DnD 5e - The Hexblood Lineage Handbook
Last Updated: May 24th, 2021
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.
Just as the Dhampir is a player-friendly vampire, the Hexblood is a player-friendly hag. Hexblood gain their powers from a hag by one of several methods, but the result is access to some tricky and mildly spooky magial options.
On a completely non-mechanical note: the art for Hexblood bothers me. The description of the lineage states that they have a sort of "crown" which "extends from their temples and wraps behind the head". The official art in Van Richten's Guide seems to misunderstand which part of the head is the Temple. The Temple is the indent in the skull horizontally behind the eyes. Put your fingers on your face in find it, then take a look at the two pieces of art in the Hexblood entry. Not only do those characters' crowns not extend from their temples, they don't even touch the temples. Is this a pointless gripe? Yes, absolutely.
Mechanically, the Hexblood has two unique traits that both warrant examination: Eerie Token and Hex Magic. Eerie Token serves dual purposes as both a one-way communication device and as an expendable tool for spying and scouting, making it a powerful tool for rogues and similarly stealthy characters, as well as for clever players who might otherwise rely on divination spells. Hex offers some Innate Spellcasting, and unlike most races you get the ability to re-cast the spells using spell slots if you have them. That unique spellcasting capability offers some very exciting options for certain characters. Hexbloods are also Fey, rather than humanoids, so you're immune to things like Hold Person but you'll have issues with things like Banishment and effects which specifically harm Fey and other creatures which typically aren't native to the material plane.
What is a Lineage?
A lineage replaces your race's traits and sometimes adds some new flavor to your character. You can choose any race (or a combination of races or something more outlandish) and apply a lineage to it, allowing you to combine the "flavor" of your race(s) and the flavor and mechanics of your lineage. Mechanically, characters of a lineage uses the same "racial traits" regardless of how you describe your characters lineage, and you usually replace all traits provided by your race (though some lineages get the Ancestral Legacy feature) if you choose to select one in addition to your lineage.
All lineages provide the choice of a single +2 ability score increase and a single +1 increase or three separate +1 increases (the Custom Lineage is an exception, and cannot choose the three +1 increases as far as I can tell). Players are free to allocate these increases as they see fit, allowing lineages to function in a wide variety of classes, and allowing the lineage's other traits to come to the forefront where normally your ability score increases would heavily influence your viable class options. This flexibility in Ability Score Increases is available to every race if you're using the Customizing Your Origin Optional Rule, but it's the default for lineages.
As I understand things, lineages cannot take feats which require a specific race, even if you describe yourself as originally a member of that race. Jeremy Crawford clarified that the Custom Lineage is taken instead of a race, so you're not a specific race to qualify for race-specific feats. It's not totally clear yet, but I believe the intent is that other lineages follow the same rule.
This section assumes that you're not using the option "Customizing Your Origin" rules presented in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.
The artificer typically relies on Infusions and spells to solve the same problems that can be solved by Eerie Token. The ability to Infuse Sending Stones already makes most of Eerie Token obsolete, and the 1-minute remote viewing from the token probably isn't enough on its own. Hex Magic offers two spells not normally available to the Artificer, but Disguise Self is only situationally useful, and artificers who want disguises can easily take proficiency in Disguise Kits and add double their Proficiency Bonus.
Hex is likely the big prize here, and it's really only useful for the Armorer and the Battle Smith. Extra Attack makes Hex more useful because you can apply the damage bonus more frequently. However, compare Hex's damage bonus to the opportunity cost of committing your Concentration to using it, and remember that Booming Blade and Green-Flame Blade already provide an easy and consistent damage boost for melee builds. A ranged armorer or battle smith is probably the best use case, but two specific builds doesn't make the Artificer broadly appealing to the Hexblood.
Eerie Token works fine, but Hex Magic is hard because it's difficult to combine spellcasting with Rage.
The ability to cast Hex is especially appealing for martial bards like College of Swords and College of Valor. Lacking an easy on-hit damage boost is one of the reasons (though there are others) that those schools struggle, and Hex can fill in the missing capability. Eerie Token provides a minor divination capability which the Bard tyipically can't replicate, and Ancestral Legacy's option to get two skill proficiencies helps to diversify your capabilities beyond just Face skills.
The Cleric gains very little from the Hexblood's traits. Hex Magic provides spells which clerics can rarely use to good effect. Without multiple attacks or cantrips which make attack rolls, Hex is borderline useless, and the only clerics that would frequently use Disguise Self (Trickery clerics) can already cast it. That just leaves Eerie Token, and while Eerie Token is near, it's simply not enough.
