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jjordan
2019-04-15, 10:48 AM
I need two simple spells a couple of spells for my setting. I have an NPC class of semi-warlocks (warriors given very specific and limited powers by their very small group of specific patrons). They can create a blade and a shield to use in melee combat. Shadow Blade is not going to do it for me (I've looked at it and I've looked at the conversations regarding it here).

Loyal Blade

Level: 1
Casting Time: 1 Bonus Action
Range: Self
Components: S (Making a fist as if holding a weapon),M (Ornate sigil tattoo covering the caster's entire sword fore-arm)
Duration: 10 minutes
Description: You power the magic in the tattoo with your own life force, taking 2HP psychic damage, to create a ghostly blade in your primary weapon hand (the hand attached to the forearm with the tattoo). This blade may take the form of a dagger, short-sword, or long-sword. It deals force damage as would a regular weapon of the type it resembles. The weapon counts as magical but does no additional damage. Cannot be thrown and vanishes if dropped or the caster loses consciousness or enters a charmed condition. The glow of the blade and the tattoo casts as much light as a candle. As a bonus action the caster may resize the weapon within the range of permitted options. Wisdom save versus spell caster's DC to avoid the effects of dispel magic. Hand must be uncovered.

Loyal Touch

Level: 1
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 80 ft
Components: S (Knife-hand pointed at target),M (Ornate sigil tattoo covering the caster's entire upper sword arm AND the Loyal Blade tattoo on the forearm)
Duration: Instantaneous
Description: You power the magic in the tattoo with your own life force to create a single, ghostly force missile which launches from your primary weapon hand (the hand attached to the arm with the tattoo). Must roll to hit target. Does 1d6 points of force damage to the target per 2 HP of psychic damage the caster takes (up to a maximum of 2HP per level of the caster) to power the spell. Hand must be uncovered. Can be used in melee range without disadvantage.

Loyal Shield

Level: 1
Casting Time: 1 Bonus Action
Range: Self
Components: S (Opening the shield hand, fingers spread wide),M (Ornate sigil tattoo covering the caster's entire shield fore-arm)
Duration: 10 minutes
Description: You power the magic in the tattoo with your own life force, taking 2HP psychic damage, to create a ghostly force shield in your primary shield hand. This may be any normal size shield usable by a creature of the caster's size. The shield counts as magical. It vanishes if dropped or the caster loses consciousness or enters a charmed condition. The glow of the shield and the tattoo casts as much light as a candle. As a bonus action the caster may resize the shield within the range of permitted options. Wisdom save versus spell caster's DC to avoid the effects of dispel magic.

Shield of the People

Level: 1
Casting Time: 1 Reaction
Range: Self
Components: S (arm raised over head, hand reaching for the ceiling),M (Ornate sigil tattoo covering the caster's entire upper shield arm AND the Loyal Shield tattoo on the caster's shield forearm)
Duration: 1 round
Description: You power the magic in the tattoo with your own life force, taking 4HP psychic damage, to create a ghostly force shield in your primary shield hand which covers your entire body in a 5ft diameter vertical cylinder, giving you +5AC until the spell ends or is dispelled. This may be any normal size shield usable by a creature of the caster's size. The shield counts as magical. It vanishes if dropped or the caster loses consciousness or enters a charmed condition. The glow of the shield and the tattoo casts as much light as a candle. Wisdom save versus spell caster's DC to avoid the effects of dispel magic.

Mark of the Loyal

Level: 7
Casting Time: 6 hours
Range: Touch
Components: V,S,M (tattoo tools and inks)
Duration: Permanent
Description: Mark of the Loyal places a complex sigil on the head and forehead of a subject who voluntarily accepts it. It allows a caster who knows the special spells to activate one of the spells stored within the mark.

Power Word: Pain - The bearer of the mark takes 5HP psychic damage and is affected by this spell. They save at disadvantage versus it.
Detect Thoughts - The bearer of the mark takes 1HP psychic damage and is subject to this spell. They save at disadvantage versus it.
Message - The bearer of the mark takes 1HP psychic damage and is subject to this spell.

