Monday, January 13, 2014

13th Age Options: The Sorcerer

To an outside observer a Sorcerer and a Wizard might look like they're doing pretty much the same thing (slinging around arcane spells), but as an archetype the chaotic, random, untrained Sorcerer stands in stark contrast with the organized, studious, and intellectual Wizard.  In 13th Age the Sorcerer class lends itself well to being the "simpler" spellcaster, with a strong emphasis on destruction and raw, elemental power.  While the options at the class's disposal are consistent with that, there are a couple of issues with them from the perspective of some players.

The first is that since the Sorcerer is all about blowing stuff up as opposed to using utility and control spells, you reach a thematic saturation point pretty quickly and as a result the Sorcerer's spell list is much shorter than the Wizard's.  The problem isn't that this is the case, but rather the degree to which it's true.  At second level a Sorcerer isn't so much choosing which 5 spells out of its pool to use so much as which 1 spell out of its pool of 6 not to use.  That really doesn't make for much of an actual choice, as it basically boils down to: a) will I need Resist Energy? and b) if so which of these three at-wills can I live without?  More lower-level spells are most certainly in order.

The second problematic point is that while the Sorcerer talents are as a whole really well-done, the Wizard has some really awesome improvisational tools at its disposal in Cantrip Mastery and Vance's Polysyllabic Verbalizations.  Sure, it's consistent with the "well-prepared, over-planning, I-have-a-tool-for-everything" vision of many Wizards, but whose to say improvisational spellcasting is inconsistent with the Sorcerer's schtick?  As the beginning of the class description points out "Sorcerers are self-taught genius freaks with an intuitive mastery of magic and possibly some brain damage.  They tap into the icons' power with or without the icons' permission."  Emphasis mine.  Magic is quite literally in a Sorcerer's blood, so why shouldn't they be able to manipulate raw arcane energy into non-standard effects through sheer force of will?  The answer is, quite simply, there's no reason to bar the Sorcerer from that kind of power.  Hence, the Spell Shaper Talent for players who appreciate that kind of playstyle.

It's also worth considering that while Dicey Moves (or an expansion of that concept like The Mazarbul Gamble) are available to all PCs, such rules are more easily (and more commonly) applied to physical stunts.  That's not to say a GM can't use them to allow players more creative freedom in manipulating their spells, but it's less intuitive and it feels more like "breaking the rules."  Since magic isn't real we don't have any reference point as players for how it should work; we rely much more heavily on the mechanics and descriptions of things in the rules.  For physical stunts it's easy for a GM to make a ruling because things probably work much like they do in the real world (or the exaggerated and more cinematic world of action movies; either way it's something most GMs are familiar with).

New Sorcerer Talent

Spell Shaper
This talent functions much like the Wizard's talent "Vance's Polysyllabic Verbalizations," but without all of that stuffy, snooty spell re-naming.  Rather, when you spend a quick action (in addition to the standard action it takes to cast the spell) you're taking a little extra effort to pull in some extra, possibly unrelated, arcane energy from elsewhere in the aether.  Or maybe you're just twisting and contorting the existing arcane energy into something similar but slightly different.  Only Daily and Recharge spells have enough raw power to be affected in such a way.  You and your GM should collaborate on a mechanical effect to match the narrative description of how your spell is being altered.  

Unlike the more formulaic alterations that a Wizard makes by adding a few words, a Sorcerer's spell shaping harnesses the raw arcane forces present at that particular place, in that particular time.  Therefore, the extra effects produced are more likely to draw from the Sorcerer's present environment, the situation at hand, or even the people or creatures present.  It's very unlikely that a Sorcerer can produce the exact same extra effect twice, though different effects may be modeled by the same mechanics (for example, Dazed is a good workhorse Condition that can model a wide variety of things).  

