5E Sorcerer class improvement house rule

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
[EDIT: Revised Proposal at the bottom]

It's a been a few years since I've talked about it last, and I've continued thinking about how to improve the sorcerer. For those who are reading this without background context, here is background context:

Your fun is your fun, and may or may not require balance. While perfect balance is impossible, my fun does require a certain amount of balance. I generally judge that by whether I feel like I'm being mechanically punished for playing the concept I want to play. Analysis can either validate or challenge that feeling, and that's where online discussions help out.

After considering arguments for and against sorcerer balance, I was of the opinion that it was fine. Then I tried to make a sorcerer character concept that was completely reasonable. A (black) draconic origin with a black dragon theme. I wanted to be able to do the sorts of magical effects that traditional black dragons can do, and have a very basic "party arcanist" suite of spells. I'm not going to be nearly as flexible as a wizard (and shouldn't be!) but I should be able to cover the bases of a primary spellcaster for the party. To keep it brief--it didn't work. I was rather surprised to find out that I actually couldn't make the character I wanted. I couldn't focus on acid damage, I couldn't cover enough bases, etc. And if I couldn't do it with that basic concept, then I can't do it with a lot of other basic concepts either. So I changed my opinion, analyzed the class design, and determined that sorcerer doesn't work right.

Now, there is nothing wrong with the raw power level of a fire draconic sorcerer, or the flexibility of a divine soul sorcerer. But those are the only ones that really feel up to par, and that's just unacceptable to me. You should be able to portray dozens of sorcerer concepts with much better balance than you currently can. So throw those two high power mark subclasses right out of the door for this discussion. They don't exist. Bring them back once we've fixed the base class, and see if the fixes make them too strong (I doubt they will.)

After years of thought, I've settled on the issue and needed fixes coming down to 3 elements:

1) They need to know a few more spells. Not many! But when you are dealing with such a limited number, every spell counts.
2) They need to have more choices for their spells. Their spell list doesn't currently support perfectly good sorcerer concepts.
3) Sorcery points need to be dedicated to Flexible Casting (as their analogy to Arcane Recovery or Natural Recovery), and not shared with Metamagic.

Addressing those three issues will allow more sorcerer concepts to be expressed, will allow individual sorcerers to be less limited, and will allow them to have equal slots per day to wizards and land druids. All of these things I consider desirable.

Currently, I'm thinking of three additions to the class that should handle it better than my previous ideas. So here they are.

1st Level: Sorcerous Insight (new feature)
At 1st level, and again at 5th, 9th, and 15th level, your sorcerous insight grants you knowledge of an additional spell. Each of these spells can be chosen from the bard, druid, sorcerer, or wizard spell list. A chosen spell must be of a level you can cast, though you may replace them as normal when you gain a level. These spells are sorcerer spells for you.

3rd Level: Metamagic (addendum)
(add after second paragraph)
You can use each metamagic option you possess once without spending sorcery points. You cannot do so again with this feature until you finish a long rest.

3rd Level: Metamagic Affinity (new feature)
Choose one of the following metamagic options that you possess: Careful Spell, Distant Spell, Extended Spell, or Subtle Spell. (If you possess none of those metamagic options, you may choose one later when you do.) If you possess this metamagic option, you may use it once per turn without spending sorcery points.
When you reach 17th* level, choose any other metamagic option you possess. You may use it once per turn without spending sorcery points.

*I'm not entirely certain if I want this to be 17th level, 10th level, or somewhere in-between.

The four additional spells is just enough to get them past one trick pony and into potentially practical arcanist. Allowing those spells to come from additional spell lists allows them to fill those concept holes. I know those little changes work wonders for my black dragon sorcerer concept. This is quite a bit weaker than a bard's Magical Secrets (except for starting at 1st level), as one point of comparison. As another point of comparison, Divine Soul gives them a free spell at 1st level, and adds the entire cleric spell list to their sorcerer list. This change is a relatively minor touch, and is worth more to a sorcerer that isn't a Divine Soul, so there is a bit of balancing out there.

