March 1, 2019

Class Table and Capstone Conundrum | 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.

We're rapidly approaching the final stages of writing this class, so it's time to zoom out and check in on the class chassis and look at possibilities on how we handle the capstone. That means it's time for another community design day: throw out some ideas for capstones in the comments!

Chassis, 1-20

Here's what we've got for the final class table, sans the capstone:
Level
Proficiency
Bonus
Features

Vestige
Level

Vestiges
Bound
1st
+2
Soul Binding
1
1
2nd
+2
Minor Spirits, Rebinding
1
1
3rd
+2
Esoteric Cult, Suppress Sign 
2
1
4th
+2
Ability Score Improvement
2
1
5th
+3
Minor Spirits (3)
3
2
6th
+3
Ability Score Improvement
3
2
7th
+3
Esoteric Cult feature
4
2
8th
+3
Ability Score Improvement
4
2
9th
+4
Adamant Mind
5
2
10th
+4
Esoteric Cult feature
5
2
11th
+4
--
6
3
12th
+4
Ability Score Improvement
6
3
13th
+5
Minor Spirits (4)
7
3
14th
+5
Esoteric Cult feature
7
3
15th
+5
Rebinding improvement
8
3
16th
+5
Ability Score Improvement
8
3
17th
+6
--
9
4
18th
+6
Minor Spirits (5)
9
4
19th
+6
Ability Score Improvement
9
4
20th
+6
[Capstone]
9
4

I'm pretty happy with this construction: it ticks all the major boxes for a good class table. Levels 1-3 have important features, with a subclass beginning at 3rd, Higher levels progress according to tiers of play, offering new vestiges at 5th, 11th, and 17th, and features are pretty well spread out, with dead levels at expected places. 

Some important features:

6th level is an Ability Score Improvement, which isn't one of those mandatory ABS levels. It's the only additional increase we could fit, but this addition is important to soften how extremely MAD (multiple ability score dependent) this class can be. This offsets the Esoteric Cult feature to 7th level, which is a tad bit unusual, but it serves the total flow of the class table.

Dead levels show up when you get new features, but not when you get new vestige levels. I found that there wasn't enough space left for other features when I blocked off all the new vestige levels. Most levels when you get new vestige levels instead get new minor spirits, which gets you something new, but nothing extraordinarily powerful. Minor spirits are on the class table, rather than in their own column, to help sell the idea that you're getting something substantial on those levels.

Last, but not least, I haven't filled in the capstone.

Community Design: Capstone

The capstone is almost always the last thing I write for a base class, and for good reason. It needs to be powerful enough to tempt players into sticking with the class all the way to 20th level, but not so powerful it breaks the game. It needs to thematically resonate with the class's themes, since it's the pinnacle of what a character of this class can achieve. And it's the last feature players get, so it can't overlap with a feature that comes online earlier. It's a lot to get right.

For the binder, this should emphasize the core drive of the class: its flexibility and binding kit.

Let's brainstorm together what we can do with this feature. Leave your ideas in the comments below and I'll throw out a few ideas up here:

Split Soul
At 20th level, you have fully severed part of your soul, creating a compartment for a permanent vestige inhabitant. Choose a 1st level vestige. You are always bound to this vestige, and it does not count against the total number of vestiges you have bound. 
Self-Possession
Starting at 20th level, as a bonus action, you can fully give your body over to your assembly of vestiges for a short time, becoming an embodiment of their various traits and skills. For 1 minute, all your ability scores become 20. Your increased Constitution gives you temporary hit points equal to the increase you would get in maximum hit points. Once you use this ability, you can't use it again until you finish a long rest. 
Sacrifice Soul
Beginning at 20th level, you can imbue negative energies into a vestige you have bound and cast it into the Void, ridding yourself of them. As an action, you can dismiss one vestige you have bound to regain 5 hit points per level of the vestige dismissed, end a spell or disease affecting you, or end one of the following conditions: blinded, charmed, deafened, fatigued, frightened, incapacitated, invisible, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, restrained, or stunned. You can take this action even if the condition would otherwise prevent it. Once you have dismissed a vestige in this way, you can't bind it again until you finish a long rest.

There's major pros and cons to all of these, but they might provide some idea of how to approach this. I look forward to seeing what you all come up with!

34 comments:

  1. I really like the feel of all of these options, but did want to throw out a slight idea, given how unique and different each of the trainings for the archetypes are, would it be reasonable that they each have their own unique ability at level 20, I realize this would add a lot of work, but I think it is at least something to consider, that being said, I will admit that my leaning is a little bit towards either Self-Possession or Split Soul

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    1. There's a work aspect to making an archetype have the capstone feature, but the larger issue is a consistency thing. The capstone really needs to be consistent enough that players can get the sense that they're getting a good feature, no matter what archetype they're looking at, which is why the paladin follows a rigorous template for all of its archetype capstones; anything less and it could result in the entire class feeling unfocused and flimsy.

