DnD 5e - The Sorcerer Handbook
Last Updated: December 3rd, 2019
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 Faces 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.
The Sorcerer falls into a middle ground between the wizard and the warlock. The Sorcerer gets more spell slots than the Warlock, but knows far fewer spells than the Wizard. The Sorcerer's versatility comes from their ability to boost their spells using Metamagic. If you're accustomed to playing a wizard, expect to cast a lot of low-level spells using higher-level spell slots to get as much utility as you can out of your limited number of spells known.
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. It's also interesting to note that the Sorcerer gets more cantrips than any other spellcaster, but they get fewer spells known than the Bard. Expect to cast low-levels spells at higher-level spell slots frequently, and use metamagic to customize your spells. Most importantly, expect to retrain lower-level spells whenever you learn a redundant option.
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. However, the way that spells define "range" means that doubling a spell's range also doubles the size of cone spells like burning hands.
- 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. With a cap of 5 dice (because ability scores cap at 20), it will be less useful for higher-level spells.
- 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 spells like Haste and Polymorph target single creatures and require Concentration. This allows you to affect two creatures at the same time. However, the Sorcery Point cost scales with spell level, making it the most expensive metamagic option.
Sorcerous Restoration: Four free Sorcery Points gives you a lot of options.
Subclasses - Sorcerous Origins
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.
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.
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 immediately after summoning the hound. 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 Thunder Wave. If this worked with cantrips it would be a defining feature of the subclass, but limiting it to leveled spells makes this a situational novelty.
- 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 manage shuffling into melee or flying just over your targets' heads 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 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.
DragonbornPHB: The Strength bonus is wasted, but the Charisma bonus is great, and you get permanent resistance to an energy type and a breath weapon.
Dwarf: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- DuergarSCAG: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- HillPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer
- MountainPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer
ElfPHB: Dexterity and free Perception are nice, but the only option for a Charisma increase is Drow.
- Drow: Bonus Charisma and some free spells, but Sunlight Sensitivity can be a pain.
- EladrinMToF: Bonus Charisma and free teleportation.
- High Elf: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- Sea ElfMToF: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- Shadar-KaiMToF: 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.
Gith: 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.
- GhostwiseSCAG: Nothing useful for sorcerers.
- LightfootPHB Bonus Charisma, and naturally stealthy.
- StoutPHB 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.
LocathahLR: No Charisma increase.
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. With the addition of variants and subraces, you have a ton of room to customize your sorcerer.
- AsmodeusMToF: A perfectly fine option, but the Intelligence is wasted and you can find better spells from Devil's Tongue.
- BaalzebulMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, but access to Thaumaturgy could be nice.
- DispaterMToF: Dexterity means better AC, and the spells are great if you want to be sneaky or tricky.
- FiernaMToF: The Wisdom is largely wasted, but the spells are great for a Face.
- GlasyaMToF: Dexterity means better AC, and the spells are great if you want to be sneaky or tricky.
- LevistusMToF: Constitution means more hit points, and the spells offer a nice mix of defensive, offensive, and utility options.
- MammonMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, and the leveled spells are highly situational.
- MephistophelesMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, and sorcerers should rarely be in melee combat enough to use Flame Blade.
- ZarielMToF: Way too melee-centric.
- Variant: FeralSCAG: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
- Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: The replacement spells are absolutely better than the normal Tiefling spells.
- Variant: HellfireSCAG: Burning Hands is probably worse than Hellish Rebuke for most Sorcerers.
- Variant: 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.
VerdanAcInc: Constitution and Charisma is a perfect combination for a Charisma-based spellcaster, and getting Persuasion for free is great. You'll almost certainly be your party's Face, and the Verdan's Telepathic Insight can go a long way to address language barriers despite its limited capability.
Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: An excellent Charisma increase, and the comibation of Magic Resistance and Poison Immunity make you very durable.
Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.
Races of Eberron
BugbearERLW: See above.
ChangelingERLW: Charisma is a great start, and the flexible increase works well in either Dexterity or Constitution. Shapechanger is like a superpowered version of Disguise Self, so for a tricky sorcerer in a highly-social campaign it can be very useful.
GoblinERLW: See above.
HobgoblinERLW: See above.
OrcERLW: See above.
KalashtarERLW: A Charisma increase, and you'll be really good at Wisdom saving throws despite not being proficient. The Kalashtar doesn't support any specific part of being a sorcerer, but it's a fine starting point for a sorcerer of any kind.
ShifterERLW: None of the Shifter's subraces offer a Charisma increase.
- Beasthide: Bad ability spread.
- Longtooth: Bad ability spread.
- Swiftstride: Bad ability spread.
- Wildhunt: Bad ability spread.
