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I got this feat idea thinking what I would like my Lore Bard to become. I wanted him to play with dangerous lore, one that could get him hurt in exchange from some power. On the other hand, I do not want him to get hurt badly, or to get power higher than any other character in the party. So I got the idea about the feat, but I imagined 3 different versions of it, and I honestly can't figure out which one would be appropriate. Thus, I'll present you all three and humbly ask to tell me which one you think is most balanced against other character options. Number 2 is my favorite, though.

Occult Caster

Prerequisite: Ability to cast ritual spells

You found the truth behind spellcasting and magic in this world. Or, at least, you think you did. When you perform rituals, you can access spells most other casters couldn't use that way, but you risk paying for it with your own vitality. If you don't have a spellbook / ritual book yet, you need to obtain one and it works like one granted by Ritual Caster feat, using the spellcasting ability you already use for your rituals (choose one if you have many), with following exceptions:

The above text is meant to be common for all versions. Now for the differences:

  1. You can copy any spell that does not deal damage from the class list that you can cast your rituals from to your rituals book, even if it lacks Ritual tag. If you cast that spell as a ritual, you must make a Charisma saving throw with DC equal to 10 + spell level. If you fail, you take one exhaustion level. You can't attempt to cast a spell like that if taking exhaustion level would kill you.

  2. You can copy any spell that has ritual tag, regardless of the class list that it appears on, and even if it does not appear on any class list. If you cast a spell that is not on the spell list you would otherwise have access to, you must make a Charisma saving throw with DC equal to 10 + spell level. If you fail, you take one exhaustion level. You can't attempt to cast a spell like that if taking exhaustion level would kill you.

    This option works like a Warlock's Book of Ancient Secrets, but worse due to the exhaustion risk. This similarity bothers me, but at the same time suggest it might be balanced, maybe underpowered even.

  3. This would be as both above, allowing both non-ritual spells and spells from other classes, but honestly I think it would be rather much.

Charisma save was meant to represent caster mentally opposing the "great force beyond magic" trying to suck his stamina, rather than purely physical endurance. I am open to changes here.

The actual force that answers to the rituals, and if the character even knows what is it, should be up to player and DM to decide, kinda like warlock patrons. It might be a Shadow Weave in Faerun, it might be some horror from beyond, it shouldn't really matter except for roleplaying most of the time.

I believe that comparison with Ritual Caster feat is unjustified as this feat can only be taken by characters that already have Ritual Caster feat, or class feature that make Ritual Casting redundant and unattractive.

So, which version should make it into playtesting, and what things would need to be corrected before it does? My personal preference is 2, so if you think both are viable, please evaluate 2.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. Often, explaining the rationale behind choices helps a home brew review. I am not sure how to respond at the moment, as I'd need to look at all of the non wizard classes and ponder the balance implications of the two choices. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6 at 14:44
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Option (1) has a potential problem, that you can spam Greater Restoration as a ritual. The DC to avoid exhaustion is 15; but a bard higher enough level to cast Greater Restoration will almost certainly succeed on that save considerably more than 50% of the time - so the cost of casting a normally-non-ritual spell ("I might take a level of exhaustion!") suddenly becomes quite low - you'll normally not take a level of exhaustion, and if you do, you can cast Greater Restoration as a ritual to get rid of it. Even if you're unlucky on that save, you can always try it again and you're quite likely to be able to cure exhaustion levels quicker than you're racking them up. This is especially true if anybody in the party can use a Resistance cantrip to help them...

Of course, this only kicks in once you have level 5 spells, but at that point, a bard can spam healing spells and long running buffs as rituals, likely succeed on the save, and if they fail, likely remove the exhaustion as a ritual. And because they're a bard, any spell in the game is potentially on their spell list, and they'll have pretty good Charisma saves...

Option (2) avoids this by only allowing existing Ritual spells - which is probably a good idea, the game designers presumably made sure the existing ritual spells don't cause significant balance problems. I don't see any immediately obvious exploits with that. Still, it seems clearly more powerful than the existing Ritual Caster feat; is your character going to end up knowing every ritual in the game? That's at least a bit easier for the GM to keep tabs on, though, by limiting how many spell books and spell scrolls you come across.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Tomelock can already cast rituals from any class with no backlash at all. And spamming restoration is a valid point, but only when there are no time constraints. And then character can just take a rest. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Apr 6 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot 10 minute ritual or 8 hour long rest? One of those is a lot more time-efficient. If you have a DM who just pauses the world while the party isn't engaged with it...then "just take a rest whenever" is fine. But if your DM runs things more realistically..... \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6 at 18:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would note that greater restoration has a consumed material component, which might limit its use depending on the funds of the party/character. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Apr 7 at 12:11
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Option 1&3 Unlimited Non-combat spells for merely a Cha Save?

