November 22, 2018

K'Sir and Bluetongue | 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.

It's finally time to get into the rhythm of writing new vestiges! This time, I've brought you two of the 1st level offerings: K'Sir and Bluetongue.

1st Level Vestiges

As you might remember from our discussion on the vestige levels a few weeks back, the 1st level vestiges are going to be hard to get right. They need to:
  • Be powerful and interesting enough when you only have one vestige
  • Not so powerful or exploitable that it makes dipping into the binder mandatory for any build
  • Provide mechanics that are universally applicable and scaleable, such that 1st level vestiges never become irrelevant
Those are the criteria to judge these upon, as well as the normal host of "Is this character engaging?" and "Is this concise and simple enough?" With that in mind, let's get onto our first vestige:

Bluetongue

This vestige occupies the Face and Skillmonkey archetypes on the list.
Bluetongue, The Trickster
1st-level vestige
A duplicitous shapeshifter, Bluetongue offers his sly words and shape-changing powers to those who bind him.
     Legend. The old myths remember Bluetongue as a lizard, a liar, and a shapeshifter that traveled from land to land, scheming and swindling those that he met, such that he never needed to work.
     One day, Bluetongue came across a hunter's camp whose owner had left it unguarded as he hunted for the day. Bluetongue laughed at his good fortune and stole everything from the camp that he could, including every scrap of food he could find. When the hunter returned, he was outraged, but found a trail of food and items dropped by Bluetongue as he ate and chuckled.
     When Bluetongue saw the hunter arrive at the cave where he slept, he hid his treasures and transformed into the form of a feeble old man. But the hunter was wise to Bluetongue's tricks and set fire to the cave as he left. Bluetongue, too greedy to leave his belongings and too unfit to outrun the flames, perished in the fire. The hunter told the story of the shapeshifter, and the story spread into legend and, eventually, into vestigehood.
     Each time the story of Bluetonge is recorded, it is a little different. None can say if the original story featured Bluetongue's theft or even his fiery punishment; most every aspect of it has changed with time. Accordingly, Bluetongue's vestige appears as a blur of ever-shifting appearances, with the sole constant of its unchanging, serpentine tongue.
     Personality Trait. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following personality trait: "I speak in a sonorous tone, but always sounds like I’m trying to sell something." 
Bonus Proficiencies
While bound to Bluetongue, you gain proficiency with Deception and Persuasion. Additionally, Bluetongue steals power from other vestiges, granting you proficiency in one additional skill or tool of your choice for each other vestige you have bound. 
Deep Pockets
While bound to Bluetongue, a pocket, bag, or other container of your choice becomes a portal to a personal extradimensional space, which is 64 cubic feet in volume. The container’s opening stretches to accommodate items of any size which can fit within the space, and items within the space are weightless until removed. When you reach into this space, any item you intend to take is magically on top. A container loses this property and its contents are expelled when you are no longer bound to Bluetongue. 
Persuasive Words
You can cast the spell charm person once without expending a spell slot. Once you cast this spell, you can't cast it again in this way until you finish a short or long rest. 
Trait: Blue Tongue
While bound to Bluetongue, you can cast the spell disguise self without using a spell slot or spell components. Casting the spell in this fashion requires 1 minute. No matter what your appearance, however, whenever you speak, a serpentine blue tongue can be seen within your mouth.

Notes
Bluetongue lizard is an interesting character from aboriginal myth and I tried to do it justice here. Mechanically, this hits many of the same beats Naberius used to, including a couple of direct features. Importantly, Bluetongue's ability to give away actual skill proficiencies should be unique to him, in order to keep the system simple. In general, players should not have to recalculate any of this attack or skill bonuses when they trade vestiges (though their damage might still change.)

