Monthly Archives: January 2016

Cassandra, Malocchio, Ayn al-Asūd

A few more monsters. I want something in the “nothic/mind flayer/beholder” continuum.

Now, that’s not a real continuum, yet. But we can get it there; Dragon Age has been giving me a yearning for “monsters made out of wizards”, the SRD has been reminding me what’s missing. Also, inevitably, when psionics do get out, the Illithid will change. I want something more magicky, and something like demons and devils — a creature type.

Mallock
A type of creature which arises from the corpses of ritualists who treat with dark forces. Guards and assistants are transformed into acolytes; the leaders Ritualists, and the truly damned become Achmallock.

Mallock Acolyte (Challenge 2)
Medium aberration, neutral evil
AC 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points: 39 (6d8+12)
Resist Damage: psychic
Condition immunity: frightened, confused
Speed: 30 ft.
STR+2  DEX+3  CON+2  INT+1  WIS+0  CHA-1
Skills Perception +2 Stealth +5
Senses: truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages: Telepathy 120 ft., Undercommon
Challenge 2
Traits:
Evil Eye: When a creature that can see the Mallock’s central eye starts its turn within 30 feet of the Mallock, the Mallock can force it to make a (fear-based) DC 11 charisma save if the Mallock isn’t incapacitated and can see the creature. If the saving throw fails, the creature is frightened for 1 minute. While frightened, the creature takes 1d6 psychic damage at the beginning of each turn. The creature gets a saving throw at the end of each round, with disadvantage if it can still see the source of its fear.
Unless surprised, a creature can avert its eyes to avoid the saving throw at the start of its turn. If the creature does so, it can’t see the Mallock until the start of its next turn; if it looks at the Mallock in the meantime, it must make the save.
Actions
Claw: melee weapon attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 +3) slashing damage.
Innate Spellcasting: The innate casting ability is intelligence; the attack bonus is +3, and the save DC 11.
1/day each: counterspell, detect thoughts, disguise self, misty step.

Mallock Ritualist (Challenge 7, 8 if it retains spellcasting)
Medium aberration, neutral evil
AC 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points: 58 (13d8)
Resist Damage: psychic
Condition immunity: frightened, confused
Speed: 30 ft.
STR+0  DEX+1  CON+0  INT+4  WIS+3  CHA+3
Skills Perception +6 Stealth +4
Senses: truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages: Telepathy 120 ft., Undercommon
Challenge 7
Traits:
Magic Resistance: Advantage on saving throws against magical effects.
Evil Eye: When a creature that can see the Mallock’s central eye starts its turn within 60 feet of the Mallock, the Mallock can force it to make a (fear-based) DC 15 charisma save if the Mallock isn’t incapacitated and can see the creature. If the saving throw fails, the creature is frightened for one minute. While frightened, the creature takes 3d6 psychic damage at the beginning of each turn. The creature gets a saving throw at the end of each round, with disadvantage if it can still see the source of its fear.
Unless surprised, a creature can avert its eyes to avoid the saving throw at the start of its turn. If the creature does so, it can’t see the Mallock until the start of its next turn; if it looks at the Mallock in the meantime, it must make the save.
Nightmare: Frightened creatures that can see this Mallock are stunned while frightened and take 2d6 extra damage from this creature ‘s abilities, attacks and spells.
Actions
Bite: melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+1) piercing damage. Target must make a DC 15 constitution save or take 17 (5d6) poison damage and be poisoned for one minute, stunned while poisoned, save at the end of each round.
Claw: melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+1) slashing damage and medium creatures are grappled (escape DC 15) and are exposed to the evil eye each round while grappled.
Steal Head: Melee weapon attack. +7 to hit one incapacitated target grabbed by the Mallock. The target takes 55 (10d10) piercing damage. If the damage reduces the target to 0 hp, the target is decapitated.
Innate Spellcasting: The innate casting ability is intelligence; the attack bonus is +7, and the save DC 15.
At will: alter self, detect thoughts, suggestion
3/day each: counterspell, misty step
1/day: geas

Variant: Mallock Mage: it’s a 10th level wizard; DC 15.

Archmalock (Challenge 13, 14 if it retains spellcasting)
Medium aberration, neutral evil
AC 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points: 130 (20d8+40)
Resist Damage: acid, cold, electric, fire, poison, thunder, psychic
Condition immunity: frightened, confused
Speed: 20 ft., fly 20 ft. (hover)
STR+1  DEX+2  CON+2  INT+4  WIS+3  CHA+3
Skills Perception +6 Stealth +5
Senses: truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 16
Languages: Telepathy 120 ft., Undercommon
Challenge 13
Traits:
Limited Magic Immunity: Immune to spells of 6th level or lower unless it wishes otherwise. Advantage on saving throws against all other magical effects.
Evil Eye: When a creature that can see the Mallock’s central eye starts its turn within 120 feet of the Mallock, the Mallock can force it to make a (fear-based) DC 16 charisma save if the Mallock isn’t incapacitated and can see the creature. If the saving throw fails, the creature is frightened for one minute. While frightened, the creature takes 6d6 psychic damage at the beginning of each turn. The creature gets a saving throw at the end of each round, with disadvantage if it can still see the source of its fear.
Unless surprised, a creature can avert its eyes to avoid the saving throw at the start of its turn. If the creature does so, it can’t see the Mallock until the start of its next turn; if it looks at the Mallock in the meantime, it must make the save.
Nightmare: Frightened creatures that can see this Mallock are stunned while frightened and take 4d6 extra damage from this creature’s abilities, attacks and spells.
Actions
Multiattack: the Mallock makes a claw and a bite attack.
Bite: melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+1) piercing damage. Target must make a DC 16 constitution save or take 17 (5d6) poison damage and be poisoned for one minute, stunned while poisoned, save at the end of each round.
Claw: melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+1) slashing damage and medium creatures are grappled (escape DC 16) and are exposed to the evil eye each round while grappled.
Arcane Symbol: one target within line of sight is exposed to a random symbol effect, DC 16.