      Besides, I've already got the 14th-level capstones written for all the archetypes. I think you'll like them as-is.

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  2. Split Soul is kind of "meh" imo. I like Sacrifice Soul and love Self Possession.

    Sacrifice Soul gave me an idea for a capstone that I don't fully intend you to go along with because it seems kind of OP but still cool. Call it Void's Retribution: After taking so many souls from the Void, it's time to pay it back. Target creature you can see must make a Charisma saving throw. On a fail, their soul gets sucked out of their body and deposited into the Void. They become a vestige (discuss with your DM if this vestige is an option you are allowed to Bind and what the abilities are). Constructs, undead, and creatures without souls or creatures whose souls are currently not inhabiting the same body as your target (such as a Lich with a phylactary) are immune to this effect. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier throughout your entire life. If you try to use it anymore, you die and your soul becomes a vestige instead (discuss with your DM if your vestige is an option other Binders are allowed to bind and what the abilities will be).

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    1. Super interesting take; probably crazy hard (bordering on impossible) to implement, but super interesting.

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    2. Sounds like it wouldn't work as a core class feature, but would be amazing as a story element or Binder-related artifact. Reminds me of the Spirit-Eater Curse from NWN2 Mask of the Betrayer, in a way.

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    3. What if you made a 9th lvl Vestige summonable as a Capstone?

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  3. I personally like Self-Possession, for the entirety of the class, what i percieve as the two biggest problems are
    1. the number of vestiges
    2. the ability to use said vestiges
    While Split Soul somewhat supplements issue one, Self-Possession completely solves issue 2 for a minute, 10 rounds is usually sufficient time for most combat, and it is interesting from a out of combat scenario.

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    1. Frankly, I'm leaning toward that one myself, but these features above are more or less 15 minutes of spitballing. I'm hoping the community offers some good ideas or some refinements that live in the same general mechanical/thematic area.

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  4. Initially I liked the split soul option, however, it seems more like a Order of the Black Binding capstone than the Binder class capstone. I like Self Possession but seems kinda limited to me. By 20th level you most likely maxed out your relevant ability scores so for combat so it most likely wouldn't be much help. Furthermore, if you wanted to use it out of combat 1min is very limited.

    What if Self Possession worked more like a limited duration Foresight? 10mins?

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  5. Oooooh. Hmmmm. This is difficult.
    I don't like sacrifice soul very much, and I think self-possession is better than split soul- it captures the "jack of all trades", versatile aspect of the class and solves the MAD problem, while split soul is not even as good as another vestige bound. I personally like it.

    Another option is to capitalize on the class's ability to change its features and allow rebinding at-will as a bonus action (maybe limited to lvl 3 or lower)- however, that might be a problem by giving you access to a ridiculous amount of 1/rest abilities, simply switching the vestige immediately after using its best ability.

    Or- taking an example from the fighter capstone and just give 5 vestiges bound, and maybe also increase the total vestige levels (by 5 or 10). That would be the simplest option.

    Overall I'd say Self-Possession or +1 bound +5 levels would be the best choices, and self possession is the more interesting of the two, albeit less directly connected to what the binder does.

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    1. The subclass capstone for the Black Binding subclass just increases the total level of vestiges you can have bound, so I'd want to stay away from doing that here as well. Additional vestiges bound _might_ border on too powerful (as meaningless of a statement as that is, given how crazy 20th level tends to be), but it'll definitely be more complex than I wanted. Split Soul is basically one version of the "I get more vestiges" capstone model; it's just the weakest version.

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    2. Oh, I didn't remember that about the OBB cult. In that case self possession looks like the way to go.

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  6. I love self-possession, of the three that seems to fit the binder the best.

    As for any other idea, the only thing I could think of would be something like the xenoalchemist capstone, though you physically manifest a vestige for a minute instead of creating a flesh golem. Something like a pretty generic stat block that gains whatever abilities the bound vestige gives a binder. Maybe with a cap on the vestige level to avoid super OP 1/rest spells. Seems hard to balance though, Self-possession seems great!

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    1. I thought about making a summonable minion. It's not that it's hard to balance, it strikes me a bit clunky. It'd be a very long feature in a class that's already very lengthy.

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  7. Ooooh the drafts and comments gave me an idea you might appreciate.

