Homebrew Playtest: Mysteries and the Mysteriarch

VenerableBede

Adventurer
I am working on a very large project for Level Up and am rapidly approaching the point where I need some help. If you have any interest in the following, please DM me:
  • Just taking a look at the playtest material to see if you would have any interest in it
  • Reading playtest material and sharing your thoughts
  • Playtesting a new spell-like system (for Level Up) and class or archetype
  • Becoming familiar with the system and contributing Mysteries, feats, items, or archetypes
Mysteries and the Mysteriarch
A while ago, I asked myself a few questions: If Advanced 5th Edition had a new "spellcasting" system that focused on most "spells" being able to be cast at-will, what would it look like? Would it be fun? Would it be possible to balance it against the game's other options? Thinking and writing on those questions brought me to develop the Mystery system and supporting content, such as the mysteriarch class.

What is the Mystery system?
Mysteries are a blend between spells and class features. A creature that learns a Mystery may invoke it using Mystery Points, which partially regenerate every turn. To help balance their limitless use, Mysteries only rarely have access to area effects or direct damage, but tend to excel in utility and control, and gain access to higher tiers of power as you level up.
In addition, a character may invoke multiple Mysteries over time and keep each active by "maintaining" them, which costs Mystery Points and an Action or Bonus Action every turn. By using Mysteries, a player can create a flexible, always-on full caster that requires a bit of maintenance to really make shine.

What is the Mysteriarch?
The mysteriarch is to Mysteries what the wizard is to spells or what the psion was to psionics (back in previous editions when psionics was more than just flavor). Mysteriarchs have unmatched ability to learn tons of Mysteries and make very flexible use of them, as well as modifying them in strange ways through their Mysteriarchetypes and other class features. In addition, mysteriarchs have unlimited access to what Mysteries they can learn.

What's in the playtest packet?
The current playtest packet is a largely-finished version of the project. The mysteriarch and many of its archetypes are completed and about 47 Mysteries have been written. In addition, there is a chapter on how Mysteries work (similar to the "Spellcasting" chapter in the Adventurer's Guide), which includes notes on how Mysteries interact with existing rules and systems.
There are also two archetypes that allow existing classes to access and cast Mysteries. The first is the Bodysnatcher (rogue), a conniving villain who steals the bodies (and sometimes lives) of its victims, and the Elemental Martialist (adept), a monk who focuses on manipulating the elements through martial arts.

How complete is this playtest?
Enough is completed to be a testable proof-of-concept. The chapter on Mysteries in general has everything you would need to start using Mysteries at your game table, and the Mystery list has about 47 completed. The mysteriarch class has been completed and has about four completed archetypes, several half-completed archetypes, and several more hoped-for archetypes. As noted above, there are currently two available other archetypes, one for rogue and one for adept, both of which are complete. However, all of this material has only been lightly played so far, and I'm not able to just guess where all the rough edges might be. It's simply not possible for me to playtest everything here on my own.

Before I explore any further, can I get some samples?
Of course! Included below is the class table for the mysteriarch. I will also include three sample Mysteries and the Bodysnatcher archetype in its current form.
Table
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Mysteries
Darklight
A black void appears, sucking all light into it, but stepping through reveals a cheery, brightly-lit space within.
Frequency: Recharge 5–6
Range: 60 feet
Invoking Time: Action
Maintain: Round
Tier 2: You create a globe of darkness with a 10-foot radius originating from a point within range. This globe goes around corners, blocks all light from entering or passing through the globe, and blocks sight and darkvision.
The space within the globe is brightly and uniformly lit, having no shadows. Creatures within the globe only see blackness beyond the globe, which blocks light within the globe from emanating outward, as well as blocking sight and darkvision.
All things within the globe are heavily obscured to all things outside of the globe, and all things outside of the globe are heavily obscured to all things within the globe.
This Mystery does not dispel magical darkness within the globe. However, it does override magical darkness within the globe until the Mystery ends if, when you invoke the Mystery, you succeed on an Arcana check with a DC of 10 plus the spell level of the effect creating the magical darkness. If you attempt to create light within magical darkness and fail, this Mystery’s frequency changes to Short Rest.
Tier 3: This Mystery functions as the tier 2 darklight, except when you invoke this Mystery you may choose a number of creatures (not counting yourself) equal to the highest tier of Mystery available to you. These creatures are able to see into, and out of, the globe without having their vision obscured. This causes the Mystery’s frequency to change to Short Rest.
Tier 4: This Mystery functions as the tier 3 darklight, except the Mystery’s frequency changes back to Recharge 5–6.
Tier 5: This Mystery functions as the tier 4 darklight, except the Mystery’s maintenance time changes to 1 minute.

