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DnD 5e - The Sorcerer Handbook

Last Updated: March 17th, 2020

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

Introduction

Sorcerers are a challenge. They lack the versatility of a Wizard, but share many of the same capabilities, and almost all of the same spells. Where the Wizard is powerful because they own a tool for every problem, the Sorcerer is powerful because they own a few good tools and can use them to fix any problem. Sorcerers also make one of the best Faces in the game due to their skill list and dependence on Charisma. The Sorcerer's spell list allows them to serve as a Blaster, Controller, Striker, and Utility Caster.

The Sorcerer falls into a middle ground between the wizard and the warlock. The Sorcerer gets more spell slots than the Warlock, but knows far fewer spells than the Wizard. The Sorcerer's versatility comes from their ability to boost their spells using Metamagic. If you're accustomed to playing a wizard, expect to cast a lot of low-level spells using higher-level spell slots to get as much utility as you can out of your limited number of spells known.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read my Sorcerer Subclasses Breakdown and my Sorcerer Spells Breakdown.

Sorcerer Class Features

Hit Points: d6 hit points is the lowest in the game, so be sure to take enough Constitution to compensate.

Saves: Constitution and Charisma are two excellent saves, since things which effect either of them frequently incapacitate you in some fashion, and since Constitution saves are used for Concentration.

Proficiencies: No armor or shields, and only the most basic weapons, but the Sorcerer skill list contains all of the Face skills, including Insight.

Spellcasting: The Sorcerer casts spells the same way a Bard does: You get a set number of spells known, and can cast any spell from that list so long as you have the slots to do so. This means that Sorcerers always have fewer options available to them than a Wizard who can change their spell list daily, but Sorcerers make up for this lack of versatility by being able to augment their spells with Metamagic. The Sorcerer spell list is a subset of the Wizard's spell list (with a handful of additions like Dominate Beast and Earthquake), but you still have plenty of options to choose from. It's also interesting to note that the Sorcerer gets more cantrips than any other spellcaster, but they get fewer spells known than the Bard. Expect to cast low-levels spells at higher-level spell slots frequently, and use metamagic to customize your spells. Most importantly, expect to retrain lower-level spells whenever you learn a redundant option.

Sorcerous Origin: Sorcerer subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Sorcerer Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.

  • Divine Soul: Descended from a divine bloodline, add the ablity to learn and cast cleric spells in addition to sorcerer spells.
  • Draconic Bloodline: Gain additional power from your draconic ancestry, growing scales which work like armor, and dealing additional damage with spells of the damage type determined by your ancestry.
  • Shadow Magic: Masters of magical darkness, gain the ability to see in darkness and summon a powerful shadow hound to weaken and attack your foes.
  • Storm Sorcery: Adept at flight and casting spells in close quarters, storm sorcerers dart in and out of close range to deal burts of sonic and lightning damage before flying back out of reach and retreating.
  • Wild Magic: Exciting but unpredictable, wild magic sorcerers can manipulate luck to grant themselves Advantage on some rolls and to apply a small bonus or penalty to others, but casting spells may trigger rolls on the Wild Magic Table, producing unpredictable but exciting magical effects.

Font of Magic: Font of Magic is a definitive feature of the Sorcerer, especially Sorcery Points.

  • Sorcery Points: Sorcery points fuel the Sorcerer's abilities and allow the class to do much more than just casting spells. You have a limited pool per day, but you have the option of consuming spell slots to get additional Sorcery Points.
  • Flexible Casting: Using Sorcery Points to get additional spell slots is very expensive, so only do it when you absolutely need to do so. Converting spell slots to Sorcery Points is a bit less daunting once you have a large pool of spell slots, but be sure not to do it too much or you will quickly run out of daily resources.

Metamagic: Metamagic allows you to stretch the effects of your limited number of spells known, allowing you to easily capitalize on existing spells instead of constantly needing to find and learn new ones.

