Recently I received an email from Aaron Hübrich, the Lead Designer of Gods and Goddesses, in response to my Review of Jetpack 7’s Gods and Goddesses. Although, I agreed with a few of his points and I could understand where he and his company were coming from as new content creators, I wanted to respond to a few things mentioned in the email, or rather provide a defense to their defense. You can read the full email with marginal edits here.
Given that we’re a 3rd party developer, we want to avoid being too close to the core book material, while having our own voice, or spin, when listing the game content. It’s a balancing act sometimes, but we’re listening.
Coming from a person who dabbles in a bit of homebrew myself, I can understand where you are coming from when you talk about “voice”. I do believe this is important as a 3rd party developer in order to stand out from other publishers. However, I’d insist that you can do things in your own voice while still remaining true to official content. Plenty of homebrewers do it and I think you guys are more than capable as shown through your other content.
Similarly, following the writing style of the manuals is not just a minor point. Having a consistent style to the manuals allows for rules and mechanics to be consistently understood and applied by players and DMs who already have a grasp of the rules as written in the manuals. This kind of idea is elaborated on more in Michael’s blog, How to Follow the Writing Style of D&D.
Oath of the Eidrdrenger (Gods & Goddesses pg. 27) receives True Strike as a 3rd level Oath Spell, when it is actually a cantrip (Player’s Handbook pg. 284).
The True Strike cantrip is not available to Paladins normally, so this is a nice power to have for a Paladin at 3rd level, even as a 1st level oath spell.
Oath of Stolen Knowledge (Gods & Goddesses pg. 15) gets Feign Death which is a 3rd level necromancy spell (Player’s Handbook pg. 240) at Paladin level 3rd.
Yes, this was considered, since it would normally not be available to Paladins. It was appropriate to us at 3rd level, given the type of character being played as a Paladin of Anansi. We gave weight to the role-playing aspect of how it might be used. An alternate spell could be considered, but GMs can substitute if they feel it’s not appropriate at that level.
While I understand your reasoning behind giving the cantrip True Strike (Player’s Handbook pg. 284) to Paladins as a 1st level spell and giving a 3rd level spell Feign Death (Player’s Handbook pg. 240) to Paladin’s at 1st level, I think it would have been better to make two new spells that do something similar but match the proper power level. For instance, you could have made a stronger version of the True Strike cantrip that has been buffed up to be a 1st level spell. This would be similar to how the Whisper spell was a weaker version of Pass Without Trace. In the same breath, you could have taken Feign Death and made it a weaker version of that spell appropriate for 1st level casting.
Trust me, I believe that Feign Death is a niche 3rd level spell that sees little use, but Wizards of the Coast thought it fit to be a 3rd level spell as opposed to a 1st level. In changing the spell level for one class, you go against the precedents set in the original manuals as well as Unearthed Arcana.
D&D in 5th Edition was very keen on keeping spells a specific level between all classes. In doing this, 5th edition prevents possible issues with other game mechanics like spell scrolls that are reliant on using spell levels. Additionally, multiclassing with different spell casters does not become complicated.
The 15th level feature of the Champion of Baba Yaga (Gods & Goddesses pg. 19) is a carbon copy of Relentless Endurance from the Half-Orc’s racial traits (Player’s Handbook pg. 41)
Yes, this would normally be unavailable to paladins playing humans, etc., so we included that as a Baba Yaga Paladin option. We didn’t anticipate many half-orcs worshiping Baba Yaga, so it was a creative decision to include that feature.
I can accept the creative decision of giving the Half-Orc racial trait to the Champions of Baba Yaga, because I see why it would fit the Oath. However, there are ways to keep the spirit of something while making it appropriate for the level or specific class feature. An example of this is below:
Beginning at 15th level, when you are reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, you can drop to your level in hit points instead. You can’t use this feature again until you finish a long rest.
Fundamentally, this rule is similar to the half-orc racial thematically, but it is a bit more powerful because it is a 15th level feature. If a Half-Orc does decide to be a Champion of Baba Yaga, they don’t feel gimped on the 15th level feature. Although for Dungeon Master’s using this feature it might be better to add this clause at the end of the above:
This ability activates before any other features that trigger at 0 hit points
This way, Dungeon Masters and players alike can be clear on how the feature interacts with other abilities, items, and spells that may trigger at 0 hit points.
Spells: we made a choice to keep this open, as the new spells listed for each cleric and paladin were in the book. We didn’t want to say whether any class could or couldn’t use them, as it wasn’t a core book item and specific to these oaths and domains in Gods and Goddesses. The thought was that a GM would make that call, but we’ll consider listing them as “cleric”, or “paladin” spells in the future. Our main goal was simply to offer new spell options for the clerics and paladins in this book.
I get leaving it up to the Dungeon Master to make the call on whether or not a certain class could take the new spell options listed in the book. 5th Edition, after all, does leave a lot of things up to the Dungeon Master to decide upon. Nevertheless, it would be nice to just get a sentence in your book explaining your intent. This would help Dungeon Masters reading your content to understand if these spells are Rules as Written (RAW) as opposed to Rules as Intended (RAI) like your email suggests. RAW and RAI are topics often argued about in the 5th Edition community and it is typically better, in this case, to have a clear written rules as opposed to just leaving it up to the Dungeon Master for interpretation. Something like, “The spells below are intended for Cleric’s or Paladins, but feel free to give these spells to other classes as you see fit.”
This explanation helps to take the confusion out of things, especially with new dungeon masters or players wanting to use these spells on their NPC’s or characters.
In general, I can’t really agree about your commentary about recommending GMs to avoid this book for mechanics and sub-classes, as these are options thought out and applied to 2 classes that correspond to each of the 16 deities presented. In context, it’s a very good “drag and drop” option for anyone interested. There’s nothing “Monty Hall” that will break the game (well, as far as PC options go haha). It does offer a wide variety of content that is balanced and immediately available for players and GMs who wish to make NPCs.
I agree wholeheartedly with your statement about how none of the PC options will break the game. Nothing feels so overpowered that I wouldn’t allow it in my game if a player wanted to play one of the sub-classes presented in Gods and Goddess. Yet, at the same time, I wouldn’t want a player to be disappointed with what I think might be a weak sub-class. Admittedly, sub-class can still be weak, but fun. However, it should fill some kind of niche that has been ignored by other sub-classes. In focusing on niches, players even in weak sub-classes can have fun and still excel at specific tasks or when dealing with specific situations.
Again, I would like to thank Aaron Hübrich, the Lead Designer of Gods & Goddesses, and Conceptopolis for reaching out to us in their email. I loved having a deeper insight into the reasoning why things were done for this product. Considering that this is the company’s first published content for 5th edition, I can now see that the company did their best. I do look forward to seeing the company grow and reviewing more of their products in the future.