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Character Classes Review: Merchant, Rider, Accursed, and Puppeteer

As we’ve seen before, it can never be said that a Dungeons and Dragons player doesn’t have character options to select from inside the homebrew world. Want your fighter to be a luchador? There’s a class for that. Want a mystical class with a more female slant? There’s a class for that. Want to play an atheist cleric type and not have it just be a joke that stops being funny after one game? Eh, slightly overpowered, but dang it if there’s not a class for that. Honestly, with all the choices, it was hard to pick only a few classes to review in this article.

But four we now have, and four we shall look at. Oh, and wondering how they’re so different than the classes we already have.

#1 – The Merchant

Yes, we know, artificer. You’re able to sell your wares already, so this class idea seems a bit redundant. And okay, five people who read my previous articles. This does give flashbacks to a certain mishandled domain. But, perhaps a specialized look at this side of D&D might give a unique- and hopefully more mechanically-sound- experience.

So…how does one play a merchant in Dungeons and Dragons?

At A Glance

I’m going to level with you, reader. This is a weird one. Containing a whopping eleven subclasses, a merchant can actually do everything from selling food, to forging weapons, to running a portable casino. At first glance, it’s easy to assume that a merchant might be intruding on, say, an artificer’s or forge cleric’s territory. But if anything, I actually get wizard class vibes, if only because of the variety it has.

Key Features

(Of course I had to begin this article with the phonebook-sized class…)

To start, the merchant class is low damage, low defense, and high support. Very heavy emphasis on item management and getting things to party members. Hilariously enough, you can actually set up a portable stand as a bonus action in the middle of battle. (Because why fight Strahd without a 7-11 popping up in the battlefield?) Specifically, your portable storefront is a closable container you basically turn into a magical vending machine of sorts. Even more specifically, one that follows a bunch of mechanical rules to function.

In addition to things like proficiency in trade situations and increased carrying capacity, exchange is a huge part of this class. You can give your spell slots to other team members, break a spell slot into smaller ones (i.e. divide a 3rd level into three 1st level slots), and expend a slot to forgo any physical components needed for a spell. Pretty interesting stuff, actually. (Though the overpowered alarm’s chirping a touch in my brain.)

Which brings us to the part of the article that’s going to give me carpal tunnel to write: all the subclasses, aka “Merchant Guilds.”

  • Architect. You can literally magic structures into existence, even in the heat of battle. Of course, these structures do have hit points to mind, though they can also grant teammates temporary health points.
  • Blacksmith. What it says on the tin. Bit of an overlap with forge clerics and battle smith artificers, but it does have options such as breaking down non-cursed items.
  • Esotericism. Deal with the elder gods without having to worry about pesky mind reading! Copy and paste curses onto objects! Identify spells just by the fancy hand movements and interpretive dancing components!
  • Gambler. Because why only have one card-based subclass? While there’s a bit of overlap with card usage, you can also gamble rolls in battle and even alter the results of what card you draw.
  • Gormand. Your cooking’s so good, it can even induce Constitution proficiency and count as a long rest. Also, yes, there’s a perk here called “Flavor Town.” (Which allows your customer to skip the needed digestion process to get the benefits.)
  • Mariner. Yarrr! For the sea dog salesperson, you can get advanced swim speed, resistance to being knocked prone, and even forgo the need for concentration spells needed to cast Gust of Wind.
  • Pet Dealer. Beast master ranger? Druids? Ha! Can they summon an army of undead pets, have advantage when charming beasts, and tell even aberrations to sit? Reach 15th level, you don’t even need to use a spell slot to summon beasts.
  • Potion Seller. Use a spell slot to change one potion into another. Turn a rest area into a triage tent that increases healing effectiveness. Extend the lifespan of a potion’s effect. And, yes, throw explosive potions at your enemies.
  • Swindler. You can see through illusions like glass. When you’re not using the art of misdirection to switch out objects on people. Or just strait-up turning invisible.
  • Toymaker. As if this class hadn’t nudged into artificer territory already, a toymaker merchant can make an army of playthings. Assuming they hadn’t brought a nearby object to life already. Reach 15th level, and your wind-up minions can stay animated permanently.
  • Vagabond. Your traveling salespeople. Your sense of direction allows you to always know which way is north and the paths already taken. You can also completely disregard non-magical difficult terrain and surprises.
Final Verdict

Yes, there’s enough originality here to make the merchant stand apart from other classes it might be fixing to ape. However, this strikes me more as a class to multiclass into, rather than devote an entire character. A rogue or trickery cleric taking a few levels in swindler. A life cleric dipping into potion seller training. A tempest cleric or swashbuckler rogue taking a few levels in mariner. An artificer doubling as a part-time architect or toymaker. In a way, this is even more of a support class than initially thought.