The additions to how metamagic works creates a new economy between Flexible Casting, Metamagic, and Sorcery Points. It's a new way of looking at it, and it now looks like this:
-Sorcery Points are primarily for Flexible Casting, though they also power certain subclass features.
-Metamagics are things you do 1/day each. You have an affinity with one (eventually 2) metamagic option that lets you do it basically at-will.
-You can divert some Sorcery Points to Metamagic if you really want to use it more often.

I like that a lot better. I'm also a fan of the ability to do select metamagics for free as a way to express character concept.

Thoughts?

[EDIT: Revised Proposal]

After a lot of analysis (culminating in this long post: 5E - Sorcerer class improvement house rule) I've revised my proposals, to the following:

Revised Proposals

1st Level: Sorcerous Insight (new feature)
One of the cantrips you know at 1st level can be chosen from the bard, druid, sorcerer or wizard spell list, and is considered a sorcerer spell for you.
At 1st level, and again at 5th, 9th, and 15th level, your sorcerous insight grants you knowledge of an additional spell. Each of these spells can be chosen from the bard, druid, sorcerer, or wizard spell list. A chosen spell must be of a level you can cast, though you may replace them as normal when you gain a level. These spells are sorcerer spells for you.

3rd Level: Innate Power (new feature)
You can use each metamagic option and subclass feature you possess that requires sorcery points once without spending sorcery points, providing your usage would not cost more than 3 sorcery points. You cannot do so again with this feature until you finish a long rest.
Once you reach 17th level, you regain the ability to use this feature when you finish a short or long rest.

3rd Level: Metamagic Affinity (new feature)
Choose one of the following metamagic options: Careful Spell, Distant Spell, Extended Spell, or Subtle Spell. If you possess this metamagic option, you may use it once per turn without spending sorcery points.
When you reach 10th level, choose any other metamagic option you possess, except for Twinned Spell. You may use either metamagic option, if you possess it, once per turn without spending sorcery points.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Not to knock your ideas, but personally I’m of the opinion that, if a player is struggling to make a simple concept work, a better solution is for that player to work with their DM to create an individualized fix for this specific character, rather than to alter the class as a whole to accommodate it. Adding a few more spells and some free Metamagic uses to all sorcerers might or might not make black dragon sorcerers viable, and might or might not make other builds overpowered in the process. To be honest, my design chops aren’t good enough to eyeball that. I don’t think anyone’s are, I think such a change would require playtesting to determine if it works as intended without having any intolerable side-effects. But, letting the player who wants to play a black dragon sorcerer change the damage type of a few spells to acid will definitely make his concept viable, and definitely won’t make other builds overpowered.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
The more powerful metamagic might be problematic with free uses, but it's only a single extra use so might not be too noticeable a power boost that pushes it into being overpowered. I'm actually thinking of opening up metamagic for spellcasting classes via feats and perhaps a free use is just what I need rather than messing around with giving out sorcery points.

I think it's fine with those extra spells drawing upon other spell lists. I already allow sorcerers to choose any thematic spell from other spell lists, though I don't grant extra spells known. Part of the problem is that for some elements, there just aren't enough spells so I open up changing spells to suit the element as well.

I definitely think you've hit the 3 points you wanted with this redesign and would be interested to see how it plays out, the sorcerer players will love it, I'd be more interested in hearing if the other players end up feeling overshadowed by them or if they think it comes out as a fine balance between classes.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
1st Level: Sorcerous Insight (new feature)
At 1st level, and again at 5th, 9th, and 15th level, your sorcerous insight grants you knowledge of an additional spell. Each of these spells can be chosen from the bard, druid, sorcerer, or wizard spell list. A chosen spell must be of a level you can cast, though you may replace them as normal when you gain a level. These spells are sorcerer spells for you.
Hate it. Sorcerers are about limited spells known. And especially not spells from nearly any spell list.

3rd Level: Metamagic (addendum)
(add after second paragraph)
You can use each metamagic option you possess once without spending sorcery points. You cannot do so again with this feature until you finish a long rest.
Love it. I recommended something similar to this in the past.

