Wednesday, May 4, 2016

ACKS: Sorcery

"What good is power if you're too wise to use it?"

Standing opposite the cautious and learned wizard is the carefree and callous sorcerer.  Having abandoned the long, hard road of study in favor of deals with supernatural entities, the sorcerer wields elemental power with broad strokes and substantial collateral damage.  If the wizard's cue music is some chick singing in elvish, the sorcerer's is probably heavy metal (unless you're Christopher Lee, in which case your wizard may be more metal than your sorcerer.  RIP).

This is the mage most of my players have always wanted, and have done their best to shoehorn the mage class into.

His creature type may be "Wizard", but his spiked helmet, goatee, popped collar, direct-damage activated ability, and glowing eyes beg to differ.

Sorcery is another custom magic type.  It is identical to Arcane, except that it is totally incompetent at healing and illusion (2.25 multiplier), slightly worse at enchantment (1.5 instead of 1.4), and uses the Improved spellcasting table.  As a result, its total source factor is 14.6, and its XP cost is 1225.  Sorcery is also Prayerful - no repertoire management here, just a pile of spells.  This means that Divine Power and Blood Sacrifice are options for sorcerers, as is right and proper.  On the down side, because our XP cost is so high (compared to Cleric), we really don't get many spells known per level (only, uh...  5, actually).  And we thought Apostasy was good before...

Again we run into the trouble that ACKS suggests dual-prime-req Int and Wis for sorcerers, but I'm inclined to just use Wis (ability to propitiate spirits) as the prime req.  Wis is also particularly prudent for sorcerers because it boosts their saves against their own spells when things go just as the DM planned horribly, horribly wrong.   

This is your face on sorcery.

Sorcerers save and gain class profs as Clerics and can use Mage items, which is fine.

So, without further ado,

Prime Req: Wis (and possibly Int)
Requirements: None
HD: 1d4
Max level: 14

Sorcerers are spellcasters who channel powers inimical to man to cause mayhem and destruction, typically for personal gain.  Their magic is raw, direct, and barely-controlled.

Sorcerers have some experience in combat, typically barfights and angry peasants with pitchforks and torches.  They may fight with swords, daggers, spears, and polearms, and may wear leather armor (black and studded recommended).  They are not trained in the use of shields or fighting with a weapon in each hand, but may fight with a one-handed weapon in both hands for d8 damage.  They advance in attack throws at a rate of 2 points per four levels, and may cleave once per round per two levels of experience.  They save as Clerics of their level, and gain class proficiencies every fourth level, but use magic items usable by Mages.

Sorcerers live on a hair trigger, always ready to unleash their Battle Magic.  This tends to make them somewhat Intimidating.

A sorcerer may, when the opportunity arises, replace his shifting network of allegiances to various Outer Powers with allegiance to a single Patron.  Said patron should have a name, a portfolio, rivals, and an agenda in the world of men.  A sorcerer who takes a patron may gain up to four class proficiencies from his patron's favor, but at a price.  There are two sorts of prices that can be paid.  The first is in oaths, which may be sworn with an appropriate trance and invocation of the patron taking at least an hour (ie, not in combat, but possibly while imprisoned; such an invocation may be used for bargaining with the patron more generally).  For one proficiency, the sorcerer swears to obey a relatively loose code of behavior, requiring such things as minor dietary restrictions (burnt meat every Friday for a volcanic patron, for example), obligatory participation in rituals on high-power nights such as the solstices and Samhain, a permanent mark visible only to magic somewhere on the body, and a few minor taboos appropriate to the patron.  A second proficiency can be earned by adopting a more stringent code of behavior, requiring for example a small burnt offering every night, stricter dietary requirements (all meat must be burnt), a permanent visible mark somewhere on the body, and some genuinely inconvenient taboos (may never let an insult go unavenged with violence, perhaps).  A third and final proficiency may be earned by adopting an extreme code of behavior; this is where you start to get face-tattooed maniacs who subsist on burnt meat alone.  Should an oathbound sorcerer break his oaths, he loses access to the proficiencies earned in this way and cannot gain experience points until he atones, though he retains the use of his magic.

The softer, dare I say easier, path to an extra proficiency via a patron involves incurring "future obligations" in the afterlife.  In exchange for a class proficiency, the sorcerer acquires a shadowed soul, and thereafter suffers a -1 penalty per level of experience on Tampering with Mortality rolls.  Many patrons enjoy deals and wagers, and a clever sorcerer may use this to his advantage in returning from the dead.  Should such an obligated sorcerer seek to permanently cheat death, however, as with lichdom, the patron may at some point send agents to collect on his debt.

