Become a Wellspring of Magic
Sorcerers are filled with innate magic, casting powerful spells with a snap of the fingers drawing on their own internal arcane strength. Playing these charismatic casters is easy, but optimally mastering them takes a careful hand. What are the best builds and best spells for sorcerers? The best damage spells? Get ready to strut your magical stuff as we go through everything you need to know in this Sorcerer 5E class guide for Dungeons and Dragons.
What Are Sorcerers?
Sorcerers are simply born with the gift of sorcery and of arcane magic. Often there is some sort of powerful being far up the family tree, or exposure to arcane power, planes charged with the arcane, or some fluke of the cosmos yet to be fully understood. Where wizards and warlocks have to work and study for their spellcasting, those with the talents of sorcery channel their power instinctively. Some may have to train in their spellcraft like an athlete trains their muscles, but for some sorcerers casting spells is as effortless as breathing. Mechanically, sorcerers are typically the most DPS of the arcane spellcasters. They aren't quite as fragile as wizards, but without a lot of work will typically fall into the glass cannon category. A font of pure and reliable damage but squishy. Sorcerers are also Charisma based and combined with some tricky spellcasting they can easily charm and smirk their way through situations as the face of the party.
Some of the most iconic characters that would probably be sorcerers in D&D include Storm, Professor X, Nightcrawler, and practically every other mutant character from X-Men. Practically every planeswalker from Magic: The Gathering. And strangely every Jedi and Sith from Star Wars likely falls into this category of innately powered characters.
Before we get into options and strategies, let's go through the fundamental features you'll need to understand to play a dnd sorcerer. Sorcerers are on the whole one of the simplest spellcasters to play, but they can still be challenging to master.
Spellcasting and Sorcery Points
Firstly, sorcerers are what we call "innate spellcasters", which really just means you don't have to bother with preparing your spells. You learn spells of higher spell levels as you advance and so long as you both know the spell and have a spell slot to spend on it, you're good to go. You're also what's considered a long rest class, and you'll be getting each spell slot back whenever you finish a long rest.
As previously stated, your spellcasting ability is determined by Charisma. So this means your spell attacks gain a bonus equal to your Charisma modifier, and the spell DC of spells you cast is improved by your Charisma modifier.
Fundamentally, sorcerers know comparatively very few spells, but they get additional spells because of their sorcery points. And while they don't know that many spells, the spell options you have for sorcerer spells are almost as numerous as wizard spells and the sorcerer spell list has a good variety of spells.
Starting at 2nd level, sorcerers get another special resource called "sorcery points". These points can be spent to improve the spells you cast using a thing called "metamagic", or you can spend them to create extra spell slots for yourself using a feature called flexible casting, and they recharge on a long rest. Getting additional sorcery spells is likely the most common use of the points. You don't get all that many points though, you just essentially have a number of points equal to your sorcerer level.
These sorcery points are what set you apart from other spellcasters, and we'll get into the better uses of metamagic in the next section, but for now just know that you'll be casting the same few spells quite often, but you'll potentially be able to modify them to suit the situation.
You can find the number of spells you know at your current level, the spell slots you have, and the number of sorcery points you have on the sorcerer table. You can find this table in the player's handbook.
In a lot of situations, you'll find that using your sorcery points for more spell slots is actually the best option, but metamagic grants you some versatility.
At 3rd level, you get to select 2 metamagics of your choice, and eventually at levels 10 and 17 you'll get to pick out a couple more. Let's go through each of them and what they'll add to your character.
Careful Spell - For the cost of 1 sorcery point you can essentially make it so your allies auto-pass the saving throw of whatever horrible AOE spells you just cast. This isn't a bad option exactly, but auto-passing the save will usually still mean they'll be taking half damage from whatever spell you just cast. Evoker wizards do this much more effectively by actually excluding your allies rather than subjecting them to half of the fireball.
Distant Spell - For the cost of 1 sorcery point you can extend the range of a spell by double or turn a spell with a range of touch into a ranged spell of 30 feet. This is deceptively strong as you can double area of effect spells like thunderwave and hit way more creatures. There are also some very potent touch spells like inflict wounds that are a lot safer to cast from the comfy distance of 30 feet. I especially like this metamagic for divine soul sorcerers as it lets you cast cure wounds from a distance.
Empowered Spell - At the cost of 1 sorcery point, you can reroll a number of damage dice up to your Charisma modifier. The important thing here is that you get to choose to spend the point and reroll after you've already seen the results. It can be really nice to have this in your pocket if your big finisher rolls a ton of ones.
Extended Spell - This lets you double the duration of spells (that are already at least a minute long) for the cost of 1 sorcery point. Most combats are done in a few rounds, let alone a few minutes, and a lot of "out of combat" spells don't really need to double. What this is good for is buff spells like haste, enhance ability, or invisibility. Depending on your DM, extending a powerful buff spell can be the difference for having it active during a single combat, or multiple encounters.
