10
\$\begingroup\$

Sorcerers don't have many spells. If I compare them to other full casters (I'm not including Warlocks in this because they work entirely differently), namely Bards, Clerics, Druids and Wizards, then they seem to come up short.

By level 20:

  • Bards know 22 spells;
  • Clerics/Druids can have between 24-25 spells prepared (assuming WIS of 18-20);
  • Wizards know a whopping 44 spells (only including spells gained via levelling) but can only prepare about 25, as per Cleric/Druid;
  • Sorcerers only know 15;

Sorcerers are the clear losers here. Not that I expect them to have as many as Wizards (since that's their thing), but 15 just seems way too few to me, and I don't think that Metamagic alone makes up that difference (which is all they seem to have besides spells). So I was thinking of giving them a free (but specific) spell between spell levels 1st-5th, much the same as I did for the PHB Rangers.

This way, the Sorcerer would know 20 spells; still fewer than everyone else, but not by as great-a-margin. As with my other question, the spells I have picked suit their flavour and include spells from within their own spell list and from other spell lists (which would count as sorcerer spells for them), but only one extra spell per spell level (up to 5th). I'm not listing them all here, though, as it would take up too much room (I've done this for the UA archetypes, too).

I suppose the player of these "enhanced sorcerers" could potentially swap out the free spell for any old sorcerer spell, effectively giving them 20 total spells without the flavour, but as covered in this question, I'm going to assume they can't do that, much the same as with the extra Ranger spells (or at the very least, I would rule that they can't, given that I'd be the DM in this situation, what with it being my homebrew).

So, my question is does the increase in number of spells known impact the strength of the class in a way that might make it preferable to the other spellcasters? I've always felt they were the weaker option, but that might just be because I don't use Metamagic to it's full potential or something, so will these additional spells and the increased flexibility they provide unbalance anything beyond what I have anticipated?


As a caveat, I'm aware that the XGTE archetypes (and the new Giant Soul Sorcerer archetype from UA, but I don't care as much about that because it's just UA, and my main balance concerns are with the official released archetypes) already include an additional spell; namely the Divine Soul's Divine Magic feature (XGTE, pg. 50):

In addition, choose an affinity for the source of your divine power: good, evil, law, chaos, or neutrality. You learn an additional spell based on that affinity [...]

and the Shadow Sorcerer's Eyes of the Dark feature (XGTE, pg. 51):

When you reach 3rd level in this class, you learn the darkness spell, which doesn't count against your number of sorcerer spells known.

Therefore, RAW, these Sorcerers would know 16 spells in total by level 20. I'm planning on not giving Divine Soul sorcerers an extra level 1 spell or Shadow Sorcerers and extra 2nd level spell, so that their total is still 20 known spells by the time they hit level 20. I personally don't think this matters too much since it's only one spell's difference, and their class features do provide them with other benefits, so it's not like I'm taking their class features away from them and giving them to every other sorcerer archetype.

I thought to mention this in case this impacts balance, and therefore any potential answers, in a way I haven't anticipated; but this is an aside, just some extra information, and my question is not specifically about this aside, but about the impacts of having any sorcerers with 20 spells.

\$\endgroup\$
15
\$\begingroup\$

It will make them stronger, but not much

This answer is about Wizards, but I agree that more spells from the same list are not much improvement. Usual Sorcerers take the 15 spells1 they find best or strongest, so by definition the next 5 will be weaker.
They have the same number of slots, and more importantly, the same number of actions per encounter.

Example: Lightning Bolt

In most situations Fireball is better than Lightning Bolt, as it usually covers more area. It effects more enemies, so most Sorcerers only know the former as they can't afford both.
After this change they might be able to take both, but in the vast majority of the cases, they will still chose Fireball to cast. Only in the few times when the enemy is lined up nicely, or is resistant/immune to fire but not to lightning, will they cast Lightning Bolt. In about 10% of encounters, they will be 50% stronger (not losing half of the damage due to resistance).

