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Playtest (A5E) Level Up Advanced 5E Playtest Document #9: Warlord

Welcome to the 9th Level Up: Advanced 5E playtest document. This playtest contains a candidate for the game’s warlord class. The warlord is a new class and — like our spell-less ranger — we have allocated two playtest slots for it. This is the first document; a revised playtest version may appear next week based on your feedback.

Note that this class references two rules elements which have not yet been previewed -- followers, and strongholds. Those will be revealed at a later date.


warlord.jpg


Download the playtest document here!

And take the playtest survey here:

 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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Sul Khatesh

The Keeper of Secrets
It seems really cool,one thing I don’t like though is that they get a stronghold. They might make it balanced and it might fit what the class is about but the game Is D&D, not a war game. In most D&D games you’re exploring the world and adventuring, not defending a stronghold in most cases. Having a stronghold in a fixed location would give an insensitive to stay in the same place and not adventure. I do understand that might be exactly what it is in some games but It’s an ability that applys to all warlords. A stronghold should be something that the DM gives the player if it makes sense in the story and it will be good for a story.

With the part about the Renoune, it’s a cool consept but the DM should really control it based on the story. If the player is wanted than it doesn’t make sense for everyone in town to love them. Also the DM should always have more control than the player when it comes to NPCs.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
It seems really cool,one thing I don’t like though is that they get a stronghold. They might make it balanced and it might fit what the class is about but the game Is D&D, not a war game. In most D&D games you’re exploring the world and adventuring, not defending a stronghold in most cases. Having a stronghold in a fixed location would give an insensitive to stay in the same place and not adventure. I do understand that might be exactly what it is in some games but It’s an ability that applys to all warlords. A stronghold should be something that the DM gives the player if it makes sense in the story and it will be good for a story.

With the part about the Renoune, it’s a cool consept but the DM should really control it based on the story. If the player is wanted than it doesn’t make sense for everyone in town to love them. Also the DM should always have more control than the player when it comes to NPCs.
It seems really cool,one thing I don’t like though is that they get a stronghold. They might make it balanced and it might fit what the class is about but the game Is D&D, not a war game. In most D&D games you’re exploring the world and adventuring, not defending a stronghold in most cases. Having a stronghold in a fixed location would give an insensitive to stay in the same place and not adventure. I do understand that might be exactly what it is in some games but It’s an ability that applys to all warlords. A stronghold should be something that the DM gives the player if it makes sense in the story and it will be good for a story.

With the part about the Renoune, it’s a cool consept but the DM should really control it based on the story. If the player is wanted than it doesn’t make sense for everyone in town to love them. Also the DM should always have more control than the player when it comes to NPCs.
I think you may be projecting some rules there that aren’t in the document. Right now all renown does is allow you to recruit followers. It doesn’t compel NPCs to do anything.

As for the stronghold when you see those rules you might feel differently. It doesn’t make the game about defending a castle. It grants features or boons which you use while adventuring.
 

DeviousQuail

Explorer
I like how commanding presence works. It may feel a bit onerous when you only have one attack but at 5th and 11th you can still get one or two attacks as well as commanding an ally to attack. Probably not an every turn kind of thing but it looks useful and as the aura expands it opens up a lot of tactical options.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I wasn’t that big on 4e, truthfully never saw one in play, so can’t speak to things like “if it feels like warlord” or something. Warlord is definitely a lot to digest & there are a lot of new things like resolve or all the various dice mentioned by @Starfox making it hard to gauge what is warlord specific & what is new for a5e but still cooking. On the surface it seems like an interesting class to play or have at the table. I feel like the archetypes deserve a separate post so I’ll do those in another post when time allows

Starting equipment: I noticed that equipment pachage1 is “2 martial weapons, 2 spears, longbow, 20 arrows….” That’s a ton of weapons!I have trouble understanding how this could be useful beyond “hey gm can I sell my extra $mostExpensiveWepons” unless there is some foreshadowing on weapon changes we haven’t seen or they are somehow made useful by followers at level 5? If the followers, why not include that they come with their own xyz instead of making the player cart them around till then?

