Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sorcery 101 Thoughts of the Journeyman Caster by Gerard "Gray" Chartier- Part 1

Sorcery!  No form of magic is higher or more potent.  The mysteries of channeling or the secrets of divination pale in comparison to the power to strike down your enemies with raw magic.  Though all mages master potent powers, only the sorcerer harnesses the eldritch ways to battle his foes with the strength of his will instead of the strength of his arm.  For this reason, sorcerers are respected and feared by all wise men.~Gray Erikkson

Hello, gentle reader!  Gerry Chartier here, player of Gray Erikkson, Viking sorcerer extraordinaire!  I and my alter ego would like to offer our thoughts on the most pugilistic path of magic in our system.
If you’re looking for battle magic in our system, then Sorcery is probably the path you’re going to look at first.  Sorcery isn’t the only path offering magic you can use in a fight, but it’s the path with the tradeoff most commensurate with what one gives up by not being a fighter.

This is not to say a sorcerer equals a fighter.  In a one-on-one sorcerer vs fighter matchup, the smart money gives it to the fighter.  However, the sorcerer brings some unique abilities to the table.  I like to think I’ve learned a little bit about them in my time in the Realms, and would like to share them with you for your benefit and amusement.

The Progression

As with all endeavors, the apprentice does not learn the most potent magicks of sorcery right away.  One must develop strength of will, and learn concentration in the midst of the din of battle.  Before developing these talents, attempting to mold raw magic is a hazardous undertaking.  More than one would-be sorcerer who tried to take the short path to power has wound up a burnt out shell of what they were – or worse.

It’s gotten easier to go up the progression over the years.  Plus Rhodefathering has been happening with some regularity over the past few years, so players these days aren’t going to have to spend literally years going up their progression the way I did back in the day.   With that, let’s take a quick look at the spells, from bottom to top.

Pool Spells

There are a lot of pool spells, and they all have utility, but I’m only going to discuss two here: Implement and Light.  Implement has an obvious application to a Sorcerer, enhancing Armored Cloak by granting it an easier active component.  The usefulness cannot be understated – Implement enables one to recharge Armored Cloak in the middle of an encounter.  That’s huge.

Light is also both useful and thematically a natural lead-in to Sorcery.  The Light spell lets the caster harness raw magical energy and put it to a direct physical effect, not unlike Magic Missile and Lightning Bolt.  Plus, it’s nice to be able to put midget light sticks on your thrown props, so you can find them during a night quest.  If you’re just going to have one Pool spell, go with Implement.  If you have two, add Light.

2nd Circle: Protection from Missile

Sorcery is about ranged combat, so Protection from Missile is an extremely good spell for the path.  With Protection from Missile and Armored Cloak, sorcerers are very tanky vs ranged combat, even more so than fighters (unless they have shields), because we can renew our protections much more readily than fighters.

3rd Circle: Cantrip

The powers of most mages are limited in accordance with the discipline they pursue.  Not we sorcerers.  More than any other mage, we have the ability to choose the powers that suit us.
Cantrip is the reason we don’t have to think too hard about what Pool spells to take.  They all have utility, but the utilities are often situational.  Thanks to Cantrip, we can go with Pool spells that will benefit us all the time, and pick up castings of the other spells as the situation demands.

Armored Cloak is a great spell, but don’t go strutting around like you’re invulnerable because you have it.  Most players are pretty experienced at drumrolling an opponent to get through two points of armor, so if you’re in a melee you’re likely to get hit three times before you can call out “Armored Cloak.”  However, if you’re fighting at the ideal distance for sorcery, Armored Cloak will protect you from javelins, arrows, and pikes, giving you time to step back and refresh your protection before stepping into it again.

5th Circle: Magic Missile

Any fool can walk up to a man and stab him with a blade.  Few can yoke raw power to their will and strike down their foes with it.

Magic Missile is the signature spell of Sorcery, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  It extends the sorcerer’s offensive reach further than anything but an archer, it’s magic (sometimes important for effecting NPCs), and the sorcerer can keep casting it as long as he can recover his props.
Most people throw their props overhand, but it’s worth one’s while to develop an underhand throw too.  It’s harder for people to block an underhand throw with their weapons, so you’re more likely to sneak it in past their defense.

Also bear in mind that, unlike arrows and javelins, magic missile props are live until they stop moving, even if they are bouncing on the ground.  This brings up the possibility of bowling them under shields.

6th Circle: Familiar

Familiar isn’t really a spell so much as a buy-down mechanic more favorable than the usual one.  For the most part, you’re better off getting powers through Familiar than you are with straight buy-downs, with one notable exception – Raise Dead.  1pt per 1 Raise is not a worthwhile exchange.  It’s basically buying down for a 3rd circle spell with a 6th circle slot.

For my money, the best spell to get through Familiar is Circle of Protection.  It goes right along with Sorcery, enabling you to attack out with your spells while being safe from casters and other enchanted beings.  By taking it through Familiar, you can also pick up a casting of Disrupt, which is good, because you never can tell when you’re going to have to break an opponent’s circle or chant.

7th Circle: Lightning Bolt

The pinnacle spell of Sorcery, Lightning Bolt is both the most and least impressive of the 7th Circle spells.  It’s the most impressive in that it’s the most direct, and the Sorcerer has unlimited uses of it, so Sorcerers can cast it all the time.  It’s the least impressive because a single use of it is not likely to change the course of an event or even a battle.  However, a judicious casting of Lightning Bolt can turn a skirmish, or make a line’s flank fold, and that can make all the difference.

There’s an enormous intimidation value to a held Lightning Bolt prop.  Given that it’s the only ranged one-shot-kill available to PCs in the game, it’s not surprising players keep a wary eye on foes with the prop ready to throw.  You can use this to your advantage.  You can force an opponent to split his attention between you and an ally, giving the ally a better chance of landing a telling hit. Opponents will usually react to a faked throw as well, which can let your companion get the drop on a foe.  It’s almost better to have it in hand than it is to actually throw it.

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