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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Halfling in the Playground

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    Apr 2017

    Default Brainstorming a Melee Sorcerer Subclass

    I am drafting a melee sorcerer subclass, and am looking for some feedback on the core mechanics. I have a lot of ideas about the level 6, 14, and 18 features, but for now I just want to make sure I have a solid and workable set of 1st level features to build upon. I have officially spent way too much time thinking about this, so TL;DR is at the bottom.

    All of the casters, except for the sorcerer, have some sort of "martial" subclass that allows them to participate on the front lines. Bards have the Colleges of Swords and Valor; clerics have the War Domain (as well as Forge and Tempest, to a lesser extent); druids have the Circle of the Moon; and wizards have the Bladesinger. There is also the Hexblade, but I don't think that's the best comparison, as warlocks aren't technically full casters. I also want to avoid intruding on the territory of paladins and rangers. This should, at its core, feel like a sorcerer.

    To that end, I think we can draw inspiration from some of the other martial casters, specifically the Swords bard, the War cleric, and the Bladesinger. I chose these three because they are all clearly built to participate in melee, but they are all still "support" roles, meaning it is still their spells, not their attacks, that make them valuable. Weapon damage is a tool they can use to support the party, but those attacks generally won't overtake the DPR of martial classes. You don't play War cleric to be the party's damage-dealer, for example, but you can still dish out some hurt if the situation calls for it. Among these, I notice a few common elements:
    • Extra survivability, usually in the form of AC. This not only lets you live on the front lines but makes it easier to maintain concentration.
    • Additional weapon and armor proficiencies.
    • Extra Attack, though the War cleric takes a bonus action and has limited uses.
    • Weapon damage that scales well, but does not outshine their ability to cast spells, nor overtakes the martial classes.
    • Being up front does not compromise their ability to cast spells.

    With their d6 hit die, limited known spells, and powerful Metamagic, I would broadly categorize sorcerers as a "risk-reward" class that's usually played offensively. With that in mind, I think that a melee sorcerer shouldn't be damage-oriented (remember, weapon damage shouldn't intrude too much on the martial classes), but should still be focused on leveraging the party's offensive power. Also to preserve the classic fragility of sorcerers, I think that their survivability should come in the form of mitigating risk (e.g. improved AC or saving throws) rather than mitigating consequences (e.g. improved HP or damage reduction). They should still be using spells in combat for both offense and defense, but the subclass should provide enough baseline protection that it can be played without a hyper-specific spell list.

    I am tempted by the Hexblade approach, but I think that may be wrong. The other martial casters need to rely on either STR or DEX for their attack and damage rolls, and are thus all a bit MAD. Sorcerers probably should be too. Giving them a version of Hex Warrior would thus be a mistake, because the medium armor and shields would let them settle for lower DEX and CON, and be more SAD. I think the Bladesinger offers a good answer to this problem. Bladesong turns your casting stat, INT, into a defensive one. This enables you to follow ordinary stat progression, aiming for +5 INT by level 8. Assuming padded leather and +2 DEX, this makes for 19 AC with Bladesong. You will invest in DEX later to further upgrade your attacks and defense, but INT is the clear priority, as it is for all wizards.

    Let's take this approach to the sorcerer, but more focused on offense than defense. We don't want medium armor or shields because they compromise the MAD approach in the long run, and we don't want light armor because that leaves you too vulnerable at low levels if DEX isn't your primary stat. My solution is proficiency with light armor (so you can use magical armor if it comes up) and granting a permanent mage armor. Early on with just +2-3 DEX it's great protection (15-16 AC at low levels), and will improve with additional DEX later on. With that kind of base protection, we can focus on CHA as our primary stat early on, and then be rewarded for investing in DEX at higher levels as things become more dangerous. Furthermore, sorcerers can invest in powerful spells like shield and absorb elements to augment their protection. With defense taken care of, it's time to look at offense.

    Using DEX for attacks makes sense for the Swords bard and Bladesinger. They are supposed to be swift, agile, and acrobatic. War clerics embody powerful war deities with their heavy armor and raw might, so STR makes sense for them. If we're not using heavy armor, then DEX is our defense stat and that means the natural approach is to push our sorcerer to using finesse weapons. But here, I think there's an opportunity to build a more "sorcerous" identity. Sorcerers are powerful because of their innate magic, and that should extend to how they wield weapons. This is where I think the Hexblade approach will be helpful, because it emphasizes that it is our magic (our casting stat) that fuels our combat prowess, not our physical training. So for weapons, we copy the Hexblade and give proficiency in simple and martial weapons, allow the sorcerer to wield one weapon using CHA for attack/damage rolls, and disallow two-handers. This gives us a diversity of weapons (rather than making the rapier optimal), but keeps those powerful heavy weapons in the hands of martial classes. It also reinforces, similar to the Bladesinger, that we should be prioritizing CHA in the early game.

    I would add one final caveat: no heavy armor, i.e. no using the CHA weapon feature if you're wearing heavy armor. This is to prevent paladins from multiclassing like they do with the Hexblade. You need 13 STR and CHA to multiclass out of paladin, and at that point you're not playing a DEX paladin. Thus, the restriction would effectively kill this subclass as a viable path for the sorcadin, which is already incredibly strong.

