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GM Tips with Critical Role’s Matthew Mercer - Homebrew

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Bard Week Master Post

Forgot to make a “master post” for bard week way back.

Making the Bard Feel Important - A guide to making a support character feel like they belong in your campaign

Musical Puzzles - Some examples of music-based puzzles for the bard to solve in your dungeon

Karest, the Storymaker - An encounter with a werewolf bard that makes up their own endings

New Bard Colleges - Four new subclasses for the bard including colleges of the ringing voice, of fables, of gambol, and of the worldspeaker

Magically Musical Equipment - New magic items for the bard

Equipment of Zendikar in D&D, Part 1

Since Plane Shift: Zendikar was released I’ve been planning to run a D&D campaign in the setting. As equipment is really an iconic feature of both Zendikar blocks, I thought I’d go about turning some equipment cards into items, either mundane or magical, for characters to use when playing a campaign set in Zendikar.


Bone Saw - Simple melee weapon
1d8 Slashing Damage, Two-handed

For Oath of the Gatewatch’s Bone Saw, I based the damage, and the need to wield it two-handed on the apparent size of the item. As such, i presented it as an item similar to the longsword, but without the versatile rule, representing the fact that the Bone Saw isn’t intentionally made for combat, and is therefore a little more unwieldy to use as a weapon than the longsword. To purchase in-game, the Bone Saw would cost around 10gp, and weigh 4lb.


Captain’s Claws
Magic Item - Rare
These gauntlets grant the wearer +1 to their unarmed attack and damage and damage rolls, and advantage on all acrobatics or athletics checks based around climbing. Any friendly creatures that see this character succeed an acrobatics or athletics challenge based around climbing may gain advantage on their own acrobatics or athletics checks based around climbing.

Also from Oath of the Gatewatch, Captain’s Claws are treated as a rare magic item. To mirror the +1/+0 it grants to a creature it is attached to, my rendition of Captain’s Claws acts as a +1 Weapon, but specifically for unarmed attacks. To represent the summoning of allies, I decided it could in game-terms mean that the wielder can help their allies their allies catch up to them, essentially “Entering the battlefield” attacking with their leader.


Explorer’s Scope
Objects viewed through this spyglass are magnified to twice their size.
Perception checks relying on sight may be made using this spyglass, granting the user advantage.

From the original Zendikar set, I decided that explorer’s scope would be treated as very similar to a standard spyglass found in the Player’s Handbook, but with the added bonus to Perception checks, representing the item as a must-have part of any Zendikar explorer’s toolkit, as the rules of the actual card suggest.


Ogre’s Cleaver
2d8 Slashing damage, Heavy, Reach, Two-handed

In Zendikar and the many other settings of Dungeons and Dragons, Ogres are considerably bigger than the majority of humanoids, that being the reson behind this weapon having the Heavy, Reach, and Two-handed rules. While the same limitations of heavy don’t apply to the card itself, it seems plausible that a goblin would have a lot of trouble using such a large weapon. The weapon’s stats are similar to the standard Greatsword found in the Player’s Handbook, but with slightly raised damage and extended range, representing the weapon’s size and brutal crafting (I mean just look at the thing!). 2D8 does seem like a serious amount of damage for a non-magical weapon to deal, and makes an appropriate comparrison to the effect that giving a creature +5/+0 can have in a game of Magic. This weapon would likely weigh around 10lb, and cost over 50gp, perhaps being sold for considerably more than that if the players are trying to barter with the tyrannical ogre Kazuul or any of his minions.


Pathway Arrows
Magic Item - Uncommon
You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with these arrows. An eldrazi or construct hit by a pathway arrow must make a DC11 Wisdom challenge. On a failed save, the target gains the Stunned condition until the beginning of the wielder’s next turn.

For a weapon that taps colourless creatures in the game, the main design goal of Pathway Arrows as a magic item was to create a similar effect in D&D’s own combat system. Going with stunned, the target is quite heavily locked down for a turn in combat, just as tapping a creature before it can be declared as an attacker in Magic stops that creature from doing anything in the ensuing combat. While stunned presents further disadvantages in combat, this is balanced by the target’s ability to make a save to prevent it from suffering the condition. In game, pathway arrows can be presented in a quiver of five, sold for the normal costs of an Uncommon Magic Item presented in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.



I’m planning on designing D&D rules for the majority of Zendikar’s equipment, if you have any feedback or any card you would like to see in the next post, please let me know!

