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D&D 5E Sorcerer vs. Wizard: Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better?

Are the sorcerer and the wizard basically the same, or pretty different?


I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
In 5e (disregarding these classes in earlier e's), are the sorcerer and the wizard basically the same class with a slightly different coat of paint? Or are they distinct and unique in play?

5-point scale:
1 = "they are only different cosmetically."
2 = "they have some differences, but these differences don't matter much."
3 = "maybe they fill the same role or have the same story, but they've got meaningful distinctions."
4 = "they have some superficial similarities, but they don't really play the same at all."
5 = "they are only the same if you ignore basically everything about them."

It's kind of a judgement call, IMO - not sure there's any absolutely right threshold for "different."

Some thought-provoking questions to consider:
  • If you gave them the same exact spell list, spellcasting ability score, and/or skill/weapon/armor proficiency list, would they still be different? How?
  • If you took a subclass out of one and dumped it in the other, would it still work? Does it still make sense?
  • How would you help someone who has never played D&D before choose between these classes?
  • How often does the difference come up in play? In what situations would it be clear that the class is different? In what situations would they do basically the same thing?
  • If you were to make them MORE THE SAME how would you do it? If you were to make them MORE DIFFERENT how would you do it?
  • Would a member of one class with a different race/background be the same as the member of another class? (Ie: is a sorcerer who took the Scholar background basically doing the same thing as a wizard? Or is a wizard with the Noble background the same thing as a Sorcerer?)
 
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TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
In play, the wizard is the versatile scholar that is more consistent then the personable (wild mage) sorcerer, but with wild magic and metamagic, the sorcerer can certainly do things no one else can, at least once in a while.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
My answer my be shaded by comparing to the 3E rules. When the Sorcerer was first added, it was pretty much just a Wizard with a simpler memorization/preparation system. In 5E, this is not the case. Whether someone who started with 5E would agree, I couldn't say.

I don't think there's quite as much distinction between Wizard and Sorcerer as there is between Cleric and Druid, though. The arcane divide in 5E is probably about where the divine divide was in 1E, give or take.
 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
As classes, I see them as quite distinct, regardless of spell-list overlap.

I'm excited about the wizard and its subclasses; the sorcerer leaves me cold. When I try to untangle why that might be, it's hard to say, but instinctively they *feel* hugely different. I think I just don't like metamagic; for me, it's not interesting to play with.

That being so:

If you gave them the same exact spell list, spellcasting ability score, and/or skill/weapon/armor proficiency list, would they still be different? How?
If you took a subclass out of one and dumped it in the other, would it still work? Does it still make sense?

These would not change my opinions.

How would you help someone who has never played D&D before choose between these classes?

I'd say choose Wizard!
 

Zelc

First Post
IMO the Sorcerer is very different from the Wizard, but the presentation doesn't make the differences very clear, and the mechanical differences are diluted.

I think a big problem is the Sorcerer is designed from an RP standpoint, and not a mechanical standpoint. The Dragon Sorcerer and the Wild Mage are both better thematically than they are cohesive mechanically. Rogues are skillful, Fighters deal tons of damage, Evocation Wizards have utility and are good at damage spells, Illusion Wizards have utility and are good at illusion spells. What is the Dragon Sorcerer's niche? He's a dragon. That's great for RP, but what does that mean mechanically? What is the Wild Mage's niche?

Let's do a thought experiment. Take the Dragon Sorcerer. Strip out all class features except Twinned Spell, Heightened Spell, Quickened Spell, and Elemental Affinity. We have a caster that novas well, disables well, and twins buff spells like Haste, at the cost of spells prepared/known and spell slots (Arcane Recovery). Quality over quantity and flexibility. That's cohesive, strong, fun, and different from any type of Wizard. The other class features only add extra power in random directions, some of which require SP and trade off with your powerful metamagic.

If that's the core of the Sorcerer, it's annoying because you can use it so few times. At level 6, you can Twin Haste twice and that's it for your niche for the day, unless you give up a lot of spell slots for SP. The problem is there's a lot of power tied up in the random other class features you get*. Those other class features are nice for flavor, but dilute the niche of a Sorcerer mechanically. I'd love to see some archetypes designed to solidify the Sorcerer's mechanics rather than add flavor.




* Draconic Resilience is half of Toughness + 1 spell known + 1-3 level 1 spell slots. Elemental Affinity is pretty strong; it's probably worse than Empowered Evocation but you get it 4 levels earlier. Dragon Wings is a free personal Fly spell: effectively a level 2(for Self target?) spell + a bunch of level 2 spell slots for casting it. Draconic Presence is basically +1 level 3 spell known, but it's a good level 3 spell (much better than Fear).
 
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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
."

It's kind of a judgement call, IMO - not sure there's any absolutely right threshold for "different."

Some thought-provoking questions to consider:
  • If you gave them the same exact spell list, spellcasting ability score, and/or skill/weapon/armor proficiency list, would they still be different? How?
  • If you took a subclass out of one and dumped it in the other, would it still work? Does it still make sense?
  • How would you help someone who has never played D&D before choose between these classes?
  • How often does the difference come up in play? In what situations would it be clear that the class is different? In what situations would they do basically the same thing?
  • If you were to make them MORE THE SAME how would you do it? If you were to make them MORE DIFFERENT how would you do it?

3.5 "They fill similar roles and can play the same. However if you play to each class's strengths, the sorcerer and wizard play very differently.

