Wednesday, 15 November 2017

5e: The Why and How of a Celestial Warlock

When the Celestial pact warlock first appeared in Unearthed Arcana, my first response was "why?".  Based on comments and discussions I've seen about this archetype both in its original form and in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, I know that it's a fairly common feeling.

It's an easy conclusion to jump to: warlocks, perhaps more than any other class, are intrinsically tied to their story. A warlock is supposed to have made a choice, probably a foolish one, to tie themselves to a powerful being with an alien and likely dangerous agenda. It's about the nature of corruption, subservience, and often the desire to escape from the pact. When you think of a Celestial creature, you don't necessarily think of it as a fearsome entity that would engender such complex feelings. Surely the goals of the Celestial are noble, and the warlock would serve it willingly?

Not at all! I've come to a new conclusion: Celestial warlocks are absolutely fine and a completely worthy addition to the game. And here's why:

Alignment Extremes of any kind are anathema to life as we know it

In the works of famed fantasy author Michael Moorcock his heroes strive, succeed, and fail against the backdrop of a cruel and uncaring universe. The higher powers of Law and Chaos each want to conquer the other, but neither side must be allowed to win. Absolute order or absolute anarchy in the cosmos are desired states for these godly entities, but either resolution would mean the extinction of mere mortals, who are creatures whose natures are somewhere in between.

Solar stock art by and © Jacob Blackmon


The D&D cosmology is perhaps not quite that cruel. If the Lawful Good gods did overthrow all that is Evil, the mortal races probably wouldn't be obliterated, unable to survive. But they would still  lose something incredibly important: choice. And choice is a key factor in what makes life worth living. In a world ordered by absolute goodness and absolute adherence to the prescribed order, a person must always act the correct and proper way. They can give themselves no allowance to be flawed. In a world where Evil is gone, the gods of Good no longer need to give a person who fails to be good allowances because of the existence of sin. Sin is meant to be eradicated. The sinner is a threat to the established world order.

That extreme is unlikely to come to pass, but it's useful to think about when considering the true nature of Celestial beings. Celestials, like other outsiders, are creatures whose alignment is baked into their souls and their very bones. Their alignment is writ large in capital letters. They know of NO other way to be.

In short, Celestials are actually as alien to mortal minds as Devils and Demons. They are also potentially just as dangerous to a free-thinking being. A Lawful Good celestial doesn't understand that sometimes a law might need to be broken, or even bent. A Chaotic Good celestial sees a servant of order as a threat to the concept of Freedom (with a capital "F") that is at the very core of their being, regardless of whether that creature also happens to be Good. Any Celestial cannot comprehend even small acts of selfishness, although Lawful and Chaotic Celestials may occasionally see the need to make a tough decision for the greater good of their ethical cause.

Just as devils and demons will war with each other because their brands of Evil are incompatible,  the forces of Lawful Good and Chaotic Good can and do clash against each other. Given the proximity of their realms in the Great Wheel, they probably fight between themselves far more often than they war with the forces of the lower planes. This is the perfect demonstration of the rigidity of a Celestial's stance. Celestial creatures will take similarly unmovable stances when faced with mortals who act in ways that are not in accordance with the Celestial's belief. Behave in the wrong way while a Celestial is there to witness, and they will undoubtedly decide you must be brought to whatever they understand to be Justice for your perceived sin.

Celestials and Gods are not the same

What is a God or Goddess without their worshippers? For better or worse, deities are locked into a mutually symbiotic relationship with mortalkind. In many settings, some or all gods may even be former mortals, and therefore dimly remember their mortal agendas and sympathies.

Gods also have thousands if not millions of worshippers, and they must constantly deal with the complex politics of the divine realms. They might even have other functions to occupy large portions of their attention and energy (such as a deity that gives of themselves to holding back an ancient, unstoppable Evil).

Gods do sometimes take an active interest in the Clerics and Paladins that worship them, but they are largely distant, content to let their mortal servants go about their business provided they adhere to the proper tenets and take part in the right causes. A Paladin or Cleric who fails their God may be punished in a direct fashion if their sin is great enough, but the likely result is simply falling from the God's favour and losing their link to the deity's divine power. The God knows that the destiny of sinners is an eternity on the lower planes, which is punishment enough.

As a mere servant, a Solar or Ki-Rin or other celestial creature has far fewer concerns. Their attention is not divided among a multitude of followers and they aren’t involved in complex divine intrigues. They have a handful (or maybe even just one) warlock agent. Like that middle manager you can't stand, they have the time and the inclination to take a very personal interest in exactly what their warlock is doing.


