Unearthed Arcana: Revised Class Options

Wizards, the company behind 5th Edition to the Worlds… Most Awesome Role-playing game, has gone back to pushing out monthly Unearthed Arcana articles. This month, they revised a few class options they have begun play-testing over the past year.

I wanted to give a break-down of my own thoughts on some of these changes, as follows. (Warning: Mech-heavy post, long read a-head)

Druid: Circle of the Shepherd

I really enjoy this build’s focus on the druid’s connection to animals. In terms of changes, the Speech of the Woods feature now adds Sylvan to a player’s language list. Anything that adds to a PCs rpg toolbox is a boon, but still makes this feature a tad underwhelming. Additionally, the perma-Speak with Animals feature, while not terribly useful, in terms of RP, its language independence means particularly devious PCs might use it to speak to enemy horses and the like in say, Infernal, allowing them to potentially Intimidate the poor beasts, depending of course on your particular DM. Not bad.

The Spirit Totem feature has been updated quite a bit with some interesting changes. The Bear Spirit in particular seems a tad powerful. At first level for instance, at the start of combat you can essentially give your allies 6 temporary hit points, every combat. This is equivalent to casting, for an average 4-person party, 4 False Life spells (a 2nd level Wizard/Sorcerer slot). While it may seem to level less than the comparable Circle of Land ability to regain spell slots equal to half you level, on closer look, it still seems the better option. At 6th level for instance, the Land druid would regain 3- Healing words, for d4+Ability Modifier heals, once per day. Again lets assume an average party of 4, at maximum healing and maximum ability modifier (5) at that level, that gives us 9 hit points for 4 characters, yielding 36 hit points. Compare this to a level 6 Shepherd druid, who would give the same party 5 + druid level (6) temporary hit points [11 in total] yielding 44 temporary hit points. This can be done after every short rest, the Land druid only regains these spells once. It definitely feels like a spam heal feature, and there doesn’t seem any reason why a Shepherd druid won’t ALWAYS perform this ability at the beginning of every combat especially at higher levels (21 temporary hit points at level 10 for EACH ally in a party, including animal companions, mounts, etc potentially EVERY combat. Suppose a 5 member party with 2 horses and 1 animal companion; thats 168 temporary hit points, per battle).

The Hawk Spirit has been taken down in power, thankfully, giving a limit to the advantage rolls of ranged attacks, tied to the druids reaction. The Wolf Spirit has been renamed to Unicorn Spirit, and to be honest I’m a little disappointed in the name change, but that’s personal preference for canines over equestrians.

The Mighty Summoner feature is left in tact and the level boosts are decent. The Guardian spirit has been completely revamped, taking away the Death Ward spell (a very powerful feature) and replacing it with the ability to heal your beastly companions. This jives much better with the Shepherd build flavor, but seems a tad underwhelming.

Lastly, the 14th level feature still seems a bit wonky. Summoning essentially vengeance-seeking animal companions that appear the moment of your possible death seem to belong in the ‘too-little-too-late’ column. Especially since they are guaranteed to be out of your control the moment they appear. It seems like a poorly devised panic button that offers no real benefits to your character until they are completely out of luck to begin with.

Overall the class feels still very much play-testy.

Fighter: Cavalier Option

The main differences for the Cavalier option are the expansion of their features beyond the need for specific weapons and being mounted.

Bonus proficiencies have been restricted from two to one, and allow players to gain a language (always a good thing in my opinion) and History. I do wish the option for tool proficiency was still available, and that tools themselves were more expanded and useful in the game overall. The Born to Saddle feature has had its verbiage updated to impose a 10-foot restriction on the ability to land on your feet from dismounting. Its a good addition, though riding your horse over a 100-foot cliff and landing on your feet seems pretty awesome.

The Combat Superiority rules have been updated to be more inclusive for players to use outside of their need to incorporate a mount. The higher level features have been simply reworded but the main difference has occurred with the maneuvers. The Control Mount maneuver has been updated to include allies as the target. Precision attack has had its wording changed for better clarity. Trip attack, always a nice ability, has been changed, no longer requiring a lance or a mount. Its designed nicely and scales well. Warding Maneuver has also been changed to include the ability to add a bonus to allies AC in addition to your mount and grant resistance on a hit– a very nice ability. The Superiority maneuvers have been upgraded and are overall much improved.

The Ferocious Charger feature has also been revamped, no longer requiring a lance, and like the maneuvers expands the option to the horse-less combatant.

Overall the changes are well done and the class option seems almost ready for print.

Paladin: Oath of Conquest

The changes to this class option start with expanding the paladin spell list that, overall are a good increase in powers. However, I do think that Stoneskin should have been left with the class, as it felt like a better fit.

