ack in August of 2012, we showed off a version of the sorcerer that represented a very different take on that class. That sorcerer design transformed the character into a warrior-mage, combining skill at arms with spellcasting ability. Although that concept was popular, our playtest feedback showed that it strayed too far from the class's basic concept for most players.
In the end, we preserved the concept of a warrior-mage within the fighter class, in addition to the ability to create a fighter/wizard through multiclassing. For the sorcerer, we went back to the class's first appearance and started from scratch.
The sorcerer has always dwelled in the wizard's shadow. When the class was created for 3rd Edition D&D, it was in many ways a mechanical conceit—a wrapper for a new approach to spellcasting. A sorcerer controls innate magical talents that are inherited and developed through practice and experience. Much like an athlete, a sorcerer improves her innate talents through repetition, challenge, and exercise. In contrast, a wizard is like an academic. He improves his abilities by honing his skills, researching new methods, and applying what he has learned to the pursuit of new magic.
In our design process, we chose to embrace this distinction and make it the foundation of the class for D&D Next. Sorcerers have an innate talent for magic, reflected by spells that they simply know. A sorcerer doesn't prepare spells from a lengthy list like a wizard. Instead, the class has a shorter list of spells that can be cast again and again.
A quick glance at the sorcerer's advancement table might seem to undercut our intention to make the class more distinct from the wizard. The sorcerer and wizard both cast an identical number of spells per day at each level. However, lurking on the sorcerer's class table is a column that summarizes the class's unique mechanic: sorcery points.
A sorcerer is a natural conduit for arcane energy. Sorcerers can augment spells, conjure energy from thin air, and produce unique magical effects derived from the source of their innate power. Sorcery points represent this ability to channel arcane magic. Sorcerers expend this resource to cast additional spells; to alter spells to increase range, damage, or other variables; or to invoke the benefits of their arcane origin. For example, sorcerers with a draconic heritage (a staple concept of the class) can create magical wings, shield themselves from harm with dragon scales, and withstand more physical punishment than other arcane spellcasters.
It's true that wizards and sorcerers cast the same number of spells as a baseline. However, by spending sorcery points, a sorcerer can easily surpass the wizard's limits. The wizard's advantage remains flexibility. Even as a party's sorcerer casts a limited number of spells more often or with improved effects, a wizard will always bring a much more diverse range of magical options into every adventure.
In addition to the draconic sorcerer, we've designed another sorcerer option that should be familiar to anyone who used the 2nd Edition Tome of Magic or who played a 4th Edition sorcerer. Here's a hint: if you play this kind of sorcerer, be sure to keep your percentile dice close by. If you're playing another character with this type of sorcerer in your party, you might want to always be ready to take cover. When this sorcerer casts a spell, you never know what might happen.
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.