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Arcane Hybrid part 3: Features and Spell Themes

Ok, so it’s been a minute since I last talked about the arcane hybrid for 5e (the name is still a work in progress). I haven’t stopped thinking about it, but I’ve been kicking the can down the road. There isn’t a real reason for it. I just didn’t want to write spells for whatever reason. Seriously. I don’t have a good reason. I just didn’t do it. Anyway. If you don’t remember the last time I discussed this, I don’t blame you. You can get yourself caught up below:

The Hot Mess of the Arcane Hybrid | Building the Arcane Hybrid | Arcane Hybrid part 3

The Plight of Divine Smite

I’ve mentioned it before, but the major problem with the paladin is just that the design is so good on just about every level. Divine Smite has good scaling, excellent decision points, and carries a great deal of thematic weight. I am not saying it is overpowered, but I am saying it is the gold standard of hybrid design for 5e. It just perfectly meshes the divine magic and martial prowess themes. Divine Smite has been lifted for warlocks in the latest material for them. The mechanic is so good that the core, official designers are stealing from themselves in order to revisit a similar concept. It’s disappointing, but understandable. It’s just that good.

The treatment of spell slots as an expendable resource to power another core mechanic is crucial to understanding the paladin’s hybrid presentation. At 20th level, a paladin could conceivably use divine smite fifteen times a day. That’s a potential 54d8 in on-demand damage. Spending a 5th-level spell slot to divine smite is a “bit lossy” in that you only ever get 5d8 damage from spending the slot, instead of the 6d8 the progression prior to the 5d8 cap would suggest. This is also without taking into account critical hits. Over fifteen swings, it’s something around a 46% chance you will have at least one critical hit. Assuming “best case” from that, you get another 5d8 out of it. On average, you’d be getting around 2.5d8 in value from it (being generous with rounding). So, we can more or less say that using ALL slots to divine smite is going to net you around 254 damage on average. This is only useful when considering the damage potential of what risk vs. reward looks like.

Spells for paladins tend to focus on sustain and utility – for both themselves and their compatriots. I am using sustain to just mean staying power in a fight. This can be from healing, temp hit points, mitigation, avoidance, etc. The raw damage/burst comes from this use of spells as a currency. 1st-level smites deal 1d6 damage with a secondary effect vs. 2d8 damage from burning the slot on damage. Importantly, the 2d8 damage comes after the hit has been confirmed. There is no chance the slot is lost – immunity to the damage type is a different issue entirely – due to saving throws. The damage is pre-confirmed thanks to the initial hit. So not only is this a pile of damage, it’s guaranteed damage.

This is great feedback from the system for the player – risky control and minor damage or non-risky damage. Paladin spells that aren’t damage make this an even more interesting proposition. Do you want that heroism running, or do you want to deal 2d8 damage with it? Do you want aid or do you want to deal 3d8 damage? Do you want crusader’s mantle or do you want 4d8 damage? This is just superb opportunity cost.

The three sides to the spells-as-currency feature are important – and it’s part of why the warlock implementation isn’t as strong. The warlock already has a lot of options that are just pure damage, so being able to do that damage with your weapon – even with increased scaling because of the intricacies of the “per short rest” implementation of spell recovery – is cool and helps support the concept of arcane hybrid, but it’s lacking that different functionality that the same sort of feature brought to paladin. Spending spells should do something else in order to provide functionality the warlock doesn’t normally possess.

I understand that the limited resource of spells is what is really being considered as the warlock’s opportunity cost. I am not debating the limited spell slots as something limiting or precious. Even at top end, the warlock only gets four spells. However, those spell are all 5th-level slots. With the warlock scaling, four spells spent will deal 40d8. Each short rest replenishes these spells, so it quickly becomes a bigger burst class in short order. This does come out of the warlock’s limited pool of spells, but let’s look at blight. Blight is a 4th-level spell, and deals 8d8 to a target. It only has a secondary effect if it’s a plant-dude. If you spent a spell slot to just warlock smite with it, it deals either 8d8 or 10d8 damage depending on your warlock level. Sure, it’s slightly better damage – provided the target isn’t a plant monster – but it’s not something completely different or really opportunity-cost related. You just…use your weapon and confirm after an attack roll instead of using a saving throw.

Warlock spells flesh out pretty well if you pick up the invocations that give you the spells…though doing that is sort of a trap that I won’t get into here. It’s definitely one of the shortcomings of the class, to say the least. Anyway, warlock spells deal good damage, have solid offensive utility, and have a tiny amount of sustain. As you might expect from the nature of the class, anything beneficial tends to be self-only. The ability to be non-selfish isn’t really addressed by the class. Having the smites either address that – even if the benefits they provide make the other party members question their group affiliation – or focus more on defensive utility or larger sustain would be fitting.

