Death House spellbook replacement

The following spells are found in a leather folio full of spell scrolls which replaces the wizard spellbook found in the Death House adventure (area 34).  Spellcasters of the appropriate classes can study the spell scrolls whenever a class feature allows them to learn a new spell of the spell’s level.  When a spell is learned this way, the spell scroll is consumed.  Clerics and druids can automatically prepare spells on the cleric and druid spell lists below once they have studied one of these scrolls for one hour.  This does not consume the scroll.

New 1st-level spells
Camouflage (Bard, Druid, Ranger, Sorcerer, Wizard)
Omen of Peril (Cleric, Druid)
Vigor (Bard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Ranger)

New 2nd-level spells
Creeping Cold (Druid, Ranger)
Malevolent Miasma (Wizard, Warlock)
Nimbus of Light (Cleric, Paladin)
Wave of Grief (Bard, Cleric)


1st-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes

You change the coloring of your skin and clothing to match the environment around you.  Throughout the duration of the spell, your coloration changes instantly to match the background of any new environment you enter.  This effect grants you advantage on Dexterity(Stealth) checks made to hide and you can attempt such checks while only lightly obscured.  This effect ends immediately if you cast a spell or attack a creature or object.

Creeping Cold
2nd-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S, M (a small glass or pottery vial filled with water)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

You cause the personal environment of one target within the spell’s range to grow supernaturally cold.  The creature must make a Constitution save on each of your turns for the duration of the spell.  On a failed save, the creature takes 2d6 points of cold damage.

At Higher Levels.  When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for every slot level above 2nd.

Malevolent Miasma
2nd-level conjuration
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S, M (2 small gray stones)
Duration: Instantaneous

You cause an acidic green mist to manifest in a 20 foot cube within range.  Creatures caught in the cube must make a Constitution saving throw, taking 2d6 points of acid damage on a failed save and half as much on a successful one.  Creatures which fail their saving throw gain the poisoned condition until the end of your next turn.

At Higher Levels.  When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for every slot level above 2nd.

Nimbus of Light
2nd-level evocation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute or until discharged

A glittering corona of sunlight surrounds your body, until you release it as a focused blast of divine energy.  While covered in the nimbus, you shed bright light in a 30-foot radius, and dim light for an additional 30 feet.

As an action, you can coalesce the energy from the nimbus around your outstretched arm and make a ranged spell attack against a creature within 30 feet.  You have advantage on this attack roll against creatures with the sunlight sensitivity trait.  On a hit, the foe takes radiant damage equal to 1d6 plus your spellcasting ability modifier, and an additional 1d6 radiant damage for each full turn during which you concentrated on this spell (this does not include the turn it is cast or the turn it is discharged).   Attacking with the nimbus ends the spell, whether the attack was successful or not.

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

Omen of Peril
1st-level divination
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V
Duration: Instantaneous

A brief supplication gives you and only you a vision that hints at how dangerous the immediate future (the next hour of time) is likely to be, based on an assessment of the caster’s immediate surroundings and likely path of travel.  The caster receives one of three visions: safety, peril, or great danger.  The DM secretly makes a Wisdom saving throw for the caster, against a DC of 10.  On a successful save, the vision is accurate, while on a failed save, the DM chooses one of the two other results at random.

  • Safety. The caster isn’t in any immediate danger.  If he continues on his present course, he’ll face no significant monsters, traps, or other challenges.
  • Peril. The caster will face challenges typical of an adventure: challenging but not overwhelming monsters, dangerous traps, or other hazards.
  • Great danger. The caster’s very life is at grave risk.  He will likely face powerful NPCs or deadly traps (one or more encounters of deadly challenge for the party’s level) within the next hour.

The form of the vision is personalized to the faith or religion of the caster.  A druid might see signs related to nature, while a cleric of Lathander could see a shining sun, a cloud obscuring the sun, or a solar eclipse.  Whatever form it takes, the caster understands the meaning of the vision.

1st-level transmutation
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 minute

With a touch of your hand, you boost the subject’s life energy, granting him or her fast healing for the duration of the spell.  The subject regains 1 hit point at the start of each of its turns for the duration of the spell, and is automatically stabilized if it is dropped to 0 hit points during that time.

At Higher Levels.  When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the spell’s duration increases by 1 minute per slot level higher than 1st.

Wave of Grief
2nd-level Enchantment
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self (30 foot cone)
Components: S, M (3 tears)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

When this spell is cast, you create a 30-foot cone originating from you that overcomes targets with sorrow and grief.  Each creature in the area of effect must make a Charisma saving throw, or suffer disadvantage on attack rolls, Wisdom saving throws, and Wisdom ability checks for the duration.  Affected creatures may use an action on each of their turns to make another saving throw to end the effect.


