April 19, 2019

The Very Big Scissors | 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.

We're at perhaps the last post of the series:a Very Big Pair of Scissors, with which to cut things which don't quite work. If you're interested in reading back through the archives, starting at the beginning, you can do so here.

In this post, we'll be revisiting a list of vestiges, starting with the City Miragic:


City Miragic, The Dreaming Presence
7th-level vestige
An otherworldly presence encountered in the Dream City Miragic, this vestige offers its binders power only found in its subliminal realm.
     Legend. For centuries, perhaps since the dawn of time, people have fallen asleep and traveled to the City Miragic, a cyclopean dreamscape of twisting alleyways and breathtaking vistas. The streets of Miragic defy reason, the wild scale and impossible geometries of its buildings strain the waking mind, but the loose logic of dreamers who walk the city’s streets protect them from its maddening features.
     Instead, most who dream of the City Miragic become obsessed with something at the city’s center: an enigmatic presence that draws them ever forward, down ever stranger alleys of the dream. They might sketch wild street maps upon waking, or dread falling asleep and returning to that place, but all who dream of the City Miragic eventually travel its center and encounter its entity. Many never wake again. Those who do have no memory of dreaming of such a place.
     Of course, the City Miragic is not a real place; it bears no mark on a map, but the compelling entity at its center must truly dwell somewhere, else the shared Dreaming City could not have drawn people in for centuries. The city even has a singular vestige, doubtless belonging to that enigmatic presence at the city’s center, whose wordless beckoning nevertheless echoes through the mind.
     Flaw. While bound to this vestige, you gain the following flaw: "I'm possessed by the paranoid dread that something out there has inimical designs on my life." 
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.  
Subliminal Blast
While you are bound to the City Miragic, as an action, you can emanate a projection of the Presence into other creatures’ minds, fracturing their psyches. Each creature you choose within a 30-foot cone must make an Intelligence saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 5d8 psychic damage is stunned until the beginning of your next turn; on a success, a creature takes half as much damage and is not stunned. Once you use this ability, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest. 
Trait: Outer Thing
While bound to the City Miragic, you take on a distorted aspect: numerous, spider-like digits, additional eyes on the head, and a flattened nose -- traits which became more exaggerated when you cast a spell. Once on each of your turns when a creature fails a saving throw against one of your spells or vestige features, you can deal 2d8 psychic damage to the creature.

Notes
This take on the City Miragic is far more Lovecraftian in nature; specifically, it's a direct send-up of Call of Cthulhu. This simplifies the narrative, clarifies the mechanics, and gives us an excuse to do more valuable psychic damage mechanics.

Next up, both 8th level vestiges have been reduced to three features. No lore changes in here, so I'll just repost the mechanics:

Döpple, the Archivist
8th-level vestige 
Minor Relic
When you bind Döpple, a magic item appears in your possession. The item vanishes when you are no longer bound to Döpple.
     The item is your choice of the following: 2 beads of force, a necklace of fireballs (2 beads), an oil of etherealness, a potion of gaseous form, or a potion of invisibility.  
Relic
When you bind Döpple, a magic item appears in your possession. You are automatically attuned to it, if it requires attunement, and it does not count against the number of items you can have attuned. Moreover, no other creature can attune to the item or, if the item is a weapon, use it make an attack. The item vanishes when you are no longer bound to Döpple.
     The item is your choice of the following: a carpet of flying, a cloak of the bat, a flame tongue, gauntlets of ogre power, an instant fortress, a ring of regeneration, a ring of telekinesis, a sun blade, or a wand of wonder.  
Trait: Spectacles
As a final parting gift, Döpple offers his binders his very spectacles. While bound to Döpple, you can put on or take off these spectacles as an interaction on your turn. While wearing the spectacles, if you make an Intelligence (Arcana), Intelligence (History), Intelligence (Nature), or Intelligence (Religion) check, you can treat the result as a 10, or your binder level plus your Charisma modifier, whichever is higher.

Notes
Döpple survives mostly unchanged. His ability to cast identify at will was removed and his Minor Relic has been reduced to a number of expendable items, basically making him simpler to use and bringing him in line with other vestiges that offer use-limited features.