I don't see these becoming a problem even if they were taken out my intended context. If a PC got their hands on this they'd just have a pretty normal sword and shield that could be taken away by a simple dispel magic.

jjordan
2019-04-16, 03:11 PM
Edited and added. Still needs some work. The Loyal Blade spell needs to explicitly end if Loyal Touch is used, same for Loyal Shield ending if Shield of the People is used. Going to add a few more spells for these guys as well as the Mark of the Loyal which will be the key.

Crisis21
2019-04-16, 07:39 PM
The spells are underwhelming and lack upcasting ability (a must for most low-level Warlock spells). Shield of the People for example is basically the standard Shield spell with unnecessary description, uneccessary downsides, and trading Verbal components for Material (and why are you specifying saves vs Dispel Magic? That's redundant at best). Plus, I'm leery of the whole 'take damage to cast spells' thing in the first place unless the spells are definitively more potent than others of that level.

Mark of the Loyal is especially odd because you define it as a 7th-level spell and a Warrior/Warlock combo like you're describing likely won't ever get 7th-level spells.

If you're really going for a Warrior/Warlock combination, you might just punt the spells entirely and give them all Pact of the Blade (this basic 3rd-level Warlock feature straight-up outclasses your Loyal Blade spell in every way) plus maybe some original invocations. Just fluff it so they all have magical tattoos that fuel their Warlock powers.

You can use your action to create a pact weapon in your empty hand. You can choose the form that this melee weapon takes each time you create it. You are proficient with it while you wield it. This weapon counts as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to non-magical attacks and damage. Your pact weapon disappears if it is more than 5 feet away from you for 1 minute or more. It also disappears if you use this feature again, if you dismiss the weapon (no action required), or if you die.

You can transform one magic weapon into your pact weapon 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. You can then dismiss the weapon, shunting it into an extra-dimensional space, and it appears whenever you create your pact weapon thereafter. You can't affect an artifact or a sentient weapon in this way. The weapon ceases being your pact weapon if you die, if you perform the 1-hour ritual on a different weapon, or if you use a 1-hour ritual to break your bond to it. The weapon appears at your feet if it is in the extra-dimensional space when the bond breaks.

Invocations:

Pact of the Shield
Prerequisite: Pact of the Blade/<Homebrewed Warrior/Warlock Combo>, Cannot have Pact of Two Blades
You have a tattoo of a shield on your arm. When you summon your pact weapon in a form that can be wielded one-handed, you may use your Pact of the Blade feature to also form a shield in your other hand. You are proficient in this shield while you wield it and gain +2 to AC. You may also transform a magical shield into your pact shield using your Pact of the Blade feature without replacing your current pact weapon. All other restrictions of the Pact of the Blade feature still apply.

Pact of Two Blades
Prerequisite: Pact of the Blade/<Homebrewed Warrior/Warlock Combo>, Cannot have Pact of the Shield
You have a tattoo of crossed blades on your arm. When you summon your pact weapon in a form that can be wielded one-handed, you may use your Pact of the Blade feature to also form a second weapon in your other hand. This second weapon must have either the Light or Finesse property. You are proficient in this weapon while you wield it. You may also transform a magical weapon with the Light or Finesse property into your offhand pact weapon using your Pact of the Blade feature without replacing your main pact weapon. All other restrictions of the Pact of the Blade feature still apply.

Shield of the People
Prerequisite: Pact of the Blade/<Homebrewed Warrior/Warlock Combo>
You have a tattoo of a glowing shield on your arm. You may cast the Shield spell once without using a spell slot or requiring verbal components. You regain use of this feature after a long rest.

Sword Beam
Prerequisite: Pact of the Blade/<Homebrewed Warrior/Warlock Combo>
You have a tattoo of a glowing sword shooting a beam of light on your arm. Once per turn, when you make an attack with your pact weapon, you may make that attack with a range of 20/60 adding your Charisma modifier to your attack and damage rolls instead of your Strength modifier.

John Out West
2019-04-16, 09:05 PM
I can agree with some of Crisis' points, the spell levels seem redundant. I do like the fact that they take damage to produce their spells, and i personally imagine the blood itself becomes the weapons.

The willingness to take damage, and also to die, is what really sells me on the fanatical cult. If i were you i would skip Spell Slots altogether and just trade HP for magic. I would also go so far as to making these people extremely fanatical, willing to transfer their entire HP to turn themselves into bombs, to heal one another (like a leader), or birth a glorious demon baby that comes from the realm of the patron.

