Archfey Patrons, Part Two
Last time in my series on the fey, I proposed unique features for other Archfey patrons. I’m describing the Archfey in terms of archetypes rather than names, since WotC has one set of names for them, real-world myth has another, and my own setting has still different names. The first article covered the Seelie Queen, the Queen of Air and Darkness, the Silver Knight, the Lord of the Hunt, and the Good Fellow. This time, I have a rather intimidating list of Archfey I want to cover… and now that I’ve done four of them I realize that I need to just let there be a third article of Archfey patrons.
(Photo by Russ Matthews Photography. Angela Pearl is the model and the original Night Collector.)
Fey Chivalry | Fey Huntsmen and Leashed Terrors | Faerie Tales: Naiads, Pixies, and Sprites for 5e | A Visit to the Shadowfell – Shadar-Kai & More | In a Goblin Market | Fey of the Elder Starlight | Fey Enchanters and Their Lairs | Treasures of a Fey Market | Archfey Patrons | Archfey Patrons, Part Two
The Green Man
In the comments of the previous article, we discussed whether Oberon was best suited to the Silver Knight or the Lord of the Hunt, and I deliberately left the point vague. In a discussion over on Reddit, a commenter pointed out what eluded me at the time: Oberon is the Green Man, and should draw on druidic themes in the same way that the Lord of the Hunt alternate features draw on the ranger, and the Silver Knight alternate features reference the paladin. (Of course, if you prefer the Silver Knight or Lord of the Hunt interpretation of Oberon-like figures, I am not about to stand in your way.)
Conveniently, warlocks and druids get subclass features at almost the same levels – only their first feature comes at differing levels, and Natural Recovery is manifestly unsuited to Pact Magic anyway. Of the baseline Archfey patron features, I think Misty Escape is a great candidate for switching out, but overall Land’s Stride is less powerful than Misty Escape. Its situational applications probably come up less often, in a way that matters, than once per short rest. Beguiling Defenses also looks like a good candidate for switching out, but I am just not the person who is going to agree to giving anyone – least of all warlocks – unconditional immunity to poison and disease. (To the point that I’ve houseruled all immunities in my own game.) Also, the idea of the Archfey granting immunity to being charmed or frightened specifically by the fey is just wrong to me. I guess that means I have some work to do!
I’d like to draw on themes of fertility, growth, and bounty for the Green Man, so how about this in place of Misty Escape:
Beginning at 6th level, you draw on the life-giving earth for strength. As a bonus action, you can regain hit points equal to two times your warlock level. If you are touching an area of fertile earth that is at least a 10 ft. by 10 ft. square, or a living plant of at least Large size, with your bare skin, you instead regain hit points equal to four times your warlock level. You must finish a long rest before you can use this feature again.
I’m fine with making the Green Man’s warlocks more resistant to diseases and poisons, but maybe I can work in a twist as well.
Gift of Green Blood
Starting at 10th level, your blood runs green rather than its normal color. You gain advantage on saving throws against disease and poison. After you roll a saving throw against disease or poison, regardless of its result, you may use your reaction to absorb the disease or poison harmlessly into your blood. As part of a long rest, you may extract the disease or poison and store it in a specially-prepared vial. It retains its original effects, including means of infection or application; you have the skill to apply this poison even if you cannot apply other poisons. You may have only one disease or poison absorbed into your blood at a time, and only one disease or poison stored in your vial at a time. Once you absorb a disease or poison into your blood, you may not do so again until you complete a long rest.
As I’ve done with other patrons, I’m also customizing the Green Man’s Expanded Spells list, though not very heavily – the pre-existing list is heavily druid-themed as is. Let’s replace sleep with entangle, phantasmal force with protection from poison, and dominate person with commune with nature. (I would like to replace greater invisibility with grasping vine, but I’m sticking to OGL-friendly replacements.) Also, I’m consciously ducking conjure woodland beings; the spell is famously hellish on gameplay as it is, and making it easy to cast with Pact Magic is not a good idea.
