It’s Time to Reboot Sorcerers

Sorcerers are innate spellcasters who do not require a spellbook to cast magic. Their power is an innate, channeling power to produce magical effects.

Sorcerer
Sorcerer

Despite being an incredibly fun class to play, there are barriers in place that make playing a sorcerer tricky. One would have to play in the right era, never drawing upon the magic of the moons, and generally providing in-world class lore that would be confusing at best.

It’s time we took another look at the sorcerer class and how it fits into Dragonlance.

A Brief History of the Sorcerer Class

Sorcerers in Dragonlance date back to 1996 with the Fifth Age: Dramatic Adventure Game, predating the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition sorcerer by four years. The SAGA system did not use classes, so there was not a sorcerer class per se. Yet the role remained. This sorcerer could shape spells and drew magic from schools/realms of sorcery. Sorcerers would be fleshed out in 1997’s Heroes of Sorcery.

In the fall of 2000, Wizards of the Coast published the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook for 3rd edition, introducing us to the sorcerer class. This was a variant of the wizard that utilized spontaneous spellcasting instead of a spellbook.

Academy Sorcerer, By Jason Engle
Academy Sorcerer

The Dragonlance Campaign Setting (DLCS) was released in 2003, which utilized the sorcerer from the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition Player’s Handbook. Sovereign Press had attempted to utilize the Realms of Sorcery as spell lists for the DLCS, and had even toyed around with the idea of a sorcerer than replaced the sorcerer’s familiar with a specialization in a school of magic. Yet despite these attempts, Wizards of the Coast mandated that the DLCS utilize the Player’s Handbook sorcerer as-is.

The sorcerer would see two prestige classes throughout 3rd edition – the Academy Sorcerer and the Legion Sorcerer, both introduced in Age of Mortals. The Legion Sorcerer would see an update in Knightly Orders of Ansalon.

With Wizards of the Coast’s release of Shadow of the Dragon Queen in 2022, sorcerers draw their magic from Krynn’s moons, as wizards have always done. They even introduced a lunar sorcery subclass, which drew upon the magic of Krynn’s moons in a way different from the traditional Dragonlance wizard.

Issues With The Sorcerer

The sorcerer in Dragonlance is, unfortunately, a victim of Dragonlance’s history itself. It begins as a replacement for the Wizard of High Sorcery after the gods left at the end of Dragons of Summer Flame. Already under the shadow of the wizard, it also utilizes new game mechanics.

The very magic of the sorcerer is different. According to setting lore, sorcerers draw their power from Wild Sorcery (aka Primal Sorcery), the ambient arcane magic of Krynn. Presumably, this magic was only available in eras when the power of Chaos permeated Krynn, such as the early Age of Dreams and the Age of Mortals. Yet the novel Renegade Wizards revealed the sorcerers existed in the Age of Despair, and were actively hunted down by renegade hunters.

Also, why exactly do the moon gods want magic to be used responsibly, but only if it’s the right kind of magic?

For new players, they’re bombarded with this convoluted history, and being told they can only play a sorcerer during certain eras, none of which are the War of the Lance – the most popular era in Krynn. A new player just wants to pick their favorite class and run with it. In the case of the sorcerer, players can’t join the Orders of High Sorcery.

In other words, there are a ton of problems that are just barriers to new players coming in and having fun.

The Solution? Lunar Sorcerers

In the case of the sorcerer, Wizards of the Coast got it right. They went back to basics with Shadow of the Dragon Queen and asked how the Wizards of High Sorcery would look with the classes of today. Their answer was a more inclusive Mages of High Sorcery.

Lunar Sorcerer
Lunar Sorcerer

Now new players can come in, play a sorcerer set in the War of the Lance, and ignore the baggage of the past. More experienced players now have a choice of which way to go. One could easily play a sorcerer in the War of the Lance yet use metamagic and spell choice in order to incorporate the feel of the Fifth Age sorcerer.

Summary

The sorcerer is a wonderful class that deserves to be played in any era, taking advantage of the setting-rich lore that previously belonged to the wizard alone. Barriers need to be removed for younger players, while still allowing a choice for older players.

Above all, pick the path that leads to fun.

About Trampas "Dragonhelm" Whiteman

Trampas “Dragonhelm” Whiteman is best known for co-creating and administering the Dragonlance Nexus fan site. He is co-author of three Dragonlance books – Holy Orders of the Stars, Knightly Orders of Ansalon, and Races of Ansalon. When not evangelizing Dragonlance and other settings, Trampas is a husband, father, podcaster, and web designer. Trampas also enjoys reading comics, reading fantasy and scifi novels, and playing D&D.
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4 Comments

  1. The story and lore is written and to change it, IMO, is to do the setting and it’s creators a disservice. Now,I have no problems with the Wizards of High Sorcerery using Vancian or sorcerer mechanics to cast the spells…as long as we understand that the magic itself is sourced by the gods of the moons and that loyalty to one of the Orders is demanded. The Lunar Sorcerer blurs the loyalty to ONE of the moons. At the least, I would redesign the Lunar Boons and make them more specific to one of the three moons.

