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This is a follow up to the question: Are these homebrew attempts at recreating some blast shape invocations from 3.5e balanced for 5e?

As that question explains, I wanted to convert some "blast shape" invocations from 3.5e to 5e, specifically those I recognise from the video game Neverwinter Nights 2 that don't already have equivalents in 5e: Eldritch Chain, Eldritch Cone and Eldritch Doom.

Thanks to Cubic's answer, I was able to redesign my 5e invocations based on that feedback and hopefully come up with something that's simpler and more fun to use but hopefully also still balanced, which is my main question.

Here are my second attempts at these invocations, with commentary below:


Eldritch Chain

Prerequisite: 5th level, eldritch blast cantrip

This blast shape invocation allows you to improve your eldritch blast by turning it into an arc of energy that "jumps" from the first target to others. When you cast eldritch blast, you can choose to fire only your first beam, but if it hits, the second beam automatically hits a second target within 30 feet of the first target, dealing half of the total damage dealt to the first target.

When you reach 11th level, your third beam must then target a third creature within 30 feet of the second target, and when you reach 17th level, your fourth beam must then target a fourth creature within 30 feet of the third target. These beams also automatically hit their targets and deal half of the total damage dealt to the first target. A creature cannot be targeted more than once in this way per casting.

What stands out to me in Cubic's answer is that the extra damage was too good not to pick, but at the same time all the extra dice rolls and fiddliness made it less fun and take up too much time. With this in mind, and with the aim of keeping it simple, I decided it would be best if the invocation used the beams you already have, rather than creating even more targets (and therefore more dice rolls) like my previous version, but this time they just automatically hit (if the first beam hits).

My hope is that automatically hitting (which gets better with more beams when you reach higher levels) is the attractive thing about this invocation, but is also offset by a) half damage, b) you can't spam the same creature with it, the damage has to be shared around, and c) it becomes an "all or nothing" attack, since if you miss the first attack, that's it.

I'm wondering if there are too many drawbacks that might make it less appealing, so maybe having it be a choice you can make if the first beam hits might help to make it more attractive again, since if you miss the first attack, you can just continue to fire more beams as normal (although the subsequent beams cannot become chains, only the first beam can). At worst, I could even ditch the half damage part entirely and make all targets take the full damage of the first target, either as well as or instead of my previous sentence?

Either way, hopefully this version is both more fun and less complicated, but still mechanically has a trade off that's not "clearly better/worse" but is also attractive enough to take for situations where it would be better than just firing your beams individually.


Eldritch Cone

Prerequisite: 12th level, eldritch blast cantrip

This blast shape invocation allows you to invoke your eldritch blast as a 30-foot cone. Each creature within the cone must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 3d10 force damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. This damage increases to 4d10 force damage when you reach 17th level.

For Eldritch Cone, I've gone back to my original draft before I nerfed it, which is the version I posted in my previous question (the nerfed version, that it). My original draft had the total damage match the total damage output from a normal eldritch blast at that level. My intention is for Agonizing Blast to be included in this damage, so it's actually 3d10 + 5 force damage for an optimised warlock; they don't add the +5 to each d10, just the overall damage.

Given that Cubic's answer pointed out that the range was too short and that saving throws become a less reliable way to deal damage as you get to higher levels, I've decided to both increase the range (which also increases the number of creatures that can be caught in it) and increase the damage.

Certainly now the short range of my previous version is less of an issue, but being able to deal 3d10 (later 4d10) force damage to a 30 foot cone's worth of enemies does seem very strong as an at-will ability. Is forgoing the chance to crit and giving the targets a chance to half the damage really enough of a drawback that being able to do all that is still balanced, or have I gone too far in the other direction now?


Eldritch Doom

Prerequisite: 18th level, eldritch blast cantrip

This blast shape invocation allows you to invoke your eldritch blast as the dreaded eldritch doom. This causes bolts of mystical power to lash out and savage all targets within a 20-foot-radius sphere originating from a point you can see within 120 feet of you. Each creature within that area must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 4d10 force damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

For Eldritch Doom, again I've gone back to my original draft before I nerfed it, which is the version I posted in my previous question (the nerfed version, that is). My original draft had the total damage match the total damage output from a normal eldritch blast at that level. My intention is for Agonizing Blast to be included in this damage, so it's actually 4d10 + 5 force damage for an optimised warlock; they don't add the +5 to each d10, just the overall damage.

As above, Cubic's answer points out that the 20 foot area is rather small, and that at Tier 4 play saving throws are a very unreliable way of dealing damage. I realised that part of this problem was actually that "area" isn't really a term used in 5e anymore; what I actually meant was a 20-foot-radius sphere, same as fireball, which would effectively be a "40 foot area" (as I understand it; hopefully that's right), so I've updated it to match what fireball says. I've also increased the damage to 4d10.

