March 28, 2019

Final Vestiges | 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.

The journey of writing this class is nearly over! With this post, we've finished all 25 vestiges and positioned the class dangerously close to a rough draft.

Very Big Pair of Scissors

But before we get to that, we need to work together on the next step: busting out the Very Big Pair of Scissors. Collectively, we need to start making a list of things in the class that feel like excess fat; things which should be shortened, trimmed, or outright cut. Anything that doesn't come strong out of the gates is a candidate, no matter how large a chunk of content. 

Using the Very Big Pair of Scissors is imperative to writing something good, but it always feels a little like cutting off one of your limbs with a dull knife. Therefore this is a great community design opportunity! Here's a list of Rebinding article so far. Give it a read again, now that we're at journey's end, and if you find anything that rubs you the wrong way, leave a comment in this post! If we come up with enough issues, I'll make the next post about cutting things and tackling problems.

Now, without further ado, let's get onto the vestiges. This first one's a city (just roll with it). 

Vas Miragic, The Living Dream
7th-level vestige
An amalgamation of a thousand minds, the Living Dream offers to fold its binders into its great unity and bestow upon them immense psionic power.
     Legend. Maps around the world mark an enigmatic city, sometimes at the peak of a faraway mountain, sometimes amidst a inhospitable desert, and sometimes on a remote island, beyond the reach of even the most daring explorers. Those who stumble upon this city, named Vas Miragic, find a forgotten utopia of staggering vistas and evident prosperity. Even more astonishing are its citizens, who command wondrous psionic magic that they use for everyday tasks, eliminating the need for labor. In Vas Miragic, the people are welcoming, the food delectable, the music entrancing, but alas, those who remain in Vas Miragic overnight fall into a deep slumber, and are enveloped by the Living Dream.
     In the Dream, all are one, thinking with one mind and speaking with one voice. It is through this singular consciousness that Vas Miragic projects itself into the world, appearing to lone travelers and tempting them into remaining. The city is a tangible illusion, conjured by the sleeping thousands within its walls. Psions know this to be a kind of psionic power, albeit one which can only be summoned up by a populus hivemind.
     Vas Miragic has been lost for centuries, for it never really existed. Today it is remembered as a psionic paradise, to which anyone can visit, but no one can leave. Its vestige, accordingly, is a singular entity, composed of the dreaming thousands, speaking and thinking in unison as an endless wall of faces. It invites its binders to share in its psionic power and asks they they participate in the Living Dream, if only for a night.
     Personality Trait. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following personality trait: “I refer to myself only using collective pronouns, such as ‘we’ and ‘us’” 
Telepathy
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 creature 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. 
Daydreaming
Whenever you would fall unconscious, you instead remain conscious in a dreamlike state. You have disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks you make. Furthermore, if you were concentrating on a spell, you lose concentration. If you fall unconscious as a result of dropping to 0 hit points, you still must make death saving throws, and you suffer the normal effects of taking damage while at 0 hit points. 
Psionics of the Dream
While bound to Vas Miragic, you can cast the following spells without using spell slots or spell components: sleep at will, telekinesis three times, and dream or mirage arcane once. You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest. 
Trait: The Many
While bound to Vas Miragic, you join the chorus of the Living Dream, which manifests as an illusory crowd of people standing within 10 feet of you. The individuals in the crowd are only an intangible image following you, but will move convincingly to avoid obstacles and each other. You decide the crowd’s general appearance, but can’t specify specific of any individual in the crowd. Furthermore, you can use your action to mentally command the crowd to appear to be engaged in a general task, such as socializing, searching for something, or sleeping.
     The crowd will not acknowledge other people or make any noise. Any physical interaction will reveal them to be an illusion, because objects will pass through them. If a creature uses its action to examine the crowd, the creature can determine that it is an illusion with a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check against your vestige save DC. If a creature discerns the Illusion for what it is, the Illusion becomes faint to the creature.
     You can summon or dismiss the crowd as an action, and decide how many people will make up the crowd, up to a maximum of 50.
Notes
The Living Dream is an odd duck, and certainly not the Wall-Maker I anticipated including. Instead, I decided that a Psion would be a more interesting inclusion to the class's vestige lineup. It was tough figuring out which type of legend fit such a vestige, but on a few recommendations, I went with a hive-mind of sorts. The traditional psionic hive minds of D&D are closed to me -- no Elder Brains in the OGL, of course -- so I decided to lean into the idea of forgotten cities, being that they feel appropriately like a conventional mythology angle. (It was either this or Lovecraftian Horror, which I still might pivot to, if this doesn't strike peoples' fancies.
     The biggest issue with this vestige is probably its length, being that the 1st feature is the Monster Manual definition of telepathy, and the Trait includes a hefty chunk of major image. Its second issue might be focus, if the features don't come across as coherent. Its third issue might be that the Trait could come across as ineffectual and overly complicated.
     In conclusion, I went into this vestige with the best of intentions, but have no idea how I came out on the other side. Please let me know if I'm going in the wrong direction here on any of these points.