Innate Spellcasting: The innate casting ability is intelligence; the attack bonus is +8, and the save DC 16.
At will: alter self, counterspell, detect thoughts, misty step, suggestion
1/day: geas

Legendary Actions (3/round):
Symbol: the Mallock uses the Symbol action.


Replacer Beast

Take the stats of a Giant Octopus, and add a few mirror image-y, mislead-y effects.

What you get is a quantum horror, a nondeterministic finite state automata which interfaces with our reality only long enough to breadth-first search the phase space for sustenance.

Replacer Beast Young
Medium monstrosity, neutral evil
AC: 11
HP: 31 (5d8+5)
Speed: 20, climb 20, fly 40
STR+2  DEX+1  CON+1  INT-3  WIS+0  CHA-3
Skills: Perception +4, Stealth +5
Senses: Darkvision 60, passive Perception 14
Challenge: 1
Traits:
Possible Illusion: The Replacer Beast may have magical illusion duplicate spaces using the traits below. Whenever it would take damage or is subject to an effect which can distinguish illusions, such as a truesight zone or a successful DC 15 investigation action, it will be revealed as the Beast’s True space or one of the False spaces. Roll a die with twice as many sides as there are Beast spaces; the Beast is True on a 1-2 on that die. When the true Beast is revealed, the false ones cease to be creatures and are destroyed; if a false Beast is revealed, it alone is destroyed in this fashion. Only the true Beast takes hit point damage; if there is only one space it is True.
Cohere: At the beginning of the Beast’s turn, select one of the spaces as the True space. The other spaces are revealed as illusions and thus destroyed.
Spawn Shadow: Once during its turn, the Beast may place an instance of itself in one of the spaces its movement passes through. Each copy has the same conditions and effects as the parent, as relevant. As long as one space is threatened by a creature, the Beast’s movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks from that creature.
Reactive Shadow: Each Shadow may make its own separate reaction.
Actions
Tentacles. Melee weapon attack: +4 to hit, reach 10ft., one target. Hit: 9 (2d6 + 2) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it is grappled (escape DC 15). Until this grapple ends, this target is restrained, and the Beast can’t use its tentacles on another target from this space.

Next, the SRD stand-in for a certain Beast with a similar name; that guy is Wizard’s IP, but this guy isn’t:
Replacer Beast Adult:
Large monstrosity, neutral evil
AC: 13 (natural armor)
HP: 75 (10d10+20)
Speed: 20, climb 20, fly 40
STR+4  DEX+2  CON+2  INT-2  WIS+1  CHA-2
Skills: Perception +5, Stealth +6
Senses: Darkvision 60, passive Perception 15
Challenge: 3
Traits:
Possible Illusion: As above, DC 16 to recognize.
Cohere: As above
Spawn Shadow: As above, twice per turn instead of once.
Reactive Shadow: Each Shadow may make its own separate reaction.
Actions
Multiattack: Make up to 2 Tentacles attacks, each from separate spaces.
Tentacles. Melee weapon attack: +6 to hit, reach 15ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it is grappled (escape DC 16). Until this grapple ends, this target is restrained, and the Beast can’t use its tentacles on another target from this space.

Finally, the leader of the pack:
Replacer Beast Alpha:
Huge monstrosity, neutral evil
AC: 15 (natural armor)
HP: 114 (12d12+36)
Speed: 30, climb 30, fly 60
STR+4  DEX+2  CON+3  INT-1  WIS+2 CHA-1
Skills: Perception +5, Stealth +5
Senses: Darkvision 60, passive Perception 15
Challenge: 6
Traits:
Possible Illusion: As above, DC 17 to recognize.
Cohere: As above.
Spawn Shadow: As above, thrice per turn instead of once.
Reactive Shadow: Each Shadow may make its own separate reaction.
Actions
Multiattack: make up to 3 Tentacles attacks, each from separate spaces.
Tentacles. Melee weapon attack: +7 to hit, reach 20ft., one target. Hit: 15 (3d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it is grappled (escape DC 17). Until this grapple ends, this target is restrained, and the Beast can’t use its tentacles on another target from this space.

Legendary Actions (3/round):
Maneuver: move each space half the creature’s movement.
Attack: Make a single Tentacles attack.
Spawn Shadow (2 actions): If there are fewer than 4 spaces on the board, place a new space within 20 ft. of an existing one.

So! There we have it, a super-complex illusory beast.