Heightened Spell - One of the most point intensive metamagics, heightened spell costs 3 points but imposes disadvantage on whatever you're casting. Giving your most powerful spell disadvantage on the saving throw can be a huge swing. It only works on a single target though, so don't bother heightening things like fireball. Instead use this on really powerful "save or die" type spells like polymorph or dominate monster. It's a major investment to use, so make it count.
Quickened Spell - At the cost of 2 sorcery points, you can cast a spell that has a casting time of an action with only a bonus action. This sounds a lot better than it is, since you're still under the global casting restriction and you won't be able to cast a quickened spell and then another spell in the same turn unless it's a cantrip. Still, there are situations where you really want to perform an action and cast a big spell in the same turn, and this is one of the only ways to make that happen. I often find I don't have the unexpended sorcery points to make the best use of this.
Subtle Spell - At the cost of 1 sorcery point you can cast a spell without verbal or somatic components. This essentially means you get to cast a spell without anybody around realizing you cast a spell unless they're extremely observant or magical. Rarely useful in combat scenarios but extremely useful for roleplaying encounters. Just think about it, you could summon an illusion to distract the guards while they're staring right at you and they'd still be in the dark!
Twinned Spell - At the cost of 1 point per level of the spell you're twinning you can target a second creature in range with a spell that normally only targets one. This is almost always one of the metamagics I select, and when used correctly it can practically double up your strongest spells. Grant that big buff to two guys instead of one or inflict your strongest single target spell on yet another unwitting target. This is especially effective on concentration spells, as while your effectiveness is doubled, and you're still only concentrating on the single spell.
For the most part you'll be more concerned with your magic than any equipment. If you have a Draconic Bloodline origin, your Dragon Resilience will be all the armor you need. If you have a Wild Magic origin, take Mage Armor as one of your spells. It makes your AC 13 + Dexterity modifier for 8 hours, as long as you are not wearing armor.
As a sorcerer, you don't get any armor proficiency. Just make sure you are wearing clothes. Sadly though, if creatures get into melee with you, those creatures will likely be able to rip you apart pretty easily. Keep wary and try to avoid getting cornered by whatever creatures your party is facing.
The only real bit of gear you should be concerned with is either your component pouch, or your arcane focus. Mechanically these things are basically identical, but for flavor reasons you'll need to decide if you use something like a staff, a crystal, or a bag of ingredients to work your inherent magic. There's a list of these items, but honestly, it’s all flavor. Simply pick or come up with something that makes sense for your character and keep it in your hands at all times.
The sorcerer class has weapon proficiencies for light crossbows, quarterstaffs, slings, daggers, and darts, but not other simple weapons. About the only thing I'd recommend keeping track of is a light crossbow. It can come in handy if you're in a situation where magic doesn't work like an anti-magic field.
Building a Better Sorcerer
Sorcerer Ability Scores
A sorcerer's magic comes from their ancestor as an deep wellspring that resides within them, and their Charisma score is their spellcasting ability that shows how well they tap into those sorcerous powers. Regardless of what sorcerer build you're shooting for, you'll want your Charisma spellcasting ability to be at least 16, and usually you'll want it as high as possible. You'll also probably want to spend your first ability score improvement to reach a Charisma of 18 to get up to a +4 attack modifier on those spell attack rolls.
Sorcerers don't normally get any armor, which means they're typically on the squishy end. Having some Dexterity improves your AC which you'll want high to save you from whatever attacks make it to you. You'll want a Dexterity of at least 14, and possibly higher if you can manage it.
Next, you can't stop every attack from hitting you, and a decent Constitution can keep you alive through a few more attacks. Try to reach at least a 12 Constitution, and preferably 14 or higher.
There are some specific builds that this won't be true for, but most sorcerers can't really make use of Intelligence, Wisdom, or Strength. If you have some spare ability score points, improving any of these for saving throws or skill checks can be useful, but they should typically be 12 or lower.
DnD 5e is very forgiving, you can make any sort of character from different combinations without being wrong. However, if you're looking for a more optimized sorcerer, you'll get the biggest benefits from a race that provides both a Charisma bonus and a Dexterity bonus. The following races provide just that:
Aasimar gain +2 Cha and the scourge aasimar also gain +1 Con. Aasimar have a TON of features in their favor such as necrotic and radiant damage resistance, a racial healing ability, and its nice to get additional sorcerer cantrips. Scourge aasimar also get a feature that lets them "overload" with power and literally burn themselves and enemies around them and add radiant damage to their spells while doing so. I love scourge aasimars for overboard DPS sorcerers, you get to literally go nova and just deal as much damage as possible. I do want to note that while I picked out scourge aasimar, the other options get temporary wings and are also perfectly viable options, and not just because of the wings.
