What Do I Know About First Impressions? Unearthed Arcana 2022 Heroes of Krynn (D&D 5e)
A new Unearthed Arcana dropped today. Almost like a flaming mountain thrown at a planet by angry gods, starting 300 years of misery and despair, only to be ended with the return of a long-lost weapon, the Dragonlance!
Sorry, I had to build up to it. Yes, today’s Unearthed Arcana is Heroes of Krynn, and it’s got a lot of different options in its six pages.
What’s on the Disks?
In the six pages of UA material, we have the following playtest material:
- Lunar Magic (Sorcerer)
- Knight of Solamnia
- Mage of High Sorcery
- Divinely Favored
- Initiate of High Sorcery
- Squire of Solamnia
- Adept of the Black Robes
- Adept of the Red Robes
- Adept of the White Robes
- Divine Communications
- Knight of the Crown
- Knight of the Sword
- Knight of the Rose
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that this race option is going to follow the new format presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and further refined in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons and Monsters of the Multiverse. That means you get a +2 and a +1 to ability scores, or three +1s, and no constraint on where you put them.
There is the general information about languages, creature type, lifespan, and height and weight that have been presented with race options recently. Of the standard stuff, then we move into what Kender look like in these 5e rules:
- 30-foot walking speed
- Advantage of fear saves
- Produce an item at 3rd level
Right out of the gate, there is some flavor text that says that it’s not unheard of for Kender to end up on other worlds, due to their curiosity. It also ties Kender abilities to the Feywild. That’s probably a good indication that any new Dragonlance material from WotC isn’t going to be as concerned with isolating Krynn from the standard cosmology of D&D. It also provides the reasoning for giving Kender their abilities as an inborn trait rather than a cultural one.
I appreciate that Kender aren’t immune to fear. I always felt that trait was overblown from how it was depicted in the fiction. Kender were less likely to be afraid, and they often didn’t have the words to describe it when they were afraid, but Tasslehoff pretty clearly felt Soth’s fear aura, and there are two whole cultures of Kender that were emotionally broken by mass traumatic events. Also, always avoid absolutes.
Kender’s taunt causes a wisdom save or else impose disadvantage on a creature’s actions until the end of your next turn. That’s potentially really potent if you are dealing with a low wisdom multi-attacking creature. This is a per proficiency bonus ability and continues the trend to refreshing abilities on a long rest (this could have very easily been a per short rest ability under other circumstances). Unlike some of the more customizable casting abilities, the difficulty of this is firmly rooted in the Kender’s charisma bonus.
Kender’s 3rd level ability is the ability to retroactively show the rules to anyone that ever called them a thief and say, “I told you I didn’t steal anything!” More specifically, it’s now a supernatural ability that things really do just end up in their pockets, and they can produce a potentially useful item that lasts for an hour, per proficiency bonus, recharging on a long rest.
I like the subtle shift of making the “handling” ability a supernatural one, and for anyone worried about what this means for Kender society, I’m pretty sure societies like the one in Kendermore can still easily develop a lack of concern for personal property, if only because stuff does just end up in everyone’s pockets, intentionally or not.
Sorcerer Subclass (Lunar Magic)
If you haven’t encountered any Dragonlance lore in the past, it’s got three moons, each one tied to a particular order of magic use. In previous editions, these moons have affected the powers of wizards of those orders. There is also some lore from Taladas that suggests even those that aren’t formally trained as part of the Orders of High Sorcery may end up with some kind of moon affinity.
The foundation for Dragonlance was laid in two editions that didn’t have sorcerers, and retconned an alternate form of magic from another game system into sorcery into the sorcerer class when the setting was defined in 3.5.
Like a lot of the newer class options, there is a table that characters can reference if they want to reinforce the theme of lunar magic with a particular manifestation. While this document is about heroes of Krynn, there are references to how Lunar Magic sorcerers fit into Toril and Eberron.
Lunar Magic Sorcerers get the following abilities:
- 1st–Moon Fire, Lunar Embodiment
- 6th–Lunar Boons, Waxing and Waning
- 14th–Lunar Empowerment
- 18th–Lunar Phenomenon
Moon Fire gives you access to sacred flame, and Lunar Embodiment allows you to pick what lunar phase you are aligned with. Full, New, and Crescent all have a different list of spells, and you can change your alignment to a phase of the moon with a long rest.
