So Wizards of the Coast just recently unveiled a new subrace and some new archetypes in the spirit of the release of the Curse of Strahd campaign setting/adventure module (the new subrace & archetypes are found here). The adventurers arrive through the mists of Bavoria to confront one of D&D’s most beloved and iconic villians, the dreaded vampire lord Strahd von Zarovich, and perhaps save a cursed people from a cycle of fate and misfortune.
In the original Ravenloft setting, dying was a common occurrence for under-prepared or overly-ambitious PCs who thought they could just simply dive into danger. This particular adventure has held a distinctive flair to it since the early days as a setting that was merciless and unforgiving. Just like it’s undead ruler.
Wizards of the Coast also released the short adventure, Death House, which also takes place in the Ravenloft setting to showcase the long winding road of torment and sadistic evil a Dungeon Master could employ against unsuspecting PCs. The house literally is out to kill the party in every opportunity it can. At the end of the adventure, should the party manage to defeat the evil that lurks in the basement, the house literally becomes alive to try in one last attempt to claim the life of the party. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to introduce your players to an adventure full of torment and possibly hilarious deaths.
Speaking of Death
So in the new Unearthed Arcana supplement for Gothic Heroes, Wizards decided to touch on the near-certainty of character deaths in the Ravenloft adventure. But sometimes if a player wishes to continue the adventure and invoke the dark powers within Ravenloft, the character may rise again as a Revenant possessed with vengeance or the desire to complete its mission.
Traditionally in the past, this sort of ploy would be a template slapped onto a character and we be done with it. This time around, we have the Revenant as a subrace since we wish to make them into a playable character. The unique feature obviously being that this subrace can be applied to any existing race, but also override the existing subrace chosen from character creation. It also contains clauses for races that did not have subraces and what happens to certain features they possessed. The optional ruleset mentions that half-elves and half-orcs are a much more difficult conundrum to tackle and left those rules out intentionally and simply stated that the current incarnation of the Revenant rules would not be suitable. Does this seem rushed? Perhaps. Lazy? Probably. But let’s brainstorm and think it over for a moment.
Half-orcs and half-elves possess some of the traits from their full-blooded counterparts. Due the rules for the Relentless Nature feature, I can see the Half-Orc’s Relentless Endurance being replaced here, and the +1 to Constitution as a racial stat bump can be removed as well. I would also lower the +2 Strength racial bump to a +1 bonus since the only other relevant feature to contest with that would the Savage Attacks feature. But if you look at the Revenant Dragonborn, they deal necrotic damage, a damage type in early levels is quite hard to resist (except by undead). The relative power boost from such a damage type forced the Revenant Dragonborn to only have a +1 bonus to Strength instead of its original +2.
The revenant half-elf is something trickier. Looking over the Human Revenant, they lose most of the stat bumps unless you’re playing a variant human in which case you lose the Skills and Feats traits. Looking over the half-elf, the sensible removals would be the +2 Charisma racial bonus and Skills Versatility trait. They would keep the +1 to two ability scores bonus and everything else since the Elf gets to keep the Fey Ancestry and the various other features. The Revenant’s Relentless Nature trait embodies the concept that the character is virtually undying and unkillable so long as they are possessed by their mission or vengeance. If anyone has ever watched the Crow, this character brought that imagery to mind when looking over the trait.
Vengeance is a dish best served lukewarm
If you have not had the luxury, Matthew Mercer, who is a voice-actor and DM for Geek & Sundry’s Critical Role live-Twitch show crafted a Blood Hunter class (which was used by infamous D&D fanboy/actor Vin Diesel in a short campaign to promote the movie: the Last Witch Hunter). The class can be found in the DMs Guild and has been at the top of the charts for a good while, in part from the show’s popularity and due to the celebrity status brought by Vin Diesel. In the spirit of trying to take their own spin on the classic Monster Hunter, Wizards of the Coast conjured the class Van Helsing image as a Fighter archetype.
In this archetype, we see an interesting usage and incarnation of the Superiority die under the Combat Superiority feature. Instead of expending said dice to execute battle maneuvers from the Battle Master archetype, we instead have them grant specific bonuses from boosting attack or damage rolls, to hurting spellcasters when making Constitution saving throws, to boosting the chance to succeed on an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma saving throw (stats that many fighters are not strong with typically), and lastly to improve the odds of a Perception or Insight check. All useful caveats in combat, but even the last one for exploration/roleplaying purposes. The other class features, with the exception of Hunter’s Mysticism, focus primarily on improving the overall usage of the Superiority dice with a few familiar features from the Battle Master archetype. Like gaining a superiority dice after Initiative rolls when the character has no die in its stores. The Hunter’s Mysticism is flavorful and fits what I consider quite well in giving that bit of magical touch. The ability to detect magic as a ritual simulates the Monster Hunter’s long-standing appreciation of the mystical arts but to be only a novice and use these techniques for a singular purpose. The extra bonus of using Protection from Good and Evil as a once per long rest was equally useful and rewarding to find. Gaining a language was also very flavorful as well, so I highly appreciated this bit of a ribbon-like trait.