Changelings gain +2 Charisma and +1 in any other ability score, which you can make Dexterity. They're from the Eberron setting, but kind DMs may allow them elsewhere. The shapeshifting ability to change your physical traits coupled with the bonus skill proficiencies make this an intriguing option for sneaky face of the party sorcerers who are looking to get up to some shenanigans.
Half-Elves get a +2 bonus to Charisma and a +1 bonus to two other ability scores, which you can make Dexterity and Constitution. As with most Charisma based classes, half-elves essentially snag a free ability point over other options, since you get 4 points all in your needed abilities. The other features are generic but useful things like bonus skills and languages. If you're not sure what sort of sorcerer you'd like to play, half elves are definitely the best "generic" option.
Dark Elf (Drow)
Drow gain +2 Dexterity and +1 Charisma. Normally I'd only focus on races with +2 Charisma, but since you're picking up both Dex and Cha, and since you're picking up several weapon proficiencies alongside it, drow make for a good option if you're going to try and make a melee sorcerer work. Still tough, but doable.
Humans will always be the most versatile option and the base human's full set of ability increases will work well or the variant with its feat and optional increases can easily go into both Charisma and Dexterity. If you take variant human you'll have a ton of feat options for specific builds, as a more generic option consider toughness simply to make yourself less squishy. Keep in mind though that a lot of DMs ban variant humans and you should always check with your DM ahead of time.
Satyrs pick up a +2 Charisma bonus and a +1 Dexterity bonus. Satyrs are technically lore-locked into the Theros setting but they're present in enough fantasy worlds that you can probably convince your DM to allow them elsewhere. For the trouble you'll get the ever-powerful magic resistance ability, alongside an improved movement speed, a natural attack, and some bard-centric skill proficiencies. Probably best for "face of the party" sorcerers.
Tiefling (Dispater or Glasya)
Tieflings gain +2 Charisma and +1 Intelligence, but by selecting the Dispater or Glasya tiefling variants you'll swap out that Int for a +1 Dexterity bonus. Personally, out of the two I prefer the Glasya option for its racial spells such as invisibility and disguise self which always have their uses. Stack that on top the base tiefling fire resistance and darkvision and it comes together as an extremely tempting option for sorcerers.
Right at 1st level you get to select your sorcerous origin, your ancient bloodline and the essential source of your power. Other than picking out some distant ancestors, this choice grants you significant features and massively impacts your sorcerer's playstyle based on their inborn magic.
Your bloodline has some eldritch horrors in it and instead of a t-shirt or eldritch blast you got some spooky and tentacle filled spells. You get a very far-reaching telepathic communication ability, and the ability to cast what are usually warlock spells using sorcery points at a rate of 1 point per level of spell. The telepathy is incredibly useful and the solid rate for the "psionic spells" can make you a surprisingly adept "psionic blaster caster". Take this if you're looking to become the party communication device, shoot brain bullets and dip into a bit of warlock flavor as a sorcerer.
You are infused with law and order on a cosmic scale and your magic is part of the universal tick. Mechanically this is by far the best option if you want to go for more of a control route. Your 1st level ability lets you negate advantage or disadvantage multiple times, and even doing this for a single key roll can change an entire battle. At 6th level you'll also be able to create a temporary hp shield for an ally if they're looking rough. Select this archetype if you want to control the flow of battle as a sorcerer.
Cleric by way of sorcerer. Divine souls have some celestial or fiendish or some deity of magic heritage and basically get to be half-clerics with healing abilities without all that mucking about with religion. You'll get access to healing cleric spells not normally on the sorcerer spell list, and I advise you to take advantage of this spell choice. Surprisingly effective as the party healers and also as damage dealers, grab this if you want to bridge the gap between DPS and cleric heal bot.
You've got draconic magic in you and depending on the type of dragon ancestors and element you'll be dishing out extra damage with spells that match it. The ever-popular draconic bloodline does a lot to make your sorcerer a lot more survivable with a natural AC and some extra hit point. Other than that, and some very cool dragon abilities in the very late levels (like dragon wings), you'll be rewarded on your damage rolls for focusing on a type of damage for your spellcasting. It used to be that fire and lightning dragons were the only real choices, but as 5e has progressed we've gotten access to a ton of high-quality spells that dish out cold, poison, and acid damage as well. Simply pick the elemental theme that feels right and pick-up spells that deal that damage type whenever possible. Also, contrary to popular belief playing a dragonborn sorcerer with this sorcerous origin doesn't add much beyond the breath attack.
Shadow magic has a LOT going for it, you get lovely darkness magic, a "get out of jail free" ability to stand back up when dropped to 0, and a SHADOW DOG! It's great all around as an archetype, but an especially great sorcerous origin for an evil or more horror-themed dungeon adventure. And having a bonus companion creature is great for parties that are low on people.