3rd Level: Metamagic Affinity (new feature)
Choose one of the following metamagic options that you possess: Careful Spell, Distant Spell, Extended Spell, or Subtle Spell. (If you possess none of those metamagic options, you may choose one later when you do.) If you possess this metamagic option, you may use it once per turn without spending sorcery points.
When you reach 17th* level, choose any other metamagic option you possess. You may use it once per turn without spending sorcery points.
[/QUOTE]

Absoltuely OP. If you want the sorcerer to stay balanced then steer clear of this one. Just consider this and heightened spell. Disadvantage on 1 spell per turn. NO!

I would rather see sorcerers get some more metamagic options which would give them a different tool to use with their limited spell list.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
1st Level: Sorcerous Insight (new feature)
At 1st level, and again at 5th, 9th, and 15th level, your sorcerous insight grants you knowledge of an additional spell. Each of these spells can be chosen from the bard, druid, sorcerer, or wizard spell list. A chosen spell must be of a level you can cast, though you may replace them as normal when you gain a level. These spells are sorcerer spells for you.
I agree they need more spells. I have a list of Origin Spells for each Sorcerer origin that Sorcerers in my game can choose 1 of as a spell known. They can only lose these spells to learn the other one of that level. Think of a list like Domain spells, 2 each at 1st,3rd,5th,7th,9th sorcerer levels.
3rd Level: Metamagic (addendum)
(add after second paragraph)
You can use each metamagic option you possess once without spending sorcery points. You cannot do so again with this feature until you finish a long rest.
I like this option.
3rd Level: Metamagic Affinity (new feature)
Choose one of the following metamagic options that you possess: Careful Spell, Distant Spell, Extended Spell, or Subtle Spell. (If you possess none of those metamagic options, you may choose one later when you do.) If you possess this metamagic option, you may use it once per turn without spending sorcery points.
When you reach 17th* level, choose any other metamagic option you possess. You may use it once per turn without spending sorcery points.
Since you've limited the list of options I don't think it's too powerful, but I think this should probably come at 10th when you get your 3rd Metamagic option.
 

Krachek

Explorer
More metamagic. 2 more choices would be good.
Wider spell selection, like any class. Sorcerer have few spell know. Better be sharp and useful and thematic.
Create new metamagic.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
1e style ‘spell research’ solves the problem thematic gaps in the spell list. Encourage the player to invent a spell, with the DM. And if the spell proves interesting and balanced during gameplay, share it here in Enworld, and-or sell it in the Guild.

Rather than borrow spells from other classes, I feel it would improve the Sorcerer class to have a list with a few good choices at each level for a theme. Of course, if an other class has a decent thematically appropriate spell, add it to the list too.
 

Vael

Adventurer
I'm more a fan of making the Sorcerer unique, so stealing spells from other casters isn't as interesting to me as creating spells that are only on the Sorcerer list. I'd also add more Metamagics.

I'll agree that Sorcerers are ... tight, you don't have a lot of room for fat in a Sorcerer build. So my proposed augmentations have been about just giving them a few more choices.

My proposed changes:
  • Increase the spells known progression by 1. So you start with 3 and end with 16.
  • Sorcerers gain additional Metamagic options at levels 7 and 13.

Now, if that isn't enough, here's a few more changes:
  • Recover a few expended Sorcery Points on a short rest. Say, at level 9 you regain up to 2 expended Sorcery points each short rest.
  • Give Sorcerers proficiency with simple weapons and light armor. (This is mainly to get rid of the Mage Armor tax for non-Draconic Sorcerers)
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Our table changed Sorcerers from CHA-based casters to CON-based, granting saves in CON and INT. We felt there were too many CHA-based caster classes. Here are the new features our table added to Sorcerer:

Magic in All Things
Beginning at 2nd level, you can learn a number of spells from any class spell list provided it is of a spell level you can normally cast. These spells are considered Sorcerer spells for you and use your Constitution as your spellcasting modifier.

You are still limited by the total number of spells known by your level in this class. The number of spells you can learn in this way is limited by your Constitution modifier.

