The latest Unearthed Arcana adds three new options for Fighters, Rangers, and Rogues, giving them exciting new options that are among the best yet!
We have been seeing “more strangeness” as a part of the latest wave of Unearthed Arcana character options, and if this is what the D&D team considers “strange” then sign me up for more. Let’s get real weird, because if that gets us more options like the ones presented today, we’ll be swimming in a Scrooge McDuck-esque money bin of character options before too long.
Also, I’m fairly certain that at least one person out there has thought about doing this but with dice–please don’t. That is the most surefire way to get impaled on a d4 in a sensitive place.
Suffice it to say, the latest round of subclasses all feel like they’re exploring new ground, which is saying something for some of the classes that explore the most basic areas of D&D. The fighter hits things, the ranger hits things outdoors, and the rogue hits things from behind. And yet, the edges of those classes, broadly defined though they are, are still being explored. The latest fighter, the Rune Knight (which sounds like a roguelike retroclone waiting to happen), uses the power of giant magic to become a more powerful fighter. The ranger, meanwhile, conjures up a swarm of nature spirits like so many bees; and the new rogue, my favorite of the bunch, is back from the dead.
via Wizards of the Coast
As mentioned, the Rune Knight fighter archetype is all about using the power of runes. It feels like warlock invocations got together with the arcane archer’s arcane shot to have a party, and the end result is this class. The core feature is Rune Magic which gives you access to a number of magical runes, here represented by a variety of passive buffs which can be invoked in order to gain a powerful temporary benefit once per short or long rest.
Each of the runes is based on one of the Giant types:
- Huag is the hill giant rune, and gives you resistance to poison and advantage on poison saves, and can be invoked as a bonus action to gain resistance to bludgeoning. piercing, and slashing damage for 1 minute.
- Ild is the fire giant rune, and gives you expertise but for tool proficiencies passively, and can be invoked when you hit a creature with a weapon attack to summon fiery shackles to restrain and damage a target for 1 minute
- Ise is the ice giant rune and I can’t get over the fact that they named the ice rune ise to tell you that it gives you advantage on animal handling and intimidation checks, or can be invoked to increase your Strength score by 2 for 10 minutes, giving you a +1 to hit and damage, even if it takes your Strength score above 20 (but not above 30).
- They really named the ice rune ise.
- Skye is the cloud giant rune, and that’s a little bit better, but not much. It gives you advantage on sleight of hand and deception checks, and can be invoked to cause a an attack to target a different creature than its original target, which is the key to some shenanigans.
- Stein is the stone giant rune, and it gives you darkvision and advantage on insight checks, and you can invoke it to charm a creature into a dreamy stupor.
- Ulvar is the storm giant rune, and it gives you advantage with arcana checks, and you can invoke it to grant yourself a full minute of using your reaction to give advantage or disadvantage to any attack, save, or ability check you can see.
They’re all very good, but Ulvar and Ise stand out as pretty good starter pokemon here. But, the Rune Knight fighter is incredibly front loaded, and WotC can’t count on you picking the good options to start, so they’ve given you another option which you can use twice per long rest, that is just incredible. Giant Might lets you magically hulk out, becoming Large (no matter your base size), and gaining advantage on Strength checks and saves, as well as dealing an extra 1d6 damage. To start with. That will change as you become more proficient with your runes.
At 7th level you gain Defensive Runes which increases your number of runes known and gives you a reaction that lets you give a minimum +2 to AC vs. an attack that targets an ally within 60ft.
At 10th level Great Statue permanently increases your height by up to a foot, and evolves your Giant Might damage to a full d8, as well as granting you your fourth rune. While Rune Magic Mastery lets you invoke your runes twice per short or long rest before having to rest.
And at 18th level, Blessing of the All Father lets you share the wealth, granting another ally Giant Might every time you hulk out. Pretty solid all in all, and extremely front loaded for multiclass purposes.
The Ranger archetype, Swarmkeeper, is possibly the best archetype a Ranger’s seen in quite some time. First things first though, this is clearly the bee-stmaster ranger. Finally you can turn that great bit from Eddie Izzard’s Glorious into a character concept.
