D&D 5e: Bardic Performance Feats

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I like bards in 5e. It’s probably the most functional version of the class in any edition. But… it’s a Sorcerer/Warlord with musical gloss. The actual mechanical support for doing what bards are expected to do (put on a rousing performance to inspire the rest of the party throughout the course of the battle) is super thin. Depending on your Charisma, you get to hand out 5 or fewer bardic inspiration dice per rest, each of which only technically requires a bonus action’s worth of time performing to create. That bard is the best bard in the land: she played maybe 10 seconds of music this morning, keeping our spirits high.

And as far as I know, no edition has ever made it make sense to use an actual instrument for your performance rather than singing/oratory (or maybe dance). D&D can get really nitpicky about what you’ve got in your hands when you’re trying to sort out whether you can switch weapons, use items, and make somatic gestures… but you’re going to pull out a set of bagpipes on the fly to generate a buff and still theoretically have your sword in hand?

Also, in my experience, any cleric with bless is much more in the traditional bard role than the party bard. A d4 on all your attacks and saves vs. a bigger die maybe once per fight? Yes please.

So the below is an attempt at adding that back in. Ideally, it would be more as class features rather than feats, but, as noted, the class is pretty powerful, just not flavorful, so it’s probably safer to add abilities as feats than just to tack it on or try to replace something load-bearing.

Bardic Weapons

These are admittedly silly, but if Monster Hunter and Power Rangers can get away with it…

Bardic weapons are musical instruments that are reinforced and partially converted into weapons. Bards that are proficient with the instrument are also considered proficient with the weaponized version. Non-bards are proficient if they’re proficient with both the weapon and the instrument. Bardic weapons can be used to perform music and attack without additional actions to switch between modes. The weapon version has the damage and properties of the standard weapon type.

  • Bagpipes-Blowgun (35 gp)
  • Drum-Mace (8 gp)
  • Dulcimer-Warhammer (33 gp)
  • Flute-Dagger (3 gp)
  • Lute-Battleaxe (40 gp)
  • Lyre-Light Crossbow (43 gp)
  • Horn-Light Hammer (4 gp)
  • Pan Flute-Handaxe (15 gp)
  • Shawm-Club (2 gp)
  • Viol-Longsword (38 gp)

Bardic Performance Feats

  • A bardic performance requires a bonus action to begin, and expends a bardic inspiration die.
  • It can affect a number of targets equal to the size of the die (e.g., 6 at d6, 8 at d8, etc.), and affects the closest valid targets to the bard first.
  • Maintaining a performance does not prevent the bard from concentrating on a spell, but is in danger of being disrupted similarly: whenever you would be forced to make a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration on a spell, make a Charisma (Perform) check (or a tool check with the instrument you are using) against the same difficulty to continue performing.
  • As with concentration, you may only have one type of bardic performance active at a time. You can cast (and concentrate on) bardic spells, attack with bardic weapons, and assign bardic inspiration dice normally while performing.
  • Subjects must be able to hear you (or see you, if your performance is dance) to experience the effects of the performance.

Fascinate

Prerequisite: Bardic Inspiration class ability

Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

You can use your bardic performance to fascinate targets. You can choose to exclude allies from this effect. Targets must make a Wisdom saving throw against your Spell Save DC, and have advantage on this saving throw if the performance was begun while the target was already engaged in combat. Those that fail are charmed and restrained. The restrained effect ends if the target or any of the target’s allies are the target of hostile actions.

If your bardic inspiration die is d10 or greater, fascinated creatures have disadvantage on saving throws against your enchantment spells.

Targets may re-attempt the save to end the fascination between songs (assume three minutes).

Inspire Competence

Prerequisite: Bardic Inspiration class ability

Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

You can use your bardic performance to inspire your targets to greater competence. This performance affects allies. All subjects of the effect gain the benefits of guidance (this does not require your concentration, but does not stack with additional castings of guidance). This benefit refreshes at the beginning of each of your turns. You may maintain this performance indefinitely, but the DM may choose to apply fatigue for truly extended performances of an hour or more.

If your bardic inspiration die is d10 or greater, your targets also gain advantage with ability checks that are affected by the guidance.

Inspire Courage

Prerequisite: Bardic Inspiration class ability

Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

You can use your bardic performance to inspire your targets with courage in battle. This performance affects allies. All subjects of the effect gain the benefits of bless (this does not require your concentration, but does not stack with additional castings of bless). If you maintain this performance for longer than three minutes (effectively, one song), you take a level of fatigue (and an additional level of fatigue for each additional three minutes) from the intense nature of the performance.

If your bardic inspiration die is d10 or greater, you may choose to have the performance count as heroism instead of bless.

D&D 5e Race: Soulmarked, Part 2

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Earthbound

Common in former druids, the devoted of certain gods, or those that were bound to elementals of the earth, the earthbound are slowly transforming into stone, metal, or wood.

This soulmark starts with rough patches of skin and a surprising density of bone. You were always tougher and slower than the other children. As your bond deepens, more and more of your flesh transforms into material that should be inanimate, and yet, for now, you can still walk.

Base Power: Durability

At first level, you gain Unarmored Defense. 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. If you have Unarmored Defense as a class feature, you may add +1 AC to whichever source provides the better AC.

Additionally, you have advantage on saving throws to resist becoming Poisoned or Stunned. However, you have disadvantage on saving throws to resist becoming Petrified.

Your weight is 10% higher than it would be if you were entirely flesh and blood.

Secondary Power: Rooting

Usually, the first part of your anatomy to become fully of the earth is your legs.

You can no longer wear most footwear, your legs gnarling into a stable platform, but you are immune to ground-based hazards that are intended to damage your feet (e.g.; caltrops, spike growth, etc.); you are still slowed by the difficult terrain of these hazards.

Your AC improves by +1, regardless of whether you are wearing armor.

When you are standing on stone, wood, or earth, you can use your move action to gain temporary hit points equal to your level. These hit points disappear if you leave your current space.

Your base walking speed is 25 feet, and your weight is now 40% higher than it would be if you were entirely flesh and blood.

Tertiary Power: Embrace

Often, the transformation only lightly covers the torso before covering the arms, providing just enough support to wield the now-restructured appendages.

Your arms are somewhat oversized and gnarled, and you may need to have gloves, bracers, and the like adjusted to fit. In particular, most gloves are immediately destroyed when you use your arms to attack. Your unarmed attacks now deal 1d6 bludgeoning damage and you are considered proficient. If your unarmed attack already did at least 1d6 damage (e.g., from feats or class abilities), increase their damage further by one die step.

Further, you may extend spikes or blades with concentration and a short or long rest, increasing the damage to 1d8 (slashing or piercing), or two steps if you are already proficient in unarmed attacks. You do not have a hand on the arm transformed in this way, so cannot engage in tasks that require fine manipulation. You can return your arm to normal with another short or long rest.

Similarly, you may transform an arm into a shield-like structure, granting you a shield bonus to AC. This takes the same amount of time to change or change back, and also counts as not having a hand on that arm while you have a shield.

You are immune to any poisons that enter through your hands (e.g., contact poisons, poison needle trap, etc.). You are similarly immune to most other hazards that would damage flesh but not inanimate objects if touched.

Your weight is now 70% higher than it would be if you were entirely flesh and blood.

Ultimate Power: Statuesque

As your transformation completes, you are functionally an animate statue or carving. Some small amounts of flesh and blood still hide beneath sessile skin, allowing you to age, procreate, eat, and breathe. But to onlookers, you no longer appear to be part of the animal kingdom.

You are resistant to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks, as well as to poison damage (from poison sources that can still manage to penetrate). If you gain resistance to such damage from a class ability (e.g., barbarian rage), instead treat your AC as an additional +2 against attacks to which you should be doubly resistant.

If you are made of stone, you are vulnerable to thunder. If you are made of wood, you are vulnerable to fire. If you are made of metal, you are vulnerable to lightning.

Any effect that is based on causing you to bleed or draining your blood automatically fails (you don’t have much blood in you).

You have advantage on Constitution saving throws.

Your base walking speed is 20 feet, and your weight is now 100% higher than it would be if you were entirely flesh and blood.

Beastheart

Often mistaken for lycanthropes or members of anthropomorphic animal races, beastheart soulmarked come by their gradual transformations due to an ancient allegiance to some form of bestial spirit. However, while they do not tend to pass on their animal characteristics to children, there is some speculation that they might still have been progenitors of bestial humanoid bloodlines on the rare occasions they’ve bred true. Typically, however, being of such a race indicates deep commitment to a spirit of the wild in a past life, and is particularly common for former rangers, totem barbarians, and circle of the moon druids.

This soulmark begins with a somewhat feral appearance, and gradually distorts the body into a hybrid of birth race and bonded animal. While any animal is possible, it is much more common to see a beastheart bound to an impressive predator totem than simply any form of animal. Inoffensive prey animals rarely make history.

Base Power: Feral

At first level, your form is not obviously animalistic, save for perhaps an additional hirsuteness and sharpness of features and teeth. However, the natural world is likely to treat you as a member in good standing. Animals react to you as if you were a member of your bonded animal type rather than as a humanoid: if you are a predator, prey animals are likely to flee and other predators to give you a wider berth than they might otherwise. You gain advantage on Wisdom (Animal Handling) checks. Additionally, you gain advantage on Charisma (Intimidate) checks made against beasts.