The Paladin

Okay, another quickie.

The paladin is too goodie-goodie as writ. We all know it. I want to add the Oath of Menace (AKA the Hellknight, AKA the antipaladin); most of the paladin list still works, but I will point out that the paladin gets bless but not bane; cure but not inflict. What the hell, guys? I know I can fix it in my domain, but that means no additional fire-type spells.

I can of course granted-feature it, and will; to whit:

Oath of Menace:

Oath spells:
3rd: burning hands, command
5th: blindness/deafness, scorching ray
9th: fireball, stinking cloud
13th: fire shield, wall of fire
17th: flame strike, hallow

Channel Divinity
When you take this oath at 3rd level, you gain the following two Channel Divinity options.
Aura of Weakness: As an action, you can use your channel divinity to present your weapon and surround yourself with an aura of weakness. For the next minute, you may spend your reaction when a creature ends its turn within 10 feet of you to put it at disadvantage on strength-based attacks, checks and saving throws until the end of its next turn; a creature that damages you is immune to this effect for 24 hours. This is a fear-based effect.
Judgment Gaze: As an action you can use your channel divinity to give yourself a fearsome and piercing gaze for the next minute. You gain darkvision 60′ and may see in magical darkness. You activate divine senses for free. Each round, you may lock gazes with a creature that can see you within that range; they must succeed at a charisma save or take 1d10+cha psychic damage and be turned for 1 round. This damage increases to 2d10+cha at 9th level, and 3d10+cha at 16th.

Dark Knowledge
Also at 3rd level when you select this oath, you gain access to some additional spells. These are not oath spells, in that you must prepare them, but they are paladin spells for you: bane (1st), inflict wounds (1st), darkness (2nd), darkvision (2nd), bestow curse (3rd), contagion (5th).

Aura of Menace
Starting at 7th level, you are now wreathed in danger. Whenever a creature takes damage within 10 feet of you, increase the damage by d4; this includes you.

Whenever a creature is reduced to 0 hit points within 10 feet of you, it dies and you gain your charisma bonus + paladin level temporary hit points.

At 18th level, your Aura of Weakness, of Death and of Menace all increase to 30 feet.

Font of Judgment
Beginning at 15th level, you may use Judgment Gaze without spending your Channel Divinity whenever you make a smite attack.

Outsider Form
Beginning at 20th level, you may use an action to transform into an outsider for one minute, once per short rest.

You gain resistance to three of: mundane weaponry (pierced by silver or magic), fire, cold, poison, acid, or electricity.

You grow or stow wings which give you fly 60 feet while you are lightly encumbered or below.

You grow one size category; while you are larger, double the dice of your weapons (but not other dice, like smites etc).

 

Whew!

 

Oath of Enlightenment

Oath spells:
3rd: hideous laughter, jump
5th: enhance ability, prayer of healing
9th: haste, tongues
13th: confusion, freedom of movement
17th: dominate person, mislead

Channel Divinity
When you take this oath at 3rd level, you gain the following two Channel Divinity options.
Frenzy: On your turn as a bonus action: for the next minute, you rage like a barbarian: you cannot cast spells (and lose concentration), you may not be wearing heavy armor, you have advantage on strength checks and saves and deal 2 extra damage per melee strength attack (3 at 9th level, 4 at 16th; you may pool paladin and barbarian levels to calculate this number). This state ends if you end your turn without attacking or having taken damage in the last round (unlike barbarian rage, you do NOT get resistance to weapon damage).
Preserve Life: As an action, you evoke healing energy that can restore a number of hit points equal to your paladin level. Choose any creatures within 30 feet of you and divide this hit points between them. They cannot restore a creature above half hit points, nor can they affect undead or constructs.

 

Aura of Enlightenment
Starting at 7th level, you and allies with 10 feet are immune to confusion, insanity and madness effects while you are conscious.

At 18th level, this increases to 30 feet.

Right Place; Right Time
Beginning at 15th level, you are unaffected by difficult terrain and your movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.

Enlightened Aura
Beginning at 20th level, creatures of your choice that begin their turn within 60′ must make a wisdom save. A failure results in confusion — per the spell — for 24 hours. Success results in immunity to this effect.

Moreover, any creature that is confused (maddened, etc) and can see or hear you is always considered charmed by you; you may suspend the symptoms of confusion effect at will in order to take advantage of this.

 

Okay, final stretch. Here we go!

Oath of Strength

Oath spells:
3rd: fog cloud, thunderwave
5th: enlarge/reduce (self only), enhance ability
9th: call lightning, sleet storm
13th: control water, ice storm
17th: conjure elemental, hold monster

Channel Divinity
When you take this oath at 3rd level, you gain the following two Channel Divinity options.
Invoke Storm: As a standard action you can call upon storm winds that surround you for one minute; audible to 300 feet. While you are storming, ranged weapon attacks halve their range and damage. You can cast the shocking grasp cantrip while the storm lasts.
Quell Storm: As a reaction, you may spend your channel divinity and give your charisma modifier creatures within 60 ft that you choose resistance to lightning, thunder, fire or cold damage until the end of your next round.

