When building a Shadow Magic sorcerer origin, consider the following races and build options:
- Try playing drow or owlfolk (UA)
- Understand Sorcery Points and Meta Magic
- Shadow Magic abilities: Eyes of the Dark, Strength of the Grave, Hound of Ill Omen
- Suggested spell list: chill touch, silent image, blindness/deafness
Introduced in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the shadow sorcerer is an interesting mixture of rogue and spell slinger. The darkness is my realm, giving me thematic elements of a spooky spellcaster. I’m close to the grave, pulling my sorcerous origin from the Shadowfell and beyond. Therefore, I’ll lean into these elements in gameplay, creating a creeping dark sorcerer.
Try playing drow or owlfolk (UA)
I want to blend my dark sorcery with a naturally dark character. Therefore, drow and Unearthed Arcana’s owlfolk sound like fun options.
Drow elves gain a +2 Dexterity/+1 Charisma ability score bonus. Naturally, sorcerers pull from Charisma for spellcasting. However, the extra Dexterity can keep my lightly-armored character alive in many situations—not to mention the increased AC. Fey Ancestry gives me advantage against being charmed and immunity to magical sleep. Plus, the drow offer inherent magic like dancing lights and fairy fire that I can use in combination with my sorcery spells.
However, owlfolk (UA) can give the same edge of darkness with the ability to fly. I can choose to build with a +2 Charisma/+1 Dexterity ability score bonus. Then, I gain Magic Sight to cast detect magic as a ritual. Nimble Flight gives me a flying speed equal to my walking speed (30) and the ability to make a Dexterity saving throw when falling (DC 10) to hover in place if I fall. Finally, Silent Feathers gives me proficiency in Stealth.
Understand Sorcery Points and Meta Magic
Sorcerers are flexible when it comes to casting spells. While most spellcasters must follow a rigid system of spell slots, sorcerers gain sorcery points that can both turn into spell slots and add other effects to my spell casting.
First, I gain Font of Magic at level 2, which introduces Sorcery Points to my character. The amount of sorcery points I must spend depends on the level of the spell. At first, this means 2 sorcery points for a 1st level spell slot. Then, this increases to 3 sorcery points for a 2nd level spell slot and continues to grow. Also, I can sacrifice a spell slot for an amount of sorcery points equal to the spell level.
Then, Meta Magic gives me the option to spend sorcery points of special spell abilities:
- Careful Spell: Protect up to 5 (Charisma modifier) targets from an area of effect spell (1 SP).
- Distant Spell: Double the range of a spell (1 SP).
- Empowered Spell: Reroll an amount damage dice up to Charisma modifier (1 SP).
- Extended Spell: Double the duration of a spell that lasts 1 minute or more. Can go up to 24 hours (1 SP).
- Heightened Spell: Target has disadvantage on its first saving throw against the spell (3 SP).
- Quickened Spell: Spell that takes 1 action now is a bonus action (2 SP).
- Subtle Spell: Cast a spell without any components (1 SP).
- Twinned Spell: Choose another target for a duplicate spell. Must be a spell that targets 1 foe (SP equal to spell’s level).
My preferences are Twinned Spell and Empowered Spell so my attacks from the shadows mean business.
Shadow Magic abilities: Eyes of the Dark, Strength of the Grave, Hound of Ill Omen…
My shadow magic gives me several abilities at the first few levels.
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First, I’ll gain Eyes of the Dark and Strength of the Grave. Eyes of the Dark grants me Darkvision up to 120 feet, with the darkness spell added at level 3. I can spend 2 sorcery points to cast this spell and see through the darkness. Otherwise, it takes a typical spell slot to cast. Strength of the Grave gives me the option to make a Charisma saving throw when I drop to 0 HP and pop back with 1 HP (DC 5 + death blow damage).
Next, level 6 grants me Hound of Ill Omen—a spectral wolf that targets one enemy and can move through walls. This spectral hound takes the stat block of a dire wolf and comes into play with temporary HP equal to half my sorcerer level. Plus, my cursed attack dog sticks around for 5 minutes or when its target is eliminated, taking its own initiative and capable of attacks of opportunity.
Finally, Shadow Walk and Umbral Form make me one with the shadows. Shadow Walk (level 14) grants me teleportation up to 120 feet if I move from shadow to shadow. Umbral Form transforms my body into a shadow for 6 sorcery points. In this form, I can move through walls and have resistance to all damage types other than radiant and force.
Suggested spell list: chill touch, silent image, blindness/deafness
Now that I understand what this sorcerer is capable of, I want to add effective spells that fit thematically as well.
- Chill Touch: A ghostly hand stretches out and grasps a foe for 1d8 necrotic damage. Enemy can’t regain HP until my next turn. This plays nicely with my dark aesthetic.
- Ray of Frost: A cold beam hits for 1d8 cold damage. Reduce target’s speed by 10 feet. Manipulating movement can act as a field effect alongside my direct cold damage.
- Mage Hand: A ghostly hand reaches to manipulate objects, doors or traps from up to 30 feet away. This can have many creative uses during an adventure.
- Blade Ward: I have resistance to bludgeoning, slashing and piercing damage until the start of my next turn. This will be a quick go-to spell for defense.
1st level spells
- Shield: As a reaction, add +5 to AC and take no damage from magic missile
- Ray of Sickness: Fire a sickly green beam for 2d8 poison damage. On a failed Constitution save, the target is poisoned. Again, this causes lingering effects against enemies with significant damage output. Also, it’s all dark and creepy.
- Chromatic Orb: Fire an orb of light that deals 3d8 acid, cold, fire, lightning, thunder or poison damage. In my opinion, this is the best 1st-level damage spell. Plus, I have several damage options to overcome resistances.
- Silent Image: Create an illusion up to 15-feet in size. The illusion can move but cannot make a sound or noise. I like to create illusions of myself to trick people—both in combat and social encounters. Plus, I can do creepy Dracula stuff.
- Blindness/Deafness: On a failed Constitution save, target is blind or deaf for up to 1 minute. However, the target can make a Constitution save on each of its turns to break the spell. Why not get creative with my hide-and-seek playing style?
- Mirror Image: Create up to 3 illusions of myself. Whenever I’m targeted by an attack, I can roll a d20 for the attack to hit one of my illusions instead. With 3 clones, I must roll a 6 or higher. 2 clones need a roll of 8 or higher. Finally, 1 clone takes a roll of 11 or higher.
- Scorching Ray: Create 3 heat rays that can attack 1 or more targets. Each ray deals 2d6 fire damage. Of course, I want to have some firepower on hand.
- Misty Step: Teleport up to 30 feet away in puff of silvery mist. Until I get my Shadow Walk ability, this will be my best bet for sneaky transportation.
Now, I have a great basis for a spooky shadow sorcerer with damage, defense and sensory manipulation. Therefore, I’ll be able to choose whatever suits my campaign as I grow further and still keep my shadowy play style.