Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Unearthed Arcana and Freeport, Part 10

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 time, we'll take a look at articles released in December 2018 and February 2019.

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

Sidekicks (12/17/2018): This article provides rules for sidekicks--creatures befriended by a PC who accompany them on adventures--who improve by gaining levels alongside their PC friends. The sidekick must be CR 1 or less, but gains levels in one of three sidekick classes (warrior, expert, or spellcaster). Most of the class abilities are borrowed from PC classes, but are simplified. A few seem very powerful, and hard for even a PC to qualify for (such as the warrior's Improved Critical), but in general they seem to be in line with characters of their level. But note that even with this system, sidekicks only start gaining levels when they join their heroic friends on adventures, so will almost always be some number of levels behind the PCs; they will frequently need those strong class features just to survive.

I'm not certain how adding sidekicks will affect the PCs' own rate of advancement, as the sidekick rules don't explicitly address their effects on encounter Challenges and rewards. (Sidekicks simply gain a level whenever their friend does.) And the rules seem overly extensive for someone who is essentially a henchman or follower. But these rules could be very helpful in providing stats to a knight's retainers, or a more robust animal companion for a druid or ranger. (5E druids do not get companions unless you introduce the Circle of the Beast from DM's Guild, and many players find the Beastmaster ranger's companion to be underwhelming, especially in light of its poor action economy.)

The urban setting of Freeport: The City of Adventure makes acquiring townsfolk as sidekicks rather easy to justify. (In some cases, perhaps too much so, if a new friend embodies the label "follower" too literally!) These rules could also be useful at sea, to detail a friendly ship's captain who helps the heroes out from time to time, or important NPC officers if the PCs have their own ship.

(Nitpicky rules note, because I'm "the errata guy": Creatures of CR 1 or less already have a proficiency bonus of +2, so that bonus will not improve until they reach 5th level in their sidekick class. That should be stated more explicitly in the article.)

January 2019 had no "Unearthed Arcana" article, and February did not until its very last day. Wizards has announced a more "flexible" schedule for the column going forward, without a set date for each installment to be posted. 

On a related note, the Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour seems to have ended in December, or at least no new episodes have been posted on YouTube since then.

The Artificer Revisited (2/28/2019): This is the third iteration of the artificer in the pages of "Unearthed Arcana," following its appearance as a wizard subclass ("Eberron," 2/2/15) then as a base class ("Artificer," 1/9/17). This new version gives the class spellcasting from 1st level (rather than 3rd) and adds cantrips, but delays the specialization (subclass) to 3rd. The class's magical crafting abilities are recast to be rather more flexible, which fits its constantly-tinkering nature.

The two artificer specializations presented here are the Alchemist and Artillerist. Both grant additional spells known, and give the artificer a powerful magical assistant. The alchemist is fully revamped from the previous version, and now gives the character an alchemical homunculus servant. not all worlds with artificers have guns, so the previous version's Gunsmith has been replaced with the Artillerist, which is accompanied by a turret--a machine that provides both ranged attacks as well as some protection for those adjacent to it.

The article ends with a new spell, arcane weapon (which imbues a weapon with a small amount of energy damage) and information for using the optional multiclassing rules with the artificer.

As I said the last time this class appeared in UA, artificers work very well with Freeport's unusual mix of eldritch magic and experimental technology.

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