Examples: You're fighting Drow with poisoned weapons, and harness the nearby poison energy to turn your Breath of the White from Cold to Poison damage.  In doing so, you've stripped all the poison from 1 enemy's weapons and/or person.  

In an iron-rich cave system, your Lightning Fork magnetizes some of the iron ore, causing a nearby enemy wearing metal armor to be yanked toward the wall, Stuck for a round.

Later on, while fighting in the open under an overcast sky that threatens storms, your Lightning Fork causes a thunderstorm to spring up then and there, restricting visibility and making the ground a muddy mess.

Adventurer Feat: Once per day after you've gathered power, you have enough raw arcane potential to use Spell Shaper on a double-strength at-will spell.
Champion Feat: You can use Spell Shaper on an at-will spell after gathering power twice per day.
Epic Feat: Once per day instead of gaining the normal benefits of Spell Shaper, you can pull an expended Daily spell out of the aether, but you must use it during this battle or it's lost.

New Sorcerer Spells

Chromatic Orb (1st level)
Ranged spell
Target: 1d3 nearby enemies in a group

Attack: Cha + level vs PD
Hit: 2d10 + Cha damage, roll a D6 to determine which color was active upon impact.
1: Red - Fire damage + 5 Ongoing
2: Orange - Thunder damage and the target is Dazed (normal save ends)
3: Yellow - Lightning damage and roll an attack against one additional nearby enemy determined at random.
4: Green - Acid damage + 5 Ongoing
5: Blue - Cold damage and the target is Stuck (normal save ends)
6: Purple - Psychic damage and one target is Confused until the end of your next turn.
Miss: Half damage

3rd Level: 4d8 damage
5th Level: 6d10; red and green deal 10 ongoing damage, Orange becomes Weakened instead of Dazed, Blue becomes Stuck and Dazed.
7th Level: 2d6 x 10; Red and Green deal 10 ongoing damage, Orange becomes Weakened instead of Dazed, Blue becomes Stuck and Dazed, Purple becomes two targets.
9th Level: 4d4 x 10; Red and Green deal 20 ongoing damage, Orange becomes Stunned instead of Dazed, Blue becomes Stunned instead of Stuck, Purple becomes two targets, and Confused becomes normal save ends.

Flame Mantle (1st Level)
Close Spell
Target: Personal

Effect: For the rest of the battle, any enemy engaged with you at the end of their turn takes 2d4 fire damage.

3rd Level: 2d6 damage, and you gain Resist Cold 12+ until the end of the battle.
5th Level: 3d8 damage, and this spell can now be cast as a quick action.
7th Level: 5d8 damage, and your Resist Cold increases to 16+.
9th Level: 7d8 damage, and you take half damage from all natural odd attacks.

Ball Lightning (3rd Level)
Ranged Spell
Recharge 16+
Special: When you cast this spell, you can choose to cast it recklessly.  If you do, gain a chaotic benefit as if you'd gathered power.
Target: 1d2 nearby enemies in a group.  If you cast recklessly, this increases to 1d3+1 enemies in a group, but allies engaged with any of the targets may take damage as well (see below).

Attack: Cha + level vs PD
Hit: 5d6 + Cha lightning damage
Miss: Half damage
Reckless Miss: Your allies engaged with the target take one fourth damage.

5th Level: 4d10 damage
7th Level: 6d12 damage
9th Level: 10d12 damage

Ice Javelins (3rd Level)
Ranged Spell
Recharge 11+
Target: 2 nearby creatures.

Attack: Cha + level vs PD
Hit: 2d8 +Cha Cold damage and the target is Stuck until the end of your next turn.
Miss: Half damage.

5th Level: 4d8 damage
7th Level: 6d8 damage
9th Level: 8d8 damage

Adventurer Feat: Stuck becomes Normal Save Ends.
Champion Feat: On a natural even miss the target is Stuck.
Epic Feat: This spell becomes Recharge 6+ and on a natural 16+ the target is Stunned instead of Stuck.

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