DnD 5e - Bilgewater Subclass Breakdown
Last Updated: September 15th, 2020
Runeterra is the setting of the popular, long-running MOBA game League of Legends. It's a fantastical setting full of bizarre creatures and tales of adventure. Legends of Runeterra: Dark Tides of Bilgewater was a digital-only supplement for Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, originally published for free on DnDBeyond.com, then removed without explanation. It's unlikely that we'll see it republished in any official capacity.
It included a short adventure, three new subclasses, 10 stat blocks for creatures and NPCs (including League of Legends playable characters Miss Fortune and Gangplank), and a collection of magic items which League of Legends players will recognize from the game.
If you are familiar with DnD 5e and my other character optimization guides, skip ahead to the next section. If you are new to Dungeons and Dragons, I encourage you to explore my How to Play articles, especially my Guide Solo Adventure which is built to teach you the basics of how to play Dungeons and Dragons in just a few minutes.
I suspect that there are a great many people exploring Dungeons and Dragons for the first time, looking to tell their own Runeterra stories in a new medium. If you're on such newcomer to the hobby, welcome. I'm happy that you're here, and I hope that you'll enjoy Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop RPGs for years to come.
If you're not familiar with my character optimization material, welcome to the site. Most of what I write is about how to build an effective character. If you're familiar with looking at published builds for League of Legends, it's a similar concept. However, rather than hand you a page of specific items and skills and such, character optimization articles for DnD typically list available options and make suggestions based on their merits.
This article addresses the three subclasses published in Legends of Runeterra: Dark Tides of Bilgewater. I use the same 4-tier rating system which I use in all of my character optimization content, which is explained below. This article does not include the text of the source material, so I recommend reading the source material first (if you can find it somewhere) then coming back for advice.
Not that anyone cares, but yes: I have played quite a bit of League of Legends and I was always, without exception, absolutely terrible at it. But I'm really good at Dungeons and Dragons, and that's what you're here for.
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
- : Good options.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
Legends of Runeterra: Dark Tides of Bilgewater introduces three new subclasses; one each for the Barbarian, the Fighter, and the Rogue.
Please note that these subclasses are not official DnD 5e content. If you want to use these subclasses, you will typically need permission from your Dungeon Master to introduce them to the game.
Barbarian: Path of the Depths
Path of the Depths is a neat nauticle-themed concept. In addition to the ability to swim and breath underwater, it grants interesting abilities to pull enemies toward you and potentially grapple them, as well as an at-will teleportation effect. The teleportation effect is the only real problem in the subclass, but with a modest adjustment to prevent abuse (use it oncer per Short or Long Rest) this is a fun and effective subclass.
- : The ability to swim and breath underwater is interesting, but in most Dungeons and Dragons games it's rarely a problem because most of your allies can't breath underwater so most of your adventuring is done on dry land.
- : Barbarians thrive in melee, and the ability to pull enemies into melee with you when they don't want to be there can be a serious asset. But be careful about pulling too many enemies into melee with you at once.
Honestly, teleportation effects have usage limitations for a reason: they're powerful and easy to abuse. If you're familiar with League of Legends, imagine if the Flash summoner spell had a 6-second cooldown. It would destroy the game! Most abilities like this can be used some number of times during a certain period, like once per day or once per Short or Long Rest. If this ability becomes a problem in your game, I recommend limiting it to one per Short or Long Rest. : Teleportation is fantastic for a long number of reasons, and there is no limitation on how often you can use this. If you want to spend all of your time out of combat teleporting around instead of walking, there's nothing to stop you. If you do use this in combat, you spend your Action to do so, so you can't use Extra Attack in the same turn. Sometimes that's fine if you need to get past an obstacle like a pit or an enemy, and you do still get one attack before or after teleporting.
: This is a fun decision point, and I really like that you can change it after a long rest so that you can experiment with different options. However, it's likely that you'll pick one option which suits your play style and stick to
- : True Seeing is really good, but it's still only situationally useful and it's hard to know when you'll need it.
- : Grappling a foe reduces their speed to 0, thereby preventing them from moving away from you. You notably don't need to make an Athletics check to grapple this way, which is unusual for a player ability.