Erebus, The Shadow Interminable
9th-level vestige
Binders alone remember the esoteric legend of Erebus, the wellspring of all vestiges, the one being all gods fear.
     Legend. Before the primeval gods laid the universe's foundations, a groundwork upon which they could sculpt the antediluvian Chaos, they devised a failsafe to ensure their success. Before all else, they beckoned Erebus, a being of unmaking from beyond the veil of Chaos, to unravel and destroy their creations. For the gods, in their wisdom, realized that not even they could forge a perfect world on the first try -- indeed, countless universes were created and discarded before the gods settled for the current one, with its particular compromises and imperfections. Erebus was the tool for erasure, made to consume flawed universes and return them to the Chaos so that the gods might try again.
     Eventually, it seems the primeval gods grew weary of fruitless creation, for then they committed the First Sin: suffering our universe to live through its painful gestation. Cataclysmic disasters swept the world in its early years, but, perhaps by chance, it persisted and settled into what it is now: petty, brutish, and broken. Our universe's denizens are all sentenced to die from the moment of their births, magic is fleeting and volatile, and the fabric of the universe itself is surely unraveling, imperceptibly and steadily to a pathetic end.
     To safeguard their flawed creation, the gods bound Erebus with the Stygian Seal and scatted the Words of Creation. Most speculate that Erebus lies deep within the Void, but history tells a more complex story: in ancient languages, the word Erebus simply means Darkness, and is used both as the name of the entity, and the name for the Void itself. This implies either the ancients saw no reason to distinguish between the two, or simply believed they were one and the same. Fittingly, Erebus does not speak to this; her vestige is merely a howling abyss, upon which all of creation is perched, and from which nothing escapes.
     Flaw. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following flaw: "I do not speak." 
Obliviate
At your touch, you unmake. As an action, you can touch an object or creature, which must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failure, the target takes 10d10 + 50 necrotic damage, or half as much on a successful save. If this damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, it is totally unmade. An unmade creature and everything it is wearing or carrying, except for magic items, is completely annihilated, leaving behind nothing, not even dust. The creature can be restored to life only by means of a true resurrection or a wish spell. You can use this ability once, and regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest. 
Trait: Vestigial
While bound to Erebus, you are divorced from reality, much like vestiges themselves, causing you to appear hazy and indistinct, as your form is stretched between the Material Plane and the Void. You have resistance to all damage. Additionally, you can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. You take 4d10 force damage if you end your turn inside a creature or object, as you are ejected into the nearest unoccupied space.

Notes
Here she is: shorter than expected, but still awfully powerful. Erebus is something of a critical figure in the new binder lorescape we've written here, so it was important we kept to her theme, in that she's literally the Void incarnate. The result was nuking something with a touch and generally having resistance.
     But the question is: Is this boring? Does this fit the Erebus that all subclass and other vestiges hint at, and if not, how can she be done better?

