Monday, September 25, 2017

Roguish Archetype: The Shadow-Weaver [Third Draft]

Man, have I not thought about this one in a while. One of my favorite roguish archetypes (along with the ninja), and definitely one of the ones most in need of a rework.

One of the fortunate/unfortunate things about doing this for as long as I have is that I learn so much about how things are balanced. Eventually, I start seeing the glaring mistakes earlier on, and either have to whistle and pretend they don't exist, or sigh mightily, go back, and start revising them.

What IS handy, though, is this allows me to update to more modern templates I have developed, standardizing the look of my material while I rework it from the ground up.

So how did everyone's favorite shadow-assassin-counterpoint-to-the-arcane-trickster change in this most recent iteration? Well...


  • Doubled the length of the Shadowy Organization table, and fixed some of the sillier choices. Sorry, members of the Venom Cave.
  • Added Phantasmal Force to the spell list, because why wasn't that there before.
  • Shrouds are no longer a smite-type ability, and instead act as a vehicle to confer Sneak Attack. Less potent than before, but also more in-line with how rogues typically scale. 
  • Heart of Darkness is now Eyes in the Dark, because Heart of Darkness honestly didn't do much. It was one of those ideas that sounded better in my head, and EitD gives a good little bit of fun utility not represented by the spell list. 
  • Black Agony is now Deathly Shroud, because the idea of calling in shrouds for damage needed to be represented somehow. Deathly Shroud strikes me as a more thematic ability than Black Agony's "hey you do extra damage," anyhow. 
  • I basically changed everything except Gloomstride, so there's liable to be some mistakes in there. That's just how it goes, really.
  • Dang did I used to have a real problem letting images collide with text. Now every time I see that, it annoys the pants off of me. Revision revision revision!


  1. Could you maybe put in a description of Sword Burst? The EEPC is free for anyone who has internet access, but not everyone can pay to get the SCAG.

    1. Thing of it is, any material in the SCAG isn't covered by Wizards' open game license, so I can't duplicate it in my works without violating their copyright. Anyone who makes homebrew, and especially sells homebrew on the DM's Guild, has to take great pains to avoid overstepping their bounds.

      Now, I could easily put a description of what Sword Burst is, in my own words, but that wouldn't exactly help anyone looking to take the spell. Like how the Arcane Trickster inherently has access to all the cantrips in the SCAG, but only if there's a SCAG around to use, so too does the Shadow-Weaver have to crib on actually having a SCAG to use Sword Burst.

      Ultimately, though, it's just one spell, and not even the best one the SCAG has to offer (never run an Arcane Trickster without Greenflame Blade). It sucks that it's on the other side of a paywall, but at the end of the day there's just not much I can do about it.

    2. I definitely understand the trouble of open source material. It's definitely a great subclass, one tiny cantrip aside. I don't really like rogues, but this one reminds me a lot of Dishonored, and feels really well put together. I like how the abilities build on each other as you level up.

  2. I love the changes you've made to what has been my favourite and most played homebrew of yours!

    The Eyes in the Dark change is awesome, though I think the mechanics could be a little smoother. An idea would be having it so that you could separate your shadow from yourself and send it to scout for you, much in the same way you would a familiar. Not sure how you'd integrate that, perhaps by having the ability summon a creature with a statblock you provide that can't attack, and can only move in dim light or darker and possibly with a short range shadow teleport.

    I do have a small issue in that the level 17 ability is niche in it's applicability, in my career as many different rogues I pretty rarely come into contact with blissfully unaware enemies that close to each other (might just be my DM's though). Now that I think of it you could tie the final ability into your shadow; let the shadow make one attack using your stats and sneak attack once per short rest (possibly disappearing after it does so).

    Just some rambling, by all means shoot me down if I'm not making sense. After all I love the archetype as it stands; I've got 16th level heist themed oneshot this weekend and I plan to dust off Ghost, my Awakened Undead Shadow-weaver from a previous campaign. As always, keep up the good work!

    1. >An idea would be having it so that you could separate your shadow from yourself and send it to scout for you

      Aaaaaaaaa that's such a good idea and I just revised it already!

      I'm not sure I could provide it with a straight-up attack, though, as you can't provide additional damage that early in a rogue's kit.

