The Circle of the Garden - 5e Homebrew Druid Subclass
Why settle for one minion when you can summon a whole plant-oon?
This subclass was commissioned by @nite0304, who wanted a subclass based on Plants vs Zombies!
Plant statblocks listed under the cut.
(Quick edit: Pumpkin's statblock mentions Wall-Nut, but it should say Pumpkin there.)
[ID: image 1: a digital painting of a lizard like creature with grey skin that is glowing with blue electricity and surrounded by mushrooms. there is pale yellow text that says "service monsters / non-combat companions / for disabled characters"
images 2 and 3: screenshots from a PHB style formatted PDF showing part of the 'basic traits' section and the 'guide' and 'mobility assistance' sections from the service monsters PDF. end ID]
D&D 5e Disability Mechanics Series
Service Monsters to aid disabled PCs and NPCs
service monsters are designed to aid disabled characters in D&D 5e without erasing their disabilities. they are non-combat and may not aid in battle, but can help disabled characters navigate the world and interact with parts of it that may not be accessible to them alone
service monster options:
Guiding, Hearing, Mobility Assistance, Medical Alert, Psychiatric (Trauma), Psychiatric (Autism), Psychiatric (Schizophrenia)
a base monster customizable for things like creature type, size, and shape
three statblock options
origin options for your service monster
each monster has:
unique physical characteristics for each service type
unique senses, speeds, and abilities
advantage on two skill checks
a small amount of magic
assistance granted with things like saving throws, charisma checks, or difficult terrain
HP and AC that raises with your level
great for pairing with:
autism & adhd mechanics
download the formatted, plain text, and dyslexia-friendly PDFs for free / pay what you want at:
itch / kofi / dm's guild
DM Tip: The Trouble With Treasure/ An Alternate Wealth System
If you’re a player or dungeonmaster who’s at all interested in game design you might’ve noticed D&D’s treasure and economy systems suck. You also might have noticed even if you’re not interested in game design, because the longer you play d&d the more it becomes glaringly obvious that the game doesn’t actually HAVE a treasure and economy system despite pretending otherwise. This is a major problem given that seeking riches is one of the default adventuring motivations, and largely stems from the fact that back in ye-olden days gold was directly related to experience points, so wealth accrued exponentially in line with the increasing cost of levelling up. This is why magic items cost to damn much despite being not only a staple of the genre but absolutely necessary to the long-term viability of certain classes (as I discuss here in my post about gear as class features).
After being cut lose however, nothing was really DONE with gold in d&d from a gameplay perspective: Treasure generation largely fell to dm discretion or random tables, and the useful things a party could buy steadily shrunk to the point where characters could be stuck with their starting equipment for an entire campaign. “Too much gold and nothing to spend it on” became one of the major criticisms of d&d 5e, but only touched on the problem that without something worthwhile to spend treasure on the party has less and less reason to venture into the dangerous unknown, take dodgy contracts, or perform any of a half dozen other plot beats that make up traditional adventuring.
The system likewise breaks down once you pass a certain threshold of wealth, or once you try to model larger economic activities: divvying up a lockbox full of dungeon plunder to reequip your heroes before launching out on the next mission works great for the first couple of levels, but completely falls apart when you're dealing common enough story tropes such as running a business, transporting cargo as merchants, or caring for the estates around a castle.
What I propose is splitting d&d’s economy into two halves: Wealth, which represents the piles of GP and other coins the party carries with them, and Resources, more abstract points which chart how plugged in the party is to local systems of production, trade, and patronage.
If you’d like an explanation of how these systems work, and how they can improve your game like they improved mine, I’ll explain both of these mechanics in detail below the cut, as well as subsystems that let your party open businesses, operate estates, build castles, and make a living as merchants.
Wealth: I wanted to limit the amount of money my players kept with them without instituting an encumbrance system that might drag things down. Instead I wanted to rely on a more “common sense” method of tracking wealth, and get them thinking about their stores of gold as a physical object rather than a nebulous point pool they can dip into.
