D&D 5e Arcane Tradition: Shield Mage

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Particularly in lands that are superstitious, an excellent way to practice arcane magic openly is to become an indispensable aide to those in power. Rather than working from the shadows or the back lines, shield mages specialize in being right behind their leaders, supporting but never overshadowing. When wizards are firmly established as protectors, it is much harder to paint them as nefarious.

Colleges that teach this style of magic emphasize abjuration, conjuration, and transmutation: spells to protect and enhance others, quickly get to their side and take them where they need to go, and alter the battlefield in their favor. In wartime, they sit at the left hand of military officers, and, in peace, they are bodyguards to the nobility. As their powers grow, they may become weary of being mere servants, of course, but still have deeply ingrained training to prop up powerful allies in their endeavors. The very skills that make them such an asset to the powerful also make them extremely helpful to small adventuring bands.

Features

Wizard Level Feature
2nd Combat Training, Bodyguard
6th At Your Back
10th Focused Concentration
14th Eye of the Storm

Combat Training

At second level, your early martial training finally catalyzes. You gain proficiency in your choice of either simple weapons, light armor, or shields.

Additionally, you learn the spell shield if you did not already know it. You always have this spell prepared, and it does not count against your total number of prepared spells.

Bodyguard

Also starting at second level, you gain a profound ability to expand your conception of “self” to include your shieldmates when they are in danger. Any spell you can cast as a reaction that has a range of Self, you can cast at a range of Touch (and the reaction is triggered as easily by danger to your adjacent allies as it is to yourself). Essentially, you can cast spells like shield and absorb elements on adjacent allies, not just on yourself.

At Your Back

Starting at 6th level, you learn to synchronize your efforts with your protectee, moving as one unit. At the beginning of your turn, after effects have completed but before taking any actions, you can choose to delay your turn to the same initiative as an ally that you can see, acting immediately after their turn completes. If the ally is higher than you in the initiative order, you essentially do not act this round. Any effects that last until the end of your turn persist until you actually take your turn, but you must take at least one turn before you can delay again (i.e., you cannot continually delay to draw out a duration of an effect).

Additionally, you learn the spell misty step if you did not already know it. You always have this spell prepared, and it does not count against your total number of prepared spells.

Focused Concentration

Beginning at 10th level, your total focus upon your allies allows you to transcend the normal limits of maintained spells. When you are already maintaining concentration on a spell, you can cast a second spell that requires concentration and maintain both, as long as one or more of your allies benefits from both spells.

Additionally, you may add +1d4 to Constitution saving throws to maintain concentration for spells you are maintaining on your allies.

Eye of the Storm

At 14th level, you no longer need to fear your position on the front lines when using your most potent battle magic. When you cast any spell with an area of effect, you can choose to exclude your own space or a 10 foot area centered on the corner of your space from the effect. You essentially create a shield bubble of safety around yourself or around yourself and those nearby.

New Spells

Reflect Magic

4th-level abjuration

Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you may take when you are the target of a spell cast by an enemy you can see
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous

You attempt to cause a hostile spell to rebound upon its caster. The spell must target you specifically (singly or as one of multiple targets, but not as part of an area of effect). If the spell is of 3rd level or lower, the caster automatically replaces you as the target of the spell (use your spell save DC or make an attack with your own spell attack bonus). If it is a spell of 4th level or higher, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 12 + the spell’s level. On a success, the spell is reflected as if it was 3rd level or lower.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the automatically reflected spell level increases proportionately (to one less than the level of the slot).

Refuse Death

7th-level transmuation

Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you may take when you are about to suffer damage or an effect that would reduce you to 0 hit points or instantly incapacitate/kill you
Range: Self
Components: V
Duration: Until the beginning of your next turn

This spell allows you to sense your oncoming death and skip the impending moment. You essentially become briefly unstuck from time, rewinding your personal existence to the last place you were safe. You disappear from the world upon casting the spell, and return at the beginning of your next turn, having avoided the source of danger entirely. If the location from which you disappeared is still unsafe, you can appear anywhere within 60 feet of your last position, as long as you passed through that area recently (i.e., rewind to a previous safe place you stood).