You gain one of the following abilities that is appropriate to your animal bond: darkvision (60 ft.), hold breath, keen smell, keen hearing, keen sight, or sure-footed. It works the same as the associated or similar animal as described in Appendix A of the Monster Manual.

Your base walking speed is 35 feet, and you may double your jumping distance (as if under a reduced effect of the jump spell).

Secondary Power: Vicious

Once your abilities begin to unlock, the first step is to gain the natural attack methods of your bonded animal. Depending on your animal type, your face may distort and teeth lengthen, your hands and feet may alter to support claws or talons, or you may even grow horns or antlers. Generally, while you can still pass as your parents’ race with some disguise effort or in dim lighting, your bestial nature is now readily apparent to onlookers with good light.

Your natural attack form counts as a finesse, light weapon in which you are proficient. It does 1d6 piercing or slashing damage (as appropriate), or 1d8 if you are proficient in martial weapons (the viciousness of the weapons is in some way contingent on your combat capabilities). It is also effectively versatile, increasing a die size if you make the attack as your primary weapon and do not use your off hand (for shield or secondary attack); this may look like attacking with both claws in a single strike or using your hands to grab the target to improve your ability to bite or gore.

Additionally, you gain one of the following abilities that is appropriate to your animal bond: amphibious, blindsight (60 ft.), charge*, climb speed (equal to walking speed), pack tactics, rampage, relentless**, or swim speed (equal to walking speed). It works the same as the associated or similar animal as described in Appendix A of the Monster Manual.

You count as a beast for magic that can affect them.

You can no longer hide your bestial features easily. They are obvious even in bad light, and onlookers have advantage on all rolls to see through attempts with illusion or physical disguise to hide your animal nature.

* This deals +1d6 damage and increases to +2d6 at 11th level. The target’s strength saving throw to avoid being knocked prone is at a difficulty equal to 8 + your Proficiency bonus + your Strength bonus.

** The threshold for damage that is reduced to leave you with 1 hit point is equal to three times your Proficiency bonus.

Tertiary Power: Mobile

At this stage, your musculature and skeleton has adapted for motion. Your legs have likely become digitigrade (making it hard to fit into most footwear), your arms have lengthened so you can run on all fours as needed, and, if your animal bond flies, you have grown wings. Conversely, if your animal bond relies on its hide or scales rather than mobility as a defense, you may have developed that defense for yourself.

In any case, your base walking speed is 40 feet, and you may triple your jumping distance (as if under the effect of the jump spell).

You gain one of the following abilities that is appropriate to your animal bond:

  • All Fours: When you are not carrying objects in either of your hands, your base walking speed is 60 feet.
  • Armor: You gain Unarmored Defense. 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. If you have Unarmored Defense as a class feature, you may add +1 AC to whichever source provides the better AC.
  • Wings: You have a fly speed equal to half your walking speed. You may not hover.

Due to an intensified fight or flight reflect, you have disadvantage on saving throws to resist becoming Frightened.

Ultimate Power: Hybrid

Finally, you have become a true optimal hybrid of the traits of humanoid and beast.

You gain advantage on saving throws against spells that specifically target humanoids or beasts but do not work on the other. Additionally, you gain advantage on saving throws against any kind of poison or disease transmitted from eating tainted food.

Your natural attack form increases by a die step in damage and counts as magical for penetrating damage resistance.

You gain one more beast ability from the base power and one more from the secondary power.

You are treated as always wearing cold weather gear.

It is now impossible to disguise your bestial nature without magic more powerful than disguise self (and even then, onlookers have advantage on checks to see through the disguise). At best, you can pretend to be a member of a similar-looking anthropomorphic race or transformed lycanthrope.

D&D 5e Race: Soulmarked, Part 1

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This idea is pretty heavily lifted from Wildermyth. For those that haven’t played it, one of the features of the game is that you can start later campaigns with legacy characters who retain any weird traits picked up from previous playthroughs even though they were theoretically born in the core village. The fiction is that they’re strongly reincarnated versions of the old heroes, with a vague feeling that adventure is in their very soul. Since the traits from previous adventures frequently involve various obvious physical transformations into elemental or bestial forms, I’m just tickled by the idea that people in town are just like, “Yeah. She was born here. Her arm has always been made of fire.”

This racial option is probably significantly stronger than standard racial options. It trades most of the up-front options for potentially quite a bit of down-the-line upgrades. Honestly, you might do just as well ignoring the ability boost, giving players a full normal race, and letting each PC have a soulmarked progression, letting them play a band of reincarnated former heroes.

Soulmarked

Sometimes, significant deeds in life can bond to a mortal’s very soul, following them from life to life, trying to reach a conclusion. Typically, these are various mystic paths not fully walked. Sometimes, they involve bonds made with powerful entities. For a few, they are significant mistakes worn even through death.

Soulmarked are born as any other child, potentially to a very different race than their past life. Some pop up on completely opposite sides of the planet, while others tend to stay close to the area where their destiny lies. Each has some kind of signifier of previous power, which tends to grow stronger as the child ages. Those that have been reborn multiple times since the marking often seethe with power even as an infant, though it is rarely an immediate danger to the parents.

Likely having dreams of past lives throughout their childhood, soulmarked may or may not formally discover their previous identities. There is never a moment of unlocking names and full memories, but patron entities may wish to regain their service or old allies and enemies may recognize the distinctive powers.

Soulmarked Traits

Your soulmarked character gains a few traits based on parentage, but most of your power becomes from the particular marking source.

Ability Score Increase: Increase one ability score by 2 or two ability scores by 1. These benefits cannot exceed the bonuses provided to members of your parents’ race and subrace (e.g., the child of Lightfoot Halflings could take Dexterity +2 or Dexterity +1 and Charisma +1).

Age: Your aging rate is the same as that of your parents.

Alignment: Depending on the source of the soulmark, there may be some unconscious pull to match the alignment of the entity that granted the mark. However, this is not a guarantee, particularly if you choose to rebel against destiny.

Size: Your size is the same as that of your parents.

Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Languages: You speak, read, and write Common and the language of your parents (if your parents are Human, you may choose your extra language).

Subrace: There are several types of soulmarked. You typically gain the first power at first level. The availability of the additional powers is based upon events within the game, and up to your GM to award. Typically these powers remain unlocked for subsequent rebirths, until you reach your full potential.

Energy Soul

Depending on the type of energy, these are often specifically called Firesoul, Frostsoul, Stormsoul, Thundersoul, Acidsoul, Poisonsoul, Shadowsoul, or Sunsoul. As might be evident from the names, this subrace occurs when energy is infused deep into a mortal’s identity. This commonly comes from following the Evocation or Necromancy schools, various forms of bond to dragons or elementals, patronage from certain gods or devils, or even more esoteric sources.

From birth, you would flicker with your particularly energy when particularly upset, though it was seemingly illusory and no danger to those touching you, and your eyes were colored and lit to match. As you became more mature, you learned to manifest your ability to cause harm, and will unlock even more powers as you give more of your soul over to your bond.

Base Power: Manifestation

At first level, you gain a bonus cantrip. If you have a spellcasting class, this becomes a bonus cantrip for that class. If not, it uses your Charisma to generate its attack bonus or saving throw DC.

Depending on your energy type you gain produce flame (Firesoul), ray of frost (Frostsoul), shocking grasp (Stormsoul), thunderclap (Thundersoul), acid splash (Acidsoul), poison spray (Poisonsoul), chill touch (Shadowsoul), or sacred flame (Sunsoul).

Secondary Power: Luminescence

Once you begin to unlock your elemental nature, you can no longer contain its visual signifiers. Subtle patterns along all of your exposed skin constantly crackle or seethe with the energy, though you retain enough control to prevent it from harming your worn or wielded items, or those you touch (though the feel of it is very strange).

You gain Resistance to your energy type. Additionally, you gain the ability listed below:

  • Firesoul: You produce light like a torch, and heat like being near a campfire. You and anyone within five feet of you has advantage on rolls to resist extreme cold.
  • Frostsoul: You can walk without danger of slipping on ice, and blunt nearby heat. You and anyone within five feet of you has advantage on rolls to resist extreme heat.
  • Stormsoul: You are slightly magnetic, and can cause ferrous objects to adhere to your skin, or summon lightweight magnetic objects to you from up to five feet away as if using mage hand.
  • Thundersoul: Constantly suffused in a subtle blanket of noise, you are immune to the Deafened condition caused by sonic attacks, and have advantage to resist it from other sources.
  • Acidsoul: Your natural magic provides a protective influence to all of your equipment against the mild corrosion you exude, granting advantage on any saves to prevent your commonly carried items from being destroyed by any effect.
  • Poisonsoul: You gain advantage to saving throws to resist gaining the Poisoned condition (in addition to your resistance to poison damage).
  • Shadowsoul: You gain advantage on all saving throws to resist the special, non-damaging attack abilities of undead (e.g., life drain, horrifying visage); if the attack does not normally allow a saving throw (e.g., strength drain) you take half the effect you otherwise would.
  • Sunsoul: You produce light like a torch and can produce light like the daylight spell from your body at will.

