I'm hoping to find an explanation from the developers as to why charisma became the primary spell-casting stat for both sorcerers and warlocks in 5e.
What was their logic in that decision?
Was it a method of balancing the characters with other classes?
Was it a way to increase the value of the charisma stat?

The reason I ask is because I was playing around with the idea of having a Wisdom based Warlock; and came across this question: What are the ramifications of switching primary attributes of a spellcasting class? I realize in that question some issues of balancing where addressed when it came to Sorcerers utilizing wisdom, but Warlocks specifically weren't addressed. So it made me curious what the developers had to say about Charisma-based spells and those classes.

I've only played 1e before this, so if the answer is "earlier versions did this" I am asking why it was originally done.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Why do Sorcerers use Charisma? \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Sep 6, 2017 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ In 5e only? or earlier editions? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Sep 10, 2017 at 14:24
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The question you are asking actually reaches back to decisions made for 3e D&D, which was WoTC's first rendition of the game. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2017 at 12:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Another related question with an answer that partly covers what's behind the sorcerer. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2017 at 13:16
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Designer Reasons are OT as per Meta, this question was given a little attention through a necromancer from the linked history of gaming question - protective closing might be in order atop the protected status. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Nov 19, 2018 at 11:26

4 Answers 4


According to Jeremy Crawford, warlocks, at least, were CHA-based in prior editions and the community preferred keeping them that way despite designer preference of making them INT-based in 5e.

@JeremyECrawford Why are Warlock Charisma casters, when their descriptions in the PHB screams Intelligence caster?

(@BringerFiction, 11:34 PM - 16 Dec 2016)

Warlocks used Charisma in previous editions. Playtest feedback wanted that carried forward. (Our preference was to use Intelligence.) #DnD

(@JeremyECrawford, 3:09 PM - 17 Dec 2016)

I don't believe there's any such immediate word-of-designer insight for sorcerers in 5e in particular, though they also were CHA casters in earlier editions.

The charisma based casters became a distinctive feature of 3rd edition, with the Sorcerer. (And the bard, but that's off topic). One of the devs had this to say about the new edition:

TheSage{Skip Williams}: Yes. Wizards use Intelligence, just as they always have. Sorcerers use Charisma. In the new rules, charisma is mostly a mental ability, reflecting Strength or will, inner power, and the like. (Source= RPG Hour: Third Edition D&D Sorcerers, Featuring Skip Williams, designer, Fri. July 20, 2000)

When Warlocks were introduced in The Complete Arcane, they followed the Sorcerer is using will instead of wit for their magical abilities:

Unlike Sorcerers or Wizards, who approach arcane magic through the medium of spells, a warlock invokes powerful magic through nothing more than an effort of will. By harnessing his innate magical gift through fearsome determination and force of will, a warlock can perform feats of supernatural stealth, beguile the weak minded, or scour his foes with blasts of eldritch power. page 5

The warlock is described as a new arcane caster:

Born of a supernatural bloodline, a warlock seeks to master the perilous magic that suffuses his soul.

The decision to use charisma for those two casters was made independently in the editions where they were introduced to the game (3 for Sorcerer and 3.5 for Warlock) but in both cases the designers found that the class "fit" better with the force of will rather than raw intellect to power their magic.

These decision were tied into how the game's chose to change what Charisma represented(see GatesVP answer): in editions 2e and previous, Charisma was about leadership ability, persuasion, and personal magnetism. In subsequent editions, 3 through 5, it is also tied force of personality, force of will.

The other design decision, for the sorcerer in particular, was a choice to provide a non Vancian arcane caster (one who prepared spells in the old way via study of spell books, sort of like charging up a capacitor) or a spontaneous caster, who was not so restricted but who was limited by having available fewer spells. (See also the interview with Skip Williams).

Abelared_DM: I'd like to reiterate my earlier question, from a different angle: What is sorcery all about? You've said that a sorcerer and a wizard look the same when casting a spell... okay, that being said, do they learn their spells in different ways? We know a wizard copies them into a spellbook. How does a sorcerer internalize a new spell? I'm trying to get a philosophical foundation I can build on, here.

