The Hands of Tenzin

This week, i’m trying something different. I’ll be doing a writeup of a class variant for my own D&D 5e game. One of the characters is (was) a member of an exclusive sect so it seems only fitting that they’d get a unique class variant.

And as an added bonus, I get to use these sweet powers for my adversaries, her former sisters in arms, when they inevitably come for her.

Images of a tree in four seasons.
Four seasons, Four hands, Four elemental domains. Man, this Tenzin guy sure likes his fours.

A bit of backstory on these ladies (and rarely men). The Hands of Tenzin are a group of spellcasters who serve the king of Aracea. They are responsible for keeping the magical energies of the world in check and as representatives of the god Tenzin, are expected to guide the seasons where neccesary.

Everything clear? Cool, let’s dig in.

Wizard will be the base class for this, so we’ll be calling this an Arcane Tradition. Per the usual wizard rules, this tradition will get a new feature at levels 2, 6, 10 and 14. Everything else is bonus spells and some ability score increases/feats. Perhaps if I have a kick-ass idea, I’ll take away an ability score increase and create another feature.

The basic idea for this tradition will be the cycle of the seasons. As the Hand of Tenzin gains power, they’ll gain mastery over different seasons and be able to use more abilities. Since I want to make using the abilities a bit of a minigame, i’ll be including a sort of shifting mechanic where using specific spells change the abilities available to the Hand.

So at second level, the Hand of Tenzin would choose a single season that’s their season of choice. This would be the first one that provides them with abilities as they cast their spells.

Winter witch in a snowy landscape.
Some call her an ice queen, but I just think she’s cool.

Additionally, they would have a sort of internal clock. This one would indicate their current season and change as they cast spells. A Hand could be on Summer, cast a spell that conforms to a specific requirement (and likely get a bonus) and then move into Fall. Casting another spell that conforms to a different requirement would move them into Winter.

Initially, they’d only get a benefit from one of the seasons but by level 14, they’d be getting all of them, providing a Hand with a powerful cycle of spells that each produce some tangible benefit.

let’s define our seasons.

Spring is the season of growth, of new life and of planting. Spring abilities will have probably be of the supportive kind, perhaps healing some HP or providing temporary HP.
In terms of elements, Spring is aligned with Earth.

Summer is the season of war, of feasting and of heat. Summer abilities will be fairly war-like, dealing perhaps with fire or radiant damage.
In terms of elements, Summer is aligned with Fire.

Fall is the season where decay sets in, where old things die and where stockpiles are prepared for the coming winter. I’d like to provide perhaps a debuff or the ability to steal some resource here, as a contrast with Spring.
In terms of elements, Fall is aligned with Water.

Winter is the season of cold, of staying indoors and of kindness to strangers. Winter abilities will perhaps deal with cold damage or make fighting more difficult in some way.
In terms of elements, Winter is aligned with Air.

I like the idea that every season both has an ongoing benefit as well as an immediate benefit. These benefits should fall within the theme of the seasons and I like the idea that you get the benefit of the season when you move to the next season, a kind of last hurrah. Much like you sometimes get freezing cold in march or april or as we’ve seen recently in my part of the world: 25°C halfway through october.

The abilities the Hand of Tenzin get won’t actually get better over time the way we have them now, so I’ll have to figure out some way of keeping them relevant in the higher levels. The logical solution would be to make them scale in some way and since the Hands are a variant of wizards, I’ll make them change over when they cast spells and make their effects dependent on the level of that spell.

However, i don’t want the benefits garnered from being in a specific season to be permanent, otherwise, their will likely be a ‘best’ ability for a given situation and the Hand won’t use their abilities for fear of losing that ability. So I’m going to impose a time limit on their abilities, probably four rounds so they can actually benefit from all their abilities if they cast an appropriate spell each turn.

With the thoughts and ground rules figured out, i’ll be writing up the exact archetype, which you can find here if you want to read the whole thing.

Feel free to use it in your own games.

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