Author Topic: Been a ju-ju boy for a thousand years, and he ain't cut yet - Voodan Handbook  (Read 1968 times)

Offline Skyrock

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Voodoo is a very interesting religion for the whole family, even those members of it who are dead.
- Terry Pratchett

Voodan is a very interesting base class a lot of players have never heard of. That's because it appeared in the appendix of a late 2nd party supplement, the 2005 Ravenloft: Dark Tales & Disturbing Legends p. 174ff.

The voodan is a Tier 1 prepared full spellcaster, on par with Wizard, Cleric, Archivist, Druid and Sha'ir. He can't pull some of the tricks the other classes can, but has a few tricks of his own that make him a distinguished representative of his tier.

Color Scheme

Red - An extremely weak option, or one that could even leave you worse than you were
Purple - An sub-optimal option. You should generally avoid it, but it can sometimes be made to work or good for flavour.
Black - An average option. You don't do terribly if you go with it, but neither is it particularly good.
Blue - A good option. You generally do well to get it.
Gold - An option so good that you shouldn't pass it up ever.

Table of Contents

1. Class Features
2. Loas
3. Ability Scores / Skills
4. Races / Templates
5. Feats
6. Multi-Classing (Break-Off Points / Base Classes / Prestige Classes)
7. Items
8. Sample Builds
« Last Edit: May 21, 2022, 09:20:43 AM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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1. Class Features

Hit die - d8: On par with Cleric and Druid. Neither squishy nor a dedicated front row fighter, just middle of the road.
4 skill points: On par with the Druid. So, within the Tier 1 spellcaster sphere, that is actually on the upper end.
Proficiencies: Simple weapons, light armor. Yeah, looks like we won't make the front row position without spells or multiclassing.
Good Fort and Will saves: You are good in the two most important saves. Noice!
Bad Reflex save: You are bad in the least important save. Meh.
Medium BAB: Schrödinger's class feature: As a DMM Persist voodan, you won't even notice this is a thing. In all other cases - meh, you'll manage.



Spells: Voodans are Wis-based divine prepared full-casters like the cleric or druid. So far, so familiar.

The voodan gets to pick Bard, Cleric, Druid and Ranger spells at the cheapest cost. Each patron loa favours three spell schools, of which the voodan gets to pick two and learn spells at their lowest level. For all other schools, the spell levels get increased by +1. That makes voodans capable dumpster divers within their niche of expertise like an Archivist-lite, while they still can do stuff outside their niche at a premium.

Domain Spells and Spontaneous Casting: Each loa, in addition to three schools, also has three domains associated with it. The voodan gets to pick one. but does neither receive the domain ability nor extra domain spell slots restricted to domain spells. What he gains is tha ability to spontaneously turn any prepared spell into a domain spell. (Note that voodans can neither spontaneously cure/inflict like clerics nor spontaneously SNA like druids.)

Bestow Gris-Gris: Here comes the part that makes the voodan positively stand out from all other T1 spellcasters and on which many of the voodan-specific tricks are based. Voodans don't prepare their spells in their heads like regular spellcasters do, but as small physical objects called gris-gris. Gris-gris can be handed out to other characters who can use them as if they were the voodan in question, using his spellcasting ability score to determine DC etc. and his caster level (with a penalty of -1 to -3, but there are workarounds for that). As cherry on top, gris-gris don't require any ranks in UMD or any checks - even a commoner or unseen servant can activate them.

The tricks this enables are essentially two-fold:
1. You can allow others to benefit from spells with the range Personal at full strength. If you ever wanted to have the whole party run around with Persisted Divine Power all day, a voodan with a golf bag of pearls of power and nightsticks is the ticket to achieve this.
2. You can use lowly followers, hirelings and even unseen servants to activate your gris-gris, going nova and breaking the action economy. If you ever wanted to unleash 5 fireballs in round 1, a voodan can easily achieve that with a little help from some friends.

Those two approaches can also be combined to turn lowly commoners into combat monsters with personal transformation spells that would normally be a waste on an adventurer, like Aspect of the Earth HunterSpC or the Planar ExchangeSpC line.

Turn/Rebuke 1st/2nd Chosen Spirit: This is like Turn/Rebuke Undead but even better. First, the choice whether you turn or rebuke is not tied to alignment - if you ever wanted to play an exalted necromancer, you now can.