It is very difficult to hide your nature at this point, and all onlookers have advantage to checks to overcome any disguises (physical or magical) as anything but an energy soul of your type, as wisps of the energy are likely to escape from your control.

Tertiary Power: Emission

You gain a bonus spell. If you have a spellcasting class, this becomes a bonus known spell for that class.

You may additionally (even if if you do not have a spellcasting class) cast the spell once as if with a 3rd level spell slot (if you are not a spellcaster, it is cast using Charisma to generate its attack bonus or saving throw DC). You cannot use the spell again in this way until you take a long rest.

Depending on your energy type you gain scorching ray (Firesoul), snilloc’s snowball swarm (Frostsoul), lightning bolt (Stormsoul), shatter (Thundersoul), melf’s acid arrow (Acidsoul), stinking cloud (Poisonsoul), shadow blade (Shadowsoul), or blinding smite (Sunsoul).

It becomes dangerous to get too close to you. Anyone that isn’t resistant to your energy type cannot spend hit dice to heal during a short rest and does not recover hit points naturally from a long rest if they spend the rest within five feet of you (e.g., sharing a bed, in a small dungeon room, etc.). Bedding that is not specifically enchanted to resist your energy is slowly destroyed by it, usually over the course of a month of sleeping in it. Your clothing deteriorates at a similar rate (though more slowly if you do not wear the same clothing every day), though durable equipment like weapons and armor is only superficially affected, and magical gear is not destroyed.

Ultimate Power: Apotheosis

At the final level, you are almost as much an elemental of your energy type as you are a mortal being, the energy constantly seething from your flesh. You gain Immunity to your energy type. All of your melee attacks add a d4 as additional damage of the energy type. All spells that you cast that deal damage of that energy type are treated as empowered (as per the Sorcerer metamagic ability).

You can no longer disguise your nature physically or with magic. The energy bleeds through any reasonable type of covering, including full plate armor.

Anyone in physical contact with you takes 1 damage of your energy type per round (reduced to 0 with Resistance), including while you are in a grapple. Your life is likely to be quite lonely if you cannot find a resistant partner.

D&D 5e Warlock Patron: The Elder Blood

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Vampires that survive beyond their first centuries of nights tend to accrue more and more dark power, eventually transcending simple undeath and becoming like unto demigods. Their plans are far more than simple survival and consumption: labyrinthine shadow conflicts with others of a similar power level. At this level their intentions can become perversely benevolent, seeing mortals as a renewable resource worth preserving to consume into eternity. While some are interested in the tried and true plots to plunge the world into eternal night, they are just as likely to while away their eternity trying to cause the cultures with blood flavors they enjoy to flourish and spread.

Since the biggest threat to such immortals is often their own progeny and peers, they are quite happy to fill their ranks of vassals with the living. Many of these, of course, hope to eventually be granted eternal life, and may feel cheated when their patron allows them to expire at the end of their natural span. Some warlocks are recruited directly by the spawn of these ancient vampires, while others have an indirect and mystical relationship as tense as more ephemeral warlock patrons. At the level where you are an institution, dreaming torpid beneath empires you have founded, distance is little object to contacting those that seek your favor.

Pacts

  • Blade: Summoning the pact weapon tends to resemble a fountain of blood that congeals from the warlock’s wounds, and collapses to red dust when dismissed. The pact weapons themselves seem corroded and decayed, more red rust than steel.
  • Chain: In addition to the normal options for chain-pact warlocks, servants of the Elder Blood may gain the services of a vargouille. They also tend to favor bats, rats, and ravens, and in addition to their normal powers, familiar options from the standard list in the find familiar spell gain the ability to drain life. Whenever they make the attack action or deliver a spell, they gain half of any damage they do as temporary hit points.
  • Tome: Books of shadows provided by the Elder Blood tend to be made of suspect leather and vellum, inked in red blood.
  • Blood: Blood-pact warlocks of the Elder Blood are typically somehow-living descendants of the vampire or its spawn. Sometimes a dhampir is spawned and creates a family line, while other times the conversion of an individual with a family echoes down the line of descendants.

Features

Warlock Level Feature
1st Expanded Spell List, Taste of Blood
6th Antediluvian Mark
10th Grave Repose
14th Bloodbath

Expanded Spell List

The Elder Blood lets you choose from an expanded list of spells when you learn a warlock spell. The following spells are added to the warlock spell list for you.

Spell Level Spells
1st false life, inflict wounds
2nd alter self, animal messenger
3rd conjure animals, life transference
4th dominate beast, greater invisibility
5th dominate person, modify memory

Taste of Blood

At 1st level, you may taste blood to learn facts and weaknesses about a subject. For the purposes of tasting the blood for this feature, you are immune to any toxins, diseases, acids, etc. in the blood that would normally harm you from tasting it.

In combat, to taste a subject’s blood, you may take a use an object action within two rounds of damaging the target with your own slashing or piercing melee weapon. Instead, if an ally deals damage to the target with a slashing or piercing melee weapon, you may move adjacent to the ally and use your use an object action and your ally’s reaction within the same time frame to taste the blood. Out of combat, you must simply deal one or more damage with a cutting implement to a helpless or willing target.

Upon tasting blood you may either choose to exploit weaknesses or discern facts.

If you exploit weaknesses, you may, on the same turn, cast hex on the target without expending a spell slot or material components. Unlike a normal casting of the spell, you can only move the curse to a new target by tasting that target’s blood.

If you discern facts, you learn the target’s creature type (and subtype/race, if any), the nature of any diseases or poisons the target is currently suffering from, and whether the target is currently the subject of any active spells (and the spells’ schools).

Antediluvian Mark

Starting at 6th level, you bear the subtle mark of your patron, protecting you from others of its ilk. You have resistance to necrotic damage. You gain advantage on Charisma checks against undead. You may cast invisibility on yourself at will, without expending a spell slot or material components, but it only works against creatures of the undead type with an Intelligence score of 6 or less.

Any vampire, vampire spawn, or warlock of the Elder Blood that tastes your blood will immediately know the “public” identity of your patron, and likely cease attacking you unless hostile to your patron.

Grave Repose

Starting at 10th level, you gain Tremorsense with a 10-foot radius. Additionally, when you are standing on earth that is at least as deep as your height, you may use your action to quickly dig down and bury yourself in a shallow grave. Creatures without a burrow speed may not attack you while you are so buried. Anyone that knows what spot you are beneath may attempt to make a grapple check against you with disadvantage to reach into the disturbed earth and pull you back to the surface.

You do not need to breathe while using this power, and may rest quite comfortably beneath the earth. You cannot perceive anything beyond the space that is not obvious to your Tremorsense without using divination magics. You cannot cast spells that require somatic components while submerged, or perform any other actions that require the ability to move.

Unless a subject has Tremorsense or some other way to perceive you beneath the earth, you automatically succeed on all attempts to hide from that subject while submerged.

You may resurface as your move on your turn, and you resurface standing.

Bloodbath

Starting at 14th level, when a creature (that you can see and that has blood) is reduced to 0 hit points within 10 feet of you, you may use your reaction to cause it to erupt in a fountain of blood. It immediately and automatically fails a single death saving throw, if relevant. Unless obstacles, wind conditions, etc. would prevent it, all creatures within 10 feet of the target are covered in blood.

You and any friendly creatures coated in this blood may use their bonus action on their next turn to immediately expend one hit die to heal. Hostile creatures covered in the blood must immediately make a Wisdom saving throw against your spell save DC or become frightened for 1d4 rounds (with the exploded ally as the source). (Your allies probably don’t like it much either, but don’t have to save.)

If desired, you may also taste the subject whose blood you are covered in as a free action on your turn, for purposes of Taste of Blood.

You must complete a short or long rest before using this ability again.

Invocations

Children of the Night

Prerequisite: Elder Blood patron and Beast Speech

You have advantage on Charisma checks or Wisdom (Animal Handling) checks targeting predators, scavengers, and any nocturnal animal. You may cast beast sense at will, without expending a spell slot.

Form of Mist

Prerequisite: Elder Blood patron

You can cast misty step at will, without expending a spell slot, but you must expend one hit die instead.

Blightblade

Prerequisite: Elder Blood patron and Pact of the Blade feature

When you cast a necromancy spell that affects a single target, instead of targeting the spell normally you may cast the spell into your pact weapon. The next time you make an attack with your pact weapon, if you hit the target with the weapon attack, it is also affected by the spell (as if it was hit by the spell attack or failed its saving throw). You must make this weapon attack before the end of your next turn after casting the spell, and begins its duration, if any, upon making the weapon attack. If the spell allows multiple spell attacks on subsequent turns, if you take the attack action you may deliver the spell with one of your pact weapon attacks on each of these turns.

Bound in Blood

Prerequisite: Elder Blood patron and Pact of the Chain feature

You gain an additional use for your Taste of Blood feature: when you exploit weaknesses, instead of casting hex you may instead cast another spell at the target (which does consume a pact magic slot and components as normal). The spell attack has advantage or the target’s saving throw has disadvantage.