Aura of Strength
Starting at 7th level, you and allies with 10 feet are immune to weakened effects and halve forced movement distances and exhaustion. Track fractional levels of exhaustion, which can be removed with a short rest.

At 18th level, this increases to 30 feet.

Storm Absorption
Beginning at 15th level, when you would take lightning or thunder damage, instead gain that number of temporary hit points.

You gain a swim speed 30 ft.

Giants, beasts and monstrosities of size large or larger have disadvantage on attacks against you.

Indomitable Strength
Beginning at 20th level, whenever a creature begins its turn within 30 feet of you, it loses any resistance or immunity to lightning, thunder, slashing, piercing, or bludgeoning damage. You may suppress this effect for creatures you choose.

 

 


The Bard

Some thoughts on how I want my bard shaped before I forget.

The bard has been a lot of things in D&D history! She’s been the very first prestige class, requiring careful multiclassing to opt in. She’s been a subclass of rogue (and, in the late 2e era with the Player’s Option series, the Songmage beneath wizard!). She’s been a half-wizard, a half-druid, and in 4e, an arcane leader. In late 3e, she was a updated psuedo-illusionist in the 1e style — pseudo because, of course, she only got 6th level spells.

And in 5e, she’s a full caster. Welcome ab(o)ard!

Her spells focus on illusion and charm, though I feel like there’s a few druidic throwbacks in there. Her powers focus on aiding her allies with the gift of dice. The college of lore has a snazzy “neener neener” reactive use for their bardic die, more skills and more spells.

I suggested earlier I’d add subclasses for Ecstasy and Shadows. I don’t necessarily love those names yet, but I’m not sure what’s better. Let’s talk about themes and see what pops out.

I want Ecstasy to be the focused on healing and enemy denial; to whit:

Graceful Defense:
When you join the college of Ecstasy at 3rd level, you get Graceful Defense (when unarmored and not using a shield, you can calculate your AC as 10 + dex + cha)
Inspiring Words:
Also at third level, as a bonus action a character with one of your bardic inspiration dice may expend it to gain that many hit points. If they have the Second Wind feature, they may take advantage of both with one action.

Shield of Innocence
At 6th level, when you roll for initiative you automatically gain the benefits of a sanctuary effect on yourself as a free action. This is not a spell.

Charming Gaze
At 14th level, you may give yourself a charming gaze. Each round as a bonus action, select one creature within 60 ft which can see or hear you; if it was not already charmed by you, it gets a wisdom save against your spell DC to negate (with advantage if you or your companions are fighting it). If it fails, it is charmed by you for one round or until it takes damage. The target regards you as a friendly acquaintance and, when the effect ends, will not recall being charmed by you.

Meanwhile, I want Shadows focused on illusions and tricks. This is a good way to build a 1e illusionist or a cleric of trickery:

Shadow Stealth
At 3rd level, when you select this college, you (or anyone with one of your inspiration dice) gain the ability to expend a die of bardic inspiration to take the hide action as a bonus action, and add the result of the bardic die to your stealth check when they are in an area of dim light or darker.
Shadow Sight
Also at 3rd level, you (or anyone with one of your inspiration dice) may spend a die to gain darkvision 60 ft for one minute. While they are using this darkvision, they may roll and add the inspiration die to all wisdom(perception) and intelligence(investigation) checks they make in areas of dim light or darker.

Shadow Spell
At 6th level, you may grant your illusion and enchantment effects inspiration dice when you are in an area of dim light or darker. When you cast an effect from one of these schools, expend some number of inspiration dice; you may expend those dice as penalties on saves and checks made by creatures making saves or checks to resist or interact with your effect.

Shadow Soul
At 14th level, when you are in an area of dim light or darker you are invisible. Additionally, as a bonus action while invisible, you may expend an inspiration die to create a shadowstuff illusory double; it behaves as a mislead copy but ignores the first [inspiration die + cha mod] hit points of damage taken from any source; areas of bright light deal it 10 points of radiant damage at the end of each round.


The Witch Part 2

You know, another cut at this article.

Take you a druid. Strip it of shields and druid weapons (it gets medium armor and simple weapons). It doesn’t have the metal restriction (yet, though it may get it back in a second!).

So far, we’re not very warlocky. The warlock does two things, one of which I’m going to work harder to adopt than the other: the warlock has invocations, ongoing rules changes specific to themselves (but many of which just unlock additional spells: why not just cast the spell normally, given proper rules support?!), and the warlock has autorenewing spell slots, which are what we’re really here for.

So here’s what we’re going to do instead: Strip your druid of Wildshape, and gain Font of Nature: Once per short rest, you may cast a circle spell at one-half your character level (round down max 5) without expending a spell slot.

When you are 11th level, you gain a second use of Font of Nature per short rest.

When you are 20th level, you get Archwitch, and can regain Font of Nature with 1 minute’s rest, once per short rest.

So much for the class. On to the subclasses!

As we’ve mentioned, our subclasses are (currently) Druid, Cultist and Runecaster.
They’re selected at second level, and so get features at 2, 6, 10 and 14.

The Druid
You get proficiency in druid weapons (instead of the bonus cantrip).

You get the rest of the Circle of the Land features according to their usual schedule — extra prepared spells, natural passage, etc.

