Every so often a new home-brew rule comes along that, in my opinion, improves on current mechanics while also enhancing the intended theme of a class from the source material. I wanted to get my thoughts down in the event it could spark some inspiration for players or DMs who find the wild magic system lacking in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
There are two main issues with the current Wild Magic system. The first is how often you roll on the table. When a player rolls on the Wild Magic table is completely left up to the DM’s discretion. The PHB just says “the DM can have you roll a D20” whenever you cast a spell of 1st level or higher.
This puts too much pressure on the DM to track how often they are having a particular player at the table interact with one of their class mechanics. Multiple sessions can go by before the sorcerer rolls on the table and even then, the results can be underwhelming. This brings us to the second problem. Regardless of how often the DMs has the player roll, it’s still a 5% chance to happen. This is too low. I’m not sure about you all, but the players I know who choose the Wild Magic origin, choose it specifically so they can roll on that table. They are agents of chaos! They want to roll on it. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s dangerous. It’s everything D&D should be. If we look at it like this, the roll for a Wild Magic surge is essentially a skill check where only rolling a 1 succeeds.
When in the game, the player quickly finds that it can be 10/20/30 hours of game time before they ever succeed on one of these checks and gets to roll on the table. The goal, therefore is to develop a system that sets concrete times for when the player rolls, and how often they “succeed” on the check.
Rule#1: The DM still has full discretion as to when the player rolls on the table. We don’t want to ever take this away.
Rule#2: When the sorcerer rolls a critical on any ranged spell attack, they MUST roll on the chart.
Rule#3: If a player fails to roll a 1, the “DC” becomes a 2. (Making a roll on the next check a 2 or lower) The DC increases every time the player fails a check.
Rule#4: Critical hits (which force a roll) increase the DC by 2.
Rule #5: Whenever the player “succeeds” on the Wild Magic check, the DC resets to 1 and the build up continues again.
Let’s look at it in action…
I have my player roll for wild magic and they do NOT roll a one. The DC increases to a 2 or lower for the next roll.
I have my player roll again the next session and they roll a 6. They failed to roll a 2 or a 1 so the DC is now a 3 the next time the roll for Wild Magic.
Then, during the same session in another battle, they roll a critical hit on a ranged spell attack. They automatically have to roll for Wild Magic, and the DC is now +2 from the critical for a total of 5. The player rolls a 4, which succeeds and they then roll for the random effect.
This system forces rolls for Wild Magic to happen more often, and it scales up the possibility for success over time. It’s also a slow enough build so that it’s not happening too often.
The Thematic Approach
We also need to look at this system thematically. What does a Wild Magic origin represent? Unlike their wizard cousins, who gain their power through purposeful study of spells and their arcane intricacies, Wild Magic sorcerers never asked for this power. They were born with it. The lei lines of magical power that permeate throughout the realms are coursing through these casters and at times manifest themselves in unexpected ways.
Having to roll on the Wild Magic table represents a loss of control over this power. If we imagine this power building and building within the player until it gets to the point where they can’t control it, the above system fits perfectly. I feel like it serves the sorcerer fantasy much better than a fluke accident from time to time. These creatures are vessels of magical energy that eventually spill over, if we continually increase the probability of them having to roll, we represent this loss of control much better.
Ultimately, I feel like this system is more fun, and adds depth to a mechanic that was lacking some. It adds more specifics as to when the player rolls for a potential Wild Magic surge. It represents the slow build of uncontrollable magical power within the Wild Magic origin, and does a better job of fulfilling the fantasy of a player who chooses to play this in the first place.