Conveniently, every character starts play with a coin pouch, which can hold up to 300gp (about 6 pounds). I use this as a “soft cap” for how much money a character can be expected to be carrying around with them, not including jewellery or small valuables like gems.
Theoretically a person could have more than one coin pouch, carry their wealth around with them in a chest (15,000gp) or a cartoon sack with a dollar sign on it (1500gp), but this becomes increasingly cumbersome and provides a greater and greater chance that the party will be targeted by thieves. I don’t need to add any more mechanical crunch to this factor, I just inform the party “ hey, you look like you’re carrying a lot of money, better be careful going forward” and plan my encounters accordingly.
Instituting this cap likewise prevents gold from losing all meaning once the party is high enough level to have found their second or third treasure hoard. Sure, they might be living it up in an aristocratic lifestyle back home, but when it comes to set out into the wilderness they suddenly have to think of GP as a resource along with spellslots and hitdie. Getting robbed, forced to give bribes, or simply losing their coin pouch suddenly becomes an actual threat to them regardless of level.
Resources: The party has a pool refereed to as resources, representing their holdings, relationships with patrons, and personal enterprise. The party’s total resources are pooled, and are represented on a scale from 1-50.
Every week, provided they have contract with their economic network, each member of the party party receives earnings equal to 12.5 gp x (the party’s total resources) representing them drawing a living from the connections they’ve already made (working a trade, doing odd jobs, getting payouts from investments)
In order to obtain a new level of wealth, the party must either invest 500gp per point of wealth they which to obtain into a new or ongoing business project (either their own, or that of a trusted contact). Alternatively, the party can get their resource pool boosted by forming agreements with tradesfolk or wealthy patrons, who may grant the party such agreements out of friendship or as part of a reward for doing quests. Resources are recorded with a number beside them, representing how much of the party’s total resource pool they represent. This is so that if something happens to jeopardize that resource, the party knows exactly how much of their earnings are up in the air.
For example, a party that saves a merchant captain from pirates early on in their adventures might be rewarded with a share of her ship’s takings, gaining 1 point of resources. In the future, they may pour some of their adventuring loot into her business, increasing their total amount of holdings with her to 6, and their weekly payout to 75gp. If that captain and her ship were then lost in a storm, those resources would be frozen, halting the party’s payouts and encouraging them to discover just what it was happened to their friend as the base of a new adventurehook.
Buying against Resources: D&D is weird in that it prices magic items, ships and castles like they can be bought off the rack, when in any pre-industrial society most “new” things would have to be constructed from scratch with labours and artisans paid a steady amount over months or years until the thing was complete and then delivering it directly into the hands of the one who commissioned them. Sure a weaponsmith or apothecary would likely have a storeroom full of items to sell to clients walking in off the street, but shipyards aren't spending years churning out galleys to leave them waiting for a buyer like a used car lot.
Because plenty of games involve at least a section where a party might establish a fortress, fix up a ruined estate, or commission a magical artifact, it helps to have a guideline: Find the base price of the item, chop it in half if the party or one of their business contacts can source the resources (or if they’re fixing something that’s broken) Next they need to pay for labour, “reserving” points out of their own resource pool to hire on workers and supplementary materials, divide the item’s price by (500x the number of resource points the party is willing to spend) to find how many months it’ll take for the item to be finished. Note that during this time, the party’s effective resource score is reduced by the amount they’ve reserved. This makes it possible for a mid level party to start refurbishing their dream castle early, rather than having it simply poof into existence once they’re too high level to really get use out of it.
Ongoing Services: Rather than worry about keeping track of hirelings, or a number of other factors, I let my party reserve points off their resource pool indefinitly to retain the services of NPCs. Each “holding” the party has (buisness, ship, estate) likewise requires one resource kept in reservation for general maintenance, unless the party want to take a month off and maintain it themselves.
A party that owned a tavern then might reserve one resource to maintain their establishment , another to pay for the staff, and begin to think about hiring on some guards for a third as something is causing fights to break out more frequently.