Commanding Presence: Skip an attack to let an ally in your aura make one as a reaction & some other neat uses later. The discussion over the forgo an attack thing has already started, but we already have a more limited version in the form of the battlemaster’s commander’s strike to show how it plays out. No single target attacker can match the rogue so every round the warlord is going to feel compelled to point at the rogue and say “pikachu, I choose you!”. With the warlord getting this at level 1 & second attack at 5th it might as well not even have the attack action as an option till 5. Another straw on that pile is that even if a control/debuff/buff/heal/etc spell from a caster is going to be more useful it’s not available & the lack of caster synergy shows up again later.



Rallying Surge: It’s a heal, those are useful. Adding class level means it’s going to be a heal the party really notices as saving the day & can take comfort in knowing that ace in the warlord’s pocket is there to catch them (or terror when not). I like it for all of those reasons & it makes me want to see things like the healing spells/dropping below 1hp rules even more.

Maneuvers: I’ve gone over them one by one before but the warlord has the ability to let allies use the ones they chose to no doubt add a second or third dimension to some of those choices by granting classes access to maneuvers not normally an option for them so the broad list of eight different maneuver groupings is a big boon here.

Combat Directives: This is cool that you can let rogue-achu use a sanguine knot maneuver you know when you point & say the three words we all know. It doesn’t specify if you, the rogue, or nobody spends exertion for it though. By omission it feels like the intent is for it to be no exertion like the later leveled ranger maneuver option that explicitly mentions the cost reduction. At the same time by omission it also asks the GM to decide & should probably specify. Looking over the sanguine knot options in the fighter doc this allows a ton of options.

Extra Attack: We all know it, but this one is especially notable because commanding presence pretty much make it your first attack. I think that’s ok as long as combat directives is no cost on the sanguine knot but it makes all of those weapons you start with even more curious.

Followers: Already confirmed not ready, the tidbit sounds interesting in that they fade away sensibly & refuse to do obvious career ending tasks like pushing that button under those gore laden spikes for you.

Versatile exploration: Getting to pick knacks from another class’s pool is interesting & this isn’t the first time we’ve seen it. These kind of overlaps will allow a lot of neat flexibility & depth in character building so I can’t wait to see how they play out.

Call to arms: Giving allies an expertise die on initiative is going to be something people remember & making it require your party to be close will be a nice “do we stick close for it or do we spread out so we don’t all trigger the same trap” choice that can add a bit of risk for the overextended scout or overly cautious “I’m wayyy back here” PC. I think this will play out well at the table.

Martial Renown: It’s vaguely mentioned in the dmg & sort of used in AL, but this adding PB to renown feels more like a new & more robust thing so I’m looking forward to seeing it. More importantly though it comes with a few other options we can talk about.

  • Famous This makes sense & seems interesting, but it should probably include a word like friendly sympathetic cowed interested or even nonhostile. It’s also unclear on the intimidation expertise die being with that authority figure/that meeting or in general to all of them.
  • Maverick: This sets up some interesting roleplay & strategic options as getting to know the criminal element above street thug can often be a bit awkward & having the guards follow you on a completely innocent stroll through town while your allies burn down the orphanage secretly spawning vampires makes an interesting tactic
Spur ally: Being able to let someone reroll that disintegrate save or the big skill check will be greatly appreciated by the group & add another card to the warlord’s pocket of “thank god you were there” cards for the party to depend on.

Expanded Directives: This pretty seriously expands on the combat directives by letting you pick a second tradition to share & will really be an interesting force multiplier… especially if the intent is to have the maneuver you grant added at no or reduced cost like the ranger thing.

Rouse the troops: Letting your allies spend hit dice without a rest is nice & the fatigue/resolve reduction will probably be useful.

Commanding Demeanor: Choose an option with some interesting options available.

  • Calm: At least one other class (rogue?) has an option they can choose to tactfully intimidate people without making a scene, this one is notable by taking more time & being a CR to level check rather than an intimidate check. I think that instead of just “when you first meet” it shouldalso probably include an option to use it more generally as your diplomancery friend’s walking slab of scary that is jut quietly scary at their side while your friend is doing their diplomancer type thing.
  • Resolute: Reroll a failed int wis or charisma check with an expertise die is going to be useful if not bland but maybe add an expertise die to your choice of all checks with a particular skill to be more similar in standing with some of the other similar class options
  • Responsive: An expertise die on persuasion is useful, being able to jump into an existing conversation as if known adds a ton of interesting possibilities too.
Stronghold: still WiP so not much to say without detail. One note however is that I hope a stronghold wizard tower or whatever also mentions forms that fit a game set in a more urban area. Having an apartment of decent size or even a anywhere in a place like sharn skyway villa is a huge boon in a sharn based campaign but having even a giant castle a few hours by lightning rail with no nearby lightning rail stop is likely les than useful in that campaign.



