February 15, 2019

Vortirrackt and Methuselah | 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 week, we wrap up 5th level vestiges with Vortirrackt (maybe my new favorite vestige) and move right along to 6th level with Methuselah (perhaps one of my favorite minor characters from mythology). 

Vortirrackt, the Outsider
5th-level vestige
A creature from beyond our multiverse, Vortirrackt warps his binders into a reflection of his bizarre anatomy.
     Legend. When the brilliant scientist Korine cast the fateful spell that thrust her to the Void, an eldritch, horrific thing crept through behind her in the dimensional hole to our world. This creature, Vortirrackt, was unlike anything seen in the multiverse: it had pale, slimy skin, impervious to weapons, a long head which terminated in a circular mouth of razor-sharp teeth, and six sickeningly long limbs, each with one joint more than a terrestrial creature and a clawlike barb at the end. Worse yet, this creature was no mere beast, as its frightful intellect would demonstrate.
     Vortirrackt stalked out of the dimensional pit in front of a gathering of wizards, researchers, and arcanists. It exchanged a long glance with those in attendance, then pounced, butchering any it caught in its elongated grasp. Dozens of innocents perished, and the mages of the arcane university retreated from their great tower to regroup. Bands of knights were sent to slay the beast and reclaim the tower, to no avail; their heads were seen to be arranged at the tower’s windows mere hours later.
     Thankfully, a powerful warding spell managed to seal Vortirrackt within, but it did not contain its telepathy. The creature mocked the wizards of the tower and their petty attempts to slay it. Gradually, it learned their names, their specialties, and what best to say to torment them.
     With no other options, the archmagi concluded that they would widen the rift, swallowing the whole of the tower and the monster, before sealing it the rift beneath a great mountain. A hundred adventures entered the warded tower, which Vortirrackt had rigged into a fiendish dungeon, but only one, Carthin the Runebreaker, escaped the monster's deathtrap.
     Today, Vortirrackt’a foul name is synonymous with spells gone awry, the folly of mages, and the hideous things that lie beyond the stars. Moreover, its legend drew forth a vestige: a spitting of the beast itself, whose figure appears distorted as if seen though a warped mirror.
     Flaw. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following flaw: "I enjoy tormenting my enemies with telepathy, sowing hate and doubt directly into their minds." 
You have telepathy, the magical ability to communicate mentally with another creature within 60 feet. The contacted creature doesn’t need to share a language with you to communicate telepathically, but it must be able to understand at least one language. A creature without telepathy can receive and respond to telepathic messages but can’t initiate or terminate a telepathic conversation.
     You don't need to see a contacted creature, but you need to be aware of the creature to contact it. You can end the telepathic contact at any time. The contact is broken as soon as you and the contacted are no longer within range of each other or if you contact a different creature within range. You can initiate or terminate a telepathic conversation without using an action, but while Incapacitated, you can’t initiate telepathic contact, and any current contact is terminated. 
Alien Anatomy
While bound to Vortirrackt, you take no additional damage from critical hits. 
Snap Reflexes
You can make an opportunity attack without using a reaction. You have advantage on this attack roll. Once you use this ability, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest. 
Trait: Extraneous Joint
When you bind to Vortirrackt, your arms and legs deform, lengthening and cracking until they each contain an additional joint. The reach of all of your melee attacks, as well as your reach for opportunity attacks, extends out to 10 feet. Additionally, you can make an opportunity attack against any creature that moves while within your reach.

This vestige has always been pitched as 'The Sentinel', which has always been a signifier that it is focused on reach and opportunity attacks, rather than its actual theme. By contrast, I've had this idea for a vestige stewing for some time.
     I think it's going to take some playtesting to figure out whether or not the focus on opportunity attacks and reach makes this vestige too strong, too weak, or just right. Feel free to weigh in with your opinions!

Onto the Eldest:

Methuselah, Eldest Dead
6th-level vestige
A man who grew so old that he slipped between life and unlife, Methuselah grants his binders authority over undead and his strange disconnect from mortality.
     Legend. Methuselah was a man so loved by the gods that they blessed him with unnaturally long life -- so long, in fact, that he became the oldest mortal to have lived.
     Methuselah spent his first century of life raising a family. But when he outlived his children and his grandchildren, Methuselah was heartbroken. He went to live with the elves, but in time he outlived generations of them too. In his most venerable age, his bones became brittle, his teeth fell out, and his skin wrinkled and lost its color. When at last Methuselah lay on his deathbed, he was little more than a husk, cursing the gods for their so-called blessing and pleading for the release of death.
     Today, Methuselah is venerated by necromancers and intelligent undead as the Eldest, the wisest and most venerable among the deceased. Their reverence paints him with a kind of undeath, as demonstrated by his vestige: a shambling corpse missing its eyes, teeth, and nose, with wispy white hair and a beard that hangs to the floor.
     Personality Trait. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following personality trait: “I believe myself to be far older, wiser, and wearier than others.” 
Grave Empathy
The undead can innately sense your closeness to their kind. Whenever an undead tries to attack you, it must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, its attack misses. On a successful save, the undead is immune to this ability for the next 24 hours. 
Dead Alive
You can cast the spell false life at will, targeting yourself only, without using a spell slot or spell components. 
Undead Progeny
While bound to Methuselah, you can raise corpses at your touch. You can cast the spell animate dead three times and the create undead spell once without using spell slots or spell components. You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
     Additionally, you can perform a 10-minute ritual to summon a Medium humanoid corpse or pile of bones (your choice), which is magically teleported to your location from a random cemetery. 
Trait: Venerable Drain
While bound to Methuselah, you appear dramatically aged and you can draw life and youth from those you touch. You voice descends into a hoarse rasp, your hair grows white, deep wrinkles appear in your skin. As an action, make a melee spell attack against a hostile creature within your reach. On a hit, the target takes 4d6 necrotic damage and you regain hit points equal to half the necrotic damage dealt.

- - -

Changelog: 2/16/19: Vortirrackt legend updated to emphasize the long arms and invulnerability


  1. Those are some pretty cool vestiges. A biblical vestige is definitely interesting (and btw, in Hebrew it's pronounced Metushelakh), and it's pretty funny seeing him as a necromancy vestige.

    Vortirrack is... weird. The telepathy, while fitting the vestige, feels somewhat out-of-place with the other abilities.
    As for the abilities, I think they're well balanced. It works better with other martial vestiges than they do with themselves (as they focus on different weapons/styles), but doesn't do anything overpowered by itself.

  2. I cant say I like Vortirrack, tbh. The flavor seems apart from the mechanics. Hes pushed as this spell resisting wizard slayer, but then grants sentinel defensive features.

    1. I have to agree. On first reading I just thought that the abilities themselves are oddly non-coherent, but on second reading not only do they not complement each other (other than the AOO/reach abilities), but they also have very little to do with the flavor.

    2. Vortirrackt really comes from the vein of Chupoclops in 3.5; a monster-vestige who grants you powers based on his monstrous abilities. Admittedly, Telepathy doesn't super fit the kit. Any suggestions on what I can do here to make this kit more 'I have alien influence'? Obviously, I can rework the lore a bit, but I do like this story a lot.

    3. I actually liked the telepathy feature. This Vestige has a Love Craftian feel to it IMO, so it works. I just think you can sacrifice one of the AoO features for a magic resist feature.

    4. I've updated to legend to downplay the magic-resist stuff. The issue is that I've got another vestige coming that's all about being an anti-mage (actually connected to this story), so I can't very well pivot this vestige in that direction.

      I'm open to changing up the kit to tighten its focus. Anyone have ideas on which features should be axed/changed?

    5. How about adding the Vicious Mockery cantrip to the Telepathy ability with the special feature of not requiring the binder to see the target or the target to hear the binder as long as a telepathic link is made with the target?

  3. I love Methuselah simply because the flavor is amazing and the abilities are similar to a boss monster I made once.

    And with Vortirrackt, the flavor makes it sound like a mage slayer not a Sentinel. Which counteracts the entire purpose for the Vestige since it was made to do one thing but the lore makes it sound like another.

    Also just a random question, is the Binder going to be in Dark Matter?

    1. Importantly, Vortirrackt is supposed to be a Sentinel only in kit, not in theme, which its second two features accomplish. I'll admit that the first two don't fit this very well, and I can play with them to get things feeling more cohesive.

      The Binder won't be getting any love in Dark Matter, unfortunately. The class just won't be done (and it for sure won't be tested) in time for Dark Matter being finalized.

  4. I was also expecting a feature that would protect against magic. Maybe replace the Snap Reflexes with a 1/short rest advantage on saves vs magic? I think you can replace that ability and still maintain the Sentinel mechanic you were going for.

  5. I'm assuming the at-wills and other free spells gained from Methuselah are cast at their lowest level? It doesn't seem to specify and I just know a few of my players would be trying to give themselves 9th level false life buffs just because it doesn't say you can't

    1. Unless the item/ability/effect specifies otherwise, things that allow you to cast a spell do so at the lowest level, yes - otherwise it would say something like "False Life (9th-level version)" - iirc the Staff of the Magi is an example of this format.

    2. This is correct, but I should /definitely/ include a sidebar in this book to clarify this. It comes up ten times more often here than anywhere else

  6. I feel Vortirrackt's Telepathy doesn't fit quite right as-is. Maybe it'd fit better with a rider clause about having advantage on intimidation checks using the telepathy, or automatically knowing the direction and distance to creatures with the frightened condition within a certain range.

    Also, how would the Extraneous Joint trait work with a race that already has additional reach, such as a bugbear?