Thursday, 14 February 2019

5e: Valentine's Special! Warlock Patron, The Cupid

Happy Valentine's Day to all! To celebrate, add a little love to your game with this new warlock archetype!

The Cupid

Your patron is a celestial entity of pure and boundless love. You overflow with the love and light of your patron, and you are compelled to help mortals feel the same burning passion. You do everything you can to facilitate the loving relationships of those around you in order to bring more wonder and joy into the world.

A Cupid-pact Warlock. Stock Art © Matt Morrow. Licensed for use.

Expanded Spell List

The Cupid 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.

Cupid Patron Expanded Spells

Spell Level
animal friendship, heroism
alter self, calm emotions
conjure barragelightning arrow
compulsion, locate creature
conjure volley, geas

Bonus Cantrips

At 1st level, you learn the guidance and message cantrips. They count as warlock cantrips for you, but they don’t count against your number of cantrips known.

Cupid's Bow

Also at 1st level, you can spend an action to form a longbow of light in your hand. An arrow fired from Cupid's bow transforms to radiant energy, and deals 1d8 radiant damage instead of piercing. You are proficient with the bow, and you use your Charisma modifier, instead of  Dexterity, for its attack and damage rolls.

You can also use your Cupid's bow to fire a Cupid's arrow a number of times per day equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum of 1). If this invisible, intangible arrow hits its target, that creature is not aware it was hit but must make a Wisdom saving throw against your warlock spell save DC. On a failed save, it becomes charmed by another creature. If the target can see another creature which it already has loving feelings for, it is charmed by that creature. Otherwise, it is charmed by your choice of either a creature that both you and the target can see or the first creature the target sees within the next minute. Once the target is charmed, it remains charmed for a minute or until the creature charming it does something harmful to it. It can repeat its saving throw at the end of its turn, ending the effect on itself on a success. While charmed the target is distracted by its feelings, and has disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks and saving throws for the duration of the charmed condition or until it takes damage or otherwise suffers harm. If the creature's affections are genuine, it gains the sudden urge to confess its feelings. If it does so while still charmed, the confession is made with such confidence that the target makes a very favourable impression. The attitude of the recipient improves towards the target (from hostile to indifferent or indifferent to friendly). If the recipient is already friendly towards the target, it seriously considers their confession and responds to their feelings with an honest and respectful answer.

Your Cupid's bow disappears if it is more than 5 feet away from you for 1 minute or more. It also disappears if you dismiss the weapon (no action required), or if you die.

You can absorb the magical properties of one magic ranged weapon into your Cupid's bow by performing a special ritual while you hold the weapon. You perform the ritual over the course of 1 hour, which can be done during a short rest. The magic weapon is consumed by the ritual, but thereafter your Cupid's bow acquires any attack and damage bonus or special features that belonged to the consumed weapon. Your Cupid's bow can only absorb one item's properties at a time. If you perform the ritual again, the properties of the old item are replaced by those of the new. You can’t affect an artifact or a sentient weapon in this way.

Cupid's Bond

Starting at 6th level, you can attack with your Cupid's bow twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn. If you attack two different targets and both attacks hit, you may force both to make a Charisma saving throw against your warlock spell save DC. On a failed save, the target is life-bonded to the other creature you attacked until the end of your next turn. When the creature to which it is life-bonded takes damage, the target suffers half as much radiant damage. Once you one or more creatures fails their Charisma saving throw against this feature, you can't use it again until 24 hours have passed.

Power of Love

Also at 6th level, you can perform a ceremony over the course of a short rest that bonds two or more willing creatures that you touch, all of whom must love every other creature targeted. Their love needn't be romantic, but must be genuinely felt, and cannot be the result of magic or other artificial stimuli. For the next 24 hours, all targets gain the following benefits:

  • While they remain within 30 feet of each other, each target gains a +2 bonus to AC.
  • When one of the targets takes the Help action to assist another target, their proficiency bonus is added to the Helped creature's ability check or attack roll.
  • A target may spend its reaction to give a number of their Hit Dice up to their proficiency bonus to another target that they can see. The gifted Hit Dice are immediately spent by the second target who gains hit points equal to the total of the rolls. The recipient may add the highest of their Constitution bonus or the giver's Charisma bonus to the gifted Hit Dice to determine hit points gained.  

When you perform the ceremony and a participant does not feel genuine love towards one or more other targets, the ceremony fails. You learn which targets don't love which. If a target believes they feel love but those feelings are artificial, you also discover it. You do not lose the use of this feature when it fails, but you can't attempt it again during the same short rest.