Advantageous Acton: When I started reading this I wanted to cry at the idea of help action spamming, but the three unnamed options make it something really special. Shaking players of the urge to say “and I help bob” or “and my familiar helps bob” is tough so not using the help action wording might be an improvement depending on what the rest of a5e looks like. Probably not the end of the world either way. Since they aren’t named I gave them names just to make discussion easier

  • Pull yourself together: End the frightened condition on a creature within 30feet is going to be really useful against anything with a fear aura or similar,
  • Quick Ward: Grant temphp equal to your charisma mod to a creature within 5 feet of you(touch?). This is going to be a useful spam as 5thp every round is great at any level.
  • Quick Patch: Bringing a downed ally back to 1hp is useful as it puts them back in the fight, but wackamole healing is already bad in 5e so this is either out of sync with healing elsewhere or could say disappointing things about what happens when taken below 1hp still being the same :(
Greater stronghold: Same unknown as stronghold

Critical Weakness: The name suggests that it would help with knowing that a given critter is vulnerable to an element so a different name like coordinated exploit or something might fit the function better. Giving everyone advantage & +6 damage on their attacks/spells is huge. It’s also noteworthy that I think this is the first time casters have been acknowledged as party members with the warlord. Given that this is a level 17 ability it makes for an obvious hole that casters will feel.

Impressive Reputation: another pick one of three. With this being the first class that goes above 10 we can’t really compare them to anything,

  • Hero: This one is hard to judge as a theoretical 18-20 days of room & board at this level is rarely an expense worth noting but “a place upon their court” is ither something new or something that is useful as a campaign makes it. Like famous this should include a weasel word or two so it can’t be used to gain access to the big bad’s keep without handing defenses & precautions.
  • Iconoclast: Bards/scholars/etc seek you out for a drink or something to swap stories and feed you a useful piece of information. This is a great excuse for the gm to point out plot stuff or point out that the carefully crafted plot hook is not attached to the random npc that is starting to consider you all to be creepy stalkers
  • Slaughterer: Interesting but I’m not sure how it will play out at the table. Given that this is a level 18 ability you can choose it’s either great or not a big loss
Supreme stronghold: Much like the other strongholds

Legendary commander: add +cha to allies saves, like paladin aura this is useful. Plus pick one

  • Commander’s expertise: Have allies add an expertise die to their attack when you use commanding presence. More is almost always better onattack rolls players make. Interesting note to this is mentioning the d12 cap so presumably there are other ways for players to get an expertise die on attack rolls eve though I don’t remember seeing any in print yet.
  • Feedback Loop: Gain a reaction yourself when you forgo an attack to let an ally do things with commanding presence, this could be useful in a lot of ways. Adding a footnote to allow you to just use advantageous (bonus)action with this extra reaction might help ensure it always remains useful.
  • Rapid deployment: You & your allies get +20ft move speed. I bet there are lots of white room theorycrafting ways to use this when that L20 one shot comes around.


Exploration Knacks

Exacting:
Proficiency & expertise die on navigators tools plus bump the group’s travel speed for some interesting stuff. Navigator’s tools are a lot of use combined with bob’s survival for traveling so this is neat for some games (including ones I’ve run) I’m sure.

Lay of the land: Interesting way to ask the gm where the obvious route the bad guys will take or vice versa if the party is someone else’s thorn. Having an exertion cost & limiting it to 2 miles does a nice job of limiting it to some degree though.

Rewarding Repute: Having people tell you about that kinda stuff& an expertise die on nature/survival checks within 10 miles of settlements you’ve visited. Adding something like “or encampment” to include way stations & things like hunting lodges, refugee camps, etc might be a nice cherry.

Soldier Kitting: We don’t know much about bulky items beyond supplies maybe using them, but letting adding PB number of allies add one makes it sound as interesting as I’ve been hoping.

