Sorcerers and Manifestations of Magic!

Sorcerers carry a magical birthright conferred upon them by an exotic bloodline, some otherworldly influence, or exposure to unknown cosmic forces. One can’t study sorcery as one learns a language, any more than one can learn to live a legendary life. No one chooses sorcery; the power chooses the sorcerer.

— 5E Player’s Handbook

Wizards and artificers approach magic as a science. A warlock makes a bargain to gain arcane power. Magic is part of a sorcerer. It’s possible to inherit such power, but as the PHB suggests, it could just as easily be something entirely unique to the character. Later in this article I’ll discuss sorcerous origins tied to Eberron. But first, let’s consider what magic means for a sorcerer.

Manifestations of Magic

You’re a sorcerer. Your magic is a part of you. But it is still arcane magic… and at the end of the day, when you use that power you are still casting a spell. Unless you use the Subtle Spell metamagic feature, your sorcerer spells require all the same components—verbal, somatic, and material—as when a wizard casts that spell. In some ways this seems to clash with the whole idea of being a sorcerer. If your ability to cast a fireball comes from your draconic heritage, why do you still need to speak a word of power and throw a ball of bat guano to make it work?

One way to think about this is that arcane magic is a science… that as a sorcerer, the principles of magic come to you by instinct, but you ARE still casting a spell in the same way that a wizard is. But this doesn’t work with a lot of different character concepts. So let’s take a look at each of the different sorts of components and think about what they may mean for a sorcerer.

Verbal Components

Verbal components require the character to make a sound. Per the PHB a “particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion.” In my mind, a verbal component needs to be clearly connected to a casting oa spell: it can’t be something that could be mistaken for conversation. With that said, I feel that the exact form can vary from class to class and character to character. For example, I could see any of the following as being verbal components for a fireball.

  • A forceful phrase (“Consuming flames!”) in a variant of Abyssal or Draconic. The words feel hot in the ears of anyone who hears them. While this is in a language, it’s the thought behind it that triggers this searing effect; you don’t actually burn people or convey this power when casually speaking in Draconic.
  • A series of syllables that might feel like they’re based on Abyssal, Draconic, Giant, or Elvish (“Talash zash harkala!”), but that don’t form any actual words in those languages. This is the “machine code” of reality, triggering access to the forces the wizard channels in the rest of the spells.
  • An invocation of specific forces that will be channeled to power the spell. A divine caster might specifically call on an individual (“Dol Arrah, let your searing light lay my enemies low!”), while an arcane caster might invoke a power source, such as one of the eternal firepits of Fernia or the blade storms of Shavarath. On the other hand, a Warlock could specifically call on their patron by name.
  • A straightforward but clear description of the effect you are trying to create (“Let my fiery lash burn you to ash!”).
  • A bard might sing a song to cast a spell—but as with the first example, the song should feel clearly magical (unless Subtle Spell is used). As the words are spoken they might take shape in the air, or echo in the ears, or otherwise feel like there is a power behind them.
  • This would be a place to work in naming. Perhaps your sorcerer innately sees the true names of things, and you call out that name and an effect.

The point being: You could be syllables infused with arcane might to channel power into your spell. You could be naming powerful entities or cosmic forces whose power produces your effect. You could simply describe exactly what you want to have happen to your victims, essentially making a demand the universe will obey. But whatever it is, if you’re casting spells with verbal components, you’re producing sounds that are clearly tied to the magical effects you produce… so what are those sounds?

Somatic Components

Somatic components are gestures involved with the spell. Per the PHB, the most critical detail is that “the caster must have a free hand to perform these gestures.” Like verbal components, a requirement I apply is that it must be obvious that the hand gestures are tied to the spell. Someone watching you understands that there is a purpose to your gestures and that if they immobilized you, you would stop. So what forms can somatic gestures take?

  • As a wizard, you could follow the model of the recent Doctor Strange—tracing patterns of energy in the air, essentially drawing glyphs or writing out an arcane formula.
  • Taking away the lightshow, it can still be about precise hand and finger movements that trigger and focus mystical energy.
  • On the other hand, you could combine both these things without any finesse. You need a free hand and it needs to be clear that you’re using that hand to cast a spell. You could simply conjure a ball of fire that you physically throw at your enemy… or dramatically point at them, at which point the fireball emerges from your palm.
  • Another option is the Harry Potter approach: the wand. According to the PHB, the hand you use to access an arcane focus can be the same hand you use to perform somatic components. To me, this implies that my gestures could simply be some fancy wand-work. Again, the critical things are that it requires a hand and that it’s clear I’m using that hand to cast a spell.
  • If someone’s playing a warforged sorcerer, I’d be fine with them stating “Activate artillery mode” (verbal component) and turning their hand into a cannon (somatic component)—as long as it’s understood that they require freedom of movement to do this.

