Thirsty Thursday: Let’s Homebrew a New “Incarnum” Race

Magic of Incarnum was a pretty interesting 3e supplement. Here’s a reptilian race based on that.

Magic of Incarnum was a pretty interesting 3e supplement, introducing a new magic system based around shaping magical items out of soul energy. Along with this system were three new “soulshaper” classes, tons of feats and “soulmelds,” and several new races to make use of this system. It was flexible, adaptable, and in a lot of ways set up the class options system that would be seen in 5e–“Incarnates” and “Soulborns” both had to select an alignment dimension that would determine some of their class features.

Two of the races presented, the skarn and rilkans, were descendants of an ancient reptilian empire that had pursued incarnum as a way to gain “purity.” Wanting to update incarnum for the latest edition, I thought adapting them into a single race was the best idea, using two quite different subraces to emphasize their differences.

New Race Option: The Vishtan

Thousands of years ago, a race of reptilians discovered the secrets of soul magic and harnessed its power for conquest. Thanks to their magical knowledge, the vishtan required little in equipment for their soldiers, and their disciplined legions founded a continent-spanning empire. Having crushed all resistance, the vishtan began to explore other applications of soul magic, eventually learning to wield soulforms for preserving and recording knowledge of all kinds. It was the vishtan who first learned of soulshaping’s connection with the power of other planes, and devoted of all kinds served the empire faithfully. These different dedications united in the empire under the Conduit of Completion, a philosophy that saw in soulforming the chance to achieve both spiritual and physical purity, regardless of one’s personal ethics or ideals.

Soulforming was a carefully guarded secret in the empire, but as time passed a number of vishtan began sympathizing with the “lesser” races they ruled. Instead of the rigid philosophies of their brethren, they wanted a more individual and open approach to soulforming, and some even urged the training of other humanoid races under their control. In an effort to control these dissidents, the vishtan emperor enacted a magical ritual to purify the souls of both himself and all of his people. While many of the emperor’s servants agreed with his decision, many did not and withdrew their presence as the ceremony commenced. The ritual failed, destroying the vishtan capital in a vortex of soulformed energy and breaking their power over other races. Much of the vishtan’s magic was lost through the portal that was opened, and strange creatures found their way to the world for the first time.

The emperor’s death and loss of the capital spurred rebellions across the empire. What was left of the vishtan people collapsed further as different factions broke away to pursue their own goals, abandoning the Conduit of Completion to the orthodox. To this day, scholars debate whether the capital’s destruction was due to the emperor’s mistakes or the withdrawal of so many prominent vishtan. Certainly the empire’s successors do not agree on where to place blame: the taktai believe the empire could yet be resurrected if all would submit to the Conduit, while the rhekians believe their brethren’s pursuit a foolish and ultimately fruitless one.

Vishtan Racial Traits

As a vishtan, you have the following racial traits:

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
  • Size. Vishtan are roughly the size of most other humanoids, though it varies considerably by subrace. Taktai are tall and heavily muscled, while rhekians are slender and lithe like elves. Your size is Medium.
  • Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Languages. You can speak Common and Draconic.
  • Subrace. Two vishtan subraces exist. Choose the taktai or rhekian option below:


The taktai are the true heirs of the erstwhile Vishtan Empire. Their narrow eyes, rigid spines, and small torso scales betray their reptilian legacy. Descended mainly from the vishtan soldiers who founded the empire with both soul and steel, the taktai tower over their rhekian brethren. Continuing their long history of martial training, the taktai nobles have done their best to maintain the ancient empire’s boundaries through force. Holding fast to the Conduit of Completion, the taktai see soulshaping as a path to spiritual perfection as well as a weapon for the powerful, using soulforms to supplement their martial might. This proud people believes that the empire can be restored, but the vishtan must put aside their divisions and pursue it through self-discipline and sacrifice. Until that day comes, they will seek to bring the rhekians and other subject peoples back into their sphere through any means necessary.

