Sorcerer (Dungeons & Dragons)
Sorcerers are a core playable spellcaster class in Dungeons & Dragons since Third Edition. Unlike Wizards, a Sorcerer's power comes not from years of study, but as a result of supernatural power infusing their blood. In old editions of D&D, this is usually because one of your ancestors fucked a Dragon (which is weird because in 5e half-dragons, the immediate result of a dragon-human pairing, are explicitly stated to be infertile), while Pathfinder gives much more varied(and sometimes squickier) origins, and D&D 5e gives multiple origins, all generally non-squicky.
Prior to Fourth, they are really just simpler versions of their Wizard brothers, able to cast spells on the fly without morning preparation or a spellbook. The drawback is that they can only know a few distinct spells per spell level. In essence, they are "easier to play" wizards for people who have short attention spans and/or don't want to muck around with strategy. This exemption was WotC's first attempt at breaking away from the Vancian Casting paradigm that had been the foundation of all magic in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
Critics claim there are several additional problems with the class:
- Fewer feats than the wizard.
- No class skills except Bluff use Charisma, the sorcerer's casting stat.
- Inferior Prestige classes compared to the wizard (think Tome and Blood).
- Cannot obtain as much benefit from spell scrolls and spellbooks as a wizard can.
Advocates argue that:
- Some of the prestige classes are pretty good (exalted arcanist, archmage) if you have the right splatbook (Book of Exalted Deeds, Heroes of Horror, Draconomicon).
- Sorcerers got a mild buff in 3.5, allowing them to vary some spells between levels to make up for their limited spell selection.
- Not having to prepare their spells does offer some advantages (casting flight or invisibility on the whole party off-the-cuff without prior preparation).
- A sorcerer doesn't depend on an external, potentially destructible object to prepare his spells (i.e. the wizard's spellbook).
- A wizard may not obtain or be able to afford the spells he wants to add to his book, while a sorcerer is granted his new spells at each level-up.
Each day, sorcerers and bards must focus their minds on the task of casting their spells. A sorcerer or bard needs 8 hours of rest (just like a wizard), after which he spends 15 minutes concentrating. (A bard must sing, recite, or play an instrument of some kind while concentrating.) During this period, the sorcerer or bard readies his mind to cast his daily allotment of spells. Without such a period to refresh himself, the character does not regain the spell slots he used up the day before.
Sorcerer is the poster child for Tier 2. He can break the game with the right spell(s), but his limited spells known stop him from breaking it all the time or in as many ways as a prepared caster.
Players of sorcerers (not to be mistaken with Saucerers) often enjoy dragon-related cheese, like Draconic Heritage feats or racial substitution levels, and use it in some vague attempt at roleplaying. They are highly likely to be kobolds.
It's a well-known fact that Skip Williams, one of the developers of Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition, absolutely despised the sorcerer class and is famous for saying in a now-notorious thread on the Wizards of the Coast forums that sorcerers weren't worthy of being called spellcasting classes.
Comparison to Third Edition Wizards
Normally, comparing a spontaneous caster like a sorcerer to a vancian caster like a cleric or druid is like comparing superman to batman. If Batman knows ahead of time that Mr Freeze is stealing diamonds from an ice skating rink, then he can bring his bat-hockey stick, his special bat-boots with ice skates built into them, and a bat-blowdryer for defrosting Robin when he inevitably gets frozen. If there's some long-term, non-emergency situation that Batman doesn't have the right tools for, he can just spend a few hours in the batcave and invent shark repellent or an anti-banana ray or whatever the situation requires. Batman's weakness, however, is that he has to decide ahead of time what gadgets he's going to bring in his utility belt, and if he ends up in a situation where he really needs a fourth batarang, but doesn't have it because he only brought 3 batarangs and a grappling gun, he's fucked. Superman, by contrast, has a relatively small selection of powers that he can use all day long. He never has to predict how many times in a day he'll need to use flight versus how many times he'll need to use super strength; he just does whatever the fuck he wants, whenever he wants. His weakness is that if he ever comes across a problem that he can't see through, fly over, melt with his laser vision, freeze with his breath, or yeet into the fucking sun, then he's screwed. He can't just run back to his fortress of solitude and pull new powers out of his ass to deal with the problem (only the writers can do that for him). In other words, Superman sacrifices long-term flexibility to gain a huge amount of short-term flexibility, while batman does the opposite. Likewise, sorcerers sacrifice long-term flexibility to gain a huge amount of short-term flexibility, while most vancian casters do the opposite.
The key word here is "most". Wizards are unique among Vancian casters in that, not only must they choose what spells to prepare from their spellbook every day, they must ALSO, like a sorcerer, choose what spells to "learn" (meaning add to their spellbook) every time they level up. Wizards combine a sorcerer's lack of long-term flexibility with a cleric's or druid's lack of short-term flexibility.
