Archive for July 2012

Legends & Lore: Combat Superiority

3rd Edition gave us fighters that purported to have lots of flexibility, but ultimately failed at doing what they were supposed to be doing; you had no way of effectively stopping monsters from attacking the more dangerous characters, rangers could do the two-weapon schtick better (and easier), and numerous spellcasting classes could just buff themselves beyond anything a fighter could dream of, in- and outside of combat.

Really unless you wanted to ineffectually “button-mash” attack over and over, your only non-optimized option was to go with archery (though I hear spell-buffed rangers still got the monopoly, there).

4th Edition reined in spellcasters and gave fighters complex and meaningful options, allowing them to dominate the arena of weaponry (and tanking). No longer could clerics and wizards slap on a bunch of buffing spells--while still being able to bypass the hit point mechanic entirely and do other things--and no longer could druids wildshape into exotic animals that allowed them to make multiple attacks at their full bonus, before the fighter could even make a second attack at a huge penalty.

Players were rightfully concerned that the fighter was being dragged back into a darker age, where all they could do was fumble about and hit things for a brief period of time in which they could do it reasonably better than some other classes (or, more accurately, longer in an “adventuring day”). Classes that had skills, interesting features, and/or spells that let them affect groups of monsters, make skill checks that they normally could not (often with a bonus when it was not outright success), fly, boost their stats, and more.

Given that we were only shown a low-level snapshot, I cannot say for certain if the Next fighter was going to be like that. With the flat math, better skill distribution and flexibility, and heavier reliance on ability scores it is possible that a fighter might have fared better. They even got multiple attacks at level 2, albeit only twice per day, but at least it was without a penalty and could be used for more things than just attacks. However, wizards were still reliant on pseudo-Vancian magic, and fighters did not have any attack options except “hit it” (though to be fair, it was a crapload of damage).

For those concerned about going back to boring fighters, I think that this is promising news; fighters get dice that they can spend to add extra damage, reduce damage that they are taking, block attacks, and presumably much, much more. They refresh each round, which kind of reminds me of the warblade from Book of Nine Swords, though they had to spend an attack action to refresh their maneuvers, so it was more like every other round.

Most people are making comparisons to Dungeon Crawl Classic’s Mighty Deed of Arms, which basically lets you make a kind of special attack based on your description and the GM’s permission whenever your attack die--a die that you roll in place of a flat attack bonus value--comes up 3 or higher. Example deeds including things like gouging out a basilisks’ eye, impaling two monsters on one spear, and disarms. I would also comapare it to Stunts in Dragon Age, which you could use if the Dragon Die came up a certain number or higher.

I like it because it avoids going with a static bonus and provides the fighter with a simple resource to manage, both of which makes them more interesting. While I do not think that each class needs a unique resource management system, I think this is fine because it operates in a similar manner to 4th Edition in that it grants a sense of “narrative control” (and, ironically, the rate at which you gain maneuvers is similar to 4th Edition). I also like it because for those who want a simple fighter, you can just opt to use them for a damage bonus and call it good.

Dragon's-Eye View: Wandering Monsters

This week we get a reveal that there will be a new weekly article coming out next week, where James Wyatt will talk about the "story behind the world". Hopefully this means that we will get some semblance of a default campaign setting, though I am stoked about getting a peak into general flavor content. Jon also wraps things up by asking a familiar question; what does a paladin look like?

As with the wizard that depends on a bunch of factors: race, country of origin, upbringing, climate, culture, how she became a paladin (did she choose, or was she chosen?), what god does she serve (if required), etc. Given all of these factors, I can make a case for a paladin to dress, wield, and act almost any way she wants (and "appear" like most any class).

The whole “knight in shining armor” look, while iconic, should not be necessary. In “vanilla” campaigns I could see paladins of Pelor, Moradin, and Erathis going that route, but not necessarily Sehanine or Kord. A paladin might wear simple clothing, donating all but the necessities to those less fortunate. She might wear an elaborate tabard befitting her station. A champion of a nature deity might clad herself in rough-hewn skins, while one of a god of death would shroud herself in dark colors.