Book of Nod

Prerequisite: Elder Blood patron and Pact of the Tome feature

You gain an additional use for your Taste of Blood feature: when you discern facts, instead of gaining the listed information about the subject, you can instead cause an empty page of your book of shadows to fill with a summary/family tree of the subject’s lineage (biological if living, vampiric if undead). Any other subjects upon whom you’ve ever used Taste of Blood (that are related to the subject) are obvious to you in the tree, making it easy to determine to whom the target is related and how if you can also sample their blood. Without having tasted the blood of other relations on the tree, only the most obvious information will be present (sex; type, race, and subrace; approximate age on becoming a parent to the next person on the chart).

Daywalker

Prerequisite: Elder Blood patron and Pact of the Blood feature

You have resistance to radiant damage. You gain advantage to checks or saves to resist blindness or other negative conditions caused by bright lights. You have an innate sense of when you are attempting to do something essentially impossible (e.g., ice skate uphill).

D&D 5e Warlock Patron: The Wyrm

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Particularly ancient dragons absorb so much magic over their lifespans that they become as powerful as many other entities that are not quite gods, and can bestow this power accordingly. Whether they are chromatic or metallic, these great wyrms tend to have much more temporal and materialistic concerns that other such patrons. Warlocks they imbue are typically meant to be favored servants, to accomplish things in the world that the wyrm no longer can: locate and acquire treasure, identify and handle potential dragonslayers, scout and improve lairs, and herald the coming and demands of the wyrm when it leaves its own dwelling.

Unlike other forms of draconic servitors, warlocks patronized by these wyrms are not on course to become more dragonlike, but instead receive powers that improve their utility to their patrons. Most are found by other servants of the wyrm when they are young, and brought to the patron’s attention. Mortal lives flicker by in an eyeblink to the oldest of dragons, so there is always a need to identify and train new vassals, even should they not be of draconic heritage.

Pacts

  • Blade: These warlocks typically wield ornate and ancient weapons, a shadow copy of some relic that resides in the wyrm’s hoard.
  • Chain: Pseudodragons are by far the most common servitors for these warlocks, and often they have some distant heritage to the patron wyrm.
  • Tome: The warlock’s book of shadows is generally absurdly durable, an ostentatious construction of precious metals that survived centuries buried in the hoard before being loaned to a favored servant.
  • Blood: Blood-pact warlocks are not descendants of the wyrm, as those typically become draconic sorcerers. Instead, these warlocks are generally descended from long lines of servants to that particular dragon, even if the current warlock has forgotten the relationship. However, with the bond unformalized, echoes still tend to grant draconic features.

Features

Warlock Level Feature
1st Expanded Spell List, Avidity
6th Inurement
10th Lair Sense
14th Draconic Arcana

Expanded Spell List

The Wyrm lets you choose from an expanded list of spells when you learn a warlock spell. The following spells are added to the warlock spell list for you.

Spell Level Spells
1st absorb elements, chromatic orb
2nd dragon’s breath, locate object
3rd fireball*, protection from energy
4th leomund’s secret chest, stone shape
5th cone of cold*, legend lore

* This takes the energy type of the patron wyrm’s breath weapon (acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison) instead of its normal energy type.

Avidity

At 1st level, you gain an innate sense of nearby metals, the better to unearth hidden treasure for your master.

You have blindsight to a range of 10 feet, but this only allows you to sense items made of metal. This allows you to fight a creature wielding metal weapons, wearing metal armor, or composed of metal (e.g., metal constructs) with no penalties from darkness. You are able to perceive constructions made largely of metal within this radius (e.g., to avoid metallic obstacles or traps in the dark).

Additionally, you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) and Intelligence (Investigation) rolls to discover hidden metal objects within this radius, or to detect hiding creatures that are wielding, wearing, or made of metal. This sense is good enough to penetrate earth and stone, detecting treasure or mechanisms that are buried or behind walls/floors.

Inurement

Starting at 6th level, you have resistance to the damage type of your patron wyrm’s breath weapon (acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison). Additionally, when you pass a saving throw that would allow you to take half damage from this damage type, you take no damage (instead of halving the damage twice from saving throw and resistance). Finally, you automatically succeed at saving throws to overcome the frightful presence of dragons.

Lair Sense

Starting at 10th level, you gain an intuitive sense of the space and dangers within underground areas and similar lairs.

You automatically know the exact dimensions of the empty space within which you stand, up to a mile away, even if the dimensions are shrouded in darkness. In particular this allows you to detect the presence of walls and ceilings shrouded in darkness, and indicates gaps that may be potential exits (though it does not give you information on the rooms or spaces beyond those exits). You can tell whether you are under an open sky or a large internal area (unless the area is so large the ceiling is over a mile away). This ability is similar to sonar, and may also reveal exits that are concealed by illusion or obstructions of less than a inch thick.

If the area you are in grants lair actions or similar natural hazards, you immediately know the particulars of these actions. If a particular creature controls these actions, you can sense what type of creature it is and whether it is currently present within the lair.

You ignore difficult terrain if it is made of stone or metal.

You gain Darkvision to a range of 60 feet. If you already have Darkvision, increase its range by 30 feet.

Finally, you gain advantage on saving throws against traps, and traps that make attack rolls have disadvantage when attacking you.

Draconic Arcana

Starting at 14th level, when you obtain your 6th, 7th, and 8th level mystic arcana, you can instead cast the following spells in place of the arcanum you have selected at that level:

  • 6th: forbiddence, guards and wards, move earth
  • 7th: mirage arcane, sequester
  • 8th: illusory dragon

Invocations

Wyrmtongue

Prerequisite: Wyrm patron and one of Beast Speech or Beguiling Influence

You gain Draconic as an additional language. Any creatures of the dragon type that cannot speak a language count as animals to you for purposes of speak with animals. You gain advantage on Charisma checks against any creature of the dragon type.

Lash of the Wyrm

Prerequisite: Wyrm patron

You learn one of acid splash, fire bolt, poison spray, ray of frost, or shocking grasp as a bonus cantrip (whichever matches the energy type of your patron’s breath weapon). This cantrip counts as a warlock cantrip for you, but doesn’t count against your number of cantrips known, and also counts as eldritch blast to qualify for any other invocations and benefits as if it was eldritch blast from those invocations.

After you have hit a target with this cantrip (even if it did not take damage due to energy immunity), until the end of your next turn, the target’s resistance to that energy type is decreased by one step (i.e., a creature immune to the energy becomes merely resistant and a creature that is resistant loses this resistance).

Blade Hoard

Prerequisite: Wyrm patron and Pact of the Blade feature

When you transform a magical weapon into your pact weapon, you do not lose access to previous magical weapons you’ve made into pact weapons. Whenever you summon your pact weapon, you can choose a different one of your weapons, but you can only have one present at a time (the previous one disappears if you summon another one). If any of these weapons requires attunement, the entire collection of weapons only counts as one attunement for you (but you only gain the benefits of the weapon you have currently summoned).

The ritual to bond a weapon still takes one hour. You can willingly break a bond to any of the weapons as your pact weapon, all bonds are broken if you die, and any or all of the weapons appear at your feet when their bond is broken.

Dragonrider

Prerequisite: Wyrm patron and Pact of the Chain feature

If you can find a willing dragon of at least one size category larger than you are, you gain a number of benefits riding it. You are considered proficient in any skills or tools required to use the dragon as a mount. You can mount or dismount as a bonus action. When you are mounted, you and the dragon can engage in telepathic communication. You are securely fixed to the dragon when mounted (an opponent must succeed at a difficulty 20 Strength (Athletics) check or similar to wrestle you free), even without a saddle, and have no difficulties casting spells or maintaining concentration while riding, even in dramatic aerial conditions.

Dragonmark

Prerequisite: Wyrm patron and Pact of the Tome or Pact of the Blood feature

Your patron has scribed an ancient sigil of dragonkind upon you or you have inherited it from your progenitors, turning your very flesh into a book. You may take one that of the supported dragonmarks for your race that is appropriate to your patron, changing your racial abilities to match the selected dragonmark. You qualify for the Greater Dragonmark feat.

Magic Costs and Exclusivity

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It’s probably just being deep in Harry Potter fanfic for a while, but the other day I had a moment where I yearned for a magic setting/system where magic was truly mysterious, even to the mages. Where magic is not just technology only usable to a select few, who learn the tried-and-true spells for doing most things and refer to them like any tradesman’s jargon. And I think that comes down to a few points:

  • Mages should be able to fairly easily craft their own repertoire of spells. The complexity of spell creation should make a particular spell better for one person than for another.
  • They should want to keep these spells secret from most other mages, either because spells tend to come with easy defenses you could use if you knew the details and/or because the very dissemination of the knowledge weakens the spell.
  • There should be a common framework around learning and creating magic, so you have something to teach at magic schools/apprenticeships, but that should plug into the spell creation system rather than being spells themselves.