Celestial Unicorn stock art by and © Jacob Blackmon

Celestial Warlocks as Sinners

It's not the only option, as there's certainly a case for people to offer themselves to Celestial pacts willingly and then later regret it,  but consider the idea that most if not all Celestial warlocks are people who have sinned badly in the past. The Celestial has offered them one final chance, asking for their service and offering in return to make the former sinner's case to their God at the end of their unimpeachable service. Binding themselves to the Celestial seems to be the only way left for the sinner to earn a way back into whatever heaven they believe in.

In this case, serving the Celestial will be even harder on the warlock, because they must constantly fight against their former instincts to try to be the better person the Celestial demands them to be.

Roleplaying a Celestial Patron

Don't treat the Celestial patron like a benevolent god. They should be just as intrusive and demanding as any other patron.

The Celestial makes  uncompromising demands about not only the warlock's personal behaviour (which must be exemplary) but also about their activities: if the warlock and their comrades are doing anything but actively pursuing the Celestial's agenda of pushing their brand of Good in the world, the Celestial will want to know why and will get pretty darned angry if they don't like the explanation.

As a perfect paragon of its alignment, the Celestial is also unable to compromise and so therefore may also lack compassion,  acting with complete lack of feeling when it comes to the warlock's own wants, desires, and sometimes even their physical needs. When the Celestial patron’s eye is upon the warlock, they can’t afford to make a single misstep. And as with any other pact, the warlock never really knows when the patron's eye is upon them. They should expect to be judged harshly for every action. Such oversight could make the warlock feel just as trapped and helpless as if they were under the cloven hoof of an Archduke of Hell.

If the Celestial is Neutral Good, the patron expect acts of extreme kindness and sacrifice. The warlock must give away their last morsels of food to the starving rather than make the selfish choice to keep it, for example. They must constantly sacrifice of themselves for the greater good, and even offer those around them up for similar sacrifice, each and every time.

If the Celestial is Lawful Good, the warlock must adhere to any rightful law, even if it results in punishment for themselves or for someone they love, even if it compromises their current goals. In general the patron also expects the kind of behaviours that a Neutral Good Celestial expects, but it is sometimes permissible to make harder choices in service of the greater cause of Law.

If the Celestial is Chaotic Good, the warlock must challenge oppression in all its forms where they find it, even when that would compromise the warlock's safety or the quest. In general the patron also expects the kind of behaviours that a Neutral Good Celestial expects, but it is sometimes permissible to make harder choices in service of the greater cause of Chaos.

Consequences of Failure

The displeasure of a Celestial patron comes with consequences just as real as any other. A Celestial warlock that fails to act according to the extreme nature of the patron’s alignment will receive some manner of retribution. Celestials are not the type to torture, of course, but they can take things from the warlock or put them under the effects of some kind of curse. Often, Celestial punishments are designed to teach the warlock a lesson about the sin they were deemed to have committed.

Just as an Archfiend may ultimately feel that their warlock has outlived their usefulness, a Celestial patron has it in their power to claim the warlock's soul. They will do so without hesitation if the warlock's failures are extreme or regularly repeated. What happens to the soul then? It could be purified by the Celestial and absorbed, increasing their own power to fight the good fight. That power could instead be gifted to another more worthy agent. The soul could even be used by the Celestial's own patron (the God they ultimately serve), perhaps to create a new, untainted mortal life.

Your Thoughts

What do you think about the Celestial pact for the warlock? Leave a comment or reach out on twitter!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

5e Fallout: Malevolent Mirelurks and Ghastly Gatorclaws

The Fifth Edition Fallout bestiary gets a new update today! In addition to that, this time round I made some changes to the Races section and I created a new Fifth Edition Fallout character sheet!

Vault Dweller Personal Record
Vault Dweller Personal Record


Awesome, right?

All the updates listed below have now been added to the Fifth Edition Fallout sourcebook. You can download it, the character sheet above, and additional resources from the Fifth Edition Fallout hub.

New Monstrous Additions to Fifth Edition Fallout

As you may now, I released the Fifth Edition Fallout sourcebook with a limited bestiary which I've been expanding over time. At release, the rules included dogs and them molerat, a bunch of raiders, and a selection of robots. Since release, I've been running twitter polls to decide which category of creatures to work on next, and adding in lesser known monsters from DLCs and such as "bonus content".

