DnD 5e - The Sorcerer Handbook
Last Updated: January 23rnd, 2018
I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
Sorcerers are a challenge. They lack the versatility of a Wizard, but share many of the same capabilities, and almost all of the same spells. Where the Wizard is powerful because they own a tool for every problem, the Sorcerer is powerful because they own a few good tools and can use them to fix any problem. Sorcerers also make one of the best Face's in the game due to their skill list and dependence on Charisma. The Sorcerer's spell list allows them to serve as a Blaster, Controller, Striker, and Utility Caster.
Sorcerer Class Features
Hit Points: d6 hit points is the lowest in the game, so be sure to take enough Constitution to compensate.
Saves: Constitution and Charisma are two excellent saves, since things which effect either of them frequently incapacitate you in some fashion.
Proficiencies: No armor or shields, and only the most basic weapons, but the Sorcerer skill list contains all of the Face skills, including Insight.
Spellcasting: The Sorcerer casts spells the same way a Bard does: You get a set number of spells known, and can cast any spell from that list so long as you have the slots to do so. This means that Sorcerers always have fewer options available to them than a Wizard who can change their spell list daily, but Sorcerers make up for this lack of versatility by being able to augment their spells with Metamagic. The Sorcerer spell list is a subset of the Wizard's spell list (with a handful of additions like Dominate Beast and Earthquake), but you still have plenty of options to choose from.
Sorcerous Origin: See "Subclasses - Sorcerous Origin", below.
Font of Magic: Font of Magic is a definitive feature of the Sorcerer, especially Sorcery Points.
- Sorcery Points: Sorcery points fuel the Sorcerer's abilities and allow the class to do much more than just casting spells. You have a limited pool per day, but you have the option of consuming spell slots to get additional Sorcery Points.
- Flexible Casting: Using Sorcery Points to get additional spell slots is very expensive, so only do it when you absolutely need to do so. Converting spell slots to Sorcery Points is a bit less daunting once you have a large pool of spell slots, but be sure not to do it too much or you will quickly run out of daily resources.
Metamagic: Metamagic allows you to stretch the effects of your limited number of spells known, allowing you to easily capitalize on existing spells instead of constantly needing to find and learn new ones.
- Careful Spell: Usually you can avoid hitting your allies by positioning the spell carefully, but sometimes you need to drop a fireball on the party.
- Distant Spell: Spells generally have enough range to get the job done in situations where they make sense to use.
- Empowered Spell: If you reroll 1's you might get a few extra points of damage. The effectiveness grows as you add more dice, but it will never do a ton of extra damage.
- Extended Spell: Many fantastic buffs have short durations, and extending them can save you the trouble of casting the same spell twice.
- Heightened Spell: Use this on every save-or-suck spell you cast. Note that some of them, like Hold Person, allow repeated saves so the effect is considerably diminished.
- Quickened Spell: Cast a regular spell and a Cantrip in one turn. This is one of very few abilities which allows you to break the action economy, and it's absolutely worth the cost.
- Subtle Spell: Situational.
- Twinned Spell: A lot of fantastic buffs like Haste and Polymorph target single creatures and require Concentration. This allows you to buff two creatures at the same time.
Sorcerous Restoration: Four free Sorcery Points gives you a lot of options.
Subclasses - Sorcerous Origins
- Divine SoulXGtE: If you can't decide
between playing a divine caster or an arcane caster, play a Divine Soul.
- Divine Magic: Access to the cleric spell
list is amazing. They have many of the absolute best divine spells,
including most of the best healing options, a ton of great support
options, and many fantastic divinations. Unfortunately you'll need to
split your focus between normal arcane spells and pretending to be a
cleric, but the possibilities for combinations are amazing.
- Good: Important in most parties, but if you have Healing Word for combat and Healing Spirit for resting, Cure Wounds is largely redundant.
- Evil: Beyond low levels the damage is poor, the scaling is bad, and getting into melee to use it is risky.
- Law: A fantastic buff at any level.
- Chaos: A good debuff against groups of enemies.
- Neutral: A fantastic defensive buff.
- Favored by the Gods: Most features like this only grant 1d6, which has a lower average and is less reliable because it's only a single die. This also recharges on a short rest, making it a frequent and reliable defensive option.