  2. Personally I can see the merits of both arguments on sorcerers lore being rewritten in the setting. I can understand the desire to make the setting simpler to newer players and remove the baggage of previous editions, but I still don’t personally think that a halfbaked retcon adding them to the Towers is the way to do it.

    On a personal level, I actually quite like the dichotomy and nuance adding both Primal Sorcery and Mysticism did to the setting for multiple reasons. First, it grants the setting a very distinct difference between casting mechanics other than “this is another diet weave” rip off from Fae’Run/Toril, which helps keep the setting with a more unique identity. Even if they don’t decide to actually dedicate actual mechanics in 5th edition to it, it’s still valuable as setting lore differences and can easily be explained with very little issues outside of Primal/mystics are classes use themselves/the world to use magic and the others are external. What I’d ideally like is a basic framework for spellcasters/classes to help differeniate this. (This may be a thing I choose to make for the DMsguild as I sort of use it already for my games).

    Second, I would argue that even if you do retcon sorcerers as having just always been there it still doesn’t eliminate my primary problem with the Wizard Towers in the first place: I frankly don’t like that a religion organization of religious zealots that all but kidnap children and force them to learn magic the “correct” way according to their gods in order to maintain a monopoly on magic is portrayed as “the good guys” or even neutral at best. Especially considering that it is VERY clear in all the previous source material AND books that the moon gods outright consider renegades (and primal sorcerers) blasphemous.

    This is cannon. Like it or not and it’s going to be information that players will discover one way or the not. We could argue over the specifics as to how if this is or is not the case but the point is the towers have just as much baggage attached to them as sorcerers as a class does according to this article. Not to mention it doesn’t address any of the other classes like bards, rangers, druids, artificers, or warlocks. All of which would still need to be justified similarly.

    I actually think keeping primal sorcery and mysticism helps deal with addressing some of that baggage head on without much actual need to ignore or remove it. The simple canonical recreation of the Academy of Sorcery post War of Souls (or the addition of a similar organization in other eras) could literally create a competing organization with the Wizard Towers and create a much more interesting dynamic than “Well I’m magic, so I guess I’m either with the towers or being hunted down like a renegade”.

    The players already get multiple faction options in most eras for knighthoods, or other military organizations. I see no reason why the setting that is heavily focused on warfare between different countries and factions can’t have different organizations for other sorts. The clerics and the mystics, the sorcerers and the wizards, the three different knight orders, etc. It gives the players more options to pick from to attach themselves to the setting, more options for tension and conflict for the DM, and arguably helps the setting actually feel different than just another “Fae’Run but smaller”. Especially if Mass Combat outside of an option boardgame isn’t going to be a true option.

    Were I given the option to have the “keys to the kingdom”, as it were, the two cannon things I’d change in a heartbeat to the setting are to a) bring BACK to sorcerers and b) make organizations MORE important for the setting. I actually think Ravnica is a great source for this as a sourcebook, and Dragonlance as a setting is a great place for factions in the games to actually mean something. I’d also suggestion others don’t just ingore those other magic books. Thero’s piety system REALLY fits well with Dragonlance regardless of era and I heavily encourage other DMs to consider looking into them for their games.

    • Trampas "Dragonhelm" Whiteman

      I, too, like the dichotomy, but I think you get that some already with the three orders of magic plus renegade mages.

      For your second point, sorcerers have always been there. See the novel Renegade Wizards for info on sorcerers prior to the War of the Lance. They were also prevalent prior to the Orders of High Sorcery.

      I also disagree with your assessment that the Wizards of High Sorcery are a group of religious zealots, though I can see how you might have come to that conclusion. Certainly, the WoHS were portrayed almost as arcane clerics in the 3.5 era and in some of the novels of the time.

      The reason I didn’t go into artificers, bards, druids, rangers, or warlocks is because this article was about sorcerers.

      Having an Academy of Sorcery, under the current setup, would result in a mage war.

      Thanks for your feedback.

  3. Part of the reason why the Towers of High Sorcery are they way they are does tie back to the Lost Wars were there were unaffiliated wizards casting magic to harm people which was used along with other reasons to rise up against Wizards. This tidbit was dropped in Dragons of Deceit by Dalmar.

    This does fit ad Black Robe mages generally are not chaotic evil psychopaths. They are highly ambitious with the acquisition of power and being the “best” in their art, and had few moral qualms about how to get there. They did not however go out and lay waste to towns, or scam people got gold. Anything they did against normal people was generally covert and not traced back to them. Look at how Raistlin was in the books. He did not rejoin the dragon armies to lay waste to people. He had other ambitions and did not let anything get in his way.

    Thus I do like the idea of a sorcerer who understands the role a mage has in the world, to protect and preserve magic and dedicating themselves to the principles how they see such magic protected and cultivated in the form of one of the moons. It makes sense.

    As for the others, ranger and paladin magic would fall under divine magic. Warlock has their patron and I am sure there will be follow on material for them. As for bards, even in the original setting there were magic users who were not mages of high sorcery. Gilthas was dual classed in the original content. As long as bards are not laying waste or committing criminal acts to the public and thus ruining the reputations of mages and causing the public to think torches and pitch forks, they should be fine.

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