Spellcasting Combat Narration for D&D

image credit: Ben Wootten

So I was gonna include this in my other article on narrating combat, but it proved far too lengthy, so I made this into part 2! 

Combat is easy to describe compared to narrating spell attacks. I ran into this problem last session when I was getting into detail telling the barbarian how they tore off an ogre’s head but then the druid just kept using Fire Bolt and I kept defaulting to “you shoot a bolt of fire at his face.” I’m going to try and vary things up with these lists and help everyone else in the process! I am organizing them by energy type.

Mode of Attack

Half of a spell’s attack is how the caster shapes their spell. The same spell can look very different with every casting if you have a creative DM. Feel free to switch it up each time it’s cast, or vary the same spell when cast by different characters of different classes.

Attack Words

Generic shapes and terms that will launch from the caster’s hand.

Helix, Spiral, Beam, Erratic, Mote, Bolt, Stream, Blast, Burst, Blade, Arc, Miasma, Cloud, Eruption, Wave, Cone, Missile, Rune, Glyph

Class-Based Ideas

  • Bard
    • Energy manifests from thin air a foot in front of their instrument as they play
    • Energy is shaped like ribbons of written music that ripples towards enemies
    • Several tiny motes of energy appear with each note sung or played. Each point of damage comes from a mote hitting the opponent (rolls a 4 out of a d6, 4 of the 6 note-motes hit)
  • Cleric
    • Energy falls from the sky or emerges from the ground as the cleric prays
    • Beam of energy originates from holy symbol
    • Spell attack should highlight that the cleric is granted their powers from a greater power, don’t have the energy come from their hand/finger. Have the energy come TO them, and then be thrown at the enemy.
  • Druid
    • Energy is shaped like an animal.
    • Energy rushes forth from the surrounding wilderness and zooms past the druid and toward the foe.
    • Much like Cleric, energy shouldn’t come from the caster. It should come from elsewhere before being thrown at the enemy.
  • Fighter (Eldritch Knight)
    • Energy blasts from their bound weapon pointed at the enemy.
    • Energy fires from their mouth as they yell.
    • Energy surrounds their weapon and is used in tandem with it (if close enough)
  • Monk (Way of Four Elements)
    • Literally just watch Avatar: the Last Airbender and do that.
  • Paladin
    • Most Paladin spells are smite-based, so they usually happen when an attack hits. Otherwise, let the energy come from a higher power like the Cleric.
    • Energy bursts forth from within the creature hit
    • Energy surrounds weapon right as the strike lands
    • Energy falls from the sky or erupts from the ground
  • Ranger
    • Honestly, most Ranger spells often seem a lot like man-made traps like Cordon of Arrows (arrow traps), Fog Cloud (smoke grenade), or Grasping Vine (slipknot trap). But otherwise, Play it like the Cleric where the energy comes from a higher power.
    • Energy takes the form of the Ranger’s animal companion or an animal they associate with.
    • Spells seem to cast automatically whenever the Ranger is in a tight spot, almost as if nature itself is protecting them. The Ranger gives an approving nod whenever this happens in thanks.
  • Rogue (Arcane Trickster)
    • Energy is always accompanied by a shimmer of glitter
    • The Rogue plays with the energy over their fingertips as they whistle before casting the spell.
    • Energy enchants one of the Rogue’s daggers and casts the spell by tossing the dagger at the intended location or target.
  • Sorcerer (Draconic Bloodline)
    • Energy takes the shape of a dragon of your bloodline.
    • Energy surges forth from your breath
    • All energy takes the shape of your bloodline dragon’s energy type, regardless of the actual energy type. For instance, a sorcerer of a blue dragon’s bloodline that casts Burning Hands or Cone of Cold keeps the energy type but shapes the fire and cold damage into the form of a bolt of lightning. 
  • Sorcerer (Wild Magic) 
    • Energy takes on many random forms, never under the full command of the Sorcerer.
    • Energy erupts from random places in the environment when the Sorcerer calls upon them.
    • Energy bubbles and fizzes with all energy types (but mostly the one called upon), as if a piece of Limbo was thrown at the enemy.
  • Warlock (Archfey)
    • Your energy shimmers with iridescent colors and showers enemies with sparks of glitter.
  • Warlock (Great Old One)
    • Your magic corrupts and twists the flesh of the target of your spell, regardless of the energy type.
  • Warlock (Fiend)
    • Energy takes the shape of the unholy symbol of your patron.
  • Wizard (Abjuration)
    • Energy shoots forth from your magical wards, arcing towards your enemies.
  • Wizard (Conjuration)
    • You conjure a short-lived elemental of the energy type you need. It soars at the enemy.
  • Wizard (Divination)
    • You weave the glowing threads of fate in the palms of your hands, tweaking reality to cast your spell.
  • Wizard (Enchantment)
    • You enchant an object to exude the energy and toss it at the enemy.
  • Wizard (Evocation)
    • I mean, you just sorta blast them. That’s what this school’s about.
  • Wizard (Illusion)
    • Your spell usually spawns two or three illusory copies. When the attack misses, the enemy simply managed to dodge the right duplicate.
  • Wizard (Necromancy)
    • Your energy takes the shape of a skull screaming as it flies toward the enemy
  • Wizard (Transmutation)
    • You transmute the energy out of the surrounding environment and fire it at the enemy

