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I've been planning to create a Sorcerer character (as a player, not a DM), and I noticed that the Wild Magic subclass seems to be uniquely unbalanced compared to the Draconic Bloodline subclass:

  1. The "Wild Magic Surge" ability only seems to be used at the DM's discretion (according to RAW).
  2. Some of the Wild Magic results can easily result in a TPK (randomly dropping a Fireball centered on the caster).
  3. At least one of the Wild Magic results is capable of rendering a character unplayable (age alteration, with no mention of how to reverse the affects).

I have seen some of these individual issues mentioned in other questions here, but I haven't been able to find any mention of balance between the two subclasses. Compared to every other class' subclass options, a Wild Magic sorcerer seems to be the only one with potentially campaign-derailing features.

My question is: Are these two subclasses as unbalanced as they appear (thus leaving only one "real" subclass option for sorcerers), or do I have a fundamental misunderstanding of the subclass?

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closed as too broad by DuckTapeAl, Premier Bromanov, GMJoe, LegendaryDude, Oblivious Sage Mar 9 '16 at 4:46

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ By balanced, do you mean (1) comparison of relative power between the two classes, (2) comparison of relative flexibility between the two classes (3) playability (4) as compared to other spell casting classes? What criterion or standard are you using to determine balance? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 3 '16 at 15:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure how to phrase it, but every other subclass in the game seems to be built with statistical balance in mind (the DMG even goes into some detail on how to generate additional balanced subclasses)...but the Wild Magic subclass seems to have no such consideration--uniquely so. That leads me to believe that I'm misunderstanding something. TL;DR: (1) and (3). \$\endgroup\$ – Liesmith Mar 3 '16 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ If (1) and (3) are you core concerns, could you edit that into your question to narrow down what an answer needs to address? (My own look at Wild sorcerer screams play style variety and a different kind of fun as the reason behind that archetype ... the statistical piece trailing far behind. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 3 '16 at 16:10
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Whether the Class is Balanced Depends on the DM

Before playing a Wild Magic sorcerer, the DM and player absolutely must discuss these issues. The DM should have a clear idea of when and how effects like the aging can be mitigated or reversed. He should plan in advance how he will handle potential TPKs due to the magic. And the player should have some warning regarding these issues.

If the DM doesn't think these things through up-front, it is only a matter of time before the dice will force him into a corner. I imagine that most DMs go by the "rule-of-fun", and simply ignore any surges that aren't entertaining in the moment. Or they preemptively cross out the most negative effects. (I suspect that there are few that swing the other direction.)

Many "Old School" DMs would not hesitate to run the class exactly as written, but the old-school game embraced quirkiness and TPKs were easier to tolerate when new characters could be rolled up in about 5 minutes. In today's more tactical game, players invest a lot more time in generating their character and therefore get a lot testier when a routine battle becomes a TPK because their teammate had a ill-timed surge.

Neevotic points out that "Greater Restoration" might (as the DM's discretion) reverse certain effects. If so, the DM should give some thought as to the prevalence of 9th level clerics in the game world and their willingness to aid the PCs. If such clerics are common and spells are cheap, then the effect is nothing more than an amusing aside. If they are rare, the effect is equal to death (as Raise Dead is also a 5th level spell!)

Whether the class is "balanced" depends on the answers to all these. Under a generous, rule-of-silly, DM, the class is not balanced - probably not enough to ruin the game, but enough to rob the class of the intended flavor. Under a punitive DM, rolling up a Wild Magic Sorcerer is simply lighting the fuse for a future TPK bomb.

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I wouldn't say they are unbalanced. You just get to play the two subclasses a little different.

The Draconic Bloodline subclass focuses on being less vulnerable (giving free armor, hit points and almost free resistance).

While the Wild Magic subclass offers some great abilities to deal a lot of damage (granting advantage on attacks, some really nice Surge options).

All in all it just depends if you like the luck-based thing, or not.

About the reversibility of the Surge effects, as a DM I would allow a simple Greater Restoration spell to do the job.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What about Dispel Magic? Wouldn't it be just as viable on some of those effects? \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Mar 3 '16 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I would allow dispel Magic aswell. \$\endgroup\$ – Neevotic Mar 4 '16 at 11:14

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