February 22, 2019

Remus and Mr. Joe | 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.

Today, we're bumping up the numbers of god-vestiges with two new demigods for 6th level. Remus is very possibly our last melee vestige and Mr. Joe is a master of manipulation.

Also, we're down to just six vestiges left! You can probably expect me to take some time off from regular updates as I get the final list together and written.
Remus, Firstborn of the Wolf
6th-level vestige
The embittered twin who nearly founded an empire, Remus grants his binders a taste of his barbaric demigod fury.
     Legend. Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of a God of War, were bundled in a basket and set adrift in a river shortly after their birth. Helpless and alone, the twins were rescued by Lupa, a she-wolf, who nursed them for weeks and granted the sickly Remus the gift of lycanthropy, so that he might grow to be as strong as his brother. The twins grew quickly, and (demigods as they were) inherited their father’s immense strength and savagery.
     By adulthood, nothing could stand in the twins’ way, save for their own bickering. It seems that, despite their godly power, the two could never decide on anything. But most of all, they quarreled over their legacy. Remus wanted to conquer the city-states from which the two of them had be cast off as infants, but Romulus had resolved to found a city-state of his own. Remus acquiesced, but the two could not decide on where to build it.
     The twins stood on their hills and cast augury. In their wisdom, the gods delivered a sign of weal and woe, hoping this would bring the bothers solidarity, but they argued over the result instead and came to blows. Romulus and Remus fought bare-fisted, and Remus grew more bestial as he grew in fury. As last, Romulus stabbed Remus in the side with a small silver dagger, killing him.
     Romulus built his city atop his brother’s corpse and named it after himself. Though his contempt, Remus persisted as a vestige, appearing furious and animalistic, growing only more bitter with the passing of centuries, as his brother's city grew and swelled into a world-spanning empire.
     Flaw. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following flaw: “I harbor a seething resentment for my family.” 
Bonus Proficiencies
While bound to Remus, you gain proficiency with battleaxes, greataxes, mauls, and warhammers. 
Extra Attack
You can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn. 
On your turn, you can use your bonus action to summon up Remus’s bottomless rage. For the next minute, you gain the following benefits:
  • You can add your Charisma modifier to Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • You have advantage on all melee weapon attacks which use heavy weapons, versatile weapons, or unarmed strikes. However, melee weapon attacks against you are rolled with advantage.
  • You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
  • When you reduce a hostile creature to 0 hit points with a melee weapon attack, you can move up to 10 feet and make an additional weapon attack.
You can end this effect early as a bonus action. Once you use this ability, you can’t use it again until you take a short or long rest. 
Trait: Lycan’s Bloodthirst
While bound to Remus, you assume the savage guise of a lycanthrope: coarse hair covers your body, your nose lengthens, your fingernails lengthen into claws, and your teeth sharpen. You can use your claws and teeth to make unarmed strikes, which deal slashing damage equal to 1d4 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.
     Furthermore, you are possessed with a lycanthrope’s fury. When you take damage from a creature that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that creature.

Remus fits the barbarian/berserker niche and attempts to tick all the boxes: it gives you Extra Attack, a Rage-like ability, and reaction attacks to improve the damage per round. Just like with the last vestige that included Extra Attack, it was really tough to figure out what got into this package and what was left out. A few features, therefore, got squeezed together: Fury has the hallmarks of Rage, Cleave, and Reckless attack; the Trait has both Retaliation and natural attacks. That being said, I think we've landed on a happy medium.
     Perhaps a more interesting question: does the story fit? I tried to go with a more direct take on the Romulus and Remus story (without namedropping Rome itself), but I'm not sure it sold the concept of the twins being barbarians due to being raised in the wild. Let me know what you think!

