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5E On whether sorcerers and wizards should be merged or not, (they shouldn't)

Thematically there's a niche for Sorcerers. They form a trinity with Wizard and Warlock of learned power, borrowed power, and inborn power. The big question is if there's a mechanical niche for Sorcerer that's both distinct from the other two and still robust enough to support an entire class. Evidence for that is scarcer and more conjectural.

I have no objection to the Sorcerer existing. In fact, I rather like the concept of its flavor. But there's very little history of D&D being able to deliver a Sorcerer that's not living in the shadow of the Wizard, and it doesn't have a strong enough legacy to justify keeping it around for that alone. So many you kill some sacred cows and reinvent the Sorcerer. Maybe you merge it with the Warlock and include a toggle option between inborn and patron power sources. Or maybe you just cut it. I don't exactly have a horse in that race, besides the mild annoyance of occasionally trying to play a Sorcerer and being disappointed.
If I were designing "inborn power" mechanics from a blank slate, they'd look more like the warlock than the sorcerer. And "borrowed power" wouldn't look much like the warlock at all. In fact, in a 2E-like paradigm, you could have a single low-level wizard spell that contacted a fiend willing to teach other spells at some grave cost, rather than having to dig spell scrolls out of dungeons like an honest mage.
 

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cbwjm

Hero
The spontaneous casting was part of the image or idea that wizards couldn't have. Wizards had spellbooks, copied scrolls to books, prepared spells to mental slots over night. Spontaneous casters did not of this.

Now an option for it could have been made for wizards. But for one reason or another, no one wanted to do it until after the sorcerer was made and started getting flavor. And by then it was too late.
Options for spontaneous casting existed in 2e, players option spells and magic had magical options some of which enabled the wizard to retain their prepared spells when casting them. Granted this was towards the end of 2e and I believe that the players option series was considered a testbed for some 3e concepts (or just outright panned by many players). You also had Arcane Age for wizards that could cast any spell they knew though that supplement was, I believe aiming at making magic overpowered due to the setting. So although not standard, the concept existed.
 


Ratskinner

Adventurer
The only reason I think not to merge wizard, sorcerer, and warlock into a single customisable class that lets you create the spellcasting class you want is complexity. There would be a lot of moving parts in the base class to customise your magic-user that it might be off putting to new players. As is, I have used the wizard to create a "sorcerer" an Oracle with innate divination abilities. I just ignored the spellbook part of a diviner wizard.

Well...that's if you want to keep all the "moving parts". Personally, I could do with a few less by a fair sight. I like 5e overall, but I find a lot of the different specialized fiddly bits to be really a little too picayune. I could really be happy with a thinner base "Magic User" class with meatier subclasses to cover Wizard, Warlock, Sorcerer, and maybe even Bard, Cleric and Druid, then toss in Illusionist, and maybe Necromancer.* As it is, I think most of those base classes are a bit bloated and the subclasses thin (not necessarily weak, per se). I think one of the few missteps of 5e was not realizing the full applicability of the Feat mechanics WRT to casters, which created an overabundance of casting classes and subclasses.

Of course, there's a bunch of concomitant mechanical changes I would make to go along with these, but that would be a lot for a post.

*To be "fair", I'm also one of those who would have wrapped Paladin, Ranger, and Barbarian into Fighter Subclasses as well.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
Even then it was too late. If anything the kits clearly show the thematic limits of the wizards. There are variants of course, but none of them could really break from the "book holding scholar of difficult to use arcane knowledge" mold, they all are just another coat of paint that does nothing to change the core. The designers really trusted in the wizard genericness and blatantly avoided any evidence to the contrary. 30 years ago was still 20 years of inertia. I'd argue that we haven't really broken from the "wizards are generic" mindset yet.
(Though it might be surprising to learn Warlocks actually originated as a wizard kit).

Sha'irs (2e Al-Qadim) might argue against that point. Even as a kit, they broke a lot of the "wizard" mold.
 


Monayuris

Adventurer
Modern D&D created the Sorcerer to implement a different style of spell casting mechanic. They wanted to introduce a spontaneous spell caster in 3rd Edition, and so the sorcerer was created to implement it.

