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[Ascension Games] Path of Shadows - Bringing Shadow Magic to 5th Edition!


4th Edition


Ascension Games is branching out to 5th edition, starting with a conversion of Path of Shadows!

Path of Shadows - For D&D 5e adds the wonders shadow magic to 5th Edition. It has a new class - the nightblade - which focuses on using shadow magic to its fullest, and will have spells, feats, and magic items for just about everyone.

To make sure the balance is on-point, I've made a playtest document featuring the new nightblade class and several spells. Many of the spells are from the original Path of Shadows, such as banish light and deathwings, but classic spells like shadow conjuration and darkbolt are also included.

Any feedback is appreciated! I don't have as much experience playing 5th edition as I do Pathfinder, so I want to make sure the balance is kept while still keeping the ideas of shadow magic intact. Suggestions for improving the quality, as well as spells and abilities you'd like to see added, are always welcome.

You can download the playtest here.

Thanks!

Chris Moore
Ascension Games, LLC

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Wow! This is really great.

I particularly like the Shadow Surge mechanic.

A couple times you refer to Reflex saves instead of Dexterity saves.

I like your explanation of the use of Charisma saves. I like how the saves are more difficult, but the effects are less severe than Wisdom saves (restrained vs. paralyzed).

For many of your shadow creatures, you give them the same Saving Throws and Skill Proficiencies as the caster. This could lead to some odd situations were brutish beasts are bad at Strength checks and saves, but really good at Arcana or Persuasion. Is this intentional?

Sovereign Court

Say... would you like a 5th edition conversion expert to consult? In either case, I am more than happy to check out the playtest and offer my insight. This has me all kinds of excited!


SmiloDan wrote:
A couple times you refer to Reflex saves instead of Dexterity saves.

Whoops! I guess old habits die hard. I'll be sure to look out for similar conversion errors.

SmiloDan wrote:
I like your explanation of the use of Charisma saves. I like how the saves are more difficult, but the effects are less severe than Wisdom saves (restrained vs. paralyzed).

I thought that made it fair, and makes shadow magic in general more appealing. You have a higher chance of it "sticking", but overall the effects you get are weaker.

SmiloDan wrote:
For many of your shadow creatures, you give them the same Saving Throws and Skill Proficiencies as the caster. This could lead to some odd situations were brutish beasts are bad at Strength checks and saves, but really good at Arcana or Persuasion. Is this intentional?

It was really just to keep the rules simplified, rather than going through each and saying "this version is proficient with x, y, and z, while this is proficient with a, b, and c." If it concern is shared with more people I'll consider changing it to be more specialized.

Lorathorn wrote:
Say... would you like a 5th edition conversion expert to consult? In either case, I am more than happy to check out the playtest and offer my insight. This has me all kinds of excited!

Absolutely! I have far less experience with 5e than with Pathfinder, and while I like to think I have a pretty good eye for balance and design, more experienced players pitching in will always be helpful.


I loved the pathfinder version, though I have been playing extensively with 5e for some time now and it's becoming my preferred system at this point. I'm excited to see this and have high hopes considering how well the pathfinder version turned out!

I've given it an initial read through and my first thought is compared to most classes it is getting a lot each level. Between class features, arts, and spells it has a lot going for it. Got the same reaction from another DM I showed it to. Obviously not sure if it is a balance concern, haven't had a chance to test yet but it is an initial impression.

Another part that stood out to us is getting the path at 1st level. Very few classes do that and while I can see why it was done, few outside of full casters tend to do this.

Worth noting I'm doing most of my comparison against a paladin or ranger since that is probably closer than rogue considering the 5th level spellcasting.

Anyway, will be looking forward to more. Hoping to have more time later to really dive into this more deeply!


Aleron wrote:
I loved the pathfinder version, though I have been playing extensively with 5e for some time now and it's becoming my preferred system at this point. I'm excited to see this and have high hopes considering how well the pathfinder version turned out!

I hope it comes out well, too! While I still think I prefer Pathfinder as my main platform, 5e has a lot of good things going for it and I certainly enjoy it.

Aleron wrote:
I've given it an initial read through and my first thought is compared to most classes it is getting a lot each level. Between class features, arts, and spells it has a lot going for it. Got the same reaction from another DM I showed it to. Obviously not sure if it is a balance concern, haven't had a chance to test yet but it is an initial impression.

This is definitely something I'm keeping an eye on. While power-wise I don't think it's too much, the volume of abilities may be too high. I might end up reducing the number of arts you get, or when you get them to make the table more streamlined.

I could also turn some of the core features into nightblade arts, but I'd rather avoid that.

Aleron wrote:
Another part that stood out to us is getting the path at 1st level. Very few classes do that and while I can see why it was done, few outside of full casters tend to do this.

