As of writing and posting this article, Blizzcon 2016 has come and gone, one of my friends and I still play Diablo 3 on weekends when we’re free. The latest Necromancer class reveal had us excited and playing a few hours of the game. The old-fashioned dungeon crawl and the game’s classes always were a topic of discussion for us,I picked up playing a Barbarian character again and as we got the new character up to level 70 I thought to myself about the Call of the Ancients ability – summoning spectral allies to fight against a common foe. In D&D games, the idea of a barbarian warrior wielding a Horn of Valhalla and using it to summon spiritual berserkers to help and aid in combat always left a wonderful visual in my imagination.

The 5th Edition rules have an odd relationships about summoning allies or having consistent companions, if you at the Ranger class and the various attempts to adjust it, or the dark magic demon summoning spells from another Unearthed Arcana. Letting players summon more allies ruins the combat encounter math, something that DMs already spend a copious amount of time in their preparations which a separate problem altogether. Unlike the Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarian, this iteration focuses on outward spiritual projection instead of its internalization.

While contemplating my ideas for a spirit summoning barbarian, I thought perhaps it would be fun to work on a druidic circle for spirits as well.

Path of the Ancestors

A barbarian call on the spirits, learning their harsh lessons
A barbarian call on the spirits, learning their harsh lessons

Unlike other barbarians who channel animal or natural spirits to imbue them with supernatural might or protection, a barbarian channels the wisdom and prowess of their predecessors and ancestors. These barbarians do not meld these spirits with themselves but instead barter for their aid whether in battle or as a reservoir of wisdom. 

Communion with the Spirits: You learn to respect the dead and even at times commune with them. At 3rd level, when you adopt this path, you gain the ability to cast gentle repose and speak with the dead spells only as rituals.

Lessons of the Ancestors: At 3rd level, whenever you enter a rage, your body adopts the stances and styles of your ancestors. You must possess a physical item to establish your honor and connection with your ancestor. You choose one of the following fighting styles to adopt:

  • Dueling – Same as PHB
  • Great Weapon Fighting – Same as PHB
  • Two-Weapon Fighting – Same as PHB
  • Mariner – As long as you are not wearing heavy armor or using a shield, you have a swimming speed and climbing speed equal to your normal speed, and you gain a +1 bonus to AC.
  • Mounted Fighting – As long as you are not wearing heavy armor, while mounted and wielding a melee weapon, you gain a +1 bonus to damage with that weapon.

Voice of the Ancestors: At 6th level, you can channel the power of your ancestors to invoke a presence of authority or fear. You are considered proficient in Intimidation and Persuasion skills, you add double your proficiency bonus when making these checks. You do not gain additional proficiency if you’re already proficient with these skills.

Blessings of the Ancestors: At 10th level, your ancestors bless you with their otherworldly veil of protection. While raging, you gain resistance to psychic damage. Additionally, you gain advantage on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving throws.

You may extend this blessing to your allies within 30 feet of you, doing so will grant them the same benefits of this feature for 1 minute. Afterwards you do not gain the benefits of this feature until after you finish a long rest.

Call of the Ancestors: At 14th level, you can summon your ancestors and have them fight with you. Using an action, 2d4 + 2 warrior spirits from the plane of Ysgard appear within 60 feet of you. These spirits use the berserker statistics from the Monster Manual. They move and attack on your initiative order. They return to Ysgard after 1 minute or when they drop to 0 hit points. Once you use this feature, it cannot be used again until after you finish a long rest. You can call your ancestors even while you are raging.

Author’s Note: While most capstone abilities are meant to be powerful, paths and archetypes that end at 14th level traditionally are not meant to be as game shattering as others at 17th or even 18th level. I decided that the summoning the amount of berserkers at 14th level (which could be anywhere from 4 to 10) was as strong as a 5th-level. The berserker in the Monster Manual deals an average of 9 damage per hit, granted they only get on hit but with advantage due to their Reckless trait. So having the rough equivalent of let’s say 6 warriors attacking, that is potentially 6d12 + 18 if all those attacks hit. If they hit that’ll be 54 damage in a single round. That might outperform even the barbarian character but then again I felt that the point of this feature was to summon aid. Not to mention the tactical merits of summoning this many allies to assist and distract hostile creatures is quite powerful. I still feel that perhaps I should reduce the number to 1d4 + 1 warriors instead but this feature will require some playtesting. Please note that this idea came before Wizards released their new Barbarian primal paths on Unearthed Arcana (which I will have my reviews on soon).


