March 15, 2019

Carthin and Sariel | 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.

Three vestiges this time! Carthin the Runebreaker completes the story that Korine began as a 8th-level mage-killer vestige, and Sariel the Fell Angel fills out some story gaps with Erebus and the First Sin as a 7th-level vestige all about flight and smiting. Lastly, I've got a rework of Vortirrackt that rethinks its approach completely.
Carthin, the Runebreaker
8th-level vestige
In life, Carthin was a mage who forsook all arcana, except that which might be used to strike down the archmagi who betrayed him. He offers his binders a rebuke of magic along with his unsettling eyes.
     Legend. Carthin descended into the lair of, Vortirrackt, the dimensional monster, alongside a band of a hundred other warriors. It was a deathtrap. The creature was as ferocious as it was cunning, and it had converted its accommodations -- the tower of the arcane university -- into an insidious dungeon. One by one, Carthin's comrades fell to the tower's perilous traps, bloodthirsty summoned monsters, and occasionally to Vortirrackt itself.
     At last, Carthin and his remaining allies uncovered the artifacts they required and did the deed: expanding the dimensional rift from which the creature originated, until it swallowed Vortirrackt and the whole of the tower with it. Only Carthin emerged before the tower was destroyed, returning with a seething resentment in his chest.
     From Vortirrackt in the dungeon, Carthin learned that he and his allies had been sent on a suicide mission; none were meant to survive. All of the death within the university was the fault of the reckless archmagi and their futile experiments; it would stand no longer.
     Taking up the mantle of "Runebreaker", Carthin swore off all magic, save that which might kill the archmagi, and embarked on a journey of vengeance. The Runebreaker left a trail of spellcaster corpses in his wake as he hunted down the former headmasters of the university. Some histories paint this as a folk tale about the common man standing up to authority, others remember it as a horror story. In the end, his vestige cares that he continues his endless inquisition, evidenced by his unflinching red stare that unravels magic itself.
     Flaw. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following flaw: "I believe that those who wield magic are innately corrupted, and I will trust nothing they say or do." 
Eldritch Resistance
You have resistance to damage you take from spells. 
Arcanomach
When you use your action to cast a spell, you can make one weapon attack as a bonus action. 
Mage-Killer
While bound to Carthin, you can cast the following spells without using spell slots or spell components: counterspell three times, dispel magic three times, and antimagic field once. Antimagic field cast in this way does not disable any of your vestige features, except for spellcasting and magic items. You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.  
Trait: Dead Magic Eyes
While bound to Carthin, your eyes become vacant pits with two bright coals burning within them, granting you vision that can pierce arcana. You are constantly under the effects of the spell detect magic, which does not require your concentration. Additionally, you can use your action to focus on a creature you can see within 30 feet. You can determine if that creature has cast a spell within the last 24 hours, and the spell's school of magic, if any.

Notes
As with all of these higher-level vestiges, getting them to feel appropriately potent for the level will likely be a challenge. As such, I was thinking about throwing in literal truesight with the Trait, but felt that'd probably be too strong in practice. I think the other features make a useful kit, but I don't know if it's quite strong enough for 7th level; after all, you do need another vestige to make use of Arcanomach. Any thoughts/suggestions?

Next up, Sariel:

Sariel, The Fell Angel
7th-level vestige
The first fallen angel, Sariel tried and failed to destroy the multiverse as a mercy to its inhabitants. As penance, he offers his binders his wings and his once-holy blade.
     Legend. When the primeval gods spoke the Words of Creation, the world sputtered, cracked, and bled into existence. It wrenched itself and edged close to utter disaster, for it was built on a deeply imperfect plan.
     Seeing the havoc of the multiverse firsthand, the archangel Sariel descended from the upper planes to Erebus and beseeched that she might unmake the world, that it could be made again. Sariel struck the Stygian Seal with his blade, and the quirreling gods took notice. But before Sariel could break the seal with a final blow, the gods halted his blade. In judgement for his betrayal, for attempting to destroy the multiverse itself, the gods cast Sariel down into Erebus, from which he might never escape.
     Binders know the story of Sariel’s betrayal well, for it illustrates their deepest secret: the world’s flaws were crafted at the onset, and Erebus represents a destructive, merciful remedy, paving the way a new, perfect multiverse. The sign is nearly broken, which is why vestiges draw so near to the Material Plane. For his part, Sariel’s vestige only regrets his actions, and offers his wings that he might go flightness as penance for his sin.
     Personality Trait. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following personality trait: “I feel a melancholy regret for my mistakes; such sadness follows me everywhere I go.” 
Broken Halo
Whenever you fail a saving throw, roll a d6. On a 6, you succeed the saving throw instead. 
Flyby Attack
When you make a melee attack against a creature, while flying you don't provoke opportunity attacks from that creature for the rest of the turn, whether you hit or not. 
Judgement
When you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, you can deal an additional 6d8 necrotic or radiant damage (your choice) to the target. Once you use this ability, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest. 
Trait: Angelic Wings
While bound to Sariel, you sprout broad, feathered wings from your back, granting you a flying speed of 60 feet.

Notes
Your mileage may vary on the power here. I find that at-will flight can be extremely powerful at lower levels (when enemies are less likely to have ranged countermeasures), and there really wasn't room for a Flight vestige before 7th, so it lives here. I'm trying to emphasize using melee attacks while flying, rather than ranged attacks to keep things interesting, but I'm mostly worried that the theme won't resound very strongly; fallen angels are pretty common across all media. So, what do you think: is this one interesting enough?

Last but not least, a bonus rework of Vortirrackt:

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’s 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 image 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, sowing hate and doubt in their minds." 
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: Spider-Climber
When you bind Vortirrackt, your skin becomes pale and strangely adhesive. You can move up, down, and across vertical surfaces and upside down along ceilings, while leaving your hands free. You also gain a climbing speed equal to your walking speed. 
Trait: Abominable Claws
When you bind Vortirrackt, your hands sprout sickening claws, which you can use the make unarmed strikes. The claws deal 1d4 slashing damage, and you can use Charisma, instead of Strength, for their attack and damage rolls. The claws count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity.
     When you take the Attack action, you can make one unarmed strike with the claws as a bonus action. Additionally, when use your claws to hit a creature that has already been hit with them during that turn, you deal an additional 2d6 slashing damage. 
Trait: Extraneous Joint
When you bind 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.

Notes
I realized with a start today that, because I'm responsible for the vestige outline, I can throw it out when a vestige really calls for it. Vortirrackt definitely calls for it. Using three Traits outlines  how alien this thing makes you, gives you a weapon to use automatically, and helps this vestige fill yet another niche: attacking really fast. This nicely crosses two different vestige types off the list, Monks and Sentinels, without having a stereotypical type of either. The only question that remains is whether or not it feels more cohesive now. Please sound off and tell me what you think!

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This new binder is very much a collaborative effort: let me know in the comments if I succeeded, failed, or struck somewhere in the middle. Your feedback is invaluable to writing a genuinely great class.

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Changelog: 3/16/19: Sariel: Judgement: Damage bumped up to 6d8
Carthin: Increased to 8th level
Carthin: Mage-Killer: Antimagic Field does not affect vestiges, except for spellcasting and magic items
3/20/19: Vortirrackt: Abominable Claws: Count as magic

15 comments:

  1. This post is a day late because the last post was a day late. With any luck, I'll break the spell next week and get stuff out on time!

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  2. I’m normally more of a silent observer here, but I have a lot of opinions about some parts of these vestiges. Hopefully they’re of some help!

    Firstly, Carthin:
    Eldritch Resistance - This one is great. It fits perfectly with the kit and isn’t too strong or weak for a vestige of this level.
    Aracnomach - This one seems a bit strange to me. It seems like a much better fits for a war mage type build than a mage slayer. If you wanted to stick with a weapon attack based feature, perhaps it could give a small, short buff after successfully countering/dispelling a spell. If not, perhaps an ability similar to one of the pieces of the Mage Slayer feat could be appropriate, at least as a baseline.
    Mage-Killer - My only problem here is that it gives antimagic field, an 8th level spell, as a 7th level vestige, meaning that binders would get access to it to levels earlier than other full casters. Perhaps giving it a more limited version of the spell could work, or just taking it out all together.
    Dead Magic Eyes - This feature is also very good, and I definitely agree that permanent truesight would be too strong. If you wanted it to be stronger, especially if antimagic field is completely removed, perhaps it could be similar to the Warlock’s Witch Sight invocation, which is kind of like limited truesight.