So again: the point is that you require a free hand and that it is obvious to an observer that you’re using that hand to produce a magical effect. But as long as those two conditions are met, you’ve got some room to move.

Material Components

Material components fall back into the realm of “If my sorcerer isn’t performing magic like a wizard, while do I still need a ball of bat guano to cast my spell?” Once again, it’s worth taking a moment to think about the impact of material components. Free material components—like the ball of guano—are primarily important because they can be taken away. If you’re trapped in a cell, whether you’re a sorcerer or a wizard, there’s an easy way for them to stop you from casting a fireball. Expensive material components—like the 100 gp pearl required to cast identify—prevent you from casting the spell casually, especially at low levels.

Starting with free components, it’s worth noting that you can ignore free components if you are holding a spellcasting focus (holy symbol, wand, rod, orb, etc) or if you have a component pouch. Personally, if these conditions are met, I’m entirely fine with a player either defining a unique arcane focus or changing what’s IN the component pouch. So looking at examples…

  • A component pouch is a great way to define a unified set of components that fit your presentation of magic. Perhaps you perform sympathetic magic, creating a model of your victim and the effect you’re producing. Maybe you have a set of crystals, and you combine the crystals in different ways for different effects (“Fireball? I’ll need a sliver of Fernian basalt amplified with the Irianic lens”). Perhaps you literally assemble a wand tied to the specific effect you want to produce. If you want to get weird about it, you could have a component pouch full of liquids… you assemble a one-use potion from the pouch, drink it (somatic component) and then belch out the spell effect (verbal component). As a warforged sorcerer, I could have a pouch filled with little mini-wands that I attach to my hand. The critical point here is that the component pouch is a set of tools: what do your tools look like?
  • A spellcasting focus needs to cost between 5-25 GP to replace. It needs to be something that is clearly associated with the spell when it is cast. It can’t be used for another purpose (IE it can’t be a useable weapon unless your class gives you that option) and it requires a free hand to use. But personally, as long as all those conditions are met, I’m fine with that being unique to the character. A few exotic ideas for a spellcasting focus…
    • The rune-engraved skull of an ancestor. This could be a wand carved from an ancestor’s bone, or something similar.
    • The polished horn of a beast—either something I hunted and killed, or a creature that was close to me. A Talenta caster could use the fang of a former dinosaur mount.
    • An exotic mask I hold in front of my face.
    • A strange machine I’ve assembled myself.

With any unique or exotic focus, there’s two critical questions. How can you replace it? If you lose your grandfather’s skull, how do you get a new one? Normally, a player can simply go to the store in a big city and buy a new focus, so the point to me is that I’d allow a player with time and money to replace a lost focus, regardless of the form. Perhaps you can perform a ritual that reconstitutes your grandfather’s skull—it’s just that the ritual takes components that cost 10 gp, the same cost as buying a wand. Second: can you perform magic using the standard components? Normally, a wizard can use a wand or component pouch to cast a fireball, but if they lose the focus, they can whip up a ball of bat guano. Can use use guano in an emergency?

The final topic is expensive components. Chromatic orb requires a diamond worth 50 gp. It doesn’t matter what kind of a caster you are, you need that diamond. Personally, the only thing I generally care about is the cost. I’m fine with the idea that chromatic orb requires a unique focus that costs 50 gp and is only used for this one spell, but I don’t personally care if it’s something that is likewise unique to the way your character performs magic. Likewise, in my Eberron, Eberron dragonshards can take the place of any expensive component. Whether it’s the 5,000 gp cost of resurrection or the 100 gp cost of identify, that amount of refined dragonshards will do the trick; this emphasizes the idea that dragonshards are the basic fuel of the magical economy. The only reason I’d restrict a spell to a concretely specific component is if I want to play up a particular region or individual as having a monopoly on that resource… if diamonds are consistently a thing, who has the diamonds? In Eberron, this is the role of Eberron dragonshards, which is why Q’barra and House Tharashk are important.

In Conclusion…

So putting all of this together, the question is: whether you’re a wizard or a sorcerer, what form does your magic take? Does your sorcerer have a magic musket with components they swap out (IE, exotic component pouch)? Do you carry around your grandfather’s skull (focus), hold it up (somatic) and ask it to produce magical effects (verbal)? Do you have henna tattoos (focus, as long as they can be removed) that you trace with a finger (somatic) while reciting words you learned in a dream (verbal)? If your power comes from exposure to the Mourning, do you wave (somatic) a piece of your house from Cyre (focus) while calling out the names of your friends who died (verbal)? You can have a unique style… but  you need to figure out how it meets the requirements of casting a spell.

