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Meet the undertaker. It's my first time making a class and I know it's probably not super balanced but I hope you guys like it. Please give feedback and do keep in mind I am still learning as I'm not well versed in D&D balancing. I just wanted to get this out there and see what people thought. A lot of things need to be changed I'm sure so any feedback is welcomed, thank you. If anyone cannot tell what I used, it is homebrewery and they are AMAZING, be sure to check them out for homebrew needs. Also when giving feedback if you could give any tips on what to change or what to add let me know.

  • What does it do: A fear and death class focused on using death and the fear that comes with it to its advantage as both a caster and martial class.

  • What kind of power level you're going for: Something that can be used widely so I'd say similar to existing classes.

Will be constantly updated through feedback and player testing and eventually will hopefully become a full fledged book with items, spells, and a adventure but that's for a later period. So share any info that will be helpful in making this a worthwhile fun and balanced homebrew class.

If it is not obvious what I'm looking for, it's just feedback to see what should/needs to be changed and if it even seems like something people would want to roleplay with.


Class Features

As a undertaker, you gain the following class features:

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d10 per undertaker level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per undertaker level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: Light Armor, Shields
Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws: Wisdom, Strength
Skills: Choose two from Survival, Arcana, Deception, History, Investigation, Intimidation, and Religion.

Equipment

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) a shortsword and a shield or (b) two sickles
  • (a) a component pouch or (b) an arcane focus
  • a book of the aspects of death

The Undertaker

Sense The Dead

Beginning at 1st level you have a innate ability to sense the presence of any undead creature. As a bonus action you can sense any undead creature within 60 ft of you. You can use this ability any amount of time per day equal to your proficiency bonus. All uses of this feature are returned you take a long rest.

Aspects

You gain access to 2 aspects of your choice at level 1 as long as you meet the requirements. You learn 2 to start and more when you gain certain undertaker levels as shown in the Aspects known column of the undertaker table.

You can have only one aspect active at a time, this increases to 2 at level 6 and 3 at level 13. Activating one costs 1 action. While an aspect is active, it requires concentration as if concentrating on a spell. If you have the ability to have more than one aspect active, you are still considered concentrating on them, but each one is a separate concentration check.

At the end of each of your turns in combat, if you have more than one aspect active, you must pass a DC Constitution Save equal to your spell save DC, or one aspect of your choice will deactivate.

You can only activate 2 aspects per long rest, this increases to 4 at level 18

If you activate a aspect and have more then you are allowed activated, choose one aspect to end immediately.

Fighting Style

At 2nd level you adopt a particular style of fighting as your specialty. Choose one of the following options. You can’t take a Fighting Style option more then once, even if you later get to choose again.

Defence

While you are wearing armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC

Duelling

When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon.

Archery

You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.

Reaper transformation

At 3rd level you gain the ability to change your appearance to match an aspect's of your choice dreadful power, making those who gaze upon you fear the aspect you chose. As a bonus action, you transform for 1 minute. You gain the following benefits while transformed (The save DC is the same as your spell save DC):

You gain temporary hit points equal to 1d6 + your undertaker level.

Once during each of your turns, when you hit a creature with a weapon attack roll, you can force it to make a Wisdom saving throw, and if the saving throw fails, the target is frightened of you until the end of your next turn.

You no longer have to make a concentration check on the aspect you chose when you transformed.

You can transform a number of times per day equal to your proficiency bonus and regain all uses after a long rest.

Spellcasting

By the time you reach 3rd level, you have learned to use the knowledge of death to cast spells. See the undertaker spell list to know what spells you have access to.

Spell Slots

The undertaker table shows you how many spell slots you have to cast your spells of 1st level and higher. To cast these spells, you must expend a slot of the spells level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.

Spells Known of 1st Level and Higher

You know three 1st level spells of your choice from the undertaker spell list when you gain this feature.

The spells known column of the undertaker table shows when you learn more undertaker spells of your choice. Each of these spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

Additionally, when you gain a level in this class, you can choose one of the undertaker spells you know and replace it with another spell from the undertaker spell list, which also must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

Spellcasting Ability

Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for your undertaker spells, since your magic draws from your attunement with the wisdom you gained from accepting death.

Spell save DC = 7 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier
Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier

Ability score improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again in 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2 or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal you can't increase a ability score above 20 using this feature.

