So I just wrote a (probably ill-advised) thing about changes to the warlock class aimed at making it less dependent on one trick. I've muttered before about some concerns I have with the sorcerer class, and I thought, why not look at that too?
First off, a quick disclaimer: I've only played a multiclass sorcerer, and I'm not in a position to comment usefully on balance. I'm not aiming to address any perceived class balance issues. As with the warlock, what I'm interested in here is flavour: how to make the sorcerer feel more distinctively sorcerery by riffing on its high notes.
So, what are those concerns?
- Spell selection. The sorcerer spell list is quite restricted, and includes a significant number of spells with very niche application. Given the sorcerer's strictly limited choice of spells, this is not particularly helpful, and it is extremely unwise for them to take many of the flavourful but niche spells..
- Metamagic. Given the sorcerer class' unique shtick is metamagic, the number of tricks learned and the range of options seems too limited.
- Spell points. It's obviously necessary to control power levels carefully, but again, if your only shtick is metamagic, I feel that's something you should be doing a large proportion of the time. I'd like to find a way to make that possible for flavour reasons, without significantly increasing the mechanical power of the class.
- Elemental balance. If you're going to make draconic heritage a major selling point of the class, and that comes with elemental affinity, it is sheer incompetence not to ensure all those bloodlines get something out of it. They did a reasonable job of providing spells for each wizard school at most levels; sorcerers deserve the same attention.
- The fluff and crunch of sorcerers do not match up particularly well. They are presented as inherently magical entities who do reflexive and unpredictable magic, but the default metamagic options primarily offer small and very mechanical adjustments, with the exception of Subtle, Quickened and Twinned Spell (and arguably Careful, which is an inexplicably worse version of the evoker ability). I'd like to try and present options that refresh that sense of spontaneity and weirdness.
- I don't want to significantly increase the power of sorcerers; I'm not arguing that they're underpowered, I'm just looking for a way to make their crunch better match their fluff.
We begin with the canon ones: Careful Spell, Distant Spell, Empowered Spell, Extended Spell, Heightened Spell, Quickened Spell, Subtle Spell, Twinned Spell
As I suggested before, I think we should consider having some more potent/interesting effects that are level-gated. I also think we should consider reviving the old classic Energy Substitution, both to help the dragon sorcerer, and to help compensate for the limited spell list and selection. Given that resistances are a big deal in D&D, the capability to deal more than one kind of energy damage is a requirement, and that creates a tax on alredy limited spell libraries.
I'm also going to suggest just flat-out giving the sorcerer more metamagics known and the ability to use them more often. As I've said before: sorcerers have been given one resource to compensate for at least two problems, and I'm not convinced the calculation took that into account. Sorcery points might compensate for fewer spell slots; used for metamagic, they might compensate somewhat for reduced flexibility; I don't think they compensate for both. This restriction is roughly in line with manoeuvre dice, inspiration dice and ki points, but it's worth noting that those seem designed to be relatively minor advantages.
I have considered balance, and I don't believe knowing more metamagics will make the sorcerer overpowered. Essentially, metamagics seem intended to compensate for a much smaller range of known spells compared to the wizard. Most metamagics are extremely niche, are only relevant for certain spell types, and don't significantly alter the nature of the spell. Knowing more will naturally slightly increase the power of the sorcerer simply by giving them slightly more options, but I think the benefits are slight enough that it isn't an issue.
A sorcerer learns two Metamagic abilities at 3rd level, and another at 7th, 10th, 13th and 17th level.
Lingering Spell: the effects of the spell linger for a single extra round after Concentration is broken or abandoned, or after an affected target makes a saving throw to shake them off. Only affects Concentration spells. This metamagic can be combined with others. It can be added to a spell you are concentrating on as a free action after casting. Requirement: 7th-level sorcerer. Cost: as the level of the spell (minimum 1).
Elemental Spell: when casting a spell that deals acid, cold, fire or lightning damage, you can choose to deal another type from this list instead. This metamagic can be combined with others. Requirement: 7th-level sorcerer. Cost: 2 Sorcery Points.
Mortal Spell: when casting a spell that deals necrotic, poison or psychic damage, you can choose to deal another type from this list instead. This metamagic can be combined with others. Requirement: 7th-level sorcerer. Cost: 2 Sorcery Points.