Mr. Joe, Master Puppet
6th-level vestige
Mr. Joe was a show-stopping puppeteer who climbed to the height of godhood. Those who bind him can find that his strings can manipulate others as well as he manipulated puppets.
     Legend. When Ruse, the trickster god, perished, none truly believed his fate until his last will and testament was proclaimed by the other gods: there would be a contest of cunning and subterfuge to determine his successor. Only one truly worthy of the mantle of "God of Lies, Lord of Fools" could ascend to godhood in his passing. Many, from powerful demigods to lowly jesters arrived at the Temple of Ruse to engage in the contest, a series of games. Among the contestants was a puppeteer and entertainer, known as Hogarth the Astounding, who dressed in wizards’ garb and performed mundane tricks with his 'assistant' a ventriloquist's puppet named Mr. Joe, who provided commentary and banter to his routine.
     Despite his gimmick, Hogarth did not perform well in the contest, only barely avoiding elimination in many of the games of bluffing and chance. At last, when only ten constants remained, each were given a unique insignia ring for the final trial. If any contestant could secure all ten rings, then step into the lit pyre at the temple's center, they would ascend to Ruse's place at the divine table.
     After a week of feints and illusions, a demigod of gambling assembled the full set of rings. Stepping into the flames, he was immolated in screaming agony; one of his rings, a wooden fake, burned to ash on his finger.
     It was then that Hogarth revealed his grand fa├žade: beneath his robes were wooden joints and marionette strings; he was but an elaborate fabrication, a puppet expertly controlled by Mr. Joe, a matryoshka -- an animated puppet-person -- posing as a prop the entire time. Mr. Joe, held the true insignia ring, whereas Hogarth’s was a fake as convincing as himself. Picking up the remaining rings, Mr. Joe stepped into the flames and ascended to become Sham, the Lord of Trickery.
     Personality Trait. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following personality trait: "I love to put on performances for others, especially when using unwilling participants." 
No Strings on Me
While bound to Mr. Joe, you are immune to being charmed or possessed. 
Whenever you cast the spell dominate beast, dominate person, or dominate monster, you can take total and precise control of the target as a bonus action, rather than an action. Additionally, you can concentrate on two of these spells at once, taking control of both targets using one bonus action, and making only one saving throw maintain concentration on both spells. 
Soul Strings
While bound to Mr. Joe, you can cast the following spells without using spell slots or spell components: command at will, dominate beast twice, compulsion once, dominate person twice, and irresistible dance once. You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.  
Trait: Dummy
While bound to Mr. Joe, your skin appears wooden and lacquered, your joints seem to be wooden hinges, and your nose grows into a conspicuously long peg. While you remain motionless, you are indistinguishable from a puppet. Moreover, you can throw your voice, causing it to originate from any point you choose within 60 feet.

Mr. Joe was a fun vestige to piece together. Originally, we were going to have a host of vestiges based on Mage Hand Press races (just as we have at least one based loosely on our classes), but only Mr. Joe made the cut. Moreover, his original story was going to be more focused on his life being a bard or a conman, but I had fun creating a little tricketer-battle narrative.
     Mechanically, I'm worried this vestige might be too weak. I'm trying to keep the higher-level spellcaster vestiges away from too many at-will abilities, but I'm dangerously close to giving Mr. Joe command at will. Thoughts?

- - -

As always, feel free to add feedback in the comments below!

- - -

Changelog: Remus: Fury: You can add Charisma to Strength checks, instead of gaining advantage, advantage on attack rolls applies to any heavy weapon, versatile weapon, or unarmed strike
Mr. Joe: Soul Strings: Command at will


  1. Love both of these and I don’t think that giving Mr. Joe (awesome name by the way) command at will would be bad especially considering that his trait ability is mostly only useful out of combat, it would make him feel more like a viable option to play in more than just a few encounters

    1. I do agree with this. Command does require an action to cast and can only influence a single target for one round, so it seems reasonable to be frequently able to sacrifice your turn to force a target to make a Wisdom save or lose theirs while doing something simple of your choice. And at the mention of the Wisdom save, that means it's not always 100% effective. It will mean less against the hordes of small monsters that are likely to fail the save, and higher-powered creatures are more likely to save than not. Therefore, I should think that Command at will as a primary function is not terribly overpowered, as long as it does not receive any buffs.

  2. Remus is cool and pretty good, and interestingly a very powerful crowd-controller (being able, potentially, to take down any number of close-standing minions in a single turn).

    I was worried Remus might cause the binder to overshadow a barbarian of the same level- Remus gets almost all powerful barbarian abilities, and can be bound alongside 2 more melee vestiges (Nezare, Rostam or Dyogena would make powerful combinations).

    However, I crunched the numbers. The most balancing effect seems to be the Binder's MAD- If a Binder would have +5 to both STR and CHA he'd outshine the barbarian's damage, but even then would have much less HP due to lesser CON, and likely lower AC as well (unless binding Rostam, in which case the damage output is lowered).

    11th lvl Berserker Barbarian:
    Str +5, Con +4, Dex +3
    HP: 12 + 10*7 + 11*4 = 123
    AC: 10+4+3 = 17
    Damage per Round (Continous, +9 to hit): 3* (2d6+5+3)= 45

    11th lvl Stygian Binder, with Remus, Nezare and Dyogena:
    Str +3, Dex +2, Con +2, Cha +5
    HP: 8 + 10*5 +11*2 + 16(Nezare) + 16(Aegis) = 112
    AC: 17, drops to 14
    DPR (Continous, +7 to hit, assuming you get hit 2/round):
    3* (1d12+3) +2*5 +5d8 (costs 15 hp)= 42

    Conclusion- The Binder is a good secondary melee at any level, and does not outshine other melee characters.

    As for Mr. Joe, I think Command at will is not an issue at all- it's basically using your action to get an opponent to potentially waste theirs.

    1. All of that is good to hear! I did some light number crunching to make sure it was /basically/ fine, but I didn't dig in quite this deep.