Carthin, the Runebreaker
8th-level vestige 
Blade of the Inquisition
You can cast the spell magic weapon at will as a 4th-level spell without using spell slots or spell components. Your concentration on the spell breaks if the weapon ever leaves your hand.  
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, true seeing once, and antimagic field once. Casting antimagic field 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
Carthin has seen some more major changes than Döpple. His damage increase has been built into a free casting of magic weapon for a +2 bonus to attacks and damage. For brevity, his resistance to damage from spells also had to be cut. In many ways, that ability wasn't terribly useful: with as many castings of counterspell and dispel magic that he gets, there's no reason to take damage from spells in the first place. Lastly, true seeing has been added to the spell list.

Other Changes

Some other changes I won't full detail here:

  • Lexicon's spell list has been trimmed down a little bit
  • Æglæca's spell list has been reorganized, moving speak with animals to at-will.
  • Methuselah's features are reorganized to simplify things, but don't entail mechanical changes
  • Vestige spellcasting features are organized like Innate Spellcasting

I ultimately declined to make substantial changes to the 9th level vestiges, though I tried out several different builds for Erebus since her release. Those at 9th seem to work best with one explosive expendable feature and a fairly good passive, so that they don't become default choices at high levels.

With any luck, I'll have the 1-20 playtest ready at the end of this month or the middle of next month on Patreon. The release of the final class will take a bit longer, as I intend to get a lot of art commissioned for this book.

- - -

Thank you all for reading and providing invaluable feedback and playtesting! This class simply wouldn't have happened without your consideration and support.

Stay tuned into this regular Thursday/Friday article slot: we've got a pretty great follow-up article series planned!

7 comments:

  1. Interesting. City Miragic does feel more lovecraftian, but lost pretty much all its "city" theme when losing Mirage Arcane. It now seems more like it should be an Elder Brain / Illitid colony vestige.
    Also, Daydreaming does not specify that when it ends (when you gain hp, for example).

    I liked Dopple having Identify, but simplicity's sake wins here. Also, at 15th level, getting identify is unlikely to be an issue.

    Carthin is good. A +2 weapon is easy to use with other vestiges, and is surprisingly good.

    Overall, I'd say the scissors are definitely making the class more neat, which is very important for such a class.

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    1. The intent is that Daydreaming is a replacement for the unconsciousness condition, but I take it I'm not being clear enough. Any thoughts on how to word this?

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    2. "you're instead in a special condition called daydreaming. any effect that would end your unconsciousness would also end the daydreaming condition"?

      Also not perfect, but closer I think.

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  2. I may be in the minority when I say I liked Vas Miragic the way it was before. I feel like there was already a Lovecraftian style vestige with Vortirakt. I could also just have some bias being Lovecraft-ed out thanks to my current campaign. I'm trying to wrap my head around its lore. So, is the vestige the thing in the center of the city or the city itself? Would becoming a vestige and being banished into the oblivion of the Void mean people nowadays don't dream of it?

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    1. Right, the vestige is the being in the city's center. But given the dreamland nature of everything, the city is really just an extension of the being at its center.

      I guess I didn't conclusively answer how the mechanics of being a vestige work on this one. I'd probably say that people around the world used to dream of the City in regular intervals, but now only binders can.

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  3. I like this version of Miragic a lot more than the previous one. Flavour-wise, it's great that it's an actual single entity serving as the vestige, rather than the entire city - that rubbed me oddly before and I'm glad to see it modified. Mechanically, this feels like it'll be much more active now that it has ways to actually deal psychic damage, which is something it feels like it should have had before but didn't. Even the fact that it works best with other vestige features which force saving throws means that it's dealing with synergy between vestiges, which is kind of evocative of people coming together in their dreams of the city. Good job! Although, regarding the mechanics of Daydreaming - does this include 'normal mundane sleep' as a type of unconsciousness? Could a binder linked to City Miragic sit semi-awake all night during a long rest?

    I like the addition of true seeing to Carthin's spell list as well. With the existence of illusion magic, it only makes sense that that's something you would include as part of an anti-magic kit.

    I'd be curious to hear a bit about some of the 'several different builds' for Erebus, even if they're not being used in the end. Can you share some of the other stuff that was considered?

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    1. I played with replacing the finger of death-like feature with conjuring a sphere of annihilation, a clever idea recommended by Idan, but I wasn't happy with having two passives on a 9th level vestige. I also tried playing around with other spells instead of the active (things like power word kill, but nothing was an excellent fit) and other benefits instead of the passive, but nothing really stuck.

      The balance question with 9th level vestiges is how to make them powerful tools, but not mandatory ones. Keeping half their power in a one-and-done feature is the best way I've found to do that, so it somewhat constrains the design.

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