Paizo’s Iconic Sorcerer
Core Concept: While the sorcerer is objectively more limited than the wizard, I like the class. Even in the earliest, simplest forms of D&D, playing a Magic User meant taking on an extra layer of rules and complexity. There’s not much that can be done about that, but the sorcerer’s limitations go a long way towards mitigating it. For that reason, I often recommend sorcerers to my less experienced players who want to play a magical character.
Were it up to me, I think there might even be a few more variants on the magic user class, all of which would interact with magic in a different way.
Spells: Unlike the more traditional magic user / wizard style of spellcasting, the sorcerer is a ‘natural’ caster. They know the spells they know, and can cast any spell they know at any time, but they can’t add to their spell repertoire the way a wizard can. In trade, the sorcerer is able to cast more spells per day than their more learned counterpart. Back in D&D 3.5, this trade was terribly unbalanced in the wizard’s favor. Fortunately, bloodlines have helped to balance this out.
As mentioned above, I like the idea that different arcane spellcasting classes would manage their spells differently. Though I might take it even a step further. Perhaps granting the sorcerer a few more spells per day, a few more spell slots, and make all of their spells completely random. After all, if their power is a naturally developing thing, why should they be able to pick and choose?
Of course, that would never fly with most RAW Pathfinder players.
Find Familiar: This is not a sorcerer ability, which is why it is not linked. I bring it up because in D&D 3.5, it was a sorcerer ability. To my knowledge, this is the only instance where a class had an ability removed* in the change from D&D 3.5 to Pathfinder. Likely because Bloodlines are such a large change which grant the sorcerer a large range of additional powers.
While it is still possible to get a familiar, I rather prefer the class without it. As a friend of mine said shortly after we found Pathfinder, familiars never seemed to be in tune with the way sorcerers approach magic. A familiar, in our eyes, is primarily meant to assist the caster in magical research, which the sorcerer never needs to do. And bloodlines are so awesome, that it hardly feels like anything was lost at all.
*I am well aware that the Rogue had the Improved Evasion ability removed, but it remains as a rogue talent**, so it’s still easily attainable without needing feats.
**I am also well aware that sorcerers may select the arcane bloodline and thus get their familiar without needing a feat. However, doing so requires you to make a choice which will dramatically change the way your character progresses, whereas the rogue can pick up improved evasion and move on. There are no long-lasting consequences for getting improved evasion as there would be for a sorcerer who wanted a familiar.
Eschew Materials: Sorcerers cast their spells naturally, so it would be cumbersome for them to deal with material components. This works fine.
Cantrips: Anything I might say about cantrips was already written about Orsions in my analysis of the Cleric. Though I would add the caveat that the sorcerer is the only class where limitless low level casting actually kinda makes sense. I could be okay with the sorcerer having this ability if every other magic using class did not have it.
Bloodlines: Most of the sorcerer’s class abilities fall within the bloodlines, so I’ll be discussion bloodline skills, arcana, powers, spells, and feats individually. However, as a general concept, it’s important to know that I think bloodlines are a great idea. In D&D 3rd edition, the origin of a Sorcerer’s power was given a bit of throwaway fluff text about how sorcerers are descended from dragons, but that this might be true or might simply be something sorcerers like to boast about.
The Pathfinder devs took that piece of throwaway fluff, and developed it into an interesting mechanic which further differentiates sorcerers from wizards. And while I’m not always wild about the specific ways in which bloodlines are implemented, they’re still awesome.
Bloodline Skill: Each bloodline grants the sorcerer one additional class skill, relevant to the bloodline. Much as I dislike the skills system, this seems like a creative way to use it.
Bloodline Powers: The powers are my favorite part of the bloodlines. I think that if it were up to me, spells and feats would be dropped, and bloodline powers would be emphasized further. The specific powers are rarely filler nonsense, but are instead interesting abilities, such as elemental resistance, long limbs which grant extra range on touch attacks, a breath weapon, wings, or any number of other interesting oddities. I also think it’s cool that some of the powers aren’t perfectly suited to a sorcerer. A claw attack, for example, doesn’t really help someone who does their best to stay out of melee. But having an odd ability here or there can really come in handy when the characters are in a pinch.
Bloodline Arcana: The arcana abilities are really just Bloodline Powers which permanently modify a normal sorcerer ability, rather than introducing something new. What is written above applies, though these often enter “filler ability” territory, where they merely grant a small bonus in a very particular circumstance which most players will forget about during play.
Bloodline Spells: Bloodline spells are similar to a cleric’s domain spells. I hate domain spells, because they’re an extra layer of pointless complication which doesn’t improve the player’s gameplay experience in the slightest. That being said, bloodline spells work a little better than domain spells do. Since sorcerers don’t have to prepare their spells each day, but instead have a permanent list of spells which they ‘know’ and may cast at will, the bloodline spells don’t significantly increase the bookkeeping the player needs to do. They just write the spells on their spell list when they level up.
This still seems a little annoying to me, though. Perhaps it’s just a personal peeve, but I think it’s annoying to get the same thing (in this case, spells) from multiple sources (in this case, leveling up & bloodlines).
Though if sorcerers had their spells randomized, as I suggested earlier, then Bloodline spells could serve as a way for the player to have some control over how their character’s spell list developed.
Bloodline Feats: They’re feats. We all know how I feel about feats by now, right? Though I do kinda like that some of these feats are completely different from anything a sorcerer would normally pursue. Seriously, “Cleave” is in there at least once.