Sunday, March 29, 2020

Unearthed Arcana and Freeport, Part 14: Another Slew of Subclasses

Welcome back to my ongoing series of capsule reviews of "Unearthed Arcana" with an eye for how to use them with the Freeport setting. This column covers UA articles from late November 2019 to March 2020.

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

Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard (11/25/2019): This installment presents the Psychic Warrior archetype for fighters, the Soulknife for rogues, and the Psionics arcane tradition for wizards. Despite Mike Mearls not being listed among the authors, these subclasses are heavily indebted to ideas that were first presented in the Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour. Essentially, the Mystic class remained unwieldy after multiple iterations, because it was designed to cover too many character concepts under the single huge umbrella of "psionics." The most problematic "edge cases" actually work better as psionic-themed subclasses of other classes. With those elements moved elsewhere, the Mystic (or psion) gets closer to having its own clear, distinct role and feel.

The Psychic Warrior no longer casts psychic spells, but gains augmented attack and defenses that improve with level. A Soulknife can create a blade of pure psychic energy that eventually frightens its victims, and at very high level, can target an enemy's mind directly. A wizard of the Psionics tradition focuses on psychic-themed spells, and as they advance in level, gain the ability to assume a form composed of pure psychic energy.

Finally, this installment introduces some new psionic spells for sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards that essentially translate older editions' "psionic attack/defense modes" into spells. There are also two new feats, Telekinetic and Telepathic, which increase Intelligence and give some cantrip-level psionic abilities.

(My mini-review of the last iteration of the Mystic class provided some context for the World of Freeport. This article merely changes the mechanical options for converting a couple of classes to 5E.)

Subclasses, Part 1 (1/14/2020): The Path of the Beast barbarian is a partial shapechanger who can grow natural weapons in combat. As they advance, they can adapt to new movement modes, and spread their rage to allies and enemies. This archetype is suitable for characters with a connection to lycanthropes, druids, or fey or animal spirits--of which there are many examples in Rolland and in the more exotic lands of the World of Freeport.

Monks who follow the Way of Mercy tradition are both skilled healers as well as bringers of swift death to the evil and the ailing. Many wear masks to shroud their identities in mystery. These monks would be appropriate for followers of a god of medicine, or one who holds power over life and death.

Paladins who swear the Oath of the Watchers are guardians against extraplanar threats. This manifests as heightened vigilance and methods to punish unworldly foes. This archetype is very well suited to servants of the Inquisition and other champions who hunt the devils and demons who plague Freeport from time to time. (Note that while most Sacred Oaths suggest one or more alignments common to their members, this one does not. In Freeport, that might mean this oath is equally valid for both idealistic crusaders and their more jaded, corrupt associates.)

The Noble Genie is a warlock patron who grants powers reminiscent of geniekind: creating a mystical tether between you and a willing ally, gaining elemental resistance, and even creating a conduit to your patron's realm. Genies play a prominent role in the World of Freeport, from the azhar's efreet ancestors to the powerful conjurors who used bound genies to build wonders such as the Wizard's Guild in Freeport.

Subclasses, Part 2 (2/6/2020): Bards who join the College of Creation learn to use the esoteric power of music to manipulate the world around them, from summoning lingering notes that bolster inspiration, to animating a dancing item, to literally creating nonmagical objects out of nothing. The theme of this archetype reminds me of the Finnish creation myth in which the world itself emerges from a bard's song; DMs may wish to take that a step further and tie this tradition to the doomed world from which Lowyatar is the sole survivor (see Cults of Freeport).

The Unity Domain for clerics emphasizes teamwork and emotional bonds. This domain would be an excellent way to translate the Community domain from Third Edition. (That is one gap that Green Ronin's The Book of the Righteous did not fill.)

The Clockwork Soul is a sorcerous origin tied to Mechanus, the plane of ultimate order. The archetype's powers focus on warding magic and reducing the extremes of random chance (usually by denying advantage or disadvantage). The World of Freeport includes enough constructs (particularly in adventures such as Hell in Freeport and The Ironjack Legacy) that this subclass has a solid place there.

Subclasses, Part 3 (2/24/2020): The Armorer artificer specialist creates a powerful bond with their armor, turning it into fully enclosed power armor. This installment also provides some new artificer infusions, most of them involving armor or helms. The Armorer seems especially appropriate for experimenters who blur the lines between man and machine, such as the Manikins (Hell in Freeport) or Ironjack.

The Circle of Stars for druids involves studying the night sky and channeling the power of starlight. Some of the features gained are tied to astrological foretelling, while others alter wild shape to take on a starry form tied to a constellation's power. (At higher levels, this starry form becomes incorporeal. The article includes a useful sidebar about applying damage resistance.) The powers of this subclass are thematically appropriate for both the Order of Starry Wisdom and the Wanderer, though druids are not obvious candidates for either cult.

The Fey Wanderer ranger archetype is a guardian of the borders between the Feywild and the material plane. They are imbued with fey magic that allows them to better negotiate with beings from both worlds, to resist some of the snares of the fey, and to bend the minds of others. This subclass is probably most common in the elven kingdom of Rolland, but might also be appropriate for rangers (human and otherwise) who have learned something about the strange, rare fey peculiar to the Serpent's Teeth.

Spells and Magic Tattoos (3/26/2020): This installment introduces several new summoning spells that come with a special stat block to use with that spell. The spell's level determines the summoned spirit's AC, hit points, and number of attacks. The caster chooses one of two or three options that determine some of its other stats; for example, a bestial spirit can be an air, land, or sea creature, with appropriate movement types. These spells provide an interesting alternative to the handful of summoning spells in the PH, where the player needs to be familiar with the relevant Monster Manual entries. Summoning spells are frighteningly commonplace in Freeport, so using these spells could save the GM some effort when running summoner NPCs.

This article also includes rules for magical tattoos, which take up an amount of space on the body determined by its rarity (from a few inches for common tattoos, or half your body for legendary ones). The sample tattoos presented include a variety of effects, from enhancing attacks to storing a spell to changing your appearance. Magical tattoos are highly appropriate for Freeport, where mundane tattoos are common among sailors, exotic martial artists, and other groups.

1 comment:

  1. Update 4/30/2020: The reason that Mike Mearls is no longer listed in the UA credits, and no longer producing his Happy Fun Hour show on Twitch, is that he is no longer on the D&D RPG team. He still works at Wizards in a related capacity, but Ray Winniger now heads the RPG team. (Source: ENworld, 4/29/2020)