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Pathfinder - The Sorcerer Handbook

Last Updated: September 24th, 2018

Disclaimer

I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

  • 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.

Introduction

The Sorcerer is the spontaneous caster equivalent of the Wizard. Much like the Cleric and the Oracle, the classes fill the same roles with a distinctly different feel. Because they are spontaneous caster, Sorcerers have a limited number of spells available to them. This can be supplemented with Pages of Spell Knowledge, but no Sorcerer can match the versatility of a Wizard. Sorcerers also receive new spell levels one level behind other full casters. Sorcerers make up for these shortcomings by being able to cast considerably more spells in a day.

Sorcerer Class Features

Hit Points: d6 hit points is a huge problem, especially with no armor.

Base Attack Bonus: 1/2 BAB and nothing to help it, but fortunately very few spells require attack rolls and the ones which do are almost exclusively touch attacks.

Saves: Good Will saves, but no dependency on any ability which improves saves.

Proficiencies: No armor or shields, and simple weapons.

Skills: 2+ skill ranks and a very sparse skill list.

Spells: The Sorcerer's spells are their best asset. With access to the best spell list in the game and tons of spells per day, the Sorcerer can do a lot of things and do them frequently.

Bloodline: Sorcerer bloodlines offer bonus spells, bonus feats, and cool abilities which supplement the Sorcerer's spells nicely. For help with Sorcerer Bloodlines, see my Sorcerer Bloodlines Breakdown.

Cantrips: Fantastic and versatile.

Eschew Materials: The flavor makes sense, but it's easy to replace Eschew Materials with a 15 gp item.

Abilities

As a full caster, the Sorcerer's casting ability is key.

Str: Dump to 7 unless you plan to Polymorph.

Dex: AC, saves, and touch attacks.

Con: Essential to supplement that d6 hit die, and for the Sorcerer's poor Will saves.

Int: Only needed for skill ranks.

Wis: Good for Will saves. Even though Sorcerers have good Will saves, it's still important to have a bit of Wisdom.

Cha: Sorcerers are all about Charisma.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 18
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 18
  • Str: 7
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 17
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 15

Races

Charisma bonuses are essential, and small size is nice because it helps the Sorcerer's garbage AC and attacks.

Dwarf: Charisma penalty.

Elf: Despite some nice abilities which help spellcasters, the Elf's abilities don't work for the Sorcerer. The Elf favored class bonus offers additional uses of first-level bloodline powers, but first-level powers taper off very quickly.

Gnome: Small and bonuses to Charisma and Constitution. The Gnome's affinity for illusions works for illusion-heavy Sorcerers. The Gnome favored class bonus offers additional uses of first-level bloodline powers, but first-level powers taper off very quickly.

Half-Elf: Flexible ability bonus, but the Half-Elf's racial traits don't offer anything useful for the Sorcerer. The Half-Elf favored class bonus offers additional uses of first-level bloodline powers, but first-level powers taper off very quickly. Instead, take the Human favored class bonus to learn extra spells.

Half-Orc: Flexible ability bonus, but the Half-Orc's racial traits don't offer anything useful for the Sorcerer. The Half-Orc favored class bonus adds additional fire damage to fire spells, which can be nice for blaster builds, but will take a long time to add up to anything significant. Half-Orcs can also take the Human favored class bonus to learn additional spells.

Halfling: Small and bonuses to Charisma and Dexterity. The Halfling's affinity for stealth can be helpful for sneak Sorcerer builds. The Halfling favored class bonus offers additional uses of first-level bloodline powers, but first-level powers taper off very quickly.

Human: Flexible ability bonus and a bonus feat. The Human favored class bonus allows you to learn additional spells, hugely expanding the Sorcerer's versatility.