  • Careful Spell: Usually you can avoid hitting your allies by positioning the spell carefully, but sometimes you need to drop a fireball on the party.
  • Distant Spell: Spells generally have enough range to get the job done in situations where they make sense to use. It would be nice if you could use this with cones, but cones have range of "Self" and an area of effect, so they don't qualify. It does notably apply to spells like Thunderclap and Word of Radiance, but situations where you want to spend a Sorcery Point on a Cantrip are exceptionally rare.
  • Empowered Spell: If you reroll 1's you might get a few extra points of damage. The effectiveness grows as you add more dice, but it will never do a ton of extra damage. With a cap of 5 dice (because ability scores cap at 20), it will be less useful for higher-level spells.
  • Extended Spell: Many fantastic buffs have short durations, and extending them can save you the trouble of casting the same spell twice.
  • Heightened Spell: Use this on every save-or-suck spell you cast. Note that some of them, like Hold Person, allow repeated saves so the effect is considerably diminished.
  • Quickened Spell: Cast a regular spell and a Cantrip in one turn. This is one of very few abilities which allows you to break the action economy, and it's absolutely worth the cost.
  • Subtle Spell: Situational.
  • Twinned Spell: A lot of fantastic spells like Haste and Polymorph target single creatures and require Concentration. This allows you to affect two creatures at the same time. However, the Sorcery Point cost scales with spell level, making it the most expensive metamagic option.

Sorcerous Restoration: Four free Sorcery Points gives you a lot of options.

Abilities

Sorcerers are all about Charisma, and you can forego everything else.

Str: Dump.

Dex: Take a bit for AC.

Con: Take some to compensate for your d6 hit points.

Int: A bit for knowledge skills might be nice.

Wis: Wisdom saves are common, and Insight is helpful for a Face.

Cha: Commands almost everything you do..

Point Buy Standard Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 15
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 15

Races

Charisma bonuses are absolutely essential. Since you don't need ability score increases for other abilities, a +1 bonus can be just as good as a +2, which opens up options beyond the Half-Elf.

AarakocraEEPC: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

AasimarVGTM: +2 Charisma is obviously fantastic for sorcerers. Healing hands provides a healing mechanic very rarely available to arcane spellcastins, and you get resistance to both necrotic and radiant damage, neither of which can be gained from spells like Resist Energy.

  • Fallen: Necrotic Shroud's damage boost is nice, but the Strength bonus is totally wasted on the Sorcerer.
  • Protector: You can get flight from other sources, and Wisdom doesn't help sorcerers much.
  • Scourge: A Constitution increase, and Radiant Consumption is a great way to repel groups of enemies who get too close.

BugbearVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

DragonbornPHB: The Strength bonus is wasted, but the Charisma bonus is great, and you get permanent resistance to an energy type and a breath weapon.

Dwarf: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

  • DuergarSCAG: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • HillPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer
  • MountainPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer

ElfPHB: Dexterity and free Perception are nice, and you have a few options for Charisma increases.

  • DrowPHB: Bonus Charisma and some free spells, but Sunlight Sensitivity can be a pain.
  • EladrinMToF: Bonus Charisma and free teleportation.
  • High Elf: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • Sea ElfMToF: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

FirbolgVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

GenasiEEPC: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

  • Air: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • Earth: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • Fire: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • Water: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

Gith: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

  • GithyankiMToF: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • GithzeraiMToF: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

Gnome: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • ForestPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • RockPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

GoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

GoliathEEPC: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

Half-Elf: The biggest charisma bonus, plus some free skills.

  • AquaticSCAG: Only if you're in an aquatic campaign.
  • DrowSCAG: A few extra spells never hurt, but you have access to similar options already.
  • High/Moon/SunSCAG: An extra Cantrip is always welcome.
  • Keen SensesSCAG: The sidebar describing half-elf variants specifices that you can take Keen Senses in place of Skill Versatility, or a trait based on your elf parentage. Keen Senses give you a single fixed skill, and you're giving up proficiency in any two skills. It should be immediately apparent that this is a terrible trade.
  • WoodSCAG: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • VanillaPHB: Two skills are great if you plan to be the party's Face.

Half-OrcPHB: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

HalflingPHB: A bit of Dexterity is nice, but Lucky is largely wasted on spellcasters since most of your spells require other people to roll saves instead of requiring you to attack.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Nothing useful for sorcerers.
  • LightfootPHB: Bonus Charisma, and naturally stealthy.
  • StoutPHB: Nothing useful for sorcerers.

HobgoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

  • Vanilla: Sorcerers really only need Charisma, so most of the bonuses are outright wasted.
  • Variant: You still get a crucial bonus to your Charisma, and you can get Elemental Adept at first level.

KenkuVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

KoboldVGTM: With a familiar (or a conveniently-place ally), Pack Tactics can give you easy Advantage. While the Kobold doesn't get a Charisma increase, Advantage on spell attacks can easily make up the difference. Avoid offensive spells which rely on saving throws, and you should do fine.

LizardfolkVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

LocathahLR: No Charisma increase.

OrcVGTM: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

TabaxiVGTM: A small Charisma bump, and increased Dexterity provides a helpful boost your AC.

Tiefling: Bonus Charisma, fire resistance, and some free spells. With the addition of variants and subraces, you have a ton of room to customize your sorcerer.

  • AsmodeusMToF: A perfectly fine option, but the Intelligence is wasted and you can find better spells from Devil's Tongue.
  • BaalzebulMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, but access to Thaumaturgy could be nice.
  • DispaterMToF: Dexterity means better AC, and the spells are great if you want to be sneaky or tricky.
  • FiernaMToF: The Wisdom is largely wasted, but the spells are great for a Face.
  • GlasyaMToF: Dexterity means better AC, and the spells are great if you want to be sneaky or tricky.
  • LevistusMToF: Constitution means more hit points, and the spells offer a nice mix of defensive, offensive, and utility options.
  • MammonMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, and the leveled spells are highly situational.
  • MephistophelesMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, and sorcerers should rarely be in melee combat enough to use Flame Blade.
  • ZarielMToF: Way too melee-centric.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Bad ability spread.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: The replacement spells are absolutely better than the normal Tiefling spells.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Burning Hands is probably worse than Hellish Rebuke for most Sorcerers.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight is a massive advantage, especially without requiring Concentration.

TortleTP: 17 natural armor is nice, but that's really all that you get. Sorcerers don't cater well to melee combat.

TritonVGTM: Constitution and Charisma re both great on a sorcerer, but the innate spellcasting complements your class spellcasting very well.

VerdanAcInc: Constitution and Charisma is a perfect combination for a Charisma-based spellcaster, and getting Persuasion for free is great. You'll almost certainly be your party's Face, and the Verdan's Telepathic Insight can go a long way to address language barriers despite its limited capability.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: An excellent Charisma increase, and the comibation of Magic Resistance and Poison Immunity make you very durable.

Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.

Races of Eberron

BugbearERLW: See above.

ChangelingERLW: The Changeling's flexible ability increase can stack with their fixed +2 to Charisma, allowing the Changeling to start with 18 Charisma (the only race capable of doing so). This deviates from core race design concepts consistent across other races, but the difference appears to be intentional. Charisma is the only thing that the Sorcerer absolutely needs, and starting with a Charisma modifier +1 higher than anyone else in the game is a big advantage. Hit 20 Charisma at 4th level, then you've got the rest of your character's career to explore feats or increase other abilities. Shapechanger is like a superpowered version of Disguise Self, so for a tricky sorcerer in a highly-social campaign it can be very useful.

GoblinERLW: See above.

HobgoblinERLW: See above.

OrcERLW: Bad ability spread.

KalashtarERLW: A Charisma increase, and you'll be really good at Wisdom saving throws despite not being proficient. The Kalashtar doesn't support any specific part of being a sorcerer, but it's a fine starting point for a sorcerer of any kind.

ShifterERLW: None of the Shifter's subraces offer a Charisma increase.

  • Beasthide: Bad ability spread.
  • Longtooth: Bad ability spread.
  • Swiftstride: Bad ability spread.
  • Wildhunt: Bad ability spread.

WarforgedERLW: Considering the fact that warforged are crafted rather than born, the idea that they can be a sorcerer with a bloodline defies logic. But mechanically, it works fine. The flexible ability increase goes into Charisma, and the Warforged's other traits will make you more durable than a typical sorcerer before considering spells. A warforged with Mage Armor would have an AC of 14+Dex totally unequipped, allowing you to meet the AC of characters in light armor and a shield.