In practical terms, what this means is that sorcerers are best used as turrets for spamming fireballs and magic missiles, while Wizards are better suited for specializing in single-use spells like Comprehend Languages and being their group's designated Swiss army knife. It also means that Wizards are much more difficult for players to understand and utilize effectively.
There are a few differences between wizards and sorcerers other than spontaneous versus prepared casting. For example...
- Perhaps the biggest difference is the spellbook: a Wizard who loses his or her spellbook is pretty thoroughly fucked, whereas sorcerers and other Vancian casters have no such weakness. The spellbook also provides a way for Wizards to "learn" spells from sources other than leveling up, which sorcerers lack (and which is irrelevant for other Vancian casters, who "know" their whole spell lists). - Wizards get bonus feats every five levels and sorcerers don't. - Sorcerers have only two skills on their class skill list (Bluff and Concentration) that benefit from their god stats (con + cha), while Wizards have quite a few class skills (concentration, craft, decipher script, spellcraft, and ALL the knowledge skills) that key off of their god stats (con + int). - Sorcerers cast more spells per day, but wizards gain access to higher-level spells (and therefore certain prestige classes) slightly earlier. - Wizards can theoretically "know" more spells: a 20th-level sorcerer will know 9 cantrips and 34 spells of level 1 or higher, while the spellbook of a level 20 Wizard could contain all cantrips, a number of level 1 spells equal to 3 plus whatever their intelligence modifier was during character-creation, and 38 spells of level 1 or higher from leveling. However, this is only realistically attainable using low-level spells because each spell consumes a number of pages equal to its level and each spellbook is limited to 100 pages. Cantrips also take up 1 page each, which poses a bit of a problem, because if a least 100 cantrips were published by the time 3.5e ended, then there's literally no room left for any level 1 or higher spells and Wizards are really screwed. Even the publication of 57+ cantrips would leave Wizards unable to ever learn level 9 spells, since they'd be forced to burn through at least 5 pages on level 1 spells during character-creation (you need to start with 15 int if you want to have 19 int by level 17) and then another 30 pages leveling up to 16, so by the time they hit level 17 and can finally learn level 9 spells, they'd only have 8 blank pages left.
In general, whether the sorcerer or wizard is "better" depends a lot on the DM, and especially on whether the DM enforces spellbook page limits or not, and how many opportunities the DM provides for a Wizard to learn spells from sources other than leveling up. Among basement -dwelling virgins with nothing better to do with their time than edit 1d4chan pages, Wizards are generally believed to be superior.
d20 Modern features the Sorcerer class in d20 Past. It's effectively a combination of the 3E sorcerer and Dragon Disciple. Like the other 3rd edition variants, this Sorcerer gains casting at a lower speed than a
Wizard Mage for no particular reason. They are also squishier than Mage, having a lower defense bonus progression. They do however get all the social skills as class skills, but get really low skill points per level. They are the only way in the system to get flight for any notable duration of time (5 hours instead of six seconds per level) outside of a plane or the rubbish d20 Future, though this doesn't kick in till character level 11. While most d20 Modern advanced classes could be entered from multiple base classes (though they may require the right occupation for class skills) Sorcerer is locked into Charismatic Hero if it wants to qualify for it on time, since the required skills can't be obtained from any other class+occupation combo since only Charismatic has Perform by default and no occupation can give it and the other missing skills.
The real strength of a Sorcerer in d20 Modern however is their Charisma basis. In normal D&D this would make them even worse, since Intelligence actually does something other than social skills, but due to Fearsome Presence (which they can pick up as a bonus feat) being a free action to reduce enemy saves and the incantation rules allow extra participants (Read: Leadership) to dramatically decrease the difficulty of casting an incantation this is actually a pretty solid trade.
Pathfinder gave every class a unified system of feat progression, removing one problem with the wizard comparison right there; it also offers traits to let them make the charisma-based skills they should always have fucking had in-class into class skills, and indirectly helps them out by making prestige classes much rarer and more corner-case. It also added a series of "bloodline powers" to let the player customize them a little and to make them a little less like weaker versions of wizards; it does a good job of that, though they still lack some of the wizard's raw versatility. Greatly helping their limited spells known is that Humans (and anything that counts as Human, so Half-Elf, Half-Orc and certain Planetouched) can select to learn an extra spell of a lower level as their favored class bonus instead of bonus HP or skill points (though this will make them even squishier). Those bloodlines show what monster in your ancestry is the source of your powers, making it the class equivalent of half-elf or half-orc or whatever. It's possible to be descended from an undead or an aberration; best not to think about how, though at least some undead are generally considered quite attractive and officially all exposure to mutating magical forces is a possible source of becoming a sorcerer instead of just good ol' fashioned breeding. The article for Androids in the first Iron Gods book implies reincarnation is also a potential source of bloodline.