As a result of the first poll, I added feral ghouls to the game. I also opted to add a couple more raider bosses and Ghost People (from the New Vegas add-on Dead Money).

The second poll resulted in Super Mutants getting added to the game. I also chose to include Nightkin and Centaurs in the update, though not mutant hounds (I didn't rectify that this time round, but hopefully will soon). The bonus creatures that time round were Tunnelers (from the New Vegas add-on Lonesome Road).

The most recent poll was a clear win for Mirelurks, so they're the focus of this update. However, there's some other cool new stuff!

These updates bring the page count to around 90 pages! They includes:

Gatorclaws

  • Gatorclaw (CR 13)

Mirelurks

  • Softshell Mirelurk (CR 1/8)
  • Mirelurk (CR 1)
  • Mirelurk Razorclaw (CR 5)
  • Mirelurk Killclaw (CR 8)
  • Glowing Mirelurk (CR 10)
  • Nukalurk (CR 12)
  • Bloodrage Mirelurk (CR 13)
  • Mirelurk Hunter (CR 10)
  • Glowing Mirelurk Hunter (CR 13)
  • Nukalurk Hunter (CR 16)
  • Mirelurk King (CR 10)
  • Glowing Mirelurk King (CR 12)
  • Nukalurk King (CR 14, legendary)
  • Mirelurk Deep King (CR 16, legendary)
  • Catfish Mirelurk (CR 13)
  • Mirelurk Queen (CR 24, legendary)
  • Mirelurk Hatchling (CR 0)
  • Nukalurk Queen (CR 25, legendary)

Creature Templates

New templates that can be added to existing monsters to easily create new variants! Some template are derived from actual Fallout creature types (such as Albino, Glowing, and Nuklear) while others are less explicitly tied to Fallout (such as Cunning, Hulking, and Swift).
  • Albino
  • Cunning
  • Hulking
  • Glowing
  • Legendary (yes, this template is intended to help with quickly creating new Legendary creatures)
  • Nuklear
  • Resilient
  • Swift

Other Updates

  • Changes to the following Races: Human (now includes subraces: Gen-3 Synth, Vault Born, Vault Survivor, and Wastelander), Super Mutant (some adjustments to the text of racial traits, no mechanical changes).
  • Updates to the Classes/archetypes section to account for the release of Xanathar's Guide to Everything.
  • Addition of a advice sidebar on when and how to use Doomsday Devices in the game.
  • Sidebar added to the Super Mutant Suicider regarding when and how to use it in the game.
  • The Deathclaw and Alpha Deathclaw have both had some statblock adjustments to correect an error in CR calculation (the CR of each remains unchanged).
  • A smattering of minor typographical corrections elsewhere in the text.

Explore the Wastes in Style!

Fifth Edition Fallout now has its own character sheet (pictured earlier in the article)! The sheet is a single-page PDF that includes features unique to Fifth Edition Fallout such as places to track your Dehydration, Starvation, radiation exposure, and power armour. For now I focused on the important crunch stuff, since you could use another sheet, a notebook, etc. for descriptions, character bios, and other fluff stuff. Expanding it to two pages might be something I return to later if there's enough demand!

The character sheet comes in both print and form-fillable flavours. Visit the Fifth Edition Fallout hub to download a copy!

Next for Fifth Edition Fallout

I already started the poll for the next bestiary update:


As you can see (assuming you read this article within the first day of it's posting), there's still a little time to cast your own vote if you haven't already!

Your Thoughts

As usual I'd love to hear your thoughts about any aspect of Fifth Edition Fallout. Please also reach out if you catch any errors so I can fix it asap!

Monday, 6 November 2017

5e: Killer Feats for Contract Killers with Killer Smiles

The following feats are perfect for assassins and spies who want to be ready to tackle a dirty job, no matter how secure the facility or public the environs. These new tools give such characters new ways to enveigle secrets from their marks and to keep them alive in the event they become exposed.

Blade in the Dark

You are a master of up close and personal wetwork, silencing guards and targets with lethal efficiency without drawing unwanted attention. You gain the following benefits: 
  • Increase your Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You gain proficiency in Stealth. 
  • When you hit an unsuspecting or surprised creature with a finesse weapon, roll 2d6 and add it to the attack's damage. Your Blade in the Dark damage bonus stacks with a Rogue's Sneak Attack class feature. 
  • If you reduce an enemy to 0 hit points or render them unconscious while they are unaware or surprised, you muffle their mouth or otherwise prevent them from making noise. 