It was a class that was created to justify the existence of these new mechanics.

Previous versions of D&D had the Magic User. Magic User was a generic term which allowed the player to decide their own idea about their character's path to magical power. They could be a wizard, warlock, sorcerer, witch, etc. as they deemed best fit their concept of their character.
 


dave2008

Legend
I lean similarly....except that the obvious division should be Fighters, Magic-Users, and Thieves. Choose your weapons, ser!


....I kid, I kid....



....a little.
Well, I could see it being just two: Martial and Magic, but personally I like the idea of divine and arcane magic being truly different.
 

dave2008

Legend
Interestingly I've never run across a sorcerer in our games. I've played a wizard, and in 4e we had a Tiefling Warlock, but I've yet to see anyone want to play a sorcerer. Now my exposure is pretty limited, but the vast potential power of the wizard


OD&D. Fighting-man, Magic-User, Cleric. :)
Pretty much, it is just that we would need a lot more options to customize each class than back in OD&D
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Thematically there's a niche for Sorcerers. They form a trinity with Wizard and Warlock of learned power, borrowed power, and inborn power. The big question is if there's a mechanical niche for Sorcerer that's both distinct from the other two and still robust enough to support an entire class. Evidence for that is scarcer and more conjectural.

I have no objection to the Sorcerer existing. In fact, I rather like the concept of its flavor. But there's very little history of D&D being able to deliver a Sorcerer that's not living in the shadow of the Wizard, and it doesn't have a strong enough legacy to justify keeping it around for that alone. So maybe you kill some sacred cows and reinvent the Sorcerer. Maybe you merge it with the Warlock and include a toggle option between inborn and patron power sources. Or maybe you just cut it. I don't exactly have a horse in that race, besides the mild annoyance of occasionally trying to play a Sorcerer and being disappointed.

I think there has too be some community issue with Sorcerer. It can't be second class to Wizard by accident. I think at some level, people aren't trying. It's not like the druid where turn undead could have been swapped for wild shape and have druids just be nature/animal/plant/fungi clerics. There is something in us that keeps making up halfway do the concept then get mad that we can't replicate the innate spellcasters of modern fantasy. D&D had the chance to push a fully fleshedout sorcerer, a sorcerer subclass, or a core sorcerer DM option so we wouldn't have this issue.

Personally I would do a learned, innate, and divine version of magical, martial and skill classes. Then have the granted magical class and halfcaster class for the remainder. That's all you can do at this point. You can't roll it back to 3-5 classes anymore.
 


Aldarc

Legend
Well, I could see it being just two: Martial and Magic, but personally I like the idea of divine and arcane magic being truly different.
Most people are probably familiar with three: warrior, mage, and rogue. (Not sure why so many people fall back to using archaic and unintuitive terms like "fighting-man" and "magic-user" when perfectly good terms like "warrior" and "mage" exist in popular use.)

I personally disdain the distinction between Arcane and Divine magic as it exists in D&D, which remains (since the beginning) one of my biggest hangups with D&D. If such distinctions exist, there should be a greater distinction between how you cast rather than what you cast. As it is now, divine casting and arcane casting exists mostly as a difference of spell lists rather than casting method. For what it's worth, I don't think that the difference of "praying for spells" and "preparing from a spellbook" really amounts to much for most people when they are both fundamentally neo-Vancian casters with "I prepare my spells this morning" being common shorthand for skipping the flavor text of the respective classes.

Compare that, for example, to the difference between mages in Invisible Sun. If you are a Vance, than there is a limitation to the number of spells that you can prepare in your mind as represented through the number of spell cards of varying sizes (representative of their spell level) that you can fit on a grid. Or if you are a Goetic, then you summon angels, demons, fey, and other extra-worldly beings, with whom you negotiate for what you are asking them to do (e.g., knowledge, a task, fight, etc.). This represents a better Warlock and Conjurer than either the D&D Warlock or Conjurer.

