What a break! Almost two weeks from the last Unearthed Arcana article released, previously we had two new Ranger conclaves and a new Rogue archetype. We had plenty of time to access the Horizon Walker, Primeval Guardian, and the Scout archetype (you can read my review on them here), which have only continue to fuel the curiosity and determination of the D&D community to create, modify, and wonder about potential future supplements from Wizards of the Coast. With the triumphant return, we are given new Unearthed Arcana material, in the form of four new Sorcerer Origins.
Click for the new Sorcerer Origin playtest material here.
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Its all about the Origin Story!
Unlike a Wizard with their many years of tutelage and study, or a Warlock’s pact, or even a bard’s college of choice; a Sorcerer is often an individual birthed with preordained powers and a heritage that can be a blessing or a curse. The Player’s Handbook offered initially two Sorcerer Origins: the Draconic Ancestor and Wild Magic. Wild Magic was a catch-all category that emphasized the influence of chance and possible extra effects while the Draconic Ancestor focused on dragon heritage expressing themselves to a point when the shock and awe of their ancestry would pour out and personify itself. Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide introduced the Storm Sorcery origin which previously a playtest material from Unearthed Arcana in its waterborn adventures article. There were some changes made but ultimately most of the key features of the playtest saw publication. The sorcerer is an iconic class that operated similarly to a bard but focused more on grand displays of arcane prowess on par against a wizard. The advantage in older editions was that sorcerers did not need to prepare their spells and had more opportunities to cast more spells which was balanced by their marginally smaller amount of spells they knew compared to the near unlimited potential of a wizard’s spellbook.
The one big takeaway for Sorcerers in 5th Edition is the specialization of using metamagic to change the overall presentation of a spell. Using Sorcery Points, a Sorcerer can gain more spell slots or sacrifice them to gain more points but primarily to fuel the use of metamagic effects. Some of origin features may utilize these Sorcery points in order to use their effects but ultimately it’s a unique resource for the Sorcerers that separates them from the Bard and the Wizard especially.
Favored Soul Origin – Divine Sparks, Children of the Gods and Angels
The Favored Soul was a class first introduced back 3.5 Edition from the Complete Divine supplement as a spontaneous divine spellcaster. Essentially it was a Sorcerer but with the Cleric spell list. They had martial weapon proficiency, could wear some armor, and ultimately gained wings. The class was reimagined as a paragon path in 4th Edition for the Avenger class which was a melee based divine striker, gaining some of the iconic features like summoning angelic wings and the like. This option has been featured once as a concept in the Class Design Unearthed Arcana article, this incarnation is based on the original framework and expanded further.
Divine Magic. This feature has calls back the class’ heritage and relationship with divine spells. Letting this sorcerer gain access to healing spells expands their capabilities in combat immensely, especially when the ability to gain spell slots back through Sorcery Points. There are powerful rituals that the Cleric has at their disposal, if the Favored Soul can acquire the Ritual Caster feat, the options continue to expand for the Favored Soul. Access to spells that deal radiant damage is also a nice boon for the Favored Soul along with the many buff and debuff spells that a Cleric has accessible.
Divine Resilience. Just like the Draconic Resilience a Draconic Sorcerer possesses. Since the Favored Soul is more akin to a cleric, the addition hit points help it keep up with it and not fall too far behind.
Favored by the Gods. This is an interesting feature to help the Favored Soul for that all important saving throw or attack roll. While this rendition does not offer martial weapon proficiency and instead keeps it at the original proficiency (much like the Cleric with simple weapons), the Sorcerer spell list has access to many spells that use attack rolls and this could be a useful feature especially of the players deduce the AC of a monster. Granted it can only be used once between short or long rests but it does feel like a minor bless effect on the Favored Soul which fits thematically.
Blessed Countenance. A great interaction effect, while it does not spark a frightened or charmed condition, it does grant double the proficiency bonus while making a Charisma check. I feel that this could have been expanded a little more, perhaps including additional skills? I mean the Sorcerer does not have a large skill list already, having more skill options to actually utilize this feature would make sense here. It just feels underwhelming here.
