It’s a little while since I reviewed any Unearthed Arcana. But after the quick release of this latest entry, I couldn’t help myself to analyze every corner of the document and its designs. Unearthed Arcana has changed from monthly updates into a “release when ready” model. This may help reduce stress to reach deadlines when there may not be enough creative room to conceive, assess, and potentially playtest the designs. Even if you utilize functional design theory and philosophy, nothing works better than actual playtesting and feedback.
This round, we have new subclasses for the Barbarian (as shown in the Path of the Wild Soul) and the Monk (Way of the Astral Self), which you can download here.
Wild Soul Barbarian – When Wild Magic meets Rage
The name Wild Soul, along with the Feywild and primal freedom instantly drew me back to the Wildsoul prestige class from Races of the Wild from 3.5e. It has now become a Barbarian path and has a lingering trace of the wild, chaotic energies from the Feywild.
The first feature, Lingering Magic, grants the Wild Soul Barbarian the ability to cast detect magic without material or spell components. This is always a great feature to give to a magically attuned subclass. Granting anything like skills proficiency would seem appropriate. We’re off to a good start.
Wild Surge. Where do I begin? I’m never a fan of randomized effects or abilities. That might be the optimizer in me, but honestly, I feel that it dissuades choices and becomes more of a gimmick. I have the same reservations with the Wild Magic Sorcerer. At 3rd level, the Wild Surge causes a variety of effects that affect creatures within a specific range or grant some utility out of it. It also triggers the moment your barbarian enters into a rage. I feel that the effects are a little too disjointed and situational. For the most part, each of the effects are things that the barbarian would love to implement, but they’re at the mercy of the die roll upon entering their rage. The effects (unless otherwise specified) do not trigger again until the Barbarian goes into a rage again. There is a definitive playstyle. If you’re a fan of Wild Magic tables from the Sorcerer and like to embrace chaos, I feel this would be an excellent fit for you as well.
But let’s be real here, who doesn’t want to summon 1d4 flumph illusions that explode?
Magic Reserves, as written, is a powerful utility feature for the Wild Soul. It fits well with the lingering glow of chaotic Feywild magic. The feature restores 1d4 of spell slots to a target the barbarian touches on an action. If the target cannot regain that spell level, they gain temporary hit points equal to five times the spell level instead. Even with the damage equal to five times the spell slot level, it’s only a risk to the barbarian until 10th level and beyond, when the drawback becomes less of a concern. This can potentially give back a fireball or mass healing word spell back to a party wizard or cleric, respectively. That’s game-changing. At 14th level, the feature restores a 1d6 worth of spell slots. This feature should still have a hard limit of uses. Let’s assume at 14th level, with average hit point values and a +2 Consitution modifier (let’s face it, most barbarians have it a lot higher). With a possible 119 hit points, assuming an average of 3 spell slots restored per usage, that’s 15 points of damage. Most CR 10-14 monsters have an average damage per round (DPR) ranging from 50 to 70 minimum to a maximum of 55-75 respectively. When looking at this numbers, it’s almost fair to assume at least 2-3 uses can be squeezed in from the barbarian before dropping to 0 hit points. Left unchecked, and this could potentially be problematic. The feature as written, when outside of combat, a barbarian can use this feature maybe once or twice, then take a short rest to regain the lost hit points. There needs to be a hard limit of usage. Otherwise, it can potentially be misused outside of the intended framework of combat encounters.
Arcane Rebuke is a fantastic feature. Any effect or spell that causes the barbarian to make a saving throw while raging takes 3d6 force damage. That’s super amazing. It’s a great middle finger to many spellcasters and monsters with unique abilities. It might still require a distance limitation, probably 30 feet, but otherwise, I’m in love with it. It fits the class so well. Plus it utilizes an underused part of the action economy for the class.
Chaotic Fury is the capstone for this Barbarian path, and it works well with Wild Surge to grant it far more utility than its initial incarnation. The caveat, you have to wait for nearly 10 levels to reach this point and still be at the mercy of the table and dice rolls. I feel that this feature should’ve included the ability to roll twice and let the player choose. That would restore some semblance of agency and not have the class be at the complete mercy of the random effects.