    TL;DR The core, 1st-level feature of a "martial" sorcerer should probably have the following: Proficiency with light armor, simple weapons, and martial weapons; permanent mage armor (or at least free, at will mage armor); and can use CHA for the attack & damage rolls of one weapon that isn't two-handed. Thoughts?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
    ZenBear's Avatar

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    Jan 2014

    Default Re: Brainstorming a Melee Sorcerer Subclass

    This seems like a fun idea. Hereís my two cents.

    I remember someone came up with a pretty awesome Warlock Patron out of the Tarrasque, and perhaps that can be our bloodline for this. Maybe you were experimented on to try to emulate the aspect of the Tarrasque, or perhaps someone managed to Polymorph one into a hot dude and get preggers, whatever I donít kink shame. The point is, you have the indomitable might and endurance of the Tarrasque.

    One of the most frustrating things about 5e is that you absolutely must have heavy armor proficiency in order to be a high STR low DEX character. I would like to find a way to make that stat distribution viable here, since the big T-Dog is a brute not a ballerina.

    I like the permanent Mage Armor idea, and perhaps you get to use STR or CHA instead of DEX with it. Or maybe your skin hardens into carapace offering Tortle-like AC.

    I would have said you should definitely get regeneration at some point, perhaps even just copy/paste Survivor from the Champion Fighter, but the 5e version of totally-not-Godzilla disappointingly doesnít have that so perhaps instead we lean into the magic resistance angle. We could grant CHA bonus to saves against spells (similar to Paladin Aura, but just for you) and maybe Reflective Carapace as the capstone.

    Primal Savagery seems like the obvious cantrip of choice, meaning your attacks are CHA based for SAD/20 CHA by 8.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
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    Aug 2019

    Default Re: Brainstorming a Melee Sorcerer Subclass

    Another approach for the armor thing is an Unarmored Defense of 10 + Dex + Cha, which could be flavored as your raw magic spilling out sort of like wild magic.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Bugbear in the Playground
    gr8artist's Avatar

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    Sep 2012

    Default Re: Brainstorming a Melee Sorcerer Subclass

    I think you're definitely on the right track by comparing what you need to what similar subclasses grant, but ultimately your Sorcerer bloodline will have to compare to other Sorcerer bloodlines, first and foremost.
    Also, I think Lil Mordecai had an excellent idea for UA Defense (10+Dex+Cha) rather than a permanent Mage Armor (or making it a bonus spell known, as I would have suggested).

    The draconic bloodline gives: Draconic Language, 2x Prof in social interactions with dragons, UA Defense (13+Dex), and +1 HP per HD, all at first level.

    I'd suggest giving your archetype (A) proficiency with light armor, shields, or simple weapons, (B) unarmored defense (10 + Dex + Cha), and (C) the ability to use a weapon or shield as a spellcasting focus.

    At level 6, rather than the standard extra attack trait, perhaps consider the ability to cast a cantrip and make a melee attack in the same turn (I forget who can do that, bard or warlock probably) or casting a cantrip onto a weapon to add its damage to the next attack. Perhaps when doing so, you can add your Charisma to the attack & damage roll as well, though you'd want to limit the uses.
    My Homebrew and Extended Signature
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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Dwarf in the Playground

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    Oct 2017

    Default Re: Brainstorming a Melee Sorcerer Subclass

    Left field: you get a Mage Hand that can Attack if itís got a weapon. It adds Proficiency to AC as a reaction (worse than shield at low level, better at high unless you want the boost for the full turn. You can spend a Sorc Point for an additional parry with it).

    2 attacks at 6 and You can have it Attack as a bonus action when you cast leveled spells.

    14 Animate Objects and Bigbyís Hand added to Spells Known, Objects deal magic damage.


  6. - Top - End - #6
    Troll in the Playground
    MReav's Avatar

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    Apr 2005

    Default Re: Brainstorming a Melee Sorcerer Subclass

    I thought Stone Sorcery was the Melee class of the Sorcerer (proficiency in melee weapons, shields, boosted HP, AC 13+Dex, several spells that boost melee damage that are normally reserved for other classes, class ability that teleports you next to an attacked ally to whack the offender)
    Last edited by MReav; 2019-08-05 at 12:27 AM.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Maat Mons's Avatar

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    May 2018

    Default Re: Brainstorming a Melee Sorcerer Subclass

    So, what you've got now looks like this for stat dependance:
    Dexterity: armor class
    Constitution: hit points
    Charisma: weapon attack, weapon damage, spellcasting

    I don't suppose I could interest you in changing that to:
    Dexterity: armor class, weapon attack, weapon damage
    Charisma: hit points, spellcasting

    You'd have a class feature named "unnatural vigor," "eldritch toughness," "arcane body," or whatever. It would allow you to use Charisma instead of Constitution to determine HP for Sorcerer levels, but not for levels in any other classes you might also have, or later take

    If this is your Charisma-synergy ability, you don't have to worry about anyone dipping a single Sorcerer level.

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