Custom Player-Created Backgrounds

Now that I have a few 5e campaigns under my belt, I’ve started feeling like the PHB backgrounds are the one area of the game sadly lacking in diversity.  Many of them don’t seem to have very complimentary traits/ideals/bonds/flaws, and rolling randomly can often come up with seemingly contradictory results that require some hand waving and jumping through mental hoops to justify.

So many just don’t make sense or give any kind of synergistic benefits to the majority of classes, so you’re left with hundreds of sage wizards proficient in Intelligence skills (or dextrous casters with a checkered past for the stealth option), charlatan, criminal, and urchin rogues, and soldier fighters/paladins.

I’m going to experiment with allowing my players to come up with their own custom backgrounds with a set of personalized traits/ideals/bonds/flaws.  We’ll see how it goes.

Custom background construction rules

Skill Proficiencies: Any 2 (cannot take stealth and perception unless you give up a tool/language)

Tools/Languages: Any combination of 2.

Background Feature: Should be non-mechanical and downtime related.  The more flavorful and tied to the background concept, the more leeway I’ll give something that seems a bit more powerful than the norm.

Starting Equipment: One of the kits/tools gained under Tools/Languages worth no more than 50 gp, or one piece of adventuring gear (holy symbols and the like) priced the same, a set of clothes, and up to 4 pieces of adventuring gear or flavorful trinkets worth a total of no more than 50 gp.  Again, if these values are at the higher end of the allowed, then I’m going to look for supporting flavor from the background description.

2 Personality Traits: Questions to ask here are “What does my alignment and my background say about my personality.”

1 Ideal: What do I hold most important due to my background and life experience.

1 Bond: Who or what from my background connects me to the campaign world.  This can be a person, place, or group.

1 Flaw: What one feature of my personality, related to my background and life experience could my enemies use to exploit me and cause me to act against my own best interests.

I’m interested to see what players would come up with.  If the “background” ends up being more of a “backstory” with the mechanics tacked on (but fitting), then so much the better.  I’d much rather see “The third son of a widowed and destitute former merchant who fell in with the wrong crowd and was apprenticed to the local temple of justice in lieu of losing a hand for thievery and found his calling as a paladin than another “acolyte” or “criminal”.  Granted, there’s nothing preventing someone from using the acolyte or criminal background for that and then choosing traits that match the backstory, but perhaps the player wants Perception as a proficient skill.  In this case, during his first week of temple guard duty, his laxity led to a former acquaintance stealing some priceless relic and almost led to his expulsion from the order when they thought him complicit in the theft.  Since that day, he has vowed to never lapse in his alertness when on duty.







No-Spell Beastmaster Ranger

Everyone and their sister has their own version of the Beastmaster ranger archetype, as the one found in the Player’s Handbook is commonly considered one of the worst-performing 5e archetypes due to action ineconomy and the low hit points of the companion at upper tiers of play.  Fans of 3.x animal companions argue that it’s unrealistic to have to use your entire action each turn to cajole an instinctual predator and trained intelligent beast to attack someone threatening it.  

But allowing them to attack for “free” each turn is a huge power increase.  As huge as…spellcasting?  Let’s find out.  

These are the playtest rules Sarah is going to try out with her ranger, Devlin.  House rules for using trained beasts in combat are included as they tie in to how our table’s version of the Beastmaster gives commands to its companion.  The archetype should feel a lot more like a 3.5 druid or WoW hunter, with much of its offensive output coming from the companion.  As the Ranger progresses, so does the companion, and they gain synergies for working together at higher levels, promoting the theme of the archetype.

Beast Master

The Beast Master archetype embodies a friendship between the civilized races and the beasts of the wild.  United in focus, beast and ranger fight the monsters that threaten civilization and the wilderness alike.

This archetype uses the base ranger class features from the player’s handbook, but loses all features related to Spellcasting or powered by spell slots.

Ranger’s Companion

At 3rd level, you gain a beast companion that accompanies you on your adventures and is trained to fight alongside you.  Choose a beast that is no larger than Medium and has a challenge rating of ¼ or lower.  Add your proficiency bonus to the beast’s AC, attack rolls, damage rolls, as well as to any saving throws and skills in which it is proficient.  Its hit point maximum is calculated as follows:

Hit Points in creature stat block + your ranger level * (4 + creature’s Constitution bonus))

A companion with 13 Hit Points in its stat block and a Constitution bonus of 2, belonging to a 3rd level ranger, would have 13 + 3*(4+2) or 31 Hit Points.  The same companion would gain an additional 6 Hit Points whenever the ranger advanced a level.