Arcane Armor
Beginning at 5th level, when you cast a sorcerer spell on your turn, you can use your bonus action to gain a bonus to your AC equal to the spell level you cast. This bonus lasts until the start of your next turn.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Constitution modifier (a minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Feed the Soul
Beginning at 11th level, you can use your Bonus action to gain a number of sorcery points up to the maximum granted by your level in this class. For every two sorcery points you gain, you lose one point of Constitution. Your maximum hit points are reduced according to your lowered Constitution score. If your maximum hit points fall below your current hit points, your current hit points are equal to your new maximum hit points.

You regain one point of Constitution per hour of rest and cannot spend Hit Dice during this rest. Your maximum hit points return to normal when your Constitution score is fully recovered. If you reduce your Constitution score to 0, you fall unconscious at the end of your turn, and will not awaken until one hour has past and your Constitution score is above 0.

Eyes of Two Worlds
Starting at 14th level, you cannot be blinded by any means, although you. You have darkvision with a range of 120 feet. You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks to notice hidden creatures or objects. Creatures that are hidden from you no longer have advantage when attacking you.

Unearthly Recovery
Beginning at 18th level, as a bonus action when you have less than half of your hit points remaining, you can regain a number of hit points equal to half your hit point maximum. Once you use this feature, you can't use it again until you finish a long rest.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I agree with the statement of the problem... I agree that while one can build an effective blaster or such using very limited expectations, most others dont have enough spells.

As a patch to the sorc, these options seem fine though I am a bit off on the division of sorc points then giving out free meta uses etc. This all seems like the dividing of those mechanics complicates the issues.

This is not the approach I would take.

My big change would be yo fix both sorcerer and warlock by swapping invocations and meta-magic, but thsts another isdue.

My patch to sorc would be simpler - give each origin say two to three schools of magic that are affiliated with them. The sorcerer chooses one. Spells from the wizard spell list of thst school are added to the sorcerer list of available (not known. ).

At every odd level the sorc can pick a bonus known spell of thst school.

So, by 5th level, you have added 3 known spells, by 11th 6, etc all of a school affiliate with your origin,.

That allows sorcerer builds to expand out and gain a few spells in a given theme tied to his origin.

That's where to me the sorcerer fallsxshort. Thsts all we need in a patch.

Imo.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I don't know why you're throwing out the red dragon or divine soul sorcerers. Those are the two subclasses that work like a sorcerer is supposed to work. Why wouldn't you use them as the template for making the rest of the class perform?

Where dragon sorcs are concerned, the problem is simply lack of spells. A blaster-caster needs two crucial things:
  • A high-damage at-will attack with no situational limitations*.
  • A high-damage AoE blast at 3rd level - and I cannot lay enough stress on the "3rd-level" part. If your AoE blast comes at 4th level, you have to wait two extra levels for it to come online, and at the point where it does come online, you get three fewer casts per day. 5th is right out.
The red dragon sorc knocks both requirements out of the park. Fire bolt is the go-to attack cantrip, with good range and high damage, and fireball is notorious for being the best blasting spell in the game. Now compare the other elements:

Cold: Ray of frost is a good at-will attack. 3rd level AoE damage spell does not exist.
Lightning: Shocking grasp is a panic button, not a bread-and-butter attack cantrip. Lightning bolt is solid, if not quite up to the fireball standard.
Acid: Acid splash is so-so. 3rd level AoE damage spell does not exist.
Poison: Poison spray is crap. 3rd-level AoE damage spell does not exist. Hell, 4th-level AoE damage spell does not exist, and the 5th-level AoE damage spell is garbage. And while I don't normally worry too much about immunities and resistances, I make an exception when entire categories of monsters have immunity. Poison sorcs are just screwed.

The quick fix is to allow dragon sorcs to change the element of blasting spells, so everyone is just using a reskinned fireball. A slightly more involved solution is to create 5 new spells: New attack cantrips for lightning and poison, and 3rd-level AoE blasts for cold, acid, and poison. (And the poison spells should be extra buffed given the prevalence of poison immunity.)

For the other sorcerer types, I'd look at each one to see why it does or does not work, and address that individually.