Sorcerers in Eberron

So: this is an article about sorcerers, remember? While the previous section could apply to all sorts of casters, the point is to think about how your sorcerous origin is reflected in the way that you cast magic. With that said, I’m just going to dive in and look at some possible ways to justify sorcerers in Eberron.

Child of Khyber

Sorcerous Origin: Any

Aberrant dragonmarks are an unpredictable and dangerous form of dragonmark. For many centuries the aberrant marks that have been seen have been limited in power… but in the days of the War of the Mark, the Children of Khyber wielded marks that could destroy cities. You could justify your sorcerous powers as being tied to an aberrant dragonmark, with that mark growing in both size and power as your level increases.

Now: aberrant dragonmarks are specifically called out as being dangerous—channeling destructive or aggressive powers. This is your character, so this is a limitation you’re applying to yourself; but if you want to fit the IDEA of the mark, you should limit your spell selection to powers that fit this vision. You could play a divine soul as a character with an aberrant mark, but if so, you shouldn’t be using it to produce healing effects. One way to handle this is to suggest that you are essentially a crappy wizard or magewright who ALSO has an aberrant mark. So your one or two NON-aggressive spells are the spells you cast in a traditional arcane manner… and the aggressive spells are the ones tied to your mark. This also ties to the idea that an aberrant dragonmark is supposed to be a burden to its bearer, either mentally or physically. The mark could cause you pain every time you use it. It could be an effort for you to contain its power and to keep from accidentally hurting the people around you. It could whisper to you. None of these things have concrete mechanical effects; this is all about flavor and how you choose to present it. You are amazingly tough and focused and you overcome these things; but if it’s an aberrant mark, you want to keep the story idea that it is a burden.

Aberrant marks take many forms, as long as they are aggressive in nature. As a result, you could tie this to any sorcerous origin. If you justify your draconic bloodline with an aberrant mark, you aren’t ACTUALLY descended from a dragon… and the effects of your draconic bloodline could take other forms. Draconic bloodline provides you with high AC and resistance to a particular damage type. It could be that your mark actually acts as armor and absorbs the damage; the mark could even extend from your body in the form of wings. But it could also be that the mark is mutating your body in a disturbing way.

The secondary issue here is components. Your power is supposedly coming from your mark… and yet, you still need those components! One approach is to say that your mark extends to one of your hands, and you have to point that hand at the target to perform somatic components. For material components, you could use a “crystal” arcane focus—in your case, a Khyber dragonshard that amplifies the power of the mark. Which just leaves verbal components. Perhaps you shout arcane syllables that come to your mind unbidden. Perhaps you have to tell the mark what you want it to do. The critical point is it needs to be clear that you have to be able to speak, and that your words are tied to the effect.

Divine Soul

Sorcerous Origin: Divine Soul (duh)

A divine soul casts clerical magic as a sorcerer. What does that mean? Well, first of all, it doesn’t HAVE to be connected to a divine source. It could simply be that you have an aberrant dragonmark that produces traditionally clerical effects, or that you have an exceptional Mark of Healing; these are covered by my other suggestions.

But what if you DO have a connection to a divine power source? What does that mean? How does it work?

There’s a few paths I could see. First of all, the idea in Eberron is that we don’t know for certain that the gods exist. But we know that divine power sources exist. And people do have divine visions and such. So: as a divine soul, you have a connection to a divine power source. One option is that you’re hacking this power. You don’t BELIEVE in the religion; you’ve just figured out how to use arcane techniques to connect to the Undying Court or the Silver Flame and draw on its power. The power is unquestionably there, and it’s not like your using a bit of it will somehow drain the Silver Flame. Such a character could be a bit of a smug jerk—in your face, people of faith! The question would be how people OF that faith would feel about you. Your actions might not actually threaten to drain with Undying Court of its power, but that won’t stop the Deathguard from kicking your @$$ if they ever come across you.

A second path is that you have faith, you simply don’t know the rituals normally associated with it. You have connected to the Silver Flame in a weird and unique way, but you still understand what the Silver Flame is all about. You acknowledge it as the source of your power and invoke it in your verbal components, and you may use a holy symbol as your spellcasting focus. You’re NOT a cleric, but you are a person of faith.

A path that lies between these is that of the chosen one. You know nothing about the divine. You don’t know where your powers come from. And yet, you have visions that are driving you on your quest. The power has chosen YOU… but you don’t know why. Imagine your power comes from the Silver Flame. You don’t know this. You don’t believe in the Flame. But you have visions of yourself fighting supernatural evil. Perhaps a couatl whispers to you. Essentially, the Flame believes in YOU, and seems to have a purpose for you. Will you discover faith along the way? Or are you just a vessel? In this case, verbal and somatic components could be confused invocation (“Um, strange power, can you help my friend?”), or it could be that they come to you instinctively; you never know what you’re going to say when you open your mouth, but the words just come out.