Instead of Natural Recovery, you get wildshape, and it operates on the normal schedule. To use Natural Recovery, you must expend Font of Nature.

I should go back and add druidic 1st level spells to all their lands (because they’re chosen at level 2 they don’t give 1st level bonus spells. Tacky!).

The Cultist
You are a witch who serves a dark power. Often you have a personal relationship with its heralds, and may even number amongst them.

For you, the druid spell list isn’t quite right. You may draw your spells from the warlock’s spell list instead.

Fiend Cultist:
1st: Burning Hands, Command
3rd: Scorching Ray, Suggestion
5th: Stinking Cloud, Fireball
7th: Fabricate, Fire Shield
9th: Cloudkill, Planar Binding

Fey Cultist:
1st: Charm Person, Silent Image
3rd: Misty Step, Invisibility
5th: Hypnotic Pattern, Major Image
7th: Confusion, Polymorph
9th: Dominate Person, Seeming

Undead Cultist:
1st: False Life, Fog Cloud
3rd: Blindness/Deafness, Darkvision
5th: Animate Dead, Vampiric Touch
7th: Blight, Death Ward
9th: Contagion, Raise Dead

At 2nd level, when you select this circle, you gain access to a familiar (fiend, fey or undead, plus the expanded options), per the Pact of the Chain. It also teaches you an additional cantrip.

At 6th level, you get the Dark One’s Blessing (when a creature is reduced to 0 hp within 10 feet, gain wisdom modifier + witch level hit points). Additionally, your cantrips deal +2 damage per die.

At 10th level, you get Dark One’s Resilience: you can choose a damage type during each short rest and gain resistance until you swap it; silver and magical weapons pierce this resistance.

At 16th level, you get Dark Summoning: at the end of a short rest, you may expend a spell slot to call upon a patron-creature of CR equal-to or less-than the expended slot. It serves for one hour, and then departs.

The Runecaster:
Not terrible from before. Let’s punch it up a bit. We’re back to the druid list for these guys.

First, the domain spells:
class level : spell list
1st : alarm, comprehend languages
3rd : augury, magic weapon
5th : dispel magicglyph of warding
7th : divination, stoneskin
9th : geas, legend lore

Bonus Proficiencies:
At 2nd level when you select this circle, you gain you proficiency with heavy armor and martial weapons.

Reckless Attack:
At 6th level, when you make a strength-based melee weapon attack for the first time on your turn, you may declare the attack “reckless”. You have advantage on it, and all attacks against you are made with advantage until the start of your next turn.

Storm mantle:
Starting at 10th level, at the end of each short rest you may choose one of fire, cold, lightning, or thunder. Your melee attacks deal an extra 1d8 damage of the chosen type, and when you take damage of the indicated type, you may use your reaction to give yourself resistance to it. This increases to 2d8 at 14th level.

If you select fire, you are comfortable in any mundane temperature up to actually on fire; if cold, anything down to -100 degrees Fahrenheit; lightning also renders you and your ranged attacks immunity to wind, and thunder gives you a carrying voice which cannot be silenced (including areas of magical silence).

Runewright:
Starting at 14th level, the symbol spell is a witch spell for you, you are always considered to have it prepared, and it has no material components. You also have advantage on checks and saves versus symbols and other spells based around the written word (glyph of warding, etc).

You may also craft magical items at double the normal speed.

 


5e SRD: Interlude and where are we going?

In the PHB-vs-SRD series.

I’m not super happy with the witch article. Oh, don’t get me wrong, that’s the shape of what I want to propose, but I was running low on energy and I don’t think it’s my best work.

I had a few ideas that I thought I should be explicit about. It’s all about theme: classes should have them, and a few classes today are a bit grab-bag-ish.

So: here’s how I see the classes and what we have to start with.

Barbarian:
I don’t think about the barbarian very much. As it is, its ties to nature and state-dependent combat system would make it a good fit for wildshape (and more exotic forms: skin of stone, eyes like flashing lightning), if I felt like writing that up. I’d call that the Spirit Warrior, Skinwalker, something of that kidney. If I use Skinwalker straight, I get a bunch of linguistic and cultural baggage; if I alter it, I get different baggage. Naming is hard, y’all.

I think we could also use a barbarian that’s more “whirling dervish”-y, but there’s so much that changes there that we’ll have to come back to it when we get to paladin, I think.

Bard:
The bard becoming a full caster in 5e is a boon to the structure of magic. They also would work as Temple Dancer (or Sacred Prostitute, or perhaps Companion) for powers like Bast or Ishtar, as well as perhaps a launching-base for the 1e-style Illusionist.

So: College of Lore (per SRD), College of Ecstasy (enhance your allies and access to clerical spells), and College of Shadows (use your inspiration to grant semi-real nature to enchantments, illusions and shadow spells: the 1e illusionist).

Cleric:
I already wrote this article 🙂

The short version: I think the cleric shouldn’t be defined by the power they serve, but instead by how they serve that power. If the way that they serve that power goes too far afield from mucking with the creatures of good & evil, healing, protection, divination, or blessing, then the character isn’t a cleric.

The kinds of cleric I’ve imagined so far are the Templar (SRD-cleric, emphasis on healing), the Exorcist (emphasis on turning and extraplanars), the Prophet (emphasis on divination) and the Monastic (emphasis on protection/blessing).