Once you have successfully used this feature, you cannot do so again until you complete a long rest.

Unadulterated Love

Beginning at 10th level, you can channel Cupid's boundless love to create an overwhelming aura. Each creature within 30 feet of you must make a Wisdom saving throw against your warlock spell save DC. On a failed save, a creature reacts to the pressure of the aura in one of several ways: it might be charmed by you, stunned by you, or frightened of you for a number of rounds equal to your Charisma bonus, or until a condition is met that ends the effect early.  Roll 1d6 to determine the effect on each target. If you roll the charmed of frightened result for a creature that is immune to the condition rolled, it suffers the opposite effect instead unless also immune to that condition. The target can repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

Target is stunned. The effect ends early if it is harmed by you or one of your allies.
Target is charmed. The effect ends early if it is harmed by you or one of your allies.
Target is frightened. The effect ends early if it is at least 120 feet away from you and can't see you.

Once you have used this feature, you can't use it again until you finish a long rest.


From 14th level your patron's love protects you from the worst of the world's ills. You never become sick, and you are immune to all forms of disease.

Additionally, when you are reduced to 0 hit points you are instead protected by the aegis of your patron's love. You regain hit points equal to your warlock level, and you have +5 AC and advantage on saving throws until the end of your next turn. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

5e: Low Magic Spell Slots

In mid-December last year, Mike Mearls posted an intriguing houserule intended to lower the potency of magic without also lowering a spellcaster's overall output. It was framed as an aid to DMs struggling to cope with the myriad ways high level spells can make adventure planning and encounter design more challenging, but by its very nature the houserule is also a powerful new module for groups who prefer low magic settings.

This houserule is built on the premise that all spell levels are equal, so that two 1st-level spells are worth the same and have the same sort of output as one 2nd-level spell, three 1st-level spells matches a single 3rd-level spell, and so on and so forth. This is largely consistent with the rules as presented in the Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition core books: we can refer to either the "at higher levels" entry of spells in the Player's Handbook or the Spell Damage table under Creating a Spell in the Dungeon Master's Guide to confirm that, as a rule, each spell level adds one die of damage. Technically then, the house rule above ensures that spellcasters maintain their existing potential for damage-dealing/healing.

Of course, things aren't as simple as that in practice for multiple reasons. Official spells play fast and loose with this formula and certain legacy spells break it completely. Your sorcerer will never have access to the insane meteor swarm. Then there are spells that don't deal damage, but introduce world-bending effects (like Wish, say). Additionally, a lower cap on spell level restricts the amount of damage spellcasters can deal during a single turn. The caster might be able to do the same damage in the long run, but it'll take them longer and that makes things more dangerous for them and their party.  If you implement the rule, be very wary of high CR monsters with large hit point pools.

On the other hand, it may have some positive side effects. For instance a healer has a lot more slots for cure wounds and other restorative spells, so that additional danger may be balanced out, in part, by an increased resilience.

In short, the houserule is technically fair but may have the consequence of making parts of the game a little harder, particularly combats against higher CR monsters.

Note that spellcasters are still extraordinarily powerful in the fiction, even if the effects they can manifest have become more limited. A 20th-level wizard may not be able to cast wish, but they can cast nine cones of cold which would be enough to single-handedly decimate a small army. We tend to use the terms "low magic" and "high magic", but this houserule might suit a setting in which magic is more "medium magic", falling somewhere in the middle.

I wanted to make Mike's houserule easy to visualise and implement so I went ahead and made a new Spell Slots per Level table based on it. Use this table in place of the spell slots section of the full caster class tables.

Full Caster Spell Slots
—Medium Magic—
(Mearls House Rule)

1st 2
2nd 3
3rd 4 2
4th 4 3
5th 4 3 2
6th 4 3 3
7th 4 3 3 1
8th 4 3 3 2
9th 4 3 3 3 1
10th 4 3 3 3 2
11th 5 3 3 3 3
12th 5 3 3 3 3
13th 5 4 3 3 4
14th 5 4 3 3 4
15th 5 4 4 3 5
16th 5 4 4 3 5
17th 5 4 4 4 6
18th 5 4 4 4 7
19th 6 4 4 4 8
20th 6 5 4 4 9

One quirk of the house rule which is made very obvious when it is presented in table form: a rapid increase in 5th level spell slots, far outstripping growth of lower level slots. There are good reasons for this, but it makes for an odd evolution in the character's power which breaks with the game's norms. We expect higher spell levels to have equal or fewer slots to the spell levels that precede them.