If you want to fix conjure woodland creatures, it’s easy enough: change the CR of pixies to something that reflects their incredible access to spells. The CR rules don’t have the world’s greatest handling for very potent crowd control but no access to damage-dealing. Getting even one pixie turns your 4th-level slot into two 4th-level spells (confusion and polymorph), two 3rd-level slots (dispel magic and fly), two 2nd-level slots (detect thoughts and phantasmal force), and two 1st-level slots (detect evil and good and sleep). Calling this “overly efficient” is putting it mildly.
The Night Collector
This is one of the less prominent archetypes, but it features heavily in depictions of goblin markets and creepy bargains. (I’ll be using she/her for this archetype, as that’s the presentation I saw in Shattered Isles, but it works well for male or gender-ambiguous fey as well.) The Night Collector gathers and trades in stories and memories most of all, and her motives are particularly opaque even for one of the Fair Folk. Very likely she has her own debts to pay, and sells mortals something she can duplicate (a story) in exchange for something that can’t easily be duplicated (a memory, a voice, a treasure). Even more so than most, she likes to transform those who cross her into birds, which she keeps in cages of gold, silver, or bone. Also, it would be trivially easy to fold this archetype into the Queen of Air and Darkness, but I figure that the Unseelie Queen doesn’t want to leave the dark splendor of her court long enough to mix with unwise mortals.
The baseline Archfey Patron features work very well for the Night Collector, but I’m going to look for an alternative to Beguiling Defenses because I hate it. It’s an unconditional immunity-plus.
Loved and Feared
Starting at 10th level, you may spend a bonus action to choose a creature that you have charmed. That creature becomes frightened instead. Alternately, you may spend a bonus action to choose a creature that is frightened of you. That creature becomes charmed instead. For purposes of additional saving throws and effects that last as long as a creature is charmed or frightened, treat the creature as the initial condition has not changed.
When you reveal a valuable secret to someone, you learn a valuable secret that they know if they fail a Charisma saving throw against your warlock spell save DC. If the creature is charmed or frightened of you, they roll this saving throw with disadvantage. The “value” of a valuable secret is always judged from the point of view of the recipient, not the teller.
Additionally, you may pluck a secret from the target’s mind even if they verbally refuse to answer; once you use this feature in this way, you may not do so again until you complete a long rest. If you are seeking a particular secret and your target does not know it, you regain the use of this feature after a short or long rest instead.
For the Night Collector’s Expanded Spell list: replace plant growth with sending, and replace seeming with legend lore. In a non-OGL environment, replace faerie fire with dissonant whispers.
But you know, these changes are still pretty minimal. How about an Invocation, too?
Whispers in the Dark
Prerequisites: Archfey Patron (Night Collector)
You gain proficiency in the Stealth skill. You learn the cantrip guidance, but you may only cast it in dim light or darkness.
So, yes, “sea hag” is a creature in the Monster Manual, and she’s all of CR 2. Let’s assume that there’s a difference between a sea hag and the Sea Hag – that they’re lesser apprentices and servants of a queen, not dark but beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the earth. (If the Queen of Air and Darkness isn’t your angle for an Unseelie Queen, this is a good alternative.) This is also a good fit for rusalka, though if you’re going with the more benevolent kind (which Wikipedia tells me were common in Slavic myth pre-19th-century), you might flip some of these features back to their baseline Archfey versions.
Fey Presence is perfectly cromulent here, though maybe we could cut the charmed option and do something a bit different. If you choose the Sea Hag as your patron and don’t pick up Mask of Many Faces, and later replace it with Master of Myriad Forms, you’re probably doing it wrong. Several of the other options are on-theme but painfully bad, like Mire the Mind. But then, the Monster Manual’s sea hag gives us a lot less sea theme than you might expect – the Amphibious trait and speaking Aquan is about it. On the other hand, all hags can be part of a coven, and they are a lot more powerful when they are – they become greater than the sum of their parts.