Druid:
See witch at the bottom.

Fighter:
While I’m sad we got the less-intricate Champion Fighter instead of the more extensible Battle Master fighter, it’s not the end of the world. While this class needs more subclasses, I’m not in the right headspace to provide them.

That said, I recently had a rambling conversation with a friend of mine, and realized part of the problem with the fighter is the standard “if it’s a real world skill, then anyone should be able to attempt it”. Fighters are the action heroes nonpareil of the D&D world. Action heroes are supremely competent at feats of movement so that they can get to where the action is. They should be acquiring jump speeds, swim speeds, climb speeds, icewalking, endure elements, and so forth. These thoughts are still too incoherent to propose specific changes.

Monk:
My favorite way to fit the monk into the D&D rubric has been to give them the name “Assassin”. There’s a few advantages to this: you can make them intelligence based (instead of wisdom), based on their roguish associations. You can let them keep fighting open-handed or give them dirks and suchlike with equanimity. Way of Shadow really does become ninjas, and that’s fine. This is not a new subclass so much as a new lens through which to view the class; I do recommend trying it but if I were publishing a product I’d restrict it to a sidebar or less.

Once you’ve decided “Assassin”, the schools get called Strategy; Open Hand is the Hollow Strategy; some more sneaky-shadowy-illusiony-stealthy school might be called the Phantom’s Strategy; something more poison-y status-effect-y might be the Viper’s Strategy.

I might also try to fit an inquisitor under here — All-seeing strategy? — but I don’t really know what it would look like. I think I also want a sort of battledancer (armor! emphasis on, like, polearms!) for sohei and elves to fit under here, but again, I’m not really sure how far I’d go with that.

Paladin:
This one is actually fine as is. I like the base class, and I like the PHB-style oaths. But since I have to fill in the SRD gaps… 🙂

I mentioned upthread the dervish didn’t feel like it fit into the barbarian and I stand by that. They’re inspired holy warriors who frenzy, but the holy is the more important part IMO. Paladin gets us the inspired holy part — and the turn undead comes from the oath of devotion, so there’s a slot for rage to fit right in.

So: Oath of Devotion (the SRD-paladin), Oath of Enlightenment (this putative frenzy-ing paladin), Oath of Menace (aura debuffs and vengeancing), and Oath of Strength (personal improvements, storm powers: here’s your priest of Thor!).

Ranger:
I like the ranger, but I have no idea what to do with it (and I get the feeling that I am not alone). I think the name of ranger is useful, as are the set of characters you might be able to squeeze into its skin. The specific rules are very slanted towards being a survivalist, which is no bad thing, but is definitely a bit less than could be done with the chassis in the right hands (compare with the fighter or the wizard…).

Since the ranger explicitly casts per druid, and since my druid moved to the warlock model via the witch, so goes my ranger. Poof, you’re a half-caster, Harry! In some ways, this is easier than it looks: lose the normal spellcasting granted to the class, gain the per-short-rest slots and invocations of a warlock of 1/2 your level. But this is gonna be tough, since warlocks get so few slots, there’s much less internal individuation between levels; they rely on invocations and features to make up the difference. And I don’t have druidic features yet (it’s a lot of work!), so that’s lagging behind, too. So I’ll have to do something to slip just a very little extra into the ranger’s casting. Most likely I’ll artificially lag their slots, so they have one slot of the highest level they can cast and one of the second highest, and use that internal boost when I need to give them a feature. But that’s annoying, so not really sure.

In terms of subclasses, I like the Hunter as is just fine. We’ll add the Valkyrie (a hunter-servant of a wild or stormy power — here’s your priest of Odin or Thor from the other side!), and something with access to the left hand path of magic (for the warlock list, y’all), for now I’m calling our black practitioner the Witch-hunter. I’m cheating, of course — this is a hunter-who-is-a-witch not a hunter-of-witches. C’est la vie.

We don’t have a beastmaster type. The ranger isn’t 100% the best fit for that anyway, of course; they’re insufficiently pet-based to make it work IMO. I think the best way to go with the beastmaster type is with a feat on top of something else that matters more, or a Find Steed-like spell.

Rogue:
Rogues are hard to design, y’all. I’m tempted to leave this alone for now. The rogue works without subclasses.

Sorcerer:
From the SRD, all we have to work with is the dragonblooded. I think I like the sorcerer’s focus on a small set of powers is powerful. I think the spell modifications are interesting, but would work better for the wizard. I remember the playtest sorcerer, and I liked that better. At the end of the day, I’m just not super inspired by the sorcerer, so I’ll have to come back and look at the Sorcerer with clear eyes. It works well with its tight theming, but unfortunately, other classes fit any given expression of that theme better: would I make a master of illusions under the sorcerer? Probably not. Would I make a necromancer king? Doubtful. And so forth.

They probably do make a good “servant of the secret fire, wielder of the flame of Anor”: I like the idea of them as a valve set over a deep well of magic. Of course, that describes the witch-like caster even better!

Warlock:
Per druid, see also: Witch.

Wizard:
I don’t like D&D’s schools, and I never have. For now, suffice to say that the wizard I want is not the evoker, which is better served by the sorcerer.

