DMs Guild Review – The Onomancer Class

A new 1-20 D&D spellcasting class that uses true names and Utterances in place of spell slots.

A review copy of The Onomancer 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: Micah Muldowney

The Onomancer is a 60+ page supplement that features a full level 1-20 class that introduces an all new way of casting spells. By learning and calling out the true names of people, places, and things, the Onomancer can invoke spell-like incantations at-will, creating a powerful and flexible spell-caster.

The Onomancer uses a d8 for hit die, and can use any of the six primary attributes for its spellcasting modifier once it chooses one of the six subclasses at level 3. Instead of using traditional spell slots to cast spells, the Onomancer learns and uses true names.

True names can be generic and encompass everything within range (“swords,” “orcs”) or directed toward specific targets.  To learn true names, an Onomancer uses the 1st level ability Delve True Being to make a skill check using their spellcasting ability modifier while applying other bonuses and penalties depending on the difficulty of knowing the name. Knowing the name of fire is easier than a magic item or a specific creature, for example. It’s a potentially fun way of accumulating class-specific abilities, if the player and DM can keep up with it.

Onomancers don’t use spell slots at all. Instead they have limited Utterances and Argots they know each level. Argots are basically cantrips, while Utterances are the more powerful spell-like abilities, each with Lesser, Greater, and Paramount Naming effects. Utterances require verbal components only and are considered spells when it comes to countereffects such as Anti-Magic Field and Dispel Magic.

Onomancers don’t begin learning Utterances until 3rd level, and only have access to the Lesser Naming version. By 5th level they know only three Utterances and at 6th can begin casting them at the Greater Naming level, creating an interesting restriction for their at-will spell effects.

A penalty system exists if Onomancers turn on too many Greater and Paramount Incants, though the numbers they can maintain increase as they level. Penalties are similar to Exhaustion levels, with d8 tables that include lowered stats, halving speed, preventing healing, or suffering multiple levels of exhaustion. It’s a little complicated; I would’ve preferred a simple numerical restriction on how many Greater and Paramount Utterances an Onomancer can maintain, by level.

incant of strata

Having three power levels for each Utterance provides flexibility for the limited number of Utterances. For example, Adumbral Word is basically the spell Darkness, creating a sphere of magical darkness. The Lesser Naming creates a 10-ft sphere, Greater Naming increases to 30-ft, and Paramount Naming creates an 80-ft sphere, forcing any creature without Darkvision to make a save or be frightened.

The Portal of Worlds Utterance allows you to teleport to a plane (whose name you know) at the Lesser Level with a 1-minute casting time. Greater Naming adds another creature and you can pick a specific place, while Paramount Naming opens a full portal that remains open for an hour.

Those are some of the more straightforward Utterances, and they still take up half a page to describe, since the designer refuses to just point you to the existing spell.

If you’re wondering how a single class supplement is 60+ pages long, it’s due to the ridiculously lengthy, complicated Utterances, which take up two thirds of the entire supplement. Some take up over a page by themselves, and there’s no artwork in any of these pages to help break up all the paragraphs and bullet points.

Elemental Word – Earth includes three different, powerful spell effects you can conjure just from the Lesser Naming alone, essentially choosing from the spells Earth Tremor, Erupting Earth, and Meld with Stone – all with a single Utterance! The Greater version then grants Wall of Stone, Stone Shape, Move Earth, and Passwall as additional options. Except it doesn’t just list these spells, it describes them in detail for each bullet point (and maybe slightly changing the damage, etc).

It’s like if every Warlock Invocation that granted limited use of a spell instead re-described the entire spell. Not only does this bring into question the balance of all the at-will spells the Onomancer can cast, but parsing all this information is needlessly cumbersome.

One of the worst offenders is Word of Intensity, which allows you enchant objects with various bonuses. You’re given over 20 options (+1 to hit, HP regen, +AC, Increased Crit damage, etc), twice that if you take the Inversion Improved Naming ability, for nearly two full pages to describe a single Utterance. It’s the same problem with Argots (cantrips): Sleight of Being is literally Prestidigitation, and Word of Precision is just the Bless spell, limited to one specific creature. Incredibly annoying.

At 1st level the Onomancer selects from one of six subclasses, similar to wizard subclasses based on the eight spell schools. The Onomancer subclasses are tied to the six attributes of D&D: Strength, Dexterity, etc, allowing the class to pick and choose which attribute they want to use for their spellcasting ability modifier. The Incant of Illusion uses Charisma, while the Incant of Transmutation is all about Constitution.

This offers a large amount of flexibilty, as well as mostly restricting Onomancers to choosing from that Incant’s list of eight different Utterances in order to apply their chosen modifier. I would be concerned about min-max player characters, as many of the subclasses allow the Onomancer to substitute saves and skill checks for their preferred attribute.

I love the idea of a spellcaster that doesn’t use spell slots. I’ve never been a fan of the spell slot system, considering it an archaic holdover from older editions of D&D. The Onomancer’s at-will spellcasting is intriguing, and limitations of few Utterances known feels balanced, but the Utterances themselves are incredibly powerful, offering a huge amount of flexibility, and often combining several spells into one Utterance, creating and at-will spellcaster that feels way too powerful.

Pros:

  • Discovering true names is an interesting and rewarding system.
  • Six subclasses based on the D&D ability scores, determining your spellcasting ability modifier.

Cons:

  • Over 40 pages with no artwork.
  • Utterances are way too powerful, flexible, and cumbersome.

The Verdict: Knowing and using true names to cast spells sans spell slots is a worthy cause for a new character class in The Onomancer, but the spell-like utterances are far too powerful and unwieldy compared to other classes.

A review copy of “The Onomancer 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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