- Empowered Healing: The problem with this ability is the problem with healing in combat. If you're in a fight, healing is rarely the best option. Death is easy to prevent in 5e, and if you've got Healing Word you can get an ally back into the fight as a bonus action. Being massively injured isn't much of an impediment, so allies can limp around at 1 hp and still be perfectly effective. With the exception of Heal, getting a creature back to full hit points should generally be reserved for healing out of combat. Once you're out of combat and your action economy isn't limited, you don't need to expend precious resources to scrape together every last hit point. Sit down, spend some hit dice, and find someone who can cast Healing Spirit if you can.
- Otherworldly Wings: Persistent flight is amazing at any level.
- Unearthly Recovery: This could be a lot of healing, but by this level you probably know Heal.
- Divine Magic: Access to the cleric spell list is amazing. They have many of the absolute best divine spells, including most of the best healing options, a ton of great support options, and many fantastic divinations. Unfortunately you'll need to split your focus between normal arcane spells and pretending to be a cleric, but the possibilities for combinations are amazing.
- Draconic BloodlinePHB: If you want
to use the Elemental Adept feat, the Draconic Sorcerer is among the best class
choices available. In terms of ray damage output, it's hard to match the
Draconic Sorcerer between Elemental Affinity and Metamagic. The Evocation
Wizard is comparable, but the ability to break the action economy with
Metamagic allows the Draconic Sorcerer to provide much higher spikes of damage
than the Evocation Wizard can match.
- Dragon Ancestor: Your choice of ancestor
only matters mechanically for the energy type, and it only affects
the Elemental Affinity ability. That said, you want to pick an
energy type which you can use frequently and which offers a large
number of spell options which can apply Elemental Affinity.
- Acid: About as many spell options as Poison, but you can take Elemental Adept with it.
- Cold: A few less options than Fire or Lightning.
- Fire: By far the most spell options, and while resistance to fire is common, resistance is negligible when you have Elemental Adept.
- Lightning: Nearly as common as Fire spells, and considerably fewer creatures resist it.
- Poison: Poison resistance and immunity aren't terribly common, but since Elemental Adept doesn't allow you to select Poison you will have trouble overcoming resistance. There also aren't a lot of spells which deal poison damage.
- Draconic Resilience: This helps offset your d6 hit points, and gives you the equivalent of permanent Mage Armor. You'll still want a bit of Dexterity and Constitution, but this is very helpful. Note that the bonus hit points only apply to Sorcerer levels, but if you're taking a Sorcerer dip the armor will continue to function.
- Elemental Affinity: According to Sage Advice and the Errata, this effect (and similar effects) apply to a single damage roll per spell, so it's much more effective on AOE spells like Fireball than on multiple-attack style spells like Scorching Ray. A boost of up to 5 damage per spell, especially with AOE spells, is a considerable boost, especially on low-level spells like Burning Hands, so your low-level spells can continue to be big damage dealers while consuming your less-powerful spell slots. You also have the ability to grant yourself energy resistance for an hour without the need to conentrate.
- Dragon Wings: Flight is crucial at high levels, especially for spellcasters who need to stay out of reech of terrifying melee enemies. Spells like Fly require Concentration, which severely limits your options, so the ability to remain in flight and concentrate on other effects is a massive tactical advantage.
- Draconic Presence: By this level you have a huge list of spells, several of which will solve the same problem without eating a big pile of your Sorcery points.
- Dragon Ancestor: Your choice of ancestor only matters mechanically for the energy type, and it only affects the Elemental Affinity ability. That said, you want to pick an energy type which you can use frequently and which offers a large number of spell options which can apply Elemental Affinity.
- Shadow MagicXGtE: Powerful and
versatile with a good mix of abilities, the Shadow Magic bloodline is at its
best in the dark. Even in areas of bright light, the magical darkness rules
will give you a massive tactical advantage over anyone except devils and the
handful of warlocks who have the Devil's Sight invocation.
- Eyes of the Dark: Darkvision is important in a game that often includes a lot of dungeons, caves, and other poorly-lit locales. 120 ft. Darkvision means that you can safely attack other enemies with Darkvision while remaining outside their vision range. In places that are well lit (like outside, if that's somewhere that go for whatever reason), casting Darkness using Sorcery Points means that you've got a fun little bubble where you (and usually only you) can see normally. Darkness is a 2nd-level spell, and converting a 2nd-level spell slot to Sorcery Points gives you 2 Sorcery Points, so all that it costs you is the Bonus Action to make the conversion.