K'Sir

Here's our basic rogue vestige.
K'Sir, Thief Primeval
1st-level vestige
A mythic thief who once stole power from the mighty dragons, K'Sir offers binders his roguish cunning and his infamous mark.
     Legend. Legends say that in the early days of the world, the dragons knew the Words of Creation by heart. It was by speaking these forbidden words, the very same words which brought the whole multiverse into being, that dragons gained their fearsome breaths and auras.
     This power was coveted by all mortal beings, but only one brave soul attempted to claim it: K'Sir, the thief, snuck into the dragons' lair while they slept. With expert precision, he slipped past every trap, avoided every guard, and silently stole the Words of Creation for himself.
     When at last he was away safely with his prize, K'Sir might have translated the words into mortal runes, but his curiosity got the better of him: K'Sir opened his satchel and read all the Words of Creation at once. When he was at last done, the magical energy was too great to bear, and K'Sir was spread thinly across time and space, such that even his name is convoluted today. Though, if the legends are true, only K'Sir, in his reckless arrogance, is the only mortal to have ever read all the Words of Creation.
     Flaw. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following flaw: "My curiosity always gets the better of me."

Bonus Proficiencies
While bound to K'Sir, you gain proficiency with scimitars, shortswords, and thieves' tools.

Sneak Attack
While bound to K'Sir, once per turn, you can deal an extra 1d6 damage to one creature you hit with an attack if you have advantage on the attack roll. The attack must use a finesse or a ranged weapon. You don’t need advantage on the attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn’t incapacitated, and you don’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.
     The amount of the extra damage increases by 1d6 for each vestige other than K'Sir you have bound. If you already have Sneak Attack from another class feature, you add this damage to the Sneak Attack roll.

Thief's Instincts
You can take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action as a bonus action. You can use this ability twice and regain all expended uses when you finish a short or long rest.

Trait: K'Sir's Mark
While bound to K'Sir, your skin becomes branded with all manner of ancient runes and symbols, which magically silence your movements. You don't gain disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks for wearing any type of armor. Additionally, if you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check, you can treat the result as 10, or your binder level plus your Charisma modifier, whichever is higher.

Notes
This vestige is one of the easiest ones to consider by looking at its parts: it needs to give you all the basic tools to be a rogue, along with a limited guarantee that your Stealth will hold up, even when you're not really built for it. I think it hits all these notes, but I'm skeptical that its trait makes enough sense (the idea that it was a 'mark' came after the mechanical design.) I'm open to suggestions on how to change this to better fit the mechanics. 
     The lore here is definitely a retelling of a Prometheus story, but borrowing the name of the God of Adventurers from Manifest (albeit, backwards.) Nothing groundbreaking, but a concise starting vestige to accomplish all the rogue stuff you should need.

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As always, feel free to leave feedback below. We've got a lot of vestiges to get through, but I want to know if these are hitting all the marks we intend to hit.

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Changelog: 11/22/18: K'sir cunning action 2/short
K'Sir: Sneak Attack replaces Two-Weapon Fighting

19 comments:

  1. Seem cool and solid.
    The only issue I see is that 2-weapon-fighting seems a bit weird on the rogue (who already gets something to do with a bonus action). Maybe a 1d6 sneak attack, or advantage against creatures who didn't act, or something else, would hit the spot better.

    These seem exactly the right length, which is great.

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    1. I agree that the two weapon fighting doesn't quite fit, I'd also like to suggest a way for the Thief's insticts to scale either with level or maybe based on the number of vestiges bound so you never have a ton of uses but at higher levels only being able to do it once will I think deter taking the vestige.

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    2. Most of my discord is also recommending a weak version of Sneak Attack for K'Sir. I'm not /against/ this suggestion -- in fact, I think it'll go a long way to making K'Sir feel right -- but I am lamenting the fact that it means we'll be losing Two-Weapon Fighting; this is probably the only place that it'll fit in the class.

      I'm still working on solutions, but it might be that the Archer vestige at 2nd level will have to pull double-duty on TWF and Archery, becoming a more generic Ranger type.

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    3. Now it can get you a 2d6 sneak attack on lvl 2... Not sure if it's OP, but it kinda does rogue better than rogue for that lvl.

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    4. Yeah, that's the reason I was being very cautious about doing Sneak Attack as a 1st level vestige. I'm not sure what a good solution might be, but I'll be revisiting this from time to time to hopefully sort it out.