Traits

  • Deft Dodger (Combat): +1 to a weak save.
  • Reactionary (Combat): +2 initiative is huge. Combined with Improved Initiative you'll go first much more frequently.
  • Resilient (Combat): +1 to a weak save.
  • Dangerously Curious (Magic): You have the charisma to back this up, and access to divine spellcasting via scrolls and wands can help solve a lot of problems for your party.
  • Arcane Temper (Magic): A bonus to initiative and a bonus to Concentration checks. If you already took a combat trait and didn't take Reactionary, this is a good option.
  • Resilient Caster (Magic): Too situational.
  • Shrouded Casting (Magic): Buy a spell component pouch.
  • Volatile Conduit (Magic): 1d4 damage once per day is nothing.
  • Life of Toil (Social): +1 to a weak save.
  • Warrior of Old (Elf Racial): Identical to Reactionary.
  • Elven Reflexes (Half-Elf Racial): Identical to Reactionary.

Skills

  • Appraise (Int): Too situational.
  • Bluff (Cha): Important for any face, but you will need to spend a trait to pick up Diplomacy if you want to be a Face.
  • Fly (Dex): 1 rank will be plenty.
  • Intimidate (Cha): Important for any face, but you will need to spend a trait to pick up Diplomacy if you want to be a Face.
  • Knowledge (arcana) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
  • Spellcraft (Int): Helpful for identifying spells and magic items.
  • Use Magic Device (Cha): Sorcerers already get the best spell list in the game, but UMD can let you use things like Wands of Cure Light Wounds.

Feats

This section does not cover metamagic feats or bloodline-specific feats. For help with metamagic feats, see my Practical Guide to Metamagic.

  • Combat Casting: A +4 bonus to your concentration checks when casting defensively is tempting, but you should not be casting defensively often enough to justify spending a feat on it. Optimizing Concentration is very easy, and you can do it with traits and items instead of wasting a feat.
  • Eldritch Heritage: It's unlikely that you will see a lot of benefit from most low-level Sorcerer abilities, but there are a handful of extremely powerful options, like the Arcane bloodline. If you want the higher-level abilities from a bloodline with a poor low-level ability it may be a good idea to delay this feat as long as possible so you can use your feats on more important options,
    • Improved Eldritch Heritage: The better Bloodline powers offer better options, but not all options are equally good. Remember that you only need to take this feat once to get Greater Eldritch Heritage, so if you're adding a bloodline with only one good mid-level ability you can skip the bad one.
      • Greater Eldritch Heritage: The best Bloodline powers are often very tempting, but by this level you can often replace them with spells.
  • Improved Familiar: If you take a familiar, Improved Familiar can get you some interesting options. For help with familiars, see my Practical Guide to Familiars.
  • Improved Initiative: Go first, and get control of the combat early.
  • Spell Focus: If you emphasize a specific school, this this is essential.
    • Greater Spell Focus: Another +1 to your DCs means you are 5% better at every spell you cast from that school.
  • Sorcerous Bloodstrike: Some high-level Sorcerer powers have very limited uses per day, and an extra use is tempting. However, you should generally be able to do better with spells.
  • Spell Penetration: At high levels Spell Resistance will become increasingly problematic. You may be able to get by on options which don't allow spell resistance, but if you can't this is a great idea.
    • Greater Spell Penetration: Another +2.
  • Spell Perfection: Fantastically powerful, and possibly a great option for a class which needs to rely on a smaller set of available spells than a wizard. Unfortunately you can only take the feat once, so you need to be really sure about the spell you choose. I recommend selecting a spell of 5th level at most so that you can quicken it, but 6th level has some great options for Maximize Spell. Be sure to pick a versatile spell that you can reliably use in almost any situation like one of the Shadow Conjuration/Evocation spells or Summon Monster.

Weapons

  • Light Crossbow: A decent backup weapon at low levels when you run low on spells, but you will be more reliable with cantrips because your attack rolls will be so low.

Armor

If you need AC, you're doing something wrong. Still, it doesn't hurt to get some cheap protection. Keep in mind that Mage Armor is generally your best bet when you need AC, but Mage Armor isn't always on.

  • Haramaki: +1 AC, no arcane spell failure, and at 5 gp you can afford it at first level.
  • Mithral Buckler: +1 AC, no arcane spell failure, and cheap to enhance.
  • Silken Ceremonial: +1 AC, 4 pounds, no ACP or spell failure. Plus, it's a sweet ceremonial robe. Haramaki is strictly better, but it's not a super cool robe.