- Strength of the Grave: This might keep you going if you're dropped bit an attack that doesn't deal a lot of damage, but against abilities which deal lots of damage all at once like breath weapons or spells it's going to be very difficult to make the saving throw.
- Hound of Ill Omen: Even at high levels when the dire wolf stat block won't be threatening, forcing Disadvantage on saving throw means that you can easily hit the creature with a save-or-suck spell on the following round. The hound also moves unerringly toward the target, so if they become invisible you have a great way to locate them.
- Shadow Walk: Unlimited teleportation as a Bonus Action! The range is pretty good, and in a pinch you can cast Darkness to create an area in which to teleport.
- Umbral Form: The Sorcery Points are cheaper than casting many spells which let you walk through walls and creatures like Etherealness. Hopefully you won't need the damage resistances because you have great defensive options like Improved Invisibility, but you might be able to use Umbral Form before polymorphing and maintain the damage resistance.
- Storm SorcerySCAG / XGtE: Storm Sorcery
faces several issues, which is unfortunate because the flavor is interesting.
Tempestuous Magic doesn't scale, and it's obsolete by level 3. The premise of
the archetype requires you to stay just outside of melee range, dodging in
to use Heart of the Storm before retreating with Tempestuous Magic. It's an
interesting premise, but it's extremely risky. Unless you're somehow boosting
your speed or flying, you're stuck within walking distance on your enemies'
turns. It's much safer for sorcerers to remain at the longest distance possible
and assail their enemies from well outside of weapon range.
- Wind Speaker: Essentially four free languages. Especially nice if you are your party's Face.
- Tempestuous Magic: 10 feet of flight won't get you anywhere interesting. The primary function is to remove you from melee combat without drawing opportunity attacks. This will quickly stop being exciting once you can pick up Misty Step as a 2nd-level spell. However, the fact that it's free is nice, especially if you like to run into close quarters to deliver spells like Shocking Grasp and Thundr Wave.
- Heart of the Storm: Being within 10 feet of foes is rarely a good idea for a Sorcerer. The resistances are great, but it's hard to bring the bonus damage into play without seriously endangering yourself. However, the damage bonus is pretty good so if you can stand shuffling into melee to hit enemies with Shocking Grasp and Thunderclap you can do quite a bit of damage. Combined with Tempestuous Magic you can rush in, trigger Heart of the Storm, and fly safely out of reach.
- Storm Guide: Unless you're in a seafaring campaign, this will almost certainly never matter.
- Storm's Fury: This is very helpful since you're apparently expected to stand within 10 feet of foes. Of course, knocking them 20 feet away means that you'll need to follow them to continue applying Heart of the Storm.
- Wind Soul: Flight for your entire party at no cost and without Concentration.
- Wild MagicPHB: Wild Magic is unpredictable,
which means it's unreliable and therefore ineffective. But it's a lot of
fun, so if your group can survive you not min-maxing this adds an element of
zany fun to your game.
- Wild Magic Surge: If your DM forgets to ask you to roll, this doesn't matter. But it's a core component of the archetype, so as a DM I would make you roll every time you cast a qualifying spell (unless we were trying to get through an encounter quickly). The effects range from comedic to catastrophic to fantastic, so there's really no way to rate this.
- Tides of Chaos: Using this for attack rolls is an absolute waste, but using it for saving throws can save your life.
- Bend Luck: When your allies fails a save against death by 1 or two, it's heart-breaking. Spend the Sorcery Points and be everyone's best friend.
- Controlled Chaos: This considerably reduces the threat of the Wild Magic table, and makes it more of a source of unpredictable buffs and comic relief.
- Spell Bombardment: The biggest die used for spell damage is a d10, so on average this is 5.5 additional damage on those spells. Most of the time the effects will be smaller.
Sorcerers are all about Charisma, and you can forego everything else.
Dex: Take a bit for AC.
Con: Take some to compensate for your d6 hit points.
Int: A bit for knowledge skills might be nice.
Wis: Wisdom saves are common, and Insight is helpful for a Face.