My main concern here isn't so much the same concerns as with Cone, but rather whether Doom now seems a bit redundant compared to Cone given how strong Cone is now? Sure, this can be done from 120 feet away, whereas Cone does not, but is that enough that someone might want to pick this over Cone, or is Cone now strictly better (and therefore overpowered)? Maybe Cone's damage needs to be dialled back a bit so that Doom still seems impressive to have at 18th level, but at the same time, I don't want this one to be overpowered too.

But even without comparing it to Cone, there's also the matter of whether or not its new effects are overpowered, so again, is forgoing the chance to crit and giving the targets a chance to half the damage really enough of a drawback to basically cast a force damage fireball at-will? Does the damage need to be cut back as I suspect I might have to do with Cone? Have I gone too far in the other direction again?


My question is are these three invocations balanced when compared to eldritch blast being cast in the standard way? Are any of them "must haves", or are there still legitimate reasons to cast eldritch blast normally (or to pick other invocations over these in a way that doesn't see these actually ending up being underpowered--more so looking at Chain here, since I doubt Cone and Doom could still be considered underpowered)?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One additional consideration: how do these work with repelling blast and other similar invocations? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Jun 11 at 8:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri That's interesting; something I hadn't considered. I imagine with Chain it would only affect the first target (the "start" of the chain), and Cone and Doom would simply not interact with Repelling, etc, since I think those invocations describe "on hit", and most of my new invocations don't "hit". I think that's probably better than the alternative, where an entire conga line or area of enemies all suddenly lurch around in different directions (as funny as that might be...) \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jun 11 at 8:54
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Okay, I will try to split my answer in the same separated parts you split your question. I will not worry too much about interaction of these invocations with other invocations or buffs, instead, I will try to analyze them as they are for their own value.

Eldritch Chain

Right now, I feel like it is somewhat underpowered. Let us consider the case with two enemies: if your chance to hit the second enemy is higher than 50%, then this is essentially decreasing your damage output. Often enough, at 5th level, your chance to hit enemies should be higher than 50% (+7 modifier, and usually ACs are like 15+-2 for CR 5 to 10).

It does allow for exploits like bringing a bag of rats, directing your first beam at a rat (a low AC enemy) in order to guarantee damage on some very high AC enemy, though. I am not sure that is a good thing, tbh. Either way, it is an interesting choice if you know you are going to face enemies with diverse AC within the same combat (say, one with AC 12 and another with AC 20).

There is also the problem with the 30 ft. range decreasing the versatility of the original attack. Eldritch blast itself has a way higher range.

As a final comment: More than just number crunching, for me, it feels like features that make the player think "argh I should not have used it" are usually not fun unless the positive outcome is very rewarding (e.g. Sharpshooter and Great weapon master). Personally, I would feel very frustrated losing my entire turn - especially at 17th level - by missing one attack roll. Thinking back in Battlemaster, for example, the maneuvers that you choose to use after you know it's going to be efficient are usually preferred (although in that case there is a more important resource being spent, but you get the idea).

So, right now, I would let the player choose whether he uses the feature or not after hitting. He is already spending resources (i.e., the choice of an Eldritch Invocation), I don't feel like there is more reason to include another major drawback (making your attacks be completely hit or miss).

TL;DR: Too many drawbacks. I would take out the requirement of choosing a priori.

Just a little bit of math for perspective:

In fact, I just calculated the average damage for a range of ACs and attack modifiers and, when the AC of the enemies is the same, using this invocation (as it is) is strictly worse than not using, even for very high ACs (25). So, essentially, this would only be usable in the scenario where one enemy has a low AC (so you can target it and hit most of the time) while the other has high AC (so it will take automatic damage from the low AC being hit). Computing this DPR is hard, but I believe the point is: if that is the only scenario where the invocation is barely useful, then the invocation is quite bad.

Eldritch Cone

Well, the thing is, saving throws are quite inconsistent at high levels. An adult brass dragon will have a +5 dex ST, a Beholder will have +2 and a Vampire will have +9. The AC is somewhat more fixed around 17 or 18.

Considering a 17 Save DC and a +9 to Hit, let us compute the average damage against each one of this monsters. Consider a fixed AC of 17 (as per DMG for a CR12 and around), and modifier for the ST being +2, +5 or +9. The average DPR against one monster using 3 eldritch blasts in that monster is 21.30. Using the Cone, against one monster, the average DPR is 18.275 against +2, 16.66 against +5 and 14.51 against +9.

So, if you have two monsters in the cone area, it is already quite worth it for any modifier range, while using against one monster in the area is basically never worth it, even against a monster with very low dex bonus.

