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View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next Giving Soul Magic to Sorcerers



LeonBH
2017-01-28, 02:39 AM
Hi all, first time poster. :)

I cooked up a few spells for my level 6 Wild Magic Sorcerer but haven't tossed the idea to my DM yet. I'm concerned they're either grossly underpowered or grossly overpowered, and would like some feedback to refine the rough edges first.

My hope is the flavor and intent of the spells become immediately obvious as you read the spell descriptions below. I'm having a hard time categorizing them into a usual arcane school though (necromancy is closest, but this is strictly speaking not dealing with life-and-death forces, just your own life force).

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Soulfire
1st level
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: Self
Components: S
Duration: 1 minute

You burn a small flame within your arcane soul as fuel for this spell. The burnt energy manifests as a thin, prismatic mist boiling from your skin. For the duration, you gain access to 1 Sorcerer Metamagic that you did not previously know. On this round and at the beginning of your subsequent rounds, you permanently lose 1 point from your max hitpoint pool. You do not regain the lost hitpoints after the spell ends. You may end this spell at any time (no action required).

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 6th level or higher, you only lose 1 point from your max hitpoint pool when you cast this spell, but not on subsequent rounds.

I made this to alleviate the strain on Sorcerer Metamagic options. Theoretically, it also gives access to Metamagic as early as level 2 (instead of level 3). The max HP drain mechanic is in place for flavor reasons (you are draining your own life essence -- that stuff can't be healed!), as well as to deter abuse. Additionally, it sets up a spell-chain, as you will see below.

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Chained Magic
4th level
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: Self
Components: M (a runic tattoo on the back of your palm worth 1000gp of fine inks)
Duration: Instantaneous

You combust your arcane soul with very high efficiency. You may only cast this spell if you are under the effects of Soulfire; attempting to cast it otherwise wastes the spell slot and your action. For as long as you are under the effects of Soulfire, you may cast a level 1 spell or higher as an action even if you have already cast a spell as a bonus action. On this round and at the beginning of your subsequent rounds, you permanently lose 1 point from your max hitpoint pool. You do not regain the lost hitpoints after the spell ends. You may end this spell at any time (no action required).

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 8th level or higher, you only lose 1 point from your max hitpoint pool when you cast this spell, but not on subsequent rounds.

I made this spell in such a way that you cannot use any Metamagic on it (as such, the strange Components section lists only a material component). It's meant to make the Sorcerer who takes it into a powerful dual-caster.

This gives the Sorcerer the ability to nuke with two Fireballs in a single turn. But to get there, the max HP drain is a minimum of 5 (lose 1 on the first turn to cast Soulfire, then on the next turn lose 1 at the start of the turn from Soulfire, lose 1 from the casting of Chained Magic, and lose 2 at the start of the next turn due to Soulfire and Chained Magic being active).

The idea behind it is, you can do an extremely impressive nuke for two fire balls (at 3rd level each, that's 16d6 fire AoE, or 56 damage on average), but you come away paying a permanent price. It cannot be spammed because this spell will literally kill the caster, and so it must be used sparingly.

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Arcane Shell
6th level
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 ft
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous

You sunder a piece of your arcane soul and detonate it like a nuclear explosion, at the cost of your vitality. You may only cast this spell if you are under the effects of Chained Magic; attempting to cast it otherwise wastes the spell slot and your action. Choose any number of spells that you know or have prepared with a total spell level up to 6; cantrips count as spell level 1 for this purpose. You cast them all simultaneously. You permanently lose a number of points from your max hitpoint pool equal to the total spell levels you cast.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 9th level or higher, you only lose 1 point from your max hitpoint pool when you cast this spell.

This is a really crazy, really swingy idea. I consciously chose to make it a 1 action casting time, so it can be Quickened. In addition, it requires Chained Magic to be active, so the rule on you can only cast a cantrip as an action if you cast a spell as a bonus action is overwritten -- so you can do two Arcane Shells in a turn.

That said, due to the specific max HP drain mechanic, the minimum points you will lose to cast an Arcane Shell is 9 points (lose 1 on the first turn to cast Soulfire, then on the next turn lose 1 at the start of the turn from Soulfire, lose 1 from the casting of Chained Magic, and lose 6 from Arcane Shell, assuming you want to maximize the use of the spell).