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2.
  • Piercing Spines. You gain a natural attack that deals 1d6 + your Strength modifier in piercing damage. You are always considered armed. If a creature attempts to grapple you, it must make a Dexterity saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength modifier) or take damage as if attacked by your spines.
  • Mystic Strength. You gain 1 ki point, which can be expended to attack with your spines as a bonus action. If expended in this way, you regain this ki point after finishing a short or long rest.
  • Taktai Training. You have proficiency with all martial weapons and light and medium armor.


In the ancient past, the rhekians’ ancestors rebelled from the Vishtan Empire, removing the bureaucrats and scholars who held the most magical knowledge and kept its administration running smoothly. Now, the rhekians seek to make their own way in the world independent of oppression and subjugation. To the rhekians, soulshaping is a gift to be used freely and for one’s joy, making the world a brighter place for all creatures, not just the vishtan. This philosophy, so at odds with the taktai’s pursuit of power, makes the rhekians a targeted people within the empire’s former borders. Undeterred, the rhekians pursue their independence with vigor, always ready to battle the taktai who hunt them. At a distance, rhekians are often mistaken for humans or elves. Their reptilian features are less noticeable than taktai; their most prominent are the small scales protecting their neck and other joints and thin tongues.

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2.
  • Rhekian Diplomacy. You have proficiency in the Intimidation and Persuasion skills.
  • Mystic Cunning. You gain 1 ki point, which can be expended to gain advantage on a single Intimidation or Persuasion check. If expended in this way, you regain this ki point after finishing a short or long rest.
  • Racial Knowledge. When you make an Intelligence check, you can add double your proficiency bonus to the roll if you are already proficient. Additionally, you have a measure of ancestral combat knowledge, gaining proficiency with one martial weapon.


Like this post? Check out my 5e incarnum adaptation here or other DM’s Guild content here.

The Rhetoric of Pokémon Go

Names are important. In fact, I would argue that one of the factors in Pokémon’s success is in the names–basically all of them involve puns of some kind, and it adds a charm that other franchises haven’t really matched. When you hear the name “Charmander,” you know two things–it’s going to involve flames and be somewhat lizard-like. (There’s also a Western mythological layer in that salamanders often gained an association with fire or as spirits of fire, though I’m not sure how deep into mythology the naming process went.) “Pikachu” is a rodent-like creature that sneezes (electricity), Tangela is a tangled mass of vines, Ditto copies other Pokémon, and so on. They’ve been good about continuing this tradition ever since, though I’ll confess to mostly ignorance of anything past the second-generation Pokémon.

Last night my wife, dog, and I went to walk at the river. I was happy to see a lot of Water types down there–I caught a number of Magikarps and Slowpokes, as well as a few Psyducks–so I can harbor hopes of a Gyarados one day. But even more than that, I was surprised at just how many people we saw outside. On one end of the trail were three Pokéstops with a fourth fairly nearby, and about halfway down the trail were a gazebo and mini “Stonehenge” formation that were Pokéstops quite close to each other. The latter were especially busy with people–the gazebo benches entirely full, and large clumps of others milling around outside, Lure Modules on both stops to keep the Pokémon coming. This to me is one of the strangest but coolest things about the game–it’s transforming where people are and how they’re out interacting with others. We didn’t talk much to people, but there was a group of guys out with their dog that ours just had to meet, so we briefly spoke with them.

But to the main point I wanted to make: Lure Modules are simply named–they’re not “Pokélures” as I keep wanting to call them, or anything more complicated than that. But it definitely makes you wonder when reading the name if Niantic understood what they were doing with names. Do they lure wild Pokémon to the location? Absolutely. But just as much they’re also luring people, and that’s just as interesting.

Have a Homebrew Monastic Tradition

Did you like D&D’s Fist of the Forest? This is like that, but in 5th edition.

Did you like D&D 3e’s Fist of the Forest? This is like that, but in 5th edition. The class itself didn’t have a lot, so this adds some versatility to monks’ unarmed strikes, utility features with animalistic senses, and calling wild creatures to help you.

