Wednesday, March 23, 2016

D&D: Demon-Binders & the Circle of the Pit

This week's D&D post is more concept sketch than playable material.  At whatever point I finally put together The Wanderhaven Sourcebook, the Demon-Binder class will most definitely be a part of it.  Several of this article's concepts appear at length in Sneakatara Boatman & the Crown of Pluto.  However, as of this writing these ideas remain a distinct work-in-progress.  

As you'll see, I borrowed heavily from the Druid and Beastmaster Ranger in building the Demon-Binder.  I hope there are some interesting ideas here, but I should point out that none of this has been playtested--at all.  It might need a little fine-tuning to get it balanced with 5e's extant content.

If you're wondering, the hardest part of this by far was deciding on the Demon-Binder's spell list.  I probably should have written some class-specific spells and designed a couple of magic item to serve as spell-foci for the class, but...  

Eh.  I didn't do any of that.  I'll do that stuff for EN5ider if they ever greenlight the Shadowlord variant of the Anti-Druid.

In the meantime, let me know what you think, folks!

Anti-Druids: Demon-Binders & the Circle of the Pit
When most people think of the Druidic Orders, they see groups of ascetics dedicated to protecting and upholding the Nature and all of its works.  You, however, saw a path to power.  What need has a man for weapons when he can turn himself into a bear or call lightning from the very heavens themselves?
Through their connection to the Natural Order, Druids learn to touch the fundamental forces of creation, channeling Gaia herself in defense of all that they hold dear.  Channeling such forces can indeed make one powerful, but what use is power when it’s shackled to the restraints inherent in the Druidic Orders?  Perhaps the Druids gave you your start, but you are discontented.  
Their way is not yours.
According to my cursory wiki-search,
Demonbinders got their start in 3.5e in
Drow of the Underdark
. I've made no effort
whatsoever to incorporate any of that in this.
Demon-Binders are former Druids who’ve turned their backs on the traditional Druidic Orders in search of personal gain.  Having eschewed the Natural World, they bond to and enslave simple demonic spirits, giving themselves access to the powers of Hel and the Pit of Tartarus.  They lose access to Druidic spells and to the ability to shift forms, but they gain martial prowess, elemental power, and a servitor demon whom they can manipulate to suit the needs of the moment.
As a Demon-Binder you serve no one and nothing, save for yourself.  You may have lost access to the powers of the Natural World, but you’ve gained so much more...
Design Notes: The Demon-Binder is intended as a kind of melee-build anti-Druid, specializing in fighting alongside a familiar that it transforms through a mechanic that’s scaled similarly to the more traditional Druid’s Wild Shape.  
One part of traditional Druid design that’s not yet been incorporated into D&D’s 5th Edition is the use of familiars.  This article seeks to close the gap in a decidedly spell-based way while taking cues from the Beastmaster Ranger.  The Beastmaster is an easy target because fans seem not to have fully embraced its mechanics.  Most consider them underpowered in comparison to other Ranger subclasses.
When I pitched this idea to my editor over at EN5ider, he pointed out that anti-Druids probably ought to embrace undeath rather than demonic power.  It’s a fair point.  I went with demonic story elements because they seemed to fit the fundamental mechanics a little better.  Using a master/slave relationship in the core mechanic creates the need for Concentration--there should be no assumption that your demon wants to help you--which in turn balances this subclass against existing classes of spellcasters.  That’s the theory, anyway.  The problem this creates, however, is in the Demon-Binder’s spell list, which needed to be completely re-worked.  The Druid’s core list is not on-theme, and anyway, I said at the outset that I wanted to make a melee-build.  This will require a somewhat new approach in choosing spells.
This undoubtedly needs some playtesting.  I’ve not done that.  This here is more of a detailed concept-sketch.
Classic drow line art from Descent into the Depths of the Earth.
If memory serves, this also showed up in the Fiend Folio.
Circle of the Pit
When you choose the Circle of Hel, you turn your back on the natural Druidic Orders, losing access to the powers and spells of Nature.  Instead, you gain a connection to the Pits of Hel, which provides you new paths to power.
Circle of the Pit Spell List
An old-school D&D shadowdemon.
Chill Touch
Produce Flame
True Strike
1st Level
Burning Hands
Detect Evil and Good
Detect Magic
Detect Poison and Disease
Faerie Fire
Fog Cloud
Guiding Bolt
Inflict Wounds
Protection from Evil and Good
2nd Level
Continual Flame
Enhance Ability
Find Traps
Flame Blade
Flaming Sphere
Gust of Wind
Heat Metal
Hold Person
Magic Weapon
Misty Step
Protection from Poison
Spike Growth
Warding Bond
3rd Level
Animate Dead
Bestow Curse
Dispel Magic
Glyph of Warding
Magic Circle
Meld into Stone
Protection from Energy
Remove Curse
Sleet Storm
Speak with Dead
Vampiric Touch