WarforgedERLW: Considering the fact that warforged are crafted rather than born, the idea that they can be a sorcerer with a bloodline defies logic. But mechanically, it works fine. The flexible ability increase goes into Charisma, and the Warforged's other traits will make you more durable than a typical sorcerer before considering spells. A warforged with Mage Armor would have an AC of 14+Dex totally unequipped, allowing you to meet the AC of characters in light armor and a shield.
While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you're not playing a spellcaster you're giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can't cast spells.
Dragonmarked DwarfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Shadow: The ability increases work, and the innate spellcasting is nice, but nearly all of the dragonmark spells are already on the spell list. Still, for a sorcerer in a stealthy party this makes a lot of sense thematically and offers some helpful options to stretch your spellcasting a bit further.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Scribing: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.
Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.
- Mark of Detection: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.
- Mark of Storm: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.
Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW: Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.
- Mark of Finding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Healing: Bad ability spread.
- Mark of Hospitality: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW: Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.
- Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
- Mark of Handling: The ability score increases work, and many of the dragonmark spells are new to the Sorcerer's spell list, but unless your DM is going to let you tame creatures beyond your class features this isn't especially useful.
- Mark of Making: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.
- Mark of Passage: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.
- Mark of Sentinel: Bad ability spread.
Races of Ravnica
CentaurGGTR: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
GoblinGGTR: See above.
LoxodonGGTR: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
MinotaurGGTR: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
Simic HybridGGTR: The flexible ability increase can go into Charisma, and Animal Enhancement can help fill some functions which would normally require magic, thereby opening up space for you to learn other spells.
VedalkenGGTR: Bad ability spread.
- 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.
This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.
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.
This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the backgrounds recommended in the "Quick Build" section of the class description, as well as other backgrounds which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. The possibility of custom backgrounds also means that it is literally impossible for me to provide comprehensive analysis of every potential background in existence.
- 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 Sorceror.
- Elemental AdeptPHB: Very tempting for sorcerers who enjoy blasting, 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: An excellent way to capitalize on your Charisma, especially if your party lacks healing magic to help pad your hit points.
- 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 Intelligence will be poor so will your spellcasting. Consider Eldritch Blast or other Warlock cantrips, but otherwise 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: Sorcerers can't cast spells as rituals by default like a cleric or wizard can. Ritual Caster removes the need to know spells like Detect Magic which are basically only cast as 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 can be really helpful when you're so heavily reliant on cantrips for damage output. You're not locked into cantrips from your own class, so consider picking up Eldritch Blast.
- Tavern BrawlerPHB: Not for Sorcerers.
- ToughPHB: If you need this you are not a very good Sorcerer.
- 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.
- Dagger: Carry one or two for utility purposes at any level, but the damage isn't good enough to make it better than shocking grasp. You can make opportunity attacks with a dagger, but that's not something you should be doing frequently.
- Light Crossbow: Until you hit level 5, a light crossbow can do more damage than firebolt. If you have at least 14 Dexterity, a light crossbow is probably a better option than firebolt when you just need to do some damage, and you can defer taking firebolt until you've gained some levels so that you can spend your limited number of cantrips on something more interesting like ray of frost or a utility cantrip.
- Quarterstaff: A great cosmetic item, but totally useless in combat. Use Shocking Grasp or a Dagger instead.
Cast Mage Armor and learn Shield. At low levels that will be enough to keep you safe, but at high levels you'll likely dump mage armor because enemies' attack bonuses will be so high that it will stop being helpful. You might keep shield around for those rare times when it would deflect an attack, but you're better served by other spells like Blur or Blink.
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: The addition of Hexblade makes the Warlock a powerful multiclass option. You get proficiency with medium armor and shields, you can use weapons with your Charisma instead of your Strength or Dexterity, and you get access to wonderful spells like Eldritch Blast. The Warlock's spell slots recharge on a short rest, making them useful fodder for your Sorcery Points. If you devote three levels you can pick up Agonizing Blast to make Eldritch Blast exceptionally powerful, but I think that the sorcerer spellcasting you'll give up will me more important than making Eldritch Blast do a little bit more damage.
Example Build - Dragonborn Sorcerer (Draconic)
Dragons are literally in the title of the game. I want to be the most draconic thing I can possibly be, and then I want to go walk around in a dungeon.
This is a "Staple Build". This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.
The Draconic Bloodline Sorcerer is very similar to the Evoker Wizard. With an emphasis on a specific element rather than a specific school, you trade the ability to easily switch elements for better usage of a wider variety of spells.
We will mostly assume the point buy abilities suggested above.