Draconic Bloodline

Sorcerous Origin: Draconic Bloodline (duh)

So what if you WANT a draconic bloodline? There’s nothing wrong with that; dragons exist in Eberron and are a source of powerful magic. In standard Eberron, draconic bloodlines aren’t a defined thing. The primary magical bloodlines in the world are the Dragonmarked Houses. But there’s a few ways to do it. Perhaps you are part of a noble house that claims draconic heritage; I’d just be inclined to say that it’s very rare for a member of the family do develop powers beyond those of a first or second level sorcerer. Perhaps you’re a first generation draconic bloodline; which of your parents was a dragon, and what does it mean? Or perhaps you’re not LITERALLY descended from dragons, but rather the result of a Vadalis experiment that attempted to infuse humans with dragon’s blood. Are you the only success out of this program, or are there a number of dragon-blood super-soldiers out in the world? Are you working with House Vadalis, or are you a fugitive?

As a dragon-blooded sorcerer, you still run into the “What does my magic look like?” question. When you perform verbal components, do you instinctively speak draconic words of power? Or is it that the magic is in your blood, and you’ve jury-rigged some sort of spell system that lets you unleash it?


Sorcerous Origin: Divine Soul, Storm Sorcery, Shadow Magic

Along the same lines as an aberrant mark, if you’re of the proper race and bloodline to have a dragonmark, you can say that your unusually strong connection to your dragonmark is the source of your sorcerous abilities. Essentially, it’s clear that you have the potential to develop a Siberys Dragonmark, but rather than it manifesting all at once, it is emerging over time.  A halfling divine soul with healing abilities could attribute the power to the Mark of Healing; a Phiarlan or Thuranni elf could have access to shadow magic; a Lyrandar heir could be a storm sorcerer. Like the Child of Khyber, you’re entirely on the honor system to choose spells that make sense with your mark. Or, like I suggest for the Child of Khyber, you could present yourself as a minor wizard or general sorcerer who ALSO has a powerful mark—so the spells that don’t fit with your Dragonmark are tied to this secondary path. A Siberys dragonshard would be a logical spellcasting focus, but you could also have an object that incorporates a Siberys shard—a tool designed by your house to channel this sort of power.

Mad Artificer

Sorcerous Origin: Any

Like a wizard, an artificer approaches magic in a scientific manner. But what if they didn’t? What if they create magic items that should never actually work, yet somehow do? The point with this character would be to present all of their magic as coming from strange devices that they create. From a mechanical perspective, they’d have a component pouch—but that pouch would be filled with lint, shards of broken glass, and so on. Part of the concept—what differentiates this character from an actual artificer—is for their explanations of their magic to make no sense. “We just saw three doves in the sky. So if I pour the yoke of this dove egg on this magnifying lens, it will triple its ability to focus the light of the sun and create a deadly beam of heat. Simplicity itself!”

The mad artificer could follow any path, representing their “arcane field of study.” A draconic bloodline sorcerer who follows this path would “artifice” as an explanation for the benefits of the class. Their natural armor could be the result of mystical tattoos that channel a low-grade repulsion field; their dragon wings would be an Icarus-like set of artifical wings.  

Manifest Magic

Sorcerous Origin: Any

Manifest zones are places where the energies of the planes flow into Eberron. A character born in a manifest zone could justify their magical abilities as being based on an innate bond to that plane. A character with an innate connection to Mabar could possess shadow magic. Irian could grant the powers of a divine soul. Kythri or Thelanis could be a source of wild magic. As with other examples, you’d either need to voluntarily limit your magic to powers tied to your plane of choice, or come up with an explanation for where your other spells come from. Alternately, you could play a character who’s found a way to channel the energies of different planes—a form of the mad artificer, using spells that open up temporary portals to the planes you need. This would fit with the idea of verbal components calling out specific sources of extraplanar power, or material components tied to artifacts from the planes in question.


Sorcerous Origin: Any

In the City of Stormreach sourcebook we present a gang of people who survived the Mourning and emerged with strange arcane powers. While you could use this as the explanation for any sort of ability, it’s generally tied to the idea of disturbing abilities, not unlike the Child of Khyber. It could be that the Mourning is now a part of you, and you unleash its powers on your enemies. A Mourborn sorcerer with a “draconic bloodline” could be twisted into a monstrous shape. Or it could be that your magic has a secondary connection to the Mourning: you were the only survivor of your family, and now the spirits of those slain in the Mourning cling to you… demanding vengeance, but granting you the power you need to take that vengeance. This could be the sorcerer whose material focus is the bones of fallen friends, whose verbal components involve calling on them for aid.