Improved Aspect

At 5th level your knowledge of aspects has grown immensely and you now embody 1 aspect of your choice that you know, gaining the following features:

You may use the aspect chosen from this feature without it counting against the number of aspects you can use before needing a long rest as many times as you want unless stated otherwise. This aspect no longer requires concentration.

You can activate this aspect as a bonus action even if it previously required an action to activate.

Dreadful Appearance

At 5th level due to your inclination towards death, when you gain this feat some aspect of you has been changed to reflect your study of death and the revelation that comes with it. (At player and DM discretion you may change one part of your appearance to reflect the aspect of death. Roll a 1d12 or choose from the list below. The appearance you get increases its cosmetic affect at levels 9, 14, and 18). In addition you may also roll on the table again whenever you gain a ASI or feat, if you get the same roll, it increases the cosmetic effect.

D12 Appearance Aspect
1 Your skin becomes slightly more pale
2-3 Your hands and arms become slightly more gangly
4-5 Your build becomes slightly more thin
6-7 Your skin becomes slightly more like wrinkled, lesioned skin
8-9 Your lips become slightly more blackened and cracked
12 You gain all previous mentioned cosmetic changes

Cantrip

At 6th level due to casting spells and learning there use for the purpose of killing you can learn 1 cantrip of your choice from the spells known to undertakers. You learn more at later levels, 1 more at 10th, and again at level 15.

Warrior of Magic and Metal

At 6th level when you gain this feature you can cast spells you know as a bonus action if casted at level 1 or if it is a cantrip. You do this by first landing a weapon attack against a creature. The cost on your body is known though, as casting spells this quickly can take a toll. When you cast a spell or a cantrip this way, you take 1d6 necrotic damage, the damage can't be prevented in any way, including resistance or immunity. You may use this feature a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus and they reset after a long rest.

Hatred of the dead

At 6th level due to you following the rules of the undertaker’s oath, you have more hatred of undead then most. Whenever you deal damage to a undead it has disadvantage on attack rolls until the end of its next turn.

Improved Transformation

At 8th level your transformation now gives you 1d12 + your Wisdom modifier in extra HP. You can now also force a target to make a Wisdom saving throw or be frightened off a spell attack landing as well as a weapon attack.

Extra Attack

When you gain this feature at level 8 you can attack twice now instead of once when you take the Attack Action.

Death can have me when it earns me

Beginning at 9th level you can make your own luck as you’ve been surrounded by death and know what to do in dire and less than dire scenarios. You can use this knowledge to add a d12 to a saving throw or ability check. You can do so after the initial roll but before any of the roll’s effects apply.

Once you use this feature you can't use it again until you take a long rest.

Second improved aspect

At level 9 you may choose another improved aspect.

Prostrate Yourselves

Starting at 13th level, those who would dare to fight death at its doorstep shall beg for forgiveness. Whenever a creature hits you with a weapon attack, that creature takes necrotic damage equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1) and you make an Intimidation check against the creature. Should the creature fail, they fall prone groveling at your mercy and are frightened. Creatures immune to charm effects are also immune to these effects. They can make a Wisdom saving throw (against your spell save DC) to end the condition at the end of each of their turns or when they take damage. These benefits are only granted assuming you’re not incapacitated or unconscious.

Death touched

At 15th level your study of death has taken a profound total on you mind, body, and magic alike. You don’t need to eat, drink, or sleep. To gain the effects of a long rest you need to only be in a meditative state in which your eyes are closed and you are not unconscious and must do so for 6 hours.

In addition, once during each of your turns, when you hit a creature with a weapon attack roll and roll damage against the creature, you can replace the damage type with necrotic damage. While you are using your reaper transformation, you can roll one additional damage die when determining the necrotic damage the target takes.

Gaze of the dead

You have learned an immense amount of the aspects of death and now have a almost 6th sense towards it.

At 16th level when you gain this feature you can sense when death approaches you, whenever a creature hits you with an attack, as a reaction you can force that creature to roll again and use the new total. Additionally you can also use this feature to cast speak with the dead without using a spell slot.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier and cannot do so again until you take a long rest.

Blessing or Curse

By level 17 you have become a conduit of aspects and can channel untapped power through them.

In addition to choosing another improved aspect, you can now cast spells higher than which you have spell slots through channelling these aspects into your very soul. To do so you must sacrifice 2 spell slots of which levels add up to the desired spell level, when you take this feat you can learn two spells of level 7 from the undertaker spell list.

In addition to this you must also roll a d20 and take hit points equal to the number rolled away from your HP maximum. You cannot prevent this in any way and you do not regain your hit point maximum for 1d4 days.