Divine Purity. Having immunity to the poisoned condition, poison damage, and diseases is quite a useful trait to possess. Granted not a whole not of creatures and spells deal poison damage, but the ones that do often bestow the poisoned condition or inflict diseases. This is sort of purity would suggest physical stamina and invigoration, while this feature is inherently powerful, I feel there could’ve been more to reward a sorcerer at this point.
Unearthly Recovery. While the Favored Soul does have access to healing spells, more often than not, those spells are used on the party members which changes the Favored Soul’s dynamic from being an arcane artillery to a pseudo-healer role. Having a few healing spells accessible would make a Favored Soul a good secondary healer, but ultimately a Favored Soul is still at heart, a Sorcerer and will need to stay alive long enough to cast their big damage dealing spells or powerful buffs. Healing for half your maximum hit points when under half is quite useful feature. Granted the feature can only be used once between long rest so it would have to quite dire circumstances. I feel that this 18th level feature is honestly not enough. I would suggest adding resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing until the start of the Favored Soul’s next turn as an added boon. It’s all about survivability and divine essence pouring out.
It feels that the Favored Soul is an attempt at a Celestial heritage based origin instead of an individual blessed with divine power or having a lineage from a divine being. Yes an angel can be that sort of character, but honestly divinity does not constitute celestial origin and rather should be mutually exclusive from each other. You can be a Favored Soul of an evil deity in older editions, that shouldn’t change here and honestly the idea that this may be included as a Celestial bloodline sort of thing is rather lacking and cheap in execution. If we really wanted a more embodiment of divine essence, we should reconsider looking back at the Arcane Tradition: Theurgy for the Wizard in the Faithful Unearthed Arcana supplement (found here) and possibly incorporating some its ideas into here. I do like the idea of having the Favored Soul selecting a domain and then gaining the extra spells to their spells known list. While the Sorcerer’s means for balance has been their limited spell knowledge, having a few extra spells will not break the class but expand their roles.
Phoenix Sorcery – Rise of the Dark Phoenix Saga part 2
When the Storm Sorcery origin came out, it was long suspected that eventually somewhere in R&D there would be thoughts about other elemental origins for the Sorcerer. This particular origin borrows heavily from the Sorcerer being granted a spark of a phoenix’s power.
Ignite. This feature essentially tries to keep up with a Phoenix Sorcerer’s pyromania without actively giving more cantrips to the class. Since Sorcerers have the highest amount of cantrips late-game compared to any other class, it would make sense to not include more cantrips. Though a produce flame cantrip would’ve been adequately appropriate here. Brightside, no one in the part ever has to worry about carrying flint and tinder around to start a campfire, the Phoenix Sorcerer can do that with a touch or snap of their fingers (using the spark to create the fire).
Mantle of Fire. Unlike several classes that grant a heightened or elevated form, the Phoenix Sorcerer can unleash a fiery mantle that sheathes them in flames. The light source paints the Sorcerer as a target, but the added bonus of dealing fire damage while being struck by melee attack is a good deterrent. Additionally, fire spells deal additional damage equal to their Charisma modifier. The entire feature lasts for 1 minute, which is more than enough time for most combat encounters and requires a long rest afterwards before it can be used again. There are a plethora of fire spells in the early levels, if you include the Elemental Evil supplement material than there are even more fire spells to add to the Sorcerer’s repertoire.
Phoenix Spark. This feature embodies the Phoenix’s ability to die and be reborn, to use this feature, a Phoenix Sorcerer needs to drop to 0 hit points and use a reaction to instead drop to 1 hit points and unleash a torrent of magical flames. From a flavor standpoint, this feature is spot on and fits well thematically, mechanically it also fits and includes additional damage if the Phoenix Sorcerer triggered this feature while Mantle of Fire was active. One of thing to keep in mind though, if the Phoenix Sorcerer has no reaction to use, they cannot activate this feature and instead drop to 0 hit points. Meaning a Phoenix Sorcerer can be a little reckless but once the hit points start lowering, they might need to be mindful or risk being thrown unconscious. The extra fire damage is really just the cherry on top and honestly it fits fine. Having a 10th-level Phoenix Sorcerer deal 5 damage plus potentially another 5 (with a 20 Charisma score) fire damage isn’t too bad. Dealing 20 damage if Mantle of Fire was active when triggering this feature, is quite powerful and rewards a Sorcerer for using that class feature, especially since there is no saving throw against this damage. I like that it continues to reward the Sorcerer player as they continue to advance more into this class.
