Unearthed Arcana May 2020

WoTC released their May Unearthed Arcana yesterday. It includes a survey about psionics, and three revisions to subclasses.

The meat of this article is the revisited subclasses. We get the Phantom Rogue, Genie Warlock Patron, and Order of the Scribes Wizard. Broadly, I consider the methodology kind of annoying, as it reminds me of the constant patching of 4e. I’d like them to just release it and be done. If its bad, just stop referencing it, and write a new one. The constant tweaks, are hard to play with at a table, and I’ve personally seen artificers and rangers rebuild characters because of it.

Phantom Rogues

Phantom rogues walk a line between life and death with a mystic connection to death itself. I like the direct magic access, but the fluff about how they pretend to be ghosts is a little silly. I especially like this part. “How did you discover this grim power? Did you sleep in a graveyard and awaken to your new abilities? [reduced]” I like the idea that napping near graves gives magic ghost powers. Any class can be a little silly sometimes, but this ones a bit much. This archtype gives a few abilities.

Whispers of the Dead: When you finish a short or long rest, you can gain proficiency in a skill or tool as a ghost shares its knowledge with you. Flex proficiency is pretty powerful, but I can’t see playing this class straight.

Wails from the Grave: When you sneak attack someone, you can apply 1/2 sneak attack damage to another creature within range as psychic damage. Its weird its no save damage too. So if the enemy boss is too tough, you kill his minions and send some no save ranged damage to him. That’s pretty sweet, but its X/day, where X is your prof bonus. Its a weird recharge mechanic I’m not super into. Its also a little unclear how it interacts with cover. Its one creature I can see, so the minmaxer in me immediately thinks “OK, I keep a bag of rats on me that I sneak attack, while looking through keyholes on unsuspecting enemies”. I feel like technically it works, but its a weird feature that needs some polishing. (WoTC likes to avoid criticism of these classes by claiming its playtest material. But that’s exactly why one releases playtest material)

Tokens of the Departed: When someone dies within 30ft of you, you can steal a “Soul trinket”, which is a physical object from the trinkets table in the phb. While you have it, you get advantage on a death and con saves and can carry a number equal to your prof bonus. You can destroy one, no matter where it physically is, and it lets you ask the spirit a question. That’s kind of cool, but it specifies the the spirits are “under no obligation to be truthful, and answers as concisely as possible, eager to be free”. So it sounds like in practice, you someone kills an enemy, and one day you decide to ask it a question. It tells you to get bent, and dissipates. I’m also not sure why you’d not just always have them. Making them trinkets makes you think you can give them away, but the rules don’t give you any benefit to doing so. I’d do two big changes. First, I’d let you give them to your party, and maybe even let enemies steal and use them. Second, I’d say you have to physically have and break them, to get the question. Then, I’d say the ghost is compelled to answer.

Ghost Walk: This feature lets you turn into a spectral form. You can fly at a speed of 10ft, and attacks have disadvantage. The slow speed is super lame, but it lets you go through stuff, which is sweet. Expect to see lots of railroad DMs upset that this invalidates their dungeons (or upset players that the DM surprise nerfed them or included magic special walls).

Death Knell: Your final feature, death knell is very straight forward. Your Wails from the Grave feature deals the extra 1/2 sneak attack psychic damage to the secondary target, but also again to the primary target. Its kind of a big letdown for your top end feature, but a math boost of +5d6 sneak attack is hard to turn down. Even if it is boring.

Verdict: I’d play one for the utility, but I’d feel like a tryhard, or make a joke out of it.

Genie Patrons

Genie patrons make a ton of sense, but I’d be immediately worried about my patron getting dominated and subservient to some random guy with a bottle. I’d be even more worried about that random guy being someone in my party… Then you actually read the class and its features. It seems like its a trap, just constantly.

Genie’s Vessel: At first level your patron gives you a vessel that gives you some of their power, blah blah, you get a lamp. As an action you can vanish and appear in your lamp, and it sits on the ground where you were. The cool club house is kind of neat, but I’d be so paranoid about someone chucking it into a volcano. If its destroyed while you are in it, you appear next to it. It goes into how you can hear whats outside, but not that you can see. So good luck. Also of note, which seems kind of lame to me, you can only go in the vessle 1/long rest for up to 2X your prof bonus hours. This should be something you can just hang in for days on end IMO. Maybe make it take your action to enter and leave each time. So people can’t pop in and out in combat and use it as a shelter to cast spells from? You get a dual class feature here, and also get one called Genie’s Wrath, which means that 1/turn you can deal your prof bonus as extra damage. If you pick Dao, its lame, otherwise its elemental. “Fuck you Dao” – WoTC.

