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I'm playing a (Wild Magic) Sorcerer in a game of D&D 5e. My DM has house-ruled the Wild Magic rules and I am not privy to the details, but here's what I've pieced together:

  • As usual, a d20 roll occurs anytime you cast a spell of 1st level or higher. The cutoff for triggering a Wild Magic Surge is not 1, but somewhere around 12-14 (i.e., anything below a 12-14 triggers it).
  • Upon using Tides of Chaos, you roll a d20 immediately, as if you had cast a spell. If you score less than the cutoff you then roll on the Wild Magic Surge table, but this does not grant you the return of your Tides of Chaos ability.
  • The DM retains the option to force a roll on the Wild Magic Surge table immediately after you cast any spell, which causes you to regain your Tides of Chaos ability as normal. Otherwise, you regain it on a long rest.
  • An alternative Wild Magic Surge table is used. This table has some area-of-effect-centered-on-caster damage or vulnerability spells added in, and seems to be more deadly than the default. (I’ve killed one friendly NPC outright and one PC indirectly in my last two rolls, + had a handful of other lethal or damaging events happen in our ~6 sessions so far.) I haven’t seen the table, though, so that could be simple bad luck. (And I don't know what fatality rate is expected for the "normal" table, either -- I just get a feeling by skimming through it that it's lower than ours.)
  • Spells cast due to Wild Magic Surge do not count as spells cast by you (so metamagic like Careful Spell, etc., cannot be invoked).

I think my DM's major goal with the above is to ensure that wild magic features appear more often and are more unpredictable than the default.

I recently reached the conclusion that my Sorcerer's Good alignment is not compatible with using the Tides of Chaos ability, because of the high observed risk of collateral damage / bystander deaths. (I ballparked it at about 15-20% each time ToC was used.) However, when I mentioned this to my DM he was concerned, as he said "tides of chaos is a big deal down the line" and he didn't want me to limit myself. So now I'm thinking that maybe I should suggest revising the house rules to make Wild Magic Surges less lethal, while still serving the goals of keeping them unpredictable and relatively frequent. Unfortunately, I'm a very new player and I have no experience with homebrew anything.

I've searched, found a lot of Wild Magic Surge tables, and have no idea how to assess which ones might involve less collateral damage. What strategy can I use for balancing a homebrew Wild Magic Surge table, or judging how balanced someone else's is? And are there any other places in the above rules that seem like targets for tinkering to reduce the number of deaths per session?

(By the way, please don't hesitate to comment if this sounds like a problem with the way I'm playing the character, by doing things like using Tides of Chaos in non-combat situations, as well -- sadly for me, Googling "wild magic for dummies" produced no relevant results.)

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There is no single method to assess 'balance' for a given table

We all make homebrew for different reasons, and while balance is something that we can strive for, it isn't a prerequisite for having fun.

Something like the Wild Magic Sorcerer I agree has been underwhelming in my experience for the vanilla version. But when we look at devising a new or updated subclass system for it, then you need to look at the reasons behind the homebrew and then see if the practical mechanics fulfill that reason and keep the gameplay fun and interesting.

That's really the only important bar, but if you don't have all the information from your DM, that is concerning. Not understanding how your subclass mechanics work is problematic.

The only thing you can really do is ask for a clear description of the mechanic and see if that sounds fun, then try it out and see if it is fun. You and your DM should be open to making adjustments as practical play guides your assessments.

If you have trust in your DM to put in surges that are fun and interesting, then let them have that trust. If not, then I don't think it would be ridiculous for you to review the table and see if those effects are interesting for you

Things to pay attention to will be:

  1. How often are surges triggered?
  2. Do the surges sound fun, whether positive or negative?
  3. How much overhead is there in managing the surges?

My own Wild Magic Sorcerer experience

As I said earlier, I've been largely underwhelmed by the subclass. I had though the surges were too far apart from each other and the difficulty and hitting a surge was too high. The surges themselves I also thought were underwhelming in their fun aspect.

So I changed the surges to trigger off the spell level. 2nd level spell, roll a 2 or lower, etc. I also found a new surge table that I liked and incorporated that. Like your DM, I have not shared the actual surge table with the player - I think it's more fun and exciting for those surges to show themselves when they happen and surprise them - and I think it's been working.

Is it balanced? I'm not sure. Is it fun for us? Heck yeah. Profit.

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I think the standard Wild Magic Surge table is fine -- unpredictable, but rarely lethal, especially once you have a few levels. I could see developing a bigger one with more fun options, but don't see any need for it to be either more or less dangerous. I am unlikely to bother doing so, though, unless and until I have more Wild Magic players.

The stock table is unlikely to kill players, though, so either (a) your DMs table is more dangerous, or (b) you've been very unlucky. You'd have to discuss it with him to find out, though. Maybe just ask him that question straight up: "Is your table more dangerous than normal, or have I just gotten very unlucky?"

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The main complaint I have seen with the RAW on Wild Magic Surges is that they don't happen often enough. 1 in 20, and not always even rolled, is going to happen, like, once or twice per level, and players who choose that want more fun with it than that.

The way I homebrewed it for my world is that every time a Wild Magic Sorcerer casts a leveled spell, or creates another magical effect bigger than a cantrip, they roll a d6 with it. On a 1, they get the Surge. If they have used their Tides of Chaos, they get the surge, and the ToC back, on a 1 or a 2. This also means I don't have to track whether the character has used ToC, or remember to have separate rolls to get it back, the player can handle that.

I have had a few Wild Magic players in my campaigns, and this has worked well for them. It also increases interest in players playing one.

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