I think in the grand scheme of things, for an RPG system, this involves a lot of charts with suggested multipliers and combos, and where powergamers will just be able to go nuts making their perfect overpowered spell. The defense to this getting completely out of hand is that A) the GM is free to slowly add on drawbacks and hidden costs that become apparent as the player uses the spell until it feels powerful but not game-breaking and B) the antagonists also have access to this system. Be polite to your rival mages, because they may have crazy OP spells to use against you if you piss them off. Also, there are probably several dark lords floating around happy to try to bump you off for your grimoire if you show off your brokenly powerful spells too much.

I’m not really ready to do all the math to make that system yet, but here are some charts that are hopefully useful as idea fodder to someone.

Method and Material

One step to making magic feel rare is to make components more than an afterthought. Of course magic is going to just turn into technology when you’re at most consuming a personal, renewable mana pool to make magic. Naturally, a component cost is easier to have in a narrative setting than an RPG: in a realistic simulation, tracking down a particularly hard-to-get commodity is a genuine cost, but in an RPG you often don’t want to play out days of work to interface with suppliers and make purchases. So when you’re like, “Sure, you have Resources 3, you can manage a bag of powdered silver in about a week, moving on…” it ceases to be a real limit. Any system that uses components and wants them to matter has to then have mechanics to make getting them more than an abstracted resources check. Which is why most games don’t bother.

But, I think there’s some there there. In particular, I like the idea that components aren’t just evaporated into magic when you cast a spell. In addition to the material itself, there’s a method of disposal. Do you need to carve the component? Burn it? Dissolve it in the sea? If it’s a tough component, like metal, you may need to have another spell just to make a fire hot enough to burn it or an acid that can dissolve it. The most powerful spells are rituals, and the process of disposing of the components is, itself, very interesting narrative flavor.

In general, harder combos should generate more powerful spells. If you component is “burn old newspaper” or “pour seawater on the ground” those are really easy to do and don’t generate much power for magic. When you’re talking about “burn a handwritten book over a century old” or “spread the powdered rust of a murder weapon that dissolved completely in seawater” then you’re starting to cook with gas. For full on rituals, you can obviously stack the components and tell a whole story about the magic you’re making.

You can also add the idea of non-consumed components by also requiring materials to be used as tools. “Carve runes into your flesh,” is metal, but not that limiting. “Carve runes into your flesh with a knife,” at least requires a particular tool that you will scramble to replace in a pinch. “Carve runes into your flesh with a silver dagger that was used to execute a murderer,” now means you have a particular, vital tool that your opponents can recognize and take from you.

Methods

  • Cut/Break/Smash (works for components that are whole items, where they can’t easily be reconstituted)
  • Burn/Evanesce (works for items that are so easy to reconstitute that you really want to render them to constituent molecules to be sure they’re gone)
  • Render/Melt (make a solid thing a liquid, particularly powerful if it doesn’t just go back when it cools; this is also a great way to chain component, using the liquid for the next step)
  • Dissolve into Liquid (like burning or rendering, but the idea being that the atoms of the material become thoroughly mixed with a greater volume of liquid)
  • Donate/Gift (this doesn’t work if you can easily get it back, but there’s a lot of power in relinquishing your ownership of something important to another person/institution)
  • Lose/Dispose (sometimes it’s enough to throw the thing away where you’ll never find it again, or pour it out when it’s not something you can just pick back up)
  • Corrupt/Ruin (particularly for dark magic, it may be enough to take something pristine and make it so gross there’s no way to restore it to its untarnished form)

Material

While there’s obviously a nigh-infinite number of nouns that can be used as component materials, I’ve tried to group them because I think this is one of the major places you can put something on a character sheet as a skill. Skilled Blood mages learn how to do less damage to themselves while fueling a spell. Talented Metal mages can pick particularly resonant materials rather than going for bulk. Essentially, there’s a skill for each category that lowers your materials cost per spell, and/or allows you to sub in easier-to-acquire materials.

  • Blood (or any vital fluid, rarity based on particular qualities and/or amount of damage dealt)
  • Craft (any constructed good where the rarity is not the materials itself so much as the difficulty of creating the thing sacrificed)
  • Fire (any evanescent/energy phenomena, so also electricity, cold, sound, etc.; this is more often a tool than the thing consumed)
  • Flesh (any non-blood animal resource, from carving wounds into your own skin or just using rare leather)
  • Metal (any mineral, with rarer ones having more value, and also value in how hard it is to dispose of)
  • Thought (actually losing memories from your head, to making oaths or revealing secrets, to sacrificing written knowledge)
  • Water (any non-blood liquid; this is as often the tool for disposal as the component sacrificed)
  • Wood (any plant matter, with actual rare and hard woods having value in how limited they are and how hard they are to destroy)

Exclusivity

One way to make spells secretive is to literally base part of their power on how many people know them. Suddenly notice a drop in power from one of your favorite spells? Maybe someone’s managed to get a look at your grimoire. Exclusivity refers to how many sapient individuals currently know the spell. If your mentor dies leaving you the only one with the spell, that increases the exclusivity… unless he’s hanging on as a wraith that may still be able to cast magic and/or impart the knowledge of the spell to others. More reason to make sure mages don’t hang on as the undead.

Level 0 exclusivity is when the spell gets so widely disseminated that it can be found in new age bookstores or the internet, easily available even to non-mages.

  1. Any mage can easily find it (it is often taught as an example of the form to students)
  2. Perhaps a third of mages may access the spell (it’s still something of a secret, kept for a few groups or older students)
  3. A secretive guild of perhaps 100 mages, 3 smaller groups of less than a dozen each
  4. An entire order of a few dozen mages, 7 rivals, or 3 unrelated mages
  5. An extended family, a coven of up to 7, 3 rivals, or 2 unrelated mages
  6. An immediate family, a coven of up to 3, or 2 rivals
  7. Only one mage knows it

Time

Do you need a time chart? Everyone needs a time chart. This can be used for both casting time and durations. All times should assume a ~ in front of them, because there’s a lot of fudge in a doubling system. It’s not that it took exactly 2 seconds, it’s that it was slower than instant but faster than a whole action.

Past around a minute on the time chart, the spell becomes a ritual, and possession of the Ritual skill allows the caster to move steps down the time chart by doing it faster.

As another thought I want to investigate at some point, I think the current vogue of 6-second rounds may be way too short. LARPing, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot more jockeying for position in any kind of large fight than RPGs can model these days. Actually swinging doesn’t take long, but that’s usually after several seconds of trying to outflank your opponent: most people don’t seem to just want to run in and trade blows to see in a few seconds who is best and fastest, they want to hit people from the sides while they’re distracted and it seems likely they’ll be able to hit without getting hit back. And that takes time. Anyway, this chart does assume the standard 6-second rounds, but I think that longer rounds might be due a comeback.

  1. Instant (Free Action)
  2. 2 seconds (Swift/Bonus Action)
  3. 4 seconds (Standard Action)
  4. 8 seconds (Full Round Action)
  5. 15 seconds (Two Rounds)
  6. 30 seconds (Multiple Rounds)
  7. 1 minute
  8. 2 minutes
  9. 4 minutes
  10. 8 minutes
  11. 15 minutes
  12. 30 minutes
  13. 1 hour
  14. 2 hours
  15. 4 hours
  16. 8 hours
  17. 12 hours
  18. 1 day
  19. 2 days
  20. 4 days
  21. 1 week
  22. 2 weeks
  23. 1 month
  24. 1 season
  25. 1/2 a year
  26. 1 year
  27. 2 years
  28. 4 years
  29. 7 years
  30. 12 years
  31. 25 years
  32. 1/2 century
  33. 1 century
  34. 2 centuries
  35. 5 centuries
  36. 1 millennium
  37. an aeon
  38. forever

D&D 5e, A Few More Warlock Invocations

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Last time, I left out the Hexblade, and I also left out my own Pact of the Blood. So here are a few more invocations.

Speaker for the Murder

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and Beast Speech

Crows, ravens, and other corvids are always positively inclined to you (and anyone that attempts to use a spell or other command to order an individual or swarm of them to attack you must beat you in a contested Charisma check to have them attack). When you are outside in terrain where they live, there will always be at least one corvid keeping an eye on you, whom you can question with Beast Speech. By spending Inspiration, you guarantee that there was a corvid observing any situation where it makes sense, who you can quickly get in touch with through the avian network to question about what they observed (though the birds still may not have perfect memory or good understanding of what was observed).

When your pact magic slot reaches 3rd level, you gain conjure animals as a bonus Warlock spell, but it can only be used to summon ravens, crows, or other corvids.

Shadow Walker

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and One with Shadows or Shroud of Shadow

When you are invisible and in an area of dim light or darkness, you can cast misty step on yourself at will, without spending a spell slot. You must emerge in another area of dim light or darkness.

War Magic

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and Pact of the Blade feature

As the Eldritch Knight (Fighter) feature of the same name, whenever you use your action to cast a cantrip, you can make one attack with your pact weapon as a bonus action.

Curse Leash

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and Pact of the Chain feature

You gain advantage on any saving throws or charisma checks against cursed or sentient items. You may cast remove curse on yourself at will, without expending a spell slot.

Book of Swords

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and Pact of the Tome feature

Your book of shadows contains extensive documentation on magical weapons. You may cast identify at will, without expending a spell slot or material component. When your pact magic slot reaches 5th level, you may cast legend lore at will, without expending a spell slot or material component. Both of these spells may only target weapons or the context of weapons (e.g., you might use legend lore to learn of how a previous wielder of a weapon you possess used it).