Nourishing Fire. A healing feature for the Phoenix, I like it! Adds survivability for the Phoenix Sorcerer and encourages a more reckless playstyle. Acquiring this feature at 14th level seems underwhelming but mathematically is more rewarding since the Sorcerer at this point has access to 7th-level spell slots. Casting even 5th and 6th level spell slots can produce 10 to 11 hit points back so long as the spell casts deals fire damage. The availability of fire spells begins to diminish the higher the spell-level you go, but that means the Phoenix Sorcerer is encouraged to cast those early fire spells at higher levels to utilize and maximize this feature. Granted at this point, a Sorcerer can gain access to a Delayed Fireball, which is a potent fire spell at this spell level that will serve the Phoenix Sorcerer well. Even though this feature feels needed in earlier levels, the Phoenix Spark feature essentially covers and mitigates potential early level deaths resulting from be knocked down to 0 hit points. This feature offers an extension from needing to rely on the Phoenix Spark feature by boosting the Phoenix Sorcerer’s durability in combat.
Form of the Phoenix. Most capstone abilities, I feel, need to truly reward the player for sticking to the class to almost its completion. This feature expands the Mantle of Fire, granting flying speed, resistance to all damage, and additionally deals more damage if the Phoenix Sorcerer triggers the Phoenix Spark feature while Mantle of Fire is active. A 20th-level Sorcerer activating its Phoenix Spark feature while Mantle of Fire is active, potentially deals 50 (assuming a Charisma score of 20) damage to all creatures within a 10-foot radius. 50 unavoidable fire damage is generally not something to snuff at, granted at this stage of the game and depending on the campaign, there could a myriad of creatures resistant to fire damage to mitigate this feature. But at 20th-level, you essentially are casting a fireball spell for free upon revival.
This archetype is very thematic and mechanically powerful but overwhelming. Granted many of the features focus on the Mantle of Fire feature but personally that is fine. It does not take away from the Sorcerer’s identity and instead enhances their combat capabilities. My only qualm is that the Phoenix Sorcerer should have some resistance to fire damage, I understand that the Form of the Phoenix grants resistance to all damage while under their Mantle of Fire form but honestly if a Draconic Sorcerer with a Red or Gold dragon ancestry can get this resistance, I think a Phoenix Sorcerer should as well.
Sea Sorcery – Curse of the Black Water
Moving on from elemental fire and the phoenix, we get into the realm of elemental water where the bloodline of creatures like merfolk and various other entities may have an influence. This was probably one of the harder ones to place in regards to theme and bloodline origin for the Sorcerer class. There are very few spells accessible that deals with water, there are several in the Druid spell list but the common expression by damage type for anything related to water has always been cold damage. While the para-element of ice belongs to the mixture of elemental water and ice, this iteration follows closer to being strictly water and all the effects it may bring.
Soul of the Sea. As a descendant of a being of elemental water, the Sea Sorcerer can breath underwater and additionally is a gifted swimmer. I might still have given Darkvision up to 60 ft., primarily due to the fact that it’s dark underwater or something entertaining like allowing the Sea Sorcerer to speak with aquatic animals like fish and seals for example. So possibly give them speak with animals as a ritual similar to the Totem Warrior Barbarian.
Curse of the Sea. So here is where the mechanics and flavor seem amazing, but execution seems rocky (see what I did there?). It’s very rare for a class feature to have part of it include a necessary setup following by actual effects depending on spell effects. To use this feature, a Sea Sorcerer has to cast a cantrip and the target must either be hit (if by attack roll) or fail a saving throw from the cantrip to simply establish a “curse” on the target until the end of their next turn. Then on the next turn, you can activate the curse should you cast a spell that deals either lightning or cold damage, or forcibly moves the target. I honestly feel that while this encourages a more specific playstyle with this feature, the need to have a set-up maneuver in order to trigger the effects seem underwhelming (mostly because the effects do very little) and far too much investment. Granted the forced movement bit can be handled by other spells, let’s be honest, casting a thunderwave spell and using the curse effect does seem powerful but takes away from the point of the theme: water. The Sorcerer has very little access to these water-based spells that do forced movement. The cold damage and lightning damage bits seem alright, the cold damage effect is honestly rather subpar and I think it should cause the target to have disadvantage on their saving throws. Reducing speed is relevant in the early levels, but later levels when you’re facing against creatures with extra movement modes and abilities, this seems less and less useful in the long run. I understand this is a 1st-level feature but this is going to be a feature used many times across the Sea Sorcerer’s career and it just does little in terms of its impact.
