5th edition

Sorcerous Origin: Blood Magic

Within your veins lies the darkest and most dangerous form of magic. Blood is a powerful arcane channeler. Only the foolish or the very wise tamper with it as a component, and those who do often suffer as much as they excel. As a blood sorcerer, you substitute self-mutilation for study. You may not be as well read as some spellcasters, but the path you’ve chosen taxes the body, not the mind.

Some blood sorcerers discover these occult secrets in ancient grimoires, learning to carve hideous but powerful symbols in their flesh. Others enter the apprenticeship of a vile mentor who personally instructs them. Whether you use blood magic to help others or to serve your own ambitions, it is a practice that will leave you scarred, literally and figuratively.

BLOOD-POWERED SPELLS

When you select this origin at 1st level, you learn the dark arts necessary to turn blood into an arcane enhancement. You can use blood as a replacement for the material components for any sorcerer spell you cast, including those with a cost listed. Your spell save DC for enchantment and necromancy spells increases by 2 while you use your blood as a material component.

Blood Blight

At 6th level, your blood begins to manifest occult properties that enhance your magic and leave you in pain. You can spend hit points to recover sorcery points. As a bonus action, declare the number of sorcery points you’re recovering and expend that many hit dice. Roll the expended dice and take that much piercing or slashing damage.

Additionally, the temperature of your blood becomes intolerably high. You are in a constant state of physical agitation and discomfort, and you find yourself going to extreme lengths to sooth it. For example, you might refuse to set foot in a room where a fire is burning in the hearth, or you might flee the sight of hot food or drink. You have odd physical tics that others find eccentric or off-putting because of the eternal fire raging in your veins.

Objects and creatures that touch your blood take 1 fire damage. You are immune to damage caused by your own blood.

Wounded Vigor

Beginning at 14th level, pain becomes a source of strength to you. When you take piercing or slashing damage, you immediately gain temporary hit points equal to the damage taken.

Primordial Surge

At 18th level, your spells seek out the blood of others. Living creatures that have taken damage and have less than 20 hit points remaining have disadvantage on your spells’ saving throws.

Variant Backgrounds: Explorer, Mechanic, Politician, Scientist, etc.

The following is a batch of variant backgrounds I've been including in the options I present to my players: mechanic, politician, explorer, hunter, professor, and scientist.

VARIANT GUILD ARTISAN: MECHANIC

Art by  Michele Frigo

Your craft is the building and maintenance of machinery. Your experience might involve gunsmithing, steam engines, gas lamps, blast furnaces, printing presses, threshing machines, or industrial mills, drills, and pumps. With the right resources, you can build and maintain these types of post-industrial machinery. Your hands are strong and careful, and you have plenty of experience getting them dirty. Rather than a guild, you belong to a union or society dedicated to technological progress. Such societies are the rivals of artisan guilds, whose members tend to be displaced by industrial machinery. Perhaps you’re a factory inspector, railway engineer, or a firearm manufacturer.

Choose tinker’s tools, carpenter’s tools, or smith’s tools for your artisan’s tools. Your skill proficiencies are Investigation and Perception, and if you wish proficiency with vehicles (land), vehicles (water), or firearms may replace your additional language.

VARIANT NOBLE: POLITICIAN

In a constitutional society, the influence of committees and parliaments rivals that of the aristocracy. Though many politicians are of high birth, many come from more humble roots. The most successful are shrewd and cunning leaders. Perhaps you are the prefect of a small city who rose to political prominence, or a calculating senator poisoning your way to the top of the food chain. If you wish, you can choose the People Person feature below instead of Position of Privilege.

PEOPLE PERSON

You have a natural aptitude for remembering people. If you’ve met someone in person, however briefly, there’s a good chance you recall significant details about them. Maybe you never forget names, retain a clear memory of something they explained to you, or perhaps you notice details about their appearance that no one else would focus on. Even years later, these details stay with you.

