January 31, 2019

Subclasses | 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.

While we're working on the remaining 4th-6th level vestiges, I though I'd show off the subclasses we've got finished! As with all of our classes, we only finish two to three subclasses while we're still working on the class, so we can make sure that it and its subclasses are balanced.

A (Sub)Class Act

Anyone that's done enough homebrew can tell you that subclasses typically follow a hidden kind of outline, which can range from fairly broad categories to very specific feature types. A paladin, for example, always has Channel Divinity options at the beginning of the subclass and a very specific 20th level capstone, whereas a rogue or barbarian have more varied subclasses, but generally have interaction and exploration features at consistent levels. 

It's very useful when you're writing a class to lay out an outline of the subclass features from the outset, even if it's just a smattering of constraints to make sure that features don't become repetitive. As a bonus, these sorts of constraints often force you to think outside the box, which leads to more interesting features along the way. Here's what we're trying for the binder:

3rd: Ribbon
3rd: Interaction or Exploration
7th: 1/short
10th: Ritual ability
14th: Capstone

With that in mind, lets get right into the subclasses:

Esoteric Cults 

Cults of binders are founded on forbidden, lost, or transgressive knowledge that sets them apart from conventional wisdom. While some cults meet regularly in secret, assembling in private lodges or covert hideaways, others do not meet at all, its members united only by a shared philosophy or obscure dogma. Each cult keeps its own mysterious rituals for induction, proceedings, and most importantly, binding. As these occult secrets are passed to binder initiates, they can master new, enigmatic powers, unknown to all but their order.

Order of the Black Binding 

The Order of the Black Binding sees the nature of the soul as not unlike that of the Void itself: unknowable, fractal, and ultimately hollow. With their special ritual implements and ink made of lodestone, they can form special black seals with which to entrap vestiges deeper into their souls, capturing more of the vestige’s essence and allowing them greater control of the binding process.

Flexible Rebinding
Starting when you join this cult at 3rd level, you can use your Rebinding feature twice, instead of once, between long rests.

Vestigial Skill
At 3rd level, when a vestige’s Trait allows you to replace a skill roll with a 10 or your binder level plus your Charisma modifier, you can choose gain advantage on the roll. You can choose to use this ability after seeing the result of the check. Once you use this ability, you must finish a long rest before using it again.

Soul Transfer
Beginning at 7th level, you can transfer some of the damage you take to your vestiges. As a reaction when you take damage, you can halve the damage taken.
     Once you use this ability, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

Ritual of the Black Brand
Starting at 10th level, you can perform a special ritual over the course of 10 minutes, allowing you to partially bind an additional vestige. You can only bind one vestige at a time using this ability, and this vestige doesn’t count against the number of vestiges you can bind nor toward the number of vestiges you have bound. While it is bound, you gain only the vestige’s Bonus Proficiencies feature, if it has one, or its Trait, if it offers the ability to replace a skill roll with a 10 or your binder level plus your Charisma modifier. You remain partially bound to this vestige until you finish a long rest.

Deep Binding
Starting at 14th level, the total level of vestiges you can have bound increases by 3.

Society of the Stygian Seal 

Initiates to the Society of the Stygian Seal learn the story of Erebus, The Shadow Interminable, a vestige of singular age, profound implication, and terrible portent. She is a vestige inextricably linked to the creation and destruction of the multiverse, the latter of which is prophesied to be heralded by her sign, the Stygian Seal, being fixed in the sky for forty days and nights before the multiverse is to be unraveled. Initiates of the Society seek Erebus’s sign and the ritual means to draw her true form from the Void to hasten the end of the multiverse, and by extension, the coming of a new, more perfect world, uncorrupted by the shortfalls and compromises made by the primeval gods of our multiverse. By drawing parts of the Stygian Seal, binders of the Society can pull forth voidstuff, a manifest absence in space, and shape it to their whims.

At 3rd level, you gain darkvision out to a range of 60 feet. If you already have darkvision from your race, its range increases by 30 feet.

Shape Void
Starting at 3rd level, you can bend the walls of the universe, creating a small pocket of black voidstuff in its absence, and shaping it as you see fit. You can use the following abilities:
     Barrier. As an action, you warp the Void pocket into a large obstruction, a 5-foot diameter sphere, at an empty space you choose within 30 feet. For the next minute, while you maintain concentration on this effect as a spell, nothing can penetrate or move through this space.
     Weapon. As a bonus action, you forge a shield, a set of artisan tools, or any melee weapon that deals bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage, made entirely out of refractive voidstuff. You can have up to three of these constructions at a time, each of which last for one hour before dissipating. 

Oblivion Exile
At 7th level, you can use your action to cause a creature you can see within 60 feet to make a Wisdom saving throw against your Vestige save DC. On a failed save, the creature is banished into an endless sable demiplane adjacent to the Void. While there, the target is incapacitated. At the beginning of your next turn, the target reappears in the space it left or in the nearest unoccupied space if that space is occupied. You can also target yourself with this ability, requiring no saving throw.
     Once you use this ability, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

Ritual of the Aegis
Starting at 10th level, you can perform a special ritual over the course of 10 minutes, shrouding yourself in plates of voidstuff which act as ablative armor. You gain temporary hit points equal to your binder level plus your Charisma modifier. While these hit points remain, your AC equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Charisma modifier. These temporary hit points remain until you finish a long rest. 

