So you want to play a D&D sorcerer, eh? Excellent! You’ve come to the right place. This guide provides plenty of great tools to make informed decisions as you dream up your next character: a sorcerer for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.
What is a DnD Sorcerer?
In Dungeons & Dragons, a sorcerer is an arcane spellcaster with innate magical abilities. Rather than learning magic by poring over arcane tomes and memorizing spells, a sorcerer’s magic is an innate part of who they are, waiting to be unlocked. Sorcerers learn how to tap into their inborn powers to shape the arcane energy into powerful spells—but the results are sometimes volatile and difficult to control.
Little Known History of the Sorcerer
It wasn’t until the year 2000 that sorcerers became their own class in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition (D&D 3e). But the name was in the game much longer ago. In earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons, each level of a character class was given a unique name—these were known as level titles. In the original Dungeons & Dragons released between 1974 and 1976, “sorcerer” was the level title of a 9th-level magic-user.
The term sorcerer also appeared various times in other publications prior to 2000—but as a synonym for magic-user—not a formal class name or level title.
The sorcerer class can be tricky to get the hang of at first. Understanding their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses will help you get the most out of your character’s build. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive guide to every facet of the sorcerer. Instead, it’s an introduction to the class that covers the most pertinent details.
Disclaimer on Character Story and Narrative
Your character’s backstory and narrative details are a pivotal part of a tabletop roleplaying experience. This guide will not touch on any of those aspects of your sorcerer. As you read on, keep story ideas specific to your character in mind. As we share details on the mechanics, consider ways to weave your story ideas into the rules and vice versa.
Playing a Sorcerer—The Basics
The three most important class features of a sorcerer are:
- Sorcerous Origin
- Font of Magic
In Dungeons & Dragons 5e, the in-game source of each sorcerer’s power is unique, and different sorcerers cite different origins for their arcane abilities. This choice doesn’t just affect your character’s story, but also the in-game abilities your character has access to. In the rules, this is called your Sorcerous Origin. Your Sorcerous Origin describes the source of your innate arcane abilities, and grants you features when you choose it at 1st level, and again at 6th, 14th, and 18th level.
At 2nd level, you tap into a deeper connection with your innate magical ability. This deepened connection is represented in-game by sorcery points which you can spend to create various magical effects. At earlier levels, sorcery points are a lot like “credits” you can cash in to gain extra spell slots. Sorcery points can also be spent to perform Metamagic once you gain that class feature.
Your spell list as a sorcerer is relatively short when compared to other arcane casters. You’ll also have fewer spell slots, and fewer spells you can learn as you gain character levels. But what the sorcerer lacks in quantity, they make up for in quality. At 3rd level, you’ll gain the Metamagic ability which allows you to alter your spells in new ways. By using sorcery points, you can make spells more powerful, extend their duration, duplicate them, and much more. If you’re okay with knowing fewer spells overall, but doing more with those spells, the sorcerer is the perfect class for you.
As a sorcerer character, you get a set number of spells you know. Then, you can cast any spell you know as long as you have spell slots available. Additionally, the source of your arcane power comes from within, so your spellcasting is tied to your Charisma ability score. Also, note that a sorcerer cannot cast spells as rituals. If you understand how your Sorcerous Origin, Font of Magic, and Metamagic interact, it can help you choose spells wisely and enjoy playing your sorcerer (especially at lower levels).
The list of spells a sorcerer can choose from is a pared down version of what is available to the wizard, and skews more toward combat-focused spells. Your sorcerer will know only 15 spells and 6 cantrips total. And while that might sound like a lot, you gain them slowly as you level up. Carefully look through the spell list, and consider future levels as you choose your spells. You aren’t just choosing the spells you’ll be using frequently at early levels, but also the ones you’ll be using your Font of Magic and Metamagic features with once you gain access to them.
- Make Charisma your highest ability score, followed by Constitution.
- Choose the Noble background and narratively link it to your sorcerer’s Sorcerous Origin.
- Choose the mage hand, minor illusion, prestidigitation, and create bonfire cantrips, along with the 1st-level spells magic missile and shield.
- When you level up, take the spell misty step.
Tips on Playing Your Sorcerer
Playing a sorcerer well requires knowing when and how to use your spells, sorcery points, and Metamagic in tandem to achieve optimal outcomes. Additionally, knowing when to use higher-level slots to cast a lower-level spell is a great way to increase the impact of your limited spell list.
Sorcerers don’t have any armor proficiencies, and a relatively low Hit Die (D6). This means at lower levels, combat can be lethal. Additionally, based on the weapon proficiencies you start with, your best choice for dealing damage outside of your spells is the light crossbow. At lower levels, consider staying on the outskirts of a battle, using your spells and cantrips from a safe distance.
Shield is a spell that can save your character’s life time and time again. Once you have the opportunity to take misty step, it can also help you get out of trouble in the thick of combat.
You can add your proficiency bonus to your Constitution saves, which improves your overall survivability, and helps you keep concentration on a spell if you take damage. Also, consider taking the Draconic Bloodline Sorcerous Origin for the increase in hit points and armor benefits granted by the Draconic Resilience feature.
No matter what type of sorcerer you play, remember that versatility of spellcasting is your greatest weapon. Experiment with your sorcery points and your Metamagic options, and choose starting spells that you’re going to love for a long time.
Kobold Knows Sorcery!
Are you ready to make your sorcerer? Great! We’re here to help! Whether you’re new to playing a DnD sorcerer (5e) or have been playing your D&D 3.5 sorcerer since 2003, Kobold Press has plenty of options to build a unique, powerful character that fits into any campaign or setting.
Explore two new Sorcerous Origins and many other character options in the Midgard Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition: the Mazeborn and the Shadow. Or steep yourself in three new thematic Sorcerous Origins in our Southlands Player’s Guide: Ankole Bloodline, Farseer, and Windspeaker.
Additionally, you can find many more character options and short adventures on our 5th edition Patreon here. Consider becoming a Patron of our Warlock Patreon for zines and short adventures with support tiers starting at just $1 per month.
Finally, are you looking for a game for your new sorcerer to play in? If so, the Kobold Chronicles Discord channel handles monthly organized play events—as a player or as a DM. Find your sorcerer’s next game here.