And Your Children’s Children

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and Pact of the Blood feature

When your pact magic slot reaches 3rd level, you gain bestow curse as a bonus Warlock spell. If you cast a spell with a duration of Permanent or Until Dispelled that affects a target, and the target fails to save against the spell, you may cause that spell to also apply to all of the target’s descendants (each must save individually if they are currently alive, and any newborns automatically fail the save). You may use your Mystic Arcanum to cast any of your Warlock spells that gains increased duration from using a higher slot (e.g., you can use your Mystic Arcanum (9th level) to cast bestow curse as a 9th level slot instead of your normal Mystic Arcanum spell for that level).

Signed in Blood

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and Pact of the Blood feature

When you make a contract that you and a subject both sign in blood, you can cast geas on the subject at will, without expending a spell slot, but you are also subject to the geas (to fulfill your responsibilities in the contract). The instructions for the geas must be the terms of the contract, the casting time of the spell can be lowered to 1 action if at least a minute was spent writing and signing the contract, and the spell can only be ended by you ripping up the contract. You can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

The Innsmouth Look

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and Pact of the Blood feature

You have a particular look about you that inclines the denizens of darkness to believe that you are one of them. You gain advantage on Charisma checks against aberrations and other followers of the Great Old One. You gain advantage on Charisma (Deception) checks against any targets to convince them that you are evil, criminal, willing to betray your allies, or similar topics. Additionally, you can cast water breathing on yourself at will, without expending a spell slot or material components.

Holy Grail

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Pact of the Blood feature

You may expend one or more hit dice as an action to bleed into a container and transmute your blood into a Potion of Healing. It is a standard potion for one hit die, a greater potion for two hit dice, a superior potion for three hit dice, and a supreme potion for four hit dice. The potion only remains viable for one hour after creation.

After creating such a potion, you may cast one or more other spells that affect a target (with a range greater than Self) into the created potion, their duration begins when the potion is imbibed, the target is the subject that imbibes the potion, and the subject has disadvantage on saving throws against the spell, if any.

The GM’s option, the vessel used to create this potion may have residual effects as a form of enchantment.

Scion of the Raven Queen

Prerequisite: Hexblade patron and Pact of the Blood feature

All spells (including cantrips) of the necromancy school are added to the warlock spell list for you. Additionally, you gain toll the dead as a bonus cantrip, and any invocations you have that apply to eldritch blast also apply to toll the dead.

D&D 5e, Additional Warlock Invocations

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I was talking with some friends about how my deeply held belief is that Warlock invocations are primarily to be used for shenanigans, rather than taking the ones with an obvious and simple combat application. This got me thinking about it, and I came up with some extra ones. Sadly, I could not figure out how to make all the additions awesome utility fun.

Some of these probably also need a level restriction, but I’m mostly assuming those are harder to make use of at low level anyway so it may be fine.

Changeling

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and one of Mask of Many Faces or Master of Myriad Forms

Onlookers have disadvantage on checks to see through your disguises (magical or mundane). Dispel magic attempts against you do not automatically remove disguise self or alter self, but must instead roll as if targeting a spell higher than the slot level of dispel magic, and this roll has disadvantage. You gain advantage on Charisma (Deception) rolls to pretend to be someone you are disguised as.

Glamour Weaving

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and Misty Visions

You gain the ability to concentrate on an additional spell, as long as that spell is of the Illusion school.

Gossamer Blade

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and Pact of the Blade feature

Your pact weapon is partly ephemeral, spun of solidified glamour. You may expend a pact magic slot as a bonus action. Until you cancel the effect as a free action on your turn, or until you take a short or long rest, your attacks with your pact weapon glide easily through armor and rend the mind and soul.

While this effect is active, your pact weapon deals psychic damage instead of its normal damage type, and instead of making an attack roll, targets of your attacks must make a Dexterity saving throw against your spell save DC (taking your weapon damage on a failed saving throw and half damage if successful). Targets must still be within reach of your melee attacks.

Additionally, while in this state, your pact weapon can cleave through illusions. If the creature that is the target of your attacks is under the effects of an illusion spell, or if you use an action to strike an illusion that is not anchored on a creature, apply the effects of casting dispel magic against any illusion effects present (at the level of your pact magic slot); this does not expend an additional pact magic slot or require you to be able to cast dispel magic. Rather than simply ending, an illusion dispelled in this way generally responds as if it was physically destroyed by the attack.

Oathkeeper

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and Pact of the Chain feature

When you make a deal with a willing subject (not magically compelled or under physical duress), you can cast geas on the subject at will, without expending a spell slot. The instructions for the geas must be the terms of the deal, and the casting time of the spell can be lowered to 1 action if at least a minute was spent working out the deal. You can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

Book of Names

Prerequisite: Archfey patron and Pact of the Tome feature

Your Book of Shadows includes pages for signatures. If you can get a willing subject (not magically compelled or under physical duress) to sign their full name in the book, you have power over that individual. You have advantage on spell attacks against the subject, and the subject has disadvantage on saving throws against your spells and other magical effects. You may choose to willingly strike out a name, losing power over the subject.

Brand of Shared Sight

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and one of Devil’s Sight or Witch Sight

As an action, you may press your thumb to the brow of a willing subject and deal 2 fire damage, marking the subject with a small sigil that represents your patron. Whenever you are in a position where you can see the subject, the subject can share any forms of enhanced vision you possess (e.g., darkvision, Devil’s Sight, truesight, Witch Sight, etc.). You may maintain this effect on as many subjects as you desire, but it ends whenever the subject has maximum hit points (i.e., has healed the damage from the brand).

Blood Protection

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and Fiendish Vigor

Whenever your temporary hit points are reduced to 0, you gain resistance to the damage type that removed your last temporary hit point. This does not apply to the attack that removed the temporary hit points, but does apply to subsequent attacks. This resistance ends when you take a short rest, are restored to maximum hit points, or have a new set of temporary hit points removed by a different damage type (that becomes your new resistance).

Hellfire Blade

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and Pact of the Blade feature

As a bonus action, you can cause your pact weapon to switch from a physical object to coruscating flame. While in this form, the weapon deals fire damage instead of its normal type (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing). You can change back to a physical weapon as an additional bonus action.

Soulbinder

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and Pact of the Chain feature

You may write a contract for a subject’s soul that must be signed in blood by you and the subject (who must not be magically compelled or under physical duress). If you successfully upheld your responsibilities in the contract, when the subject dies, the contract is immediately imbued with their soul, which you can free, use, or trade as you wish. Creating a contract automatically fails if the subject does not have a soul, or if the soul is already spoken for in another contract.

Shadow Ledger

Prerequisite: Fiend patron and Pact of the Tome feature

Your Book of Shadows includes pages for accounting of debts. Any debts you owe or are owed automatically appear in these pages (and this can inform you of verbal agreements or agreements made by proxies of which you were not aware). Additionally, you may store wealth in an extradimensional space associated with the book. The inside back cover of the book includes a pocket that opens into a Bag of Holding which can only store coins, gems, or art objects.

Psychic Driving

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and Gaze of Two Minds

You may use a bonus action to maintain Gaze of Two Minds instead of an action (but you are still blinded and deafened to your own surroundings). Whenever you are using Gaze of Two Minds, you can treat the subject as your familiar, communicating with them telepathically and allowing them to deliver spells with a range of touch if they are within 100 feet of you.

Additionally, while you are maintaining Gaze of Two Minds or have a thrall from the Create Thrall ability, if you have more than twice the hit dice of the subject and are within 100 feet, you may attempt to possess them. You may force a contested Charisma check with the subject as your action. Once you have succeeded on three of these checks, you and the subject swap bodies. Treat both of you as possessing the other’s body as per the magic jar spell (and you no longer need to spend actions to maintain Gaze of Two Minds). Treat the spell as cast at a level of your highest pact magic or mystic arcanum slot if either of you is subjected to dispel magic. If the effect is dispelled, or you voluntarily end it as a free action, you both return to your original bodies. If either body is currently dead, the effect cannot be dispelled or voluntarily ended (i.e., the living body is permanent possessed by the wrong mind).

Impossible Sight

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and one of Eyes of the Rune Keeper, Eldritch Sight, or Visions of Distant Realms

You can cast see invisibility at will, without expending a spell slot or material components. Additionally, you may use an action to roll Intelligence (Investigation) contested by the target’s Charisma (Deception) to determine if a target you can see is charmed or possessed.

Abhorrent Weapon

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and Pact of the Blade feature

Your pact weapon is somehow wrong for this plane of existence, made of strange (possibly living) materials or impossible angles. Sane individuals have trouble focusing on it, making it hard to defend against your attacks. Spend a pact magic slot to gain advantage on all attack rolls with your pact weapon. This ends when you regain your pact magic slots. At the GM’s option, this may not work against targets that are mad or mindless (particularly aberrations, constructs, oozes, plants, and undead).

Subconscious Whispers

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and Pact of the Chain feature

You can cast command at will as a 1st-level spell, without expending a spell slot. You must be in telepathic communication with the target of the spell.