When compared specifically to the fighter it could be really hard to differentiate the two. I mean, both can wear holy symbols, the same armor, and wield the same weapons. A code of honor is not just a class feature, and neither is a particularly chivalrous personality; the fighter and paladin could be mistaken by those who tend to judge stereotypes, especially if the fighter likes to keep her gear clean and the paladin follows the tenants of Moradin, drinking it up in a tavern and causing brawls after hours.

The main difference that I can infer from what we have been told is that the fighter will be more skilled with weapons, while the paladin will be able to levy divine retribution.

I would like to see an edition where paladins are not all wearing full plate, packing longswords, and/or riding atop horses. You can give us that, but also something different, like that Wayne Reynolds drawing from Defenders of the Faith of the guy on the armored lion; show us paladins from a variety of races, cultures, and gods. Like, halflings with shortbows on riding dogs, elves with spears on stags or wolves, etc. Most importantly, cleave to 4th Edition and give us options that still work.

July 26, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Legends & Lore: Monster Creation in D&D Next

Well, at least we are kinda-sorta seeing some mechanics.

I am a bit wary about the adventuring day being balanced against a sum of XP that you disperse over a number of encounters that are expected to last a number of combat rounds. I found 3rd Edition difficult to pace, especially in early levels where hit points and healing magic were fairly scarce (though later levels were made likewise difficult when the party could essentually evacuate a dungeon whenever they pleased). 4th Edition made it a lot easier to throw encounters of a varying difficulty at the party, as healing surges provided a reliable barometer of performance.

My concern is how “hard” the XP cap is, especially when zoomed in to the per-fight level; I would like to avoid having to shoehorn a set number of fights in a day, pacing be damned. I would also like it to be very easy for players to make an informed choice on whether they should keep going (which ideally will not be largely reliant on remaining spells).  On the plus side, elites and solos are still in--which I hope are not as grindy as they were in pre-Monster Manual 3 4th Edition--as are minions by virtue of non-auto-leveling monsters.

The actual process for creating a monster looks like an in-between of 3rd and 4th Edition, with a dash of FantasyCraft; while it lacks the player character-degree of attention to detail that 3rd Edition required, it also looks less streamlined and easy-to-wing as 4th Edition’s method, and uses stats and abilities to arrive at a XP total as opposed to level.

What I really like about this is the (mostly) lack of scaling, so we will (hopefully) not see 4th Edition’s issue of monsters with--sometimes extreme--level ranges for monsters, or monsters with ridiculously high ability scores that inconsistently exist to justify its attack and damage modifier. We will also (again, hopefully) not see 3rd Edition’s issue where monsters gradually just fall off the map unless they have a likewise insane number of class levels or use advancement rules (that can also oddly beef up their size).

What I am confused about is how you arrive at the monster’s level. In the example Mearls states that in a “generic dungeon”, the level where he would expect the minotaur to “show up” is 5th. I recall reading some 1st Edition stuff where it was implied that dungeons were actually divided into levels, I guess with monsters implied to be present on certain levels (I do not recall if monsters actually had levels, but I do not think so).

So...is this how we are expected to make new monsters? Build them based on the abstract notion of when the party is expected to find/fight it? My process has always been to imagine a degree of relative power based on existing monsters. For example, I would not make a minotaur as strong and tough as it is because I expect it to be fought by 5th level characters; I would consider if it should be stronger and tougher than a human, then an orc, and so on until I arrive at an existing baseline--probably ogre--and go from there.

I am not sure where I stand with the assumption of size equating to whether the monster is a mook, elite, or solo, though on some level it makes sense. So long as monster generation is simple, this should be easy enough to work around, though I guess depending on how the whole XP-combat-round formula works you might just be able to throw a lot of lower-level elites at a party and still have it work out.

I do like having recommended stats based on level, along with a list of pre-fabbed abilities. The formulas and damage-by-level table in 4th Edition made it a breeze to make functional monsters on the fly, and as difficult as I wanted.

I also like the idea of ability mods actually impacting a monster, which I hated in 3rd Edition because you could get some really wonky variables if you had to inflate one or more ability score mods high enough to make it a viable threat (often making it impossible for one or more other characters to do anything about it). Again, this is where the lack of scaling will make this work a lot better.

The example stuff gives me mixed reactions; the idea of a hill giant with “only” a +3 to hit seems bizarre, but only because we have had two editions where they had +16 or more to hit. The idea that they are pretty clumsy, but hit hard when they do I can get behind.