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a slot of 9th level, you can appear within 300 feet of your last position if you passed through that area recently, and you can spend hit dice and recover uses of spells and abilities as if you’d just taken a short rest before you reappear.

New Feat: Staff Mastery

Shamelessly stolen from Revenant Blade, since quarterstaff needs the help more than double-sword.

You have worked hard on turning the staff from a simple length of wood into an excellent tool for both offense and defense.

  • Increase your Dexterity, Intelligence, or Strength score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • While wielding a staff or quarterstaff with two hands, you gain +1 AC. You can consider yourself wielding it with two hands even if you’ve cast a spell that required somatic or material components this round, as long as you do not have another weapon or shield in your off-hand.
  • A quarterstaff has the finesse property when you wield it.
  • When holding a quarterstaff with both hands, you may treat it as two light weapons that deal 1d4 damage each for the purposes of two-weapon fighting (or 1d6 damage if you’re proficient with martial weapons).

Planescape in 5e: Special Features, Keywords

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  • Bright: This item sheds light at the brightness of a torch (though it is white, unwavering light). If the item would already shed light, its brightness is doubled.
  • Cold: This item remains a pleasant temperature in extreme cold, and will not become brittle or accumulate ice and frost. It doesn’t protect the bearer from the cold, but at least remains usable in a blizzard.
  • Corrosive: This item is resistant to harm from acid or other sources of corrosion, and will likely even remain intact if its bearer is disintegrated.
  • Cutting: This item is resistant to slashing damage (it doesn’t pass the resistance to the bearer, but is very difficult to cut or sunder). If it is a blade, the edge is extremely difficult to dull.
  • Dark: This item is virtually invisible in the darkness, granting advantage to hide it (and advantage to Dexterity (Stealth) checks in the dark if it is a suit of armor or clothing). If you are attuned to the item, you can see it clearly in the dark (even in supernatural darkness).
  • Energetic: This item never builds up a static charge, and tends to be impervious to Lightning damage (causing it to safely flow around the item). If it is armor, a wielded weapon, or other large item, you may add +1d4 to your saving throws to avoid Lightning damage.
  • Hot: This item cannot be damaged or destroyed by anything less than the most extreme heat or fire. It doesn’t pass this immunity on to the bearer, but at least it will survive the firestorm intact. It never becomes uncomfortably warm, including ignoring the effects of heat metal if directed at the item.
  • Invisible: This item fades to translucency at the wielder’s desire, granting you advantage on attempts to conceal or hide it. If you become invisible, the item remains invisible even if you briefly lose control of it (though you retain an intuition about its location to enable you to retrieve it).
  • Mental: This item is keyed to the wielder’s mental desires. Any powers it possesses that would normally be activated with a word may instead be activated silently. Some may activate when you need them, even if you do not consciously activate them.
  • Penetrating: This item is unusually dense, making it resistant to attempts to rip or puncture it. It is it armor, attacks that would normally bypass it must instead attack normally.
  • Smashing: This item is very sturdy, and resists attempts to crush it or break it through pure force. If it is a container, its contents are twice as likely to survive impacts or falls.
  • Sonic: This item has a flat audio resonance. Unless it is a musical instrument, it makes very little noise when struck, and is immune to Thunder damage.
  • Toxic: This item absorbs poisons. If you use it to aid in harvesting poison, there is no danger of accidentally poisoning yourself. If it is a weapon, any poison applied to it remains viable indefinitely (until it strikes an opponent).
  • Bestial: Unintelligent animals somehow comprehend the usefulness of this item. If you affix it to an animal, it will retain it if reasonable rather than reflexively trying to scrape it off. If the animal has the required dexterity, it may even use it appropriately (e.g., an ape using a weapon in combat).
  • Colorful: This item is an ideal anchor point for visual illusions. Illusions that cannot normally move can be attached to it, moving as you move the item. If deliberately incorporated into the illusion, some parts of it may be static while others move along with the item (e.g., using minor illusion to create an unmoving rock and waving grass).
  • Confining: This item is always subject to freedom of movement. It doesn’t pass this effect onto the wielder, but means that the item can never become stuck, trapped, or bound in a way that you cannot simply pull it free.
