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I have created a 5e warlock subclass heavily inspired by the leshen (specifically, an ancient leshen described in the Book of beautiful horrors).

While overall I am very happy with the outcome, I worry about balancing issues. The Lvl 10 Feature (Guardians Aspect) I am unsure about. Maybe allowing multiple uses at the cost of exhaustion would make it better? Or maybe add some good feeling but not overly strong effect while the ability is active?

(I have included all features as a strong lvl 14 feature for example could allow for another feature to be on the weaker side)

Expanded Spell List

  • Cantrip: Druidcraft
  • 1st: Beast Bond, Entangle, Create and Destroy Water
  • 2nd: Beast Sense, Locate Animals or Plants, Summon Beast
  • 3rd: Daylight, Plant Growth, Conjure Animals
  • 4th: Grasping Vine, Giant Insect, Guardian of Nature
  • 5th: Commune with Nature, Insect Plague, Legend Lore
  • 6th: Wall of Thorns
  • 9th: Storm of Vengeance

THORNWHIP

At 1st level, you learn the Thornwhip cantrip. It counts as a warlock cantrip for you, but it doesn’t count against your number of cantrips known.

NATURES FRIEND

At 1st level, your connection with nature deepens. You help plantlife and plantlife helps you. While there is a nonmagical plant within 30 feet, you can use the following feature: When you or an ally misses with an attack roll, you can use a Reaction to add 1d4 to the attack roll potentially changing the outcome. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your charisma modifier (minimum of 1), and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

PRIMAL EMBRACE

At 6th level, you can cast Speak with Animals and Speak with Plants at will, without expending a spell slot. Additionally, natural creatures of the beast and plant type are inclined to be non-hostile towards you and your allies and will not attack unless provoked.

GUARDIANS ASPECT

At 10th level, you gain the ability to assume a Leshen’s form as an Action once per long rest. While in this form, your appearance shifts into that of a terrifying guardian of the forest. You gain temporary hit points equal to your warlock level + your Charisma modifier, resistance to non-magical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage, and vulnerability to fire damage. The transformation lasts for 1 minute or until you end it as a bonus action. When the transformation ends, all temporary hit points gained by this feature disappear.

WRATH OF NATURE

At 14th level, you gain the ability to channel the primal fury of the Leshen’s lightning into a devastating strike called Thunderous Retribution. As an action, you can target one creature that you can see within 120 feet of you. The target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw against your Spell Save DC or suffer the following effects:

• Failed Save: The creature takes 44 (8d10) lightning damage and becomes blinded until the start of your next turn, overwhelmed by the intense burst of lightning.

• Successful Save: The creature takes half damage, but it isn’t blinded or deafened.

Additionally, all creatures within 30 feet of the target must make a Constitution saving throw against your Spell Save DC. On a failed save, each creature becomes deafened until the start of your next turn, disoriented by the powerful shockwave of thunder unleashed by the strike. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Guardians Aspect, sorry for the error. Fixed it. @VLAZ \$\endgroup\$
    – Waltard
    Aug 3, 2023 at 17:05

2 Answers 2

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This is too front-loaded, otherwise fine to test

As most play happens on tier one and two (e.g. most published campaigns end in early or mid tier 3), the features on the lower levels of your class are more important than the high end features. Let's look at them by level.

Level 1

Expanded Spell List: this is unusual, as in the core rules the Patron spell lists have no cantrips, end with 5th level and provide only two extra spells per spell level, not three. The power level of these spells may be on the weaker end of the spectrum, motivating more variety, but keeping the design of features for a new subclass in line with the pattern given in the existing classes both makes it easier to compare power, and helps to avoid mechanics gotchas in corner cases one may not be thinking of. Warlocks do not even have spell slots larger than 5th, and the Mystic Arcanum feature that they get at 11th, 13th, 15th and 17th level to get access to them usually gives access to the core warlock spell list. The cantrip also is not needed if you give access to Thorn Whip as a separate, first level feature.

Thorn Whip: This is OK. The challenge is that any cantrip for a warlock competes with Eldritch Blast for being used. Eldritch Blast can be so nasty that it is quite an opportunity cost to cast something else instead.

The eldritch invocation Grasp of Hadar (Xanathar's Guide to Everything) can add to Eldritch Blast the only feature Thorn Whip has over it (10 foot pull), and without size limitations. So maybe giving the warlock this invocation for free "reskinning" of Eldritch Blast (e.g. call it Eldrich Vines instead of Grasp of Hadar) as their level one feature outside of spells could be an alternative option. [Kudos to biziclop for pointing this out.]

