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.

A focus pact-making seems completely out of place with binder lore. Vestiges are described as being desperate to escape the non-existence of the Void, and binders are willing to allow the vestige to occupy part of their own soul to do so, so it seems very strange that there should be a negotiation. After all, the implication is that when an otherworldly spirit occupies your soul, you only show its spooky signs if you first lose an argument with the spirit.

In fact, binding a vestige seems like it should be completely unlike bargaining with a warlock patron. When a binder allows a vestige, a supernatural presence, to occupy part of their very soul, they gain traits that the vestige possesses. If the vestige were greedy, the binder might cling more tightly to their coins, and if the vestige were sneaky, the binder will become lighter on their feet or gain some magic to pick locks. The powers gained by binding a vestige seems like a natural consequence of the binder inviting the spirit into their soul, so it doesn't make sense to pick or choose which aspects the vestige bestows upon you. Binding is all-or-nothing, so a vestige's influence should be the same.

No Time for Negotiation

With all this in mind, I think it's wise to pull most of the bargaining, negotiation, and pact-making out of the class, replacing them instead with a focus on soul magic. Rolling to negotiate with vestiges was generally a waste of time in our last version of the class, since good and bad pacts only influenced the roleplay side of the game, and each vestige required a separate roll, making the process laborious. Now, instead of making a roll, let's have a binder simply assume all of a chosen vestige's traits, including the way in which a vestige subtly influences their personality.

Physical signs should have a direct mechanical influence, however. In the past, some vestiges offered physical signs which had mechanical benefit (growing horns, an expressionless face, etc.) while others were only for show. As we go and create vestiges, we should make each vestige's sign be a standalone feature for the vestige. Something like:
Sign: Ram's Horns
You sprout a pair of sturdy rams horns. You can attack a creature with these horns as an unarmed strike, dealing 1d4 bludgeoning damage on a hit.
However, we'll look into physical signs in more detail when examine the structure vestiges will take in the new class.

Feature: Soul Binding

To wrap this up, here's the newly-updated Soul Binding Feature:

Soul Binding
In your studies, you have uncovered the means to pierce the veil of the planes and call to what lives beyond. You learn how to summon a vestige and bind it to your soul. 
Binding Ritual
You can spend 10 minutes conducting a special binding ritual, which entails drawing the signs of vestiges in chalk, calling each by name, and performing other, more esoteric acts. During this ritual, vestiges manifest tangible signs as they press against the boundaries of reality and find purchase within your soul.
     At 1st level, you can bind one vestige, and can bind more vestiges at higher levels, as shown in the Vestiges Bound column of the Binder table. Unless otherwise specified, you can only bind vestiges whose combined level is no greater than your binder level.
     Vestiges remain bound until you finish a long rest. Once you perform a binding ritual, you can't so do again until you finish a long rest. 
Once per day when you finish a short rest, you can choose to perform a modified version of the binding ritual, allowing you to expel a bound vestige early and bind another in its place. When you choose to rebind vestiges, you can expel as many vestiges as you wish and bind a number of vestiges whose combined level is no more than half your binder level (rounded up). 
Spellcasting Ability
Charisma is your spellcasting ability for all spells and powers granted to you by your vestiges, since you command the power of your vestiges though your very soul. Use your Charisma score whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, use your Charisma modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a spell or ability granted to you by one of your vestiges. 
Vestige save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier


  1. Looks promising! I can't wait to see the final version.

  2. I like this feel much better, as it is a spirit that you are letting in, so it makes sense to have it be all or nothing, it does make it trickier to try and hide if you are a binder, but I think that will make things fun to play with

    1. There's nothing to say that we can't still include the ability to conceal your signs (and forgo their mechanical benefits as well). However, doing this through negotiation is far more cumbersome. This _does_ mean that you won't be able to suppress your vestiges personality influence, but that's just a fun roleplay challenge

    2. I would say since you are willingly opening yourself to them, the personality could stay, but the physical aspect I think could be explained as being suppressed when not drawing fully on their power, so while you use their powers you can suppress the physical sign of the vestige

    3. What if you got some minor traits but got a personality trait, bond, ideal, or flaw of the spirit. If you want the major traits you gatta take the signs as well. You can suppress it down to a minor trait but lose the sign and major features.

  3. I really love that you guys are including us in the step by step recreation of this class. Also, taking out the negotiation rolls is cool. I was actually disappointed when I would succeed on the checks because I enjoyed the role play aspect of the personality influence.

    1. My big playtest of the binder involved automatically failing all the negotiation rolls for the roleplay fun and it was a /blast/. I'm planning to bring that into this by default.

  4. The feature does not specify how long a bound spirit stays (until you finish a long rest I presume, or until replaces, I presume).

    Rebinding uses 'once per day'.

    I understand why binding is Cha, but you specify that you "learn in your studies" how to do it, and there are already 3 arcane casters who use Cha. Have you considered using Int instead? It would also help differentiate the binder from the warlock, and possibly help their focus on researching ancient entities.

    1. This is a super interesting point, especially considering that it the soul of the vestige channeling their power through you, not your own soul doing the pushing. Now I wonder if their is a way to justify Wisdom as the stat, because that would round out the mental stats.

    2. We've got a /lot/ of Int-based classes under our belt. Warmage, Alchemist, Craftsman (to some extent), Channeler, Gadgeteer, Shugenja. As for Wisdom, I'm not sure if that fits to me. Let me think on it for a bit.

  5. I’ve actually done an Int based binder before and it worked great. Also, there’s some 3pp stuff from 3.5 that allowed Wis through a monk prestige class. Using that idea, I think it would be very cool if there was a Binder archetype that allowed Int and added ritual casting as features. And, a Monk class archetype (Way of the Forgotten?) that allowed access to pactmaking via some form of meditation to access certain vestiges (utilizing Wis instead of Cha).

  6. I don’t know if this is intentional, if there is any way to fix this, or if it has already been addressed but as of right now it looks like rebunding could be abused allowing you to use the once per day abilities for one vestige, taking a short rest and rebinding that vestige to a different one, this gaining an extra once per day ability essentially. I don’t know if this would be to complicated or would not work for flavor or versatility but maybe making it so you can only rebind vestiges whose active ability has not been used yet would make it so you can’t abuse that feature.

    1. Also sorry for the spelling errors this was done on my phone and I have fat fingers.