TheSage: Sorcerers don't have spell books. How they internalize spells is largely unrevealed. It is assumed that sorcerers learn new spells through research and meditation, much as wizards do. Sorcerers do not prepare spells ahead of time. They simply use what they know until they're tapped out magically for the day.

Further detail on this can be found at Q&A here, and here.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't answer "why it was originally done" (which may be a tough find if you don't have access to 3e design commentary). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2017 at 12:17
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast My answer was before the 'why it was originally done' was edited in, and when the question had comments that indicated they only cared about it for 5e in particular. Unfortunately, I'm not as aware of 3e designer intent. \$\endgroup\$
    – CTWind
    Oct 20, 2017 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I'd be fine with the answer being updated and/or a new answer citing the same sources, unfortunately don't have time to do the further research myself at the moment. \$\endgroup\$
    – CTWind
    Oct 20, 2017 at 16:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I added in some commentary and links from the previous answers that were linked under the question, to help link the "where it came from" to "why is it this way now." I hope it fits. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2017 at 19:16

I actually had a discussion about this a few months ago with somebody. The definition Charisma and Wisdom have changed throughout the various editions of D&D. Back in 2e Charisma was defined as

An ability score representing personal magnetism, persuasiveness, and ability to lead.

while Wisdom was defined as

An ability score representing intuition, judgment, common sense, and will power.

Both from the AD&D Glossary on page 1151 of the 2e Wizard's Spell Compendium Volume 4.

However, in the 5e Player's Handbook at the beginning of Chapter 7: Using Ability Scores short definitions are given of what each stat measures.

Wisdom, measuring perception and insight

Charisma, measuring force of personality

So, a long time ago Wisdom and Intelligence were the usual spellcasting stats and there were far fewer classes included in the player handbook. Essentially, between editions some definitions got switched around and changed and became more vital to the game and new standard classes got added that needed to have something that set them apart from existing classes. It is mentioned on page 99 of the 5e Player's Handbook that

Sorcerers have no use for the spellbooks and ancient tomes of magic lore that wizards rely on, nor do they rely on a patron to grant their spells as warlocks do. By learning to harness and channel their own inborn magic, they can discover new and staggering ways to unleash that power.

Under the new definition of Charisma used in 5e the class's power is essentially about self-discovering, something which is based upon force of personality and will power.

Warlocks on the other hands are all about pacts.

Warlocks are driven by an insatiable need for knowledge and power, which compels them into their pacts and shapes their lives. This thirst drives warlocks into their pacts and shapes their later careers as well.

That was a small section from page 105 of the 5e Player's Handbook. The entire section discusses pacts and that Warlocks form them with powerful beings to gains their abilities. Of course, one would require an incredible force of personality to convince these beings to form a pact, or even get these being's attention, as well as persevere through the consequences of a pact, meaning the potential side effects. Also, inferred by the section above, Wisdom or Intelligence would not be suitable for a Warlock since their quest for magic is more of a compulsion.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The question, when one reads through the whole thing, has at the end the matter of "if this was done in previous editions, I am asking why?" which will make this a tough answer unless one has access to 3e designer commentary. (Monte Cook?) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2017 at 12:18

Going back to 1st Edition:


Wisdom: Wisdom is a character's enlightenment, judgement, wile, will power, and somewhat intuitiveness.

  • 9 was the minimum wisdom for Cleric
  • 12 was the minimum wisdom for Druid (subclass of Cleric)
  • 13 was the minimum wisdom for Paladin (subclass of Fighter)


Intelligence: Intelligence is reasoning, learning, languages, and moreover the forte of magic-users. For they must be perspicacious in order to correctly understand magic and memorize spells. Therfore, intelligence is the major characteristic of magic-users.