What I do not like is that a minotaur wearing armor sees no benefit. Well, no benefit most of the time. Since its “natural AC is +6”, on par with chainmail, it gets no benefit unless it wears armor better than chainmail. This does not make any sense. I would instead do some kind of abstract rule where you can still get something out of the deal, even if it is just a +1 or 2 (kind of like how barding works in 4th Edition).

Rage +5/5 could be abbreviated to just Rage 5, which the assumption that you deal +x damage on a hit, or x damage on a miss. Actually, I think a lot of monsters (like our hill giant friend there) could benefit from some kind of mechanic where they still do x damage on a miss.

Goring charge seems needlessly wordy and pretty powerful. I could see it being used basically all the time, given that it is better than the axe attack and there is really no “sticky” mechanic for defending characters. This is also a prime example of using codified language: prone should be a condition, instead of something referenced in every power with a prone kicker effect. Also, why would this be something unique to minotaurs?

Keen senses looks nice enough, but to save space there could always be a keyword for a skill that makes it so that you get a bonus to doing something, and can only roll a minimum number.
July 24, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Playtest Survey 2: Iconic Magic

I was pretty surprised to see a second survey--especially before the second round of playtesting went out--though I was not expecting it to be entirely about “iconic” spells for wizards and clerics. The survey basically goes from levels 1-9, for both classes, asking you to pick the top 5-10 spells that you believe are necessary and/or define a given class.

Most of the spells were, or rather originated, from older editions, though I did see scorching burst mixed in there along with some other decidely “4th Edition” ones that I do not recall. You do not get to choose which edition’s version you prefer, which is a problem for me because frankly I liked the magic missile that required an attack roll (largely because I cannot think of any other spells that work without some kind of roll/saving throw). There was also the matter that while some cleric spells were iconic insofar as I remember clerics having those spells on the list, they did not feel “cleric-y” enough (though, again, without the survey I cannot think of any examples).

Another, larger issue, is that a lot of the spells are just variations of the same thing. You get “cone of fire that does this” and “cone of fire that does that”, and sometimes you get a spin of “cylinder of fire that does this”. You also get the mix of lesser/greater spells, and spells that two two different things, forcing you (depending on the edition) to require two separate spells (ie, light/darkness and flesh to stone/stone to flesh); I personally liked being able to reverse a spell, as it was one less thing and kind of made sense that a wizard could try to unravel something.

All of these very specific spells leads to the issue of making it difficult for a wizard to properly prepare and apply her magic, and I noticed that the further I progressed the fewer boxes I was checking. I kind of felt guilty hitting some of them, thinking that all I am doing is reinforcing the pointless tradition that is keeping D&D grounded in the realm of pseudo-Vancian magic. It makes me think of Nintendo, where all that really gets churned out are slight variations of Mario, Zelda, and Metroid.

Thankfully there were plenty of comment boxes to voice my criticisms, and since Mearls has come by here at least once before, I’ll consolidate and reiterate my feedback again:

Rather than stick with a pseudo-Vancian system, why not just go all the way? Get rid of levels, make sure that spells can have utility beyond a few levels, and put a global cap on spells that a wizard can retain (or give a wizard just general slots, and have some take up more). To me, this makes a lot more sense than having a bunch of spell levels with various spins on a similar effect, that gradually become useless as a wizard levels up.

I like that in D&D Next spell DCs are set by Intelligence rather than level, as it would allow multiclass characters (or those with Arcane Dabbler) to be able to cast magic effectively, though there is still the issue of spell slots with levels; without auto-scaling magic it seems like all you are doing is kind of delaying how useful low-level magic is.

Also, I will pitch in my vote for a wholly new magic system that borrows mechanics from spell points/spell recharge from 3rd Edition’s Unearthed Arcana.
July 20, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Legend & Lore: The Five-Minute Workday

My concerns with with pseudo-Vancian magic is not just that it can encourages players to run into the dungeon, duke it out with an encounter, and then leave--low hit points and limited healing are also major contributors--but that pseudo-Vancian magic as-explained does not make much if any sense from a flavor standpoint.