Dragonborn. The Charisma increase is the biggest draw, and I haven't used the Dragonborn in a staple build yet, so I really want to double down on the draconic theme of the character. You'll need to choose a draconic ancestor to determine your breath weapon and your damage resistance. Personally I always prefer cones over lines, but that's mostly personal preference. Also keep in mind that you'll be able to add damage resistance using your bloodline features starting at level 6, so choose different ancestors for your race and for your class.
Since staple builds are limited to the SRD and the Basic Rules, we don't have a ton of spells to choose from, which means that the dragon ancestor you choose for Draconic Bloodline should be a fire dragon. I recommend either cold or poison for your racial dragon ancestor. Cold will be more useful offensively, but there are a lot of enemies that deal poison damage which makes poison resistance very useful defensively.
Skills and Tools
With high Charisma and access to all four Face skills, there is little reason for you to not be the party's Face. Between your background and your class skills, try to end up with Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion. Get Insight if it's convenient, but your Wisdom isn't high enough to be especially good at it so hopefully someone in your party can fill in the gap.
Acolyte, Criminal, Noble, and Soldier all get you one of the Face skills we want, but there's no option to get two. If no one else in the party has Thieves' Tools proficiency, take Criminal. Otherwise I recommend Noble so that you can get the three Charisma-based Face skills.
Sorcerers only really need Charisma, so feats can be a great option. Draconic Bloodline's Elemental Affinity feature emphasizes one element, which makes Elemental Adept a particularly appealing option.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
|1|| || |
For your starting gear, take a light crossbow, a component pouch or arcane focus, either pack, and two daggers.
We get a lot at first level, and there are a lot of decision points. Things are a little less daunting at higher levels, but we have a lot of choices to make at first level.
First we get stuff from Draconic Boodline. We need to choose a Dragon Ancestor, and since fire spells are more common than other damage spells in the SRD, I strongly recommend a fire dragon ancestor. Once we get elemental affinity at 6th level, that will present a significant damage boost across most spell levels, including cantrips.
Draconic Resilience matches Mage Armor, which saves us a spell known, and on top of that we get an extra hit point per level. That makes us very durable compared to other sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards.
Four cantrips is more cantrips than any other spellcaster. We have lots of great options. However, keep in mind that your light crossbow is a perfectly viable combat option. Even with just 14 Dexterity, +4 to hit and 1d8+2 damage will likely net more average damage than you can score with a cantrip. Eventually Fire Bolt will be your go-to combat option, but for now we can focus on more interesting options. Chill Touch gives us one of the Sorcerer's few options for dealing necrotic damage, and it's a great fallback when you face enemies with problematic damage resistances. Ray of Frost provides a nice crowd control option. That's plenty of offensive options at this level, so we have room to use the rest of our cantrips on utility.
For our leveled spells we'll pick up general staples. Shield is a powerful defensive option at every level, and Sleep is powerful enough at low levels to end an encounter outright, but you may want to retrain it later when.
|2|| || |
Font of Magic is the Sorcerer's most iconic class feature. Sorcery Points allow you to create additional spell slots, but the primary appeal is Metamagic. We don't get Metamagic until 3rd level, so for now it's basically just a free 1st-level spell slot.
At this level we'll learn Burning Hands. It's probably redundant with your breath weapon, so use your breath weapon first. We mostly want it for when we pick up Elemental Affinity at 6th level.
|3|| || |
3rd level introduces Metamagic. You get two choices now and two more later, giving you a total of 4 choices. There are 8 options, so obviously we'll need to skip some. We'll take Empowered Spell and Quickened Spell. Empowered Spell insulates us against poor damage rolls, and you'll get more use out of Empowered Spell at low levels than you will from Quickened Spell because you have so few Sorcery Points to spend, and rerolling three damage dice can provide a relatively large boost at this level.
Scorching Ray is a reliable damage option, but it's not very exciting. Keep in mind that Elemental Affinity will only apply to one damage roll per spell, but that also means that you only need to hit with one of the three rays to get the bonus damage.
|4|| || |
At this level our Charisma increases. More spell attack bonus means that cantrips will be considerbaly more reliable than a crossbow, so between the improved attack bonus and adding Fire Bolt, it's likely time to retire your crossbow.
Blindness/Deafness is an excellent debuff. Being blind makes it hard to target enemies with spells, and Disadvantage on attacks is a huge debuff. However, it works on Constitution saves so it's not reliably against big burly enemies which typically rely on weapon attacks.
|5|| || |
If you haven't already retired your crossbow, now is the time. Even the cantrips we've selected with the least damage now deal 2d8 (avg. 9), easily outpacing your crossbow at 1d8+2 (avg. 6.5).