Additionally if you HP maximum is reduced to less than half of your original, then you must roll a d20 every day at dawn when your HP is less then half of your original maximum. On a 1 or 20 nothing happens, otherwise you gain a curse from the aspect curse table bellow. If not removed by the required spell and level, you will lose the curse in 1d6 days

Aspect Curses

d6 Curse Remove curse cast level requirement
1 -1 to all ability scores remove curse level 3
2 -2 to all ability scores remove curse level 4
3 Loss of all proficiency's remove curse level 5
4 Deafened remove curse level 3
5 Blinded remove curse level 4
6 Unconscious remove curse level 5

You learn additional higher leveled spells later in this class, at level 18 for another 7th level spell and a level 8 spell at 19, and finally second level 8 spell at 20.

Lord of Death

You have now become the master of death, anyone foolish enough to challenge you shall face the reaper himself.

At level 20 you gain the ability to harness some the extraordinary power as if the lord of dead themselves (or the reaper) and become attuned in mind and spirit with all aspects of the death. As an action, you can magically become an avatar of Death, gaining the following benefits for 3 minutes:

-You gain Immunity to Necrotic and Radiant damage.

-When you cast a spell from the school of necromancy, you may make a weapon attack as a bonus action that deals an extra 2d6 necrotic damage.

-You can activate all aspects you have learned/added for the duration of this feature with no check at the end of each turn as part of activating this ability.

When your Lord of the Dead feature ends you lose control over all aspects that are active including those before activating this feature.

Once you use this feature you cannot do so again until you take a long rest.

Third Improved Aspect

At level 20 you may choose another improved aspect.

Aspects of Death

Rage

While you have this aspect active you can cast the Enlarge/Reduce spell without using any spell slot and can do so once per long rest as a action (at 15th level this increases to twice). Additionally while under the effects of this spell through this aspect your unarmed attacks now deal 1d6 necrotic damage and you can make attacks with them as a bonus action (this damage increases by 1d6 at level 10 and an another additional 1d6 at level 16).

-Required level: 4

Isolation

While this aspect is active any creature caught in your aura of death feature must pass a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save the target takes damage equal to your Wisdom modifier if any creature comes within 10 ft of it. Additionally any creature the target gives a command to take 1d4 psychic damage if they start are within 15 ft of the target.

-Required level: 13

Despair

While this aspect is active any weapon attack damage you deal now causes the target to be frightened. Roll a d4 They are affected until the start of your next turn on a 1, on a 2 or 3 it lasts for 2 rounds and on a 4 it lasts 3 rounds. They can make a Wisdom saving throw to end this condition if they take damage from anyone but you and if a creature takes the Help action to aid them. A creature who succeeds a saving throw this way or receives the Help action cannot be affected by this ability for 24 hours. When you reach level 17 in this class you treat the roll as if you always got the highest number.

-Required level:4

Madness

While this aspect is active as a reaction whenever you fall bellow 1 HP but are not killed outright a magical burst of energy falls over your body bringing you to 5 HP instead. Until a Remove Curse cast at 4th level is applied to you or you take 1d4 long rests you gain -1 to your Wisdom, Strength, Charisma and Dexterity as the effects of madness can have a profound take on one's fortitude.

Destruction

While this aspect is active the weapon you hold becomes bathed in the essence of your hunger for destruction for 1 action. You must be proficient with the weapon and it must be used with only one hand. Once used on a weapon you cannot change the affected weapon until you take a long rest. On a successful melee attack add an additional 1d4 of necrotic damage. Increases to 1d6 at level 6, and 1d8 at level 10. You can also use this feature with any weapon type when you reach level 16.

-Required level: 4

Intoxication

While this aspect is active a creature you choose within 30 feet of you gains disadvantage on a saving throw of your choice for 1 minute. They can make a Constitution saving throw to end the effects early, but it must be made at the end of their turn and after all other saving throws at the end of their turn have been made. Once a creature is affected by this, they can't be affected again for the next 12 hours. A creature with immunity to the charmed condition is not affected by this spell.

-Required level: 4

Greed

Whenever you have this aspect activated, if you or any creature within 20 ft of you do not make a weapon or spell attack during their turn, they suffer mental damage from their lust of greed. If a creature other than you takes damage this way, it is dealt as 1d4 psychic damage, if you are dealt damage this way you take 1d6 necrotic damage instead. You cannot recover HP lost this way until you finish a long rest. The damage die and HP dies increase as you take more levels in this class. At level 10 the psychic damage increases to 1d6 and you lose 1d8 now, at level 15 the damage die for others becomes 1d8 and you lose 1d10 now, and at level 18 others take 3d12 and you take a loss of a 2d20.