Concealed Weapons

You are a contract killer who has mastered the art of eliminating targets when others would find it impossible, too risky, or too public to reach them. As such, you perfect new skills that enable you to smuggle implements of death into environments as varied as ballrooms and secure facilities. You gain the following benefits:

  • Increase your Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.   
  • You are proficient with underhand weapons and always carry several of them on your person. Underhand weapons are creative killing tools that easily blend in with your outfit and can be use as both garottes and whip-like lashes. Common techniques for creating underhand weapons include: sewing razor blades into scarves, sashes, or along the edge of belts; replacing necklace strings with durable wire; and forging decorative belly chains that are in fact strong enough to choke a person without breaking.

    You can always draw an underhand weapon while you are wearing your own clothes. You can make the necessary modifications to a set of clothes that has been borrowed or stolen by spending at least an hour incorporating existing underhand weapons into the outfit and creating new ones that better suit it.

    In your hands an underhand weapon is a two-handed finesse melee weapon which deals 1d6 damage, and because you carry so many you can choose whether it deals bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage when you draw the weapon from your outfit. Wielded by someone without this feat, an underhand weapon is also considered an improvised weapon (and therefore deals only 1d4 damage), and its damage type must be predetermined. 
  • Your underhand weapons and one other small or otherwise easily hidden item are concealed so well on your person that anyone observing or searching you has difficulty finding them. The item in question can be a dagger, light hammer, sling (with up to 10 sling bullets), whip, blowgun (with up to 30 needles), or a similarly sized item that weighs no more than 5 lb.

    Your underhand weapons and the concealed item are hidden so well that they cannot be spotted using Wisdom (Perception). When you are searched, the searcher rolls their Intelligence (Investigation) check as though they had disadvantage, using the lower of the two results for the purposes of finding these items and the higher of the two results for the purposes of finding any other objects or secrets you are trying to hide. If the searcher has advance knowledge that tells them where and what they are looking for, they roll their Intelligence (Investigation) check normally.


Consummate Liar

Falsehoods pass through your lips as naturally as breath through your lungs. You gain the following benefits:
  • Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • When you make a Charisma (Deception) check, the minimum you can roll on the d20 is 8. If you roll less than that, treat your roll as an 8 instead. 
  • If you have already successfully lied to a creature since your last short rest, you have advantage on all further attempts to convince that creature of a lie until you fail an ability check, you tell a lie that is demonstrably false, or you take a short rest. Once you are caught in a lie, you cannot gain this benefit against a creature that knows you lied until at least 24 hours have passed.  

Devastating Allure

You possess great physical beauty and potent animal magnetism, which you use to manipulate those who are attracted to your sex. You gain the following benefits: 

  • Increase your Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • Any Indifferent NPC who considers you attractive is instead Friendly towards you (though not your allies).
  • You have advantage on Charisma (Deception) and Charisma (Persuasion) checks made against anyone whom is attracted to members of your sex.
  • You add +5 to the result of a Charisma (Performance) check against any member of the audience who is attracted to your sex.
  • Whenever you deal psychic damage to any target whom is attracted to members of your sex, increase the damage by 1d4.
Note that when an NPC's preference has not been predetermined, the DM may choose to do so randomly using any method of their preferencce. While an oversimplification of the demographics of sexuality, here is one possible method rolled on a d12: 
1-3: attraction to the opposite sex (heterosexual).
4-5: attraction to the male and female sexes (bisexual).
6: attraction to all genders (pansexual).
7: attraction to multiple genders, but not all (polysexual).
8: attraction to non-binary persons (skoliosexual).
9: not attracted to anyone (asexual).
10-12: attracted to the same sex (homosexual).

Knife Thrower

You have mastered throwing knives. You gain the following benefits:
  • In your hands, light thrown weapons have a range of 30/90. 
  • When you make an Attack action and all the attacks you make are with daggers, you may make one extra attack which must also be with a dagger. If you are a monk, this attack deals normal damage for a dagger rather than your Martial Arts damage. 
  • You may spend your action to aim at a target you specify. If you do so, add +5 to all attack rolls made with thrown daggers on your next turn. 

Other Feats for your Build

You'll definitely want the Skulker feat both for its stealth abilities and so you can avoid the disadvantage from operating in dim lighting conditions. Actor can help you get into private parties and other places you don't belong. Consider Mobile to more quickly maneuver through an enemy facility or flee it if things go South. Lucky is a solid choice for someone who takes so many risks! If building a spy rather than an assassin, consider Observant.