View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next Fighter Subclass: Duelist, second iteration (PEACH)

2018-11-30, 05:19 AM
The Duelist fighter aims to create a fighter that truly excels at single combat, getting access to considerable power should they succeed on getting enough hits. (http://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/share/H1IyiTFkQ)

So, if you have a look, please tell me what you think! A similar version of this was posted by me before, but I've since revised it!

2018-11-30, 11:01 AM
This archetype is mostly fine, I think. It's got some solid bones, at any rate. Let's start with some wording/structure nitpicks.
- It's disconcerting to read a 5e subclass that doesn't use second person pronoun to describe its features ("you do/receive/can ", and so on).
- You really don't need colons at the end of each feature header.

(It strikes me that this archetype is written in a very "3.5"-ish style, now I come to think of it.)

Also, it seems to me that you've overthought the whole Focus/Elegance thing: in particular, "Elegance" isn't really a thing - it's just adding on a layer of terminology to the saving throw.

Learning the Dance
At level 3, upon choosing this subclass, the Duelist receives a slew of abilities linked to two scores; Focus and Elegance.

Focus: When the duelist hits a creature, for every hit after the first, they build Focus on that creature. Focus is lost after a minute, or when the duelist hits a creature that is not affected by Focus.

When a creature affected by Focus reaches 0 hitpoints, the Duelist may choose a different target for their Focus as a Bonus Action on their turn.

Elegance: 8 + dex or str + proficiency. at the end of their turn, the Duelist can inflict conditions upon enemies they have Focus on. This consumes an amount of Focus depending on what condition they choose; listed in the table Focus Abilities.

I'd suggest rewording this feature like so:

Learning the Dance
Beginning when you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you focus your skill and effort against a single foe, striking it down with powerful blows and practiced techniques, represented by a pool of Focus that accumulates as you fight.

Whenever you hit a creature with a weapon attack
, your Focus against it increases by 1 for each such hit after the first. Any Focus you have against a creature is lost after 1 minute or once you make a weapon attack against another creature you don't have Focus against. If a creature you have Focus against reaches 0 hit points, falls unconscious, or dies, you can use a reaction [**] to switch your accumulated Focus against that creature to another creature you can see.

In addition, at the end of each of your turns, you can expend any amount of accumulated Focus against a creature in order to use a Focus ability on it. The Focus abilities, and the amount of Focus you must expend to use them, are shown in the list at the end of this archetype description.

If a Focus Ability requires a saving throw, the saving throw DC is 8 + your choice of your Strength or Dexterity modifier + your proficiency bonus.

I think it should be weapon attacks, but does it matter if it's melee or ranged? I think it'd be good for the archetype to have that versatility.

[**] Nothing says you can't use reactions on your turn, IIRC. Also, this is a class that needs two-weapon fighting early on to build Focus, so I think you want to avoid using your bonus actions for anything else.

Bonus Thought: Coming back to this after starting to review the Focus Abilities. Why have them take effect at the end of your turn? It seems a bit dissociated from the reason these abilities happen, which is because you're swinging at your enemies with your weapon. Maybe you should be able to apply a Focus Ability once on each of your turns when you hit with a weapon attack.

Leading the Dance

At level 7, The Duelist can flourish and demonstrate their skill for a minute. If they are not interrupted, any creature they choose that can see them for the full duration is charmed for an hour.

Was this in the original version of this archetype? It's absurdly strong - it amounts to a ritual spell version of charm person - except that this spell can affect any creature and the target doesn't get a saving throw.

So... yeah. Needs changing. I don't have any suggestions, although a social "ribbon" feature is obviously a good idea.

Learning the Song

At level 10, when the Duelist gains Focus on a creature, they may designate two additional creatures. They share a Focus score. Additionally, a creature takes additional damage equal to the Focus on it whenever the Duelist hits it with a weapon attack.

