The preview of the new Sorcerer class is up on the Wizards web site, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to post my first impressions.
Thanks to my friend Guy's character Dizloray in the 3.5E Dragonlance campaign I intermittently DM for my oldest chums, I shall always think of the sorcerer as a permanent thorn in my side. Whether it's flying around the battlefield unleashing the very best of the wizard's blasty attacks, throwing Haste spells around like confetti and NOT getting old and decrepit in the process (damn you, 3rd Edition!), or dabbling in the hopelessly broken Dragonlance Warmage Prestige Class and giving the minotaur fighter a godly AC which I can never hit, Diz is a fantastically potent and entertaining PC who attracts more than her fair share of attention from the monsters, it has to be said. In 4th Edition's brave new world of re-balanced magic-users, what can we expect from the sorcerer now?
Completely in keeping with its heritage from my own campaigns, we find it's an Arcane Striker, so thumbs up there. I wouldn't have wanted to see the sorcerer competing for too much space in the Controller's playing field. Build wise the class is given a Spell Source with which it can branch into Dragon Magic, putting Strength right into the heart of the class, or, excitingly, Wild Magic, channeling power straight from the Elemental Chaos and somewhat randomly out into the world at large.
Dragon Magic, with its augmented damage and penetrative attacks, was a predictable spin-off from the suggested flavour of sorcerers in the 3E PHB, but the assimilation of Wild Magic into the new class is a brilliant and unexpected bonus. I always loved the Wild Mage from 2nd Edition's Tome of Magic and some of that flavour seems to have been re-captured here, whether it's in die rolls to determine round-by-round bonuses, mad augmentations to critical hits and misses, or powers which can give you secondary attacks out of the blue. Sheer randomness is the name of the game, the feeling that your grasp on magic is tenuous at best, and I love it. Flavour-wise, the Chaos Sorcerer's connection to the Elemental realms just screams story-hooks as well.
Which is not to take anything away from the Dragon Sorcerer, whose reliance on Strength as a primary stat makes it an interesting choice almost from the get-go. None of the powers listed in the preview use anything except Charisma on the attack, which definitely says to me that the Dragon Sorcerer's Strength dependence is there almost entirely to open up a couple of new and unusual multi-classing combinations (well, that and to get a global bonus to spell damage... can't complain).
Power-wise we see the customary split between Ranged and Close attacks, the latter of which almost certainly favour the Dragon Sorcerer bloodied AC bonus, and a good set of options when it comes to which Defenses you want to target, so no problems there. Stand outs include: Chaos Bolt, which in offering the Chaos Sorcerer a 50/50 chance per attack of getting another attack against a new enemy, holds out the tantalising possibility of spraying damage across the entire battlefield much like a Chaotic Chain Lightning; Chromatic Orb, which does a ton of damage of a random type, as well as applying secondary effects even on a miss; and Lightning Breath, a Minor-sustainable shield of crackling energy that causes attackers to be repelled whenever they hit you (too cool).
The sorcerer's powers are hard-hitting and and chuck big damage dice around; multiple d8's and d10's are common, and Dazzling Ray, a mere 1st level Daily, does a whopping 6d6+Cha, and half on a miss. It seems to me that the sorcerer is trading Controller options for damage in a big way. I can't see anyone who plays a sorcerer complaining about that, but other Strikers might, because their damage appears at first glance to lag behind the sheer firepower of the sorcerer.
Still, it's early days, and whether or not the sorcerer's damage is excessive, I think Wizards have captured the archetype of this character class perfectly. I might just have to bring my old gnome Wild Mage, Flem the Marvel, back out of retirement...