D&D 5e Supplement Review: Mark of the Vestige
Have you ever wanted to make a pact with a powerful creature, but not throw your life into the constant dread and chaos that comes with being a warlock? Then look no further than Mark of the Vestige by E. R. F. Jordan (follow her on Twitter here)! Vestiges are a (relatively) safe subsection of powerful creatures that you can make a pact with to temporarily gain their awesome powers.
Those who make these pacts are binders. In fact, in 3.5e the binder was a unique class that utilized the very same vestiges found in Mark of the Vestige! However, this supplement updates the vestiges and various pact features to D&D 5e and allows any character to form a pact with a vestige. It’s a playground of player options for your table!
Mark of the Vestige boasts 35 unique vestiges updated from the Tome of Magic 3.5e supplement as well as 20 new vestige-themed magical items. It also includes all the mechanics and information needed to add and use vestiges in your D&D 5e game. You can find it on the DMs Guild now for $7.95!
While I played a fair bit of 3.5e back in the day, I was not at all familiar with vestiges or anything out of Tome of Magic. Point being that I can’t speak for how well the various vestiges were translated from 3.5e to 5e, so instead I’ll be focusing on how they are in their present, 5e state in Mark of the Vestige.
Well-Done Formatting and Layout
I received an early review copy of Mark of the Vestige, so not everything may be entirely accurate in this section as there was still some work being done on the product. I will make changes or additions to this review if anything in the final version warrants that.
The template of the product’s layout was done by Nathanaël Roux and all in all I like it. It’s clean and while similar to the official 5e design, the layout has enough subtle differences that make Mark of the Vestige still feel unique. The black and white artwork that is included throughout the supplement goes hand-in-hand with the layout and honestly looks great. I’m a fan of it all!
My copy of Mark of the Vestige did not include any bookmarks, but it does have a table of contents that indicates the exact page number that each vestige can be found which was helpful. I also appreciated the Using This Book section in the introduction which succinctly-detailed what information you could find in each chapter.
This was an easy-to-read supplement and well-edited. Excellent work all around!
The Main Event, The Vestiges!
When a character binds themselves to a vestige they gain additional powers. Vestiges are not tied to any specific class, race, or background, although they do have some prerequisites that a character must meet before binding with them.
Each vestige has a level prerequisite. This level prerequisite is tied to the character’s total level, so multiclassers rejoice! The higher the level prerequisite, the more powerful the vestige. That’s fair, right? Your level also determines the number of vestiges you can be bound to at any given time.
Vestiges also have a Binding DC requirement which the character must pass to bind with the vestige. As with the level prerequisite, the more powerful vestiges typically have a higher Binding DC. Each Binding DC is relatively high, clocking in between 15 at the minimum and 35 at the maximum. However, each vestige has specific offerings that you can make to lower the DC by a small amount. These offerings are costly and usually made in the form of magic items, gold, valuables, or even HP.
The Binding DC is made by using your Charisma modifier, but there is a variant rule that includes descriptors for how the binding ritual might change thematically if a character were allowed to use a different ability score modifier. Failing this check will still grant you the vestige’s powers, but this comes at the cost of the vestige being able to influence you as they wish for the duration of your pact.
Keep in mind that a pact with a vestige is not easily broken. It is a costly and dangerous decision to make a pact with a vestige. This power comes at a cost!
While E. R. F. Jordan does point the reader to 3.5e’s Tome of Magic for more lore and context for each of the vestiges, she includes plenty of flavor and lore for anyone like myself who has no real tie to the 3.5e vestiges.
Each vestige has a section with at least a few paragraphs of lore and background info about the vestige. This section also provides the page number for the Tome of Magic version fo the vestige if the reader is interested in reading more about this particular vestige’s lore. It’s a nice touch and I’m sure the convenience of this addition will be appreciated by anyone who is inspired to research more about each vestige.
For someone like me, though, the lore, flavor, and background info included in Tome of Magic is more than enough.
Every part of the vestige’s mechanics has plenty of flavor stuffed into it. The vestige powers all build off the vestige, the summoning ritual is unique for each vestige, and so forth. If you are after new character options oozing with flavor, vestiges certainly deserve your consideration!
It’s going to be pretty much impossible to go through all of the 35 vestiges and talk about their mechanics. Instead, I’ll talk a bit about what a vestige gives a character in this section and give you my thoughts on the mechanic as a whole.
Keep in mind that the more powerful the vestige, the more powerful the pact is. This is beneficial to the player character concerning the powers that they gain, but powerful vestiges will have a proportionally-powerful influence over a player character that makes a bad pact with them!