- : Don't use this during combat. Use it before combat and save the Bonus Action. Temporary Hit Points last until you take a Short Rest or a Long Rest (unless they specify an expiration time, which these don't) so these will stick around until spent or you rest.
- : You already have Advantage on saves against these effects, and while immunity is nice this isn't good enough to take unless you're facing enemies who will repeatedly try to charm or frighten you.
- : +1 AC is really good, but it's not very exciting. If your AC is reasonably high (such as if you have 14 Dexterity and are wearing half plate, which you should be able to do by this level), this will be more protection than Heart of the Deep.
- : 3d6 isn't a lot of damage, but it's force damage and nearly nothing is resistant or immune to force damage (similar to "true damage" for League of Legends players). Still, that may offset the damage lost from using Ghostwater Dive instead of Extra Attack if you can hit 2 or more targets, and knocking enemies prone means that your one attack might be at Advantage without resorting to Reckless Attack. Sure, they'll get back up on their turn at essentially no cost, but it's still very satisfying to splash a bunch of enemies and knock them down. Since Ghostwater Dive can be used at will, in many encounters your best option will be to repeatedly spam Ghostwater Dive and Depth Charge.
The Renegade is an archetype about using firearms. It takes some artistic liberties with the rules in order to keep things simple for newcomers to DnD, but in doing so it detaches firearms from the way that weapons normally work and introduces some complications which I don't think the authors had considered.
I would not allow this subclass in my game. The damage output is incredibly high even if you never use a single feature with usage limitations, and the firearm upgrades vary wildly in effectiveness. Fixing this subclass would require rearranging the the firearm upgrades, rebalancing the Gunfighter Form options and their damage output, and the firearms need to continue to exist even when you're not using them.
- : Two more skills are great, but Face skills like Deception and Persuasion are hard choices for the Fighter because they get so little out of Charisma.
The two forms are roughly equivalent, but have slightly different upgrade options which will distinguish them.
: Gunfighter Form grants you a vaguely-defined firearm which seems to spring into existence when you spend an Action to fire it. Renegades will typically use this Action instead of the Attack action, which is nice simplification for players new to the game, but it also detaches this firearm from a bunch of other game mechanics. This is weird, but not a huge problem.
- : If you like to be close quarters, if you like to occasionally switch to melee combat, or if you occasionally get dragged into melee, the Pistoleer is the option for you.
- : If you plan to stay way in the back and output huge piles of damage, the Sniper is for you.
- : The weapon upgrades are neat and resemble some fun abilities from the League of Legends characters who inspired the Renegade subclass. You get a limited number of upgrades and can't change them until 15th level, so be very careful with your choices. For help, see Firearm Upgrades, below.
- : Since there's no way to make your firearms magical, this is a crucial ability. It also solves the issue of fire resistance/immunity being common if you plan to use Trial by Fire.
- : This is not good enough to be a 10th-level class feature.
- : You're likely happy with your upgrade choices by this point, but if you're using Sniper Form I recommend retraining your first Minor Upgrade so that you can have both Crosshairs and Double-Barrel.
- : A respectable quantity of damage, and since it's force damage almost nothing can resist it. The DC is still Charisma-based, unfortunately.
These are what distinguish you from other renegades. It's weird that the save is Charisma-based, but fortunately almost none of the upgrades allow saving throws. You'll start with one of each type, then add a second of each as you gain levels.
The distinction between the two groups feels arbitrary. You could easily call them "blue upgrades" and "purple upgrades" and they'd make just as much sense.
- : The ability to use ranged weapons in melee unimpeded is a huge asset, especially if you often find yourself in tight quarters like inside a building. Strangely, the blade doesn't grant you the ability to attack with it in any way except with the Bonus Action granted by this ability, and even then you'll likely spend your other attacks shooting the adjacent creature repeatedly before stabbing it.
- : The only Minor Upgrade with a usage limitation, but this is still a decent crowd control effect. Many creatures are bad at Strength saves, so even if your Charisma isn't great you may still be able to use this effectively.
- : The damage is really minor and you're going to spend a ton of time waiting for the DM to roll saving throws every time you shoot.
