Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Unearthed Arcana and Freeport, Part 7

Wizards of the Coast is currently releasing new "Unearthed Arcana" material on the second Monday of each month. Expect my Freeport-slanted reviews of UA to continue to appear about three times a year, covering 4-6 articles at a time. This time, I'm reviewing new offerings from October 2017 to February 2018. (There was no UA article for March, due to the developers focusing on promoting Mordenkainen's Book of Foes, which will be released in May.)

For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

Fiendish Options (10/9/2017): This installment presents tiefling subraces based on ties to the Lords of the Nine Hells; these modify which ability scores get bonuses, and which spells the tiefling's heritage grants her. The article also provides information on the diabolical cults for each archdevil, as well as the cults of several demon lords. Each cult's entry summarizes the archfiend's goals, what kinds of monsters and followers are drawn to the cult, a list of signature spells that can be used to customize cult spellcasters, and new traits that the archdevil or demon lord's most favored followers might acquire. As with "That Old Black Magic" (12/5/2015; see my first UA review), this material is imminently suited to use in Freeport due to that city's long, sordid history of forbidden cult activity. The diabolical options would be especially useful in converting Hell in Freeport to 5E.

(Update: D&D Beyond's YouTube previews of Mordenkainen's Book of Foes have indicated that this fiendish material will appear in that book, with changes based on playtester feedback.)

Elf Subraces (11/13/2017): Four new subraces for elves are presented here--or, rather, updated from previous editions for the first time. Avariel are winged elves, and as such, would be exotic even in their homeland, wherever you choose to locate it. Grugach, or wild elves, are isolationists, and thus would be rare in civilized Rolland, but perfect for lost jungle islands. Shadar-kai are probably best introduced as fey connected to the unknown origins of Lord Bonewrack's court in the Plane of Shadow (Shadowfell).

In contrast, sea elves are widespread across the World of Freeport. They are the most common subrace in the coastal regions of Rolland. Because of this, they handle most of that nation's sea trade, and are a common sight in Freeport. This version of the subrace omits the water dependency that aquatic elves had in previous editions, which makes them a more viable choice for adventurers who explore both land and sea.

Three Subclasses (1/8/2018): This article includes new options for the druid, fighter, and wizard classes. The Circle of Spores druid is attuned to mold and decay, gaining poison attacks and eventually the ability to temporarily raise its victims as zombies. These druids might operate in the jungle of A'Val or in the sewers below Freeport. The Brute fighter learns to do extra damage with his attacks, and improve his own durability, making him a good choice for thugs and brawlers who eschew subtlety.

A wizard from the School of Invention tradition is in inveterate experimenter. Her improvisations can sometimes manifest two spells at once, and at higher levels, she can enhance her spells with raw magical power. Such reckless magicians would likely be scorned by members of the Wizards Guild, and such a rivalry could fuel the inventor's drive to prove the academics wrong.

Into the Wild (2/12/2018): This installment provides optional rules for determining how easily characters can navigate in the wilderness, as well as some ideas for highlighting the mood and terrain features of an area. A worked example is provided, based on the Nentir Vale setting (from D&D 4E). In a Freeport campaign, these rules can be used to provide more flavor while traveling across the islands of the Serpent's Teeth, as well as within wild areas on other islands and continents. The article does not explicitly address water travel, but the rules could be adapted to such; most navigation DCs at sea would be 10 (no path but in open terrain). By changing the time scale of travel from days to hours, these guidelines could also be adapted to navigating within any urban district that lacks straight roads, clear sight lines, and obvious signs or landmarks, such as the slums of Scurvytown or Drac's End.

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