Wizard vs Sorcerer Spell Progression


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion


What are the reasons for the Wizard having a fast spell progression than Sorcerers whose magic is supposed to be innate rather than studied?

Is this just a legacy thing from 3.5 and previous iterations like so much of Pathfinder?

Are there actual balance concerns if it was reversed, where sorcerers would hit 2nd level spells first over wizards?


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It is a legacy of 3.0. The designers of 3.0 overvalued the benefit of spontaneous casting and it has simply continued down the versions since then.

Sovereign Court

Though of note - while the spontaneous casting is just a lateral move at best - the extra spells are nice. And in Pathfinder bloodlines probably trump schools of magic.


Not trying to get into homebrew stuff, but how big of an impact would it have if their progressions were reversed? With a sorcerer gaining 2nd levels before a wizard and so on.

Grand Lodge

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Opuk0 wrote:

What are the reasons for the Wizard having a fast spell progression than Sorcerers whose magic is supposed to be innate rather than studied?

One could also make the argument that one who makes the practise of magic from years of study would learn more than the idiot for whom it just happens.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
Opuk0 wrote:
Not trying to get into homebrew stuff, but how big of an impact would it have if their progressions were reversed? With a sorcerer gaining 2nd levels before a wizard and so on.

Try it in your game and find out. You'll probably see that no one plays a wizard then.

Thing is sorcerer spell progression isn't any slower than a wizard's it's just staggered for the first 4 levels. after that, they are gaining spell levels one every 2, just like a wizard.


andreww wrote:
It is a legacy of 3.0. The designers of 3.0 overvalued the benefit of spontaneous casting and it has simply continued down the versions since then.

It's not just spontaneous casting, it's the added flexibility during the day. While wizards are overall more flexible, their flexibility is only as good as the player's judgment of what the adventuring day holds.

Sovereign Court

Philo Pharynx wrote:
andreww wrote:
It is a legacy of 3.0. The designers of 3.0 overvalued the benefit of spontaneous casting and it has simply continued down the versions since then.
It's not just spontaneous casting, it's the added flexibility during the day. While wizards are overall more flexible, their flexibility is only as good as the player's judgment of what the adventuring day holds.

Isn't that inherently what spontaneous casting implies?


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Philo Pharynx wrote:
andreww wrote:
It is a legacy of 3.0. The designers of 3.0 overvalued the benefit of spontaneous casting and it has simply continued down the versions since then.
It's not just spontaneous casting, it's the added flexibility during the day. While wizards are overall more flexible, their flexibility is only as good as the player's judgment of what the adventuring day holds.

Sure. But if a player makes poor judgment of what spells to pick as a wizard, they can change them out completely tomorrow. If someone playing a sorcerer does the same thing, they can't do anything until they level up enough times to swap out a spell. Even then, they only get to change a single spell at a time. The ability to change your strategy completely and recover from poor judgment in only a day's time is amazingly powerful.

LazarX wrote:
Thing is sorcerer spell progression isn't any slower than a wizard's it's just staggered for the first 4 levels. after that, they are gaining spell levels one every 2, just like a wizard.

I'm sure it's not the case in all games, but in my experience, the party tends to stay pretty close in experience, meaning everyone is the same level most of the time. In which case, yes, the sorcerer's spell progression is slower than a wizard's. Pick any character level above 2. When the party is that level one of the following will always be true:

A) The wizard has had his new toys for a while and the sorcerer has just managed to catch up for a little bit (with all of a single spell known at that level, compared to the wizard's minimum of 4).
B) The sorcerer finally gets her iconic bloodline spell, bringing her to a total of 3 spells known of a spell level that is old news to the wizard. Meanwhile, the wizard has just moved on to the next big thing: a new spell level, typically containing goodies significantly stronger than the previous spell level.

Part of the sorcerer's shtick is that she can cast more spells in a day than a wizard, but has less variety in those spells, but that's not even true at all levels. At level 5, a specialist wizard has the exact same number of spell slots as the sorcerer, except several of them are 3rd level spells, while the sorcerer is still stuck at 2nd.

In actual play, it's pretty easy for a power discrepancy to come up here. It's not nearly as bad as martials vs casters, but it's still there.


ZZTRaider wrote:
Sure. But if a player makes poor judgment of what spells to pick as a wizard, they can change them out completely tomorrow. If someone playing a sorcerer does the same thing, they can't do anything until they level up enough times to swap out a spell. Even then, they only get to change a single spell at a time. The ability to change your strategy completely and recover from poor judgment in only a day's time is amazingly powerful.

