First Attempt: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Trainer

I just started a new game of 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons where I’m trying my hand at playing a monster trainer from Mystical: Kingdom of Monsters. Here’s what I have so far. I would appreciate any thoughts on this as it’s my first actual attempt at designing something in depth for this edition.

Trainer

Creating a trainer

When making a trainer, consider why your character has such a close bond with monsters. Perhaps your character lives in a society where captured monsters are seen as friends and allies, or learned how to capture monsters independently after being abandoned in a foreign land. Perhaps your character had a dramatic encounter with a wild monster, coming face to face with a bulette or bone devil and surviving the experience. Maybe your character was born with a natural predilection for befriending monsters, eventually turning that knack into an adventuring career.

Have you always been an adventurer, or did you first spend time as a research assistant or military cadet? Perhaps your homeland was ruled by a mad king, and you took up an adventuring life in hopes of finding escape or a way to return everything to normal.

Quick Build

You can make a trainer quickly by following these suggestions. First, Charisma should be your highest ability score, followed by Constitution. Second, choose the monster training culture background.

Class Features

As a trainer, you gain the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per trainer level

Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier

Hit Points at Higher levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per trainer level after 1st

Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor

Weapons: Simple weapons, bows, crossbows, whips

Tools: mounts (land)

Saving Throws: Dexterity, Charisma

Skills: Choose three from Arcana, Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Religion, and Survival

Equipment

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) a light crossbow or (b) sling
  • (a) a whip or (b) any simple melee weapon
  • Antitoxin, leather armor and an explorer’s pack

Companion Monster

As a monster trainer, you capture non-humanoid creatures, called monsters, and tether their life force to your own. In combat, you can reach within your essence to call upon one of your captured monsters and direct it to fight as your ally.

Choose a monster that is no larger than Small and that has a challenge rating of 1/2 or lower. The chosen monster can be called upon as an action in combat, at which time you can have it appear anywhere within 30 feet of you that can support it (unless it can fly) without squeezing.

After it appears, your active monster obeys your direction as best as it can. It takes its turn on your initiative, though it doesn’t take an action unless you direct it to.

On your turn, you can verbally direct your active monster where to move (no action required by you). You can use your action to verbally direct it to take the Attack, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, Help, Hide, Ready, Search, or Use an Object action. If you have the Extra Attack feature, you can also make one weapon attack yourself when you direct your active monster to take the Attack action.

You can recall your active monster when it is within 30 feet of you, removing it from combat as it retreats back into your essence. If you do, you cannot call upon another monster until you finish a short rest and spend at least 1 hit die to recover. Hit dice spent in this way still heal you as well. A long rest restores your ability to call upon any monster. You cannot give your attention to more than 1 active monster at the same time.

If your active monster dies, it is recalled automatically from any distance, crossing planar boundaries if necessary. You cannot call upon another monster until you finish at least a short rest and spend hit dice equal to that monster’s challenge rating (minimum 1) to restore it.

If you die, you can still direct your active monster until it finishes a short or long rest. It then disappears until you are returned to life and can call upon it again.

Monster Training

One of the most important things about being a monster trainer is the ability to capture and train new monsters. At 1st level, you know the capture monster cantrip.

Spellcasting

Drawing on the essence of the monsters you have captured, you can cast spells to shape that essence to your will. See the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook for the general rules of spellcasting and individual monster spell lists for what spells you can cast.

When you call upon a monster, you gain access to the spells on its available trainer spells list. These count as your spells known while that monster remains active.

Cantrips: If your active monster grants you access to 1 or more cantrips, you can use any of them immediately.

Casting Spells: The Trainer table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your spells of 1st level and higher. To cast one of these trainer spells, you must expend a slot of the spell’s level or higher. You regain all expended spell slots when you finish a long rest.

You can cast spells through your active monster, using its space as the point of origin. You can only target creatures you are aware of – your monster does not actually cast the spell, nor are you able to use any of its special senses to detect creatures. You do not have to see your target, allowing you to cast scorching ray through your monster at a creature you saw run around a corner or inflict wounds on a creature you know is invisible and adjacent to your monster, for example.

Spellcasting Ability: Charisma is your spellcasting ability for your trainer spells, since your magic draws upon your devotion and attunement to nature. You use your Charisma whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your Charisma modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a trainer spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.

Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier

Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier

Monster Growth

At 2nd level, and again at every level after, you can choose one of your monsters and change it into another monster of a higher challenge rating. The two monsters must share a heritage, which means they share a specific name (such as water dog) or distinguishing feature (demons and devils), or they are said to be specifically related (an elemental can become any other elemental). The new monster can be any size, but its challenge rating still cannot equal or exceed your level.

If you do not have a monster that can grow when you gain a new level, you can save your use of this ability and apply it when you finish a long rest after capturing a monster that can grow.

