October 18, 2018

Vestige Structure | Rebinding

In this series, I'll be slowly tackling a rework of one of our favorite classes, the Binder. The class was originally a straight update of the class of the same name from D&D 3.5's Tome of Magic, including most of the original vestiges, but as we revisit this class, we'd like to examine its mechanics and its concepts with fresh eyes, improve upon them, and write a whole new list of vestiges. 

This time, we're talking about how vestiges are presented and organized.

Presentation and Organization 

When you're dealing with something as big and complicated as the Binder, presentation is key. If the final version of the class looks too hard to digest, DMs will reject it on principle. If it's easy to digest but has too many mechanics to keep track of, players will reject it after one session. There's a fine balance to be struck.

Last time we approached the binder, we simplified it massively from the 3.5 version, but it still needs more work. Lots of vestiges just had too many individual features, where three to four solid features would have sufficed. Moreover, the fluff features were contained within their own feature at the end of the vestige description, which meant that players often read through the entire vestige before learning critical context needed to understand it.

To demonstrate the vestige structure we'll use this time around, let's create a placeholder vestige (details subject to change):

Tilo, the Colossus
2nd level vestige
Once a brave but tiny mousefolk knight, Tilo is a giant in death, granting his binders great weapons and incredible size.
     Legend. Tilo was a mouseling knight, small of stature but brave in spirit. In his youth, he traveled the world as an knight errant, doing honorable deeds where he could, and searching for a master worthy of his blade. At last, he arrived in the southern kingdom of Osira, where he saw the golden knights of the royal guard, and instantly knew he wished to be among their number. At first thinking Tilo to be a new court jester, the king mirthfully accepted his service.
     When the kingdom was beset by a terrible goblinoid army, Tilo led the defense. Eventually, the castle's defenses crumbled and the keep's outer wall was breached. As the other golden knights off the royal guard fell, Tilo alone held the breach, and held it true for seven days and seven nights.
     In life, he was tiny, but Tilo died a colossus. Due to his courage, his king escaped, and the legends of Tilo's bravery propelled him to persist in the Void as a vestige.
     Personality Trait. When you bind this vestige, you gain the following personality trait: "I never fear anything larger than myself." 
Bonus Proficiencies
While bound to Tilo, you gain proficiency with martial weapons. 
Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting
When you roll a 1 or 2 on a damage die for an attack you make with a melee weapon that you are wielding with two hands, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll, even if the new roll is a 1 or a 2. The weapon must have the Two-Handed or Versatile property for you to gain this benefit. 
Colossal Size 
You can cast the enlarge/reduce spell as a bonus action to gain the "enlarge" effect of the spell once without expending a spell slot or spell components. Once you cast this spell, you can't cast it again in this way until you finish a long rest. 
Trait: Powerful Build
You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift. Additionally, you can wield heavy weapons without penalty, even if you are Small size.
First and foremost, we're front-loading the legend and the personality trait. They're located right under the vestige's name, so it's clear to whom they belong. For basic text, I think this approach works well, but perhaps the best approach will be to compartmentalize vestiges in boxes, like monsters in 5e generally are. More experimentation is needed on that front.

Feature Outline

To simplify things, we've reduced vestiges down to four features with a huge focus on the core concept. Here's the basic outline that we can generally follow moving forward:

The Simple Passive. (Bonus Proficiencies) This slot might include armor proficiencies, cantrips, darkvision, skill enhancements, movement types, or other basics which help the vestige work.

The Passive. (Fighting Style) The example for this vestige is still pretty basic, but this slot can hold defensive features like Uncanny Dodge, magic resistances, alternative movement types, or different methods of attacking. This feature is going to change a lot with the vestige, but should define what the vestige is about and (generally) not be use-limited. If the vestige absolutely needs two good passives, a second good Passive should replace the Simple Passive slot. If the vestige is all about spells, this feature should be a few lower-level spells.

The Active. (Colossal Size) Every vestige needs a great ability which sets it apart, but is limited in number of uses. Ideally, this should complement the Passive ability and be powerful enough to earn the vestige its level. If the vestige is all about spells, this feature should be one or two higher-level spells.

The Trait. (Powerful Build) Each vestige always has a physical trait, and now we're integrating them as features with direct mechanical benefits. The hope here is that we can write archetypes and vestiges which can call out Trait features specifically to make these features central to specific types of builds. For example, a feature might say "If you have a vestige Trait which grants you a weapon attack, you can make an attack with it as a bonus action."

Character Lab: InsurMOUNTable PCs

Our friends over at DnD Character Lab Podcast just did a neat episode that features our Tundra Update! This podcast is everything I love about character creation: heedlessly fashioning characters from whatever rules are around and arguing about whether or not its any good. It's a blast.

Go give it a listen!

October 16, 2018

Circle of the Flower Garden

Druid Circle
Notes from the Nails: this one was inspired by one of the players in my fey game, who is playing a petal bard with a 'gardener' background.

Circle of the Flower Garden

Long hours of toil in your herb garden, flower patch, or greenhouse has finally awakened the magical powers that had lain dormant within you. Now your ability to shape the spaces around you is augmented by the awesome abilities of the druid. Whether you use this to make the world more beautiful, or to hinder and trap your enemies in endless hedge mazes, is up to you.

October 11, 2018

Pacts | Rebinding

In this series, I'll be slowly tackling a rework of one of our favorite classes, the Binder. The class was originally a straight update of the class of the same name from D&D 3.5's Tome of Magic, including most of the original vestiges, but as we revisit this class, we'd like to examine its mechanics and its concepts with fresh eyes, improve upon them, and write a whole new list of vestiges. 

This time, we'll be examining the central pact-making feature and the idea of bargaining in the binder.

Is it Really Pact Magic?

It's not a secret the original binder class draws much of its inspiration from demonology textbooks: vestiges are named from Ars Goetia, include summoning symbols which look like they belong in the same book, and even require complicated bargaining, as a demon would.

However, the binder simply isn't a fiend-summoner. Fiend-summoners are absolutely a thing elsewhere in D&D -- demons and devils are all too willing to bargain -- and binder lore goes out of its way to differentiate itself from them, and by extension, from warlocks.

October 9, 2018

Warcaller

Martial Archetype
Comments from the Palm: Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words cut even deeper. 

Warcaller

As skilled with the musical note or the spoken word as they are with the blade, warcallers blend their skill at arms with the magical power of bardic song. Primarily serving as bodyguards or martial troops for large bardic colleges, Warcallers can be found nearly anywhere that bards can be. Though as skilled with instruments as other musicians, most warcallers find singing or chanting to be the most efficient and practical method of using their abilities, as this leaves their hands free to hold their weapons or shields.

October 5, 2018

The Vestiges | Rebinding

In this series, I'll be slowly tackling a rework of one of our favorite classes, the Binder. The class was originally a straight update of the class of the same name from D&D 3.5's Tome of Magic, including most of the original vestiges, but as we revisit this class, we'd like to examine its mechanics and its concepts with fresh eyes, improve upon them, and write a whole new list of vestiges. 

Where better to start than the vestiges themselves?

Origins

Vestiges are the spirits summoned by binders, the source of their mystical powers. Binders offer a fraction of their soul to the spirits to gain this power for a limited time. The original list of vestiges borrow their names from the real-world book on demonology, the Ars Goetia, and a few of their depictions trace back to this source, as well as other public-domain demonology sources. While a few of the vestiges trace their stories to various locations in the D&D canon, most are original characters invented specifically for the binder class.