On-Hit

So if half of a spell’s attack is the shape and travel of the spell, the other half is when the spell hits. I organized this list by energy type, as different energies will do different sorts of things when they hit a creature. This is mostly a collection of interesting effects, colorful language, and examples.

Fire

  • Your bolt of fire singes their armor (burning cloth, blackening leather, discoloring metal)
  • A tiny bead of fire explodes on contact
  • Showers them with red sparks
  • Your attack leaves behind a billowing trail of smoke
  • A fast-travelling meteor of flame soars from the sky towards the enemy.
  • Your flames leave blisters and cracked skin in its wake.
  • Your fire blackens the enemy’s flesh

Cold

  • You freeze the moisture in the air into icy daggers that fall onto your enemy
  • You freeze the water in their blood to damage them
  • Their skin turns blue and numb
  • You literally hurl a snowball at them.
  • Your spell leaves them covered in a layer of frost
  • A buildup of ice covers where your spell hit. (it’s easily shattered once they move, though)
  • A blast of icy wind and rain leaves them shivering.

Thunder

  • A crack of thunder pummels your foe
  • A high-pitched, deafening shriek focuses itself on the target
  • A thin trail of blood races from the foe’s ears from a sound no one else can hear
  • The enemy falls to their knees cupping their hands over their ears, gritting their teeth
  • You buffet the target with waves of thunderous sound
  • The ground shakes with the force of your spell. Brittle glass objects nearby shatter.

Lightning

  • Lightning comes from the sky to smite your foe
  • You all smell the faint odor of ozone before a bright bolt of lightning streaks toward the target of your spell
  • Before your enemy can blink they are showered in electrical sparks followed by crippling pain
  • The enemy’s back stiffens as the powerful current of lightning surges through them
  • Your attack leaves a permanent web of lightning shaped burns all over one side of their body
  • Your blast of lightning causes their skin to rupture as it travels through their body

Acid

  • Your acid sizzles as it burns a new, unnatural color into their skin
  • The attack melts their flesh, leaving them permanently disfigured at the site of the spell
  • Your spell’s acid causes blue fire to burn where it hit their skin, and bleaches their armor and belongings
  • A rancid smell fills the foe’s nostrils as the acid bubbles on their bare skin, burning through the simple cloth of their shirt.

Poison

  • You spew a poisonous cloud from your mouth at your opponent
  • A spectral viper or insect is flung at the opponent, biting them and filling them with magical venom
  • Your index and middle finger each grow a poisonous fang which you sink into your opponent’s arm (melee range spell attacks only)
  • The enemy’s mouth fills with a foul tasting liquid which forces its way down their throat

Necrotic

  • Your target’s flesh bubbles and boils as a black ichor sputters from the spell’s origin
  • The foe’s flesh festers with magical disease as boils and wounds quickly cover the affected area
  • A skeletal hand wriggles free from beneath the earth, flying towards the target
  • An incorporeal undead shrieks as it flies from your finger toward the enemy to deliver the spell’s effect
  • Black energy swirls around your arm before launching towards the enemy as if it had a life of its own
  • Your iridescent blue magic enters the target’s body and afflicts their soul, making them momentarily dazed as their eyes glaze over.