This is all to say that smiting needs to reflect the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the class in order to mesh with the rest of the features. It has to be a meaningful choice to make, and provide something that isn’t provided elsewhere.

 

Proclamations

One of the core themes of the arcane hybrid is leadership. Unlike the paladin – who inspires others and their mere presences heightens their allies – the arcane hybrid leads by example. The arcane hybrid has a series of features – in both their core class and their archetypes – called Proclamations. Whenever the arcane hybrid takes a specific action, the rest of her allies benefit. Like a paladin, the arcane hybrid benefits from this action, as well. The benefits should persist until another action is taken. Proclamations will either be at set levels, or be able to be selected at certain levels. Verbiage is included for the former, but might be removed. These are still works in progress – obviously – but here are some possible examples (not all will make the cut). This list is not yet complete or exhaustive.

Proclamation of Assault
Starting at X level, whenever you deal damage to a creature, you and friendly creatures within Y feet of you deal additional damage equal to 1+your Intelligence modified whenever you would deal damage to the creature – including the damage that triggers this proclamation – until the start of your next turn. When the creature receives damage equal to five times your arcane hybrid level, this effect immediately ends.

At Z level, the range of this aura increases to A feet and the damage the creature receives before the effect end increases to ten times your arcane hybrid level.

Proclamation of Bombardment
Starting at X level, whenever you make a ranged attack, friendly creatures within Y feet of you may spend their reaction to make immediate make a ranged attack. A creature hit by your ranged attack gains vulnerability to piercing and bludgeoning damage from ranged weapons until the start of your next turn.

At Z level, the range of this aura increases to A feet and ranged attacks made as part of this feature deal additional damage equal to 1+your Intelligence modifier.

Proclamation of Defense
Starting at X level, whenever you take the dodge action, you and friendly creatures within Y feet of you gain a 1d4 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws until the start of your next turn.

At Z level, the range of this aura increases to A feet and the bonus increases to 1d6.

Proclamation of Measured Withdrawal
Starting at X level, whenever you take the disengage action, you and friendly creatures within Y feet of you may use their reaction to immediately take the disengage action and make a spell or weapon attack against a creature that targets them with an attack.

At Z level, the range of this aura increases to A feet, and you reduce any damage you take while this proclamation is active by 1+your Intelligence modifier.

Proclamation of Quickness
Starting at X level, whenever you take the dash action, you and friendly creatures within Y feet of you may use their reaction to immediately take the dash action.

At Z level, the range of this aura increases to A feet.

Proclamation of Assistance
Starting at X level, whenever you take the help action, you and friendly creatures within Y feet of you gain advantage on Constitution or Wisdom saving throws – chosen at the time you take the help action. If creatures benefiting from this feature take the help action before the beginning of your next, they may roll an additional 1d4 when making a saving throw of the specified type.

At Z level, the range of this aura increases to A feet and the bonus increases to 1d6.

Proclamation of Scholarship
Starting at X level, whenever you cast a spell, you and friendly creatures within Y feet of you gain a 1d4 bonus to either your spell DC or a 1d4 bonus to your spell attack rolls until the start of your next turn.

At Z level, the range of this aura increases to A feet and the bonus increases to 1d6.

Proclamation of Treachery
Starting at X level, whenever you apply your sneak attack damage, you and friendly creatures within Y feet of you deal additional damage on that and any subsequent attacks equal to 1+your Intelligence modifier until the start of your next turn.

At Z level, the range of this aura increases to A feet.

Proclamation of War
Starting at X level, whenever you take the attack action, you and friendly creatures within Y feet of you gain a 1d4 bonus to your attack rolls until the start of your next turn.

At Z level, the range of this aura increases to A feet and the bonus increases to 1d6.

Tactics

Another major core feature of the arcane hybrid is tactics. Unlike paladins, which deal burst damage with their divine smite feature, an arcane hybrid will learn specific tactics that provide sustain or utility to their allies. Arcane hybrids will be able to select from several available tactics, but only be able to swap them out during long or short rests. Tactics will consume a spell slot in exchange for a small amount of damage and an additional effect. Here is one example.

Morale Boost
Starting at X level, when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can expend one arcane hybrid spell slot to deal force damage to the target, in addition to the weapon’s damage. The extra damage is 2d6 for a 1st-level spell slot, plus 1d6 for each spell level higher than 1st, to a maximum of 5d6. You and any number of creatures you designate that you can can see gain temporary hit points equal to half of damage you deal.

War Flag

Just like paladins have several specific-to-them spell lines that help define them, one of those spell lines for the arcane hybrid will be War Flags. War Flags will be available at every spell level (1-5), with a few options at multiple levels. Please understand that balancing is far from finalized, but here are a few examples.

