Sorcerer Class

This sorcerer class was designed around the level-agnostic spells, and uses the same trichotomy of untrained, trained, and mastered that is behind the recently posted rogue class, but applied to spells rather than skills. It will most likely be included as an optional rule in Wonder & Wickedness.

Like the rogue, the sorcerer uses the standard fighter experience table, the low rationalized hit dice progression, and attack bonus is derived from hit dice. A table of simple weapons was included in the rogue post, so I see no need to duplicate it here.

It should be emphasized that only trained spells may be prepared in the traditional Vancian manner. Sorcerers begin with three trained spells and gain training in a new spell (or mastery of an already trained spell) with each level gained. Other spells may only be cast laboriously from magical texts, even by sorcerers. This is all explained in the training & mastery rules for spells, but is nonetheless worth emphasizing due to how it differs from the way most traditional fantasy role-playing games work.

Currently, I have untrained spells succeeding 50% of the time (4+ on 1d6), with a 1 in 6 chance of catastrophe. I also considered using a saving throw, with catastrophe on a natural 1, but am dissatisfied with that approach because high-level non-sorcerer classes would end up having a better chance at casting spells successfully than a low-level sorcerers, which does not feel right to me (despite how elegant it would be to use a saving throw). An intelligence check is another option, though standard roll-under would require catastrophe on natural 20, which I also don’t care for. I am still somewhat conflicted, but I believe the current d6 approach, though somewhat ad hoc, has the desired properties, and is not hard to remember. Obviously it would be easy to swap out the system used for casting untrained spells, and the only absolutely critical feature, from my point of view, is that it be possible for all classes to attempt, but somewhat dangerous.


Sorcerer

Initial training:

Improvement options: spell training, spell mastery.

Spells

  • Untrained: from book, 1 day, uncertain success, possible catastrophe.
  • Trained: may be prepared, expended when cast.
  • Mastered: double duration, 50% chance not expended when cast.

Untrained Spells

Characters with no magical training, including those other than sorcerers, can still attempt sorcery, assuming access to a book with the appropriate spell. This takes a full day of feverish application, and succeeds only 50% of the time (four or higher on a six-sided die). Further, calling upon magic without training is dangerous, and if this roll is a 1, the spell fails in some disastrous and potentially dangerous (even deadly) manner, as appropriate to the spell in question.

Trained Spells

Trained spells may be prepared for use later, though they are expended when cast and must be re-prepared before they can be cast again. Spell preparation requires access to the spell in textual form. Trained spells may be prepared after a restful night of sleep in a place of safety.

Mastered Spells

Mastered spells have double duration, may be prepared without need of a spell book (though sufficient rest is still required), and only have a 50% chance of being expended when cast.

9 thoughts on “Sorcerer Class

  1. George Cassie (@castlin)

    This is great – I really like the untrained/trained/mastered approach. Letting anyone cast from writing with a chance of catastrophe opens up a lot of possibilities too. First thing that came to my mind was discovering an unknown spell etched into a rock face somewhere and having to try casting it to figure out what it does. If the GM rolls in secret it might not even be clear if what happened was the intent or the catastrophe.

    What about a sorcerer who is trained in a spell but casts it from a book? Does that wipe the spell from their mind? Does it invite catastrophe?

    For spell mastery, did you consider letting the spell be kept if the target fails their saving throw? One less die roll to worry about in many cases. For spells without targets the sorcerer could make a save to keep the spell perhaps.

    Do you think any other classes might get the option to spend one of their skill slots on becoming trained in a spell, not to the point of being able to memorize it but so that it doesn’t have a chance of misfiring when ritually cast?

    Reply
    1. Brendan Post author

      @George

      Re: casting a trained spell from a book, good question. So say a sorcerer prepares and casts a trained spell, and then wants to attempt casting again the same day without proper rest and prep. Assuming a strict interpretation of the rules here, it seems like the second attempt would follow the untrained rules, but perhaps it makes sense to adjust the chances slightly, and either increase the chance of success or eliminate the chance of catastrophe.

      Most of the time, from a risk/reward point of view, I suspect it would just make sense for the sorcerer to just wait a day and prepare as normal, especially given that the time required would not actually end up being that different (since casting from a book without prep takes a full day).

      I definitely see how it might make sense to have a special case though, and I think it would probably work fine in practice to allow sorcerers that are trained in a particular spell more latitude when performing ritual magic (probably also fits the logical expectations of most players better, too). I may add a sentence explicitly handing this in the final version.

      Reply
    2. Brendan Post author

      Do you think any other classes might get the option to spend one of their skill slots on becoming trained in a spell, not to the point of being able to memorize it but so that it doesn’t have a chance of misfiring when ritually cast?

      Yeah, I have some simple rules for characters taking a limited number of training options from other classes, which will go up in a separate post.

      Reply
    3. Brendan Post author

      @George

      I’ve thought about retain on save failure, but in this case I think it would interact with the various spells in significantly different ways, so I’m not sure it’s a good fit here (at the very least, I’d want to review how the save conditions work for all the spells).

      Somewhat relevant:

      http://untimately.blogspot.com/2013/02/magic-save-as-magic-defense.html

      That said, I do think there are a lot of other potential benefits that could be attached to mastery while respecting the basic dynamics of the system (added hit dice worth of monsters controlled, a bonus to damage where that makes sense, and so forth).

      Reply
      1. George Cassie (@castlin)

        You’re right, the spells are too varied for that to work. It might be a consideration for mastered spells used to inflict maleficence though, since they all work the same in that context? Although in that case it could be weird when it’s used against a group.

        Another possibility for advanced mastery might be to treat the spell as if it were cast by someone a level higher. All the descriptions (I think) already account for levels and it further emphasizes the depth-vs-breadth approach the three-tier skill system seems to favor.

      2. Brendan Post author

        Cast as a higher level is not a bad idea at all. Currently, it is just stated as double duration, but as duration is also derived from level, that would also be implied by something like cast as a sorcerer of twice the level (and would have added benefits such as being able to affect more people).

        I was slightly worried about mastery not being attractive compared to learning a whole new spell, so this might be a better approach. I would need to look through the descriptions again and make sure that none of them stick out too much (for example, double level pyrokinesis doing a die of damage per level might be a bit much). But I will definitely think on it.

  2. katre

    Is there a limit on how many spells can be prepared, or is it just “Every trained spell”? I’ve always liked the D&D wizard tradeoff of “I know 10 spells, I can prepare 5, which will be useful today?”

    Reply
    1. Brendan Post author

      @katre

      The assumption here is that all trained spells may be cast once, so no decisions about which spells to prepare are required. Really, this is a simplification more than anything else. It does mean that the spell load out choices that are a big part of playing a traditional magic-user are avoided, and that could be a good or bad thing (it is definitely intentional, however).

      You could bring some of that back, if desired, by allowing sorcerers to prepare one spell per level, essentially requiring the sorcerer to select N from N+2 possibilities. Another option would be to allow such a sorcerer to gain training in more spells (say, two per level), though that would increase the power of the class, and also mess with some other assumptions I make regarding how this class interacts with the other classes I’ve been working on recently, but that may not matter.

      Reply
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