Radiant

  • A holy light shines from the skies to harm your target, regardless of time of day or obstructions
  • A halo of radiant energy surrounds your head and blinds the target as they gaze upon it
  • Enemies that aren’t of your alignment hear the whispers of your deity moments before being enveloped in a blinding white light
  • The foe’s eyes and mouth emit warm light and they howl in pain
  • A blade of radiant energy slashes through the victim, leaving a trail of blinking motes of light in its wake
  • The enemy’s skin blisters from the raw positive energy surging through them

So essentially this whole post was a creative writing assignment for myself, but I hope that it gives you guys new creative ideas for new spells or new ways to describe existing spells! They don’t much affect the mechanics of the spell at all, so most DMs I suspect will be fine with most of these descriptions if you want your character to cast spells a certain way.

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The Deck of Many Things is a lot of fun. It’s tempting to almost anyone; and why not risk it? Everyone loves the deck, until half of the party draws Donjon. So I present Basalt’s Nerfed Deck of Many Things. Yes, less risk means less fun, in a lot of cases. It also means that this version of the deck is suitable for lower leveled parties, and people less inclined to take risks. What’s the worst that could happen?

Edit: @hackmydungeon has brought up a great point regarding the Avatar of Death. I’m now working on a weakened version of it.

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The MacBook Pro? Yeah, it runs Doom… on the touch bar!

Apple courted controversy again with their newest laptops by replacing the top-most row of keys on the keyboard with a 2170x60 touchscreen that’s controllable by apps. So, naturally, someone (in this case, Facebook engineer Adam Bell) shoved Doom onto it. And while it’s realistically unplayable so squished down, Bell also made a version that renders just the HUD to the touch bar, which is quite a bit cooler, from both viability and cool techdemo standpoints.

Bard Week: Magically Musical Equipment

I decided to come up with a bunch of bard-friendly or bard-specific magic items since bards don’t get much love in terms of treasure other than generic weapons or that short list of magic instruments that just cast spells. These are at least unique or interesting, but some are a bit “out there.” If you are a loose DM and your players like having a laugh, these items are perfect for you.


Accelerating Wardrum

Uncommon, requires attunement by a bard

This Behir skin stretched over a black wooden drum can be beaten as a bonus action once per round. Doing so moves a creature the bard chooses to be moved one step ahead in the initiative order.

Rapier of Harmony

Very Rare, requires attunement by a bard

A thin silver +1 rapier that hums when swung. The wielder can use a bonus action to make a Performance check. On a result of 16 or higher, the rapier vibrates and creates a tone that harmonizes with the wielder’s voice. The next attack deals bonus damage equal to the bard’s CHA modifier.

Resounding Scimitar

Rare, requires attunement by a bard

Whenever a creature fails an attack roll against a bard wielding this gleaming white scimitar with a wavy hilt and pattern, the bard can use their reaction to whack the creature’s weapon with the scimitar and cause a loud, grating noise to deal 1d6 thunder damage to the attacker if they fail a DC 14 CON saving throw.

Song of Activation

Special (Song)

A specific song that when played, will activate known magical items or runes in the world. [Use this song as treasure that can progress the plot, almost like finding a key to the next room of a dungeon. Think of learning a new song in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time]

Song of Prestidigitation/Thaumaturgy/Druidcraft

Special (Song)

A specific song that when played, can mimic the effects of a Prestidigitation, Thaumaturgy, or Druidcraft spell, respectively. [A song that can be learned by a bard that is relatively harmless to the integrity of your campaign’s storyline]

Biting Words

Special (Words)

Powerful words that the bard can speak with their magic to deal 1d6 cold damage at a range of 60 ft. This damage increases by one die at 5th, 11th, and 17th levels. [basically a new cantrip for bards that deals more damage than Vicious Mockery but doesn’t impose disadvantage]

Orb of Radiant Song

Common, requires attunement by a bard

Much like a Driftglobe, but only produces light while the bard is singing. [It has slightly less uses than a Driftglobe thanks to negating attempts to move silently with it lit, and its attunement restriction, so it’s meant for the very early game.]

Backup Golem

Rare, requires attunement by a bard

A tiny golem or animated object that comes to life only when the attuned bard is performing. The golem gives the bard advantage on its Performance checks as it embellishes or harmonizes with whatever the bard does for their performance.

Sassy Friend

Uncommon

A tiny totem or charm that is shaped like a mask. When the wielder attempts to make an Insight check to determine if a creature is lying, the Sassy Friend charm animates temporarily with a backhanded comment, which it says aloud (whether or not the creature was lying). This decreases the DC to determine any lie by 1. This bonus does not stack with itself or other Sassy Friends.

