I posted this homebrew subclass earlier via this post. After feedback I've made some sweeping changes to reduce its' powerlevel.

With these below changes, would this be considered a balanced and enjoyable subclass to play?

Please note this is my first time posting an amended version of a previous question, if I have not included the required info, please let me know.

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.

Embalming Presence

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 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 is equal to your warlock class level divided by 4 and rounded up. Roll the dice you spend, add them together, and reduce the amount of damage received by this total.

Your pool regains all expended dice at dawn each day.

This was Impelling Shroud but has been renamed. I have made some minor changes to this:

  • Maximum number of dice you can use has been reduced. At 10th level for each reaction you could only spend a maximum of 3D4 out of 5D4.
  • Changed recharge from Long Rest to Dawn.

Sacrificial Virtue

Starting at 1st level, your patron requires that you make a ritualistic sacrifice at least once every 10 days. Each ritual takes three hours 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, an additional D8 necrotic damage die to a number of attacks and cannot suffer from Fear. These effects last for 24 hours from the moment you complete the sacrifice. The number of attacks to add the additional D8 damage to is a third of 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 feature differs greatly from the previous version:

  • Rather than adding XD6 damage to a single attack, players instead add D8 necrotic damage to X number of attacks.

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.


Impelling Shroud

Starting at 10th Level, whenever you are reduced to 0 hit points or receive a critical hit make a DC15 Constitution saving throw. If successful, the damage is ignored and instead a random creature you can see within 100 feet receives the damage. If this would reduce them to 0 hit points, you gain a D10 inspiration die and recover health equal to 2D4 plus your charisma modifier.

This effect is not triggered if there are no creatures that you can see within 100 feet of you.

This was Embalming Presence from the previous post but has been renamed and the previous ability has been completely changed.

The previous ability was added to give the sense of a dark and mysterious entity bolstering the defences of the player character's allies. It didn't work.

For this one, I feel like I might need to think about the target selection process but haven't been able to conduct any playtesting.

Death's Inevitable Embrace

Starting at 14th level, you are able to channel the bloodthirsty spirit of your patron to bolster your attacks. As a bonus action, you can grant yourself Deaths Inevitable Embrace.

While under the effect of Deaths Inevitable Embrace, if after dealing damage to a creature and that creature has 1 or more hitpoints but the same or fewer hit points then the total damage dealt, that creature must make a constitution saving throw against your spell DC.

If that creature fails the saving throw, the effects of Deaths Inevitable Embrace are triggered and 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. The effect ends when Deaths Inevitable Embrace is triggered or after a minute.

If causing damage to a group of creatures, Deaths Inevitable Embrace only triggers for one of them, chosen at random.

You can only use this feature two times each day.

This has been quite heavily reworked.

  • This is now activated as a bonus action and lasts for up to 1 minute.
  • This can now only be used two times per day.

This is now much less powerful but still allows for the player to synergise their attacks.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast The player who I am hoping will use this is quite experienced in D&D and I believe would be able to pick things up. This is primarily a balance question however if there are any glaring playability concerns, I am more than happy to take them on board. \$\endgroup\$
    – LiXerca
    Aug 27 '19 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is thematic rather than balance-related, but what about this is "Celestial"? \$\endgroup\$
    – Upper_Case
    Aug 27 '19 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case This uses celestial as in celestial body. It has been confirmed that a celestial warlock can have either a good or evil patron so it suggests that it is also meant in that way. \$\endgroup\$
    – LiXerca
    Aug 27 '19 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LiXerca I wasn't aware that Celestial patrons could be evil (RAW), but the celestial body usage clears the name up either way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Upper_Case
    Aug 27 '19 at 18:56
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @LiXerca Just recall that warlocks have extremely limited spells known. The patron spells don't work like cleric spells in that their always prepared. There should be some kind of compelling reason to select it. \$\endgroup\$
    – NeutralTax
    Aug 28 '19 at 22:39

You have two questions here, and they are distinct.

Is It Enjoyable?

It's a very dark subclass, even for warlocks. It's also pretty fundamentally evil. If this were a game I was running, I'd want to make sure that the other players (and I) were willing to deal with the direction this subclass would drag things. If you have an entire party full of people who like the grim/dark/edge factor, then it will certainly bring that.

As far as how it will play... this is a build that has quite a lot of additional survivability, a touch of extra damage, and a whole lot of creepy. In combat, the playstyle it encourages isn't necessarily going to be the feel you want to go for.

Is it Balanced?

Not yet. Let's see.