When you gain the benefits of an Ability Score Increase class feature, you may also increase two of your companion’s abilities by 1 point each (or increase one ability by 2 points).  Alternately, with your DMs approval, you can choose it to gain the benefits of one feat for which it meets the prerequisites from the following list:

alert, durable, heavily armored, lucky, mobile, moderately armored, resilient, savage attacker, sentinel, skulker, slightly armored, tough

The companion has Hit Dice equal to the number of Hit Dice in its stat block plus your ranger level.  Like any creature, it can spend Hit Dice during a short rest to regain Hit Points.

You gain proficiency in the Wisdom (Animal Handling) skill if you don’t already have it.


Potential Ranger Companions

CR ⅛: blood hawk, flying snake, giant crab, giant rat, giant weasel, mastiff, mule, poisonous snake, pony, stirge

CR ¼: boar, giant badger, giant centipede, giant frog, giant poisonous snake, giant wolf spider, panther, pteranodon, wolf.


The beast is considered war trained and can be commanded as per the rules for commanding war trained animals.  It also knows the advanced commands: help, dodge, fetch, give, and take.  If you are incapacitated or absent, the beast acts on its own, focusing on protecting you and itself.  The beast never requires your command to use its reactions, such as when making an opportunity attack.

While traveling through your favored terrain with only your companion, you can move stealthily at a normal pace.

If the beast dies, you can obtain a new companion by spending 8 hours magically bonding with a beast that isn’t hostile to you and meets the requirements.

Tying this “auto-advantage” power to melee range is the only way to prevent all beastmaster rangers from going ranged weapon builds.  I think this makes both tanky pet/greatsword master ranger builds and defensive specialist ranger/dps critter builds vialble.  7 levels in this class prevent this from being a “dippable” power for optimizers.

Exceptional Training

Beginning at 7th level, your link with your companion is second nature to you both.  You can issue commands to your companion without an action cost each turn.  Additionally, while both you and your companion are within 5 feet of an enemy, you have advantage on attacks targeting that enemy.

Bestial Fury

Starting at 11th level, your companion gains the multiattack action if it doesn’t already have it.  It can make two attacks with its primary weapon attack.  If the beast already has multiattack, it can make one additional attack with its most damaging weapon attack as part of that multiattack.

I think the level 15 ability is a huge capstone for the archetype, making the beast master ranger one of the most accurate combatants in the game.  Have to look at the synergies between this and the damage-adding feats, or should it just be assumed that by this level, everyone’s got some way of regularly gaining advantage on attacks?  Not as big a boost for melee rangers as they’ve been doing this with their pets since level 7, but it’s the boost the archer build has been waiting for.

Pack Tactics

Beginning at 15th level, you gain pack tactics.  Attack rolls you make against an enemy have advantage if an ally (including your animal companion) is with 5 feet of the target and not disabled.


Rules for using mounts and other domesticated beasts in combat

The key determining factor for how a domesticated beast or mount acts in combat is whether or not that creature has been war trained.  Warhorses are the only animal on the list of mounts in the PHB which are considered to be war trained when purchased. Mastiffs, and other beasts with your DMs approval, can be war trained.  DMs are encouraged to assign exponential cost-increases for war training higher CR beasts.

War training by a skilled NPC takes 90 days and costs 180 gp.  Alternately, a PC can attempt to train a creature during downtime.  This costs 1 gp per day in training materials.  After each 30 days of training, the trainer must make a successful DC 15 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check.  A failed roll indicates the training costs are lost and the animal does not learn from that training period.  After three successful checks (minimum of 90 days), the animal gains the War Trained trait.

At the DM’s discretion, some war trained creatures (mastiffs) may be available for purchase.  Such creatures will cost their listed amount plus 200 gp.


At any one time, a war trained creature can be bound to one other creature known as its handler.  For mounts, their current rider is always considered their handler.  For other beasts, such as a war mastiff, their handler is a creature which has spent 8 hours of downtime bonding with the creature through training and succeeding in a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check.  

When not being ridden as a mount, the war trained creature acts independently from its handler in combat. It acts on its own turn immediately following its handler’s turn in the initiative order.  It defends itself if attacked using its offensive and defensive abilities appropriately, attempting to flee if injured.  It stays by its handler’s side, and acts as if commanded to guard its handler (see Guard <target> below), until issued a different command.  

If you are its handler, you may issue a command to a war trained creature as a bonus action that requires a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check..  A successful check allows you to give the creature one command it knows.  The creature acts 

When it has fulfilled the requirements of a given command, and the creature is not threatened, it reverts to its default behavior of guarding its handler.