-Required level: 9

Time

Whilst you have this aspect activated, creatures who come within 5 feet of you willingly are immediately pushed back 5 feet as a reaction you take and are dealt 1d4 psychic damage. Additionally, any creature you deal at least 40 damage to in a singular turn must roll a d20. On a roll of anything lower than 10 nothing happens, if they roll higher than 10 they must make a Constitution check against your spell save DC + 2 at the start of each of their turns for 5 turns. If they do not make at least 2 of those saves they suffer as if the disintegrate spell was cast on them at 7th level. This affect can only be achieved once per long rest (twice at level 20).

-Required level: 16

Sacrifice

While this aspect is active and a creature falls bellow 1 HP but isn’t killed within 30ft of you, you may sacrifice any amount of your own HP to heal them back to half as much as you sacrificed up to a max of 15 HP (30 at level 15). Once used you cannot do so again until you take a long rest. These Hit Points you sacrifice cannot be negated in any way and you do not regain these hit points until you take 2 long rests. You can go to negative hit points to achieve your desired healing on the target with this aspect but doing so will kill you instantly with no death saving throws and only a true resurrection or wish spell can bring you back.

-Required level: 13

Depression

While this aspect is active a creature of your choice within 10 ft of you has disadvantage on attack rolls for 1 minute. They can make a saving throw at the end of each of their turns to end this effect. A creature who succeeds a saving throw this way cannot be affected again for 24 hours.

Corruption

While this aspect is active, your weapon damage causes the creature to falter. Any time you deal damage to a creature with this aspect active they must make an Intelligence saving throw. If they fail they must attack the creature closest to them that isn't you or an ally on their next turn.

Fear

While this aspect is active any creature within 30 ft of you that is frightened of you has their speed reduced to 5 ft and cannot make attacks of opportunity against you.

Stagnation

While this aspect is active any creature you deal damage to has their speed reduced to zero until the end of their next turn.

Insanity

While this aspect is active you can cast Minor Illusion at will without expending a spell slot and at level 12 this now becomes Major Illusion.

Lamentation

You can cast Tasha's Hideous Laughter at will without expending a spell slot while this aspect is active and can cast it as a bonus action. If this is your only aspect activated you can cast this spell without needing to concentrate on it. Instead of laughing the target uncontrollably cries and/or weeps until the spell is ended.

Pestilence

While this aspect is active, you can summon a cloud of disease anywhere within 30 ft of you as a bonus action. If a target starts or ends their turn in the cloud, they take 1d6 poison damage unless they pass a Constitution saving throw equal to your spell save DC. This damage increases as you gain levels to 2d6 at 4th, 3d6 at 8th, 4d6 at 14th, and finally 6d6 at level 18.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I know there’s a lot there, but for the purposes of this site, we need an unchanging version of the class. If the link you’ve provided will be updated based on feedback, then this question’s scope will expire once that happens. Typically, homebrewers will reproduce the class text as part of the question body text here on the site. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 24 at 2:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mystic we only look at the content in the question. If you updated it and not yet have any answer, you can update the question. Otherwise, please follow the guidelines for homebrew review questions \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jan 25 at 12:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can this character learn 5th or 6th level spells or is it intentional that they skip from 4th level to 7th level? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25 at 13:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, this class' spellcasting progression is particularly unusual. The spell DC is 7+Prof Mod+Ability Mod; for all other classes (I think) it's 8+Prof Mod+Ability Mod. Is there a reason for the change? Additionally, I'm unclear how this character's spellcasting would interact with multiclassing, can you clarify? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Have not worked out the spellcasting for multiclass just yet. Yes the character skips 5th and 6th leveled spells. Also the prof +ability Mod is supposed to be a 8. It has been updated and fixed \$\endgroup\$
    – Mystic
    Jan 25 at 19:30

1 Answer 1

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A fear and death class focused on using death and the fear that comes with it to its advantage as both a caster and martial class.

Here's your challenge question: What about your concept can't be filled by a Death cleric, Undead warlock, Conquest paladin, or Oathbreaker paladin with the numbers filed off? What makes an Undertaker unique enough in theme or class fantasy (not mechanics!) that it needs a whole separate class?


A More Thorough Approach: needs focus, and then revision.