This is a deep as I can go in the time I have available, but there’s many other possibilities.

  • The warforged created as a “walking wand.”
  • A changeling who weaves glyphs and mystic sigils into their skin.
  • A Vadalis experiment, magebred to harness mystical power.
  • A creation of the daelkyr.
  • An Aundairian duelist who specializes in wandcraft

… and so on!


I recall that in the Eberron setting dragons do not mingle freely with mortals. There’s the entire tragedy with Erandis Vol’s parents marking her status as a half dragon something unique. So how is draconic ancestry justified for a PC? Wouldn’t the dragons of Argonessen have hunted down their entire bloodline ages ago? 

The line of Vol wasn’t exterminated because of half-dragons; it was exterminated because Erandis Vol developed an apex Dragonmark, something that was likely only possible because she was a half-dragon.

The issue with dragons not mingling freely with normal races is because in a dragon you have a being that can live for thousands of years, who possesses tremendous physical and magical power and a civilization that is tens of thousands years old and has a deeper understanding of reality than most races… and then you have a human. Humans and other standard races are literally like housepets to dragons: The don’t live very long, they aren’t as smart as we are, it’s kind of cute when they act like they think they’re dragons. You might feel affection for one, but the idea of actually producing some sort of CHILD with one is simply bizarre. It’s not that the child has to be hunted down; it’s a question of WHO WOULD DO THAT? The only particularly logical reason is if it’s necessary to pursue a particular path of the Prophecy, or to achieve a specific end that absolutely requires it—both of which were the case with Erandis Vol.

So on the one hand, I suggest that you might have first-generation dragonic heritage; this would mean that you were created for a specific reason, and your draconic parent likely has an agenda involving you. On the other hand, I suggested that you might be part of a family that claims to have draconic heritage; odds are good that they’re mistaken. Either way, it definitely wouldn’t be a common thing, but neither is it something requiring immediate extermination.

Also, how common is it for celestials to mingle with humanoids in Eberron? Is it common (or at least, known to be possible) for a divine soul sorcerer to obtain their powers from celestial ancestry?

It depends what you mean by “mingle.” Celestials almost never casually interact with mortals. When they are encountered, it’s worth noting that immortals in Eberron don’t reproduce; there’s a finite number of them, and when one dies, the energy reforms to create a replacement. So if you’re suggesting that a celestial sires a child, it would be very unusual. On the other hand, what I suggested with aasimars is that the mortal is touched by or connected to an immortal. So the divine soul wouldn’t literally be the physical child of an immortal, but if there was a purpose for it, some celestial could have marked the child in the womb, or even worked magic to cause it to be born.  But again, such things are extremely rare.

Do you consider spells to be discrete things that can be recognized? Like if an Aberrant Marked Sorcerer uses Burning Hands and a classically trained wizard cast the same spell would trained observers know they were both using “Burning Hands as isolated by Bob the Pyromaniac in year 1082…” or would they just notice bursts of flame that are superficially similar?

It’s a little hard to say. I would allow an observer trained in Arcana an opportunity to identify the spell being cast (“That’s burning hands“). But no, they aren’t doing the same thing. If a divine soul tied to the Silver Flame casts burning hands, I’d probably make the flames silvery. If an Child of Khyber does it, they might actually project dragonmark-like tendrils of energy from their skin… even if I said those tendrils inflicted fire damage. Meanwhile, I’d personally allow a Storm Sorcerer to learn a version of burning hands that inflicts lightning damage instead of fire damage, but otherwise behaves the same. So the common spells are essentially benchmarks of common effects that can be produced with magical energy, and what the Arcana check ACTUALLY tells you is “They just generated a 15-foot cone of fire, inflicting a base of 3d6 damage.”

So it’s not that the spell is literally recognized because it’s the exact same spell; it’s that the trained observer can identify and evaluate the effects. With that said, an Arcana expert could potentially identify the technique—so “That’s burning hands, and they learned it from the Arcane Congress” or “That’s burning hands, but they’ve got no magical technique whatsoever; they’re just ripping open a portal to Fernia and spilling it out.”

To elaborate a little on my question about spells as discrete things, I meant along the lines of Burning Hands being like electron energy levels, a basic part of reality, or like steel, contingent convergences of simpler natural principles.

Good way to distinguish! To me it’s like steel. We recognize the end result, but they’re achieving it in different ways with a range of cosmetic effects.

Do you see Dragons, and other “natural sorcerers” as all being the same where their magic is concerned? At least along species lines.