Eerie Token provides magical communication options and scouting/spying options which druids have trouble replicating. Hex Magic provides spells which the Druid can't replicate, but also generally can't use to great effect. Disguise Self is fine, but typically you can disguise yourself by turning into an animal. Similarly, Hex isn't especially useful since druids don't get the ability to make multiple attacks.
Circle of the Moon and Circle of Spores may be able to use Hex in ways that make them appealing. Circle of the Moon has the ability to adopt combat forms which make multiple attacks earlier than most characters can achieve, and Circle of Spores builds frequently use Polearm Master to capitalize on the subclass's bonus damage to weapon attacks. Both options may be enough to make Hex worthwhile, and between that and Eerie Token the Hexblood could be an interesting and effective character.
With more attacks than any other class, Hex is a tempting prize for the Fighter. A Bonus Action to cast Hex followed by an Action Surge can get the fighter as many as 8 attacks, yielding a considerable amount of damage in a hurry. Hex also imposes Disadvantage on ability checks with one Ability Score of your choice, making Athletics checks to Grapple/Shove considerably easier. The Fighter even gets proficiency in Constitution Saving Throws, making it easier to maintain Concentration even while in the heat of combat.
As the only subclass with spellcasting, the Eldritch Knight is the most obvious option for the Hexblood because you can use your spell slots to re-cast both spells. However, if you're fine with your spells featuring less prominently in your tactics, most subclasses will still enjoy them.
Eerie Token provides some useful tools for stealth and scouting which the Monk simply can't replicate. Disguise Self similarly provides a unique and occasionally useful option, and Hex provides a short-lived damage boost that works very well with Flurry of Blows. However, without the ability to spend spell slots to re-cast Hex it's only going to work within the handful of encounters that you can fit into the 1-hour duration. Ancestral Legacy's option to get two skills also helps to close the skill gap between the Monk and the Rogue.
The Paladin benefits from the Hexblood's traits in much the same way that the Fighter does, but with built-in spellcasting and better spell slots than the Eldritch Knight, the Paladin can actually use the spellcasting more frequently and more easily than the Fighter. However, with fewer attacks than the Fighter, the Paladin gets less damage output from Hex than the Fighter does once the Fighter gets a third attack at level 11.
Eerie Token provides some options which the Ranger can't replicate, but the spellcasting isn't as useful for the Ranger as it is for many other classes. Hunter's Mark provides the same damage bonus, and while Hex's other effects are often more useful, those benefits aren't enough to make Hex a huge improvement for the Ranger. The ability to re-cast Hex using spell slots does mean that you don't need to spend one of your limited number of spells known in order to learn Hunter's Mark, but I don't think that's enough to make this a great fit.
Eerie Token is probably one of the coolest rogue tools that I can think of. The ability to communicate to your allies silently at range is excellent, and if you don't need that capability you can also use the token to safely explore places (throw the token into a room or down a hole, then look through it) as well as to spy on other creatures from a safe distance.
Hex is a difficult combat for the Rogue because the Rogue's single attack doesn't offer a lot of opportunity to capitalize on Hex's damage boost. But Hex also allows you to inhibit the target's Wisdom checks, and Disadvantage on Wisdom checks means a -5 penalty to both Passive Insight and Passive Perception, placing the Rogue at a significant advantage in numerous situations. The damage bonus may even be enough to make two-weapon fighting worthwhile even if you hit with your primary attack and don't need an additional chance to apply Sneak Attack.
Eerie Token is neat, but you can solve the same problems with spells. Similarly, the Sorcerer can already learn Disguise Self, and while Hex is a good spell it's not useful for the Sorcerer unless you can also get Eldritch Blast somehow.
The Hexblood's capabilities nicely complement the Warlock's, reducing strain on your limited numbers of cantrips, leveled spells, and Invocations. Hex Magic conveniently removes the desire to take Mask of Many Faces and reduces the "tax" that nearly every warlock pays to learn Hex. Eerie Token reduces the need for options like Message, and offers an easy divination option for scouting which most warlocks can't replicate with anything easier than Scrying.
Eerie Token is neat, but you can solve the same problems with spells, especially if you have a familiar. Similarly, the Wizard can already learn Disguise Self, and while Hex is a good spell, most wizards simply don't have viable options to make it worthwile.
The Bladesinger may be able to put Hex to good use as a damage boost, but with few hit points and numerous Concentration buffs to choose from, you may prefer to rely on other options like Magic Weapon.