I don't think this is really a balance concern. Yeah, the only classes that get their options at 1st level are Cleric, Sorcerer, and Warlock, but on the flip side Paladin is the only one to get its level 20 capstone tied to its class choice and that doesn't strike me as something to worry about, either.

Aleron wrote:
Worth noting I'm doing most of my comparison against a paladin or ranger since that is probably closer than rogue considering the 5th level spellcasting.

It's sort of a half-way point between Paladin/Ranger and Warlock, design wise. Nightblade arts are pretty similar to Eldritch Invocations, but require the shadow surge resource, and they have a few similar abilities.

And, to be honest, when doing balance work I didn't take ranger into too much consideration; I find it lacking in many areas and it would make for a poor baseline balance-wise.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I don't think it gets too many features per level. A couple class features for the first three levels, and then just 1 or 2 thereafter, if you consider gaining access to a new spell level a class feature.

But it is good to note that 5th Edition character classes get most of their power from class features, not bigger numbers like in PF.

3 classes their archetypes at 1st level, 2 at 2nd level, and 7 at 3rd. I don't think it's a bad design decision; if anything, it increases the parity among class options.


It's exactly because of the care and balancing that went into the pathfinder version that I put my thoughts down. I'd like to see the 5e version be as big a hit as the previous version was in pathfinder. In any case, you were asking for feedback and impressions so I was giving you some early ones.

The mention of the number abilities is because 5e is a more streamlined, easier to run system. It's the main reason it is my go to currently for DMing. I do believe some of the class could probably do with some 'paring' down or potentially combining things in a simpler format. As I mentioned above, I didn't remark necessarily on the balance per se due to not having a chance to test it or see it in action compared to other characters. Additionally I found a lot of the spells very complex and long when I glanced them over, likely another instance that could use some smoothing out word/concept-wise perhaps.

The mention of the 'path' at 1st level wasn't saying it was unbalanced, merely an observation it is somewhat strange compared to a number of other classes. Nothing more than that.

As for ranger, they don't tend to do badly in the games I've played in/run. Even if some of the design choices and themes they went with don't particularly appeal to me. I wouldn't argue saying the paladin is overall likely the stronger option between the two regardless and probably a better gauge power-wise. Though as mentioned the arts vs invocations thing is rather fitting itself.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Yeah, the ranger is amazing as an archer. We have one in our party, and hunter's mark is great, especially combined with my cleric's bless and the Sharpshooter feat. The ranger spell list has also saved our bacon on numerous occasions!

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

One of my players might play a Nightblade! :-D

But probably not til the fall, because Real Life happens.


SmiloDan wrote:

One of my players might play a Nightblade! :-D

But probably not til the fall, because Real Life happens.

Neat! I'd advise waiting until the updated version...

The lovely folks over at Giant In the Playground have been giving lots of feedback (read: ripping the class to shreds) and I agree with most of their points. Expect a lot of changes pretty soon.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

OK, cool.


An update to the playtest document is now available, addressing many issues brought up from the previous version.

A summary of the changes, as well as things I would like feedback on the most, are listed below:

Changes

Nightblade Core Features

  • The nightblade now has Extra Attack at 5th level, instead of being a feature of Darkened Fortress
  • Maximum shadow surges is increased to four by max level, but the random recharge is removed. You can use an action to refill the whole pool, rather than just 1 point.
  • The class now gets Darkvision at 3rd level, instead of the ability to see in magical darkness as it originally did.
  • Path features are now granted at levels 1/3/7/11/15 as opposed to the original 1/6/11/15. The number of abilities has not been changed (they used to get two features at level 1, now it's only one).
  • Pierce the Veils no longer grants immunity to blindness, instead giving the class the ability to see in magical darkness (as the original Nighteye ability).
  • Umbral Spell's extra uses are now earned slightly earlier
  • The class only gets 6 arts, instead of 8, to cut down on ability total. This should have minimum impact on the class's overall performance.

Bloodied Chain
  • Eyes of Terror no longer has a penalty for use on higher-level opponents.
  • Chains of Despair now can be attached when hitting an opponent with a weapon attack
  • At 7th level, you can now use Eyes of Terror to affect all targets bound by Chains of Despair simultaneously (plus your normal target with Eyes of Terror), giving it some AoE fear options
  • The 11th level feature lets you deal 1d6 psychic damage per hit on Chain of Despair targets; coupled with Extra Attack this should boost its damage from it's original version considerably, while not having it overshadow damage-oriented paths like Darkened Fortress and Ravaging Void.
  • Umbral Shackles radius has been increased to 15 feet.