If a species possesses natural sorcery—like 3.5 dragons, who universally gain sorcerer ability over time—then I usually depict that as taking the same form. So you wouldn’t have one dragon who’s a divine soul and another one with “draconic ancestry.” With that said, some 3.5 dragons have class levels in addition to their natural powers. And if you had another species with innate sorcerer levels I might present that in a different way.

What have YOU done with sorcerers or arcane components? If you have questions or ideas, share them below. As always, thanks to my Patreon backers, who make this website possible!

32 thoughts on “Sorcerers and Manifestations of Magic!

  1. Great article, as always!

    I recall, however, that in the Eberron setting, dragons do not mingle freely with mortals. There’s the entire tragedy with Erandis Vol’s parents marking her status as a half dragon something unique. So how draconic ancestry justified for a PC? Wouldn’t the dragons of Argonessen have hunted down their entire bloodline ages ago? These are some serious implications that would probably need to be worked into the story beforehand.

    Also, how common is it for celestials to mingle with humanoids in Eberron? Is it common (or at least, known to be possible) for a divine soul sorcerer to obtain their powers from celestial ancestry?

      • Follow up question on the topics of divine souls and aasimar.

        While normal celestials can’t reproduce with humanoids, what about radiant idols? After all radiant idols fall from Syrania because they crave mortal devotion. Whats to say they don’t crave mortal hedonism as well? Besides, being the child of a radiant idol and a cultist sounds like a very appropriate background for a fallen aasimar.

        • While normal celestials can’t reproduce with humanoids, what about radiant idols? After all radiant idols fall from Syrania because they crave mortal devotion. Whats to say they don’t crave mortal hedonism as well?

          I think that a radiant idol that embodies and encourages hedonistic behavior is a perfectly logical concept. And I could see that radiant idol producing offspring. The thing to me is that such a birth would be an innately magical effect, not a natural biological process. Angels/idols don’t reproduce, so they aren’t designed to sire children. They might mimic human behavior, but the actual conception would be magical, not biological.

  2. Can I just say that I love the thought you give to integrating classes? Each one of these posts is a treat to read and contemplate later.

    In our game we had a Valenar sorcerer whose spells were all tied to a specific deed of their ancestor. They would either repeat some word and action (such as a battle cry and a swinging motion after the time their ancestor threw a torch into a foe’s face).

    Do you consider spells to be discrete things that can be recognized? Like if an Abberant Marked Sorcerer uses Burning Hands and a classically trained wizard cast the same spell would trained observers know they were both using “Burning Hands as isolated by Bob the Pyromaniac in year 1082…” or would they just notice bursts of flame that are superficially similar?

    Thanks again for the post!

    • Appologies for forgetting to include this in my first post:

      Do you see Dragons, and other “natural sorcerers” as all being the same where their magic is concerned? At least along species lines.

      Are dragons, etc. invoking their own internal power for their spells or do they simply have a natural connection to the same source Dragon Blooded sorcerers draw from (whatever it may be)?

      To elaborate a little on my question about spells as discrete things, I meant along the lines of Burning Hands being like electron energy levels, a basic part of reality, or like steel, contingent convergences of simpler natural principles.

    • Adding another twist/slant/addition to Keith’s answer to this, I can give a real world comparison.
      When working in IT around other IT people, it’s not uncommon to have a bunch of people that know different coding languages to different extents. Some languages are very easy to understand what is going on if you speak English & have even passing familiarity with what it is doing(ie rpython) because they are practically english. Other languages are more difficult to unravel (even if you know it (ie perl or C) because they are less like english & more complicated in certain ways that make an unskilled coder with no or even minimal skill have much more difficulty. Still others like java or javascript are so very much not meant for human eyes with such loose formatting requirements that any noteworthy bit of code can be nearly impossible to unravel without either rewriting it or just running it & seeing what comes out. Finally some languages are deliberately obscured either in the code (usual done for malicious purposes to make detection more difficult) or the language itself (This is one such language Language )

      Wizards use proper formatting, valid functions, useful comments, so on & so forth like a professional developer. Certain types of “natural casters” might do some of that, but like the IT guy who just needs to make things work, it’s ugly & painful to unravel into anything meaningful.

  3. I’m greatly amused by the “mad artificer” concept. I can just imagine the conversation between one of them and a real artificer…
    MA: “Look at my new Wand of Wonders!”
    RA: “Wand of Wonders? What’s that supposed to do?”
    MA: “Oh, a variety of effects It’s quite versatile!”
    RA: (examining the “wand”) “But this is just three feathers tied to a stick!”
    MA: “Elegant in its simplicity, is it not?”
    RA: “But…but…there are no magical forces flowing through this ridiculous thing!”
    MA: (patronizingly) “Don’t feel bad just because you can’t perceive them It takes qquite a while to achieve my level of mastery!”
    RA: (spluttering, fuming. seething)
    And so on…

    Thanks, Keith!

