Hello. Sorry for the unannounced hiatus last week, I was gearing up to something big (for me, at least). Today, I have submitted my first piece of content to the DM’s Guild, a homebrew class I am calling the Spirit Master (available here). This was planned for last week but it wasn’t in a state I was happy with so I decided to delay the release and not post a filler update that would not have satisfied me, let alone you.
With that said, this week’s update will be my design notes for version 1.0 of the Spirit Master. If this is not something you are interested in reading, I understand and wish you a pleasant day. For those of you still reading this, however, please do step further down the rabbit hole.
The class would not exist at all were it not for Matthew Mercer’s solution for a formerly absent player returning to her group during a recent story arc on Critical Role, so first and foremost, thanks to him.
That’s basically all I can say without spoiling anything. If you would rather not have anything spoiled, skip ahead to the next section.
Still here? Good. Ashley Johnson, actress and Gnome Cleric, was unable to join the party as they travelled to the former home of one of the party members but then re-joined several sessions later as a celestial form (explaining how she covered the hundreds of miles between her Cleric and the rest of the party). This got me to thinking about how projections such as this could influence the battlefield, which gave me the basis of what I thought was a cool idea.
Rather than adapting an existing class, I took this core concept and ran with it. What if there were other ways to project oneself? What if you could choose to swamp the battlefield in smoke, or turn your enemies’ fear into a reality?
In terms of starting items and proficiencies, I wanted something that was similar to a monk (reflecting the meditative state required to unlock a Spirit Master’s powers) but also reflected their focus on introspection and observation. A proficiency with Dexterity saving throws was given because I felt it reinforced the idea that the Spirit Master is so in tune with their body that they react without thinking. This emphasis on the body also makes Spirit Masters natural healers.
This was all rounded out with simple and relatively basic starting equipment as a way of showing the lifestyle many Spirit Masters lead.
Projection is the core around which the whole class is built. I felt that having players need to make Concentration rolls when taking damage would be annoying and instead chose to lower their AC and make them aware of attacks against their body whilst using the feature. As it is the core of the class, I felt that it should be the conduit for all the other abilities.
Spirit Weapon was created to solve the problem of Spirit Masters having to resort to fists. I wanted players to feel they were having a meaningful impact on the battle and making this damage magical but only from simple weapons reflects the strange abilities of the class. This is then improved upon at 11th level with Manifested Weapon, because I felt that at that point, the Spirit Master should be so in tune with themselves and the core of their power that they should be able to use fragments of it without using the Projection feature.
When looking at ways in which a keystone ability can be reflected for a class like this, I felt that turning the body completely into its spirit was the way to go. Both Spirit Essence and True Spirit Essence are intended to reflect the mastery of the Spirit Master over both body and spirit.
This Mastery was designed as a debuffer. The class, as a whole, screamed ‘CONTROLLER’ at me while I was working out the basics and I realised that there are a lot of different ways to control the battlefield. The Nightmare Spirit was built around the idea that rather than locking down areas of the battlefield, hostile NPCs themselves can be locked down.
The Shade was present in several different forms before I realised that this Mastery could probably do with a utility feature. It turns the Nightmare Spirit into something less combat orientated and brings some interesting solutions to the tabletop.
Both The Fear and The Terror were created as a means of locking down the enemy. The Terror was intentionally created as a double edged sword that affects allies as well to reflect the power of the Spirit Master and give a sense of threat to the action, meaning it should be saved for the perfect moment.
The Nightmare is just a nuke, pure and simple. I wanted some way the Nightmare Spirit could unleash its power without dominating every fight.
This Mastery was built as the ultimate control form of this class. It specialises in locking down the battlefield.
Smoke on the Breeze was the most interesting way I could think to lock the battlefield down. It’s balanced by the creation of multiple targets all sharing one health pool.
Grasping Smoke increased the threat range of the class, presenting it with an opportunity to support allies as well as deny enemies movement.
Much like The Shade, Obscuring Smoke was created to offer some utility to the class. This time however, it gives much more reliable protection to allies whilst damaging the Spirit Master. As with Smoke on the Breeze, this double edged sword is intentional, the Spirit Master’s influence on the battlefield is balanced by the risk to its health.
Toxic Smoke, again, is a nuke. I wanted something to synergise with Smoke on the Breeze that also reflected the double edged sword aspect. Risk and reward was a big theme when I designed this Mastery.
This was built as the opposite of Nightmare Spirit. Rather than debuffing the enemy, I wanted something that would buff its allies as it took damage. Again, risk versus reward played heavily into my design. Rather than inflicting favourable conditions, I wanted a front-line healer that effectively used its own hit points to heal allies.
Rejuvenating Flash is pretty self-explanatory and fits with the aims of the Mastery.
Restoring Light and Celestial Reinvigoration were created to provide a good supply of healing whilst providing opportunities for your allies to exploit.
Burning Radiance is intended to reflect some combat utility in this Mastery. The addition of the restoration of the Spirit Master’s maximum health value was created to give some resilience to this Mastery. It is, after all, fuelling most of its features with its own hit points.
Celestial Reinvigoration was given a damage effect and an auto-blind to reflect its status as both a high level ability and to encourage the Spirit Master to sacrifice large amounts of maximum health to fuel the feature.
That rounds out my design notes. If you have any feedback, leave a message or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Similarly, if you have used this class, please feel free to give me feedback on it at the same address so I can improve and update it.
I hope you enjoyed reading this.