    Fragmented Spirit:

    As an action, choosea creature within 60ft. That creature must make a Charisma saving throw or suffer one of the effects of your choice:

    a) Possession: Expell one of your vestiges, propelling it towards your target and taking full control of them. They gain all features of the Vestige and retain all of their own features. They must obey any command you speak (no action required) as long as they do not conflict with the Vestige. They act on their own initiative. If the creature dies, this effect ends and the Vestige returns to you

    b) Alternatvely, you can possess them yourself. Your physical body dissapears and your soul enters theirs, gaining full control, keeping your own mental scores while using their physical ones. You can access the creature's memories and know details about themselves and their history. If the creature dies or falls unconcious this effect ends and you are expelled back, forming within 5 feet of the body taking 5d8 Necrotic damage.

    These effects end after 10 minutes, after which you cannot use them again until you complete a Long Rest.


    I believe the wording could use a lot of working but I hope the mechanics are clear, if somewhat rushed. Hope it fits the theme and that you'll find it useful!

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    1. Forgot to mention, option b) would have you retain your own class features (and vestiges) without gaining any new ones. The exception being the mentioned scores, HP, equipment and 'natural' abilities (eg. a Dragon breath or the Halfling's 'Lucky' feature)

      The difference is supposed to be in Utility; While both options remove an opponent from the battlefield, option a) grants you a minion (an extra turn, albeit somewhat situational depending on the enemy) while option b) allows for 'interogation' and replacing weak ability scores.

      If I had to pick only one, I'd say option a) makes more thematical sense but my personal preference is b) as it seems a bit more balanced and flavorful (yourself becoming a sort of a 'vestige', although much more in control)

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    2. I like your ability, if they don't use this as the ability (or something similar to it) I may have to ask my DM if I can use this instead since it really seems like an awesome ability both War Gamers and Roleplayers would love

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  8. I'm having a rough time with the three you proposed...

    Split Soul gives an extra 1st level vestige. Given that the 1st level vestiges are supposed to grant base abilities so you can more or less operate as a rogue, base mage, fighter, or skill monkey, all this is doing is freeing a vestige slot and increasing your max levels of vestiges bound by 1 (since you probably had a 1st level vestige bound already). So by capstone standards, it's pretty light.

    Self-Posession. As said elsewhere, by 20th level you'll already have your combat focused attributes to 20 (particularly with an extra ASI) and out of combat 1 minute isn't very useful.

    Sacrifice Soul. This one at least feels big thematically but functionally the bonus it grants is unfocused and I don't know that the bonus is worth the cost.

    As for other options, being able to switch out vestiges more frequently/quickly fits with the flexibility of the class although it is lacking a bit in feeling awesome.

    Since reading this last night, the other thought that came to me was something along the lines of:

    Heed the Chorus: Having opened your soul so many times to so many others and yet retained the essential core of yourself, you can as an action bind two additional vestiges of up to 5th level each for 1 minute. After the minute has ended, you gain one level of exhaustion. You must wait until after a long rest before doing this again.

    It's big (without getting too big by allowing high level vestiges). It boosts vestiges that have abilities that scale with how many vestiges you have. And it's limited to a single combat by its duration.

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    1. I /do/ like the basic pitch of Heed the Chorus, but I'm wary of it for the same reason I'm not excited about Split Soul: I'm concerned that binding too many vestiges will make the class too hard to play. The current limit if four already gives you a lot of abilities to keep track of.

      I /know/ that it's only coming online at 20th level, so there's some leeway for complexity, but it's a problem I foresee in all capstones which let you bind multiple vestiges.

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  9. I’ll keep away from the mechanics of it, but would it be possible to *become* a Vestige as a capstone?

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    1. I don't think, thematically, you really want to become a vestige. They're all souls that are divorced from reality, craving any kind of existence. Doesn't seem like a state I want to be in

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  10. Soul Echo
    At 20th level, your affinity and understanding of each vestige allows you to briefly return their essence to the world. As an action, choose an unoccupied space within 30ft that you can see. A vestige of your choice takes physical form centered upon that space. The vestige acts on your initiative and will assist you, but will do so in a manner befitting its personality. This form lasts for 1 minute or until it is destroyed.

    The statistics of a vestige summoned this way are as follows: HP equal to 60 + (your CHA modifier x the vestige's level), AC equal to your own, and uses your CHA modifier + proficiency for attacks, saves and checks. The vestige may move up to 20ft per round, it ignores difficult terrain and does not trigger opportunity attacks. The vestige has access to all of its usual abilities, and may also use the Attack, Help, or Dash actions. Unless otherwise indicated by the vestige's legend, their attacks deal Force damage.

    You may use this feature a number of times equal to your CHA modifier (a minimum of once). You regain any expended uses when you finish a long rest. Additionally, once you use this feature on an individual vestige you lose all benefits from having it bound (if it was bound when you used this feature), and cannot bind it again until you finish a long rest.