After completing a ritual to enter a pact with a vestige you’ll typically change noticeably. For example, someone who has entered a pact with Amon will grow a set of curling black ram’s horns. Each vestige has its unique Binding Sign. Simply put, it’s generally not difficult to recognize a binder.
This can certainly have its implications in regards to roleplaying. After all, some of these vestiges are evil creatures. Letting everyone know you’re in league with them may not be the easiest of choices to live with!
If, however, you failed your check against your vestige’s Binding DC you’ll fall under their influence. This is not a complete takeover of the player character, but they each come with their quirks and mannerisms you’ll need to act out in the case of a bad pact.
The powers you gain from your pact are generally determined by whatever powers the vestige is known for as they are imbuing you with their power. For example, Acererak (known for his Tomb of Horrors) gives you necromantic powers and immunity to necrotic damage.
Each vestige grants a unique set of powers. Some vestiges give you powerful new spells, features, and boons to use to overpower your enemies in combat. Other vestiges grant you useful utility to be used to aid yourself and your allies outside of combat. Many of the more powerful vestiges grant you a bit of both.
Certain vestiges will synergize with a character more than others. You’ll want to look over what vestiges your character would want before you commit. After all, this can be a very expensive and dangerous process depending on the vestige(s) you choose!
The number of powers you gain also varies, but typically you can expect to gain between 3-5 unique powers. Most of these you can use constantly, but a few of the more powerful ones such as free spells will require you to finish a long rest before you can use them again.
Generally speaking, the more powerful the vestige, the more powers you’ll gain. There are some cases where this is not true, but those high-level vestiges will have very powerful powers.
I can’t say that they’re necessarily “balanced” considering this is like giving a character one or two magical items at once. Including vestiges in your game will certainly tip the scales heavily in the party’s favor in terms of balancing encounters. You’ll need to consider these powers and bump up the average encounter difficulty for your campaign.
Of course, you could always opt to give your creatures a vestige or two to even the playing field!
The appendix of Mark of the Vestige includes printable handouts for your table. These handouts consist of a playing card sized info sheet with a single vestige’s most important information printed on it. Anything the player needs to know about their character’s vestige(s) is on here.
They’re made and presented in such a way that it’s easy to print and cut out or crop and e-mail to your players/upload to your VTT if you’re playing online. I mean, everything is already written and formatted for you.
It’s worthwhile to use these handouts as I’m certain that they will speed up any playtime that revolves around the characters’ vestiges.
This is such a simple, yet fantastic addition to this supplement. It might be the highlight of the entire product for me. I love being able to easily give my players just the information that they need when handouts are included and these fit the bill.
Powerful New Magical Items
A chapter with 20 brand-new magical items that are vestige themed and flavored. Most of these items interact with a binder’s powers, for example, the Bag of Offerings aids you in reducing the binding DC of a summoning ritual. However, quite a few of these items were tailor-made to disrupt a binder’s vestige powers. Such items are perfect tools for NPCs hunting a party full of characters with various bindings.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of these items have a rarity spanning between rare and legendary. It’s refreshing to get some new, more powerful, magical item options! There’s also plenty of variety in the kinds of magical items that are present in this chapter. There’s a healthy mix of weapons, armor, shields, jewelry, and items.
Just like with the vestiges in Mark of the Vestige, there’s a ton of options for your players to choose from and utilize in the magical items section of the supplement.
Final Thoughts on Mark of the Vestige
As I said before, I had no knowledge of the 3.5e version of vestiges and pact magic, so if that’s what has you on the fence I wouldn’t sweat it. This is an excellent supplement with or without that prior knowledge. If anything, Mark of the Vestige will have me trying to get a hold of all of the goodies from previous D&D editions to find out what else I’ve missed out on!
I’d absolutely recommend Mark of the Vestige for any group that is looking for some new player options to throw into their game. While vestige powers will increase the party’s power level, you’ll surely be able to readjust to this in no time. Just as you would when the party receives a powerful magical item.
Vestige powers will certainly create a more high-powered atmosphere in your campaign, but that is the consequence of giving the whole party a ton of brand new (and fun) character options to play with. Of course, you can always balance it out by giving your creatures and/or bosses some powerful pacts of their own!
All in all, E. R. F. Jordan’s Mark of the Vestige is an excellent addition to the DMs Guild and is packed to the brim with content for your table. If you are regularly on the lookout for new options for your players, this should certainly deserve your consideration.