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Sorcerers-only magic 5e

Sorcerers-only magic 5e

Because I’m not going to be in a position to run this any time soon, I thought I should probably put this here rather than in Game Planning. But I’d be curious to hear people’s thoughts.

Starting a deliberately kitchen-sink game has made me think about a more restricted one, in which options were limited to give a more coherent feel to the world. Basically, it would be a 5e game in which the only casters were Sorcerers.

The idea would be that it would be set in a fantasy world that was pseudorealistic: humans only, fictional but mundane and vaguely plausible-ish states and societies at the usual D&D vaguely late-medieval Europe tech level. The closest thing there is to reliable magic is the sort of things that (non-spellcasting) monks can achieve. Nonhumans are mysterious and rare magical creatures, the Old People, and not playable. Then a bunch of people with Old People ancestry start to manifest magical powers, and the game is about the way in which that alters the balance of power, causes crises of religious belief, social revolution, etc. A bit Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but crossed with the X-Men.

Anyway, mechanically I think I would want to allow Sorcerers to access a wider spell list. One possibility would be to declare that one group can pull from the Cleric list, one from the Bard list, and so on, so there are multiple types of Sorcerer. Or I could go kitchen-sink and say that the whole spell list is available to everyone, probably on condition that you pick a theme and stick with it for the most part. (If evocation is your thing, X number of your spells must be evocation spells.). Thoughts?

The other thing would be to create Sorcerer half-casters to open up the possibilities. That’d be an area in which I’d be especially interested to hear how you think one could tweak the existing mechanics for Paladin, Elements Monk, Ranger, Arcane Trickster, and Eldritch Knight to give them partial versions of Sorcerer metamagic.

I’d also allow casters to pick any one of the three mental stats as their casting stat, representing different kinds of “uncanny” mental gifts that come with having magical powers.

First, if you want to roll with the "pseudorealistic" argument, I feel that you shouldn't make it a "sorcerers-only" setting, but rather "magician-only" with an emphasis on rituals. That being said, the "sorcerers-only" makes more sense indeed in the setting as you describe it after that, which I find, by the way, pretty cool and interesting.

On the other hand, you seem to go quite fast from "I want the sorcerer to be the only magic class" to "but what if sorcerers could basically use the magic of almost any other class", in which case.... why bother?? You don't have to reshape the whole mechanical system, just rewritte the lore. State that in your world every magic-user is called a sorcerer, and that they find the source of that magic in themselves and their mysterious genetic inheritance, and call it a day. Toss a few parts here and there about parchments and spellbooks and the like, insist upon your players about the importance of staying thematic in their spell choices, but the rest can continue unchanged from the mechanical standpoint.

So you may have a mutant, sorry, a sorcerer, who is very much not a druid, but has the power to affect the growing of plants; so he casts "Entangle" and the like. Another one has power over the mind of animals. And then you have another sorcerer, who is very much not a magician, but has the power to product certain effects when he touches certain materials... like a magician's spell components. And one again who is very much not a cleric but has healing abilities. And so on.

In terms of why things are the way they are, I started with the idea about Sorcerers and went from there, rather than the other way around. I.e., I’ve imagined the “pseudorealistic” world to suit that.

The reason to restrict the mechanics to those of one class is to create the sense that these are all the same thing - that although there are variations, everyone’s magic is variations on the same basic thing. To some degree, this isn’t in absolute terms, but in contrast to the routine norm. One could argue that spell slots already do that, but to players used to normal D&D it won’t feel as coherent and unified as it would if everyone has to do magic according to the rules for one existing class. Just reskinning can tend to make differences feel superficial and cosmetic. Actual mechanical differences do a lot to sell the idea that this is a different world.

It could, of course, be any set of class mechanics, but the Sorcerer mechanics have already been prebuilt (not perfectly, but pretty well) for the right “born with innate powers” feel. Certainly better than any other existing class. Among the things that I would want all casters to have is metamagic. Another is the very restricted set of spells available to any individual person and the specific mechanism for changing them only as you level up. That makes it feel as if your powers grow and change slowly. (Of course, it demands a fair degree of system mastery in the player to avoid choices that they regret, which is an area that would demand extra care in this game.) Then there are the things that are missing that other classes have, such as preparing spells and especially ritual magic, that feel wrong for “spells as innate powers.”

I’m also thinking of eliminating the element of material components entirely. (It’s tricky, because the fact that spells cost money in some cases is a balance thing.)

The overall framework is separate from spells, though, which are discrete specific mechanics for very specific effects. One has to balance the above with making characters different from one another, especially if - and I’m thinking about this as a requirement - all player characters have magic to some extent. (Possibly as limited as the Magic Initiate feat, but they have to have something. Multiclassing would be fine, and we would start at 2nd level to facilitate that.) I think the easiest way to do that is to allow for a wider range of spells within the Sorcerer framework. I.e., everybody’s powers work the same way, but there are variations within what those powers are.

Thinking about it, though, I think the feel that I would be going for would be best achieved by not tying that in any way to the existing other casting classes. Instead, they’d feel more like their own thing if tied to the schools.

I might tentatively think about the following:

There are eight specific types of Sorcerer corresponding to each school (Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, etc.). There’s also a ninth Versatile type. If you belong to a specific type, you get the Wizard features for that school, except for the “X Savant” one. In return you have to take at least half of your spells (or, if that number aren’t available, as many as you can) from that school. Any references to Intelligence in the feature description are replaced with “your casting ability.”