New Monastic Tradition: Way of the Wilds

One of the more extreme monastic traditions, the Way of the Wilds calls its members to embrace the asceticism of living outdoors like an animal. Adherents typically forgo permanent shelters, making tents or nests out of branches and animal skins, and the most dedicated refuse even to cook their food, eating everything raw. These warriors, known as “Fists of the Forest,” protect everything within their territories and seek to live in complete harmony with nature.

Unarmored Defense: Beginning at 3rd level when you choose this tradition, while you are wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, your AC equals either 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Wisdom modifier or 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier, whichever is higher.

Feral Trance: Starting when you choose this tradition at 3rd level, you can enter an animalistic fury for 1 minute by spending 1 ki point. While in this trance, your body changes minorly—your teeth sharpen, your nails lengthen, and your senses seem sharper. You can deal slashing or piercing damage with your unarmed strikes, and you gain a bonus on the damage rolls of unarmed strikes equal to your proficiency bonus. You also gain proficiency with Perception checks or, if you already have proficiency, can add twice your proficiency bonus to Perception checks. You cannot cast or concentrate on spells or use other class features on your turn while in this trance, but you can choose to end it as a bonus action.

Keen Scent: At 6th level, you have advantage on Perception checks that rely on smell and can use your sense of smell to track and locate creatures that are hidden from your other senses.

Uncanny Dodge: At 11th level, when an attacker that you can see hits you with an attack, you can use your reaction to halve the attack’s damage against you.

Summon Nature’s Allies: At 17th level, you can call on nature’s allies to aid you. You can spend 3 ki points to cast conjure animals or 4 ki points to cast conjure woodland beings. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

Thirsty Thursday: Let’s Homebrew a New Class Mechanic

The Archivist delved into forbidden lore to gain better combat ability against certain types of creatures. Here’s a stab at replicating that mechanic in 5e.

It’s finally time to (more or less) put into practice some of the things that we’ve been discussing on class design. I’ve seen Archivist updates requested from time to time; the original class was a 3e divine wizard, basically, using a prayerbook to prepare spells and able to scribe new divine spells into it, but also delving into forbidden lore (represented by a Knowledge check) to gain better combat ability against certain types of creatures. Here’s a stab at replicating that mechanic in 5e. It needed to be fairly simple and involve buffing certain abilities yet still retain the 3e’s feel and a distinct niche from, say, the Bard. Here’s what I ended up using.

The Archivist: Dark Knowledge

Beginning at 1st level, you have a trove of lore to combat the monsters of the world. As an action, you select a hostile creature you can see within 60 feet and make an Intelligence-based skill check (Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion) with a DC equal to 10 + the creature’s Challenge Rating. On a success, you remember the secrets of engaging this creature in combat. For 1 minute, you can use one of the following options below on your turn. This feature requires concentration, as if you were concentrating on a spell. Dice used are based on your Dark Knowledge die as shown on the table above. If you fail the skill check, you cannot attempt to use your Dark Knowledge feature against that creature until after you finish a long rest.

  • Tactics: As a bonus action on your turn, you or an ally you can see within 30 feet of you can add your Dark Knowledge die to one attack roll you make against that creature within 1 round.
  • Puissance: As a bonus action on your turn, you can inspire yourself or an ally you can see within 30 feet of you. The affected target can add your Dark Knowledge die to any saving throw they make against that creature’s abilities until the beginning of your next turn.
  • Foe: As a bonus action on your turn, you can add your Dark Knowledge die to the damage of one successful attack roll you make against that creature within 1 round.

Different creature types generally fall under different types of skill checks as listed here:

  • Arcana: aberrations, constructs, dragons, and elementals
  • History: fey, giants, and humanoids
  • Nature: beasts, monstrosities, oozes, and plants
  • Religion: celestials, fiends, and undead

As you gain levels, you gain additional options for this feature. (These extra are based on the 3e class.)