I would also suggest considering these things in terms of game-play and not "Balance." The question of "What will be most interesting to fight" rather than, "If the players have this ability will it be balanced." I would also focus on the structure of the organization, and who has what tattoos/abilities. Most likely the grunts will be the sword and board type, summoning the weapons and shields. A lower class of slaves or thralls would most likely have tattoos forced onto them, allowing them to be used as meat shields and blood batteries. Higher ups would have more magical power, probably some demonic deformities (Large monstrous claws, teeth, etc). The grunts would also most likely use their life to power up the higher ups. The highest would most likely be children or family of the patron itself who have been sent to herald it's arrival.


Some fun gameplay suggestions. Mostly involving the players using strategy to defeat the Cult instead of just brawn.

Herald:
This demon is magically powerful, but defenseless, with extremely poor AC and Saves, but a large health pool. The herald comes with Grunt protectors, who have both shields and armor. When the Herald takes damage, he will automatically take health from the Grunts.
The players will be able to focus fire on the Herald, who is extremely vulnerable to attacks, which will quickly kill the more defensible guards around them. The herald will constantly move behind cover and away from enemies, while the Grunts try to keep the players at bay.

Blood Bombs:
These zealots are first into the fight, and often first to fall. However, when left with few options, they will begin a process to explode themselves to defeat the players. Once the process begins it cannot be reversed. At the start of the Zealot's next turn, it will explode, dealing its remaining HP in damage to all creatures within 30ft.
Players will have to focus on these Blood Bombs to keep them from exploding. (Or minimizing their effectiveness) Some of the more fanatic Zealots will begin to explode at the begining of fights, allowing the players to force enemies into that radius and make the fight easier for them.

Blood Sacks:
These are slaves or kidnapped individuals who have been forcebly tattooed, and are brought by some of the Blood Warlocks for protection. When trouble happens, the Blood Warlocks use the slaves tattoos to transform them into monsters.
The transformation process is slow, and the players have the opportunity to kill the slaves before the process begins, however, they can also, potentially, save them if they can kill the Blood Warlock first. This should cause a moral decision, especially when the Slaves activly ask for help from the players.

I hope this helps.

Edit: Oh man, and if the players ever lose a fight to these guys, have them wake up with Tattoos on them. How ominous would that be! Maybe it takes control of them at night and they become servants who kill for the Pact.

jjordan
2019-04-16, 09:52 PM
The spells are underwhelming and lack upcasting ability (a must for most low-level Warlock spells). Shield of the People for example is basically the standard Shield spell with unnecessary description, uneccessary downsides, and trading Verbal components for Material (and why are you specifying saves vs Dispel Magic? That's redundant at best). Plus, I'm leery of the whole 'take damage to cast spells' thing in the first place unless the spells are definitively more potent than others of that level.

Mark of the Loyal is especially odd because you define it as a 7th-level spell and a Warrior/Warlock combo like you're describing likely won't ever get 7th-level spells.

If you're really going for a Warrior/Warlock combination, you might just punt the spells entirely and give them all Pact of the Blade (this basic 3rd-level Warlock feature straight-up outclasses your Loyal Blade spell in every way) plus maybe some original invocations. Just fluff it so they all have magical tattoos that fuel their Warlock powers.
The writing is very definitely rough and requires polishing, so thank you for taking some time to read and comment. I really appreciate it. The save versus dispel magic was added because dispel magic would automatically succeed against a first level spell. Writing in a save gives the practitioner a chance at defending against this. I don't really want to allow too much upcasting (for reasons of narrative and balance). These spells are deliberately underpowered and there are definitely spells which are more attractive. E.G. Shield of the People is a standard Shield spell with some added downsides that are peculiar to the narrative that created it.

Mark of the Loyal is bad writing on my part, it's not a spell that can be cast by the warlocks, but a spell that is cast on them by their patrons and gives the patrons some significant control abilities over their clients. I'll edit to make that clearer.

Pact of the Blade would be a good. tool but wouldn't fit my narrative. It absolutely does outclass the Loyal Blade and I glad it does.