Second and more importantly, you are not restricted to undead - you get to pick two types out of five choices. These choices are an essential part of a voodan, so they deserve closer examination:
  • Animals: Not that good in raw stats per HD, but there are a good number of animal-restricted buffs on the Druid and Ranger spell lists (and some that work exceedingly well with certain animals like Venomfire), and you have both Handle Animal and Knowledge (Nature) on your skill list to teach your pets tricks. Also in most milieus animals are a readily available resource you can acquire for gold from the market or for free with a wilderness stroll.
  • Elementals: Mediocre stats and static abilities that don't branch out in variety as they grow in HD. They can be easily gained from both Summon Monster and Summon Nature's Ally. They can be thematic for certain loas tied to the elements (like water elementals for followers of Agwe, or storm elementals for followers of Shango).
  • Fey: Not good in raw stats per HD, but they have a great variety in SLAs and other special abilities, and you can enforce their presence with the Summon Nature's Ally line.
  • Outsiders: A really great chassis per HD, and outsiders also tend to have a lot of unique special abilities and SLAs on top. With the Summon Monster line you can also force a lot of them into play to rebuke and make part of your permanent army. Easily the best choice if you don't want to make extra investments.
  • Undead: Not that good in raw stats by HD, but necromancers with armies of the dead are a mechanically well-supported niche in core D&D with their own handbook, so with some investment in terms of spells, feats and money you can get a lot more out of them. Some DMs are also fussy about Turn Undead being the necessary feature to make use of Domain Feats, DMM and other things fueled by turning attemots.

Voice of the Spirit Realm: (Cha) times per day, you get to speak with animals, corpses and plants as an SLA. Very situational, but we'll take it.

Mount of the Loa: Once per day you get some kind of voodoo rage, where you can pick among several buffs:
  • +2 to any single ability score.
  • +2 to any single saving throw.
  • +1 to attack and armor class.
  • +4 points to skills, divided among one to four skills as the voodan chooses
None of the options is overwhelming, but the flexibility is nice as is the fact that these are untyped bonuses. The skill bonus is standing out as this allows you to make use of situational trained-only skills (and with a favorable DM could enable you to trade two of the skill points for a skill trick you fulfill the prereqs for).
Later you get up to three uses of the Mount feature, but you will most likely have prestiged out at this point.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2022, 07:52:21 AM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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2. Loas

Loas work a lot like patron deities for clerics - they determine your possible alignment and domains. In addition, they also restrict what spell schools you can be good in.

WW has erred on the side of caution, and restricted the selection to fictional Captain Ersatz loas. No official stats for real-world loas have ever been provided.

Alignment
Not as big a factor for you as for clerics, as unlike clerics the choice of Turning or Rebuking is not limited by your standing on the moral axis. It mainly limits your possible Summon Monster options, and may restrict what PrCs and feats you can pick.

Spell schools
This is the biggie, as this determines in which two schools you will have cheap and ready access to spells.

Transmutation is undisputed king of the hill, as a lot of Range:Personal buffs are put under it, followed closely by Abjuration and Divination.

Conjuration is another very attractive choice - the Summon Monster line and the Summon Nature's Ally line are bother powerful and flexible, and that is before we get into Grease, Evard's Black Tentacles, healing spells and all the other stuff that makes this spell school so full of win.

Necromancy is mostly interesting for the undead-focussed voodan, as a lot of goodies for them like Command Undead or Create Undead are hidden here. It also has some debuffs to equip gris-gris launching commoners with.

Evocation is somewhat humdrum - yes, you can put them on gris-gris launchers to give them damage-dealing to do each round (and access to the Druid list gives you access to some very economical blasting spells like Produce Flame or Call Lightning), but as T1 fullcaster you can do much better things than to spread damage around. The one big exception is Desecrate for the dedicated master of the undead, but even then you are probably better off eating the +1 spell level increase than to waste one of your rare spell school choice on Evocation.

Enchantment and Illusion are tempting thanks to cheap, cheap and sweet, sweet bard spells - but enchantments being mind-affecting are easily shut down by mindless creatures, Protection from $Alignment and the like, while illusions are shut down by trueseeing and even before that often DM-dependent on what they can actually achieve. Shadowcraft Mages could get a lot of more mileage out of illusions, but the more you invest into this you are moving away from the strengths of the voodan and should consider other classes like Illusionist Wizard or Beguiler.

