Posted by : David Guyll February 25, 2014

3rd Edition's sorcerer was billed as a spellcaster that had "no books, no mentors, no theories—just raw power that they direct at will". It was mentioned that they claimed to have the blood of dragons flowing through their veins, though none of the mechanics or abilities supported this idea, and the description even ended on the note that such a claim might just be an unsubstantiated boast.

The reality is that it was simply a wizard that had access to less spells, but could cast more per day and did not have to prepare them in advance. Everything else was the same, including base skill points, saves, hit points, and for some reason a reliance on material components.

Given that most classes in 4th Edition used the same power model, both sorcerers and wizards had the access to the same number and types of spells. They did differ in some key ways, though: wizards had their spellbooks (which gave them access to extra dailies that they could choose from), they used different implements, wizards received an extra benefit from a specific type of implement, sorcerers had their spell source, and they could have different secondary ability scores. Basically, if you play a wizard and sorcerer that is quite a bit of difference in both the mechanics and feel.

Surprisingly 5th Edition's first draft for the sorcerer was pretty impressive. You had willpower points that you could spend to gain various benefits or cast spells, but unlike your typical point-based spellcaster you involuntarily transformed as you spent your points. In the case of the only heritage featured, draconic, this meant that you could grow claws and scales (wings might have been on the docket, but it was awhile back and I no longer have access to that particular playtest release). It reminded me of Howl from Howl's Moving Castle, where he would transform into a bird-like creature when he used too much magic.

Sure it needed some work—it would have been awesome if it had a unique list of spells, your personality also shifted while transformed, burning through your magic exhausted you, etc—but as needlessly saturated in tradition as 5th Edition is, it was still evocative, fresh, interesting, and even pretty dynamic since as you ran out of willpower you became more and more competent at melee I am not really surprised that it got pulled soon after for whatever reason and only now, around roughly a year and a half later, we get barely an elevator pitch as to what they are doing with it at this specific point in time.

In a nutshell it is basically a wizard, but with a shorter spell list and "sorcery points". Sorcery points, like 3rd Edition's power points for psionic classes, allow you to augment your spells, cast more spells, and activate heritage-based features (claws, scales, wings, etc). That is it. A year and a half later and that is all they could come up with: no automatic transformation, personality change, exhaustion, emotional triggers, or really anything interesting, just a nonsense magic system with a lazy, done-to-death model of "spend x points to gain y ability for z time" that will make it easy for them to just swap out a handful of features and call it a day.

Mearls tries to dress it up with evocative flavor text, like how a sorcerer "improves her innate talents through repetition, challenge, and exercise", or that she is a "natural conduit for arcane energy". Of course none of the mechanics are going to support the flavor: you will be able to cast exactly the spell you want so long as you have the minimum spell slot available (whatever the fuck a spell slot even represents in-game), you will never suffer any penalties (no matter how many spell slots or sorcery points you burn through), and it will always work precisely as expected.

Well, unless you have the wild/chaos sorcerer option. I love how Mearls says that they "designed" it, when in reality given that he specifically mentions percentile dice (and not, say, a d20) it probably means they just lifted it from 2nd Edition's Tome of Magic (which had a one-hundred entry table that ate up almost two pages). The irony is that they said opportunity attacks for ranged attacks were "too complex", but apparently it is okay to have an entire table with potentially one-hundred results devoted to all of one specific type of sorcerer.

{ 3 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Remember when this blog used to be good?

  2. The part that killed me was proveed very popular....but it wasn't traditional enough...that's the point where i wanted to put my hand thru the monitor and slap mearls

    1. Yeah, the rigid adherence to tradition is what kills my interest and enthusiasm in 5th Edition. It is what gives us inflexible classes, lazy sub-classes, nonsense magic, boring monsters and magic items, and more.

      The unfortunate reality is that there is probably sufficient positive feedback to give the okay for these "design decisions", like (probably) reprinting the old wild magic table and calling it good.



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