D&D 5E Paladin's Steed: Unicorn help

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
The game I'm running just hit 8th level. The paladin has a in-character connection to unicorns that has been established in play.

He's just reading the Find Steed (2nd level) and asked for a Unicorn. I pointed out how the 4th level version, Find Greater Steed, has CR 2 options as the highest listed, while the Unicorn was CR 5. Also we have a Moon Druid with the party and they can only do CR 2 forms and it's pretty overshadowing to another player.

The player is understanding but bummed, but the rest of the players (except the Moon Druid's player has been silent) think it would be really cool for the unicorn connection to come into play, especially it ties into things from last session.

I am trying to Rule of Cool work out what to do, but cutting down the Unicorn stat block to not be overshadowing really takes away most of what makes it a unicorn. Legendary actions would have to go (esp. the Shimmering Shield, the paladin is AC focused) and the casting.

I don't mind giving "a real unicorn" not from Find Steed, as long as I can get it down to CR 2ish. But when I chop out enough it doesn't feel unicorn-y nor have survivability that a living mount would need. If I do Find Steed it's actually a spirit and I can justify it being a bit different.

I don't want a unicorn NPC with their own agenda to offset the high CR, there are already NPCs that the party has traveling with them and I'd prefer to keep things manageable.

Any suggestions?
 

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Stormonu

Legend
Rather than work from Unicorn down, it would probably be easier to work from Horse up. Maybe start with a warhorse and tweak it up with the player’s input so it feels unicorn-y to them. It’s already going to have an Int of 6 and share spells (could be fluffed as the unicorn casting the spells itself). Perhaps the unicorn’s horn can tap into the paladin’s Lay on Hands ability and maybe use the paladin’s smite through its horn attack (using the paladin’s spell slots).
 

Oofta

Legend
I think Find Steed is kind of pointless about 30 seconds after the paladin can cast it. Well, a level or two anyway. At CR 8, the steed becomes inconsequential. By the time you get Find Greater Steed that CR2 creature will be baggage.

So what I do is give the steed the same number of HD as the paladin as well as the same proficiency bonus. Since they don't get extra attacks or additional damage, it doesn't really overbalance things much just makes them a useful addition to the party. I've been using this for all of my campaign and it doesn't seem to affect balance much.

A unicorn is about the same as far as HD but then it gets it's spell capability. You could either remove that or just keep it if the entire group is on board with it. Run it as a sidekick for the party which supports the paladin but has it's own personality and, occasionally, it's own goals.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Remember that Find Steed does not summon an actual creature, but the spirit of one. So it might summon the spirit of a unicorn, but limited by the form that the summon can take. Then when the Paladin has Find Greater Steed, the spirit can take on a more powerful form. And maybe later the paladin will find a way to summon a mount that is actually equal to a Unicorn.

So just use the Warhorse stat and give it a small Unicorn coloration, change the trampling charge by the charge and add a misty step once per day with the rider, or something of the kind.

For Find Greater Steed, use the rhino, add the above and maybe spell resistance, or something of the kind.

And finally, add a 5th level spell which is the same as "Find Greater Steed" but called "Find Heavenly Steed", which allows him to summon a spirit with the powers of a Unicorn. Honestly, at that level, a CR5 on the field of battle will not amount to much, but it will look cool.
 

Stormonu

Legend
As an aside, I hate the Find Steed spell and abhor the Greater Steed spell. The Ranger isn’t using up a spell slot to get his companion nor is the Druid giving up spell slots to Wildshape. I’d rather that the paladin just have a squire or mount as a class feature (with bonus action/reaction uses of the Help action if they don’t want someone tagging along). And it be an ability that grows with them as they level, automatically.
 

Redwizard007

Adventurer
First, go with a summoned spirit unicorn rather than a "real" one. That limits its effects on the game to just 10 minutes when the spell is cast rather than all day.

Second, limit the unicorn to the "controlled" option for mounted combat. If it only gets dodge, dash, and disengage actions it can't really be overpowered.

Third, allow the unicorn to function as "controlled" or "independent," per mounted combat rules, if summoned with the 4th level Find Greater Steed. By 14th level, having a unicorn is a non-issue.

Fourth, consider allowing the PC to gain an actual unicorn mount somewhere between 8th and 12th level. They aren't really that big a deal (outside the teleport, but that's only 3 people.) I'd still strip off legendary actions, but none of them are exactly game breaking... maybe only usable in their home forest.
 

aco175

Legend
Drizzt to the rescue.
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You create an item the boosts his spell and ties the spell to a certain unicorn. I also like @Stormonu idea about boosting the paladin abilities. You could also have the unicorn have abilities on its own that it uses like a NPC. Maybe 1/rest heal with its horn for 2d8hp.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
@Blue Couldn't you just homebrew a CR 1/2 version of a unicorn and call it a "young unicorn" that can be conjured with the 2nd level find steed spell?

And then if your party ever hits 13th level when the paladin gets 4th level spell slots, you could make a CR 2 version of that unicorn and call it an "adolescent unicorn" that can be conjured with find greater familiar?
 

Oofta

Legend
@Blue Couldn't you just homebrew a CR 1/2 version of a unicorn and call it a "young unicorn" that can be conjured with the 2nd level find steed spell?

And then if your party ever hits 13th level when the paladin gets 4th level spell slots, you could make a CR 2 version of that unicorn and call it an "adolescent unicorn" that can be conjured with find greater familiar?

Hmm, maybe you could call it Uni?
images (13).jpg
 

Hawk Diesel

Adventurer
Here are a couple of the way I might handle this:

1) Find a creature of the appropriate CR that is "close" in theme to a unicorn, and just reskin it as a unicorn. Just because it has the statblock of a warhorse doesn't mean you can imagine it as a unicorn. Maybe even replace it's hoof attacks with a horn attack.