    Next, Sariel:
    Broken Halo - I think that this one could stay as it is and still be fine, or change and be about as good. Maybe just adding the d6 to saves, akin to the bless spell, which could be stronger or weaker depending. It definitely works as is, it’s just somewhat swingy, which can be good or bad, depending on who you ask.
    Flyby Attack - This is a great inclusion. Even if you weren’t pushing for a melee attacker here, I feel that this would be an almost necessary inclusion for a flyer just so a melee build was more feasible.
    Judgement - I feel that this one is pretty weak. 7th level is a pretty big level for casters, do as this vestige’s only method of dealing more damage, I feel that it should reflect this, even if the main point is flight, as this is currently only equivalent to one 3rd-level paladin spell slot. The simplest solution would just be more uses.
    Angelic Wings - Not much to say about this one, as it does exactly what this vestige is here from. It gets an a-ok from me.

    I won’t go as in depth for Vortirrackt, but I definitely like this iteration much more. The kit feels much more cohesive and presents the flavor of a totally alien creature much more. The thought of a binder rebinding it mid-battle, it’s body cracking and elongating in a matter of seconds, now appears much more terrifying and disgusting in my mind, as it should.

    Well, I really hoped this helps out some, and if not at least sparks some useful conversation.

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    1. Full admission here: I fumbled with antimagic field; I totally thought it was 7th level, which means now we need to make a decision about Carthin: do I cut antimagic field altogether, or bump him up to 8th? I'm leaning to the latter, but it will mean I need to think up a new 7th level vestige.

      On Arcanomach, I tried to use some of the pieces of the Mage Slayer feat, and they all felt very weak in isolation, and too cluttered when together, which is why I traded it with the Eldritch Knight feature. I think you're probably right that I could stand to trade it out entirely, but I'm not 100% sure what I can go with, since I want this feature to have a lot of non-mage-slaying applications.

      On Judgement, yeah, I'll probably bump up the damage to 6d8 for now; 8d8 if it doesn't playtest well.

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    2. Similarly with the mechanics/lore desync between first iteration vorti (whom I feel you knocked out of the fucking park this time around, possible DPR number tuning needs aside), Arcanomach creates a big desync in Carthin because it incentivizes combining a vestige that isn't just good at killing mages but is described as actively hating mages with exactly that, mage-y vestiges (well, probably a mage-y and a melee, but still). My best idea for something here that works as an anti-mage effect but also does good work against non-mages would be a stunning strike-esq effect, since it robs any target that fails the save of a turn, but against mages can both cost a turn and whatever spell they're currently concentrating on.

      As for bumping Carthin up to 8th level, I lean in that direction too, and my suggestion for a new 7th level is to start by seeing if it's possible to make one of the 2 vestiges listed as 8th level on the roadmap at the moment work as a 7th level instead. My suggestion there would be Minotaur/waller, since the only wall spell above 7th level I could find with a quick look is Prismatic Wall and that's 9th level anyway.

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    3. I'll bump Carthin up to 8. A stunning strike effect might work for the passive ability, in place of Arcanomach, but it really should be balanced to work without resource expenditure, which is tricky for an ability like that.

      I think I'll axe the wall-maker in general and go with a psionic for 7th level, since that's a pretty fun niche which is completely deserving of the power level.

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    4. Maybe for the stunning strike have it inflict an ongoing stun, but once a creature makes its save, it is immune to the affect for 24 hours. And maybe require an intelligence save, to show that it’s more of an attack on the mind and relate it back to Carthin’s “use magic to stop magic” philosophy. Or it could just be the standard con save. So something along the lines of:

      When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, it must make an Intelligence saving throw or be stunned for 1 minute. At the end of each of the creature’s turns, it may repeat the saving throw, ending the effect early on a success.
      Once a creature has succeeded on a saving throw against this ability, it automatically succeeds on further saves against it for the next 24 hours.

