Content of the article: "Bard vs. Wizard vs. Sorcerer"
So a very popular opinion here is that the Sorcerer class is… bad. Yeah, there are people who disagree, but even Ranger gets more people defending it than Sorcerer does. Something the two classes have in common is that while they're poorly designed, they're not underpowered – you can very well make both classes have really good damage output. That's never what the criticism of Ranger and Sorcerer was about, though. The whole reason I bring this bit up is to maybe lessen the amount of "I played a Sorcerer/Ranger and I did a lot of damage" comments I'll probably get lots of anyway.
So, you can play a Sorcerer and be perfectly functional doing so. Pick the right spells, the right metamagic, and there's plenty of builds that are great. So why's the class constantly considered shitty to play as?
Sorcerers are one of only two full caster classes in the game that have a limited number of spells known and don't get to prepare spells, the other being the Bard. My biggest piece of proof that the Sorcerer is badly designed is to compare these two classes, because they're the most similar in terms of spellcasting progression.
The Bard has a d8 hit die, basic weapon/armor proficiencies, expertise, bardic inspiration, song of rest, and countercharm. This is a lot of features, and the bard is meant to be a jack-of-all-trades, so by that logic, the Bard should be the least magic-focused full caster. And compared to the Cleric, Druid, and Wizard, it is.
The Bard is unable to prepare spells, and will always have fewer spells known than the Cleric has spells prepared. The Druid and Wizard will always have roughly the same spells prepared as the Bard, as they don't get subclass spells. If a prepared caster wants to use a situational spell, they can prepare it only when they need to; if the Bard wants a situational spell, it must spend one of its valuable spells known on one – of which they only get 22 in total, over the course of their entire level 1-20 career. So the Bard is – rightfully – the least magical full spellcaster.
…except for the Sorcerer.
The Sorcerer has a d6 hit die, and one class feature (well, two, but they're essentially the same feature you get the second half of one level later than the first half). So, with far fewer class features than the Bard, Sorcerers should have far greater spellcasting ability, wouldn't they? After all, that's exactly how the Wizard works.
The most magic-focused class in the game, the Wizard gets only a d6 hit die and its arcane recovery feature. Arcane recovery grants it more spell slots in a day than any other full caster, and its spell list is absolutely massive. While they don't get domain spells, their spell list covers so many more options than a Cleric's or Druid's, and they're able to do nearly anything except heal. They get to cast rituals despite not having them prepared (while Cleric and Druid must prepare a spell to cast it as a ritual), and they can copy any spell they find into their spellbook. Wizards lack any class feature unrelated to spellcasting, and despite this they're still considered one of the game's strongest classes. That's how incredible their spellcasting is.
The Sorcerer also lacks any class feature unrelated to spellcasting… yet its spellcasting is worse than the Bard's.
The Sorcerer starts with 2 spells known as opposed to 4 for the Bard, and up through level 10 each of them get a measly 1 spell per level (as opposed to 2 for the Wizard, though the Wizard's prepared spells only increase by 1 per level). After this point, they both gain spells at a slower rate, though the Bard's is slightly faster (because of course it is). What's more, by level 10 the Bard gains a defining feature that makes it skyrocket in versatility – magical secrets. Any two spells in the game, from any class. This, if nothing else, makes the Bard a much better spellcaster than the Sorcerer.
So the Sorcerer has the wizard's greatest weakness – its lack of anything except spellcasting – and the Bard's greatest weakness, the worst spellcasting in the game – but it doesn't have the strengths of either class. Its only saving grace is its only two class features (which are two halves of one class feature): Metamagic.
Now, in WotC's eyes, metamagic is an absolutely incredible feature. Better than arcane recovery, better than domain spells, better than magical secrets. And… well, they aren't wrong. The stuff you can do with metamagic is incredibly powerful – an empowered fireball, a twinned haste, a heightened disintegrate, a subtle suggestion, all of these are what make a Sorcerer a Sorcerer. Other classes look on with envy as the Sorcerer's spells are imbued with this massive arcane power.
…but is it really enough?
Enough to make up for so few spells known, for the spell list that's just the Wizard's but worse, for the inability to prepare spells? The gulf between the Wizard's spellcasting and the Sorcerer's spellcasting is just so vast that I don't think metamagic is nearly enough to close that gap.
For one thing, when you learn metamagic, you only get to choose two metamagics known. You want quicken and twin for combat versatility? That's all you get. Want empower and heighten to make your spells more devastating? That's all you get. Want subtle and extended for roleplay reasons? Congratulations, you get nothing to use in combat.
You have to wait until 10th-level for a third metamagic option. So many campaigns never even get that far, and even when you do, this is the level the Bard's getting magical secrets.
Though, there's a pattern with all of the Sorcerer's shortcomings – they reduce the Sorcerer's versatility, but they don't actually reduce the effectiveness of the options you do get. A red draconic sorcerer, using its so few spells known and only two metamagics, can still be the best blaster in the game.
The problem is it'll never be anything else.
The Sorcerer's incredibly restrictive limits for how many spells they get and how many metamagics they have don't serve to make the Sorcerer less powerful, strictly speaking. It just makes every Sorcerer have so little wiggle room that you can only choose the best options and nothing else, because if you choose options that are flavorful or add utility or just your favorites, that takes up all the build space you need to be spending on your build's focus. So you either make one of the exact same half-dozen good Sorcerer builds everyone else has already made, or you make your own unique Sorcerer… and completely suck.
- A feature for the sorcerer
- Why do Sorcerers not get their core class feature (Metamagic) until level 3?
- How I think sorcerer should have been handled.
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