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I'm hoping to get some feedback in order to keep this warlock subclass in balance - The Murderous Celestial.

Context

I'm the DM of a 5e D&D game. One of my players' characters is a Neutral-Good warlock who will soon encounter their patron. It is likely that the characters will not want to go along with the patron's plans but instead choose to stop them. This in turn will cause the PC to lose their warlock abilities. (The player and I discussed this possibility at the beginning of the campaign.) He currently has an Archfey Patron. In a recent conversation about why he chose that patron, he said he has no real attachment to his patron type, but that he likes the story potential of an Archfey.

At this particular junction in the story, the god of murder Bhaal is quite invested in stopping the Archfey's plans. With this in mind and seeing a potential pawn to help him to defeat the Archfey, Bhaal will offer a bargain with the character - if the character helps him thwart his previous patron, he will be granted powers by Bhaal. In anticipation of this, I've built the Murderous Celestial warlock subclass.

Theme Behind The Subclass

The theme this subclass one of subterfuge, assassination and sowing fear. The abilities within this subclass are designed to get the character past whatever defences their target may have before trapping their quarry and completing the assassination.

Expanded Spell List

1st - false life, disguise self

2nd - blindness/deafness, silence

3rd - speak with dead, bestow curse

4th - locate creature, phantasmal killer

5th - mislead, hallow

The expanded spell supports the basic theme. Disguise self / mislead and locate creature enable the assassin to find their target. Spells such as silence, phantasmal killer, and bestow curse allow the assassin to control their target when actually engaging. Finally, the spells hallow, mislead, and disguise self come into play when trying to escape capture.

Impelling Shroud

At 1st level, you gain the ability to call upon the villainous energy of your patron to push yourself and ignore whatever pain comes your way. You have a pool of d4 dice that you spend to ignore this pain. The number of dice in the pool equals half your warlock level rounded down.

As a reaction, whenever you receive damage, you can spend a number of d4 dice from your pool to ignore that much damage. The maximum number of dice you can spend at once equals your Charisma modifier (minimum of one die). Roll the dice you spend, add them together, and reduce the amount of damage received by this total.

Your pool regains all expended dice when you finish a long rest.

Dodgy name, but this allows the user to spend a number of d4 out of a total pool to ignore damage. The pool is regenerated after each long rest.

I chose this ability as I believe pushing themselves to ignore the pain in order to complete their kill is quite thematic to Bhaal. I'm a little concerned about the ability for this to negate a lot of small arm damage.

Sacrificial Virtue

Starting at 1st level, you can make ritualistic sacrifices to your patron. Each ritual takes an hour to complete and requires an alive medium to small humanoid (any good to neutral alignment) and a blade. Each ritual must be dedicated to your patron and requires you to kill the sacrifice, each participant must actively participate in the sacrificial kill.

By making a sacrifice to your patron, you are able to bolster your abilities. You and any allies that participated in the sacrifice gain a D10 inspiration die, a number of d6 damage die to add to any damage roll and cannot suffer from Fear. These effects last for 24 hours from the moment you complete the sacrifice. The number of d6 damage dice to add is your half your warlock level rounded down (minimum of 1).

At 1st level, the character can only gain the benefits of Sacrificial Virtue once every 10 days.

At 5th level, the character can only gain the benefits of Sacrificial Virtue once every 7 days.

At 10th level, the character can only gain the benefits of Sacrificial Virtue once every 5 days.

At 15th level, the character can only gain the benefits of Sacrificial Virtue once every 3 days.

This is my favourite feature.

Knowing my players, I believe actually completing a ritualistic sacrifice is going to be a tough ask but Bhaal requires sacrifices. Should the characters complete the sacrifice they'll gain a pretty great boon. The additional d6 could get out of hand as it is tied to class level but I'm hoping to make this something worth crossing the moral boundary for.

(Note: My players aren't typical murder-hobos.)

Dark One's Own Luck

Starting at 6th level, you can call on your patron to alter fate in your favor. When you make an ability check or a saving throw, you can use this feature to add a d10 to your roll. You can do so after seeing the initial roll but before any of the roll’s effects occur.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

Unchanged from the Fiend patron feature.

Embalming Presence

Starting at 10th level, you gain temporary hit points whenever you finish a long rest. These temporary hit points equal your warlock level + your Charisma modifier. Additionally, choose up to five neutral- or evil-aligned creatures you can see at the end of the rest. Those creatures each gain temporary hit points equal to half your warlock level + your Charisma modifier.

I like the idea of the patron sowing fear and evil to the character's allies, even against their will. Embalming Presence is simply to allow the player to have a bit of agency each time they rest and to be reminded that the character's patron is an evil bad guy.

Death's Inevitable Embrace

Starting at 14th level, when you hit a creature with an attack, if after dealing damage, the creature has the same or fewer hit points then the total damage dealt. That creature makes a constitution saving throw against your spell save DC. If that creature fails, they take the same damage again, if this would reduce them to 0 hit points any enemy creatures within 15 feet take 3d6 Psychic Damage.

Potentially quite powerful, but very specific in its use.

This has a very powerful and thematic synergy with the dice made available via Sacrificial Virtue.

Final Thoughts

This spells from this class are mostly utility and support with the real damage coming from Deaths Inevitable Embrace and Sacrificial Virtue.