Dragonmarks

While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you're not playing a spellcaster you're giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can't cast spells.

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

  • Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.

Dragonmarked ElfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

  • Mark of Shadow: The ability increases work, and the innate spellcasting is nice, but nearly all of the dragonmark spells are already on the spell list. Still, for a sorcerer in a stealthy party this makes a lot of sense thematically and offers some helpful options to stretch your spellcasting a bit further.

Dragonmarked GnomeERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

  • Mark of Scribing: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.

Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

  • Mark of Detection: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.
  • Mark of Storm: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.

Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW: Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

  • Mark of Finding: Bad ability spread.

Dragonmarked HalflingERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

  • Mark of Healing: Bad ability spread.
  • Mark of Hospitality: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.

Dragonmarked HumanERLW: Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: The ability score increases work, and many of the dragonmark spells are new to the Sorcerer's spell list, but unless your DM is going to let you tame creatures beyond your class features this isn't especially useful.
  • Mark of Making: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.
  • Mark of Passage: The ability increases work, but most of the dragonmark spells are already on the Sorcerer's spell list.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Bad ability spread.

Races of Ravnica

CentaurGGTR: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

GoblinGGTR: See above.

LoxodonGGTR: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

MinotaurGGTR: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.

Simic HybridGGTR: The flexible ability increase can go into Charisma, and Animal Enhancement can help fill some functions which would normally require magic, thereby opening up space for you to learn other spells.

VedalkenGGTR: Bad ability spread.

Races of Theros

CentaurMOoT: See above.

HumanMOoT: See above.

LeoninMOoT: Bad ability spread.

MinotaurMOoT: See above.

SatyrMOoT: Dexterity for you AC, Charisma for your spells, Magic Resistance to keep you alive, and two free skills to help you serve as your party's Face.

TritonMOoT: See above.

Races of Wildemount

AarakocraEGtW: See above.

AasimarEGtW: See above.

BugbearEGtW: See above.

Dragonborn: Wildemount presents two new Dragonborn variants, each replacing the standard Dragonborn's ability score increases and damage resistance.

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Roughly equivalent to the standard Dragonborn, but if you're playing your party's Face you might enjoy Forceful Presence.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • StandardPHB: See above.

ElfEGtW: Wildemount elves share the core traits of core elves, but Wildemount adds two new elf subraces. See above for information on core elf traits.

  • Pallid Elf: No Charisma increase.
  • Sea Elf: See above.

FirbolgsEGtW: See above.

GenasiEGtW: See above.

GoblinEGtW: See above.

HalflingEGtW: Wildemount halflings share the core traits of core halflings, but Wildemount adds a new halflings subrace. See above for information on core halflings traits.

  • Lotusden: No Charisma increase.

HobgoblinEGtW: See above.

GoliathEGtW: See above.

KenkuEGtW: See above.

OrcEGtW: See above, under "Races of Eberron". Wildemount uses the updated Orc racial traits rather than the original traits published in Volo's Guide to Monsters.

TabaxiEGtW: See above.

TortleEGtW: See above.

Skills

  • Arcana (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills, but you may not have enough Intelligence to back it up.
  • Deception (Cha): Important for a Face.
  • Insight (Wis): Helpful for a Face, but you may not have enough Wisdom to back it up.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Important for a Face.
  • Persuasion (Cha): The king of Face skills.
  • Religion (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills, but you may not have enough Intelligence to back it up.

Background

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

You only get two skills from your class and Sorcerers are built to make excellent Faces, so look to pick up more Face skills from your background. If you're a Half-Elf or Variant Human, you can pick up your missing Face skills from your racial bonus proficiencies, which opens up a lot of other options. Bonus languages are also helpful; if you can get enough of them you may not need to learn Tongues.