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    5. Have you considered moving the twin weapon fighting to the Corsair (3rd level)? Since the dueling and TWF don't stack they can be put together but still both benefit from the other traits.

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    6. Maybe just hardcap the number of d6 to half your level? A somewhat inelegant solution, I admit, but it would work.

      Or make it a not-really-sneak attack- extra damage only with true advantage on the roll.

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    7. The Corsair is somewhere else I /can/ put TWF, but the big hook of the Corsair is that you get Extra Attack, so I think it'll be more useful to players if I integrate it as a 1st or 2nd level vestige. It also makes it a cheaper vestige if they're working on a specific build.

      The hard-cap is weird, Idan, because it (basically) just makes the stacking not happen. I think the larger issue is that this one vestige /might/ be a better rogue than most rogues, at least until 3rd level or so. Not just in terms of Sneak Attack, but in terms of all other features as well. Is the party rogue going to feel cheated, or will this feel on-par with them?

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    8. A 2nd level rogue has a slightly better cunning action, and expertise (and can fight ranged). If the binder would not have better sneak attack, the rogue would be better. However, the binder also gets another 1st level vestige.

      That probably means K'sir should not offer extra damage at all, or at least have a more severe restriction on the capability to deal extra damage (hence the "only with real advantage" suggestion).

      There are obviously other solutions, but I'm really not sure as to the best one.

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    9. Right now, binders can only bind up to one vestige at a time until 5th level. We'll be discussing this number in next week's article (when we go over the class table), but they almost certainly won't be binding more than one at a time until much later.

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    10. Oh, I thought you could bind a total equal to your lvl.

      If it's only 1 then K'sir is fine as he is, as a 2nd lvl rogue would just have a better cunning action and better skills than a K'sir binder.

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  2. I really like bluetongue a lot, but y’sir’s abilities seem a bit lackluster in comparison. Maybe if you were to give him a sneak attack that scaled with more vestiges, like 1d4 per vestige normal sneak attack rules applying it might be better or make the cunning action usable more with more vestiges. And the two weapon fighting doesn’t really translate well to other builds so unlike bluetongue which can be used with tons of builds and thus keeps its appeal at higher levels y’sir dosent so much, even if I took him I would probably swap home out with bluetongue because I could get the same bonus proficiencies with him or just a higher level vestige
    Also,small spelling error in thieves instincts, it says wheb not when.

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  3. Huge fan of Bluetongue, both lore and mechanics!
    Just asking, do you see these as compatible for mix-and-match into the current binder class, or should they be considered a whole separate thing?

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    1. I /think/ you could slot these in for the current binder class, but I'm not balancing them at the same level of power, so your mileage may vary. I wouldn't stack K'Sir and Malphas, for example, and I also wouldn't stack Naberius and Bluetongue.

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    2. Yeah, I don't see Bluetongue and Naberius stacking well at all, they're more a direct swap. I just always felt that Naberius had such a lackluster lore, for a spirit of charisma and charm, so Bluetongue is an enormous improvement!

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  4. These are great. I really like seeing the vestige template in action, very easy to follow. Both of these are solid choices, can’t wait to see the rest.

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  5. I liked Bluetongue a lot, but less so with K'Sir. I think it reminded me unfavorably with the previous thief-vestige, the one that was so good they stole from the God of Thief.

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  6. I don't know if anyone has asked this or not, but are you guys creating any sort of template or pattern as to "why" someone became a vestige? I noticed that the first time around they could be divided between 1. I turned myself into a vestige, 2. Someone else turned me into a vestige, 3. It's a mystery! At least for the first half of levels it seemed an even split but the later levels it geared heavily toward a mystery/ unknown. Right now, Blue Tongue was turned by others constant recitation of him and his story whereas K'sir was by his own hubris.

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  7. Only a minor tautological issue - "Though, if the legends are true, only K'Sir, in his reckless arrogance, is the only mortal to have ever read all the Words of Creation." Without the subordinate clause it reads 'only K'Sir is the only mortal to have...'

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