This comes up to 5%, hardly unbalancing2.

Spells from other lists

This is where the idea can go wrong, so you have to examine it on a case-by-case basis:
A twinned Tasha’s Hideous Laughter or heightened Evard's Black Tentacles3 is very powerful, but no metamagic will make Flame Blade great.

This just can't be answered unless we see the whole list for all archetypes, but than it might be too broad.

Try to fit all possible metamagics on the spells, and if it still does not look overpowered, you are fine.


1. Sorcerers know 15 spells on level 20.

2. The difference is even less, you could just cast something completely different like Toll the Dead or Haste.

3. I think named spells (Evard's, Tasha's) are usually created stronger, because they are unavailable for Sorcerer's. Consider them a Wizard class feautre compensting for no metamagic

\$\endgroup\$
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Ignoring resistance makes damage 100% stronger, not 50%. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Sep 6 '18 at 9:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the "original"? As I see you compare fireball and lightning bolt (considering their base damage equal), one faces resistance, the other does not. The better one then deals 2x damage compared to the other. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Sep 6 '18 at 10:24
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ 8d6 originally, fire would deal half, so you just gain back the lost 4d6 (50%) with lightning. \$\endgroup\$ – András Sep 6 '18 at 10:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ "This just can't be answered unless we see the whole list for all archetypes, but than it would be too broad." I've just gone through my lists and double-checked what is and is not a sorcerer spell (ignoring what I've picked for UA archetypes because I'm trying to narrow this down); only 10 of the spells are from other spell lists. Since including all 10 spells in this question (alongside what I've already asked) would make it too broad, do you suggest another question about this? One per spell seems a bit excessive, but 10 spells in one (new) question would probably still be too broad... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 6 '18 at 11:09
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ 10 spells in one question should be fine \$\endgroup\$ – András Sep 6 '18 at 12:13
12
\$\begingroup\$

Short Answer: Yes. You're forgetting a key Sorcerer feature that makes the Sorcerer's fewer spells more powerful.

There is a subtle, but elegant balance in the spell casting abilities of each class. Yes, by counting spells known (and prepared), it appears that Sorcerer's come up short. Especially when you also look at the spell slots per day that they have, they are equal to a Wizard.

A Wizard's strength comes from their diversity of spells. Sure they also get their Arcane Recovery:

Arcane Recovery You have learned to regain some of your magical energy by studying your Spellbook. Once per day when you finish a Short Rest, you can choose expended Spell Slots to recover. The Spell Slots can have a combined level that is equal to or less than half your wizard level (rounded up), and none of the slots can be 6th level or higher.

This means that at 20th level, A wizard could get up to an additional 10 to 2 spells back. The downsides are that they have to rest (albeit a short one) to get these extras, but they can't get back any spell slot higher than 5th.

A Sorcerer, on the other hand, gets their strength through the diversity of the spells they have. This is where the magic of Sorcery Points come into play. Here is their feature for Flexible Casting:

You can use your sorcery points to gain additional Spell Slots, or sacrifice Spell Slots to gain additional sorcery points. You learn other ways to use your sorcery points as you reach higher levels.

At 20th level, a Sorcerer has 20 Sorcery Points. They also cannot spend them to make a slot higher than 5th, but they also can give up higher level slots to cast lower ones, also adding to the number of casts they have available in a single encounter. And for them, adding these extra castings is all achieved in a bonus action.

This is in addition to spending the Sorcery Points to perform Metamagic on the spells they do cast.

The balance to all of this is the number of spells at their disposal. They can make the spells they do have harder to resist, or hit for more damage, or to avoid affecting their teammates. But while they may command fire, and illusions well, they may not have a general command of the battlefield like a Wizard would, with their ability to handle resistances to more types, or spells that can affect more types of monsters.

