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I'm currently running a campaign within Ravnica, and one of my player came to me with this homebrew for her bard working within Orzhov guild.

I wanted to be sure first (as I'm a new DM and relatively new 5e player) that it wouldn't bring problem to the table?

This subclass purpose is to let her play with the Orzhov ghost that are one of the more characteristic trait of this guild in a fun and "bardic" way, which I find quite cool.

This homebrew is not my creation, and neither is the one of my player as she found it on reddit (and tweaked it as she told me the base one was too powerfull).

I'm a new DM, and relatively new D&D player, so I'm not the best at balancing, however:

  • I fear that this free cantrip at level 3 might bring unbalance, considering the other bonuses (that are more core to the class)
  • I'm not too sure to know what to think about the fear part (don't see it as too powerful as there is so much resistance to that effect)
  • The spirits are ok (need concentration, which should lower their power greatly), even maybe too weak?
  • The last ability is too different from what I'm used too so I don't know what to think of it?

Last Request 3rd-level College of Spirits feature

At 3rd level your music is so alluring to the spirits following you that you may beseech them for help.

As a bonus action you may expend one of your bardic inspiration dice and call upon the aid of a friendly specter. When you do so, gain 5 temporary hit points, additionally choose a number of creatures you can see within 60 feet of you, up to a number equal your charisma modifier (minimum of one), they must succeed on a wisdom save or be frightened until the end of your next turn.

In addition, anyone who has one of your bardic inspiration dice can use a bonus action to expend it on his turn for the same effect, using your charisma modifier and spell save dc.

The number of temporary hit points increases when you reach certain levels in this class, increasing to 8 at 5th level, 11 at 10th level, and 14 at 15th level.

Sounds of Death 3rd-level College of Spirits feature

When you join the college of spirits at 3rd level, you learn to suffuse your songs and music with the ability to reveal the thin veil between this world and the next one.

You learn the cantrip toll the dead, to cast it you play a melancholic tune and through your song reveal its imminent death to the creature you're targeting. This count as a bard cantrip for you but doesn't count against the number of cantrip you know.

Additionally, you can start a musical performance lasting 10 minute to attune to the nature of death and learn information on the untimely demise of any creature within your surroundings, if these creature died within the last 24 hours. At the end of this recital, roll a performance check and look in the table below:

  • 5: You learn how many creature died in this location within the specified time frame.
  • 10: You learn the type of creature that died in this location.
  • 15: The time frame increase to the last week, additionally you learn where their body rest (if any and they haven't been moved more than half a mile)
  • 20: You learn the nature of the death of the creature within that location within the specified time frame.
  • 25: The time frame increase to the last month. But extend past that for any ghost haunting this location.
  • 30: You learn the identity of any creature that died in this location within the specified time frame.

Haunting Melody 6th-level College of Spirits feature

Starting at 6th level, you learn the speak with dead spell or choose a different bard spell of equal level if you already know it. This does not count against the number of bard spells you know.

In addition, as an action you can start a haunting melody that summons three friendly spirits to your aid within 60 feet of you. These spirits last for 1 hour, until they drop to 0 hit points, or until you stop concentrating on the melody (as if you were concentrating on a spell). These spirits are friendly to you and your companions and obey all verbal commands you issue to them (no action required). In combat these spirits share your initiative count, but take their turns immediately after yours. However being made of immaterial matter, they are not able to interact with the physical world, preventing them from using the help, shove, use object or grapple action.

Once you have called upon these spirits, you cannot do so again until you finish a long rest.

Spirit

Lastly, if you are playing your haunting melody directly after your practicing your sound of death performance, you may cast the speak with dead spell on the spirits you summoned. Once they answer 5 questions they will vanish, ending haunting melody early, none but you will be able to hear their answers.

Spectral Resonance 14th-level College of Spirits feature

Starting at 14th level, you have learned to harmonize with the veil between life and death. As a bonus action you can undergo a ghostly transformation for 1 minute, until you end it as a bonus action, or until you are incapacitated. During the transformation, you gain the following benefits:

  • You gain a flying speed equal to your walking speed You can see into the Ethereal Plane up to 60 feet away.
  • You have advantage on all persuasion checks you make on undead creatures.
  • You can use a bonus action to cast etherealness on yourself, without need for verbal or somatic components and without expending a spell slot. You may also end this spell as a bonus action. This spell will last only as long as your spectral resonance and doesn't impede your flying speed. Additionally, spirits summoned by your Haunting Melody trait can still perceive and interact with you as normal.
  • Once you use this feature you must complete a long rest before you can do so again.