Team Tactics: Give an ally +2 for each ally up to your PB helping them with someone for an interesting & useful alternative to advantage that encourages the party to think about how they can individually help bb with something. A barbarian might not know a thing about picking a lock or disarming a ward, but he can sure as heck hold Chet’s toolkit & the number 3 warding hook so Chet has both hands free to carefully use the arcane pathway jumper or whatever.
 
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Faolyn

Hero
OK, reaction time from someone who knows nothing about the 4e warlord!

At the start, this feels like a class for a non-typical type of party. By which I mean, for city-based games or for settings like Birthright where you're as likely to have mass battles as you are to have 1v1 combat. Games that are centered on a specific area, not a more typical travelogue. So, not for every game but filling a niche.

One other thing: As someone whose table, even in the Before Times when we met in person, primarily uses Theater of the Mind except in the largest of combats, all the bonuses to movement seem less than faboo. I realize that there are a lot of people who always use battlemats or VTTs, but for me and other gamers like me, a lot of the abilities seem kind of dull. Is getting to use a reaction to move 10 feet a really good 18th-level ability? I don't know.

As it is, it's an interesting class. I can't say that I have an immediate idea for a character to play, but I could see it being used in a setting I'm working on, which could be more home-area based than my current setting. I'm still not thrilled with the name of the class, and be default, the names of the archetypes, but the class itself is pretty useful. I actually feel like there's a use, whereas I could never get an interesting answer out of people who tried to explain the 4e class. So well done!

Equipment: Pack 2 costs more than your starting funds. I forget if you get additional money due to your background like in base 5e. Probably, but just in case no, I wanted to point this out.

Commanding Presence: I recall people being annoyed by the Beastmaster ranger having to forego an attack so their beast could attack. I wonder if you'll get the same pushback here.

Rallying Surge: I have to imagine that this leans heavily into the idea that hit points are not meat points, because otherwise, it's weird magic.

Combat Directives: This seems to lock the warlord into having to take Sanguine Knot, because this ability is useless without it. I wonder if you should rephrase the Combat Maneuvers section to read "at 2nd level, you learn the Sanguine Knot maneuver and one other maneuver of your choice" just so you don't have people who make a mistake and lock themselves out of an ability. After all, while the text says that you can switch out maneuvers, it doesn't say you can switch out a technique.

Followers: OK. Are followers going to be available to everyone as well, and warlords get extra followers? Or are warlords the only one? Have you mentioned them elsewhere and I just forgot? Because IIRC all the classes back in 2e (my first edition) got followers.

Rouse the Troops: I hope we get to hear about Resolve soon.

Calm: This should probably be phrased as "you automatically succeed on your Intimidate check."

Stronghold: Strongholds! I remember when in the olden days, when lots of classes got them. Is this going to be a feature of other classes at higher levels? Speaking of, the Greater Stronghold suggests "cathedral" as one of the options. I think you missed an opportunity to create a third-caster cleric-spell archetype for the warlord here. A non-paladin Templar, perhaps.

Critical Weakness: Why 6 damage? Any particular reason for that?

Slaughterer: Isn't talking a free action? Why would a foe let other people attack it just to offer me a job, when it can attack someone else, or at least take the Dodge action, while offering me a job?

Feedback Loop: This seems like a strangely modern term. And is granting additional reactions going to be a thing in LU? Because that's not a thing in 5e, except in a few rare circumstances (like with the hydra). I don't really like the idea of granting extra reactions, personally.

Commander's Expertise: IIRC, the normal expertise die goes up to a d8. Correct? Getting a d12 is pretty impressive, but hey, it's a high-level ability. However, you might want to say that, instead of getting a d12, you get to add extra expertise dice, or a bonus die. A d12 is pretty swingy, but getting 2d6 provides a greater chance of a good number.

Lay of the Land: I feel like this needs to be explained a bit. You spend ten minutes observing a 2-mile-radius patch of land. Does this mean you have to spend those ten minutes wandering the land, or can you just look at a map?

Rewarding Repute: This calls up an issue I've noticed elsewhere in these packets (also here in this packet under Impressive Reputation). How do these NPCs know to do this? Do I have to go into the town square and shout out "It is I, Bob the Warlord!" for me to get a handful of commoners or 1d4+1 bards to come running to me? If I slink inside a town quietly, will people still automatically notice me and beg for my attention? If I wear a disguise, will some NPC see through it?