This is clunky in some places, confusing in others, and trying to do too many things at once. Some features seem left over from previous revisions as they mention things that are not present elsewhere in the class. The Aspects system is a mess with hints of gold and needs a lot of tightening up.

Does it meet the goals of the concept?:

  • As a class invested in death and fear, yes but not well: most features are reasonably thematic but also messy and confusing. Your core concept could use additional focus, and from there key abilities also need revision to be less confusing.
  • As accommodating both a caster-playstyle and a martial-playstyle? No, and the attempts to do both make this messier.
  • I'm not entirely sure about established power levels. In terms of established progression patterns, it fails. It currently is too front-loaded and puts common features at the wrong levels. The new unique features are messy and arguably weak due to overly-stringent activation requirements; retooled versions of existing features pulled from elsewhere have received tweaks that make them worse.

How do your design choices reinforce your intended concept?

IMO, good class/subclass design usually has a central core concept, and each class feature comes back to that concept directly. From my own experience, the homebrew cleric subclass for Tiamat I asked for review for--everything derives from the central concept of "Tiamat is warlike and terrifying, and all chromatic dragons at once, so all features must also represent some part of that combination in some way".

When you want to include something, you should check it against the core concept. Is it on theme? Are you introducing a new angle to the core theme, and if so, how are you tying other class features in to reinforce that this is thematic instead of tacked on?

For example, your central concept as you've stated in the question is this:

What does it do: A fear and death class focused on using death and the fear that comes with it to its advantage as both a caster and martial class.

You don't mention wiping out undead anywhere; where are Sense the Dead and Hatred of the Dead coming from, then? Sure, worshipers of true death often hate that which tries to subvert it, but these are also the only features that ever mention undead at all, and are therefore out of place.

Again, I find your central concept fuzzy. "A fear and death class focused on using death and the fear that comes with it to its advantage as both a caster and martial class." Published options for this already exist in a couple of flavors. What about the Undertaker makes it unique? Put that in your core concept statement to remind yourself and let it be a guidepost for further revisions.

Too Much Information!

You have a lot of features here, to the point where there's arguably too much to keep track of.

  • Some features may just be overloading the class with too much to remember, or may be insufficiently on-concept, and can be cut outright.
  • Some features are listed each time you get a new use in the class' progression. This is OK in the table, since additional picks/uses can stand alone as a new level's benefit (e.g., Sorcerer's Metamagic or Cleric's Channel Divinity), but in the list of features it can be summarized at the end of the main feature block as "you gain additional picks/uses at levels X, Y, and Z". Improved Aspect is the main offender here.
  • Some features have too many parts, not all of which are cohesive. Some of those can be split apart into disparate parts, which might be full features in and of themselves. See Gaze of the Dead.

Rule of Thumb #1: if you introduce additional parts in the same feature, all parts of the feature should relate to each other, or at least relate to the concept as described by the name of the feature. If you have two parts to a feature and they're doing very different things, then those parts should be split up into separate features. Help the player remember their own abilities by grouping said abilities logically.

Too Front-Loaded!

Look at your class progression table. How many features do you get in the first 6 levels? How many dead levels do you have, and where are they?

Even if you disagree with me that there are too many features overall, you're handing them out too quickly. Level 6, for example, has three different completely new features, which is more than published material. The few instances where there are three features granted at a given level (Bard 10, Cleric 8), generally only one is a completely new feature, with the others being various upgrades on a preexisting feature or a regular ASI.

Several features you have at higher levels also aren't strong enough for their placement, or the published feature you're borrowing from comes earlier in the level progression. If you adjust accordingly (and I generally think you should), this compounds further.

Some things that are improvements on core class features, like Improved Aspects and Improved Transformation, could likely benefit from being retooled to a higher power tier and being pushed back to the middle levels of class progression. You have five dead levels (levels where the class gets nothing new): 7, 10, 11, 14, and 18. You can, and should, move features around for an even spread across all 20 levels.

That's not the right level for that

You used some common class features but they're being introduced out of sync with where published material establishes they should go. Move them back to the established levels, and move the other new abilities around from there.

  • Extra Attack should be at level 5, not 8.
  • Cantrips should be included with Spellcasting at 3, instead of separate at 6.
  • Reaper Transformation, which is a reskinned Form of Dread from Undead warlock, should come at 1, not 3.
  • Dead Touched, a lightly tweaked version of Undead warlock's Grave Touched, should come at roughly level 6 where that subclass puts it, instead of 15.
  • Dreadful Appearance, as a cosmetic feature, should not be a class progression feature at all. See: Xanathar's Guide to Everything, warlock or sorcerer optional roll tables for visible signs of your pact/heritage.