  • Disjointed: This item always teleports with its owner if it is close to hand. If it’s within ten feet of you when you are teleported, it appears at your feet wherever you land. It will even travel with you if the mode of transport normally will not include items.
  • Fluid: This item attracts condensation. This means that it is usually slightly damp. But, if left overnight in a watertight container (e.g., a pot or bucket), it generates a day’s worth of drinking water for you in all but the most arid environments.
  • Metallic: This item emits an aura that resonates with nearby metals, causing it to have a tactile hum that changes based on their presence or absence. This grants you advantage on rolls to detect hidden metal objects (e.g., traps, treasure, ore veins, etc.).
  • Motive: This item is sensitive to the intentions of its wielder when it comes to motion. You have advantage on attempts to resist being disarmed of the item. All ranges are doubled when you throw it or use it to launch projectiles.
  • Mystic: This item is easy to understand, mystically, revealing all its powers and abilities through simple inspection during a rest. However, it does not reveal its aura when subjected to detect magic or similar powers from anyone but its wielder. It shines like a beacon to detect magic, however, if it is not currently wielded, eager to be used.
  • Prophetic: This item is more likely than most to be included in prophecies (if only as a significant clue to the identity of the wielder within the prophecy). If you are attuned to it, you may automatically recognize it when it is mentioned in a prophecy or in the histories (including legend lore).
  • Protective: This item’s other defensive powers are likely to be slightly enhanced. Once per day, you may spend Inspiration to take no damage from an attack or effect from a spell that could plausibly harmlessly strike the item instead of you.
  • Restoring: This item makes it easier for the wielder to heal. Once per day, whenever dice are rolled to restore your hit points, you may choose to reroll the lowest die and keep the new result if it is higher.
  • Stonelike: This item resists petrification. It always retains its form, even if its wielder is turned to stone. If trapped by stone (e.g., held by a petrified former owner, pinned in a cave-in, clutched by an earth elemental, etc.) it is easy to withdraw and unlikely to damage the stone in the attempt.
  • Tempestuous: This item is always surrounded by an aura of clean, breathable air. This can be used by the wielder to survive underwater, in the void, or when in an area where the air is toxic or diseased.
  • Transforming: This item resizes itself to fit a wielder of any size, and automatically transforms into a viable form if the wielder changes shape (which may include simply fading into the transformation if the form is such that the item cannot reasonably be used).
  • Wooden: This item cannot be lost in the midst of floral growth. Even fast-growing plants will grow around it or lift it to the surface of the bloom (rather than encasing it in vines and roots). If it is a weapon, it never becomes stuck when chopping wood or attacking plant creatures.
  • Chaotic: This item is confusing for the ordered mind. A non-chaotic character is subjected to the confusion spell upon attempting to wield or use it (saving throw DC 10 for a Common item, +2 for each rarity, up to DC 18 for a Legendary item); non-lawful characters have advantage on this saving throw. This effect can trigger once per day per character, the first time the character attempts to wield or use the item.
  • Evil: This item whispers dark impulses to the wielder in moments with the capacity for greatest harm. Once per day, the wielder is subjected to the command spell in a moment where a single word action could do the most harm (e.g., “slay,” “attack,” “lie,” etc.). The saving throw DC is 10 for a Common item, +2 for each rarity, up to DC 18 for a Legendary item. Non-good characters are not exempted from this effect, but are more likely to be commanded to do things they wanted to do anyway.
  • Good: This item attempts to prevent the negative emotions that lead to evil. Once per day, whenever the wielder feels or is subjected to a strong negative emotion (e.g., hatred, lust, rage, despair, revulsion, contempt, etc.), the item casts calm emotions on the wielder only. The saving throw DC is 10 for a Common item, +2 for each rarity, up to DC 18 for a Legendary item. Non-evil characters are not exempted from this effect, but likely feel the targeted emotions less often than those with darker impulses.
  • Lawful: This item requires an orderly, ritualized series of steps to wield that are difficult for those of a less rational bent. Upon first wielding the item (and after each long rest while continuing to wield the item), non-lawful characters must make an Intelligence (Arcana or Religion) check, with failure causing the item to act as if it were non-magical for the character until the next attempt (though retaining any magical drawbacks). Non-chaotic characters have advantage on this check. The check DC is 12 for a Common item, +2 for each rarity, up to DC 20 for a Legendary item.