Essentially if you play each class as "artillery mage with tricks", the sorcerer and wizard play the same. Make them both Int based and a dragon bloodline sorcerer and evocation specialist wizard shoot lightning bolts and fireballs the same. However the classes play very different if play to the class and subclass.

  • Again. You can play them the same and play them different. Proficiencies and scores really only changes the flavor. A Intelligence sorcerer loses the "I am magic. I am fire." Charisma invokes for the Harry Potter, "nonmuggle who uses academics to control his magic". The Charisma wizard goes to the Harry Potter as well where magic is just learning and practicing the right words and gestures.
  • Nothing really changes. The wild mage wizard is what it used to be. The evocation sorcerer just has affinity to a school.
  • Here's the question
    Do you like having the right spell for the job or having your spells work very well? Would you prefer a +3 longsword or a +1 longsword, +1 longbow, and +1 pike? Power vs Tech.
  • The classes feel the same when players play the same or when the class's specialties don't come up often. The sorcerer feels different when their metamagic gets highlighted (when you need someone dead or to fail a check now). The wizard shows itself when you need offbeat spells or need to use school spells.
  • More same. Just swap class features or subclasses.
    More different. Give the sorcerer more metamagic and sorcery point but lower spells known. Give the wizard the ability to swap prepared spells on short rest. Make it more Big Hammer vs Toolbox.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
The difference becomes clear when you're adventuring and the need for a magical solution keeps coming up and the sorcerer is all like, "Sorry man, but I only know a couple of spells. But I can cast them a lot!"
 


CapnZapp

Legend
The sorcerer used to have a great reason for existing: not having to use fire and forget. People accepted the narrow spell selection because of that.

Also; playing an innate spellcaster, that isn't Intelligence based.

Now, that second reason is all that's left.

Since you have such a narrow spell selection you really can't fill the arcane spellcaster niche, since the wizard is expected to have lots more tools in the box.

Before 3e there were no sorcerer. 5e really needed to make more of the sorcerer to justify the class.

Asking players to sacrifice all versatility just to get to play a non-Int caster is a hard sell, a very hard sell indeed.
 

kbrakke

First Post
To preface my experience with wizards, sorcerers and such is as follows: I play a Draconic Sorcerer (Level 6) and an Arcane Trickster 4 Wizard 1. I play with a Wild Magic Sorcerer(Also level 6). Additionally I DM for a Draconic Sorcerer (Level 7), and four wizards (Levels 15, 10, 4, 3).

There are obvious similarities, in that both classes have the same spell progression and have similar spell lists. I think that you can create similar characters where either class can be used, but I think not embracing what makes each class different would be a disservice. In my experience the versatility of the Wizard and the sorcerer class features do make them different.

I think being able to learn spells and being able to choose from this potentially comprehensive list make the wizard very different. The player considerations become very different. With the wizard, the question is "what will I run in to today?", whereas the sorcerer asks "what will I always need to do?'". Also for the wizard, I find that the schools don't set them apart hugely, at least at early levels. As they unlock more school abilities the difference is more pronounced. In either case though the wizard does feel very different to me because of the fundamental difference in spell considerations.

I do think that the sorcerer metamagic and spell points make it play differently. In my past 3 adventures, sorcery points and metamagic have made a huge difference in how encounters played out. In no particular order: I was able to flee from an earth elemental with quickened fly + disengage and move. If I could not do that he would get an AOO or be able to catch me. One huge encounter was completely turned by a wild magic surge getting all sorcery points back. Our wild mage was able to make a new level 2 spell slot and cast gust of wind letting us escape. We had 5 encounters with no short rests. Making another level two spell slot in battle let me cast another very important scorching ray. And in that same set of encounters I was able to quicken fireball + firebolt to take down a mage before he could cast a second spell.

In all those situations I think a wizard could have been effective, but he would have done it in a fundamentally different way. Namely he would have been able to use rituals between combats, or he could have a wider array of spells to target each encounter.

I think that metamagic and sorcery points vs learning new spells and rituals is enough to fundamentally change how each class plays. You could make an INT sorcerer, it's just an Arcanist, though without learning new spells from scrolls please. DMing for one in pathfinder is very annoying.

I think you can swap them back and forth easily mechanically. However I think that in play the story of the sub-class for each class will make a big enough difference. For example enchantment can easily become a fey bloodline, but being part fey and studying enchantment spells are very different character wise. Same with something like wild magic and a joker/gambling wizard school.

I usually ask people questions about their fantasy backgrounds. Sometimes it's easy, they really like dragons and magic so draconic sorcerer it is. Or they love Hermionie, and so wizard it is. The main question I tend to ask is do they want their character to have studied magic, or have the magic be a part of them.

As mentioned above, I think the difference comes up all the time. Every single level up with my Sorcerer has been very different than the wizards. I have to think if something I have is under performing and replace it. Wizards just get more and more. I also think the rituals vs metamagic is important. Wizards can do more different things, sorcerers can do the same thing differently.

For more the same, I would just increase the number of sorcerer spells known and let them swap spells by consuming a scroll. They learn the scroll spell in place of one they already knew. This lets them more quickly adjust their spells for the immediate situations, extra known spells lets them diversify. For wizards I would give them a single metamagic and sorcery (arcane) points based on int, go to 1 spell on level up and double the costs of copying in to the spell book. This gives them a similar flexibility when casting spells, but restricts them more at early levels where gold is still a concern.

You can make characters who are very similar by choosing the right backgrounds. Like a wizard urchin who had to come up with all their own spells. But I still think the in-play differences are enough to cause these characters to branch out very quickly.
 

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