Making Your Own Sorcerer Subclass
You may decide that you want to create your own sorcerer subclass that best fits your campaign. Before embarking on this task, you want to be sure that no existing sorcerer subclass can meet your design goals. One of the greatest flexibilities offered in 5e class design is how easy it is to reflavor the features. If there is a subclass that can meet your mechanical needs and stylistic vision, it is best to simply use that and save a lot of time in designing, writing, and playtesting.
If, however, you find that no existing subclass achieves the fantasy or has the mechanics to match your vision, this section will guide you toward making a sorcerer subclass that fits the 5e D&D model. The guidelines will help you create the features for your subclass and detail how you should balance the class to fit within the official options and those offered by Therin Creative and similar content creators.
Please note that despite the guidance offered herein, your subclass may need further tuning. Be certain to spend the time to playtest your subclass.
The sorcerer is a Charisma-based spellcaster with proficiency in Constitution saving throws. As a full spellcaster, the sorcerer has numerous spell slots to use for offense, defense, control, and utility. Given the sorcerer’s stronger native saving throws, it can risk attack more than its wizard peer. The sorcerer also has Sorcery Points and Metamagic that allow it to do more with the spells it has. Among its limitations, the sorcerer spell list is smaller than the wizard’s list, and the class lacks the flexibility to change its spell loadout that a prepared spellcaster enjoys.
The sorcerer has a d6 Hit Dice. As such, the sorcerer isn’t going to survive many attacks without using magic to mitigate the damage it takes. Since the sorcerer is a full spellcaster, it can spare some of its spell slots to bolster its defenses.
The sorcerer lacks weapon options, but has no need for a weapon. Since it also lacks armor proficiencies, the sorcerer must often rely on its spells for AC or focus on avoiding being attacked. The sorcerer does have proficiency in Constitution saving throws, allowing for the sorcerer to take occasional damage while maintaining concentration on a spell more often than other spellcasting classes, natively.
Ability Score Improvement
The sorcerer uses standard progression for the Ability Score Improvement (ASI) feature (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level). Sorcerers shouldn’t gain additional ASI features as that is the domain of the fighter and rogue classes and not something a subclass generally grants.
Sorcery Points are the resource used to fuel metamagic. They can also be used to fuel subclass features or serve as a currency to refresh a feature’s uses. When you craft the subclass, you will want to weigh whether or not to include a Sorcery Point cost with a feature. To determine the cost and if that feature is worth expending the resource, you want to compare its value to the sorcerer’s Metamagic options. Your subclass doesn’t need to have a Sorcery Point cost.
The sorcerer has no core class ribbon features; a subclass is intended to provide those features so that the sorcerous origin provides a baseline of flavor for the class. Since the sorcerer class gains its subclass at 1st level, the subclass can provide the ribbon features while it provides thematic direction.
Sorcerous Origins Features
Sorcerous origins grant features at 1st, 6th, 14th, and 18th level. Since the sorcerer subclass features come early and late, you want to ensure that the 1st and 6th-level features remain relevant in the middle levels.
A sorcerer is infused with magic, whether by bloodline or event. As such, its subclass is definitive for its theme and often comes with a lot of inherent flavor. This is helpful when you design the subclass since you will have a clear thematic vision to fuel your imagination.
Power of a Full Spellcaster
The sorcerer class is a full spellcaster with access to many powerful spells. A Sorcerous Origin shouldn’t add much power, because the Spellcasting feature already provides that power. The strongest Sorcerous Origin power gains mostly come from access to certain spells or rider effects that are contingent on expending a spell slot. It is also possible that the subclass has some extra efficiency with its resources that allows it to squeeze out a little more power per adventuring day. Curate your power-increasing features carefully, and use the Draconic Bloodline and Storm Sorcery subclasses as guides on how much to add. It is perfectly fine if your subclass adds no direct damage to the class’s power, since the Spellcasting feature is strong on its own.
Building a Sorcerous Origin
Once you understand the class chassis, you’re one step closer to building a subclass. You’ll also want to review existing subclasses to get a feel for their design and balance. This section will aid you in understanding what your subclass features should accomplish.
Before starting on the formal work to build your subclass, devise its theme and role. What is your subclass’s purpose? What roles does it fill in an adventuring party? How are its mechanics interesting and unique? Why would a player choose your subclass?
Let’s start by looking at some existing sorcerer subclasses.
Draconic Bloodline. This subclass is the iconic sorcerous origin, its magic coming from the blood of dragons in its ancestry. This subclass is often used to fit the blaster archetype — magical artilery to destroy its foes — givin its elemental damage bonus and marginal defensive strength. Players choose this sorcerous origin because they want the flavor of the iconic dragon sorcerer, knowing that it has stronger than normal damage potential.
Wild Magic. Wild Magic has long been popular with certain portions of the playerbase with its unpredictable magic. In some cases, these sorcerers can produce dramatic results. Players choose this sorcerous origin because they desire some measure of unpredictability and weirdness in their play.
Divine Soul. Inspired by the Favored Soul class of 3rd edition, the Divine Soul origin enables the sorcerer access to cleric spells, expanding on how the class plays. Players choose this sorcerous origin to tap the power of the gods and have a somewhat different sorcerer experience.
Aberrant Mind. The Aberrant Mind origin is one that taps a limited psionic potential to enhance its spellcasting. It has more efficiency than other sorcerers and allows a player to tap aberration-influenced fantasies. Players choose this sorcerous origin to experience psionic energy without adopting a psychic class and mechanics, as well as to enjoy the expanded spell options provided.