At 1st level when you choose the Sea Hag as your patron, you gain the ability to breathe water as easily as air (or vice versa, if you are naturally water-breathing).
As an action, you can change your appearance to resemble a hag’s. Any humanoid that starts its turn within 30 feet of you and can see you must make a Wisdom saving throw against your warlock spell save DC. On a failed save, the creature is frightened by you until the end of your next turn. Once you use this feature, you cannot use it again until you complete a short or long rest.
Starting at 10th level, you can cast fog cloud without expending a spell slot. Your vision is never impeded by fog, mist, or smoke. Whenever you are in an area that is lightly or heavily obscured by fog, mist, or smoke, you may spend a bonus action to teleport to any other space that is a contiguous part of that fog, mist, or smoke.
The Sea Hag’s Extended Spell list: replace faerie fire with fog cloud, of course; replace plant growth with stinking cloud; and replace dominate beast with control water.
Here’s a new invocation to experiment with the cooperative-casting theme that the Coven rules for hags imply:
Head of the Coven
Working with at least two other spellcasters, but not more than eight, you can establish a coven as part of a long rest. Each coven member selects one spell of 1st level or higher that they know or have prepared. You may change the spell you select for this as part of a long rest. When you are within 30 feet of at least one other living coven member, you lose access to that spell, and coven members within 30 feet of you can cast it as if it were one of their spells known or spells prepared. Any coven member can break connection to the coven as an action, ending the effects of this invocation for that character. Rejoining a coven requires a long rest, just like creating a coven for the first time.
Perhaps not as prominent as others, I still expect that most settings have a place for an Archfey based on thorns, blood, and sacrifice. If nothing else, I can point to Earthdawn’s Bloodwood as a great source. In my own campaign, the Thornweaver is currently one of the main antagonists, because Archfey who support inflicting pain for its own sake and blood sacrifice don’t take a lot of work to make into villains.
If anything, the issue with the Thornweaver is not changing all of the patron features – and I don’t care to do that, because I think it’s more interesting if all of the Archfey warlocks have a few points in common. I’m going to leave Misty Escape and Dark Delirium where they are. I see these warlocks as having a lot in common with the Green Man’s warlocks, but they’re druids seen through a much bloodier filter.
If you’ve read both By Flame, Storm, and Thorn and Mysteries of the Gods, available now on DriveThru RPG (this is a wicked subtle piece of advertisin’), you may start to think I am obsessed with thorns and blood.
At 1st level when you choose the Thornweaver as your patron, your maximum hit points increase by 1 and you gain one additional hit point each time you gain a warlock level.
After you deal damage to an enemy with an attack, you can inflict a bleeding wound. At the beginning of the target’s next turn, it must succeed a Constitution saving throw against your warlock spell save DC or suffer damage equal to half of the damage you dealt to it with an attack since the beginning of your previous turn. On a success, it suffers no further damage. Once you use this feature, you may not use it again until you complete a short or long rest.
Starting at 10th level, moving through nonmagical difficult terrain costs you no extra movement. You pass through nonmagical plants without being slowed by them and without taking damage if they have thorns, spines, or a similar hazard.
In addition, you have advantage on saving throws against plants that are magically created or manipulated to impede movement, such as those created by the entangle spell.
For the Thornweaver’s Expanded Spell list, I’m doing something a little different – in addition to the changes to the core list, I’m tossing in some additional options for their 6th-level Mystic Arcanum, because why shouldn’t Mystic Arcana be just as influenced by your patron as your Spells Known? Obviously, I would also like to give the Thornweaver’s warlocks access to thorn whip, but the OGL scoffs at my petty desires.
Therefore entangle replaces sleep, spike growth replaces phantasmal force, and when you choose your 6th-level Mystic Arcanum, wall of thorns and transport via plants are available to you as options.