This seems quite in the spirit of the invocation and quite balanced (it would be broken if always using it was good, and it would be awful if even with many monsters in the range it still sucked). The range limitation is fine - getting two monsters close enough that you will use it consistently should not be trivial, but using it is rewarding.

Overall, I say this one seems balanced, and, more than that, interesting. It provides a choice to the player about his cantrip, and that choice is not a "hit or miss" choice, so he won't feel too frustrated if things go wrong.

There are also two comments that I would like to make:

  • Eldritch Blasters don't have many good invocations at high levels, so a balanced one is already a good one, in my opinion.

  • The problem of "maybe hitting your allies" is something the party should be handling... This drawback is something present in all AoE spells, and the party has to position accordingly so the spellcasters can use their AoE against multiple enemies.

As a note, I don't agree with this comment: "saving throws become a less reliable way to deal damage as you get to higher levels" - there are many high level monsters with very bad saving throw modifiers, compared to their ACs.

TL;DR: I would take this one, it doesn't feel broken, but it does feel very good in the spirit of it (i.e., becoming an Aoe damage) and quite balanced, being already worth to use if you can hit two enemies, and certainly very good if you can hit more than that (which shouldn't happen too frequently).

Note: the math was done for 12th level. I am not sure how it scales at higher levels, and I will find out when reviewing the Eldritch Doom, which seems basically the same lol.

Eldritch Doom

Again, let us do the math. At this CR, monsters will already have around 19 or 20 AC, but the saving throw modifiers are as unreliable as before. We have Balor at an unimpressive +2, Lich as well with +3, Ancient Dragons with averages +6 or +7 and... honestly? It seems like dex is the best attribute to target at level 20. What? I can't find a monster with a decent dex ST here. But hey, let us assume there is some monster with a +14 bonus, okay?

You have +11 to hit and a save DC of 19. The average DPR against AC 19 is 28.4. Meanwhile, for the DCs, we have 24.3, 20.93 and 16.2, respectively for +2, +7 and +14. Gezz, against many monsters that have low dex it seems like I would choose to use it rather than the normal eldritch blasts just for the consistency of guaranteed damage even in single target lol.

Anyway, while it does feel a little redundant, the range increase and freedom in where to use it (the cone is very limited) are good upgrades over the cone. It allows you to consistently be able to target more enemies without hurting your allies. Is it enough for a player to pick it? I don't know. Again, I feel like there are very few decent invocations at high levels for warlocks, so anything barely decent becomes a viable choice.

Again, it does not sound broken. If you want to tone it (and the cone) down a little bit, you can simply remove the +5 modifier from Agonizing Blast from the AoE damage. Just to share the final result of the math, in the 12th level scenario the DPR would be reduced to [14.0250 12.7875 11.1375] (for +2, +5 and +9) and in the 18th level scenario it would be [19.8000 17.0500 13.2000] (for +2, +7 and +14).

In hindsight, I actually feel taking out the +Cha from Agonizing Blast from both of these might make them fairer, so they are quite far from competing against the vanilla use of EB against single target, and against high modifier enemies (such as the +9 and +14), it would take 3 within the area in order to actually make it worth, which seems fair since the enemies are especially capable in dodging this spell.

Conclusion (a.k.a. TL;DR)

The Eldritch Chain seems a hard design to balance. Even with my suggestion, I am not sure it is a fun invocation and might lead to exploits or other problems. For the Cone and Doom, both seem quite well balanced and interesting (but not broken) choices. You can keep them as they are, or you could tone them down a little bit by making them not synergize with agonizing blast, and they would still be viable choices. The only problem is that they are a little bit redundant, but that seems intrinsic from the design choice, and not a balance problem.

Alternate suggestion for Cone/Doom

Alternatively, you could also take out the "half damage on a success", since cantrips usually are hit or miss. This would make the invocations severely bad against enemies with high modifiers, while being decent against enemies with average modifiers and as good as before against enemies with low modifiers.

Using the numbers in my examples from before, we would have: 12th level: [15.0500 11.8250 7.5250] against +2, +5 and +9 18th level: [21.6000 14.8500 5.4000] against +2, +7 and +14

So, basically, it is still worth to use it against 2 enemies with low and average modifiers, it would take 3 monsters with +9 modifier at 12th level to break through the average DPR of not using the invocation, and it would take 5-6 monsters with +14 to break through at 20th level (so, basically never worth it). However, again, consider that most enemies at this level actually lie in the low-average range (I couldn't even find one in the high range), so it would still be a quite good evocation.

In order to make the Doom considerably better than the Cone, you could give that feature (the half damage on success) only to the doom as well, providing a very considerable upgrade to the character at 18th level, while keeping the Cone still quite good (I mean, it's only "bad" against vampires lol)

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