The better way to look at it is this: What if a Wizard had these Sorcery abilities? What if a Wizard, with more damage spells of more types, and controlling spells of different monster types, also had the ability to make these spells more powerful or harder to resist? Because that is what it will look like when a Sorcerer has more spells available with their metamagic and flexible casting abilities.

Here's an alternative: adding a few spells known is still retooling the established class to simply have more. There are other ways for a player to add supplemental features and powers. These could be things such as Feats, like like Magic Initiate, Ritual Caster, Spell Sniper, a few Racial Feats, etc.. Even if it is a homebrew feat, it is still something that the character is spending on in favor of another feat so that they can have that feature. Then there are also magic items, Racial abilities, and many other ways to grant this. The main message is: don't just give something, which will unbalance a mechanic like a class. Create something extra that he character spends their feat, number of attuned magic items, or has to risk themselves for on a quest, to spend on or obtain.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I hear your concerns, but I was hoping that only allowing 5 extra spells, and fixed ones at that (not the player's pick) would help to close the gap but not entirely (so a 20 INT Wizard would still have 25 spells prepared, compared to the Sorcerer's 20 spells known, by level 20). Having a Sorcerer match the Wizard at 25 spells known would be like giving Metamagic to a Wizard, which would be overpowered. There's also the fact the Wizards still can learn lots of spells that Sorcerers can't, such as Tasha's Hideous Laughter, etc, so Wizards still have the monopoly overall. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 6 '18 at 15:34
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I see what you're saying. I would counter that there are ways to add spells known (or prepared) to any class, and not just Sorcerer. There are a few Feats, like Magic Initiate, Ritual Caster, Spell Sniper, a few Racial Feats, etc. There is also multiclassing, magic items, etc. My point is that there are other ways to achieve this; by giving something supplemental, instead of retooling the class itself, which was balanced in this way according to its abilities. \$\endgroup\$ – as.beaulieu Sep 6 '18 at 16:16
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Sorcerers also get an extra cantrip. That's not nothing, especially when you're talking about flexibility. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Sep 6 '18 at 18:24
3
\$\begingroup\$

To your core question: Yes

Quoting your specific request from the body of your Question:

"So, my question is does the increase in number of spells known impact the strength of the class in a way that might make it preferable to the other spellcasters?"

It does impact the strength of the class, in a way that might make it preferable to the other spellcasters. Specifically, it significantly moderates one of the few real weaknesses they have, and they have a number of strengths. Let's compare Sorcerers and Wizards prior to 18th level (for simplicity).

Sorcerers get one more cantrip than wizards/clerics, two more than druids/bards. They get an extra pool of sorcery points that effectively function as extra, oddly-shaped spell slots. They get to convert spell slots into sorcery points and back, giving them a great deal more flexibility on how they spend the spell slots they do have. They get access to metamagic, meaning that they effectively get additional flexibility with the spells known they have.

In contrast, the Wizard gets Arcane Recovery, middle cantrip use, Ritual Caster, and advantages associated with his spells known (in having more of them, in being able to swap them out, and in having more utility spells to choose from). Arcane Recovery is like a weaker, less flexible version of the base spell point pool. Basically, other than Ritual Caster, "better spells known" is the only advantage the wizard gets.

So, yes, as you erode that advantage (and adding 5 spells known would do that to a degree) the wizard becomes less interesting by comparison. The Sorcerer is a significantly stronger combat caster in the moment. The wizard has the advantage in out-of-combat flexibility and utility, and when given time to prepare. If your campaigns always play to the wizard's strengths (like, giving them prior knowledge and a day or more to prepare before sending them into things, playing more problem-solving and less combat, or focusing on monsters that have a variety of specific weaknesses) then the wizard is still going to have the advantage, and the Sorcerer might need some help in comparison. Admittedly, at that point, a lot of characters might need some help in comparison to the wizard. In a more fast and loose campaign where the players are dropped into combat with relatively little warning, and need to adapt on the fly, the Sorcerer is going to have better endurance, and more fine-grained control of their combat options.