From a purely cinematic viewpoint, I can see it:

Bob the Warlord, while wearing a false mustache: Barkeep, I would like one ale please.

Barkeep: Here ya go, friend. Hey, wait, ain't you Bob the Warlord?
The Bob the Warlord what saved us from the demon horde of Sorcerer Sam?!

Bob the Warlord, frantically: Shhh! No, I'm just Bob the Simple Traveler.

Barkeep: Hey everyone, look! It's Bob the Warlord!

<crowd cheers>

Random NPC: Bob! Save us from the evil tax collector that's bleedin' us dry! You can do it!

Everyone: Yay! We love you Bob!

Random Small Child: Will you be my new daddy, Bob the Warlord?

Rest of the Party: Bob, this was supposed to be a
stealth mission.

But PCs might want a bit more logic here. "But we rolled a 31 on the Disguise check!"

--

Now, onto the archetypes! As I said before, I think a third-caster might work well for this class, and I'd love to see one that had cleric instead of wizard spells. There was one in Morgrave's Miscellany, when they tried to create the Bone Knight as an archetype. I think it could work elsewhere.

Gambling General
A third level general... An interesting concept, but I think the name needs work, because it leads to the person with the twenty-page background for a level 1 character. Yes, I know the characters aren't literal ranked soldiers, but.

Frantic Avoidance: This one could use some rephrasing for clarity: "you can first use your reaction to move up to half your Speed." or "before you make your saving throw, you may first use your reaction..."

Risky Gambit: I find this confusing. You choose creature A. Creature B(?) makes an opportunity attack against A? If Creature B makes the attack, then who has advantage on attack rolls? Too many pronouns! Also, does this require a reaction from anyone? I don't really like all these free reactions that are going around here.

Risky Foray: What's the risk here? I don't get it.

Feinting Retreat: I feel like they should be able to take the Disengage action as a bonus action.

Peasant Lieutenant
I'm guessing by the flavor text of hit-and-run tactics that this is supposed to be a guerilla warrior. Regardless, the phrase "Their presence may be rare on the battlefield, but that is simply because the entire war is the perfect warzone" doesn't make much sense to me. Also, the flavor text refers to them as Peasant Generals.

I feel these guys should get a climb speed, some ability use camouflage, and maybe some bow-based abilities. But I guess the latter would be covered by what maneuver they chose.

Fast Retreat: The number of people affected should increase as you rise in level.

Take Cover: Ah, the ability to throw yourself on the grenade. Nice.

Take the Hit: I don't think this should be limited to 1/rest. Take Cover isn't, after all. The only limit should be your hit point total.

Get them Out: See Frantic Avoidance.

Tactical Commander

Tactical Edge: Kind of a convoluted way of saying, "You may give a friendly creature within 60 feet of you a d4 that they can use on an attack roll they make before the start of your next turn. Once you give this bonus d4 to someone, you can't do so again until the start of your next turn."

Student of History: Culture? I don't recall if you mentioned this one before (I don't have a great memory). Is it going to be a blanket skill, or will you specialize in specific cultures?

Communication Cues: "Any allies who have received this training—usually taking 10 minutes of discussion and practice—do not need to share a language with you to benefit from this feature." So, lots of questions: how long does this training last? Is it a one-off, good forever, meaning that the PC party can communicate silently for the rest of the game? Does it last for the length of a combat? Is the training one-on-one, or can I run a class? Is it universal; i.e., if Bob the Warlord teaches Aerlith these cues, can I get the benefit when I work with Aerlith? If I work with Aerlith for a while, and then choose to switch to Carl, can Aerlith eavesdrop on my communication with Carl?

Reach Further: Someone with more knowledge of the rules can answer this, but since you go unconscious at 0 hp, is temp hp enough to wake you up? It might be better to say you can automatically stabilize a creature or bring them to 1 hp instead.
 

THEMNGMNT

Adventurer
ok, thank you for sharing. I've had a quick look and in generally I like it, but there are two issues IMO:

1. Commanding Presence Starting at 1st level, you have a Commanding Presence which extends from you in a 10-foot radius. Your allies can attack at your command. When you take the Attack action, you can forgo making one attack to allow a friendly creature within range of your Commanding Presence to make an attack instead.