Weapons or spells?

You state this is a fear-and-death based class, and you want it to function both as caster and as martial. Nothing published does both simultaneously, but what about either?

The features you've pulled from existing material--specifically spell slot progression, Fighting Style, and Extra Attack--tell me, a hypothetical prospective player, that the intended combat role is predominantly going to revolve around weapon attacks with some support spellcasting on top. Reaper Transformation reinforces this, since at base level it works with weapon attacks but not spellcasting. This is comparable to an Eldritch Knight with some warlock flavor via Aspects.

This does not accommodate a caster playstyle, which by my understanding relies almost exclusively on spells and cantrips, and really wants full spellcasting progression to keep pace. And, if you leave those features in the base class, it shouldn't. Classes make tradeoffs in design, and no one class can be everything all at once. Even warlock, which comes closest to being the most modular, specifically makes the player make mutually exclusive choices that steer them towards either a more weapon- or spells-focused style. It still doesn't do both at once very well, its spellcasting progression is unique and limited, and arguably it never reaches the same level of caster as regular full casters, even when tooled that way.

You have a decision to make here: either embrace what you've already written and have the class be a magically-augmented martial class like Eldritch Knight, or invest in a much more comprehensive redesign to more effectively offer a player the choice of weapon vs spell.

Trying to balance increased power with increased risk or drawback is a trap

Darth Pseudonym said it better than I could here; trying to balance a powerful feature by adding an equal-but-opposite drawback doesn't balance the feature, it just breaks it in a different direction too.

Warrior of Magic and Metal compares with Bladesinger's Extra Attack and Eldritch Knight's War Magic, but you can burn your own lifeforce to make the cantrip the bonus action for 2 weapon attacks in the main action. You can also use 1st level spells.

Rule of Thumb #2: your bounds for balance are what has been officially published. If you find that a feature is demonstrably better than the central mechanic of a published class, redesign it. High level spellcasting is a frequent target for this; if you have more high-level spells or get them earlier than a wizard/cleric/druid, then you need to redesign that feature.

In this case, existing features allowing a class to mix weapon attacks and spellcasting only use cantrips; using 1st level spells goes over that, and the drawback does not balance it. This would work perfectly fine using the published feature as-is.

Blessing or Curse is generally just bad, as I note below in the features section, but in this case, the reduction in max hp and the potential for a curse also run afoul of this principle.

Reducing max hp is dangerous, especially for a lightly-armored weapon fighter. Why are you willingly weakening your own survivability? The curse possibilities are also dangerous, and several make you a load on your party if you're unlucky enough to get that one (looking at unconscious in particular).

Aspects

These get a whole section because they are a whole problem. Aspects are a mess that don't know what they are and therefore I don't know either.

Aspects want to be the backbone of this class; introduced early, you learn multiple of them, you can channel them to greater combat effect, and they get easier to use and stack as you gain levels in the class. I don't know that they're properly calibrated to actually be said backbone, though--some seem too complex to juggle multiple aspects active at once, others seem like too minor of a change in mechanics to justify.

On a more mechanical level, activating Aspects and maintaining multiple active aspects is a confusing mess.

  • What's the baseline duration of an activated aspect? Everything has a default duration, especially if it takes concentration.
  • You have multiple other features whose central benefit is "you no longer need to concentrate on your aspects"--are you sure this feature really needs concentration? Especially since a decent chunk of your spells list also requires concentration, which would make it mutually exclusive with this feature. Consider removing that requirement and expectation and see how that opens up more interesting options for making the core feature better.
  • Having to concentration check every turn or lose your ability once again falls into the "I'll balance this power with extra drawbacks and risk" trap that I mentioned above is bad design.
  • The levels at which you learn new aspects and improved aspects are uneven and could use reconfiguring to make progression more even across the board.
  • Action cost to activate is costly in combat, and makes this weaker than similar class features that can be triggered on a bonus action.
  • Each separate Aspect gets more potent at its own rate. Consider designating a level at which all basic aspects improve, like Arcane Archer's Arcane Shot options.

My recommendation is to refer you to the homebrew Star Wars 5e system, since the Sentinel class has a similar mechanic in its Ideals. When you take an Ideal, you gain a passive benefit, and then you have a limited pool of 'Ideal Manifestations' per long rest, which gives you an additional active benefit for a limited duration.