Cha: Commands almost everything you do..
|Point Buy||Standard Array|
Charisma bonuses are absolutely essential. Since you don't need ability score increases for other abilities, a +1 bonus can be just as good as a +2, which opens up options beyond the Half-Elf.
AarakocraEEPC: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
AasimarVGTM: +2 Charisma is obviously fantastic for sorcerers. Healing hands provides a healing mechanic very rarely available to arcane spellcastins, and you get resistance to both necrotic and radiant damage, neither of which can be gained from spells like Resist Energy.
- Fallen: Necrotic Shroud's damage boost is nice, but the Strength bonus is totally wasted on the Sorcerer.
- Protector: You can get flight from other sources, and Wisdom doesn't help sorcerers much.
- Scourge:A Constitution increase, and Radiant Consumption is a great way to repel groups of enemies who get too close.
BugbearVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
Dwarf: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- DuergarSCAG: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- HillPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer
- MountainPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer
DragonbornPHB: The Strength bonus is wasted, but the Charisma bonus is great, you get permanent resistance to an energy type, and you get a breath weapon.
ElfPHB: Dexterity and free Perception.
- Drow: Bonus Charisma, but sunlight sensitivity is a headache.
- High Elf: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- Wood Elf: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
FirbolgVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
GenasiEEPC: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- Air: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- Earth: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- Fire: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- Water: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
Gnome: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- ForestPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- RockPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
GoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
GoliathEEPC: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
Half-Elf: The biggest charisma bonus, plus some free skills.
- AquaticSCAG: Only if you're in an aquatic campaign.
- DrowSCAG: A few extra spells never hurt, but you have access to similar options already.
- High/Moon/SunSCAG: An extra Cantrip is always welcome.
- Keen SensesSCAG: The sidebar describing half-elf variants specifices that you can take Keen Senses in place of Skill Versatility, or a trait based on your elf parentage. Keen Senses give you a single fixed skill, and you're giving up proficiency in any two skills. It should be immediately apparent that this is a terrible trade.
- WoodSCAG: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- VanillaPHB: Two skills are great if you plan to be the party's Face.
Half-OrcPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
HalflingPHB: A bit of Dexterity is nice, but Lucky is largely wasted on spellcasters since most of your spells require other people to roll saves instead of requiring you to attack.
- Ghostwise: Nothing useful for sorcerers.
- Lightfoot: Bonus Charisma, and naturally stealthy.
- Stout: Nothing useful for sorcerers.
HobgoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.
- Vanilla: Sorcerers really only need Charisma, so most of the bonuses are outright wasted.
- Variant: You still get a crucial bonus to your Charisma, and you can get Elemental Adept at first level.
KenkuVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
KoboldVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
LizardfolkVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
OrcVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
TabaxiVGTM: A small Charisma bump, and increased Dexterity provides a helpful boost your AC.
Tiefling: Bonus Charisma, fire resistance, and some free spells.
- FeralSCAG: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- Devil's TongueSCAG: The replacement spells are absolutely better than the normal Tiefling spells.
- HellfireSCAG: Burning Hands is roguhly equivalent to Hellish Rebuke for most Sorcerers.
- VanillaPHB: Good ability scores, but Devil's Tongue's spells are better.
- WingedSCAG: Flight is a massive advantage, especially without requiring Concentration.
TortleTP: 17 natural armor is nice, but that's really all that you get. Sorcerers don't cater well to melee combat.
TritonVGTM: Constitution and Charisma re both great on a sorcerer, but the innate spellcasting complements your class spellcasting very well.
Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: An excellent Charisma increase, and the comibation of Magic Resistance and Poison Immunity make you very durable.
- Arcana (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills, but you may not have enough Intelligence to back it up.
- Deception (Cha): Important for a Face.
- Insight (Wis): Helpful for a Face, but you may not have enough Wisdom to back it up.
- Intimidation (Cha): Important for a Face.
- Persuasion (Cha): The king of Face skills.
- Religion (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills, but you may not have enough Intelligence to back it up.
You only get two skills from your class and Sorcerers are built to make excellent Faces, so look to pick up more Face skills from your background. If you're a Half-Elf or Variant Human, you can pick up your missing Face skills from your racial bonus proficiencies, which opens up a lot of other options. Bonus languages are also helpful; if you can get enough of them you may not need to learn Tongues.
- AcolytePHB: Insight and two languages.