Let me know if it would seems unbalanced and I'll see the modification with her.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a quick clarification, this is for the fifth edition of dungeons and dragons, yes? I'd also suggest reading this post, it has some excellent guidelines on how to ask questions like this. \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jul 24 '20 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes this is for 5e, and thanks for the link, will be reading it :) \$\endgroup\$ – ColliotCTV Jul 24 '20 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great! In particular it would be awesome to know why are you making this homebrew? What does it accomplish? What went into consideration when making these features / how did you come up with them? Are there any things you are particularly worried about? How have your own analyses of this gone? That all said, welcome to the Stack! By the way, we've got a tour that is quite helpful if you haven't already taken it and please know that you can always drop comments here or visit the help center for further guidance. Best of luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jul 24 '20 at 21:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Did exactly that, do you think it would be enough information? \$\endgroup\$ – ColliotCTV Jul 24 '20 at 21:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Having an homebrew doesn't bother or make me uncomfortable, i just want to make sure that it wouldn't affect the power balance, she's also quite fond of that subclass and i don't see too much point to deny her this. Furthermore she's open to change which is why i'm asking for input here ;) \$\endgroup\$ – ColliotCTV Jul 24 '20 at 21:46
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The first ability, Last Request (replacing Cutting Words from the Lore College), seems too good. Normally a bardic inspiration has a chance to turn a miss into a hit or vice versa. With this ability, instead there's a chance to cause four enemies to get disadvantage, or to lose their action entirely if they can't get within melee range of the party -- all that, and it heals the character in addition?

I'm not sure if this would be reasonable if decreased to just one enemy. It might be necessary to decrease it to just one enemy and also remove the healing.

There's also concern that it might be spammable -- the bard could give one inspiration to each ally and then the whole party activates it at the start of combat.

If it were my group, I'd probably say: "I'm decreasing this to just one enemy, you can keep the healing for now, if an enemy makes their save against one Last Request then they're immune to any more of them for the rest of the day, and we might need to renegotiate this in future."

The second ability, Sounds of Death (replacing Bonus Proficiencies from the Lore College), seems fine. The performance result table seems too complicated, but if this is what your player wants, it's okay to give it to them. It's an interesting out-of-combat ability.

The third ability, Haunting Melody, seems okay, and maybe even a little bit weak? The spirits aren't going to be very good in combat, and they're also not particularly good at scouting since they can't turn invisible or phase through walls.

I'm confused about what the "you can cast speak with dead on them" ability is meant to accomplish. Normally when someone casts speak with dead, it's because there's a corpse and you want to know what killed it (or some other secret that it knew). These spirits are going to be randos and are unlikely to know anything that's relevant to the adventuring party, so it's not clear what would be gained by casting speak with dead on them. It might be worth replacing the speak with dead thing by just saying "you can talk to the spirits and they can reply".

The fourth ability, Spectral Resonance, seems decent but not broken. The etherealness power lets the bard phase through walls, which is cool but not directly combat-relevant. This ability is unlikely to matter unless you're definitely planning for your game to reach fourteenth level.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That is a lot of fair points, will get in touch with my player and answer you on that subject :) And i didn't saw the first ability under this angle (i compared it to the glamour bard ability, giving tmp life and allowing to escape difficult situation.), this is worth mentionning to her! \$\endgroup\$ – ColliotCTV Jul 24 '20 at 21:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Discussed with her, she's ok to change to one frightened target. About the Haunting Melody, i'll beef up a bit the specter (5time prof modifier + damage that scale with level (prob let them cast a weaker toll the dead)). Still about Haunting Melody, the idea was that it could let Speak with dead be used akin to a weaker Commune with nature in an haunted place (if ghost have been seen with the Sounds of Death feature). And i love the table she's provided me, made my life easier as a dm (the first version she gave me was more cryptic on the ability). \$\endgroup\$ – ColliotCTV Jul 24 '20 at 22:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, just by curiosity: About the comparison to cutting words, wouldn't the fact that cutting words is on a reaction while this ability is on a bonus action (including if an ally have to use it) balance it a bit? (a martial/sorcerer/priest would have to discard a really useful bonus action to do something that does not always succeed.) \$\endgroup\$ – ColliotCTV Jul 24 '20 at 22:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ It does balance it a bit, but I think the bard doesn't have as many useful bonus actions, so they can use it for themself. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Jul 25 '20 at 1:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ It would be less powerful, certainly -- but I think modifying the ability in that way would also make it less fun to use. I recommend that you leave it as-is (targeting only one enemy) for now, and make further adjustments later if you feel the ability is stronger or weaker than you expected. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Jul 25 '20 at 13:57

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