Tighten up what it means to know an aspect and to activate it; this may (likely will) require an overhaul of the Aspect effects.

Improved Aspect as-is is too weak; a lot of what it exists to mitigate I recommend removing from the base feature in order to make that one better and tighter to play. You have an interesting idea about picking certain Aspects to deepen your connection to, so what else might that look like? If you like what SW5e does with Ideals, consider adding a third thematic ability, at a higher power level and usable once per long rest, to each Aspect that becomes available when you pick it as an Improved Aspect. Just keep Rule of Thumb #2 in mind and mind how you set your prerequisites.

This is a good candidate for improving the feature power level and moving Improved Aspects picks to higher levels to balance the bulk of low-level features. One note here: move the final Improved Aspect up before level 20. A class capstone never shares its spotlight.


Features Breakdown

  • Hit Dice, Equipment, Proficiencies: All fine for the most part. The specific combination of weapon and armor proficiencies imply a dexterity-based weapon fighter who uses finesse weaponry predominantly. Equipment doesn't quite match that expectation, and as a player I'd be trading up to a rapier or dual shortswords as soon as I could afford it. There's also no ranged or thrown option--the only classes that don't even get the option for something ranged in starter equipment are the ones that start with cantrips, so consider adding one in.

  • Sense the Dead: Weaker compared to Divine Sense, and arguably off-theme, considering very little in this class makes mention of the undead at all. On the other hand, being able to sense where true death is being shirked could be a reasonable ability. I still recommend cutting to reduce overall features load unless you intend to emphasize undead in some fashion.

  • Aspects: (See Aspects section above, significant rework needed). I also recommend moving this to level 2, where I kept thinking it was already at. Reference point: Eldritch Invocations.

  • Fighting Style: Fine, but your starting equipment and available styles don't match. You can start with two light weapons but no ranged weapons, yet you can select Archery as a style but not Two-Weapon Fighting. Make them match, and you'll be fine.

  • Spellcasting: Also fine. I recommend adding in toll the dead to the class list for thematic reasons. You may want to adjust the spells list for more variety, and even out the spells known progression.

  • Reaper Transformation: is just Undead warlock's Form of Dread, and I think that's OK, actually. In fact, I think you should just rename the warlock feature and keep using it without further changes; see previous comments in Aspects section about removing the concentration requirement for Aspect activation.

    • I also think this should move to 1st level as per the warlock ability, and that the wording about channeling an aspect to create it should be removed as the feature on its own doesn't actually interact with the aspects aside from the concentration element. Let the general death transformation lead to embracing specific aspects of death in greater depth instead of the other way around.
  • ASI/Feat: Standard progression at 4/8/12/16/19. Fine.

  • Improved Aspect: See Aspects section above; likely to need significant rework based on rework of baseline Aspects. Depending on result, may come online at later level. Do consolidate all instances of picking a new Improved Aspect into the initial feature text, though; "You select additional Improved aspects at levels X and Y" should cover it.

  • Dreadful Appearance: This isn't even a ribbon ability, this is purely cosmetic. Remove entirely from class progression and make a roll table at level 1 for added flavor.

  • Cantrips: Why have these been separated out from Spellcasting? Put them back with it at level 3 like every other published class with cantrips.

  • Warrior of Magic and Metal: Eldritch Knight's War Magic run through a Blood Maledict filter. I see what you're going for, but just use War Magic under a different name. Trying to add in 1st level spells makes it demonstrably better than published options trying to do the same thing, which trips Rule of Thumb #2.

  • Hatred of the Dead: I think I spot a vestigial feature from a previous revision--was this previously a paladin subclass homebrew? "[...] due to you following the rules of the undertaker’s oath, [...]" There is no oath in this class. Considering that most references to undead have been stripped out, I think you can cut this entirely. It doesn't play into the central stated theme and you already have a lot going on in the lower levels.

  • Improved Transformation: This is weak as-is. The additional temp hp is minimal at this level, and the additional triggers of "Spell attacks" doesn't do much at all--not many of your spells have spell attacks! Most rely on saving throws. Reconsider what sort of improvement you want this to have as you hit upper Tier 2 and going on into Tiers 3 and 4.

    • Also I recommend moving this off of level 8. ASI/Feat levels generally don't also have other new class features coming online at the same time.
  • Extra Attack: Wrong level, move it back to level 5 as per established pattern. Otherwise fine.