If you're having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • AcolytePHB: Insight and two languages.
  • City WatchSCAG: Surprisingly good, though you probably won't get much use out of Athletics.
  • CourtierSCAG: You probably don't have the Wisdom to back up Insight, but it's still great on a Face, and you get a Face skill and two languages.
  • Faction AgentSCAG: Insight and your choice of a bunch of skills including the Face skills you need, plus two languages.
  • Guild ArtisanPHB: Two good skills and a language, but the artisan's tools probably won't be useful.
  • HermitPHB: Despite being the recommended background, this is an awful option for Sorcerers.
  • NoblePHB: A Face skill and a Language, but you probably don't have the Intelligence to make History meaningful, and gaming sets are largely useless.
  • Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: No languages, but access to the skills you need to be a Face and some good tool options.

Feats

This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the backgrounds recommended in the "Quick Build" section of the class description, as well as other backgrounds which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. The possibility of custom backgrounds also means that it is literally impossible for me to provide comprehensive analysis of every potential background in existence.

  • AlertPHB: The bonus to Initiative is tempting because spellcasters can do so much to affect a fight if they go first, but nothing else is particularly helpful.
  • DurablePHB: Cast False Life or use Inspiring Leader instead.
  • Elemental AdeptPHB: Very tempting for sorcerers who enjoy blasting, but specializing in one element is severely limiting. If something is resistant to one element, use a different one. Changing 1's to 2's averages 1/6 damage per die, which is as close to nothing as you will ever see.
  • Inspiring LeaderPHB: An excellent way to capitalize on your Charisma, especially if your party lacks healing magic to help pad your hit points.
  • Lightly ArmoredPHB: Mage Armor and Shield work fine.
  • LinguistPHB: Cast Tongues.
  • LuckyPHB: Amusing, but not particularly useful to Sorcerers since they don't frequently roll attacks or saves.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: A tempting way to get cantrips from other classes, but remember that you use the spellcasting ability of that other class, and since your Wisdom and Intelligence will be poor so will your spellcasting. Consider Eldritch Blast or other Warlock cantrips, but otherwise stick to utility options.
  • ObservantPHB: You don't have the ability scores to back this up.
  • ResilientPHB: More saving throw proficiencies never hurt, but save this for after you have 20 Charisma. You already get proficiency in Constitution saves, so unlike most spellcasters you can justify taking something else.
  • Ritual CasterPHB: Sorcerers can't cast spells as rituals by default like a cleric or wizard can. Ritual Caster removes the need to know spells like Detect Magic which are basically only cast as rituals, and it opens up options like Find Familiar which are omitted from the Sorcerer's spell list.
  • SkilledPHB: Proficiencies are great, especially since Sorcerers get few skills, but if you really need skills you should probably play a Half-elf or start as a Rogue.
  • Spell SniperPHB: Great for spellcasters who like to make spell attacks. Selecting this at first level as a variant Human can be really helpful when you're so heavily reliant on cantrips for damage output. You're not locked into cantrips from your own class, so consider picking up Eldritch Blast.
  • ToughPHB: Cast False Life or use Inspiring Leader instead.
  • War CasterPHB: A really great feat, but generally best left to Artificers and Eldritch Knights.

Weapons

  • Dagger: Carry one or two for utility purposes at any level, but the damage isn't good enough to make it better than shocking grasp. You can make opportunity attacks with a dagger, but that's not something you should be doing frequently.
  • Light Crossbow: Until you hit level 5, a light crossbow can do more damage than firebolt. If you have at least 14 Dexterity, a light crossbow is probably a better option than firebolt when you just need to do some damage, and you can defer taking firebolt until you've gained some levels so that you can spend your limited number of cantrips on something more interesting like ray of frost or a utility cantrip.
  • Quarterstaff: A great cosmetic item, but totally useless in combat. Use Shocking Grasp or a Dagger instead.

Armor

Cast Mage Armor and learn Shield. At low levels that will be enough to keep you safe, but at high levels you'll likely dump mage armor because enemies' attack bonuses will be so high that it will stop being helpful. You might keep shield around for those rare times when it would deflect an attack, but you're better served by other spells like Blur or Blink.

Multiclassing

Multiclassing is hard for a full caster like the Sorcerer. Each level considerably expands you abilities, you don't really need anything from other classes.

