Welcome back! Sorcerers, and without further delay. Delays there have already been, aplenty.
But this space still feels weird with only one two lines.
The Sorcerer’s narrative section hasn’t changed. You’re bursting with magic, and reasons vary (including an inciting incident where you discover your powers). There are substantial mechanical changes.
- Innate Sorcery is a new level 1 feature that is a single-encounter power-up mode. As a Bonus Action, you gain +1 spell save DC and advantage on attack rolls for your Sorcerer spells. (As a reminder, you no longer have Arcane spells. You have your Sorcerer spell list, full stop.) You can go into this boosted mode twice per Long Rest. Two later features hook into your Innate Sorcery usage.
- I have basically two problems with this. First, +1 to spell save DC, when many of your fights are 2-3 total spells, isn’t enough to change an outcome, a lot of the time. It looks to me like 5e.14 worked pretty hard to avoid features and magic items giving you short-duration +1/-1 modifiers to rolls, so it’s weird to see this here. I don’t mind something that increases a DC, but maybe not like this.
- Secondly, 2/LR – when later features depend on you picking just the right encounter to use this feature! – cries out for “and you regain one expended use of this feature when you finish a Short Rest.” C’mon, give sorcerers one thing to get back on Short Rests!
- Spellcasting is unchanged except that there is once again a separate Sorcerer spell list. If you look at the last several rounds of UA releases, it looks like an inevitable trend line, as more spells gradually got class-locked, but none of them are the reason for the switch. Stay tuned for the Warlock article in this series, and I’ll talk about it all a bit more.
- With the spell list reversion to 5e.14, can we please stop talking about Sorcerers as having “Prepared Spells,” of which they can change one when they gain a level? They’re Spells Known, and any decent amount of compatibility with feats and features will go more smoothly with this verbiage.
- Font of Magic at level 2 is mostly unchanged, except that the Bonus Action required to melt down a spell slot for Sorcery Points is now free. There’s no visible narrative beat there, and no compelling need to slow the conversion process down by a round, so… good. There’s not a ton of need for the Bonus Action that is still required to convert Sorcery Points into a spell slot, but… fine.
- Metamagic at level 2 has reverted to its 5e.14 scaling – two options at level 2, another at 10, and a fourth at 17. Back in the PH 5 packet, they tried granting 3 at level 2, and nothing further. You can also change out one Metamagic option each time you level. I’ll go ahead and cover the metamagic changes as well:
- Distant Spell reverted to doubling range, rather than a weirder super-extension of range by a fixed amount.
- Seeking Spell – the reroll of a failed spell attack roll – dropped from 2 Sorcery Points to 1. Seems good.
- Subtle Spell has had its function around consumed Material components clarified.
- They’re still trying to make Twinned Spell good but not ridiculously OP (as it is in 5e.14). Now it only works on spells that normally add additional targets when you upcast them, and the benefit is that you can add targets with Sorcery Points instead of spell slot levels. That’s a very narrow range of spells, but… okay, I guess.
- Sorcerers get subclass features at levels 3 (this will never not be weird, sorry), 6, 14 (also not great, but nothing short of a time machine to 2014 is gonna fix this), and 18.
- Ability Score Increases at the standard Ability Score Increase levels.
- The Sorcerous Vitality self-heal spell, and the feature that granted it, are gone. I kinda liked that one.
- Instead, you get Sorcerous Restoration at level 5 – a Sorcery Point currency fixer that feeds you 1/5th your Sorcerer level in Sorcery Points if you have none when you roll Initiative or finish a Short Rest. Having to be all the way out of Sorcery Points to use this feature is annoying, and the benefit of 1-2 Sorcery Points until level 14 means you just won’t get much out of this.
- Sorcery Incarnate at level 7 was previously a feature that gave you a power-up mode spell, Sorcery Incarnate. Now it hooks into your Innate Sorcery feature and lets you stack two Metamagic options on a single spell. Also you can now buy extra uses of Innate Sorcery for 2 Sorcery Points per use.
- That’s… nice, but reinforces how Sorcerous Restoration needs to be about one point more generous. Rounding up rather than rounding down would fix the whole thing, IMO.
- Arcane Apotheosis at level 20 lets you use one Metamagic option for free each turn, while you’re using Innate Sorcery. That’s very good, but – as always for level 20 features – most characters won’t get anywhere close to this.
- This feature moved to 20 from 18, and they dumped the Epic Boon. But if you’ve gotten this far in this series, I think you know about dumping the Epic Boon at 20.
Overall, the Sorcerer is in a good position relative to its past selves, but they can do better. Innate Sorcery is boring and could be better (and less use-limited than 2/Long Rest, 2 SP for extra uses), and Sorcerous Restoration is almost useless. There are good reasons to stick with Sorcerous Restoration only working while you’re at 0 Sorcery Points (having to do with turning Sorcery Points into spell slots and Short Rest-scumming), so they can fix this with something like (round up) or changing the formula to (1 + 1/5 Sorcerer levels).
