December 6, 2018

Occult Lodges | 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. 

In this article, we'll be looking closely at subclasses: how we've approached them in the past and how we can improve.

Subclasses of Old

In D&D 3.5, classes didn't have associated subclasses; instead, there were a litany of prestige classes (classes you could enter with any base class, provided that you met the proper prerequisites). Though this was certainly less restricted, in practice, there were prestige classes that required features from one particular class, tying the two together in much the same way that a class and a subclass are. The 3.5 binder had a few of these prestige classes in the old Tome of Magic, which meant there were a few distinct flavors of binder.

When we last visited the binder, we knew that we wanted to adapt these prestige classes as subclasses (even if they didn't all fit the binder, specifically). The Anima Mage became the Eldritch Fate, the Knight of the Sacred Seal became the Sealed Fate, the Scion of Dantalion became a sorcerer origin, and the Tenebrous Apostate became a cleric domain.

Because we already knew what most of the subclasses were going to be, the question of what to name the subclasses as a whole was on the backburner for a long time. They ended up being named "Binder's Fates", largely because it sounds cool.

A Doomed Fate

Hindsight is 20/20, so it's clear to see where all the ways we went wrong last time.

First, and most importantly, it's extremely counterproductive to make a class that focuses on being versatile and changing its abilities, while chaining it to subclasses that force you into a role. Having a single subclass that made you good in melee (like the Sealed Fate) meant that you really needed to build your whole character around melee vestiges, and that other vestiges would be sub-optimal. Similarly, a 1/3 caster subclass (like the Eldritch Fate) was the clear option if you wanted to make a spellcaster binder. As a result, I think most players adopted the more generic Occult Fate as a default subclass.

Secondly, the whole Fate naming scheme was outright restrictive. It gave us just enough room to make the subclasses we wanted, but no more. The Fates didn't expand the way we think about binders, introduce interesting roleplay obligations, or give us an idea about how binders can be different to one another. Nowadays, when we'd like to make upwards of a dozen subclasses for one of our base classes, this is akin to a death sentence.

Occult Lodges

This time around, we're going to use our binder subclasses to analyze how binders organize and share their occult lore with one another. Different groups of binders might practice different rituals, understand vestige lore differently, or require unique skills of their members. Because their practices are secretive (and often forbidden), they're each more akin to cults or sects than schools or colleges. In fact, to tie things back to real-world occultism, we'll call them Occult Lodges.

The existence of many different Lodges (most not physical buildings at all), hidden away from polite society, opens a lot of doors. We can name the Lodges elaborately, since fraternal organizations often have ostentatious titles. Moreover, we can also focus in on very specific thematic and mechanical concepts with the Lodges, since there's really no limit to how niche or bizarre a binder cult can be. Lastly, the presence of a Lodge paints a realistic picture of how a binder is introduced to occultism: they learn in the company of other, similarly-minded individuals.

Moreover, this time around, an Occult Lodge won't be pushing players to build one type of character; instead, they'll be examining different ways to bind vestiges. I could talk about this at length, but instead, I'd rather outline the subclasses I have in mind:

Occult Lodge
Starting at 3rd level, you join an occult lodge, a secretive organization of binders bound together by similar motives and shared esoteric knowledge. Choose one of the lodges presented at the end of the class description. Your choice in lodge grants you features at 3rd level, and again at 6th, 10th, and 14th level.

Legion's Lodge. Binders that join Legion's Lodge learn to welcome dozens of minor souls into their bodies at one time. They gain cantrips based on their minor spirits, gain increased damage with minor spirits, and can burn minor spirits to fuel powerful abilities.

Lodge of Astarte's Faithful. Binders that join Astarte's Faithful undergo a special ritual to bind Astarte, the vestige of an ancient and possessive goddess of love. Once bound to her, these binders can never unbind her. As these binders grow in power, they can access more and more of Astarte's abilities, until they can summon Astarte's shade to fight alongside them.

Lodge of the Crimson Binding. [Name change pending] Binders that join this lodge learn to easily conceal their signs, quickly switch between vestiges, and partially bind an additional vestige (granting them that vestige's proficiencies). If we must include a 'default' vestige, it's this one.

Lodge of the Stygian Sign. Binders that join this lodge seek the sign of Erebus, a destroying vestige that has consumed the world a thousand time before, and shall consume it again. They learn to manipulate the Void directly, shaping it into sable equipment and banishing their foes to the Void for a short time.

19 comments:

  1. These sound awesome, super Excited to see what these develop into

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  2. I love the fact that the subclasses won’t Take away from the versatility of the class. The only thing I don’t like is the idea that my character is forced to join an organization, but that is something I could probably just flavor differently with my dm without changing the overall theme of the class. So all and all o would say this is super awesome, Each post for the binder gets me even more excited for the next one, the anticipation by the end is probably going to give me a heart condition. I do have a question about the legion lodge, are you only going to get minor spirits if you join that lodge or will that lodge just let you have more or a bigger variety?

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    1. One thing I intend to make clear about the Lodges is that they can be as loose or direct as you want; a Lodge might be a fraternal organization of binders, meeting in secret at a hidden place, or a philosophy subscribed to by a few binders who have read the same texts.

      Everyone gets Minor Spirits (I'll make an article on them soon), but Legion's Lodge is the best at Minor Spirits.

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    2. Legion's Lodge name felt too militaristic for me.