I would like to know however if this is enough, or perhaps too much? How does this stack with other patrons?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to read How can I ask a good homebrew review question? on meta site. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Aug 22 at 11:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure! This is more Celestial in the elevated 'Celestial Body' sense rather than good. I consider the Celestial Warlock to mean it in that sense as well (After it was mentioned that the patron for a Celestial Warlock can be good or evil). This is a Murderous Celestial. I can appreciate the potential oxymoron though! \$\endgroup\$ – LiXerca Aug 22 at 12:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ For 'Deaths Inevitable Embrace', does that activate if you kill the creature too (0 is less than every number)? In that case, they would fail their con check by default, so basically after level 15 every kill you get does 3D6 psychic damage in 15 feet? \$\endgroup\$ – Percival Aug 22 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Percival Wow, sure with that wording then yes but that's not my current intention. If the creature is dead then Bhaal would be satisfied! \$\endgroup\$ – LiXerca Aug 22 at 12:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Am I alone in constantly misreading the murderous celestial patron as the murderous cretin patron? Anybody? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 22 at 13:05
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This sub class needs some work before it is balanced with the others

There are a number of issues with this, but I'd say it's simply too strong, and I think some of the other issues needs to be addressed. I compare to "Dark One’s Blessing" because a lot of the features are of similar mechanics.

Impelling Shroud

This is strong.

  1. Compare it to Dark One’s Blessing, which gives you level + Cha temporary hit points. They seem comparable, but there's a major difference. The temporary hit points are lost after a long rest, while these are regained. You need to have multiple encounters per long rest before the other one is better.
  2. Next thing is that with impelling shroud you start with the hit points, where as with Dark One’s Blessing you have to kill something first, so that one needs multiple enemies to be as effective.

  3. With Dark One’s Blessing you need to be the one dealing the killing blow to even get it. All of this combined makes impelling shroud much stronger.

Sacrificial Virtue

This one is what I would consider the worst designed feature and I suspect that you care too much for the positives to realize all of the negatives.

  1. The other level 1 feature was strong, so doubling down and giving an additional one is too much. If you truly want this, you need to remove something else and give this instead.
  2. This is blatantly overpowered. Instead of nothing, you now have the ability to give half/level D6 multiplied with players damage. This is MUCH stronger than nothing.
  3. Lastly, and this is important. The design is somewhat broken. You have added a price (Sacrifizing a creature that's goodish). The issue with the price is that for some characters that wouldn't even be a price at all. Now I know you say it's a big price for your players, but that doesn't make it much better. This is like saying: "Either you go against your characters wishes or you won't get to use this at all".

    So either it's directly useless, which feels bad as a player or it's insanely overpowered, which feels bad for everyone.

I know it's meant as a "last resort" to your player, but you need to find a price that's equal to most characters and feels like an extreme price to pay, but not one you will feel bad about and not one that does specifically against the personality of the character/party.

Dark One's Own Luck

Not much to say. This one is fine, but I would suggest removing it to make room for the reworked version of Sacrificial Virtue.

Embalming Presence

I like your fluff, but I have no idea how this makes me feel like an evil character sowing fear among my allies. I'd feel like a good guy buffing most of my party.

  1. This is again too strong. Compared to Fiendish Resilience this is much stronger. How often will Fiendish Resilience save you enough health that it matches your level + cha modifier. I'm willing to bet not too often.
  2. This gives that much to your allies as well. So we really need to ask, how often does Fiendish Resilience save enough health that it matches four times that much. I'm willing to bet that number is very close to never.
  3. You already gave them an ability that gives them health, don't give them even more. I'd suggest reworking this ability into something that gives a cool effect, but each long rest, a random character within 100 feet takes XD6 of damage. This would create the evil guy feat effect where your party pays the price for your power. It's not perfect, but it matches the theme better.

Deaths Inevitable Embrace

This is poorly designed. I like the execute effect, but it has insane synergy with Sacrificial Virtue. With that many D6 worth of damage and this ability, there's a fair chance you'd one-shot even some level appropriate enemies that are meant to be a challenge for the entire party.

The design problem comes from your own words: "Potentially quite powerful but very specific in its use", this is bad. If something is powerful and fun, I want to use it! Abilities like these will go one of two ways:

  1. in some combats they will be useless, which will feel bad, because the player probably wants them to happen.
  2. In some combats they will dominate, which won't feel good either.

    Compare it to Hurl Through Hell. Hurl Through Hell is obviously stronger when it happens, but it's also "specific in its use", that specific being once a day. That is much better. That way the player will get to use it regularly and it won't suddenly pop multiple times during one encounter.

I'd suggest turning it into some kind of once-per-long-rest ability, as this gives the player much more agency. Maybe something that can only be activated when someone else thinks you are friendly to them (As means of assassination)

Final Thoughts

I would suggest moving some things around, nerfing the class generally and making it focus a little more on utility. This could be utility that helps isolate and kill targets.

This class takes too much agency away from the players and gives too much power. I think there are some really cool ideas, so I think you should keep working on it! This is definitely a cool start.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Great final point on Sacrificial Virtue! I had included it as a level 1 feature because I felt as though if the players used it then great but if not then there were other features that picked up the slack. I had not considered any disappointment from the players perspective. I'll consider and make amendments, thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – LiXerca Aug 22 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LiXerca Any changes need to be folded into a future question, not in what you posted in this one. (We want to prevent a "moving target" situation that invalidates an anser.) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 22 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Understood! Will be waiting a few days for more feedback before completing any adjustments. \$\endgroup\$ – LiXerca Aug 22 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast thank you! I was at work an rushed a little through it, so I did expect that there were clarity issues as well as probably some spelling mistakes as well. Thanks for the fix! ^^ \$\endgroup\$ – Sander Skovgaard Hansen Aug 23 at 5:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @QPaul you can't review a feature in vacuum, you need to review it as part of the kit. While the feature in itself is not overpowered, it's a LOT stronger than the alternative in the the official version of this kit. If I made a kit combining the most overpowered features of each official kit, I would end up with an overpowered kit. As such in this context, it is certainly too powerfull. \$\endgroup\$ – Sander Skovgaard Hansen Oct 3 at 5:37

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