  • Death Can Have Me When It Earns Me: a 1/day, self-only, limited Bardic Inspiration. Better than the bard has at this level, but pretty weak overall. I recommend cutting it, and letting other features fill in.

    • This feels off-concept in a way I can't quite get into words; for a class based around embracing death for power and inspiring fear in others, how does this fit? Why does reveling in causing death grant you additional insight into survival or tough situations? As-written this class is more about causing lots of death than surviving or gaining wisdom from it.
  • Prostrate Yourself: Evocative and thematic, but way too strong as-written, and missing pieces.

    • What's the DC of the Intimidate check? Are you trying to beat your own spell save DC? Consider having the target make a saving throw instead.
    • This might be left over from a previous paladin homebrew; is this referencing the Conquest paladin's 15th level feature Scornful Rebuke? If so, then borrow that feature under a different name and leave the additional conditions off of it. The higher levels of the class could use good features, so a reskinned Scornful Rebuke could be a natural fit for level 15.
    • Alternately, see Pyromancer sorcerer (UA) 14th level Pyromancer's Fury, which costs a reaction and does more damage. If you want to keep the conditions in, consider using a reaction trigger to inflict the combined damage/condition saving throw.
  • Dead Touched: A lightly tweaked version of the Undead warlock's Grave Touched, and so too weak for 15th level. Move it back to roughly 6th level, where the original version is.

  • Gaze of the Dead: This can be split into two separate abilities: the forced reroll, and the at-will speak with dead. Either piece is too weak for level 16; other published features can grant a better-controlled reroll at earlier levels (see: Lucky feat, Divination wizard's Portent).

    • Reference: Whispers of the Dead Invocation (level 9) for speak with dead feature.
  • Blessing or Curse: This is bad. It is clunky and unintuitive to use, doesn't make sense why it skips over 5th or 6th level spells, and the attempt at offsetting increased power with high risk falls afoul of a common design trap that just breaks it again in a different direction.

    • If a feature risks removing you from playing, it's a bad feature. That's what your curse mechanic here does; if you're unlucky enough to be unconscious and nobody has the specific right spell to undo it, then you just don't get to play. Other options leave you a liability to your team if you get into trouble.
    • You are also relying on the player wanting to engage with the risky aspects as a way to control the feature's power. What if you just...don't use the feature unless it's safe to do so? Then it's a waste of a high-power class feature on the days you don't use it AND overly powerful on the days when you do because you've rested.
    • You run afoul of Rule of Thumb #2 here; as-written you can squeeze three level 7 spells out of this feature, which is more than wizards/clerics get at level 20.
    • Cut this entirely and find something else to come online at this spot. I recommend this level being the final choice of Aspect (See: warlock 18, when you get your last Invocation but nothing else).
  • Lord of the Dead is mostly fine as a capstone! It clearly references paladin Oath transformations, so make the duration 1 minute instead of 3. You should also revisit those Aspects benefits after you've redesigned the Aspects system.


Some Housekeeping:

  • This needs a language and formatting cleanup to bring it into line with published material.
  • The class progression table needs to have the ASIs for 8th and 19th level added in to reflect 5e base standard (as well as stated ASI opportunities in class breakdown)
  • Some features use Proficiency bonus as per-rest uses limit, some use WIS modifier. Consider picking one to use for all limited features.

And a possible editing tip for your next major revision:

A writer I respect once mentioned that her editing process, when she finished the first draft and moved onto the next, involved printing out the entire thing and then retyping it as she went. She found it much easier to catch errors that way. I think this could benefit from a clean run like that to catch where you have features that refer to something that no longer exists.

Also, try writing out a new progression table listing every time the class grants a new feature, an otherwise-unlisted upgrade to an existing feature, or additional uses of a feature; you should be able to see more clearly where there are too many things on a given level vs gaps to fill, and can rearrange features (and from there adjust power levels) where necessary. Every level should give something, even if that's just a new Aspect or a new pick for Improved Aspect; it's also OK for those to stand on their own.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Great job--thank you for taking this time to help out OP in their quest! My one little niggle would be your challenge question. It's one I like, but one WotC has already undercut so horrendously with their current, bloated, class and sub-class offerings =D \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Jan 27 at 23:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 The challenge question grew out of the bit about needing focus in the central theme--the immediate followup sentence is arguably more to my point, but I felt the one I bolded would do better as an attention-grabber. My usual table does a lot of reskinning and filing-serial-numbers-off when a concept wants it, so that's where I'm starting from. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 28 at 3:21

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