Or compare that with RuneQuest, where theistic rune magic requires committing to a cult, performing the appropriate obeisance to the cult and its deity to regain use of that magic, and the like. Or the difference in effect and method that spirit magic from theistic magic. Or between these magics and sorcery.

As it stands, the difference between arcane and divine magic in D&D feels superficial and milquetoast, especially given the overlap that exists between spell lists.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I'm not a fan of sorcerers for the simple fact that I think they have much less compelling stories attached to them. Say what you will about warlocks... but the connection between the warlock and their patron is rife with potential story. Does the warlock like the patron? Did they make the pact accidentally? Does the patron take an active hand in the warlock's day-to-day life? What happens when the warlock makes a break from the patron? Is the warlock willing to compromise their ideals for the power they receive? All these stories come out of the class.

Stories for wizards are not as compelling to me, but there's still more story potential. Wizards strive to master their magic. Wizards go out searching for new magics to learn. Wizards can see themselves as second-class citizens because they have to really work at gaining and mastering magic, rather than just having it handed to them like clerics, druids, and warlocks do. And also quite frankly the Wizard class just has a status within the game of D&D that makes them considered to be the most powerful people on any planet, so wizards are constantly striving to reach that potential. So that is rife with story potential too.

But the sorcerer? I'm like... eh? They get magic just because. They don't have to DO anything for it, they just get to throw spells around. All the other classes actually have to do things to gain their magical ability-- study and learn, worship or make deals with powerful entities and be their representatives, give of themselves to nature, study and master music. Those are things that to me generate potential story and interesting ideas and characterizations, whereas having magic just for the sake of it doesn't really do much for me.

I think it says a lot that one of the reasons mutants were invented in comic books was so that the writers (IE Stan Lee) no longer had to think up reasons how/why someone gained super powers, the characters could be super-powered for no reason whatsoever. It was him saying "I don't want to create story, I just want it to happen." And the sorcerer to me matches that ethos. Now yes... at least for the first two subclasses that were in the PHB (the wild mage and the draconic sorcerer) you had potential story implications with one sorcerer being unable to control their power, they other having essentially a "draconic patron" that could come into play down the road. But the other ones? You were granted storm powers with no drawbacks or connection to anyone else. Or shadow powers for no actionable reason. Or divine healing powers that require nothing on your part to gain, hold, or do... you just get to have them.

Now yes... I know others find the whole "I have magic inside of me!" idea to be the best story potential of them all... but I just don't see it the same way. To me it's too insular and too personal a story that just doesn't hold up as part of a group adventure game. And this is especially true when the sorcerer stands next to the cleric, wizard, or warlock and they are all the same level. Those three are having to work and do stuff within the world to access their power, and the sorcerer can just stand there smirking and staring at their fingernails-- knowing they are just as powerful as those three and giving up absolutely nothing. Nope... I just don't particular find it interesting.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
Okay. I'm sorry, I thought you were speaking more of the state of affairs as presented in the books, not in the online community. On that note though, it's worth observing that the people who actually write the game are clearly on your side on this one.
I'm not so sure they are on board. Mearls and Co fought tooth and nail to the very end to outright remove sorcerer. Only at the eleventh hour they gave in and started working on sorcerer, and during the first year and a half they still showed mild contempt for it (not Skip Williams level of contempt, just some contempt)

On another note -- I don't want to speak for everyone you've quoted, of course, but to me, "making the sorcerer a wizard subclass" implies a modification like above. You seem to believe that such a modification is too "fundamental", whereas an advocate for it presumably doesn't. I'm not sure how to resolve that disagreement because I'm not sure there's a real disagreement there to resolve
I only speak from the attempts I've seen. I don't trust most designers to do that change correctly.
Look at the playtest Mage. Their idea of a generic mage hardcoded scrolls and being a master of arcane lore at the highest level. I'm afraid that any attempt to merge will inevitably mean that the result will be just wizard with sorcerer toys. (And I sometimes suspect/fear this is deep down the motivation of every other person calling for a merge)