Stygian Soul
Beginning at 14th level, Erebus whisks you away to the Void, rather than subjecting you to death. If you drop to 0 hit points and don’t die outright, you are instead teleported to an endless demiplane adjacent to the Void. While there, you are incapacitated. At the beginning of your next turn, you return to the space you left or in the nearest unoccupied space if that space is occupied. At this time, make a death saving throw. On a failure, you drop to 0 hit points, begin dying, and suffer a failed death save; otherwise, you drop to 1 hit point instead.

Legion's Lodge 

The binders of Legion’s Lodge fill their souls with an abundance of spirits, becoming hives of wandering ghosts and whispered voices from beyond the pale. With each new spirit they bind, they develop even greater power, as the whole of their collection is mightier than the sum of its parts. At the peak of their strength, these binders speak with the voice of dozens in uncanny unison and sling attacks for a swarm of minor spirits which linger around them.

We Are Many
Beginning when you join this cult at 3rd level, you gain an additional minor spirit, which doesn’t count against your total number of minor spirits. At 10th level, you gain another additional minor spirit.
     Additionally, you can add your Charisma modifier to damage you deal with your minor spirits.

Spirit Arcana
Also by 3rd level, you have unlocked the hidden potential of the myriad spirits residing within you. Each minor spirit you have bound grants you the ability to cast a cantrip, as shown on the Spirit Arcana table below.

Spirit Arcana
Minor Spirit Cantrips
Blade SpiritTrue Strike
ChillRay of Frost
GrueAcid Splash
HauntChill Touch
SparkShocking Grasp
TorchlingProduce Flame
WispMinor Illusion

Extinguish Soul
Beginning at 7th level, you can burn the totality of a minor spirit’s essence for a flash of great power. When you hit with a minor spirit’s spell attack or a creature fails its saving throw against your minor spirit’s ability, you can choose to deal four dice of damage, instead of only one. Once you do this with a minor spirit, the spirit is dismissed until you finish a long rest. While a minor spirit is dismissed, you can't use any of its abilities or the cantrip the minor spirit allows you to use.

Ritual of Fellowship
Starting at 10th level, you can perform a special ritual over the course of 10 minutes, manifesting a minor spirit you have bound in a physical form. This minor spirit becomes a familiar, as per the find familiar spell, and remains in this form until you take a long rest. Additionally, on your turn, you can command your familiar to use any of its abilities it offers as a minor spirit (using your action or bonus action, as appropriate), which originate from it.

Spirit Horde
Beginning at 14th level you can bring your army of minor spirits to bear all at once. When you use your bonus action to make a spell attack with a minor spirit or use a minor spirit to cause a target to make a saving throw, you can use this ability twice, or use the bonus action of another minor spirit, targeting the same or different creatures.

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As always, feel free to give feedback in the comments! I'm really interested to see what everyone thinks about the subclasses, how they measure up to one another, and how well (or poorly) they fit the class.

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Changelog: 2/1/19: Various typos
Society of the Stygian Seal: Oblivion Exile requires a Wisdom save
Legion's Lodge: Extinguish Soul: No longer requires a bonus action
2/8/19: Society of the Stygian Seal: Void Aegis: Renamed 'Ritual of the Aegis'
Legion's Lodge: We Are Many: Add Charisma modifier to minor spirits damage


  1. Noticed a small typo- Order of the Black Binding has a feature at level 6, rather than at level 7, and Stygian Seal has a feature at level 2 instead of level 3.

  2. Issue with Extiguish Soul: most minor spirit abilities already use your bonus action.

    1. Changed to no longer require a bonus action. Good note

  3. Issues and questions galore!

    1) Getting no real combat feature on 3rd level seems unusual for subclasses. Is this intentional because a binder already gets increased combat abilities at that level?

    2) Stygian Society basically gets nothing useful at 3rd level. Also, non of that cult's abilities actually have anything to do with binding.

    3) Oblivion Exile not requiring a saving throw seems WAY too good, basically giving the entire party a free round of preparing actions against single enemies.

    4) Void Aegis takes 10 minutes and that raises a slight issue: Basically, this would stop the entire party for 10 minutes after each battle. Maybe it should be part of a short rest instead?

    5) Extinguish Soul says "can" instead of "can't". Also, the bonus action issue submortimer raised.

    6) How would you recommend planning a Binder's character sheet? It would be pretty different form a standard CS. Any chance of including a designated sheet with the pdf?

    1. Also, kinda forgot: Other than these few issues, the subclasses look great, well built and really do feel like they define different members of the class by their specialties. Kudos!

    2. I strongly disagree with that Stygian gets nothing useful at 3rd level. Darkvision is a really nice thing to get and a range extension on it is also useful in my experience, and while not a "use this for everything" feature, I can see lots of potential for neat niche uses for the voidstuff objects and/or barrier.