- City WatchSCAG: Surprisingly good, though you probably won't get much use out of Athletics.
- CourtierSCAG: You probably don't have the Wisdom to back up Insight, but it's still great on a Face, and you get a Face skill and two languages.
- Faction AgentSCAG: Insight and your choice of a bunch of skills including the Face skills you need, plus two languages.
- Guild ArtisanPHB: Two good skills and a language, but the artisan's tools probably won't be useful.
- HermitPHB: Despite being the recommended background, this is an awful option for Sorcerers.
- NoblePHB: A Face skill and a Language, but you probably don't have the Intelligence to make History meaningful, and gaming sets are largely useless.
- Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: No languages, but access to the skills you need to be a Face and some good tool options.
- AlertPHB: Going first isn't terribly important for anyone but Rogues.
- AthletePHB: You can solve all of these problems by flying.
- ActorPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- ChargerPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- Crossbow ExpertPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- Defensive DuelistPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- Dual WielderPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- Dungeon DelverPHB: Best left for Rogues.
- DurablePHB: If you need this you are not a very good Wizard.
- Elemental AdeptPHB: Very tempting for Evokers, but specializing in one element is severely limiting. If something is resistant to one element, use a different one. Changing 1's to 2's averages 1/6 damage per die, which is as close to nothing as you will ever see.
- GrapplerPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- Great Weapon MasterPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- HealerPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- Heavily ArmoredPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- Heavy Armor MasterPHB: Good luck getting enough feats to pick this up.
- Inspiring LeaderPHB: A great feat, but you need Chari
- Keen MindPHB: A partial bonus to Intelligence, but the other bonuses are worthless.
- Lightly ArmoredPHB: Mage Armor works fine.
- LinguistPHB: Cast Tongues.
- LuckyPHB: Amuzing, but not particularly useful to Sorcerers since they don't frequently roll attacks or saves.
- Mage SlayerPHB: Sorcerers don't typically carry melee weapons.
- Magic InitiatePHB: A tempting way to get cantrips from other classes, but remember that you use the spellcasting ability of that other class, and since your Wisdom and Charisma will be poor so will your spellcasting. Stick to utility options.
- Martial AdeptPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- Medium Armor MasterPHB: Good luck getting enough feats to pick this up.
- MobilePHB: You can solve all of these problems by flying.
- Moderately ArmoredPHB: Mage Armor works fine.
- Mounted CombatPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- ObservantPHB: You don't have the ability scores to back this up.
- Polearm MasterPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- ResilientPHB: You don't really need other saving throw proficiencies.
- Ritual CasterPHB: All of the same issues as Magic Initiate. Really only useful if your party needs access to Cleric rituals.
- Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
- SentinelPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- SharpshooterPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- Shield MasterPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- SkilledPHB: Proficiencies are great, especially since Sorcerers get few skills, but if you really need skills you should probably play a Half-elf or start as a Rogue.
- SkulkerPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- Spell SniperPHB: Great for spellcasters who like to make spell attacks. Selecting this at first level as a variant Human makes the Human strictly better than the High Elf.
- Tavern BrawlerPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- ToughPHB: If you need this you are not a very good Wizard.
- War CasterPHB: A really great feat, but generally best left to Eldritch Knights.
- Weapon MasterPHB: Not for Sorcerers. weapon proficiencies that you need to function.
Weapons are for lesser beings like Fighters.
Cast Mage Armor, and learn Shield.
Multiclassing is hard for a full caster like the Sorcerer. Each level considerably expands you abilities, you don't really need anything from other classes.
- Bard: Bards also use Charisma for spellcasting, and since they're full casters you won't lost spell slots as you level. You still delay access to higher level spells, but you can get Jack of All Trades and Song of Rest from two levels and Expertise in two skills. A third level gets you a bardic college which can offer some interesting options, but I'm extremely hesitant to delay high-level spells that much.
- Rogue: Expertise would be nice for your Face skills,
- Warlock: If you wanted Warlock abilities you should have rolled a Warlock. Eldritch Blast is popular, but you can pick it up with Magic Initiate and Agonizing Blast is not good enough to justify losing two levels of sorcerer spellcasting. Quickening Eldritch Blast is a neat trick, but by the time it gets really exciting you should have a laundry list of crazy spells which are more interesting and effective than damage.