If your moon phase matches the actual phase, you can cast your phase spells once without using a spell slot. You can cast the spells from the phase you are aligned to once each without expending a spell slot. Also, I can’t read apparently.
At 6th level, you get a discount on your sorcery points spent based on what phase you are in, and if you are using the spells or the school of magic associated with the individual phases. You also gain the ability to spend a sorcery point to shift what phase of the moon to which you are aligned.
At 14th level, you get a kicker ability that is switched on when you are aligned with a particular phase of the moon. You might glow and give your allies advantage of saves, have advantage on stealth and impose disadvantage on enemies, or get resistance to necrotic and radiant damage.
You also gain a big “reveal” ability at 18th level, usable once per long rest, or recharge with 5 sorcery points. These include a blinding flash that can heal your allies, invisibility and a burse of necrotic damage, or teleportation and resistance to all damage.
You may have heard me say this before, but sorcerers have to nail that theme at 1st and 6th level if the theme is going to be important to the character, because most campaigns can’t count on 14th-18th level, and nobody wants to wait 8 levels between fun tricks. I think these features will work fairly well for the theme, especially since you get things like moonbeam or darkness depending on what phase you are aligned with.
This does mean that you’re going to want to know what phase the moon is in when adventuring, and if you haven’t learned the High Gygaxian skill of meticulously tracking time, it could feel very arbitrary what phase of the moon you assign to a given scene. Full disclosure: I’m a nerd and often have a campaign calendar that tells me what the phases of the moon are. I’m still a nerd, but you don’t have to do any of this, see above.
From a Dragonlance standpoint, the phases of the moon almost feel more like alignments to Solinari, Lunitari, and Nuitari, but switching between moon alignments is going to be pretty strange for someone that’s a member of a particular Order of High Sorcery. On the flip side, it feels weird for someone aligned to Nuitari when it’s full to get bright flashing powers. This is all way less of an issue with a world like Toril, where you have a standard moon going through its standard phases.
The Knight of Solamnia and Mage of High Sorcery background both grant some of the standard benefits of a background, giving you proficiencies, languages, and equipment. There are special trinket tables that both the Knight of Solamnia and the Mage of High Sorcery can roll on. Both have a list of personality traits, but not bonds, ideals, or flaws.
The first interesting aspect of both backgrounds is that they suggest some “outside the box” examples for people that might adopt the background. For example, they mention a zealot barbarian devoted to Habbakuk joining the Knights of Solamnia, and they expressly call out that the Orders of High Sorcery include wizards, sorcerers, warlocks, and even some bards.
The final thing that these backgrounds provide are access to special feats, either Squire of Solamnia or Initiate of High Sorcery. That means that those “powerful” backgrounds introduced in Strixhaven may not have been a one-off experiment, but the shape of things to come with backgrounds.
I may have said this when looking at Strixhaven, but that aspect of design feels easy to accommodate by talking with your players about what feats make sense to go with whatever background they have chosen that isn’t one of these feat granting versions. This does make me curious about feats being considered “optional” in the revised 2024 rules. I might be easy enough to still assume the only feats at play in the game are those associated with backgrounds.
And speaking of feats:
We have feat chains. Not long feat chains, and not ones that have a utilitarian, style defining feat gated behind sub-optimal choices as a weird kind of eating your vegetables before you get to desert balance, but at least a few that require you to have another feat before you can take them.
Divinely Favored is the gateway to Divine Communications; Initiate of High Sorcery is the gateway to the Adept feats; Squire of Solamnia is the gateway to the Knight of the Crown, Sword, and Rose feats.
Divinely favored gives you thaumaturgy and a 1st level spell based on alignment. These aren’t a defined list, but rather access to different class’ spell lists. For example, those that are evil and divinely favored can pick from the warlock or wizard spell lists for their extras. This is the standard cast this spell once per long rest, and it’s considered one you know that you can use spell slots to cast as well. Nothing much to say about this one, except to wonder if they is something like a Holy Order of Stars background being planned to which this would be attached.