Given that players almost always make the decision to hunker down for the night, it does not even make much sense as a resource management model; outside of specifically written constraints players are largely free to come and go as they please, and the higher level they get the easier it is for them to bypass some restrictions.

So the idea of a DM having a guideline, crystal clear or not, of how many rounds a party should tackle before resting does not mean that they will, especially if the only "consequence" is the loss of time that the players are not forced to endure (because, really, if players had to wait out all those hours resting I think they would stop).

I like 4th Edition because I feel like I can write the adventures I want without having to fret about what my players are going to pick and do. I do not need to tell someone to play a rogue (or get rid of all the traps that only a rogue can find for some reason), make sure that someone can cast arcane/divine magic in order to do something (thanks to generic Ritual Caster or scrolls that anyone can use), arm my dungeons with anti-magic rooms to prevent characters from auto-bypassing challenges, and so on and so forth.

While I do not think that 5th Edition will be this extreme (so long as WotC keeps their promise of dialing-down overall magic power), it does sound like that you will need to put in a lot more planning than normal to account for party composition and character strengths. Got a wizard? Make sure that the monsters do not bunch up. Well, not all the time? Oh, and make sure that you get into a lot more fights if there is a fighter and rogue, but if you want to use few fights just use few monsters so that wizards will maybe not want to use their magic.

I think that the designers should not try to balance character capabilities around an "adventuring" day, whatever that may be. Move away from the mentality of having things instantly refresh after a nap: in my 4th Edition game characters recover healing surges and powers more slowly (so, hey, no nova-ing all your things), and they take persistent injuries from being reduced to 0 hit points. One player has agreed to try my spell point ruleset for her wizard, and those replenish at a rate of 1/hour.
July 16, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Legend & Lore: Working in the Game Mine

The various monster manuals have been helpful sources of examples and inspiration, but too often do not have what I need, much less what I want. Given that I am more than happy to create what I want to meet an exacting standard rather than go with something that is “close enough”, I have posted quite a few monsters on this blog over the years (including some star pact cultists for D&DNext).

Now, I can follow the first example here right up until they begin to explain Bob's ability to do air things; on one hand we get a concept of beating up an elemental prince and taking his stuff, giving him the ability to create whirlwinds and summon air elements. We even get a bit on his presumed tactics. On the other we...just get a role and some abilities.

Huh?

Are those actually two distinct approaches? Why not give us the flavor content about taking the air-prince's portfolio and then create powers themed to that? Are there DMs out there that just pick a role, staple various role-appropriate powers to it, set the level to the party's, and call it good?

My approach generally consists of thinking about what a monster might do/what I think it should do, and creating abilities and mechanics that help represent that. Sometimes I start with a role, other times I end up going with the role that makes the most sense. In the above example I would consider the history and purpose of this air demon, and then give him abilities that evoke that. Given all the wind-things going on, controller would likely be what I ended up with (though really I could see any role doing the job proper).

Occasionally, as a kind of experiment, I will marry a role to a monster just to see if something interesting can come from it--like a mind flayer soldier or a treant artillery (leader)--rather than some kind of primary jumping point.

I am also confused about the example with the Duke and his orcs. The DM makes the decision about how many orcs to use. Who is to say that the duke could only afford 6? What if there were only 6 available?

What if you want to throw a number of orcs at the party with an intent? You want them to win, lose, flee, surrender, etc. In any case it really helps to know just how lethal the encounter is going to be. If you have planned well enough that the outcome is a branching point, then it just make up a number or roll for one.

You have lost nothing, but DMs--especially new ones--trying to encourage a specific choice, whether through planning or what they think that a given NPC/monster will do can greatly benefit from knowing the odds.

My ideal Monster Manual would have plenty of flavor content, with at least several thematically appropriate examples, and advice on making your own things. Do not make me have to build a barebones hobgoblin soldier, archer, and war-mage. Those should be a given. If I want to make a more specialized hobgoblin, such as one that is a fast-moving dervish, then make sure I have the necessary tools and knowledge to go about it properly.

