Category Archives: Design Notes

Design Notes: Runecarver

This week I’m trying something new. Below you will find the design notes for the Runecarver, a supplement for D&D 5th Edition that I will be releasing NEXT Friday.

I’m hoping that something here catches your interest.

Enjoy!


Class Overview

The Runecarver is intended to sit alongside the Cleric and the Bard as a support-style class. Through simulated spellcasting, a Runecarver can grant a wide variety of effects to weapons and objects. While capable of holding their own in a fight, their primary objective is to activate a variety of buffs and debuffs through their unique magical abilities.

Hit Points

The Runecarver is designed to be a front-line support, so uses the same hit die as similar classes.

Proficiencies

The saving throws are designed to emphasise the Runecarver’s willpower and ability to channel magic.

The starting skills are a reflection of the Runecarver’s intellect and dexterity.

Equipment

There is nothing special about the starting equipment.

Multi-classing

A potential Runecarver must meet a basic Intelligence threshold.

Features

Runic

This is a thematic class feature, intended to emphasise the structured manner of the Runecarver’s magic.

Runes

The strict rules here regarding the manner in which Carvings and Runes are created is to prevent a) the willy-nilly creation of pseudo-magical objects and b) to emphasise the concentration and dedication it takes to create a Runed object.

Runestones

Rather than opt for a spell-slot like approach, I wanted the Runecarver to be thematically different from typical spell-casters and so gave them an expendable resource instead.

Rune Mastery

Practice makes perfect and all that. The idea here is that the Runecarver’s dedication pays off sometimes and allows them to have a reliable way of aiding their companions.

Inscription Feature

Basic archetype levelling as can be found in every class.

Runestone Generation

A class should never be starved for its key resource, especially one that revolves around buffing party members. This is intended to avoid this.

Ability Score Improvement

Basic ability score improvement as can be found in any class.

Runic Speech

I wanted to tie the Runecarver’s Rune Mastery feat into a feeling of advancement within the Runecarver’s art, whilst also giving a general feeling of progression and flexibility to the class.

Rune Touch

Again, this was intended to give a feeling of progression whilst improving the flexibility of the class.

Rune Keeper

This feature is designed to reflect the mastery of the character by improving their ability to inscribe and activate their Runes.

Inscriptions

By the time a Runecarver reaches 3rd level, they have discovered an affinity for runes of a certain type. Each inscription allows the Runecarver access to  Carvings and Runes that they know without counting towards the ‘Carvings Known’ and ‘Runes Known’ limits. In order to use a Rune, you must still reach the level requirement.

Inscriptions of Lore

Runecarvers who prefer a more scholarly and utilitarian approach to their craft frequently develop new methods of creating runes. Their pursuit of knowledge and efficiency allows them to improve upon the runes they already know and teach the basics of their craft to others.

Carving of Lore: Foresight

Runes of Lore: Quick-thinking and Teleport

The Scholar’s Eye

This feature is designed to emphasise the importance these Runecarver’s place on streamlining the power of their Runes.

The Scholar’s Skill

Building upon the previous feature, this represents the Runecarver becoming more efficient at their skill and being able to make subtle improvements and changes.

Sharing the Knowledge

The student becomes the teacher. The goal with this feature was to free up an action in combat for the Runecarver to do other things whilst also allowing an ally to bear some of the brunt of the resource cost.

The Teacher’s Pride

This is intended as a refinement of the previous feature.

 

Inscriptions of War

Runecarvers who delight in the chaos and maelstrom of battle frequently become adept at inscribing their runes whilst in the middle of a fight. For these Runecarvers, there is no higher testament of skill than being able to give their allies an advantage whilst avoiding the attacks of their foes.

Carving of War: Strength

Runes of War: Wounding and Arcing

Under Fire

This is for the Runecarver who likes to be in the thick of things, the one who wants to be activating Runes more often and still be able to do things on their turn in combat.

Over-charged Runes

Building upon the idea of the Inscriptions of War as being more combat focused, this feature emphasises the brutal nature of magic in combat and demonstrates that even simple things like bright flashes can distract an opponent.

Combat Runes

A further development of the previous feature that encompasses Utility and Defence Runes as well as Offense Runes.

Empowered Runes

This represents the double-edged sword of magic (a theme in my contributions to the DM’s Guild). The extra damage is significant, but can harm allies as well.

 

Design Notes: Of the Warp and the Weft

Hello dear readers, apologies for the lack of an update last week. There was an instance of family illness I returned home to deal with and have not yet built a buffer of articles to cover unforeseen circumstances.

Today’s update is, once more, a series of design notes for a product on the DM’s Guild.
This time around, rather than build a class from the ground up, I’ve expanded upon the spell-casting rules and created two new feats and a new Arcane Tradition to take advantage of the expansion. The Arcane Tradition is perfectly usable as a class option for the Wizard without using the rest of the rules so I had to be careful about what made it into the final draft of the Tradition.