  • Bard: Bards also use Charisma for spellcasting, and since they're full casters you won't lost spell slots as you level. You still delay access to higher level spells, but you can get Jack of All Trades and Song of Rest from two levels and Expertise in two skills. A third level gets you a bardic college which can offer some interesting options, but I'm extremely hesitant to delay high-level spells that much.
  • Rogue: Expertise would be nice for your Face skills,
  • Warlock: The addition of Hexblade makes the Warlock a powerful multiclass option. You get proficiency with medium armor and shields, you can use weapons with your Charisma instead of your Strength or Dexterity, and you get access to wonderful spells like Eldritch Blast. The Warlock's spell slots recharge on a short rest, making them useful fodder for your Sorcery Points. If you devote three levels you can pick up Agonizing Blast to make Eldritch Blast exceptionally powerful, but I think that the sorcerer spellcasting you'll give up will me more important than making Eldritch Blast do a little bit more damage.

Example Build - Dragonborn Sorcerer (Draconic)

Dragons are literally in the title of the game. I want to be the most draconic thing I can possibly be, and then I want to go walk around in a dungeon.

This is a "Staple Build". This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.

The Draconic Bloodline Sorcerer is very similar to the Evoker Wizard. With an emphasis on a specific element rather than a specific school, you trade the ability to easily switch elements for better usage of a wider variety of spells.

Abilities

We will mostly assume the point buy abilities suggested above.

Base Increased
Str 8 10
Dex 14 14
Con 14 14
Int 12 12
Wis 10 10
Cha 15 16

Race

Dragonborn. The Charisma increase is the biggest draw, and I haven't used the Dragonborn in a staple build yet, so I really want to double down on the draconic theme of the character. You'll need to choose a draconic ancestor to determine your breath weapon and your damage resistance. Personally I always prefer cones over lines, but that's mostly personal preference. Also keep in mind that you'll be able to add damage resistance using your bloodline features starting at level 6, so choose different ancestors for your race and for your class.

Since staple builds are limited to the SRD and the Basic Rules, we don't have a ton of spells to choose from, which means that the dragon ancestor you choose for Draconic Bloodline should be a fire dragon. I recommend either cold or poison for your racial dragon ancestor. Cold will be more useful offensively, but there are a lot of enemies that deal poison damage which makes poison resistance very useful defensively.

Skills and Tools

With high Charisma and access to all four Face skills, there is little reason for you to not be the party's Face. Between your background and your class skills, try to end up with Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion. Get Insight if it's convenient, but your Wisdom isn't high enough to be especially good at it so hopefully someone in your party can fill in the gap.

Background

Acolyte, Criminal, Noble, and Soldier all get you one of the Face skills we want, but there's no option to get two. If no one else in the party has Thieves' Tools proficiency, take Criminal. Otherwise I recommend Noble so that you can get the three Charisma-based Face skills.

Feats

Sorcerers only really need Charisma, so feats can be a great option. Draconic Bloodline's Elemental Affinity feature emphasizes one element, which makes Elemental Adept a particularly appealing option.

Levels

Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
1
  • Draconic Bloodline
  • Dragon Ancestor
  • Draconic Resilience
  • Spellcasting
  • Cantrips Known:
    • Chill Touch
    • Mage Hand
    • Prestidigitation
    • Ray of Frost
  • Spells Known:
    • Shield
    • Sleep

For your starting gear, take a light crossbow, a component pouch or arcane focus, either pack, and two daggers.

We get a lot at first level, and there are a lot of decision points. Things are a little less daunting at higher levels, but we have a lot of choices to make at first level.

First we get stuff from Draconic Boodline. We need to choose a Dragon Ancestor, and since fire spells are more common than other damage spells in the SRD, I strongly recommend a fire dragon ancestor. Once we get elemental affinity at 6th level, that will present a significant damage boost across most spell levels, including cantrips.

Draconic Resilience matches Mage Armor, which saves us a spell known, and on top of that we get an extra hit point per level. That makes us very durable compared to other sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards.

