August 22, 2016

Oath of Winter

Sacred Oath
Comments from the Finger: This is more or less a proof of concept for a Tundra Update. Lemme know what you think.

Oath of Winter

The Oath of Winter is a concord between a paladin and an ancient being of ice, Father Winter. With this treatise, the paladin swears to stand vanguard against the cold, but neither to unseat Father Winter from his throne of ice. So long as the paladin upholds this concord, he is made one with the winter's ice, and protected from its ravages.

Tenets of Winter
Your concord with Father Winter is based on the following principles:
     Winter's Snow. Though the winter is long and harsh, it is not altogether evil. Your concord with Father Winter himself is proof of that.
     Winter's Wind. With the coming of winter frosts are harsh dangers and frigid creatures not found in the summer. It is your duty to protect the innocent from this peril.
     Winter's Throne. To seek to unseat Father Winter from his throne of ice is to break your vow. No matter the evils of his reign, you must not break your concord.

Oath Spells
Paladin Level     Spell
3rd     armor of agathys, ice knife
5th     shatter, Snilloc's snowball swarm
9th     protection from energy, sleet storm
13th     blight, ice storm
17th     cone of cold, wall of ice 

Channel Divinity 
When you take this oath at 3rd level, you gain the following two Channel Divinity options.
     Ice Armor. As a bonus action expending your Channel Divinity, you can wreath your armor in a thick layer of protective ice, which must be chipped away before you are harmed. You gain temporary hit points equal to twice your paladin level + your Charisma modifier. You subtract fire damage from your temporary hit points as if you were vulnerable to it, but if this fire damage reduces your temporary hit points to zero, you take no additional damage from it, as your melting ice neutralizes the excess heat.
     North Wind. You can use your action to breathe a hoary wind, expending your Channel Divinity. Each creature within a 30-foot cone must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 2d8 cold damage for each point of your proficiency bonus, and its speed is reduced by half until the beginning of your next turn. On a successful save, a creature takes half as much cold damage.
     A creature killed by this ability becomes a frozen statue until it thaws.

Frigid Aura
Beginning at 7th level, you emanate bitter cold and draw heat from the room. You and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you have resistance to cold and fire damage.
     At 18th level, the range of this aura increases to 30 feet.

By 15th level, your blood freezes in your veins. When you take damage, you can use your reaction to halve the damage you take.

Father Winter
Starting at 20th level, you can invite upon yourself the purest cold, becoming an effigy of Father Winter himself. For the next hour, you gain the following benefits:
  • You are immune to cold damage.
  • On your turn, you can draw the heat from the room, extinguishing any nonmagical fires you can see within 30 feet (no action required.)
  • Creatures within 5 feet which deal damage to you with a melee weapon attack immediately take 2d10 cold damage.
  • The ground surrounding you rapidly ices over. Spaces adjacent to you are considered difficult terrain for creatures that you choose.
Once you use this feature, you can't use it again until you finish a long rest.

Changelog: 8/22/16: Oath Spells: Control Water replaced with Blight, chromatic orb replaced with ice knife, and pass without trace replaced with snoball swarm
Father Winter: Typos: Shouldn't give you fire damage (you already have it) and only spaces adjacent to you are considered difficult terrain
Iceflesh: Half damage, rather than reduced by proficiency bonus
North Wind: Range decreased to 30 feet. Frozen effect added


  1. On father winter, what balancing factors lead to you deciding it would last for an hour? I don't know much about balancing. Just curious about your thoughts.

    1. I consulted the PHB paladins pretty closely as I was coming up with features I liked for the capstone, and generally most paladin forms were 1 minute with a more game-changing effect, or one hour with a more passive one. I decided that these effects, which are all passive, needed to be an hour to be competitive.

  2. You list Control Weather under Oath Spells. Control Weather is an 8th level spell. Did you perhaps mean Control Water?

