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I've never quite understood why Sorcerers get Bluff as a class skill but no other social skill. Why do they get Bluff and not Diplomacy, for instance?

Is there any official fluff or other published material that justifies why Sorcerers would get Bluff as their only social class skill?

Let me apologise if the answer is in the Player's Handbook. I only ever got access to a translated version and it might not be as clear in the translation or have otherwise been lost in translation.

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closed as off-topic by Trish, David Coffron, Sdjz, ShadowKras, JP Chapleau Jul 5 '18 at 20:02

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because Designer Reasons were declared Off-Topic on Meta. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Jul 5 '18 at 18:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish I removed the tag. The question isn't asking about designer reasons alone, there appears to be a mix of RAW and RAI behind this question. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 5 '18 at 18:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast it is either too broad, opinion based or OT for Designer Reasons. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Jul 5 '18 at 18:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish I looked at paragraph number 2, and got the idea that some lore might be useful, but you may be more correct in your assessment of the question. Another way to ask the question more stackily would be something like "how does Bluff fit into the Sorcerer's skill selections" or something like that. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 5 '18 at 18:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mr.Sandman “Is the reason for this explained anywhere?” is off-topic here; questions of that sort have caused problems in the past, and we’ve given up trying to support them. You might try, instead, something like “would I break anything if I added other social skills to the sorcerer skill list?” See the meta discussion. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 5 '18 at 19:01
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The sorcerer in had no skills with Charisma as a key ability; the 3.5 revision added Bluff. This chat transcript explains how the decision came about:

amarin: Will the sorcerer be getting any Charisma-based class skills in 3.5?

WotC_Andy: We talked about that at length, even to the point of running an R&D poll on what he should get. The winner was Bluff, so that's the sorcerer's new class skill. I was lobbying for Use Magic Device, too, but that didn't make the cut. I advise adding UMD as a house rule for all DMs with sorcerers.

The user amarin is a participant in this chat, while WotC Andy is Andy Collins, architect of the 3.5 revision.

Longtime Dungeons & Dragons writer Sean K. Reynolds in this examination of the revised Player's Handbook also offers this bit of insider information about the development of the sorcerer:

Bluff is now a class skill, so sorcerers finally have a class skill that uses an ability score important to their class. FYI, for a while the design debate was to either add one or more Cha-based class skills or give the sorcerer more skill points so they could buy up any cross-class Cha-based skill they wanted. Personally, I think they ought to get Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Use Magic Device as class skills as well; they should be able to function almost as well as a bard when it comes to making people think what you want them to think, and as a creature with a natural attunement to magic they ought to be able to make magic do-dads function as well as the spell-less rogue.

(Reynolds also goes on to offer his own house rules.)

So, apparently, it was felt by more than a few designers that sorcerers should have something to do with their outrageous Charisma scores besides just employing the game's most powerful force, and the consensus that was apparently reached was that Bluff should be that thing.

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So far as I am aware, there is no direct, word-of-god commentary on why Bluff, in particular, is found on the sorcerer skill list—see HeyICanChan’s excellent answer for what commentary is available, but note that it does not give reasoning for Bluff beyond saying it is what an internal R&D poll came up with. Both quoted WotC employees (Andy Collins and Sean K. Reynolds) express disagreement with Bluff being the sole Charisma-based skill on the sorcerer list, but offer no explanation for why others disagreed with adding more. Player’s Handbook, certainly, does not directly comment on it.

There are some hints at why Bluff might be a priority for sorcerers, however:

Some good sorcerers are driven by the need to prove themselves. Marked as different by their power, they seek to win a place in society and to prove themselves to others. Evil sorcerers, however, also feel themselves set apart from others—apart and above.

(Player’s Handbook pg. 51)

More often, however, sorcerers are on their own, feared by erstwhile friends and misunderstood by family.

(Player’s Handbook pg. 53)

In other words, there is an implied incentive to hide one’s sorcerous nature, which would require the Bluff skill to do.