Training Strategy

At 3rd level, you develop a training strategy for your monsters: Auror, Breeder, Generalist, Performer, Reeve, Researcher, or Scout, all detailed at the end of the class description. Your choice grants you features at 3rd level and again at 6th, 10th, 14th, and 18th level.

Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Monster Advancement

Starting at 5th level, your active monster gains a bonus to AC, attack rolls and damage rolls as well as to any saving throws and skills it is proficient in if its challenge rating is at least 4 levels lower than your trainer level. Its hit point maximum is equal to its normal maximum or four times your monster trainer level, whichever is higher.

Monster’s Challenge Rating Bonus
4 to 7 lower than trainer level +1
8 to 11 lower than trainer level +2
12 to 15 lower than trainer level +3
16+ lower than trainer level +4

Talented Trainer

At 5th level, you gain a better understanding of your monsters’ innate abilities. When you use your action to direct your active monster, you can direct it to take any action it possesses that is not a Lair or Legendary action.

Advanced Monster Growth

Starting at 17th level, when one of your monsters grows, its challenge rating can equal your level.

The Monster Within

At 20th level, you can cast polymorph on yourself three times per day, applying the following benefits and exceptions.

  • You can only change into your monsters.
  • You cannot also have an active monster while transformed by the spell.
  • You do not require concentration to maintain the spell, but it still ends after 1 hour.

You can cast the available trainer spells granted by any shape you assume using the Monster Within. You can perform the somatic and verbal components of a trainer spell while transformed, but you aren’t able to provide material components unless you still have access to them. The saving throw DC of your spells does not change based on the new form.

The Monster Trainer Spell Slots per Spell Level
Level Proficiency Bonus Features 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
1st +2 Companion Monster, Monster Training, Spellcasting 2
2nd +2 Monster Growth 3
3rd +2 Training Strategy 4 2
4th +2 Ability Score improvement 4 3
5th +3 Monster Advancement, Talented Trainer 4 3 2
6th +3 Training Strategy 4 3 3
7th +3 4 3 3 1
8th +3 Ability Score improvement 4 3 3 2
9th +4 4 3 3 3 1
10th +4 Training Strategy 4 3 3 3 2
11th +4 4 3 3 3 2 1
12th +4 Ability Score Improvement 4 3 3 3 2 1
13th +5 4 3 3 3 2 1 1
14th +5 Training Strategy 4 3 3 3 2 1 1
15th +5 4 3 3 3 2 1 1 1
16th +5 Ability Score Improvement 4 3 3 3 2 1 1 1
17th +6 Advanced Monster Growth 4 3 3 3 2 1 1 1 1
18th +6 Training Strategy 4 3 3 3 3 1 1 1 1
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement 4 3 3 3 3 2 1 1 1
20th +6 The Monster Within 4 3 3 3 3 2 2 1 1

Training Strategies

Over the years that monster training has been developed, many different practices have been incorporated into training regiments, leading to varying strategies based on region, personal preference, and formal education, to name a few. After a while, the most common of these strategies were compiled into different groups and became officially recognized by all trainers.

Each of the training strategies here describes one of the groups that have been organized and kept on record by arena masters and championship organizers as an easy means of telling one trainer from another. While slight variations in how trainers execute their strategies, they can generally be summarized by one of these groups.

In addition to serving a strategic purpose, each of these groups has taken on a social (and sometimes political) role in the world that can present interesting opportunities or challenges along the way.

Generalist

Generalists have no direct strategy that can be gleaned from their habits or the monsters they capture. Monster trainers who don’t immediately fit into another group are lumped into this category, making it the most widely known, but also the least understood.

Rapid Calling

When you pick this training strategy at 3rd level, you can call upon a monster as a bonus action. If a creature would draw an opportunity attack from your active monster, you can use your reaction to let it make that attack.

Spell Familiarity

At 6th level, and again at 14th level, you can choose one spell granted to you by your monsters. You can cast that spell when you have no active monster or your active monster does not grant the spell.

Temporary Control

Starting at 10th level, you can cast dominate monster once per day, but only with a duration of concentration, up to 1 minute. The dominated monster counts as your active monster for the duration.

Master Trainer

At 18th level, when you cast capture monster, you can force the target to automatically fail its Wisdom saving throw. You can use this ability once.

At each level after 18th, you gain another charge of Master Trainer, but you cannot use it again unless you release any other monster you previously caught with the ability. That monster returns to the place at which you caught it, if able, crossing planar boundaries as necessary. If it is unable to return, it appears within 30 feet of you.

2 thoughts on “First Attempt: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Trainer

  1. I Really like this but as for the skills it is a must to have animal handling and nature I do not see the need for others and only a few backgrounds would work hermit outlander can not think of anything else that would work unless it was a cultist then acolyte would work. you have left it open to what spell list I think Druid not any.

    • The spell list is tied to individual monsters, as it is in the Pathfinder version of Mystical: Kingdom of Monsters. I’ll definitely look into backgrounds to see what else might fit or how to better make sure they line up.

      Thank you for the reply!

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