Darkened Fortress
  • Guardian shroud is now a reaction, instead of a bonus action, to make it's use more natural
  • The 3rd level feature, Dark Armament, lets you burn spell slots to enhance the damage of weapons you wield for 1 hour. Between this ability and the Umbral Assault nightblade art, Darkened Fortress's damage should be in much better shape than before.
  • 11th level feature now upgrades previous features, letting guardian shroud be created at a distance and allowing Dark Armament to refresh shadow surges on critical hit.
  • Phantom Strike now has a maximum range of 30 feet and can't be used with reactions.

Eternal Night
  • Grim Harvest has been replaced with Death Knell. It provided a very short buff or temporary hit points whenever you kill a foe, but is otherwise at-will.
  • Corruption is now a feature that lets you burn spell slots to create short-range necrotic AoEs when you use the Attack action.
  • 11th level gains a feature that lets you create new shapes with Corruption (30 ft. line or 15 ft. cone) and makes enemies hit take penalties to their next save against a necromancy spell you cast.
  • Shadow of Death has been reworked. It instead reduces foes' resistance to necrotic damage while also making them poisoned, and any creature that dies near you triggers Death Knell.

Ravaging Void
  • Ravaging Void's damage has been further increased by allowing you to cast a cantrip then make a weapon attack as a bonus action; combined with adding Charisma to cantrip damage, this should let it keep up better damage-wise with other damage oriented classes.
  • The 7th level feature lets you now use Umbral Spell to cast high-level evocation spells, essentially turning Ravaging Void into a psuedo-9th-level caster.
  • Warding Shadows is replaced with Elemental Empowerment. You choose an element each day, gaining resistance to that element and dealing bonus damage with spells of that element. Warding Shadows is now a nightblade art that lets you use shadow surges to share your resistance from this feature.

Twilight Veil
  • Beguiler's Influence no longer imparts disadvantage on saves versus illusion and enchantment spells (as illusion spells make up too much of the nightblade's spell, including shadow spells). It instead causes charmed creature to have disadvantage on attack rolls versus your allies, providing a simple-yet-effective debuff.
  • Illusory Arcana is now at 11th level and lets you grab a 6/7/8/9 level illusion or enchantment spell from other spell lists, turning it into a pseudo-9th-level caster like Ravaging Void.
  • Distorting Shadows is now Distorted Veil, letting you use Entrancing Veil on two creatures at once. At any point, you can use your action to cause charmed creatures to be randomly knocked prone, blinded, incapacitated, or stunned. Unlike the original Distorting Shadows, it's usuable at-will until the creature makes its saving throw.

Nightblade Arts
  • More arts have been added, with each Nightblade Path now having four arts exclusive to it.
  • Several utility-oriented arts, such as Disguising Veil, now reduce your maximum shadow surges while active. This makes their resource cost actually matter when used in a non-combat scenario, preventing you from using lots of utility effects while still refilling your pool before a fight.

Spells
  • Shadow spells like shadow conjuration and shadow evocation now cast from a shared "Shadow spell list". This normalized the spells' effects across all classes and prevents the spells from becoming increasingly-powerful as more 5e material is released.
  • Spells that erroneously mentioned Reflex saves now call for Dexterity saves. Oops. :smalltongue:

Things To Look At

  • Does the damage feel more up to par and balanced versus other classes of a given role? Ideally, Darkened Fortress and Ravaging Void should be the highest damage, followed by Bloodied Chains/Eternal Night, with Twilight Veil as the lowest damage.
  • Bloodied Chains has received some big improvements to its main CC ability, Eyes of Terror, with it now having no penalty on higher level targets and eventually scaling into AoE with the Thrive on Fear feature. Does the crowd control feel weak, too powerful, or in a good spot?
  • Dark Armament from the Path of the Darkened Fortress is an odd one. The damage bonus is on par with hunter's mark or hex at early game and can surpass the damage with higher slots, but requires no concentration. On the flip side, it can't be stacked with other weapon spells like magic weapon, and only lasts an hour regardless of slot used while hex and hunter's mark can be made to last all day. I want to avoid using concentration for the effect (as concentration for your damage source lends itself to playing at range, where it's easier to maintain concentration), but want it to stay balanced within that limitation. Is that goal accomplished, or do changes need to be made to keep it balanced against other classes?
  • Eternal Night now has a bit more staying power with Death Knell being at-will, but the actual effects of the ability aside from the temporary hit points are very short-lived, lasting only for a round. Would you see yourself using Death Knell for the damage/attack roll bonuses? If not, what would you do to make them more appealing while still being balanced as an at-will feature?
  • Ravaging Void is arguably the least changed of the five paths, generally just getting a bit more damage to boost it to other classes' output. Does using Umbral Spell to cast high-level evocations help it keep up with other damage-focused casting classes, or does the lack of variety in the Shadow Spell list stifle it?
  • Twilight Veil, like Ravaging Void, now has a way to access higher-level spells to make it relevant as a caster in the late game. Does it accomplish that goal? Also, does its CC ability sufficiently make up for the lack of damage that the other paths bring?
  • The Shadow spell list is an attempt to compromise between shadow magic's original effects (casting various spells of a given school) while trying to reign it back in and prevent it from growing stronger as more material is added. Does it accomplish this goal? If not, what should be done to keep the flavor of those spells while not causing them to be too weak or too powerful?