But the problem with this argument is that there are similar implied needs for other skills not found on the sorcerer skill list:

  • Disguise:

    Everything above that might justify Bluff could just as easily warrant skill in Disguise, but it is absent from the sorcerer skill list.

  • Other social skills:

    Role: [...] Since a sorcerer often has a powerful presence that gives him a way with people, he may serve as the “face” for an adventuring party, negotiating, bargaining, and speaking for others.

    (Player’s Handbook pg. 53)

    I.e., Bluff makes total sense—it’s the lack of Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Sense Motive that makes zero sense. This line in Player’s Handbook only makes sense based on ability scores—high Charisma—but skill checks are, past the earliest levels, dominated by ranks, not ability score. This reads as though whoever wrote it either didn’t know the sorcerer’s class skill list, or misunderstood the ramifications of cross-class skill rank costs with respect to one’s ability to utilize a given skill.

  • Perform:

    Sorcerers create magic the way a poet creates poems,

    (Player’s Handbook pg. 51, actually the first sentence of the sorcerer description)

    Poets presumably use Perform here, which would imply sorcerers should have that skill. Though honestly, the correct skill to use for creating artistic works is a little unclear—Craft could make a case here—but that goes against the second half of the sentence, which reads “with inborn talent honed by practice,” suggesting that poets—along with sorcerers—do what they do more from Charisma than Intelligence.

  • Skills in general/more skill points

    [Sorcerers] don’t have the background of arcane knowledge that most wizards have. However, they do have more time to learn

    This sentence is an explanation of why sorcerers are proficient with all simple weapons, rather than the restricted list of weapons that wizards are proficient in, but it seems like it ought to also apply to skills—since their spells require less of their time, they should have more and more diverse skill sets beyond spellcasting. Instead, they get the same 2+Int that wizards do—and with vastly less benefit from a high Intelligence score.

In other words, the sorcerer skill list is dumb, and there isn’t really any good justification for it being the way it is. Contrast it with the binder (Tome of Magic) skill list: Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Intimidate, and Sense Motive are all on there (Disguise is again missing, though). And binders have far stronger explicit statements than sorcerers about being outcast and shunned,1 which might have justified an explicit focus on Bluff (and Disguise ⌐.⌐) over, say, Diplomacy.

So I heartily recommend bumping sorcerers up to 4+Int skill points per level, and adding at least Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Sense Motive to their skill list. Disguise and Perform also make a great deal of sense, though there is some argument that those skills tend to be a bit rarer on class skill list to make them a little “special”—I find this argument fairly weak, but it is true that these skills are less common. My games typically make these (and other) changes to sorcerers, and I have found them to be for the best.

  1. “the practice of pact magic is forbidden by most religions,” “[binders are often human,] but binders are no more welcome in human societies than any other,” “halfling communities [...] learn to fear them,” “elves and dwarves [...] tend to be [...] more opposed to binders,” “Others might misunderstand you,” “you can’t afford to be too open about your activities,” etc.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Very good answer! Personally, when using D&D 3.5, I usually allow 4+int skill points plus an extra 2 skill points that must be used on charisma-based skills (in addition to adding every cha-based skill to their list). Those directed skill points help the sorcerer to shine on the social aspect of the game without sacrificing too much versatility for it, ending up as somewhat of a bard with less class stuff but more spells. Sorcerer is already bad enough as a class, it can use some nice bumps to become more fun to play. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Jul 5 '18 at 19:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.Sar Eeeh. Sorcerer still gets very strong spellcasting—with effectively 6+Int skill points (what sorcerer doesn’t want at least two Cha-based skills, when all of them are in-class?), there seems to be far less advantage in playing a bard—and sorcerer already was the better class. Also, when you say “every cha-based skill,” are you including Use Magic Device? Because that I would absolutely leave out. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 5 '18 at 19:28

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