This is one of the most important ones to get right, because there’s probably no more iconic subclass for Sorcerers than this one. After all, it was the default theme of the 3.x sorcerer, and one of the two original sorcerer types in 4e. It was awful in 5e.14, though.
- Draconic Resilience at level 3 is unchanged from the previous packet – +1 hit point per level, AC = 10 + Dex mod + Cha mod. It’s good. It’s still really weird that there’s no mention of your draconic type (chromatic, metallic, gem, or color within any of those groups). That seems like a lot of thematic work to leave out.
- The additional survivability of this is nice, but it’s not particularly active. Nor is it enough to let you safely close to melee very often.
- You can also speak, read, and write Draconic, and Dragons can always understand you even if they don’t speak Draconic. That’s a weird inclusion, but I’m not digging through the Monsters of D&D Beyond to find out where that matters. My guess is that it’s there to hammer home the point that your knowledge of Draconic and capacity for communicating with Dragons is fundamentally magical, but not in a way that gets shut down in an antimagic area.
- Elemental Affinity at level 6 is the first time you have a connection with a draconic color in the mechanics. You choose one of Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning, or Poison, and gain resistance to that type, and add your Cha modifier to one roll of damage for spells dealing that damage type.
- This is obviously intended to encourage you to strongly represent your damage type in your spell selection. But if you want any decent variety of spells to pick from, Acid and Poison are non-starters, though spells like chaos bolt, Arcane Eruption, and Sorcerous Burst are right at the top of your list no matter your choice.
- Dragon Wings at level 14 are mostly reverted to their 5e.14 rules, as they don’t require a spell to create. The only big difference is that they’re lost if you’re Incapacitated, which seems fine in their spectral form but weird in their physical form (you can choose either).
- Draconic Presence at level 18 is reverted to its 5e.14 rules except that it no longer requires concentration, but is still lost if you’re Incapacitated. Also it’s a Bonus Action rather than an Action, which helps quite a bit. I haven’t surveyed all of the monsters of tier 4, but I feel like you’ll do a lot of guessing about what’s immune to Charmed and Frightened… and guess wrong a lot.
Mechanically, this is good up through level 6, but that feature doesn’t scale at all, and wings and Draconic Presence are a nice-to-have more than directly contributing to a coherent playstyle. I would like to see a couple of subclass-unique draconic-flavored spells also show up at level 6 or 14.
Wild Magic Sorcery
Funny enough, this was also really bad in 5e.14. Voted the subclass most likely to wipe the party in a 1st-level noncombat encounter. I want it to be fun, not least of which is because the PCs in my 4e campaign are still waiting for their chaos sorcerer to get back from an unscheduled trip to Limbo.
- Wild Magic Surge at level 3 is redesigned to have no DM permission required. You can choose to have a 5% chance of rolling on the Wild Magic Surge. The Wild Magic Surge effect is in addition to the spell you cast, but the effects are as likely to be bad as good, so… probably a dubious decision at best. The feature also establishes that spells from Surges don’t require Concentration and can’t be affected by Metamagic.
- Tides of Chaos at level 3 lets you choose to gain Advantage on a d20 Test (this would be better as a reroll, I’m just sayin’), 1/Long Rest. The next time you cast a Sorcerer spell using a spell slot, you roll on the Wild Magic Surge table and regain the use of this feature.
- Is… is that Advantage worth it? I mean, be the chaos gremlin that your heart desires, but don’t be surprised when your party stuffs you in a sack rather than risk you casting a spell.
- Bend Luck at level 6 lets you tweak other characters’ d20 Tests by +/-1d4. It now costs 1 Sorcery Point rather than 2. It’s good that by level 6, there’s a feature that is clearly beneficial to the user.
- Controlled Chaos at level 14 gives you two results to choose between on the Wild Magic Surge table. It helps but I doubt that it helps enough to give you good odds of a Wild Magic Surge being an improvement in your situation.
- Wild Bombardment at level 18 finally resolves Wild Magic Surges into your choice of a benefit. When you cast a Sorcerer spell using a spell slot, you can immediately just choose a Surge effect that casts a spell or restores all your Sorcery Points. You have to wait 1d4 Long Rests before you can use this again.
If what you want is just randomness and potentially ruining everyone’s fun for the night, great, get your party’s buy-in before you start. For players who like feeling effective, just don’t use either of your level 3 features, ever. Please, please let this change to use Innate Sorcery in some way, or… something. I don’t know.
Clockwork Sorcery seems like a weird inclusion in the 5e.24 PH – I’d rather see a revised Storm Sorcery – but I’m a big fan of the Aberrant Mind. There was an Aberrant Mind Sorcerer in the Tomb of Annihilation campaign I played in, and he was great.
Even with my criticisms of the Draconic and Wild Magic subclasses, this is still the best version of the Sorcerer class and subclasses to date. If the book goes to print with this version of Wild Magic, I’ll just keep not playing it, the same way a whole lot of people have not played it to date.
Next time: the Warlock!