Way of the Astral Self – When Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures, Borderlands 3, and Naruto had a baby
The flavor for this monk tradition harkens back to previous psionic classes and prestige classes that spoke of ascendency and leaving the corporeal form. I love that the flavor for the astral forms can vary, as they represent the character’s ideal self. If you’re a fan of Atlus’ Persona 5 or the rest of the Persona series, this has the same self-actualization quality attached to it. Alternatively, there are a lot of direct references to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures, the new playable character Amara from Borderlands 3, and even the Susanoo from the Naruto series. The anime fan in me was quite pleased with the idea. As we assess this subclass, there are some new implementations that I think are quite novel and refreshing.
At 3rd level, the monk gains the Arms of the Astral Self, which are mainly large spectral arms that hover near your shoulders. They can even overlap your arms, or they can be new arms. For the low cost of 2 ki-points, you gain a monk weapon that has a 10-foot reach and deals radiant or necrotic damage. Wisdom becomes your primary stat when using your astral arms. Since you already spent ki-points to activate the arms, you get another attack for a bonus action when you attack with your astral arms. This scales and increases to two attacks at 11th and three at 17th level. It fits well as it doesn’t punish the monk for using Astral Arms and then spending even more ki-points for Flurry of Blows. It’s a fair trade in the exchange.
At 6th level, the Visage of the Astral Self gives the monk the ability to be a soft party face if necessary, plus the ability to see through magical darkness. Always handy. The unique aspect of this feature is once it is unlocked, instead of taking a separate action to activate, it costs 1 more ki-point and stacks with the activation of your Arms of the Astral Self. Mainly, more and more of your Astral Form appears when you use them. If you have been noticing, it’s like Sasuke from Naruto conjuring more and more of Susanoo throughout the series.
At 11th level, when the monk has both the arms and visage of their astral form active, they gain even more additional features. Deflecting energy, deal additional damage with your Astra Arms, and have your voice heard by a single target or by everyone. Most of these features build on the preexisting base monk features and from this tradition.
Complete Astral Self is the capstone for this monk tradition. For the cost of 10 ki points, you activate all of your arms, visage, and body (we assume it refers to the Awakening feature, probably an artifact from editing) to gain even more features. The benefits only last for 10 minutes, but most combat encounters shouldn’t be lasting that long, so you might as well say indefinitely at this point. The monk gains a +2 bonus to AC while not incapacitated; when using the Extra Attack feature with their Astral Arms, they attack three times instead which means on a single turn you can have potentially six attacks with astral arms, and whenever a creature drops to 0 hit points, the monk can use a reaction to regain ki-points equal to their Wisdom modifier. You get a lot for your buck.
Math-wise, a 17th level Astral Form monk can deal 7d10 (1d10 from Empowered Arms) plus their Wisdom modifier for each attack (possibly 24 additional damage). That’s nearly 63 points of radiant or necrotic damage.
Ki-point usage for monks typically requires micromanagement until around 11th level, when the costs of the abilities and the amount of their ki-pool reserves are enough to grant choices without constraints. In grand style, the 17th level feature completely blasts that out the window, while also allowing the ability to regain ki-points for doing what this class wants to do, attack and beat up things.
The new Barbarian subclass is definitely not my cup-of-tea, and that’s okay. I’m not a fan of absolutely chaotic effects and abilities, primarily when a lot of the classes are written with optimization within combat encounters. From this school of thought, this makes the Wild Soul feel underwhelming while at the same time potentially potent if things do work out as hoped. The Magic Reserves and Arcane Rebuke are some great ideas and fit very well with providing utility options for the class.
The Astral Self Monk has a lot of combat focus with some social utility but seems to present meaningful options at the same time. It’s definitely a force to be reckoned with, and while it’s not as explosive as say the Monk of the Open Hand, this has its merits as potentially being the machine gun monk for the subclass offerings.
Again, you gain download the latest Unearthed Arcana here.
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