Sha'irs (2e Al-Qadim) might argue against that point. Even as a kit, they broke a lot of the "wizard" mold.
Must confess I'm not familiar with Al-Quadim at all. In 2e I just found the Mage so frustrating I stopped looking for options.
I think there has too be some community issue with Sorcerer. It can't be second class to Wizard by accident. I think at some level, people aren't trying
Indeed. I think that most design inclined members of the community happen to be wizard players who aren't very sensitive to sorcerer players wants and needs.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
Magic User was a generic term which allowed the player to decide their own idea about their character's path to magical power. They could be a wizard, warlock, sorcerer, witch, etc. as they deemed best fit their concept of their character.
"Warlock", "sorcerer", and "wizard" are level titles in OD&D and AD&D 1st edition, referring to 8th, 9th, and 11th level magic-users.

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"Witch" is the level title for a 9th level female magic-user in an article in Dragon #3 (1976).

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The second edition of Chainmail (1972) uses "wizard", "sorcerer", "warlock", and "magician" to denote different power levels, probably the source for the D&D level titles.

Screenshot (165).png


But at other places in the text "wizard" refers to all spell casters.

Screenshot (167).png
 

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The sorcerers are the X-Men of D&D.

Wizards are the power by studying and investigation, as scientifics

Sorceres are the power by innate talent and training, as elite sport players or most famous artists.

Warlocks are the power by trading favours, negotiations and maybe underground actions, as businessmen or mafia gangs.

Warmages(/swordsage/swordmage) should be the arcane version of the martial adepts (divine crusader, ki warblade).
 

tetrasodium

Hero
Supporter
Indeed. I think that most design inclined members of the community happen to be wizard players who aren't very sensitive to sorcerer players wants and needs.
Wizard:
Armor: None
Weapons: Daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs,
light crossbows
Tools: None
Skills: Choose two from Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, and Religion

Sorcerer
Armor: Light armor
Weapons: Simple weapons (ie light crossbows plus club, dagger, greatclub, handaxe, javelinlight hammer, mace, quarterstaff, sickle, spear, unarmed strike, dart, shortbow, & sling)
Tools: None
Skills: Choose two skills from Arcana, Deception, History, Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, and Religion

There is also the problem of massive overlap between spell lists including nearly every one of what many people in this thread called the "right spells" that must be taken. for viability. Sorcerer;s have a little dragon in their DNA so can just know four of the six skills wizards can learn plus a bunch of weapons plus light armor and cast pretty all of much the same spells as wizard at the table. with the added benefit of a prime attribute that has a bunch of useful social skills attached to it... Maybe sorcerer's can stop pretending to be wizards & find a niche of their own other than this before you worry about wizards with "sorcerer toys"?
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
I know others find the whole "I have magic inside of me!" idea to be the best story potential of them all... but I just don't see it the same way.
It is ok if it does nothing to you. The class speaks to a very different kind of person because it is fundamentally a very different kind of power fantasy. The sorcerer isn't a quest for power, but rather what you would do if you had it. It isn't the end goal but the starting line. It is also a more personal journey -yes-, but it doesn't make you less of a team player, all it means is your personality and goals aren't dictated by your class.


Or divine healing powers that require nothing on your part to gain, hold, or do... you just get to have them.
Like I said, the journey becomes about what you do with it. For example, you can take having this power as a reason to seek the attention of your celestial parent/ancestor (more so if it is a parent, celestial parents are more likely than not absent parents). Or you can take these powers as a sign of your own miniature divinity and act in consequence. You then adventure to gain notoriety and enough followers so you can eventually ascend to full godhood. Or maybe you adventure to understand the nature of your power. Just because you can heal it doesn't automatically follow that you know why.
Wizards strive to master their magic. Wizards go out searching for new magics to learn. Wizards can see themselves as second-class citizens because they have to really work at gaining and mastering magic, rather than just having it handed to them like clerics, druids, and warlocks do.

On the other hand, to me, wizards reflect an inherent position of privilege. In fantasy worlds were the commoners fight every day for survival, being able to take ten, twenty or thirty years to study magic means you can afford to. In contrast, if you just happen to have this magic, then you can come from every possible station in life.
 


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