Either way, said bloodlines dramatically increase the power of the sorcerers: each bloodline gives you a list of bonus feats, bonus spells, and "bloodline powers" which range from mediocre (1d6 blast) to getting even moar bonus spells, +6 str, having all of your internal organs shifted so that you are immune to critical hits and cannot be backstabbed, and casting metamagic without increased casting time. Core bloodlines are pretty standard, being classic themes as Abyssal/Infernal/Celestial/Dragonkin/Fey/etc, with the aberration and undead being kind of oddballs, the destined being hilarious, and the arcane pretty boring but obviously the most powerful, as it is clearly the most viable option in the entire game for metamagic users. Yes, now munchkins can be sorcerers too. Then Paizo started printing all of its "Ultimate X" stuff and things kept going weird(er), with sorcerers descending from nearly everything that can sport a reproductive system, including (but not limited to) Cthulhu-like abominations and plant monsters. They also introduced the "wildblooded" concept of variant bloodlines, though most of these are negligible difference in ancestry and exist mainly for mechanical changes. To get an idea of how weird things can get, here is the full list:
- Aberrant: Your ancestor messed around with an Aboleth, Beholder or something similar.
- Warped: Your shapesifting powers are contagious.
- Abyssal: Your ancestor messed around with a demon.
- Brutal:Your ancestor messed around with another demon, one that let you inherit wing-a-lings.
- Accursed: Your ancestor was cursed, possibly by a Hag.
- Aquatic: Your ancestor messed with an aquatic creature like a Merfolk, Triton... or a Deep One.
- Seaborn: Your powers wax and wane in power like the tides.
- Arcane: Your ancestors were wizards, and powerful ones at that.
- Sage: You control your powers with research, using intelligence instead of charisma. Unlike Empyreal there's not really anything fun to do with this because intelligence based arcane casters already existed.
- Boreal: Your ancestor was
Indrick Borealea creature living in cold regions up north.
- Rimeblooded: Your power focuses more on ice than snow.
- Celestial: Your ancestor was touched by an angel in that way.
- Empyreal: You control your powers with insight instead of willpower, meaning you use wisdom instead of charisma. Has interesting combos with zen Archer Monk and Arcane Archer.
- Daemon: Your ancestor messed around with a life-hating daemon.
- Deep Earth: Your ancestor messed around with a creature of the earth.
- Bedrock: More of a stylistic difference, this bloodline offers more protection than offense.
- Destined: Your family was destined for greatness, and it produced you. Better deliver the goods, kiddo.
- Karmic: Your magic now flows upon the premise of delivering bad things to those who do them. Now those who hit you are cursed for it.
- Div: Your ancestor messed around with one of the nihilistic div.
- Djinni: Your ancestor messed around with a Djinni, an air genie.
- Draconic: Your ancestor got fucked by a dragon. Comes in the full Chromatic and Metallic spectrum. A feat can also allow you to use Outer Dragons as well.
- Linnorm: Instead of a 4 legged dragon, your ancestor was a norse style serpent dragon. Given their sub-orc intelligence, inability to shapeshift, growing instead of gaining class levels and tendency to curse people, this one was probably not from genetics.
- Dreamspun: Your family has always been able to mess around with dreams, and now it's your turn.
- Visionary: Your family might has a history of rampantly harmless insomnia because what dreams you do have actually happen to come true.
- Ectoplasm: Your family is somehow linked to ectoplasm, which does not have to mean they fucked ghosts, but probably does.
- Efreeti: Your ancestor messed around with an Efreeti, a fire genie.
- Elemental: Your ancestor fucked a powerful elemental being, or was exposed to strong elemental energy. Comes in variations of the usual four element ensemble.
- Lifewater: Your ancestor managed to fuck water (or rather, an elemental of water) and got it's healing properties.
- Primal: Your elemental power is on overload.
- Fey: Your ancestor messed around with a fairy, and not of the homosexual kind.
- Dark Fey: Your ancestor messed around with a dark fairy. Like a normal one, but darker and edgier.
- Sylvan: Your ancestor had more of a tie to nature than fairies. Oh, and now you have a pet.
- Ghoul: Your ancestor probably ate a bit too much long pig, and now you're a bit ghoulish.
- Harrow: Your ancestor played too much with their not-Tarot deck, which nets you magical powers linked to this not-Tarot.
- Imperious: Your ancestor was so much into Humanity Fuck Yeah it gained you magical powers to secure a future for the human race. For humans only.
- Impossible: You're here to kick reason to the curb and do the impossible.
- Infernal: Your ancestor messed around with a devil, or didn't read the fine print when they made a deal with one.
- Pit-Touched: Your deal with the devil made you a bit tougher than normal.
- Kobold: You carry the blood of dragons inside you, which other kobolds are really impressed with. As expected, it's for kobolds only.