Planescape in 5e: Special Features, Other Planes

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  • Elemental Air: This item is almost invisible, woven of frozen air currents that flicker with subtle mists and electricity. Its weight is negligible, adding no encumbrance, but it might also be blown away in a stiff breeze if not firmly held or stowed. This lightness somehow doesn’t limit its effectiveness as arms or armor. This item also usually has the Tempestuous keyword.
  • Elemental Darkness (Negative): This item is perfectly black, absorbing all light, making it difficult to truly gauge its shape except by feel. Living characters that wield it lose one healing surge after a long rest. The first time you are struck by Radiant damage each day, you act as if you had resistance (as the item absorbs some of the energy). This item also usually has the Dark keyword.
  • Elemental Earth: This item is entirely made from metal, gems, and stone. When set upon the earth (or a stone embedded in the earth) it will not move from its position without great effort (Strength (Athletics) DC 15) unless you choose to pick it up again. This item also usually has the Stonelike keyword.
  • Elemental Fire: This item seems to be made from congealed fire, somehow given permanent physical form. It is always slightly warm, which can be helpful in a dangerously cold environment. This item also usually has the Hot keyword.
  • Elemental Radiance (Positive): This item is perfectly mirrored, reflecting all light that touches it. Undead characters that wield it suffer a point of Radiant damage each minute. Living characters that wield it gain an additional +1 HP for each die of healing they receive. This item also usually has the Bright keyword.
  • Elemental Water: This item seems carved out of ice, though it is only slightly cold. It floats in water as if it was made of wood, unless you are deliberately swimming beneath the surface (in which case, it floats at about your level within the deeps). This item also usually has the Fluid keyword.
  • Paraelemental: This item appears to be a strange hybrid of two materials based on which paraelemental plane produced it. It demonstrates whichever ability is most applicable to the current situation, but likely also suffers some unexpected drawback from the combination of elements.
  • Quasielemental: This item appears to be a brighter or darker version of its core element. It has the powers and drawbacks of items from either realm.
  • Astral: This item seems to be woven through with faint silver threads and, when looked at in the correct state of mind, only the threads seem truly real, the rest merely an illusion strung between them. You retain this item even when having an out-of-body experience, and it may be wielded by or used to strike creatures of pure thought. This item also usually has the Mental keyword.
  • Ethereal: This item seems slightly immaterial, hinting at translucency, its interior a flowing mist. It is able to be used/carried/worn by beings that are incorporeal, and has no difficulty striking them.
  • Ravenloft (Ethereal): This item likely carries a Baroque flair to its design, hinting at a culture with a strangely deep artistic tradition. While wielding this item, if you are about to commit a deeply evil action—or sometimes about to start down that path with something that seems to have good, but flawed, intentions—you can feel the attention of vast powers regarding you with anticipation.
  • Feywild: This item has no ferrous components, and it is made entirely from nigh-eternal materials that resist corrosion and decay. It has resistance against acid damage and other attacks that seek to unmake it with decay.
  • Beyond: This item doesn’t seem to use a standard geometry in its construction, all curves and hints at additional dimensions, made of materials that aren’t quite natural to any known realms. Powers and Proxies of the Great Wheel have a hard time even seeing it, granting advantage on rolls to conceal it from gods, celestials, or fiends.
  • Athas (Dark Sun) (Prime): This item is made without metal, replacing normal metal elements with bone, stone, or crystal. It maintains its magical nature by slowly draining the life from nearby plants, and dangerous plants will usually avoid you while you wield it.
  • Khorvaire (Eberron) (Prime): This item appears too-well-made, as if mass-produced by purpose-built machinery. It may feature subtle mechanisms beyond the technology level of most worlds. It slowly repairs itself if broken, and attempts to speed the process of mending have advantage.
  • Krynn (Dragonlance) (Prime): This item is likely illustrated with symbols of dragons and white, red, and black moons and any components that should be steel are instead iron or other metals. The item seems attuned to tidal forces, making it easy for you to, with some practice, sense the rough time of day and phase of the moon.
  • Oerth (Greyhawk) (Prime): This item seems like a real classic, well-but-simply made out of durable materials that keep their shine and luster. If used conspicuously in your adventures, it quickly finds itself becoming a significant element in your personal legend and may gradually accrue heroic powers from this acclaim.
  • Toril (Forgotten Realms) (Prime): This item appears to be an exemplar of its form, as if an illustration of the item was brought to life. Having lived through multiple magical upheavals, this item continues to have its same abilities even on planes with unusual rules for magic.