Spell List: most warlocks pick and choose off their spell lists. There's a lot of spells out there to want, after all, and not all that many spells in the book. The one thing I'll say is that Hallow is odd as a warlock spell. Warlocks don't generally go in for 24-hour casting times. I'm not saying that this is fundamentally wrong, just that it's worth paying attention to.

Embalming Presence is kind of clunky. At best, it's an average of 2.5 hp every two levels, except that it doesn't work as well as actual hp. If you roll low, it might not save you (when HP would), and if you roll high, then you might wind up wasting some points blocking more damage than came in. Also, there's a limit to how much you can spend on a single attack. Overall, I'd call it a it worse than just getting an extra max HP per level, and significantly more complicated to use. I'd only keep it in its current configuration if I thought that the player would derive fun-factor from rolling those D4s.

Sacrificial Virtue is a problem.

  • It straight-up requires you to murder a good or neutral creature once every 10 days, in a ritual that takes at least three hours. This is the sort of thing that gets law-abiding types to hunt you down and end you like the threat to humanity that you are. The fact that you have to do it in a three-hour ritual means that you need a hidden place to do it in, and you need to bring them to that place, alive. Apparently, they have to be good or neutral in spite of the fact that the warlock has no direct way of detecting alignment (why would their patron care?). You're going to have to either hide it from the rest of the party, or get them on board with regularly murdering people who don't deserve it. Essentially, this subclass requires that you either be playing "evil party" or "internally antagonistic party". Both of these are serious choices to make about the overall campaign, and more difficult than normal to do well. This is the primary reason why this subclass should require full-party buy-in.

  • It says "your patron requires" but then doesn't describe the penalties for failure.

  • It means that you require a fresh source of good-to-neutral humanoids at least once every 10 days. If someone throws you in a cell for 12 days, and you can't kill anyone in that time, you default. If you wind up getting sucked through a rift to the Elemental Plane of Air, and you can't find a victim in time, you default.

  • The limit on days is downright weird. Every other class out there, if you wake up from a long rest, you're good to go. With this one, it has to be the right day to be at full power. It mucks with downtime scheduling pretty badly, in both directions.

Suggestion: remove the requirement that the target be good or neutral. Remove the minimum frequency requirement. Let it be done up to 1/day (if you have the sacrifices). Tweak the power level as necessary off that one. Having the party capture one of the goblins they're fighting so that they can be ritually sacrificed for power is grim/dark/edge enough (especially if you play it up a bit, and have the death be particularly horrific) without calling on the PC to hunt innocent halfling farmers in order to live. Possibly reduce the time the sacrifice takes (one hour per participant?) and limit the gains to one buff per person per day, but require that each person who gets the buff brings their own sacrifice. If you wanted to make it a bit easier, and bring it a bit more into alignment with the rules elsewhere, you could even go so far as to make it something the party could do over a short rest.

Dark One's Own Luck is fine.

Impelling Shroud is weird, and overpowered, and the party might hate you.

  • DC 15 on a save isn't that hard to get near. Get proficiency in Con saves (a good idea anyway, for concentration checks), push your Con mod (your Dex might suffer, but that's tolerable) and pick up a magical item that buffs your saves, and it starts getting reasonably reliable. Crank it all the way up, and at the very highest levels, you can become nearly impossible to kill... while everything around you drops like flies.
  • The redirected damage apparently pierces through absolutely everything - no save, no attack roll, no damage type to resist or be immune to, no nothing. You just figure out who the target is, and their HP drops, regardless of who or what they are.
  • The fact that it's "a random creature you can see" but not in any way party-friendly means that you have a bizarre incentive to not be able to see your fellow party members, whatever that takes. Ignoring that part, you wind up with attempts to keep more than 20 squares away from the warlock and/or party resentment. It also suddenly matters significantly if there are random peasants watching the fight and/or visible birds in the trees.

To fix (some of) the issues with this, have the saving throw be based on attack damage or 15, whichever is larger, have it be target of choice rather than target at random, give the target some save to avoid the damage (or perhaps just make opposed rolls?), and probably make it 1/day.

Death's Inevitable Embrace is interesting. I don't have a problem with it.


Overall, I'd say that this is a subclass that still needs a fair bit of work. I'm not going to say that there's no way you could put this in a campaign and have it work, but it currently breaks a rather lot of the build assumptions of 5e, and that could very easily come back around to bite you.

Among other things, your current version of Sacrificial Virtue turns the character archetype from "adventurer" to "serial killer". If you want to run a campaign about serial killers, then you can do that, but I suspect that there are other systems that would work better for it.


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