Smoldering War Flag
2nd-Level Conjuration
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

You conjure a flag caked in smoldering ash at a point you can see within 30 feet. When you cast this spell, you can designate any number of creatures you can see to be unaffected by it. The flag emits flaming ash in a 10 yard radius, causing creatures to make a Dexterity saving throw whenever a creature starts its turn in the area or enters it for the first time on its turn. The creature suffers 2d4 fire damage and an additional 1d4 fire damage at the start of their next turn, or half as much damage without additional effect on a successful saving throw. The creature may make a Dexterity saving throw at the end of each of their turns after the first to no longer suffer the additional fire damage.

If concentration on this spell is broken, it remains until the start of the next turn.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the each portion of the damage increases by 1d4 for each slot level above 2nd.

Voltaic War Flag
1st-Level Conjuration
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

You conjure a flag crackling with lighting at a point you can see within 30 feet. When you cast this spell, you can designate any number of creatures you can see to be unaffected by it. The flag emits lightning in a 10 yard radius, causing creatures to make a Dexterity saving throw whenever a creature starts its turn in the area or enters it for the first time on its turn. The creature suffers 1d6 lightning damage and is unable to take reactions until the start of its next turn on a failed saving throw, or half as much damage without additional effect on a successful saving throw. If creature is wearing metal armor, it makes this saving throw with disadvantage.

If concentration on this spell is broken, it remains until the start of the next turn.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the extra damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.

Befouling War Flag
5th-Level Conjuration
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

You conjure a flag cloaked in a foul miasma at a point you can see within 30 feet. When you cast this spell, you can designate any number of creatures you can see to be unaffected by it. The flag emits a putrid mist in a 10 yard radius, causing creatures to make a Constitution saving throw whenever a creature starts its turn in the area or enters it for the first time on its turn. The creature suffers 3d8 poison damage and become poisoned and has its movement speed halved, or half as much damage without additional effect on a successful saving throw. The creature may make a Constitution saving throw at the end of each of their turns after the first to no longer be poisoned or have their movement speed impaired.

If concentration on this spell is broken, it remains until the start of the next turn.

Weaponry

One of the other spell lines for the arcane hybrids will be the conjuration of weapons. These will be infused with different damage types, or will provide a single effect as a bonus action – at which time the weapon fades. These are far from finished, but here are a few examples:

Inferno Hammer
2nd-level Conjuration
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: 10 feet
Components: V, S, M (a vial of charcoal and steel shavings)
Duration: Concentration, up to one minute
You create two flaming mauls at point you can see within 10 feet of you. When you cast this spell, you can designate any number of creatures you can see gain proficiency with mauls and may use the mauls without suffering damage. Other creatures who attempt to grab the maul suffer 2d8 fire damage immediately. Until the spell ends, you can use a bonus action on each of your
subsequent turns to cause this damage again.

This weapon deals 2d6 + your spellcasting ability modifier fire damage on a successful hit. As a reaction to hitting a creature, you may cause the weapon to erupt in a gout of flame 5 feet wide and 10 feet long. Creatures caught in the blast must make a Dexterity saving throw. Creatures suffer 3d8 fire damage on a failed saving throw, or half as much on a successful saving throw. Using this reaction destroys the maul.

The flaming maul sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, you summon an additional maul for each slot level above 2nd.

Storm Flail
3rd-level Conjuration
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: 10 feet
Components: V, S, M (an iron rod and a bit of fur)
Duration: Concentration, up to one minute
You create three flails cascading with lightning at point you can see within 10 feet of you. When you cast this spell, you can designate any number of creatures you can see gain proficiency with flails and may use the flails without suffering damage. Other creatures who attempt to grab the maul suffer 2d8 lightning damage immediately and attacks made against the creatures have advantage until the start of their next turn. Until the spell ends, you can use a bonus action on each of your subsequent turns to cause this damage and effect again.

This weapon deals 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier lightning damage on a successful hit, and causes creatures you hit to be unable to take reactions until the start of their turn. As a reaction to hitting a target, you may cause the weapon to explode into crackling tendrils. The target hit and up to three other targets, each of which must be within 15 feet of the first target. A target can be a creature or an object and can
be targeted by only one of the tendrils. A target must make a Dexterity saving throw. The target suffers 4d8 lightning damage on a failed saving throw, or half as much on a successful saving throw. Using this reaction destroys the maul.

The lightning flail sheds bright light in a 15-foot radius and dim light for an additional 15 feet.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, you summon an additional flail for each slot level above 3rd.

 

 

 

 

2 comments

    1. Thanks, I am glad you are still interesting. Some of the stuff is still very much a WIP. I doubt Proclamation of Assault remains in that form, for example. Lots of language to still clean up, etc.

      Still, at least I stopped procrastinating 🙂

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