Planescape in 5e: Special Features, Outer Planes

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Items tend to have special features, one per keyword, when they do not have an actual special power for that keyword. These replace or supplement the special features starting on page 141 of the DMG. The features may not function when on a plane without the associated keyword, at the GM’s option.

  • Abyss (C E): This item’s edges are essentially fractal, infinitely complex the closer you look. It tends to buzz angrily in the presence of lawful Proxies, particularly devils. This item also usually has the Chaotic and Evil keywords.
  • Acheron (L E/N): This item’s appearance is geometric, likely divided into squares and cubes. It is surprisingly easy to carry on campaign, generating half the encumbrance its weight would otherwise specify. This item also usually has the Lawful keyword.
  • Arborea (C G): This item is made of bronze, brass, and natural materials that have not been heavily worked, and it is slightly larger than other examples of its kind. If lost, it will eventually find its way back to you if you have used it for great deeds. This item also usually has the Chaotic and Good keywords.
  • Arcadia (L G/N): This item is a statistically average (though high-quality) example of its form, not exceeding normal tolerances for dimensions or using flashy patterns. It resists being hidden by illusion, always looking like itself no matter the magical disguise, and it remains stubbornly visible even if you are invisible. This item also usually has the Lawful keyword.
  • Baator (Hell) (L E): This item is black and red in color, made of materials that naturally have these colors. It cannot be stolen from its owner, whether by dexterity or legal trickery. As long as you live, you must drop it through true accident or deliberately transfer ownership to lose it. This item also usually has the Lawful and Evil keywords.
  • Beastlands (N/C G): This item is made as much as possible of ostentatious furred leathers. While you carry it, animals are likely to treat you as an apex predator and avoid you or cower before you unless desperate or compelled. This item also usually has the Good keyword.
  • Bytopia (L/N G): This item is well-made and perfectly, perhaps ostentatiously, symmetrical, likely including patterns that are hard to mirror properly by inexperienced craftsmen. Damage that does not extend to both halves of the item will slowly fade as it returns to quality and symmetry. This item also usually has the Good keyword.
  • Carceri (C/N E): This item seems hastily created by repurposing some other item, filing it down and potentially affixing it to an unrelated object. You have advantage on checks to keep the item hidden. This item also usually has the Evil keyword.
  • Elysium (N G): This item has a nautical theme, likely incorporating motifs and materials used for sailing or found near the sea. When you are on a quest to accomplish a good deed, you and your allies travel to your destination 10% faster than you otherwise would. This item also usually has the Good keyword.
  • Gehenna (L/N E): This item’s hard surfaces are made of igneous rock and sharp, black obsidian, while its softer materials seem suffused with ash and soot that never cleans out but blackens the hands of wielders. If you present it, you gain advantage on Charisma checks to convince fiends to leave you alone, as it serves as a token of neutrality in the Blood War. This item also usually has the Evil keyword.
  • Gray Waste (N E): This item is dull gray in appearance, as if all its natural colors have washed out. You have advantage on saving throws to resist effects that try to cause emotions (including Charmed and Frightened), but you also have trouble feeling natural emotions while wielding the item. This item also usually has the Evil keyword.