- Maestro: Your ancestor was way into music and sound, like a bard, trumpet archon, lillend or something less wholesome like a harpy or even a Gibbering Mouther.
- Marid: Your ancestor messed around with a Marid, a water genie.
- Shahzada: Your ancestor fooled around with an elite Marid, and now you're hydrokinetic.
- Martyred: Your ancestor died for their beliefs, which nets you powers courtesy of grandpa Jesus.
- Retribution: What happens when you ignore "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" and reap holy vengeance.
- Nanite: Your ancestor messed around with NANOMACHINES, SON! They grant you magical powers.
- Oni: Your ancestor messed around with one of the hedonistic Oni.
- Orc: Your ancestor messed around with an orc, which gives you rage powers. Not actually limited to orcs or humans, meaning that you could be an elf with this bloodline.
- Pestilence: You are a disturbed individual who's down with the sickness and gains magical powers through your blighted soul.
- Phoenix: Your ancestor witnessed the rebrith of a Phoenix (though the sole NPC of this bloodline actually got it by being resurrected at a young age). You can turn your fire blast spells into ranged AoE healing spells.
- Possessed: You're kind of a Spiritualist: you have a spirit riding your soul who gets you magical powers, except you get casting like a sorcerer.
- Protean: Your ancestor messed around with a Protean, the Slaad standins of Pathfinder.
- Anarchic: Instead of touching beings made of chaos, your ancestor was literally corrupted by literal chaos itself.
- Psychic: Your family includes many psychics, and you're too.
- Rakshasa: Your ancestor messed around with a Rakshasa, making them a furry.
- Salamander: Your ancestor messed around with a Salamander, giving you all sorts of neat fire and smithing powers.
- Serpentine: Your ancestor messed around with one flavor or another of snek, meaning you have snake powers.
- Envenomed: Your ancestor inherited the snake's venom rather than its sneakiness.
- Shadow: Your ancestor messed around with edgy powers, and now you have a shadowy soul and matching powers.
- Umbral: Slightly different sort of shadowy power, now granting concealment.
- Shapechanger: Your ancestor was a shapechanger (presumably one that wasn't an outsider or dragon), so you're better at polymorph spells, even able to maintain one near-permanently.
- Shaitan: Your ancestor messed around with a Shaitan, an earth genie.
- Starsoul: Your ancestor traveled through space, and instead of getting irradiated and dying their descendants gained magical powers.
- Void-Touched: Your ancestor's powers didn't come from a star, but from that giant black vacuum the stars were sitting in.
- Stormborn: Your ancestor messed around with
House Targaryena creature of storm and electricity.
- Arial: Your ancestor actually messed around with the element of wind.
- Undead: Your ancestor has something to do with death, which nets you magical powers.
- Sanguine: Your ancestor may have been some sort of vampire. You're no dhampir, but you still feel that thirst.
- Unicorn: Your ancestor was a unicorn rider. You get healing spells as bonus spells known, but little condition removal so you can't replace a dedicated divine caster.
- Verdant: Your ancestor messed around with plants, making being Poison Ivy a hereditary trait to your family.
- Groveborn: Your ancestry's more prevalent in how everything looks all wooden.
Still, sorcerers are really an interesting, entertaining choice and can be tailored and customized to be whatever the fuck you may desire, with great opportunities for roleplaying. Even the lack of spells is less severe - you get one free spell among your bloodline ones every odd level beyond the first, and a good chunk of races has a favored class bonus that nets you 1 bonus spell each level, even if it has to be one level lower than your highest spell's level. If you don't mind being a special snowflake, check out the "build your own spells" Words of Power system from "Ultimate Magic." The sky's falling in on our heads, 'cause someone in a 3.X game actually put in an alternate casting system that favors sorcerers over their spoiled rotten cousins. Think on how some of the elemental bloodlines boost power for any spell with the right elemental subtype. Think how easy it is to slip a level zero cold snap or spark keyword into a larger spell. Engage trollface, because you just made the best "blaster" mage in 3.X history.
Also in Pathfinder, sorcerers make arguably better mystic theurges than wizards because they can choose to multiclass in Oracle. The oracle is a divine equivalent of the sorcerer that uses charisma as his casting stat, thus avoiding being MAD, or can take the empyreal bloodline and swap their casting stat with Wisdom, making it a perfect multiclass option for druids or clerics that want to go theurge. Obviously, this advantage becomes moot when you notice that Pathfinder theurges suck pretty bad, and one of their (few) features only works for prepared spellcasters. Oops!
See also the Dragon Disciple, which synchronizes heavily with the Draconic Bloodline. You don't gain magic as much as the pure Sorcerer, but their bloodline powers come faster or more powerful. The spellcasting loss can be mitigated by taking the Prestigious Spellcaster feat three times (one for each Dragon Disciple level that lacks spellcasting progression) but that and its prerequisite feat (Favoured Prestige Class) is a pretty hefty feat investment. And man, that's a whole lotta sprinting just to get where you coulda been standing still.