Sovereign Court

I'm impressed, both by the thoroughness of the GitP forums and of your commitment to change and understand the class and its archetypes.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

My friend who was going to be trying out the nightblade now wants to play a Sage Cleric of Knowledge 1/Wizard X of shadow stuff. We might make a custom Arcane School for him based on shadow stuff, your nightblade and some of its abilities, the new spells you've designed, and the old 3.5 Tome of Magic's shadowcaster class.

It sounds like he wants to combine being a Knowledge specialist and user of shadow magic. Which seems like a really good combo, since the Knowledge stuff will primarily be using his skill points, and the shadow stuff will primarily be using spells and class features.

He sometimes tries to squeeze too much into one character:
and then gets a little frustrated with how he has lots of options, but he can't use all of them because of action economy (he plays a Criminal (I think) Eldritch Knight two-weapon fighter in RotRL right now, but started out as an old school Fighter/Magic-User/Thief wannabe (Fighter/Rogue/Wizard) and just had too many options for his bonus action: Two-Weapon Fighting, Second Wind, Cunning Action, misty step, etc., so he was able to re-build the character and was much happier.

Any ideas on what kinds of shadow abilities a Shadowcaster wizard should get? I'm thinking of replacing the half-price spell writing ability for Proficiency in Stealth.

I'm thinking a "Shadow of the Past" ability might be good. Something that uses shadow magic to give a divination or knowledge ability.

I'm thinking the 2nd level ability might be a way to cast a shadow spell once per long rest. This would be a spell from his spell book that he doesn't have prepared, but wants to cast. It would probably require an additional Intelligence or Wisdom save or only be partially real.

For 6th level, I want to give a flicker-like ability, where once per short rest, he can use his reaction in response to being hit by an attack to force disadvantage on the attack roll and teleport a short distance away. It was my favorite shadowcaster mystery back in the days of 3.5. But I have to talk to my player and see if that's what he wants, or if that should just be a new spell, or just a higher-level spell slot augmentation for misty step.


Lorathorn wrote:
I'm impressed, both by the thoroughness of the GitP forums and of your commitment to change and understand the class and its archetypes.

Thanks. I know that I have less experience with 5e over Pathfinder, and the feedback has been valuable in learning certain aspects of 5e design.

SmiloDan wrote:
My friend who was going to be trying out the nightblade now wants to play a Sage Cleric of Knowledge 1/Wizard X of shadow stuff. We might make a custom Arcane School for him based on shadow stuff, your nightblade and some of its abilities, the new spells you've designed, and the old 3.5 Tome of Magic's shadowcaster class.

I'll be honest, I don't see any reason to make a new Wizard archetype for shadow magic when Illusion School exists. Illusory self already does a similar use to the "flicker" that you want, and Illusory Reality is a fantastic ability and the best I could ask for as a shadow wizard.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I think he wants to use shadow magic as opposed to illusions. I think. (Emails can be oddly vague sometimes....)


SmiloDan wrote:

I think he wants to use shadow magic as opposed to illusions. I think. (Emails can be oddly vague sometimes....)

Shadow magic spells pretty much all fall in the illusion school.

Now, if you're talking like Tome of Magic's Shadow magic that had the whole mystery/path thing, then that's another beast entirely and would be a bit much for a wizard specialization.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I'm going to lend my Tome of Magic to the player next session and see if it's what he's talking about.

It might be a combination of the Shadow Dancer and Way of the Shadow monk for all I know.

I'm thinking it might be a combination of necromancy, illusions, darkness, darkvision, and black-themed spells, like Evard's black tentacles, and maybe even curse-like magic, like bane, bestow curse, blindness/deafness, etc.


Good to see some free 5e stuff come out of the shadows, so to speak. ;)


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Part II of the Path of Shadows 5e playtest has arrived! This part of the playtest details class options for existing classes in D&D 5e. The options are:

  • Primal Path - Path of the Ghost Walker
  • Bard College - College of Secrecy
  • Divine Domain - Darkness
  • Druid Circle - Circle of the Stars
  • Martial Archetype - Hexblade
  • Sacred Oath - Oath of Radiance
  • Ranger Archetype - Unseen Warden
  • Roguish Archetype - Shadow Caller
  • Otherworldly Patron - Dream Eater

You can download the playtest document here.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

AMAZING!!!!!!!

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