Another party which owned a pirate ship, they’d reserve one resource to maintain the ship, another to pay the crew, and a third to bribe the harbormaster who looks the other way when they bring unsanctioned goods into harbor. After hearing about their big score however, their corrupt contact asks for yet another resource worth of bribes, potentially stretching the party’s resources a bit thin.
Using Resources to be a merchant: If pirates come up often in this post it’s because I drove myself half mad several years ago trying to run a skyship campaign, and the logistics of hullspace v supplies v the staggering price of trade goods v market demand drove me up the wall. I lacked a simple system that would let my party FEEL like they were high-risk traders without having to slow the game down with accounting. Here’s my Alternative: there’s a special type of resource called “goods” connected to caravans and trade vessels, which can be expanded like any other. At the end of every month who’s ever in charge of that venture (Player or npc) makes a mercantilism roll ( possibly charisma, possibly wisdom, + some relevant proficiency) for each of those goods based against a DC set by the dm regarding how good trade is doing in that region. If it’s a success, the markets are flowing, and the goods rating goes up by 1. If it’s a failure, they go nowhere, as no profit is made. If they fail by 10 or more, those goods loose one point due to bad investment, and if they succeed by 10 or more, the goods double. When the party receives their payment, they can chose to cash out for 500gp per point of good, possibly then reinvesting in the venture.
(Also while you're here if you like free dnd stuff...)
Day 13: sir that's my emotional support rock.
and i love him
The Aviator Artificer
hey! back again with another subclass, this time showing love for the half-casters with an artificer specialization. this was really tricky to work out but i think it's neat and i absolutely love the flavor potential. let me know what you think!
From our monthly D&D magazine Strange Press we present The College of Harmony a new bardic subclass.
If you like our work feel free to check out our: Patreon, Website, or on DriveThruRPG You can get the PDF for free on any of our sites.
Check out Tabletop Gaming Resources for more art, tips, and tools for your game!
The Swordmage. These elementally-attuned warriors weave arcane magic alongside fire-forged steel, raining waves of destruction from the windswept skies to the depths of the earth.
Despite the existence of Artificers, Bladesingers, Eldritch Knights, Bladesingers, and so many more sword-slinging caster subclasses, there's long been an itch for something a bit closer to the fantasy of an arcane swordsman, wielding mastery of spells and swords in equal measure. And it shows! There's been a million iterations of Spellblades and Maguses. So we can have one more. As a treat.
There's too many images, too much artwork, too much Swordmage to fit into one post. So there's links in the document itself. In the reblogs.
Only 500 followers late for the 1000 follower special! Here's to many more.
[ID: image 1: a photo of a man and young child silhouetted against a body of water at sunset. there is light yellow text overlaid that reads "the paternal / a 5e protective class"
images 2 and 3 are screenshot previews from a PHB formatted PDF showing traits from the paternal class, including an "adoption" feature, fighting styles, the "surrogate clan" and traits from the surrogate subclass. end ID]
Those who take on the mantle of the paternal class are united in their drive to protect and care for those more vulnerable than them. No matter who they take under their wing or how they came to find those people, a paternal will do anything to ensure the happiness and safety of their chosen family.