Fade
You cause a creature to become invisible.
Frequency: At Will
Range: Touch
Invoking Time: Action
Maintain: Round
Tier 2: You touch a creature and cause it to become invisible, including all that it is carrying and wearing.
This Mystery immediately ends and has its frequency changed to Short Rest if the target makes an attack, casts a spell, or invokes or otherwise uses a Mystery that does not have a frequency of Passive. This Mystery also ends and has its frequency changed to Recharge 6 if the target creature takes damage while invisible.
Tier 3: This Mystery functions as the tier 2 fade, except you may affect up to 3 creatures.
If you affect 2 creatures or less, this Mystery does not end if one of the targets makes an attack, casts a spell, or invokes a Mystery, but the frequency of the Mystery still changes to Short Rest. In addition, the Mystery does not end if one of the targets takes damage while invisible, but the frequency of the Mystery still changes to Recharge 6.
Tier 4: This Mystery functions as the tier 3 fade, except you may affect up to 5 creatures.
If you affect 3 creatures or less, you gain the secondary effect noted in Tier 3. If you affect 1 creature, the frequency of the Mystery is not changed even if the creature invokes a Mystery that does not have a frequency of Passive, casts a spell, makes an attack or takes damage.
Tier 5: This Mystery functions as the tier 4 fade, except you may affect up to 7 creatures. Any creature under the effects of this Mystery may make attacks, cast spells, or invoke Mysteries without changing this Mystery’s frequency.

Psychokinesis
A vein pulses in your forehead, and with the pure power of your mind you lift something into the air.
Prerequisites: 3rd level
Frequency: At Will
Range: 30 feet
Invoking Time: Action
Maintain: Round
Saving Throw: Strength or Dexterity
Tier 1: You grasp a single Small or smaller object or creature with invisible power.
This allows you to pick up and manipulate objects; for example, you may open or close a door, pull a lever, paint with a brush, or do anything else you could do with an object interaction. You may also move any object that you would be able to carry, using your Mystery ability score in place of Strength to determine your carrying capacity.
On future turns, provided you maintain this Mystery, you may continue to interact with a chosen object by spending the appropriate action. You may only interact with the object you invoked this Mystery on in this way.
Whenever you invoke this Mystery or maintain it, you may move any object under the effects of this Mystery. You may move it a distance in feet equal to 10 multiplied by your Proficiency Bonus.
You may not directly attack another creature by moving an object toward it or attempting to make an attack with the object using this Mystery. You may try to steal an object a creature is holding, treating it as the Disarm maneuver but using your Mystery save DC and with you grabbing the item with this Mystery on a success rather than having the creature drop it.
This Mystery also, if you target a creature, allows you to grapple it, using your Mystery save DC in place of your Maneuver DC. If you succeed, the creature is grappled until it frees itself from the effect or you stop maintaining the Mystery. You may also move a creature grappled through this Mystery at half the speed you can move an object when you maintain this Mystery.
Tier 2: This Mystery functions as the tier 1 psychokinesis, except the range increases to 60 feet. In addition, you may target up to three Small or smaller creatures (or objects) or one Medium creature (or object). In addition, for the purpose of your ability to push, carry, or lift objects using this Mystery, your carrying capacity is doubled.
If you choose to grasp multiple objects with this Mystery, you may interact with each of them as your object interaction each turn. If you choose to grasp multiple creatures with this Mystery, you may move each of them when you maintain this Mystery.
You may also use this Mystery as a Reaction at this tier. When you are targeted by a single Medium or smaller physical projectile and can see the attack, you can invoke this Mystery to make a check using your Mystery attack modifier. If your check is greater than the attack roll against yoy, you cause the projectile to freeze in place at a space of your choosing within range. If you maintain this Mystery at the beginning of your next turn, you may move the object normally per the rules of this Mystery.
Tier 3: This Mystery functions as the tier 2 psychokinesis, except the range increases to 90 feet. In addition, you may target up to six Small or smaller creatures (or objects), three Medium creatures (or objects), or one Large creature (or object). In addition, for the purpose of your ability to push, carry, or lift objects using this Mystery, your carrying capacity is quadrupled.
You may protect yourself from Large or smaller physical projectiles using this Mystery.
Tier 4: This Mystery functions as the tier 3 psychokinesis, except you may target up to nine Small or smaller creatures (or objects), six Medium creatures (or objects), three Large creatures (or objects), or one Huge creature (or object). In addition, for the purpose of your ability to push, carry, or lift objects using this Mystery, your carrying capacity is multiplied by eight.
You may protect yourself from Huge or smaller physical projectiles using this Mystery.
Tier 5: This Mystery functions as the tier 4 psychokinesis, except you may target up to twelve Small or smaller creatures (or objects), nine Medium creatures (or objects), six Large creatures (or objects), three Huge creatures (or objects), or one Gargantuan creature (or object). In addition, for the purpose of your ability to push, carry, or lift objects using this Mystery, your carrying capacity is multiplied by sixteen.
You may protect yourself from Gargantuan or smaller physical projectiles using this Mystery.