Watery Defense. An interesting feature for Sea Sorcerers dealing with melee attackers encroaching forward, reducing damage equal to their Sorcerer level plus Charisma modifier is a good number and scales well. A 5th-level sea sorcerer using this feature can ignore about 9 points of damage (assuming a Charisma score of 18), which can make a huge difference in survivability along with the free 30 foot movement that does not provoke opportunity attacks. One of the greater hallmarks of the Storm Sorcery Sorcerer in Sword Coast Adventure’s Guide comes from the mobility that class offered. While this feature is limited to once between short or long rest, it’s a useful tool for quick getaways when the situation grows dire and could save the Sorcerer’s hit points.
Shifting Form. This feature readdresses the encouraged mobility of this class option, by having the Sea Sorcerer take half damage from opportunity attacks is extremely potent and if giving the Mobility feat as well, the Sea Sorcerer has little to worry about from opportunity attacks if the enemy has disadvantage on opportunity attacks and only takes half the damage in such instances. While I feel this feature could’ve been presented early in the Sea Sorcerer’s carrier, given that the difficulty of encounters escalate past 10th level, this is very useful feature in a very cluttered battlefield of enemies.
Water Soul. This capstone gave useful advantages and benefits to a Sea Sorcerer, two of which were very combat related and powerful. The ability to treat any critical hit as a regular hit is essentially giving a Sea Sorcerer Adamantine Armor for free, and then the resistance to all bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing damage (that includes magical and nonmagical) is an extremely important trait for all physical damage. Thematically it fits with the Sea Sorcerer as a physical embodiment of water, using their powers to shift and change into liquid water easily. I like that there was advantage against cold damage effects since a Sea Sorcerer having such manipulation of their bodies would also have the means to mitigate ice effects but that’s a separate issue.
While the Sea Sorcerer has some very useful mobility and defensive features, its primary offensive feature requires far too much set up and encourages a particular playstyle with far too much setup compared to the inherent way Sorcerers simply sling spells like its going out of style.
Stone Sorcery – They will rock you?
The Wizard class has the Bladesinger tradition for melee inclined spellcasters, the Sorcerer for the most part does not. This inclusion wanted to bridge the gap with elemental earth, metal, and combat all in one stroke. This feature is oddest assort of features that really have little to do with Elemental Earth and felt like it was reflavored from an attempted Swordmage from 4th Edition conversion.
Bonus Proficiency. So to compass a sorcerer origin that is combat oriented, the Stone Sorcerer gains access to martial weapons, simple weapons, and shields. I’m not opposed to extra proficiencies, I’m always a big supporter of it. But let’s continue through the rest of the options and you’ll see my resentment for this final option.
Metal Magic. Okay supposedly, the Stone Sorcerer learn weapon based spell maneuvers, there are three presented as cantrips in Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. But to expand on the Sorcerer’s options for spells, Wizards felt that was necessary to bring access to almost all the Paladin smite spells simply because they have a melee theme to them. Really? I would’ve been fine with spells like Heat Metal, or had some sort of rust like effect. I would’ve been equally happy with increased movement speed while on the ground.
Stone Durability. Since the Stone Sorcerer is more melee oriented, adding more hit points improves their survival potential. Additionally, using an action to create armor out of earth is neat. But the math is weird, the base AC is 13 + their constitution modifier, I’m assuming they meant to say Dexterity? Or did they mean to include Dexterity? Well according the verbage and the way they write these sort of effects; nope, it’s definitely excluding Dexterity from AC. I think this is a typo more than anything, granted Constitution is still important for casters but the ability score has been reduced from its significance greater with the removal of the Endurance/Concentration skill from previous editions. If we were to read it as the original intended ability score, than a 13 + Dexterity with a shield is quite powerful as that nets the Stone Sorcerer already an AC of 15 before Dexterity is factored in. Granted it takes an action to activate it, and lasts until the Stone Sorcerer is incapacitated or chooses to end the effect.
