Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted mysteriously mystify minds while coming up with a Character Build Guide for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. During one of our weekly live chats one of the viewers made the suggestion for a snake charmer CBG we felt inspired to oblige. Certainly there’s enough spells in 5E D&D for any sort of spellcasting character to beguile others with magic but what really intrigued us are the numerous class features capable of clouding minds. This Hypnotist CBG aims to incorporate our favorites into a single character focused exclusively on mucking with minds. Along with the player guide detailing the journey from character creation to 20th level we create special NPCs and creatures inspired by the character build for Dungeon Masters ready to drop right into your game. So let’s get into it.
Behind the CBG — Hypnotist
Our CBGs take the journey into account as much as the destination to present a guide suitable for any level of 5E D&D play whether you’re pursuing an epic campaign from start to finish, starting beyond 1st level or choosing a character for a one shot. Next we take those concepts and develop an NPC or creature version of the character build for DMs to incorporate into their games. All of this gets packaged up and laid out in a PDF you can find over at Dungeon Master’s Guild. We’ve got dozens of pay what you want products at DMG, many of them best sellers so if you want to check those out start with the Hypnotist here.
All about the character story
Every CBG starts with an idea for a character with a particular schtick, from the Mind Breaker’s psyche crushing smites to the Hypnotist’s supreme powers of persuasion. Sometimes puns and pop culture references instigate the creation of a CBG too and if I’m honest this was no different — the cliche of a snake charmer informed many of the choices for this character. The discussion turns to what sort of person starts down this path to power, including motivation and also multiclass reasoning because let’s be real — nearly every one of these guides focuses on a multiclass character. As DM’s Guild Brand Manager and longtime Nerdarchy friend Lysa Penrose puts it they’re each like their own unique class for 5E D&D.
The Hypnotist cleaved to the initial corny concept of a snake charmer through the most fundamental part of a character chosen during creation, their race. Yuan-ti are the preeminent snake people of D&D so it was a no brainer for our Hypnotist to start off as a serpentine humanoid. And…done. They can charm snakes all day long so that’s a wrap.
…But what if the snake charmer in the market bazaar wonders, “Can I apply my beguiling ways to other creatures?” Turns out, yes absolutely! There’s a whole bunch of nifty hypnotic abilities in 5E D&D and we did our best to squeeze in all the best ones we could.
Shadowmind (Hypnotist) NPC for 5E D&D
Full disclosure — the NPCs and creatures we make in CBGs are some of my favorite bits of 5E D&D content to create. Basically we step back and look at the character guide to find the standout features, the ones that feel like signature abilities. The juice! From there we consider what sort of person or people would possess or gain these abilities and build a stat block around them. More often than not the section of a CBG For Dungeon Masters presents a generic creature, often a member of an organization. Nerdarchist Dave loves including organizations into game material because it’s a great way for players to hook into the world.
For the DM version of the Hypnotist I indulged my own ideas about this character, which Dave and Ted touched on in the video. While planning out the CBG and this character’s narrative arc I didn’t care much for the snake charmer schtick. Instead my thoughts went to The Shadow, a pulp adventure hero from the 1930s. Even though I’ve been familiar with the character since I was a kid if I’m honest what passes for canon in my mind comes mostly from the 1994 film The Shadow starring Alec Baldwin. In the film, Lamont Cranston succumbs to his dark instincts and sets himself up as a warlord and opium kingpin.
“He is abducted by servants of the Tulku, a holy man who exhibits otherworldly powers and knows Cranston’s identity. He offers Cranston a chance to redeem himself and become a force for good. Cranston refuses but is silenced by the ‘Phurba’, a mystical, sentient, flying, three-edged dagger. Ultimately, Cranston remains a student under the Tulku for seven years. In addition to undergoing rigorous physical training, he learns how to hypnotize others, read their minds, and bend their perceptions so that he cannot be seen, except for his shadow.”
The Shadowmind Knows. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A person travels the world seeking mystical knowledge and power. They find a mentor who teaches them how to cloud the minds of others and become like a ghost. The shadowmind knows what lurks in the hearts of mortals and uses their abilities as a vigilante and occult investigator.
Inspired by the same powers of charm and mental trickery a Shadowmind isn’t the hardest hitting creature to square off against. Instead they possess a variety of diversionary features to beguile and misdirect opponents. Of course they’ve got a trait called Hypnotize, a clever escape tactic and the natural abilities of a yuan-ti pureblood.
“Cloud Minds. Whenever an attacker targets the shadowmind with an attack, the shadowmind tries to magically divert it, provided the attacker is within 30 feet ofit and visible to it. The shadowmind must decide to do so before the attack hits or misses. The attacker mustmake a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save,the attacker targets the creature closest to it, other than the shadowmind or itself. If multiple creatures are closest, the attacker chooses which one to target.”
If your next 5E D&D game needs a character who can mystify minds and knows what evil lurks in the hearts of mortals — whether you’re the DM or a player — check out the Hypnotist CBG here.