I could go into great detail on specific spells that would be problematic (Wish is now a ritual spell!)...but ultimately the issue here is that the only restriction that prevents players from spamming these rituals (assuming they have 10 minutes to do it which, in my experience, is not at all difficult to come by) is their ability to pass a DC 11-19 Charisma Saving Throw. And....this is not hard to do.

A Cha caster will max out their Charisma--and every Charisma-caster has proficiency in Charisma Saving Throws. So, out of the gate, they are going to have a +5 save bonus. So, to beat a DC 11 Save, they only need to roll a 6 or better. Good odds.

Once they are at higher level, you're looking at a minimum of a +11 modifier. Since Saving Throws do not automatically fail on a 1, this means it is now literally impossible for this character to fail a DC 12 Save. They may spam Level 1 and 2 "Rituals" with impunity.

Add a Paladin to the party, stay in their Aura of Protection. If they max their Charisma, our Cha Caster can no longer fail a DC 17 Save. 7th Level and lower spells can now freely be spammed.

Include a party member with the Resistance Cantrip, and now you can't fail a DC 18 save. Toss in a Bardic Inspiration, and now you can't fail a DC 19. You may now cast literally any eligible spell with no risk. Have fun giving your entire party Foresight in the hour after you get up from your Long Rest.

Alternately, there are a number of magic items (Cloak/Ring of Protection, Stone of Good Luck, Staff of Power, etc) that can boost your saving throw bonus. In short, this feat ties your character's ability to spam non-combat spells directly to how good their Cha Save is.

Minimum Breaking Level
With the proper party composition, the moment the caster with this feat reaches level 11 and has access to Greater Restoration--this feat is now 100% broken.

Variant human Bard picks up this Feat at first level, starting with a Cha of 16. Spend both ASIs on increasing Charisma to take that up to 20. At level 11, this gives you a natural Cha Save Bonus of +9.

Include either a Paladin who has bought their Cha up to 20, or a Paladin with Cha 18 and a Cleric/Druid/Artificer with the Resistance Cantrip.

You now have a minimum Cha Save of 15, which is exactly the right amount to ensure you always pass the Cha Save for a 5th level spell. Which means you can spam Greater Restoration on yourself to cure any Exhaustion that you may have accrued from higher level spells.

And, to respond to a comment I saw elsewhere: "Couldn't you just take a rest if you had that much time?" It takes a long rest to remove one level of Exhaustion, and you can only take one long rest per 24 hours. Or you could spend 10 minutes per level of Exhaustion you needed to remove--one of these is vastly more time efficient.

Alternative Cheese, for Druids
Be a Circle of the Moon Druid and attain 18th Level for Beast Spells. Use your Elemental Wild Shape to turn into an Elemental. You are now Immune to Exhaustion for the next 9 hours, and need only a Short Rest to reset that timer. Hit 20th level and even that restriction goes away.

Option 2 Alone

This, by itself, is just an inferior version of a Warlock's Book of Secrets. So...okay? I guess?

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Options 1 & 3: Very unbalanced

So a bard doing this would have a proficiency modifier of +4 at L9. But only Charisma of 18 until L12. So the Charisma check will be at +6 by L9. A lore bard also gets to add a bardic inspiration die to the check at L14, giving the subclass more power. Stone of Good Luck, anyone?

But even at +6, expect your 50/50 failure/success rate to be at DC 17, 7th level spells. Wow. And let's look at those spells that are now potentially available to you. Of course, the availability of scrolls to copy from will affect this skill greatly.

Just looking at 5th & 6th level spells:

Paladin

  • Find greater steed
  • Raise dead
  • Holy Weapon
  • Summon Celestial (this will then apply to all the summoning spells, wow)

Cleric

  • Greater Restoration (@ficedula has covered this in their answer in-depth, allows spamming everything else)
  • Legend Lore
  • Mass cure wounds
  • Create undead
  • Heal

these are getting really strong

Wizard/Sorcerer

  • Contingency
  • Dream
  • Guards & Wards (use this one all you want now)
  • Magic jar
  • Teleportation (7th)

Really we can create quite a list of game-breaking spells.

Because the ritual tag is so powerful, adding it to non-ritual spells is potentially game-changing. You need a very very strong negative consequence to failing your check, like maybe 2 levels of exhaustion that can only be cured with long rests. And/or making the DC 16 or so plus spell level.

Option 2: Underpowered

This option is strictly worse than the Ritual Caster feat, which allows writing an ritual without a skill checks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch, thanks, thought 1 & 2 were just both features. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiger Guy
    Apr 6 at 19:22

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