Shop’s open over here.

#2 – The Rider

In this class, you can pilot a giant robot.

…What? Do I really need to say more about this class to get you interested?

At A Glance

So, your character has found an ancient clockwork built by gnomes centuries before. It acts as a robotic buddy, your party’s artificer giving them side-eye as they silently accuse you of plagiarism…Until they realize that this is significantly more advanced than their mechanical familiar. It shares health points with its owner. Can transform into awe-inspiring forms. And, if you’re not careful, can become more than a giant weapon for your rider to wield.

Key Features

This class focuses on the artificer’s companion feature and amplifies the heck out of it, a rider connected to their clockwork by their health points. It’s more or less a giant magical item for your player to ride around in, in addition to performing functions like acting as a light source or sentinel during rests. And the more you level up, the more efficient it gets. Which doesn’t even include the upgrades you can buy for your clockwork (your DM’s approval pending, of course).

Of course, transformation- or rather, ascension– is a rigamarole in its own. Endlessly spamming this isn’t a thing, the number of times you can ascend instead linked to your Constitution modifier. (As is, it lasts only as many hour equal to your rider level.)

Which begs the question that we all want to know: just what can a clockwork turn into? Now’s a good time to look into the subclasses, AKA “Ascension Modes.”

  • Fortress. Basically, a floating battleship you and your friends can ride around in. You’ve got laser beams, radiant energy shields, cover for your allies to hide behind, and the ability ram this thing into enemies at top speed.
  • Behemoth. Basically a giant robot monster you can pilot. Specifically, one with increased senses, acid spit, and (should you reach 18th level) a wide array of conditions you can inflict on enemies.
  • Colossus. Okay, here’s the giant robot subclass. It perfectly mimics your every movement, even whatever non-magical gear you have at the time. If things get too hairy, you can pour all your health into your mech to give it some extra power.
Final Verdict

Not overpowered, but I would worry about this potentially being something for a DM to work around. (Assuming that they allow something like this to exist in their world.) On a personal opinion though, I would prefer to multi-class this with artificer or (especially) paladin. But then again, I’m a spellcaster for life.

Hop into the cockpit here.

#3 – The Accursed

Lychanthropy’s already covered in both D&D canon and misleading cleric domains. But what if there was more of a focus on a mechanic that could otherwise be erased by something like Remove Curse? Would that maybe offer an interesting experience for a player who thought that rogue, blood-hunter, and warlock wasn’t edgy enough?

Well, the maker of the shaman class from the previous article might have something for you!

At A Glance

First and foremost, the Accursed class isn’t just about the curse of lycanthropy. (But we’ll get into that below.) These characters have been afflicted with some sort of mystical condition that they’ll have to work to control. Maybe even have work in their favor. Basically, if you’ve been looking to make a character for your next round of Curse of Strahd, this might a class to look into. Maybe. Why don’t we actually have a look?

Key Features

You pick your spellcasting modifier from Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, the spell list itself filled with curse-based spells. Also, you have access to the Jinx feature, which allows an accursed to force disadvantage on a target’s particular saving throw as an action. There’s an immense control over the curses attached to these characters, such as increases in stats and (at the cost of spell slots) how your curses affects you/your targets.

This is also a class focused on pros and cons. Each subclass has a benefit, albeit with some caveats. So, how about we get right to the part that we all want to see? Namely, the subclasses/Accursed Afflictions.