Overall, I like it. It doesn’t cost “resources” like the Bard or Battlemaster Fighter, though it eats up an action to get going and requires concentration. It’s also something that can expand as the Archivist advances in levels in terms of whom or what you can affect. I haven’t entirely finished this class, but I do think it’s mostly complete. Where I’m primarily stuck is with possible class options, but I’ll eventually find something.

Pokéstops Everywhere

One of the big questions I have is how is this game affecting businesses that find themselves identified by the game.

So Pokémon Go seems to have taken the country by storm (at least for those 30 and younger). I really do wonder if this is the signal of a paradigm shift when it comes to augmented reality–is this just what we can expect from life now? There are so many people playing and so many people talking about it and so many people using the Internet for this one purpose, and it’s so different from anything that’s taken hold in popular culture like this. Compared with, say, Angry Birds, it’s having tangible effects on people moving around and going to different places. Rather than gameplay being “available” anywhere, it requires you to be in various places for gameplay.

There are tons of questions to ask about this game, but one of the big questions I have is how is this game affecting businesses that find themselves identified by the game. I know the Firehouse Subs downtown is a Pokéstop, so it makes me wonder what the impact of something like that would have on a commercial business. (Churches and historical markers are another story altogether, but I may cover them at some point.)

On the one hand, this being a free app, just having trainers hunting for ‘mons doesn’t guarantee that they’re going to buy anything. You can see people at odd hours, and you might not be equipped for such traffic. For a restaurant, it’s going to be very frustrating if people stay beyond normal times just so they can catch more Pokémon or hit the Pokéstop a few more times.

On the other hand, this is free advertising for any business that gets tagged by it. People are going to be thinking of your store more often and around the area, and surely some of that foot traffic will turn into sales. I’m sure marketers would kill for this kind of exposure. It also makes me wonder if Niantic couldn’t make money from having sponsored Pokéstops or Gyms from businesses.

Anecdotally, it seems to be helping. I found this article suggesting that business try this out and see how many people they can get. Lures are going to be especially good at…well, luring trainers, and I sort of wonder if the name isn’t more apt for talking about the players rather than just the Pokémon.

Pokémon Go may actually be transforming the world. What crazy times in which we live.

A Foray into Pokémon Go

If you haven’t heard of Pokémon Go, it’s a digital app that uses your device’s GPS to map out your world and spawn Pokémon. You can visit different places to find additional items or different types of Pokémon, eventually battling other trainers at Gyms in your local area.

When I was younger, the first game I ever got for my GameBoy Color was Pokémon Red, my brother getting Blue at the same time. My fondest memory of that game is still battling him over link cable with a specially designed Chansey (Icebeam, Softboiled, Minimize, and one other ability that may have been Light Screen). See, Special wasn’t split into offense and defense, so that Chansey couldn’t die and did tons of damage with its one offensive ability.

“I just walked 4 blocks around my neighborhood [at 10 p.m.] looking for Pokémon.”

To be honest, I’d mostly forgotten about Pokémon Go. I’d heard about it ages ago, and the concept sounded really cool. What else could 10-year-old me have wanted in a game other than to actually go outside and find Pokémon?

“He asked me to take a walk with him. I knew in my heart it was so he could catch Pokemon ‪#‎wifeofanerd‬ ‪#‎pokemongo‬

My wife has been trying to make sure she at least walks every day at this point in her pregnancy, so I’ve been able to hatch an egg and find some new critters on our nightly walks (it’s mostly Rattatas, though). We were basically doing this anyway, but it’s added an incentive to visit the Pokéstops and hunt down side streets.

If you haven’t heard of Pokémon Go, it’s a digital app that uses your device’s GPS to map out your world and spawn Pokémon. You can visit different places to find additional items or different types of Pokémon, eventually battling other trainers at Gyms in your local area. Even better, it’s completely free, aside from whatever data you use and how quickly you’ll burn through your batteries.