  • 5 or below could only be Fighter
  • 9 is minimum for Paladin or Magic-User
  • 13 is minimum for Ranger (subclass of Fighter)
  • 15 is minimum for Illusionist


Charisma: Charisma is the measure of one's persuasiveness and personal magnetism. It is very much an aspect of leadership abilities. It also dictates the total number and loyalty of henchmen, hirelings, etc.

  • 5 or below can only be an assassin
  • 15 is minimum for Druid
  • 17 is minimum for Paladin

A few of the Maximum Henchmen numbers:

  • Charisma of 9-11 permits 4 henchmen
  • Charisma of 15 (Druid min) permits 7 henchmen
  • Charisma of 17 (Paladin min) permits 10 henchmen

Given that Warlocks rely on pacts, loyalty, and at times even leading demons and undead it would make sense that when they were added in Charisma would be a factor.

In 2nd Edition this becomes even more apparent as the description for Charisma is extended to state,

It is important to all characters, but especially to those who must deal with non-player characters (NPCs), mercenary hirelings, retainers, and intelligent monsters.

Paladins lead men, Druids lead animals, Warlocks lead demons.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ryan, if you are going to go back to 1e on a 5e based question, you'll probably need to 'walk the dog' from edition to edition to show how it arrived at the "why" of 5e. Neither Sorcerer nor Warlock existed as a class in 1e, they were the adjective name of a Magic User of levels 9 and 7 (IIRC) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2017 at 21:54

If you go back to 2nd edition, all of the casting was Intelligence-based or Wisdom-based. Wizards, Clerics, Druids were the same as today. But Paladins and Rangers also had to use Wisdom for their abilities. Bards used Intelligence and had to keep books around.

At that point in time, Charisma was kind of a weird ability. It was commonly a "dump stat" and it was quite possible for a party to have no one with a good charisma score. At the time, Charisma was described as

The Charisma (Cha) score measures a character's persuasiveness, personal magnetism, and ability to lead.

When 3rd edition is printed it comes with some new classes and a new definition for Charisma.

Charisma measures a character’s force of personality, persuasiveness, personal magnetism, ability to lead, and physical attractiveness.

Suddenly, Bards and Paladins are casting with their Charisma. Warlocks and Sorcerers also make their appearance and that's when "charisma casting" really became a thing.

4th & 5th edition has carried this definition of "force of personality". Charisma-based casting is now the most popular in the PHB.

What is the reasoning behind having sorcerers' and warlocks' spells rely on charisma?... What was their logic in that decision?

For Sorcerers, casting with Charisma is the primary difference between them and Wizards. It speaks deeply to the very nature of the classes: one class studied for their power, the other just knew it. That formed the basis of many other differences between the classes: spells/day, spells progression, etc.

For balance and simplicity, many of differences have faded or morphed in 5e. But they are still two fundamentally different classes that both happen to cast Arcane magic.

From the Warlock standpoint, you can go directly to the tweet from the designer which indicates that it was just a carry-over from previous editions.

Warlocks used Charisma in previous editions. Playtest feedback wanted that carried forward. (Our preference was to use Intelligence.)

And it seems they kind of hedged that by providing "Pact of the Tome" for people who wanted their Warlock to carry around a book of spells.

That stated, the two newest classes, Artificer and Mystic, are both Int-based as well. (currently in Unearthed Arcana beta mode)

  • \$\begingroup\$ dump stat? Not for druids and paladins, or anyone trying to get NPC's to react favorably to them ... \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2017 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ In 2nd edition Charisma was one of three or four important stats for the Paladin. Paladins were very rare because they had intense ability score requirements. Druids were Wisdom casters, I don't recall any special ability that required them to have Charisma. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gates VP
    Oct 20, 2017 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Druids had a charisma minimum score requirement in both 1e and 2e. (and in original, Eldritch Wizardry) . IIRC it was 15 in 1e and 2e, and minimum wisdom was 12. (See PHB; the 1e page ref is p. 20 and it carried into the next edition). I am very familiar with 1e, and familiar with the basics of 2e but I didn't play it as much. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2017 at 14:51

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