Common proficiency choices from patronage include Apostasy, Familiar, Soothsaying, Elementalism, and Black Lore.  A sorcerer with a patron also gains the ability (and perhaps requirement) to gather Divine Power for that patron.

(Man I'm now I'm pumped to do a series of Sorcerous Patrons posts)

Sorcerers cast spells from a very limited repertoire, but get more of them per day than most spellcasters.

1st: Magic Missile, Burning Hands, Choking Grip, Summon Berserkers, Wall of Smoke
2nd: Stinking Cloud, Ogre Power, Deathless Minion, Web, Summon "Hero"
3rd: Fireball, Fly, Haste, Dismember, Summon Remorhaz
4th: Wall of Fire, Giant Strength, Fear, Dimension Door, Conjure Ooze
5th: Cloudkill, Cone of Cold, Conjure Elemental, Contact Other Plane, Teleport
6th: Death Spell, Disintegrate, Invisible Stalker, Summon Djinni, Trollblood

Sorcerer spells per day:

Level 1 2 3 4 5 6
1 2

2 3

3 3 1

4 3 2

5 3 2 1

6 3 3 2

7 4 3 2 1

8 4 3 3 2

9 4 4 3 2 1
10 4 4 3 3 2
11 5 4 4 3 2 1
12 5 4 4 3 3 2
13 5 5 4 4 3 2
14 6 5 4 4 3 3

At 5th level, sorcerers gain the ability to brew potions, scribe scrolls, and research spells to replace those in the standard sorcerer repertoire.  At 9th level they may create permanent magic items, and at 11th may begin to create ritual spells, hybrids, undead (if chaotic), and constructs.

Sorcerers who survive to 9th level may establish a cabal of fanatical cultists if they so desire.  It's not really clear how domains work for custom spellcaster types, but sorcerers are vaguely clerical and fanatical cultists are a good time.

All this and eternal damnation, for the low, low price of...  1725 XP to 2nd level (1225 for 3 points of Sorcery, 500 for 1 point of Fighting with a couple of tradeoffs)?  What the hell, that seems really, really low.  On the other hand... black magic *should* be easy, until your invisible stalker gets loose, your fireball expands to volume in a closed area, or your teleport goes awry, and suddenly you arrive at the gates and discover that they're not particularly pearly.  This is actually exactly what I was talking about with Mage vs Warlock - Warlock does level faster and get some spell-like abilities, but their spellcasting is crippled compared to Mage.  Sorcerer, in comparison to Wizard, levels faster, gets more spells per day, gets the spells for kicking in the door and killing everything that moves on the other side, and can't do anything else for crap.  And with their inferior HD and dangerous spells known, I'd argue that their life expectancy is probably shorter than the wizard's, on average.  Life fast, die young, take the rest of the party with you on your way out.

  Class proficiencies (28):
  1. Alchemy
  2. Alertness
  3. Apostasy
  4. Black Lore of Zahar
  5. Contemplation
  6. Divine Blessing
  7. Divine Health
  8. Disguise
  9. Elementalism
  10. Endurance
  11. Familiar
  12. Gambling
  13. Illusion Resistance
  14. Knowledge
  15. Leadership
  16. Loremastery
  17. Magical Engineering
  18. Martial Training
  19. Mystic Aura
  20. Prestidigitation
  21. Running
  22. Soothsaying
  23. Seduction
  24. Sensing Power
  25. Survival
  26. Theology
  27. Transmogrification
  28. Unflappable Casting
Bonus feature:

If you break sorcery and wizardy apart, suddenly you have a great way to differentiate the Zaharans and the Elves mechanically.  Zaharans get racial Sorcery points, and Elves get racial Wizardry points; never saw Galadriel or Elrond slinging fireballs.  Ruinguard 2.0 will melt your face clean off, Arc of the Covenant-style.

Heck, you know who else makes sense for Wizardry?  Bards, if you like your bards spellcasty!  Fighting 1 / HD 1 / Thief 1 / Wizardry 1 or someaught like that.


  1. Awesome stuff! I would love to see it if the Patron effected the spells you got.

    Oh, and Galadrial did tear down the Necromancer's tower with her magic so elves aren't entirely without punch. ;)

  2. It turns out writing good patrons is hard :\ May get back to it at some point.

    Fair, but that could've been telekinesis, which may not be blast? My knowledge of the Tolkein corpus is not strong.

  3. I was checking out their proficiencies and I noticed that Elementalism was missing. It seems like a no-brainer for them to have. Any reason you left it out?

  4. Mm, no, it definitely should be on the list, because Patron mentions it as a valid class proficiency to choose. Perhaps that was what I intended instead of Elven Bloodline, which doesn't really fit the Sorcerer's live-fast-die-young theme.