A good number of politicians began their careers with an interest in law. You might choose to switch out Position of Privilege or People Person for the lawyer’s feature Legal Training, especially if your political position involves legislation.

  d6  Personality Trait

  1. I get excited when I’m in the public eye or given attention.

  2. I’m flirtatious with most people, and it seems to get me places.

  3. My words are calculated very carefully, especially when a group of people is listening.

  4. There’s only one life to live. Why should I waste it in ceremonies and meetings?

  5. Government is meant to protect the simple pleasures of life, like drinking and wenching.

  6. I’ve got all the answers.

  d6  Ideal

  1. Protection. Power and authority exist to defend the weak and downtrodden. (Good)

  2. Influence. I’m always looking for opportunities to do a favor, and get one in return. (Neutral)

  3. Obedience. The law is the law is the law. To be civilized is to follow rules to the letter. (Lawful)

  4. Might. It makes right, and I prefer to have the bigger stick. (Evil)

  5. Accountability. The world is full of people in high places hiding their mistakes. (Chaotic)

  6. Liberty. No one tells me how to live my life. (Chaotic)

  d6  Bond

  1. My political career was backed by an influential organization, and now I can’t get free of their control.

  2. I managed to book a meeting with one of most important people in the nation. Now what do I say to them?

  3. No one knows it yet, but I have the perfect answer to a widely misunderstood political issue.

  4. People from my hometown or constituency won’t stop coming to me with their problems.

  5. I recently lost incriminating evidence that someone might use against me.

  6. I have a valuable connection in espionage or private detective circles.

 d6   Flaw

  1. Everyone has a vice right? Well, I’ve got them all.

  2. Crime pays. Weekly, in fact, if I turn a blind eye.

  3. I always say what I think I’m expected to say.

  4. When it comes right down to it, I’m apathetic about most parts of my life.

  5. The better part of valor is making a deal with the enemy, offering up my friends if need be.

  6. Beneath all the speeches and rhetoric, I’m pretty unintelligent.

VARIANT OUTLANDER: EXPLORER

Some wander the wilds in order to civilize them. They make and maps trails, develop relations with native cultures, and bring evidence of these achievements back to their homeland. Many of the same skills are shared between explorers and other outlanders, but their goals tend to be quite different. You might have set out to prove a geographical hypothesis, been hired to create a trail between two distant cities, or perhaps you’re looking for a mythical site rumored to be hidden in the wilderness.

Instead of a musical instrument, you’re proficient with vehicles (land), vehicles (water), or navigator’s tools. You can replace one skill proficiency with either the History or Nature skill. If you wish, you can use the Local Guide feature instead of Wanderer.

LOCAL GUIDE

Your connections with the local inhabitants of a wild region provide you with a guide who knows the roads you mean to take. He or she warns you of the dangerous aspects of the journey, advises you on the best ways to forage for food and water, and can bring you to key landmarks in the area. If you pay a modest fee, the local guide might even agree to carry your equipment and hunt for you.

VARIANT OUTLANDER: HUNTER

Not every wilderness-dweller is concerned with the lay of the land. Hunters focus on the creatures that live in the outlands, using the senses and skills of a predator to track their game. While their motives vary, the best hunters share a deep respect for the majesty and power of nature and its beasts. You might be the last true hunter of your tribe, a lone archer living off the land, or a hired gun who keeps the bears and wolves from hampering an expensive expedition.

If you wish to be a hunter, you may replace your musical instrument proficiency for proficiency with the poisoner’s kit. You gain the Tracker feature instead of the Wanderer feature.

Tracker

You know what beasts are native to an area, and you can identify their movements well enough to find one of a given type by tracking for 3 hours of downtime. You can’t use this feature to find a particular creature, but you can discover likely dens and hunting patterns of local beasts within half a day’s journey of your camp.