Stone Aegis. Okay this feature is an interesting take on a multiple different kinds of ideas here. First we have an aegis that the Stone Sorcerer grants to an ally that lasts one minute. Great. The Aegis reduces damage from bludgeoning, slashing, piercing damage equal to 2 + the Stone Sorcerer’s level divided by 4. So basically, an 8th-level Stone Sorcerer can reduce a total of 4 damage from all sources of bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing damage. The reason R&D probably chose 4 is that it divides evenly with 20 and by that point, this feature grants a total of 7 damage reduction. Damage reduction is a tricky feature that can go out of hand very easily. In older editions, it made characters almost useless against stronger foes without magical assistance. The added feature from this aegis is that whenever a creature attacks the protected ally, the Stone Sorcerer gains the ability to teleport next the attacker and try to land a melee weapon attack. If this attack hits, it deals extra force damage based on the Stone Sorcerer’s level. This feature can seem wordy but it fits the older idea of the Swordmage from 4th Edition with one of the Aegis choices.
Stone’s Edge. This is a great feature that emphasizes the sorcerer’s role as a striker, or glass cannon. Deal more damage, how much more? About half the Stone Sorcerer’s levels worth in force damage. Granted it can only be used once per casting of a spell, but wait it’s not per turn? Oh by the Gods! That means even when Quicken Spells, this feature can be utilized. The great part of this feature is to allow focus fire on a particular target even with large area of effect spells. At 14th level, a Stone Sorcerer with this feature deals 7 extra force damage, there are seldom creatures that are resistant or immune to force damage. Essentially that’s free damage applied to an enemy, tactically this is a very useful feature and helps greatly as the encounters tend to crowded down the road and requires a bit more focus fire on the tankier foes.
Earth Master’s Aegis. Hurrah, you can now protect up to three allies with your Stone Aegis. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s great for your allies. It does little for the Sorcerer here. Most capstones emphasize mastery of their bloodline. Even if you based it off the Dao genies as the flavor suggests, I would have liked some feature akin to moving rock or gaining some power over magnetism. I’m not going to lie, Elemental Earth has possibly some the less “special feature” inclined creatures to draw as inspiration. While this capstone is something that works with the available features, it is quite underwhelming as a capstone feature. I would’ve been happy with additional spells known at this point, as a payoff for the dedication to this particular origin for the player. There is no payoff for the Stone Sorcerer player here.
This was a far cry from a true Elemental Earth based Sorcerer lineage, there some ideas that made it feel more like a melee inclined Sorcerer option. But since Wizards wrote themselves into a flavor corner with “bloodlines and origins” we lost some valuable space for other kinds of Sorcerers to exist (I’m look back at you Battle Sorcerer from 3.5 Edition). Almost all of these features could have been reflavored as a martial inclined Sorcerer and it would’ve all worked out fine. My issue with this option is that the flavor and mechanics do not hold up, this option has probably one of the larger underwhelming capstones presented. The Sea Sorcerer already has extra work, but this option barely has any other redeemable features after acquiring Stone’s Edge and that is stretching it with the free extra Force damage per spell cast. There is no real incentive for the Stone Sorcerer player to reach 18th level when you apply this Aegis on either the healer or tank, or even apply it to the rogue to help them trigger Sneak Attack again.
Overall, it was nice to see the Favored Soul make a true Unearthed Arcana appearance and expand on previous ideas. The Phoenix Sorcerer was thematically and mechanically appropriate for the direction it wanted to go, along with a feature that grew better the longer the player invested into the class. The Sea Sorcerer was an interesting defensive option with an odd setup mechanic that proved to pigeon-hole the player to a specific type of playstyle that seemed underwhelming in their effects. The Earth Sorcerer was a hodgepodge mess that did little to reward the player’s investment in the long-term and instead felt like a hash job of a Swordmage from 4th Edition converted into 5th Edition. I look forward to what we may see with the future Unearthed Arcana material and possibly seeing some of these options in future books and publications.
Click for the new Sorcerer Origin playtest material here.
Click for to do the Ranger & Rogue survey here.
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