  • Limbo (C N): This item never looks exactly the same twice, slowly flickering between examples of its form when no one is looking. If you suffer a Wild Magic Surge while wielding it, you may choose to flip the 10s and 1s digits to get a different result on the chart. If you are attuned, you may make a Charisma saving throw (DC 15) to call the item to your hand from anywhere within the same plane. This item also usually has the Chaotic keyword.
  • Mechanus (L N): This item appears to be a complicated mechanism that has been disconnected from its original machinery and frozen in its current function. Modrons may be able to incorporate it into their own bodies, and skilled mechanics might be able to unlock additional functions. This item also usually has the Lawful keyword.
  • Mount Celestia (L G): This item’s metals are silver and gold, while its other components are brightly colored. When wielded by someone Chaotic and/or Evil, its colors fade, but they shine brightly, giving off a faint but cheery light if you are Lawful Good. Those that can confirm the item’s provenance know that there is no way to fool its assessment of your morality. This item also usually has the Lawful and Good keywords.
  • Outlands (N N): This item seems well made, but is worn as if it has seen years of hard use and come through them still in perfect working order, merely comfortably broken in. When reality is against you, it will see you through; you gain a point of Inspiration when you enter an anti-magic area.
  • Pandemonium (C E/N): This item’s dimensions don’t quite add up, creating an unease in the viewer that only increases if it is carefully examined. Screaming faces sometimes appear in the material out of the corner of the viewer’s eye. No mental effects, be they compulsion or insanity, can make you forget that the item is yours, or give it away/discard it if you wouldn’t when in your right mind. This item also usually has the Chaotic keyword.
  • Ysgard (C G/N): This item is etched or woven with numerous runes speaking of its history and abilities, and it likely features rich-hued wood cut from the world tree in its construction. It takes you one minute less than normal to cast a Ritual when wielding the item. As a free action you may willingly take a point of damage (e.g., to prolong a Rage). This item also usually has the Chaotic keyword.
  • Sigil (Outlands): This item seems to have a slight tarnish or patina no matter how much you try to make it shine. If it is the key for a portal or gate, it will vibrate noticeably when brought within a few feet of the bounds of the doorway (as a warning you’re about to travel unexpectedly, or clue to where the doorway is).

Planescape in 5e: Resonance Keywords

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This is an alternate way to capture the idea of magic items changing from plane to plane without simply tracing a path to the home plane and reducing the item’s bonus. I always liked the idea of magic items varying away from home, but the implementation was a lot of math for no real benefit to the player.

Each plane (or distinct realm within a plane) has a collection of up to half a dozen keywords. Magic items created in that location tend to acquire the same set of keywords. Additionally, spells have at least one keyword that is salient to the spell’s effect. Some special abilities may have similar resonance to equivalent spells.

Magic items may have special powers that are only active when in a plane/realm with matching keywords, or may just be more generally effective when more of the keywords match. This might be a specific ability mapped to a given keyword, or may be that certain powers are only active when specific keywords are active.

Spells are generally treated as being cast at +1 slot level if they have at least one matching keyword with the local plane/realm (e.g., fireball is always cast as at least a 4th level spell in a Hot realm).

Some spells or other magical effects may temporarily apply a keyword to a local area (e.g., the darkness spell might create the Dark keyword within its area).

Keywords

In addition to the keywords below, each plane is its own keyword name.

