DMs Guild Review – Splicer Class

Absorb monster traits, attacks, and resistances with the Splicer Class.

dms guild review

A review copy of “Splicer Class” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Justin Tholl (aka DarkJodo)

In our latest D&D campaign, we used an optional Unearthed Arcana rule for Druids acquiring new Wild Shapes. It involves meeting the potential animals and making Animal Handling or Nature checks based on their CR.

It’s worked quite well, especially in the dinosaur-filled jungles of Chult. The Splicer Class builds on this idea with the ability to absorb essence from beasts and monstrosities.

The Splicer completely lacks the ability to cast spells, has no weapon or armor proficiences (except shields, oddly), and only a d8 for hit dice. The class revolves entirely around their ability to absorb abilities, actions, traits, and resistances as essence from defeated enemies, and use it to augment themselves.

On paper it’s an incredibly powerful tool, balanced with careful, important limitations. You have to actually defeat the monster first, leaving which potential abilities you see entirely up to the DM.

You’re limited on how many essences you can store and how many you can use to augment yourself or an object. The process deals damage and can only be done once per day, and gaining essence requires an INT skill check on the defeated monster.

I’m glad to see all these restrictions, because the Splicer opens up a Pandora’s Box of crazy abilities. Just glancing through a list of Beasts and Monstrosities here are some example traits and abilities you could acquire from creatures below CR 5:

  • Ankheg’s acid spray
  • Ankylosaurus tail attack(+7 to hit, 4d6+
  • Basilisk petrifying gaze
  • Darkmantle’s 60ft blindsight
  • Doppleganger’s shape change
  • Giant Spider’s web and spider climb
  • Merrow’s ability to breathe air and water
  • Phase Spider’s ethereal jaunt
  • Su-monster’s psychic crush
  • Umber Hulk’s confusing gaze
  • Yuan-ti’s magic resistance

What about a hydra’s multiple heads or a naga’s rejuvenation? And how does splicing Multiattack work when they all list specific attacks, like claws, tails, and bites?

The rules aren’t very clear about these critical details, including how augmented attacks work. One line says we lose proficiency bonus when using our augments, but another says we get proficiency bonus but not any other modifiers.

dms guild review

The Splicer Class badly needed some examples for how Johnny Splicer can defeat a monster, absorb an essence, and use it to augment himself, on what the final attack rolls look like. It would also benefit from a full or at least partial list of which traits can and cannot be used. From what I understand, the only abilities that cannot be gained are innate spellcasting, and different forms of movement (unless they appear as traits like Spider Climb).

I also have a problem with how the class advances. Most of the level up abilities ease the important restrictions or eliminate them all together. The 7th level ability, Essence Adept, doesn’t even make much sense. Instead of having to defeat an enemy to draw its essence, you can do it in the middle of combat, but it takes 1 minute. A combat round is about six seconds, and you can’t apply an augment until you long rest anyway, why the rush?

At level 10, 14, and 18 the class just hands over awesome new monster abilities as if you had already acquired them, which feels like a total betrayal of the rules the class sets up in the beginning. You made level 14, have this incredibly powerful Woolly Mammoth gore attack!

The subclasses are strange. The Abomination adds more monstrous essence abilities, like Manticore tail spikes, as if you already fought and absorbed them.

The Augmenter has such ridiculously powerful abilities that I would laugh at any player who tried to bring that to the table. At 3rd level they gain at-will invisibility and at 9th level they sprout wings to gain a permanent flying speed of 60 feet. No, thank you.

The Promethium at least adds an entirely new mechanic, turning the Splicer into a pet class. The Clay Monster can be augmented with collected essence, adding an interesting new layer. Oddly this is the only subclass that gains Extra Attack at 5th level.

I like the idea of a player character gaining new abilities from defeated monsters. The rules and mechanics start out well-developed but quickly spiral out of control. In its current form the Splicer is in bad need of further development and a FAQ before I could ever consider letting a player go down this unique path.

Pros:

  • Adding monster attacks and traits is a neat idea.
  • Essences can be powerful, but include several important limitations.

Cons:

  • Leveling up either eases essence limitations or simply adds new ones, bypassing a primary class feature.
  • Lots of confusion over what abilities can be gained, and which modifiers and proficiencies to use or not use.

The Verdict: Gaining monster abilities from defeated foes is a neat concept, but the Splicer Class needs clearer rules, and may have been better suited as a druid subclass.

A review copy of “Splicer Class” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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