Domains:
With domains, the things we look for are different to a cleric. We get neither the domain ability, nor can we trade it for a domain feat. With the broad spell selection we have picking from four different class spell lists we are also under less pressure to expand our palette. The main thing to look for is broad spontaneous applicability, as we can always spontaneously replace one of our prepared spells with a domain spell.

Air: L1-3 are all excellent situational spells to have spontaneous access to.
Animal: Too overspecialized on affecting animals to be a good choice.
Chaos: Spontaneous Protection/Magic Circle vs Law are great poor man's mind blanks to protect you against incoming mind control or snap an ally out of it. The anti-law spells are all highly situational, which actually makes them work for a voodan.
Death: Other than Death Ward on L4, not very useful. Dedicated necromancers rarely need to create undead on the spot, and would rather drag a suitable corpse to a desecrated place where they have time to beef them up best as possible.
Destruction: Damage spells are not your forte, and those are not even very good damage spells.
Earth: Has some BFC potential especially in dungeon environments, but still kind of meh.
Evil: Very similar to Chaos, except that good enemies are a rarity in most campaigns compared to the other three far points on the alignment compass.
Fire: It's damage! With spells you already have access to from the Druid spell list! Doing the most resisted damage type in D&D 3.5! Into the trash it goes.
Good: Very similar to chaos, and probably the best of the alignment domains since evil enemies are so very common in most campaigns.
Healing: Works much better for voodans than clerics, since you lack spontaneous cure spells, and it allows you to utilize your gris-gris launching commoners as combat medics when the need arises. Still... Meh.
Knowledge: Pretty good domain, with True Seeing on fixed L5 as the clear winner especially if you didn't pick Divination as a favored school.
Law: See Chaos. Hold Monster is the standout spell as it has applicability even when there are no chaotic enemies around and you are not in urgent need of mind-blanking.
Luck: On all levels some really amazing spells to have spontaneous access to.
Magic: Ever wanted to do Bestow Gris-Gris but worse? With Imbue With Spell Ability your dreams can become reality! The Bard list already provides you with Identify without the costly arcane component. I don't know what else you'd want from this list.
Plant: Meh. Unlike clerics you already know all the druid spells, even if some entries have spontaneous applicability.
Protection: Some nice red emergency buttons, but "nice" does only so much to attract you when you can only have one domain.
Strength: The buffs are nice, but not something you need spontaneous access to especially if you are the DMM Persist type. The remainder is very meh.
Sun: Like fire domain, but slightly less crappy just by being more versatile than to offer nine different ways to deal fire damage.
Travel: The various teleports alone make this a GREAT spontaneous getaway domain.
Trickery: Nice. Much more useful if you also plan to fill out the rogue role in the party.
War: Meh.
Water: Super-Meh! Spontaneous waterbreathing could be handy in a nautic campaign when you haven't prepared for the eventuality of falling into water. Even then, don't waste your one domain on this turd.

(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: May 22, 2022, 07:10:52 PM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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2. Ability Scores / Skills

Ability Scores
Strength: Really depends on your role. Can range from dump stat to 2nd most important stat for the frontline CoDzilla.
Dexterity: You are restricted to light armor, so you'll want some modest bonus here. Not as pressing if you plan to multiclass into something with access to heavier armors.
Constitution: As virtually every character, you'll want at least a modest boost to your hitpoints and Fort save.
Intelligence: You already get 4 skillpoints, so not a priority except to fulfill a secondary role or fulfill skill ranks prereqs.
Wisdom: You are a Wis-based T1 fullcaster. This absolutely needs to be your priority number one.
Charisma: Turning/Rebuking is one of your strongest features, and Mount of the Loa and Voice of the Spirit Realm both depend on it. You'll want at least a 12 in here.