The actual spell-casting rules themselves are a) far more cinematic and b) more representative of the double-edged nature of magic (in my opinion, magic should always have a cost other than a spell-slot) but they may not be for everyone. The intention behind them was to enhance gameplay rather than add another layer of complexity to it.

The document is split into three parts: Weave effects, Feats and the ‘Weaver’ Arcane Tradition.

The Weave Effects

The Weave effects (being the bulk of the expanded rules) are presented on a series of tables with a variety of random effects on them. The effects either thematically tie into the School of Magic that the triggering spell is from, or replicate the effects of a spell from that School to a limited degree.

I decided the effects would happen AFTER the spell is cast (whether successful or not) because some of the effects would interrupt the spell-casting process and thus waste the spell-slot. The effects themselves are limited to a certain area (that grows with higher level spells) because I felt that as the Weave was being twisted in a particular place, rather than over the whole battlefield, the effect itself should have a point of origin and then weaken as it moved further from that point.

The effects themselves are merely suggestions and DMs using them should feel free to change the listed effects (or the whole table/section) as they see fit. These rules are a device to enable more dangerous spell-casting, and if they serve as a springboard to even more fun, then so be it.

The Feats

The feats were designed to take advantage of the new rules and Weave effects.

Focussed Caster is intended to represent a spell-caster who has achieved a far greater level of control over the side-effects of their magic. Most of the time, they know what result their magic will have and even when they don’t, can sometimes use their knowledge to create advantageous situations. This is why, rather than the DM rolling for the effect, the player does. If they manage to get either of the two effects they have chosen, that’s great. But even if they don’t, they have a (roughly) 1:3 chance of either one of those effects or a ‘9’ which allows them to roll twice and pick an effect. This means the Focussed Caster has a 2:3 chance of getting the Weave effect they want and then, even if that fails, good odds of still getting it. This, of course, has a cost (a bonus action) and still allows for random chance.

On the other end of the scale, the Refined Caster can’t control what the effect is, but they can control who it affects. This presented, I thought, a nice opposite to ‘Focussed Caster’ and provided a nice synergy with it should a player want to take both Feats. Again, the cost (a reaction) is intended to balance out the fact that the player MAY affect the target of their spell with the Weave effect as well as whatever would happen as a result of the spell being cast.

The Weaver Arcane Tradition

In addition to these, the Weaver Arcane Tradition is also included in the document but can be used independently. My goal with this was to create an option for Wizards who opt to focus on the spell-casting process itself, rather than the magic they wield.

Raw Potential is my way of suggesting that ‘Weaver’ Wizards are more offensively focussed than other Wizard traditions, and ties in with the idea that they have a strong link the Weave.

This link was further strengthened with The Thread, providing an option to use the Wizard’s close connection to the Weave to cast multiple spells per turn.

The Loom is the feature I see getting the most usage. Thematically, it is intended to show that the ‘Weaver’ Wizard has gained a high level of mastery over the Weave and can use it to strengthen their spells. Mechanically, being able to target something else with a spell and not expend a spell slot to use it is offset by the relatively limited range that second target can be in and the cost of a bonus action, as well as the fact that it may only be used with spells that target a specific character and that the damage from the spell will only ever come from the damage dice, never any damage modifiers or critical hits. In order to prevent a high-level Wizard dominating the battlefield with this feature, I felt that at higher spell levels, the concentration required to hit a second target would incur a larger penalty and so built this in as a balancing aspect to the feature.

The Pattern is fairly self-explanatory, at this level of power the ‘Weaver’ can see the Weave itself and replicate the effect of spells if they choose to. The ‘Weaver’ is also capable of pulling harder on the Weave to fuel their rituals, negating most of the time required to perform a ritual. The intention here is that a ‘Weaver’ given enough time, COULD perform a ritual in the middle of combat.

The Tapestry. The pinnacle of the Weaver tradition. At this stage, the Wizard has become one with the Weave, able to use it both as a means of protection and a means of defence. There’s nothing much to say about this one, I wanted something passive that would aid in the Wizard in both attack and defence as well as tie in with the overall idea of the Tradition. I built upon this with the ‘active’ ability by giving it a cost to provide guaranteed damage.

 

That rounds out my design notes. If you have any feedback, leave a message or email me at thatshowwerolldice@gmail.com. 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.

Thanks,

Bubbles

Design Notes: Spirit Master

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.

Inspiration

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?

Class Features

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.

Nightmare 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.

Smothering Spirit

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.

Radiant Spirit

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 thatshowwerolldice@gmail.com. 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.

Thanks,

Bubbles