March 24, 2021

Bone Knight Redux

Martial Archetype
Comments from the Finger: More reduxes! Even redux-er-y!

Bone Knight

A bone knight, or an osteoth, is a warrior that has undergone an agonizing transmutation ritual, granting them the ability to fully control their bones. Naturally, this power is hideous and disfiguring, but allows them to grow bone protrusions for weapons and armor, changing their skeleton’s size and shape at will. Mastering this ability is a feat of endurance and creativity, but results in a fighter whose most powerful weapon is not sheathed at their side, but sheathed within their flesh.
Many fighters believe the osteoth ritual is a mere myth, a flight of fancy traded around campfires, but the process is indeed real, preserved among moldering tomes and in the minds of deranged wizards. With some resourcefulness, the procedure can be replicated with the contents of any alchemist’s lab, with a generous fatality rate of nearly half.

Unarmored Defense
Starting when you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you can sprout plates of bone from your skin. While you are not wearing any armor, your Armor Class equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier. You can use a shield and still gain this benefit.

Skeletal Shift
At 3rd level, you have total control over your skeletal structure, granting you the following abilities: 
Bone Blades. You can sprout blades of jagged bone from each of your wrists as a normal creature would draw a weapon. These bone weapons have your choice of the statistics of a longsword, shortsword, or scimitar. You can retract these weapons as another creature would sheathe a weapon.
Bone Spurs. As a reaction when you take damage from a creature within 5 feet of you, you can expend a Hit Die to eject a hail of spiny bone protrusions in all directions. Each creature within 5 feet of you must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC equals 8 + your Constitution modifier + your proficiency bonus) or take piercing damage equal to one roll of the Hit Die + your Constitution modifier, or half as much on a successful save.
Restructure. You can cast the spell alter self (to use only the Change Appearance option) without using a spell slot or spell components, and requiring no concentration.

Hardy Constitution
By 7th level, your bones and their marrow have grown more robust, granting you a formidable healing factor. You regain your total number of hit dice when you finish a long rest.

Adamant Ivory
By 10th level, your bones have become as hard and durable as metal. While you are not wearing armor, bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage that you take from nonmagical weapons is reduced by 3.

Spine Crush
Beginning at 15th level, you can deform the bones of others, in addition to your own. Once per turn, when you hit a creature with your bone blades, you can expend a Hit Die to deal additional necrotic damage equal to two rolls of the Hit Die, plus your Constitution modifier. You can’t use this ability on elementals, oozes, and other creatures which lack a skeletal structure.

Master Osteoth 
Starting at 18th level, when you roll initiative and have fewer than half your Hit Dice, you regain 1d6 hit dice. 
Additionally, you reduce bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage you take from nonmagical weapons by 5, instead of 3.


  1. I really like the Restructure ability, but I don't understand how you get that from just changing your bone structure. I assume you still allow changing skin, hair, eyes, etc? If so, maybe there should be a mention in the flavor description that Osteoths are flesh-shapers, and no just bone-shapers.

    1. This definitely needs some rewording on that part. It shouldn't let you change your clothing, skin color, or hair; perhaps, I need to copy the spell into the feature and trim down the excess bits, for clarity.

  2. I know my player who's playing this is going to say "Welcome to the Bone Zone" once they realize that this got a redux.

  3. I really like this concept but this rework feels... pretty bland. I hope you don't mind me giving a point-by-point breakdown of how I feel when I read through the abilities.

    In most games on most days, unarmored defense and bone blades aren't going to change anything from having normal equipment, so they are effectively ribbons.

    Bone spurs makes you sacrifice healing for damage. At low levels your uses are so limited you can barely use it, and a higher levels it won't deal a significant amount of damage. It also makes it awkward for allied melee creatures to fight next to you. Compared to other damage increasing subclasses, it feels high risk and low reward.

    Alter self is interesting in some ways, being separated as it is from what a fighter normally does. But it would require a charisma investment for skills to actually make use of it mechanically, making it another ribbon.

    Hardy Constitution mostly just makes using bone spurs less punishing to the user. It works for the class, but I already have reservations about bone spurs which makes this feel underwhelming by association.

    Adamant Ivory - heavy armor master without the strength increase. I have the same problem I have with HAM: mundane physical damage tends to stop happening, meaning this feature has a shelf life. Even if this applied to all damage but psychic, it would be a weak version of totem warrior's 3rd level option. Which would probably fit here.

    Spine Crush - get more damage out of those hit dice. Will feel nice since bone spurs are tickle damage by now, but it adds more to the pile of reasons to avoid using bone spurs unless you're struggling to get through your hit dice by this level.

    Master Osteoth - as far as capstones go, this one makes multiclassing look appealing. Subclasses like samurai and cavalier get capstones that alter action economy and deny death. Bone knight gets some resource regen (typically the domain of 15th level features) and resists slightly more of that damage type you rarely deal with.

    Overall, I can't help but feel the subclass doesn't add much that the fighter didn't have access to in some way by default. I want to like this concept, but I feel like the mechanics don't really set it apart. It runs into the main wall all fighter subclasses have to face: "couldn't battle master do all of this but better?".

    1. Fair points all around; I agree that it needs some work.

      One point I'd like to debate is about nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage at high levels. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all high level combats feature magical sources of damage, since characters have easy access to magical types of melee attacks starting around 5th or 6th level, but this isn't really the case with most monsters in the game. Plenty of monsters just hit really hard with normal physical damage, and NPCs aren't always loaded down with magical items (especially if the GM doesn't want to hand out a raft of magic weapons every time the characters kill a person.) Not all creatures use exclusively physical damage, but it's still a substantial part of the game until high levels.

      I bring up this particular point because, as we're reworking this, we should think about the subclass as having mechanical throughlines: in the case of this subclass, it's about having a Hit Dice damage resource and an ever-scaling DR number.

      So as a proposal: what if we added the 3rd-level DR 3 ability from 10th level to 3rd level, and scaled it to DR 5 at 10th? Furthermore, we can replace Bone Spurs at 3rd with Spine Crush, so the damage trade is more meaningful, and the subclass has a clearer hook.

      Naturally, we'll need higher level features to fill the new gaps, but what do you think of that for a starting point?

    2. My experiences were probably too narrow to be talking about how prevalent mundane physical damage is at higher levels, so I'm happy to defer to greater experience there.

      I would suggest tying the DR to unarmored defense explicitly to avoid allowing it to stack with heavy armor master. If not for balance purposes, then just to fit the 5e theme of not allowing runaway buff stacking.

      Other than that, consolidating those "the same, but more" abilities into scaling features would leave the subclass open to clear up my biggest gripe, which was lack of variety (sorry if I came across as harsh before, by the way).

      As far as what those would be, I agre that those changes clear up the hook for the subclass as far a combat. Spine crush coming in earlier makes bone blades vital to the class instead of being reskinned weapons, and if DR is tied to Unarmored, the same for that.

      Master Osteoth could fill in the 15th level blank - as I said, 15 is normally where a subclass picks up resource regen for fighters. That would leave the capstone open for something unique.

      Looking at official subclasses, 7th level usually gives you a new mechanic, and 10th usually expands an existing mechanic, but I don't know how vital it is to keep that. Hardy Constitution fits more into the 10th level niche, but again - I'm not an expert on game balance and it might be totally fine or even better where it is. Whether you swap it or not, I'd like to see a new option for the remaining slot - even if it isn't strictly combat related, a new "thing I can do" is almost always more fun than "numbers get bigger".