Sorcerers are still tier 2, though they've had ways to go even higher this time. Firstly the Razmirian Priest archetype is stinky Cheese that can cast any cleric spell as long as they have a magic item with the spell, effectively a tier 0. Paragon Surge is a Half-Elf only spell that gives a bonus feat, which can be spent to learn spells when you learn you need them, also making them tier 0. Errata nerfed this to always pick the same feat/spells every time it is cast each day, but it's still very good and enough to make them tier 1.
4th edition kept the sorcerer out of the first PHB precisely because the developers wanted to come up with a way to make it more useful and distinct, especially since it could no longer fall back on a different spellcasting mechanism to justify its uniqueness. Instead, it came out in the PHB2 with a stunning new redesign.
Keeping the idea that the sorcerer is an intuitive, innate caster rather than a studied, deliberate arcanist or a pact-bound channeler, the 4e Sorcerer is an Arcane Striker who has basically taken up the Evoker niche. Their spells focus on dealing large amounts of elemental damage, often multiple types simultaneously, over a close-ranged area - in essence, taking up a midway point between the 4e wizard and the 4e warlock.
Furthermore, the 4e sorcerer finally distinguished just where its magic came from, in contrast to the nebulous and vague fluff of 3rd edition. By the time 4e was cancelled, four distinct power origins were presented; draconic magic, wild magic, storm magic and cosmic magic. Each of these granted its sorcerer some unique magical traits.
- Wild Magic sorcerers would randomly gain either +1 AC or a free saving throw at the start of each round, had energy resistance that changed randomly with each long rest, could slide their target around & knock it prone on a natural 20, and shoved away every creature within 5 squares on a natural 1.
- Dragon Magic sorcerers gain one form of energy resistance from a list of Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning and Poison, can determine their AC bonus with the highest of their Strength, Dexterity or Charisma modifiers, and gain +2 AC whenever they are Bloodied.
- Storm Magic sorcerers are resistant to thunder & lightning damage, and get to push their target and then fly a short distance on a natural 20.
- Cosmic Magic sorcerers can determine their AC bonus with the highest of their Strength, Dexterity or Charisma modifiers, and can choose which of the three cosmic phases they are aligned with after completing a rest; the phase they're in gives them a special bonus. The Sun phase grants Cold resistance and inflicts Fire & Radiant damage on all nearby enemies. The Moon phase grants Psychic resistance and +1 AC per conscious enemy adjacent to you, making you super tanky. The Stars phase grants Radiant resistance and the ability to teleport as a free reaction if an enemy takes a swing and misses. Additionally, you can choose to change to the next phase in the cycle (Sun-Moon-Stars-Sun) each time you cast a sorcerer daily, although you're forced to switch to the next one along when you get Bloodied.
For all sorcerers, emphasizing their raw power, they have the unique ability to ignore the elemental damage resistance of enemies who share their elemental affinity. So a sorcerer with Fire resistance ignores the Fire resistance of its foes.
Meanwhile, in 5th Edition...
In 5th Edition, opinions on sorcerers is... decidedly mixed. Some argue that they're just as useful and viable as they were in 4e, others argue they've gone right back to being the redheaded bastard children of the family.
See, someone finally realized that sorcerers should get something unique: metamagic, torn screaming from the hands of the most pampered brats of 3rd edition. They now have exclusive access to metamagics, of which they can eventually get four, and can alter any of their spells on the fly using a resource pool called Sorcery Points (which is basically a stupider name for a mana system). They get more as they level up, and can also use them to regain spells. These mechanics are important, because with the reworks to prepared spellcasting, the complaint that sorcerers prepare their spells once and can't easily swap them out is more true than ever.
Sorcerers get to choose their bloodline power at first level: Dragons or something vague and chaotic. The dragon bloodline gives them natural armor (which doesn't stack with actual armor, naturally) and one more hit point per level. Eventually they get dragon wings, resistance to, and affinity for, their chosen dragon's element, and the ability to use SP to activate an aura that either scares people or inspires them, depending on which the sorcerer wants it to do.
The second bloodline option is that the sorcerer has "Wild Magic." This means that whenever they cast a spell, the DM can ask them to roll a D20, and on a 1, random magical effects happen. However, given their probable frequency, they are now less devastating (none that instantly kill you, the worst it gets is turning you into a plant for one round or casting grease on your location, though we can't forget the chance to drop a fireball on yourself). In fact, many are helpful, and later the wild mage actually uses this to their advantage (whenever they have a surge, they can roll twice on the chart). Oh, and they have a D6 hit die now, like in Pathfinder. I guess WotC got sick of spellcasters whining about not having enough HP to do anything.