The Paternal: a protective martial class
have you ever wanted to play a character who was caring, attentive, strong, maybe a little dorky, always rushing your rest time, absolutely convinced that these woodcarving tools can unlock this magic chest just give him a minute ... well, the paternal class is for you! the paternal class is a bit of a joke for those who just love dads, want to play a dad, or want something a little silly to honor the paternal caretakers in their life. while something of a fun, jokey class, the paternal class is absolutely viable for play in all types of games
the Paternal class includes:
an Adoption feature that lets you buff and protect your character's wards
Very Efficient Use Of Short Rest Time
fun tool proficiencies and ways to use tools that go a little outside the norm
a wisdom-based martial character
the Paternal class includes three clans:
the Protector - a tankier subclass meant for absorbing damage and dispatching enemies
the Surrogate - a subclass that leans into the awkwardness and self-sacrifice of dadhood
the Wrangler - a buff-based subclass that really wants to keep everyone safe and stay on top of every problem at once
this class was inspired by my dream to be an adoptive father and my chronic "take young people under wing" syndrome. it was a delight to work on. thank you to hollis, leo, and faun for inspiration, feedback, and encouragement
formatted PDF, plain text PDF, and dyslexia friendly PDF included for 4.99usd at:
itch / kofi / dm's guild
Do you have any advice on making easier puzzles? I LOVE puzzles, I grew up with adventure games where sometimes why something was the correct solution wasn’t obvious and I loved it because it made me think outside the box. My players … they suck at puzzles. They’re missing so many encounters and loot so they’re under level and under prepared half the time. They aren’t exploring or learning anything about the world. But I haven’t found a good way to tone them down without handholding them.
DM Tip: Puzzling it Out
While puzzles seem almost quintessential to the d&d experience, one of my greatest criticisms of how the game is currently handled is that there's almost no advice available to dungeonmasters about how they should go about designing or running puzzle encounters to maximize the fun at their table. We've got vague ideas about riddle doors, big setpiece traps, and clever envriomental mechanisms from the media we consume, but no idea how to translate those things into a format that works well in TRPGs.
Part of the problem is that there's no head's up display or physical feedback in a game of imagination like d&d: players are purely at the whims of the DM and what information they're willing/capable of providing, forcing everyone to spend a lot of time asking clarifying questions or trying out options that won't work. This grinds sessions to a halt, as not only do players need to figure out how to solve the puzzle, but spend twice as long figuring out what the puzzle is on top of figuring out if there even IS a puzzle in the first place.
Below the cut I'm going to give specific advice about how you as a DM can be better about implementing puzzles for your players in game:
My number 1 piece of advice for running a puzzle is to be OBVIOUS about it: Hint at the mechanisms involved when you initially describe the room and make them do something when the players poke at them. One of the greatest tools I've given to my party is letting them ask " what's the puzzle here?", at which point you describe the goal of the puzzle, the problem that they're faced with, and the different options they can interact with. You can keep some things out of the description, hidden or missing imputs, broken mechanisms that need improvisation or repair, but if you can be perfectly clear with what the puzzle is at the beginning , the party can dedicate their brains to trying to solve it from the get go, rather than spending most of their time at the table poking around in the dark. When they've done what you need them to do, make it obvious: have the door pop open, play the zelda "puzzle solved" sound, scream " YOU'VE SOLVED MY FIENDISH PUZZLE" in the dorkiest wizard voice you can manage, anything to let them save time and get back to the rest of the session.
No skill checks during puzzles: nothing's more annoying than knowing the answer to something and then being forced to try and retry because the dice aren't being kind. Players likewise shouldn't need perception checks to figure out basic elements of a puzzle's functionality anymore than they should need to roll to figure out if a door blocking their way is locked. The one exception to this is when they've devised a bullshit way to circumvent the challenge that's too flimsy to work on its own and needs a bit of the luck-gods blessing on order to work.
Puzzles eat up session time, so if you want to get things done this session use them as gates for optional content. Alternatively, Consider introducing a puzzle at the end of a session giving the party a whole week to think about solutions to get past it. People are generally really bad at problemsolving under pressure, and there's no reason your precious game time should be sacrificed just because the group doesn't feel like doing verbal trial and error for three hours.
General Puzzle tips
Everything I wrote in my post about “Proactive DM Voice” applies to running puzzles, you want to point your party at the problem give them an understanding that time is limited and that their decisions matter.
When they attempt a solution, tell them why it seems not to be working and if the reason is because they’re missing something, tell them that they’re missing something.
To make your puzzles more interesting without making them complex is to have them missing pieces, either intentionally sabotaged or simply broken from long years of neglect. This lets you highlight two advantages d&d has over other puzzle games: improvisation and exploration. Having your players come up with wild solutions is half the fun of including puzzles in your games.