VARIANT SAGE: PROFESSOR

You have chosen to dedicate yourself to formal research and instruction in a chosen field. As part of an institution for higher learning, you’ve read most of what there is worth reading in your area of specialty. Prospective students who have heard your name come to you with questions and favors. When you choose this background, choose a field to determine which skill proficiencies will replace the sage’s, or roll a d20 and consult the following table.

 d20 Academic Field    Skill Proficiency

  1. Anthropology        History, Religion

  2. Arcane Studies      Arcana, History

  3. Archaeology          History, Investigation

  4. Architecture           History, Investigation

  5. Art History             History, Religion

  6. Astronomy             Arcana, Religion

  7. Biology                  Nature, Survival

  8. Chemistry              Medicine, Nature

  9. Economics             History, Investigation

  10. Engineering            Investigation, Perception

  11. Government           History, Insight

  12. History                   History, Insight

  13. Literature               History, Insight

  14. Languages              History, plus two additional languages of                                  your choice

  15. Mathematics           Investigation, Perception

  16. Medicine                Medicine, Survival

  17. Mythology             History, Performance

  18. Philosophy             Insight, Persuasion

  19. Psychology            Insight, Persuasion

  20. Theology               History, Religion

VARIANT SAGE: SCIENTIST

Scientists study nature, hoping to solve its puzzles one by one and form a better understanding of the physical world. True scientists know, however, that every question answered brings two more to light. Whether privileged thinkers in the public eye or secretive madmen, scientists live on the cutting edge of progress, hoping curiosity will lead them to the next great discovery. Roll on the table below to determine which proficiencies will replace the sage’s. Add the corresponding tools to your starting equipment as well.

  d6  Scientific Field Skill Proficiencies           Tool Proficiencies    Languages

  1. Astronomy          Arcana, Investigation       Navigator’s tools       One of your choice

  2. Biology               History, Nature                Herbalism kit

                                                                              Poisoner’s kit

    3.  Chemistry           Medicine, Nature             Alchemist’s supplies

                                                                              Poisoner’s kit

   4.  Engineering         History, Investigation      Tinker’s tools

    5.  Geology               History, Nature                Mason’s tools            One of your choice

    6.  Physics                History, Perception                                             Two of your choic

Monster: Olkyari, the Unnameable Casket-Bearer

OLKYARI

Syrikhali folk legends tell that olkyaris are the rotting pits of dead stars, left too long in the fetid heavens before they were cast down to Vinramar. The jharethil called them the Unnameable Casket-Bearers—sentient receptacles for some long-misplaced relic from the Darkplane. Their original charge forgotten, they crop up now and then, hunting for creatures to imprison in their extradimensional innards.

Living Wormholes. An olkyari is an orb of absolute darkness about the size of an orange. It might be easy to miss one in a shadowed alleyway, but those who do see the olkyari never forget the dread of it, nor the absolute stillness with which the patient spot stares at them like a hole in the fabric of reality.

Olkyaris each contain a demiplane into which they can absorb other creatures. The size and complexity of the demiplane depends on the age of the olkyari and how many creatures currently reside in it. A younger olkyari's innards are the size of a small room, but the demiplane of an olkyari that has absorbed thousands of creatures over eons is essentially infinite.

Hunters in Shadow. Even those encompassed by an olkyari never truly understand its motives. Their blasphemous perception of reality is likely so foreign to the understanding of natural creatures that to know its mind would be death.

Still, olkyaris are not the most intelligent of creatures, and their behavior seems to emulate that of a simple apex predator. It hovers menacingly in dark areas, waiting for unsuspecting creatures to approach. When its chance comes, the olkyari projects a long, barbed tendril from the dark orb which snags victims one by one. Once they are worn down, these unfortunate souls are absorbed into the olkyari's extradimensional gullet.

Bearers of Hidden Worlds. The creatures that live within the olkyari's extradimensional gullet quickly settle into organized societies. They are deeply convinced that their lives are normal, that the olkyari is their divine benefactor, and that only hard work will make them happy. This is convenient for their host, which is fed and invigorated by any energy expended within the demiplane. The more populous and active its prisoners, the stronger and more potent the olkyari becomes.