Nitpick: The name of the feature just feels out of place. Dancing and fighting, especially this elegant sort of fighting, I can get behind. This song stuff? Not so much.

This feature interacts oddly with Learning the Dance - in particular, if you hit a creature you don't have Focus on, you lose your Focus against all three creatures. I'm not sure you want that.

Once you accumulate large amounts of focus, you could be dealing an awful lot of damage. Let's say you have 9 Focus. Each hit against a creature you have Focus against deals 9 extra damage. That's the equivalent of ~2.4 Sneak Attack dice. But I think it's probably fine, because it would take a while to build up that much Focus, and most combats should be over by then.

Maybe reword it like so?

At 10th level, whenever you first gain Focus against a creature and don't already have Focus on any other creature, choose two other creatures you can see. You have Focus against these other creatures as well. You share Focus against all three creatures at once: you don't track Focus against each one individually.

In addition, whenever you would lose Focus against a creature because you make a weapon attack against a creature you don't already have Focus against, you instead transfer your Focus from one creature of your choice that you have Focus against to the target of your weapon attack. [***]

Finally, your weapon attacks against creatures you have Focus against deal additional damage equal to your current Focus.

[***] This keeps your Focus on three creatures for the duration.

Singing the Song

At level 15, the Duelist begins to understand the movements of enemies they have Focus on. Their AC against these creatures is increased by 2.

This feature is fine, except for the awkward wording and the (IMO) non-thematic header.


At level 18, For every 3 attacks that the Duelist lands on the same creature without attacking others in between, they heal 1d8 + Focus HP. When a creature the Duelist has Focus on dies, they may choose a different target they can see to be affected by Focus requiring no action.

As with the other "song"-named features, I have to wonder. What is a soulsong, and what does it have to do with this style of fighting? Seems more like a bard thing.

Anyway, this is fine except for the wording. For instance, I'm not a fan of "1/2 Focus HP" - it's too algebraic, as it were - rather, I'd suggest "[...] you regain hit points equal to 1d8 + half your current Focus".

Also, I'd make it so the healing effect only happens on your turn so you don't have to keep track of reaction attacks (if you get any).

Now let's look at each of the Focus Abilities!

Before examining each one, I would say you could have these in bullet point/paragraph form, rather than a table, if you wanted:

[I]Disarm. You can expend 2 Focus to [...]
- or -
Disarm (2 Focus). [...]

As another overall comment, it seems like the Focus costs might be high. Assuming two-weapon fighting, you can get up to 2 Focus per turn at 1st level, 3 Focus per turn at 5th level, 4 Focus per turn at 11th level, and 5 Focus per turn at 20th level, -1 Focus when you don't have any Focus, and -1 for each miss.

If Focus costs are too high, you might not be able to use these abilities when they would be decisive.

But maybe you've playtested it a bit and it's fine, where I'm just theorycrafting here.


Disarm - You disarm a foe you have Focus on. Their weapon (or one held item) falls to the ground if they fail a dexterity saving throw against your Elegance

Slap Wrist - You use the flat of your weapon in a quick maneuver to impose disadvantage on attacks against you by one creature you have Focus on until the end of their next turn.

Painful Slice - You cause your enemy pain- they must succeed on a dexterity saving throw against your Elegance or be frightened. They may attempt to save at the end of their turns

Feint - Until the beginning of your next turn, you are considered to be taking the dodge action against enemies you have Focus on.

Disrupt - Until the end of their next turn, one enemy affected by Focus cannot cast spells that require a material component unless they succeed on an Dexterity saving throw against your Elegance.

Outlast - One creature affected by Focus gains a level of exhaustion.

Face Slash - Until the end of their next turn, enemies you have Focus on are considered blinded.

Knee Kick - You knock the foes you have Focus on prone and push them 15 feet away from yourself, they must be within 5 feet of you to use this ability.

Choking Guard - Foes you have Focus on cannot cast spells that require a verbal or somatic components. At the end of their turn, they make a dexterity save against your elegance. On a success, the effect ends.