Bodysnatcher (Rogue)
Mystery Invocation
Bodysnatchers tap into Mysteries shrouded in darkness, using a small but constant spring of magic for devious ends.
At 3rd level, you gain third-progression access to Mysteries.
Mysteries Known
You learn the blurred visage Mystery. You may never forget this Mystery to learn another one.
You lean an additional Mystery at 5th, 10th, 13th, and 20th levels. The Mysteries that you learn must come from the following list: [insert very thematic spying/infiltration/assassination list].
Whenever you gain a new level, you may forget one of the above Mysteries and replace it with another one you can learn.
Mystery Tiers
You gain access to 1st-tier Mysteries. As you gain Bodysnatcher levels you gain access to higher tiers of Mysteries, as shown on the Mystery Tier column of the below table. You are not required to invoke Mysteries at the highest tier available to you when you invoke one.
Mystery Points
In addition to learning Mysteries, you gain a pool of supernatural power used to fuel your Mysteries known as Mystery Points. This pool partially refills every turn.
The below table shows the maximum amount of Mystery Points that you can have at any given level, as well as how many Mystery Points replenish in the pool each turn.
[1/3 progression table]
The following table shows the MP cost to invoke or maintain a Mystery of any given tier.
[Mystery Point cost table]
Mystery Ability
Your power comes from your force of will and darkness of character. Charisma is your Mystery ability score and is used to determine the power of your Mysteries and other features. In addition, you use your Charisma modifier when setting the saving throw DC and attack rolls of your Mysteries and other class features.
Mystery Save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Mystery Attack Modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier

Bodysnatch
Also at 3rd level, you gain the ability to use your blurred visage Mystery to snatch a creature’s body.
Whenever you hit a creature with a melee attack and deal Sneak Attack damage, as a Reaction you may force that creature to make a Charisma saving throw. You may do this once per creature per Short Rest. If the creature fails, you immediately use blurred visage at tier 2 (even if you do not have access to that tier or have enough Mystery Points to invoke that tier) to transform into an exact physical replica of that creature, including details that you might not be aware of (such as a hidden tattoo or a unique, subtle scent). This applies only to the physical changes of blurred visage. You still must meet the requirements of blurred visage, including the creature being your same creature type.
You gain two additional benefits when you use blurred visage through this feature: you are able to perfectly mimic the voice and physical movements of the creature whose body you have snatched.
Finally, if you reduce a creature to 0 Hit Points with a melee Sneak Attack, you may use this feature without forcing the creature to make a Charisma save and even if you already attempted to use this feature on that creature.
When you change forms, you lose this perfect recreation of the creature you bodysnatched.