Necronomicon

Prerequisite: Great Old One patron and Pact of the Tome feature

Your Book of Shadows is protected by a glyph of warding containing the confusion spell, which is triggered by anyone not devoted to the Great Old One attempting to read the book, uses your spell save DC, and resets automatically whenever it is triggered or dispelled. Additionally, when you gain your 5th level pact magic slot, you automatically learn contact other plane as a bonus Warlock spell and have advantage on the Intelligence saving throw involved in that spell.

Divine Protection

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Armor of Shadows

You can cast sanctuary and shield of faith without expending a spell slot or material components.

Angel’s Wings

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Ascendant Step

You can cast fly on yourself at will, without expending a spell slot or material components.

Angelic Weapons

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Pact of the Blade feature

As a bonus action, you can cause your pact weapon to switch from a physical object to brilliant light. While in this form, the weapon deals radiant damage instead of its normal type (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing). You can change back to a physical weapon as an additional bonus action.

Steed of the Faithful

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Pact of the Chain feature

You can cast find steed at will without expending a spell slot. The steed replaces your familiar, and vice versa.

Holy Book

Prerequisite: Celestial patron and Pact of the Tome feature

You can cast ceremony at will from your Book of Shadows without expending a spell slot or material components.

Additionally, planar ally, conjure celestial, holy aura, and gate are added to the Warlock spell list for you as options for your mystic arcana.

Rogues: Making a Villainous Character

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This is an exercise I put together for coming up with a street-level supervillain PC, on par with the Gotham rogues for power level. After outputting the character summaries, you can then use those as a guide for building the character in your system of choice.

Character Creation

  • What is your gimmick/theme? Start thinking about your brand as a villain, and how it will inform your skill choices below.
  • Skills:
    • What is your primary skillset? Suggestions include: Intellectual/Scientist, Ninja/Martial Artist, Brute/Wrestler, Thief/Catburglar, Con Artist/Actor, Daredevil/Provocateur, Ex-Police/Lawyer, Soldier/Mercenary, Industrialist/Mobster.
    • Pick two narrowly defined skills from within your primary skillset (e.g., a particular academia, science, weapon, style, type of criminal skill, role, etc.). Write them down for later.
    • What is your “power”? This can be either a low-level meta power or a particular physical or mental competency that is a maximum or slightly-beyond-human norm. If the latter, it should be directly relevant to your primary skillset (e.g., Acrobat works for Ninja, Thief, or Daredevil but not for Intellectual or Brute).
    • What is your hobby? This should be something useful that you devote a lot of time to, but not directly relevant to your primary skillset.
    • What is your primary social interaction method? Examples include charming, sexy, scary, witty, psychiatrist, threatening, cool, terse, etc.
  • Take the six skills you defined above (skillset, sub-skill 1, sub-skill 2, power, hobby, and social) and rank them from best to worst. If your sub-skills are worse than your skillset, they represent particular weaknesses in your technique, and if they’re higher, they’re areas in which you excel. Your second-lowest skill will be something that you’re barely trained in, and your lowest skill will be something in which you’re amusingly incompetent.
  • Why are you stuck in a life of crime instead of using your skills for honest work? This is often a mental illness (like most of Batman’s rogues), but could be something else you can use that would keep you from going straight without a huge reason.
  • What’s your main weakness that the “heroes” have used to defeat you in the past? This can be the same reason you’re stuck in a life of crime.
  • Optional, but could have story perks: Pick an established DC character that you have a personal connection to (e.g., villain you used to hench for and know how to use their gadgets, hero you have some level of foil-rivalry with such that your relationship is frenemies, etc.).
  • Come up with a name (real and costumed) and a rough description of your costume.
  • Rank the following criminal motivations for how they matter to you personally, from most important to least:
    • Wealth: Just in it for the life of luxury
    • Competence: Reputation for accomplishing what was intended
    • Fear: Reputation for causing death and pain
    • Notoriety: Reputation among civilians for being a villain
    • Honor: Reputation for keeping one’s word and avoiding universal taboos (like harming children)
    • Respect: Reputation among other criminals/villains

Example Rogues

Thomas West

A local threat that peaked a few decades ago, the Dieselpunk was all about vehicle-based mayhem. A tatted-up rocker with a penchant for leather and goggles, most of his crimes involved elaborate cars and trains that he’d built himself into essentially tanks (but do NOT call him Thomas the Tank Engine, he hates that). It was unclear at the time why such a competent individual didn’t leverage his skills as a mechanic or driver for legitimate means, but he admits that it was mostly being brought up by criminals and having too-deeply embraced the anarcho-socialist mentality of his preferred music scene. Unfortunately, basing all your crimes on large vehicles that need roads or tracks makes it easy for more mobile crimefighters to head you off (especially in Terminus rush hour), so the Dieselpunk was successful less often than hoped, and spent a lot of years in jail.

After his last long stint in the pen, he finally did what most aging anarchists do and embraced wealth and the respect of his peers, going more or less legit. He wound up inheriting a gentrifying old train depot from former local villain King Plow, and opened the Terminus West nightclub and concert venue. He still affects a cleaned-up punk vibe and keeps painfully thin, so despite going gray he maintains an aura of cool that serves him well as a rock venue owner. The complex also has an unadvertised underground lounge that admits local criminals, and features numerous escape tunnels in case of crimefighter raids. This serves as one of the primary networking spots for local rogues, and the only real drawback is that Mr. West (“Call me Tommy”) will often show off the latest jams he’s been working on (he always was more enthusiastic than competent as a musician). He’s generally willing to give advice and help on mechanical engineering to the good tippers at his lounge.

Skills: Driving, Mechanic (Power), Vehicle Daredevil, Cool, Piloting, Music
Aspirations: Wealth, Respect, Notoriety, Competence, Honor, Fear

Companion Cube

Terminus villains have an answer to the Bat-family’s Oracle in the mysterious hacker Companion Cube. Believed to be a protege of the Calculator, the almost-certainly-a-she presents to her clients as simply an icon of a cube with a heart on it taken from a relatively-recent video game and a digitally-masked voice. Excellent in most computer-based disciplines (though with a slight problem managing to pilot drones effectively when she “comes along” on a job), she especially excels at handling security systems (and keeping an eye out for incoming crimefighters). Most of the local rogues with any kind of computer expertise assume she must be a low-level technopath to accomplish some of the things she manages. She clearly wants to make her social persona a terse, no-nonsense type, but she frequently gets excited or too-comfortable with her clients and talks way too much. This is how everyone found out about her deep investment in cosplay, and there’s a running game at the Terminus West lounge to try to figure out which of the heavily-costumed groupies is Companion Cube in her latest disguise. She has a sideline producing costumes for many of the city’s villains (and possibly some of the heroes).

She seems to largely be turned to a life of crime out of disgust at trying to live the straight life. Many suspect that she must have hit the glass ceiling for female programmers, and bounced off of it hard and angrily. However, since she mostly oversees jobs for the cred, trying to be a L33T H4X0R, her biggest weakness is that she’s probably still holding on to her day job, and isn’t available a lot of the time. Crimefighters with money have managed to sideline her in the past by various attempts to investigate local technology firms, which gets her to slow down her nighttime activities for a while to not look suspicious.

Skills: Security, Hacker, Cosplay, Drones, Technopath, Terse
Aspirations: Respect, Competence, Honor, Wealth, Fear, Notoriety

Trailblazer

Perhaps the quirkiest rogue in Terminus is Frank Torres, the Trailblazer. A fairly-powerful meta with super-strength and invulnerability, he isn’t particularly fast or agile, and is too heavy to be easily transported by most consumer vehicles. So he is an avowed pedestrian and explorer, and has an unparalleled on-the-ground understanding of Terminus’ map (he’s an enthusiastic geocacher). The mountain of a man doesn’t bother with a costume very often, because he’s over seven-feet tall and thick enough to compensate for the square-cube law, so he doesn’t exactly blend, but he sometimes goes with an ironic British explorer motif complete with pith helmet, khakis, and mustache (he can grow an excellent mustache). Surprisingly quick-witted for those that expect your typical dumb brute, he unfortunately isn’t that great of a hand-to-hand fighter and is absolutely terrible at situational awareness (most rogues want their brutes to pay attention to where the crimefighters are, and not accidentally take out load-bearing walls).

The quirkiness of Trailblazer is that he’s not really a criminal. He will sometimes sign onto jobs to get a paycheck (the man has to eat a ridiculous number of calories), but his real claim to crime is that his pet peeve is people that cut off pedestrian access. He has hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage from stomping cars blocking crosswalks and construction vehicles that park on the sidewalk, because he’s walking here. Because of the magnitude of his powers, there aren’t many crimefighters in town that can do much about one of his sprees, and they’re largely at a loss about what to try. He mostly goes to jail when Superman happens to be in town anyway.

Skills: Unstoppable, Geocaching, Brute, Witty, Fighting, Situational Awareness
Aspirations: Notoriety, Wealth, Honor, Fear, Competence, Respect

Savage Worlds Rules Summary

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I put this together for my players in the Scion game. It’s a summary of the rules for the 2019 Explorer’s Edition update of the Savage Worlds rules.