4th Level
Black Tentacles
Conjure Minor Elementals
Dimension Door
Dominate Beast
Fire Shield
Freedom of Movement
Ice Storm
Wall of Fire
5th Level
Antilife Shell
Conjure Elemental
Contact Other Plane
Dominate Person
Hold Monster
Insect Plague
Planar Binding

6th Level
Circle of Death
Conjure Fey
Create Undead
Flesh to Stone
Freezing Sphere
True Seeing
Wall of Thorns
Wind Walk
7th Level
Conjure Celestial
Finger of Death
Fire Storm
Plane Shift
Reverse Gravity
8th Level
Antimagic Field
Incendiary Cloud
9th Level
Meteor Storm
Storm of Vengeance
Hel’s Soldier.  Starting at 2nd level, you gain proficiency with the Battle Axe, Flail, Morningstar, Warhammer, War Pick, or Whip.  You also gain proficiency with Abyssal and Infernal, the languages of Hel.
A demonic familiar should be
unnatural & unsettling.
Demonic Servitor.  You learn the spell Find Familiar at 2nd level.  When you cast this spell, you summon a demonic familiar of decidedly unnatural origin.  For example, you may summon a Lizard-Monkey or an evil-looking Puppy-Monkey-Baby.  You must work with your DM to develop your familiar as an unnatural hybrid of existing natural or demonic creatures.  You familiar appears as an unsettling abomination to casual observers, but it is a true immortal.  It is banished if reduced to 0 hp on the Prime Material Plane, but you can resummon it with another use of the spell Find Familiar.  Your familiar has a base Challenge Rating (CR) of 0.  
Because of your connection to the Abyss, you can use a bonus action to polymorph your familiar into a demon, devil, or undead monstrosity of CR equal to your Demon-Binder level divided by 8 (for example, a 4th level demon-binder can transform his familiar into a CR ½ demon).  Maintaining your familiar in higher-demon-form requires Concentration.  If you lose your concentration, your familiar reverts to its “natural” form.
You can telepathically command your familiar to take actions, but controlling a demon is not easy, especially in combat.  Your familiar can take the normal actions of a familiar in combat, but it requires your Action to cause it to attack.
Cooperative Attack.  Starting at 6th level, you’ve gained enough control to cause your demon-familiar to attack in the same round that you attack.  Concentration is still required, however, which limits your attacks to weapon attacks or non-concentration spells.
Hellish Resistance.  Starting at 10th level, you and your familiar gain resistance to fire and necrotic damage.
Master of the Unnatural.  Starting at 14th level, when a demon, devil, or undead creature attempts to attack you, it must first make a Wisdom save against your spell-save DC.  On a failure, it must attack another target.
This content was put together using Wizards of the Coast’s Open Gaming License.
Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

System Reference Document 5.0 Copyright 2016, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Chris Perkins, Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee, James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R. Cordell, Chris Sims, and Steve Townshend, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

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