Just for fun, I tried to make an alternative table which would convert the 6th-9th level slots down in the same way, but which would ensure that no spell level ever gets more slots than a lower spell level. This proved possible, but the solution to make it worked was a great deal more complex than Mike's "one 5th-level slot plus one [X-5]th level slot, where X is the original spell slot level" house rule. There is no universal formula here, the precise conversions had to be massaged to fit the rules I'd imposed.

The curious can read about these substitutions in detail immediately below. The rest should just skip ahead to the table!

  • Class Level 11: The 6th-level slot is replaced by 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd-level slots.
  • Class Level 13: The 7th-level slot at class level 13 becomes a 2nd- and a 5th-level slot.
  • Class Level 15: The 8th-level slot is replaced by 1st-, 3rd-, and 4th-level slot.
  • Class Level 17: The 9th-level slot normally granted at class level 17 becomes a 2nd-, 3rd-, and 4th-level slot.  
  • Class Level 19: The 6th-level slot is replaced by 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd-level slots.
  • Class Level 20: The 7th-level slot at class level 20 is converted into a 1st-, 2nd-, and 4th-level slot. 

Full Caster Spell Slots
—Low Magic—

1st 2
2nd 3
3rd 4 2
4th 4 3
5th 4 3 2
6th 4 3 3
7th 4 3 3 1
8th 4 3 3 2
9th 4 3 3 3 1
10th 4 3 3 3 2
11th 5 4 4 3 2
12th 5 4 4 3 2
13th 5 5 4 3 3
14th 5 5 4 3 3
15th 6 5 5 4 3
16th 6 5 5 4 3
17th 6 6 6 5 3
18th 6 6 6 5 4
19th 7 7 7 5 4
20th 8 8 7 6 4

I'm pretty happy with this alternative. It preserves the expectation that the lower the spell level, the more slots the character should have. The difference in the number of slots also isn't too overwhelming (at 20th level, a character would have 33 slots compared to 28 with Mike Mearls' original house rule).

Since the spell slots skew to lower levels the same consequences discussed above naturally apply to this version of the house rule as well. But here they apply to an even greater extent. Therefore, this alternative table is best suited to deadly, gritty, low magic games, such as those with themes of survival and horror that more powerful magic would likely undermine.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

5e: Spelljammer Races: Part IV—Hurwaeti, Insectare, and Spaceborn Lizardfolk

Continuing my series of Spelljammer races conversions, we move on to three more denizens of wildspace! Meet the Hurwaeti, Insectare, and the Spaceborn Lizardfolk variant race!

This is part 4 in the series. Visit my Spelljammer page for links to previous posts in the series.


The hurwaeti are an olive-scaled reptilian race. Like a bullywug, they have long frog-like legs and webbed fingers and toes resembles an olive-scaled bullywug with long frog-like legs, webbed fingers and toes.  Their wide head resembles a gnome’s, with large pointed ears, a prominient nose, and a sharp chin. Adult hurwaeti of either sex have short, sparse beards and tufts of coarse hair atop their heads. Their scales are small, hard, and shiny, giving their hides a glossy appearance sometimes mistaken for dampness.

Hurwaeti were once a very advanced spacefaring race with colonies in many systems. They spread art, civilization, morality, and altruistic philosophy throughout the spheres. However, an ancient war with aberration-kind shattered them and killed their best and brightest. Many hurwaeti colonists were stranded on more primitive and dagerous worlds, and the descendants of these degenerated into creatures known as swamp and salt wiggles (don’t call a hurwaeti a wiggle!). The hurwaeti ventured out from their homeworld again following the war, but they are a shadow of the past. They wander the spheres as impoverish tribes, earning money in any way they can, including mercenary work but seldom piracy (their circumstances have changed, but they have not abandoned their ancient principles). Hurwaeti don’t talk about the war that lay them low, but their hatred of beholders, illithid, and neogi suggests that they fought all three simultaneously.

Hurwaeti Traits

Your hurwaeti has the following racial traits.

Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age. Hurwaeti reach adulthood by the age of 30, and can live past their 300th year by a comfortable margin. 

Alignment. Hurwaeti parents still teach their children principles of altruism, hospitality, and decency, but they also teach that the needs of the tribe have to come first.  Hurwaeti try to avoid crossing the worst moral and ethical lines, but they are quite prepared to sacrifice their personal honour if necessity demands it.  They are typically neutral. 

Size. The average height of a hurwaeti is a 6 and a half feet. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Ancient Hatred. When you make a weapon attack against a creature with the aberration type, you add an additional 1d6 to the weapon’s damage dice.  