Finally, their class skills include lots of Charisma-based choices, like in 4e, which is just one more sweet, sweet improvement.
Their four major weaknesses (and they are all, admittedly, doozies) are thus:
- That the heavily-reworked magic system took a lot of the punch out of their spontaneous casting, and made the wizard's tremendous versatility even more of an advantage, since now every caster has access to all memorized spells of a given level whenever they cast for a slot.
- That they are the only full-caster in the game without access to ritual casting, further preventing them from being good "utility" people.
- That they gain access to about as many spells as the goddamn quarter casters, and, unlike the paladin and ranger, neither of whom is at the pinnacle of this edition's tier list, they don't have any unique spells, with their list being, essentially, a gimped-as-fuck version of the wizard's.
- That they don't gain any short rest benefits until their fucking capstone, meaning that for most of his career the sorcerer is going to lag behind the wizard in terms of spells per day as well as spells known. And the only way to avoid that involves eating into the same resource pool that feeds metamagic.
The metamagic still helps make them unique, and definitively gives them access to a number of things the wizard simply cannot do, but they really could stand to have access to greater access to more total spells and/or some sort of short-rest recovery mechanic if you're the sort that likes to homebrew fixes. Perhaps in the form of a set of additional "bloodline" spells attached to each archetype choice? Fuck's sake, Mike, even Paizo figured that one out, and they couldn't even be bothered to fix their skill list! I know you thought about it because it's attached to both the "playtest" bloodlines!
The sorcerer has been arguably the slowest-growing arcane class in 5th edition; Unearthed Arcana has done what it can to give sorcerers more options, but WoTC's repeated bungling has kept the development of good Sorcerer subclasses slow. So far, only three new Sorcerous Origins have been added since the PHB came out; Divine Soul, Shadow Magic and Storm Sorcery.
Divine Soul is basically a rebrand of the Favored Soul from 3e; a sorcerer with divine magical affinities. It took WoTC four goes before they finally posted this in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, and gamers still argue about whether it's any good. At 1st level, they pick up the Divine Magic and Favored By The Gods features. Divine Magic allows sorcerers to learn Cleric spells as they level up, and gives them a bonus clerical spell that doesn't count against their normal list of spells; this is taken from a short list that masquerades as a facade of the Cleric Domain aspect (Good - Cure Wounds, Evil - Inflict Wounds, Law - Bless, Chaos -Bane, Neutrality - Protection from Evil & Good), but you can swap it out for another clerical spell later. Favored By The Gods, in comparison, lets you add a +2d4 roll to the result of a failed saving throw or attack roll once per short rest, which can turn a failure into a success. Level 6 gives Divine Souls the Empowered Healing trait, which basically lets them spend a sorcery point to reroll any number of dice in a healing spell cast by themselves or an ally within 5 feet, though they can only do this once per turn. Level 14 comes with Otherworldly Wings, which lets them sprout spectral wings that give them Fly speed of 30 feet as a bonus action. Finally, at level 18, they pick up Unearthly Recovery, where they can heal themselves back from half health or lower potentially to full health once per day.
Shadow Magic is a sort of mix-up of Dread Necromancer and Shadowcaster. Its level 1 features are Eyes of the Dark (gain Darkvision 120 feet, gain a Darkness spell that doesn't count against spells known at 3rd level, can cast Darkness with 2 sorcery points and see through it if you do) and Strength of the Grave (1/day, can make a Charisma save against an attack that would drop you to 0 HP to only drop to 1 HP, but this doesn't work on radiant damage and critical hits). Level 6 lets them summon a ghostly Hound of Ill Omen. Level 14 grants them the ability to Shadow Walk, teleporting at will from one patch of dim light or darkness to another that is within 120 feet. Finally, at level 18, Umbral Form lets them assume a shadow-like ghostly form for up to 1 minute at the cost of 6 sorcery points, during which time they are resistant to all damage types bar force and radiant and have the Incorporeal Movement trait (can pass through creatures & objects as if they were difficult terrain, but ending your turn inside one inflicts 5 Force damage on you). This showed up in Xanathar's Guide.
Storm Sorcery is a kind of elementalism based on affinity for storms, and a nod back to their 4e options. It's got two fluff-only features (level 1's Wind Speaker lets you speak Primordial, the elemental language, whilst level 6's Storm Guide lets you manipulate the path of wind blowing around you and keep yourself from getting wet in the rain), but the rest of it is solid crunch. Tempestuous Magic (level 1) lets you ride a gout of wind whenever you cast a level 1 or higher spell, which lets you fly 10 feet without provoking an opportunity attack. Heart of the Storm (level 6) grants you resistance to lightning & thunder damage, and lets you inflict lightning or thunder damage equal to half your sorcerer level on any enemy within 10 feet whenever you cast a 1st level or higher spell dealing lightning/thunder damage. Storm's Fury (level 14) lets you use a reaction to inflict lightning damage equal to your sorcerer level on anyone who hits you with a melee attack, as well as potentially knocking them up to 20 feet away from you if they fail a Strength save. Finally, Wind Soul bumps your lightning/thunder resistance to full-blown immunity and gives you a fly speed of 60 feet, which you can choose to drop down to 30 feet for a hour once per short rest in order to give (3 + Cha modifier) allies a fly speed of 30 feet for an hour. This first appeared in Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, but was then reprinted completely for Xanathar's Guide.
