During the public playtest of D&D Next, I did some fiddling around with the sorcerer class to keep it current-ish with later packets, because several of my players were so intrigued by the original class concept. My efforts weren’t great, in part because they highlighted what was wrong in the long-term with WotC’s original model for the sorcerer – the pool of sorcery points ballooned into something that felt unmanageable. The good thing that came out of this was that I developed a new bloodline concept for the sorcerer, and now that 5e is actually out and doing its thing, I still think that concept is pretty cool.
Like many people who haven’t lived in a monarchy, I find the idea of the divine right of kings interesting, because I don’t have to deal with its more problematic elements and because in a fantasy world it can mean something much more involved. I also like that in D&D, bloodlines (like heroism) can manifest where you least expect them. Call it a sop to my American egalitarianism. Any long-term reader of this blog knows that I heart Birthright So. Hard, and that is another point of inspiration for this concept.
Edited 4/26/15: Thanks to some playtest feedback and perspective from Kainenchen and others, I have made some updates to these rules.
Your innate power of sorcery comes from your connection, however distant, to the monarchs of old, who received the blessing of the gods to rule and protect their people. Perhaps you can still trace your lineage back to one of those kings or queens, or perhaps this all comes as something of a surprise. Sometimes a dying monarch can confer the power of the royal bloodline upon a worthy servant at the moment of passing. More than other sorcerous bloodlines, your power waxes and wanes according to your comportment and the heroic inspiration that comes from acting in accordance with your birthright.
In itself, of course, royal sorcery does not confer recognition of your royal blood or any sort of political rank. In some lands, royal sorcerers are held in a combination of awe and dread, and if their nature is discovered they are hunted down and arrested as presumed enemies of the state. (After all, usurpers aren’t known for welcoming legitimate rulers back with open arms.)
At 1st level, you gain proficiency in medium armor, shields, and one martial weapon of your choice.
If you do not belong to the Noble background, gain one Ideal, Bond, or Flaw appropriate to a Noble. When you gain Inspiration from that Ideal, Bond, or Flaw, you also gain 1 sorcery point (this may exceed your normal maximum by up to 2 points).
If you do belong to the Noble background, when you gain Inspiration from your Personality Trait, Ideal, Bond, or Flaw, you also gain 1 sorcery point (this may exceed your normal maximum by up to 2 points).
Note: When rules for controlling a domain or kingdom are available, they will contribute to this in some way as well.
At 1st level, when you roll a natural 20 on a Charisma-based ability check, you gain 1 sorcery point (this may exceed your normal maximum by up to 2 points). When you roll a natural 1 on a Charisma-based ability check, you may spend 2 sorcery points to reroll.
You gain the Friends cantrip as a bonus spell, and when you cast it the target does not realize afterward that he has been influenced by its power.
Magic of the Royal Line
According to tradition, the thaumaturgic touch of kings could cure diseases, and none can stand before the will of the monarch. Through their divinely-granted right to rule, royal sorcerers (even those not currently ruling a realm) gain the ability to utter a powerful curse. Starting at 6th level, you add the following spells to your Spells Known list. You gain access to the 4th and 5th level spells when you gain 4th and 5th level spell slots, respectively.
1st level: Command
2nd level: Lesser Restoration
3rd level: Beacon of Hope
4th level: Dominate Beast
5th level: Geas
Edited 4/26/15: Starting at 6th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.
At 14th level, choose either Anoint Champion or One with the Land. You may switch between these choices whenever you gain a sorcerer level. At 20th level, you may switch between these choices with a week of downtime.
You may anoint a champion to defend you and fight in your stead. The rite of anointment requires 1 hour, and material components (oils, silk cinctures, and candles) totaling 50 gold pieces. You may have only one champion at a time; performing this rite on a second character immediately strips any existing champion of that status. From the time you perform the rite, and renewing each day at dawn, your champion gains:
- Once per round as a reaction, your champion may impose disadvantage on any attack made against you, or may grant you advantage on any saving throw. Your champion must be within 5 feet of you, or within 5 feet of the source of the effect.
- Temporary hit points equal to 1d8 + your sorcerer level
- +1d8 on all saving throws against the charmed or frightened condition
- +1d8 damage once per round against any enemy that dealt damage to you since your champion’s previous action
One with the Land
The monarch and the land are one. At the end of any long rest, if you are upon ground that is not cursed or blighted, you receive a false life spell. If you do not spend a spell slot, it takes effect as a 1st-level spell, but you can spend a spell slot of any level higher than first to receive the effect at that level.