Elemental Gift: Your second feature is Elemental Gift. Its straight forward, and you just get resistance to a type. Its a straight forward buff that’s easy to use. You can also spend a bonus action to give yourself a fly speed of 30 for 10 minutes. You can use it prof mod # of times per long rest. That’s pretty badass actually.

Sanctuary Vessel: At 10th level you can bring up to 5 creatures into your lamp. This is the sort of thing I’d want online sooner, but I’ll take it. You can also eject folks which is a good catch I wouldn’t have thought they would think of. Although I’m not sure the value of ejecting one traitor, when the rest of the party is in a lamp that he is just going to chuck into a volcano. Lastly, and this is the good part, if you are in the vessel for 10 minutes, you get a short rest with extra healing. This is a legit power. If it were me, I’d say you can bring prof mod # of people with you at level 1, and leave the short rest stuff for level 10.

Limited Wish: This feature sounds badass, so it better be. As an action, you can ask your lamp for the effect of a spell of 6th level or lower with a casting time of 1 action, and it can be from any class’s list, without you meeting requirements or costly components. The spell just happens. This can be done once per 1d4 long rests, but lives up to the name. I’m for it.

Verdict: Man, if I could convince my group not to chuck me into a volcano, or trap me, I’d be all over this class.

Order of the Scribe

The Order of the Scribe gets a call out at the end, which explains that its a re-imagined archivist artificer. They also make an offhand comment that they will be dropping the Onomancy and Psionics wizard subclasses. Which is both weirdly placed, but also a weird thing to do. None of this Unearthed Arcana stuff is official anyway, and they aren’t obligated to touch any of it again. Anyway, I’ve been a big fan of archivists since the 3e class, and would love to see a 5e version. The essence in the old days was a divine take on wizards, who sits in a cloistered environment learning divine spells like a wizard does with arcane. Now, its a wizard who focuses on spellbooks. Which is apparently different than other wizards.

Wizardly Quill: You can summon a magic quill that doesn’t need ink, and reduces the cost for scribing scrolls. It can also erase things you’ve written. Its a boring 2nd level feature, but it comes with an

Awakened Spellbook: You can use your spellbook as a focus for your spells, and it gives some nice bonuses. First, you can swap elemental types around. That alone is awesome, but it also lets you use the normal casting times for rituals, not the extended ones (once per long rest). Thats kind of either or, depending on the ritual you are thinking of, but there are some where this is real nice. Lastly, it gives you a mechanic to replace stolen or lost spellbooks. If you lose yours, or its destroyed, you can (magic) and get a new one, pulling your books consciousness into that book. It brings all your spells and stuff with it, and if you had a previous book, it is wiped clean. Thats the sort of thing that hopefully never comes up, but you are covered now. Pretty solid class by level 2.

Master Scrivener: When you finish a long rest, you can make a level 1 or 2 spell into a scroll, which is cast at one level higher than normal. The scroll disappears at the end of the day, but this is basically a free super spell per day. Also, you can craft spell scrolls in half the time and cost.

Manifest Mind: At 10th level, you can “conjure forth the mind of your awakened spellbook”. While the book is on your person, you can summon a tiny spectral construct to float around you. It glows, and looks like a book, wall of text, of “scholar from the past”. I go ghost guy every time, but you could go with floating words if you want. Its basically a familiar, and floats around. The cool thing is that you can use its square as the origin for spells, but otherwise not a lot. I don’t see using this often TBH.

One with the Word: Your final feature is that your soul entwines with your spellbook. You can spend an action to swap places with it. That’s neat, but not a 14th level cool. The cool thing, is that if you die, and have at least one spell remaining, you return to life a minute later next to your book and lose the spell. You do lose the ability to ever cast that spell again, but free auto-res is neat.

Verdict: I’d totally play one, but would really just think this should be the default wizard.

Survey

Ultimately, the survey doesn’t matter and won’t come up again beyond June or so, so I won’t spend a ton of time on it. The survey is kind of broad, and is really just a “do you like me check yes or no” about psionics. It doesn’t ask a whole ton beyond that. That’s kind of useful, but not really deep enough to make many decisions. If they were looking for feedback, I’d ask questions like “would you take this as a player” and “would you allow this as a DM”, or “is this over/under-powered compared to other options”. Even if people don’t know how to gauge power levels, getting their gut instinct can help.

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