  4. IIRC the 3.5e Eberron Campaign Guide also says that sorcerers don’t claim descent from mortal dragons — they claim descent from mythical, ascended dragons. The Dragon-Blooded sorcerer could also be run as someone whose magic is an innate connection to Ourelonastrix or the like, or even someone tapping directly into the Progenitor Wyrms and receiving draconic features through that.

    • Certainly. For example, the kobolds of Eberron claim a connection to the Progenitors, not to mundane dragons.

  5. This article is very useful stuff for me, since the next campaign I’m running is going to be a Battle School style campaign (think RWBY or Soul Eater). I’ll definitely have to take these sorts of details into account.

    I don’t get many players who run sorcerers, but I did have one tiefling Wild Magic sorcerer in my last Eberron campaign. This campaign was heavily inspired by Fullmetal Alchemist, and it was heavily implied that any creature using chaos-based magic was simply a vessel for a Philosopher’s Stone. This didn’t have a huge impact on how the Wild Magic sorcerer was played, but when he died (thanks to a Wild Magic effect from Net Libram of Random Magical Effects, which caused an Identify spell to go horribly wrong), his remains were transformed into usable slivers of the Stone.

  6. Hi Keith! Thank you for providing this. I’d like to ask you how you feel about sorcerers with any origin being able to use scrolls, wands or whatever.
    And would you reskin spellcraft as a more intuitive understanding of magic?
    Last but not least: how would you work on a sorcerer that wants to have a connection with ancient giant culture?

    • I’m in a place with poor internet, so my first set of answers to your questions didn’t get saved.

      I’ll address the first two questions soon. Looking to the third one, what do you mean by a “connection” to the ancient giants? The giants of Xen’drik approached magic scientifically; they had wizards and artificers as opposed to sorcerers. Plus, their civilization fell tens of thousands of years ago. I suppose a PC could be a Sulat magebreeding experiment that’s been in stasis; have gained sorcerous powers from contact with a Xen’drik artifact; or even be channeling the spirit of a fallen titan… but the last one sounds more like a warlock. So what sort of “contact with giant culture” are they looking for?

  7. One of the characters I want to play someday is Divine Soul Sorcerer belonging to the Blood of Vol creed.
    The Good Necromancer, who knows healing and buffing spells, but has no issue with casting Animate Dead when it is advantageous.

    It fits with Blood of Vol philosophy, but I’m not sure how to justify these powers in-universe. AFAIK, there are Blood of Vol settlements in the Mabar manifest zones, but this character looks like somebody who has a connnection to both Mabar and Irian.

    • It fits with Blood of Vol philosophy, but I’m not sure how to justify these powers in-universe.

      It doesn’t seem like a problem to me. The primary principle of the Blood of Vol is that we all have a spark of Divinity Within. So the Divine Soul might not be drawing power from Irian or Mabar, but rather from their own divine spark.

      • Won’t this remove the religious ambiguity? We don’t know for certain that the gods exist, and we don’t know for certain that the Blood of Vol doctrine is correct.

        The idea of Divinity Within could be true, a trove of inconvenient arcane secrets. Or it could be a patchwork of superstitions and cargo rituals. Or a front for a sinister cult. Or anything between.

        If the divine spark was the only explanation for such sorcerer, it would disprove a lot of possibilities.

        • Keith addressed something like this in his last Q&A.

          Essentially, people can believe that a BoV sorcerer can do magic without accepting that the story the sorcerer tells about how they do magic is correct.

          • … And I would add –as a guy who plays a BoV Invoker / necromancer detective in 4E– that the BoV sorcerer themself may *believe* the source of their magic to be the Divinity Within, the same way the very faith of clerics of the Ost or the Flame allows them to use divine magic, without this being considered an absolute thelogical proof from any other point of view.

            Of course it’s your right to prefer another approach, but it seems to me that you’d be the one who “remove the religious ambiguity” if you’d state explicitely: “Of course the source is not truly the Divinity Within, it’s just Mabar”.

          • Won’t this remove the religious ambiguity? We don’t know for certain that the gods exist, and we don’t know for certain that the Blood of Vol doctrine is correct.
            Essentially, people can believe that a BoV sorcerer can do magic without accepting that the story the sorcerer tells about how they do magic is correct.

            Max is essentially correct. There is no question that DIVINE POWER SOURCES exist. The Silver Flame is 100% concretely a divine power source with a positive alignment. People who believe in the Silver Flame say that it’s an amalgamation of noble souls that holds evil at bay. THAT may or may not be true… but there’s no question that it’s a divine power source that paladins, clerics, and divine souls who believe in the Silver Flame can access.