Energy

  • Bright (Radiant, Light, Sun)
  • Cold (Cold, Ice, slowing effects, winter)
  • Corrosive (Acid, disintegration)
  • Cutting (Slashing, effects that cause DoT)
  • Dark (Necrotic, Darkness, Night)
  • Energetic (Lightning, energy buffs)
  • Hot (Fire, heating effects, summer)
  • Invisible (Force, Invisibility)
  • Mental (Psychic, Mind-Affecting, Telepathic)
  • Penetrating (Piercing, effects that bypass defenses)
  • Smashing (Bludgeoning, effects that destroy objects)
  • Sonic (Thunder, sound illusions, silence)
  • Toxic (Poison, physical debuffs)

Misc

  • Bestial (Animal effects)
  • Colorful (Color effects, visual illusions)
  • Confining (restrictive/paralyzing effects)
  • Disjointed (teleportation effects)
  • Fluid (Water-related effects)
  • Metallic (Metal conjurations/transmutations)
  • Motive (Imbuing motion to things)
  • Mystic (meta-magical effects like anti-magic, detection, etc.)
  • Prophetic (many divinations)
  • Protective (defensive effects)
  • Restoring (Healing effects, restorations)
  • Stonelike (Stone/earth conjurations/transmutations)
  • Tempestuous (Air and storm-related effects)
  • Transforming (Physical transmutations)
  • Wooden (Wood/plant conjurations/transmutations)

Alignment

  • Chaotic
  • Evil (includes Evil spells like animating dead)
  • Good
  • Lawful

Known Realms

  • Sigil: Outlands, Confining, Cutting, Dark, Disjointed, Metallic

Example Item Resonance

  • Bag of Holding: If all keywords are matched, the bag only weighs 5 pounds. Each keyword not matched increases the weight by 5 pounds (up to 35 pounds in realms that don’t match at all).
  • Folding Boat: If no keywords are matched, this item cannot change from its current configuration. If two or more keywords are matched, it can become a small boat (or return to its collapsed configuration). Only if four or more keywords are matched can it expand into its vessel configuration.
  • Goggles of Night: The goggles grant Darkvision with a range of 30 feet plus 10 feet per matched keyword (e.g., up to 90 feet when six keywords are matched).
  • Immovable Rod: The rod can hold up to 6000 pounds of weight plus 1000 per matched keyword. The Strength check to move it is DC 26, +2 for each matched keyword.
  • Potion of Climbing (and others with a normal 1 hour duration): The potion lasts for 30 minutes, plus 10 minutes for each matched keyword.
  • Potion of Healing (and improved versions): The flat add of basic points of healing is equal to the number of keywords matched (e.g., heals 2d4+3 with three matched). This is multiplied for the improved potions (x2 for greater, x4 for superior, x10 for supreme).
  • Ring of Swimming: You have a swimming speed equal to 30 feet plus 5 feet per matched keyword (e.g., 60 feet with six matched keywords).
  • Weapon +1: This item retains its +1 bonus no matter how many keywords are matched. However, any special abilities may come and go based on the resonance.

15 Ideas for Boss Fights

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I had some thoughts on Brandes’ post about fight flow, specifically related to bosses doing stuff. So this is, in no particular order, some ideas for how to make boss fights more interesting than a big solo monster that stands there and deals damage while getting its HP chewed through.