I'll note as an aside that a sorcerer who dips a couple of levels of warlock can get some pretty powerful options at relatively low cost (eldritch blast plus agonizing blast works really well with the Quickened Spell metamagic). The wizard, being an int-based caster, doesn't really have an equivalent option. I don't think you were considering multiclass in general, but if your initial logic is "Sorcerer is just weak and therefore", it's something to bear in mind.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious - which metamagic combines "really well" with Agonizing Eldritch Blast? Twinned Spell wouldn't work since Eldritch Blast is potentially multi-target starting at level 5 and beyond (though one could probably argue whether that invalidates it for Twinned Spell). \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Sep 6 '18 at 21:33
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster Quickened Spell. You're right that Twinned Spell doesn't work (or, rather, that it stops working at level 5), but for two sorcery points and no spell slots you can fire off a standard eldritch blast and a quickened eldritch blast in the same turn. You can keep doing that for quite a long time without running out, especially since you can convert any warlock spell slots you haven't used into sorcery points immediately before each short rest. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Sep 6 '18 at 22:00
3
\$\begingroup\$

I’d say it really depends on the player of the sorcerer. Sorcerer is a particularly intimidating and difficult class for new players, because it’s easy to seriously nerf yourself with a few bad spell choices or a meta magic choice that doesn’t synergize well with your spells. It’s also a class that can be really powerful in the hands of a min-maxing player or someone who really knows how to get the best mileage from their spells and abilities. It also multi classes well with other Charisma casters, allowing metamagic to seriously supercharge other classes’ signature spells.

As a DM, I wouldn’t be opposed to adding a few extra thematic spells to the class for a newer player worried about screwing up their character. That might be the deciding factor in whether they play a character concept that excites them or pick a safer choice that they aren’t as invested in. But I wouldn’t allow an expanded spell list to be used if a character is multiclassing to get even more low-level spells. And I probably wouldn’t give it to a more experienced player who could make the RAW class compete with other full casters.

In the past, I have allowed sorcerer players to pick up other class spells that fit their archetype as part of their fifteen spells known. I had a storm sorcerer at my table who wanted Call Lightning and that didn’t break anything.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 5 at 19:28
1
\$\begingroup\$

Yes and no

In terms of combat power, no, it wouldn't make a sorcerer significantly more powerful. Once you've picked up one of the premier damage spells (fireball or lightning bolt) and a couple of backup options, you won't gain much from additional attack spells.

But in terms of utility -- all those non-combat spells and buff/debuff options that only apply sometimes -- yes, it makes the sorcerer significantly more powerful. Being a sorcerer means having to make those critical decisions, and adding more known spells means you just don't have to choose anymore.

I don't think this change would make Sorcerers so much better that they become the Universally Best Spellcaster over every other class; but it sort of steps on the Wizard's schtick, and I still wouldn't recommend it because I think working within those imposed limitations is part of what makes a sorcerer interesting.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ if they don't become the best spellcaster, than it is balanced \$\endgroup\$ – András Sep 6 '18 at 15:01
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @András not necessarily. There's a lot of space where it is not entirely clear which spellcaster is "best". Adding power to one can thus make things less balanced overall even if it doesn't break the threshold to the point that all other spellcasters are clearly inferior. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Sep 6 '18 at 19:43
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @András Not at all. If it made sorcerers better than all other spellcasters, it wouldn't be 'unbalanced', it would just be broken. There's a lot of space between a broken "this makes the class strictly better than every other similar class" and a balanced "this is totally fine, no problem". This idea is giving Sorcerers a lot more of the thing they're most weak at, which steps on Wizards and Bards to some extent. Not so badly that they're left in the dust, but it makes the sorcerer a lot more like a wizard who just prepares the same spells every day. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Sep 7 '18 at 15:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.