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    3. It's also the only one that doesn't fit the naming scheme that the others conform to. But it's making reference to the demon Legion, rather than the military group. There's a good chance it'll change before release into something like "Lodge of Legion Spirits" or something.

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  3. Alright, cool.
    Legion's lodge sounds a bit like the warmage's focus on cantrips- could be a cool connection.

    All lodges seem interesting, both mechanically and thematically. Astrate looks somewhat peculiar, but I'll wait and see.

    I think I'm gonna see if I can find D&D equivalents to all or most vestiges. The D&D multiverse is filled with forgotten powers.
    https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Elikarashae is good match for Dyogena.
    https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Ibrandul Could work for K'Sir.
    I don't know enough yet about Erebus, but Moander or Acererak might fit.

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  4. freaking

    Having read Complete Witch and now this, I have to ask, is Erebus, like, a classic D&D thing or is it literally you guys adapting The Snarl for Fifth Edition?

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    1. You know, I haven't read OotS in a few years, so I never learned /definitively/ what The Snarl was. In any case, it's our own version of something similar: a big bad fundamentally tied into the universe's design flaws, destined to destroy it again.

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  5. I love the amount of thought MFoV places in the creation and balance of the original classes and archetypes. Thank you! That being said, I am not a fan of the archetype's name, "Lodge". Not a big deal but why not something like Occult Conclave? I suppose that would be redundant, but looking at the archetype names already established why not use a version of that. The Binder archetype could easily be a tradition. Would using the word “tradition” be a copyright conflict? What about esoteric practice? I know I’m jumping around a bit but Lodge just doesn’t have a great ring to it even though it is technically more appropriate than Fate. Here is the current WoTC archetypes:

    Artifice Tradition
    Primal Path
    Bardic College
    Divine Domain
    Druid Circle
    Martial Archetype
    Monastic Tradition
    Sacred Oath
    Ranger Conclave
    Roguish Archetype
    Sorcerer Origin
    Otherworldly Patron
    Arcane Tradition

    So, we essentially have Traditions, Paths, Archetypes, Conclaves, Colleges, Origins, Patrons, and Domains. MFoV has introduced the following archetype names

    Warmage House
    Field of Study
    War Tactic
    Planar Order
    Duality
    Profession
    Gunslinger’s Creed
    Champions Call
    Witch’s Craft

    I am thinking the name should be some kind of secret or even forbidden knowledge or practice. I think the shift in the binder archetype themes you’ve made are fantastic I just can’t get with the aesthetics of the name. Thoughts?

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    1. We tossed around a lot of names over a few weeks before settling on this one. "Tradition" was mentioned a lot, but it's a wizard thing already.

      The critical thing about our subclass name is that it should say something about how binders are in the world: they're outcasts because they practice forbidden magic. If they meet in a group, it's bound to be secretive. The obvious direction was calling them "Cults", but we didn't like the connotations of that. Similarly, we didn't like "Sects" or "Chapters". We settled on "Lodge" because it's what many real-world secret occult organizations call themselves.

      If we went with something like "Practice" or "Secrets" as the subclass name, we wouldn't get across that sense of how forbidden their rituals are. Arguably, "Lodges" isn't doing a good job of that, either, (since if you're not familiar with Masonic traditions, it'll just sound like binders like comfy cottages) so I'm open to suggestions.

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    2. Lodge makes me think of the Flintstones' Loyal Order of Water buffalo. I actually like "Cult". I'll need to think on it some more but, what makes this group so great is the receptiveness to feedback.

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    3. If you are thinking of the Royal Order of the Water Buffalo, you're thinking the right way. I'd imagine a number of Occult Lodges might have more benign faces to attract members, only to lead them into the weird stuff downstairs.

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    4. "Chapter" and "Sect" both convey that binder organizations are part of a larger structure, which they are not. Groups of binders are secretive and have no central organization; they probably don't communicate with each other much either.

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  6. I like the term "Lore", it includes ancient knowledge and a significant association with legends. Binders require the secret knowledge to summon a vestige and strive to learn as much of its legend as possible. Also, since much of it is missing either due to being lost over time or for being a forbidden practice, I think appropriate descriptive words to use would be “Lost”, “Forgotten”, "Secret", or “Forbidden”.
    Lost Lore
    Forgotten Lore
    Forbidden Lore
    Secret Lore

    Then the specific archetypes could be:
    Lore of Legion (Lore of the Legion?)
    Lore of Astarte
    Lore of the Crimson Binding
    Lore of Erebus

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    1. "Lore" is very doable, but it doesn't really fit two requirements we were trying to meet: giving a sense of the binder community and imparting how secretive/forbidden it is. Calling it "Esoteric Lore" conveys the latter, but not the former.

      The Community requirement doesn't seem important, but it really helps when we're writing archetypes. After all, groups of binders can be as specific, narrow, or strange as we want. Compare this to the Bard, whose archetypes are all colleges of ideas. Bard archetypes are therefore restricted by the number of unique, applicable ideas that they can be dedicated to. If we organize binders by "Cults" or "Sects", there's no such limit.

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  7. Just an unrelated comment: Subclasses for say, fighter or rogue based on the Binder class. Like for the (bound/sealed?) Fate. That’d be a really cool fighter subclass, and all you’d need to do is limit the vestige progression, and maybe limit the vestiges they can select

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    1. That's very doable. They won't stand alone nicely, but in a second Book of Binding, they'd be great additions.

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    2. Woo! I’m gonna make me a knockoff of talion!

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