Skills:
Concentration: Get all the ranks you can.
Craft: Leave it to your gris-gris launching commoners to weave baskets underwater for you.
Diplomacy: By RAW this skill is ridiculous, and you likely have a modest Cha bonus.
Handle Animal: A very dualistic skill: If you rebuke animals, max it just for teaching tricks and pushing your pets. If you don't, skip it.
Heal: Your spells allow you much better healing than any skill ever could. The best use is to get the Healing Hands skill trick if you have spare skill points to waste.
Knowledge (nature): Knowledge of animals and fey - especially if you rebuke either of them. Even if you don't, 1 rank to be considered trained is a worthwhile investment.
Knowledge (religion): Knowledge of undead - especially if you rebuke them.  Even if you don't, 1 rank to be considered trained is a worthwhile investment.
Listen: Awareness skills are good if you can max them and keep up with the arms race detection vs stealth. It is better to be really good in one of Listen/Spot than to be mediocre in both.
Profession: Just entice any milk maids with the promise of free gris-gris, rather than to waste your time on learning the trade.
Spellcraft: Get all the ranks you can.
Spot: See listen.
Survival: You can readily create food if your life should depend on it at some point. More useful for rebukers of animals and/or fey, especially if you need to track them down in the wilderness.
Swim: You are better off relying on your spells if extended parts of your campaign are playing in the water.

The Skilled City-Dweller ACF allows you to swap some of your class skills:
Gather Information: Exchange a meh skill for another meh skill. Replaces Handle Animal.
Knowledge (local): If you'd rather know about humanoids (and laws and customs and the area) than about animals and fey. Replaces Knowledge (nature).
Sense Motive: An excellent skill for the face voodan, especially as you already should have a high Wis mod. Replaces Survival.

Interesting Cross-Class Skills:
Balance: 5 ranks in this mean that you won't be flat-footed when you are forced to do Balance checks.
Knowledge (planes): Knowledge of outsiders and elementals - especially if you rebuke them. Some DMs might not allow you to metagame special knowledge about outsider features like efreet wishes if your character doesn't know enough about them to tell a lantern archon from a bearded devil
Tumble: You are restricted to light armor, so consider to get a few ranks in this especially when you multiclass into something with cheap access to this.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2022, 11:55:17 AM by Skyrock »

Offline Skyrock

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4. Races / Templates

PHB

Dwarf: Bad stats trade for voodans. Better mobility in heavy armor doesn't help you. All that remains is better resistance against tripping attempts.

Elf: Meh. +2Dex/-2Con ends up about even. Access to some select martial weapons is nice, but you could have gotten the same from the human bonus feat.

Gnome: +2Con/-2Str and small size work nicely if you don't plan to be dedicated melee CoDzilla. Speak with Animals is redundant with Voice of the Spirit Realm, while the other magic tricks are just that, tricks.

Half-Elf: You give up anything resembling a racial feature for bonuses to social skills. Even for a face voodan this is at best average.

Halfling: Even ability score trades, and a bunch of smaller bonuses. Strongheart Halfling with their free bonus feat are like fun-sized humans.

Half-Orc: Even if you like to hit things from close up with a morningstar, the stats adjustments are awful.

Human: Free feat, bonus skill point. Boring, I know, but there are worse drawbacks than being boring. Also, if you play in the default milieu of Souragne in Ravenloft, you are very much limited to being a human.

Other

Anthropomorphic Bat:SS +6 Wis, for -4 Str and -2 Cha, plus a natural fly speed, plus blindsense. If your DM doesn't laugh hysterically and/or throw books at you at the mention of anthros from Savage Species, you'd be a fool to pass this up.

Buomman:Planar Handbook Wisdom bonus at LA+0, at the cost of a Cha penalty. Their Silent Bob routine might be inconvenient for role-playing.

Illumian:RoD The Krau sgil can set off 2 CL loss from lending gris-gris to other characters.

Lesser Aasimar:SRD/PGtF +2 Wis and Cha, minor damage resistances and a daily Daylight SLA.

Lesser Celadrin:Dragon #350/PGtF Like an elf on 'roids, thanks to the Charisma bonus and a daily scorching ray SLA.

Templates

Draconic Creature: LA+1. Bonuses to Str, Con and Cha, some natural armor, a weak natural weapon and also darkvision if you hadn't already. With LA buy-off, it is a good trade.

Dragonborn:RotD LA+0. Con bonus and Dex penalty, combined with elimination of the original racial features and a choice of a new one. Can be terrible, can sometimes be very worth it.

Necropolitan: LA"+0" (special one-time XP penalty). The main use of this is to become less MAD by taking Con out of the equation, although the undead immunities are also an excellent addition on many characters.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2022, 01:48:23 PM by Skyrock »

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