I also want the mechanics to be as transparent as possible so that I can design things to be as easy, hard, simple, complicated, etc as I want.
July 11, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

D&D Next: Barbarian Homebrew

This is based on the 4th Edition barbarian in that it channels spirits, but because I do not like per-day resource management figured I would try something that I think makes a bit more sense; when you hit a barbarian, they get angrier and can hit you back a lot harder (which hopefully balances out with the fighter, who gets static damage bonuses). I also wanted to incorporate Heartlands from Heroes of the Feywild, but figured that would frontload the class a bit too much. The main issue I am having is how to make the wolf companion work better, though if its an issue you could just swap it out for Endurance.

BARBARIAN


  • Hit Die d12
  • Weapon Proficiencies Simple Melee, Military Melee
  • Armor Proficiencies Light, Medium, and Shields
  • Class Features Rage, Mighty Strike, Spirit Totem

Rage: Every time an enemy hits you with an attack, you gain a rage point. Rage points can be spent to increase your damage and activate spirit boons. They last until the end of the encounter or you fall unconscious.

Mighty Strike: When you make a melee attack on your turn, before making the attack roll you can spend any number of rage points. If the attack hits, you deal bonus damage equal to the number of rage points spent.

Wolf Totem: I like the idea that barbarians are able to draw power from spirit totems. At 1st-level your speed increases by 10 feet when wearing light or no armor, and 5 feet when wearing medium armor. You are also considered trained in Stealth, and gain a +3 bonus to it.

BACKGROUND: HUNTER
Natural Lore +3
Perception +3
Survival +3

Animal Companion: You gain a wolf companion. Not sure how to make this work with the action economy. Maybe something like per-encounter/day reactions, have it do "instinctive actions", or just grant bonus damage when flanking a target with the barbarian.

THEME: SLAYER 
This is on the fighter sheet, and I think it works out well enough.

Level 2 (2,000 XP)
Increase your total Hit Dice to 2d12. Increase your maximum hit points by 6. You gain Takedown spirit boon.
Takedown (wolf totem): When you are flanking a creature or have attack advantage against it, you can spend 3 rage before making a melee attack. If the attack hits, the target is also knocked prone if it is your size or smaller.

Level 3 (6,000 XP)
Increase your total Hit Dice to 3d12. Increase your maximum hit points by 6. When you roll initiative you gain one rage point.

Other Class Features
Spending rage points to gain advantage when making ability checks, skill checks, and saves, as well as impose disadvantage when things try to oppose some of your checks, damage resistance, other special attacks. Spirit totems could also grant abilities usable independant of rage points, such as a wolf totem making it so that certain skill checks gain the rogue’s Skill Mastery, or a hawk totem allowing you to fly x times per day.
July 04, 2012
Posted by David Guyll

Legend & Lore: Magic Items in D&D Next

I remember 2nd Edition games being largely bereft of magic items: even if you count potions the first magic item that we found was a sword at 2nd or 3rd level, with the second meaningful thing was a suit of armor that was accrued somewhere in the 5th-level range. 3rd Edition had an assumed wealth-by-level--I guess intended to help mitigate the swingy Challenge Ratings--and official adventures doled out magic items like they were going to rot.
Do not get excited, it is just 3d6 x 10
gp piled on top of 2d6 x 1000 cp.
4th Edition largely did away with the plethora of magic doodads, by only assuming that you would need magic weapons/implements, armor, and neck items. The tables made it so that in a given level only most of the party would get one magic item, and have to pay for the rest (assuming they had the scratch, generally in my games the characters were pretty far behind when it came to cash).

They also added in an inherent bonus system for games that wanted to take it a step further, or even abstain entirely. While this was good, I think that it failed in that when you compared item powers with character powers, it often become too much book keeping to handle (assuming the item powers were even worth the bother).

5th Edition promises to take steps in two different directions, both mostly good.

The first is that the game only assumes that you will be upgrading armor. 4th Edition basically let you always start with the best armor that your class could buy, which was kind of like OD&D in that it was pretty easy to start with full plate and a heavy shield right from the start. While nice I honestly prefer how things went down in 2nd and 3rd Edition, where characters upgraded their armor several times.

Personally I would like to see a system where armor could provide non-magical benefits, whether from craftsmanship and/or other materials. You could have more than one masterwork bonus that could increase AC, let you use Dexterity (or part of it, at least), perhaps damage resistance, in addition to materials (like adamantine and darkwood) that layer on other benefits. Ideally it would give characters a reason to invest more heavily in a craft skill and/or quest for materials (or at least harvest them from dead monsters).