A sorcerer is only screwed if all of their spells are poor choices. As long as they have a few widely-applicable spells, then they can spam them again and again. If they have a generally-useful spell at every level they face no reduction in power. I've rarely seen a sorcerer that's useless until they run dry or they are facing a golem (which affects wizards about as much).

On the other hand, every spell a wizard chooses that's not useful is taking up the slot of something they could have used. So even though your 5th level wizard has as many spells available as a 5th level sorcerer, if any of them are badly chosen, they have less effective power. I see this all the time.

And the wizard can only change his spells out if her survives.


Philo Pharynx wrote:

A sorcerer is only screwed if all of their spells are poor choices. As long as they have a few widely-applicable spells, then they can spam them again and again. If they have a generally-useful spell at every level they face no reduction in power. I've rarely seen a sorcerer that's useless until they run dry or they are facing a golem (which affects wizards about as much).

On the other hand, every spell a wizard chooses that's not useful is taking up the slot of something they could have used. So even though your 5th level wizard has as many spells available as a 5th level sorcerer, if any of them are badly chosen, they have less effective power. I see this all the time.

And the wizard can only change his spells out if her survives.

I'm sure it very much depends on the group.

I've seen plenty of cases where our sorcerer suddenly realizes she has nearly no spells that aren't mind-affecting.

At least in the case of a golem, it's more likely that the wizard has, at some point, picked a spell that ignores spell resistance that could be useful. Yeah, he still needs to survive until tomorrow to do anything about it, most likely, but he can still do something about it tomorrow. The sorcerer may just be completely out of luck.

The wizard does seem to have more natural ways to deal with choosing the wrong spells, though. Scribe Scroll comes for free and is a great way to ensure you have those clutch spells that you're unlikely to prepare day to day. If you go with a bonded item, you get much the same without any preparation. In the APG, Preferred Spell lets you spontaneously cast a particular spell; if you choose wisely, this can give you a lot more flexibility in what you prepare. If you've prepared the right spell, but not enough times, Pearls of Power are pretty cheap for low level spells, and you get bonus feats that could be Craft Wondrous Item to make sure you get them as inexpensively as possible.

When it comes down to it, I really think that the differences between prepared and spontaneous arcane casting more or less equal out. I think sorcerers have a more potential for long-term failure with inexperienced players, but assuming a baseline level of game knowledge, it just comes down to having different strengths and weaknesses.

I don't see there being a big enough gap in either direction to validate the decision to delay either caster's spell progression compared to the other.


If they haven't chosen any spells that aren't mind-affecting spells, then that's a failure of the player. There's enough categories of creatures that are immune to mind-affecting that they really should have known better.

As for having other things available, sorcerers are only slightly behind wizards. They don't get free scribe scroll, but they can easily buy scrolls and wands.


Philo Pharynx wrote:

If they haven't chosen any spells that aren't mind-affecting spells, then that's a failure of the player. There's enough categories of creatures that are immune to mind-affecting that they really should have known better.

As for having other things available, sorcerers are only slightly behind wizards. They don't get free scribe scroll, but they can easily buy scrolls and wands.

I admittedly tend to play with people with lower system mastery.

One incident I'm thinking of in particular, the player had no idea that spiders are vermin (and thus mindless, and thus immune to mind-affecting) and that her charm spell wouldn't work. She was pretty frustrated with that. (Granted, the DM let her roll either Spellcraft or Kn. Arcana for her character to recognize that, so she didn't lose her turn, but given how she'd built her character, she felt like she had nothing to do anyway.)

And yeah, shopping is always a thing (though still dependent on the DM allowing you to get to a shop and find the scrolls you need. And you still need enough system mastery to know what scrolls you need). It's just a little more obvious to a newer player on a wizard that you should have scrolls around, since it's one of the first things the class gives you.

I do regularly see people suggesting sorcerer over wizard for new players. In some ways, it makes sense. Spontaneous casting is a lot simpler to understand than prepared casting. But those players are also the most at risk of failing because they lack the system knowledge necessary to select a good set of sorcerer spells.

Sovereign Court

ZZTRaider wrote:
I do regularly see people suggesting sorcerer over wizard for new players. In some ways, it makes sense. Spontaneous casting is a lot simpler to understand than prepared casting. But those players are also the most at risk of failing because they lack the system knowledge necessary to select a good set of sorcerer spells.

Sorcerer is definitely better for new players if they have a veteran buddy to help them pick spells.


I bumped up their progression as a house rule in all my games. They gain the new levels at the same rate as wizards but only get their domain spell at that point with a base of 3 spell per day of that level(bumped up so they get their bloodline spell at level 3). Haven't had any issues with it at all personally and most of my players have voiced really liking it.