Slice the Weave - For the next 1d3 turns, enemies you have Focus on cannot cast spells.

Stunning Blow - Enemies you have Focus on are Stunned. At the end of their turns, they may roll a constitution saving throw against your Elegance. On a success, they are no longer stunned.

Disarm - This might actually cost too much Focus. As things stand, in RAW creatures can pick one item up off the ground "for free" (as part of interacting with an object during their action), so nothing stops them from getting the weapon you just made them drop and hitting you with it. At least you're not using your action, so that's good.

Slap Wrist - For 2 more Focus, you can get the same effect for multiple creatures. That's... probably fine, considering how long it takes to build up Focus. What that does suggest to me, though, is that you could add to this ability the option of affecting each creature you have Focus against by spending 2 additional Focus.

Painful Slice - I... don't quite understand why the target would need to make a Dexterity saving throw, instead of a Wisdom saving throw. I mean, I get that the Dexterity saving throw is because you're slicing the target. I just don't see how becoming frightened is a natural consequence of failing a Dexterity saving throw. Also, even though the target can make a saving throw at the end of each of its turns, you should have a maximum duration, probably of 1 minute.

Feint - I think the word feint is usually used in D&D for an ability to trick your opponent in order to have advantage (narratively and, in 5e, mechanically) on one or more attacks against them. As it is, this feature is just "Slap Wrist" writ large. Instead, I think you could drop this to 3 Focus, make it work on one enemy you have Focus against, and require that they succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or you get advantage on weapon attack rolls against that enemy until the start of your next turn - or something like that, anyway.

Disrupt - This feature is terrible for the Focus cost. Same with Choking Guard. I would just make it so that, for 4 Focus, the creature you target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or it can't cast spells until the start of your next turn, and you can spend 3 additional Focus to affect each creature you have Focus on, thus removing Slice the Weave as redundant. (Maybe rename this ability Slice the Weave?) I realise Choking Guard is subtly different, but I don't think it's different enough. Having three abilities that disrupt spellcasting just seems like a lot of redundancy.

Outlast - Since this effect lasts until the target finishes a long rest, the Focus cost is probably fine? Given how long it takes to build Focus, though, maybe capping the cost at 4 is better.

Face Slash - This is... mostly fine? I'm not sure how you would affect all your targets at once, narratively speaking. Maybe reduce the Focus cost and affect only a single target? You could reduce the cost even further if they get a saving throw.

Knee Kick - This is also mostly fine, although it seems to me that it has the same in-game narrative issues as Face Slash. (At least in this case, you specify you can only affect creatures within 5 feet of you.) If you use Focus Abilities when you hit with weapon attacks, you could reduce the Focus cost and have this affect a single creature - and as with Face Slash, if they get a saving throw you could reduce the Focus cost even further.

Stunning Blow - Again, it's not quite narratively clear to me how this feature would work if it's not associated with hitting with a weapon attack (especially with a name like "Stunning Blow"), and therefore it's not clear to me how it is that it affects multiple creatures at once. I'd consider affecting a single creature and costing 5 Focus. Until 20th level, you can't use this until the second round of a combat, and you might not get a chance to use it again that combat, so I don't think you're stepping on the toes of the monk.

2018-11-30, 02:27 PM
Thank you so much for having a closer look at this!

After reading through your comments, some of the idiosyncrasies of my design became apparent to me; it simply... didn't occur to me to have the focus abilities proc on a hit. Couldn't even tell you why not; my brain likes to design itself into a corner and refuse to get out.

As for your other suggestions... I believe I agree, more or less, with all of them? I've adopted them into file, and I'm gonna see how it runs in one of my sessions soon!

Honestly, you deserve co-credit for this thorough proofreading. It doesn't escape me that, the first time I posted this, you already were one of the most constructive contributors of advice!

Once again, thanks!