On the note of exploration, try to include atleast two different solutions to every puzzle somewhere nearby, whether they be lost parts for the puzzle or a means of bruteforcing the barrier it would normally unlock. This lets your players feel smart, even if its not the exact sort of smart the puzzle’s original builder would have intended.
One of the best ways to use puzzles is to use them to double up on dungeon rooms: placing a fight or other challenge in the same chamber as the puzzle to add a more interesting backdrop.
If your party is really stuck on something, rather than letting them make an intelligence check to know the answer, describe how the mechanism of the trap works and ask how they think they’d get past it/break it. Looking under the hood like this does give them a leg up, but still requires enough problemsolving to make them feel smart.
These are going to be your bread and butter for most ruined or abandoned dungeons, created either by intention or because objects in the environment landed just so to create a knot that the party now needs to untangle
Rather than letting your party flounder on something that isn’t solvable never be afraid to say “That doesn't seem to do anything right now” or “looks like you’re missing a piece before you can make this work”. It’s videogamy, but your players will thank you for respecting thier time.
One of the best ways to give your party an advantage when dealing with environmental puzzles is to take the central mechanic of the puzzle and have them encounter a simplified version of it early on. Puzzle about getting an elevator unstuck? Have them do the same to a freight crane for a minor loot drop. Puzzle about draining the water from a flooded chamber? Have them empty a massive barrel so they can reach the keys inside.
If you want to be particularly devious, consider chaining environmental puzzles, making the ones they encounter earlier in the dungeon reliant on the solving of others deeper in. That gives you an excuse to reuse dungeon rooms, as the party circles back to play with the toys you’d previously singled out for later.
Riddles are better suited to games with the fey than for locked doors, as anyone trying to keep someone out of their chambers would be better served with an actual lock or password than
The exception to this rule is “linguistic gap” riddles, where a knowledgeable partymember is making a translation from instructions on how to get past the obstacle but due to age and cultural difference the translation doesn’t exactly match up: navigating a cave by “heeding the unseen serpent” and following the sound of rushing water, or “follow pelor’s patient gaze” to see where the sun points to at a particular time of day.
If you must have riddles, use them as hints rather than obstacles, pointing out secret caches of supplies or secret passages that let the party skip past other barriers. That lets them feel smart for figuring out a shortcut, while still giving them the main road of progress to follow if they get stuck.
Riddles also work when the architect is trying to prove that they’re smarter than the intruder, Riddler style, or wants to leave behind a false clue that leads them into a greater trap.
As a design consideration consider having the awnser show up as a physical thing somewhere in the dungeon, even if it’s just a representation the party can spot, or evidence that it once existed there. People’s brains are better at drawing connections then they are at coming up with random ideas, so figuring out that “all in armor never clinking/never thirsty always drinking” pertains to a fish is a lot easier if the party noticed a lot of fish in the fountain frescos a few rooms back.
I like to think that there’s two kinds of traps, death traps, and slap traps. With the former being large indiana jones style setpieces where the players desperately need to escape, and the latter being a minor hazard that softens the party up before an actual fight.
Deathtraps are like boss encounters, and can be run either in tandem with a fight or as a sort of environmental puzzle on their own. Given that the architect probably didn’t intend for intruders to escape the method the party uses will likely be improvised, letting them feel extra clever for surviving, rather than simply lucky.
Slaptraps are either best deployed as an ongoing navigation challenge , or as an unexpected threat introduced into another encounter. The days of random 20ft pits in the middle of hallways are a dark and godless time and we should not return to them
Traps that don’t have someone maintaining them will either break or leave behind bodies which attract scavengers. These are important signposting to a delving party that a trap might be coming up, so be sure to include them before you unleash a new trap on them.
An old bit of advice Traps are put in places where the dungeon’s architect/current owner doesn’t want people to go, and as such arn’t likely to be in populated sections.