    1. Yup, that's a typo, alright.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Second bullet point of Father Winter: You are already resistant to fire damage due to frigid aura. Also seems like an extra clip of text that wasn't removed when you decided to edit the feature. also, may want to specify the radius of the fourth bullet point. As it reads it suggests adjacent squares, but is open to interpretation. An hour does feel too long for this, perhaps 10 minutes?

    1. You're correct on both counts here -- the reference to fire damage needs to be cut, and the 4th bullet point needs to be made more specific (should be adjacent spaces.)

      I made this one an hour to feel competitive with the PHB's Avenging Angel feature, which is also one hour. Compared to that, do you think I missed the mark?

  4. I like this oath, and that's saying a lot, seeing as I'm not particularly interested in paladins as a whole. This changes up the Paladin's stereotype of being a bastion of either good or evil. With their oath, a paladin that serves under Father Winter treads a fine line between all of the alignments due to each of their tenets, and it adds an interesting layer to most characters who choose this oath.

    You did a good job with the channel divinities, taking inspiration from spells like armor of agathys and cone of cold, and yet still making them feel unique and balanced. The only gripe I have on them is North Wind being a hair too powerful for a Channel Divinity. It's just my opinion, but I was thinking maybe dropping the range to maybe 40 feet or something like that.

    Frigid Aura is both simple and handy, hardly anything players need to read, and is almost impossible to misinterpret.

    Ice Flesh is a small bit too weak imo, due to the fact that you get it at 15th level, and you're only reducing damage by either 5 or 6. Yes it can reduce any damage, which is a little weird, and it only requires a reaction, but by level 15, you're encountering enemies that do on average 93-98 damage per turn. Thematically it makes sense, I just don't see it being something a paladin is looking to work towards when they reach level 15.

    As for Father Winter at level 20, all I can say is I wouldn't want to piss off that Paladin. They're just plain scary when using that. Not in a mechanics point of view, just from a flavorful visual interpretation point of view. I wouldn't want that thing walking towards me if I just pissed it off.

    1. You're probably right about Ice Flesh. I'm holding to it reducing any damage, since I imagine this as the ability to ice your wounds, keeping you from bleeding excessively. Should I instead make this just halve damage as a reaction (like a rogue's uncanny dodge) or should I make it reduce all bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage by your proficiency bonus? I'm leaning toward the former, but wanted to ask your opinion.

    2. I'd also lean on the former. Half damage as a reaction feels in line with most other 15th level paladin features, and at the same time doesn't step on the rogue's toes. You get it 10 levels later, and is performed in a completely different way thematically. I picture it as the paladin braces for the attack where the ice is caked over him more thickly with his reaction, whereas the rogue simply dodges out of harm's way with their unnatural reflexes. It kind of fits with a paladin's motif as well, seeing as they're front liners meant to take damage and not care.

    3. Yeah, but I was pretty worried about stepping on the rogue's toes regardless. I'll change it for now, but I might still look for other directions to take this. A reaction for +4 AC or something like that? There's a lot of stuff we can do with it.

    4. Yeah, North Wind is probably a bit too heavy, all things considered. Dropping the range would probably be the cleanest way to tone it down a bit.

    5. An interesting possibility would be making it a disarm function. So instead of reducing damage, you reduce the threat level of an enemy. With a reaction, they have a chance at disarming an opponent that made a melee weapon attack against them. I'm seeing it as when the paladin is struck, their icy flesh catches the blade of a weapon, causing it to get stuck in the frozen flesh, almost like hacking into a wall of ice. You can handle the mechanics side of that if you like the idea, just spit balling here.

    6. Disarm is nice when it works, but the problem with it is that very few monsters actually use weapons, and the other ones are basically defenseless when it happens. I don't really like the consistency there.

      I'll drop North Wind to 30 feet -- originally, I just liked that it was such a close parallel to Cone of Cold.