Sassy Friend (Greater)

Rare

 A Sassy Friend charm that can also cast Zone of Truth once per day, centered on itself.

Nolzur’s Marvellous Pigments

Very Rare

This is an item that many bards would love to use but people always forget it exists. Whatever you paint becomes real! As long as it isn’t magical.

Cloak of Dancing

Rare, requires attunement by a bard

A bard who dances while wearing this audacious red cloak can fascinate nearby creatures, affecting them in a manner similar to an Enthrall spell, once per day. The bard need not concentrate on this effect, and in fact may make a Performance check against the onlookers’ Insight checks any time during the cloak’s Enthrall effect to animate the cloak and sneak out of it as it continues to dances and enthrall its audience.

Horn of Calling

Uncommon

An iron-bound animal horn acts as a magic megaphone that amplifies the volume of noises that pass through it. The Horn of Calling can also cast Whispering Wind once per day.

Cursed Collar of Tongues

Rare

A golden lace choker that allows the wearer to speak any language, but never quite what they intend to say. Whenever the player wishes to speak, the player says what they intend to say and then the DM blurts out what they inevitably say instead. A DC 20 Insight check will determine what exactly is wrong with the victim and a DC 18 Insight check will allow the player to get their true message across to a character. The player must overcome a CHA save to avoid having their next sentence bastardized by the DM. Each successful saving throw deals 1 psychic damage to the wearer as it the collar fights back against their efforts. The collar cannot be removed except by repressing its magic long enough to remove it, or by casting a Tongues or Comprehend Languages spell upon it along with a DC 15 Arcana check.

Death Whistle

Very Rare

A small bone whistle carved with symbols and imagery of death. The whistle, when blown, casts Circle of Death centered on the whistle. The DC for the spell is equal to the blower’s spell save DC. Once used, the whistle crumbles to dust as its shrill, eerie note echoes into the distance.

Ribbon of Hyucks

Rare, requires attunement by a bard

When this purple ribbon with white polka dots is worn by a bard, whenever the bard makes a pun, all creatures within earshot that understand the wordplay must make a DC 11 CHA save or take 1 psychic damage. This ability can only occur once per round and does not discriminate friend or foe.

Crossbow of the Fartongue

Rare, requires attunement by a bard

This crossbow is fitted with a cone at the end of the barrel, and a scope that is sculpted to look like a mouth’s opening. The weapon allows the wielder to bestow their ammunition with a noise or verbal message of their choosing not exceeding 10 words. This noise plays once when the imbued bolt hits, but then its magic fades. The crossbow can be used to relay information at a distance, create a distraction, or mislead other creatures. If the wielder wishes for the noise to be an explosion, the ammunition deals 1 bonus Thunder damage on hit to all creatures within 5 feet of where the bolt hit. An explosion noise can be heard up to 600 ft. away. The crossbow is dotted with holes and can actually be played as a wooden flute when not in use as a combat weapon.

Cloak of Deflection

Rare

This garment appears to ebb and sway of its own accord even without any wind. The wearer of this iridescent blue cloak may spend their reaction to deflect a single, nonmagical missile targeting them to another creature within 60 feet of the wearer. If the new target of the attack’s AC is equal to or less than the original attack roll, the attack hits the new target and the attacker rolls for damage as normal.

Book of Dreams

Uncommon, requires attunement by a bard

The cover of this book is made with soft leather and is bound with spider silk string and rare bird feathers. The tome is blank, but when a story is told by someone attuned to it, illusionary imagery appears hovering above the book, acting out what the storyteller describes. In addition, when a story puts someone to sleep, the storyteller may allow the book to display and act out the sleeper’s dreams, which usually somehow tie in to the story that was being told. It can be useful for coaxing information out of friendly people without their knowledge.

Converted 3.5e Monster: The Nightwalker

The disappearance of this guy saddened me when I cracked open the 5e monster manual. It’s a terrifying high-CR encounter for your players to fight and is a perfect top-tier minion for your run-of-the-mill evil overlord.

image credit: Sam Wood

Nightwalkers are powerful undead compositions of evil and darkness said to be born from a powerful fiend wasting away in either the Negative Energy Plane or the Plane of Shadow. They use the Plane of Shadow as a halfway point between the Material Plane and the Negative Energy Plane to keep enslaved mortals and undead for its twisted purposes.