Collection of Forms
At 9th level, you have transformed your body so many times that you begin to become more familiar with the bodies of the creatures you have collected than your own.
After successfully using Bodysnatch, as long as you remain in the form that you stole you may memorize it over a Short Rest. While you have this form memorized, you may always use blurred visage to assume a perfect replica of the physical features of that form, although the changes to your body are still only illusory when the Mystery is invoked at tier 1.
You may have a maximum number of forms memorized equal to your Charisma modifier. You may choose which form you forget if you are at this maximum and memorize a new form.

Identity Theft
At 13th level, you learn how to steal portions of a creature’s mind in addition to its physical form.
After successfully using Bodysnatch, your mind floods with information and memories about the creature. You do not learn personal or deep secrets that the creature possessed, or unique or hidden knowledge, but you do learn anything surface-level that would allow you to effectively masquerade as that creature in casual company. For example, you may learn simple jokes that the creature repeats frequently, that the creature has a habit of pacing while speaking, or stories that the creature is willing to share with strangers. You would not learn things like creature’s secret obsession with orc-themed anime or the quiet whispers the creature says to its loved one exclusively in private.
Using this information, you become indistinguishable as that creature to strangers and casual acquaintances. Creatures that are friends or intimates with the creatures may still discover you based on your lack of specific knowledge or habits.
You may maintain this information by memorizing the form you stole. However, memorizing a form and its stolen identity counts as two memorized forms.

Steal the Gods
At 17th level, your manipulation of form reaches its heights. You may use Bodysnatch to steal the forms of creatures that are not in your creature type but still share your same general features. For example, many Celestials, Fey, Fiends, and Giants have forms that are very human in shape, and so most Humanoid creatures would be able to steal the forms of these creatures.
When you use Bodysnatch in this way, you may steal the form of a creature up to one size category larger or smaller than you and adopt that size, although other than your size your statistics do not change. In addition, your perfect physical imitation of the creature you bodysnatched extends to the unique, magical nature of other creature types where appropriate. For example, stealing the form of a Celestial may grant you the ability to always be wreathed in holy light while in that Celestial’s form.
 

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xiphumor

Hero
I've had a chance to look at most of what he's written up for this. It's some great stuff, guys! Also, if someone wants to put together a playtest session, let me know! I'm not super familiar with online games, so I wouldn't want to Narrate it, but otherwise I'm down!
 


VenerableBede

Adventurer
Just for the fun of it, here's an overview of the completed Mysteriarchetypes:
The Amorus: There are few greater Mysteries than those of emotions and the heart. Amorus mysteriarchs study these Mysteries nearly to the exclusion of anything else, giving them great power over the hearts and minds of other creatures.
Bodymaker: Bodymaker mysteriarchs are masters of summoning, creating creatures on the spot to serve their ends. These ends can be varied—some Bodymakers specialize in creating one big, powerful, constant creature, while others specialize in creating several smaller creatures, while still others summon creatures that mimic the appearance of other people.
Death's Shadow: Death's Shadow mysteriarchs study the Mysteries of the afterlife, finding more of interest there than in the land of the living. These mysteriarchs are unmatched among their peers in their command of the undead.
Hemolurgist: Hemolurgist mysteriarch's study the Mysteries of blood—the life force of the body, they believe. In fact, so intense and focused are they that their experiments have an unintended side effect of turning the mysteriarch into a blood ooze!
 


VenerableBede

Adventurer
This project actually began with me trying to adapt Tome of Magic to A5e in an OGL-friendly way! I still love the Tome of Magic—it's too bad it released so late in 3.5's lifetime. I would have loved to see more evolution on it.
Anyway, I strayed very far from Shadow Magic as presented in that book—for a variety of reasons, but the first red flag that led me toward a breakup was the thought "This doesn't feel different enough from A5e's warlock."
Very early evolutions of this project also stole from 3.5's at-will casting warlock, but I strayed pretty far from that, too, before too long. I'm very happy with the identity of the end product, but I'm also happy that some of its roots are still recognizable.
 



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