At a d6 HD for the Sorcerer, and assuming a 14 CON, the average HP you get from leveling up is 6. The max you get is 8. So, the use of a single Arcane Shell means you are giving up your HP gains from an entire level -- that is really steep already, I think. But in exchange, you get to be a living nuke.

A recurring theme on all three spells above is the "At Higher Levels" part -- if you cast them at much higher levels than they normally are, they will siphon much less max HP. I think this is fair, especially since by the time you can cast higher level spells, these ones will have to compete with those other potent effects.

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That concludes it! Be nice to the new poster, please!

khadgar567
2017-01-28, 03:01 AM
okay this is bit iffy since you basicly play Russian roulette with your life every turn you keep this up and with no way to fix you cant even see the next level unless you put some spell or way to regain the lost soul points you are basicly casualty waiting to happen

LeonBH
2017-01-28, 03:12 AM
I know, I find the idea fun. :) Coupled with Wild Magic, it's insane!

It's meant to be available to a non low-level character. By the time you can cast 4th level spells, your average HP is 38 (assuming a 14 CON). There is a very small (almost no) wiggle room for sacrificing HP, but you can do it to turn around a bad situation.

Do you think the max HP damage should be recoverable, or that it should do normal damage to the caster instead?

khadgar567
2017-01-28, 03:20 AM
I know, I find the idea fun. :) Coupled with Wild Magic, it's insane!

It's meant to be available to a non low-level character. By the time you can cast 4th level spells, your average HP is 38 (assuming a 14 CON). There is a very small (almost no) wiggle room for sacrificing HP, but you can do it to turn around a bad situation.

Do you think the max HP damage should be recoverable, or that it should do normal damage to the caster instead?
not on expert on 5e but it feels wrong for me you have 2 or 3 encounters per day ( lets say 5 rounds each) it gets 10 to 15 hp shaved from your total and you currently dont have a way to get them back and this without counting any wild magic effect. you can survive survive 2 or maybe 3 days before even blind cat can kill you by bumping to you so we need some way to fix the lost soul stuff.

jinjitsu
2017-01-28, 05:05 AM
The whole "spell chain" concept seems a bit overcomplicated. I'd just make them additional effects of the same spell that you can activate on subsequent turns as long as the spell is active, like how you can automatically cause a lightning strike while call lightning is active. If you do change it to one spell, I'd definitely recommend that it be Concentration-based, and even if you don't I'd recommend that soulfire be modified to include it - there's too much power over time in these spells otherwise.

To get around the different power levels of the spells here, if you folded it into one, you could just put chained magic and arcane shell's effects into the "At Higher Levels" section and make it a bit more complex than the average spell's.

As for the hit point cost - clearly the real defining feature here - it's just too much. Sorcerers are already pretty low on HP: assuming a human dragon sorcerer (standard array, 2nd priority CON, no ASIs spent on it), you're only averaging 79 HP by level 11, when you can first cast arcane shell; since it takes at least 2 rounds to cast (to set up the other spells), casting it just once at full power permanently and irreversibly reduces your max HP by 9, or approximately 11%.

Considering the massive power spike the spells grant, it would of course be terribly imbalanced not to impose an additional penalty beyond the 3 main spell slots. But, even if these could be considered "balanced" with the current costs, I don't think anyone would ever use them, and I feel certain that no one would use them more than once unless they weren't at all concerned with keeping their character alive.

I'd change the permanent health loss to something along the lines of "only recovered on a long rest, not through magical healing or spending Hit Dice." That may make the spells a bit too powerful, but it'd at least let them be usable.

arrowed
2017-01-28, 05:49 AM
There are other effects in the game that reduce maximum hitpoints already, such as the vampire's bite, but such effects allow for recovery after a long rest or similar. Further, the 5th level spell Greater Restoration can undo reduction to maximum hitpoints. It is admittedly an expensive spell to cast and somewhat hard to attain, but it means the 'permanent' bit is not necessarily so.
As a side-note, is this inspired by the Dresden Files? From what I recall, in that series soulfire doesn't have permanent consequences for moderate usage, and it's stated that simple social activity can restore the soul.

LeonBH
2017-01-28, 09:22 AM
It's not inspired by the Dresden Files, though I didn't know they used "Soulfire" in that particular series. It's just a fitting name to the concept which I got from the Elder Scrolls wiki. :)

I'm afraid of removing the permanent HP loss mechanic completely because, as jinjutsu has said, these spells provide a massive power spike. Arcane Shell may drain 9 HP permanently from you at the first casting, but it allows you to cast Fireball twice in one action (56 AoE fire damage) or Chromatic Orb six times (83 single target damage). This is before Metamagic is applied, such as multiple uses of Empowered Spell and/or Twinned Spell.