    3. Replies, in order:

      1. With how flexible the binder has proven to be, Interaction/Exploration features seem to be better fits for the archetypes' early levels. After all, strict combat increases risk making a subclass feel more restrictive, in that they'll have to give bonuses for a certain type of vestige build.

      2. I somewhat disagree. I think Shape Void could use a third option, but the two it has give a lot of options for different circumstances and builds.

      3. Good call; it takes a save now.

      4. Yeah, I thought about this, but I'm not sure I have a great solution. I might change the feature, but limiting it such that you don't want to take a break to perform the ritual is a hell of a constraint. After all, that means it needs to be worth taking the 10 minutes, just not /all/ the time.

      5. Typo, fixed.

      6. To be honest, when I played the previous binder, I used the vestige cards I made and the front page of a normal character sheet. Since the class is designed not to change your ability scores or skill proficiencies (too often, anyway) it doesn't require too much upkeep; you just need condensed vestige descriptions on hand. I plan to do the cards again, because they were a godsend at the table.

    4. Whoops- I didn't pay attention to the barrier option of Shape Void. It does seem good enough.

      About Oblivion Exile, out of curiosity, why a wisdom save? Banishment requires Cha.

      About Aegis- as long as it doesn't slow down the game it's probably ok as-is.

  4. For the archetype name, what about Cabal?

    1. Good note! I'm probably going to use Cabal for a subclass in the future!

    2. I was thinking of changing from Esoteric Cult to Cabal. So, it would be the Binder's Cabal, like the Ranger's Conclave or Wizard's School, etc. Just a thought. Also, for the Legion's Lodge I have two opinions.

      1. I was hoping for an ability that added cha mod to minor spirit damage
      2. I still miss guardian spirit being a separate spirit.

      Ex. Guardian Spirit
      The residual magical energy from a shield guardian, a guardian spirit manifests as a faint, ethereal shield. As a bonus action, you can direct your guardian spirit to defend, improving your AC by 1 against attacks made within 5ft until the start of your next turn.

      Cantrip associated with the guardian spirit would be Blade Ward

    3. Cabal definitely rings better than "esoteric cult".

    4. If I run with Cabal, it needs a different word attached to it, and I'm trying very hard not to use "Binder" in there. (A wizard's subclass, is an Arcane Tradition, by the way.) The reason we're looking at Esoteric Cult is basically because it sounds better than Esoteric Cabal and gets the point across well enough.

      I'll see what I can do about getting +Cha onto minor spirits. I need to crunch some numbers first and make sure it doesn't break anything.

    5. I agree, Esoteric Cabal doesn't sound great and its redundant since cabals are already secret. I like Binder's Cabal.

      then there would be a consistent naming of each archetype
      Cabal of the Black Binding
      Cabal of the Stygian Seal
      Cabal of the Legion Lodge
      Cabal of the...

      Sounds good to me.
      As for the guardian spirit, I know an AC boost can be a significant boon, however, I believe it is balanced well, given it only applies against close attacks and the sacrifice of a bonus action every round to keep it up.

      If that still sounds like too much, perhaps the binder can use their bonus action to direct the guardian spirit to provide some defense against attacks till the start of your next turn. Damage taken while the defense is active is reduced by 1 to a minimum of 1. (Possibly have it only reduce the damage of the first hit made while active)

      In addition, as an action, it can become any type of non-magical shield or armor you have proficiency with. While in this form it can't provide the reduction in damage.

  5. Are there going to be any Binder subclasses for Dark Matter?

    1. Probably not. I don't plan to include subclasses in that book for a class that isn't finished yet; moreover, that chapter in particular is basically together. If I write one, it'll just be a fun one-off thing for the blog.

  6. Is the binder going to be in Dark Matter?

  7. Don't know why I didn't notice this sooner but it does feel weird to put the archetype feature at 7th when you get a new level of vestiges, especially when all of the other full caster esque classes are at 6th level, and I realize that binder isn't a full caster, but the class as a whole has a power boost at 7th level, so it feels a little weird to have the archetype feature line up with that same power boost, but at the same time having the 4 features doesn't quite line up with the other full casters so not sure, just something to considered

    1. It also lines up better with a archetype pattern that does exist, in the Barbarian which is 3,6, 10, 14

    2. And a bit of the Warlock besides starting at 3rd level, which I think is a good comparison given weirdness of both classes and the sorta full caster thing they both have

    3. Originally, I did have that feature at 6th, but I moved it to 7th to be sure I could fit in an additional ability score improvement at 6th level. Given how flexible this class is, I felt it was necessary to make sure it had at least one additional ASI.

  8. Not sure if its intentional or not, but Shape Void doesn't have any limitations on the amount of times it can be used per day. I can see players reusing the Barrier option during each of there turns to reset the timer, and preventing an enemy from entering a room via a door for a long time. - Although as it only covers a 5ft diameter sphere arrows and spells could still cross through a door way, so maybe not an issue?