I always thought Binders were a really cool, underused addition to the D&D universe - casters who bound the spirits of Gods and other powerful entities into themselves, and used their power in exchange for them getting to live again, to experience the world once more. They had a cool Loa-style feel to them, and I want to try and capture that here - while ensuring they are simple enough to keep within the M20 framework.
Due to their nature, however, they are a little bit more complicated than the average M20 class. Hopefully, it's not too off-putting. This will be the first draft - I'll playtest it soon, and maybe pop up a few extra vestiges at some point too..
The Vestiges presented are left intentionally vague, so as to fit into multiple campaign settings. Suggested names and behaviours are also presented, but not required - change them to fit your game!
Binders are Arcane casters who wear no armour. First level Binders gain a +3 bonus to Knowledge.
A binder can use an Action (instead of attacking or moving) to bind a Vestige to himself. This requires a MIND+Knowledge check, with the DC varying by vestige. Failing this roll means the Vestige isn't listening, and won't bind to you. Rolling a natural 1 means the Vestige possesses you for the duration of the Binding, and the PC falls under the GM's control (doing its best to spread its agenda or do what it did in life).
To dispel it, the Binder must succeed a MIND test (it's harder to get rid of an entity than it is to call it into yourself). A Binder may bind a number of Vestiges equal to his MIND bonus per day. Each Vestige bound grants certain abilities, for MIND Bonus+ half-Level rounds. After this, the Vestige is automatically dispelled, and cannot be called again until the next encounter (or after a rest).
Each Vestige carries a Tell - a sign that they are with the Binder. This can manifest any number of ways, listed with each Vestige. Anyone with knowledge of Vestiges can make a MIND+Knowledge check against the Vestige's DC to read these Tells in another, and guess what type of Vestige they are using at that time.
Optional: If you are using the Charisma stat in your game, Binders use it in place of their MIND stat.
Warrior (DC10): the Binder gains +2 to their Melee Attack Bonus or Ranged Attack Bonus, as well as a +3 bonus to their Physical Skill. They can also wear any armour with no penalty.
Tells: Loud, brash demeanour, a smell of blood, dirty appearance
Magician (DC10): the Binder gains access to the Arcane spell Prestidigitation as a Signature spell.
Tells: Slight magical aura, wizened appearance
Silver Tongued Devil (DC10): the Binder gains a +3 bonus to their Communication skill.
Tells: Smile that's too wide, semi-reptilian features (or other slight demonic tell)
Mage (DC15): the Binder gains the ability to use three Mage spells (2 0th-level, 1 1st-level, randomly determined), as though they were Signature Spells. If the Binder scores over 20 on the check, they can choose the spells himself from the Arcane Spell List.
Tells: Magical aura, the scent of arcane oils and reagents,a studious nature
Trickster (DC 15): the Binder gains the Backstab ability, and a +5 bonus to their Subterfuge Skill.
Tells: Cheeky smile, swift hands, a roguish demeanour
Holy Warrior (DC15): the Binder gains +2 to their Melee Attack Bonus, as well as the ability to Smite Evil.
Tells: Strong aura of Good, occasional flashes of holy fire, determined attitude, swears oaths to a certain God or Pantheon.
Tempter (DC20): the Binder gains the ability to use Charm as a spell-like ability, and gains a +5 bonus to their Communication skill.
Tells: Elongated, serpentine features, a whiff of brimstone, features considered attractive by a wide variety of races.
Nature Spirit (DC20): the Binder can Speak With Animals and Wildshape into the form of a Medium animal, with Hit Dice equal to their level.
Tells: Animalistic features, neutral outlook, traits of a specific animal (whether ill-tempered, stoic, stubborn, etc).
Great Warrior (DC20): the Binder gains a +4 bonus to their Melee Attack Bonus or their Ranged Attack Bonus, as well as a +5 bonus to their Physical skill.
Tells: Same as Warrior, though far more pronounced - rippling physique, a smell of battle, etc.
Lich (DC 30): the Binder gains the ability to use 6 Mage Spells (one of each spell level, or multiple lower level spells, randomly determined) as though they were Signature Spells, as well as the abilty to use Paralysing Touch as a spell-like ability.
Tells: Gaunt, almost skeletal appearance, raspy, hissing voice, bouts of maniacal laughter, perceptible aura of magic (a glow of unearthly energies, a chill in the air, etc.)
Vestiges and Your Campaign
The Vestiges above are presented as incredibly generic, to allow them to fit into multiple types of campaign. Say your Binder relies on the spirits of his ancestors to help him - he would call upon K'Tchalk, the finest warrior his tribe had produced, during a pitched battle, or Teles the Shaman for magical assistance.
By the same token, perhaps another Binder might specify that they are channelling the essence of the Gods themselves - calling on Mystara, Kord, or anyone from within the massive D&D pantheon for their tricks.
Next time: a few more Vestiges and Tells, playtest revisions, and some more alternate takes on the Binder!