Transcendant Spell: when casting a spell that deals force, radiant or thunder damage, you can choose to deal another type from this list instead. This metamagic can be combined with others. Requirement: 7th-level sorcerer. Cost: 2 Sorcery Points.
Mould Spell: you can transform a spell with a radius into a cone of twice this length originating from your space, or a cone into an area of one-half this radius within 60' requiring line of sight and effect. Requirement: 10th-level sorcerer. Cost: half the level of the spell (minimum 1).
Delay Spell: you can cast a spell, and delay its effect using Concentration for a maximum number of rounds equal to your Charisma modifier. This time does not count towards the spell's duration. If Concentration is broken unwillingly, a spell with duration of Concentration will take effect and then immediately expire. The target of a spell is chosen when it is first cast, and the magic can be detected and dispelled from that point; only the effects are delayed. Requirement: 13th-level sorcerer. Cost: 3 Sorcery Points.
Arcing Spell: you can bend or ricochet a spell to strike a target even when there is an obstacle between you. Choose an intermediate target point to which you do have a clear path, then trace the spell's path from there. You must either be able to perceive the spell's target, or (if it can target a point) be aware of the point you are targeting. The total distance travelled by the spell determines its range. Spells with a Line area can be bent, although no target is affected more than once. Cone or radius area effects are unchanged by this spell. Requirement: 13th-level sorcerer. Cost: as the level of the spell (minimum 1).
I hope that's clear enough? The idea here is simply to let the sorcerer shoot around corners, or hit a visible target when direct line of effect is blocked. It's not meant to let you use a spell that requires a specific target to instead aim at a known spot around a corner; spells have particular target types and that stays true. You are supposed to be able to use this with remote senses, which means mirrors and scrying and stuff are cool.
Enemy behind a wall of force? Bounce a lightning bolt off the ceiling. Hiding from enemies around a corner? Send a curving fireball after them.
On the other hand, I deliberately made this one expensive because it will fundamentally alter the sorcerer's capabilities and create new tactical possibilities. I don't want sorcerers being able to regularly cast powerful spells from complete safety. Used with low-powered spells, it's a trick you can pull off quite often.
Echoing Spell: when the sorcerer observes a spell being cast, within one minute they can spend sorcery points equal to the level of the spell cast to replicate the spell by casting in the same spell slot. Requirement: 17th-level sorcerer. Cost: as the level of the spell (minimum 1).
Instinctive Flourish: a sorcerer may apply any metamagic she qualifies for to a cantrip by paying the appropriate cost, even if she does not otherwise know that metamagic.
Signature Flourish: at 5th level, select one of the following: Distant Spell, Heightened Spell, Quickened Spell, Subtle Spell. The sorcerer reduces the total sorcery point cost by 1 when using these metamagics with a cantrip. At 10th level, the sorcerer may choose another Flourish from the same list, or from Elemental Spell and Transcendant Spell. At 15th level the sorcerer may choose a third flourish, including Delay Spell and Arcing Spell.
Note that I have carefully checked the Sorcery Points costs. Twinned Spell was disallowed because it would double sorcerer damage output for no cost a lot of the time; Quickened Spell costs points and actions. I didn't include Extended Spell simply because I don't think there are any cantrips with duration of 1 minute or longer other than possibly some trivial out-of-combat effects, and I don't want to create trap choices. Careful Spell is similar in that I don't think there are any cantrip AoEs.
Basically, the sorcerer can double range or cast silently on cantrips as much as they want. I don't think that's going to be overpowered; a slight boost on cantrip damage but that's all. At 15th level they can start using cantrips round corners. This may also make poison spray less of a complete damp squib.
Elemental Instinct: when learning a spell that inflicts acid, cold, fire, lightning or poison damage, a draconic sorcerer can instead choose to learn a version that inflicts the damage type affiliated with their bloodline. This decision is permanent.
I'm not about to try and invent 5-10 balanced, interesting, sorcerer-appropriate spells each for cold, poison, lightning and acid damage. You get this instead. Yes, it won't always make sense, but it's at least better than picking anything but fire being stupid. It boosts fire even further, but then they already had more options than they needed.