Natures Friend: This is adding a third first level feature (in addition to Thorn Whip and the expanded spell list. All the core rule Patrons only have one extra feature. I would recommend to drop one of the two. This one here is strong, compared to what others from the core rules offer, even if limited by daily uses. It is pure upside to potentially overcome bounded accuracy, can be chosen after the fact (and when the players can guess based on their roll if it likely was a near miss), gives you a use of your Reaction, and works not only for you but for any ally. That is a lot of damage and downed foes that can be generated pretty reliably.

Level 6

This is fine, most beasts are not that dangerous once you get to level six, but casting it at will is going to give you a lot of use in the right environment.

Level 10

I think this is also OK, especially because it is limited to once per long rest. Barbarians for example can get the resistance when raging, multiple times per day. Note that vulnerability is a tricky mechanic, it can lead to unexpected player death if you Leshen Warlock has the misfortune to be hit by a fireball or similar. There are quite a few monsters that can deal fire damage (but of course, you can control when you do it).

Level 14

This feature matters least. I think it is OK; it might be safer to pick an exisitng spell effect like cloudkill instead, as a daily spell use -- this avoids questions around how the feature works and what it interacts with or not. But also fine as is.

I think overall this should be OK to playtest, if you clean up the first level issues of feature bloat a bit, maybe strengthening the mid-level ones.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth noting on the Thorn Whip/Eldritch Blast dilemma that the eldritch invocation Grasp of Hadar can add to Eldritch Blast the only feature Thorn Whip has over it (10 foot pull), and without size limitations. So maybe giving the warlock this invocation for free and a "reskinning" of Eldritch Blast is an alternative option? Don't know how balanced it would be. \$\endgroup\$
    – biziclop
    Aug 3, 2023 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @biziclop That is a good suggestion, will add it. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 3, 2023 at 14:01
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Slightly muddled in design

Overall I'd say this is mostly an alright class, maybe on the weak side and DM dependent on utility. Some parts are overloaded (such as level 1), but not in a way that would impact the game. Other parts likely need buffing, if you want them to be anything but an aesthetic choice.

Unrelated, but it's worth considering that leaning into a leshen aesthetic could cause conflict with the party in a My Guy Syndrome kind of way.

Spell list

I don't believe any warlock classes supply level 6 or cantrips in the Expanded spell list, but I could be wrong. I don't think these would cause a balance issue, and if I were playing this I would likely not pick any of the ones from those levels.

The Genie warlock provides Wish as a 9th level spell so there is precedent for this however.

Natures Friend

Seems pretty strong early game, can be activated by carrying a handful of grass from outside a dungeon and with Average AC being around 13-14, increasingly strong if even slightly metagaming.

The downside(?) of this is that the warlock is unlikely to use it on themselves as they will likely be using cantrips targeting spell save.

Along with this, this feature doesn't have a limiting factor so you could in fact just use it when an ally on a different plane misses. I'd suggest either "within 30 feet of you" to increase Thornwhip's utility or "that you can see".

Primal Embrace

Massively campaign dependent on utility, where most warlock classes supply combat features at this level. Not good or bad, but the person DM-ing your game will essentially choose if this exists or not based on encounters. And in my opinion if they're a novice DM it will end up being 100% useless.

Guardians Aspect

Interesting feature, but ultimately useless apart from stalling as you will be knocked out of it between the turn you cast it and your next one due to low hp and the resistances being mostly useful against beasts at level 10 (something you likely wont be fighting due to prior class features).

I'd suggest reshaping this into a level 1 feature, gaining buffs at level 10 and dropping the fire vulnerability (especially as fire is an extremely common damage type, especially after you gain this trait), and making it a bonus action. Similar to what the Undead Warlock does. All of this instead of what is currently the level 1 features.

Wrath of Nature

An alright feature however "deafened" isn't really that impactful by the book, can be outclassed by AoE damage from spells cast at lower levels. The feature says disoriented in the fluff, which may cause arguments about what it actually does. I'd buff this feature but I'm unsure how.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The Genie warlock patron provides the Wish spell at level 9, but I don't think any provide 3 spells per level or a level 6 spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – nben
    Aug 3, 2023 at 13:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nben so it does! Nice catch, I've never had a genie warlock in any of my games \$\endgroup\$
    – Cassie
    Aug 3, 2023 at 13:17

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