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  3. I agree with Blobbrawler, for the most part- Carthin is great but antimagic field 2 levels earlier is an issue (maybe give dispel/counterspell as 7th level once [each?] instead?).
    Dead magic eyes is not very impressive but ok, if a buff is needed then Witch Sight or See Invisibility are both viable.

    Sariel is really cool, I really like the fluff of 'giving the wings' as penance. Used with other melee vestiges, judgement is probably not too weak, but as a nuclear option it does feel like it needs to be a bit more impressive (maybe 6d8?).

    As for Vortirrackt, this iteration definitely does things better and keeps a more coherent theme.
    I do wonder what the +2d6 might do with an Extra Attack vestige + bonus action attack; the numbers definitely need to be crunched on this, especially considering the claws solve MAD. (I'll do so when I have the time, which might be never).

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    1. I covered most of my thoughts in my response to Blobbrawler, but I thought I'd chime on Vortirrackt's new damage potential: I have no clue if it'll be too powerful when paired with Extra Attack. On one hand, you need to consistently hit to make it really shine, but on the other, that +4d6 can really throw off the curve. I can limit it to 1/turn if I want to be safe, but I'll leave it open until I know for sure it has the potential to be broken, because I like the synergy.

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    2. Assuming all attacks hit, that you have 20 char and that you take an extra attack vestige, this would amount to 3d4 + 4d6 + 15 ~ 36.5 damage per turn. This is somewhat similar to the damage output of an 11th level great weapon fighter (6d6 + 15 + great weapon fighting ~ 40 damage per round). I think it's fine as is, especially considering that the claws aren't magical (maybe they should be at this level) and a fighter at this level could already have a +1/+2 weapon, Which greatly increases his damage (and chance to hit which I didn't account for in these calculations)

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    3. At 13th level, you can bind three vestiges, right? So take that damage and throw on some bonus damage from K'Sir or Nezare and I think we're looking at too much DPR.

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  4. Nothing to do with these specific vestiges (though I really dig the flavor on the new ones and like Vortirrackt's non-standard approach), but have you considered changing the format of the spell-casting feature for vestiges who get it? For example:

    While bound to Carthin, you can cast the following spells without using spell slots or spell components:
    3/long rest each: counterspell, dispel magic
    1/long rest each: antimagic field

    Just think it might look a little cleaner aesthetically than the current paragraph format. Just a thought though, keep up the great work!

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    1. You know, I experimented a bit with that when putting together the playtest doc and I couldn't decide if it was cleaner. The biggest hangup was that it was decidedly weird to list things as 3/day (as per Innate Spellcasting) when they recover on a long rest, but is also weird to format it as 3/long. I'll keep experimenting with it, and hopefully I'll land on an easier to parse format.

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  5. I only have suggestions for Carthin and I focused on the last two features.

    Mage-Killer
    counterspell two times, dispel magic two times. You regain all expended uses when you finish a short or long rest. (Or any combination of the two spells used 4/short rest?)

    Trait: Dead Magic Eyes
    *Replace with "Dead Magic Eye"

    While bound to Carthin, a third eye opens vertically on your forehead. This eye appears as a black orb with a bright burning eyres at the center, granting you vision that can pierce and inhibit arcana. You are constantly under the effects of the spell detect magic, which does not require your concentration. Additionally, you can use your action to focus on a creature you can see within 30 feet. You can determine if that creature has cast a spell within the last 24 hours, and the spell's school of magic, if any.

    When focusing on a creature in this way, you can use your bonus action to disrupt its spellcasting, causing it to require an ability check using its spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a successful save, the creatures spell is cast normally. the creature’s spell fails and has no effect on a failed save. the duration for this effect is 1 minute and requires concentration.

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  6. Doesn't Hou Yi also have an eagle eye trait? If you bind him AND Carthin, whose eyes do you have?

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    1. Black pits with red points, surrounded by hawk feathers, presumably.

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