They plan on keeping the staple +x items around for those that want them, but "officially" capping the bonus at +3. This both requires minimal design, and is also literally the easiest thing I can think of to houserule around if I wanted to. This will allow them to spend the "meat of magic item focus" on designing "wholly unique weapons, implements, and armor" instead of using menus from 3rd Edition and qualities from 4th. One example is a sunder rock mace (I would have gone with rock sundering mace), which might have a +2 bonus, deal triple damage to objects, and smash tunnels into the landscape.

But, why not just put object sundering and tunnel smashing on a list so that DM's could add it to hammers, picks, or shovels? I mean, if they do not it is just going to happen anyway. All making specific items is going to do is force DM's to work a bit harder cobbling their own items from existing things. I am totally cool with tables for item properties and pre-fabs with several properties.

That aside, I do like the idea of a potential table that lets you add a bit of history to an item. Continuing with the sunder rock mace (please change it to rock sundering mace) example, Mearls mentions that a few rolls might reveal that it was used against a demonic incursion, so when underground it can guide you to a dwarf stronghold and grows warmer when a demon is near (frankly I hope they have lots of tables for things like random encounters, NPCs, and character backgrounds).

Ultimately I really like the first part (though, again, masterwork and materials would make it better), and am okay with the second one. Even if they do not list individual properties, it will still be easy to just drop them onto something else. I just hope that the designers mention at least a rough idea of when an item should be given to a party.
Posted by David Guyll

D&D Next: Star Cult Homebrew

I wrote a 4th Edition adventure awhile back in which the players were supposed to take down an aberrant cult in the Shadow Marches that had taken over a dragonshard mining town. I posted all the stat blocks before, but I never got a chance to run that adventure, so I figured that I would convert all the monsters I made for use in D&D Next. Who knows, maybe I will get a chance to run it when WotC sends out the next playtest packet.

D&D Next: Warlock Homebrew

In a similar vein to my bladesinger homebrew, here is an untested infernal-pact warlock. I have shown this to a few people, and while they like it I want to see what others think about the direction and mechanics. I want to have a warlock that gains her power from something, and have that something actually matter (well, if the player and DM want to go that route).

Given that a warlock is leased power, spells are fairly limited as the warlock must prove herself in order to gain more responsibility. This is where I differentiate it from a wizard or sorcerer: wizards can learn and modify magic pretty easily, and sorcerers are limited to their bloodlines. Warlocks are limited, but can still petition their arcane sugar-daddy to shake things up (albeit on a limited basis).

WARLOCK

  • Hit Die d6
  • Weapon Proficiencies Simple Melee, Simple Ranged
  • Armor Proficiencies Light Armor
  • Class Features Eldritch Pact, Eldritch Blast, Pact Magic, Sign
Eldritch Pact: Ideally a finalized warlock would be able to choose from star, fey, and others as well, but so far I only wrote up things for an infernal one. This assumes that the character made a deal with a devil in exchange for power.

Another goal would be to develop thematic pacts within pacts (pactception), so that a player could say that she made a deal with a chain devil, pit fiend, succubus, gelugon, or whatever, and have magic to back it up. For now though, fire-based things.

In addition to getting magic freebies, you also gain the Contact Patron ritual, which lets you hit up your patron to request additional favors (but at what cost!?), swap out your magic on the fly, or get feedback if you on a mission for it. Depends on your patron and how you relate to it.

Contact Patron Ritual
Requires 5 gp worth of ritual components and takes 10 minutes to cast. You can exchange the pact spells you have access to for others. Alternatively you could also ask for advice or information (effectively gaining a bonus or advantage on a check that the patron might feasibly be good with), though in most cases it will only really care if your goals coincide with its own, or you are in danger and you are worth keeping alive. Bothering your patron too often and just asking for favors might have consequences.

This price is subject to change. I am basing the price on the "silver-standard" model, so 5 gp might actually mean something. I had also considered making it a x times per day thing, or possibly have it be free x times per day, but let a warlock shell out. If any of my players try this out, I am also going to use something like artifact Concordance to help track players bothering patrons too often and determining how, if what, kind of aid they will provide.