*Aside from elemental resistances/immunities.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I'm fairly sure I see the issue, and I bolded it.

After considering arguments for and against sorcerer balance, I was of the opinion that it was fine. Then I tried to make a sorcerer character concept that was completely reasonable. A (black) draconic origin with a black dragon theme. I wanted to be able to do the sorts of magical effects that traditional black dragons can do, and have a very basic "party arcanist" suite of spells. I'm not going to be nearly as flexible as a wizard (and shouldn't be!) but I should be able to cover the bases of a primary spellcaster for the party. To keep it brief--it didn't work. I was rather surprised to find out that I actually couldn't make the character I wanted. I couldn't focus on acid damage, I couldn't cover enough bases, etc. And if I couldn't do it with that basic concept, then I can't do it with a lot of other basic concepts either. So I changed my opinion, analyzed the class design, and determined that sorcerer doesn't work right.
That's not a reasonable character for a sorcerer. If I said I couldn't make the same concept with a paladin nor a trickster cleric no one would be surprised. But the fluff for the sorcerer and the wizard often gets people thinking that they can be interchanged regardless of concept.

I read through that paragraph and I see requirements that fit the wizard's strengths, such as a "party arcanist" suite of spells, but I see nothing that focuses on what makes the sorcerer a sorcerer. There's a bit about the acid focus that says at least there's some toward the subclass, but everything about the general class is describing a wizard class, not a sorcerer class. It's no surprise it was a poor fit.

The sorcerer has it's own identity separate from the wizard. If you play to that identity instead of trying to mimic another class I think you'd be a lot more happy with the sorcerer.
 

Harzel

Explorer
The quick fix is to allow dragon sorcs to change the element of blasting spells, so everyone is just using a reskinned fireball.
I realize you suggested this as a matter of expediency, but it just makes me shudder - nails on a chalkboard, etc. Things that are supposed to be different things should be ... different. It's like adding food coloring to vanilla ice cream and claiming you've created a new flavor. And I freely admit this is a highly subjective reaction.
 

Harzel

Explorer
I'm fairly sure I see the issue, and I bolded it.



That's not a reasonable character for a sorcerer. If I said I couldn't make the same concept with a paladin nor a trickster cleric no one would be surprised. But the fluff for the sorcerer and the wizard often gets people thinking that they can be interchanged regardless of concept.

I read through that paragraph and I see requirements that fit the wizard's strengths, such as a "party arcanist" suite of spells, but I see nothing that focuses on what makes the sorcerer a sorcerer. There's a bit about the acid focus that says at least there's some toward the subclass, but everything about the general class is describing a wizard class, not a sorcerer class. It's no surprise it was a poor fit.

The sorcerer has it's own identity separate from the wizard. If you play to that identity instead of trying to mimic another class I think you'd be a lot more happy with the sorcerer.
Well, your basic point seems quite sound, but OTOH, it does not seem unreasonable to want to build a character on the basis of
a) my magic comes from something innate within me; AND
b) I want to be able to do a basic variety of magical tasks.
Although when I look at that the first thing that comes to mind is Sorc X / Wizard Y, perhaps with some tweaks to make the combo more appealing.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Well, your basic point seems quite sound, but OTOH, it does not seem unreasonable to want to build a character on the basis of
a) my magic comes from something innate within me; AND
b) I want to be able to do a basic variety of magical tasks.
Although when I look at that the first thing that comes to mind is Sorc X / Wizard Y, perhaps with some tweaks to make the combo more appealing.
It's not unreasonable to have a concept, but it may not be one that the classes can cover.

With how 5e handles arcane magic, those that do it through knowledge (INT) are given a wider scope of spells and more flexibility. That's a bonus given to another class. Granting a feature of one class and wanting it along with everything else a different class already gives you isn't reasonable.