- - -

As always, feedback is appreciated! Now, more than ever, we should turn a critical eye to the class, as we prepare to start the last big pass of fixes and cuts using the Very Big Pair of Scissors. Please leave some comments!

- - -

Changelog: 3/29/19: Erebus: Obliviate: Damage buffed to 10d10 + 50
Vas Miagic: Daydreaming: No longer imposes disadvantage on saves

27 comments:

  1. An idea I'm considering implementing is cutting the 8th-level vestiges (Dopple and Carthin) down to three features. This should make the lower-level vestiges a little more valuable by comparison, and it eases the classes into the two-featured high-level vestiges. Discuss!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds good to me, as long as the three features there are have enough oomph.

      Delete
  2. Perhaps for Erebus, a more interesting effect would be something like a perpetual Sickening Radiance, representing the presence of entropy incarnate, the gamma bursts of dying stars, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is that pitch more for the trait, or as a replacement to the active ability?

      Delete
    2. Either would work, but I would replace the active ability. The image of the two effects combined is rather tantalising - the binder becomes simultaneously nearly impervious to harm and deadly to everything around them. Don't know if you'd want to up-gun the spell effect, to bring it up to 9th level equivalency, but just making it a passive would probably be enough, it's a fantastic spell for 4th level as it is.

      Delete
    3. I'll play with it and see what I get. I think I'll have to dissect the spell and keep only the parts that make sense as a passive.

      Delete
  3. I like the lore of Vas Miragic a lot, but I don't really feel that the mechanics are particularly Psionic-y so much as a sleep themed Vestige with a few bells and whistles. The problem is that what is or isn't psionic-y probably varies a great deal from person to person, and if you look at what psionics could do in previous editions, I think illusions were among the options.

    So what is psionic-y then? Well the answer probably varies, but to me the most core, iconic psionic thing, which DnD psionics have in the past also does more of and more with than Magic, is direct mind-to-mind interfacing. And yes, it has telepathy, but it feels underwhelming and limited, I guess.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It shouldn't be hard to do Telepathic Bond for Vas Miragic, but I don't know if that alone will /save/ it, per se.

      I'm considering pivoting the lore and mechanics to a Lovecraftian City, as per Call of Cthulhu's R'lyeh: a cyclopean city that you visit in fitful dreams, full of the standard fare of mind-shattering Lovecraftian stuff. This has the advantage of keeping the "vestige is a whole city" and "if you linger too long, you can't return" tropes, while pivoting it from traditional psionics to the sort of cosmic horror version of psionics, which is easier to dress in 5e mechanics.

      Thoughts?

      Delete
    2. I like that better to be honest. I'd still say there needs to be some mechanics changes though, specifically to get some psychic damage, a fear effect or both.

      Delete
  4. Alright, some thoughts:

    First of all, I think only unique, different vestiges (such as Qadir and Erebus) should have less features, as it helps to single them out, but it could go either way.

    Vas Miragic is really cool, but it just doesn't seem to... do much. However, it is incredibly powerful in some specific circumstances (mostly due to mirage arcane's usefulness), so it fits as a vestige.

    Also, The disadvantage that daydreaming gives you kinda screws your death saving throws.

    Erebus is really cool, but I think Obliviate should cause force damage, like a Sphere of Annihilation does- it's not really about death but about undoing, and there's no reason many creatures would be immune to it.

    Another thing is that 105 damage at 17th level is not THAT impressive. A 9th-lvl disintegrate does 19d6+40=106.5. PWK 'deals' about that much, and isn't even a great spell choice for that level. Most melee builds can easily deal 100 damage on a burst (albeit that's hardly any indication).

    However, a damage buff for Erebus might be out of the question.