More obscure Archfey has correlated strongly to more difficult invention. Still, I hope the thematic points I’m trying to make are fairly clear. With the Green Man, I’m offering a tweak to Wholeness of Body – 33% weaker some of the time, 33% stronger some of the time, probably some good options for controlling when the latter case applies. I wanted to make sure that PC warlocks weren’t carrying around a pouch of dirt or a potted plant, because while that’s appropriate to some character types, that felt wrong to me for this one. Gift of Green Blood is a conditional immunity-plus – you have to have a spare reaction, and you have to have nothing absorbed into your blood right now.
The Night Collector is based off of a Shattered Isles NPC by that name that was central to my character’s story. It’s hard for me to stat her warlocks, though, because she almost never used anything like a power in the course of play. From my perspective, that meant that the waveform of her potency never collapsed, preserving mystique.
Loved and Feared is kind of about complicated relationships that, in a less mystical context, we would probably call awful and toxic. The Night Collector was the kind of Fair Folk who isn’t your enemy, and is really only your ally because you’re so very destructible. Enthusiastic interest can be just as bad for you as motivated opposition. The “trading secrets” part of the feature is intended to model a lot of conversations I and other players had with her over the years – exchanging secrets, and always hoping you’re getting the better end of the deal (you’re not). These rules rely heavily on DM judgment for basic function, and the Night Collector is definitely not right for every setting or table.
The Night Collector’s invocation was originally going to give Stealth and Investigation proficiency, for learning stories as well as sneaking around, but I decided that I liked a darkness-only guidance as a kind of weird thing. If it doesn’t work for you, just use Stealth and Investigation and call it a day. It compares to Beguiling Influence, which likewise grants proficiency in one warlock class skill and one out-of-class skill.
Repulsive Form is probably a sidegrade in overall power from Fey Presence. It has a better area of effect, a worse target limitation (only works on humanoids, because it’s a lift of the sea hag’s trait), and trades the charmed option for water breathing – a mostly-social boost traded out for a mostly-exploration one.
Mistwalker changes your approach to combat, making you a lot more like the Shadow sorcerous origin of UA, plus free teleporting around the area of the fog. You can’t create unlimited fog, of course, because each cloud requires Concentration. It’s somewhat inspired by what I did with Lantern-bearer rangers, but I think there’s a good chance that it doesn’t quite come together into a gameplay style that is worth using. I’m looking for critique, since I lack perspective and every gaming group is different. (Using this without screwing over your friends is a trick, for starters – but that’s a fairly common warlock problem, as with hunger of Hadar.)
Head of the Coven is another risky piece of rules – each person who joins in is trading one Spell Known for up to eight in return, but more likely one or two. It’s like a much more wild-carded, cost-driven Magical Secrets. I had to make it an invocation so that people who won’t reliably have at least two other spellcasters in the party just won’t pick this. The function of this invocation as written is intended to prohibit sacrificing a Mystic Arcanum (since that’s not a Spell Known), and warlocks can’t benefit from allies donating spells of 6th level or higher anyway (because their Pact Magic slots don’t scale past 5th). On the other hand, something really appeals to me about the idea of a warlock – an outsider, a rebel, untrustworthy – getting to be a linchpin for a coven that includes the party’s wizard and cleric.
Coming up with reasonable, balanced features for the Thornweaver proved to be a real headache. I wound up shamelessly lifting Land’s Stride from the OGL druid and ranger for Thornheart. Bloodwise borrows from the Draconic sorcerer, and then imagines one use of a “bleed” power – one you’ll mostly want to save for right after you land a crit or cast a big damaging spell. It’s worded in such a way as to make it not work all that well with eldritch blast.
Next time in the fey series, I’ll cover still more Archfey: the Mother of Redcaps, the Dream-Tyrant (he has a labyrinth and moves the stars for no one), the Winter Lord, the Muse of Steel, and the Eldest.
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