The class’s Aura of Conquest feature has been radically changed, making paladin’s of this oath have a fear area effect instead of a single target that effectively cripples any number of creatures in range. I am of two minds on this change. First, this change has yielded a potent and crippling effect on enemies that seems difficult to resist or counter considering 5e’s (to date) lack of full support for psychic and fear-based resiliences in their suite of monsters (a fact potentially ameliorated by the release of a bona-fide psionic publication). Additionally, this feature has a huge potential for spam-iness a la Fear spells (or scrolls, or wands or..) or items like Mace of Terror. This gives it the potential to become one of the ‘max-builds’ that were rife in 4e and earlier editions (especially 3.x). Paladins with this Oath could effectively neuter entire combat encounters with this feature since unlike effects like charm, Frightened creatures don’t automatically break from being frightened by being attacked by their attackers (or their allies) leading to completely one-sided contests. Potentially all day long.

On the other hand, this feature is completely bad-ass and I would definitely do everything I just mentioned in building out this type of paladin.

Other changes to this class include the Scornful Rebuke feature that changes immunity to charm at level 15, allowing players to strike back at enemies that damage them for a small amount of damage. Not super exciting, but a better fit. Additionally, while it hasn’t changed, the Invincible Conqueror feature (Resist all damage, extra attack and criticals on melees of a 19 or 20) is still a tad overwhelming. The resistance may need a bit of a scaling back, for example maybe limit it to weapon damage only, as opposed to simply all damage. The three options, when combined, are really powerful, and while that may be the intent, when compared to the Avenging Angel feature for vengeance paladins of the same level from the player’s handbook (sprout wings and the chance to frighten enemies, once per long rest) Invincible Conqueror seems very much overcharged. At the very least, making the Conqueror ‘stance’ a once-per-long-rest feature might mitigate its potency.

Warlock: The Celestial

This class update was originally called, Warlock the Undying Light, and its flavor has changed from a general positive ‘vibe’ plane to a more specific positive plane entity. It feels more in-tune with other warlock patrons and is a good change. Unfortunately the change also includes an absence of the previous PC ‘flaws’ which is disappointing (I enjoy anything that adds PC-RPG complexity and these were interesting).

Other minor changes to this class option include expanded spell access to this patron list, with an emphasis on healing, which makes more sense.

Radiant Soul has been split into bonus cantrips at level one, and resistance to radiant damage, and damage bumps to your own radiant damage at level 6. It’s a nice change, that separates out a previously convoluted feature.

The biggest update in my opinion however is the moving of the Healing Light feature from 14th level to first. This pool of healing is really nicely designed that encourages a healing build and makes this class option stand out as distinct. The pool of dice is tied to your warlock level, so it lacks any means to abuse its use through items or combo’s which makes its design even more appreciable. Out of all of the changes to these revisions, from a pure mechanical standpoint, I like this the most, for its simplicity and utility.

Additional changes include moving Searing Vengeance, previously level 6, to level 14 which given the binding effect is a good change, especially as it is now an area effect. However, it is still a tad underwhelming. Celestial Resilience has remained the same (save for a name change) and the temps still equal 1/2 your level, which I think the bear totem feature (for druids as outlined above) would be better served following this scale.

Eldritch Invocations

The previously introduced invocations have in this update, had their patrons removed. This is a good change, as I think what makes 5e excel is it’s loose stance on PC restrictions. Minor changes for most of these invocations are their name changes, which goes along with the removal of the patron restrictions. Some of the more notable changes include:

Eldritch Smite, formerly Mace of Dispater, now requires a spell slot to deal damage and knock a target prone, no save. I think the spell expenditure compensates for the lack of save, which is justifiable, however I find it hard to imagine any situation where a spell wouldn’t prove the better use than proning and an extra d8 damage.

Frost Lance, has had its wording clarified a bit, has restriction on the amount of speed reduction per round, and beefs up the already go-to-spam eldritch blast ability.

Ghostly Gaze (formerly Gaze of Khirad) is now only usable once per short rest, which in my opinion un-breaks the invocation, thankfully. This was one of those abilities that may have seemed harmless in the design sandbox but in practice, was super-powerful. It turned every door, locked chest, dark pool of water, stone wall suddenly devoid of mystery and this restriction needed to be put in place. Without it, it was one of the reasons I banned the invocation from my table completely, however here is something I think could stand to benefit from some of the other changes in this update. Instead of once-per-short-rest, this invocation may, like the Eldritch Smite, be a spell-slot expenditure ability, which would make it much more useful, but not terribly game-breaking. I could definitely see a player contemplating on saving a spell slot or seeing through the next dungeon door, which is precisely the type of player decisions that I think good class features should foster.

Maddening Hex, combines and replaces some earlier invocations. It’s a nice, slow burn option to warlocks that runs more like earlier edition warlocks and their hex ‘death-by-a-thousand-cuts’ feel. I like it simply for its opening up a warlock build that runs counter to the almost universal eldritch-blast spam-master.

Many other minor changes to the invocations, but I think the above stand out as the most substantial in my opinion.

***

Overall, the updates are good improvements, and the options are slowly making their way toward print versions, which is really good news!

 

 

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