    What about creating a Sphere of Annihilation? The 5e version is absurdly weak, but that might actually mean it could be in addition to obliviate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Answering myself about Erebus: The big thing here is actually resistance to everything, so the medium damage on Obliviate really isn't an issue (the type still is).

      Delete
    2. The conceit of summoning a sphere of annihilation is really neat; I've used it in a couple of places before. I... might just use it again here, with improved damage.

      Though, I guess a question should be: if we're keeping it to only two features, do we want the non-trait feature to be an active or passive?

      Delete
    3. That's a good question. If it's to be kept with two features, then perhaps Obliviate is a better option (unless the Sphere is buffed).

      Now, on the one hand, the trait is already a passive. On the other hand, the big attraction for Qadir is the powerful active, so maybe Erebus should be more for sustainable, continuous damage, with an action to activate.

      About the death saving throw issue?

      Delete
    4. I'll go ahead and remove the disadvantage on saving throws thing.

      Buffing the damage on the sphere was going to be a must. Though, I'm going to have to meditate on how much damage makes sense. Giving away good at-will DPR and resistance to everything might make Erebus too good; a must pick, despite the cost. If the damage is too low, the sphere becomes worthless, since you'll just use attacks instead.

      Delete
  5. I like them both. With Erebus, the damage output is fine because it'll easily take out a minion or general without taking out a boss and angering the DM. One change I would make is the pronoun usage. Erebus seems more of a void and not like other deities that have gender preferences so I think using non gender specific pronoun like "it" would be more suiting.

    I really like Vas Magica. Reminds me of Brigadoon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think there's something to that. To explain my reasoning: Erebus is more of a personification of the Void; they used a female pronoun for the same reason people gave the ocean a female pronoun.

      Delete
  6. This is kinda about Vestiges kinda about subclasses. I wish the Lodge of Astarte's Faithful was redone like the other subclasses. Mostly because the concept of a Vestige that grows in power with you and eventually you can summon it sounds awesome

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That subclass will still happen! I'm not pushing it out right away, because it's far easier to design these things when you use a few simpler subclasses a a baseline to balance things.

      Delete
    2. K, I know it'll be a bit hard to design since you want it to be balanced yet you also want it to be powerful since you can never swap it out

      Delete
    3. The current plan is to give you one feature from the vestige at a time, easing you in, starting with bonus proficiencies. I've got a pretty good idea where I'm going with it.

      Delete
  7. Hi, I know I'm a little late to the discussion here, but I have to say that I love what you did mechanically with this class. That being said I really don't like the lore for Qadir simply because it reads like some sort of mob boss "snitches get stiches" lesson. "Now remember when you promise a madman immortality and a million strong army to conquer the world do it. Or else get murdered."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely wanted the "moral lesson" here to read as twisted, and a little sickening. Like when you go back and read old fairy tales and wonder how they were supposed to teach you to be a better person. I wanted that reaction to make it clear that Qadir had been wronged, and that history's perspective on his story is clearly skewed.

      That was the intent, anyway. Did it instead read like I was just writing something stupid? (It's okay to say yes, if it did)

      Delete
    2. It reads very well if twisted old moral lesson is what you were going for. The problem is that there is nothing in there to suggest that its a story, rather than a description of the vestige and the circumstances that lead to his demise.

      Delete
  8. Also late to the party, but I want to say that this class (and most of you guys' content as a whole) is amazing and has gotten me much more interested in looking beyond the core D&D rules.

    Regarding the vestiges here... I'm not sure how I feel about these two. I'm getting the impression of Vas Miragic being a singular sort of hivemind, but it feels kind of weird next to the rest of the vestiges, which are all very much unique individuals with unique appearances. Vas Miragic doesn't have that capacity to have a mental image formed of it as easily - in a tome of binder lore, for example, I could picture sketches of Vortirrackt, Rostam and Qadir easily enough, but you'd draw Vas Miragic as a crowd of normal-looking people. I dunno, something about it just doesn't quite sit right with me.
    I feel like its features lack the same sort of excitement factor that you'd get from some other vestiges, as well. Take for example Sariel, the other 7th-level option. You've got a permanent flying-melee package and an insurance policy against failed saves, plus the 6d8 smite, whereas here you get... telepathy, mental magic (which is cool, make no mistake, although how often is the party going to agree that Sleep is a better option against 13th-level foes than just finishing off the last 5-to-40 HP?) and an illusory crowd. It just feels like it brings less to the table, although maybe that's on me as a player for not thinking creatively about what could be done with it.