I haven’t gotten too far into the game yet; I’ve evolved a couple and caught maybe 25 or so, just hitting level 5 today and qualifying to be able to go to Gyms. I haven’t actually visited any of those yet, so I don’t know what that experience will be, but I’ve also been discussing it with a lot of people. It seems almost universal in my age bracket that people like it, but I’ve also seen a lot of high schoolers involved with it as well.

Tonight, I found a Pidgey with a Combat Power of 77. That seems high–I think it’s the highest I’ve seen on one, though I’m not completely sure. Unfortunately, the one Pokéball I managed to land didn’t stick, and that was my last one. I need to hit some Pokéstops soon.

This post doesn’t have any really deep message or conclusions, but I am playing this game. It’s fun, and I think the concept is outstanding. If you’re reading this post, you’re probably having fun with it, too–unless you’re in one of the many countries of the world where it hasn’t released, which is most of them. My condolences to you.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with this–not my content.

Thirsty Thursday: Let’s Homebrew a Fighter Archetype

This week, we’re going back to the Cavelord prestige class and adapting its features for a nature-themed Fighter option.

I love finding inspiration in previous editions; so many prestige classes in 3e were based around a single idea or gimmick, which makes them pretty suitable for class options fodder. This week, we’re going back to another old prestige class and adapting its features for a nature-themed Fighter option, though I’ve also borrowed a feature from a random Tome of Battle prestige class to fill it out.

New Fighter Archetype: The Cavelord

Brave defenders are needed in all places, and some take up the defense of worked tunnels and underground systems, specializing in fighting in cramped conditions. These cavelords may be less effective above ground, but in their natural terrain they provide a bulwark against invaders. Cavelords are especially common among mountain dwarves, where they frequently earn the name of “deepstone sentinels” or “dwarven defenders.”

Tunnelrunner: Beginning at 3rd level when you choose this archetype, you ignore the penalties for squeezing through small spaces. Additionally, you do not consider the spaces of nonhostile creatures as difficult terrain and can share a space with a Medium or Small creature if you both squeeze.

Cavesense: At 7th level, you become more attuned to your underground surroundings. You gain darkvision out to 60 feet or, if you already have darkvision, it improves by a distance of 30 feet. You also have advantage on Perception checks made while underground and can use your action to gain tremorsense out to 30 feet for 1 round.

Strength of Stones: At 10th level, you can pull power from the earth itself to make your attacks stronger. You can use this feature as a bonus action, gaining a bonus on the damage rolls of your weapon attacks equal to one-half your fighter level (rounded down) for 1 minute. You can gain this bonus damage only once per round. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

Stone Dragon’s Tooth: At 15th level, you can cause a pillar of stone to erupt from the earth within 60 feet of you as an action. The pillar occupies one square and is 5 or 10 feet tall (your choice). You can call forth a stone pillar only from natural, unworked earth or stone. A creature standing in the square must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Str modifier) or be knocked prone. You can dismiss a pillar you created as a bonus action, but otherwise the pillar remains where you called it forth. If you use this feature again, the first pillar you created is dismissed.

Bones of the World: At 18th level, the earth itself will reach out to save you from death. If you take damage that would reduce you to 0 hit points while in an underground environment, you may attempt a Constitution saving throw (DC equal to the damage dealt). If the save is successful, the cavelord instantly turns to stone, gaining the petrified condition but avoiding all damage from that effect. On your turn, you can use your action to transform back. This effect also ends after 1 minute has passed.

This feature also works if you fail a third death saving throw while in contact with the earth, your stone form becoming fixed in place as if it were a natural feature of the land. Twenty-four hours later, the earth looses its healing grip, and you become flesh again. In this case, you awaken with 1 hit point. Any significant damage done to his stony form (such as breaking off the head, or shattering the body) kills the cavelord. If you benefit from the feature in this way, you cannot be resurrected by this feature until 1 week has passed.

Like this archetype? Check out the newly updated Call of the Wild document on DM’s Guild.