Circle of the Spirits

A druid of the circle of the spirits conversing with a nature spirit of the forest, Image by Lady Blackthorn
A druid of the circle of the spirits conversing with a nature spirit of the forest, Image by Lady Blackthorn

While various druids focus on the channeling the energies of nature, you impart on a different path. The physical form is only a shell for the greater potential beyond, spirits have tapped into that greater force and through them so have you. 

Emissary of Life and Death: When you choose this circle at 2nd level, you learn spare the dying as a druid cantrip. You also gain proficiency with the Persuasion skill.

Summon Spirit Guide: Starting at 2nd level, you can summon a spirit companion by expending a single use of your Wild Shape feature in an unoccupied space within 20 feet of you for 1 hour. The spirit assumes the form of an animal of small or medium size up to Challenge Rating 1. The spirit creature gains a bonus to its attack rolls, saving throws, and gains bonus hit points equal to your Wisdom modifier.

The spirit creature takes its actions during your initiative and acts independently of you. When the spirit drops to 0 hit points, it disappears, leaving behind no physical form. You may also spend a bonus action to dismiss it. You can only have one spirit companion active at a time. If you expend another Wild Shape use, your current spirit companion can instead adopt a new form. It transforms into the chosen creature.

Spells: Your mystical connection with the spirits infuses with the ability to cast certain spells. At 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th level you gain access to spells connected to the spirits and ways to interact with them. Once you gain access to a spell, you always have it prepared and it doesn’t count against the number of spells you can prepare each day. If you gain access to a spell that doesn’t appear on the druid spell list, the spell is nonetheless a druid spell for you.

Level – Spells
3rd – gentle repose, unseen servant
5th – beacon of hope, speak with dead
7th – death ward, guardian of faith
9th – hallow, planar binding

Mystical Conduit: Starting at 6th level, your connection with your spirit companion intensifies. When you cast a spell with a range of touch or self, your spirit companion can deliver the spell as if it had cast the spell.  The spirit must be within 60 feet of you and it must its reaction to deliver the spell when you cast it. If the spell requires an attack roll, you use your attack modifier for the roll.

Additionally, you can use an action to see through your spirits’ senses like the beast sense spell except only up to 100 feet.

Spiritual Sojourner: At 10th level, you can expend 2 Wild shape uses to cast etherealness on yourself as an action.

Nexus of Souls: When you reach 14th level, you become a mediator between the spirit world and the material plane. Whenever you make a Charisma check when interacting with a celestial, fey, fiendish, or undead creature, your proficiency bonus is doubled if it applies to the check. Additionally, whenever an undead, celestial, fiendish, and fey creature attacks you, that creature must make a Wisdom saving throw against your druid spell save DC. On a failed save, the creature must choose a different target, or the attack automatically misses. On a successful save, the creature is immune to this effect for 24 hours. The creature is aware of this effect before it makes its attacks against you. You can expend 2 Wild Shape uses to create an aura instead that extends 30 feet from you to encompass your allies with this feature.

Author’s Note: I wanted a more passive approach with a Shaman-like druid circle, instead of controlling spirits this iteration acts more of a mediator between spirits and the living. Sort of like a ranger does for the wilderness and civilization. I wanted the spirit companion to serve as a bit of combat purpose since the Druid sacrifices their wild shape uses to summon them. The spirit also provides some of the exploration utility that might normally be gained while in wild shape form. Granted the druid still has one additional use of Wild Shape left so it makes sense that a clever druid could go into a different beast form to attack while having another as support like both being wolves for example.

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