What Do I Know About First Impressions? Unearthed Arcana 2021: Folk of the Feywild
We have a new Unearthed Arcana today! Our theme for this document is the Feywild, and the rules included are new lineages associated with that location. The last time we expanded the lineage options for player characters, it didn’t take long before the product reveal that pinpointed where those would appear in their final form. Having Feywild associated lineages will trigger all kinds of speculation, I’m sure.
Into the Feywild
We are introduced to the lineages that we’re looking at in this document right off the top:
- Hobgoblin of the Feywild
D&D has had various rules for different fairies, pixies, and sprites over the years, and not only have previous editions had rules for Hobgoblins, but 5e does as well. Owlfolk and Rabbitfolk don’t ring any bells for me, at least in official D&D settings, so those are some interesting additions. That said, it’s not like D&D is short any number of anthropomorphic animals as player character options.
It may just be me, but the introductory paragraph to this article feels a little different than we normally get in a playtest document. It mentions that you can choose to be a human or one of the games “fantastical races,” and it sounds much more like an introduction to a product that might be targeted at newer players from the wording. I could be reading too much into it, though.
The introduction also makes a point of recapping creature types, and the fact that creature types mainly exist as a keyword in D&D 5e. This language was also present in the Gothic Lineages Unearthed Arcana, but in the Gothic Lineages, we got a follow up explaining multiple creature types being assigned to the same creature. It’s interesting that the “multiple types” wording doesn’t appear here, because there are some lineages here where it could definitely be applied. It may be that it appeared in the last Unearthed Arcana because those lineages could be retrofitted over an existing character.
Sprites and similar whimsical fairy creatures are often an issue in D&D, because they often fall outside of the range of creature sizes where the D&D player character rules are comfortable. Between size and previous editions’ use of ability score penalties, sprites and he like were very narrow in their effectiveness.
This section presents “fairy” as a bit more broad of a category, having a d8 table for fey characteristics. You are small, can fly, get a cantrip and a once per long rest spell, and you can squeeze through passages 1 inch wide.
The “fey passage” ability feels a little bit like the opposite version of the goliath’s “you’re medium, but you’re really large” carrying capacity, but I like it as a “fix.” You can be on the smallest end of small, but you can still use short bows and short swords and not fall too far behind the rest of the party if you want to get your late stage Toot-Toot on.
One recurring new bit of D&D “tech” that pops up here is that if you get the ability to cast a spell, you can use your own spell slots to power that spell, beyond it’s “once per long rest” limitation.
Hobgoblin of the Feywild
Wait, what’s this? Don’t we already have Hobgoblins? Hey, if we can have all the elves we have, we can spare some time for additional hobgoblins, and honestly, I kind of like where this one is heading.
Hobgoblins have an identity problem in D&D. They occupy the exact same niche as orcs in the general pecking order of humanoid creatures, and as soon as you start thinking “Tolkien,” Hobgoblin and Orc are both essentially “tall goblin.”
D&D has solved this a bit by establishing the goblin hierarchy. Goblins get abused by the more militaristic and organized goblins, and hobgoblins have to coerce the larger and more powerful bugbears into action. It’s a family dynamic, but it’s also one based on the representatives of the goblinoids being locked in an abusive relationship.
What this introduction does is introduce the idea that goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears were all originally natives of the Feywild. It kind of implies that the organized and militaristic nature of hobgoblins on the prime material plane is kind of an adaptation from being very sensitive to fey rules of reciprocity.
Another interesting part of this, to me, is that while this could be for just about any future D&D product that mentions the Feywild, if it’s for a specific setting, the UA, at least, specifically calls out the Forgotten Realms as one of the places that feywild hobgoblins migrated, which seems to imply that these hobgoblins aren’t going to be for an isolated setting without connections to other D&D worlds. For comparison, we didn’t get much contextual setting information on Satyrs, Centaurs, and Minotarus when they were in development for Ravnica.
Some of this will be familiar: medium humanoid with darkvision, and . . . then we take a turn. Feywild hobgoblins share elf resistance to being charmed, get to help as a bonus action a limited number of times, which confers temporary hit points as well and also boosts the target’s speed, and it also imposes disadvantage on someone the second time they attack your “help target.” There is also a limited use ability that allows you to get a bonus to saves equal to nearby allies.
I like that this feels a bit more like a less militarized version of what hobgoblins are known for–organizing their efforts. I mean, sure, it’s still likely to be used in battle, but it’s less about strict formations and more about being a generally good team player. Also, that potential save bonus seems like a semi-nice reward for remaining in fireball formation.
I’m not sure I’m thrilled with the bonus hit points. That feels like a very reflexive add on to a lot of abilities at this point in 5e design. With all the other helping abilities, I’d almost rather see hobgoblins getting to “spend” one of their help abilities to let someone spend a hit dice instead of the other effects of their helping abilities.
Not much to say about this lineage, except they might be related to giant owls, except they have more humanoid arms and legs. Owlfolk continue an interesting trend from Gothic Lineages, in that they can be medium or small, which doesn’t affect their movement. They get darkvision, and can also detect magic, with the same “you can use your own spell slots” kicker we have seen recently. The flight ability specifically mentions being able to make a save to stop from falling, and Owlfolk are good at sneaking.
I’m kind of torn on a very simple thing here. I know there are some adjudication rules for how fast someone falls that appear in Xanathar’s Guide, but I don’t know that anything has ever mentioned that someone with a fly speed that falls still has to fall and take damage. This is one of those things that feels like a “backwards restrictive” rule that came up a lot in 3e design. You didn’t know you couldn’t do a thing, until someone else got it as a benefit. I’ll have to think about this a bit.
I’m also a little surprised that the only vision based ability the Owlfolk gets is magic sight, since Owls are extremely good at spotting prey at long range. If you really wanted to stay on theme, maybe give them expertise on Perception, but only at night?
You are late for a very important date. And your feet are lucky. You are a magic rabbit, I’m not going to blame anyone for going for the low hanging fruit with this one. I’ve seen how grumpy Senior Scratchy can get.
Rabbitfolk are humanoid, and like the Owlfolk, they can be medium or small, as you prefer, and it doesn’t affect your speed. Give me one moment while I prepare for the next ability:
- You get to add your proficiency bonus to your initiative rolls
You have good perception, you get to roll a bonus die when you fail a dex save, and you can roll a d12 to “hop” an extra number of feet. Maybe keep the die, but break it down to 1-6 + 5ft, 7-11 +10 feet, 12 +15 feet? I know, it’s extra math to keep the d12 in there. I love you d12.
First off, I love adding the d12, but given that it is very common to measure movement in 5 foot squares, that’s a weird number to try and reconcile. Everything about this lineage sounds fun, but there is a lot going on. Honestly, I don’t recall a lot of legendary feats of perception for rabbits, and the Owlfolk feels a little light, so maybe they could donate that ability?
Despite some of the tweaks I think I, personally, would make to some of these, I love the whimsy of them, and I love that many of these abilities are employed, rather than just passively applied. It makes me wish that we had slightly more “active” abilities on the old stand by species in D&D.
The fairy and the owlfolk feel a little light compared to the hobgoblin and the rabbitfolk. I would like them bulked up a little bit more, rather than stripping too much out of the other two. This was a fun document to read, and these feel like fun lineages to play. Now I’m just going to go somewhere and conjecture about where these could show up.
Doesn’t quite seem to fit a Jakandor reboot.