    Tried to leave space in the stats and such so that each vestige will not be the exact same in terms of summoning. Some may be larger than medium, some may want to attack more than use abilities (perhaps I should have set their attacks to a certain level??, but I could see certain vestiges hitting harder too), etc. May be too complex for a capstone, but this was the first thing that came to mind.

    Good luck wrapping up the Binder, excited to see the final product!

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    1. I think a simpler implementation might be to give them stat blocks, so we can define how they work in terms of ability scores, damage resistance, and so on, a little more compactly. Still, adding a statblock (or a paragraph explaining all the features of one) strikes me as cumbersome. It's a super neat idea, and definitely falls within the purview of thematically apt, but I'm not certain I can streamline it enough to fit.

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    2. Fair point, as you said above it's already a dense class due to all the moving pieces. Working off of the name I started with, perhaps you could instead summon an almost-exact copy of yourself (save for HP)? You would still exhaust a vestige at the end as noted in my first post. This way you use all the same abilities/statistics, a lot less book-keeping for a single feature.

      Not sure how to handle the per rest abilities without being over/under-powered . . . But the interaction with action economy may make it OP anyway.

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  11. Could maybe do something with the binder acting as an intermediary and bainding low-level vestige(s) to (an) ally(s). Build out your 'what do I want to be good at today' with a bit of 'what do I want my team to be extra good at today'

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    1. I've thought about that (it was a subclass ability called Empty Vessel in the last iteration of the binder), but I think it's best reserved for some kind of buffing binder subclass.

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  12. I thought about Self-Possession ability some more. I think the foresight route I mentioned earlier addresses the culmination of multiple vestiges channeling their insight and physical features into the binde, pretty well. I added a piece that is a bit of a throwback to the original binder, but it seems to fit well IMO. What do you think of something like this?

    Self-Possession
    Starting at 20th level, as a bonus action, you can fully give your body over to your assembly of vestiges for a short time, becoming an embodiment of their various traits and skills. For 1 minute, you have advantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws. Additionally, other creatures have disadvantage on attack rolls against you for the duration.

    Furthermore, the connection to your vestiges is so potent that magic can’t impede your powers. While this ability is active, any spell short of a Wish that would dispel, counterspell, or sever the link to your vestige granted spell casting, fails. Once you use this ability, you can't use it again until you finish a long rest.

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    1. I think that version of Self-Possession works mechanically, and it'd be awfully good in the hands of any binder. However, I'm not sure I see the thematic throughline of getting foresight from your vestiges. Expertise in everything, maybe, but not foresight.

      I very much like the second paragraph bit. If I go with a Self-Possession route, I might very well use that bit.

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  13. Self-Possession seems the best of those options, but I'd recommend giving it some benefit that isn't just alleviating MAD - if you're a Binder with Dex/Cha 20 and you've bound a vestige set that, say, makes you a Finesse melee fighter, it'd just give you more temp HP. Perhaps some passive benefits akin to the how the Paladin capstones work while active, or something that enhances vestige abilities? While I like the flavor, the way it works right now is somewhat "plain" for an ability with the fluff of "give yourself over to the many spirits inside you", if that makes sense.

    OH, that last bit inspired an idea that I don't think is in this iteration of Binder - what if the capstone also lets you immediately bind [x] levels worth of additional vestiges for the duration of the ability? Sort of fits the idea of surrendering to the vestiges, and lets you take some abilities for stats you aren't normally good in - e.g. a more Strength based vestige for the aforementioned Dex/Cha fighter - to make sure the straight 20s are contributing to something.

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    1. I think a few of you are zeroing-in on a similar idea: give something like Self-Possession and Split Soul; a buff (either 20s in all ability scores, or something else) and a free vestige or vestiges for a duration.

      I'm not saying I'm going to go with this exact solution, but I want to speak to the pros and cons:

      Pros:
      - Unarguably substantial
      - Addresses MAD, poor vestige preparation, and fewer vestiges bound all at once
      - Thematic

      Cons:
      - Too many vestiges might be too complex to keep track of, even for a short time. (The system is designed to give you four; I'm not sure how it'll handle with more.)
      - Both benefits are strong enough to warrant their own feature, so they might come across as redundant or over-powered.

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  14. Perhaps adding on to the self possession ability, making it power up a 1st level vestige as well, the active ability counting as having 2 more vestiges bound

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  15. Capstone: Apotheosis
    At level 20, you have reached Apotheosis. The first time you die, your material body disappears along with all of your possessions. After 24 hours, you are automatically resurrected. Your new body reappears, imbued with vestigial power, in a Binding Seal representing your own soul. Your new body is immune to aging and disease.
    The next time you die, however, your physical body disappears permanently, leaving behind your possessions. You become a vestige. You may not be resurrected, though a future binder who learns your legend may be able to temporarily call you from the void beyond reality.

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    1. I like this a lot, but feel like it should be in addition to something else.

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