Secrets are abound and some are unfounded
The Rogue is given the Inquisitive archetype, which deals with unearthing secrets and being quite perceptive (more than usual). Even just from the general flavor text, I found this class to be quite an interesting idea though it also at the same time felt that another Rogue archetype felt like a lack of trying something new and innovative. Granted, Wizard’s R&D is hoping the community does it and let them get a 50% royalty via the DMs Guild (which is a smart creative and design move). The Ear for Deceit feature has a bit of a wordy language to it, but ultimately it stands to say “if you roll below an 8 on your Insight check, you now have rolled an 8 instead”. The feature specifically states that you take the higher of your Insight check or 8 + your Wisdom modifier (if you’re proficient and/or Expertised in it, you add your proficiency bonus(es)). It’s an intriguing concept as it infers that even at the crappiest rolls, this rogue has an inclination that someone is lying to them.
The Eye for Detail Cunning Action add-on, I thought was useful and quite handy. To perceive an invisible or hidden creature in mid-combat or to find the answer to a puzzle are all well and good. But it’s the Insighful Fighting feature, when tied with this feature, that truly makes this archetype not only shine but stand out as potentially powerful archetype.
The Insightful Fighting feature basically let’s the Inquisitive Rogue make an Insight check against the target’s Deception check, if the rogue succeeds, it practically says: “you can Sneak Attack the target for 10 combat rounds without any of the original necessary conditions, oh and even if you have disadvantage on the attack.” It lasts for 1 minute or until you change targets with Insightful Fighting. Let’s say you’re a 10th level Rogue with this feature, if you chose Expertise on Insight and had a modest Wisdom modifier of just +2, your base Insight check is +10 before dice rolls. The average creature or humanoid enemy may have a +1 or even a negative bonus to Deception checks before dice rolls. At higher challenge ratings that is not the issue, since you’re fighting extraplanar entities with plenty of Charisma bonuses.
Steady and Unerring Eye focus on the Inquistive Rogue’s uncanny ability for Perception. This is mostly for active Perception either to find hidden creatures or objects and eventually discern if something is an illusion, which honestly is pretty handy of an ability.
The Eye for Weakness feature at 17th level is quite powerful, while not as deadly as the Assassin Rogue archetype, the ability to deal more damage is on a Sneak Attack is quite powerful. This archetype has the ability to roll more dice for Sneak Attack than any other archetype. Granted the point of Insighful Fighting is to remove not need Advantage on dice rolls for the attack, which lowers the opportunities for rolling a natural 20 which under 5th Edition rules results in double dice rolled for damage. So the normal Sneak Attack with advantage has the opportunity to roll for nat 20’s which incur double Sneak Attack damage. Insightful Fighting allows for consistent damage over a period of 10 rounds, and potentially deal more damage on a critical hit. The trade-off of rolling more attack rolls justifies the increased dice damage. For a capstone ability, this one fit the bill and empowered an earlier ability to be even more dangerous. I like it.
So while we did not get as much to work with in regards to archetypes, the idea of the Revenant subrace instead of a template has opened a sort of dialogue for where we (as a community) may take the design elements for other previous “templates” for similar applications.
The new Fighter and Rogue archetypes touch on existing abilities and show us that there is still plenty of design space for ideas using the already established core material. I really enjoyed the Monster Hunter’s use of Superiority dice not just simply for maneuvers from the Battle Master archetype. The Inquisitive Rogue archetype personified a character mastering one particular feature: perception and insight to the maximum. The Mastermind archetype presented in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide focused on using the Help Action and empowering the usage of that particular ability. There is really a large breadth of avenues that can taken in empower these archetypes or even draw more ideas into the already existing core classes. I would love to see an Spiritualism or Exorcist domain cleric, even though the Arcana domain cleric does a very good job of that. Once again, the Ranger needs some addressing in regards to its place in the class roster but that is another argument for another article.
For now, give these a try in your own games or even when you’re playing Curse of Strahd. You might be inspired to do something gothic related, like include Taint & Madness into your game due to the insurmountable evil that lurks within Ravenloft.
I wish you good adventuring, please like and comment down below. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We have a donate button and an Amazon store if you wish to help us out in your own way. Thanks for reading and don’t let Strahd catch you in the mists of Bavoria.