I’m tremendously fond of Dael Kingsmill’s “Click” system, which turn traps from a random suckerpunch into a tense problemsolving encounter. TLDR: When a trap is triggered the party hears a loud “click” , and has a moment to do one thing in response. This action might grant them advantage or disadvantage, or fully negate the trap’s effects on them depending on what they chose as compared with how the trap hits them. It’s important to pair these sorts of traps with a dungeon room that has some details in it, so the party can guess in advance what the trap is.
Mazes, Codes, and Physical Puzzles
Despite how essential they seem to the genre, don’t try to run these sorts of obstacles by way of actually having your players solve them. They take too long and there’s too much of a chance for miscommunication to get in the way of progress. I’ve killed far too many of my sessions dead by throwing one of these in front of my party and expecting them to solve it then and there. Consider instead using my minigame rules to simulate the trial and error of working out something complex.
*Updated* In case you need a cheat sheet for monster making
This is the order things go in. Not every monster will have everything, but if they have something it goes in this order. If they don't have something, delete it
I'm making a full video on my monster creation process, and realized my little example cheat sheet is probably useful to others. Have fun creating!
Cleric Domain based on the Sandman
For more fun DnD subclasses check out here!
Also find this one on the website with downloadable pdfs
The Wildcard Magic sorcerous origin has a totally unique casting mechanic based round literally drawing your spells at random from a deck of cards. It forces you to act responsively in combat, playing the hand as it's dealt, and planning out your massive deck of spells to exploit the synergies it introduces! Designed to be played with those cool spellcards you can get online for free (or buy).
It's good to be back. See you next week with another.
Would love feedback on this one. Also, have some extensive design thoughts below the break!
Initially I started making this for a Wizard subclass, but I quickly realised the class' concept of a "deck of spells you randomly draw in combat" worked best when it was full of blasting spells. Sorcerers are the "oops! all blasting spells" class - they have fewer choices than the wizard, but they get all the good evocations - much better suited to being chosen at random. Also, the Wildcard is a subclass that has a lot of spells, and therefore a lot of decisions - if I limit the players decisions to only the best options, then the average player will have more fun.
Also, sorcerers generally get very few spell choices. Wizards already have lots of spellchoices - on a wizard, the Cartomancy feature is more like a nerf than a buff. But on a sorcerer, it feels amazing. This feature's unusual limitation is completely unique, and makes combat a whole lot more engaging. And the noncombat abilities you get feel stellar too.
Cartomancy gives you more different spells in combat than the OG sorcerer until around level 9 (Cha+Prof vs Lv+1) after which it starts to act as a real limit. The feature is a massive buff at early levels but then starts to feel weaker. To compensate, 6th level Snap Caster packs a monstrous punch - acting like the beefy 6th level Draconic Bloodline feature, alongside an occasional free metamagic! These are both wrapped up with a deckbuilding requirement- I want people to be encouraged to pick a specific theme, without giving them a hard-and-fast set of rules. Chromatic orb, absorb elements, and chaos orb are all really thematic spells for sorcerers imo, and Snap Caster encourages you to exploit all three.
Sorcerers always get a way to spend sorc points at this point, andat 6th level, the random draw requirement starts to feel more of a limit. Card Counting lets you spend sorc points to stack the cards in your favour. But it still calls for some good planning, and doesn't completely undo the subclass' theme. In playtesting, I found that this feature was pretty necessary at later levels, as a way to mitigate against bad luck.
Almost half of sorcerers get a flying speed at 14th-18th level, and I decided to give this lot "flying speed with a properly thematic twist". House of Cards rounds things out with an absurd capability that lets you trap tiny foes and make bridges through the air with conjured cards
Lastly, Paper Trail finally gives you a way to break the rules of your 1st level feature and draw more cards as the combat goes on. It also gives you damage resistances and the ability to move through gaps. This is very strong, of course, but 18th level is all about giving sorcerers superpowers - and if it can't consistently cast an 8th/9th level spell on the first turn, it's gonna need some epic boosts to keep up with another sorcerer!