Whilst unofficial, there's a Fire Elementalism Sorcerous Origin, the Pyromancer, in the Plane Shift: Kaladesh article. This one, unlike the Phoenix Soul, is all about the burninating of shit in your way. Its first feature means all fire spells you cast technically become area spells, as any enemies within 10 feet of you take some fire damage when you cast a fire spell. Then it grants you both Fire Resistance and the ability to negate Fire Resistance in others when you're flinging flames everywhere. It can retaliate against melee attacks by inflicting fire damage on them if they successfully hit the Pyromancer, and finally, they upgrade Fire Resistance to Fire Immunity and can now sling flames so hot that Fire Immune targets only count as being Fire Resistant, in addition to burning normally Fire Resistant foes for full damage. It's considered to be a lot better than the Phoenix Soul Sorcerous Origin from Unearthed Arcana.
Yes, Sorcerers do get some subclasses in Unearthed Arcana - the Storm, Shadow and Divine magics all began there and were later promoted to official status. Other UA Sorcerer branches that haven't had that luck yet consist of:
- Phoenix Soul: A strange mixture of fire elementalist and tanky sorcerer, with its abilities revolving around a 1/day "phoenix form" the player can assume.
- Sea Soul: A water elementalist. Surprisingly good, makes for a viable melee sorcerer.
- Stone Soul: Actually, no, not an earth elementalist but a weird-ass homage to the Swordmage.
- Giant Soul: Some bonus spells based on the different giant breeds, combined with the ability to make yourself grow into a giant at the highest levels.
- Aberrant Mind: A second shot at porting over psionics, with some psychic tricks and a whole lot of body horror.
Class Feature Variants
Having languished as a fairly ineffectual full caster for its entire run of 5e, the Sorcerer recently got a massive windfall from November 2019's Class Feature Variant Unearthed Arcana, which gave them a slew of new options and an expanded spell list. The most contentious of these is an Enhancement that allows a Sorcerer to swap out any Sorcerer spell for another one, effectively giving them a very restrictive version of what all the other prepared casters get. Critics were quick to point out that this doesn't fit in with the flavor of the class, but proponents say that it is a sacrifice that needs to be made to make the Sorcerer less awful to play as.
An interview with Jeremy Crawford specifically addresses this concern with regards to Sorcerers. In it, he explains that yes, Sorcerers can switch out one spell per level, since they didn't want people to be married to a bad spell. However, they cannot possibly control how long a level lasts from group to group, so the ability to swap out one spell per long rest is there to help add some versatility. To the people who say this encroaches upon the Wizard and other prepared casters, he reassures that there is a mountain of a difference between the versatility of one spell per long rest and an entire spell list per long rest, thus maintaining class identity. A Sorcerer is no better at versatility compared to a Wizard, so why not give them just one spell?
WoTC also finally gave the Sorcerer more things to do with their store of Sorcery Points, which they haven't done since the game was launched. In addition to new Metamagic that allows you to take another shot at a missed spell attack and swapping out elemental types, they also got new options for Font of Magic. In theory, this helps justify getting Sorcery Points before actually getting Metamagic, and enables the Sorcerer to skill monkey, tank, and wade into melee combat. In practice, the pitiful dribble of points at that level still leave it underwhelming at the level you get it, and no class features were added to ease the incredible pinch of getting few points and no way to replenish them before level 20. And while the new metamagic was nice, they went ahead and gave wizards literally the only good spell sorcerers got but they didn't.
You read that bit at the top about sorcerers being a class added by Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition? That's... not entirely the whole story. Oh, the sorcerer as we know it today was basically a 3e invention, but it wasn't without precedent. The name "Sorcerer" first appeared as a variant Wizard in the Al-Qadim subsetting of the Forgotten Realms in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Described in the Al-Qadim corebook, "Arabian Adventures", the Zakharan Sorcerer is a specialist wizard that improves upon the standard Elementalist; in exchange for dropping their increased chance to learn "allowed" magic to a mere +20%, they can learn spells from two of the four elemental styles, at the cost of being unable to learn any other spell that isn't Universal or one of their two chosen elemental schools.