      There might be a more deadly combination (especially if you start looking at what K'Sir could do here), but I'm probably going to do the "can I break it" checks a little later.

    2. also worth noting in this is that the binder'll be burning their own HP (which they already have less of and less AC to protect it with) to hit this DPR of almost the same and that the binder has to be less stingy with their use of 'rage' since having more than one encounter between short rests is fairly common but a level 11 barbarian would usually have enough rages to last from long rest to long rest. Lastly, the Barbarian having a 2 higher to hit bonus is a deceptively substantial deal. A 2 point difference makes a 10% change in expected avg. damage on attacks outside of extreme cases (only misses on nat 1 or only hits on nat 20)

    3. K'sir would possibly add 6d6 damage per round. Tilo would fix the attack bonus, add 6 damage and if enlarged add 3d4 per round. I did not take them into account- Either of them would be better than Dyogena here.

      You can only add K'sirs damage if you switch to scimitar, lowering the damage to 3*(1d6+3)+2*5+6d6=50.5 (note that you'd attack with strength for the scimitar to gain Remus' features, but since it's a finesse weapon you still get the sneak attack). This does seem to break the "barbarian barrier" when including Nezare's bonus damage.

      I think the best way to solve the issue is to drop K'sirs sneak attack to 1/round? Not too sure here.

  3. An interesting issue I just noticed: Because I copied the wording from Rage, Remus's Fury doesn't work when you have an ability that lets you use Charisma for attacks and damage (as Tilo and Orzi offer). Should I change that ability to work with all melee weapon attacks? Just with melee weapons that lack the finesse property? Something else?

    1. That's a serious problem; On the one hand, having abilities that nonbo (opposite of combo) with each other is frustrating, on the other hand the MAD is a very strong balance keeper.

      I think ultimately, Remus' abilities are good enough without a change, and frankly the only actual difference is you'd lose the advantage if you attack with an ability other than STR.

      If you change it so Remus doesn't require you to attack with STR there will definitely have to be some repercussion to prevent it from overpowering Barbarian.

    2. I personally think you should go with making it Charisma, to fit the theme of the rest of the Vestiges using Charisma.

      However I can see you switching out one of Remus's abilities for one that replaces Strength checks with Charisma checks, making it so you still need another Vestige to attack with Charisma while also keeping the theme of the Charisma god who uses Charisma for everything.

      Also Mr. Joe is the best name of all time, and I immediately was interested in the Vestige before reading it and now I can't wait to play it

    3. If you make a non-Strength attack though, does the enemy advantage on melee weapon attacks still apply?

    4. As written, yes. That's why I gave the ability to end it early as a bonus action.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Mr Joe's puppeteering ability affects dominate monster, but where does that spell come from? I thought Binders only casted the spells their vestiges gave them.

    1. Possibly will be given by a higher level vestige?

    2. The only higher-level vestige that can kind of offer it will be Qadir, the Damned Jinn, who grants you /wish/. We'll see him later. I basically included mention of that spell for completion's-sake.

  6. This is just wild. I was just thinking a few days ago it would be great to see more deity vestiges and I had an idea for a marionette vestige that controlled others. You guys are just on it!

    My thoughts,
    I'd like to continue the theme of utilizing charisma like you have already been doing. So, for the first 2 Fury benefits, what if it worked like this:
    -You add a bonus equal to your Charisma modifier to all Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
    -You have advantage on all melee weapon attack rolls using weapons that have the versatile or two-handed quality, on your turn. However, melee weapon attacks against you are rolled with advantage.

    I also think the unarmed strike gained from the Lycan's Bloodthirst should gain the benefits granted by the Fury feature.

    Quick question, when the Lycan's Bloodthirst trait is present, does Fury become the Furry? (Sorry, couldn't help it)

    1. All very good ideas! I was considering a similar fix for Fury, but you make a very good point that it should also get unarmed strikes with it.

    2. Awesome, thanks for the adjustment.

      One last thing, the Trait: Lycan’s Bloodthirst's unarmed strike, as worded, cannot take advantage of the reactionary attack, was that intentional?

      Also, I would prefer to apply Cha to the unarmed attack/ damage just to make it a more viable option in combat.

    3. I believe that unarmed strikes still qualify as melee weapon attacks, so they still work with the reactionary attack (unless there's something else I'm missing.)

    4. My bad, I didn't know they cleared it up in the errata. What about using Charisma for the unarmed attack? too much?

  7. Hey there. This is The_Doctor, one of the folks over at the GitP forums who helped you craft the original rework of the Binder. I heard you guys had decided to revamp the class so I stopped by to see how you were doing. From the looks of things, you seem to be doing a superb job. I'm actually working on my own Binder remake (though it stays more faithful to the 3.5 binder, incorporating elements of Pathfinder's binding system and 4e's vestige pact warlock) but this seems to be a pretty novel approach. If there's anything I can do to help, just let me know; either way, best of luck to you!