5th level also introduces 3rd-level spells. Take Fireball. That gives us a big AOE damage option, so consider retraining Sleep for utility options like Detect Magic if you're not using it frequently.
|6|| || |
Elemental Affinity gives us a serious boost to all of our fire spells. Fire Bolt jumps to 2d10+4. Adding the boost on top of AOE spells like Burning Hands and Fireball makes them especially potent because the damage boost applies to every target.
|7|| || |
Wall of Fire is the first area control option we've taken. The first damage roll will benefit from Elemental Affinity, but the additional damage after that won't. Use Wall of Fire to alter the layout of a fight; split up groups of enemies so that enemies are forced to to suffer extra damage to reach you and your allies. Once enemies are separated they'll either take the damage to get to you, or they'll be stuck waiting while you kill their allies.
|8|| || |
Another Charisma increase means better spell attacks, higher DC's, more damage from Elemental Affinity, and more dice from Empowered Spell.
Polymorph adds a powerful buff option for yourself or for your allies, but you can also use it to turn enemies into something harmless.
By this level you have enough Sorcery Points that you should be experimenting with Quickened Spell. Keep in mind that you still can't cast cast two leveled spells in a turn (unless you got a second Action from something like Action Surge), so Quickened Spell typically means that you're doing something else with your Action like casting a Cantrip.
|9|| || |
5th level spells are important because they're the highest-level spell slots which you can create with Sorcery Points. Unfortunately, the SRD and the Basic Rules contain no fire damage spells at this level. Instead, rely on lower-level spells cast using 5th-level spell slots. Fireball cast as a 5th-level spell deals 10d6 damage (avg. 35) compared to Cone of Cold's 8d8 (avg. 36), so the gap in damage is already negligible, and Elemental Affinity will make Fireball more effective.
Empowered Spell is more effective for spells with fewer but larger dice, which should be enough that Cone of Cold can do more damage than Fireball if you want to spend a Sorcery Point to buff it. And if you're going to cast your high-level spell slot, spending a Sorcery Point to get some more power is worth the cost.
That comparison really calls attention to how Sorcerers can adjust their limited number of spells on the fly to get more versatility from their relatively limited number of spells known.
|10|| || |
We get some great stuff at this level. An additional metamagic option gives us even more ways to customize our spells. Using Twinned Spell on single-target spells like Blindness/Deafness and Hold Monster means that we can target additional enemies as though we were casting those spells using higher-level spell slots, by using Twinned Spell. You can also twin powerful spells like Polymorph which are limited to single targets.
|11|| || |
6th-level spells introduce our first spell slots that we can't create using Sorcery Points. They're our "big guns", even well into high levels, and since spellcasters get so few high-level spell slots you really need to get a lot out of each of them.
Sunbeam, while its initial damage is lower than lower-level options like Cone of Cold, you can use it every roung for a full minute, dealing out a huge amount of damage with a single spell slot. It's also one of the only ways for the Sorcerer to deal radiant damage, and blinding foes is really effective. If you use Quickened Spell to cast it, you cast the initial beam as a Bonus Action and you can still use your Action on the same turn to fire another beam.
This is also the last level at which the Sorcerer learns a new spell at every level. Instead, you'll learn one new spell each time that you get access to a new spell level. Expect to rely on your lower-level spells cast with higher-level spell slots, and retrain any low-level spells which you're not using.
|12|| || |
This is our fist ability score increase that we don't really need, so if you've decided to experiment with feats now is the time. Otherwise, enjoy a pile of extra hit points.
|13|| || |
Fire Storm's damage actually isn't all that impressive. 7d10 (avg. 38.5) is actually less than you would get from Cone of Cold cast as a 7th-level spell (10d8, avg. 45). Fire Storm's big appeal (beyond the damage type) is that you can position the cubes very flexibly to avoid your allies. You can also use Empowered Spell to reroll low dice, and since Fire Storm uses d10's you'll get a lot of mileage out of Empowered Spell.
|14|| || |
Dragon Wings means free, persisten flight without maintaining concentration or spending a spell slot. If you're fighting, you should be flying.
|15|| || |
Incendiary Cloud is an all-around fantastic offensive option. It deals roughly the same damage as a fireball cast as an 8th-level spell every round for a full minute in a reasonably large area.
|16|| || |
Oh look, more hit points.
|17|| || |
At this level cantrips recieve their final damage boost, raising Fire Bolt to an impressive 4d10+5 damage.
Meteor Swarm is the biggest AOE damage spell in the game, totalling 40d6+5 damage (avg. 145). Twin it with Twinned Spell, quicken a cantrip, and use Empowered Spell to boost the damage on one or both, and you can easily deal over 300 damage in a single turn.
|18|| || |
Draconic Presence is a nice way to handle crowds, but if you're in a situation where diplomacy isn't an option you'll have better luck with Meteor Swam.
|19|| || |
Still more hit points!
|20|| || |
Recovering sorcery points on a short rest is great. 4 points means two quickened spells.