In 3.5 Paladin 2/Sorcerer X is a staple gish entry thanks to having a massive bonus to all saving throws. Since it has less caster levels and is a sorcerer instead of a wizard it tends to be less powerful than a wizard based Gish, but still reasonably powerful. In Pathfinder Paladin 2/Sorcerer 1/Dragon Disciple 4/Sorcerer 2/Eldritch Knight 10/Sorcerer 1 was the best gish in core since Dragon Disciple no longer sucked, but since the introduction of the Magus and Shapechanger bloodline this build has largely been ignored.
In D20 Modern a Whatever 3/Sorcerer 10/Archmage 4 needs only to spend one feat to qualify for (Un)Holy Knight, which is a good way to finish off the last 3 levels (if your game somehow reaches that point). Not that it's likely for a game to reach this point.
In 4th edition, this actually works out a lot better than you'd expect. Whilst the Paladin is a Defender and the Sorcerer is a Striker, the fact is that both classes rely predominantly on Charisma to do the things they do, so MAD is no problem at all. Furthermore, the Sorcerer is a "glass cannon" type Striker, specializing in short-ranged spells that hit wide areas with multiple elemental typed damage or targeting multiple saves. So sorcerers wanting to get into the fray is actually an intended part of game design. As such, the Paladin's bonus health, healing surges and armor proficiencies are a big help to the Sorcerer. Add in the lack of any alignment restrictions or armor interfering with spellcasting, and frankly the Sorcadin is incredibly viable, albeit with the caveat that it won't be as good at either role as a single-role character will be. But hey, that's always the downside of multiclassing.
In 5E Sorcerers, like everyone else who meets arbitrary ability score requirements in 5E, can multiclass. Unlike everyone else in 5E however Sorcerers actually have a point to it when they multiclass with Paladin, creating one of the few character options in 5E that isn't exactly what the developers intended you use nor utterly pointless. A Paladin fuels smite with spell slots, and a Sorcerer has a lot of spell slots. Paladin slashes things, while a sorcerer gains ability to light that sword on fire and add extra damage because it's now a fire attack. This results in a character that can nova things really well, but is even more susceptible to blowing all their resources at once... Or until Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica. There a new magic item, Illusionist's Bracers, allows casting Green-Flame Blade twice in a turn. Now, even after exhausting yourself you still make two attacks that each add twice your charisma to your melee damage so you'll likely be outdamaging all but the best melee types unless your DM realizes how fantastically broken this is and only makes you fight single foes or foes who avoid going near each other.
|Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Classes|
|Player's Handbook 1:||Cleric - Fighter - Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Warlock - Warlord - Wizard|
|Player's Handbook 2:||Avenger - Barbarian - Bard - Druid - Invoker - Shaman - Sorcerer - Warden|
|Player's Handbook 3:||Ardent - Battlemind - Monk - Psion - Runepriest - Seeker|
|Heroes of X:||Blackguard - Binder - Cavalier - Elementalist - Hexblade - Hunter|
Mage - Knight - Protector - Scout - Sentinel - Skald - Slayer - Sha'ir - Thief
Vampire - Warpriest - Witch
|Settings Book:||Artificer - Bladesinger - Swordmage|
|Others:||Paragon Path - Epic Destiny|
|Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Classes|
|Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Warlock - Wizard
|Eberron: Rising from
the Last War:
|The Classes of Pathfinder 1st Edition|
|Core Classes:||Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
|Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier |
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
|Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator |
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
|Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist |
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
|Ultimate X:||Gunslinger - Magus - Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante|
|The Classes of Pathfinder 2nd Edition|
|Core Classes:||Alchemist - Barbarian - Bard - Champion - Cleric - Druid |
Fighter - Monk - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
|Advanced Player's Guide:||Investigator - Oracle - Swashbuckler - Witch|
|The Archetypes of Pathfinder 2nd Edition|
|Core Rule Book:||Alchemist - Barbarian - Bard - Champion - Cleric - Druid |
Fighter - Monk - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
|Lost Omens Guid:||Crimson Assassin - Duelist - Guild Agent - Hellknight Armiger |
Lion Blade - Living Monolith - Magic Warrior - Runescarred - Sentry - Student of Perfection
|Adventure Path||Juggler Dedication - Staff Acrobat Archetype - Zephyr Guard Archetype|
|Advanced Player's Guide||Acrobat - Acrhaoligest - Archer - Assassin - Bastion - Beastmaster - blessed one - bounty hunter - Cavelier - Celebrity - Dandy - Eldritch archer - familiar master - Gladiator - Herbalist - Horizon walker - Investigator - languist- loremaster - Marshal -Martial artist - Mauler - medic - Oracle - Pirate - Poisner - Ritualist - Scout - Scroll Trickster - Scourger -sentrnel - Shadowdancer - snarecrafter -Swashbuckler - tailman dabbler - vigilante - Viking - Weapon improviser -Witch|