2) Use a follower per Matt Colville's Strongholds and Followers. You can either use an existing one and reskin it, or create a new one.

3) Use Matt Colville's rules for a pet as presented in his new Beastheart class. You can reskin an existing pet, or create a new one using the structure presented in the book.

4) Use/adapt one of the stat blocks from the conjuration options from the recent Summon X spells released by WotC.
 

I think it all depends on the lore of unicorns in your setting. If you are fully committed to accepting the official lore of unicorns then it's really not going to work. If you feel free to tweak it a bit you can (in increasing levels of lore modification):

A) Say the paladin's horse has been blessed by the unicorn god or whatever, and give it a unicorn horn, ornamental or as a replacement for the hoof attacks.

B) Decide that such specially blessed (or whatever) horses turn into unicorns, and that this is where unicorns come from, and then have the steed gradually change to unicorn stats over the course of the next ten levels or so.

C) Ignore the statblock for unicorns. Just stick a horn on a horse and say that in your world that's all that a unicorn is.
 

The paladin in my game has a "unicorn" that is just a warhorse stat-wise with an added d6 horn attack (when the warhorse gets a d8 attack anyway, if I remember correctly).
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
CR is all about DPR, so you can take the Warhorse from Find steed:

  • Bump up it's INT and CHA to like 8 and 14 respectively.
  • Make it a celestial that's immune to poison (doesn't change the defensive calculations)
  • Give it a Horn attack that deals no more damage than it's hooves attack (doesn't change the offensive calculations)
  • Give it an ability to heal for something like 1d4+2 hps and heal poison, 3 times per long rest. (The only questionable part, but in-play PCs are allowed to be slightly more powerful than PCs made fresh from a book)

And there is an "unicorn spirit".
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
As an aside, I hate the Find Steed spell and abhor the Greater Steed spell. The Ranger isn’t using up a spell slot to get his companion nor is the Druid giving up spell slots to Wildshape. I’d rather that the paladin just have a squire or mount as a class feature (with bonus action/reaction uses of the Help action if they don’t want someone tagging along). And it be an ability that grows with them as they level, automatically.
Well, yes. There already was a Unicorn connection being set up in game - but it was for after a particular event. The player just sparked it early with the Find Steed question and now it's enflamed the imagination of the other players.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
@Blue Couldn't you just homebrew a CR 1/2 version of a unicorn and call it a "young unicorn" that can be conjured with the 2nd level find steed spell?

And then if your party ever hits 13th level when the paladin gets 4th level spell slots, you could make a CR 2 version of that unicorn and call it an "adolescent unicorn" that can be conjured with find greater familiar?
That's what I tried before posting, but the abilities that make it unicorn-y all disappear by the CR 2 version, much less the CR 1/2 version.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I think it all depends on the lore of unicorns in your setting. [Various suggestions for "not a MM Unicorn" snipped]
I mentioned that there already has been established in-game and there is an existing connection between him and the unicorns. So the lore is set as Unicorn, with some additional in-world lore (a connection to the elves and the feywild) also established. Highly magical.
 

Fallen star

Explorer
Give him a pacifist unicorn that can't attack anything.

Edit: after reading unicorn stats, take away teleporting and the entangle spell also. The rest is fine as-is.
 

Weiley31

Legend
Perhaps the unicorn’s horn can tap into the paladin’s Lay on Hands ability and maybe use the paladin’s smite through its horn attack (using the paladin’s spell slots).
That is a FANTASTIC idea and I'm jacking it if I ever get a Paladin who gets a Unicorn Mount.
 

Weiley31

Legend
I would say use the stat block for the Tasha's Beast of the Land Primal Beast. Its default Ability Scores are pretty much near, right around the Unicorn's. Then when you gain the Greater Stead version, you can boost it to the Unicorn Ability Scores. Apply the Horn/Hooves to it.

When it becomes a Unicorn, just add its spells to the Paladin. Healing is replaced by the Paladin's Lay on Hands. It can use Smite, which feeds off the Paladin's spell slots as mentioned before. Loses Multi-Attack but the Paladin can swap in one of his extra attacks to have the Unicorn do an attack.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
That's what I tried before posting, but the abilities that make it unicorn-y all disappear by the CR 2 version, much less the CR 1/2 version.
I took a stab, and this looks pretty close to a CR 1/2 to me...

The offensive CR is 1 – due to avg damage 12 and attack +4.
The offensive CR is 1/8 – due to hp 32 and eff AC 14.
Averaged, that's pretty close to 1/2.


Unicorn Yearling
Large Celestial, Lawful Good
Armor Class 12
Hit Points 32 (5d10+5)
Speed 50 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
14 (+2) 14 (+2) 12 (+1) 9 (-1) 14 (+2) 12 (+1)
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities charmed, paralyzed, poisoned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Celestial, Elvish, Sylvan, telepathy 60 ft. (with bonded rider and related unicorns only)
Challenge 1/2 (100 XP) Proficiency Bonus +2

Magic Resistance. The unicorn has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Spellcasting. The unicorn’s spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 12). It can innately cast the following spells, requiring no components:
At will: druidcraft
1/day each: detect evil and good, pass without trace

Actions

Multiattack.
The unicorn makes an attack with its hooves and with its horn.

Hooves. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+2) bludgeoning damage.

Horn. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4+2) piercing damage.

Lesser Healing Touch (2/day). The unicorn touches another creature with its horn. The target magically regains 6 (1d8+2) hit points.

Lesser Shimmering Shield. The unicorn creates a shimmering magical field around itself or its bonded rider (if it can see the bonded rider within 30 feet). The target gains a +2 bonus to AC until the end of the unicorn’s next turn.
 

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