As a side note, beware because multiclassing is easy to shoot yourself in the foot. A Sorc / Wizard will have a large number of known spells, but they will lag well behind in higher level spells known. Plus they will have two different casting scores to advance.
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
I don't know why you're throwing out the red dragon or divine soul sorcerers. Those are the two subclasses that work like a sorcerer is supposed to work. Why wouldn't you use them as the template for making the rest of the class perform?
When I said "throw them out" I didn't mean I don't use those subclasses. What I was doing was forestalling people arguing that sorcerer is perfectly balanced (and therefore this thread is meaningless) because a fire draconic sorcerer is a damage powerhouse, or a divine soul is incredibly flexible. That's usually what happens on these threads, and it completely misses the issue that a class is more than its best subclass. It seems to have worked, since no one is making that argument.

That's not a reasonable character for a sorcerer. If I said I couldn't make the same concept with a paladin nor a trickster cleric no one would be surprised. But the fluff for the sorcerer and the wizard often gets people thinking that they can be interchanged regardless of concept.

I read through that paragraph and I see requirements that fit the wizard's strengths, such as a "party arcanist" suite of spells, but I see nothing that focuses on what makes the sorcerer a sorcerer. There's a bit about the acid focus that says at least there's some toward the subclass, but everything about the general class is describing a wizard class, not a sorcerer class. It's no surprise it was a poor fit.

The sorcerer has it's own identity separate from the wizard. If you play to that identity instead of trying to mimic another class I think you'd be a lot more happy with the sorcerer.
The sorcerer's identity is pretty close to that of a wizard. They are an innate, less scholarly caster with a theme, compared to a trained, scholarly caster with a theme. They should be an alternative way of filling the role that a wizard could fill. Just like you can have a barbarian, or paladin, or ranger fill the same role as a fighter, but fill it a little differently, you should be able to do the same with sorcerer and wizard. You might argue that that isn't the intended case, but I would argue that if it were not the intended case, then they should have given the sorcerer some unique features that clearly allow it to fill a role that the wizard cannot, and not make it look like it can fill a role similar to the wizard. As it is that is the obvious intent, and there is no good evidence that I'm aware of for a contrary "correct usage" for the sorcerer.
 

FrogReaver

Adventurer
Maybe we are missing one of the simplest solutions. Empower the DM to Empower the Player. Allow a metamagic ability that allows sorcery points to be spent to produce a spell or spell like effect that would be consistent with something a creature from their bloodline would perform.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
The sorcerer's identity is pretty close to that of a wizard.
No, they are not. This is the problem I bolded in my first statement. They have very different identities.

The wizard is a master of wide spell selection, changing their spells every long rest, and having the best ritual casting of any class in the book because they don't have to have a spell known/prepared. The get almost no base class (vs. subclass) features as they level up because their casting is so good. They start with a wide spell selection, add to it faster than other arcane casters, and have mechanisms to grow it through play. They also get a very wide spell list with more choices on it to enable their specialty of wide spell scope.

A sorcerer is a master of just a few spells, but being able to do a lot with them. They get metamagic that allows them to manipulate that magic in ways that others can not, from twinning single target spells (amazing with buff spells), to casting unnoticed in social situations / uncounterable in combat situation, to a bunch of other ways to get more from a limited spell selection. They gain sorcery points to fuel this but could also do things like break down slots and construct slots. Not only is their spells known small, it comes from a narrower list.

You might argue that that isn't the intended case, but I would argue that if it were not the intended case, then they should have given the sorcerer some unique features that clearly allow it to fill a role that the wizard cannot, and not make it look like it can fill a role similar to the wizard. As it is that is the obvious intent, and there is no good evidence that I'm aware of for a contrary "correct usage" for the sorcerer.
They gave then exactly what you said - unique features. The part that you are also missing is that they also gave the wizard unique features. You are asking for a sorcerer with the wizard unique features, and ignoring the sorcerer unique features. That's not a problem with the game design.
 
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Laurefindel

Explorer
I agree with the OP’s premise: sorcerer is supposed to have a narrow focus, but that focus doesn’t need to be that narrow. A few things I considered, not necessarily all at the same time.

1) one or two bonus thematic spells per spell level 1-5, like domain extra spells.

2) 50% sorcery points recharge on short rest. A bit under, but not far off arcane recovery.

3) all metamagic options from level 2. Or start with 4, then 2 per extra metamagic features. Mirrors battlemaster
 

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