ZZTRaider wrote:
I do regularly see people suggesting sorcerer over wizard for new players. In some ways, it makes sense. Spontaneous casting is a lot simpler to understand than prepared casting. But those players are also the most at risk of failing because they lack the system knowledge necessary to select a good set of sorcerer spells.

I don't know if this is necessarily a problem. A lot of veteran gamers will readily be willing to help beginners with spell selection, and even blasts like fireball (that beginners are likely to take) aren't exactly useless - it doesn't need to be as good as Solid Fog for the sorcerer to at least contribute.

Wizards, on the other hand, can be frustrating. Especially if you're trying to leave slots open and don't know what spells to best handle certain instances.

*

Nonetheless, I think they are okay with a progression bump. Bump all of their bloodline spells by two levels, too. Do something similar for Oracles as well (bump both progression and mystery spells by 1).

Arcanists can stay with the delayed progression.


Felyndiira wrote:
ZZTRaider wrote:
I do regularly see people suggesting sorcerer over wizard for new players. In some ways, it makes sense. Spontaneous casting is a lot simpler to understand than prepared casting. But those players are also the most at risk of failing because they lack the system knowledge necessary to select a good set of sorcerer spells.

I don't know if this is necessarily a problem. A lot of veteran gamers will readily be willing to help beginners with spell selection, and even blasts like fireball (that beginners are likely to take) aren't exactly useless - it doesn't need to be as good as Solid Fog for the sorcerer to at least contribute.

Wizards, on the other hand, can be frustrating. Especially if you're trying to leave slots open and don't know what spells to best handle certain instances.

*

Nonetheless, I think they are okay with a progression bump. Bump all of their bloodline spells by two levels, too. Do something similar for Oracles as well (bump both progression and mystery spells by 1).

Arcanists can stay with the delayed progression.

That's a start, but I also believe that no spells known table should ever have a 1 in it.

Actually, it's most of the solution. I think oracles would still be unable to fill a cleric's shoes without getting the remove and restore spells for free, but it would bring sorcerers to where they match wizards so the spell list can be nerfed without rendering them useless


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It's a legacy of 3.0

Pathfinder has gone a long way towards getting some equity between Wizards and Sorcerers, with stuff like Bloodline Spells and Human FCB letting Sorcerers shine. However, short of outright cheese like Paragon Surge the Sorcerer will always be stuck behind the Wizard thanks to that reduced spell progression. As ZZTRaider points out, at any given level you're either a full spell level behind or you have only a single spell known at your highest spell level.

I've heard different stories of how it came to be. I've read that one of the lead designers of 3.0 just had a hate-on for the Sorcerer class and intentionally wanted to make them inferior to Wizards. The more common version of the tale is that there was just a general sentiment that spontaneous casting was really good, and it just didn't turn out as good in practice as it looked on paper. In either case, Sorcerers in 3.0 were basically just an inferior version of the Wizard with an innovative mechanic.

That's not to undersell Sorcerers; they're still one of the most powerful classes in the game. It just so happens that their 'big brother' is a contender for the title of the most powerful class in the game.

LazarX wrote:
One could also make the argument that one who makes the practise of magic from years of study would learn more than the idiot for whom it just happens.

While this is an interesting philosophical question (to which I don't think there is a right answer), I'd say it's neither here nor there as far as this discussion goes. Regardless of how you choose to fluff the process of gaining experience and leveling up, 1 level should be an equivalent amount of progression regardless of which class you elect to take.

Shadow Lodge

Dasrak wrote:
Pathfinder has gone a long way towards getting some equity between Wizards and Sorcerers, with stuff like Bloodline Spells and Human FCB letting Sorcerers shine.

Of course, wizards have also gotten several ways to cast a few spontaneous spells throughout the day. Chosen from any spell they have scribed in their spellbook, rather than from a severely limited list like the sorcerer.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

If we get a Sorcerer Unchained (who knows how long Paizo will want to stretch this edition... maybe bringing out all-new Unchained versions for their classes would be a way to make everybody happy), the Sorcerer should get at least all the benefits the Oracle is enjoying, i.e. four skillpoints per level and get their bloodline spell at the same time they get a new level of spells, not one level after that.

But regarding the staggered spell progression, I am by now of the thought that it might be actually a good balancing tool versus the Wizard. As Dasrak wrote, you have by now many options to have a Sorcerer with a decent spell selection (Human FCB, which I habitually grant to all races, pages of spellknowledge, the Expanded Arcana feat) and I am as such much more a fan of the great flexibility you have as a Sorcerer.

Of course the Arcanist blows both classes out of the water in matters of flexibility. Comparing the Sorcerer and the Arcanist makes much of a case why maybe the Sorcerer should have the same spell progression than the Wizard.