            The same thing is true for the Blood of Vol. Faithful seekers are able to channel the energy of a negatively-aligned divine power source. The faithful of the Blood of Vol assert that this isn’t an exterior power, but rather comes from their own divine sparks. Are they correct? Who can say. But it’s a confirmed divine power source.

            So again: There’s no question that divine power sources exist; the question is whether they are what the people who believe in them think they are. The Sovereigns are unquestionably divine power sources—but does that mean they are sentient deities, or simply pools of energy shaped by the collective unconscious?

            The nature of divine power sources is discussed in more detail here:

  8. The Q&A refarding spells as cast by different tupes of users raises an interesting question regarding “counterspell”.. In your interpretation, does a caster using counterspell observe the effects beginning to form and counterspell accordingly? Or might it add flavor to affect the chance of success (in 54 giving advantage or disadvantage), depending on how well the would-be counterspeller recognizes the spell being cast? For example, if an Aerenali caster is trying to counterspell anohter Aerenali caster, they’d get advantage because elven casters are perfectionists, and the spell being cast would be recognizable at the first twitch of the original caster’s finger. On the other hand, the same Aerenali counterspeller would have disadvanage on counterspelling the “mad artificer” sorceror’s spell, because they have no idea what’s coming until the effect is already underway. Or, in another case, counterspelling the Storm Sorceror’s “lightning hands” varient would be disadvantaged for other casters because it’s totally unfamiliar to them.

  9. In my campaign, a component pouch does not contain specific components. Instead, it contains something akin to residuum from 4e, a sand-like substance of clearly magical nature. When the spellcaster needs a component, he pulls out some of the sand and forms it as part of the casting into the component he needs. With costly components, the spellcaster can put coins or other valuables into the pouch as a sort of exhange system, and later pull out a material component of a required value, provided there are enough money put in the pouch. If the material component is not consumed, then the money spent for it are ‘reserved’ for that component from now on. If the component is consumed by the spell, then the money are also lost, but more money can always be added to the pouch. The components pulled out of the pouch are clearly magical to observers and will only remain physical for a brief moment, enough to cast the spell.

  10. In my campaign, spellcasters have a component pouch that contains something like 4e residuum. The spellcaster then pulls out a bit of this sand-like substance when casting a spell, and it turns into the required material component. For costly components, the spellcaster can put coins and other valuables into the pouch, which are then turned into the residuum, and later pull out the costly material component. If the spell consumes the component then the spellcaster needs to refill the pouch with more coins for the next time, otherwise the number of gp used for that component are now saved for that particular component, and can only be used for that specific component.
    The components are clearly magical to observers and turn back into residuum (I’m not calling it that per se, just the best description I have for now) after a few moments (enough time to cast the spell).

    For example: a wizard puts 100 gp (either as coins, jewelry, or gems) into the pouch. He can now choose to either turn them into a 100 gp pearl for Identify or a 50 gp diamond for Chromatic Orb and save 50 gp for another component. Once the choice is made, that component is always available and the wizard must add more money if he needs other costly components. The gems can’t be sold, they will revert back to residuum within 6 seconds.

  11. Beside the other questions that I already wrote, I realize that you didn’t say anything on familiars and how would you reskin them

  12. Well written. How would so called spell-like abilities work? Could an individual carry component(s) as part of their being? How does the dreaded psionics work in light of this? And bat guano is a nice way of saying bat ____; creative as usual.

  13. I would be very interested if mournborn was it’s own sorcerous origin. Just like how I am about wanting a spellscarred sorcerous origin in Forgotten Realms. I just love the idea of magical catastrophes leaving their own unique mark on an individual, rather than just unlocking the power from another source. I have no problem if it did that as well, but I just like to think that maybe in people who do not have a certain magical bloodline or soul, the Mournlands instead activate a new power.

  14. I have a Mark of storm Storm Sorcerer who uses a lot of the techniques described in this article: Non storm spells are learned through traditional wizardly arcane magic, his mark is the source of his sorcery, etc. However, I take a different approach to verbal and somatic components. Verbal components just have to be audibly recognizable as magic, while somatic components just have to occupy a free hand, and sorcerers can’t cast spells when they can’t do these things unless they use subtle spell. My response is to have these components not actually be magically required, but a psychological. Gust requires verbal and somatic components. On a magical level, these components do nothing, and he might not even perform them, but you can identify that he’s the source of the weird movement of the wind. When he’s in a situation that prevents those components, such as being bound or in an area of magical silence, he’s still magically able to cast the spell, he’s just too freaked out to focus enough to do so. When he casts Lightning Lure, he says some version of “come here”. These words aren’t magically required, but they’re a placebo that allows him to cast the spell.

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