- : Fighters have very little use for their Bonus Action, and if you are fighting at range you'll spend many turns shooting stuff without moving. In those cases this provides a massive boost to your damage output, so this is a logical option for Pistoleer Form even if a scope on a pistol seems weird. For Sniper Form, you want Double-Barrel instead because sometimes you'll hit twice.
- : If you took Sniper Form, this doubles your damage output. No drawback, no complications, nothing. The only hard thing is that you're forced to wait for 5th level.
- : Because you can split movement in DnD 5e, you can sit in your cloud of smoke, walk out to shoot stuff, then walk back into your cloud of smoke to keep yourself protected from attacks until your next turn.
- : A great counter to enemies crowding into close quarters with you, and the damage is decent.
- : Not a lot of damage, and the usage limitation is too low. Trial by Fire will yield considerably more damage output.
- : Lines are hard and you're likely to hit no more than 2 enemies with them usually. The damage isn't good enough to
- : This is a lot of extra fire damage, especially for Pistoleer Form since they get more attacks. You'll want enough Charisma to justify this, but fortunately they recharge on a short rest and you can use Action Surge to capitalize on the effect's duration.
Rogue: Wild Card
The Wild Card is a really cool concept based on the chartacter Twisted Fate from League of Legends, who is a human dressed like a cowboy that throws cards at people like Gambit from X-Men or one of those people on Youtube who throw cards at things.
The Wild Card has a lot of great ideas, some unique options, a cool decision point, and some really fun abilities related to luck. There are some mechanical issues in the text (Playing Cards needs some clarification), and a few things should be balanced, but the core of the subclass looks really good.
As some quick fixes: Dragonchess needs better effects for Griffon and Sylph: try making Griffon allow you to Dash without provoking opportunity attacks and make Sylph affect a number of allies equal to your Charisma modifier within 30 feet. Playing Cards needs to specify that it's a ranged weapon attack, that you are proficient with the attack, and that the attack counts as a magic weapon for the purposes of overcoming damage resistance/immunity. Joker Wild should specify that you and the target creature take damage, and that the direction that the creature is shunted is choosen at random but must be an unoccupied space. Joker Wild should also end early if you fall unconscious.
- : Guidance is a really good spell, and the ability to cast it as a Bonus Action is absolutely amazing.
: If you're built for melee, choose Dragonchess. If you're built for ranged combat, choose Playing Cards.
- : Griffon is redundant with Cunning Action, and it's too hard to predict when Sylph will be useful. Dragon is fine, but I don't think it's good enough on its own with the Charisma-based daily usage cap.
- : This is a fantastic defensive option. So long as you have dice in the pool, your AC is effectively 3.5 higher (the average roll of a d6). You can choose to roll after hearing the result of the attack, so if it's within 4 of your AC, it's probably worth a die to try to negate it. But remember that you also have Uncanny Dodge, so you've got a great way to mitigate damage if you do still get hit. Experienced players looking at this should compare it to being able to cast Shield 2 to 10 times a day.
- : This is really fun, but the mechanics are poorly-written. As it's written, you don't add your Proficiency Bonus to the attack roll (which I think was an error rather than a deliberate choice), and it's not clear if you can add Sneak Attack to the attack unless you roll Blade or Heart.
- : Teleportation is great, force damage is great, and the AOE is large compared to similar effects which typically only have a radius of 5 feet. Typically you'll use this to escape when you're surrounded in combat, but sometimes it's okay to use it to get into melee with a tempting target like an enemy spellcaster.
- : Going first is a serious advantage, and notably you don't need to use this to go earlier in initiative order. Often it can be more effective to have an allied spellcaster go early so that they can fireball the room before everyone starts piling into melee. Conversely, you can trade initiative with an enemy spellcaster to keep them from fireballing the party while you're all bunched up.
- : Using this as a Bonus Action means that you can still attack before using it. It resets your Wild Card's Gambit daily uses, boosts your speed, and while it doesn't prevent Opportunity Attacks it does give you resistance to the damage if you do get hit an it'll get you out of grapples, ropes, etc.. For some reason if you end the turn inside another creature, the other creature takes damage (similar effects typically hurt you) and it's totally unclear which space the creature is shunted into.