LazarX wrote:
Opuk0 wrote:
What are the reasons for the Wizard having a fast spell progression than Sorcerers whose magic is supposed to be innate rather than studied?
One could also make the argument that one who makes the practise of magic from years of study would learn more than the idiot for whom it just happens.

I missed this earlier.

On the flip side, you can also make the argument that wizards are learning to manipulate magic from an outsider's point of view. With enough trial and error, they can come up with theories that mostly work and do some nifty things with it. But sorcerers are the naturals. It's literally in their blood -- they were born to use magic. They have that inborn talent and inherent aptitude that just makes it come easily to them. Sure, they don't necessarily understand all of the theoretical reasons of why the magic works the way it does, but they don't need to. They make things happen through sheer force of will.

A physicist or engineer with the right specialization can tell you exactly how a hummingbird flies. They can even build an airplane that lets people take to the skies themselves. But the hummingbird just flies with amazing precision, even in extremely poor conditions.


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Off topic, but I actually remember watching a video about how humming birds fly in the most crap conditions.

Amazing what an unmitigated urge for sugar can push you to accomplish!

I can relate oh tiny feathered mosquitos

Silver Crusade

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If someone else builds the character, a sorcerer is simpler to play than a wizard. My five year old insists on playing an arcane caster, so I build her a sorcerer who specializes in fun, flashy damage spells like fireball and magic missile, and she has a blast. (pun not intended)


So what would happen in the two following scenarios?

#1: Wizards and Sorcerers completely switch spell progressions, Sorcerers ending up with the 4 spells per level at level 20th, and wizards ending up with 6 spells per level at level 20th.

#2: Wizards and Sorcerers only partially switch spell progression, with wizards ending up with the Sorcerers current staggered spell progression but both ending with their respective number of spells per level at 20th (4/4/4/4/4/4/4 for wizard, and 6/6/6/6/6/6/6 for sorcerer.)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Opuk0 wrote:
So what would happen in the two following scenarios

The fundamental issue is that it's just not conductive to have this staggered progression. Wizard and Sorcerer (and, indeed, all 9-level casters) should ideally advance in lock step. Whether that's advancement at even levels or odd levels doesn't really matter to me, so long as there isn't this glaring power differential created by having one get its cool new toys a level earlier than the others.

If you're going to tweak the progression tables (something Paizo explicitly decided against in the 3.5->Pathfinder conversion, and their reasons for doing so are quite understandable) then use that opportunity bring the two progressions into parity.


Sorcerers aren't such a weak class that they really need faster spell progression. They're balanced pretty well against most other classes - it's just that the similar classes, Wizard and Arcanist, are probably contenders for the most powerful and flexible class in the game.

Though in order to be effective you have to choose your spells wisely, which mostly means picking from a fairly small list of spells which are useful in a wide variety of circumstances; Color Spray, Grease, Glitterdust, Mirror Image, Resist Energy, Haste, Fly, Fireball, etc. At this point being able to decide mid-battle whether you need to cast Fireball four times or Fly four times starts to become really useful.

If you wanted to boost the sorcerer, I'd suggest something milder like giving them their bloodline spells a level earlier.

Then again, giving them one spell per day of a higher level on odd numbered levels isn't really going to break anything.


Matthew Downie wrote:
Then again, giving them one spell per day of a higher level on odd numbered levels isn't really going to break anything.

Not more than it already is, anyways.


Look up paizo's rules for class building, they consider spell progression as an ability that happens at the specific level. They build classes so that something happens or improves almost every level.


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Rogar Stonebow wrote:
Look up paizo's rules for class building, they consider spell progression as an ability that happens at the specific level. They build classes so that something happens or improves almost every level.

Boy, they sure did fubar the sorcerer's 2nd level then. What a horrific level! I'd play a sorcerer over a wizard any day of the week. The bloodlines give them far more flavor, as does the spontaneous spellcasting when trying to make a character of theme. I love everything about the class (even with their gaining new spell levels one level later, which I have no issue with whatsoever). I do wish the developers would have given the sorcerer something to look forward to at 2nd level though! Would have been nice!


What? At level 2 you get to cast exactly the same spells, but one more time per day! And you learn a new cantrip! What more could you possible ask for?

Actually, given that your caster level, BAB, and Will save go up, overall it's probably no worse than what a Fighter gets most levels.


Opuk0 wrote:

What are the reasons for the Wizard having a fast spell progression than Sorcerers whose magic is supposed to be innate rather than studied?

Is this just a legacy thing from 3.5 and previous iterations like so much of Pathfinder?

