Wizards of the Coast releases new Unearthed Arcana for January 2018 with three subclass options. When looking at playtest materials, not all of the options presented are in their final iteration, some options wish to emphasize on specific features and abilities but need a place to do it. We are foretold that there will be a survey later in the month to acquire feedback from the community, but you can create D&D characters in D&D Beyond using the Unearthed Arcana rules as of this current iteration. What does this mean? Well for many of us in the community, this is a great way to showcase new ideas and actually build characters to play quickly and efficiently. I highly encourage you to try out the character builder (it’s free to use, you just need to sign up) and give these new options a test drive.

Unearthed Arcana link: https://media.wizards.com/2018/dnd/downloads/UA-3Subclasses0108.pdf

Circle of Spores – Those are some Special Mushrooms!

Circle of Spores is an interest Druid circle, while it touches a lot on the idea of a worshipping decay than most conventional druids, that it enters into a strange territory on whether it would be an excellent anti-hero class choice or a villain choice. I previously worked on a Blighter Druid concept way back in the beginnings of this blog (click here). Trying to find heroic elements for an individual that worships decay is somewhat tricky but enjoyable to play (like a Lawful Good Necromancer).

So the Spores Druid gains chill touch as a cantrip. I don’t really see the flavor reason as ray of sickness would make more sense from a damage theme perspective (you’ll see below). The circle spells are a great mix of life and death spells along with disease-related themes. I was amazed to see animate dead on the roster, but thematically it would nice to see nature resurging on the dead corpses and repurposing them to help protect it. Again, it definitely fits along the Blighter part of the theme and less this Spores fellow. Cloudkill and contagion are potent spells for a Druid though I can easily see insect plague being an adequate replacement.

Anyone who’s read my previous reviews will find that I detest arbitrary values, especially when it comes to damage. I can understand modifiers being arbitrary (like +5 or +10 to something), but to see this design philosophy return, it’s not welcomed. I feel it takes away from the player’s agency and undermines the point of rolling dice for damage. It’s a design philosophy from a previous edition that only served to do one thing: speed up combat. We saw it in the Barbarian Path of the Storm, and we see it here. If you look at the Halo of Spores feature, it deals poison damage on a raw flat number and scales as the Druid advances in the subclass. Poison is the second most resisted damage (undead, oozes, plants, and constructs mostly) types in the game (fire is the first most common resisted). So dealing 3 damage at 2nd level, against something that resists poison damage becomes 1. Why would anyone waste a reaction on their own turn to deal 1 damage? Even 3 does not scale well. If you look at the values of the damages provided, they are median values for dice rolls. You might ask why? Again, it’s to speed up combat. It’s an issue that often gets seen in feedback from people who play D&D or other Tabletop RPGs. I honestly like to look at the damage return to being damage die, mostly with d6’s but tack on a damage modifier using Wisdom. So at 2nd level, it’s 1d6 + Wisdom modifier of poison damage. It makes Wisdom impactful and rewards the player for continuing this branch of development.

Symbiotic Entity at first sounds rather dull, granting temporary hit points, dealing double Halo of Spores damage, and then 1d6 poison damage (why is it here and not Halo of Spores?) on melee weapon attacks. The effect lasts for 10 minutes as you do not change forms. BUT Druids come with 2 Wildshape uses, and that’s when I realized the capabilities of this feature. Imagine being a 14th Druid, you Wildshape into a bird that can fly and try to remain out of reach of your foes. You spend your movement to try and get close to your enemies, spend a bonus action to activate Symbiotic Entity via Wildshape use, use your reaction to use Halo of Spores and then still have an Action to either Dash away or do something else. If you have a concentration spell that uses an action to impart damage like say sunbeam or call lightning or any of the investiture line of spells, you can become a powerful hit-and-run machine. Keep in mind this is a very aggressive line of play, but the damage potential is fantastic.

Fungal Infestation is that beautiful dream of all necromancers to raise allies as they die. These zombies still have the monster’s features including Undying Fortitude which is something to keep in mind. While the feature requires you slay a creature with Halo of Spores, if you have Symbiotic Entity active, the damage becomes consistent ticking clock against powerful foes. The zombie uses their actions to attack and only with one attack, so you cannot abuse creatures that have multiattacks. The only thing I really wanted from these zombies was a feature where they can explode with destroyed and deal poison damage in a small radius, just something I like to do with my undead armies. Send them into the fray only to explode. If you’re a veteran of older D&D editions, this was an actual thing, and it was just plain fun.

Spreading Spores removes the need to be in the center of a mob to utilize Halo of Spores, and now the flying Wildshaped Druid can launch spores into an area and deal damage from afar without having to impose any danger to themselves. The best part of this feature is the ability to continually use it by spending a bonus action and just not having access to Halo of Spores as a reaction through the duration.

Fungal Body is just plain fantastic as a capstone. Immune to being blinded, deafened, frightened, or poisoned. Plus critical hits become normal damage instead. You get a free adamantine armor out this deal plus all the condition immunities. This is just all upside side.

Brute Archetype Fighter – Champion 2.0

The Champion Fighter is what many would call, “generic” for what you would expect of a Fighter class. The main draw is the ability to deal critical hits by rolling 18’s and 19’s at the cap of its capabilities. The other Champion abilities are solid and fit well with the style of play but ultimately just feels very vanilla. I’m not dissing the Champion, since triggering critical hits on 18’s and 19’s is no laughing matter especially a Champion Fighter at 19th level with four attacks per Action. The Brute brings in the idea of a cunning Barbarian if you will, less rage and more “hit them where it hurts” sort of approach. This is still an excellent multiclass option for Barbarians though requires more investment than the Champion archetype.

