Monday, April 09, 2012

Building a sorcerer the right way

I would have to say, my favourite class in Pathfinder is the Sorcerer. For the benefit of the uninitiated, sorcerers differ from wizards in that they derive their spellcasting abilities from a bloodline they inherited from a magical ancestor such as a demon or dragon, rather than through scholarly pursuits. In game terms, this difference means they can cast more spells per day, but are more limited in the number of spells they know. They also receive certain magical abilities such as energy resistances or claw and bite attacks, but are hampered somewhat in their use of meta-magic feats (i.e. special abilities that allow spellcasters to alter certain aspects of spells such as duration, range, damage, etc.)

I play sorcerers a lot. In fact, I'd guess that roughly half the characters I've played, including my current character, have been sorcerers. One constant that applies to all the sorcerers I've built is that they have all been underpowered. The sorcerer class offers more options for character design than just about any other class and most of those options are bad from the perspective of optimization. Why? Because most of the bloodline powers encourage you to create a character that resembles a spellcasting rogue or melee fighter. Let me tell you, if you want to be a fighter in Pathfinder, be a fighter (or a paladin, maybe). Anything else is the very definition of suck in this game. Sure, it sounds cool to create a character who can launch a fireball, then charge in and lay a beatdown. Unfortunately, Pathfinder doesn't reward versatility. While the sorcerer is buffing himself, the fighter and the wizard have already killed every living thing within a half mile radius. High-level Pathfinder combat is a lot like the last two minutes of a football game. It seems to take forever, but in game time, it's only a couple of rounds at most. So to be effective, a character has to be able to contribute something substantial immediately and most sorcerer builds can't do that.

Notice, I said most. If you can pry yourself away from all the superficial coolness of the Abyssal or Draconic bloodlines and play to the strengths of the class, it is possible to be effective. First and foremost, the sorcerer is an arcane spellcaster and not surprisingly, the best bloodline for optimizing that role is Arcane. The bonus spells are all excellent, there's a nice selection of bonus feats and the Metamagic Adept bloodline power is quite handy when you really want to maximise that fireball and still run behind cover.

Sadly, I think I will always be attracted to the idea of a sorcerer who sprouts poison fangs and jumps into combat only to get promptly mauled because he has half the hp and AC of a real fighter. Like the scorpion who stings the toad, it's in my nature.



Martin R. Thomas said...

Yeah, when I looked at the sorcerer bloodine powers I was struck by how many of them involved giving poor melee attacks as level-based powers which just makes no sense at all.

Like you, I like the idea of sorcerers, but I've mainly just concentrated on using the Arcane and Destined bloodlines. ( plus they fit better into my campaign world). There's also a Shadow bloodline in an issue of Kobold Quarterly that I remember looked semi interesting, but I don't remember anything about it now.

Rognar said...

I envy your discipline.

The shadow bloodline was included in the Advanced Player's Guide and it is actually quite solid, especially if you have a party that makes good use of stealth.

Obiri said...

I LOL'd when I saw this post.

I still think the best strategy is to go wildblooded and take the Sage bloodline. Be a human and take the bonus spell known for the favored class. You now know more spells than the wizard, can cast more spells than the wizard, have as many skills as the wizard, and get new spell levels only one level later than the wizard. best of you can cast any spell you know anytime assuming you have a slot left. That's way better than the wizard!

Rognar said...

The favoured class bonus for human sorcerers is pretty cool, although strictly speaking, there is no limit to the number of spells a wizard can know. They only get two freebies per level, but they can buy scrolls or acquire spellbooks and learn as many spells as they want.

As for the Sage bloodline, it certainly is the way to go if you want to optimize, but it feels a bit like cheating to me.

Obiri said...

If you are so enamoured with the idea of a "Gish" why not go with the Eldritch knight or Magus? The EK sucks until character level 10 or so but I think the Magus is pretty decent throughout especially if you go with the rather martial oriented Myrmidarch archetype. Some of the Bard archetype make pretty decent Gish as well.

Rognar said...

I'm probably going to try a Magus next time

Nick Julius said...

It is sadly min/maxed and ridiculous but if you combine Draconic Sorceror with Eldritch Heritage(Orc)featline (Perhaps you are an Half Orc Aasimar)then take a about 8 Levels of Dragon Disciple and topped up with one fighter level and rest EK by level 20 I reckon you could outfight the fighter. You have massive AC, massive strength, loads of free feats... Some of those critical feats let you cast a spell as a swift action when you critical and you have your keen scimitar so you critical alot...or maybe you have an amulet of mighty fists and take your dragon form and do loads of attacks...

That would be pretty sweet.