    7. Yeah, disarm is either too good or worthless depending on the scenario. Too circumstance mail to be effective.

      Right now, the only options I can see, are as you said, a bonus to AC, similar to Shield, or possibly creating a weapon from their icy flesh. Problem with that is, by that level, you're probably swimming in magic weapons. (Thanks 5e)
      Not saying that it can't be effective, but I just don't see it being used often if it were as such

    8. Also, just for flavor, think it would fit to sneak back in the Cone of Cold clause for North Wind? The whole "a creature killed by this becomes a frozen statue until it thaws" bit.

  5. I dunno about Control Water as an Oath Spell. While yeah, ice and water and all that jazz, Control Water really doesn't hit me as being particularly fitting for this archetype, if only because of its reliance on liquid water.

    While Control Weather does work but at a much higher level, what about Blight? Either shifting the damage to Cold for flavor purposes or simply keeping it as is, because a deep freeze locking up a person's moisture definitely fits in line with Blight as it even would focus on the same real core idea of Blight by attacking the water within a target, simply flash freezing it rather than drawing it out. The bonus damage on plant creatures is also incredibly fitting, as any farmer can tell you about coldsnaps.

    Blight's pretty amazing at giving you a spell for Frostbite, and its Con save just makes it all the more mechanically and thematically appropriate.

    Just an offer, because I really don't picture an Oath of Winter paladin hitting enemies with whirlpools or floods from liquid water.

    1. I agree with you that Control Water isn't ideal, but I'm not a huge fan of modifying the spells I put in the expanded/oath spell lists. I know it can make things more thematically interesting, but other than that, it's dead information that makes classes more difficult to play. This is because, even though you can I can agree that blight is very similar to cold snaps, and makes sense as an analogue, other readers might not understand the logic gap without it being explained (which is reasonable -- a blight is probably more likely to be something bacterial, and hence is less likely to be roaming around in the winter.)

      It might be smart to switch this to elemental bane or hallucinatory terrain.

    2. Really, I'd just argue for almost anything other than Control Water which seems both a waste mechanically and thematically. Blight doesn't even really require any modification as the necrotic still definitely feels apropos for Father Winter as this cold-hearted tyrant of ice and death.

      And if someone looking at the cold class and sees a spell that directly relates to messing around with the water inside of a target and specializes in effing up plants and -doesn't- make that connection, I'd demand to see their report card.

      I have no idea what you mean about bacterial, either. The spell's literally just evil magic juju washing over a target and directly affecting the living thing's vitality and moisture.

      Even just mechanically, it's a nice little ability that the paladin otherwise doesn't really have access to. A fairly precise, short range but not melee ability to seriously cripple a foe.

      Elemental Bane would work pretty nicely, though I dunno about Hallucinatory terrain. Seems more fitting for a desertadin using mirages than for a tundra-based character. Could support it, if Blight's off the table.

    3. My bad -- I think I was confusing blight's flavor text with a spell from 3.5 (it's really late where I am.) After rereading it, I totally agree -- it's a better fit. I'll trade it out ASAP (then go to sleep.) Excellent work as always Derek!

    4. Just happy to help. As someone with a RAGING boner for frost magic, this is even more up my alley than normal. Especially when the primary antagonist my party's facing is a loco frost queen.

    5. That's a hell of an idea! Consider it implemented.

  6. Would Ice Knife not make more sense than Chromatic Orb, as it's also a 1st-level projectile spell that better fits into the ice theme?

    1. Actually a really, really good idea.

    2. I think they are trying to stay with the Players Handbook spells for this, though the elemental evil spells would seem like a no brainer.

    3. That was at least the plan when I wrote this anyway. I try to do that whenever possible to make things a little easier to play.

      However, since this got a warm reception (heh), I think I'll introduce the EE spells, because a Winter Book would unavoidably use those spells at some point anyway.

  7. I am going to go on record with saying that I love everything about this except the Tenets, and that I do not think you will agree with me. But, I love this site so here I go anyway-

    -First Tenet is not a tenet, it is a description; it doesnt present any conflict or anything for the Paladin to follow

    -Second tenet is perfect, might need a 'but...' clause to seal it airtight against random falling from things outside your control as a player; "Best effort" perhaps?

