May 28, 2015

Fiddler of the Mad God

Bard College
Comments from the Finger: While all the classes I post here are in some sense original, in the sense that I pen the mechanics and descriptions for them myself, the vast majority of them are technically conversions. The initial conception and idea for the class was penned by someone else, in most cases an employee of Wizards of the Coast, years ago and I'm merely translating that idea to the current edition with a fresh coat of paint.
     This class is an original. Inspired by one of my favorite H.P. Lovecraft stories, The Music of Erich Zann (which you should read here), this Bard College blurs the line between warlock and bard, and has a strong focus on the power of insanity and the fear it brings with it. In my experience, there's always one player in each D&D group (maybe it's been you) who decides to play an "insane" character for a lark, and these players typically go with warlocks or sorcerers. This is for players who want a different twist on the crazy character archetype, an the chance to see it from a different lens.

College of the Mad God

In the middle of the night, you hear the music. Every time, it begins the same way, rising from a low drone into a deafening cacophony. The noise is maddening. In your waking hours, your fingers learn to imitate this melody and bring others to your level of psychosis.
     Some attribute the dreadful nightmares to a curse or stress, but you know better. You and others like you are called nightly by the beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes, the sounds of a Mad God who echoes the pandemonium of the universe, and summons you to do something. You know not what.

Bonus Proficiencies
When you join the College of the Mad God at 3rd level, you gain proficiency in one skill, which is selected for you by the GM. Each night when you take a long rest, your GM can change this selection.

Frenzied Strings
At 3rd level, you can play an insane tune that anguishes creatures that hear it. As an action, choose a creature within 30 feet that you can see. That creature must make a Wisdom saving throw, taking 2d6 psychic damage on a failed save. You can expend a number of Bardic Inspiration dice to increase this damage by the amount rolled. A deafened creature is immune to this effect.
     The number of creatures affected by this ability increases to two at 5th level, three at 11th level, and four at 17th level.

Mad Melody
At 6th level, you can expend a bardic inspiration die as an action to decrease all saving throws rolled by creatures within 60 feet of you by the amount rolled until the beginning of your next turn.

Starting at 14th level, as an action, you can create a droning, deafening noise with your instrument. If a creature is concentrating within 30 feet of you, the creature must make a successful Constitution saving throw against your spell save DC or lose concentration. Additionally, all creatures within 10 feet of you take 5d6 thunder damage. After you use this ability, you must complete a short or a long rest before using it again.

3/6/17: Updated to match Lovecraft Handbook


  1. I edited the archetype to make it more focused on madness. I was wondering what you think.

    1. I also changed your class pack 1 around. I was wondering what you thought.

    2. Overall this are some really sexy archetypes and the formatting is awesome work. Keep it up. I personally just found the class mechanics to be either too restrictive, weak or generic but otherwise this stuff is blowing my mind. Please god keep making more.

    3. I read through your version of the archetype, and I think it's neat. I try to stay away from adding sub-mechanics like madness, to keep down the system bloat, but if that's your thing, this looks good. I'll happily endorse it as an alternative to the original.

      As for the edits to Class Pack 2, I'm not sure of all the changes you made, and I don't the time to comb through my work to find them all. Could you mind pointing out where you dropped the biggest changes?

    4. Rage mage:
      Rage works with only spells, adds damage to all targets.
      Spell fury:
      Can cast higher than lvl 1 spells as a bonus action. (Getting advantage on all attacks against you and you can cast a lvl 1 spell? really?)
      Eldritch storm: size of aoe increased from 15 to 20 to match fireball. Damage increased to 1d10 to match fireballs damage on the end of an average encounters length of 5 rounds. Before you had to wait 8 rounds of combat to do the same damage as a fireball with a smaller aoe and 0 range instead of 150.

      Archmage: given more wizard specific spells.

      Bestial sense grants advantage on both smell and hearing checks now.

      Able hunter: Merged with 10th lvl ability
      Alpha beast: new 10th lvl ability added. Allows the command of smaller beasts giving you the ability to form packs.

      Extension of body now adds onto a weapons existing stats making it useful with magic weapons.

      Extension of soul: Now works even if you are not proficient in the skills. Before it would do nothing at all if not proficient.

      Extension of blade: Damage added to attacks is now rounded up instead of down.

      Zen state: Made much easier to read and understand. No longer halves your speed. Can be used with power surge.
      The zen state is also a 7th lvl ability now and does not give a damage bonus. Regain on a short rest

      Drunken First:
      Medicinal purposes no longer can be used once per short rest. Healing changed to 1d4 + prof from 1d4 + monk level.

      Bane: Added limit of once per turn and the damage can be chosen from radiant or necrotic.

      Stalwart: Gives prof bonus instead of advantage.

      Exploit weakness: Now has a save.

      True Judgement must complete a long rest before using again.

      Dead eye: Now adds half your prof as dmg instead of two extra attacks.

      Defensive throw: only works against ranged attacks now.

      Weak spot: changed to give a once per short rest critical hit on command. Finesse weapons (daggers) get two critical hits.
      Throw anything: Turns thrown weapons into finesse, one handed and versatile become thrown weapons.

      Ghost step lasts until end of next turn instead of start.

      Blue mage: color changing of clothes lasts hours instead of seconds.

