor. A little armor, probably no shields, few more than just Simple weapons. That sort of stuff.

The other thing would have been to make the "Origins" not really so defining...or not defining in the way they did. Saying Draconic and Wild (and then Storm, Shadow, etc. etc...) basically tries to "point" at a direction without really granting the goods. It doesn't matter if your grandfather was a sivler dragon or if you mother gave brith during a big storm or you fell into a magic pit of Shadow energy as a child...Your backstory is yours to make. The bottom line, at the root of the 'Origins" is that they are "Ancestral": someone in your ancestry was magic or had magic or found magic, none of that matters. It matters that it's somewhere in your lineage; OR "Circumstantial" or perhaps "Situational" would be a better phrase. You were in the right place at the right time (born during a magical storm; bit by a magically radioactive spider)...or wrong place at the wrong time (bathed in a fountain of Abyssal water, bit by a magically radioactive spider) and the result of that circumstance/situation is "I GOTS MAGIC POWERS?!" which you then practice/work/figure out and develop/expand.

The theme of your magic is what matters. What is your "source"? What type of magics do you access/relate to (fire, ice, storm, shadow, mind, plants, etc... etc...) is what really defines and flavors your backstory and current character. THAT is where the PHB sorcerer with a single Sorcerer spell list kind of falls apart.

The designers began leaning in the thematic direction, first with the UA sorcerer subclasses that began piling on "Origin Bonus Spells" (a la a cleri or paladin domain/oath extra spells). That really wasn't a bad patch/fix for what they had already done.

The latter subclasses, (storm, shadow, et al) as I said, seem to point further in the "theme" direction but also then -due to the PHB framework/chassis- amount to a few minor powers on top of the blah sorcerer spell list and limited metamagics.

SO, rework the base class with more meta's. Make the subclass options a Thematic option that allows for a thematic spell list/selection. Backstory is up to the player. Are you a Shadow sorcerer because you took a bath during a shadow-plane hurricane encursion into the material world or because great-great-gran'pappy Necrosus did the nasty with a Shadow Demon and the family-in-exile has been trying to pull itself out from under his reputation of a mad evil shadow-wizard that almost destroyed the kingdom ever since?

Does it matter to what your character can/should be able to do? No. What matters as a sorcerer is you accumulate Sorcery Points, gain more Metamagics, and have spells and abilities that are "Shadow plane" related...That probably means some illusions, some conjurations (of shadow monsters), maybe "misty-stepping" only in-out of/through shadows, making shadow-stuff weapons/shields/armor/items, transforming yourself into a Shadow or planeshifting into the Shadow plane at high levels...I'd probably throw in some resistance -developing to immunity at higher levels- from necrotic and/or cold damage...possibly with a built in sensitivity/susceptibility to radiant damage.

So, yeah...what was this thread about?...Oh yeah...a rewrite of the Sorcerer needs to be more "Theme" based than "Origin" based.

I feel like it was what they were shooting for and just missed the mark there.
 

Irda Ranger

Visitor
I ran Curse of Strahd as a DM with a sorcerer player, and he was one of my better players so he was very effective. That's the thing with all of the classes--they're good enough that the real differences between them are player skill.

That said, I'm not entirely happy with the Sorcerer either. I've run the numbers and there's just no fair comparison between Sorcerer and Wizard.
  • Wizard knows more spells. Waaayyyy more spells.
  • Wizards have a bigger list of spells to choose from.
  • Wizards have more spells prepared than Sorcerers have spells known. (Crazy!)
  • Wizard and Sorcerer have equal spell slots (Sorcery Points=Arcane Recovery).
  • Wizards have rituals; basically infinite slots/day for certain spells.
  • Arcane Tradition features are about equal to Bloodline.
  • Sorcerers have one more cantrip.
  • Sorcerers have Metamagic, but if they use it they fall behind on slots.

So basically, the only clear lead that Sorcerers have is one more cantrip and SP/metamagic flexibility. At the costs of knowing only 1/3rd as many spells, having only 2/3rd as many spells prepared, being unable to swap around spells if the adventure calls for something specific, not being able to cast rituals, and being a little behind on spell slots.

The other thing I don't like about Sorcerers is how the limited spells known force them to be super vanilla in their spell choices. Everyone feels the pressure to take the most flexible and useful spells, and no one takes the quirky spells that don't get used often. So everyone has Counterspell, Dispel Magic, Fireball, Dimension Door, etc. etc. and no one ever takes Illusory Script or whatever.

I'd do something like this:
  1. Everyone gets "meta-magic" spells automatically, like Detect Magic and Counterspell.
  2. Recover Sorcery Points on an SR.
  3. Bloodlines give two spells known per spell level, covering all the basic utility requirements but in a thematic way.
  4. Create at least as many bloodlines as Arcane Traditions and Domains.
  5. New Rule: Sorcerers can cast spells from scrolls without destroying the scroll, if they use a spell slot of their own plus a number of SP equal to that spell slot. Or make a magic item like a Ring of Spell Storing that works in a similar way.
 

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