Eldritch Blast: Warlocks are proxies for powerful beings, and their bodies are conduits for unshaped magical power which they can channel. Infernal pact warlocks generally unleash hellfire, though if you go with a succubus I could see it being untyped or psychic, while those that buddied up with a gelugon would inflict cold. It is a ranged attack made with a 2 + Con modifier bonus, and deals 1d8 + Con mod fire damage.

Sign: There is something about your character that betrays your allegiance. This is something that is easy to conceal, such as a brand on your body, one or more small nubs on your body (as if horns or wings were preparing to sprout), a general feeling of uneasiness, the faintest tinge of sulfur, or perhaps some animals dislike you. Initially this has no mechanical effect, but the deeper you dabble the more severe it becomes.

PACT MAGIC

You gain access to two pact spells at 1st-level, but can change them using the Contact Patron ritual. As you gain warlock levels you can use boons to alter them.

Binding Chains
You conjure chains from one of the circles of the Nine Hells (probably a hot one). A creature that is your size or smaller within 30 feet gets to make a DC 10 + Con modifier Dexterity save or it is immobilized and takes 1d6 plus your Constitution modifier damage (bludgeoning?). Creatures larger than you are instead slowed. On its turn it can use an action to try and escape, but if it is still stuck when your turn comes around you can use an action to sustain it and automatically deal another 1d6 + Con mod damage.

Black Blade
I included this one because I really dug the blade of annihilation from the 4th Edition hexblade; you summon it as a Minor action (or as an "action that also lets you make an attack"), and it basically functions as a longsword that uses your Con for attack and damage rolls. Oh yeah, and every time you kill a creature you regain a hit point.

Infernal Host
You allow a devil to possess you, and are mostly better off for it, gaining one of the following benefits (which you can change for free at the start of your turn):
  • Claws: You can make two claw attacks per action. They deal 1d4 damage and use your Constitution for attack and damage rolls. You can use these on different targets.
  • Presence: You gain advantage on Bluff and Intimidate checks.
  • Skin: You gain fire resistance.
The drawback is that you take damage each round as the devil tries to gain control of you. So far I have this at the character having to make a DC 11 Constitution save each round or take damage (like, 1d4), but I would like to incorporate some way for the devil to change your alignment or make you do things if you fail your save.

2ND LEVEL

Your Hit Dice increase to 2d6, your maximum hit points increases by 3, and you can modify one of your pact spells:
  • Slashing Chains: Binding chains now deals slashing damage, and whenever a creature tries to escape it takes 1d4 slashing damage.
  • Burning Blade: Black blade deals fire damage, and gains an additional +1 bonus to damage.
  • Infernal Resilience: While possessed by infernal host you gain a +1 bonus to your Armor Class (alternatively could be Constitution saves).
You can change your pact boon using Contact Patron, along with other spells. Other things would be to have the chains be able to affect larger creatures, deal fire damage, and affect more than one target, have the sword shoot fire, attack multiple times, and even become possessed (so it would act of its own accord), and have the infernal host give you even more things, but increase the save DC and damage for your troubles.
    3RD LEVEL 

    Increase your Hit Dice to 3d6, and your total hit points by 3. You gain access to one other pact spell and the Empowering Soul feat.

    BACKGROUND: DIABOLIST

    • Forbidden Lore +3
    • Intimidate +3
    • Magical Lore +3
    • Cultist
    Cultist: You are a member of a cult, which means that in a place with a cell you can get free room and board. You might even be able to requisition resources and aid, especially if you are doing things to help them.

    THEME: SOUL HARVESTER

    Other possible feats would be to gain an infernal familiar (like an imp), a devil servant (kind of like a companion character), have per-encounter or per-day special attacks that let you force a Con save to deal bonus damage/kill a creature with x hit points or less (like the executioner's assassin strike, but only on living things), impose penalties/disadvantage to Constitution saves, etc.

    Consume Soul
    Benefit: Once per day after you reduce a living creature to 0 hit points or less, you can either regain hit points as if you had used a Hit Die, or regain a spent Hit Die.

    Empowering Soul
    Benefit: When a creature within 30 feet of you dies, you can use a reaction to draw in its soul and empower your next attack. You grant disadvantage against the next attack made against you, but your next attack deals +1d10 additional damage.
    July 01, 2012
    Posted by David Guyll

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