Its synergy with Chained Magic is also frightening because, by choosing to sacrifice a further 14 HP and higher level spell slots, Arcane Shell can be cast twice in the caster's very next turn (if they had access to 7th and 8th level spells), which triples the damage output.

It's also entirely possible to get smart with this in creative ways I haven't thought of yet. Which, really, is the draw for me, because I love having the design space be so wide. For instance, casting Heightened Hold Person followed by four Empowered Green Flame Blades could be very bad for the target.

All that said, that's why I put in there the permanent max HP loss. Because the spell has massive potential, I made a strong deterrent to abusing it.

Still, I realize it won't be used a lot because of this, and so it's not quite a strong spell choice. Suggestions on how to reel it back a bit would be appreciated.

Would it help if the following was added to each spell? The idea being, it is still very much a slow slog to regain the HP, and so back to back encounters abusing this is still not a good idea. However, you can indeed get back up to your full HP with a long period of down time.


The lost hitpoints can be recovered by a Greater Restoration, Heal, or Wish spell. Additionally, if you spend one day doing nothing more than light activity, you regain 1 point for your hitpoint pool, to a maximum of your original max health.

As for merging them into one spell -- hmm, that would mean only 1 slot needs to be expended to gain all these benefits instead of 3 (a 1st, a 4th, a 6th). Won't that overpower the spell far too much?

Oh and, thanks for the replies! :)

SharkForce
2017-01-28, 11:33 AM
sorcerer is probably a little bit less powerful than most other full casters. but not grossly underpowered.

these spells all feel way too strong to me, personally. i would not allow them in a game that i was DMing. i'm not at all convinced that the problem with sorcerer is in the way they interact with the core rules of the game.

LeonBH
2017-01-28, 12:32 PM
I agree, Sorcerers are not that underpowered, especially when you get creative with Metamagic. These spells weren't really made to "fix" the class but instead to explore a concept or theme (in this case, what would happen if someone used their own life force as fuel for their magic?). It just so happens, I like to design things that break molds as well.

I appreciate the feedback nonetheless and perfectly understand why someone wouldn't want these spells in their game (as I said before, they are either grossly underpowered, or grossly overpowered, or both).

As I see it, the trade-off in max HP (assuming there was no way to recover them) makes it an interesting choice because every battle where these are used, you are bringing your character closer to death.

I'm surprised you think even the first spell, Soulfire, is too strong though. Personally I feel it's the weakest of them all, and if there was no strong follow-up spell like Chained Magic, it wouldn't be too useful by itself, especially considering the cost.

LeonBH
2017-01-29, 11:06 AM
Knowing how swingy the original 3 spells were, I took the feedback to merge them into one spell, and severely pulled back the power level of the spell. It now looks like a more conventional spell.

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Soulfire
4th level
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: Self
Components: M (a runic tattoo on the back of your palm worth 1000gp of fine inks)
Duration: 1 minute

You burn a small flame within your arcane soul as fuel for this spell. The burnt energy manifests as a thin, prismatic mist boiling from your skin. This round and at the beginning of your subsequent rounds, you take 1d4 necrotic damage. This damage ignores resistance and immunity. For the duration, you acquire the following benefits:

Chained Magic. You gain access to the Quickened Spell Metamagic. If you already know this option, you learn a different Sorcerer Metamagic of your choice.

Arcane Shell. As an action on each of your turns, you can sunder a piece of your arcane soul and detonate it in an area within 60ft of you at the cost of your vitality. Creatures within a 10ft radius of the point you chose must make a Dexterity saving throw or take 4d8 force damage. On a fail, they also fall prone. You suffer 1d8 necrotic damage that ignores resistance and immunity.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the damage dealt by Arcane Shell increases by 1d8 for each level above 4th.

There is no concentration requirement here because the spell deals damage to the caster at the moment of casting, and at the beginning of each round thereafter. This means, if it was a concentration spell, this will force concentration saves right away, and every round thereafter. For the same reason, trying to cast a concentration spell like Fly or Haste will be very difficult under this effect -- but it is not completely shut off.