The physical nature of the olkyari's demiplane is as varied as the absorbed creatures that inhabit it. The environment and terrain tend to reflect the olkyari's mood, if such an incomprehensible creature can be described as having moods. Indeed, it can use its actions to innately cast the control weathermirage arcane, and project image spells at will to target any area within its demiplane—although it can't concentrate on more than one at a time, and it can't perceive what's happening within itself without the use of project image. Some olkyari aggressively police their demiplanes.

Although an olkyari isn't automatically aware of what's happening inside it, it can sense a relative drop or rise in energy. If the demiplane's population shifts up or down by one-third, the olkyari will know. Similarly, the creatures within its gullet can't suddenly cease working without their host feeling it.

Despite occasionally bizarre conditions, the societies that form among creatures absorbed into the olkyari are industrious. They often find ingenious and absurd ways to employ scant natural resources and found objects to support life in the demiplane. The charm over these creatures has them completely convinced that life couldn't be better (as long as they stay busy).

An olkyari with no creatures absorbed is theorized to have a demiplane measuring 10 feet in each dimension. This cube doubles in size each time a creature is absorbed, making it about 1 cubic mile at 10 occupants, 31 miles at 15 occupants, and more than 1 trillion miles at 50 occupants. After absorbing 70 creatures, the demiplane is the size of a large galaxy. Once it reaches 100 occupants, it is basically limitless. At such a vast size, the olkyari's demiplane might contain its own stars, planets, and galaxies.

This logic has led some astrologers to the conclusion that all of existence is in fact the gullet of a single, unimaginably ancient olkyari whose demiplane is so infinite that it has lost touch with the minds of its occupants. If true, such an epiphany would be of little comfort.

Follow these instruction to alter the basic olkyari below into a more mid-range version (raising its challenge rating to 10).

  • Double the olkyari's hit points and speed
  • Add a +2 bonus to its AC, attack rolls, saving throw DCs, and its Dexterity and Constitution modifiers
  • Increase its regeneration to 10 hit points per turn
  • Increase the number of creatures it has absorbed to 5d100
  • Change its death burst to deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage for each 100 unconscious creatures that are vomited when it dies
  • Change the damage dealt by its Barbed Tendril to 35 (6d8 + 8) and the damage dealt by Absorb to 53 (10d8 + 8)

Character: Thessia Onforoth

Here's an example character using the daemon race, created by contributing author Kristy Eagar. Click any of the character sheet images to the right to get to a .pdf version.

THESSIA ONFOROTH

Daemon Ranger

I’ve been looking for my father. He was a stranger. A colonial by birth, they tell me, but I can’t be even sure of that. A warrior, tall and quiet. Always moving. Searching for something.  My mother died before he knew he had a child, so all my information has come from the village elders where she lived. They say my father was a tortured man, lucky only in battle. Unlucky in love. Unlucky in birthright. Unlucky in having had a daughter like me.

He came for me, but he saw the mark of a daemon on my scalp and he knew what I was. He judged me. He found me worthy of no better fate than death.

Or so I assume. What else could have led him to cast me off as he did? Why else throw a small child from a cliff into a river? An Avan priest pulled me out of the water, and brought me to one of the hidden enclaves of his order. By the grace of our Lady Mother, they healed my broken body. They raised me to be a warrior. They raised me to be strong, despite the scars that mark me, body and soul.

I’m a daemon, and they tell me that I was once called to serve Lord Daemoth, life after life. Yet the Avans also taught me to prize freedom. When the dark herald came to lead me to my destiny, I knew I had a choice. I turned away.

I make my own destiny. I won’t let the sins of my past lives define me. But I will atone for them.

Sometimes, in dreams, I catch snatches of who I used to be. I reject her. I will not be the woman I once was. If Lord Daemoth wants me, let him come and take me. I’ve chosen the goddess Ava, and I reject him.

A place waits for me, among the operatives of my order. But I’m not ready for that, not yet. I’m not sure I ever will be. I know I’m not worthy. I’m too bitter. Too angry. I remember too much of who I used to be.