Do you like casting lightning bolt? Would you like to cast it MORE? Try your hand at being a storm sorcerer. Storm sorcery causes all of your offensive spells that deal lightning or thunder damage to also damage the enemies near you. This additional damage alongside the free "jumps" you get on little cyclones make storm sorcerers into flavorful and terrifying damage dealers.
The wild magic in your bloodline is especially spicy and hard to manage or predict. This translates to a big random table of effects that can go off whenever you cast a spell or use your wild magic abilities. Wild magic is mechanically bizarre as it doesn't happen automatically, but rather just when your DM decides it does. Beyond the wild magic table of whacky effects, the wild magic archetype makes for a surprisingly strong control caster giving you advantage on practically anything once per long rest, and the ability to modify rolls at the cost of sorcery points. Give wild magic a go if you and your DM want to have a bit of chaos in your adventures, or simply for the reliable control boosts.
Without spending too much time on them since backgrounds are a comparatively minor part of your build, simply pick out a background that you feel suits your character and pick out some skill proficiencies you're missing as a sorcerer. In particular, try choosing a background that gives you access to the very important skill Perception, a notable absence from the sorcerer's skill list.
Fighting as a sorcerer is simple. Just burn down your opponent with powerful spells. At level 1, choose from Acid Splash, Shocking Grasp, Fire Bolt, Ray of Frost, Magic Missile, or Thunderwave. At level 2, use Scorching Ray to do even more damage.
If you run out of spell slots or just want to save them for later, use a crossbow to take out your opponent from a distance. You can also run up and get some melee shots in but be prepared to run in the opposite direction if things go sour. Sorcerers only have 1d6 per level hit dice, so extended melee combat is usually not a good idea.
Party Buff Sorcerer
Here are a few tips to protect your friends and buff them up.
Use Enhance Ability to give your friends plusses to Con, Dex, Str, or other abilities. If a foe is too big for your party, use Invisibility to sneak everyone past. Cast Web on big monsters to incapacitate them, reducing or eliminating the damage they can do. I'd also recommend taking the Leadership feat to take advantage of that high Charisma modifier and boost the whole party up before big fights. Other options to restrict your opponents and reduce damage include Blindness/deafness and Hold Person.
When outside of combat, Sorcerers have some very handy spells at their disposal. Use Disguise Self to slip away from someone that is looking for you or to appear as someone the target will trust. Detect Thoughts is also a useful spell for finding clues and solving mysteries.
Sadly though, as a Charisma based character, you'll have a hard time of filling that Arcana role in the party. Passing a key arcana or knowledge skill can be important for puzzle solving and if you're taking up the spot a wizard would fill it's a potential party weakness. Even though you're not perfectly suited for it, try to pick up the Arcana skill to at least add your proficiency to it, and potentially even get your Intelligence up to a 12 if your stats allow it.
In addition, don't forget that you have a high Charisma score. Use your personal charm to perform at non-magical skills such as Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion. For non-combat encounters, these skills are some of the best in the game. And sorcerers excel at them.
Sorcerers are some of the most commonly multiclassed classes, as they pair perfectly with either the paladin or warlock classes since they share the common Charisma spell casting ability. Sorcerer/Paladins get access to heavy armor, and some of the ability combinations with the hexblade warlock are downright disgusting. Those sort of multiclasses could easily be articles all their own, but for now just know the option is available, and starting out with a single level of either Paladin or Warlock can turn your sorcerer into a melee machine.
Optional Sorcerer Features
In Tasha's Cauldron of Everything every class got a set of optional features that act like a sort of upgrade patch to fix issues and improve things that needed improving. These features are technically optional, but assuming your DM allows them, make sure to include these class features with your new sorcerer:
Using the optional features, the following spells have been added to the sorcerer spell list:
Cantrip (0 Level)
Tasha's caustic brew
Tasha's mind whip
Flesh to stone
Otiluke's freezing sphere
Tasha's otherworldly guise
Dream of the blue veil
Blade of disaster
Sorcerers got a couple of new options when it comes to metamagic:
Seeking Spell. Basically, you can now spend 2 sorcery points to reroll an attack after you miss. Costly, but well worth it to avoid wasting your best attack spells.
Transmuted Spell. At the cost of 1 sorcery point you can swap one elemental damage type for another on your spell, sling some acid balls and thunderbolts. Extremely useful if you run into a monster resistant to your best spells.
Like many other classes, sorcerers now get to switch some of their features at ability score increase levels. Retraining used to be a hassle but now you'll be able to swap out a cantrip and a metamagic option when you need to.
A very surprising boost at 5th level, magical guidance lets you spend a sorcery point to reroll fumbles (natural ones) on ability checks. A bit of a waste on many checks, but for an all-important Stealth or Perception check this can be a life saver.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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