Brute Force is extra damage based on your Fighter level, which from a design standpoint, is to avoid scaling when it comes to multiclassing. It does become frightening whenever your Brute lands a critical hit since these damage dice are also doubled.

Brutish Durability is something that Barbarians sometimes wished they had. It’s almost like a Brute having a permanent bless on saving throws but a better dice than a d4. The clause for death saving throws is a rare feature to see in a class but indeed makes them terrifying. Especially when combined with something like a half-orc character, you’re really going to have some tough times keeping them down.

Additional Fighting Styles are always lovely, not impactful but still helpful to have.

Devastating Critical is an interesting feature, by the time Fighter gains this feature, they deal an additional 15 points of damage whenever they roll a critical hit. Barbarians at 13th level gain 2 dice from Brutal Critical so let’s use do some math if either one crits. We shall assume 18 on Strength and from only one attack.

  • 15th-level Fighter with Devastating Critical with a Greatsword: 2d6 (base) + 2d6 (crit) + 1d6 (brute) + 1d6 (crit) + 15 + 4. Average damage: 40 points of damage.
  • 15th-level Barbarian with Brutal Critical with Greatsword while raging: 2d6 (base) + 2d6 (crit) + 2d6 (brutal crit) + 4 + 3 (rage). Average damage: 28 points of damage.

The takeaway here is that the Barbarian has a higher probability of landing critical hits through the Reckless Attack feature while the Brute has to rely on good ‘ol natural 20s. But a Brute still gets three attacks versus the Barbarian’s two attacks at this point, so the jury is out on which one is likely to damage more damage.

Survivor is a pseudo regeneration effect so long as the Fighter is below half their hit points but not at 0 either. So mostly, should they rise up from their death saving throws, on their next turn, they’ll heal some hit points on top of whatever drink from a potion or receive from a healer ally. This I can get behind. Literally, I’m a mage.

School of Invention – Tony Stark or Izzet Magecraft?!

Ironman is always viewed as the inquisitive and eccentric inventor, and nerds will always love to stat Tony Stark whether as an artificer, a sorcerer, or some wizard. Well, we have something to play with, and there’s a little bit of flair for Magic: the Gathering fans with a few features that resemble the philosophy of the Izzet League. We have magical armors, random spellcasting, some lore wizard features revamped, and trying to quell the madness.

Tools of the Inventor is an excellent tack on for giving more proficiencies to the Wizard. I’m never opposed to more proficiencies being handed out.

Arcanomechanical Armor is both the Ironman dream and a scam all at once. Sure the Wizard gains light armor proficiency but each suit must be a studded leather armor to obtain this effect. COME ON! You can already be a heavy armor using Wizard if you go Mountain Dwarf Wizard, so this honestly is just a clunky feature that has no upside and doesn’t scale at all. You gain resistance to force damage, in the event your reckless casting backfires (seriously, it can happen) which fits thematically and great against other mages’ magic missiles. I would definitely remove the specific armor clause and just state nonmagical armor, that way the Inventor Wizard can try to spend feats to gain armor proficiencies.

Reckless Casting is an exciting feature, letting a Wizard cast spells they do not have prepared or in some instances, cast spells that are not on their spellcasting list. They can spend a spell slot like normal= and instead of a regular spell, they can get a different one based on tables for each spell level (up to 5th level). Cantrips are also included in this feature which makes it quite interesting when a Wizard is going all utility cantrips and wants to be reckless and become a possible damage powerhouse. The player rolls two dice for each table and decides which one to use, which is a much better chaos effect than Wild Magic Sorcerers (which are fun but not mechanically consistent). There’s still danger with having a spell fizzle out if you roll 10s too often but overall, it’s a worthy risk and fits flavorful with the theme.

Alchemical Casting is the revamped stepchild from the Lore Master Wizard (see UA review here) and has gone through some revisions. Sacrificing a 1st-level spell slot to change the elemental damage of a spell is quite useful, especially if the party finds the enemy’s weakness or resistances. Expending a 2nd-level spell slot lets you add 2d10 force damage whenever your spell deals damage to one target, so for area of effect spells, you have to choose one target before saving throws. Overall, this feature has been toned down considerably and part of me pleased with it and part of me wants to reward the Wizard more for expanding a 2nd-level spell slot. I feel that the extra force damage can be based on Intelligence (similiar to the Warmage from 3.5) or just apply to the damage as a whole which would impact AoE spells nicely.

Prodigious Inspiration is a fantastic feature for the Inventor Wizard, when you don’t want to rely on Reckless Casting and know a spell you desperately need in a tight situation, this feature works great. I love this feature.

Controlled Chaos lets an Inventor Wizard sacrifice a lower spell slot for a higher table to roll, except for cantrips. So basically, you can expend a 4th-level spell slot to either use the Reckless Casting table for 4th or 5th level. If you multiclass Wizard/Sorcerer and use a bonus action to sacrifice Sorcery Points to get back spell slots to use for Reckless Casting, then you have yourself some interesting times ahead.

Final Impressions

The Spores Druid feels like two flavor texts merged into one, I’m not a fan of the arbitrary damage values for Halo of Spores. Otherwise, it’s pretty fine. The Brute really rewards the investment put into the Fighter more so than the Champion. You can still multiclass out or into the Brute, but it’s worthwhile much later in the game. The Inventor tradition has some kinks, especially with the armor. I’m not personally a big fan of tables for Reckless Casting, it’s understandable to have some measure of sanity in this madness plus it gives Wizards access to spells they usually wouldn’t have. Please make sure to take the survey from Wizards of the Coast when it releases, your input helps shapes our future content, so every vote and entry counts.

Link to the Three Subclass UA: https://media.wizards.com/2018/dnd/downloads/UA-3Subclasses0108.pdf
You can also try these classes out at D&D Beyond: http://dndbeyond.com

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