It's slightly fiddly, but I felt the need to insist this was a permanent decision. This is because a) the option to cast two different damage types is probably more powerful than I wanted; and b) the variable frequency of resistances is a concern. It may be that allowing the change means it is always best to pick, say, a lighting-using bloodline and then use converted fire spells that are unlikely to be resisted. I'm hoping that by forcing characters to pick one damage type I'm at least limiting that power. It's supposed to make it viable to play a non-fire dragon, not to make it the obvious optimal choice.
Mother of Invention: a sorcerer can cast a spell they do not know, but qualify for, from the sorcerer spell list by spending Sorcery Points equal to its level and expending the appropriate spell slot.
This ability helps to overcome the sorcerer's pressure to pick only common-utility spells, and does its bit towards adding that sense of improvisation and overflowing magic that I feel is core to the sorcerer concept. At the moment I feel this is the strongest tweak I've made here; it's flavourful, it fits the fluff, it grants the sorcerer a slight edge to get around restricted spell selection, and it doesn't grant any mechanical increase in power (you can still cast the same number of spells, it doesn't actually increase spells known, and it's very expensive).
Here's all the sorcerer spells that work with draconic bloodlines, along with their element type, including Elemental Evil. It's just ridiculous. There are (allowing for variable element spells) 4 acid spells, 4 poison spells, 10 cold spells, 6 lightning spells - and 18 fire spells. 7th, 8th and 9th level have exclusively fire spells, and 7th level feels the need to have two separate ones.
Acid Splash (acid)
Chill Touch (cold)
Create Bonfire (fire)
Control Flames (fire)
Fire Bolt (fire)
Poison Spray (poison)
Ray of Frost (cold)
Shocking Grasp (lightning)
Burning Hands (fire)
Chromatic Orb (any)
Ice Knife (cold)
Witch Bolt (lightning)
Aganazzar’s Scorcher (fire)
Scorching Ray (fire)
Snilloc's Snowball Swarm (cold)
Flame Arrows (fire)
Lightning Bolt (lightning)
Melf's Minute Meteor (fire)
Ice Storm (cold)
Vitriolic Sphere (acid)
Wall of Fire (fire)
Cone of Cold (cold)
Chain Lightning (lightning)
Investiture of Flame (fire)
Investiture of Ice (cold)
Delayed Blast Fireball (fire)
Fire Storm (fire)
Prismatic Spray (any)
Incendiary Cloud (fire)
Meteor Swarm (fire)
- Spell selection.
The sorcerer spell list is quite restricted, and includes a significant number of spells with very niche application.The Mother of Invention feature makes these niche spells accessible to sorcerers, without coming at the expense of more generalist spells, but doesn't expand the sorcerer's spells known.
Given the sorcerer class' unique shtick is metamagic, the number of tricks learned and the range of options seems too limited.Provided more metamagic options, including some specialist high-level options. I think these are reasonably within the sorcerer theme, offer more flexibility and are balanced.
- Spell points.
... if your only shtick is metamagic, I feel that's something you should be doing a large proportion of the time. I'd like to find a way to make that possible for flavour reasons, without significantly increasing the mechanical power of the class.I feel that the addition of the Flourish abilities allows sorcerers to use metamagic more readily, with limited impact on mechanical effectiveness. I also think the addition of more metamagics, and some which actually change what you can do with a spell, will make spending points on those a more tempting prospect.
- Elemental balance.
If you're going to make draconic heritage a major selling point of the class, and that comes with elemental affinity, it is sheer incompetence not to ensure all those bloodlines get something out of it.It's a hack, but I tried with the Elemental Instinct.
- The fluff and crunch of sorcerers do not match up particularly well.
They are presented as inherently magical entities who do reflexive and unpredictable magic, but the default metamagic options primarily offer small and very mechanical adjustments... I'd like to try and present options that refresh that sense of spontaneity and weirdness.There's only so much I can do here. I've given them a taste of always-on metamagic, the ability to pull spells out of thin air when they really need to, and some metamagic abilities that make more interesting changes to what spells can do. I don't want to significantly increase the power of sorcerers; I'm not arguing that they're underpowered, I'm just looking for a way to make their crunch better match their fluff.I feel like I did okay here? It may be that there's some game-breakery possible with something I've suggested, but I'm not seeing it myself.