Using HP to fuel magic is definitely one of those topics where people have strong feelings. I like the mechanic but I'm aware it has some downsides. And it makes sense in my narrative where the tattoos are the mechanism that allows the 'warlock' to 'cast spells', but only if the 'warlock' supplies the power.

jjordan
2019-04-16, 10:00 PM
I can agree with some of Crisis' points, the spell levels seem redundant. I do like the fact that they take damage to produce their spells, and i personally imagine the blood itself becomes the weapons.Cool imagery. I hadn't considered that and the light you cast on the idea is very neat.


The willingness to take damage, and also to die, is what really sells me on the fanatical cult. If i were you i would skip Spell Slots altogether and just trade HP for magic. I would also go so far as to making these people extremely fanatical, willing to transfer their entire HP to turn themselves into bombs, to heal one another (like a leader), or birth a glorious demon baby that comes from the realm of the patron. Hmmm.... I was trying to convey the idea that they could simply trade HO for magic. Spell slots are not my intention for this particular build. Any idea how I can better convey that idea in my presentation?


I would also suggest considering these things in terms of game-play and not "Balance." The question of "What will be most interesting to fight" rather than, "If the players have this ability will it be balanced."
I think I have narrative 'controls' in play that balance this from the perspective of game-play. I still like to look for balance in general because it's easy to unleash a horrible imbalance in a game.


I would also focus on the structure of the organization, and who has what tattoos/abilities. Most likely the grunts will be the sword and board type, summoning the weapons and shields. A lower class of slaves or thralls would most likely have tattoos forced onto them, allowing them to be used as meat shields and blood batteries. Higher ups would have more magical power, probably some demonic deformities (Large monstrous claws, teeth, etc). The grunts would also most likely use their life to power up the higher ups. The highest would most likely be children or family of the patron itself who have been sent to herald it's arrival.
Organizational structure is covered. I haven't added that to my notes. Do you think I should? I thought it was too much detail to throw into my post.

Crisis21
2019-04-16, 11:32 PM
Okay, if we're talking antagonists-only, then yeah John Out West makes an excellent point that balancing against PC abilities is completely unnecessary.

So, the idea is that they trade hp for magic then? In that case, what I'd advise is that you forego spell slots - and by extension spell levels - entirely. If they cast from hit points, then they can keep casting so long as they have hit points.

Any unique magical abilities possessed by this cult should be wholly unique to them and unlearnable by the PCs (unless they actually join the cult, which should be a process that strips them of PC status).

Also, don't call them Warlocks, because that may lead to confusion with the two-spells-per-short-rest PC class. Instead, call them Blood-Mages or something else descriptive of their unique form of magic.


Some fun facts if you want them: There is an optional mechanic called Spell Points that can be used to replace the spell slot system of most spellcasting classes (Warlock is the big exception because of their unique spellcasting mechanics). In it, you use spell points to 'generate' spell slots of a certain level depending on how many points you spend. You can determine how many spell points a caster should have by converting their available spell slots at any given level to spell points (according to the following table) and adding them up.



Spell Level
Point Cost


1st
2


2nd
3


3rd
5


4th
6


5th
7


6th
9


7th
10


8th
11


9th
13



Note: Yes, there are some rules to stop characters from spamming spells of 6th level or higher.

So, you might use this as a rough guide to hp costs per spell for your cult. Maybe multiply the point cost by the spell level to get an hp cost?

...actually, now that I think about it, it would be absolutely terrifying if, upon taking damage from the PCs, members of this cult got to use that damage to fuel a spell as a reaction.

John Out West
2019-04-16, 11:49 PM
If you're trying to get rid of Spell Slots, remove the Level:1 at the top of each spell, and replace it with Level: Cantrip.

I wouldn't mind a little detail about the Organization and what tattoos/abilities each would have.

Most of the abilities atm just exchange HP for equipment, which isn't too broken. I'd say any player could easily have these and not become OP.
I do question why they would need it, however. Why is this cult so low on weapons that it is easier to use magic to create them? More of a Lore question than mechanics.

Crisis21
2019-04-17, 12:11 AM
I wouldn't mind a little detail about the Organization and what tattoos/abilities each would have.

Most of the abilities atm just exchange HP for equipment, which isn't too broken. I'd say any player could easily have these and not become OP.
I do question why they would need it, however. Why is this cult so low on weapons that it is easier to use magic to create them? More of a Lore question than mechanics.