I’ve left my brothers and sisters in the hidden enclaves. While I seek to do the work of Lady Ava in a world gone dark, I’ve never been an idealist. My methods are practical. Already there’s blood on my hands, and I don’t know if she approves. Can even the goddess of lost children forgive the things I’ve done? The things I think I’ve done in my past lives? I could make this whole lifetime an atonement, but in the end, I’m not certain she won’t turn her face from what I am. Just as my father did.

I try not to think about it. I try not to think of much at all. I just keep moving, staying ahead of those who hunt me, following the traces of a trail gone twenty years cold.

Does my father still live? Who was he? What was he searching for? Did he find it?

Did he regret what he did to me?

I must know. This last question, I must ask him to his face.

When I hear his answer, I will decide if I believe in justice or forgiveness. I will know my path.

Perhaps I’ll never find my father. But in following the convoluted paths of his wanderings, I've already found myself.

New Race: Daemon

DAEMON

Daemons are the human embodiments of demonic spirits from an ancient empire, sent to the material world of Vinramar as agents of Daemoth. Each is born to a human mother by entering the womb, driving out the spirit of the true child and taking its place. When daemons first enter the mortal body, the memory of their former life is lost, and only regained through disciplined meditation. Many forge a new path as they mature, consciously or unconsciously shirking their original purpose.

With practice, daemons can enter a powerful state that hearkens back to their ancient glory. In this elder form their presence becomes commanding, and they glow with an unholy light. Daemons who remain in human guise, on the other hand, avoid the risk of others attempting to discover their true names (and thus control them).

The intent of this charade is to keep a strict eye on world affairs without the daemon’s presence being sensed as a threat. As opposed to the jharethil, who hide out of necessity, the daemons hide in human form because it suits their purpose, evil or otherwise.

A FATEFUL CHOICE

Sometime before a daemon’s fifth birthday, he or she is contacted in secret by a herald of Daemoth, usually a demonic being set to protect and preside over the child. In this first visitation, the dark herald reveals to the child that it is a daemon, and speaks its true name.

If daemons accept the tutelage of their dark herald, they are trained physically and spiritually to serve Daemoth. Many are drawn to religious devotion, becoming leaders within one of the Daemothite religious sects. Others might train for political or academic careers, where their influence will have greatest reach. Whatever their specific mission, daemons who comply with the instruction of the dark herald are prepared for life as an agent of Daemoth.

This decision is life-changing. If a daemon accepts, the herald will return now and then, or routinely take the child away for training. Some parents are distressed by the mysterious coming and going—others are proud to have borne a child of Daemoth.
Many daemons don’t comply with their intended masters, even at such a young age. A refusal to submit to God’s will is taken as rebellion, and daemons that reject their tutelage make bitter enemies of the dark powers. After such a choice, a daemon dissenter might settle down in hopes of being forgotten, or be forced to keep on the move.

THE WEAPON OF ANONYMITY

Daemons live in any human society, hidden among the population as agents of the dark powers. Those that rebel against Daemoth might seek shelter and redemption among religious communities that worship Jharus. In almost all circumstances, daemons manage to operate alone or with a very small group of trusted allies.

The ability to seem human can hide a daemon’s identity, allegiance, and motives. Most leave their true race a closely guarded secret, and keep careful record of who knows it. They will only use the elder form when a situation is desperate. Daemons value their anonymity as one of their greatest advantages, and a means to access resources and connections that might otherwise be unavailable.

HIDDEN DEMONIC GLORY

When in human form, daemons look like their human parents just as any other child would. No sign can distinguish them from humans except an unholy birthmark on the crown of the head, which appears around age three. The birthmark is shaped to form a seal or insignia of the daemon’s dark herald. Many keep this proof of their true race hidden beneath long hair.

All daemons can learn to change their human body into the elder form. While transformed, their bodies closely resemble the human form, but their skin and eyes change to a deathly, glowing white, and their facial features become sharper and more imperious.

DAEMONS AND RELIGION

Daemons give up the right to religious neutrality at birth. The deal is to serve Daemoth or be hunted by him. Those faced with this predicament may hate religion or be steeped in it, but either way they’ll find it difficult to be ambivalent. Zealotry and single-minded devotion to Daemoth are common among his children. Those who rebel gravitate toward spiritual disillusionment and bitter cynicism.