    -Third tenet is bad, for the same reason that the third tenet on Dragondin is bad; it takes away player agency. Fluff is important, but /crunch/ should be written fluff-neutral. Classes are ultimately a bundle of mechanics with suggested fluff to establish a theme; they are by no way binding. If I wanted to use this in my campaign for my players to utilize, I am forced to adapt my world to accomodate this King of Winter; a Paladin could not, for example... Swear themselves to the ideal and concept of Winter. This would not be an issus if this was a Warlock pact, but this is a /Paladin/ and as you take the Player's Handbook in high regard I will remind you that the established (and supported, in SCAG) norm is that Paladin Oaths are moral tenets.

    In addition, the third tenet conflicts with the statrf fluff in the PHB that Paladins draw their power from the Oaths thag they swear and not the entities whom they bear allegiance to - once you become a Paladin you remain so until you die (and fail to be ressurected) or Fall. The Dragon or Winter King cannot, as far as the PHB states, take away your power even if you turn on them.

    Finally, I believe it bears mentioning that fluff is one of the most important things to be aware of when writing homebrew of this quality; since you are not first party, someone stands the best chance of actually convincing their DM to allow them to utilize your content if it is 'drag and drop' into their campaign rather than coming with campaign specific fluff.

    This is supported in precedent by several of your previous creations, such as Daggerspell Mage and the recent Enforcer.

    1. As before, we might end up agreeing to disagree on some of these points, but I appreciate your insight regardless, Shardin!

      I can mess with the first tenet a little bit. The idea is 'It's a rough world, but it's not evil. You don't have to be.' I can also tweak the second tenet as well.

      I thought the third tenet was fine this time! You don't fall if something happens outside of your control -- you're just not allowed to actively try to kill or unseat Father Winter yourself, which I think is more than fair, given the context of the class. There's always some specific no-noes with a particular Oath, and if your case, your oath is specifically a condord, an arrangement between you and Father Winter.

      On using "Father Winter" in your campaign: I genuinely this this /is/ a super drag-and-drop concept. It's about as close as one can get to being campaign-ambiguous while still referencing an NPC which may or may not exist somewhere.

      Importantly, this also needed to be a proof of concept for a winter update. We needed to approach it from a direction of acknowledging the winter setting in order to explore how much content can really be discussed in that context. If that makes it a little more campaign specific to campaigns that will have a wintery bad guy somewhere, I really don't mind. Some of our work is intended to be very generic, and adaptable to lots of settings, others are intended to be very specific and evocative, prompting the player to make a specific type of character.

  8. Just checked a spell site I use; wall of ice is 6th level rather than 5th. Perhaps hold monster could work thematically; hold person is described as 'clench of the north wind' or something similar in the elemental monk subclass. Also, I really love this oath as I think it fits the paladin very nicely.

    1. I actually did this one intentionally! Sometimes it's okay to tinker with spell progression and offer a spell at a level normal than usual, as long as you've got a pretty solid reason. In this case, the paladin would never have gotten this spell anyway, and since it takes a spell slot of his highest level, I thought it was worth it to give him access to it.

  9. I love the idea of an ice paladin and how you've built the class. However, I feel the tenets are a little flat. Here are my suggestions.

    Hope of Spring - this life is one full of hardship and strife, but you never give up hope for a better tomorrow.

    Endure the Cold - in the heart of winter, passivity has no place. You vow to stand against your adversaries even when the odds are against you.

    Winter's Sympathies - the winter is cold and honest and so are those who endure it. Do not shy away from harsh truths lest you and those around you folly.

  10. Wall of Ice is a 6th level spell. This is also a problem in your elemental-born sorcerers, by the way.

    The Frigid Aura negates the Ice Armor's (channel divinity) vulnerability to fire. Is it intentional? If not, it should be fixed.

    1. I'm holding off with fixing the elementalborns until I can manage a complete overhaul of them. Wall of Ice was mentioned in a comment above -- this time it was actually intentional.

      And yes, Frigid Aura is intended to negate the Vulnerability to fire that Ice Armor creates.