The Sorcerer’s Wild Magic is a very funny an interesting way to play a Sorcerer. While in the 4e, Wild Magic was presented, it kinda lacked the possibility to blow up right in your face, making it more tame than wild. And now in 5e, it came back, presenting us with real and nice options to not only making you a death machine of doom, but also to be a real danger for yourself and allies.
But if you look at the Wild Magic Table, I found only 10 out of 50 results generally negative, while 22 were generally positive and 18 were more of the neutral side, because they were either more cosmetic and without real penalty, conditional due the fact how the allies and foes stand, randomly choosing the target or simply positive and negative at the same time.
Since every option has a 2% chance of occurrence when rolling the table, you’re not as bad off 80% or 70% of the time you don’t have to worry at all.
But not only this makes Wild Magic more safe, it’s about the times when rolling on the table. Generally the DM has to decide after every 1st slot and above spell, if you have to roll the d20 and only at a 1 you’re rolling on the table, means that the chance of backfiring is only about 1%, if the DM lets you roll every time you cast a non-cantrip spell.
While Tides of Chaos increase that chance, since you’re simply forced to roll at the table at some point, Controlled Chaos decrease the chance to blow up greatly and increase the chance to get something good decisively. In the end the odds of burning yourself with an unplanned fireball at the first level is slim. But at least definitely there.
At the same time, incredible effects are waiting for you, starting getting spell slots back, cast a random spell, which might improve your chances or even get effects which gives you the edge, like a maximized spell or another action. But normally I’d advise a player to not challenge his/her luck, by using Tides of Chaos for every opportunity: Only if needed you should temper with fate… or if you have enough hit points to survive at least 29 fire damage (so you won’t die instantly after an average damage roll; or take Empower Spell and Save Spell, to re-roll the highest dice and save your own spell without fail).
How would I deal with WIld Magic Surge as a DM? Sadly, I only get a Draconic Sorcerer in my party, so I’m not too sure, but I’d definitely do the following:
- Laughing after the player rolled a 1 for the Wild Magic Surge feature
- Laughing when I declare to let the player roll because of Tides of Chaos
- Using a personal Wild Magic Surge table, starting with the standard one and after one result got rolled, I replace it with another one. Magic can be that unpredictable and after a while the players have to fear the unknown. But being sure that the chances to make a character look miserable stays decent
This is a system I’d like to try out, when I get a chance. After a long rest, the DM rolls a d12 (and keep the result secret), these are the numbers of spell-levels the sorcerer can cast without triggering Wild Magic Surge. While a 1st level spell will only spend one spell-level, a 5th level spell would spend 5 spell-levels (logically), when more levels are cast than the die roll resulted in, let the player roll his d20.
Afterwards roll a d10, do the same. And after that roll a d8, d6 and d4 respectively, after the d4 procedure every further spell will trigger the Wild Magic Surge roll.
So the more often a Sorcerer casts spells, the more likely it is to trigger the roll. Only after a long rest (and maybe a Wild Magic Surge table roll) the roll reset to d12, so there won’t be as many accidents at first, but after raising the level and more access to high level spells, the magic becomes more randomly.
The idea behind it is, that every spell of the Wild Magic Sorcerer is stressing the Weave and the more stress is build up, the more likely it is to happen to lose control of it, when you opening yourself up to it.
If you want to be wild, be a wild mage. Make it as randomly as possible and have fun with it. At least as a player, since being a wild mage could be actually suck as a sorcerer, like: “I’m a ticking time-bomb!” But maybe it makes you insane instead: “You can’t kill me, since one day my magic will definitely do it!”