CALCULATING EVERY MOVE

Many daemons have a talent for strategy and analytical thinking, perhaps a byproduct of their eternal war on the jharethil. This almost mathematical ability to anticipate the actions of others manifests at a young age, resulting in a tendency to make complex plans based on such predictions. Daemons value their intelligence above all else.

In addition to their shrewd minds, daemons often have good manners. They’re fond of formality and tradition, using social ceremony to keep others at a distance. The risk of detection causes them to avoid creating strong ties with others.

Depending on their loyalties, daemons might espouse a variety of beliefs or priorities. Those that embrace their heritage find that doors open for them everywhere they turn. The others are hounded until the day they die by servants of their intended master, especially if they join the enemy and aid Jharus’s cause.

THE BEST OR NOTHING

Religious or otherwise, daemons are ambitious adventurers. They set their sights high, seeking the best training available in their field. Some channel their divine gifts into powerful religious magic, while others abandon the path of divinity altogether in favor of arcane secrets. No matter the path, they have the instinct of centuries and the unconscious experience of multiple lives at their beck.

DAEMON NAMES

The humans that raise a daemon will use their own naming conventions, but the child also learns its true name at the first visitation of the dark herald. As with other fiends, knowledge of a daemon’s true name can grant significant power over him or her. Though the human body acts a shield against summoning, those who speak a daemon’s true name can easily influence him or her. These true names each have a life and history, often connected to Mohtra and the long-past civilization of the elder daemons.

DAEMON TRAITS

In connection with your demonic origin, you have the following racial traits.

Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 2.

Age. Daemons age like humans, since their biology is virtually unchanged. Whatever their age, most daemons seem wiser than their years.

Alignment. Because they don’t remember their true history, daemons of every alignment can be found throughout Vinramar, even those that use their otherworldly powers for noble causes. Of course, the lure of supernatural power is strong enough to pull most of them inevitably toward their intended destiny, but the five formative years before the dark herald’s appearance can make all the difference.

Size. Medium.

Speed. 30 feet.

Demonic Changeling. You are considered a fiend (demon) as well as a human. If a creature speaks your true name, you must succeed on a Charisma saving throw with a DC equal to the creature’s Charisma score or be charmed by it as long as it remains in your sight. You can repeat the saving throw at the end of each minute. Once you succeed on a saving throw of this kind, the creature who spoke your true name cannot charm you this way for 24 hours.

Elder Form. You can use an action to polymorph into the elder form or return to your human form. While in elder form, you have advantage on Strength checks, and your body sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet.

While in elder form you can use an action to incapacitate an enemy you touch. Make a melee spell attack against the creature. On a success, the creature is incapacitated until the end of its next turn. Your spellcasting ability for this attack is Charisma.

Those who see you in elder form can identify you as a daemon with an Intelligence (Religion) or Intelligence (History) check of DC 10. Daemons and characters with proficiency in History or Religion pass this check automatically. If you become unconscious while in elder form, you remain in elder form until you can spend an action to return to human form.

Stone Will. You have proficiency with Wisdom saving throws.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write one regional tongue and one extra language of your choice. Daemons speak the languages of their human parents. If they accept the tutelage of the dark herald, their second language is often Zhoroch, spoken by demons and the inhabitants of the ancient daemon empire.

Allegiance. Your reaction to the discovery that you are a daemon changed your life forever. Choose whether you became a herald’s pupil or went into hiding as a daemon dissenter.

DAEMON DISSENTER

At age five, you rejected the dark herald and chose to forge your own path. This choice put you and your family in great danger throughout your life, but you’ve developed the talents to survive it.

Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Watchful Eye. You have proficiency in the Insight skill.

HERALD’S PUPIL

By accepting the tutelage from the dark herald, these daemon’s accessed the training and culture of the ancient daemon civilization. Perhaps they still serve daemoth, or perhaps they dissented after their training was complete.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1.

Religious Lore. You have proficiency in the Religion skill.