Four cantrips is more cantrips than any other spellcaster. We have lots of great options. However, keep in mind that your light crossbow is a perfectly viable combat option. Even with just 14 Dexterity, +4 to hit and 1d8+2 damage will likely net more average damage than you can score with a cantrip. Eventually Fire Bolt will be your go-to combat option, but for now we can focus on more interesting options. Chill Touch gives us one of the Sorcerer's few options for dealing necrotic damage, and it's a great fallback when you face enemies with problematic damage resistances. Ray of Frost provides a nice crowd control option. That's plenty of offensive options at this level, so we have room to use the rest of our cantrips on utility.

For our leveled spells we'll pick up general staples. Shield is a powerful defensive option at every level, and Sleep is powerful enough at low levels to end an encounter outright, but you may want to retrain it later when.

2
  • Font of Magic
  • New Spell Known:
    • Burning Hands

Font of Magic is the Sorcerer's most iconic class feature. Sorcery Points allow you to create additional spell slots, but the primary appeal is Metamagic. We don't get Metamagic until 3rd level, so for now it's basically just a free 1st-level spell slot.

At this level we'll learn Burning Hands. It's probably redundant with your breath weapon, so use your breath weapon first. We mostly want it for when we pick up Elemental Affinity at 6th level.

3
  • Metamagic
    • Empowered Spell
    • Quickened Spell
  • New Spell Known:
    • Scorching Ray

3rd level introduces Metamagic. You get two choices now and two more later, giving you a total of 4 choices. There are 8 options, so obviously we'll need to skip some. We'll take Empowered Spell and Quickened Spell. Empowered Spell insulates us against poor damage rolls, and you'll get more use out of Empowered Spell at low levels than you will from Quickened Spell because you have so few Sorcery Points to spend, and rerolling three damage dice can provide a relatively large boost at this level.

Scorching Ray is a reliable damage option, but it's not very exciting. Keep in mind that Elemental Affinity will only apply to one damage roll per spell, but that also means that you only need to hit with one of the three rays to get the bonus damage.

4
  • Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 16 -> 18)
  • New Cantrips Known:
    • Fire Bolt
  • New Spell Known:
    • Blindness/Deafness

At this level our Charisma increases. More spell attack bonus means that cantrips will be considerbaly more reliable than a crossbow, so between the improved attack bonus and adding Fire Bolt, it's likely time to retire your crossbow.

Blindness/Deafness is an excellent debuff. Being blind makes it hard to target enemies with spells, and Disadvantage on attacks is a huge debuff. However, it works on Constitution saves so it's not reliably against big burly enemies which typically rely on weapon attacks.

5
  • New Spell Known:
    • Fireball

If you haven't already retired your crossbow, now is the time. Even the cantrips we've selected with the least damage now deal 2d8 (avg. 9), easily outpacing your crossbow at 1d8+2 (avg. 6.5).

5th level also introduces 3rd-level spells. Take Fireball. That gives us a big AOE damage option, so consider retraining Sleep for utility options like Detect Magic if you're not using it frequently.

6
  • Elemental Affinity
  • New Spell Known:
    • Haste

Elemental Affinity gives us a serious boost to all of our fire spells. Fire Bolt jumps to 2d10+4. Adding the boost on top of AOE spells like Burning Hands and Fireball makes them especially potent because the damage boost applies to every target.

7
  • New Spell Known:
    • Wall of Fire

Wall of Fire is the first area control option we've taken. The first damage roll will benefit from Elemental Affinity, but the additional damage after that won't. Use Wall of Fire to alter the layout of a fight; split up groups of enemies so that enemies are forced to to suffer extra damage to reach you and your allies. Once enemies are separated they'll either take the damage to get to you, or they'll be stuck waiting while you kill their allies.

8
  • Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 18 -> 20)
  • New Spell Known:
    • Polymorph

Another Charisma increase means better spell attacks, higher DC's, more damage from Elemental Affinity, and more dice from Empowered Spell.

Polymorph adds a powerful buff option for yourself or for your allies, but you can also use it to turn enemies into something harmless.

By this level you have enough Sorcery Points that you should be experimenting with Quickened Spell. Keep in mind that you still can't cast cast two leveled spells in a turn (unless you got a second Action from something like Action Surge), so Quickened Spell typically means that you're doing something else with your Action like casting a Cantrip.