I’d prefer to see the Alchemist (acids! explosions! potions! scrolls!), the Astrologer (magical toolkit: divinations and abjurations), the Enchanter (debuffs: long-lasting effects, transformations, curses), and the Summoner (extraplanars: Conjuration and summoning, necromancy, aberrations).

Witch:
I added this one in my previous article and, as I alluded upthread, I’m still not 100% on its implementation. The SRD warlock is missing a bunch of bits and bobs that make it stand out; it feels like the slot it fills in the world could be done as easily or more easily with a sorcerer. The druid, on the other hand, has always struck me as good-but-too-cleric-like, and therefore too-D&D-fixated, not enough material in myth to draw upon. And I squeezed a bunch of the filling out of the cleric, so it had to find somewhere to go, so its cousin budged over and made room 🙂

I’m reasonably happy of my divisions into Druid, Cultist and Runecaster. I’m also a little happy with it giving more grist under which to reevaluate the ranger. I’m not sure my specific implementation of it was the best, though.

Late in the day, I realized there’s one more thing I might try: strike the invocations entirely, and give it a half-caster progression (like the paladin and/or ranger) in addition to its font of renewable per-encounter spells. I think giving spike capabilities to the warlock’s casting table helps make up for my misdeeds in restricting them to the druid list. And makes them multiclass a bit better (since it makes their renew-spell-slot thing kind-of fit as a class feature, as an extension of arcane recovery).

Now, the downside with literally doing that is that they grow way too slowly to be used as a primary caster, but I don’t particularly want to downgrade them to a secondary caster. However, the upside to the downside is that the current warlock playstyle is a little above-and-beyond.

One other attack would be to make them primary casters, with natural renewal, with a way to (ahem) renew the natural renewal; something like: you can regain natural renewal at any time by spending a spell slot. You are then capped at distributing your natural renewal to the level of the expended slot.

That takes the inspiration from the warlock, but is (at least notionally) balanced against it, since it bleeds out eventually.

… I should write that up.


5e SRD: Druids and Warlocks

In the PHB-vs-SRD series.

As a result of my cleric article, I’m restrictive in terms of what I want my cleric to look like relative to what D&D classically puts into the cleric. Druids, warlocks and clerics are somehow related: when I redefined clerics to be concerned with the powers of good and evil (note to self: start referring to them that way), I left the powers of nature very much up for grabs. D&D allows clerics of nature. I’m flat up rejecting that, except inasmuch as the clerics of nature will look like an exorcist or a templar. So let’s talk about what that means:

Druid-as-in-the-Player’s-Handbook
The druid is a bit of an odd duck. It’s the specialty-priest qua specialty priests; it was a cleric with a radically different spell list and whose granted power (turn into an animal instead of turn away the undead) upended normal design. Oh, and particularly uniquely, their weapon and armor proficiencies are subtractive: they cannot use metal armor or certain styles of arms lest they lose their powers, a restriction absent even from the wizard this time around.

The PHB gives us two forms of druid, the circle of the land (spellcasting, with granted spells specific on terrain type) and the circle of the moon (shapeshifting). I have to assume ‘moon doesn’t exist later, so I’ll stop talking about it now 🙂

I actually really like the 5e druid as it is designed. It reigns in most of the worst excesses of the class, in particular because you cannot shapeshift and spellcast simultaneously until very late in the game. This is important because for shapeshifting to feel right, it should be a total statistic replacement; that means that for a druid to be built correctly, the druid should have a strength of 8 and as low a dexterity as they think they can get away with. If those statistics matter for exploration, they can always shapeshift into a more appropriate form to take advantage of them. Even in the case that these dump stats are used defensively — dexterity for saves and armor class — you’ll hopefully be in the back ranks. The restriction on which CRs of beast you can shift into ensures you’ll never even try to use wildshape offensively; that’s what your attack cantrips are for.

Of course, that raises an interesting question. If you can’t cast while wildshaped, why did we bother sticking the wildshape ability on a full caster? I can’t really answer that. I feel like it would have worked much better on the Oath of the Ancients paladin or even the ranger. D&D can’t do that, of course: the druid wildshapes. But if you stop and think about it for a second, it’s kind of weird. I want a lot of druids in my world; they just make sense as a class. But I’m not sure I want every first level acorn-acolyte able to take the form of a badger (or giant centipede): that seems to make the miraculous mundane.

Still, the druid is tightly designed. It doesn’t really represent anything in the fiction except for itself; it’s a D&Dism that is without external referent in the same way that the cleric is, but that’s okay.

Warlock-as-in-the-Player’s-Handbook
Warlocks have the opposite problem.

I feel like they’re not as well designed as the druid, and I feel like they don’t have as obvious a place in the world to inhabit. They’re followers of fiends — except for, say, Asmodeus — those are clerics. That’s weird, right? I think that’s weird. In the PHB, they’re also Cultists of Cthulhu and Fangirls of the Fairies. I don’t have a problem with that in the least, actually, but I do think it presents us with an interesting insight: they’re witches. Congress with powerful beings of good and evil, beholden to a specific source of power, curses, spellcasters with weird powers.

Witches.

And witches, of course, are just wicca — priests of an order older than the current one.