    I was surprised to see Erebus as the other 9th-level vestige as well, especially since the original road map suggested a chronomancy vestige (although I'm aware that plans change over time). It's a cool idea and I like the abilities, but flavourfully it feels a little imbalanced. 'One of the 9th-level vestiges is some genie that got tricked into destroying itself, the other is the Void and the literal source of all vestiges.' It feels like Erebus should be the most powerful of all vestiges, being the very Void itself.
    So, just a thought - I don't know if you have an idea for the class capstone yet (I remember there being an article on it about a month ago), but maybe the capstone could feature a temporary binding of Erebus? Not necessarily with these features - it might even just be used as different flavour for the Self-Possession option discussed before - but I feel like only being able to access Erebus at 20th-level fits with its nature as the source of vestiges.

    I feel like I've given a lot of critique, so I'm just going to wrap this up by saying 'great job' again. Super excited to see how this all turns out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Critique is always valuable -- thanks for taking the time to read and offer thoughts.

      I'm going to work on completely retooling Vas Miragic; it didn't really accomplish anything I wanted it to, and everyone's made it clear that they didn't like it much either.

      I get what you're saying about the unbalanced 9th-level vestiges. I like Qadir as a whole, and the mechanical conceit of casting wish, but needing to burn the vestige to do that, was too good to leave out of the class. However, it's created a bit of a weird scale difference for them -- Qadir is an Aladdin parody, and Erebus is a plane of existence.

      Erebus is pretty core to the whole lore of the class. If she wasn't included, the whole class would feel like it's missing something (given how often she's referenced.) Qadir I can mess with, but I literally have no idea how I'd change his story.

      Delete
    2. I feel like the problem isn't with Qadir himself - the lore is cool and I like the idea of burning the vestige to cast Wish. The problem is, as you say, with the scale difference with Erebus.

      Personally I'd handle it by having a once-per-long-rest ability to bind Erebus for a short period of time as the class capstone (not necessarily with these abilities, but offering some capstone-level powers) and make a new 9th-level vestige to fill the space here. It would make sense that you can only bind Erebus briefly due to her being the entire Void, and would encourage people to stick to single-classed Binder right up to 20th level so that they can show the culmination of their binding talents by binding Erebus. 9th level vestiges aren't going to be available for 80% of an adventurer's career anyway, so it's not a huge step back.

      Or alternatively, what about scaling Qadir up? Rather than having him be a genie, have him be some lost god that was tricked into Wishing himself out of existence. It'd lose the genie-with-wishes flavour, which is a real shame, but it fixes the scale problem - having a dead god and the Void as 9th-level vestiges seems closer to being even, and you wouldn't have to change the mechanics of Qadir much if at all. Maybe even have that be the fate of Ruse, the trickster god that Mr Joe replaced - the trickster god was tricked so thoroughly he no longer existed, which is why they needed a new one. Granting wishes with loopholes that aren't mentioned until after the fact seems like the kind of thing a trickster god would do to pass the time.

      Delete
    3. Building the capstone around an entire vestige is problematic for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one is length: this class is already going to be too long for most people, but adding a whole vestige for one class feature is simply cumbersome.

      I'm going to have to think about playing with Qadir's story. You're right that it's in a weird spot, but the vestiges that are based on real-world mythology can't easily be discarded and reworked; they're acting as reevaluations of world mythology in a way that I think is valuable to the class. It's something I'm going to have to think over.

      Delete