If you are upon ground that is cursed or blighted when you complete a long rest, you can use your action and expend a sorcerer spell slot to expand your awareness of the land around you. This reveals a useful clue as to the source of the curse or blight, if you do not already know it, or reveals the direction of the curse or blight’s source or epicenter, if you do.
At 18th level, choose either Fount of Honor or Royal Presence. You may switch between these choices whenever you gain a sorcerer level. At 20th level, you may switch between these choices with a week of downtime.
Fount of Honor
You gain the ability to endow your power to your allies and retainers. For a base cost of 1 sorcery point, you may transfer up to 10 sorcery points to any willing character with an Intelligence and Charisma of at least 3. The initial cost of 1 sorcery point is paid for each separate character who is to receive sorcery points from you. Once this cost is paid for a character, it does not need to be paid again until you take a long rest. The boon remains with the subject until used, or until you take a long rest, whichever comes first.
When the subject spends these sorcery points, it casts a spell from your spell list and using your metamagic feats, unless you provide further constraint (such as restricting it to a single spell and barring it from using your metamagic feats). The subject must pay the cost of any valuable material components at the time of casting normally.
You can revoke this boon at any time, as an action, regardless of distance. Endowed sorcery points that were unspent are not refunded to you.
As Draconic Presence (PH, p. 103).
As with the Mastermind, I’m interested in how sub-classes can cast a class’s concept in a different light. In this case, the blaster gets additional power as the party’s Face, and later on develops an unusual set of leader-like benefits that, depending on the campaign, might contribute to some really unusual approaches to problems – such as granting most of the sorcerer’s spellcasting power to allies while the sorcerer handles a social or political encounter elsewhere.
Within the core rules, we don’t see classes openly interact with Backgrounds in the way I’m doing here. More than one reviewer has noted that there’s a lot of fertile ground to give Inspiration more mechanical hooks as well. Those two things in particular are why I set up Noblesse Oblige the way I did – I’m playing it safe by simply juicing the payoff for earning Inspiration further. It also creates a stronger incentive to earn Inspiration, pass it off to another player, and try to earn Inspiration again, which seems like it might create the right tone and theme in gameplay.
Beacon of hope as their third-level bonus spell is kind of weird, and it might have been better to give them something like remove curse. The reason I settled on beacon of hope was that it created what I thought would be a fun “combo move” with the party’s actual healer, as well as helping during the expenditure of Hit Dice as part of a short rest. It lets the cleric off the hook for a tiny bit of the spellcasting burden of healing, without turning the sorcerer into a healer per se. Dominate Beast is even weirder, and really only makes sense if you know that I’m thinking of Birthright’s animal-linked bloodline powers. I didn’t see anything else at 4th level that really screamed “rulership,” though, and didn’t feel like making up a new spell to fit this situation.
I did strongly consider making the royal sorcerer a divine caster outright, such that the first-level class feature flipped the spell list to an approximate clone of the cleric rather than the wizard. There’s nothing in the sorcerer’s mechanics that gets in the way of using it as a chassis for a 5e conversion of the 3.x Favored Soul. Cultures built on priest-kings, or a separate caste or tribe of priests and judges, are all cool to me in concept. In the end, the sorcerer spell list brings more mind control to the table by default than the cleric’s does, and thus fits what I wanted just a little better.
On 4/26/15, after extensive discussion with Kainenchen and seeing the alternate Royal Sorcerers that Save-vs-DM posted in RPG.net (with credit, which I appreciate), I’ve made some changes to the abilities of the royal sorcerer, adding in alternate features at 14th and 18th level, and the ability to switch back and forth between those features when you gain a sorcerer level. The problem with Anoint Champion and Fount of Honor as the only options is that they are strictly for aiding others – even a leader class should have options to improve themselves rather than their allies. The choice to flip back and forth between the two is actually kind of a retirement option, especially the 18th-level feature.
The addition of Extra Attack to Magic of the Royal Line is to support the royal sorcerer as a more melee-friendly build. They receive this ability at 6th level both because 6th is the first time they should have a bloodline feature after 5th level, and because that’s when College of Valor bards gain the same ability. Magic of the Royal Line was otherwise useful, but more ways to spend your spell slots only represents versatility, not increased throughput. It’s a lot to gain at 6th, overall, but the Draconic bloodline’s Elemental Affinity likewise benefits the character in two different ways, so it shouldn’t be an issue.
The recent Unearthed Arcana article on Modifying Classes informs what I’m doing here, especially in terms of trying to keep the 14th-level power relatively tame. Extra Attack at 6th level is what they did with their 6th-level bloodline feature too.