Initiate of High Sorcery works in a similar manner, except that it has a wider range of cantrips based on the Moon (Nuitari, Lunitari, or Solinari) to which the mage is aligned. The 1st level spell they gain isn’t based on getting access to other spell lists but comes from schools of magic associated with those orders.
Squire of Solamnia gets you martial weapons and medium armor, advantage of saves made to avoid falling off a mount, and a per long rest ability to use a reaction to grant advantage on a save for an ally. Obscure Dragonlance novel reference: THIS is how Weasel managed to be a rogue and still function as a knight!
Feats, the Second Generation
I’m not a huge fan of mechanized alignment, and I’ve been deemphasizing the concept in my games lately. Krynn, on the other hand, does have a long history of alignment not just existing, but being hard coded into the setting. I like the idea that the alignment requirements for the Orders of High Sorcery are looser, allowing for characters that may think they are more virtuous than they are, or characters that assume they are destined for dark deeds, but have a heart of gold
The additional spells being locked to certain schools of magic feels like a callback to the very strict school restrictions of earlier editions, except using these as bonuses that resonate with the orders instead of hard stops. This is another element supported by the fiction of the setting, where the mechanics were far harsher than the novels portrayed the practice of magic.
Each of the orders of high sorcery (Black, Red, and White) have an appropriate Adept feat. One noteworthy thing about these feats is that they have an alignment restriction, but not the ones you would expect. White robes can’t be evil, and Black robes can’t be good, but either of them can be neutral.
Each of these feats gets “X Magic” as a feature, which allows the adept to pick a 2nd level spell from the schools of magic associated with the order that they can cast without spending a spell slot once per long rest, and that can act as a spell they know that is cast with their spell slots.
Each of them also gets a secondary “kicker” ability. Black robes can spend hit dice to do extra damage to foes that fail their saves (very Raistlin of you), Red robes can treat a 9 on a d20 roll as a 10 as a reaction proficiency bonus number of times per long rest. White robes can expend a spell slot to roll some dice to lessen the damage an ally takes.
The Knight of the Crown, Sword, and Rose feats all grant a +1 to a physical stat, and a limited kicker ability. The Knight of the Crown and Rose abilities are per proficiency bonus per long rest, while the Knight of the Sword ability is per long rest, but only if the ability is successfully used. The Knight of the Crown gives out tactical advantage, the Knight of the Sword can spend hit dice to add the roll to allied saving throws, and the Knight of the Rose can hand out temporary hit points when they roll initiative, with the amount determined by their hit dice.
Divine Communications grants the caster a +1 to their casting stat, they can speak Celestial and some other languages, and they can cast augury and commune once per 1d4 long rests, in addition to adding them to their spell lists.
I think both the Kender and the Lunar Magic Sorcerer do what they set out to do. The only things I can point out about the Lunar Sorcerer is that it might feel more designed as a broader moon-based caster than one based on Krynn’s special moons. I’m kind of intrigued by the potential of backgrounds offering a feat as a standard part of the package going forward. None of the feats included feels off to me, but it is interesting the trends that they are continuing, and the emerging trends that they present. Which brings me to . . .
I wonder if all those gated second tier feats might be connected to the Test of High Sorcery or a Knight’s quest, as a reward for completing those. That might be another vector they are looking to expand the concept of feats, since Fizban’s also looked at gifts decoupled from hard level framing.
I’m afraid that my friend Brandes is right about short rests being designed into irrelevance, and I wish that weren’t the case. I guess we’ll see if we continue to see more options that ignore short rests for X per long rest, or until successful per long rest.
I have always thought that backgrounds could have been great for portraying more specific setting information, and if the settings start offering a background + a feat, and they look like the Strixhaven and these feats, we may be seeing more of that setting tailored design.
I like the idea of giving PCs a reason to spend hit dice outside of healing per short rest. I’ve even used mechanics that use this idea in some of my home brew creations. It was used a bit in Adventures in Middle-earth, and I was happy to see it there. But there is always a but.
If you have a situation where PCs aren’t using their hit dice very often, you have some player characters that have the option to use hit dice as a resource where it may not be a pain point to spend the resource, and other PCs just have those hit dice they never use. This might become less of an issue the more this design space gets used, I’m just not sure what it looks like up to that point.