Magic Items

Rings

  • Ring of Spell Knowledge: The usefulness of this item is wholly contingent on whether or not you can replace the spell that you "taught" to the ring. I believe can that you can replace the spell with reasonable certainty. Page of Spell Knowledge has largely the same function, but costs much less and is slotless. If you use the custom magic item rules, the effect of Page of Spell Knowledge has a base cost of 500 gp for 1st-level spells, just a third of the cost of Ring of Spell Knowledge I. Being rewritable would justify that cost difference. With that established, this is an amazing item. There is no limitation on the spell being on your spell list or even whether or not it's arcane or divine! Want to learn magic missile? Go for it. The rings go up to 4th level, but I think the peak usefulness is 3rd-level because that gets you access to most of the important healing/utility spells on the cleric/oracle spell list.

    How you teach spells to the wring is also important. The item description doesn't specify an action, so I would default to either a standard action or 1 hour to match the rules for Spells Copied from Another's Spellbook or a Scroll. The easiest way to get access to spells is in "written form". This typically means a scroll or a spellbook, so if the spell isn't on the wizard spell list you'll need to get a scroll. A generous DM might let you copy the spell from an Alchemist's Formula Book, but I don't think that makes sense. Alchemists can learn wizard spells from spellbooks, but wizards can't learn spells from formulae books. The item description also doesn't specify what happens if you fail the spellcraft check. I would default to the Spells Copied from Another's Spellbook or Scroll rules, which means that using the scroll to teach the spell discharges the scroll. If that's the case, it's cheaper to pay an NPC to cast the spell once than it is to buy a scroll, though it's obviously less portable. The end result is that a wizard's spellbook becomes a treasure trove of utility. Spend an action or an hour, learn a spell out of the spellbook, cast it as needed, then trade it out later.

Staffs

It's difficult to recommend specific staffs without knowing your individual character, so instead I want to make a general endorsement of the concept of magic staffs in Pathfinder. If you are a 3.5 native, go read Pathfinder's rules for staffs because they have improved dramatically.

Staffs are a reliable, rechargeable source of extra spellcasting that can give spellcasters easy and reliable access to spells from their spell list which they might not want to learn, or which they might like to use so frequently that they can't prepare the spell enough times in a given day. On days when you're not adventuring (traveling, resting, etc.) you can easily recharge any staff even if you can only cast one of the spells which the staff contains.

Wondrous Items

  • Cloak of Resistance: Too crucial to forego.
  • Headband of Alluring Charisma: Get it early, enhance it often.
  • Mnemonic Vestment: Allows you to cast one spell which you don't already know from a written source, such as a spellbook. Conveniently, you share a spell list with wizards, who tend to enjoy spellbooks. This item, combined with a spellbook, massively improves your versatility. All of those spells that you almost never need and never need more than once a day can go into a spellbook which a friendly wizard writes for you, and you can cast spells out of it as needed.
  • Page of Spell Knowledge: A great way to get extra spells known. I think Ring of Spell Knowledge is better for anything that you can find in a Wizard's or Magus's spellbook, but for divine spells that you might need on a regular basis Page of Spell Knowledge makes more sense because you don't need to pay NPC's to cast the spell for you and you don't need to consume scrolls.
  • Robe of Arcane Heritage: Many high-level Sorcerer bloodline powers are excellent, and getting them 4 levels early offers a huge power boost.
  • Sorcerer's Robe: Unless your 1st-level bloodline power is truly amazing, this just isn't good enough to justify the cost with only three uses per day.

Permanent Spells

  • Reduce Person: Reducing your size offers several useful benefits. Dexterity improves your poor Reflex saves, you get a size bonus to AC, and you get a net +2 to your ranged touch attacks for great spells like Disintegrate. The Strength penalty doesn't matter. You could reduce your size to tiny if your race is normally small, and it still won't have a significant negative effect. Even if you like to use polymorph spells, this won't handicap you since most of your polymorph forms aren't humanoid and thus won't be affected by Reduce Person.