      Learn spells even if you pass the save.

      The skin: Spell list changed - removed conjure elementals, added more shield defensive spells.

      Wear fiend: changed armor formula to 13+ dex instead of +2 to your ac. Allows choices of 1 advantage and 1 disadvantage from a selection of 3 skills.

      Fiendish hide: AC 20 cap removed on use.

      Alter causality: can now cast haste on targets other than self. Can cast both haste and slow for free instead of only one.

  2. An option for DMs: In order to decide randomly which skill gets the proficiency each day, split the 18 skills in 6 teams of 3 (so 1.1,1.2,1.3 - 6.1,6.2,6.3).

    Roll a D6 to determine is which team the skill'll be and then a D3 to determine which skill of the 3 in the team will get the proficiency.

    If a team has already a proficient skill, roll a D2 for the other 2 skills.

    If a team has already 2 proficient skills, select the one that is not.

    If a team has proficiency in all 3 of its skills, roll a D5 when determining team, removing this team from the random pool.

    In the rare occasion that a player has two teams filled with proficient skills, roll a D4 to select team removing these two teams from the random pool.

    (D5, D3 and D2 work by dividing and rounding up a D10, D6 or D4 respectively)

  3. I absolutely love the bonus proficiency bit. That oozed flavor. Otherwise, I think I´d prefer it if I was able to use my own Mad Melody, i.e. have it last till the end of my next turn to abuse the weaker save.

    Cacophony looks like something that would only recharge after short/long rest. Since the damage radius is only 10 feet, it might be abusable or too easy to consistently hit 1 or 2 enemies, without hitting an ally and then it´s has basically the strength of a second level spell slot, without needing a slot.

    Frenzied strings is interesting. It works basically as a cantrip that scales different, but until level 11, it´s a vicious mockery that deals way more damage, but without the significant debuff attached. I think this feat sits in a weird design spot, because one the one hand, inflicting disadvantage is an incredibe upside for a cantrip, so you might not even want to use Frenzied strings most of the time, on the other hand you can´t make it much stronger, since then it´s just a better firebolt/produce flame, which steps on the wizards toes. (Also, I think there´s no range specified yet) Maybe giving it a bit more power, with a downside if you overuse it (inflicting a short-term madness on your self, or dealing psychic damage to yourself?) might be the way to go.

    1. You're right about cacophony; I intended it to be 1/short rest and forgot to add that sentence on the end of the feature. It should be changed now.

  4. I have a homebrew campaign setting where I pretty much allow anything (under review of balance, spirit of the class/race against the setting, and not overshadowing other archetypes). I included a lot of stuff from your site as allowable, but only one bard archetype made it whereas most other classes got 2-3. I think it's because my view of the bard isn't the same as a lot of people. Anything where it says, "As an action, you can play/you can sing" I'm like 'NOPE!' The only bard I've played (up to 15th level now) in 5th edition only played instruments in taverns. He pretty much fills every role decently but primarily in combat, his order of operations is: talk his way out of combat, suggestion/dominate, buff/heal/prevent damage, blast (magic secrets). Out of combat, he's the face, the sneak and the traps/locks guy. He only uses perform in taverns. This is my idea of a bard. The 3rd edition bard is dead to me (where you sit and play a lute in combat) now that I have played the lord bard in 5e.

    I'm not bashing the archetype, I like the idea. But it is hard for me to assign new archetypes to bard, since the two they have are so broad, powerful and so fitting with my idea of what a bard is. You know what made the cut for me? Battledancer. It does something different/new, doesn't overshadow the valor bard completely, and does a type of perform that actually makes sense in combat.

    1. You know, that's precisely the reason I have a hard time writing archetypes for the bard. Music-making seems niche, and silly for a character to take into combat.

      But here's the sticking point, all bards in 5th edition, regardless of subclass, get bardic inspiration dice and songs. If I felt like writing a calligraphy-based bard, the final character would still ultimately be a musician. That type of subclass has poor cohesion with the rest of the class, which is something that is wise to avoid.

      So, (and it's as unfortunate for me as it is for you), bards are married to this concept a little too closely. It's tough finding a thematic balance, like the battledancer, but I'll keep working at it.

  5. Is Frenzied Strings an At-Will ability? According to how I read it you can use it as an action and if you want to up that damage you have to use your Bardic Inspiration dice.

  6. Is Frenzied Strings an At-Will ability? According to how I read it you can use it as an action and if you want to up that damage you have to use your Bardic Inspiration dice.

    1. Correct! It's an at-will thing, like a cantrip, and you can buff its damage with Bardic Inspiration dice.

  7. Compared to other subclasses capstones, Cacophony seems slightly situational. Maybe bump the damage a bit to give it utility when the party isn't fighting enemy spellcasters.

    In addition, there's nothing that explicitly states that the bard can't themselves be affected by Cacophony if they're concentrating on a spell. Cacophony also doesn't really play nicely with friendly spellcasters. Maybe change the capstone to "hostile creatures concentrating" so that the bard doesn't have to distance themselves from any concentrating party casters?

    1. This is my favorite bard from y'all, I just want it to be a little more party friendly so I can happily play a crazed flutist Pastafarian.

  8. does this mean this character never sleeps?