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D&D 5E New Cantrip: Feckless Curse

Hawk Diesel

Adventurer
So after reading the Helper Classes thread by @Jonathan Tweet I got inspired by one of the abilities of the Trickster class called Feckless Curse.

The trickster’s standard, at-will melee attack deals no damage at all. In the game world, the trickster might be using a chicken carcass as a weapon, and how much damage would you expect that to deal? Instead of dealing damage, “feckless strike” curses the target with bad mojo, so the next time an ally strikes that foe, the ally deals a lot more damage than normal. In a sense, the trickster’s damage is delayed, waiting for an ally to hit that foe and apply the “damage” done earlier by the trickster.

I thought the name and the concept would be great as a Bard cantrip.

So here's a draft of something I thought could fit with that theme. Rather than having a rider like most cantrips, it provides two ways that the curse could activate, depending on what happens first.

Feckless Curse
enchantment cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V
Duration: 1 round
Classes: Bard

You lay a curse upon a creature you can see within range. If the creature can hear you (though it need not understand you), it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become cursed until the end of its next turn. While cursed, the next time the creature takes damage, the damage is increased by 1d8 force damage, ending the curse. Alternatively, while cursed, the next time the creature causes damage that damage is reduced by an amount equal to 1d8, ending the curse. This reduction applies to only one target, chosen by you.

This spell's damage or damage reduction increases by 1d8 when you reach 5th Level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 17th level (4d8).
 

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NotAYakk

Legend
Delayed damage, all things being equal, isn't as good as damage now.

The damage reduction is great, but the damage output is bad.

I'll break it down into two pieces.

Protective Ward
abjuration cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V
Duration: 1 round

A creature you choose gains 5 temporary HP until you use this Cantrip again.

The amount of temporary HP increases to 10 at level 5, 15 at level 11 and 20 at level 17.

Brain Vise
enchantment cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V
Duration: 1 round

A creature you choose must make a Wisdom saving throw or take 1d8 force damage.

The spell's damage increases by 1d8 at 5th level, and another 1d8 at level 11 and level 17.

This cantrip is basically the two above cantrips combined, with minor differences, and delayed damage.

Not much fun, honestly.

---

One thought is, can we move the mechanics to when it triggers instead of when it hits?

Feckless Curse
enchantment cantrip
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V
Duration: 1 round
Classes: Bard

You lay a curse on a creature you can see until the end of your next turn, or until someone else uses Feckless Curse on the same creature. You can invoke the curse as a reaction to a number of triggers, and when you do the curse ends.

When it makes an attack, you can invoke the curse to subtract 1d4 from the creature's attack roll. When the creature deals damage, you can invoke the curse to subtract 1d4 from the damage it does. If the cursed creature is attacked, you can invoke the curse to add 1d4 to the attack roll. Finally, when the creature takes damage, you can invoke the curse to deal 1d4 additional force damage to the creature. If the damage that Feckless Curse modifies is from a critical hit, double the damage dice done or prevented by the curse.

The damage done and reduced by this cantrip is increased by 1d4 at level 5, 11 and 17, but the subtraction and addition to attack rolls is not.

---

This now has 3 uses -- try to force an attack to miss, reduce damage taken or increase damage the creature takes. I removed the save and made it "automatic". I charged a reaction on top of the action as well.

In general, making the creature miss or making an ally hit is the strongest option. After that, reducing damage to allies, and only after that would adding damage usually be best.

Users of this curse are encouraged to watch the rest of the team play. An ally or monster hitting missing by 1 or 2 becomes a great opportunity; 3 or 4 becomes a risk. The "just damage or soak" option is the "well, at least my action wasn't wasted" choice.

The "only one person" rule is to avoid 100 level 1 bards using Fekcless Curse and nullifying the Tarrasque.

The 1/round nature of this keeps it from being crazy strong.
 
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Hawk Diesel

Adventurer
See, THIS is why I post here. That is a really great suggestion, @NotAYakk. I think it's also important that this remains a bard spell only, since everything about this spell would otherwise compete with Bardic Inspiration. As a DM I might also consider opening the cantrip to Trickery Doman Clerics, Arcane Trickster Rogues, Wild Magic Sorcerers, and Divination Wizards, but that would be a case-by-case basis. It definitely seems like a class/concept defining cantrip, similar to Eldritch Blast. Which also makes me somewhat concerned, because then I wonder if this is more appropriate as a spell or class feature. Another concern I might have is how this would impact bard subclasses that can use their reaction for bardic inspiration, such as Cutting Words.

But I think we are heading in the right direction.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
It does stack a bit poorly with cutting words; it is an action-burning weaker version of it that is at-will.

I'd have to playtest it to see if it is too strong. The cost of an action (and it only working on one creature) is a large one.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
d8 force damage wis save is a tad high. For example, Sacred Flame is d6 radiant damage dex save. I think d6 is more standard for damage types which are rarely or never resisted like force and radiant. It's higher for more common damage and more frequently resisted types like necrotic.
 


Hawk Diesel

Adventurer
@NotAYakk beat me to it. My initial reasoning was the force damage reduced complexity (since otherwise it would be untyped or based on the damage of the next attack). Most force damage cantrips are a bit smaller on the damage, but I thought it needed bump since it was not immediate and required an ally to get it done.
 


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