Natural Armour. You have tough, scaly skin. When you aren’t wearing armour, your AC is 13 + your Dexterity modifier. You can use your natural armour to determine your AC if the armour you wear would leave you with a lower AC. A shield’s benefits apply as normal while you use your natural armour.

Obscuring Mist. You can cast fog cloud as a 1st level spell once with this trait, requiring no material components, and you regain the ability to cast it this way when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for this spell. When you’re higher level, the fog cloud you create can be larger, as though you cast it using a higher level spell slot: at every odd-numbered level until 9th, the maximum spell level of your fog cloud increases by 1. You may always choose the spell level and thus the size of your fog cloud, choosing from among any spell levels for which you qualify. 

Standing Leap. You can long jump up to 20 feet and high jump up to 10 feet, with or without a running start. 

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Draconic.


Insectare are humanoids that resemble a cross between insects and elves. In fact, rumours have it that their species is indeed a magical hybrid of the two, though elves despise insectare and vehemently deny the possibility of such a relationship. Insectares have the general physical build of an elf, but are distinguished by lime green skin and extraordinarily long antennae that sprout from behind their pointed ears. Most insectare have eyes that on very close inspection prove to be multi-faceted. For some reason insectare clerics of their deity Klikral are an exception, possessing perfectly normal eyes. Insectare are not well-liked, and they often prefer to go disguised, hiding their antennae in folds of voluminous hooded robes.

The insectare race is a secretive one, keeping to themselves and jealously guarding the location of their forested homeworld, or even clues that might help lead to its location. They have ambitions to rule space, but they are too sly to wage war, at least until victory is assured. They prefer to scheme, plucking at the threads in the political web to turn other factions against each other.

Insectare live within the mountains of their world, riddling the rock with tunnels and dwellings not dissimilar to the nest of an ant or other insect colony. Their society is broken up into two blocs: Insectare that serve the Arcane are the most likely to leave their world, exploring wildspace to discover magical power and working to pursue the insectares’ offworld agenda; meanwhile, the servans of the Divine remain on the homeworld, diligently following the commandments of Klikral. 


Insectare Traits

Your insectare has the following racial traits.

Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Age. An insectare reaches physical maturity around the same time as a human would. They usually live for approximately 500 years, though a handful of Klikral’s chosen priests can live over twice as long.

Alignment. A Klikral’s personal agenda tends to be a microcosm of the larger insectare agenda: they are only interested in what will benefit themselves, even to the expense of others. Their society is a very ordered one, with every member of the colony knowing their place, and few choosing to reject their role. They are mostly lawful evil. 

Size. An insectare is between 6 and 7 feet tall, and continues to grow as they age, albeit at a glacial pace. Your size is Medium, though some unusually ancient insectare can survive long enough to become Large.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Antennae. You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks you make. You can also communicate with another insectare telepathically by touching the tips of your antennae to their own. Furthermore, you can use your antennae as natural weapons with which you may make unarmed strikes, or you can use them to make a grapple. Your antennae are treated as whips: they have the finesse and reach properties, and if you hit with them, you deal bludgeoning damage equal to 1d4 + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (whichever is highest). 

Exoskeleton. Your chitinous exoskeleton affords you excellent protection, without restricting your movement. Your base AC is 17 (your Dexterity modifier doesn’t affect this number). You gain no benefit from wearing armour, but if you are using a shield, you apply its bonus as normal. 

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Insectare. Insectare is a lilting language that borrows from the common tongue but also makes use of various clicking sounds. A creature which understands the Common tongue has a 30% chance of catching the general idea of a conversation between insectare, but cannot provide a comprehensive translation.

Lizardfolk, Spaceborn

Lizardfolk are inscrutable reptilian humanoids. They were brought into space as slaves, but became free. Spaceborn lizardfolk have become more intelligent and less torpid than their more primitive planet-dwelling cousins. Spaceborn lizardfolk attribute this change in their nature to their spelljamming near to suns and settling on worlds that are closer to them. They outfit spelljamming ships as incubators whose purpose is to bring their eggs closer to the nearest sun.

Spaceborn Lizardfolk Traits

Your lizardfolk  has the racial traits described for lizardfolk in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, but they don’t receive the Hunter’s Lore trait. Instead, they gain the trait described below. 

Sun-Blessed Skill. Thanks to the sun’s light and warmth, your body has grown stronger and your mind more keen. You gain proficiency in Athletics. You also gain proficiency in one Intelligence- or Wisdom-based skill of your choice.