Basics

Skill checks:

  • To make a check, roll the skill die plus a wild die (usually d6) and keep the highest result. Both dice explode (“Ace”).
  • If you do not have a skill, you roll a d4 plus the wild die and subtract 2 from the highest result.
  • The difficulty is 4 unless noted otherwise.
  • Every +4 on the margin of success is a Raise and has a special effect (e.g., rolling an 8 against the standard difficulty is one Raise and rolling a 12 is two).

The basic attributes define soft caps for skills but are not added to skill rolls. Instead, attributes are used for:

  • Agility is used to resist physical Tests.
  • Smarts is used to resist Taunt and generate Power ranges.
  • Spirit is used to resist Intimidate and remove Shaken.
  • Strength defines encumbrance and adds to melee damage rolls.
  • Vigor controls Toughness and is used to recover from Incapacitation (and Wounds with a Benny).
  • Pace determines movement speed.
  • Parry is the target number of melee attacks against you when you are armed.
  • Toughness is the difficulty of a damage roll against you (it usually includes armor as well).

Bennies:

  • A Benny is the game’s equivalent of a drama/hero/fate point.
  • Most players start each session with three and can be awarded more for story goals and whenever any PC draws a Joker in combat.
  • You can spend a Benny to:
    • Reroll of any trait test (reroll all dice) that isn’t a critical failure. You can spend multiple and keep the best result. You can also spend Bennies to reroll damage rolls.
    • Recover more quickly from Shaken or to try to soak Wounds.
    • Draw a new action card after everyone has drawn (i.e., after you’ve seen when you’ll go).
    • Immediately regain 5 Power Points.
    • Narratively edit the story.

Combat

  • Rounds are six seconds.
  • Initiative is “rolled” every round by drawing from a deck of cards and acting in order Ace to Deuce. If you draw a Joker you can go at any time, and also gain +2 to all trait and damage rolls for your action.
  • You can perform multiple actions in a round (you get a free move on top of your action). These actions must be different things or at least involve different wielded weapons (e.g., you can’t attack twice with the same weapon). You take a -2 to all actions for each extra action you perform.
  • Attacks:
    • Melee: Roll Fighting vs. a difficulty of the target’s Parry.
    • Ranged: Roll Shooting or Throwing (at a -2 penalty for each extra range increment beyond short) against difficulty 4 (may be further modified by cover, concealment, or attacking armed targets point blank).
  • Damage:
    • Every Raise on the attack roll adds +1d6 damage.
    • You don’t roll a wild die for damage, but the dice do Ace.
    • All damage dice are added together.
    • The damage total is compared to the target’s Toughness/Armor total.
    • If the roll is a success, the target is Shaken. If the target was already Shaken, he takes a Wound. Each Raise also deals a Wound.
  • Shaken and Wounds:
    • Shaken characters can only take free actions (such as moving) and attempt to remove Shaken.
    • On your turn, you must make a Spirit roll to remove Shaken. You may spend a Benny at any time to remove Shaken.
    • When you are about to receive one or more Wounds, you can spend a Benny to attempt to Soak the damage. Roll Vigor: each success and Raise reduces the Wounds taken by 1.
    • Wounds apply penalties to Pace and all trait tests (-1 for each Wound).
    • A character with four Wounds is Incapacitated and must roll Vigor to avoid dying.

Situational Rules

  • Aim: Take a round aiming (no movement either) to get +2 to next round’s ranged attack (or ignore up to 4 points of penalties from range, cover, called shot, scale, or speed).
  • AoE: Any AoE attack rolls one attack roll but separate damage against all affected.
  • Bound and Entangled: Entangled characters are unable to move and Distracted. Bound characters are also Vulnerable. See page 98 for rules on breaking free.
  • Breaking Things: Items have a Hardness rating. Damage must equal or exceed the Hardness to break that item with an attack. You can use these rules to break shields and cover.
  • Called Shot: Get around Armor by taking a penalty to hit unarmored locations (Limb -2, Hands/Head -4, Armor joint -6) or similarly hit a small target. Head shots deal +4 damage. Hand shots count as a Disarm.
  • Cover and Obstacles: If target is covered, attack rolls suffer -2 (light), -4 (medium), -6 (heavy), or -8 (near total). Your attacks might punch through certain types of Cover as if they were armor.
  • Defend: A defense as your action (no multi-actions) increases Parry by +4. You can move but not run.
  • Disarm: Make a called shot at -2 or -4. The defender must beat the damage with a Strength test if it hits the item. If the defender is hit instead, he must roll Strength at -2 or -4 plus Wound penalties if the attack shakes or wounds him.
  • Distracted and Vulnerable: Both states last until the end of your next turn. Distracted makes you take a -2 penalty to all trait rolls. Vulnerable grants opponents +2 to attack you.
  • Drop, The: If you are unaware of an opponent, she gets +4 to attack and damage against you for one action (this does not stack with Vulnerable). If you are Shaken or worse, make a Vigor roll (-2 if hit in the head) or drop unconscious.
  • Evasion: Some slow attacks may be evaded if you succeed at an Agility roll (with a -2 penalty).
  • Fatigue: Certain effects apply Fatigue rather than damage. You become Fatigued, then Exhausted, then Incapacitated. Each level of Fatigue applies -1 to all trait rolls.
  • Finishing Move: You can automatically kill a helpless target with a lethal weapon as an action.
  • Firing Into Melee: Use the innocent bystander rules.
  • Ganging Up: Each ally adjacent to and attacking a target past the first gives +1 to all allies for the attack. Each adjacent ally of the target cancels a point of this bonus.
  • Grappling: Make an Athletics roll against the target’s Athletics to Entangle the target (Bound on a Raise). See page 101 for additional rules.
  • Illumination: Attack rolls suffer -2 in dim light, -4 in darkness (and targets can’t be attacked more than 10” away), and -6 in pitch darkness/target is invisible.
  • Improvised Weapons: Take -2 to attack rolls, and deal Str+d4 for light objects, +d6 for medium, and +d8 for heavy.
  • Innocent Bystanders: If you miss with a ranged attack and roll 1s on both dice, you hit a random victim adjacent to or otherwise in the line of fire of the original target. Shotguns and automatic weapons may have an easier time hitting bystanders (see page 102).
  • Nonlethal Damage: You can do nonlethal damage with fists or blunt melee weapons (-1 to attack for edged melee weapons using the flat). A target Incapacitated by nonlethal damage is knocked out for 1d6 hours instead of being in danger of dying.
  • Prone: Gain medium cover against ranged attacks from 3” or further away, but -2 Parry and Fighting rolls in melee. Standing uses 2” of movement.
  • Push: Make an opposed Strength or Athletics test. On a success, push the target 1”, or 2” on a Raise. Running, Shields, and Size affect this (see page 104).
  • Ranged Weapons in Melee: You cannot use long guns in melee. The TN is the target’s Parry instead of the normal 4. If you try to attack a non-adjacent target while opponents are threatening you in melee, you immediately become Vulnerable.
  • Recoil: Automatic weapons can impose a -2 penalty when taking multiple shots.
  • Reloading: Arrows and sling stones can be reloaded once per turn as a free action. Bolts, clips, magazines, or single bullets require an action to reload. Some specific weapons reload even more slowly. You must roll Agility (at a -2 penalty) to reload successfully when running.
  • Shotguns: Shotguns are weird. See page 105 for shotgun attack rules.
  • Size and Scale: It’s easier to hit proportionately larger targets and harder to hit proportionately smaller ones. Creatures have scale from -6 to +6 (humans are 0). See page 106.
  • Stunned: If you are stunned by a power or stun weapon, you’re Distracted, Prone, can’t move or take actions, don’t count towards Gang Up, and are subject to the Drop. Make a Vigor roll at the start of your turn to remove Stunned (but you become Distracted and Vulnerable without a Raise).
  • Support: Make a relevant skill roll to assist. Add +1 to the target’s roll for a success, or +2 for a Raise. Support bonuses are usually limited to +4.
  • Suppressive Fire: See page 107.
  • Surprise: Ambushers are automatically on Hold (can go whenever they want in the first round), but draw cards to check for Jokers. Roll Notice to be dealt in on the first round. Otherwise, you can’t act the first round of combat.
  • Test: Roll Athletics or Fighting opposed by Agility, Taunt opposed by Smarts, or Intimidate opposed by Spirit. On a success, the target is your choice of Distracted or Vulnerable. On a Raise, the target is also Shaken (or other situational effects, like being tripped prone). Modifiers may apply, and repetitive tests may have less effect over time.
  • Touch Attack: Simply attempting to touch the target (e.g., for a Power) adds +2 to your Fighting.
  • Two Weapons: Without edges, a second melee weapon adds +1 to your Fighting rolls against opponents with one or fewer weapons and no shield (does not help against creatures with natural weapons).
  • Unarmed Defender: If you aren’t armed, melee attackers gain +2 to their Fighting rolls to hit you.
  • Wild Attack: Add +2 to your attack and damage for the action, but you become Vulnerable.
  • Withdraw from Melee: All non-Shaken enemies get a free attack (but you could Defend).

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