^This. My guess is that the weapon summoning thing is due to the cult wanting to smuggle weapons into places where weapons aren't allowed, meaning their magic tattoos are probably divination-proof or something. Also might mean that when the PCs face them, they might not be armed.

jjordan
2019-04-17, 09:22 AM
Bh'akton (Low Elvish: Loyal. High Elvish (when considering the historical romance Hearts Aflame written by Jo'An'Ero and the influence it had on pre-split analyses of social conditions): The Group Who Pledge Their Allegiance To Us) Singular Bh'akt. The human servants of some elvish factions. They serve primarily as military troops, administrators, and body-guards. Refrence the Mamluks. The Ja'ati Bh'akton are a variant human group that have been subjected to generations of modification and breeding to produce servants who are better suited to these roles. Smarter, stronger, faster. But also inclined to obey commands given by elves, particularly those to whom they are bonded. In short, domesticated.

The Ja'ati Bh'akton are preferred body-guards by most elvish factions because they have a higher degree of confidence in their loyalty. They are granted marks of power for several reasons. The process of applying the marks is rigorous and requires that the recipient be totally committed to the process. The marking process bonds the Bh'akton to their patron. And it ensures that the bodyguard is always armed and capable of defending their patron without the need to go about armed (which elves consider... vulgar).

All Bh'akton who survive the testing that marks their transition to adulthood receive the Mark of Loyalty. Most of those will go to field units (where they will use conventional weapons) or staff positions. Those found to be particularly loyal will be selected for further training and augmentation.

Mechanics of the Tattoos:
I've built the tattoos around the idea of crafting magic items. Think of the tattoo as being a magic ring that can't be taken off and doesn't have it's own power supply. I'm supposing it's a variation of the Glyph of Warding - Spell Glyph. The bearer of the tattoo can activate the spell represented by the glyph/tattoo and provide it with power, but they don't have any understanding of how it works.

I'm keeping the tattoos fairly sizeable. These aren't little pictures on your bicep, these are great, big, intricate limb-covering sigils designed by master magicians. I'm also stacking them. So the Touch of the Loyal won't work without the Sword of the Loyal.

So far as specific tattoos go I'm looking at:
-Sword of the Loyal - Makes a force blade weapon - Arm
-Touch of the Loyal - Lets you shoot a force bolt at a target - Arm
-Shield of the Loyal - +2 to AC with a hand held shield - Arm
-Shield of the People - +5 to overall AC - Arm
-Mark of the Loyal - Tool used by patron - Scalp and forehead
-Sure Grip - Bonus to dexterity checks related to remaining on your feet - Feet and legs
-Swift Step - Bonus to movement - Legs
-Eagle's Eye - See at distances - Eye and side of face
-Pierce the Dark - See in the dark - Eye and side of face
-Future Glimpse - Glimpse a few seconds into the future, bonus on actions/attack - Eye and side of face


I've got a couple of ideas for the back and spine that I'll add. Maybe. I might leave those areas open to future development as the plot requires.

The elves are rebuilding their military servant corps. After the orcs rebelled they only had the halflings and they aren't the greatest soldiers. The elvish experience with the orcs is strongly informing their design of the new humans. They aren't interested in super capable, they only need capable enough, and they are selecting for loyalty above all. And since they have the opportunity they're also making some aesthetic design choices.

And that's a jumbled mess. Thanks for the opportunity to express this. This is all apparent to me in my notes. But as I try to explain it to other people I see where I've failed to add enough, organized, detail. I'll have to fix that.

EDIT TO ADD - I'm also considering modification of the idea. It occurred to me that I might use the tattoos as an interface between magical items. So instead of being able to manifest a force blade the tattoo allows the bearer to interface with a magical weapon and turn it into a +1 weapon. The weapon is magically useless without the tattoo bearer and the tattoo is useless without the specially crafted weapon. From the standpoint of the elves this would give them greater control over their servants and help to prevent their 'tech' from falling into the hands of enemies. Also allows for a greater range of magic items for game purposes.

EDIT TO ADD - Yep, totally doing this. Different groups of elves having different types of servants molded into different lines using the same general concepts. This plays out as variant humans for rules purposes.