Schism Soul. This subclass explores having a second self or invisible friend that fuels your sorcerous powers and acts as a ghost buddy. Players choose this sorcerous origin because they want to make a sorcerer that has a ghostly flavor and is able to act in tandem with a connected spirit and the telekinetic abilities it brings.
Each sorcerer subclass does something unique, that adds a special flavor to the class by expanding its capabilities, but at its core, each is a sorcerer, tapping the full range of the class features at its disposal.
Building the Subclass
This guide covers building a sorcerous origin consistent with official published material. A Sorcerous Origin adds to the core class’s components. A subclass may favor certain aspects of the class, but it has the full range of sorcerer features to tap.
Subclass features are granted at 1st, 6th, 14th, and 18th level. Each Sorcerous Origin feature level should generally only grant one subclass feature, except 1st level, which should grant two features. Consult the Sorcerer Subclass Features table for when you should grant features.
There are exceptions for the rule of only granting a single subclass feature:
- Ribbon features are frequently weak on their own, so in certain cases you may grant a second, minor feature, which could be another ribbon feature.
- The feature has some complex interactions that are much clearer when separated. Often this is indication that something should be cut, but in rare cases, it makes sense to split a feature for comprehension.
- You are expanding an existing feature in a minor way. Sometimes it’s better to include the enhancement in the core feature, and at other times it could be a note in another feature.
Sorcerer Subclass Features
|1st||Enhancement Feature, Utility Feature|
1st-level [Your Sorcerer Subclass] feature
This feature should enhance the sorcerer class kit in some meaningful way, such as granting it additional spells and mechanics around those spells. It could also serve as a more defensive-oriented feature, expanding the sorcerer kit in a way that enhances its base features or as a result of doing the things any sorcerer would do.
Modern sorcerer design includes additional spells to cover two weaknesses that reduce the sorcerer’s quality of life. One is the limited selection of spells known. The other is requiring the player to use this limited selection to choose thematically appropriate spells.
If you are making a classic sorcerer, you should omit adding spells in this feature as it will make your sorcerer more powerful than its peers, unless you are using a third-party supplement that provides spells to classic sorcerer subclasses.
If your feature is strong without the spells, you should aim to omit or drastically reduce the spell selection; the goal is to provide a thematic core for the subclass that doesn’t require the player spend most of their spell picks to establish. Use the features for earlier sorcerers in this supplement as a guideline. Typically, you’ll choose two spells per spell level as shown on the Sorcerer Subclass Spells table, but in some cases you will only want one.
If you do include spells outside the Player’s Handbook, it is recommended that you offer alternative spells from it so groups without the referenced book can utilize your content without additional work on the DM’s part. If the spell is one you created for the subclass, include its description after the subclass (or an appropriate section for a compendium of content).
[Your Sorcerer Subclass] Spells
|1st||1st-level spell, 1st-level spell|
|3rd||2nd-level spell, 2nd-level spell|
|5th||3rd-level spell, 3rd-level spell|
|7th||4th-level spell, 4th-level spell|
|9th||5th-level spell, 5th-level spell|
1st-level [Your Sorcerer Subclass] feature
A utility feature bolsters a sorcerer’s skills or it expands or enhances the social or exploration pillars.
In certain cases, you may decide to grant a Defensive feature instead, especially if the Expansion feature already grants the subclass exploration or social pillar benefits.
6th-level [Your Sorcerer Subclass] feature
When you design an Expansion feature, you want to incorporate something new and unique to the subclass or add some sort of interaction with one of the class or subclass features.
An Expansion feature should prove useful throughout the character’s career, especially with the sorcerer class since it won’t see another subclass feature until 14th level.
It is also appropriate to make this feature a Defensive feature, or defensively oriented in some way.
There will be certain cases where a second feature is warranted, such as a Defensive feature or a Utility feature, particularly if either feature on its own would be underwhelming or fail to come into play most of the time.
14th-level [Your Sorcerer Subclass] feature
Core to the flavor of the sorcerer is its origin, and the Transformative feature is where you can be dramatic in showcasing that origin. This is the feature that can allow the sorcerer to transform partially or wholly in a way that makes its presence and power apparent.
With many sorcerer subclasses, this feature adds additional traversal options for the sorcerer, such as flight.
You can also use this feature to enhance a 1st or 6th-level feature from the subclass. This is useful when you need to gate the power of the subclass.
In rare cases, the power or feel of this feature may warrant it to be placed at 18th level. In this case, you want to swap the levels of the Transformative and Combat features.
18th-level [Your Sorcerer Subclass] feature
The subclass capstone feature should add something that occurs routinely throughout combat or grant the sorcerer some battle option that can turn the tides of battle (particularly if it has limited uses or costs a resource).
This feature can offer offense, defense, or control options or rider effects. It should be simple to use, either tacked on to casting a spell or using an action, bonus action, or reaction. Conditions you set to use this feature should come up frequently, such as casting a leveled spell or getting attacked.
Sorcery Point Cost
When you need a way to restrict usage of a subclass feature, but don’t want it to be confined to once per rest, you should consider a sorcery point cost to activate or refresh it. The feature needs to be one that justifies its cost, or have a potent effect in a niche circumstance that the player values the feature equally with metamagic, since the class will be sacrificing metamagic options to use the feature.
You can also consider require expending a spell slot instead of sorcery points. The feature should be at least as good as the spell slot it consumes, but not as versatile.