They’re druids, in other words.

Oh, okay, they’re not literally druids of course. Don’t be silly. The spell lists are different. And druids get a per-short-rest ability to turn into animals, while warlocks… just… have per-short-rest spells and granted powers which tend to be rarer and per-day.

Oh, and they cast with charisma (like the paladin!) and are arcane casters (which doesn’t mean anything this time around, since bards can heal and there’s no arcane spell failure).

Hum, this could get complicated.

Now, it’s not all fun and games; the warlock as written is laser-focused on the Eldritch Blast cantrip. I think it’s a mistake that that cantrip even exists, thanks to its irresistible force damage and multiple beams per round. And since the spell lists are different, there’s a few other little niggles — like casting goodberry once per short rest. But we’ll get there.

The druid of the land

Druids-and-Warlocks-as-in-the-SRD
There’s more overlap than you might think! The druid gets 2 wildshapes per short rest — for the first half of its career, the warlock gets 2 spells per short rest. Now, the warlock’s spells are almost certainly better than the druid’s wildshape, but the druid’s spells are almost certainly better than the warlock’s invocations. There’s a sort of tradeoff there, in particular since so many of the warlock’s invocations center around scouting, seeing in the dark, and so forth (okay, yes, and then a few combat ones to enhance, sigh, eldritch blast).

And there’s more. The druid of the land has the wizardlike “natural recovery” feature — recover half your level in spells. It’s not spells per short rest, but it isn’t entirely not that, either, since it certainly enhances staying power. They both get pact powers at 1st/2nd (I’m willing to overlook that 😉 ), 6th, 10th and 14th level.

Here’s how this is going to go:

The Witch
The witch is a caster similar to the warlock. In a game using the witch, I advise you do NOT use the warlock or the druid classes at all — the witch fills either niche.

In fact: Take a warlock. It is a wisdom-based prepared spell caster now. It is a spell preparation (not a “spells-known” caster), with witch levels + wisdom bonus prepared spells. It uses the druid spell list (usually; see below). Spells granted as a result of a pact (whether from the Circle or from the Pact) are considered prepared witch spells.

Your pact can be that of the Druid (Pact of the Land), Cultist (Pact of the Fiend), or Runecaster (Pact of the Ancients).

The Pact of the Land:
As the druid circle of the same name. Selecting this pact gives you medium armor proficiency and proficiency in druidic weapons.

Natural Recovery needs slight modification to function correctly: It simply gives you one-half your character level in slots, of spell levels you already had available, rounded _up_ — and is available at first level, which is also when you get your cantrip.

The Pact of the Fiend:
As the warlock pact of the same name. Selecting this pact replaces your spell list; your spells are drawn from the warlock list.

Special note: Eldritch Blast is in a weird place right now. I imagine it’s intended to be SRD content, but it technically isn’t yet. I’m sort of okay with that, frankly.

The Pact of the Ancients:
The giants from the north brought their mountain-gods with them. Though the new Church of the Bleeding God has pushed the creatures of the caves and the woods back and sanctified farm and keep, you keep to the old ways. They do not speak of fiends or celestials, undead or the tenuous nature of the soul. Instead, they handle blood, iron, and fire; the wolves of winter and the full bellies of summer.

You might venerate the entire pantheon of the old gods, or you might have a specific totemic champion.

Expanded Spell List
The Ancients give you access to an expanded list of witch spells. The following spells are added to the witch spell list for you and are available when you prepare spells.
class level : spell list
1st : healing word, comprehend languages
3rd : augury, magic weapon
5th : call lightning, glyph of warding
7th : divination, fire shield
9th : creation, legend lore

Bonus Proficiencies:
At 1st level when you select this pact, you gain you proficiency with medium armor and shields.

Reckless Attack:
At 6th level, when you make a strength-based melee weapon attack for the first time on your turn, you may declare the attack “reckless”. You have advantage on it, and all attacks against you are made with advantage until the start of your next turn.

Storm Resistances:
Starting at 10th level, you have resistance to lightning damage and thunder damage. While you do not have resistance to cold damage, you are unaffected by wintery conditions down to -50 degrees Fahrenheit that are not spells or attacks. Your voice carries 300 feet, even in a hurricane.

Runewright:
Starting at 14th level, you may cast the symbol spell as a standard action with no material components once per long rest.

You may also craft magical items at double the normal speed.

Additional Invocations

Wildshape:
As per druid; you gain 2 uses of wildshape per short rest. Each time this invocation is taken, add 3 forms. The forms must be of beasts with challenge rating 1/8 your level or fewer; you must be level 4 to take forms with swim speeds, or level 8 to take forms with flight. You may alter your selected forms with 30 days of downtime in a suitable environment.

Cast Spell:
In general, you can gain one daily casting of a spell which is of the highest level you can cast for the cost of an invocation. If it is 2 levels below what you can cast and isn’t attack-y, you can probably do it at will.

Brew Potion:
You can brew healing potions at cost. You can also brew potions which affect the drinker with a spell you can cast. While the potion exists, your spell slot is tied up in it; the potion turns into dirty water 1 hour after you regain the spell slot.

You also can brew “finalized” potions which are shelf stable using normal magic item creation rules at double the normal speed.