  1. Use the Angry GM’s boss rules.
    This is essentially the idea that a boss monster is run like two or more less powerful monsters stapled together. They share a space and a pool of HP, but otherwise get multiple actions on different initiative ticks, and might have very different power sets.
  2. Which one of these is the real me?
    The boss has mirror images/lesser clones (possibly with a weaker attack) spread throughout the area that reappear periodically and can move. The boss can imperceptibly trade places with a projection as a reaction/boss action. This is more interesting than an all-in-one place mirror image spell because it can involve positioning to try to pop the clones and find the real target. This is lifted from a sidequest in Shadowrun: Dragonfall.
  3. Why did that wall collapse?
    The boss is not just load bearing, but incrementally load bearing. This can be a standard health-link, or might be because the boss is actually embodied in machinery/magical structures in the room that have to be destroyed. Various parts of the battlefield collapse/catch fire/otherwise become more dangerous as the boss’ health is depleted.
  4. True railroad encounter.
    The boss is slowly moving, either on rails or toward an objective. For whatever reason, locking the boss down in one spot is difficult or nigh-impossible. The terrain is a winding series of tunnels or otherwise full of obstacles such that keeping ranged line of fire to the boss as it moves requires repositioning.
  5. Video game standard incremental boss-freeze to summon adds.
    Either at certain health milestones or as an action, the boss can become invulnerable/shielded/insubstantial and start regenerating while additional minions are summoned. Defeating the minions is required to make the boss vulnerable again.
  6. You’re a pinball wizard.
    The boss is extremely lightweight or something: it suffers knockback from every successful hit, based on the direction of the attacker. The boss fight environment is a crazy pinball setup where there are lots of fun things to knock it into, and lots of ways for the various bouncing to become unpredictable.
  7. This isn’t even my final form.
    Why don’t more D&D games do the Final Fantasy thing where the boss changes into a bigger, different monster on death after a couple-round breather?
  8. We’re not here to kill you, you’re just in the way.
    The PCs don’t need to kill the boss, they need to get some time to destroy/activate/hack/etc. one or more nodes in the encounter area. The boss is just there to make that much more difficult.
  9. We just have to hold out for long enough.
    Contrasted to the last option, the PCs don’t need to kill the boss, they just need to hold locations. After a certain number of rounds or completed interactions, something happens to make them win. The boss is obviously trying to prevent them from doing that.
  10. This is a lovely room of death.
    A bunch of cultists want to die for their boss, who wants to absorb their souls. Kind of like 8, only instead of controlling nodes on the battlefield, you’re trying to keep cultists away from the boss and not kill them close enough that it can absorb them anyway.
  11. There’s still good in you.
    Variation on the last few, the boss itself is relatively easy to kill by just dogpiling (though it might pack a hell of a wallop), but the real objective is to somehow interact with the environment/succeed at a persuasion skill challenge to break the boss free of its antagonistic state. The fight is more about trying to maneuver and delay the boss in the meantime.
  12. I don’t think this floor is stable.
    At a certain milestone in the fight, everyone gets transported to a new location (usually by the floor collapsing and falling into a new area, but could be teleporters/dimensional rifts). While this could be the boss fleeing, it’s probably more satisfying if the boss isn’t really any more thrilled about the new location than the PCs.
  13. This is just a MOBA, huh?
    A regular stream of minions is heading out to accomplish some objective (pairs well with 9 or 10). They’re easy enough to kill, but doing so soaks up attacks that could be directed at the boss. It’s pretty easy to get them to cluster for AoEs, if you’re paying attention. There should be obvious indicators when a dangerous number of adds haven’t been dealt with, and the players are in danger of losing if they don’t go clear some soon.
  14. I’m your biggest fan.
    This is one of my personal favorites: the boss is actually a big fan of the PCs’ mission, and doesn’t think of itself as directly opposed to them. The PCs may or may not hate the boss with a passion, but the boss doesn’t actually want to kill them. The fight is more about trying to stop whatever thing the boss is doing, which might actually be accomplished by just putting themselves in danger/making a good enough case that this is a problem for them. This is especially good for when PC parents are powerful and evil, but still loving.
  15. One big boss fight.
    The boss can freely appear and disappear throughout the dungeon, though cannot stick around for long upon appearing (possibly because it’s a big ol’ coward that doesn’t like getting hit at all). This is effectively a variation on 8: various rooms in the dungeon are objectives for the PCs, and the boss would rather they didn’t. Instead of one big fight in a room at the end, the boss has been showing up briefly during many of the other fights to make things more difficult, turning the whole dungeon into an ongoing boss fight.

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).

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