IMO, this is biggest issue and why it doesn't seem like a 4e "warlord" to me. The 4e version could pretty much always doing something and provide support / inspiration. You were never giving anything up to do cool things. The cool things were on top of your attack / action. However, the A5e design means I always feel like I'm loosing something since I have to: "...forgo making one attack..."

My suggestion: Build the warlord off the paladin smite paradigm. The warlord gets its attacks, but can use a bonus action to do cool things. And don't limit it to just attacks.

2. Followers At 5th level, you gain one follower. You gain an additional follower at 10th, 15th, and 20th level.

My issue with this is that I may not want to play with "followers." It is possible that this is more fluff, but I wouldn't want to loose useful things for me (the warlord) and my group to gain followers because I (the player) don't want to manage followers. Now, if it can be ignored with no negative impact or was archtype specific (and thus I can choose a different archtype) than I would be fine with it. I just don't want to loose something more interesting and useful to gain followers.
These are my concerns, as well. I personally am not interested in making the warlord a pet class -- even though "followers" definitely feels on theme. Likewise, I don't want to hand my attacks over to someone else -- I want to get in my attack AND help someone else fight better. The feature that lets other players utilize your maneuvers is awesome.

As for healing, I think the warlord should be roughly equivalent to the paladin. At 20th level, a paladin can Lay on Hands for 100hp.

On the whole, the class seems really interesting, but a bit fiddly. I know A5E is supposed to be complex by definition! But it's also 5E, which has a simplicity and elegance to class design. I think the current design is slightly over engineered.
 


Stalker0

Legend
If one class can use a bonus action to grant an attack for a buddy the game is now Warlords & Warlords (because why would you not build the party to have double the usual action economy?) Using a bonus action for your buddy to attack sounds great as a player but it is nightmare town for game balance.
True, which then begs the question is this extra attack thing even what the warlord should be doing? That's a legacy from 4e, doesn't have to be maintained, especially considering that battlemasters already get an equivalent with their maneuvers, maybe the warlord should get something different.

There's a concept from 3.5, I think it was the dragon disciple, that had the various auras you could switch between. Before that would be a concept for the warlord, he has multiple auras of "command, leadership, whatever" that gives the party passive bonuses all the time, and he can switch between them freely. So no expendable resources, but also no action economy buster.
 


dave2008

Legend
Commanding Presence: Skip an attack to let an ally in your aura make one as a reaction & some other neat uses later. The discussion over the forgo an attack thing has already started, but we already have a more limited version in the form of the battlemaster’s commander’s strike to show how it plays out. No single target attacker can match the rogue so every round the warlord is going to feel compelled to point at the rogue and say “pikachu, I choose you!”. With the warlord getting this at level 1 & second attack at 5th it might as well not even have the attack action as an option till 5. Another straw on that pile is that even if a control/debuff/buff/heal/etc spell from a caster is going to be more useful it’s not available & the lack of caster synergy shows up again later.
It allows you to cast a cantrip, so it does still provide some synergy with casters.
 







Faolyn

Hero
Sure, but just because there is an in-game reason doesn't mean it will feel just to everyone. Hit points have always been defined as more than meat points, yet some people are adamant that they are meat points.
The game itself often treats them as meat points (e.g., falling damage). Having an explanation--which Morrus says is in the works--helps a bit. When you cause a person to regain hit points, are you inspiring them to push past their injuries, or are you literally healing their wounds via warlord non-magic.
 

dave2008

Legend
The game itself often treats them as meat points (e.g., falling damage).
And clearly doesn't in others (HD healing, full HP on a long rest, the definition of HP, increase in HP/lvl, etc.). Everyone has to come up with their own level of comfort and make the game what they want or what they can except. Just because A5E defines hit points doesn't mean people won't be upset if the warlord is healing without magic.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
And clearly doesn't in others (HD healing, full HP on a long rest, the definition of HP, increase in HP/lvl, etc.). Everyone has to come up with their own level of comfort and make the game what they want or what they can except. Just because A5E defines hit points doesn't mean people won't be upset if the warlord is healing without magic.
We’ll tell you what the rule is in our book. Anything else you bring to the table is beyond our purview.
 

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