Versatile Sorcerers can pick spells without restriction, but don’t get any bonus features. That seems a bit lackluster, so I think I might need to come up with something extra that they also have. Not sure what.

Probably a good idea to expand the list of Sorcerous Origins, too, to reflect different kinds of Old People ancestry. One could take some of the level 1 features from the nonhuman races, which are no longer playable. Also might need to modify some of the existing ones where they almost duplicate what a Wizard gets (e.g. the Draconic Sorcerer’s bonus to damage of a particular type). But this aspect would be a lot of work...

Dragon Warriors RPG is similar to this already (Sorcerers have the full range of spells; other casters are effectively a sub-set). Makes healing an issue, as only sorcerers can provide magical healing... which can get them burnt at the stake in some countries.

Sort of similar. It’s been a long time, but unless I’m misremembering, aren’t Dragon Warriors Sorcerers fluffed as the equivalent of D&D wizards? (Literate, have Arcane as a language, etc.) Plus there are obviously other kinds of casters in the world in standard DW.

But having access to all spells is definitely similar. I’ll clarify that this isn’t a central part of the concept for the game, so much as something that I think is advisable from a fun perspective to allow for more variety within what is the central concept of the game, if that makes sense. In standard 5e, the limited Sorcerer spell list is part of what differentiates them from other casters and makes them feel different in play. In a game in which all casters are mechanically Sorcerers, you don’t need that. It’s about striking a balance between making the game feel more coherent and still allowing variety, so that all characters don’t end up exactly the same.

Something I’m particularly interested in is thoughts about ways to adapt the Arcane Trickster and Eldritch Knight to allow for weak metamagic to create Sorcerous Tricksters and Sorcerous Knights. You can easily adapt the rules for which spells they have. But how many sorcery points, how many metamagic features? When acquired?

It might be best just not to go down that road at all, . Right now, I’m leaning towards:

Overview1) All PCs are Human. Variant Human is encouraged.

2) PCs start at level 2. Multiclassing is encouraged, specifically Sorcerer/other multiclassing.

3) Allowed classes are: Barbarian, Fighter, Rogue, Monk, Sorcerer, maybe spell-less UA Ranger. Non-Sorcerer subclasses are limited to ones without overtly magical features (but allowing for things that can be fluffed as the equivalent of the Monk’s Ki effects). The rather weird list of Sorcerer weapon proficiencies is altered to be whatever might be considered reasonable for “an ordinary person” to have in the setting.

4) All PCs, as part of the campaign concept, have some level of innate magical power. This can be as minimal as the Magic Initiate feat (sorcerer), but they all have it. PCs pick one of Int, Wis, or Cha to be their casting stat. This replaces all references to Charisma in the Sorcerer class description.

5) All PCs must pick a Strength (school) and at all times, half their total number of spells (including cantrips) must reflect their Strength (school), if sufficient spells are available. If not, as many as possible. All PC’s receive the non-Savant features of the appropriate Wizard Arcane Tradition at the appropriate levels. All references to Intelligence in the descriptions refer to “Your casting stat.” Where this duplicates a Sorcerous Origin feature (e.g. Draconic Origin’s bonus to appropriate damage types), only one bonus applies.

6) The Magic Initiate Feat (sorcerer) can be taken multiple times.

I think that allows for a reasonable range of different levels of magical power, while still keeping things coherent. At one extreme, you can have a character who starts as a level 2 Sorcerer with the Magic Initiate (sorcerer) feat, who plans on taking that feat repeatedly until they have maxed it out. At the other, a Level 2 Fighter with the Magic Initiate feat, someone who’s basically a highly-skilled “normal” person, but they’ve inherited minor magical gifts. Various points in between, including things like someone who has very weak but varied powers (takes Magic Initiate multiple times but is otherwise a non-caster).

The main thing I think the concept could use at that point is a wider range of Sorcerous Origins. Those are quite intimidating to homebrew, but I’d really like more of them that have the right “one of your ancestors was a non-human magical being” feel. I find the current official ones fairly uninspiring, in fact.

I think overall this is an interesting idea. I particularly like the idea of allowing Int, Wis, of Cha. I can still see multiclassing being tricky trying to balance feats and ability score improvements, but that's usually a challenge for normal games.

If you're looking for more Sorcerous Origins you can always type up "Sorcerous Origin homebrew" and see what pops up. Rather than go through all the work yourself, see what homebrew is already online and if there's any you like.

I personally would play a Divine Soul Sorcerer and be a healer with divine magic, or most likely evocation. To bad you don't seem to have Cleric on there so I can multiclass into a life cleric and have boosted healing spells

That’s an interesting point. Since I’d be opening up the entire spell list, the Divine Soul’s access to cleric spells is nothing special in itself, and not even necessarily “divine” — it would probably be a world in which gods did not definitely exist, although people generally believed in them.

It’s not too bad for the Divine Soul, though, because he or she still gets an extra spell, and given how few spells an individual Sorcerer has, that’s a significant plus.

I think I will start working slowly on this: additional Sorcerous Origins, other houserules, setting. I may post some of the work in progress here as I go.

Originally Posted by SMARTAgentKC View Post
you'll have an app from me for sure. I love an excuse to bring out my angel eyed sorceress.
It’ll be a while, I’m afraid. I’ll want to make sure that I can handle GMing two games with my current schedule before I risk adding a third. But I’ll seek feedback here on aspects of the setting and houserules as I slowly, very, very slowly write them up.

About halfway through my first Sorcerous Origin as I write. The 14th level features are tricky.


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