9
  • New Spell Known:
    • Cone of Cold

5th level spells are important because they're the highest-level spell slots which you can create with Sorcery Points. Unfortunately, the SRD and the Basic Rules contain no fire damage spells at this level. Instead, rely on lower-level spells cast using 5th-level spell slots. Fireball cast as a 5th-level spell deals 10d6 damage (avg. 35) compared to Cone of Cold's 8d8 (avg. 36), so the gap in damage is already negligible, and Elemental Affinity will make Fireball more effective.

Empowered Spell is more effective for spells with fewer but larger dice, which should be enough that Cone of Cold can do more damage than Fireball if you want to spend a Sorcery Point to buff it. And if you're going to cast your high-level spell slot, spending a Sorcery Point to get some more power is worth the cost.

That comparison really calls attention to how Sorcerers can adjust their limited number of spells on the fly to get more versatility from their relatively limited number of spells known.

10
  • Metamagic
    • Twinned Spell
  • New Cantrips Known:
    • Any
  • New Spell Known:
    • Hold Monster

We get some great stuff at this level. An additional metamagic option gives us even more ways to customize our spells. Using Twinned Spell on single-target spells like Blindness/Deafness and Hold Monster means that we can target additional enemies as though we were casting those spells using higher-level spell slots, by using Twinned Spell. You can also twin powerful spells like Polymorph which are limited to single targets.

11
  • New Spell Known:
    • Sunbeam

6th-level spells introduce our first spell slots that we can't create using Sorcery Points. They're our "big guns", even well into high levels, and since spellcasters get so few high-level spell slots you really need to get a lot out of each of them.

Sunbeam, while its initial damage is lower than lower-level options like Cone of Cold, you can use it every roung for a full minute, dealing out a huge amount of damage with a single spell slot. It's also one of the only ways for the Sorcerer to deal radiant damage, and blinding foes is really effective. If you use Quickened Spell to cast it, you cast the initial beam as a Bonus Action and you can still use your Action on the same turn to fire another beam.

This is also the last level at which the Sorcerer learns a new spell at every level. Instead, you'll learn one new spell each time that you get access to a new spell level. Expect to rely on your lower-level spells cast with higher-level spell slots, and retrain any low-level spells which you're not using.

12
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 14 -> 16)

This is our fist ability score increase that we don't really need, so if you've decided to experiment with feats now is the time. Otherwise, enjoy a pile of extra hit points.

13
  • New Spell Known:
    • Fire Storm

Fire Storm's damage actually isn't all that impressive. 7d10 (avg. 38.5) is actually less than you would get from Cone of Cold cast as a 7th-level spell (10d8, avg. 45). Fire Storm's big appeal (beyond the damage type) is that you can position the cubes very flexibly to avoid your allies. You can also use Empowered Spell to reroll low dice, and since Fire Storm uses d10's you'll get a lot of mileage out of Empowered Spell.

14
  • Dragon Wings

Dragon Wings means free, persisten flight without maintaining concentration or spending a spell slot. If you're fighting, you should be flying.

15
  • New Spell Known:
    • Incendiary Cloud

Incendiary Cloud is an all-around fantastic offensive option. It deals roughly the same damage as a fireball cast as an 8th-level spell every round for a full minute in a reasonably large area.

16
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 16 -> 18)

Oh look, more hit points.

17
  • Metamagic
    • Any
  • New Spell Known:
    • Meteor Swarm

At this level cantrips recieve their final damage boost, raising Fire Bolt to an impressive 4d10+5 damage.

Meteor Swarm is the biggest AOE damage spell in the game, totalling 40d6+5 damage (avg. 145). Twin it with Twinned Spell, quicken a cantrip, and use Empowered Spell to boost the damage on one or both, and you can easily deal over 300 damage in a single turn.

18
  • Draconic Presence

Draconic Presence is a nice way to handle crowds, but if you're in a situation where diplomacy isn't an option you'll have better luck with Meteor Swam.

19
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 18 -> 20)

Still more hit points!

20
  • Sorcerous Restoration

Recovering sorcery points on a short rest is great. 4 points means two quickened spells.