Nightwalker (CR 16)

Huge Undead, Neutral Evil

HP: 250; AC: 17; SPD: 40′ and 20′ fly

STR 23; DEX 14; CON 20; INT 18; WIS 18; CHA 16

Skills: Stealth +7, Arcana +9, Perception +9

Resistances: Nonmagical weapons, Acid, Fire, Lightning, Thunder

Immunities: Necrotic, Poison, Cold

Condition Immunities: Exhaustion, Frightened, Paralyzed, Petrified, Poisoned

Vulnerabilities: Radiant

Abilities:

Sunlight Weakness: While in sunlight, the Nightwalker has disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws.

Shadow Stealth: While in dim light or darkness, the Nightwalker can take the Hide action as a bonus action and its Stealth bonus is increased to +9.

Darkvision: The Nightwalker has darkvision out to 120 ft.

Telepathy: The Nightwalker can communicate telepathically up to 100 ft.

Actions:

Multiattack: The Nightwalker makes two slam attacks.

Slam: Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 15 ft., one target. Hit: 25 (3d12+6) bludgeoning damage.

Crush Item: A Nightwalker can destroy a weapon or item large size or smaller including magic items, but not artifacts. It does so by simply crushing the item between its hands. If the item is held by a creature, the Nightwalker must win a STR check opposed by the creature’s STR or DEX check to grab the item from the creature, using an action. On a success, the Nightwalker can crush the item as normal on another round.

Evil Gaze: When a creature that can see the Nightwalker’s eyes starts its turn within 30 ft. of the Nightwalker, the Nightwalker can use its reaction to force the creature to make a DC 18 WIS saving throw if the Nightcrawler can see the creature. On a failed saving throw, the creature is paralyzed with fear for 1 minute. The creature can repeat the saving throw each round to free itself of the effect. Whether or not the save is successful, the creature cannot be affected again by the Nightwalker’s Evil Gaze for 24 hours.

Summon Undead: The Nightwalker can summon undead to serve it for 1 hour. It can use this ability once per night. It can choose to summon 3d4 Shadows or 1d4 Wraiths. The undead arrive in 1d10 rounds after it uses this ability.

Unholy Blight: As a bonus action, the Nightwalker can call up a cold, cloying miasma of greasy darkness to damage and sicken creatures in a 20 ft. radius area up to 60 ft. away. Nonevil creatures within the area must make a DC 16 CHA saving throw or take 6d6 necrotic damage and become poisoned for 1d4 rounds. A successful saving throw halves the damage and negates the poisoned condition. Evil creatures are unaffected by this ability.

Innate Spellcasting:

  • At Will: Darkness, Detect Magic, Dispel Magic, See Invisibility, Contagion.
  • 2/day: Confusion, Invisibility, Hold Monster
  • 1/day: Finger of Death, Cone of Cold, Plane Shift

I tried to keep the creature as true to the original as possible. I kept its hit points rather high (only 50 less than it should be at that level) only because I assume that most players will have access to magic weapons at that point. It actually has pretty much the same spells and abilities as well. Consider omitting the Summon Undead if your players are going at this creature underleveled. It can use its Evil Gaze as a reaction, and Unholy Blight (a 3.5e spell turned into an ability) as a bonus action, plus its two slam attacks each round, which is a lot of rolls being made each round. I kept the Unholy Blight because in the older edition, it could use it at-will and quickened, so it would have been a hallmark of the Nightwalker’s kit. I adjusted its damage to be that of a custom area-of-effect 3rd level spell. Also note that while it has very similar abilities of shadows and wraiths and can summon them, it is not an incorporeal creature.

The old edition’s “recommended tactics” hold up a bit as well, but the crowd control effects are often worsened by the Concentration requirement in 5e:

Prior to combat: cast See Invisibility and either Invisibility or Darkness (both require concentration) to gain surprise.

Round 1: Cast either Confusion or Hold Monster (both require concentration and will break invisibility), then use Unholy Blight and an Evil Gaze reaction.

Round 2: Hit a spellcaster with Finger of Death and then use Unholy Blight again.

Round 3: Engage a fighter and attempt to disarm their weapon.

Round 4: Crush the disarmed weapon or use Contagion to weaken the fighter if the attempt to disarm failed before.

Round 5: Focus attacks on the unarmed/weakened fighter or else on a nearby spellcaster if both the Crush Item and Contagion didn’t work.