  • Curse of Lychantrophy. You’re weak to silver and have to eat as much as your animal side would (or suffer from exhaustion). In addition to learning movement-heavy spells (such as Haste or Freedom of Movement), you have control of which body parts you change, and how. (For example, you can get webbed fingers to increase swim speed.)
  • Curse of Misfortune. The curse of bad luck. By wearing a ghostly shroud, you have to roll Strength/Dexterity/Constitution/Attack at disadvantage, enemies rolling for extra damage. But there’s benefits. Your Jinx range increases, make your enemies have unfortunate accidents, gamble better….
  • Curse of Possession. A ghost has possessed you and refuses to leave. You’re detectable as undead and cold damage can inflict disadvantage with certain rolls. The spirit themselves actually acts as a useful ally. They can possess other creatures, scream at your enemies to inflict damage, and even save you from the brink of death.
  • Curse of the Armament. Okay, so you have disadvantage with weapons other than your cursed one (which also permanently takes an attune item slot). However, you can change its form every rest, and can even feed other attuned magical weapons to it. When you’re not picking a fighting style. Yeah, Hexblade rip-off this actually isn’t.
  • Curse of Vampirism. This curse more or less changes your species. Specifically, one that has sunlight affect certain rolls and makes healing spells only half as effective. The trade off? Uh…you get to be a vampire. Like, the kind that can summon bats, increase their attacks by consuming blood, and has a formal education courtesy of whoever sired them.
Final Verdict

It does flirt with being overpowered (looking at you, Curse of Misfortune), but overall it’s a very interesting class! Having to manage cons with benefits certainly adds some character, though the supplement itself is a bit of a slog to read.

Either way, you can catch the Curse of Consumerism here!

#4 – The Puppeteer

I’ll say it again. I. Love. Horror. So much so that my current D&D character is a porcelain doll warforged that more or less plays as a benevolent horror movie monster. (With the uncanny valley faces to back it up, thanks to Hero Forge’s new face customization option.) So, as you can imagine, the idea of being able to control a creepy puppet is certainly very appealing to me.

But I’m not one to just yank strings. Let’s talk about the puppeteer class!

At A Glance

The puppeteer is actually a mix of the rider class and the Curse of Possession. The puppeteer shares a health connection with the puppet, which acts as a second entity that they can upgrade. Again, all tucked inside a creepy, empty-eyed wrapper. Also, there’s the fact that you slowly become a doll thing that’s capable of casting Charm Person even on the ever-so-annoying fey.

Key Features

Obviously, this class centers around an arcane puppet. You’re constantly tethered to it by 30 (or, later, 40) feet in battle, its destruction putting it out of commission until your next long rest. This class is Charisma based, the puppet working as a simple weapon while being considered a magical attack. (The puppet can also act as a somatic stand-in for spells.)

In addition to your puppet improving, you can also cast controlling spells on creatures that are otherwise immune to it (i.e. fey). By 20th level, you become partially doll yourself, allowing yourself resistance to everything except force damage, in addition to a (slightly overpowered) health bonus.

The three subclasses here are called “Puppeteer Archetypes” (which I can’t say is as creative as something like “Stage Act”). Either way, they include–

  • Ensemblist. Why only have one puppet when you can have two?! Initially they share distance range and health, until 11th level for the latter. Each archetype comes with a cantrip at 3rd level. In this case: Thorn Whip.
  • Ventriloquist. What’s scarier than an arcane puppet that talks? One that lets you copy voices and even let your mind temporarily enter said puppet. Also, you learn Vicious Mockery as you cantrip. Which basically gets this subclass the gold medal of the theming olympics.
  • Technician. While not as glamorous as other subclasses, this is for the puppet slinger who wants a stronger string servant. A technician’s puppet can also take the damage their owner takes. The additional cantrip is Mending.
Final Verdict

Easily my favorite on this list! The health benefit at 20th level is a bit overpowered, but the mechanics are very creative and actually pretty balanced. Also, again, perfect for horror junkies out there.

You can start pulling strings here.

About the Author
Went to film school instead of real college. Writes stuff, animates things, and programs whatchacallits. Currently playing a rogue/cleric (trickery) warforged that's basically a life-sized Victorian porcelain horror doll. You can find more of her stuff at kerahildebrandt.com, including D&D modules/such!

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