Are there actual balance concerns if it was reversed, where sorcerers would hit 2nd level spells first over wizards?

The reason is balance. Plain and simple.

The Wizard has to prepare his spells and is likely to pick a spell that is not useful for a given situation that they will run into that day. Especially at lower levels.

The Sorcerer does not have to prepare their spells and so will never run into a situation where they have a used slot in something that will have no effect at all on the situation.

If you give Sorcs the spell progression of the Wizard then nobody has any real reason to play Wizard.


HWalsh wrote:
Opuk0 wrote:

What are the reasons for the Wizard having a fast spell progression than Sorcerers whose magic is supposed to be innate rather than studied?

Is this just a legacy thing from 3.5 and previous iterations like so much of Pathfinder?

Are there actual balance concerns if it was reversed, where sorcerers would hit 2nd level spells first over wizards?

The reason is balance. Plain and simple.

The Wizard has to prepare his spells and is likely to pick a spell that is not useful for a given situation that they will run into that day. Especially at lower levels.

The Sorcerer does not have to prepare their spells and so will never run into a situation where they have a used slot in something that will have no effect at all on the situation.

If you give Sorcs the spell progression of the Wizard then nobody has any real reason to play Wizard.

In some cases yes. In some cases no.

A sorcerer is locked in. If you pick charm person and have a couple levels of a campaign where all you do is fight against things that aren't humanoids, it's like having a spell slot that never has an effect on the situation. Meanwhile, wizard just picks something else instead. Even on a day-by-day basis, the only limit to how many spells a wizard knows is gold and time.

One thing a lot of people forget about with prepared casters is that they can leave slots open and fill them later in the day. That's an enormous advantage, and part of what makes a cleric so strong. If you leave one slot open each day, all you need to solve a problem is 15 minutes to prep, and the wizard and arcanist can take abilities that reduce that even further.


I will keep saying this untill the end of the earth. Sorc suffers the most in the 3-10 bracket and makes the wizard look like a sissy after the 12 level. That would be actually balanced in a ideal world where everybody plays each character 1 to 20.
But since the vast majority plays 1-12 (including the PFS) the sorcer seems very underwhelming. Because it actually is at those low levels where you don't have the spell pool to actually pick all the "required" spells and to take advantage of your tremendous flexibility and your way better use of metamagic.

And please, leaving you spell slot open might be usefull to disable a random trap but is not going to save your ass in the middle of a combat when the supposed orc happens actually to be an undead and half of your carefully prepared spell list goes the way of the doodoo. For the sorc instead? No sweat. He's definetly going to have something usefull up his sleeve.


Dekalinder wrote:


And please, leaving you spell slot open might be usefull to disable a random trap but is not going to save your ass in the middle of a combat when the supposed orc happens actually to be an undead and half of your carefully prepared spell list goes the way of the doodoo. For the sorc instead? No sweat. He's definetly going to have something usefull up his sleeve.

Uhhh, sure, but in this circumstance even a well-prepared wizard wouldn't do much anyways. If you're questing in the countryside, fighting orcs, and finally catch up to the supposed orc and all of your enchantment and illusion spells that were totes killin' it against those low Will save humanoids but now don't work, that would be a problem regardless of whether you left a slot open. Further, if you did have a slot open and, I dunno, cornered him in a cave or something, you could then fill that slot with a spell that works against undead. Most people I've seen playing a prepared caster leave a slot open for each spell level. Of course, it depends on what the party is doing or expecting; if they think there'll be a lot of combat or little downtime between encounters, the slots are usually all filled. If it's a dungeon, yeah, leaving a slot open to disable a trap is pretty good. Later on if you need that slot you could always put disintegrate in or whatever, and if you use all of your spells for an encounter then that encounter was probably wicked hard and you should rest anyways.

That's not really a great example of why leaving a slot open is a bad thing. A sorcerer could run into the same problem because they're mostly mind-affecting on their spell list, because their bloodline supports it, unless we're playing with a Schroedinger's Sorcerer, in which case I'm out.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:
Actually, given that your caster level, BAB, and Will save go up, overall it's probably no worse than what a Fighter gets most levels.

I fighter gets a feat every level! I'd gladly take that!


Of course, many of the combat feats are very weak...


Morgan Champion wrote:
Of course, many of the combat feats are very weak...

Yeah. In general, Combat feats seem to built around the assumption that you're going to have a ton of them, because you're a fighter or otherwise get bonus feats. Meanwhile, the caster feats usually have few, if any, prerequisites and you can take them whenever it's convenient. And several casters still get bonus feats.


I know I wouldn't sacrifice my caster level going up by one for the sake of a single bonus feat...

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