D&D: Dragonlance’s New Backgrounds and Feats Show the Road to ‘One D&D’
Dragonlance’s new feats and backgrounds pave the way for One D&D’s approach to characters. They’re also one of the adventure’s best ideas.
One of my favorite things in the new Dragonlance adventure is the new feats and backgrounds introduced. When you read them, you can’t help but think “why aren’t they more like this?” They nail flavor and mechanical power pretty handily, each feat seamlessly building on the backgrounds that come before.
It helps that the new feats are neatly confined (with one exception) to two main themes: Knights of Solamnia or Mages of High Sorcery. And under these two categories, Dragonlance gives us a glimpse at D&D yet to come. And it all starts with 1st level.
Mages of High Sorcery
The Mage of High Sorcery background/feat tree is a handy way to embody Dragonlance’s unique approach to mages. Famously split into three different robes—white, red, and black, each corresponding to one of Krynn’s three magical moons—mages are almost all affiliated with the Towers of High Sorcery. Characters in a Dragonlance campaign can take the feat Initiate of High Sorcery.
This new feat has an interesting list of prerequisites. For one, there’s the prerequisite of Dragonlance Campaign, which means these feats are intended only for Dragonlance. But the other prereq is much more interesting: Sorcerer or Wizard class OR Mage of High Sorcery Background. This means that if you don’t want to take the included background, you can play a Sorcerer or Wizard and pick up the feat, starting at 1st level (if you’re human or playing a custom lineage) or at later levels if you don’t mind waiting.
Dragonlance wants you to take its backgrounds. Taking the Mage of High Sorcery Background means you could be a Warlock or Cleric or Fighter (with an eye on Eldritch Knight) or any other option like that. The background gets you the Initiate of High Sorcery feat, which represents one of the three moons of Krynn influencing your magic.
You get two bonus spells, depending on what you pick.
And you can cast each of these spells without a slot once per long rest. So that’s two extra spells per day if you’re playing along at home.
At Higher Levels
Once you get to higher levels, you can take the Adept of the ___ Robes feat. There are three, all in all, one for each color of the robe. You have to have the Initiate of High Sorcery feat and be at least 4th level to take one. Conveniently enough, in a Dragonlance campaign, you get a bonus feat at 4th level.
Adept of the White Robes gets you a bonus 2nd level abjuration or divination spell that you can cast once per day without a slot. You also gain a reaction that lets you spend a spell slot to reduce incoming damage by 1d6 per level + your spellcasting modifier. That last ability is honestly not the best use of a spell slot, but for a free 2nd level spell? Not bad.
Adept of the Red Robes gets you a bonus 2nd level illusion or transmutation spell, and when you make an attack roll or ability check and roll a 9 or lower, you can treat it as if you had rolled a 10. You can do this up to your proficiency bonus times per day. Which is a less resource-heavy benefit for Red Robes.
Adept of the Black Robes provides a bonus 2nd level enchantment or necromancy spell, as well as the ability to spend your unspent hit dice to deal extra damage. Which is paltry on a Wizard, sure, but bear in mind, you don’t actually have to be a spellcaster to get access to the feat. It might be weird to play a Paladin of the Black Robes, but with the right background, you could. Then it’s all about the blood magic baybee. Even if you don’t cheat your way to using higher-hit dice, this is still a great ability for casters looking to add some oomph to their damage.
Knights of Solamnia
For those less magically minded, there’s the Knight of Solamnia tree. This starts with the Squire of Solamnia feat, which, like the Initiate of High Sorcery feat, has class or background-based prereqs. In this case, you must be either a Fighter, Paladin, or take the Knight of Solamnia background, for all you swordy Bards, Barbarians, Rogues, Rangers, or Monks out there.
Either way, the feat is pretty fantastic. Any melee character will love it. Squire of Solamnia lets you gain an advantage on a weapon attack roll against a creature, and if it hits you can add a d8 to the attack’s damage roll. And you can do that up to your proficiency bonus times per day.
At 4th level or higher, you can pick from one of three feats. Just like mages.
Knight of the Crown increases your Strength, Dex, or Con by 1. And it also Con, Wis, or Cha. On top of that, you gain the ability to heal your friends with a rallying shout, also just like a Warlord. You can heal 1d8 + your proficiency bonus + your Con/Wis/Cha modifier hit points as a bonus action. Free healing!
Knight of the Sword lets you increase Int, Wis, or Cha by 1. And you gain the ability to frighten targets you hit with a weapon attack. They must save or become frightened, but even if they successfully save, they still have disadvantage on the next attack roll they make.
In One D&D, we saw that WotC plans to give out extra feats. All characters get a feat with their backgrounds. In the Dragonlance adventure, we get a chance to see that play out. Same with bonus feats at 4th level.
It’s a return to the D&D of ages past when you could take a feat as a bonus at certain levels. Tools like this let designers experiment on new grounds.
They’ve basically reintroduced the Warlord with the Knight of Solamnia feats. And theoretically, you could take all of them if you wanted (though that’s resource intensive).
It feels like what One D&D hopes to achieve. Here’s hoping they can stick that landing, because right now? This feat style looks really fun.