Which is really all you need to know. They can try to pass it off as “a host of fey spirits, which take the form of swarming beasts–be they buzzing insects, fluttering birds, slippery squirds, or otherwise–but we all know it’s bees.
You’ll gain some bonus spells, including mage hand which takes the form of swarming bees moving things around for you, while also gaining some more insect-related spells like web or giant insect and insect plague. But the real feature is your Gathered Swarm, which you gain at 3rd level, and it’s at this point you become covered in bees. “The swarm remains in your space, crawling on you or through your clothing, or flying and skittering immediately around you within your space.”
It doesn’t say that the swarm is ever gone–so as far as we know, they’re omnipresent. In addition to generating a lot of buzz, you can agitate the swarm to deal 1d6 extra force damage with your weapon attacks, and can move your creature five feet toward or away from you. That extra damage lasts for a minute, takes a bonus action to use, and you can use it up to your wisdom modifier times before needing to recharge it. The swarm never goes away though, they just chill out.
Writhing Tide, granted at 7th level gives you an extra benefit when you agitate your swarm, giving you extra movement, a spider climb ability, or flying speed of 10 feet. And at 11th level, Scuttling Eyes lets you take a spirit from your swarm and transform it into a reconnaissance scout for up to an hour.
The capstone ability, Storm of Minions, at 15th level turns your spirit swarm into a powerful 10-foot radius sphere that damages and blinds creatures that start their turn inside it (and you can move it as a bonus action). A powerful ability that returns some of the damage dealt to you as regained hit points.
Finally we get to the Revived, which is my personal favorite of the bunch. This Rogue Archetype is dripping with flavor and shades of Planescape Torment. The whole concept of this archetype is that you’ve been dead before, and yet somehow are alive again.
You’ve had a soul-shaking realization: […] this life isn’t your first; it might not even be your second. Your past life, or lives, are unclear to you, but you know that you passed through the gates of death. And the powers of death, or some other influence, wasn’t done with you.. You might have convinced a deity to let you return to the Material Plane, perhaps you signed a deal with a fiend, or maybe you used an artifact that revived you. Whatever force brought you back, you now know the truth about yourself: that you are one of death’s representatives among the living.
If that doesn’t spark the imagination and load your character with roleplaying possibilities, I don’t know what does. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d look for when designing a new class, I love how it has its own narrative baked right in. The abilities powering it are pretty spicy too.
Your big feature comes at 3rd level, when you learn to unleash Bolts from the Grave. This feature is a curious one that changes the way rogues play. In combat, Rogues are all about landing that sneak attack hit–not so, the Revived. Instead, after your Cunning Action, you can simply make an immediate ranged spell attack against a creature within 30 feet of you (using your dex mod for attack and damage) and deal necrotic damage equal to your sneak attack damage. Basically you trade in your sneak attack which is not always guaranteed, for a ranged necrotic laser.
And you can STILL sneak attack if you ready an action to strike someone on your next turn, because you only need to use a bonus action during your turn. And on top of that, you also gain Tokens of Past Lives and a Revived Nature at 3rd level, which makes you pseudo-immortal. You don’t need to eat, drink, or breathe, don’t sleep, and gain resistance to poison, and can swap out skill or tool proficiencies after a long rest.
Then at 9th level, Connect with the Dead lets you cast speak with the dead without needing a spell slot or material components, and while you still gain all the usual benefits, you also gain a random special benefit that lasts until the next time you rest–this can be a new proficiency with a saving throw, skill or tool, or language.
At 13th level Audience with Death grants you advantage on death saving throws, and while you’re making death saves, you can ask an “entity of death” a yes or no question and you’ll get your questions answered. I love this ability. It changes the way a player thinks about a common situation–giving them something to do. Also when you are stabilized or healed out of dying, you can change your personal characteristics if you want, which is pretty cool.
Finally at 17th level, you gain the ability to Ethereal Jaunt, which is a new Cunning Action–you can teleport to an unoccupied space within 30 feet, and can then still blast someone with your bolts from the grave.
I love the direction these new classes are going–the Rogue especially–and hope that we see more like it as the D&D team stretches out their creative wings, so to speak.
What do you think of the new subclasses? Let us know in the comments!