Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Academic Sorcerer

Every member of the party is going on this treasure hunt for a different reason. Arnum Black, Brute of the Mistvale, signed on to fill his coin purse and wet his blade. Ameri Vaine is said to be the only thief to ever escape the Citadel, and you'll need that sort of skill if you're going to bypass the deadly traps and complicated locks that have stymied all other adventurers. Carnell Vino is rarely sober, but for bravery there is no holy man more willing to stand with his companions. Professor Alessa Greenbough is there as the expert on ancient lore and arcane knowledge... but her companions were expecting a wizened woman, half-lost in her robes and with spectacles that made her eyes look several sizes too big. The Professor, though, carries a presence with her. Striking and forceful, there is more to her than a great mind... there is power, roiling just beneath the surface.

Which kind of power that happens to be is up to the player.

The Academic Sorcerer

Because of the spontaneous nature of a sorcerer's power, most players assume they learn their magic in a hands-on way. After all, a wizard's spellbook is useless to a sorcerer, and if there's nothing to be gained in power from reading a book, then why would a sorcerer ever pick one up?

This is the soundest of logic.
It's important to note that sorcerers have Knowledge (arcana), Spellcraft, and Use Magic Device on their skill list. This is a practical concern, since a spellcasting class without these skills is going to be in deep shit quite quickly. However, for your story concerns, it's important to know how a sorcerer came by these skills.

One explanation is that your sorcerer went to school.

Consider the situation many sorcerers are faced with. They are born with power inside of them, and one day that power begins to manifest. These powers might terrify their friends and family, and could lead to witch hunts and lynch mobs as rumors about where the sorcerer's bloodline actually traces to. They may have no idea how to control it, and nowhere to turn. Of course, answers will lie at the institutions of great arcane learning, whose knowledgeable sages will be able to identify what is happening, and possibly shed insight into where a budding sorcerer's power actually comes from.

To the young sorcerer, the halls of academia may seem a refuge. A place where she isn't a freak, but rather someone to be respected. A student trying to harness a dangerous power, who is also seeking to solve the mystery of where said power came from. The sheer amount of research it would take to understand what she is would likely mean she'd gain real expertise in certain areas related to her bloodline (the undead, notable incidents of planar interaction and related offsping from infernal, demonic, or celestial heritage, arcane power and the functions of magic, the history of dragons and their dalliances with humans, etc.), as well. And, of course, the chance to study raw magic in its purest form might mean there's a hefty scholarship available if the sorcerer remains at the university, and at the disposal of the staff members.

With a lifetime of study, and knowledge gained through personal experimentation and exhaustive research, what institution wouldn't offer a place on their staff to a sorcerer with expertise? Especially if it meant the next time someone like them came through the doors that there may be even more help available?

Just One More Way To Play

You can't have just one.
As I pointed out in The Savage Wizard, we tend to get caught up in thinking of certain spellcasting classes in only one way. Wizards are erudite scholars, and sorcerers are wild cards. Those are valid ways to play them, but there are others. After all, why shouldn't your sorcerer be a learned scholar, with a great deal of knowledge in her specialized subject? If nothing else, it will leave your table scratching their heads while they try to figure out how sitting on a camp chair, listening to the bard play the violin while reading a book of poetry helps you prepare your spells for the day.*

*As I mentioned in What Does Your Spell Preparation Look Like, page 220 of the Core Rulebook clearly states that spontaneous casters like sorcerers, bards, etc., still have to go through a daily ritual to center, relax, and refresh themselves. It only lasts for 15 minutes, and you can do a lot with that quarter of an hour.

If you're looking for more inspiration, you should check out 5 Tips For Playing Better Sorcerers! Also, for those who are interested, Professor Greenbough has been featured on Dungeon Keeper Radio! If you liked the concept, take a listen to the Mythconceptions episode, "Scholars and Sorcerers."

As always, thanks for stopping by to check out this month's Unusual Character Concept. If you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, and keep content like this coming your way, then why not drop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page? All it takes is $1 a month to make a big difference, and to earn yourself some sweet swag. Lastly, if you haven't done so yet, why not follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter to keep up on my latest posts?


  1. Take a gander at this officially made class from Paizo. Seems to fit the concept very well, and gives that RP a focus through mechanics.

    1. Joseph, I'm well aware of the existence of the arcanist. However, the arcanist is no more tied to a classroom than a wizard is.

      The point is, specifically, to take the idea of how a sorcerer is played, and to alter that. Because sorcerers are so often thought of as antithetical to the world of organized arcane learning, the impact of making a sorcerer a professor, or even just a student, is much more significant because it bucks traditional gaming stereotypes.

  2. I really love this idea for a Sorcerer. You always have an interesting way to play a class.

  3. They all return is a blog to understand with a little effort and only the students can do this struggle. So is the reason I will share this blog with the readers and the students. In this way we can increase the worth and quality of this blog with no effort. This is really a useful blog.
    Psychology Essay Writing Service