The commands known by all war trained creatures are listed below.

Attack <target>– the creature engages the target if it can perceive it, using its offensive abilities appropriately for a creature of its intelligence: dogs/wolves make trip attacks.  War horses attempt to overrun and trample, etc.  It ignores other enemies in favor of its target, pursuing if necessary, until the target is disabled or flees.

Heel – the creature returns to its owner’s side, using disengage actions as appropriate if currently engaged with an enemy.  It remains passive, using attack actions only to defend itself.

Follow – the creature uses its movement to maintain a pace with its owner

Guard <target> – the creature moves to the target’s side, and remains there, readying an action if possible each turn to attack the first opponent that threatens the target in melee combat.  If the target moves, it follows as if it were issued the follow command.  Once it has engaged an opponent which threatens the target, it acts as if under an Attack command until that target has been disabled or flees.  If other targets threaten the target, it then engages the next nearest opponent and repeats the process.

Additional commands can be taught to a war trained creature by spending an appropriate amount of downtime and spending 1 gp per day of training for training materials/expenses.  Each of these commands takes fourteen days of training and 30 gp by a skilled NPC, or fourteen days of training at 1 gp a day by a PC during downtime, requiring a successful DC 15 Animal Handling check at the end of that period.  Like other commands, these require a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check made as a bonus action during combat.

Help <target> – the creature uses its turns to move an unoccupied square within 5 feet of the indicated ally and uses the help action on its next turn to aid the individual indicated by the handler the next time it is able.  It then acts as if given the Guard <target> action unless a new command is issued.

Dodge – the creature remains engaged with its opponent, but takes the dodge action on each of its turns rather than making any attack actions.

Fetch – the creature uses its turns to move to and pick up the item indicated by its handler, and then return that item to its handler.  It uses its mouth to carry the item unless it can manipulate objects with a different appendage (an ape’s hands, a monkey’s tail, etc).  Strength and encumbrance rules apply, as well as common sense (a tiny chihuahua will not be fetching a medium greatsword).

Give <target> – the creature uses its turns to move to and drop the item it is carrying to the indicated target.  The command is ignored if the creature is not carrying an item.

Take <item> – the creature uses its turns to move to its handler and take an offered item from the handler’s hand.  The handler can use their reaction to let go of the item, or let go of it during their next turn for no action cost.

War trained Creatures as mounts

When acting as a mount, a war trained creature acts in unison with its handler on its handler’s initiative, and under the control of that player.  The player uses his or her turn’s movement to move the mount (at the mount’s movement speed), and can take actions normally while mounted.  The mount is considered to have taken the same action as the player if that action is dodge, disengage, or dash.  

As a bonus action, the player can make a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check.  If successful, the mount can immediately use one of its melee attack actions against a creature within that action’s range.

Cleric Playtest: Protection Domain

Here’s a look at a Protection domain for clerics that Baron’s player and I came up with.

Breaking a few major “rules” of 5E by allowing the cleric to cast an Abjuration spell that requires Concentration and removing the Concentration requirement, and gaining the ability to affect multiple targets with their single-target Abjuration spells when using higher spell slot levels, this subclass may end up being “too good” as written.  If there are broken combos to be found with the synergies between these abilities, I have faith in Vic (Baron’s player) to find them.

Protection Domain

<Insert fluff that no one reads here>

Protection Domain Spells

Cleric Level Spells
1st Protection from Good and Evil, Shield of Faith
3rd Protection from Poison, Warding Bond
5th Magic Circle, Protection from Energy
7th Guardians of Faith, Stoneskin
9th Antilife Shell, Circle of Power

Bonus Proficiency

When you choose this domain at first level, you gain proficiency with heavy armor.

Channel Divinity: Set Ward

Beginning at 2nd level, when you cast an abjuration spell with a duration which requires concentration, you may expend one use of your Channel Divinity class feature to remove the concentration requirement from the spell.  It lasts for its full duration.

Shared Protections

At 6th level, when you cast an abjuration spell which affects one target and has a duration which requires concentration using a higher level spell slot, you can choose to affect one additional target for each spell slot level higher than the spell’s base level.  If the spell already grants this ability, such as the Banishment spell, this feature grants no additional effect.  Additionally, if the spell has a range of touch, the range increases to 30 feet when cast with a higher level slot.  Once you use this ability, you must complete a long rest before using it again.

Divine Strike

At 8th level, you gain the ability to infuse your weapon strikes with divine energy.  Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 damage of the same type dealt by the weapon to the target.  When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Hardened Soul

At 17th level, you gain resistance to slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning damage.