      >the level 17 ability is niche in it's applicability

      You've got a point, the ability is calling for a really specific scenario.

      Maybe provide a pool of damage dice that can be distributed to enemies in a given area around the shrouded target. That way, if it's just the shrouded target there by itself, you can just dump the full amount directly on its head and not worry about things like enemy formations.

      >Now that I think of it you could tie the final ability into your shadow; let the shadow make one attack using your stats and sneak attack once per short rest

      Would be a good idea, but it's unfortunately a bit too similar to what I did with the ninja. Don't want to step on my own toes, here.

      >Ghost, my Awakened Undead Shadow-weaver

      Dang, that sounds cool to play! Glad you're enjoying it, and giving me some quality feedback, to boot.

  3. Yeah - 13 is to early for any additional attacks; though what I was thinking is that at level 17 when your shadow is separated from you it can perform one sneak attack. I think it'd fall pretty squarely into the DPR comparison against the PHB Rogues (Thief get a free turn and assassin's can double damage); it has the same gateways as it has to roll to hit as well.

    But if you were to use it in combat it would be very similar to the Ninja's ability. Your distributed damage idea has some merit to it; though without seeing how the mechanics work I'm worried about the notion of assigning dice to different targets bogging down play (it has a very wargamey feel to it).

    Dishonoured 2 gives you an ability called Domino in which you can link a number of targets together and they all take the same damage when you hit them regardless of distance (tweaking how much they take for D&D math balance).

    The other idea would be to move away from a strictly damage ability. Something like; Once per short rest you can place up X (I'm thinking 4) creatures under your shroud (possibly for just a minute), you can Gloomstride between them freely up to a maximum distance of 30/60/120ft (whatever is balanced). Additionally you deal an extra 2d6 necrotic damage when you sneak attack a creature under your shroud (not just limited to when you're using the level 17 ability). But that's me, I love it when archetype abilities call back to their lower levels and improve them as it really gives a sense of growth in how your character fights.

    1. I like the multiple shroud concept, especially because it harkens back to how the 4e shadow assassin could dispense multiple shrouds (though usually only on a single target). It makes the assassin feel like it has a "super" mode, where it does everything it does, better.

      I'm not sure I'd go with this exact concept (I'd like to tie the extra damage directly into using the ability), but it's an avenue I'd definitely like to explore.

    2. I love this build and would love to playtest these new mechanics. I really like the idea of the Domino ability. It's kinda like making an "uber" shroud to help fill the gap that is usually the Rogue's downfall: area of effect. Imagine sneak attacking one target and the damage is mirrored over to anyone who fails a con save equal to your spell DC. As a once a rest ability at level 17, that would easily help cap off this with a dazing Deathly Shroud.

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  5. So my DM and I sat down and revised the Deathly Shroud ability. I would love input if anyone has any. :)

    Deathly Shroud (Revised)

    Having learned the final mysteries of the Shadow-Weaver, you are able to unlock the true, deadly potential inherent in the shrouds you place on your hapless targets.

    At level 17, you may use a bonus action to expand the effects of your shroud to a radius of 15 feet. The center remains on the original creature with which your shroud was placed. Each time you strike this creature, any creature of your choosing within that radius must make a Wisdom saving throw against your spell DC. Those creatures receive full damage on a fail equal to what the original creature took and half of that damage (rounded up) on a success. This damage is psychic for the purposes of resistances.

    Moving the shroud from one creature to another or when the original creature’s hit points reach 0, the effect ends. Once you have used this ability, you may not use it again until you have complete a short or long rest.

  6. Greetings on behalf of the Russian player!
    Eyes in the Dark - allows you to attack creatures with a disadvantage from a darkness locate or a disadvantage on attacks around Shadow-Weaver, because he is blind?

    Cool work!

    1. Thanks!

      And it's the second one. Your shadow-weaver stays in place, only their vision moves. So the shadow-weaver is still able to attack people nearby, but their normal eyes are blind, so it's harder to make attacks.

    2. Thank for you answer!
      But it is a pity that the blade can not pass through the shadow for attack.
      I wish you success, and the development of good ideas.

  7. I have one concern regarding this. Maybe this has already been addressed and I just missed it, but what is a Shadow Weaver supposed to do about material components for spells like Spirit Guardians? The material component is a holy symbol, but thematically that doesn't make any sense.